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Why We Have to Talk About This: Atheism, Sexism, and Blowing Up The Internet

FACEPALMI know. We’re all sick of talking about it. I’m sick of talking about it; you’re sick of talking about it. And not just this latest blow-up, either, the one that’s been dubbed “Elevatorgate.” All of it. The whole freaking topic. I don’t know anybody who actually enjoys starting an Internet shitstorm about sexism (or racism, or ageism, or classism, or whatever-ism) in the atheist movement. I sure as hell don’t. Whenever I turn on my computer to write about one of these incidents, I don’t do it with an eager gleam in my fingers. I do it with a heavy sigh, and I brace myself for the ordeal that is likely to come. I am not happy about it.

But I’m a whole lot more unhappy being silent about it.

And I want to argue that we all should be a lot more unhappy being silent about it.

Rebecca Watson For the six of you who have spent the last three weeks under a rock in a cave on Mars with your eyes shut and your hands over your ears: Rebecca Watson of Skepchick recently made a video that mentioned an incident at an atheist conference in which she’d been propositioned by a man in an elevator at four in the morning; she said that this made her uncomfortable and briefly explained why… and an apparently unending shitstorm in the atheosphere has resulted. A shitstorm in which many men, including Richard Dawkins, have argued that this is a trivial issue, or even a non-issue: that it’s ridiculous for women to be cautious or fearful when they’re propositioned by a strange man in a strange country alone in an elevator at four in the morning; that men have the right to proposition women wherever and whenever they like and women should just suck it up; and that (as Dawkins seemed to be arguing) we have more serious problems to be worrying about than whether women feel comfortable and welcomed at atheist events. (This is a ridiculously inadequate summary of the explosion; Lindsay Beyerstein has a better one.)

And lot of the pushback against this feminist ruckus has come in the form of asking why the ruckus had to be raised at all… and why it had to keep getting driven into the ground.

So that’s what I want to talk about today. Or, more accurately: That’s not what I want to talk about — but it’s what I feel like I have to talk about.

Oscar_Wilde Because, to misquote Oscar Wilde: There is only one thing worse than talking about sexism. And that is not talking about sexism. (Or racism, or ageism, or able-ism, or classism, or whatever-ism. This latest kerfuffle was about sexism, so that’s what I’ll be specifically talking about today… but this is also about all these touchy issues of discrimination and privilege, and the fights we keep having about them.)

*

Where to begin, where to begin?

Okay. I’m going to begin with a point that I haven’t seen raised very much.

To the men who have been resisting and pushing back against the feminists on this issue, there’s a very important thing I want to say to you:

Sex every day in every way We are trying to help you get laid.

We’re trying to do a lot more than that, of course. We’re trying to make the atheist community more welcoming to women: because that would be better for women, and because it’d be better for atheism. We’re trying to educate men about the reality of women’s experiences, including the reality of how sex commonly gets used to trivialize women, and the reality of sexual violence. We’re trying to make the world a less sexist place.

But we are also trying to help you get laid. (Many of us, anyway.) We are trying to show you the context into which your flirtations and advances and comments about our appearance are falling. We are trying to show you what it’s like to be a woman: what it’s like to try to be flirtatious and sex-positive and still be realistic about the no-joke threats we face every day to our safety and our lives. And we’re doing this, in part, to give you a better shot with us. In fact, one of the very first feminist responses to this latest ruckus, from Jen McCreight at BlagHag, came in the form of a helpful guide: a guide about context, a guide about when/ where your flirtations and advances and comments about our appearance might be well-received… and when/ where they might be perceived as insulting, demeaning, or dangerous.

The women who are raising this issue are not a bunch of man-hating ball-busters or sex-phobic prudes. If you read Watson’s blog, or McCreight’s, or Amanda Marcotte’s, or mine… you should know that this is patently absurd. We like sex. We like flirting. We like men. We’re not saying you’re all rapists. We know you’re not all rapists. We know that most of you aren’t rapists. We’re explaining that, until we get to know you pretty well, we have no way of knowing whether you’re a rapist or not, and that some situations (such as being alone with a strange man in an elevator) are well-documented as posing a greater risk of rape than others, and if you approach us in those situations, our guard is very likely going to be up.

We are trying to help you get laid.

And if you’re fervently resisting that help… then I have to assume that getting laid is not the point.

Fingers in ears When women explain to you — in a calm, nuanced, proportionate way — that there are some contexts in which your advances are less likely to be well-received than others, and you respond by sticking your fingers in your ears and screaming about ball-busting, man-hating feminists who are hell-bent on eradicating all flirting and sex and eroding your First Amendment right to proposition any woman at any time and place? When you resist hearing that hitting on a woman who’s alone in an elevator in a strange city at four o’clock in the morning is not likely to be well-received, that it’s likely to be perceived as a potential threat, and that you are likely to be perceived as an insensitive clod at best if you do it? When we explain ten times, a hundred times, a thousand times, that elevators are well-documented as a common place for women to get raped and that it’s therefore not an appropriate place to make sexual advances — and you still reply, “But I don’t understand what the problem is with elevators”?

I have to assume that getting laid is not the point.

I have to assume that the point is something entirely different. I have to assume that you will do anything to resist hearing that women experience male advances in a very different context from the way men experience female advances. I have to assume that you have an active resistance to understanding that women’s experiences are different from men’s: that (among other things) women routinely get our professional/ intellectual/ artistic accomplishments dismissed in favor of a focus on our sexual attractiveness, and that women have to be seriously cautious about physical and sexual violence from men. When you are so vehemently unwilling to see some of the ways that privilege works in your favor, I have to assume that maintaining privilege is the point.

Even if it reduces your chances of getting laid.

Got privilege I have to assume that your purported desire to get laid is a smokescreen — although quite probably an unconscious one — for your desire to not understand how sexism and male privilege work.

And that is EXACTLY the reason we have to keep talking about it.

Because continuing to talk about it is how people are eventually going to understand it.

And so now, I’m going to address, not just the men who have been insisting on their right to hit on any woman in any place at any time, or complaining about how trivial and self-absorbed it is to raise this issue at all… but everyone. Everyone who’s been participating in this blowup. Everyone who’s been following it. Everyone who sees one of these blowups on the horizon, and buries their head under the covers, and prays to the non-existent God that this one won’t eat the Internet for three solid weeks.

And in particular, I want to address the people who have been asking the question, “Why do we have to keep having these fights? Why is it that every time there’s an atheist conference, there’s some kerfuffle about sexist comments or actions, and everyone flies into a tizzy about it, and it’s the only thing anyone remembers about the event?”

Let me ask you this. When religious believers tell atheists, “Why do you have to keep talking about atheism? Why do you have to keep pointing out religious privilege, and anti-atheist bigotry, and the ways that religion is so deeply entrenched in our culture? It’s so divisive. Nobody can talk about religion and atheism without starting a huge, ugly fight. So why do you keep bringing it up?”

When religious believers say this to atheists… do you say to yourself, “You’re right. This is such a troubling, divisive issue. I’m so sorry I brought it up. We’ll stop talking about it now.”

Silence = death Or do you say to yourself, “Wow. You really don’t want to hear what we have to say, do you? There’s a part of you that knows we’re right, or that fears we’re right, or that’s getting some assumptions challenged that you’re deeply attached to… and you’re uncomfortable with that. And you’re trying to shut us up. Knock it off. And try listening to what we have to say for a change.”

I’m going to assume that the answer is the latter.

So why on earth would you turn around and say to people who are talking about feminism, “This is such a divisive issue — why do you have to keep bringing it up?”

Do you see how this is the same?

I know. Everyone is tired of the huge Internet blowups about sexism. Everyone would like to avoid them. I’m right there with you. So here’s a tip. You want to know how to not have huge Internet blowups every time women in the atheist movement complain about sexism? LISTEN TO WHAT THE WOMEN ARE SAYING.

Here’s a perfect example of how this can play out well. At the American Atheist regional Rapture conference in Oakland, one of the speakers, David Eller, said that one of the ways to make atheism more appealing was to make greater use of pretty female videobloggers, with no mention of the actual content of what the videobloggers in question have been blogging about. Jen McCreight, and Rebecca Watson, and myself, and probably some other people, called him out on it, both at the conference and in blogs. And Eller apologized. His initial response at the conference was defensive and missed the point, but after a couple of days of thinking about it, he said (paraphrasing here), “Okay, you’re right, that was a dumb thing to say, my privilege was showing, I won’t do it again.” His apology was accepted.

And the crisis was over. In fact, I now have more respect for Eller, whose work I hadn’t really been familiar with before all this happened. Everyone screws up: I’ve said and done more dumb, thoughtless, privileged stuff in my life than I care to think about. It’s how you handle your screw-ups that makes the difference. The fact that Eller was able to see when he’d screwed up made me think very highly of him. And the ability to acknowledge when you’ve made an error is highly prized among atheists and skeptics.

EarSo listen to what the women are saying, already. Women, oddly enough, know a fair amount about sexism. Just like atheists tend to know more about religion than believers — because we have to, because religion is the dominant voice in the culture and we have to be familiar with it — women tend to know more about sexism than men do. Not all women are always right about it — there are women who make critiques of sexism that I passionately disagree with — but we’re worth listening to on the subject.

And even if you don’t agree with the specific point that feminists are making?

DO NOT FUCKING WELL ATTACK WOMEN FOR BRINGING IT UP IN THE FIRST PLACE.

You know how I just said that, if you want to avoid a huge Internet blowup about sexism, you should listen to what women are saying? Here’s a great way to create a huge Internet blowup about sexism: Try to shut women up. Try to tell women that we shouldn’t criticize sexist ideas and actions. This is a bad, bad idea. Trying to stop the latest Internet firestorm about sexism by asking women to please shut the fuck up does not work. It does worse than not work. It throws gasoline on the flames.

I am boggled by the number of people who are blaming Rebecca Watson for “creating” Elevatorgate. You want to know who “created” Elevatorgate? People trying to shut Watson up. People insisting, not only that she had no right to be upset over being propositioned by a strange man alone in an elevator at four in the morning… but that she shouldn’t have said anything about it in public. If the response to Watson’s videoblog had been, “Hm, that’s interesting, I hadn’t thought about that” — or even, “I don’t really get this… why, exactly, are elevators such a bad place to proposition women? Oh, okay, now that you’ve explained it, it makes sense” — this would not have eaten the Internet for three weeks. This would have been one of many moderately interesting topics of conversation for a day or two, and we would have all moved on.

Wildfire What created this firestorm was not feminists pointing out sexism. What created this firestorm was sexist men perpetuating it.

If you don’t agree — with Watson, or me, or any other feminist making a critique about sexism — then by all means, say so. I don’t always agree with every other feminist about whether such-and-such does or does not constitute sexism. (In fact… this is something of a side note, but it has bugged me during this kerfuffle when women have called other women tools of the patriarchy and the like for disagreeing about what is and isn’t sexist. As a feminist who defends porn, sex work, sadomasochism, etc., I’ve been on the receiving end of that “you’re just sucking up to sexist men” trope way, way too often. Let’s not do it, okay?) So anyway… yes. If you don’t agree that a comment or an incident really was sexist, say so. But keep your disagreement focused on the content of what you don’t agree with and why. Don’t attack us for the mere fact that we brought it up. When we express our observations about sexism in a calm, nuanced, proportionate way, and the Internet reacts by shitting all over itself, do not attack us for bringing up an ugly, divisive issue that we knew people would react to by shitting all over themselves.

Finally:

I want to address the women and men who have been raising this issue, and who have been keeping it on people’s radar.

Thank-you I want to say an enormous, heartfelt Thank You.

I want to encourage you to keep on doing it.

And I want to remind you — and everyone else reading this — that what we are doing is working.

I know there are women in the atheist movement who are reluctant to point out examples of sexism. I know there are women who have raised this issue in the past and got a faceful of backlash for it, and now… well, they don’t regret it exactly, but they’re wary as hell about doing it again. And I know that a lot of us — women and men — are exhausted by this issue, and passionately wish it would just go away.

In fact, when I’m in a cynical, pessimistic mood, I often think that this exhaustion is part of the point. The really grossly sexist men — not the genuinely well-meaning men who don’t yet get this stuff and are struggling with it, but the seriously hostile, hateful, deeply entrenched in their misogyny men — are trying to get us so sick of the backlash, and so daunted by the prospect of having to deal with it one more freaking time, that we don’t ever want to bring it up again. They are trying to wear us down.

But to the people who are getting discouraged by this fight — and this may be the most important point I have to make about all this — there is one more reason we have to keep talking about this:

Talking about it works.

I want to show you an email I got last week, which I’m reprinting here in full with permission of its author (and with my utmost thanks, both for the permission to reprint and the sentiments expressed in it).

Hello Greta,

After having followed your blog for awhile I eagerly looked forward to meeting you at the AHA conference in April of this year. My wife Lisa and I both attended. I remember seeing you standing in the hall between breakout sessions a couple of times and thinking to myself that you looked and dressed very sharp. In short, I was impressed seeing you in person for the first time.

We also both attended the panel discussion on outreach to women, the LGBT community and people of color. After the Q&A, I came up to the table to ask whether you might be available to speak to our group in New Jersey. And then I did it. Right after all the talk about how women at atheist conferences get sexualized by men, I told you that your hair looked great and you ought to use a picture from the conference as your avatar.

I wasn’t hitting on you, and I hope you knew that. My wife told me later that she thought my comment was inappropriate in that setting, and I agreed with her after a short discussion. I saw you speak at the AA conference later that month but never got a chance to talk to you and apologize in person.

To make a long story short, all the recent discussions of male privilege and sexism involving PZ, Richard Dawkins, Jen McCreight, Ophelia Benson, Rebecca Watson and you have further enlightened the feminist I’ve always thought I was and made me remember my faux pas.

So I want to apologize. I want to emphasize that your writing is what first gripped and inspired me. And your speaking voice only enhances your talent of putting forth ideas with a clarity that only a few can match. I am constantly thrilled to have a person of your talent advocating for both the LGBT and atheist movements and look forward to a day in the future when equality for people of both groups is accepted as a matter-of-fact proposition.

I still think you looked great. But I should have waited until we met again in a more casual environment, say, sitting around a hotel bar, to pay you that compliment.

Best regards,
Tim Ridge

Better And this isn’t an isolated incident. Every time we have a huge shitstorm about sexism in the atheist movement, things get better. Every time the feminists break atheism, it gets put back together a little stronger, a little more conscious, a little less sexist. A couple/few years ago, whenever one of these fights broke out, it was mostly “girls against the boys”: largely women making the case against sexism, mostly men making the case that sexism wasn’t a problem or wasn’t worth paying attention to. Now, whenever one of these fights break out, there are a hefty number of men right in there fighting alongside the women. Many of the most eloquent and passionate voices defending Watson have been men: PZ Myers at Pharyngula, Ebonmuse at Daylight Atheism, Phil Plait at Bad Astronomy, many more. And comment threads in the blogosphere, while toxic and ugly, have had loads and loads of men battling against the ugliness and toxicity.

This. Is. Getting. Better.

Yes, we all want this issue to go away. You know how it’s going to go away? By dealing with it. You know what’s making it better? Talking about it.

To_err_is_human_button I’ve said this before, and I’ll almost certainly say it again: As exasperated as I am at the fact that we have to keep having these fights, I am also thrilled beyond my power to express that we’re dealing with it now… instead of ten years from now, or twenty, or forty. To quote myself: We have a chance in the atheist movement to learn from the mistakes of the LGBT movement, and the mistakes of every other progressive movement before ours. Our movement — at least, the current incarnation of our movement, the visible and vocal and activist incarnation of our movement — is still relatively new. We have a unique opportunity to handle this problem early: before these self-perpetuating cycles become entrenched, before decades of ugly history and bad feelings poison the well. Every other social change movement I know of has been bitten on the ass by this issue, and desperately wishes now that they had dealt with it early, before bad habits and self-fulfilling prophecies got set in a deep groove that are hard to break out of. As exasperating and exhausting as it is, the fact that the atheist movement is hashing this out now — relatively early in our current incarnation as a highly visible, vocal, mobilized, activist movement — gives me tremendous hope for the future of our movement.

We are making atheism stronger. We are making the world less sexist. What we’re doing is working.

So to those of you who are trying to shut us up: Knock it off. You’re making it worse. If you really are well-meaning and are genuinely trying to stop atheism from getting broken by huge fights… it’s not working. The more you try to shut us up, the more thousand-plus comment threads you’re going to get. So please don’t throw gasoline on the flames. Please help us move this thing forward.

And to those of you who are bringing this up:

Keep up the good work. Thanks.

***

UPDATE: This piece has been linked to, on Pharyngula and lots of other places, and as a result, traffic and commenting is increasing significantly, including from many non-regulars. This is excellent… but it means that people are participating who aren’t familiar with the usual standard of discourse here. Quick summary: I encourage lively debate, but I also expect it to be civil. Criticize ideas and behavior, but please keep the heated rhetoric to a minimum, and don’t personally insult other commenters. I have already banned someone for trotting out the “We don’t have to listen to you because you’re ugly” trope. (Full comment policy is here.)

And it also means that the trolls are seriously starting to come out. Please, please, I beg of everyone: DO NOT FEED THE TROLLS. This conversation is loaded enough. If you’re not sure what constitutes trolling, consult Katie Hartman’s Bingo card. (My regular bulldogs are hereby authorized to give the trolls a “Thank you for sharing” on my behalf.)

My very, very strong preference would be to keep this conversation ON TOPIC. I don’t think we need to re-hash the details of Elevatorgate again. The specific topics raised by this piece were: (a) the proposal that men who steadfastly and angrily refuse to listen to women giving guidance about when and where their advances are likely to be welcomed are more interested in maintaining their privilege than in actually getting laid; (b) the suggestion that, if you disagree with women who are criticizing what they think is sexist behavior or language, you focus on their ideas rather than chiding them for expressing them, and that telling women to shut up about sexism is equivalent to religious believers telling atheists to shut up about atheism; and (c) the proposal that, as unpleasant as they are, these kinds of controversies are necessary for the health of the atheist movement, and that we are far better off having them now instead of ten or twenty years from now. Please, please, if you can possibly bear it, keep your comments focused on these ideas.

I’m leaving for TAM tomorrow, where I’ll be on the diversity panel — I know, perfect timing, right? — which means that as much as I would like to (and I’m serious, I really would like to), I won’t have time to participate in this comment discussion. I will be checking in periodically to moderate (and if necessary, bring down the banhammer on trolls), but I will not have the time to jump in. Greta’s Bulldogs are already doing an excellent job of saying pretty much everything I would have said on my own behalf, though, and I’ll trust them to keep it up. Thanks.

Comments

  1. says

    This was exactly what I needed to read.  Thank you so much for posting this.  “Elevatorgate” has pissed me all the way off, and it’s exhausting and disheartening, and so thank you approximately one zillion times for the encouragement.

  2. Azkyroth says

    (In fact… this is something of a side note, but it has bugged me during this kerfuffle when women have called other women tools of the patriarchy and the like for disagreeing about what is and isn’t sexist. As a feminist who defends porn, sex work, sadomasochism, etc., I’ve been on the receiving end of that “you’re just sucking up to sexist men” trope way, way too often. Let’s not do it, okay?)

    As an expansion on this, I’ve noticed a disturbing increase in the number and visibility of people who, while nominally on our side, literally cannot conceive of being mistaken about anything, ever, and apparently believe their righteousness is so complete that they’re under no obligation to make a good faith attempt at interpreting others’ words or ask for clarification of ambiguities, or even read for comprehension. Instead, any time a post reminds them even vaguely of one of the handful of cardboard-caricature “enemy” position archetypes they’ve got stored in their heads, they equate the poster with that cardboard “enemy,” attribute those cardboard “enemy” views to the poster, and absolutely refuse to acknowledge, no matter what, that they were mistaken in their attribution. Even if what they’re attacking the poster for supposedly claiming is entirely not present, or even contradicted, in the actual post at issue. (For instance, I half suspect someone is going to jump down my throat on the grounds that my previous comment is supposedly claiming that “elevator guy must have had Asperger’s and therefore no one can ever criticize anything he said or did” or some such bullshit).
    I see the bit you described above as a symptom of the same problem, and it’s a serious one that, unlike calling out sexism, actually has the potential to tear our movement apart. Fanaticism is utterly misplaced in a progressive movement, and the idea that the righteousness of our cause has imbued us with infallibility is, too, and quadruply so in a movement of secular skeptics.
    Let’s not do that either, ‘kay? I don’t see how “argue with what people are actually saying and stop to actually figure that out” is any more of a burden than “respect the appropriate contexts for flirting.” >.>

  3. says

    Wonderful and well-said. I always appreciate your thoughts and I was especially anticipating hearing from you about this. Thank you for expressing these points so eloquently and succinctly! You are awesome.

  4. says

    (1) I mostly agree with Rebecca about the initial elevator incident
    (2) I haven’t noticed any really ridiculous attacks on her (calling her a man-hater, or saying she shouldn’t talk about these things whether or not she’s right)
    (3) I’m still happy to believe the ridiculous attacks have been happening. I’m a habitual blog reader, but not a habitual blog comment thread reader, and I’ve noticed that even good blogs can have cesspools for comment threads.
    (4) A lot of atheists have objected to the way Rebecca has responder to her critics, and I’m largely with them. She’s responded to even polite disagreement with accusations of being “anti-woman” and “misogynistic” (see here, for example). Baseless accusations of misogyny are majorly uncool, in the same way that baseless accusations of man-hating are majorly uncool.
    (5) I suspect some of the blow up would have happened even if no one had made any ridiculous attacks on Rebecca, because of the ridiculous attacks *she* has made on her critics.
    (6) Part of this post seems to argue “the behavior of some men can’t be explained by straightforwardly selfish motivations, so it must be sexism.” This is fallacious. As a man, I can attest that sometimes, men are just dumb. When there’s no rational explanation for the way (some) men are behaving, “men being dumb” is often a better explanation that “sexism.”

  5. says

    As I wrote about over at An American Atheist, I think what was so disturbing is, as you’ve pointed out, the reaction from so some men was not to consider the situation or even to simply disagree, but to insist Watson had no right to have any feelings about it whatsoever. Other than what they would have had that is. How they do not see that this is classic sexism is beyond me.
    It will be interesting to see if the women attending TAM will get hit on quite as much as usual, in light of this controversy. I am going to be there and hopefully I will be able to say hello to you again!

  6. Leon says

    “And so now, I’m going to address… Everyone who’s been participating in this blowup. Everyone who’s been following it.”
    Why are you lecturing those of us who’ve been quietly following the incident, Greta? I’ve been reading PZ’s, Rebecca’s, and others’ posts about the issue–and picking up some good-to-know stuff about privilege and awareness of it, but haven’t wanted to add yet another voice to the whole blowup. It seemed unnecessary, since you guys have been making the point well and I didn’t have too much to add to it.
    But the way this article was worded came across as lecturing me (and anyone else who hadn’t spoken up) that we Just Don’t Get It–basically lumping us in with the clueless troglodytes who blew this whole thing up in the first place.

  7. says

    The religious right, conservatives, authoritarians etc. always seems to speak with one voice, a carefully modulated message seemingly worked out beforehand, and if someone does stray from the message, they get back on point very quickly indeed or face ostracism.
    This has been a huge problem over the past few decades, decision making by a small group at the top with no voice allowed to people actually faced with the problems of the real world has led to disaster after disaster with crazily authoritarian laws that are anti-women, anti-LGBT, anti-minority, anti-poor, pro-religion, pro-rich, and pro-status quo.
    I’m glad that we have these huge shitstorms and while I’m saddened by the content of some of the arguments brought forth, I know that it’s highly unlikely that we’ll ever get into the same kind of insane, inbred, intellectual vaccuum that anti-progressives have fallen into.
    Good for us.

  8. mouse says

    First, mad kudos for “we’re trying to help you get laid” and all of the logical extensions of that thought. I keep thinking the same thing and was kind of wondering why no one lese had addressed that angle specifically.
    I think it’s really interesting how many odd little pathos (including my own) have come out in the comments on other posts about this issue. I’m a chick who had another chick practically jump down her throat (and not in the fun way) when I expressed doubt about the idea that all women live a certain way because of the threat of rape. That’s just one example and I’m sure we’ve all seen others but it seems like the shitstorm that came out of this just brought out everyone’s broad strokes brush.

  9. says

    Azkyroth said:

    any time a post reminds them even vaguely of one of the handful of cardboard-caricature “enemy” position archetypes they’ve got stored in their heads, they equate the poster with that cardboard “enemy,” attribute those cardboard “enemy” views to the poster, and absolutely refuse to acknowledge, no matter what, that they were mistaken in their attribution. Even if what they’re attacking the poster for supposedly claiming is entirely not present, or even contradicted, in the actual post at issue.

    QFT

  10. says

    Chris Hallquist:
    As a man, I can attest that sometimes, men are just dumb.
    (a) Men certainly have all the free time and movement to be that variety of dumb, largely because any time someone steps up and says “Hey men, stop being this kind of dumb”, which is what Rebecca did (both in an hours-long talk and in her vlog afters), everyone leaps to defend men’s right to be dumb.
    (b) I find it seriously difficult to believe that someone, even a man, could sit through a talk about how not to treat women (especially if one is looking to attract them to the atheist movement!), then do what he did — which is to not talk to her at the hotel bar, but rather to wait until she was alone and had stated she was going to bed, then invite her to his hotel room.
    As usual, many feminists have a higher opinion of men’s intelligence than a lot of men do, which makes me sad.

  11. says

    @XtinaS:
    To be clear: I’m not defending Elevatorguy’s behavior. I’m just asking Greta to be careful about inferring sexism… not so much for the sake of Elevatorguy, but for the sake of the people involved in having these discussions.
    Baseless accusations of sexism can really tarnish otherwise worthwhile discussions, and it’s worth emphasizing that the problem isn’t just men getting accused of being misogynists or women getting accused of man-hating. It’s also women getting accused of being “brainwashed tools of the patriarchy” or whatever the fuck.
    As for your “makes me sad” comment… yeah, the universe is a depressing place.

  12. says

    You seem to gloss over all the women who think Rebecca was in the wrong, or at least overreacted.
    Stef McGraw, stclairose. ?? Why is everyone casually leaving this part out? It’s what made it blow up in the first place! It’s what made Dawkins comment later on.
    Stef’s post: http://www.unifreethought.com/2011/06/fursdays-wif-stef-33.html
    Watson is trying to silence other women who respectfully disagree by calling them names.
    I have been so offended by Watson’s actions (as a feminist and a human being) that I am no longer a fan. She did later on bring up rape, which trivializes real rape victims. It’s messed up.
    She’s attaching special rules to women, that’s what I’ve been fighting against. I want equality, not special treatment. It can be argued that she’s setting back the movement.

  13. says

    What I like about this piece is the level of professionalism displayed (no name calling, and respect for all). Greta, you have stated your point in a mature manner and that is what’s needed.

  14. says

    Greta, you implore (scream, rather) for us men to “LISTEN TO WHAT THE WOMEN ARE SAYING.”
    I did. I listened to Stef, and the many, many, many other women who said that Rebecca was wrong to tell men what behavior they may and may not do.
    And let’s say this: If Rebecca had said “Don’t do this if you’re trying to hook up with a woman” this shitstorm might not’ve happened. But she wasn’t giving dating advice to men.
    She was saying that we could solve this whole lack-of-women-in-atheism thing if men just “knew their place.”
    She was speaking from a position of arrogance, sprouted from an anecdotal seed that pissed off MANY other women who disagreed with her.
    You’ve phrased this all wrong in your post – which is too bad – because if things really happened like you said here, you would’ve been RIGHT ON.

  15. says

    @Chris
    Please, I’m sick to death of the “guys can just be dumb” trope. That’s more misandrist than anything Rebecca has said in response to this mess. If the guy is just being dumb, but not sexist, then he can maybe learn from the incident and not make the same mistake twice. On the other hand, dude might be an actual bad apple and we let it slide because, y’know, “boys will be boys”?

  16. says

    @Lou: Ugh, for the second time, I’m not advocating letting anything slide, I’m just advocating not making inferences about people’s motives on insufficient data.
    Against reading comprehension difficulties, the gods themselves contend in vain…

  17. Achess says

    Schrodinger’s rapist:
    Men rape women more often than women rape men => women are justified to be on their guard when in the presence of men in particular => men should be extra-careful when talking to women…
    Schrodinger’s black assaulter:
    There are more African Americans in jail than white people, even though only 12,6% of the US population is African American => white people are justified to be on their guard when in presence of African Americans in particular => African Americans should be extra-careful when talking to white people…

  18. Mox says

    Greta, I know you mean well by this and your tone is mostly appreciated – however, there is still a crucial point that is being missed here.
    You do not speak for all women. Some women like being hit on under certain contexts, others do not. Some women like to be hit on at the gym, or at Starbucks, or at the grocery store, or at atheist conferences, and others dont. Men have no way of knowing until they try. We cannot read minds – and this is the bottom line. Awkward circumstances can never be avoided when it comes to the dating world – and its simply unreasonable to demand that one never be made uncomfortable.
    It is about getting laid, because the man that is too sensitive about what the woman is going to think will miss 100% of the opportunities he does not take.

  19. says

    There are more African Americans in jail than white people, even though only 12,6% of the US population is African American
    Wow.  Yeah, that can’t possibly be due to inherent racism in the US, leading to black people being arrested way more than white people.

  20. says

    There seems to be a serious problem with issues like these because in our culture, being told you did something sexist or with sexist overtones is taken to be a huge accusation — it is taken to mean the same as saying, “you ARE sexist.”
    But sexism isn’t something that individuals are or are not. It is something that impacts ALL of us. Was Dawkins behavior in all this a product of sexism? I think so. Do I think he himself can be described in his totality a sexist? I don’t think so.
    Discussions about race, where it gets even more sensitive, go down in the same way. Whenever anyway says, “Hey, that thing you did – that was racist” a huge shit storm explodes because we understand issues about racism in a complete black and white way – you’re either racist or you’re not. But this is nonsense. I have issues with race just like most white people (or most people, really) do, but I do my best to be scrupulously conscious of this and to push myself towards better and clearer thinking all the time. Most men are impacted somehow by sexism; most WOMEN are impacted somehow by sexism. To treat the issue of sexism or racism as though we are talking about a horrible virus that, once you are infected with, makes you a horrible person is an incredibly unrealistic way to go about talking about a complex problem that plays out amongst complex human beings.
    And I think a lot of the defensiveness on the part of men has to do with this; they feel like they are being called Nazis or something, when if really wanted to “man-up,” so to speak, they would really consider where Watson and the other women upset about this were coming from and then at least ENTERTAIN the possibility that sexism was playing a role here. But people can’t do that when they think in terms of black and white. And the entire debate gets excessively moralistic because of it; which is a shame, because while most people who participate in sexism are far from unambiguously “bad people,” the consequences of sexism usually are.

  21. says

    @Mox
    Rebecca Watson had just spent an entire day saying ‘don’t hit on me at atheist/sceptical conferences’ and the guy still hit on her anyway.
    The talk itself was given as part of a larger narrative that’s been a topic on a lot of atheist/sceptical sites, namely that the level of sexual objectification of women at atheist/sceptical meetings is putting a lot of women off actually attending those meetings.
    That said, I’m pretty sure that no-one involved in this discussion has ever said that hitting on women is the problem. It’s that hitting on women in the wrong circumstances can make women feel uncomfortable. The guy in Rebecca Watson’s example didn’t get to know her by approaching her in the bar and speaking to her for a couple of hours, then after seeing that she was interested in him asked her to his room, what he did was approach her, a complete stranger, in an elevator when she was alone and proposition her at 4am.

  22. says

    For the six of you who have spent the last three weeks under a rock in a cave on Mars with your eyes shut and your hands over your ears:
    Guilty as charged. It was quite a feat too. A shame I didn’t get to see much of the landscape. I was busy trying not to die from the extremely hostile environment.
    Though seriously, I am not exactly a fervent follower of the atheist blogosphere. My true passions lie elsewhere, and religion tends to be a very, very small problem around here.
    I just stumbled randomly on this one blog recently, and found you to be a very good writer. I may pick up a few more as I go.
    We are trying to help you get laid.
    Thank you. Much appreciated. Though my own problem tends to be opposite to the one highlighted here: I err on the side of caution.
    Which can also make that aspect of life ever so slightly boring in the long run.
    But anyway, yes. Anyone who rejects advice from women on how to approach women must have a dim spot somewhere in their minds.
    Such attitudes puzzle me.
    Wow. You really don’t want to hear what we have to say, do you? There’s a part of you that knows we’re right, or that fears we’re right, or that’s getting some assumptions challenged that you’re deeply attached to… and you’re uncomfortable with that. And you’re trying to shut us up.
    Indeed! So true it is.
    From experience, being religious is often an exercise in pruning rogue thought patterns so that you don’t end up alienating those religious friends of yours.
    I’m not sure this is quite the same, but guys talking to guys talking to guys does not always foster a very healthy mindset about women. And so the mental line gets pushed a bit too much. If the atheist movement is as male-dominant as you sometimes seem to imply, this could be one of the consequences.
    In which case I must applaud you (and others) for not just bending over. Some people need to learn what is definitely not good behaviour.

  23. says

    @Chris:
    To be clear: I’m not defending Elevatorguy’s behavior. I’m just asking Greta to be careful about inferring sexism… not so much for the sake of Elevatorguy, but for the sake of the people involved in having these discussions.
    I suppose it’s within the realm of human possibility that this guy didn’t listen at all to the talk that Watson gave, that he found absolutely no way to catch her attention at the hotel bar after, that he didn’t hear her tell the group that she was tired and going to bed, that he wasn’t aware that he might come off as intimidating or creepy by waiting until she was alone to invite her to his room, and that he never learned that asking a woman at 4 in the morning to his hotel room might in fact be not an innocent thing*.
    (* Whoops, he checked for that when he initiated the convo!  My bad!  Seems he may have had some idea (a) that there were boundaries that (b) he’d be overstepping after all!)
    Occam’s Razor might have something to do here.  Can’t think of how, though…

  24. says

    This is one of the reasons why I am less inclined to organize for atheist causes these days. The so-called “atheist” community is filled with some of the most arrogant, misogynistic men with megalomania issues. This situation should be a no-brainer, and yet men are engaging in the most disingenuous intellectual gymnastics to avoid acknowledging what is an obvious act of disrespect.

  25. Sarah Zizic says

    I agree that this incident created a lot of discussion but let’s keep a constructive dialog going.
    I’m very disappointed that usually rational people have resorted to finger-pointing, name calling, and threats. Please stop! None of that is constructive and will only divide us. We are better than this!

  26. Hamstur says

    “But I don’t understand what the problem is with elevators”
    Whenever I find myself thinking, “I don’t understand why they are getting all pissy” or some similar thought (admittly dismissive – I’m not proud of this), I try to focus on the “I don’t understand” part and then just listen (well, technically, read). It’s surprisingly effective.
    “And I want to remind you — and everyone else reading this — that what we are doing is working.”
    As a forty-some-odd year old white male who is new to the skeptic movement, a newly self-identified atheist and with, at best, a tenuous grasp on the concept of privilege, I’d like to say that I agree with you. Every time one of these shitstorms happen, I learn a little more. And while I understand that it’s a difficult subject, I, for one, appreciate the discussion.

  27. says

    Greta, I saw a question (don’t remember where), that I’d appreciate it if you addressed:
    the atheist/skeptic community is great on LGBT issues, recognizing that homophobia is largely driven by religion/superstition. Why isn’t there similar recognition that sexism is also driven by religion? Why are so many in the community consistently FAIL on feminism while being WIN on LGBT stuff?

  28. ragarth says

    Just to point. I keep reading people using Watson’s statement of being at the bar till 4am, and her stating she’s going to sleep as proof positive that elevator guy is a sexist.
    I do urge you people to actually *watch* the video she made. Unless she’s made additional clarification since, there’s nothing specifying that elevator guy was ever at the bar, only that he was at the talk and the elevator. He could have been drinking with buddies elsewhere till 4am.
    Further, we don’t know the specifics of her talk, only that she ad-hocked a talk on sexism in the religious right to talk about sexism in atheism. There’s no guarantee that she said anything that could remotely be considered pickup-tips, or warnings against hitting on her in an elevator.
    This all leads back to the fact that, while I agree elevator guy was stupid to hit on someone in an elevator, claiming he’s sexist for it is a claim built on far too many assumptions on an issue we only have 1 side of.
    Should elevator guy not have cold-propositioned someone in an elevator? Yes, he should not have. Does doing so in and of itself make him sexist? No, it doesn’t. Do we have any data beyond this? No we don’t. Are people jumping to conclusions? Yes, they are.

  29. Mox says

    “It’s that hitting on women in the wrong circumstances can make women feel uncomfortable. ”
    Herein lies the problem. Problably 99% of women will agree that in an elevator at 4 am when you want to go to sleep and the guy has never spoken to you before is the wrong circumstance. But there are other situations that are much grayer.
    Im not going to defend what elevator guy did. But to see it as evidence for sexism in the atheist movement is not justified. To call it a “potential sexual assault” is not justified. To denigrate people who dare to disagree, including other women who have a different point of view, with cheap condescending slogans (i.e. “you just dont get it” and “gender traitor”) is not justified.
    Something awkward happened when one clueless guy made a clumsy attempt to get laid. Thats it.

  30. says

    @Ragarth: you just made the mistake I talk about above. Did Watson argue that what Elevator Guy did was sexist? Yes. Did she argue that he is, in his entirety, therefore *a* sexist? No. There is a difference between behaving in a sexist way and being such a douchebag that we can label you a sexist in your entirety. Just like people can have anxieties about race they may not entirely recognize without being full-fledged, KKK attending racists.

  31. Connor says

    My concern is that this makes women out to be like victims. That, because they’re women, they need to be treated with extra-special care.
    I understand the potential threat Watson experienced with all of the different circumstances (the 4 AM, the elevator, the aloneness, the foreigness), but I just get the feeling that the extension from that argument is suggesting that women need to be coddled.
    That’s to say that I worry this isn’t about Watson’s specific situation anymore but instead about a wider range of situations. Not all situations, just more. Enough to make people feel on edge.
    In order for women to be treated equally, isn’t it best to come from a position of strength rather than vulnerability?
    In other words, is it sexist to say what you want in whatever context you want, regardless of the person’s sex, or is it sexist to choose your words wisely according to the context based on the person’s sex?
    Based on how I worded that, you can easily see which one I think is sexist, but I want another opinion.
    This isn’t a sarcastic or suggestive or mean question! I’m really trying to understand.

  32. Levi in NY says

    Is it just me, or does Oscar Wilde look uncannily like Jay Novella in that picture?

  33. Adam says

    This is an excellent read. I came here for the first time today (linked from Jen McCreight) and have read MANY of your articles in the space of an hour and sadly must retreat to do some other work. However, I wanted to share with you a comment I posted already on Jen’s site.
    Because of the letter you posted, I was reminded of another article I read earlier today: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lisa-bloom/how-to-talk-to-little-gir_b_882510.html
    This kind of nonsense starts at an early age, and avoiding talking about appearance when you are talking to a little girl is just as important as avoiding it when talking to an adult woman. That is, not COMPLETELY avoiding it necessarily when you find the adult woman attractive, or just like something about her appearance. But it belongs in a proper setting, and is not something you want to do as one of the first things you say. Appearance compliments belong in a dating setting, or perhaps in a casual setting.
    Personally, I am least comfortable giving compliments until I know a person, and most comfortable when I know that person’s appearance habits and they change something with the obvious express purpose of drawing appearance attention. That is NOT something you can tell if you meet someone for the first time. Perhaps that flower in her hair is something she does all the time, or she always wears a dress, or she always puts on make up thick. It could just be a normal thing, which means it is not something that is there to necessarily draw in men (or women).
    That’s not to say I don’t sometimes get that uncontrollable “WOW” effect when I see someone I find to be very attractive, partly augmented by the style of dress, style of hair and so on, but resistance to immediately jumping to the appearance compliments is a good thing in MOST common situations.
    Of course, I could have potentially fallen into many pitfalls by writing all that, and please point out where I am wrong. But I hope the sentiments are understood.

  34. Spacefall says

    I keep hearing this argument that EG’s behaviour was OKAY because it obviously works for some people. I’m dubious of this — does anyone actually KNOW anyone who has successfully asked a women back to his room at 4 in the morning while in a hotel elevator? I’ve talked to a lot of women not involved in Elevatorgate, giving them the general scenario and asking what they’d do, and not one of them has said “hell yeah I’d go with him!” Reactions have ranged from “wow, someone sucks at hitting on women” to “christ, you’d have to be mental.”
    More to the point, just because something works doesn’t mean it’s a good thing to do. How about if we ignore the existence of gay people, so long as well all promise not to persecute them or kill them? It “works”. Many gay people lived perfectly happy lives with their “cousin” or “housemate” in the past. But it isn’t a nice thing to do, it isn’t a just thing to do, and it is an entirely pointless thing to do when one considers the alternative — accepting all forms of sexuality between consenting adults — doesn’t actually hurt us at all, and in fact makes us more tolerant and diverse as a population. It’s the same — to a lesser extent, admittedly — with Elevator Guy. It might, ostensibly (though again, I doubt it) work for him to hit on strange women in elevators, but it doesn’t really hurt him not to, and it will make a significant portion of the female population feel much more comfortable.

  35. Z Gehlke says

    Excuse my insistence on fact, but you claimed that it’s “well documented” that being alone in an elevator with a man is a dangerous situation.
    Could you provide said documentation?
    I haven’t seen it, but would like to: I’ve said things to the contrary, and as much as I’ll dislike having to eat my words, I’d like to actually find out what’s true.

  36. says

    Fantastically written description of the issue, I haven’t followed the whole saga but this put it all in an excellent perspective. Thank you for taking the time to write this. Your point on men having to understand how to talk to women wrt male privilege and different levels of power (be it talk to flirt, or even talk in general) is very, very well made.

  37. says

    So you’re saying if I want people to keep talking about this issue, I should tell you to stop talking about it? Well, then: stop talking about it! ;)
    Your post is useful. It highlights an important issue. But I don’t think it answers it. And I don’t think it’s meant to, but I’d like to see the conversation broaden a bit in the following directions:
    Sure it is in everyone’s best interest to teach men what might make a woman uncomfortable, but that leaves open the rather important question of how hard a man should be expected to work at this. “Don’t ever do anything that might make a woman (or even a reasonable woman) uncomfortable” just doesn’t work.
    Can I make eye contact with a woman in an elevator? In a corridor? On a hike? After dark? Can I say hi? Can I compliment her on her talk? On her glasses? Is any of these less okay after dark, or after midnight, or in Brazil? How about if I have tattoos? How about if I’m black? How about if I’m wearing an atheism T-shirt? How about if I’m ugly? Yes, that last few are serious questions.
    Anyone can name a threshold, but the threshold will be different for everyone, and different at different times. Basically, it depends on the levels of fear/tiredness/shyness/*-ism present in the woman. Because this is about managing _her_ feelings, not mine.
    How can I measure, reproducibly, whether it is reasonable to perform some action around a woman? Jen McCreight’s post provides useful examples for her, and probably for a lot of smart, well-educated American women, but rather than anecdote I’d like to see a general theory that applies to actual women rather than just averages.
    There’s really no way for me to figure out someone’s level of fear/tiredness/shyness/*-ism without asking. *And you have taken asking off the table!*
    You encounter a strange man in the elevator late at night. You know nothing about him, besides that he’s probably not a rapist but he might be. If he asks you for a drink and you say no and he stops and leaves you alone, you know one more thing about him than you used to: that he has just taken “no” for an answer. Why does this additional information make a woman _more_ uncomfortable? Is it learning that he also is a human with intentions rather than just a thing taking up space in the elevator? Or is it, as seems reasonable if you’re worried about rape, his very presence in the elevator?
    If the latter, then if a man desired to be totally respectful, he would get out of the elevator the moment a woman got in. How can I tell if that’s reasonable? It might be deeply appreciated on occasion. Even frequently?
    This whole story makes sense if you’re more likely to be raped by someone who first invites you for a drink and accepts your rejection than someone who just stands there. Is that the case? I have no idea. And if that answers the general question, then we’re all doomed.
    Care to talk about “owning your feelings”? When a man and a woman interact, the woman will have feelings. (So will the man, but ours usually don’t involve fear of physical violence, and thus can be ignored for now. I assume that this is also why it’s okay to blog about subjects that make people uncomfortable.) Recognising that the feelings may contain useful information–being on guard etc—seems reasonable. But blaming the man for those feelings seems immature (not to mention disempowering!).

  38. Spacefall says

    I’d also like to add that it helps my sanity to think of this not as “half of the atheist community is full of clueless jerks” but as “half of the atheist community is full of people who GET it, and who are willing to stand up for fair treatment of others.” It’s not that we have more sexists than any other community — it’s that we’re willing to call them on it.

  39. DFS says

    Achess said
    “Schrodinger’s black assaulter:
    There are more African Americans in jail than white people, even though only 12,6% of the US population is African American => white people are justified to be on their guard when in presence of African Americans in particular => African Americans should be extra-careful when talking to white people…”
    Your analogy would be a bit more on point if you referred to the likelihood of a black person committing an assault against a white person. Of course, the statistics wouldnt be on your side since blacks are far more likely to commit violent crime against other blacks. Either way, the analogy is an EPIC FAIL

  40. ChauvinistPig says

    So many words for such a non-existent point. Thought Greta would have a reasonable opinion of this shitshow, but I guess not.

  41. Hitch says

    I am disappointed. With many people. Given your summary I gather that you don’t have the full context so I’ll assume that you mean well, frankly, you clearly do.
    But Rebecca didn’t just step into the trap of blinded males who cannot empathize.
    In fact early reactions to her video were women. She didn’t take kindly to the dissent, called them peddling in anti-women rhetoric and misogynistic, incidentally clearly pro-feminist women themselves, but trying to take the guy’s perspective.
    Rebecca had earlier called out Paula Kirby and claimed that she said that there is no sexism in the atheist movement. The panel in question is now online. Why Rebecca singled out Paula, a friend of Richard Dawkins is beyond me, because multiple women on the panel articulated comparable, I’d call them inclusive views of gender in the atheist community. I didn’t really hear Paula promoting the view that there is no sexism, but rather a issuing a rallying call that stated that men really did want more women in the movement.
    That part of the context is completely missing from your discourse that reads:
    “A shitstorm in which many men, including Richard Dawkins, have argued that this is a trivial issue, or even a non-issue”
    So no, this is not men vs women and it wasn’t. Richard did not kick this off etc etc.
    In reality what is going on here is a complex situation.
    There is real discourse to be had about sexism, but many of the real aspects that do go into this are frankly pushed to the side by the kind of rhetoric that is being flung around.
    I’m a survivor of abuse, yet I have been told to go to hell, simply because I did not 100% agree with Rebecca Watson. At the same time there is all this talk about empathy and anti-sexism.
    But you know what. To look at a guy and say “he’s a potential rapist” is sexist. At least if we are serious about what sexism is.
    But a lot of the discourse has been leaning this way. Guys don’t understand how the creepiness stems from this fear of rape that is anchored in the reality we have. Yes it is. But does that mean that only reaction one can have here is that no guy can politely invite a woman in an elevator?
    No. That is indeed itself a sexist resolution. One gender’s behavior is circumscribed and confined, based on a generalized stereotype.
    But that’s too harsh to say because we have to empathize. And yes we should. It’s no fun to be hit on in creepy settings. Most critics actually agree with Rebecca. The guy in the elevator was inconsiderate and clumbsy and perhaps should have known better. He should listen to advice how to approach and all that.
    But you know what? There has been almost no discourse about that issue. The whole topic of approaching and being approached and how the very notion that guys usually have to take the risk, and be rejected, seen as creepy, or worse as a potential rapist. That is A-OK. That in our society we are nowhere near a 50% ratio in terms of the split of who approaches and who is approached. That kind of sexism is unreflected.
    And no, many women don’t care that guys get laid, because the non-sexist solution would indeed be that women hit on men just about as much as men hit on women. But we are centuries away form that and rather than question that pattern, in this shit-storm it has been reinforced.
    Sure the guy approaches, but he has to approach in a gendered way that solidifies the roles.
    That is not really helping guys get laid, especially not those who would never dream of hitting on a woman in an elevator (or anywhere else where they might suspect that an advance may be in any way unwelcome).
    But I sympathize. We are very far from a utopia where sexism is so far undermines that we can indeed listen to all concerns, all issues, and empathize with all live stories. See all fears, and mitigate all of them.
    For now, if you dare, you are “no feminist” somehow a friend of MRMs, a mansplainer or anti-woman, a misogynist and clearly have no time to worry about the safety of women in society, let along advocate for women’s rights in the political sphere.
    Perhaps we do need to wake up and actually battle sexism and advance feminism that is, as Steinem correctly said, ultimately a kind of humanism. But guys are human too, and like women or anyone else, we are not all the same, we don’t fit one mold, or one prescription, and we don’t deserve to have gendered roles that are forced on us.
    It is still unspeakable, because some of us have “privilege”, that includes being unable to take a passive role in dating and relating…
    I think if we actually did look at the root causes why the story is about a guy approaching a woman, and not a woman approaching at a guy, including everybody’s roles, we’d actually break down that sexism that does pervade our social norms. (And yes, sorry for rambling)

  42. says

    My concern is that this makes women out to be like victims. That, because they’re women, they need to be treated with extra-special care.

    Your concern is misplaced. Victimisation is perpetuated by silence; never by open and productive discourse.
    It is also a bad faith argument to claim that by asking for courtesy and a decent sense of our (likely, socially “normal”) boundaries, women are asking to be treated with extra-special care.
    In fact I would go as far as to say that to view courtesy and a decent respect for boundaries as extra-special care is inherently disrespectful towards women as beings deserving less courtesy and less respect for their boundaries.
    In the context of at least two women – Rebecca Watson and Greta Christina, in this case – openly and rationally expressing a desire to discuss and analyse and issue, professing a concern for their well-being from allowing them to engage in what they are clearly intellectually capable of engaging in (open and rational discourse) is disrespectful of them as beings less able to understand their own needs and desires.
    tl;dr version: all this “concern” about discussions of sexism and women’s boundaries being “victimising” and “disempowering” is sexist fucking bullshit.

  43. Russ says

    I would like to compliment those posting here for managing to maintain a high degree of civility despite having differing perspectives on the situation. It’s not what I saw on other blogs.
    Congrats to Greta. I think she encourages and attracts a good following.

  44. AbnormalWrench says

    I think the most eloquent and level headed discussion on this issue that I’ve seen was in the theskepticsguide.org’s forum on the recent podcast (312). A couple commenters differentiated between the encounter being merely inappropriate vs sexist. I have to agree with that conclusion, and I think that was Dawkins point also (after sifting through the sarcasm).
    I will happily admit I would never make such a pass, but then, I’m not the kind of person that would approach any stranger and propose casual sex. However I do know plenty of men and women that enjoy that kind of casual sex and they (and I, frankly) see nothing wrong with that kind of “subtle” propositioning, and it is completely fine with everyone involved….when it is mutual, of course. When it isn’t mutual, a lot of people might take offense to it.
    Jen McCreight suggested markers on name tags to help prevent these kinds of issues. If nothing else, it removes any excuses of mixed signals. That would prevent INAPPROPRIATE sexual offers (in front of dozens of people, or when alone). The real sexism can, of course, continue on for all to see.

  45. Hemlock says

    “Watson is trying to silence other women who respectfully disagree by calling them names.”
    How? Stef made a debatable comment, in public, and essentially finished off by suggesting hypocrisy on Watson’s part. This ignored it was a personal anecdote and a whole lot else beside. Neither appears to be any better than the other in that light. In any case, it was said all right out there in public, and I’ve also seen Rebecca Watson say Paula Kirby disagrees with her as well in conference video right there out in public too. So what? Not many out there that agree that you should never address what others say. I just wish people would stop with the “silencing” trope, it just doesn’t happen that I or anyone else can do anything to shut anyone up and the person concerned has been able to respond with their viewpoint albeit later on their blog. Apparently not enough though. As PZ Myers said “Name names, always name names, and always do your best to be specific.”
    I any case, I’ve been reading through some of this and it’s self-evident the discussion about sexism had to happen. I think Greta Christina pointed out well, it’s something seems to be a recurring theme and it’s time to start talking about it and time to start listening when people talk about how they are experiencing this.

  46. says

    “We are trying to help you get laid.”
    Yeah, that’s what it takes to get a man’s attention and consideration. That’s all we think about, and we’ll only absorb a message if there’s the prospect of sex at the other end. I don’t doubt for a second that all those dumb no-nos have happened, but I’m sick of being tarred with the same brush as those idiots.
    So I’ve toned myself down, and feel safe saying less and less, and whenever I go to a party I end up in a corner by myself, sober, wondering how little offence I can cause by leaving early. Great example of Evolution in Action, eh?

  47. says

    You are definitely right about one thing. The more people try to shut someone else up about a topic, the more it encourages others to speak up.
    I even did a response to Richard Dawkins and I highly doubt there is a chance he will ever read it. I just felt so upset about that I had to write something.
    if anyone is ever interested in reading it you can find it on my blog,

  48. says

    You seem to gloss over all the women who think Rebecca was in the wrong, or at least overreacted.
    There’s nothing wrong, Rose, with noting that women’s opinions differ on this subject. The question is how men react to this information. There are two ways to go about it:
    (1) “Some women say they’d have no problem with this approach technique; many women say it would bother them. I will therefore update my Bayesian model of the likelihood of success for various flirting techniques accordingly.”
    (2) “If at least one woman says it’s OK, then it’s OK, and any women who say otherwise are overreacting and getting hysterical and upset over nothing.”
    Regrettably, I’ve observed that the men bringing up this point fall mostly into the latter camp. As Greta said so well, I’ve been forced to the conclusion that for many of them, this isn’t about getting dates or getting laid – it’s about proving a point.

  49. Cripdyke says

    I am so sick of hearing people say not to describe others as sexist or racist b/c that doesn’t describe the “totality” of that person.
    Do I not describe someone as shy b/c in 1 on 1 settings they can be quite assertive about their boundaries & needs …or just refuse to do that b/c I don’t know the person well and that MIGHT be true?
    WTF?
    Should we not call people jerks if they are acting like jerks b/c maybe they give flowers to mom on Mothers’ Day? Should we not call people blue-eyed b/c that puts the focus on only one part of their body?
    There is an argument for not saying people are racist or sexist, but it’s not because there exist non-racist/sexist parts of that person. The real argument would be something like, “The stigma from this is so huge it’s counter productive to use the word in this way.”
    But here’s the thing: I’ve never heard of a person being fired because someone used the word sexist to describe them. NEVER. Not once. I’ve never heard of a person who could not reproduce because at one point someone called them racist. NEVER. Not once.
    The idea that there is some horrible stigma that will follow the person around if only some third party describes the person as sexist/racist is a myth.
    Moreover, if we can’t say that people are sexist or racist in the same way that we say that people are blood-bearing, trolls, alive, blue-eyed, or jerks, then we can’t talk about the problems created by people being sexist.
    You might say that we could just say that the actions involved were sexist, but not the person. This is like saying a person’s job activities are janitorial or managerial but the person is not a janitor or manager. Not only that, but then people say that the actions aren’t racist/sexist unless the person *intended* them to be so. Which goes back to saying that if the person isn’t sexist, the action isn’t sexist.
    And if we can’t call a person sexist and the person must be sexist for the action to be sexist, no sexism exists, period.
    Get real. Saying we can’t call people who engage in sexism sexist…or saying that if we do we are committing some horrible sin that is destined to blow up the internet… is effed up and is itself counterproductive. Let’s not do that.

  50. yb says

    “When religious believers say this to atheists… do you say to yourself, ‘You’re right. This is such a troubling, divisive issue. I’m so sorry I brought it up. We’ll stop talking about it now.'”
    This is fantastic. Way to hit on the #1 best way to drawn an analogy people would understand that you possibly could have. Wow.

  51. Azkyroth says

    …okay, not only did the comment I referred to above with the reference to “previous comment” get eaten by the blog software, so, apparently, did my follow-up attempt to clarify. Greta, mind seeing if they’re held up somehow?

  52. llewelly says

    Connor | July 12, 2011 at 03:07 PM:

    My concern is that this makes women out to be like victims.

    Women are having their concerns be rejected. Women are victims.

    That, because they’re women, they need to be treated with extra-special care.

    Not because they are women. Because women are more likely to have their concerns be ignored, because women are more likely to be victims of sexual assault and domestic violence, because women (on average) are paid less than men – and so forth. It is Sexism – not being a woman – that makes victims out of women (and, in other ways, out of men as well, but that’s another matter), whether they like it or not.

    I just get the feeling that the extension from that argument is suggesting that women need to be coddled.

    That’s an irresponsible extension on your part. A request for empathy and consideration of context is not coddling; those two items are essential to any communication.

    In order for women to be treated equally, isn’t it best to come from a position of strength rather than vulnerability?

    The worst possible response to vulnerability is to ignore it, and pretend to “come from a position of strength” when one does not in fact have that position. (To find strengths one does have, and make careful use of those, is wise, and quite another matter.)

    In other words, is it sexist to say what you want in whatever context you want, regardless of the person’s sex, or is it sexist to choose your words wisely according to the context based on the person’s sex?

    We do not live in a world were men and women are identical. Women are usually physically smaller and weaker than men, they are usually paid less, and worse. They are at much greater risk of sexual assault and domestic violence. Women are bombarded all their lives with the message that they need to watch their every action to prevent themselves from being raped. (For example, most police stations post rape prevention guidelines which state that Rebecca never should have even gotten onto the elevator with Elevator Guy.)
    These differences mean that a woman will not view an encounter with a strange man, late at night, in an elevator, the same way a man will. If A man wants to communicate about such an incident, he must understand these differences in perspective, or he will send the wrong message.
    Speaking to someone without considering their perspective can be sexist. And it can also be racist. But most of the time, it’s just a gross failure to communicate. Solipsism is not a communication strategy.

  53. llewelly says

    Chris Hallquist | July 12, 2011 at 12:40 PM:

    (2) I haven’t noticed any really ridiculous attacks on her (calling her a man-hater, or saying she shouldn’t talk about these things whether or not she’s right)

    Richard Dawkins, of all people, said she shouldn’t talk about these things. If you missed that, you really have not been paying attention. Sure, he originally said it in a comment, but plenty of top-level blog posts about it have been made about it since then.

    (4) A lot of atheists have objected to the way Rebecca has responder to her critics, and I’m largely with them. She’s responded to even polite disagreement with accusations of being “anti-woman” and “misogynistic” (see here, for example). Baseless accusations of misogyny are majorly uncool, in the same way that baseless accusations of man-hating are majorly uncool.

    There is a difference between calling the rhetoric used by a person “anti-woman”, and calling that person “anti-woman”. It’s interesting that you made that error, but Stef McGraw did not. (Despite making many other errors.)
    Beyond that, what Rebecca actually said about Stef McGraw is adequately explained here:

    But those are unimportant details in comparison to the first quoted sentence, which demonstrates an ignorance of Feminism 101 – in this case, the difference between sexual attraction and sexual objectification. The former is great – be attracted to people! Flirt, have fun, make friends, have sex, meet the love of your life, whatever floats your boat. But the latter involves dismissing a person’s feelings, desires, and identity, with a complete disinterest in how one’s actions will affect the “object” in question. That’s what we shouldn’t be doing. No, we feminists are not outlawing sexuality.
    I hear a lot of misogyny from skeptics and atheists, but when ancient anti-woman rhetoric like the above is repeated verbatim by a young woman online, it validates that misogyny in a way that goes above and beyond the validation those men get from one another. It also negatively affects the women who are nervous about being in similar situations. Some of them have been raped or otherwise sexually assaulted, and some just don’t want to be put in that position. And they read these posts and watch these videos and they think, “If something were to happen to me and these women won’t stand up for me, who will?”

    What you and Stef are both missing here, is that the rhetoric Rebecca referred to is so widespread, and so ingrained in our culture that many people, yes, even women who are otherwise aware of many feminist concerns, repeat the rhetoric without understanding how it dismisses the difference between sexual attraction and objectification. Despite the fact that the speaker’s intent is often good, it perpetuates the failure to appreciate women as people.

    (5) I suspect some of the blow up would have happened even if no one had made any ridiculous attacks on Rebecca, because of the ridiculous attacks *she* has made on her critics.

    It is interesting that you should say that, after downplaying the ugliness of many of Rebecca’s critics, after distorting what she said, and after linking to a post by Stef McGraw which repeats the tired canard that Rebecca “place [McGraw's earlier post] in a category with people advocating for her to be raped”.

    (6) Part of this post seems to argue “the behavior of some men can’t be explained by straightforwardly selfish motivations, so it must be sexism.” This is fallacious. As a man, I can attest that sometimes, men are just dumb.

    The fact that a person does not actively intend to be sexist does not mean their actions are not sexist, and it does not mean the words do not perpetuate sexist behavior in others. Intent is not magic.
    This is the whole reason that Rebecca’s complaint about Elevator Guy are necessary; some people (like me, when I was younger) do need to be told things like that. And, in some cases, repeatedly. A great deal of sexism is indeed the result of ignorance, and that is why feminists spend so much time trying to raise awareness abou things like this.
    It is important to note that Rebecca did not claime EG intended to rape her, or that he intended to be sexist – she said he didn’t get it.
    Chris Hallquist | July 12, 2011 at 01:42 PM:

    @Lou: Ugh, for the second time, I’m not advocating letting anything slide …

    Good. But when you downplay the hideousness of many of her critics, and srawperson her supporters, you play into the hands of those that would prefer to dismiss her concerns entirely.

  54. llewelly says

    brian t | July 12, 2011 at 04:22 PM:

    “We are trying to help you get laid.”

    Yeah, that’s what it takes to get a man’s attention and consideration. That’s all we think about, and we’ll only absorb a message if there’s the prospect of sex at the other end.

    A big chunk of Greta’s post was about the strategic importantce that the atheist movement deal with sexism as soon as possible. And she has written about this in the past. This illustrates that she is aware that men care about many other things. Greta has also written about the problems caused by the assumption that men only care about sex; see here. You’ve missed an awful lot, and I suggest you re-read this article, as well as the two I linked.

    I don’t doubt for a second that all those dumb no-nos have happened, but I’m sick of being tarred with the same brush as those idiots.

    Rebecca, Greta, Jen, and many other feminists who have written about this topic have been careful to say that not all men are misogynists, not all are sexist, and not all are clueless. They’ve taken care to thank men who exhibit good qualities. They are not tarring all men with the same brush.

  55. says

    It’s so interesting thinking back on it. I saw Rebecca’s post about the incident right after it happened (pre-blowup), and thought to myself “yeah, good point, well said, etc” and that it was very rationally put. Honestly I didn’t think about it too much because the point was so obvious. Then it exploded and…yeah…facepalm.
    I did a blog post on the subject towards the end of the explosion, and I didn’t really want to write it either. Thanks for the encouraging words about the importance of discussing the issue, even we’re tired of discussing it.

  56. says

    Great post, Greta. I read PZ’s blog and was dismayed by the MRAs over there. An awful lot of them use the same reasoning style as Limbaugh. The advent of civil and women’s rights has him and his tribe sorely butthurt. Too bad. We are all human beings first and foremost and are entitled to all the rights associated with being human.
    I have a wife and a daughter who are people, not sex meat.

  57. says

    “(2) “If at least one woman says it’s OK, then it’s OK, and any women who say otherwise are overreacting and getting hysterical and upset over nothing.”
    Regrettably, I’ve observed that the men bringing up this point fall mostly into the latter camp. ”
    Is it that a woman saying it is okay justifies it or is it a) the freedom of speech and b) respecting people as equal humans regardless of sex that makes it okay?
    I appreciate the advice and reality we live in; but should it be this way? No.

  58. Connor says

    Marstrina,
    “It is also a bad faith argument to claim that by asking for courtesy and a decent sense of our (likely, socially “normal”) boundaries, women are asking to be treated with extra-special care.”
    Point taken, I think. See below.
    “…is disrespectful of them as beings less able to understand their own needs and desires.”
    Disrespectful or not, it was a concern I had. Thank you for your answer.
    “all this “concern” about discussions of sexism and women’s boundaries being “victimising” and “disempowering” is sexist fucking bullshit.”
    Quoting “concern” for sarcasm is unnecessary as it was something that legitimately bothered me. My lack of intellectual talent (a.k.a. stupidity) at sorting these issues out doesn’t make my concern any less real.
    As far as my question being sexist, that’s true. Unintentionally and, according to me, well-meaningky sexist, but sexist nonetheless.
    So if I’m understanding you correctly, the fact that women have boundaries that they need respected does not mean that they require “extra-special care” but instead need courtesy and a decent sense of these boundaries. Talking about these boundaries and how, in Watson’s case, they were crossed in open and rational discourse is not victimization but empowerment.
    From reading about this in the past few weeks, I’ve seen this go both ways. One person calls this new awareness “respecting boundaries” and another calls it “victimizing women.” I hope you can see how confusing this can be. Both ways lead to a claim of more respect for women, and I want that.
    I really do.
    It’s honestly been fucking up my mind for the past few days. and I don’t even date women! I’d never, ever be in this situation. Even if I were, I wouldn’t do like EG because it really is creepy (it’s the “why?” that I’m exploring). But my mind is teetering between realizing these sex-specific boundaries and realizing that another name for these boundaries could be “extra-special care.”
    You called the “extra-special care” thing an argument from bad faith, which it very well could be. I could be deceiving myself big time here.
    If you (or anyone) could explain, what the difference is between respecting a woman’s boundaries and treating her with “extra-special care,” it’d help me out. Honestly, I feel like respecting a woman’s boundaries is not sexist, but that seems to just be based on a feeling.

  59. ACN says

    Utterly off-topic, the artwork next to
    “What created this firestorm was not feminists pointing out sexism.”
    Is the MTG:Portal 2nd Age art for “Wildfire”. It is really good art, and I was tickled to see it here.

  60. malta says

    Ian: “Unless a man self-identifies as a feminist, I assume he’s sexist.”
    I don’t think Ian is trolling and I tend to agree with him. Most people with privilege have some sexist (racist, homophobic, etc) thoughts in our heads because a lot of sexist (etc) tropes are prevalent in our culture. I think of it as -ist inertia. The ideas stick around until you actively remove them.
    If people say or do sexist things, I’m actually okay with calling them sexists. Because I think the big problem with sexism in the world isn’t the people who go around thinking “women are inferior.” I think the problem is the folks who think “I wish my [female] boss would stop nagging me.”
    Here’s my analogy (although it still needs some refining): the first type of sexists are like religious extremists, while the second type are like religious moderates. The moderates agree that the extremists are bad, but they don’t recognize that they both believe [sexist] things that aren’t true. Feminists are like atheists because we think both types of sexists are harmful.
    I think from now on I’m going to start calling people moderate sexists and extremist sexists :)

  61. says

    May I respectfully ask a few questions?
    1.Exactly at what time is it ok to ask a female to coffee?
    2. Is it proper for me to wait until the female to propositions me?
    3. What makes women think they are always a sexual object? Is it even possible that the guy just really wanted to have coffee with her because she is smart and wanted to talk? (They were BOTH on an elevator at 4am.)
    4. I completely understand Rebecca’s trepidation at the situation and time. (sarcasm following) – Like it being improper for a black person to approach my lily white ass at 4 am in and asking me for change to put in the parking meter. …me saying I don’t have any… and them him just walking away.

  62. Teh Merkin says

    So why on earth would you turn around and say to people who are talking about feminism, “This is such a divisive issue — why do you have to keep bringing it up?”
    Do you see how this is the same?

    I do, yes, and I think that is the clearest explanation of it that I have ever read. Thank you.

  63. Luis Dias says

    Just wanted to state that I witnessed all this “gate” with astonishment and bemusement at the ridiculousness of it, and never wrote a single word about it for it was so strange and alien to me. RD’s words almost seemed to come from planet XIX century. But you are absolutely right, these things should be talked about until the last man understands basic points about sexism and, you know, common decency.

  64. agaytheist says

    If I weren’t a gay man, I’d probably be in love with you Greta. Perfect. Brilliant as usual.

  65. says

    I rarely read your blog, not for any other reason than I read a few others and just don’t have time to keep expanding my blog reading. However, the few times I have read it, I have always thought very highly of your work (and is usually linked over from PZ). This is no exception and is spot on the money. I’m not a regular follower and I likely wont ever see the responses to this comment (if any), but I wanted to put in my 2 cents of support as a male who is learning and growing in this. I too was (and sometimes am) prone to oblivious comments. My own girlfriend has chastised me a few times for making light of her fear to walk somewhere by herself at night. I also though Watsons response was pointless. But I am an atheist, a physician in training (i.e. med school grunt), a skeptic, an ardent supporter of listening to the evidence, and a writer to combat pseudoscience and dogma so I figured I should actually try and listen. And I did, and I learned.
    Part of what I see is the problem is the reaction to criticism. Watson said, “That was creepy. Don’t do that.” Men heard, “Y’all are fucking creepy ass rapists. Fuck you!” Because it is hard to take a criticism, no matter who you are. Atheist, skeptic, or dyed-in-the-wool faith head, learning to be OK with being called out and criticized is a SKILL you must develop, just like any other and over a long period of time. And no matter how good you are at it, it still stings and it always will. Learning to grit your teeth and listen anyways is the hallmark of being more “evolved” (if you will), more mature, more likely to be a reasonable human being. And the best part? Doing so in no way negates your right to call the other person an idiot…. after due consideration. In fact, it STRENGTHENS your position if you have duly listened to the critique and come back with throughtful questions and responses. If that fails, you can at least say you tried, and have lost nothing you would have gained by calling them an idiot right out the gate.
    So, yeah, keep up the great work Greta, and count yourself one more educated male out there.

  66. David Spring says

    First off, advice to get a man laid should only come from women men actually want to have sex with. But aside from that, I offer this solution to both the elevator issue as well as our current economic issues. Since there are millions of women every day alone in elevators with men and only an infinitesimally small amount of them actually suffer harm as a result we can safely say women are more likely to be struck by lightning than raped in an elevator. Surely that warrants federal tax dollars to retrofit all buildings with gender specific elevators which will both create jobs and solve an otherwise non-existent issue. In the mean time while all that work is being done all men stand rigid, eyes forward, utterly silent with our hands where you can see them until we reach our destination. As well we should get the word out to women to avoid the obviously male chauvinist God of Lightning. After all, it’s only fair the minority of women with issues get to control the behaviors of men who are not actually guilty of any crime. Right?
    Does this sound crazy? Unfortunately a completely insane response is the only germane response to this man-made… ahem.. sorry… woman-made issue of all importance to atheists around the world who are struggling to be taken seriously.
    In addition, since it is now apparently ok to steal 15 minutes of fame next to Dawkins by speaking about an issue that has nothing to do with any other issue on the table at any given meeting, I say we up the ante and invite PETA to give a talk about all the animals killed on roads by drunk drivers in front of a MADD meeting. Why not?
    In fact let’s also discuss the non-existence of feminism at the next town hall meeting for political candidates.
    It’s unfortunate women can’t agree on the definition of feminism but would rather use it to make something seem important [as well as an extra dollar for less work]. Christians do the same thing with the Bible and apparently it works really well.
    Good luck with all that. I’m going to see if I can’t find a hot woman in a random elevator to scare the daylights out of by complimenting her and asking her out…..

  67. says

    Thanks “Hitch” for your interesting comment, one of the best I’ve read about this whole furore.
    The problem I have is not the issue in question (is it appropriate for a man to proposition a woman in an elevator at 4am? Of course not, it was wrong of him to do so), but the way it has been used as ego-stroking by the likes of PZ Myers and Rebecca Watson. Richard Dawkins made an excellent point, although he might have gone a little too far. Women are treated horribly by men all over the world, and we’re meant to feel shock and revulsion about what may (or may not, we only have her word) Rebecca Watson may have FELT about a man?
    I think this is a massive waste of time, when there are far more important things to be getting on with. Why don’t we make more noise about FGM, which not only happens in deprived African countries but in the UK itself?

  68. Sammy says

    MMmmhh … interesting. All feminists ( I don’t think just because someone oppose elevatorgate alone make him/her feminist ) oppose elevator proposition. But everybody has entirely different kind of reasons for opposing it.
    Some view it as misogynist approach.
    Some (particularly PZ) its nothing but indecent and inappropriate.
    Some its not about getting laid,but its women nature to get scared alone in an elevator and its highly likely crime spot.
    All these different view is a self evident that this particular issue has more to do with “How you paraphrasing the issue “.
    If Rebecca said ” I don’t like that a guy approach me in an elevator ” there wont be much of an issue.But Men view it as just generalizing men as misogynist because she claim no guy should do that. Since she claim herself as hardcore feminist, and reject other feminist’s feminism, her talk about elevatorgate insinuate that she is speaking in general and speaks for all women.
    Some ask if you say its indecent then why you draw the line up there and deny Hindus, Christians, Muslims drawing their own line on indecency. Lot of ideas PZ proposed for proposition is very very indecent in 3rd world.
    Some say if its like threatening then that argument is fine, but when its works for both a girl and a guy to get laid, then its more of a subjective statement that all men should not proposition at elevator at particular time.
    I do not think this argument will be over, or anyone can claim victory, because it involves more subjective view considering how the incident happened at the elevator, a proposition but no harm.
    If feminist still claim they speak for all women , then feminist in developing country where those feminist still go along with conservative values when it comes to women sexuality, all of their claims should not be rejected as just their own view.

  69. llewelly says

    Hitch | July 12, 2011 at 04:08 PM:

    The whole topic of approaching and being approached and how the very notion that guys usually have to take the risk, and be rejected, seen as creepy, or worse as a potential rapist. That is A-OK. That in our society we are nowhere near a 50% ratio in terms of the split of who approaches and who is approached. That kind of sexism is unreflected.

    Correcting this asymmetry requires creating a environments in which women feel comfortable approaching men. That in turn requires paying attention when women explain what makes them uncomfortable.
    The process is not helped by long waffling posts that try to have it both ways in consecutive paragraphs; you claim “That is indeed itself a sexist resolution. One gender’s behavior is circumscribed and confined, based on a generalized stereotype.” and then you turn right around and say “The guy in the elevator was inconsiderate and clumbsy and perhaps should have known better. He should listen to advice how to approach and all that.”
    You know the Elevator Guy was inconsiderate and clumsy, but somehow, you think it is sexist to expect him to understand the basics of communication, to do something in order to not be inconsiderate.
    The process is also not helped by arguing that it is ok to ignore women who are upset by the Elevator Guy’s approach, because other women “took his perspective”.

    But guys are human too, and like women or anyone else, we are not all the same, we don’t fit one mold, or one prescription, and we don’t deserve to have gendered roles that are forced on us.

    You should have listened to Rebecca’s video, in which she explained that many men are getting it. Or maybe you should have read Greta’s post in which she said similar things. Or maybe you should have read any of several other posts in which this was explained.

  70. says

    “This was exactly what I needed to read. Thank you so much for posting this. “Elevatorgate” has pissed me all the way off, and it’s exhausting and disheartening, and so thank you approximately one zillion times for the encouragement.”
    Posted by: XtinaS
    i would like to reiterate that, with one change: i’d like to thank you one zillion times for assuming that i’m going to rape someone- “…it’s likely to be perceived as a potential threat…” i’ll add that to the rather prodigious list of assumptions that many white people i encounter on a daily basis make. still, i’m glad you have an excuse now: instead of saying you were afraid i would rape you because i’m not white, you can say you were afraid i’d rape you because i have a penis. in some ways it’s a step up, i suppose.
    I guess then that i’ll just become racist against whites-after all, you’re justifying it, right? demean, “otherize” and rebuke another group for something over which they have no say-their sex, yet take that same attribute, and use it’s properties to attribute controllable behavior to it? Sorry lady: PHILO 101 FAIL. but thanks again for justifying any kind of ignorant stereotyping.
    thx. for not listening to anyone. except RW.
    your sexism is just as depressing as the racism i encounter every day.
    and by the way, if you’re tempted to defend your sexism, you said this:
    “…it’s likely to be perceived as a potential threat…” which to anyone who isn’t white, sounds exactly like “it looked like a gun, and that’s why i fired.”
    think i’m not afraid of whites? and cops? think again. any white person who cares to can have me arrested on a say so. while in custody, i can have a broomstick shoved into my rectum. i may be beaten, repeatedly, i might spend more than a few evenings in a jail cell-with actual criminals (though that’s something you’ve thankfully resolved for me, since you a priori categorize me as such), among whom i may again be beaten, and yes, possibly raped. because someone white decided to point in my direction and say ‘it was him’. irrespective of truth, or evidence, all these things can happen to me. because i am not white. you’re not the only one who might fear rape, lady. but again, thanks a bunch. for continuing to not see what’s clearly in front of you: you’re a sexist.
    so again, thank you for giving me carte blanche with which to justify any hatred i might want to gin up against both whites and cops. very kind of you.
    Got WHITE privilege?

  71. ARL says

    The most hilarious thing that’s going on for me, right now, is an argument I’m having on YouTube with someone.
    You see, I’m actually female, but on YouTube, I’m a man.
    I keep on giving this good advice about when it’s OK to hit on women, basically saying, anywhere she can easily say “no” and walk away, but someone who claims to be female keeps on arguing with me about it. I am told, for example, that I shouldn’t do anything to discourage men from asking women out for coffee.
    I keep on saying “It’s just good advice,” but the internet-borne escalation keeps growing. I just keep hitting the tennis ball back to the same location at the same moderate speed, and I watch as the frustration of the other person mounts.
    Now I see why the internet crazies do it.
    Uh, oh. I am an internet crazy.

  72. Jeffy Joe says

    Including the apology letter was a stroke of genius. I think a lot of the push back comes from guys who are not sexist (or at least try their best not to be) who are afraid of being labeled as such because of some stupid comment or slip up. You show just how easy it is to dismiss these concerns. If you slip up in a way that others might construe as sexist, APOLOGIZE. Explain that you didn’t mean it that way, and you were being a dummy. Imagine what a simple apology letter from elevator guy could do (you KNOW he is reading all this stuff). Step up, dude.

  73. Steve says

    Whatever happened to this being about how Watson dealt with Stef McGraw? How did that get lost in all this noise? I wonder if Watson had been a man and the issue not about sexism if we’d be discussing the actual issue?

  74. Lyra says

    To be absolutely honest, this whole thing has made me extremely nervous. I don’t think that what the Elevator guy did was very bad (it was a little bad) but the response to Watson talking about it appalls me. I was sexually abused as a child by my father, and one of the biggest guns in his arsenal was the, “You should be ok with what I’m doing to you,” shotgun. This insistence that if I didn’t want him doing something to me, that I had to come up with an reason and then successfully pitch it to him was horrible, and it is one of the the things I find myself struggling with to this day. Much to my mother’s dismay, if some guy does something to creep me out, rather than tell him and distance myself from him until I am once again comfortable, I freeze and start analyzing whether or not I should be creeped out, whether or not I’m justified in being creeped out.
    It’s really, really awful, and I don’t want to do it. If I have to come up with some song and dance for atheist men at conferences so as to convince them that it is reasonable to respect my boundaries, it’s not going to end well. At best, it will end with me unhappy; at worst, it will end with me hyperventilating in my car. Either way, no one has sex, no one gets a date, no one has fun. And that’s hardly the goal.
    I truly hope that we are able to get to a point that if a woman says something on par to, “I don’t like that, it makes me feel bad, don’t do it,” that the conversation doesn’t collapse into assertions that she shouldn’t have minded, or if she did, she should have just shut up and endured.

  75. Lotharloo says

    Fantastic post! I bookmarked it and I do not usually bookmark blog posts. I also understand that the scope of the post is not limited to RW or EG or every other little thing that happened in the conference so those who complain that the post is not comprehensive, must try to have a broader view.
    There is only one thing that I do not like: I do not like Shrodinger’s rapist article. The first time that I read it, I really liked it but then later I got disillusioned and I think it is written from another privileged point of view. I do not want to nitpick, because I mainly posted to say that I really like what you wrote and that I do hope people listen and learn.
    The optimist in me likes to think that the violent defensive outburst of some people might actually be a sign that the these discussions are working and that they just just need more quiet time of their own to really soak the lessons. So maybe, in a month, or in a year they can actually have the guts to laugh at their reactions and admit that they have changed.

  76. MagistraMarla says

    Christina,
    I’ve been following this on Pharyngula, and as a feminist from way back in the late ’60s/early ’70s, I posted this idea there.
    When reading about the death of Betty Ford and her leadership in feminism, I was surprised to learn that the ERA was never ratified. I missed it while busy raising kids.
    I suggest that the Atheist community should rally behind the idea of finally getting it ratified. We need to make the younger generation of women aware of this and get them out to vote for candidates that would support it. Most of those candidates would probably also be supportive of issues near and dear to the Atheist community, so it’s a win-win situation.

  77. says

    Okay so no hitting on women until you get to know them. Obviously, I still don’t get it. I’m going to read Jen McCreights blog to see if I can understand it any better.

  78. llewelly says

    David Spring | July 12, 2011 at 06:39 PM:

    First off, advice to get a man laid should only come from women men actually want to have sex with.

    Women you do not personally desire are also capable of having insight into sexual or romantic interactions. Your approach deafens you to many valuable ideas. Furthermore, you are a fool to presume that all men share your narrow-minded ideas about who is desirable, and who is worth listening to.
    More importantly, to assume that women you don’t find attractive are not worth listening to is quite sexist; it is an expectation that women are required to conform themselves to your desires, even if they have no sexual interest in you personally, but simply have some advice for you.

    Since there are millions of women every day alone in elevators with men and only an infinitesimally small amount of them actually suffer harm as a result we can safely say women are more likely to be struck by lightning than raped in an elevator.

    Most police stations post rape prevention guidelines which state that women should not get onto elevators alone with strange men.

    I say we up the ante and invite PETA to give a talk about all the animals killed on roads by drunk drivers in front of a MADD meeting. Why not?

    This is an issue which strongly affects whether or not women join the atheist movement. And that was already explained, by Rebecca, by Greta, and by many other people. To pretend otherwise is to advocate both sexism and ignorance.

  79. piny says

    Mox, some women like to have sex with Newt Gingrich for free (arguably). What’s your point here? I like to be given electric shocks with this very sophisticated and visually appealing implement sold in specialty stores; I have no problem with the general assumption that sex and electric shocks don’t mix. It forces me to take certain preemptive measures on craigslist and so forth, but I prefer it to the alternatives, and I assume you do too.
    It is fair to generalize in the following way: all women under patriarchy face increased risk of rape compounded by ignorance of rape; all women under patriarchy face the social obligation to manage their own risk. Therefore, most women are more aware of risky situations, and many women react negatively to men who put them in those situations.
    The solution for men is to have as broadly friendly approach as possible, within reason. Not to put any woman in a “risky” situation. You might be a little more circumspect than some women prefer, but you know what the alternative is? Making other women, normal sensible women, afraid. I don’t think that more adventurous women will complain about how nobody hits on them in enclosed spaces anymore. Maybe they can hit on men in elevators instead.
    And it is not true that all that happened here was a clueless man hitting on an irritable woman. What happened was, she made a mild criticism of his behavior and then a herd of men on the internet went, “FUCK YOU I DO WHAT I WANT” and also, “I just don’t understand why you would get so upset!” Now the event includes the shitstorm of sexist apologism, and therefore people will comment on it. Especially if the discussion is, “Context: Women Perceive It.”

  80. ChasCPeterson says

    What created this firestorm was not feminists pointing out sexism. What created this firestorm was sexist men perpetuating it.

    You said it.
    You said a lot of good stuff.
    So thanks for that.

  81. llewelly says

    MagistraMarla | July 12, 2011 at 07:13 PM:

    I suggest that the Atheist community should rally behind the idea of finally getting it ratified.

    I really like this idea. It fits nicely with the argument that Rebecca and others have been making, that women’s rights should be an atheist issue, and a skeptic issue.

  82. piny says

    “We are trying to help you get laid.”
    Yeah, that’s what it takes to get a man’s attention and consideration. That’s all we think about, and we’ll only absorb a message if there’s the prospect of sex at the other end. I don’t doubt for a second that all those dumb no-nos have happened, but I’m sick of being tarred with the same brush as those idiots.
    So I’ve toned myself down, and feel safe saying less and less, and whenever I go to a party I end up in a corner by myself, sober, wondering how little offence I can cause by leaving early. Great example of Evolution in Action, eh?

    …Women don’t just spout off about how much they want men to get all the sex they can handle. That’s a response to the oft-asserted complaint of how men have a really hard time getting laid what with being perceived as a potential threat by a woman who does not know you.
    But wait, I don’t need to tell you that, because you make that very same complaint in the very next paragraph!
    You know what really sucks? Having to paint men with the same brush. That is, this isn’t actually true. Women don’t actually go around thinking, “Gee, I wonder if that guy’s a rapist.” What women understand is a little different: “Nobody but me is going to do anything to stop me getting raped.” Women know that most sexual violence goes unpunished. They know that abusive behavior isn’t really stigmatized. They know that society supports–even valorizes–a certain level of coercion and harassment. They know that they will be blamed if they have failed to be vigilant, or just for being a girl. That’s what seems like paranoia to you: the justified belief that they are all alone.
    And the solution to that is not to freak out about how women might think you’re a bad man, or to act like they’re hysterical, or to give up beer at parties. The solution is to give them your support.

  83. Brian says

    The thing that I still don’t understand – and what nobody seems to be explaining in a way I get – is how asking a girl for coffee is misogynistic.
    It’s been explained, considering the situation that it’s a little creepy. That it was in bad taste. That it was a bit inconsiderate and rude.
    I get those things, but I’m not seeing the connection to any rampant sexism or misogyny.

  84. llewelly says

    Steve | July 12, 2011 at 07:04 PM:

    Whatever happened to this being about how Watson dealt with Stef McGraw? How did that get lost in all this noise?

    It got buried under a horde of idiots insisting they deserved a magic right to be assholes. I don’t think they cared for Stef McGraw’s opinion any more than they cared for Rebecca’s. Note that some people did address that issue, however.

  85. sharky says

    … actually no, I’m not trying to help anyone who insists on their right to hit on me. If it’s all about them, the question can’t possibly be “do you want to do this with me,” which is consent and would be the right question.
    Their question is “can I do that to you,” which is the legal definition of consent and the wrong question. And then, yes, when people get angry because I don’t want to hear it, I do have to wonder why they want the social right to check with every woman around.
    But I don’t want to “help” them by inflicting them on another woman just so they’ll leave me alone.

  86. piny says

    Well, first of all, it’s not quite “rude” or “inconsiderate.” He didn’t fart in the elevator. The reason women are bothered by this stuff is that it can sometimes lead to really frightening and dangerous situations.
    It’s not sexist or misogynist to ask a woman out for coffee. It is ignorant to ask a woman out in creepy circumstances. That ignorance depends on sexist beliefs about what the world is like for everyone. It is misogynist to get upset at a woman for pointing out that sexism. It is misogynist to expect women to manage the threat of sexual violence all by themselves. And it is misogynist to expect women to pretend sexual violence is not a real problem so that men don’t feel sad.
    You are not being called sexist or misogynist for wanting to ask a woman out for coffee.

  87. Hitch says

    llewelly | July 12, 2011 at 06:54 PM:

    Correcting this asymmetry requires creating a environments in which women feel comfortable approaching men. That in turn requires paying attention when women explain what makes them uncomfortable.

    I’m sorry that makes no sense. The first sentence has to do with women being approached. The second with women approaching. There is literally no relationship with comfort in the first to comfort in the second.
    But notice that if 50% of the approaching was done by women, far fewer guys would actually need to do the approaching and perhaps there would be less inclination to pick worse scenarios, have positive role modeling by somone showing how to do it with grace etc etc.
    This idea that X has to be solved first as you say is actually silly. No. Women can start approaching more now. And it really can only help.

    The process is not helped by long waffling posts that try to have it both ways in consecutive paragraphs;

    Whatever.

    you claim “That is indeed itself a sexist resolution. One gender’s behavior is circumscribed and confined, based on a generalized stereotype.” and then you turn right around and say “The guy in the elevator was inconsiderate and clumbsy and perhaps should have known better. He should listen to advice how to approach and all that.”
    You know the Elevator Guy was inconsiderate and clumsy, but somehow, you think it is sexist to expect him to understand the basics of communication, to do something in order to not be inconsiderate.

    Er there is no contradiction here. At all. I guess my empathizing with the discomfort of Rebecca somehow says that the fact that only a guys behavior here is corrected but the whole gendered pattern is not changed cannot be described as sexist, even though it is. Well OK…

    The process is also not helped by arguing that it is ok to ignore women who are upset by the Elevator Guy’s approach, because other women “took his perspective”.

    Er I just said that he was insensitive and clumbsy. How is that ignoring women who are upset. It is NOT. I say the opposite of what you accuse me of. I would appreciate if you would not do that. Thank you.

    You should have listened to Rebecca’s video, in which she explained that many men are getting it.

    I have watched Rebecca’s video. I have no problem with the video and nowhere said that I have. I have massive problems with lots of things that have happened surrounding the video, including your condescending remarks right here.

    Or maybe you should have read Greta’s post in which she said similar things.

    More condescension.

    Or maybe you should have read any of several other posts in which this was explained.

    I read plenty. So you condescend to my perspective, mischaracterize my views and basically give a fallacious argument why women supposedly cannot do anything about dissolving the sexist dating patterns we have… at least not until some other thing is fixed.
    So granted, your comment was shorter than mine… if that is all that matters to you I don’t see why we should have an exchange. I certainly won’t accept being condescended to like this.

  88. Pogonip says

    Suppose, just suppose that ElevatorGuy gets on the elevator, and instead of Ms. Watson getting on, Bubba does. Bubba is about 6’6″, 275 lbs., and has interesting tattoos especially on his neck. Bubba tells ElevatorGuy that he finds him interesting and invites him to his room for a drink. Maybe his eyebrows move, or his lips – we can’t see that. How comfy is ElevatorGuy?

  89. says

    I can’t really imagine going to a conference on atheism. If you are an atheist already, what do you do there? I mean, other than get propositioned in elevators at four in the morning, apparently? I do appreciate that you are trying to get us laid more, and I do apologize that so many of my sex have given women reason for feeling threatened. A lot of the problem is that there is no clear set of rules, for either sex. It’s a bit confusing in a society where women try their best to look attractive, and in most cases men are supposed to ignore their attraction. If you figure this problem out at your conferences, I’ll start going, because solving global warming should be comparatively simple.

  90. says

    I keep seeing guys posting on ElevatorGate threads complaining that they feel like there’s this arbitrary and arcane set of “rules” that women are expecting them to follow without them being able to know what these rules are in advance, i.e., “Never ask a woman out in an elevator”, “Never talk to a woman after 2am”, etc.
    You’re thinking about this the wrong way. What we’re trying to get you to do is put yourself in our place and specifically think about this: “If I lived my life knowing that there was a frighteningly high likelihood that at some point I will be sexually assaulted, that I live in a culture that is way, way too accomodating to and encouraging of sexual assault and sexist behavior in general, HOW COMFORTABLE WOULD *I* FEEL IN THIS SITUATION?”
    Let’s suppose that I were Rebecca and Elevator Guy had instead said something like this:
    “I’m sorry to bother you this late at night, but I really enjoyed your talk at the conference and would enjoy a chance to have a one-on-one conversation with you. I know you’re probably going to bed now, but would you like to meet me for coffee at $some_local_establishment tomorrow?”
    Now, you have to bear in mind that I (a) already have a boyfriend and (b) am a pretty shy person and not really inclined to “go out” that often, especially with people I don’t know, so I would probably say no anyway. (Or, if EG seemed interesting enough, gently clue him in to the presence of the boyfriend and suggest he come along.)
    But at least this way I would be much less likely to feel creeped out or threatened by the situation, because in this scenario EG has demonstrated that he *has* considered my feelings and priorities, and — this is important, guys — he asked me to a PUBLIC PLACE during the DAYTIME. Not to his hotel room in the middle of the night.
    So, there IS a way to navigate a situation like this without scaring the hell out of the lady you’d like to get to know. You don’t have to get it perfect. You just have to pay attention and at least TRY to see things from her perspective. If you’re at least making an effort, we can tell and will appreciate it.

  91. says

    Methinks everyone should take a deep breath, step back, and watch Mr. Deity’s tongue-in-cheek episode on this, all the way to end credits:

    THANK YOU, Mr. Deity… and “Muslima”!

  92. Tom Shamma says

    Thank you, Greta.
    Every time I’ve read one of these posts on the blogs lately, it’s made me cringe. As a few people have pointed out, it’s hard to own up to and face privilege. But this conversation on the blogs has really helped, it’s clarified a lot of specific points in really tangible ways. So as much as it makes me cringe to keep reading about it, I really want to see bloggers keep writing about it.
    The other day, I was talking to a feminist activist, and I told her I was active in the atheist movement. The first thing she said was, “The atheist movement is really sexist.” As much as it stings to get called out like that on blogs, hearing it in person, from someone who might otherwise have been an ally to the movement, is a lot worse.
    A lot of progressives already think of us as backward, bigoted extremists for not embracing the “All religions are awesome, let’s hug” mentality. I can live with that. I’m somewhat less okay with “I’m an atheist” sounding like “I’m a sexist” in the ears of activists outside this particular movement.

  93. Questioning Kat says

    Thanks for this article. I caught the whole conversation from the start and after a few days quickly became tired of the thousands of comments from different sites yelling about the same thing over and over. I guess I’m impatient with people don’t get something which to me seems so obvious, then dealing with what I considered bad behavior from people who agreed with my perspective. Just stop I thought, and will everybody deal with this compassionately and rationally in a civilized manner.
    Now I see that sometimes persisting (even if it’s ugly) that those (sexist males) who don’t get it really is being more considerate and caring because people siding with Rebecca didn’t give up and dismiss people voicing their sexist attitude an quickly as I did. I figured these individuals needed to learn it on their own. I guess sometimes people need have something shoved into their face, because they may not learn or change otherwise. Strangely, this approach can at times be more inclusive and considerate to everybody involved.
    I guess different approaches work for different people.

  94. says

    @llewelly:
    I maintain that “accusations of being ‘anti-woman’ and ‘misogynistic'” is a perfectly accurate description of what Rebecca’s statements, though perhaps a bit ambiguous.
    If it makes you happy, you can mentally replace the offending sentence with “She’s responded to even polite disagreement with accusations of engaging in anti-woman rhetoric, an accusation that I find completely baseless.”
    And um… you may think this is condescending or even sexist, but “anti-woman rhetoric” would be something like say “all woman are evil.” Stef didn’t say anything like that. Just because you think Stef made a mistake, or even that she made a mistake that might indirectly encourage a few people to do bad things, does not justify calling what she said “anti-woman.” I don’t understand why that isn’t obvious.
    As for blog comments, I’ve read some of what Dawkins said, and yes he disagreed with Rebecca, yes he was kind of a dick about it, yes you think he was wrong to do both of those things, but AFAIK he never said Rebecca shouldn’t be talking about it whether she’s right or wrong. So my original comment stands.
    And when we’re not talking about Dawkins, I guess I should have said this earlier, but no, I don’t really care what no-namers say in comment boxes. That people have (apparently) been calling Rebecca a man-hater is bad, but it’s a very small bad compared to someone the fact that someone as prominent as she is tossing around baseless accusations of misogyny. I don’t think it makes sense for the atheist community to try to police what every random dude commenting on a blog says, but I do think it makes sense for us to watch what the prominent folk among us say.

  95. David Spring says

    Maybe women should take the stairs anyway. Most American women could use the exercise!

  96. Squorlly says

    Evil Eye,
    “I completely understand Rebecca’s trepidation at the situation and time. (sarcasm following) – Like it being improper for a black person to approach my lily white ass at 4 am in and asking me for change to put in the parking meter. …me saying I don’t have any… and them him just walking away.”
    I realize you’re trying to be antagonistic here, but that’s actually a fantastic point. You don’t need the race theatre at all.
    I think a lot of people would be uncomfortable being approached in tight quarters by a larger stranger who wants something from them at 4 a.m. That person might even realize that the time and circumstances are already creepy, and so avoid cornering or isolating them. It’s almost… reasonable. You know?

  97. says

    Wait, wait, wait. I’m not trying to shut anyone up. I’m a feminist but I think Richard Dawkins is right about this.
    Think if it was a woman the one who asked on the elevator. She’s entitled to do so. Why shouldn’t men have the same right? To say so is chauvinism.
    I don’t know if female chauvinism (women have more rights than men) or regular old-style chauvinism (since women are the weaker sex, they should be allowed to hit on guys on elevators, but men won’t be allowed to do so).
    I’m interested in reading more about this. If there’s a problem, it shouldn’t be hidden. It just has to be spoken about it and I try to think about it, everytime I get the chance, but I guess I’m the kind of guy who “doesn’t get it” and just thinks women and men are entitled to the same rights.
    -D

  98. says

    This is my first comment on Greta’s (a person I consider a friend) blog and on this issue. I hope no one takes offense at my comment, as I certainly don’t intend any. Much of this issue seems to stem from the fact that it is assumed the man in the elevator was making an “advance,” meaning that his intention was to begin a relationship, engage in sexual intercourse, or whatever along those lines. I was not there, but what I read about the incident did not make it clear what his intentions were for certain. I’ve read he told Rebecca that he thought she was interesting, based on the interactions of the group that had occurred just prior to the two of them getting on the elevator, and then asked her if she would like to come to his room for coffee. I’m probably in the minority here, but I can easily imagine myself approaching someone in that fashion, simply because I would be interested in conversing further and possibly building a friendship with that person, whether that person would be male or female or other. Having said that, context does play an important role in this situation, which I fully acknowledge. It is not appropriate to approach someone, even with the best of intentions, at 04:00 and especially when alone in an elevator. First of all, due to my asocial nature and to several medical conditions, I would not be awake at 04:00, let alone interacting with people or intending to stay up even later to chat with someone, regardless of how interesting I might find that person to be. Also, due to a somewhat lacking of social skills, to which those in the secular/godless community who have met me can probably attest, I might have approached someone (female or otherwise) in a similar manner if truly intrigued by that person or something he/she/ze said, and never have thought that it would be inappropriate or that my intentions might have been misinterpreted negatively. Now, let me make it perfectly clear that I am not defending elevator man; on the contrary, due to the fact that he waited until they were alone on an elevator, I suspect his intentions were not exactly innocent and that he was hoping to share with her more warm liquid than just coffee, though I will plead agnosticism about his intentions in the end, as is only fair without further evidence. I’m simply saying that it is important not to make assumptions about his intentions or the intentions of others (like me, who might just be lacking adequate social skills) in similar situations. Perhaps Greta will attest from what she knows of me that I fully support feminism and equality in all aspects of life, but I also support wholeheartedly not jumping to conclusions without sufficient evidence to support such conclusions or generalizing the typical behavior of a population (such as stereotypically horny males) to that of an individual, especially in a single instance. I welcome any civil feedback anyone wishes to provide me, given this comment, though I do not intend to revisit this blog entry unless I receive some sort of notice that someone has responded to my comment specifically, as I simply do not have the time to patrol it. Thank you for considering what I’ve had to say and I hope you’ll first assume ignorance on my part if you find any aspect of my comment particularly egregious.:-)
    Regards,
    Jason

  99. Waterdog says

    Hi Greta. I’m a regular reader of several science blogs, a few of which have ties to either or both the atheist or skeptic movements, and I’ve been following this controversy since day one. I want you (and Rebecca, and Jen, and others) to know that I’ve really learned a lot.
    The challenge of skepticism is to remember to turn your critical faculties inwards, and have enough humility to consider that sometimes you’re wrong. We don’t always see things from another’s point of view, and we miss that there’s a lot of context and social baggage that those of us with male genitalia totally don’t experience.
    I really appreciate what a great job you’ve all done explaining this huge inconsistency some of us have been so unaware of, because, admittedly, we were just too damn lazy and self-centred to consider that we might be missing something, and perhaps, don’t know more about what a woman experiences than the woman herself.
    It’s good to learn something new. It’s good to be a little more logically consistent, a little more personally honest with ourselves. It’s good to be a better human being.

  100. julian says

    “Like it being improper for a black person to approach my lily white ass at 4 am in and asking me for change to put in the parking meter”
    That has nothing to do with you being white or he being black. A complete stranger is approaching you in the middle of the night while you’re completely alone and asking for money for a parking meter. Innocuous requests like that are common among muggers. (‘is that a cell phone?’ ‘hey, can I see that real quick?’)

  101. says

    Greta, this was a truly welcome and epic post. THANK YOU! As a gay man who’s seen his fair share of sexism and privilege, I really appreciate seeing so many people stand up so intelligently against it. And that it’s my fellow atheists? The joy!
    I have learned a lot from this blowup, and it’s been valuable stuff. I fond myself thinking how different things must appear for women, and how what they can’t take for granted and what I can’t take for granted overlap in so many areas. And the differences that were pointed out, wow. I have even more appreciation for the enormous strength of women, and the patience.
    Tommy

  102. says

    Thanks for this post. I got it from PZ, and I am glad I did. This was VERY well written, well constructed and as articulate as anything I have ever read! It informed me as nothing else could what the issue was all about and what women in this movement want from it. (and from us guys.)
    Your blog is now on my daily reading list, and I am happy to see another wonderful voice on our side!
    Thanks, again.

  103. Nietzche was right. says

    Pardon me for not buying into the slave morality.
    The word “privelige” reeks of whiny mealy-mouthed postmodern self-righteous pompous bullshit.
    Watson, threw a pity party to get YouTube hits.
    That was lame.

  104. says

    It bears noting that no one’s saying asking a woman for coffee (even in one’s bedroom) is misogynistic or sexist. We’re saying it’s creepy and that people who consistently refuse to get that appear to be motivated by sexism or misogyny. Big difference.

  105. says

    When I first heard about this and went to Skepchick to see what was up, the first thing I noticed there was a ad for some product or other, with a attractive young blonde woman showing a lot of cleavage. How was I supposed to take that? Not objectify the model? Concentrate on the product? I can’t recall what the product was. I saw an attractive young woman showing a lot cleavage. Am I sexist scumbag?

  106. Randy says

    Maybe I don’t get this because I’m gay. I watched the original video, and the accusation was based on sexist stereotypes of men. I can tell you, some of us don’t want to have sex with any of you, ever. Even in this posting, we’re being asked to accept that because rapes (like all crime) happen, all men are presumed guilty of future rape until proven innocent. That’s the very essence of prejudice, and it harms everyone, male and female alike. All this man did was ask a question. It seems a reasonable assumption that he wanted sex, but nobody actually asked. Regardless, he was told no. That was it. Life went on for both of them, and that would have been it if it hasn’t been blown up into something far more than it is. If you can’t handle someone asking you back to their place in an elevator, you have let prejudice and paranoia win, and that’s a shame. I’m also quite disappointed with PZ’s behaviour recently disabling comments to avoid discussion he doesn’t like. I don’t often find myself defending straight men, but I think they are being treated unfairly in this case. If it continues being discussed, I will continue to defend them. It’s inappropriate to let this be decided by volume, as appears to be the intention.

  107. Forbidden says

    Honestly, as soon as you link to the obscenely sexist “Schrodinger’s Rapist”, you’re done. You’ve spent any credibility on sexism and declared yourself misandrist. That essay is every bit as disgusting as Limbaugh’s “White Men are the most discriminated against” stupidity.
    Imagine, if you will, “Schrodinger’s Slut”. It’s impossible to tell, just at a glance, whether or not a woman is a slut. Therefore, I will treat all women as sluts. If you don’t want me to treat you as a slut, then you should wear extremely conservative clothing, never make eye contact, and never voice your opinions.
    Does that remind us of anything? Yes, that’s classic misogynism that will, hopefully soon, be entirely routed from society. Schroedinger’s Rapist is precisely the same thing, but directed at men, and every bit as disgusting and vile.

  108. says

    Lester Ballard66:
    Yes, you are a sexist scumbag. You also have a weird obsession with Daniel Tosh that you should probably consult a medical professional about. (I checked out your Twitter account.)
    Randy:
    Even in this posting, we’re being asked to accept that because rapes (like all crime) happen, all men are presumed guilty of future rape until proven innocent.
    That is not true. Specifically, “presumed guilty” is not true. No woman looks at you and assumes that you have raped someone. A woman may, particularly under circumstances like those Watson described, look at you and be uncertain about whether or not you will rape her. The correct response in this situation is not to rape her.

  109. says

    Forbidden:
    You don’t see a logical contradiction between “It’s impossible to tell, just at a glance, whether or not a woman is a slut,” and “If you don’t want me to treat you as a slut, then you should wear extremely conservative clothing?”
    I mean, I got plenty other problems with what you’re saying, but that one kinda jumped out.

  110. says

    IMPORTANT UPDATE FROM GRETA: This piece has been linked to, on Pharyngula and lots of other places, and as a result, traffic and commenting is increasing significantly, including from many non-regulars. This is excellent… but it means that people are participating who aren’t familiar with the usual standard of discourse here. Quick summary: I encourage lively debate, but I also expect it to be civil. Criticize ideas and behavior, but please keep the heated rhetoric to a minimum, and don’t personally insult other commenters. I have already banned someone for trotting out the “We don’t have to listen to you because you’re ugly” trope. (Full comment policy is here.)
    And it also means that the trolls are seriously starting to come out. Please, please, I beg of everyone: DO NOT FEED THE TROLLS. This conversation is loaded enough. If you’re not sure what constitutes trolling, consult Katie Hartman’s Bingo card. (My regular bulldogs are hereby authorized to give the trolls a “Thank you for sharing” on my behalf.)
    I’m leaving for TAM tomorrow, where I’ll be on the diversity panel — I know, perfect timing, right? — which means that as much as I would like to (and I’m serious, I really would like to), I won’t have time to participate in this comment discussion. I will be checking in periodically to moderate (and if necessary, bring down the banhammer on trolls), but I will not have the time to jump in. Greta’s Bulldogs are already doing an excellent job of saying pretty much everything I would have said on my own behalf, though, and I’ll trust them to keep it up. Thanks.

  111. says

    Oh, and one more update from Greta:
    My very, very strong preference would be to keep this conversation ON TOPIC. I don’t think we need to re-hash the details of Elevatorgate again. The specific topics raised by this piece were: (a) the proposal that men who steadfastly and angrily refuse to listen to women giving guidance about when and where their advances are likely to be welcomed are more interested in maintaining their privilege than in actually getting laid; (b) the suggestion that, if you disagree with women who are criticizing what they think is sexist behavior or language, you focus on their ideas rather than chiding them for expressing them, and that telling women to shut up about sexism is equivalent to religious believers telling atheists to shut up about atheism; and (c) the proposal that, as unpleasant as they are, these kinds of controversies are necessary for the health of the atheist movement, and that we are far better off having them now instead of ten or twenty years from now. Please, please, if you can possibly bear it, keep your comments focused on these ideas. Thanks.

  112. Tom says

    I applaud calm, reasonable discussion – that’s been sorely needed on this issue (and pretty much every other issue I’m interested in). And for the most part, the bloggers that I’ve read (Jen, PZ, Laden, this from Greta) have engaged in that.
    But I think that they’ve calmly, reasonably ignored a major part of the debate – that plenty of people are A-OK with Rebecca’s initial comments, advising the world that late night propositions in an elevator are creepy, but they’re not OK with her later comments equating people who disagree with sexists, or the forum she used to make those comments.
    I’m one of those people. I haven’t seen any of the above bloggers address that issue. It’s always limited to “people object to Rebecca Watson saying being approached in an elevator is creepy.” Certainly, there are plenty of people who object to that. But it’s only half of the discussion.

  113. Eric Dutton says

    I want to let you know that I am not getting sick of this issue. I absolutely love the fact that this is happening. I don’t love the fact that this is a problem, but I love the fact that this issue isn’t dying. I get sick of seeing subjects like circumcision lead to, not just the display of privilege, but the angry and violent display of privilege . . . and then that blog post falls off the bottom of the page and no one cares anymore; atheism took it’s male privilege out for a walk around the block and took it back home. Feminism hardly has to whisper to get that dog snarling, so I love the fact that Richard Dawkins, the man that religious folk like to accuse us of worshiping, just got his privilege-pooch maced. I don’t say that because I rejoice in his embarrassment. I don’t. But I am thrilled to see feminism not get cowed this round.
    I want this to keep going. I don’t want atheism to become so relaxed, so confident in it’s own enlightenment, that we start to think that whatever comes out of our mouths (or fingers) must be rational since we don’t believe in God.

  114. Tom says

    I’m with you 90% of the way, but only 90%. I completely see how it can be creepy for a woman or anybody really to be hit on at 4am in an elevator, I totally understand that that in most cases such a move is counterproductive and won’t lead to getting laid. I understand that the person hit on does not like it at all and might address it in an internet podcast in order to help others behave better and men are well advised to listen.
    What I don’t understand is what any of this has to do with Sexism. If anything, this is the reverse, because men are all labeled as potential rapist, which I find extremely sexist (I’m talking about the later reception of the video, not the video itself, which I thought was fair).
    Also, I find your “trying to shut up women is like throwing gasoline into the fire” comment quite dangerous. First of all, it’s not like anybody tried to suppress any women, people just said that it’s a non issue and not worth making a fuss about. I could give you a similar advice: Talk all you want about the elevator incident, but don’t expect to get laid by doing so as it creeps men out. But the gasoline part is what’s really bad, because that sounds an awful lot like a religious nut who threatens atheists not to attack their religion. We should be able to argue about any topic calmly, politely and with rational arguments without the need to resort to threats.

  115. Alex says

    This is driving me crazy. To the people who say that assuming the guy is a potential rapist is sexist, or that women shouldn’t be coddled because that’s sexist:
    I wish that I lived on the planet you’re from. You know, the planet where no means no every single time. The one where I don’t have random men say shit to me when I’m walking past them on the street and I worry that they’re going to suddenly lunge at me or something. The one where my mom doesn’t freak out at the idea that I walked somewhere alone at night. The one where I don’t feel a thousand times more comfortable if I’m dressed in a very masculine way because I know men are less likely to be attacked, and the odds of a rapist targeting a man are vanishingly small. The one where I don’t have to be cautious around men that I know, because most rapists know their victims. The one where rape is so very, very rare that it is not threatening at all, in any way, for a strange man to hit on me, because I KNOW he won’t EVER try to force it.
    Because unfortunately, the world that I live in is not like that. You wouldn’t be threatened if you were a woman and some random man hit on you at 4 am in an elevator? You know what, good for you. That’s fantastic. You want to sail happily through your life pretending that you live in the ideal little post-sexism, post-rape-culture world where showing sexual interest isn’t threatening and/or you’re never threatened by sexual interest? Fine!
    But please, try to understand, this ideal world of yours is not the real one that we inhabit, people ARE raped every day, it DOES happen in elevators (hint: google “elevator rape” and see what comes up on the news feed) and it IS something that many women, straight or gay, and also men, worry about. Especially if they have been raped or assaulted before. Try to feel some empathy, okay? Try to put yourself in their shoes.
    Either that or just accept that some people will find you creepy and threatening. If you don’t want to be perceived as creepy and threatening, then maybe listen to the people who advise you on what is creepy and threatening.
    And for the women who insist that they would not be threatened in this situation, or find it creepy? I truly, sincerely hope you never run into a situation that teaches you differently the hard way. And I hope that in the future we can all feel the way you do, because there won’t be any threat to be creeped out by.

  116. Mike says

    All the people that have slammed Watson for, mostly, what she didn’t actually say have made my mind up about ever attending TAM or any other convention or meeting. I won’t. These are people that I truely do not wish to associate with in any way or form. Y’all just lost a guy over this who can fully understand why lots of women won’t attend.

  117. Doktor Zoom says

    THANK YOU. Just finished the last of the long Pharyngula threads on this topic, and was feeling seriously dispirited… and then read PZ’s link to your excellent essay. If I had a dime for every time I nodded in agreement, I could pay a significant chunk of this month’s broadband bill.
    Thanks again for some seriously thoughtful, even hopeful conclusions about why this conversation is necessary.

  118. Evan B. says

    It kills me that people keep blathering about, “Well how the hell am I supposed to know if it’s okay to hit on her?”
    BY LEARNING WHEN IT”S OKAY! I mean, seriously. Watch her body language. Is it reserved? Are her arms crossed? Is she looking anywhere but at you? Does she break eye contact the second she makes it? Is the smile you get in greeting a perfunctory one, or does it reach all the way to her eyes?
    If you can’t read a woman’s mind, it’s because you have the male privilege of thinking that you never had to learn.

  119. Tom Shamma says

    “But the gasoline part is what’s really bad, because that sounds an awful lot like a religious nut who threatens atheists not to attack their religion.”
    I don’t think it’s actually escaped you, Tom, that the gasoline in this case is metaphorical. But, to be clear: there’s a difference between telling someone not to say or do something because you’ll commit acts of violence if they do, and telling someone not to say or do something because, if they do, you intend to call them out on it.
    I haven’t seen any threats of violence coming from the bloggers discussing this issue. There isn’t a threat of violence in Greta’s article. What I see is a statement, that if people try to suppress this dialogue, there are people prepared to resist that suppression, and keep the conversation going. That is exactly the sort of calm, reasoned response you’re asking for.

  120. Morgan E says

    I get the sense that some commenters think that women are asking for special treatment, and that men have to be so respectful that they can’t even approach women or talk to women without risking offense in these circumstances, as women disagree on what is and isn’t appropriate. Also that asking for special treatment may in and of itself be sexist.
    It is true that women disagree on what is and isn’t appropriate, on account of women are not the borg. As we have unique preferences, there is no way to know in advance what will or won’t irritate the specific woman you are asking out (well, aside from the obvious: listening to her). However, and I say this as a bisexual feminist who has asked out both men and women, I don’t think anyone is asking men for special treatment here. I think the advice given applies to anyone of any gender asking anyone else out. Consider the context you are asking in, and consider what you know about the individual you are asking out. No one is saying a man can’t ask a woman out in difficult circumstances, just that he is far less likely to succeed, and he may inadvertently freak out the person he is asking.
    It is my understanding that Watson had just given a talk where she said that asking her out at conferences makes her uncomfortable. The man in question seems to have gone all in, and not only disregarded what she said, but asked her out at a time and a place that would make most people uncomfortable, to say the least. Not cool (unless I am completely misunderstanding Watson’s video and what I have read about what was discussed at the conference — I wasn’t there).
    I get that it’s hard enough to ask someone out without being told, “Don’t do that,” but this really was good advice in this case.
    I also think it’s strange that so many people seem to think that men are somehow losing something by being asked to not be oblivious. I don’t think anyone is asking men to be psychic, merely mildly considerate — bonus, it’s also good advice for job interviews, ordering food at restaurants, and meeting your in-laws. It also seems to be taken for granted that men will be the askers — maybe the guys could take the weekend off? I suspect that a lot of skeptical women don’t really buy into the idea that the guy has to do the asking anyway.

  121. James Emery says

    Hi, peeps!
    Point one: Greta, I’m a fairly long-time lurker, first-time commenter, I think. You’re wonderful. While I might not be with you on 100% of this post, it’s written in a way that invites mostly rational discussion. Awesome.
    Point two: I’m not down with how RW treated Stef. I think she SHOULD be more careful with throwing around labels and hitting people on their opinions in unequal situations, but she’s not NEARLY as bad as a lot of the people on both sides. PZ and Jen’s comments devolved into massive crazy very quickly, and as much as I love PZ, I honestly feel like he encouraged that with some of his own commenting. I won’t speculate why he did that. I still read him, though.
    Point three: AD-HOMINEM ENGAGE- Watch out for WMDKitty. Damned near every comment I’ve seen from her has been directly calling someone (many of whom were being reasonable, if not necessarily correct) misogynist scum or something similar. She didn’t do this to me, but she certainly didn’t advance the cause. Yes, I’m personally attacking her. It’s fun, and she did it to a BUNCH of people in an extremely judgmental manner. If I thought for a second that she actually spoke for feminist-leaning folks in general, I’d probably cry.
    Point Four: Unless you’re obviously joking, don’t throw around ad hominem/strawman attacks. It’s okay for me, but not the rest of you. Just because. Also, I can see this thread is starting to derail, and I believe Greta just said something about that.
    Point Five: This has been one of the best comment threads on this event I’ve read so far. Whether I fully agree with most of you or not, you’re a shining example of what constructive discussion is all about. Kudos.

  122. says

    This idea that X has to be solved first as you say is actually silly. No. Women can start approaching more now. And it really can only help.

    Really? I guess there’s no possibility then that if the guy DOES do something abusive at some point, her concerns would be dismissed because this brave pioneer woman “was just asking for it?”
    There’s no chance that a prosecutor would decline to press charges if she were raped because she ASKED to go to his room? Because she shows a PATTERN of doing this, so she’s clearly “one of those types” of women?
    Great plan, Stan. Good for all people who suffer under inequality to use.
    Poor people should start treating rich people very nicely and THEN maybe income inequality will enter the rich people’s minds.
    Women getting payed less for the same work should tell men who make more “Hey, you really aren’t making enough money for the work you do, dude…” and THEN maybe that guy will stop for a moment and consider what that woman is getting paid.
    Black men who are disproportionately targeted by cops should approach the cops who have been shooting unarmed handcuffed black men at BART stations and strike up a conversation about how golly, those poor cops have such a tough job.
    Reminds me a bit of my Dad’s position on civil rights. He was for them, just against people like MLK Jr. protesting for rights. Didn’t like the discord.
    He suggested to me (and as a kid I bought it) that the RIGHT way for people locked out of the system to stop being locked out of the system was to work within the system to change that.
    Yeah. If the underprivileged want to stop being underprivileged, they need to step up to the plate and start worrying about accommodating the privileged.
    When their concerns are dismissed by the privileged, when they’re raped or underpaid or fired or harassed or locked out of legal due process as a result, that just means they haven’t taken the concerns of the privileged into due consideration.
    The less privileged need to start working against the plight of the privileged!
    Yeah. Women, if you want to stop being treated as primarily sex objects, you need to start offering up the sex more often. You damned hoarders.
    What sickens me most is that I now have to have a disclaimer stating that what I typed above was not only sarcastic, but wildly over-the-top sarcastic, because there’s a very real possibility that someone will actually think I’m agreeing with their wounded male pride or some shit. It is true, this argument has become pathetic… but it is not true that it’s unnecessary. My view is, I don’t see the atheist movement being able to go forward with any sort of moral authority or credibility without addressing THIS issue FIRST.
    Not all, but many atheists call themselves humanists.
    It is not possible to be a humanist without being a feminist. (It might be theoretically possible for someone to be a feminist without being a humanist, but not sensibly and not commonly).
    If you call yourself a humanist but don’t consider yourself a feminist, then you’re either misunderstanding feminism and buying into the lies about it, or you are wrong about being a humanist, you aren’t.
    Why, some may ask? (please, non-existent god, let nobody need to ask).
    Simple. Because women, whether you see it or not, fall into the category of human.
    Sorry if this comes off as rantish. I can see that it very well might. And that fact dismays me as much as stating the obvious in other situations might be seen as a rant.

  123. says

    eh, quote fail. Above comment was supposed to have the first paragraph clearly marked as a wuote by italics or something.
    I was quoting this:
    “This idea that X has to be solved first as you say is actually silly. No. Women can start approaching more now. And it really can only help.”
    It can only help. that’s a laugh. No, under current circumstance it can actually hurt women more. Not that being straightforward about sexual issues isn’t helpful. That’s what started this discussion, a woman being politely straightforward about sexual issues.
    Look how well it’s turned out. Men have made a champion of her!

  124. Dante says

    I agree with pretty much everything you said but calling Ireland a “strange country” makes me want to tell you to go jump in a lake. What the hell is that even supposed to mean?

  125. says

    “I agree with pretty much everything you said but calling Ireland a “strange country” makes me want to tell you to go jump in a lake. What the hell is that even supposed to mean?”
    It’s that riverdance thing. You’ve got a lot of explaining to do about THAT shit.
    But seriously, the issue is not that hard to grasp. “Strange” does not have only one meaning. It just just mean “buncha weirdos.”
    It can also mean “unfamiliar.”
    Can you not see how being in a country (or even distant city in your own country) where you have no friends, don’t know the layout, what numbers to call in an emergency, where the public transportation is, where the cops are, where the various other services are not personally known to you?
    Have you ever walked through a city you’re unfamiliar with? Not the “bad” areas where people different from you are, but the Disneyfied shopping districts… have you felt a little uneasy, just worried you might get lost or delayed or just feel like you’re ungrounded? Most people experience that.
    Consider for a moment that that circumstance, with the underlying mild tension that often LEGITIMATELY accompanies it, is not the place where you might be at your best when dealing with unwanted or unexpected circumstances?
    Seems pretty simple to me.

  126. Brett Caton says

    As far as I am aware of, the Elevator Guy was not privy to the conversation that took place where Ms Watson indicated her loathing of people trying to pick her up. Perhaps he was? If so, please cite a reference. Otherwise you are just spreading disinformation. Is that reasonable behaviour? Isn’t that what the opponents of atheism do?
    So far the arguments I have seen seem to boil down to :
    1) It’s impolite to approach someone in a lift
    A: There doesn’t seem to be any evidence of danger in that environment. I’ve seen people do it, I’ve done it myself, and had it done to me. Maybe it’s just an American thing? Yet I’ve heard others say they’ve done it too (and done more), I’ve certainly seen it in movies, TV shows, read it in books and so on; if everyone understands that it is such a terrible thing to do, why is it so popular in popular culture?
    2) Men should only approach a woman after hours of chat before
    A) Why? Surely that sort of thing is relevant for starting a relationship? Maybe the man just wants a shag and a relationship might come from that? Maybe the person they are interested in is with their inner circle and is only available for the question briefly?
    Would you impose that standard on a gay woman? A gay man? I’ve seen members of both groups have sex pretty much on the spot. Do you run up to them and say “No touching without conversation!”
    3) Men are on probation. They are rapists, or potential rapists, and should be ashamed of their rapiness. Or are rapists-by-association, because men are more likely to rape than women.
    A) Well, black people in the US are more likely to commit crimes than white people. Are they on probation? Or does the collective guilt only apply to white men?
    4) Men should never make a woman feel uncomfortable.
    A) Why? Where is that written? To make everyone comfortable, one has to be bland, tasteless and dull. I’ve seen women get very excited over men with an edge; or are you denying that reality? Should women who have rough sex be chastised for their failure to conform to some sexual code of conduct? Or is only men who have to be policed?
    It is a common claim of religious types that others should be silenced because they make them uncomfortable. They have gay sex! They look at porn! They want to marry each other!
    It is the opposite of liberty to sign up to that policy and for feminism to incorporate it as a core tenet is very dangerous. We should be free to express our sexuality, to ask for sex if we wish so long as we take no as an answer, which is what happened in that situation. To deny that right to a segment of the population, i.e. heterosexual men, is to be oppressive. To claim that it is a terrible, traumatic thing to be propositioned is, as Dawkins pointed out, absurd.
    5) Men are privileged, they just don’t get it, and should learn to STFU
    A)
    To claim that such men cannot comment to that effect (as they are incredibly ‘privileged’) is an outright attempt to say their opinions don’t matter. And to that, I can only say this. Doesn’t that sound at all … familiar?

  127. Chris says

    Men should listen to women
    Women should listen to men
    Both are true and both are in urgent need to be done to fight ignorance, unsocial instincts and misbeliefs

  128. says

    “As far as I am aware of…”
    There are many people in this “conversation” who don’t have a clear understanding of how truly limited their awareness of transpired is. Maybe listen to what RW herself has to say about this?

  129. Heliotropic says

    Actually, I have another response. The reason you talk about this is that you do not have the strength or the principles to talk about anything else.
    Look what just came out today. In Canada – Canada for crying out loud – public schools are having prayer sessions, but they keep the menstruating girls to the back of the class because they’re “unclean”.
    Will there be a similar outcry about this? Of course not – anymore than there has been a similar outcry over forced marriages, honour killings, the killing of Theo van Gogh, FGM or any other issue where an ounce of principle would be necessary.
    I don’t believe there is entrenched sexism in the skeptic community, and if there were, I wouldn’t rely on the skepchicks to stand up to it. I don’t think they could stand up to anything.

  130. Phyraxus says

    I’ve literally argued with a “feminist” on Jen’s blog saying that men cannot be raped by women unless she had a strap-on. I shit you not.
    Also, Dawkins’ comments were in context of the raving loonies on PZ’s blog. They weren’t a direct comment to RW herself. If he meant to speak directly to her, he would have wrote on her blog, emailed her, etc. When I mentioned this on skepchick blog, someone said, “Oh, it’s because he thought it would be well received on PZ’s blog.” Such a bad faith argument if there ever was one. I also heard the skeptic podcast on with RW on elevatorgate. She propagated the notion that RD was commenting directly at her and didn’t even mention PZ’s blog. Which seemed intellectually dishonest to say the least.
    My first comment on PZ’s blog was mild mannered in and of itself. That I took offense to being seen as a potential rapist (being a male.) Needless to say, flaming ensued. Later, I said that disregarding male emotion was supposed to be the job of patriarchal bastards, not feminists. They, the “feminists” at PZs blog, said, “Oh, boo hoo, do the big mean angry feminists hurt your feewings?” I thanked them for proving my point.
    Abbie, of ERV, called PZ out for being a coward.
    “Its pretty pathetic.
    Richard Dawkins is not a misogynist, end of story. There is zero evidence, anywhere, that he is. Anyone saying that is using one comment as an excuse to grind their own personal axe (“I ALWAYS KNEW….”)
    Thats not hard to say.
    PZ cant say it like that. He has to say it with a qualifier (but hes WRONG!!!).
    While Richard always had his back.
    I repeat, pathetic.
    Also note the problem with all of this– there is no discussion. PZ says I (and Dawkins) are wrong. Ive never told PZ the reasoning behind my opinion, it doesnt matter, my conclusion is WRONG. Dawkins makes a remark. Its WRONG. He asks people to explain why. NO DISCUSSION. WRONG.
    No discussion.
    But its supposed to be ‘good for the community’.
    Interesting.”
    That was my particular experience with this fiasco. Also, “privilege”
    “I read something on Reddit yesterday (can’t remember where) where someone was saying that when people like RW claim that all men possess privilege it’s a bit like when Christians claim all humans possess original sin. Your guilt is established at birth, and there’s no way you can rid of it.
    The only way you can achieve salvation is to openly confess your ‘sin’ and pledge allegiance to a clique group of self-appointed ‘enlightened’ people. If you do not (or if you disagree), the message is circulated that you are not a decent person (or indeed that you are some way evil). It doesn’t matter what your *deeds* have been, that you don’t submit to this group’s belief makes you circumspect.
    Anyway, I thought it was interesting, that’s all.”
    Also, Mr. Deity

    LOL

  131. says

    @Cripdyke — I never said that being labeled sexist or racist will create the horrible stigma that would effect you in such a way that you would, as you say, lose your job. What I was arguing was that the term is so laden with moral overtones that people think about it in absolute terms: either people are sexist pigs, it seems, or they are totally immune to our society’s ideas about gender. I know very few people who fall into either of these categories. Do you?
    And yes, that means we go round and round in debates because people are being defensive, because they think they are being called sexist pigs. Now, sometimes they deserve to be, for sure. But lots of times it is just not that simple, as much as we might want to make it be so. And yes, this is counterproductive.
    I do not think redefining what we mean by a sexist person versus sexist behavior is making excuses or going easy on sexists; it is actually expanding our own responsibility and going hard *on ourselves*. Because who is so Puritan as to claim they are not at all impacted by society’s ideas about gender, or race? This includes women as well as men, by the way. I feel like sometimes, instead of taking a close look at how we are all individually conflicted about these things, we point fingers at someone with less ambiguous issues than our own and label them sexist or racist or whatever so we can simplify the moral questions at hand. And again, however you may want to judge people for being conflicted and contradictory, I think that is a far more realistic portrait of how these prejudices interact with the vast majority of people today. And I think it is always better to go about analyzing a situation in terms that are more reality based.

  132. says

    As a Navy corpsman my dad met all types of people.. one of the guys had a routine dad called- *wanna fuck?* cuz basically the guy went up to women and asked that (in the early 60’s).. and 9 times out of ten he would get slapped.. but the tenth woman… so yeah.. some guys are dumb, and some do just want to get laid. But those of us with brains (and we are atheists so…;) can tell who appreciates us for pur brains and who wants us for our body. (And I am a Stanford alumnus AND a former model, so I am unfortunately very familiar with this ??…;)
    guys- Greta is right- please do listen to us- ask my husband (who most people think married up ;) we appreciate being appreciated for our brains- even those of us with other bits you may like..

  133. Heliotropic says

    Phyraxus, correct. This might be somewhat forgivable if they could stand up and fight when there was an actual problem.

  134. says

    Phyraxis, of COURSE all men have privilege. All PEOPLE have privilege.
    Do you live in a mud hut? Do you beat your clothes against rocks in a stream to clean them? Do you have lack access to antibiotics should you get an infection?
    If not, you are privileged over those who DO live that way, as as most if not all of the women who have commented.
    WE AL HAVE PRIVILEGE. Some of us have different privileges that others don’t.
    As a man, I have the privilege of going wherever I want at night walking or on public transportation (since I can’t drive) without any real concern for my safety. I simply have that privilege.
    My sisters and my mother CAN’T live that way. They can’t go to a comedy club and leave and walk through a darkened downtown on their own, take public transit, and stand around for hours in a deserted bus depot at 2am without having more to be worried about than I do.
    That is privilege that they DON’T have that I DO have.
    All anyone is asking is that you think about this sort of thing, be aware of what privileges you as a human invariably have, think about what privileges other humans you interact with DON’T have, and stop trying to get away with pretending that everyone is walking in exactly the same shoes you are.
    We might even be asked to consider whether or not some privilege you have and never really noticed is something you SHOULD have. You might be asked, if you shouldn’t have that privilege at least solely, to help spread it around a bit.
    You might be asked to consider whether some privilege you have that you SHOULD have that others DON’T have is helped to be kept from those people who don’t have it in part by attitudes you unwittingly help foster?
    Heliotropic, your comment insulting. It assumes two things are true based solely on your own prejudices.
    1. That women who work against milder forms of sexism do nothing and say nothing about extreme forms. That’s demonstrably untrue, dishonest, and pathetic.
    2. That the relatively milder form of sexism in the US is not an “actual” problem.

  135. T says

    I’m glad whenever somebody discusses this subject in a post, far too often people are intimidated into silence by the trolls and bullies. And by way of personal anecdote: I was subjected to an elevator assault myself once, and though I refuse to let that scare me from using elevators at any time or place, I consider myself neither weak nor a victim nor hysterical for putting my guard up when I’m in an elevator alone. Reading about people comparing that experience to having to tolerate somebody chewing gum next to you — well, I can only say I wish I was (and could afford to be) as blissfully oblivious as them.

  136. Heliotropic says

    JafafaHots,
    Oooh, my comment was insulting was it? Well buckle up, sweetie, it’s about to get worse.
    You go wrong when you use the word “prejudice”. That means to “pre-judge”. I am post-judging. I am observing, time and again, that the sort of spoiled and pampered types who get their knickers in a knot over such piffling non-issues, are worthless in a real fight.
    You are about to prove me right. You are about to screech your head off because of my word-choice and you will never raise a squeak about, say, what’s going on in Canada right now.
    So why don’t you go back to playing with your dollies and let the adults handle things?

  137. says

    Heliotropic, I see you blithely indulge in the etymological fallacy; the term ‘prejudice’ is polysemous and you do not address the primary sense(s).
    Tsk. (Vapid argument is vapid)
    So why don’t you go back to playing with your dollies and let the adults handle things?
    JafafaHots is like unto a little girl, eh?
    (Revealing choice of vilification)

  138. says

    Most people criticizing Watson here don’t seem so much to be saying Elevator Guy was behaving in an acceptable fashion or that Watson should have gone to his room for some coffee instead of being so stuck up. Their main points of contention are as follows:
    1. EG was more likely a social incompetent than a sexual predator. He likely didn’t realize Watson felt trapped in the elevator.
    2. Hitting on a woman isn’t saying you don’t value her as a person.
    3. It’s sexist to assume men are potential rapists just for being strange men and unreasonable to expect men to bear the burden of demonstrating they do not intend to rape any woman they come across.
    I actually agree with all these statements. The problem is that none of them are actually responses to anything Rebecca Watson actually said. These are responses to what you might expect her to say if she were your standard issue straw feminist, which she isn’t. ironically, many people accusing her of being overly sensitive actually got incensed by a one-line summary of what she said and let their imaginations fill in the rest rather than following a link and trying to engage her actual argument. You can hardly ask for a better example of oversensitivity than leaping to defend your privileged group from a slight which never actually occurred.
    To be fair to such people, some people defending Watson did make arguments that could be reasonably interpreted in such a way to merit those responses, but conflating such people with Watson because they are on the same “side” is hardly skeptical or fair. It reminds me of the “some atheists are jerks” strategy used by Christian apologists. Also, some people were arguing that all things considered, strange men in elevators are a negligible threat compared to situations that we encounter all the time and don’t think twice about, which I think is worth discussion, but kind of beside the point when the topic was how to stop driving women away from conferences.

  139. says

    Heliotropic:
    “Phyraxus, correct. This might be somewhat forgivable if they could stand up and fight when there was an actual problem.”
    The fact that people are attempting to defend someone who propositioned someone he had never interacted with before, at four AM, IN THE ELEVATOR is not a problem?
    Do explain what the fuck is acceptable about propositioning someone in a way that common sense dictates will make them think that you’re trying to rape them (and, by extension, why it is not problematic that people are defending someone who has done exactly that) =/

  140. Danika says

    “It’s a bit confusing in a society where women try their best to look attractive, and in most cases men are supposed to ignore their attraction.”- Pewtergod
    I’m seeing a lot of men confused about how to approach a woman and why contect matters.
    I’m going to give the following example to (hopefully) give some insight on what it’s like to be “hit on” as a woman.
    I am a woman and a long distance runner and I also enjoy the sight of the shirtless men I see when out on my run. In fact, there a few that I find down right HOT. There is nothing wrong with enjoying the sight of them running past. However, I do NOT do any of the following (all of which I have experienced directed towards myself, multiple times, from men):
    1. My eyes do not bulge out of my head, complete with cartoon noises. Staring is considered rude and so I try not to do it.
    2. I don’t wolf whistle at him. Because WHY? Hey, LOOK! I can whistle. My Dad taught me that when I was six!
    3. I don’t yell anything at him. “HEEEEYYY SEXXXXXY!”- As if getting yelled at by a stranger is SUCH a compliment. On a related note, if I pass him in a car with my friends I don’t roll down the windows so I (and my friends) can yell at him and then turn around so I can come back from the other direction for a second round of yelling. < That happened to me on Sunday.
    4. I don't grab him. Anywhere. For any reason.
    5. I don't stop him and demand his time so I can get his phone number or just admire his general sexiness. He's out on his run and clearly busy.
    6. I sure as hell don't start following him.
    If I want to hit on him and every way I can think of hitting on him is rude or crosses a boundary then I DON'T HIT ON HIM and I don't even get sad about it because there will be other guys and more appropriate times.
    Some of you may look at and think "What asshole would do any of that stuff?" but I have to tell you there are PLENTY. All of those have happened to me and they happen to other women with stunning regularity. To add another layer to the afore mentioned scenario think about the fact that women are often attacked while out running and it makes all those things even more stupid and inappropriate.
    The point I'm trying to make is that you can take notice of the attractiveness of other people and that's fine. That's healthy. The deciding factor is how you act on that attraction. Time and place matter. You're behaviour and the amount of respect you are projecting matters. A good thing to keep in mind if you want to approach someone with the intention of striking up a relationship is don't initially do anything that you wouldn't do if you wanted this person as just a friend. People will either like you in a sexual way or they won't. You can't trick them into it with sly moves but you sure as hell can scare them away.

  141. says

    Hello Greta, and thank you for this great piece.
    Just to give in my two cents, I think what exasperated a lot of people (me included) who totaly agree with Rebecca’s views is the fact that this subject tended to pop-up EVERYWHERE. Here you are, making fun of Casey Luskin’s unibrow, discussing the mating habits of the Platypus, crying at the syupidity of politicians… when BOOM! All of a sudden this pops in, for no actual reason at all other than the commenter wanting to bring a flame war.
    It is extremly tiresome, even for someone who agrees 100% that this is an important subject that really needs to be adressed.
    Anyway, thanks again for this nice text.
    Phil

  142. Stan Brooks says

    Thank you Greta for a well stated and calm appraisal of this ongoing debate. I hope that you will continue to write about these issues as they are so important to the overall success of the atheist endeavor. Sexism, and the other “isms” of privilege, are poisons that need to be addressed wherever they raise their head (‘scuse the pun).
    I find it saddening and a bit astonishing that some people don’t get the idea that when you tell me how you feel about an incident or event I don’t have the right to say you shouldn’t feel or react in the way you did, regardless of the fact that others may not have felt the same way about similar events. Wow, NEWS FLASH, how about that, we are different!! You are so right that the fact that some women don’t believe they would have reacted that way in no way diminishes the fact that Rebecca and many, many other women did.
    I was glad you published the email that you included, and that David Eller apologized. This is being human. In my own sometimes misguided attempts at humor I have offended and insulted people in ways that I never intended. Sometimes in ways that I wasn’t able to see immediately. But when someone tells me that they were angered or hurt or offended by something I’ve said or done, then I pay attention, because I have found it to be in my best interest to do so, not only in getting laid (not that that’s a bad reason), but in just getting along, having a fun and enjoyable life.
    I hope we come to a time when these issues don’t arise, when as a species we evolve to understand that paying attention to what affects those around us is important no matter how smart we are or important we deem ourselves to be. It certainly won’t come by being quiet about the issues that bother us, men or women, and, again, THANK YOU for your invaluable and insightful contribution to this discussion.

  143. says

    I have been following this thread after my first comment, and this appears to be the central issue:
    Some people seem to believe in a kind of ideal fairyland where women do not need to be more wary of men than men are of women, and where consequently, men would not have to think more about context and appropriateness.
    And there is not necessarily anything wrong with this as an ideal. As something to strive for eventually. But that is not how reality works today, and it is not how reality is going to work for a long time to come. And if you believe it can work like this today, you need a reality-check. Women are far more likely to get raped than men. That is how reality works, currently. And women should not be chided for being more cautious, creeped out and fearful in such a reality. Most of all, women should not be chided for speaking out about it.
    Statistically, women are literally and truly the most likely victims here, and the point Greta was making, I think, is that if women just keep silent about what they see as inappropriate in that context, reality will end up being harder on men.
    Because surely, we should not be expecting women to be less cautious? Think long and hard about that one. Because this is not fairyland.

  144. Heliotropic says

    I rest my case. Everyone who has replied to me has taken issue with what I said, and no one takes issue with matters such as the Toronto school I mentioned.
    Notice, incidentally, that Greta reparses the famous “Silence = Acceptance” slogan. Quite right. You lot are silent about FGM, female segregation, honor killings, gang-rape and all the rest of it. You accept that. So, since you decide to abandon my sisters under the veil, I am more than happy to abandon you lot to Elevator Guy and Richard Dawkins’s sarcasm.
    Whose weight of Sin do you think is greater?

  145. says

    And to clarify, I’m defending what Watson initially said, less so what she said later. Stef McGraw is definitely in the camp of people who were responding to something Rebecca Watson didn’t actually say and it takes a lot of assumptions to think she was implying, but that just makes overly-sensitive and a bad skeptic, at least in this particular instance, not an anti-feminist.
    To expand on what Azkyroth said above, this is limited to a particular side or a particular issue. Plenty of people out there are emotionally invested in a particular position and will tend to jump on anyone who seems to be making an argument for an opposing position as A. evil and B. supporting all arguments that they disagree with. In this case, the other side of the issue is people who saw that Watson was criticizing a man for hitting on her and lept on it as if she were arguing it isn’t okay for men to hit on women in general because their defense alarms went off.
    I would like to second the call for the data to show that elevators are a common place to get raped. I did some research as best I could on the subject and did turn up a couple cases, but mostly a bunch of urban legends and porn, certainly nothing to support the idea it was common. The most recent crime victimization data I could find for the US was from 2008, but it seemed to say that rape and sexual assault by acquaintances are roughly three times as common as the same by strangers. We encounter hundreds, if not thousands of time more strangers than acquaintances in our lifetimes, which would mean any given stranger is a miniscule threat compared to the people we deal with every day. If we say a woman has a one-in-three chance of being raped in her lifetime and encounters 200 acquaintances and 5,000 strangers in that period, a given acquaintance has a 1/800 chance of being a rapist, while a stranger has a 1/60,000 chance. My numbers are likely off, but this shouldn’t affect the general conclusion unless the true numbers are really counter-intuitive. (If anyone can point me to real figures on how many strangers vs acquaintances as defined by the Bureau of Justice Statistics the average person encounters in a lifetime, I’d be grateful.) Fear of stranger-rape seems to be like fear of flying: the media pushes it because of sensationalistic and xenophobic tendencies, but it isn’t based on real risk.

  146. says

    I am once again going to remind EVERYBODY:
    1) This is not Pharyngula. The expected standard of discourse here is vigorous but civil and respectful debate, with heated rhetoric kept to a minimum, and with criticism focused on ideas and behavior rather than insults directed at other commenters. Please remember that you are a guest in this blog, and that other commenters here are also guests in this blog. If you can’t treat one another (and me) with basic courtesy and respect, you will no longer be welcome here. Some of you have already violated this rule; anyone who does it again will be banned without further warning.
    2) My very, very, VERY strong preference is to keep the conversation focused on the particulars of this post, and not on endlessly re-re-hashing the details of Elevatorgate. To remind you, those particulars are: (a) the proposal that men who steadfastly and angrily refuse to listen to women giving guidance about when and where their advances are likely to be welcomed are more interested in maintaining their privilege than in actually getting laid; (b) the suggestion that, if you disagree with women who are criticizing what they think is sexist behavior or language, you focus on their ideas rather than chiding them for expressing them, and that telling women to shut up about sexism is equivalent to religious believers telling atheists to shut up about atheism; and (c) the proposal that, as unpleasant as they are, these kinds of controversies are necessary for the health of the atheist movement, and that we are far better off having them now instead of ten or twenty years from now. Please, please, if you can possibly bear it, keep your comments focused on these ideas.
    If this continues to just be another re-re-hashing of the same old details of Elevatorgate, and if the conversation is not kept civil, I am going to shut the entire conversation down. I’m going to be at TAM for the next few days, and I don’t have time to keep a constant moderating eye on this thread. Thank you for your co-operation.

  147. says

    “Fear of stranger-rape seems to be like fear of flying: the media pushes it because of sensationalistic and xenophobic tendencies, but it isn’t based on real risk.”
    I, as a repeat “plane crash” victim, appear to be an anomaly.

  148. says

    To clarify my previous post: when I talk about the chances of people being a rapist, I am talking about the chances of them raping you, specifically. The overall point is that if you are woman, your boyfriend is roughly equally likely to rape you as all the strangers in the world put together and the popular narrative teaches people to be afraid of the wrong things.

  149. says

    To JafafaHots: I may have stated that badly. My point isn’t that stranger-rape is exceedingly rare, just that strangers are far less dangerous than people you know, much like planes are far safer than cars, but you wouldn’t know it from watching the news.

  150. Zac says

    I wholeheartedly agree with the point that we should not tell anybody (male or female) to shut up about any issue.
    I have no issue with Rebecca Watson (who I’m not very familiar with) recording a YouTube video and saying that she doesn’t like to be invited for a coffee late at night in an elevator.
    [An aside: What would have happened if she had accepted the proposition? She might have said "I met someone at the conference - luckily he was brave enough to ask me to his room!" - to which everybody would be congratulating him and her, and wishing them all the best. If anyone was consistent enough to still call ElevatorMan some of the derogatory names we've been hearing him called, I would imagine all RW supporters would be flaming them too.]
    What saddens me about this is that so many people have turned against people such as Richard Dawkins because they disagree. He did not tell her to shut up, and certainly did not say anything sexist. In fact, he politely requested that “somebody explain to him what he is not getting”. Ok, so you disagree with him. Argue properly, like good skeptics. All that this crazy internet-event has shown is that the skeptic community is just the same as any other community, complete with irrationality, emotional outbursts, inquisitions… – they just don’t believe in ghosts.
    Rebecca Watson clearly disagrees with your points b) and c) Greta, since she called for a boycott of Dawkins. That is extremely disappointing. If she had outlined just why Dawkins was wrong, in a calm and reasonable way I would respect her, but I’m afraid that her pusillanimous whining (note: I DO NOT mean the original YouTube video) is a very poor example for the skeptic community.
    I’m a philosophy student. When we disagree we reason, we argue, we discuss. We do not, ever, ever call for a boycott of those with opposing views.

  151. says

    Zac: I think that’s a very generous reading fo Dawkins. I took that to be rhetorical. He made an appeal to bigger problems (a literal text book logical fallacy) and was generally dismissive of her concerns. It wouldn’t be as big a deal if he didn’t have a history of this sort of thing. As far as I can tell, he’s just incapable of understanding any feminist issues that don’t relate to religion being wrong in some way.

  152. Zac says

    Ace of Sevens: Another way to be dismissive is to simply not comment at all. I doubt there would be any calls for a boycott on that basis.
    Being dismissive is not the same as telling somebody to shut up. He commented precisely because he wanted to register his disagreement that this particular event constituted a real problem for women. Right or wrong, it is better that he is able to speak his mind without accusations of heresy. The skeptic community (should) thrive on the ability to argue back and forth.
    [Another aside: The appeal to bigger problems is not really a logical fallacy unless you say that X is a problem iff there is no problem Y such that Y is a bigger problem (even that is not a strict LOGICAL fallacy, although it is clearly false). One reading of Dawkins' first comment might be that any woman oppressed in a Muslim theocracy may consider it quite galling for someone to complain about being asked for a coffee at a convention, and therefore we might want to concentrate on the larger issues first. That is not a logical fallacy, even if it turns out to be a bad argument.]
    I’m also hearing a lot of “you just don’t understand because you’re not a woman”. Even if it is true, special pleading is not really a good way to argue.

  153. says

    @Connor
    Before I begin, just a note that though I was responding to you proximally, I was addressing the argument as a whole (a common one, that’s been made several times in this thread already and ad nauseum elsewhere). So any sarcasm is not directed at you as a person, but at the large body of thought underpinning (perhaps unbeknownst to yourself) your points, and which ranges from benevolent sexism to MRA-style claims of widespread misandry and victimisation of men by feminists in Western society.

    But my mind is teetering between realizing these sex-specific boundaries and realizing that another name for these boundaries could be “extra-special care.”

    I’m afraid the assertion that the boundaries are sex-specific is neither logically nor factually correct.
    Almost all men I can think of will instinctively be able grasp the threatening and unwelcome nature of a larger male approaching them in an isolated setting and propositioning them for sex. All prison shower block jokes, and the DODT Act, are based on the instinctive understanding of the unwelcome and unpleasant crossing of boundaries this entails. As does the widespread misogynist trope of large (read: fat), sexually aggressive women cornering reluctant (usually younger) men.
    The problem we have here is that grasping that boundaries that go “physically threatening $person1 propositioning smaller more vulnerable $person2 for sex in circumstances where the latter is isolated and/or threatened” are perfectly acceptable, when $person1 is male and $person1 is female seems to be a challenge, primarily for a subset of people who fit the profile of $person1.
    My contention[1] is that this failure of basic logic (extending a syllogism from in-group to out-group agents) is a fundamental feature of all bigotry. To say “I have the right to inflict on others treatment that I would not want inflicted on myself” is worryingly lacking in empathy, and a symptom of a society in which this logical breakdown is so pervasive it becomes invisible (read: patriarchy).
    To further say “those requesting that I do not inflict on them treatment that would be inimical to me are asking for special treatment” is a further level of irrationality. It’s what the philosopher would call “un quéstion mal posée”. The question is not “do women deserve special care?” but “is this level of care really special?”. To refuse to acknowledge that[2] when it is rationally and repeatedly explained is paradigmatic sexism: a refusal to consider women as full human beings with the same subjectivity as one’s self.
    tl;dr version: you try being propositioned by a larger, probably drunk dude in an elevator at 4am, and tell me how much of a delicate flower I am for not liking it.
    [1] Well, I say it is mine, but of course it’s something that’s been written about extensively by far greater minds than mine, and I’m just borrowing it.
    [2] Which I’m not saying you’re doing, but the zombie-like persistence of these so called “concerns” hints that you and others are drawing on a larger body of thought here.

  154. melior says

    One thing that’s been reinforced in my mind by all the different reactions is how wide the variation in women’s creepiness setpoints is. While some women seem nonplussed returning the most inappropriately timed and phrased advances by the opposite sex with a cool brushoff, at the other extreme there are those who perceive any approach, regardless of circumstances, to be demeaning or even threatening.

  155. says

    @Matt Hone

    Why don’t we make more noise about FGM, which not only happens in deprived African countries but in the UK itself?

    There was an excellent event at the Watershed in Bristol about FGM last Saturday, with a film about FGM in the Congo and a discussion afterwards. Since you are such a champion of doing something about FGM, then I assume you were there?

  156. Stan Brooks says

    Hamstur said:
    And while I understand that it’s a difficult subject, I, for one, appreciate the discussion.

    What he said, great comment!!

  157. says

    This is also about someone who demands that her feelings be respected going public with an embarrassing piece of information about someone else — someone who I don’t imagine anyone who was there at the time would have difficulty identifying.
    You can’t claim your own feelings are worthy of consideration while at the same time publicly humiliating somebody else who has done you no harm whatsoever.
    I appreciate that Rebecca and Greta and the others have a good deal of bottled-up resentment against all the men who have come on to them inappropriately. We’re even on that score, because I have a good deal of bottled-up resentment against all the women who have turned me down. But I’ve never singled any one of them out for public humiliation, because that’s fighting dirty. Public humiliation is never an appropriate response.

  158. says

    @Lyra

    I truly hope that we are able to get to a point that if a woman says something on par to, “I don’t like that, it makes me feel bad, don’t do it,” that the conversation doesn’t collapse into assertions that she shouldn’t have minded, or if she did, she should have just shut up and endured.

    Quoted for heart-rending truth.
    Sisterhood and sympathy to you, Lyra.

  159. marchhare says

    So what’s the problem in this situation – the perceived mismatch in power in the dynamic. The assumption that a man has more power than a woman and is thus unfairly pressurising the woman to accede to his request.
    Now as true as that is in many circumstances (workplace etc.) it was not the case here. As it turns out Rebecca had ALL the power and used it as she wished.
    People act irrationally in enclosed and pressured circumstances thanks to our nature, which is why Rebecca was right (in a perfect world wrong) to say not to hit on people in an elevator at 4am when there are only two of you there (or when there are only two of you on a subway train or in a dark alley etc.) mainly because it makes the majority of people feel uncomfortable – irrational as it may be. Greta, I am more than happy to take this back and profusely apologise if you provide some statistics on sexual assaults in perceived risky places (i.e. NOT the home) that show their prevalence to be an actual concern.
    But please note I have said people because this is NOT a gender specific problem, sure it is much more prevalent in straight m-f situations but it applies to gay m-m and f-f situations too and also, less commonly, straight f-m.
    So don’t do it because:
    1) it is likely to make the other person stressed (however irrational that may be it’s still a natural reaction);
    2) it almost never works;
    3) it’s currently impolite.
    But not because it is sexist, it simply isn’t – the idea that another human is a sexual being is not sexist as I hope I have at least hinted at by including gay situations as well as straight ones.
    So what could he have done? Elevator guy could talked to her while waiting for the lift, saying he’d get the next one so as to not crowd her. He could have waited until he was getting out (or Rebecca was) so as to remove the confinement aspect and asked if she’d like to come to room 123 later to discuss it further, thus not putting any immediate pressure on an answer and leaving the proverbial door open. Does anyone think these options would have been better? Or acceptable, in light of the talk Rebecca gave earlier?

  160. azinyk says

    Thank you for this wonderful, beautiful post. I am a man who agrees completely with your position, I just don’t like it when folks like Rebecca and PZ call me a hate-filled anti-woman misogynist.
    I saw you speak live in Edmonton and thought you were fantastic. Always level-headed and eloquent.

  161. Aerik says

    Arguing men should fight sexism in order to get laid? Fuck. What pseudo-egalitarian bullshit is THAT?
    Part of the reason society is sexist against women is that it is expected that women perform for men, and expected that women service men sexually.
    Just like it’s bullshit to say “you’re free to be [religion x]” under a theocracy of [religion x], it is utter CRAP to insist that men can fight sexism by trying to get laid, in a society that already caters to the assumption that men deserve to get laid!
    Engaging the status quo doesn’t deconstruct the status quo.
    What a failure of a post. Again.

  162. Ron says

    I getting tired of the ‘She asked for a boycott’ lie.
    Rebecca never called for an outright boycott of Dawkins. Sigh.
    This is what she said:”So many of you voiced what I had already been thinking: that this person who I always admired for his intelligence and compassion does not care about my experiences as an atheist woman and therefore will no longer be rewarded with my money, my praise, or my attention. I will no longer recommend his books to others, buy them as presents, or buy them for my own library. I will not attend his lectures or recommend that others do the same. There are so many great scientists and thinkers out there that I don’t think my reading list will suffer.”
    If that sounds like a cry for an outright boycott of Dawkins, you need to take a reading comprehension test. Do you see the word ‘boycott’ anywhere???
    I don’t know how people get form “I personally won’t be recommending his books to my friends.” to “Let’s boycott the Bastard!”
    You aren’t, as Greta suggested, listening to her, but somehow misreading her.
    And after what Dawkins said to her, I don’t blame her position on not recommending his books to her friends.
    Sigh.

  163. Armored Scrum Object says

    @Zac

    I’m also hearing a lot of “you just don’t understand because you’re not a woman”. Even if it is true, special pleading is not really a good way to argue.”

    I’m not hearing a lot of “you just don’t understand because you’re not a woman”. I am hearing a lot of “you haven’t had this experience because you’re not a woman, but you could get some understanding of it if you’d just give us some credit and really listen to what we’re saying”. Some individual posts may state it clumsily, but that’s the overarching message that I’m getting (as a male would-be feminist who is still too green to make any claim of “getting it”).

  164. says

    If Elevator Guy has been able to be publicly embarrassed by this, I would be less angry at RW if I were him, and more angry at my parents for naming me Elevator Guy.

  165. says

    I think it would only be a blacklist if she talked to convention organizers and tried to get them from inviting him to future conferences and would only be a blacklist if she told her readers not to buy any of his stuff and to spread the word. She was only expressing a personal decision.

  166. says

    You are right. This has very little indeed to do with getting laid. Indeed, the assumption that this was mainly to do with getting laid explains why this became such a big issue, so quickly.
    OF COURSE it never had anything to do with getting laid.
    Rebecca complained that she was being “sexualised” by being asked, by a man exhibiting signs of nervousness, if she’d like to continue the conversation over coffee. This may well have been a come-on. But why assume that it was? Why this desire to sexualise MEN in this way, as though the ONLY POSSIBLE REASON any man might want to speak to a woman in an elevator was out of a desire to get laid. This is insulting.
    Another red-herring has been “privilege” – as in the criticsm of Dawkins that his comment (which was not a good or even a reasonable comment, by any means) was evidence of his “privilege” – i.e., his being white and male. Dawkins is of course highly privileged, because he is rich and famous; but it is not out of “male privilege” that he spoke, but rather out of generational misunderstanding. He was young in the Sixties – a time when there was more casual sexism (boo!) but also – more importantly – less fear. A generation of women has been brought up in a state of near-constant fear about the possibility of sexual assault.
    This has infantilised them. It has left many unable to escape mentally the “stranger danger” paranoia of childhood. Of course men should act with greater sensitivity. But just to say, “women are sensitive, so watch out – and, by the way, follow these rules and you might get laid” misses the point. It’s not about getting laid. It’s about the tragedy of women being locked into a fear mentality. And also into a sex mentality, in which they find it impossible to imagine that any man might want to talk to them without wanting to get into their knickers.

  167. Heliotropic says

    Heresiarch,
    You are quite right. It beggars belief to here one person carping about being sexualized followed by tarring of all men as potential rapists
    If it soothes RW’s hurt feelings, you may inform her that I couldn’t bring myself to sexualize her, no matter what the incentive.

  168. Heliotropic says

    Since the question is what RW says, let me quote something again:

    Feminists in the west have been staunch allies of the women being brutalized elsewhere, and they’ve done a hell of a lot more than Richard Dawkins when it comes to making a difference in their lives.

    First of all, she should open a dictionary and check out what the word ‘brutalized’ means. Second of all, this is a very shady lie. It is true that there are many feminists throughout the third world who are having the most appalling time of it. Guess what? Richard Dawkins has been their best ally. On the other hand, the spoiled pampered little princesses of the first world feminists – Miss Watson would be an example – have been worse than worthless.
    They should just stay at home and at least not waste everyone’s time.

  169. says

    I agree about alot of what you have said about this whole saga. But what I cannot agree with you on is how this whole thing blew up, and resulted in the mess that followed.
    In this(and other)articles partly about at how this issue became so much of a shitstorm. I find it unbelievable and somewhat disheartening that so many people are incapable or even unwilling to place any blame at Rebecca or Skephik.
    The entire flaming shitstorm that has engulfed the last couple of weeks was not created by peoples reaction to Rebecca’s video or the incident described within it.
    To say this getting blown up had nothing to do with how Rebecca handled the situation with Stef McGraw. Or the endless stream of interpretation and rhetoric about the incident.
    Everyone divided up and felt the need to take sides and what ensued was an over emotional clique-ish highschool shitfest…..it was embarassing.
    Nobody ever took a step back and looked with any objectivity what was said in the first place, and what lesson should of been learnt from it.

  170. says

    @Heliotropic: Could you be more specific? What has Richard Dawkins done to help third world feminists that “pampered princess” feminists haven’t? How is the third world relevant when the topic was women at atheist conferences? It seems to may the most charitable way to interpret Dawkins here is that he doesn’t care about this problem, so he can’t understand why anyone else would have different priorities than him.

  171. says

    Heliotropic has been warned about the use of nasty, personally insulting language in these comment threads. They have ignored these warning, and continued to use said language. They have therefore been banned from commenting in this blog.

  172. Gareth Fouche says

    There is a point that is getting lost here Greta, which is why people are saying Rebecca ‘started’ things. Rebecca didn’t JUST claim that this was an example of a context where women are uncomfortable. She specifically held it up as an example of misogyny. So did PZ. I’m sorry, I completely disagree. Even if the guy should have chosen the location better, there is something deeply wrong with saying that a sexual advance equates to the hatred of women or treating them as inferior beings.
    It’s an adult male coming onto an adult female after drinking till 4 in the morning morning. He got turned down, he left. Alcohol doesn’t excuse bad behavior, but it can make people more forward. Simply coming onto a woman, even in a brazen manner, while it may be unwelcome, isn’t sexism in and of itself.
    It was forward, a bit inappropriate. And everyone screams that he should have known better than to approach her in the hotel elevator. Sure, he should have. I’ve done things I didn’t think through too clearly after drinking to 3am too. It’s regrettable, but there is a genuine chance he simply didn’t think it though. Bars/clubs ARE the most socially acceptable place to approach women.
    Sure, he got on the elevator as she left the bar, not actually in the bar itself, but generally these things are close together in hotels, he may have just been waiting for her to finish talking with other people so he could introduce himself, seen a chance and jumped for it. Maybe not the best decision but again : 4am drinking in a bar. Let’s take a reality check here people. Let’s not immediately paint the guy a creep and potential rapist.
    Dawkins’ dismissal of women’s fears in elevator is a problem, that fear is based in reality and shouldn’t be dismissed. But Rebecca needs to be called out too. I’m sure there is legitimate sexism in the community, but holding that up as an example of it is rather annoying, as a male. Being politely hit on, late at night in a bar, is an example of how lots of us are sexist?
    And you cannot speak up without being painted as a total misogynist who is completely unfeeling toward all the women who’ve ever suffered sexual abuse. It’s sexism if women say so, and a man who disagrees only does so because he’s sexist himself. Our points are dismissed under a landslide of rants about how men don’t understand the fear women live with of sexual abuse, and do we understand the rape statistics are high?
    It’s apparently NOT sexist to make broad claims that anyone who disagrees is doing so because of their gender (male). Only women who say Rebecca is exaggerating to call that encounter ‘misogyny’ are taken seriously.
    And that the line about how men should pay attention because you’re trying to help us get sex is simply insulting, btw. Don’t ask for respect without giving it in turn, please. Assume we are capable of caring about the issue without the motivation of whether we’ll get more sex out of it, please.

  173. says

    There is so much I don’t understand about sexism so I don’t know where to begin…
    I think asking someone for coffee and then accepting the “no, thank you” is perfectly fine behavior, no matter the circumstances. Not because it increases the chances of getting laid, not because it is a good way to actually get to drink coffee with someone, not because there isn’t situations in which you probably shouldn’t ask because it might be taken the wrong way, but because real, non-american, coffee taste good and asking someone about it doesn’t hurt or in anyway impair the other persons right or safety. If it is creepy or not, that’s another question. Oh, and you might switch coffee with sex, if you think it is necessary – just don’t take this the wrong way…
    Rhetorically: Now, does this mean I am privileged? Most certainly! I am privileged to think that the chance of rape in an elevator for a woman is probably on pair with the chance of being beaten up by a man. I am privileged to this thinking because I know that about 2/3 of the victims of assaults are men*, and that the number of rapes are pretty much the same as that 1/3 of women being assaulted. Though most rapes occur in private settings, where the perpetrator know the victim quite well* — I am not privileged to the friendship status of assault victims, so in the spirit of assuming things, I’ll say it evens out the odds between the genders. So the chance of being harmed by a stranger in an elevator seems, at this first glance, to be about the same for women and men. To me, this rings of the old saying: “crime is down, but the fear of crime is up”. Why should women fear being alone with a man in an elevator more than men? What makes this a sexist issue and not just** a matter of better crime control?
    Assuming there is a good answer to the questions above, where do we draw the line? Am I a danger to an alone woman by (0) being near her, (1) entering an enclosed space with her, (2) talking to her in said enclosed space or (3) by in any way indicating a possible sexual interest in her? Why is this dangerous?
    Dear person reading this, could you please enlighten me on what you mean by privilege? My quasi-sarcastic take on the work in my second paragraph probably won’t get close to what you mean. I do wish to educate myself on this issue, regardless of what you might think. Oh, and if you agree with me, please refrain from saying so. There must be something I am missing and you won’t help by agreeing with me.
    *Swedish statistics, ask me for it and I’ll try to provide a translated link. You’re probably better of Googling statistics in your own country though, as we probably have quite a low number of un-investigated cases of rapes compared to the average.
    **I love and hate how this word makes such a serious issue seem trivial.

  174. says

    On statistical arguments: I forgot to say earlier as a pseudo-celebrity, Rebecca Watson will have different risk factors than the general public. Basically, being the public eye can potentially make people think they know her.

  175. says

    Assume that both people involved were as they appear to be from what we know and trying to assess the situation from both POV we seem to have this:
    EG Best case – I get laid.
    Worst Case -She turns me down and I go to my room unharmed.
    RW Best Case – I turn him down and I go to my room unharmed.
    Worst Case – I get raped.
    Notice that EG’s Worst Case is the same as RW’s Best Case and that both assessments are reasonable.
    The asymmetry is the privilege that seems to escape so many.
    Am just being too simple minded (yet)again?

  176. Ron says

    Gareth-
    Being at the hotel bar after these things is par for the course. PZ himself was there and left only an hour before this all happened.
    When I first watched Rebecca’s video it came over to me as a non-event. Perhaps I know Rebecca’s style to well. She basically said ‘Wanna here something ironic, after all day of saying we don’t have enough women at these conventions because they are tired of getting hit on, I get hit on.”
    Then Stef McGraw says some nasty things about Rebecca, like you just said, not once did Rebecca call the man a misogynist. Stef did that.
    It exploded when PZ brought up Rebecca calling Stef out to the blogsphere’s attention.
    Go back and read what Rebecca has written, and what PZ has posted. Neither one of them called him sexist or misogynistic.
    Besides, like Greta says, let’s not focus on the elevator incident. It is irrelevant at this point.
    The point is people are painting PZ, Phil Plait, Josh Rosenau,Jen, and Rebecca (and others) as calling all men rapist when that is NOT what they have done. Their real message has been buried by the ton of stupid (on both sides) comments.
    BTW, Greta, thank you for banning Heliotropic if only for reading incomprehension skills. Blacklisted indeed… how clueless.

  177. says

    Bah, MyOpenId is down, so I can’t sign in.
    Leum, I’ve wondered for a while about the the question “Why are so many in the community consistently FAIL on feminism while being WIN on LGBT stuff?” And I’ve thought about it mainly because of reading Greta Christina, who’s addressed both points but never, as far as I’ve seen, addressed the difference. Like you, I’d love to see a discussion of it.
    You say you saw the question asked somewhere. Could it have been by me, at Shakesville?
    TRiG.

  178. Twenty Trees says

    ***It’s a long post and you can just skip to the last paragraph and not miss much if you don’t want to read it all***
    For context, I’m white, male and heterosexual and I am one of those who “just don’t get it”, but this is why I think I don’t get it and why this debate is impossible.
    The blame is put on us. You may not realise it, but there are somethings that offend us as well, and as soon as you say one of these things, we won’t hear another word you say. Privilege is a good start. When I feel I must sit at the opposite end of a train carriage to a woman because I’m “Schrodinger’s rapist,” or dare not read a funny message on a woman’s T-shirt and when I know there are some jobs I could apply for but will be given to people who are equally or even less qualified for, because I’m the wrong race, gender or sexuality doesn’t make me feel very privileged. All we hear when you tell us we are privileged is “you haven’t given up enough, yet”.
    Also, a soon as someone says “misogyny” to us, the conversation is OVER. It’s like accusing someone of antisemitism, it is sometimes a valid and accurate description but there’s a difference between suggesting that Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians is too harsh and claiming that Jews deserved the holocaust, and there’s a difference between suggesting that women should be more thick skinned to creeps and slicing up vaginas and no meaningful conversation can be had after that card is played frivolously, it’s just over. And why would I waste my effort talking to someone who presumes I hate my Mum?
    “Men just don’t get it…” That sounds to us like an incredible scale of arrogance and hypocrisy. I’ve never met a woman who “gets” Rocky, but that movie is the best exploration of masculine emotion (if everyone’s forgotten, Rocky was afraid of fighting Apollo). We don’t understand what it’s like to be a woman, but guess what, women don’t understand what it’s like to be a man. I constantly feel like Wittgenstein’s Lion. Here’s an experiment, tell a man why you think Rocky is such a compelling movie to men, and see how right you are. Who knows, maybe this tension creates a Hofstadter Strange Loop, that keeps the human race vital.
    But the whole furor is utterly besides the point. Rebecca Watson is not the first to suggest I not be such a creep to woman and I’ve never been offended like I was when Rebecca did it. So what was different? I didn’t realise it at first, but it’s the verb “sexualise” which creeps me out. Which as far as I can tell is the crime of either finding a woman sexually attractive or admitting to it. I cringed when I read Tim Ridge’s painfully contrite letter, that he had been made to feel guilty about complementing the author’s hair, that’s just how bizarre this nonsense is, but I cringed because I know exactly how ashamed he feels. What am I supposed to do? I can’t help it, heterosexuals are also “born this way” and I won’t apologise for my mind, my heart or my balls.
    So I offer the heartfelt advice to feminists who wish for a productive discussion with men, we suspect that feminism is as much about the emasculation of men as it is about the empowerment of women. I can wholeheartedly support the latter, but if we sense that it is masculinity that you want compromised, then guess what happens…all of this bullshit.

  179. says

    Just wanted to add that one more male, at least, agrees with you and sees it the same way. I think your points were well stated, positive, and very rational.
    I don’t feel offended that a woman under physically vulnerable circumstances will be suspicious of me; I think it’s common sense.
    The military defines “threat” not by someone’s intent to do you harm, but rather by their potential to do so. It’s not personal; it’s strictly business.
    If you can’t read my mind, you can’t be sure of my intent. If you’re not sure of my intent, then I become a potential rapist whenever I’m in a position where I *could* commit rape. The probability may be low, but you can’t safely conclude it’s zero.
    My own *aha* on the subject also happened in an elevator, though I wasn’t asking a woman out. I was simply going back to my room late in the evening. I followed a woman onto the elevator, and she pushed the button first. It was, coincidentally, for my floor. She got off first. There were two ways to go; she turned right. My room was also to the right.
    At some point, I became aware that the woman was quite nervous, looking back at me and walking a little faster. Suddenly, I got it: from her perspective, I was a potential rapist. My behavior might be innocent and coincidental, but it could also be stalking. I was a threat.
    As soon as I figured this out, I stopped in the hall and ostentatiously searched for my keycard so that she’d have time to increase her lead. She reached her door and quickly let herself in.
    Again, I’m not offended in the slightest that she regarded me as a potential rapist. I don’t think she *believed* I intended to rape her; in fact, she probably thought it was highly unlikely. But she had ample reason to feel threat, and ample reason to be relieved once she was safely in her room with the door locked.
    The circumstances arise more often than you’d think. I was chatting with a woman on an airport bus (she had Shelties), but when we both got off at the same stop and there were no one else in view in a deserted parking lot, I could sense the immediate change in attitude. I walked in the opposite direction from her even though that wasn’t the way to my car so she could get enough of a head start to feel safe.
    When we were on the bus with plenty of people around us, I was no threat — regardless of intent, I had no power to do her harm. Off the bus and alone, I was a threat — even though I had no ill intent, I did have the power to do her harm.
    Another time, I visited a woman I’d known in college whom I hadn’t seen in 20 years. She was alone in her house. After about 10 minutes, she suggested we walk down to the local coffee shop. As soon as we were on the street, she became much more friendly.
    She knew me; we were friends. On the other hand, it had been 20 years, and I might have changed. In her house, I was suddenly a potential rapist: a threat. I had the potential to do her harm.
    Leaving her house, I ceased to be a threat because I no longer had the potential. Over public coffee, I was utterly safe, and we caught up on old times. Later, when her partner was home, I went back to her house. Her attitude was remarkably different.
    Obviously, this doesn’t apply exclusively to women. While rape is clearly a greater threat to women, being mugged or robbed isn’t gender specific.
    If I’m alone on a city street late at night and see a bunch of guys walking together, I feel threatened. They might be honor students on their way home from a Mensa meeting, but they could also be hoodlums. They are a threat because they have the potential.
    I’m sure I’ve been inadvertently guilty many times of making women feel at risk or otherwise uncomfortable because of my earlier lack of awareness. My *intent* has never been to do a woman harm, but women aren’t telepathic any more than men are.
    I find it hard to understand why so many of my fellow men are up in arms about this. I, for one, see no reason to take offense because a woman can’t read my mind.

  180. Gareth Fouche says

    Ron –
    I watched the video, I read the post. Rebecca was talking about how female skeptics have to deal with misogyny and gave that incident as an example of men not getting that they are being sexist.
    And PZ’s blog post was about men being sexist, using that as one of the examples. It was direct, unambiguous. Stef was not the main issue.
    The elevator thing isn’t irrelevant. It’s all right to call Dawkins out but not say Rebecca was wrong in her initial claim?
    Steve-
    That asymmetry always exists though. I approach a woman in a crowded bar, worst case scenario she doesn’t notice me slipping something into her drink.
    It totally sucks, and men should definitely should be aware of and sympathetic to it. But does it make us automatically sexist to approach a woman in any situation of asymmetry? Then we can never approach. Not anywhere. Cause it’s always asymmetric.

  181. says

    So far as I can tell, the general reaction among Rebecca Watson’s critics to her saying “guys, don’t to that” has been to say that women shouldn’t complain in ways that make men feel uncomfortable about being obnoxious. In short, the reply is “women, don’t do that.” And they say it with such straight faces. Couldn’t agree with Greta more on this one.

  182. MLee says

    One of the hallmarks of atheism is rationality. To reason and reflect over facts and issues without dogma.
    Yet Watson, PZ, and others refuse to consider the grayness of their position,probably due to deep passion, and instead throw walls of straw men. I implore both sides of the issue to drop their preconceived notions and actually ponder the “opposing” views. When you do, you’ll see that much of the “shitstorm” is simply blind men arguing over an elephant.
    There are some really great comments here, that deserve serious consideration.

  183. says

    Gareth –
    Of course you’re right – asymmetry will always exist as we live in a real world, not some idealised abstraction. But the magnitude of the asymmetry is not always the same (or even in the same direction).
    It seems to me that not being aware of its existence is the issue here, not its existence per se.
    (of course there are people who are aware, but just don’t care)

  184. Alex says

    I’m a man. Having pondered this situation for a while.
    I have to say that if someone I didn’t know (man or woman), got into a lift with me at any time of the day, and propositioned me for sex; I’d feel pretty uncomfortable too.
    No matter how attractive I found them. My first thought would be are they some sort of lunatic?.
    (and no I don’t lack a healthy sex drive or have low self esteem issues!).
    Having read some of the posts on this subject.I’m also embarrassed about the level of debate in this so called rational thinking community of ours.
    The guy was wrong.

  185. Danika says

    It can be a really damned if you do, damned if you don’t world.
    I can understand perfectly why men don’t want women to look at them as potential rapists. Who wants to have people constantly sizing them up to see if they’re a criminal? It must hurt not to be trusted.
    The thing is that if a woman is raped or assaulted there is an inevitable barrage of people who will question if she took enough precautions not to be raped. (Otherwise known as victim blaming).
    So it seems to be a choice between being cautious and having to look at your fellow human beings as potential rapists or face the fact that if you do get raped you may have the blame laid at your feet. Those are two sucky choices.

  186. Steve Kurzban says

    There are already some MARVELOUS comments here about what’s wrong with Greta’s logic, article, and objectivity. I’d like to highlight an example. She wrote, “We’re not saying you’re all rapists…We’re explaining that…we have no way of knowing whether you’re a rapist or not…” To which I reply, “exactly! Guilty until proven innocent.”
    If Watson wasn’t such a sexist she’d have addressed her concern to her fellow women, warning them to be on guard in such a situation despite the COMPLETELY UNREMARKABLE LACK OF EVENT that took place in that elevator on that night.
    You want to feel safe and comfortable ALL the time EVERYWHERE around EVERYONE? Sorry, not realistic. And no one else’s job to make it happen FOR YOU.

  187. SallyStrange says

    May I respectfully ask a few questions?

    Great, I feel so respected already.

    1.Exactly at what time is it ok to ask a female to coffee?

    For any man or you personally? For most men, I’d say… Use your wise discretion. In general, cold propositions in an elevator are unlikely to succeed. But for you personally? I’m going to go ahead and say, “Never.”

    2. Is it proper for me to wait until the female to propositions me?

    Yes.

    3. What makes women think they are always a sexual object?

    And this is why I say that you, personally, not men in general, must never approach a woman and must always wait until a woman approaches you. Women are not ALWAYS sexual objects. But in a situation like the one RW described, where it’s clear that the man disregarded the content of all of her previous speech because he was more interested in getting his dick wet than in her opinions about the desirability of being approached for sex at a conference, it’s pretty clear that to EG, RW was a sexual object more than she was a person, at least at that moment in time.

    Is it even possible that the guy just really wanted to have coffee with her because she is smart and wanted to talk? (They were BOTH on an elevator at 4am.)

    No, it’s really not. This is another reason why you should never approach women, ever.

    4. I completely understand Rebecca’s trepidation at the situation and time.

    Lying is unbecoming.

    (sarcasm following) – Like it being improper for a black person to approach my lily white ass at 4 am in and asking me for change to put in the parking meter. …me saying I don’t have any… and them him just walking away.

    How about, you’re a black man on the sidewalk in Jim Crow era Alabama… a strange white man approaches you and asks you for the time. You say, “I don’t have a watch,” which you don’t, and he already knows that. Then he walks away.
    What’s that? Your heart is beating slightly faster? You find yourself wondering whether you just had a close call or not?? You must be a racist black person who hates white people.
    The statistics regarding a woman’s chance of being raped by a man make RW’s response quite rational. The statistics regarding white men being assaulted by black men make your response in your hypothetical scenario quite irrational.
    [Meta]
    Hey guys, please remember that this is not supposed to be a re-hashing of the incident itself (this guy obviously didn’t get that message), but a discussion of the RESPONSE! Remember, not the elevator incident, but the part that came afterwards, where a great many clueless men attempted to defend their privilege at the expense of an increased chance of actually getting laid. Very much like the guy I quoted above has done a good job showing how his male privilege is quite intact, but his chances of getting laid are rather low.

  188. Fate says

    I’m glad this happened. Because for 30 years I’ve listened to young women say, “Oh, we don’t need you old Feminists any more. We have rights now. We like being flirted with, having our feminity defined by whether men find us f**kable or not, and we want to be Princesses who are taken care of by men. And forget those lesbians, they aren’t even women.” So I have watched as everything we Feminists fought for in the 60s and 70s held in contempt because too many females believe being “sexy” is empowering. And what I knew would happen has happened. Men, who in the 70s started to obey the anti-harrassment laws we old Feminists worked hard to win, realised that they could return to treating women as pieces of meat, and that too many women based their happiness and validity on the opinion and tastes of men, and that men could be insulting and abusive with no consequences. So they are insulting and abusive. The majority of girls these days believe that it’s okay for their boyfriends to slap them. Men openly call women “bitches,” and women take it. In movies like the truly misogynist up-coming “Living Will,” women are little more than sex toys and objects. The contempt young women have had for what we old Feminists fought for has come back to bite them in their asses. Now, if they want to regain the right to be treated with equality and respect, they’ll have to fight as we fought. I’m sad to say I doubt most of them have the backbone. When young “feminists” say they can’t live without wearing makeup, I know females today are spineless wimps, who wouldn’t last five minutes in a protest march because their stacked high heels would hurt their pedicured tootsies, and it disgusts me. Have fun with the Pink Princess World you’ve made for yourselves.

  189. Ajita says

    @Achess:
    “There are more African Americans in jail than white people, even though only 12,6% of the US population is African American => white people are justified to be on their guard when in presence of African Americans in particular => African Americans should be extra-careful when talking to white people…”
    Wow, just wow. I have, for the first time in my life, just witnessed a blatantly racist defense of sexism.
    Where shall I begin.
    Firstly, women have throughout history been raped by men at a much much MUCH higher rate than the other way around. One out of every 4 American women will be raped in their lifetimes by a man. The numbers are worse in some other countries. Women are physically much more vulnerable to being raped by men than men are by women. There are even certain parts of the world where men raping a woman is considered appropriate punishment for her actions. There are cases where women have been gang raped by multitudes of men in broad daylight. And on and on and on…
    The other side of the argument. It is not Blacks, but Whites who have historically oppressed the former. It is not Blacks but Whites who have historically wielded the privilege and power in American society. It is not Blacks but Whites who today have more influence in the legal system and in police enforcement. It is not Blacks but Whites who hold the power when it comes to economic legislation, zoning laws, dispensing of federal funds, control of the educational system and dominance in the media.
    It is not Whites but Blacks who are the disproportionate (per capita) victims of violent (and even white-collar) crimes in America. It is not Whites but Blacks who are disproportionately targeted by law enforcement officials. And finally, it is not Whites but Blacks who have been vastly disproportionately exonerated by DNA evidence, indicating that they have been vastly disproportionately wrongfully convicted.
    I am not criticizing you analogy. I am criticizing your ignorance.

  190. Ron says

    Gareth- PZ didn’t call anybody sexist or misogynistic until he closed the first thread, after the women-haters came out of the woodwork.
    All Rebecca said was “I don’t like being sexualized that way.” I don’t find that sexist or calling elevator guy or any guy misogynistic.
    And THE whole point of PZ’s first post WAS Stef McGraw, and Rebecca calling her out on it and using her name. After all, Stef used Rebecca’s name in a public forum too, her Blog. PZ’s post was hijacked by hysteria on both sides.
    And although it is besides the point, I give elevator guy the benefit of the doubt. He just wanted to chat. But he asked in the worse possible way.
    “Don’t take this the wrong way, but-” is just as bad as “I don’t mean to be racist, but-” or “All I’m saying is-” and then the worse filth that can come from a human’s mouth then spills out.
    Neither PZ nor Rebecca think the elevator guy was misogynistic. Creepy and Uncomfortable, and Clueless, perhaps, since it has been confirmed he was at Rebecca’s talk.
    There were A LOT of misogynistic guys on all of PZ threads.
    I haven’t sat through Aron Ra’s video of the talk Rebecca gave in Dublin (with Richard Dawkins on the panel) and she may well have said she has seen misogynistic behavior in men at conventions in the past, but this was before the elevator incident and basically her whole point at getting more women to come to such conventions. (I’ve heard myself when somebody says we need more women at skeptic/atheist conventions guys say “Yeah, so we can fuck them.” Even if Rebecca thinks most guys are misogynistic, do you blame her???)

  191. Zac says

    Ron,
    She did not use the word “boycott” but that is what is going on. If I want to boycott the News of the World, for instance (thankfully I don’t have to) that means I stop buying and reading the paper in protest of an action that I dislike, which is perfectly analogous to the passage you helpfully quoted.
    “Despite the fact that I’ve seen hundreds of comments from those of you who plan to do the same, I’m sure Dawkins will continue to be stinking rich until the end of his days. But those of us who are humanists and feminists will find new, better voices to promote and inspire, and Dawkins will be left alone to fight the terrible injustice of standing in elevators with gum-chewers.”
    This passage follows the one you quoted, and seems to claim that if you are really a humanist or feminist then you should stop reading Dawkins.
    Of course, I’m not saying that she does not have the right to that opinion. I’m saying that it is a poor example for the skeptic community, especially from one who continuously gets invited to speak at conferences.
    Armored Scrum Object: That’s fair, but Im just saying that anyone who does argue in that way is not arguing well. We should listen to what people say- but it would be helpful if, instead of merely saying that we aren’t listening they could say exactly what we’re missing.

  192. Ron says

    Michael Dobson- Thanks for the post. Phil Plait, the Bad Astronomer, has taken a lot of flack for posting on his blog about this incident. He also has pointed out that any man (or anybody or that matter) is a potential rapist, criminal, whatever.
    I’ve talked about ‘Threat Assessment” on a lot of threads but very few get it…
    I had a ‘ah-ha’ moment when I was fairly young, in college.
    We had night finals. There were so many classes that taught the same subject that they would get all the kids together at night (alternate seating between the freshman and the upperclass men so no one could cheat, lol) in an auditorium of perhaps 1000+ kids.
    I loved them. I would go to the library the early, study all day, and about two hours before the final, stop and take a walk around campus. It was a large University, a beautiful campus and a nice, wonderful night. I am 6’2” and back then I was in much better shape then now and about 225 pounds. I intimidate a lot of people, women, men, children. I’ve learned to be soft spoken and smile a lot.
    I would walk around the campus, whistling to myself, working the kinks out, clearing my head, go to the final and then ace it.
    The next day, to my horror, in the college student newspaper was an editorial by a woman asking for a ban on night finals. Women hated them, literally ran to them, and several women had been raped going to them.
    Suddenly I hated night finals. How many women did my mere presence scare the hell out of???
    Walking around my neighborhood that I have lived in for 20+ years and everybody knows me, at night, with my dog (or better yet with my fiancee), my threat assessment to others should be really low.
    But on a college campus, 30 years ago, at night. Mine was very high, and for good reason. Even if I wouldn’t hurt a flea, the point is, they don’t know that.

  193. Brett Caton says

    @SallyStrange
    “1.Exactly at what time is it ok to ask a female to coffee?
    For any man or you personally? For most men, I’d say… Use your wise discretion.”
    Nice Answer. That way, whatever time they pick, if you don’t find them attractive you can attack them for not guesssing what the right time was.
    “But for you personally? I’m going to go ahead and say, “Never.”
    Good one SallyStrange! Tell him he can never have sex. It is such a civlised way to tell him to fornicate with himself, is it not?
    “you, personally, not men in general, must never approach a woman and must always wait until a woman approaches you”
    Because women approach men as often as vice versa? No? They barely ever approach men and a lot of men automatically react negatively because they assume something must be wrong with the woman who breaks gender conventions.See Alex | July 13, 2011 at 05:58 AM for an example.
    “it’s clear that the man disregarded the content of all of her previous speech ”
    In her speech given publicly, did she indicate she did not want to be approached? My understanding is that this is disinformation, however I am willing to retract that if you can cite a reference. No-one yet has managed to, but perhaps you will do so. Quite a few other posters have claimed it was only in a private conversation that she indicated her loathing, and so he would have had to have either been eavesdropping or a mind reader.
    “e a great many clueless men attempted to defend their privilege at the expense of an increased chance of actually getting laid”
    How generous you are to provide these pearls of wisdom to the people you despise. If only we were worthy, we could learn the time to approach a woman, which is … ummm… when it’s “wise”… that seems a bit circular… the wisest time is the time which is wise?
    Ok, next pearl…
    Wait, there’s no next pearl? Oh yes, people who disagree with you shouldn’t have sex. That’s handy to know.
    I’d like to suggest you take some of your own advice and go frack yourself, but you seem thoroughly fracked up already.

  194. says

    I don’t see how an uncomfortable moment in an elevator where a woman is hit on by a man is evidence of widespread sexism or misogyny in the atheist community. I don’t see how the act of being hit on is evidence of sexism or misogyny. It’s creepy, but not sexist or misogynistic. Can someone clear this up for me?

  195. Daniel "Theophage" Clark says

    I came here from Pharyngula.
    This is an excellent article and a sensible breakdown of the issues. Kudos!

  196. Ron says

    Zac,
    I agree that the paragraph you quoted bothered me. She sounded a bit hysterical there, but do you really blame her? My post wouldn’t have been nearly as calm (or coherent).
    If a boycott is happening though, it’s not because Rebbecca called for one, like a lot of people are claiming. Which was my whole point. Claiming she is starting a boycott against Dawkins is just another way to slam her name into the mud, and it is not true. If a boycott is happening it is because a lot of people feel the same way she does. Not because she called for one.
    I’ve thought Richard Dawkins was a jerk for a long time, for several reasons that aren’t really relevant and are my own opinions anyway.
    He maybe a wonderful evolutionary biologist but he’s a lousy human being. Oh how I miss Stephen Jay Gould.
    The only good thing about Dawkins is he is married to Lalla Ward. (a bit of true geek trivia there.) And that makes me wonder about her tastes.
    (all of the above are just MY opinions and sarcastic, although I really do think, in the words of Phil Plait, Don’t be a Dick,and Dawkins can be a real dick.)

  197. sharky says

    I’m finding it very interesting that people, mostly men are making a consistent reading error in this whole thing.
    The problem is that the man in question knew from her, without a doubt, that his advance was unwelcome, unwanted, and doomed to rejection. He insisted on making an advance in an isolated setting where she couldn’t just walk away.
    When she objected, however, people (mostly men) consistently zeroed in on the advance itself as what she was objecting to, without accepting the context, and have been complaining about not being able to make advances, or angrily defending their right to do so at any time they want, ever since. Despite all restatements and rehashings, it’s the same angry reaction every time.
    Why? What’s going on here? I’d sincerely like to know. Is it that the fear of rejection is that overpowering, and it’s causing some kind of logical short-circuit? Is there a bigger part of men’s social picture that I’m missing?
    Is it just that it isn’t fair? Because no, it isn’t easy on this side either. Women have been raped, women have been killed resisting rape, and since we’re in a culture where it’s assumed to be our fault and not even justice is guaranteed, we can’t ignore the risk.
    We especially can’t ignore it when a man says “I am doing this” after a woman says “I don’t want you to do that.”

  198. gr8hands says

    Greta, you made the mistake of starting out sexualizing the event, characterizing the offer of coffee as a “proposition.”
    It also shows sexism (an offer of coffee from a woman is less likely to have been interpreted as sexual) and heterosexism (the presumption that Rebecca could ‘tell’ the man was straight and therefore hitting on her, as opposed to gay and merely asking her for coffee).
    Try imagining it taking the words at face value, without all the negative presumptions and stereotyping.
    Miscommunication is not misogyny, and it is ‘crying wolf’ to mislabel it so, and harms the cause of equality and women’s rights.
    Also, pointing out that something is trivial (in one’s opinion), or putting it into perspective, is NOT telling anyone to shut up. Dawkins never told Rebecca to shut up. I am not telling anyone to shut up.

  199. Ron says

    I’m a man, sharky, and I can’t answer that question. I do not know why other men have gotten so angry at Rebecca.
    I have noticed, and this may be an irrelevant correlation, but most of the male bloggers (Phil Plait, Josh Rosenau, PZ Myers, etc etc) that have sided with Rebecca are married, and most have kids…

  200. says

    So why on earth would you turn around and say to people who are talking about feminism, “This is such a divisive issue — why do you have to keep bringing it up?”
    Do you see how this is the same?

    Yup. I said a very similar thing the other day. Gnus especially should understand why many feminists feel the need to be vocal, angry, even a little vociferous at times. We do that too, and the reasons why that is justified have been discussed to death. It’s amazing that gnu atheists can’t see the analogy.
    (On a side note, I know this goes against you wanting not to rehash Elevatorgate, but I just want to say how unfortunate the Watson/McGraw/keynote speech side-controversy is… it really distracts from the key issue in a negative way, and it means I can’t anymore unequivocally support Watson in the whole debacle. Just wish that hadn’t happened…)

  201. Ron says

    @Brett Canton-
    Aron Ra has the video of the entire lecture on youtube.
    I haven’t watched it yet, but my question to you is- who cares if she stated she wanted to be approached or not???
    For most women, that situation would have been ‘creepy’ and ‘uncomfortable’. And yes, I have asked quite a few women that do not know about this mess the question on an elevator at 4 am ‘how would you feel if a guy said ‘don’t take this the wrong way, but if find you interesting, do you want to go to my room for coffee?’ and all of them has said they would be uncomfortable and creeped out. All Of Them.

  202. says

    I don’t think your contribution to the discussion offers new information, nor novel interpretations not already mentioned elsewhere. The advantage of repetition is keeping the debate alive, and it seems to be necessary.

    We are trying to help you get laid.

    And if you wash your hands, you can get a cookie. A penis appeal isn’t exactly the paragon of mutual respect and understanding.

    … and that (as Dawkins seemed to be arguing) we have more serious problems to be worrying about than whether women feel comfortable and welcomed at atheist events.

    That seems like a disingenuous interpretation. Dismissing a minor incident of stupid male behaviour doesn’t infer general indifference towards female comfort at conferences. I really doubt Dawkins felt like that given his reference to the plight of muslim women.
    I suspect that he felt white women were misusing their powers (or privilege if you want a buzzword) by raising a trivial matter – in his eyes – to the forefront of atheistic debate. Given recent developments, he was probably wrong. That doesn’t make him sexist, misogynistic, nor utterly clueless.

    We like men. We’re not saying you’re all rapists. We know you’re not all rapists. We know that most of you aren’t rapists.

    Let’s change a couple of words.
    We like women. We’re not saying you’re all sluts. We know you’re not all sluts. We know that most of you aren’t sluts.
    I consider “potential rapist” to be just as sexist as “potential slut”. You can certainly qualify “potential rapist” in terms of safety, but it’s still sexist.
    In the male spectrum, I’m a lot closer to Tom Ridge than EG. Yet I find his email a rather sad example of “Talkin about it works.” It’s a better example of deference.

  203. SallyStrange says

    Awesome. This discussion is going from bad to worse. But at least now I’m not too busy to participate.
    Brett Caton:

    Nice Answer. That way, whatever time they pick, if you don’t find them attractive you can attack them for not guesssing what the right time was.

    It’s a well-worn trope amongst misogynists that women only object to come-ons when they find the man unattractive. It’s a handy excuse for avoiding personal responsibility for being an oblivious, entitled jerk. “It’s not that I made her uncomfortable, it’s that I’m too UGLY! I bet if I was Brad Pitt she’d have gone back to my room with me.” No. (Also, Brad Pitt is not the platonic ideal of male beauty.)

    Good one SallyStrange! Tell him he can never have sex. It is such a civlised way to tell him to fornicate with himself, is it not?

    You can join him if you like. Anyone who betrays such utter cluelessness as to interpret a polite request to restrict one’s sexual advances to venues where it is appropriate and not anxiety-inducing to mean that the acceptability of making sexual advances, period, is being called into question is probably better off not making sexual advances.

    In her speech given publicly, did she indicate she did not want to be approached? My understanding is that this is disinformation, however I am willing to retract that if you can cite a reference.

    You can take RW’s word for it, or you can say you think she’s lying. Do you have good evidence to think she’s lying? Who is the source of the contention that the content of RW’s speech, which is on video and transcribed by now, is “disinformation”? The only possible excuse for this guy is that he wasn’t at the speech or in the bar. Which makes the part of his come-on where he said he was very interested in what she had to say and wanted to continue the conversation a lie. Either way, he’s not looking like a very nice guy–certainly not a guy who deserves this amount of defense from atheists, or anyone else who purports to value human dignity.

    Oh yes, people who disagree with you shouldn’t have sex. That’s handy to know.

    When you find yourself making such ridiculously dense and distorted charicatures of your opponent’s argument to make a point, you know you’ve lost your argument. I’m not even sure what your point was. That it’s unfair of me to advise clueless men to avoid inflicting their cluelessness on hapless women until they get a clue? Perhaps. What do you want, then–special treatment? Coddling? Life is unfair. Can’t you suck it up–you know–like a man?
    Gr8hands –
    This is not the venue to rehash the incident. Greta Christina requested that we focus on the aftermath, wherein many, many men and some women defended their right to hit on whomever they like, whenever they like, consequences be damned. ED’s actions may or may not have been sexist. What is unquestionably sexist is the response to that request: shrieks of outrage, accusations of bigotry on RW’s part, faux victimhood, etc., etc. Or do you disagree that it is inherently sexist to tell a woman who’s attempting in good faith to help her fellow atheists make atheist conferences a more welcoming space for women to shut up about things that make women feel unwelcome, because it makes men feel uncomfortable to consider that certain of their actions might make some women feel unwelcome?

  204. Ladybug says

    Wonderful piece…wish I could say I had written it!
    It’s dismaying how many people here seem to think that we should be concerned that discussing this issue will keep people from hooking up.
    Really? If we talk about the context of hitting on people and women’s experiences with sexism, then, gosh, no one will ever be able to hook up? Ever again? What a pity if that’s all some are concerned about.
    I’m reminded of something columnist David Brooks wrote recently in a piece on brain and behavior research: “People are complicated. We each have multiple selves, which emerge or don’t depending on context. If we’re going to address problems, we need to understand the contexts and how these tendencies emerge or don’t emerge.”
    That is why this topic should be discussed, because it’s time to stop silencing people who are trying to improve conditions for women in the atheist community. If this upsets your sexual paradigm, then maybe you should know that yours isn’t the only one. Women have been denied the opportunity to address these kinds of things and let’s stop acting offended when it comes up.
    And please, don’t worry about whether or not men will find someone to have sex with…isn’t there something about people being like buses?

  205. sharky says

    Ron: I care. You’re right that it was uncomfortable, but that bit is the part that makes it not an accident. If a woman says “please don’t do that” and a man follows her and waits until they’re in an enclosed space to say “I’m doing this,” he’s establishing himself as someone hearing no, then actually making the situation uncomfortable to push for a yes.
    That’s an enormous, classic warning sign.

  206. gr8hands says

    Ron, even in that context, it was sexism/heterosexism to presume the offer of coffee was sexual in nature. (You may be right, it may have been sexual in nature, but I don’t believe that should be the default presumption. And it would still be sexism/heterosexism on Rebecca’s part.)
    How would a man ask for coffee right then (perhaps EG had to leave for a flight in a couple hours, and was checking out soon) in a way that you feel wouldn’t be interpreted as sexual?
    If you reply that it can’t be done, then I think it says something about you.

  207. says

    @Mog:

    Let’s change a couple of words.

    Okay, but in a different world when women hadn’t been given the short end of the stick for millennia, your couple-of-words-changed thing wouldn’t actually be offensive. Context, people, context.

  208. SallyStrange says

    We like men. We’re not saying you’re all rapists. We know you’re not all rapists. We know that most of you aren’t rapists.

    Let’s change a couple of words.
    We like women. We’re not saying you’re all sluts. We know you’re not all sluts. We know that most of you aren’t sluts.
    I consider “potential rapist” to be just as sexist as “potential slut”. You can certainly qualify “potential rapist” in terms of safety, but it’s still sexist.

    Excuse me? What has a slut ever done to you? Had TOO MUCH SEX with you? Please.
    The fact that you consider a gender-specific slur which is meant to shame women for engaging in consensual sexual activity to be on par with a factual description of a person who breaks the law and violates other people’s personal autonomy says that you aren’t a feminist, you don’t get it, and there’s no need to take anything else you say seriously.

  209. sharky says

    I consider “potential rapist” to be just as sexist as “potential slut”. You can certainly qualify “potential rapist” in terms of safety, but it’s still sexist.
    I visited a nice, full, modern office building during office hours. I took the stairs. I told a female employee I’d done that, and she looked shocked and asked me never to do that again. She worked in HR and had access to employee complaints. I always wondered what she knew.
    It would be stupid of me not to run a risk assessment when I am responsible for my safety. In the right circumstances, I would assess a woman as a threat, so I don’t believe it’s sexist.
    I don’t really care how many women you know who enjoy their sex lives, but you certainly don’t have to think about it, and you don’t seem to believe a man should be shamed for enjoying sex. So: you’re sexist.

  210. SallyStrange says

    As for G88hands, it’s a nice red herring you’ve got there, but seriously – if the offer was about conversation and coffee, not sex, then it would not have involved the man’s bedroom.
    Also, he would not have prefaced it with, “Don’t take this the wrong way…” Even if he wasn’t intending it to be a come-on, he was perfectly aware that it might be perceived as such, and that as such, it might be unwelcome. But he went ahead and did it anyway.
    Whether the man was gay or straight, his actions fall well within the parameters of “a man making an ill-advised sexual advance towards a woman.”
    A rational man, gay or straight, would hear RW’s request for men to take the context into account and say, “Gosh I didn’t think about it that way, but I don’t like making people feel uncomfortable or afraid, so I will endeavor to increase my situational awareness in the future!” Not, “How dare that woman tell ME how to talk to women in elevators!”

  211. says

    I don’t understand how men can’t get it. If a (ANY) woman says it makes her uncomfortable, don’t do it. This should not be difficult, and no amount of rationalizing, trivializing, or arguing otherwise by men is going to change the fact. All we have to do is listen.

  212. Thomathy says

    Greta, I think you’ve posted an amazing article and one point in particular, for me, stands out far above the rest as the best and most important point made. I think it’s very important that everyone keeps talking about this. The more everyone talks, the more all of everyone’s idea about this will be understood and the more everyone’s ideas will converge on a consensus opinion. And that would be very much a good thing. I, like so many, would dearly wish for this to go away, for everything to get better. I want it to get better, but not for a typical reason.
    I’m a gay man. Frankly, this issue seems so …strange to me. I understand sexism. I see it, and perhaps I’m even as close to a third party observer as anyone living in this world can be and, no, I’m not saying that I’ve never been sexist or that I’m immune to this culture. I have been a victim of analogs to sexism, like heteronormativism or genederism. Heck, I’ve been a victim of sexism -odd as it may seem, being a gay man is not at all like being a straight man and even women have stereotypical expectations of men. And yet I find it very difficult to sympathise with this particular issue. You might, if you have expectations that people should really be treating other people as people, devoid of as many assumptions and stereotypes about who they might be based on their apparent, observable traits, who, like you, expect to be treated kindly and with the dignity of personhood. You might find this issue very stupid if you think that other people should be treated how they want to be treated and that the best way to find that out is to ask them.
    I do. I find this issue strange and stupid. I find I have very little sympathy for it. I find I have very little tolerance for the nuance that people think is required. I and finding it extremely difficult to figure out why a concept so seemingly basic as treating other people like people and asking them how they want to be treated is so difficult to grasp. I am finding it extremely difficult to figure out why anything else needs to be said on this issue and why that concept is not the highlight. Don’t suppose, however, that I’m not fully aware that the personal interactions of people are not the extent of sexism. I’m aware of that. Treating others as they would like in personal interactions does not remove wage disparities or rape stigma or even help anyone to feel empowered to get help (to expect help), to get away, from domestic abuse. There is a lot that personal interactions can’t fix. But this issue, this iteration of the sexist argument, isn’t about how to fix a culture of sexism that’s essentially institutionalised. This issue is expressly about personal interactions and how they don’t have to be sexist. Maybe they are more far reaching than I’m giving credit for, and I won’t argue against a contrary opinion or fact, but this particular issue seems so simply remedied and so utterly non-controversial to me and can certainly be fixed by remedying personal interactions. Who, really, has a problem with a request that we all treat each other as people first and find out what that entails by asking other people? I feel as though a deeper, more dark issue is uncovered by the fact that some people are so vocally, vehemently enraged within this discussion.
    And, so, that’s why I want this to get better. Because, yeah, I’m tired of this and, more so, because this should be utterly beneath us all, because there’s nothing difficult about treating people as they expect. At least, I’m pretty certain that there’s nothing difficult about that. It’s also why I’m encouraging discussion and think that it’s the most important point that Greta makes, despite finding this particular issue inane. It’s entirely clear that there is some problem and that the more anything like this is talked about, the more clear that problem becomes and the more we can talk about that and the more the whole, greater issue of sexism can be addressed and sexism itself can be dismantled. It’s just my hope that at least, on this issue, a very simply rule of interaction is taken up by everyone. It’s not difficult and it’s really all that’s needed.

  213. Allen Dexter says

    Greta, you are a wonder. You have the ability to get to the trunk of the tree and make it absolutely plain. This is a great talent.
    As a straight man, I have long wondered at how crass some men can be and still think their behavior is A-OK. They seem to lack the ability to put themselves in someone else’s shoes and realize how threatened and vulnerable they can feel.
    As I get older and less physically able, I can sympathize even more with the feelings of vulnerablility a petite (comparatively) woman can feel in the presence of a macho and insensitive male in isolated circumstances. There are places and situations I now avoid that I would have given little thought to just a few years back.
    We need voices of reason more now than ever. Keep up the good work.

  214. SallyStrange says

    I don’t understand how men can’t get it. If a (ANY) woman says it makes her uncomfortable, don’t do it. This should not be difficult, and no amount of rationalizing, trivializing, or arguing otherwise by men is going to change the fact.

    It’s very difficult to understand this when you’re working from the assumption that women aren’t people except inasmuch as they are similar to men. And that women exist for the sexual pleasure of men. And that women’s concerns are intrinsically frivolous whereas men’s concerns are Serious. And that Real Women are nice and polite and never angry and always smiling gently in gentle bemusement at the antics of men, who are brutish and stupid in comparison (but also more rational and smarter!). That a woman expressing her discomfort and asking for her preferences to be respected is really quite different from a man expressing his discomfort and asking for his preferences to be respected, because a man’s preferences are rational and his discomfort is a problem, not a trivial distraction from More Important Issues, like the problems faced by women in foreign countries, far far away from here. That listening to a woman means you are pussy-whipped/a mangina/insert the slur of your choice.
    Etc., etc.

  215. gr8hands says

    SallyStrange, if people are saying “shut up about things that make women feel unwelcome” that is wrong and a bad thing. I think we agree about that.
    But labeling any and every disagreement about how to interpret what happened, or putting it into perspective, or pointing out the sexism/heterosexism of presumption involved with sexualizing all contact as “telling anyone to shut up” is also wrong and a bad thing.
    Pointing out errors is not telling anyone to shut up.
    Pointing out exaggerations (from anyone’s viewpoint) is not telling anyone to shut up.
    Suggesting anyone consider a different way of interpreting the situation is not telling anyone to shut up.
    Telling anyone that false accusations of misogyny is ‘crying wolf’ is not telling anyone to shut up.
    Pointing out there are more serious examples of misogyny is not telling anyone to shut up.
    Telling someone you don’t think they have anything important to say is not telling anyone to shut up.
    Calling people names is not telling anyone to shut up.

  216. says

    And yet another reminder: Keep this civil. Everybody. Dial back on the heated rhetoric, and avoid personally insulting language directed at other commenters. This applies to everyone — whether I agree with your basic position or not. If you do not respect this basic guideline, I will ban you. You have been warned. Thank you.

  217. gr8hands says

    SallyStrange, “bedroom” was not mentioned. Perhaps EG had a suite with a kitchenette or salon. You’ve gone beyond the facts.

  218. sharky says

    Sorry, Greta. I was trying to call it logically, but that would have worked with “that’s sexist” without being personal. I’ll watch that.

  219. SallyStrange says

    SallyStrange, “bedroom” was not mentioned. Perhaps EG had a suite with a kitchenette or salon. You’ve gone beyond the facts.

    I was under the impression that a hotel room is where people sleep. I.e., a bedroom. Am I mistaken in thinking this?
    Also, are you really trying to maintain there is no strong element of “STFU feminists” to all of this? “Why bother?” “Why bring it up when there are more important things to worry about?” “You’re being too mean,” and “Requesting that your boundaries be respected just means that you are a weak woman” are all ways of saying shut up.

  220. Zac says

    Ron, I see we have differing opinions of Dawkins. That is perfectly ok – I would never tell anybody that they MUST like Dawkins.
    Regarding boycotting – it is simply the call for a boycott that I feel belies the rational skeptic’s attitude to argument. I am sure that whoever would boycott Dawkins over this would have done that anyway without her call. I just feel that a ‘spokesperson’ for the skeptical movement publicly boycotting a fellow skeptic over a disagreement is bad for their credibility. As I said before, I don’t know Rebecca Watson, but this has been a very bad first impression.
    I agree with gr8hands. Any comment we pass on EG is necessarily hypothetical – since we have no idea what he actually did or what his intentions are. We can’t just go by what RW’s YouTube video said since she might be simply misreporting it (pre-emptive counter: I did not say “lying”). Given that this is the ‘skeptical community’, I need not say why we shouldn’t just believe the testimony of others.
    I agree with Mog. Yes, both paragraphs are equally offensive. Could those saying “context” (that magical word that absolves Bible verses from any damning ethical judgement), please explain what the argument is? Perhaps I’m being dense, but I’d like to know how the history of the oppression of women means that one is offensive and not the other.
    Surely the argument isn’t “Women were oppressed in the past, therefore we need to make up for it by privileging women/oppressing men in the present.” I’m sure it’s not, and would appreciate somebody setting me straight on this.
    I don’t see what is wrong with a simple view of equality – equality of gender, race, sexuality…

  221. SallyStrange says

    “Women were oppressed in the past, therefore we need to make up for it by privileging women/oppressing men in the present.” I’m sure it’s not, and would appreciate somebody setting me straight on this.

    Please explain to me how respecting a woman’s request that “This makes me uncomfortable, please don’t do it” is “privileging” women.

  222. says

    Thanks for such a thoughtful post, Greta. I’ve been following this thing since it started, and it seems like the conversations are getting better and more civilized over time, which is awesome. This supports your point that we need to be talking about this stuff. I have learned a lot from it.
    Here are some thoughts that have come to me during the larger context of discussion about privilege, and the whole Shroedinger’s rapist thing. I hope they contribute to understanding.
    People get defensive about privilege, and even thought it’s been pointed out that everyone has privilege and the point is awareness of that privilege, not guilt for it, it’s understandable that men may feel unfairly singled out because of the context of this discussion. So I would like to give you some examples of my own privilege (as a white woman of somewhat small stature) and how I try to be mindful of it.
    I have the privilege of not being seen as a threat by authority figures. Police are nice to me, the Border Patrol are nice to me, when I was a smartass in high school, my teachers were amused rather than threatened. This is in direct contradiction to the way I have seen others in these situations treated. My brother was just as much of a smartass, but ended up getting detention and whatnot much easier, because it was not seen as charming in the same way. Friends of mine who are not white women get more scrutiny at border patrol checkpoints or during customs inspections; not by a giant margin, but persistently. I have the privilege of knowing that I am unlikely to be hassled by police in my day to day business. This is especially clear with the Border Patrol, since everyone in my social circle has interacted with them multiple times (one of the hassles of living in southern AZ), and nearly everyone who isn’t white has an unpleasant story, while everyone who is white but male seems to experience pretty neutral treatment, but my experience has always been that they extend great courtesy to me.
    So anyway, should I feel guilty about this? Of course not! But it is on me to recognize that my privilege colors my interaction with police etc., so if someone else is talking about a problem with the way these authority figures treat people, I’m really not in a good position to pooh-pooh them. Perhaps they are being hypersenitive, true, but that’s a judgement call that I do not have to make. Does that mean my perspective is worthless? No. But it will be worth a lot more if can see my own privilege for what it is.

  223. Zac says

    SallyStrange: “Please explain to me how respecting a woman’s request that “This makes me uncomfortable, please don’t do it” is “privileging” women.”
    It’s not. I was talking about something completely different – Mog’s post about changing the term “rapist” for “slut” and how it suddenly becomes offensive while the original quote is diddly-dandy.
    Even if I did resemble your strawperson, I said that I was sure that the argument was NOT that.

  224. SallyStrange says

    SallyStrange: “Please explain to me how respecting a woman’s request that “This makes me uncomfortable, please don’t do it” is “privileging” women.”
    It’s not. I was talking about something completely different – Mog’s post about changing the term “rapist” for “slut” and how it suddenly becomes offensive while the original quote is diddly-dandy.

    Ah. Well, my mistake for thinking we were still on the original topic.
    As far as “slut” vs. “rapist” goes.
    What is a slut? A woman who is Bad because she has too much sex.
    What is a rapist? A person, who is 95% likely to be male, who has sex with someone else against his or her will.
    You really don’t see how putting these two terms on equal footing is revealing of sexism? “Slut” is a meaningless idea invented by sexists to attempt to shame women for engaging in exactly the same sort of consensual sexual behavior that is regarded as typical for men.
    “Rapist” is a term that describes a criminal.
    What harm to sluts inflict on men? None. Or on women for that matter. Calling a woman a slut is victimizing her, pure and simple.
    What harm to rapists inflict on women? Lots. Conservative estimates indicate that 1 in 6 American women will be raped in their lifetime. For women who go to college, the risk is 1 in 4. Approximately 12% of college aged men admit to raping or attempting rape. A tiny minority of these men confess to being serial rapists.
    Regarding a man who has already indicated a willingness to ignore a woman’s preferences vis-a-vis sexual advances as a potential rapist is a rational response, not indicative of bigotry. Even if it makes you sad to know that some women might worry about you being a rapist, your hurt feelings are not as important as a woman’s sense of personal safety. Especially considering that women are held responsible for their own rapes, and only about 6% of rapes result in prosecution and conviction.
    So, explain to me how respecting women’s rational fears about being raped and then held responsible for not doing enough to prevent being raped is tantamount to “privileging women” or “oppressing men.”

  225. gr8hands says

    SallyStrange, it is clear that we disagree that all those examples you provided are telling someone to shut up. You say it is, I say it isn’t. That’s okay, we don’t have to agree.
    Even if Greta were to ban you for your comments violating her rules — she isn’t telling you to shut up, she’s just not having you put your message on her blog.
    Here’s a thought: just as an exercise, how about mentally attaching the phrase “but you are free to keep speaking about this” to the end of each of those things you think are people telling you to shut up. Perhaps that will take the sting out of it. (It’s like imaging people in the audience in funny clothes as a way to stop stagefright.)
    You might even ending up realizing that they weren’t meant as statements to shut up. It is amazing how our interpretations change when we don’t pre-suppose someone is trying to hurt us or belittle us or scold us, even accidentally. (That may not be true, but it is a good starting place.) Judith Martin would call it being gracious.

  226. SallyStrange says

    Oh yes, and about 1 in 30 American men will be raped in their lifetime, mostly by other men.
    Rapists are a significant threat to everyone’s personal safety, not least because our society doesn’t treat sexual violence as a very serious crime. Rapists are a societal problem, a symptom of a sexist culture that has very messed-up ideas about sex.
    Sluts are not.
    The two terms are not analogous. Insisting that it’s sexist to note that “Women often evaluate strange men regarding their potential ability to sexually assault them” is really arguing that protecting men’s delicate feelings is more important than stopping rape.

  227. SallyStrange says

    Even if Greta were to ban you for your comments violating her rules — she isn’t telling you to shut up, she’s just not having you put your message on her blog.

    Exactly. Sexist men who think they are entitled to a woman’s time and consideration because their dick is hard are welcome to continue to make unlikely-to-succeed propositions in elevators. They just shouldn’t expect to do it at atheist conferences and expect not to be criticized for it.

  228. gr8hands says

    SallyStrange wrote:

    I was under the impression that a hotel room is where people sleep. I.e., a bedroom. Am I mistaken in thinking this?

    Many hotels that have conventions, have rooms with multiple bedrooms and working areas in them. Also suites with kitchenettes, salons, balconies, hot tub room . . . some even have baby grand pianos in a little foyer. For some, the “room” is actually a portion of the entire floor of the hotel! A penthouse may even be the entire top floor!
    This is very different from, say, a Motel 6 where you don’t even get a bathtub! (Which is one reason why I don’t like to stay there. One reason I do, is they take small pets, and I used to travel with my little dog.)

  229. Zac says

    SallyStrange,
    Of course I know the difference between ‘rapist’ and ‘slut’. Of course I know that ‘rapist’ is much worse. So surely I should be more offended about “most of you aren’t rapists” than a woman should be about “most of you aren’t sluts”, as being a rapist is far, far worse.
    “your hurt feelings are not as important as a woman’s sense of personal safety.” Out of interest, would you say that a woman’s hurt feelings are not as important as a man’s sense of personal safety? Presumably, as a non-sexist you would be consistent here and say yes.
    Finally: “So, explain to me how respecting women’s rational fears about being raped and then held responsible for not doing enough to prevent being raped is tantamount to “privileging women” or “oppressing men.””
    All I can do to respond to this is to directly quote my own last post: “It’s not. I was talking about something completely different.”

  230. SallyStrange says

    Many hotels that have conventions, have rooms with multiple bedrooms and working areas in them. Also suites with kitchenettes, salons, balconies, hot tub room . . . some even have baby grand pianos in a little foyer. For some, the “room” is actually a portion of the entire floor of the hotel! A penthouse may even be the entire top floor!

    And you know that ED was staying in one of these suites? If so, why did he not say, “I would like to invite you to my suite“?
    Somebody is going beyond the facts here, and it’s not me.
    Sure, it’s possible that ED really meant “Let’s just talk and have coffee” and RW mistakenly interpreted this as “I’d like to have sex with you.” But that assumes a lot of facts not in evidence. RW didn’t know whether ED had a suite or a room, and it’s really irrelevant. Either way, it’s an unmistakable sexual overture. Or at least, it is for many people. Anyone who wasn’t previously aware that inviting a person to your hotel room OR SUITE at 4 am for “coffee,” who is now reading these posts, has now been made aware. And that’s a good thing, right?
    So what’s your beef again?

  231. gr8hands says

    SallyStrange, I think you missed Mog’s point. I’ll repeat it here:

    I consider “potential rapist” to be just as sexist as “potential slut”. You can certainly qualify “potential rapist” in terms of safety, but it’s still sexist.

    Note it isn’t equating the two terms, or saying rapist isn’t the terrible evil it most certainly is.
    Mog is pointing out that exchanging the words points out that the original phrases were sexist.
    Rape is terrible and evil and must be stopped. But you can express that sentiment in ways that are sexist, and that also is wrong. Less wrong, but as has been pointed out, sexism everywhere should be stopped.

  232. Zac says

    SallyStrange: “If so, why did he not say, “I would like to invite you to my suite”?”
    Maybe he did say that. How do you know he didn’t? Maybe he just said “Do you want to grab a coffee before bed? It’s so interesting!” and RW thought he meant in a bedroom, so when she later recounted it she added “hotel room” without intending to deceive. The truth is, we don’t know what he said at all. Maybe he said something such that if we heard it, we would all say “oh… THAT is ok!” As I said before, testimony is a very unreliable kind of evidence, as every skeptic should be aware of.

  233. says

    With regards to the Shroedinger’s rapist thing, again, I can sympathize with some of the automatic defensiveness men can feel. Even though I think the underlying concept is reasonable, something about the language of this discussion is triggering. Nobody wants to be thought of as a rapist, even potentially.
    However, this is not something that just happens with ‘rape scenarios’. I have been thinking about what I consider to be a pretty analogous situation, and I’d like to share that and see if it helps clarify what people are talking about.
    I am a bicycle commuter. I ride around 60 miles per week. I’ve never been in an accident, and the vast majority of my interactions with drivers are perfectly fine, but I am always alert to driver behaviors and my surroundings.
    Every car is a potential threat to me and I am aware of that. Most of the time in most riding contexts, that threat is extremely small and doesn’t worry me overmuch. However, there are certain driver actions that increase this potential threat, like passing carelessly close, failing to signal, failing to react to my signals, etc. If I have a car pass me closely on the left while approaching an intersection and then drift rightward, I am going to assume they might be turning right even if the turn signal isn’t on, and I’m also going to assume that they may well right-hook me in the process.
    I don’t really think my odds of getting hit by a car are ridiculously high. But there are a lot of people out there who are either bad drivers or jerks, and as a result I will assume anyone on the road could be in that category. If I do end up in an accident, I am quite sure that there would be many people who would scrutinize my actions and presume me to be at fault.
    Perhaps the same folks who are offended that a person may see you as a potential rapist under some context are also offended that I would see you as a potential road rager if you pass me with an inch to spare, even though that could be cluelessnenss rather than malice, too. In that case, your issue is not with feminism, but with a more general societal phenomenon. And I don’t know what to do except say sorry; yep, it sucks, but I’m not going to stop being aware of potential threats until they go away.
    And we ramp this kind of thing all the way up to the most unpleasant scenarios, but that isn’t the only risk we’re concerned about. It’s very, very unlikely that a guy who cold propositions me after cornering me is a rapist, but there are other things he could be with much higher probability, such as a groper, or a caller of names. Is it unreasonable to be on the defense against those things are well? hey are less severe, but more likely. So anyone who is saying that the odds of a woman being raped in that context is missing part of the risk. What do you suppose the odds are that a woman will be groped?
    OK, I obviously need to wrap this up, but one more observation RE the ‘women need to start taking the initiative with sexual advances’ thing. I am currently one of those women who is perfectly comfortable taking the initiative. If I want to date you and you seem available, I will ask you out (in theory — I am not single).
    Yet, you may see me at an event, and I almost certainly will not be asking anyone out. This does not mean I’m lying. It means that I don’t want to go out with any of you. Even if I think you are cool, it doesn’t mean I want sex with you.
    So here’s the thing. If you’re a guy who criticizes women for not being forward enough, and wants to encourage them to do so, how do you tell the difference between a woman who expects you to ask her out and one who is actively affirming that she doesn’t want you by the act of not hitting on you (assuming you cannot read body language or hints)? Maybe more women than you think are taking the initiative, but they don’t want to have sex with you. Does that idea bother you?

  234. SallyStrange says

    Of course I know the difference between ‘rapist’ and ‘slut’. Of course I know that ‘rapist’ is much worse. So surely I should be more offended about “most of you aren’t rapists” than a woman should be about “most of you aren’t sluts”, as being a rapist is far, far worse.

    Given I am a victim of sexual assault, as are a plurality of women in this society, I really think you should take our recognition that all men are not responsible for the heinous abuses perpetrated by a small but sizable and socially accepted minority of men as a compliment. Being called a rapist is certainly offensive, particularly if you’ve never raped anybody. But that’s not what’s happening here. What’s happening is that women are trying to show you how treating other people as human beings worthy of respect and dignity is done. In other words, we ARE NOT holding you responsible for the actions of your fellow male-gendered citizens, even though it would be easy to do so.

    “your hurt feelings are not as important as a woman’s sense of personal safety.” Out of interest, would you say that a woman’s hurt feelings are not as important as a man’s sense of personal safety? Presumably, as a non-sexist you would be consistent here and say yes.

    Of course. But tell me, do you have any examples of a real-world situation in which such a conflict would arise? This seems like a very silly attempt at a “gotcha!” moment.

    Finally: “So, explain to me how respecting women’s rational fears about being raped and then held responsible for not doing enough to prevent being raped is tantamount to “privileging women” or “oppressing men.””
    All I can do to respond to this is to directly quote my own last post: “It’s not. I was talking about something completely different.”

    Well, then you need to brush up on your communication skills. What exactly do you see as “privileging women” and “oppressing men”? That was your phrase, not mine. I’m asking precisely what you think qualifies as privileging women and oppressing men. Please be more clear if you want to avoid confusion, and stop redirecting me to what you said already, because obviously it wasn’t clear enough.

  235. says

    @Thomathy

    because there’s nothing difficult about treating people as they expect.

    You’ve kind of hinting at the core of the issue there. The problem is not that there are people within the atheist community that think it’s controversial to treat people with the same respect they themselves expect to be treated. The problem is that there are people – in the world, and in the atheist community too – don’t see “women” and “people” as overlapping categories.
    Men, from Freud onwards and probably for millennia before, have seen women as a mysterious Other to be deciphered; and once deciphered, like Egyptian hieroglyphics, they expect women to be consistent. There is “something women want”. There is a magic button, and if you find it and push it then it will guarantee success. That’s where the sarcastic questions of “so when is it OK to ask a woman for coffee?” are coming from: these people are contemptuous of the very notion that the answer to that is “no idea mate, they’re all bloody different”.
    Because they should. Not. Be. Bloody different. Men – people – who see women as incomplete versions of human beings, think of them as maybe very intelligent dogs: with sufficient training, their behaviour can become predictable and easily explainable. It must be fantastically frightening for someone like that to be faced with the revelation that women are not like that at all: they are messy, unique individuals who defy systematising description and over whom you do not possess predictive power.
    Especially, I would say, for some men who consider themselves “rationalists”, to be faced with the realisation that relationships with women are not rationalisable, must be terrifying; first, because it drops the bottom out of the only way they can think of to engage in human pair bonding (the transactional, “what women want” model); and second, because for many it simultaneously involves the unpleasant admission that they have heretofore failed to accord women full humanity. Which is not very rational.
    No wonder they get pissed. And I reluctantly – oh, so very reluctantly – have to agree with Greta Christina that we need to continue talking about this stuff for their benefit. Not because someday, one of our trudgingly repeated arguments will provide someone with a much needed epiphany, but because if we repeat the idea that women are people over and over and over again, eventually it will become more normative, and accepting the corollaries to it (no right way to approach, listen to what is said, respect boundaries, sometimes go down in unpredictable and humiliating flames, actually having more women around is good even if none of them wet your dick) will be less difficult. Or so I, you know, hope.

  236. SallyStrange says

    Maybe he did say that. How do you know he didn’t? Maybe he just said “Do you want to grab a coffee before bed? It’s so interesting!” and RW thought he meant in a bedroom, so when she later recounted it she added “hotel room” without intending to deceive. The truth is, we don’t know what he said at all. Maybe he said something such that if we heard it, we would all say “oh… THAT is ok!” As I said before, testimony is a very unreliable kind of evidence, as every skeptic should be aware of.

    In other words, we would be remiss, as skeptics, to neglect to consider the possibility that Rebecca Watson is either dishonest or massively stupid.
    Do you have evidence, in the form of other incidents unrelated to elevatorgate, to indicate that RW is an unreliable narrator? That she is prone to dishonesty, exaggeration, or outright stupidity?
    If not then your ridiculous insistence on re-hashing the incident (deliberately ignoring Greta’s admonition that this should be a discussion of the REACTION to RW’s comments) making excuses for ED borders on a personal attack on RW.

  237. Mriana says

    I agree with you Greta, but I think they do more than just stick their fingers in their ears. I think, like Church people, they try hard to make you think like they do and have that “group think” mentality about it, and then, when you don’t agree and they can’t sway you to their BS, they spew verbal abuse. That was my experience in my Freethought group on this topic at least, not much different than religious behaviours, IMO. Some of them didn’t even like the fact I support Rebecca on this issue and again tried to convince me they were right and I’m wrong. It’s pretty bad and I can see why women don’t want to attend atheist events. The behaviours on the subject of feminism, IMO, are very much like religionists and I pointed that out to them too. I wasn’t the only one who saw that either. It was basically, “you’re stupid, sit down, shut up, we know what’s right, you don’t, and stay in the corner looking pretty.” Sounds like the Church’s attitude towards women, IMO. The attitudes hurled at me was enough to cause me not to want to attend anything, except Skepticon. It’s pretty bad and I didn’t realize it until now.

  238. says

    Actually, on reading comments here to this point, I’m kind of enheartened to see so many men actually getting it, compared to my usual expectations.  I really, really like the comments threads here more than a lot of places.  :)

  239. Robert B says

    @gr8hands:
    SallyStrange phrased her point somewhat hyperbolically – clearly none of those quotes were a literal order not to speak. However, they were all attempts to end or derail the conversation without answering any arguments or resolving the conflict. If the speaker is not a captive audience – if they can, if the subject bores or irritates them, can simply leave and ignore it – they clearly want more than to just stop hearing about it themselves. There’s no reason to say something like that on an internet forum or comment thread except to control the discourse so that the commplaint is silenced. None of those quotes actually say “shut up” – but they say “I don’t think we should be talking about this.” The form is more polite, but the message is very similar.
    Your post, I must point out, does this exact thing in a longer form. Your suggestion that Sally think about your statements differently is a strong implication that her grievances are imaginary, all in her head. Given the repeated (indeed, incessant) historical pattern of privileged groups failing to notice or understand the extent of their privilege, I found that to be a demeaning and arrogant thing to say.
    Obviously your post, or statements such as “I don’t see why we’re talking about this” are not actually silencing anyone, abridging their right to free speech, or even claiming that these things should be done. But SallyStrange was talking to you, among others, and you are saying that you’re not going to listen to her, and that no one within the sound of your voice should either. When she says that you’re “telling her to shut up,” that’s what she means.
    PS – Invoking good manners against the complaints of a less privileged group is a classic fail. I can refute it logically upon request, but given how often the same trick is used against atheists, I hope I don’t have to.

  240. says

    It is amazing how our interpretations change when we don’t pre-suppose someone is trying to hurt us or belittle us or scold us, even accidentally.

    OMG, I know! It’s like, when someone says “guys, don’t do that” and we don’t assume they’re trying to hurt us or belittle us or scold us, we might actually avoid blowing up the intrawebs for three weeks afterwards!
    Oh. It’s not what you meant. Well, dang.
    Sally’s silent corollary to phrases like “this is not important”, “there are other issues”, “why are you being provocative” etc. – which is “so stop talking about it” – is a much more likely one than yours. Why would anyone spend three weeks and thousands of computer man hours telling people that what they’re talking about is wrong, unimportant, nonexistent or offensive, if the subtext of all this effort is a polite invitation to continue the discourse? Occam’s Razor, buddy.

  241. Jack Lewis says

    I fully understand that a women can feel uncomfortable in an elevator at 4 am alone with a man (even if he didn’t say a word).
    From the actual retelling by Rebecca of what he said, he seemed rather polite. Now I would never proposition somebody in an elevator but that’s just me. I know guys (they are not friends but acquaintances) that proposition women in extremely objectifying ways and have quite a bit of success too. Now the guy asked if she wanted to go to her room for coffee and he probably wanted to talk some more, etc… While I agree that it can make some women uncomfortable I don’t think that such events can be remedied. At least I can’t see how (can anybody explain to me how in a world with elevators, men and women, this situation can be made to not ever happen?). Dawkins rushed in and tried to put the minor event in context (not so much about Rebecca’s original post but about the feminist infight that insued). As a result Rebecca wrote a big post called the Priviledge Delusion with Richard’s picture on it as though he was some sort of pervert. At that point it seemed quite clear to me that her response was NOT proportional. I sensed a bit of vindictiveness on her part. The fact that comments like this one never made it through to her blog (notice the lack of profanities and name calling) didn’t impress me either. It also appears to me that in terms of degree of importance, the treatment of women in the middle east is a far worst issue (or is that really up to debate now?). So basically Dawkins was not wrong on facts that but perhaps a bit insensitive. I guess that’s all it takes to be thrown under the bus nowadays…

  242. Robert B says

    @Jack Lewis:
    I agree that, in a perfect world, we wouldn’t have to debate this issue so much or so acrimoniously. The original incident was, while significant, not in proportion with the scandal following. Women who don’t have blogs probably get hit on in elevators all the time without plunging whole subcultures into weeks of continuous flame wars.
    That said, this admittedly irritating controversy gives us a chance to bring up and discuss some issues of privilege, fear, and power that we are unfortunately able to ignore most of the time. At this point I think the specifics of the original case are less important than the larger issues it’s causing us to discuss. And I think we owe it to our intellectual integrity to pay attention here.

  243. says

    Another observation: it seems like many frustrated guys are approaching this with, ‘OK, I get that’s creepy, but where do you draw the line, and how am I ever going to ask a woman out when it is so complicated?’
    One problem I have with this kind of statement is that it presumes that the only way of meeting women as potential sexual partners is to ask them out cold. It’s true that this is a way of meeting women and sexing them up, but it is not the only way, and it is one that relies heavily on having good social skills (reading cues, etc.) to actually work. I have no doubt that there are guys who succeed at this, and I’m willing to bet that they are the ones who can actually read nonverbal signs of interest or disinterest. If you admit that you suck at this, perhaps you should give up the cold proposition approach.
    But that doesn’t mean that you are doomed to an existence of sexual frustration, because there are several other ways of meeting women. The classic way of doing it is to be introduced through friends. Another way is online dating. It’s true that these don’t eliminate the possibility for social misunderstandings and creepiness, but it is needlessly limiting to think that the cold proposition is sacrosanct, or even a significant part of the meaningful sex game.

  244. Ollie says

    What disappointed me the most in all this is that both sides had a lot of people think, “you need to listen to me, but I don’t need to listen to you.” It’s not about sides or at least it shouldn’t be. It should be about working together to solve a problem.

  245. Robert B says

    I don’t think “drawing the line” is a useful way to think about things like this in the first place. It’s “commandment-style ethics,” the idea that you can make your decisions based on a fixed set of action rules – always do X, never do Y, if A and B then definitely do C, otherwise don’t. That’s just not a practical way to make any kind of real-world decision. Life is too complicated.
    Rather than seeing this as a proscriptive behavior rule – “If you’re alone with a woman on an elevator at 4 am, don’t hit on her” – consider it as a descriptive statement about potential problems in human relations. “Many women are justifiably concerned about being victims of sexual violence. If a romantic overture makes a woman feel unsafe in this sense, the outcome will be bad for everyone.” Then you can just keep this fact in mind when you’re making decisions, and use your own judgement.

  246. says

    Sally: Excuse me? What has a slut ever done to you? Had TOO MUCH SEX with you? Please.

    It’s the observer, not the object, that defines sexism.
    I don’t think I know any “sluts”, but I consider it to be a sexist label. It was an example based on assumed EG reasoning to illustrate that you cannot pick and choose sexism to fit your view of the world. Perhaps not the best example, but there’s hardly an equivalent to presumption of rapist.

    The fact that you consider a gender-specific slur which is meant to shame women for engaging in consensual sexual activity to be on par with a factual description of a person who breaks the law and violates other people’s personal autonomy says that you aren’t a feminist, you don’t get it, and there’s no need to take anything else you say seriously.

    The presumption of rapist is rather gender specific. It only becomes factual description if the presumption is correct. By any useful definition of the word, it’s sexism. Sexism somewhat mitigated by a reasonable safety argument, but still sexism. That’s all.
    You’re correct, I don’t identify as feminist. But I get most of it, it isn’t rocket science.

    sharky: I don’t really care how many women you know who enjoy their sex lives, but you certainly don’t have to think about it, and you don’t seem to believe a man should be shamed for enjoying sex. So: you’re sexist.

    Are you trying to cold read my innermost thoughts and beliefs? You’re not replying to anything I wrote or implied.

  247. Terry says

    I like women. I like women a lot. I like looking at women, and I like listening to what women have to say. I like agreeing with women, and I like to disagree with women.
    What I don’t like is making women uncomfortable. As a big strong intimidating man, I make a lot of people uncomfortable, so I go out of my way to NOT make that happen.
    The guy in the elevator was out of line, and he knows it.
    End of story.

  248. Gareth Fouche says

    -Ron
    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2011/07/always_name_names.php
    This is the post Dawkins commented in, on PZ’s blog. Read the first paragraph. It’s clearly discussing male sexism, and pointing to the elevator incident as an example. Sure, the primary thrust of the article is about Stef, but its foundation is about misogyny, with elevator dude held up as a prime example. It’s unambiguous.
    And it’s unfair. Even the most brazen, tactless come-on, is not the same thing as ‘treating women as inferiors or objects’. A sexual advance is not sexism, even in a world where women have to be cautious and men should be considerate of that fact.
    In the same way that our friend in the comments above who made a women nervous standing alone with her at a bus-stop wasn’t being sexist, just because she was nervous in that situation.
    It’s not a fair comparison, and it’s understandable if you’re a sarky dude that you might be inclined to make a sarky comment at people who think it is.
    The next comment Dawkins made however, about how it was no more worrying for a woman than someone with gum, was certainly in the wrong.
    Still, it seems to me to be two wrongs compounding each other.

  249. says

    It’s the observer, not the object, that defines sexism.
    I have a nice shiny UK body of legislation here that says the exact opposite (of any discriminatory behaviour, not just sexism).
    Whereas, other than wishful thinking, you are basing your assertion on?…

  250. Robert B says

    @Mog:
    Responding specifically to the point that for a woman to suspect a man of being a potential racist is “sexism by any useful definition of the word.”
    I learned this for racism, but it applies here too: sexism is not just prejudice, it’s also privilege. Prejudice is a problem, obviously. It’s an intellectual error, motivated by our brain’s evolved imperative to make decisions quickly and weight possible negative outcomes too strongly, and it results in ethical errors when we act on it.
    But you also have to keep in mind the larger power dynamics, and the ways that society is still to some extent “designed” for men. I’m far from an expert in flirting and sexual propositions, especially between men and women. But it seems plausible to me that, for example, males might be privileged to initiate encounters like this and that this power might play a role. Or, more simply, it’s possible that the simple fact that men average larger and stronger, and it’s more socially acceptable for us to be trained to fight, might make this situation asymmetric.
    Right now I’m imagining being in an elevator with someone at a convention, and this person is secretly wondering if I’m a rapist. It’s a troubling and hurtful thing to imagine, especially if I thought this person was attractive. (Though, for me, that would probably mean the person was a man, so maybe this is less likely.) If this conclusion comes just from my gender and social awkwardness, it could certainly be denounced as gender prejudice.
    But again, the “isms” are about more than prejudice. We need to keep in mind that the playing field is not, in fact, level. When we call for fair play, we need to keep in mind that we’re sitting on top of the hill, already favored by the rules of the game that everyone has inherited. It’s still possible for us to be treated unfairly, of course, and we need to talk about it if we are, but we also need to keep in mind the whole situation when we do so.

  251. Ron says

    Hanna Coy- Nice analogy. I had more to say but the internet ate my message.
    On PZ Myer’s blog one comment, trying to put a hole in Schrodinger’s Rapist said “Rebecca Watson could have been a potential false rape accuser”
    I laughed because he disproved his own point. Rebecca Watson was a potential false rape accuser at that time to that man.
    In certain situations we are all potential criminals. That’s the sad truth. But if you are good at Threat Assesment, you needn’t live in fear. I don’t. Don’t put yourself in a situation that is dangerous. The problem with the elevator guy is that he followed Rebecca Watson into the elevator and asked her to his room.
    And just pushing buttons (the emergency but stops the elevator cold, usually between floors) isn’t going to help so that point from Dawkins was flawed.
    Here’s a list of recent elevator attacks. http://scienceblogs.com/gregladen/2011/07/ladies_richard_dawkins_knows_h.php?utm_source=sbhomepage&utm_medium=link&utm_content=channellink

  252. says

    Hi Greta,
    I enjoyed reading your post, but there’s one aspect of it that troubled me. It’s about the letter of apology from Tim Ridge.
    I actually think it’s tragic that Tim felt so guilty about his comment that he needed to write you a letter to say he was sorry. For a compliment, of all things.
    Maybe I’m missing the context, but from his letter it seems that (a) there was no hint of a sexual advance, (b) the compliment was an off-hand part of an ongoing conversation that was mostly not about your looks and (c) this all happened in a relatively safe environment (not alone with the guy, no elevators).
    You didn’t mention how this event affected you, so I am curious — did you find his comment offensive, and if so, why?
    If the letter is a shining example of feminism “working”, then I can’t say with honesty that I want it to continue to “work”. A person said something genuinely nice, and then was made to feel ashamed of himself for doing so. Is that really progress?
    Respectfully, I would prefer that people feel more comfortable saying positive things about each other, irrespective of whether it is to do with their appearance.

  253. gr8hands says

    Robert B, why did you add “and that no one within the sound of your voice should either. ” to my statement? I didn’t say that. None of the other people who made the comments SallyStrange has problems with said it. Why did you add it? Why does SallyStrange add it, constantly?
    You see, that is a big part of this problem — adding more than what is there, and then getting upset at the addition. Some call it a strawman, rightly.

  254. gr8hands says

    Terry, and if women still feel uncomfortable, regardless of all the efforts you make, is that a problem?
    Even if you stand still, do and say nothing, and they still feel uncomfortable, is that a problem?

  255. gr8hands says

    Ron, I noticed you didn’t answer my question about how you would ask a woman you didn’t know well just for coffee at 4am without it being perceived as sexual.
    If you can’t think of any way, because ALL requests for coffee at 4am MUST be sexual with people you don’t know well, then please clearly say that.

  256. says

    @ Ron:

    And it’s unfair. Even the most brazen, tactless come-on, is not the same thing as ‘treating women as inferiors or objects’. A sexual advance is not sexism, even in a world where women have to be cautious and men should be considerate of that fact.

    It’s not automatically sexist, but it can be. If making the come-on requires you to ignore reasonable feelings and concerns a person may have, and any prior information you might have about their sexual availability, then you are treating them with disrespect. If thins happens to lots of women lots of the time, but not often to men, then it is sexist in the aggregate, even if reasonable doubt can make you dismiss sexism in the individual act.
    Are there any situations more blatant (and deliberately worse — I am not saying EG was this bad) than this one where you would at least consider a come-on to be objectifying? For example, if I’m testifying on the witness stand and the judge says to me, ‘I find you attractive! Would you like to come back to my place after the trial?’ would it be unreasonable of me to feel objectified?
    Or suppose I just got stabbed and am being wheeled off to an ambulance, and a passerby says, ‘Can I have your number?’
    What about if I’m a high school teacher and one of my students asks me out? What if I’m relating this story to the principal and he interrupts me to ask me out?
    Are any of those sexist or objectifying? If you don’t think they are, then I guess we are at an impasse. If you agree some or all of those might be sexist and/or objectifying, but the elevator thing isn’t, then I would be interested in knowing what you see the difference to be.

  257. Ron says

    Gareth, I was on the PZ thread from the start. I was reading it before Dawkins even posted, and I didn’t believe it was the real Dawkins until PZ verified it was.
    You and me are reading into that first paragraph in different ways. It was wrong for the man to approach a woman in an enclosed place. Nowhere did PZ mention the elevator guy being misogynistic. He said that some men can hit on women in weird ways. He didn’t say ALL men. The elevator guy did it in a clumsy wrong way. Or are you denying that women don’t get sexually harassed by men?
    Here’s the first paragraph-
    There is an odd attitude in our culture that it’s acceptable for men to proposition women in curious ways — Rebecca Watson recently experienced this in an elevator in Dublin, and I think this encounter Ophelia Benson had reflects the same attitude: women are lower status persons, and we men, as superior beings, get to ask things of them. Also as liberal, enlightened people, of course, we will graciously accede to their desires, and if they ask us to stop hassling them, we will back off, politely. Isn’t that nice of us?
    Here’s your view of the paragraph-“It’s clearly discussing male sexism, and pointing to the elevator incident as an example. Sure, the primary thrust of the article is about Stef, but its foundation is about misogyny, with elevator dude held up as a prime example. It’s unambiguous.”
    Umm, no. Or at least we don’t agree. It’s not unambiguous and PZ is right.

  258. Robert B says

    @Brendan Jurd:
    I agree that would be nice. The problem is, women intellectuals live in a world where they are sometimes seen or discussed by men as being “just a pretty face” (or “sexy body”). This trivializes the ideas that are their actual passion and pride and purpose for being there. Men, carrying their privilege without noticing it like an invisible backpack, don’t always even realize they’re doing it.
    I’m not trying to say that any compliment of a women’s appearance by a man is necessarily bigoted, or even absentmindedly privileged. But under the circumstances, such a compliment was apt to remind its target of all the aforementioned bad stuff. It just wasn’t a very complimentary compliment in that context, and the reasons why are closely tied to feminist ideas, which is, I think, Greta referred to it as feminism at work.

  259. John the Drunkard says

    So many posts piled up that it is impractical to plow through them all, or hope to be heard. Still, it is worth throwing a word in to be counted.
    There are no real ‘sides’ in this fracas. It seems that two parallel courses are being pursued, with angry shouts back and forth accross the abandoned common ground.
    OF COURSE, the personal experience of R Watson is worth reporting. OF COURSE, the notion that the intrusion of toxic culture-sludge into the connections between male and female atheists has an impact far beyond one encounter in one elevator.
    AND:
    OF COURSE, it is legitimate to observe some sense of scale. A creepy encounter in an elevator is not comparable–in degree–to being at risk for prosecution for ‘zina’ after being raped.
    It would be interesting to hear from elevator boy, if he even remembers the incident. How much do we harm each other just by being socially underdeveloped nerds and/or drunk?
    Thanks

  260. Robert B says

    @gr8hands:
    If you didn’t want the rest of us to listen to that idea, why did you post it? This is a public debate, and we all know we’re playing to a crowd here. Even when you’re responding to a single person, you’re publishing your ideas for every poster and every lurker to read. In fact, your argument is more likely to be convincing to a lurker who isn’t already arguing against you, than it is to convince someone who’s already publicly committed to an opposing position.

  261. gr8hands says

    @Ron, in the first sentence of the paragraph you provided, it starts with the heterosexist presumption that a sexual proposition had been made.
    It would have had some credibility if it had read “…an offer for coffee, which some people (often those who tend to view encounters through a sexualized filter) could also interpret as having sexual connotations, but we don’t know . . .” Or you could leave out the italic section.
    Either way, it is more honest and accurate than to flatly state a proposition had been made.

  262. gr8hands says

    @John the Drunkard wrote: “OF COURSE, the personal experience of R Watson is worth reporting.”
    There seems to be quite a bit of disagreement about that.

  263. gr8hands says

    @Robert B, you must have me confused with someone else’s post.
    Did you read my post? I’ll repeat the germane part:

    Pointing out errors is not telling anyone to shut up.
    Pointing out exaggerations (from anyone’s viewpoint) is not telling anyone to shut up.
    Suggesting anyone consider a different way of interpreting the situation is not telling anyone to shut up.
    Telling anyone that false accusations of misogyny is ‘crying wolf’ is not telling anyone to shut up.
    Pointing out there are more serious examples of misogyny is not telling anyone to shut up.
    Telling someone you don’t think they have anything important to say is not telling anyone to shut up.
    Calling people names is not telling anyone to shut up.

    So, if someone says “grhands, you are an idiot” — according to you they are also saying (your quote) “I don’t think we should be talking about this.” “and that no one within the sound of your voice should either.” Are you really arguing that?
    Try that exercise with the other statements I made, and see if they make sense to you. Your additions clearly speak about baggage you are bringing, and not what is being presented. Wherein lies the problem, as I pointed out.
    Of course, you are free to keep commenting, as this is not in any way an attempt to tell you to shut up. Regardless of whether you misinterpret it to be that way. Not all reactions are appropriate reactions.

  264. DavidByron says

    You don’t know any feminists??
    quote:
    “I don’t know anybody who actually enjoys starting an Internet shitstorm about sexism”

  265. says

    Ace of Sevens:
    EG was more likely a social incompetent than a sexual predator. He likely didn’t realize Watson felt trapped in the elevator.
    You’re joking, right? Because not understanding how one might feel trapped in an elevator would require the cognitive capacity of a three year old =/

  266. Robert B says

    @gr8hands:
    Uh, yeah, actually. If someone were to publicly call you an idiot, that would absolutely imply that your points aren’t worth listening to and that all those present would do better to discuss something else. That’s one reason we don’t say things like that in debates like these.

  267. says

    I have no issues with what Rebecca did initially. While I am a man and cannot, for that reason, relate to what it is for a woman to encounter a creepy person in an elevator, I can accept Rebecca’s genuine fears and discomfort of the encounter. I also have no problems with her mention of the incident with the admonishment “Don’t be creeps, people!”
    I also agree that Dawkins fucked up. As did people who took umbrage at Rebecca’s speech.
    What follows after that is what I am struggling with.
    Dawkins fucked up, but not in the way a raving misogynist fucks up. Not in the way a unrepentant sexist fucks up. He fucked up by picking the wrong subject where he tried to pooh-pooh the focus to a lesser wrong in the face of a much more heinous wrong. And after you are done hurling brickbats at me, take some time to understand that here are lesser wrongs, and there are greater wrongs. At least subjectively, we do have scales on some things. Atheists should be aware of this when they encounter black or white thinking from theists.
    Note that such is not an uncommon ploy used by many of the detractors of Dawkins on this issue. PZ, who often lambastes cretins for trying to equate male circumcision with FGM, did this very recently. Note carefully, he did not do this in the context of FGM. He did so specifically in the context of the proposed SF measure on male circumcision ban. That had NOTHING to do with FGM. But he chose to trivialize male circumcision with exactly the same ploy and left a warning at the end:

    I consider it a prime example of selfish privilege to invade discussions of female genital mutilation, which does cause serious sexual and medical problems, with demands that we pay more attention to the lesser concerns of males getting lightly scarred penises.

    To be crystal clear, I am NOT condemning it to be a fuckup at all, but merely an illustration that dismissing the focus on a lesser wrong in favor of a greater one is NOT uncommon.
    The question is not whether Dawkins fucked up. He did. But at this point he has received far greater acrimony hurled at him, than the guy in the elevator.
    That can’t be good for atheists either. In fact, I’d argue that what it has done is painted Dawkins as an unrepentant, somewhat misogynous, privileged sexist, who has no way out of it.
    Any apology by him at this point would look insincere and lame, acceptance of that apology would make his current detractors appear insincere, gullible or both. And no apology, well, that’s where we are.
    I see requests for and subsequently letters galore to Dawkins. Where is the request for letters to the elevator creep?
    Entirely too much toothpaste has been squeezed out of the tube. I suppose a return to focusing on sexism and not Dawkins is a good idea.

  268. DavidByron says

    “We are trying to help you get laid.”
    No, you are trying to characterise all men as rapists. You are demeaning a birth group. You’re saying its good to gender profile all men as dangerous sexual predators in a way that you would immediately recognise was deeply racist if someone said women should scared of black men, but not white men.

  269. soe nyi zaw says

    Thanks for this wonderful post. I don’t find any reason to disagree with. Matter of fact, it even gave me some new thoughts I never had. Normally, I would be upset when strangers misunderstood me for something bad. I never see from their point of view. Yeah, they don’t know me. I, myself, know how good or bad I have lived to this point. But of course, they don’t. And I can’t blame them for not knowing me.

  270. Valiant Dancer says

    This thing keeps getting blown way out of proportion.
    Started off fine. Watson just mentioned about how uncofortable she was with the advance.
    “Let’s go to my room for some coffee” sure does sound like “come back to my pad to see my etchings” (cue cheesy 70’s porn music).
    Then Dawkins opens his big yap. Back and forth ensues including Dr. Plait bringing up the specter of potential sexual assault which did not help.
    I suggest that such back and forth deserves the attention it should have gotten to begin with.
    I propose some sort of gladitorial combat. A cage match pitting Dawkins vs Plait. Include tables, chairs, and ladders. Bring in John Cena as a special referee.
    At least it’ll stop after the 5 days I’ve suffered through this “slight dust up” being escalated to a “real pain in the neck”.

  271. says

    Twenty Trees:
    The blame is put on us. You may not realise it, but there are somethings that offend us as well, and as soon as you say one of these things, we won’t hear another word you say.
    Uhh, fellow dude, that italicized bit is your problem.. You’re not listening at all, you’re just getting your boxers into a wad because it offends you that women would -gasp- ask you to actually respect them for once.
    Frankly, that’s sickening behaviour. What the fuck kind of human being gets offended when told to treat a fellow human being like a human being? And furthermore, what the fuck makes it acceptable for you to go on at length trying to justify your offense at being told to treat a fellow human being like a human being?
    Seriously. The blame is put on us? No. You just don’t like having to give up a privileged position and are kicking and screaming. I’ve learned to stop kicking and screaming (of course, my own nature seems to be contraindicated by most of the so-called standards of ‘manliness’, so I guess I just don’t count) and, y’know, actually listen what the women have to say, because they’re the ones who know what they feel =/

  272. DavidByron says

    “We’re not saying you’re all rapists.”
    Yes you are, and it is disgusting sexist filth. If you said all black men are rapists it would be disgusting racist filth.
    And don’t give me that shit about “oh we only said all men are ‘potentially’ rapists”. Bullshit. You are gender profiling and saying that it is right and proper to attack and punish all men as if they were rapists.
    It’s filthy disgusting sexist shit.
    Greta is your father a potential rapist? Has he raped your mother? Do you think maybe your father is potentially going to rape you? I’m not saying he’s a rapist of course, just that you don’t really know do you? He’s got a penis so obviously he has the potential to be the most vile subhuman on the planet, right?

  273. DavidByron says

    made up lies FTW!
    “When we explain ten times, a hundred times, a thousand times, that elevators are well-documented as a common place for women to get raped”
    Bullshit. And if that were true (the truth is the opposite – men not women are the majority of victims of violence crime, and especially by strangers in public) then logically your offense would have to be with the guy just for stepping into the elevator with a woman. If a woman’s hysterical fears are to trump a man’s rational needs every time then be honest about it and say that men should not be allowed to ever enter an elevator with a woman.
    Of course then you wouldn’t get to display your prudery — the man’s real crime was to dare to ask a woman for sex.

  274. Zac says

    SallyStrange:
    Given I am a victim of sexual assault, as are a plurality of women in this society, I really think you should take our recognition that all men are not responsible for the heinous abuses perpetrated by a small but sizable and socially accepted minority of men as a compliment.
    I’m sorry but it is an obvious fact that all men are not rapists, regardless of whether rape victims are generous enough to recognise it. I don’t take it as a compliment to be told “you are not a rapist”.
    What’s happening is that women are trying to show you how treating other people as human beings worthy of respect and dignity is done.
    I know full well how to treat other people as human beings worthy of respect and dignity. I don’t need to be shown by anyone. Surely you’d also want to say that men are also trying to show me this…
    In other words, we ARE NOT holding you responsible for the actions of your fellow male-gendered citizens, even though it would be easy to do so.
    Only if it is easy to assert the truth of an obviously false proposition. I suppose it is, but not with any good reason.
    Just to be clear – I am talking about Mog’s example where he/she changed the words around to make the original statement offensive. I am asking what it is that makes the original ok, while the altered one is not.
    Of course. But tell me, do you have any examples of a real-world situation in which such a conflict would arise? This seems like a very silly attempt at a “gotcha!” moment.
    It’s a hypothetical. I don’t want to go digging around for an example as it would defeat the point of me asking. Consistency is a good test of one’s position, and I was asking it out of interest, not as a “gotcha”.
    Well, then you need to brush up on your communication skills. What exactly do you see as “privileging women” and “oppressing men”? That was your phrase, not mine. I’m asking precisely what you think qualifies as privileging women and oppressing men. Please be more clear if you want to avoid confusion, and stop redirecting me to what you said already, because obviously it wasn’t clear enough.
    I was asking if that was the argument for those passages being morally distinct. I said that I thought that it was NOT the argument. It was in response to the call for “context”, given that women have been oppressed in the past. I’m still not sure what the premises of the argument are that the history of women’s oppression is the reason that those passages are different. I’m asking a specific question in response to a specific claim.
    In other words, we would be remiss, as skeptics, to neglect to consider the possibility that Rebecca Watson is either dishonest or massively stupid.
    No that is not what I said. I said that we do not know what the man said. I don’t know Rebecca Watson and don’t know if she is dishonest or stupid (although I’m giving her the benefit of the doubt of course). I even outlined an example of how it might have happened, which is perfectly believable and yet does not involve RW being dishonest or stupid.
    Do you have evidence, in the form of other incidents unrelated to elevatorgate, to indicate that RW is an unreliable narrator? That she is prone to dishonesty, exaggeration, or outright stupidity?
    I have evidence that people can give very inaccurate testimonies, with good intentions and while of sound mind. There are lots of articles on the net, and if you need me to link a few, I will. People do it a lot, but I find that they tend to believe and interpret statements received second hand, after an original interpretation and mental alteration have taken place. It says nothing about Rebecca Watson, but lots about the reliability of human testimony.
    If not then your ridiculous insistence on re-hashing the incident (deliberately ignoring Greta’s admonition that this should be a discussion of the REACTION to RW’s comments) making excuses for ED borders on a personal attack on RW.
    I responded to you actually. You were discussing it and I replied, quoting what you said. And given what I wrote above, it is no such personal attack on RW. In fact, I believe that neither RW nor the mysterious EG should be attacked for their part in this monumental scandal.

  275. James Emery says

    I would like to clarify something (and ask a question):
    It seems to me that the concept of ‘privilege’ in general is a great descriptor word for use in academic discussion of human interaction, and that certainly includes feminism. It seems to me, though, that to use it in an accusatory fashion, i.e. Jen’s “You’re privilege is showing” misses the mark on a couple points:
    1) It’s accusatory usage. It will, almost certainly, inflame whomever it’s being used on, no matter how rational that person is. This makes such usage detrimental to rational debate.
    2) It could legitimately be used in an academic sense to describe broader, societal issues (white male privilege included) so long as it’s defined in context of the cause of said privilege, but to use it on an INDIVIDUAL in an accusatory fashion is, quite simply, to assume further knowledge of that person’s intent, background, and thought processes than you actually HAVE. This is, again, detrimental to rational discussion, as it’s closely analogous to an ad hominem attack.
    Please note that this point is not meant to disparage anyone’s actual argument on the situation that happened, or any particular post. Does anyone in particular feel that I’m incorrect on this? If so, why?

  276. Drew says

    I have to agree with Chris Hallquist up above at least in part.
    Do I think that the guy in the elevator was guilty of poor judgement? Yes
    Do I think that, given the fact that Ms. Watson is married, that it was more than a little inappropriate for him to invite her to his room for “coffee”? Yes
    Do I think that she is reasonable in asserting that these things were inappropriate? Absolutely
    Do I think that, given that as a now public individual she receives threats constantly, following her into an empty elevator on her way to her room at 4 am was a bad idea? You Betcha
    Do I think that an awkward attempt to hit on a woman is sexist? No (To be 100% fair we don’t know that his intention was anything but pure but I’m willing to stipulate that inviting a woman to your room for coffee at 4 in the morning was probably not coming from pure intentions, nothing good ever happens after 2 am, just go to sleep)
    I think it’s a lot to do with situational awareness. (assuming that he was in the bar prior to the elevator) A guy should know that he’s being a little bit creepy and could be perceived as threatening by following a woman out of bar and into an empty elevator and then propositioning her. Very poor judgment, and he probably shouldn’t do that, which seemed to be the point that Ms. Watson was making in her video.
    I just don’t get why it’s a sexism issue.
    Shifting away From Ms. Watson’s specific situation and looking at the greater sexism issue.
    Take for example the above letter from Mr. Ridge. I think the situation he describes is substantively no different than me walking up to a friend (male or female) at a formal occasion where they may be dressed up and saying “Hey, you clean up good” or some other such comment.
    Even though I know that he had never met you (in person) before, following your blog, commenting with you and other followers of your blog, watching your presentations on youtube (if you’ll pardon the allusion) religiously, could potentially make someone feel as though they’ve known you for years, and in the context of a conversation it’s conceivable that they may shift out of the “I’m just meeting you for the first time” mode and into the “talking to an old friend” mode. Would it be sexist if a man you’d known for years made the same comment?
    If he (or a woman for that matter) had approached, for example Dr. Myers at some event where he was dressed formally, with his hair combed down, and freshly shaven (at least the parts of his face that aren’t distinctly part of his beard) and in the course of a conversation were to suggest that he cleaned up nicely and that he might consider making it his profile picture, would that be mysanthropic (or whatever would be the opposite of mysogynistic)? Would it be objectifying him?
    (Allow me to preface this paragraph with the information that I’m married and don’t sleep with, try to sleep with, or hit on anyone but my wife.) I guess in the end, the problem I see is this: I do my utmost to treat men and women no different. Something akin to Mr. Ridge’s apparent faux pas above I could see saying to a man or a woman (e.g. “you clean up nice” or “hey nice hair cut”)—presuming that I felt enough familiarity with them, again I could see it in the realm of possibilities that I might slip into feeling that sort of familiarity with someone whose blog I’d been reading for years, making comments on, and watching in videos— but for some reason saying it to the latter is sexism. In the context of general social interaction—again this doesn’t apply directly to the elevator situation—isn’t the goal supposed to be treating all genders the same? Is the problem that I’m unique in making these sorts of comments to people of both genders? Is the problem that there’s a perception that these types of comments are made only toward women?
    I’m not trying to tell anyone to shut-up, or tell anyone their view is invalid, I’m trying to understand why some of these things would be considered sexist.

  277. DavidByron says

    quote:
    “your desire to not understand how sexism and male privilege work.”
    Gee maybe men should make up an entire term like “mansplaining” to describe their alleged desire to never listen to women. That’s what you feminists have done.
    Gee maybe men should start banning and censoring comments that ever come from the other side on their web sites as you feminists do?
    This issue is about female privilge and you’re full of it.

  278. ivr says

    Shripathi Kamath –
    I respectfully disagree. Dawkins’s worst comment was “Zero Bad”. It wasn’t just that he was comparing wrongs vs. really wrongs – he implied that there wasn’t anything wrong. And I for one wish Greta would have addressed that specifically, as I believe he’s giving cover to other misogynists whether he is himself one or not (i don’t believe he is, but he perpetuated it for sure).
    But it’s a small complaint as I thought Greta’s post was wonderfully positive, exactly the attitude this gnarly beast of a discussion was craving. It’s a tiring fight, but an infinitely important one. As a man, I’ve firmly had my consciousness raised by these gut-wrenching episodes, and am happy that progress, however slow and painful, is being made.

  279. says

    gr8hands:
    Greta, you made the mistake of starting out sexualizing the event, characterizing the offer of coffee as a “proposition.”
    Because 4 AM is the best time to ask someone to one’s room for coffee. In a hotel. And of course, there’s no such thing as all-night coffeehouses.
    Seriously? What the fuck about this issue is making people completely ignorant about the nature of elevators, hotel coffee, four in the morning, and requests for one to come to another’s room to partake in hotel coffee at four in the morning? What, are we all five years old now or something? We don’t know how shitty hotel coffee is, we don’t know that elevators are boxes that contain little space and nothing to hide behind and readily use a with an unfeasible escape hatch at the top that only leads to a shaft that must be climbed in order to escape, that can usually be stopped by the press of a button for emergency reasons, we don’t know that you’d have to be blind, deaf, mute and colossally stupid, especially after the “Don’t take this the wrong way, but…” to not realize that:
    1) This was an attempted sexual proposition.
    2) Elevator Guy was attempting to manipulate the situation in order to succeed by putting Rebecca into an unfair position where she was trapped and could either sacrifice her personal safety or come off as rude. This is a tactic utilized in what I like to call Pick Up Asshattery.
    Seriously, guys? Show of hands: how many of you get those two points?

  280. DavidByron says

    Only someone as privileged as a white woman would think this episode showed her *lack* of privilege:
    “Jen McCreight, and Rebecca Watson, and myself, and probably some other people, called him out on it, both at the conference and in blogs. And Eller apologized.”
    Duh. He had to because you women have all the power. He also insulted men as a group but where is his apology to men? Why don’t you try thinking about the stuff you say for two seconds?

  281. says

    DavidByron:
    Gee maybe men should make up an entire term like “mansplaining” to describe their alleged desire to never listen to women. That’s what you feminists have done.
    That’s because that’s what you guys are doing =/
    Gee maybe men should start banning and censoring comments that ever come from the other side on their web sites as you feminists do?
    What’s that? Can’t hear you over the numerous comments from guys trying to justify EG’s behaviour or just tell RW to shut up.
    This issue is about female privilge and you’re full of it.
    What female privilege?

  282. DavidByron says

    Btw? Quit pretending you represent all women. Most women disagree with you. Most women run a mile from the sexist term “feminist” and even within the atheist community I bet your view is in the minority among women.

  283. Robert B says

    @Shripathi:
    Good points, and I basically agree with you. One thing I would add, that’s been brought up in this thread before: statements like “person X is sexist” aren’t generally very useful or precise. Everyone who lives in a society as one of its privileged members (like men) will be immersed in that position, and they’ll have privileged or prejudiced attitudes and assumptions, whether they like it or not. They can do the right thing and try to correct these, and make real progress, but they can never be completely done.
    And anyone who lives in a less privileged position (like women) will have to deal with counter-prejudice and internalized oppression in the exact same way.
    Everyone’s sexist, because our society is sexist and we have to live here. What’s more, I think Richard Dawkins would agree with the principle of gender equality. He should be called out on that privileged statement and he should apologize and stop saying things like that, but the fact that he said it doesn’t mean he’s a horrible person or an unrepentant misogynist. It means his thinking is compromised by society’s sexism, just like the rest of us.

  284. says

    DavidByron:
    Of course then you wouldn’t get to display your prudery — the man’s real crime was to dare to ask a woman for sex.
    What part of “at four AM, in the elevator” do you not understand?

  285. says

    Duh. He had to because you women have all the power.
    How? And don’t tell me it’s because of sex; that’s telling me that you can’t control yourself on such a level that you should be removed from society for its protection =/

  286. Ron says

    @Gr8hands
    I didn’t see your question.
    I’ve never asked a strange woman out, for coffee, or anything. And I never would.
    I don’t ask until I know them. That’s just me though, I’m that way. Call it shyness, or fear of rejection, or just the way I am.
    I’m quiet around strangers. Male or female.

  287. DavidByron says

    As a general comment I would say your guess about the effect of feminist vicious attacks on men upon the larger atheist movement is quite wrong. It’s obviously tending to cause a split along the lines of loyalty to feminist dogma. You have skepchick boycotting Richard Dawkins and you say that its all good? Come on.
    And as these shit storms caused by naked feminist power grabs get more common, a lot of people on the sidelines are going to have a double take about feminism.
    In any case feminism is essentially incompatible with the atheist / skeptic movement because its a dogmatic cult that insists on a very hard with us or against us line.
    You’re also wrong about this being good for feminism, but I’m quite happy for you to be wrong about that.

  288. ivr says

    Most women disagree with you.

    This is such low lying fruit that I was preparing to pick it, but it’s obviously poisonous and rotten to the core, so it’s easier to ignore.
    “DO NOT FEED THE TROLLS.” Indeed….

  289. DavidByron says

    I simply pointed out the hypocrisy of Greta and you and the male doggie you have there, of pretending men don’t listen to women when you feminists literally brag about not listening to men’s rights activists ever.
    You don’t give a shit about equality or or fairness or listening to the other side, or about men’s emotions.
    If you ever did listen then you wouldn’t ask such a ridiculous questions as “what female privilege?”
    Instead you attack anyone who ever tries to educate you.
    Now I don’t want to make too much of the hypocrisy. As conservatives you feminists don’t have any actual principles at all so the hypocrisy is a given. The sexism however, I take exception to.
    It is gender profiling to go around saying all men are potential rapists. And it is disgusting.

  290. Robert B says

    @ James Emery:
    You have a point. When we point out a mistake to someone, we often hope to convince them (and/or people who like them) that it was wrong, which means we need to phrase ourselves so that we’re listened to. However, privilege is a fact of society, not just a state of mind – men (for example) are privileged in fact no matter what we think or do. Calling someone privileged shouldn’t be used (or interpreted) as an accusation.
    An act or statement can also be privileged, though. (In other words, it can perpetuate or defend society’s unfairness.) Such acts and statements are moral errors, and we need language to be able to call people out on that.
    So, basically, there’s some details around this word that make a difference:
    “You, as a man, have privilege” – statement of fact, permissible whenever relevant.
    “That was a really privileged thing to do/say” – criticism of an action or argument rather than a person, valid ethical debate.
    “You’re a privileged asshole” – Personal attack, probably not helpful in convincing that person of anything.
    How to classify the line you quoted, “Your privilege is showing,” is probably best left to someone who knows more context than I do.

  291. says

    Ebonmuse, you conveniently forget “Some women say they’d have no problem with this approach technique; many women say it would bother them. Now I can use this exact pickup line to sort the kinds of people I’m interested in from the kinds of people I want nothing to with quickly and efficiently.”

  292. James Emery says

    …aaaaaaaaaaand the shitstorm is beginning anew… In so many other places, I’ve pointed out that ‘arguing on the internet’ accomplishes nothing… The conversation is too big, too loud, and lacks context and body language. In other threads, it was WMDKitty being an asshole (among… ALL THE OTHER ASSHOLES). Now, there’s this David guy. Now, what was a fairly decent discussion will probably be derailed. It seems, really, like a lot of the problem has more to do with people being ideologues than anything else. David Byron is spouting the so-called MRA ideology (he’s not alone, either). Some other people are spouting feminist ideology (but that’s not been nearly as bad here as elsewhere). These people are the non-constructive people. They might be recognized by their complete failure to, at least, validate others’ points, whether they agree or NOT.
    Stoopid Intarwebs…

  293. DavidByron says

    To be honest I am not sure what to make of Greta’s unique policy of partially deleting comments, allowing some and then telling everyone that any criticism of her is TROLL and must be silenced/ignored.
    It has no integrity so why do it? Why allow ANY comments through? Why not just do what all the other feminist sites do and ban anyone who criticisies feminism as sexist?
    At any rate since she’s underlined now that comments from men are TROLL, she’s completely undermined Setar’s attempt to defend her from a charge of hypocrisy.
    As above the main charge however is sexism, not hypocrisy. Greta endorses gender profiling. How would she like it if someone said all gay people are “potential pedophiles” and then defended that bigoted statement by saying “Oh gee I only said we just don’t know if they are of if they are not”

  294. Ron says

    David Byron-
    It’s on this thread, I posted what Rebecca said. I’m sick of the “She asked for a boycott of Dawkins books”. That’s a bald face LIE.
    She said she wouldn’t be recommending his books to any of her friends, or give them as presents, or go to his lecture.
    Hardly asking for a boycotting (or blacklisting or whatever)

  295. DavidByron says

    “What part of “at four AM, in the elevator” do you not understand?”
    Why is it only a problem if a man is in the elevator? Watson is a bigot who gender profiles men as “potential rapists”.
    If you are up and in public at 4 am then you can hardly be surprised if someone talks to you at 4 am. Oh except for hysterical feminsists of course who can always whine about idiotic crap no matter what.
    If you enter an elevator with someone you can hardly act surprised that you end up in an elevator with them. Unless you’re a hysterical feminist of course.
    If you feminist women are so paranoid about men because of your hate filled sexist doctrines then don’t go outside. Stay at home where you’ll be “safe” from evil rapist men.

  296. James Emery says

    @RobertB
    Thank you. I did understand it so far as you’ve explained it; it just seems too vague a term (perhaps actually prefacing it so that it’s ‘white man’s privilege’ would made it less broad, and would also have the effect of making it more obvious what’s being discussed. To use the one, general word is going to sound like an accusatory blanket statement either way, I think. (And, as one of the feminist ladies pointed out the other day, EVERYONE has privilege of some sort). However, if we disagree on this point, that is, of course, okay.
    @DavidByron,
    If Greta hasn’t already banhammered you (and she would be well within her rights to do so, this being her blog and all that), you might find there are more people open to discuss your points if you weren’t so damned inflammatory.

  297. says

    “…telling everyone that any criticism of her is TROLL and must be silenced/ignored.”
    Uhh. I can see your posts, I can see other posts criticising Greta…
    Where the fuck is this happening, exactly? Have you managed to connect to our internet from an alternate universe? If so, hello. Welcome. Sorry about the mistake, but it’s nice to make contact with another universe.

  298. gr8hands says

    @Ron
    You’re evading the question.
    How would any man ask a woman out for coffee at 4am in an elevator without it being misinterpreted as a sexual proposition? Are you simply unable to come up with any possible way? Do you realize what that explicitly states?
    As for the “stranger” part — Rebecca seems to indicate that he had attended the conference, and saw/heard her presentation. Then he heard her speak at the bar. Perhaps he had become an instant fan, and wanted to speak with her. From his vantage, she was something of a minor icon, held up in the community by virtue of her being seated right next to the world famous Dawkins. Surely the kind of person one would want to get to speak with more, no?
    Rebecca didn’t say he was a stranger, or that he introduced himself (which implies that they had already exchanged such pleasantries earlier — of course it could also be that he never introduced himself and she never had any idea who he was, but that seems unlikely given the rest of her discussion of the event and a major detail to leave out).

  299. says

    Why is it only a problem if a man is in the elevator?
    Oh come the fuck on not this bullshit again. Fuck off, troll. I have no time to play with people who think it’s funny to act like they have the cognitive capacity of a three year old child.

  300. DavidByron says

    “David Byron is spouting the so-called MRA ideology”
    I actually am not but you are too ignorant of gender issues to be able to tell the difference between one criticism of feminism and another.
    This again goes to show the gross hypocrisy of Greta saying “men don’t listen”. The exact opposite is true. You refuse to entertain any criticism and as a result you are dumb.
    MRAs would not say that Watson was gender profiling (ie stereotyping and acting on stereotypes to discriminate against a birth group) and indeed would probably agree with you other conservatives that gender profilign was a good thing. Some at least would be consistent and say racial profiling was OK too.

  301. says

    How would any man ask a woman out for coffee at 4am in an elevator without it being misinterpreted as a sexual proposition?
    Ask them if they’d like to meet at a coffeehouse the following morning, considering that they’ve just voiced their intention to go to bed and it’s 4 AM? Ask them beforehand if they’d like to go to an all-night coffeehouse to have better coffee?
    Come on! Are you guys all three? Am I the only male here who can think beyond “dur hur hur wanna go to my room for shitty hotel coffee at 4 AM”? Really?
    …can I please change my gender to “kittens”?

  302. DavidByron says

    “In other threads, it was WMDKitty being an asshole”
    She was being sexist. Her ideology is sexist (feminism) and mine is pro-equality. You apparently cannot tell the difference. That *ought* to trouble you.
    Most feminists are inconsistent wrt eg reproductive rights because they have a sexist ideology favouring women in all questions. I have the exact same belief in human rights for men as women. That is not me “being an asshole”. You don’t lnow me. maybe I am an asshole, maybe not. I do advocate for equality and WMDKitty advocated for discrimination.

  303. DavidByron says

    Setar, obviously I comprehend that you hate men and think men are all evil rapists and that is why you think its only bad if a *man* is in an elevator with a woman.
    You are sexist. You discriminate objectively. I am asking you to justify yourself here. A true bigot could not offer a rationale for their discrimination. Currently you are in that position.

  304. James Emery says

    @DavidByron
    Ermm… Honestly, I just invited your criticism, but you’re going on about me being ignorant and talking about Greta’s gross hypocrisy. On that note, why do you keep referring to the people here as ‘conservatives’?

  305. Ron says

    WHY would any man, for any reason… NO, why would ANYONE for any reason ask someone for coffee after they said they were exhausted and were going to bed.
    I am not evading the question. Please do not insult me.
    And yes it has been confirmed that he heard her say she was tired and that he followed her into the elevator.
    You’re the one that continues to insist everybody would take that sexually and that is wrong.
    I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again, I’ve always given the elevator guy the benefit of the doubt. He just wanted to chat. He was just stupid for how he went about it. And they way he went about it would make most women think he just wanted sex.
    “Don’t take this the wrong way-” is just as bad as “I don’t mean to be racist but-”

  306. Beaker says

    @Gr8thands
    “How would any man ask a woman out for coffee at 4am in an elevator without it being misinterpreted as a sexual proposition?”
    Asking her for coffee at that moment in his hotel room? He wouldn’t. Unless he already was talking to her at the bar and when they were walking to the elevator together, it would be construed as a sexual advance by most thinking people living in this universe.
    He could, however, ask whether she would like to have coffee with him the next, at 2pm instead of 4am, at the bar instead of at his hotel room. How hard is that?
    Where does the idea come from that just because a guy would want to ask a girl he hadn’t talked to before, out of the blue, for coffee in his hotel room at 4 am, that he should do this? Sometimes it is best to let an idea go.

  307. gr8hands says

    @Robert B wrote:

    some men (for example) are privileged in fact no matter what we think or do, in some, but not all cases.

    I think that’s more accurate now.
    You also wrote:

    “You, as a man, have privilege” – statement of fact, permissible whenever relevant.

    Inaccurate as stated. Context crucial to determine accuracy.
    You then wrote:

    “That was a really privileged thing to do/say” – criticism of an action or argument rather than a person, valid ethical debate.

    An ad hominem statement (but not an ad hominem fallacy necessarily). The accuracy is extremely dependent on context, with the person saying it typically too emotionally entwined to be a good judge.

  308. Robert B says

    @James Emery:
    Well, “male privilege” would be appropriate for this situation. I’m not aware that race was an issue here.
    To elaborate, privilege is a general concept – it applies to any sort of social inequity. Men have privilege, and so do white people – but white women still have the privilege of being white, even though they’re less privileged in another way, and men of color still have the privilege of being male. Straight people have privilege, neurotypical people have privilege, normally-sized and -abled people have privilege, speakers of standard English have privilege, theists have privilege. (I’m talking about the USA here; obviously some things are different in different societies.) To call it, generically, “white man’s privilege” is an oversimplification.
    That said, yes, your basic idea is good. Being specific and detailed, and emphasizing that you are using the word “privileged” as a word instead of as a dirty name, is going to make your argument clearer and less likely to offend by accident.

  309. DavidByron says

    quote:
    “you might find there are more people open to discuss your points if you weren’t so damned inflammatory.”
    Thanks for the advise. I will tone my comments down to the level where I accuse half the entire planet of being potential rapists shall I? Clearly that is the way to talk respectfully here.

  310. James Emery says

    She was being sexist. Her ideology is sexist (feminism) and mine is pro-equality. You apparently cannot tell the difference. That *ought* to trouble you.

    As I just pointed out, it’s about ideology… for YOU, as well. Think, “Ideologies are idiotic” and you’ll have it. Otherwise, you’re cruisin’ for disappointment.

  311. Ron says

    David, which part of ‘potential’ do you not understand?
    Every six and a half billion of us have the potential to be a Justin Beber fan. Doesn’t mean any where close to that number actually is.

  312. James Emery says

    @Ron
    I lol’ed hard. Then I felt bad because I just found out that I might be a Bieber fan :(

  313. DavidByron says

    quote:
    “why do you keep referring to the people here as ‘conservatives'”
    While the term is vague I would say that the essence of conservatism is twofold:
    (1) a rejection of the idea of equality in favour of a bias towards an in-group
    (2) dogmatic loyalty to that group as the highest (indeed only) moral principle
    Feminists are dogmatic and biased towards women. Therefore they are conservative. In practise you also share other conservative traits such as censorship of alternate viewpoints. Liberals welcome alternate views. That’s why *I* am seeking out you – an alternate view point – while you conservatives try to slam me down.
    Why? Do you not see yourself as conservative?

  314. says

    She was being sexist. Her ideology is sexist (feminism) and mine is pro-equality. You apparently cannot tell the difference. That *ought* to trouble you.
    Okay. What constitutes a ‘pro-equality’ stance?
    Most feminists are inconsistent wrt eg reproductive rights because they have a sexist ideology favouring women in all questions.
    Explain.
    Setar, obviously I comprehend that you hate men
    I hate men?
    and think men are all evil rapists
    I do?
    and that is why you think its only bad if a *man* is in an elevator with a woman.
    Uh, what? I think it’s bad? No, but I think that it’s a situation that might be uncomfortable given, y’know, what an elevator is. And given that women are at a high risk for things like rape — and are often blamed for being raped — that means that a woman in that situation is likely to feel highly uncomfortable, and justifiably so.
    And I’m a man. I’m not going to send you a dick picture or anything, but I’m a fucking man, and I’d like you to know that now because it seems like you’re trying to set up a strawman of me and I’d like to get that issue out of the way first.
    You are sexist. You discriminate objectively.
    Don’t just say it, show it.
    I am asking you to justify yourself here.
    About what?
    A true bigot could not offer a rationale for their discrimination.
    What discrimination?
    Currently you are in that position.
    I am not aware of this and think that you are knowingly fabricating claims in an attempt to ignore the arguments that have been made. Furthermore, I find it very hard to believe that you do not understand why a woman might consider being alone with a man she does not know in an elevator, a man who is asking her “don’t take this the wrong way, but would you like to come back to my room for coffee?” at a hotel, might be a dangerous situation…or, at least I would, if it weren’t for the concept of societal privilege in that you do not have to be — statistically! — nearly worried of being assaulted in that situation, nor do you have to worry about being blamed for that assault should it occur.
    Let’s go over this one more time. Woman. Man woman has never interacted with. 4 AM. ELEVATOR. Closed small space, no escape route, no weapons, nowhere to hide. Hotel. Man is asking her to come to his room for “coffee”.
    Do you understand why the woman might feel uncomfortable, perhaps even threatened?

  315. DavidByron says

    @James Emery:
    “it’s about ideology… for YOU, as well”
    You don’t know what the word “ideology” means, do you? An ideology is something that exists beyond the individual. You are accusing me of parroting the thoughts of others. That is certainly true of feminists and of the MRA (although their movement is small). It is not true of me.
    Please point out what movement or web site or organization agrees with me? Please point out where I got my ideas from wholesale?
    I am almost certainly the least ideological person on this web site. It’s precisely BECAUSE of that that you are having such a hard time understanding me.

  316. says

    Ok, let’s see. We have a man waiting for a woman he doesn’t know personally to get up and walk away from other people, then following her into an enclosed, isolated space, and then making on her unwanted advances, in open disregard of her previously stated wishes. Yup, nothing suspicious here. Obviously Watson is an hysterical misandrist who held the poor guy as a potential rapist just because he was a man.

  317. DavidByron says

    @Ron.
    I understand that for a bigot like yourself it is almost impossible to see their own bigotry. The way for you to best try would be to think about how you would react if the evil shit you say about men were said by someone else about another birth group.
    For example if someone told you all black men were “potential rapists”, you’d probably have no trouble seeing that as racist, right?
    You wouldn’t say “Oh sure, that’s very true because you did say ‘potential’ there.”

  318. gr8hands says

    @Ron
    Let me see . . . if someone were tired of talking to a group of people, they might say “I’m exhausted and going to bed” even if they weren’t. It’s been known to happen, just maybe?
    Perhaps EG thought she had been giving signals to him that she might want to see him alone, and then in the elevator he may have felt pressured into asking her (because many people believe women don’t ask men first).
    You said “he followed her” — don’t you mean she lead him into the elevator? Perhaps he was in front of her, but at the elevator, as a gentleman, he let her go in first so that she could choose for herself where she wanted to stand so that she’d feel the safest. Then he specifically tried to put her at ease by letting her know he wasn’t trying to say anything sexual by saying “Don’t take this the wrong way…”

    I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again, I’ve always given the elevator guy the benefit of the doubt. He just wanted to chat. He was just stupid for how he went about it. And they way he went about it would make most women think he just wanted sex.

    Fine, but how could he have asked without making “most women think he just wanted sex”?
    Why would ANYONE ask under those conditions? Perhaps if I have something important to discuss, and I am flying out in a short while, but I need/want your signature on a legal document right away. Or I want your commitment on collaborating on something. Or I was supposed to get an interview with you for my paper, and flubbed every other opportunity.
    I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been having coffee with someone after hours when my wake-up call arrived, and we were totally surprised! And no sex was involved.

  319. says

    gr8hands:
    Perhaps EG thought she had been giving signals to him that she might want to see him alone,
    They hadn’t interacted at all previously — how the fuck could he have thought that?

  320. Gareth Fouche says

    All this ranting about how OF COURSE he knew she’d feel trapped and OF COURSE he was using that to pressure her into agreeing to sex.
    Seriously, I can’t remember the last time I was awake to 4AM and HADN’T been drinking heavily. They’d both just left the bar. Even if it’s par for the course with skeptic meetups, it’s reasonable to assume the dude had had a couple of drinks.
    Guys don’t naturally consider well-lit elevators from the hotel foyer to be equivalent to dark alleyways. Yes, that’s because of our privilege and asymmetry and whatnot. But assuming that most men are constantly calculating and aware of vectors of potential sexual assault like women have to be is a stretch.
    Again. 4 in the morning, leaving a bar. Ideally, he should have realized. But reality, people. Going on about how he must have known what he was doing is jumping to conclusions. It was stupid, but was it predatory?

  321. gr8hands says

    DavidByron, I think you’re getting close to being banned. Greta was clear not to make personal attacks.
    Setar should heed Greta’s warning as well.

  322. Beaker says

    @Gr8hands
    Are you kidding me?
    “”Why would ANYONE ask under those conditions?
    Perhaps if I have something important to discuss, and I am flying out in a short while, but I need/want your signature on a legal document right away.”
    Getting in the elevator: Oh by the way, I’ve still got these documents you need to sign which you already know about. Can I come up to your room quickly so you can sign them?
    “Or I want your commitment on collaborating on something.”
    I would really like to work with you on this project, which I think would really interest you. Could we talk this over tomorrow in the bar over a cup of coffee?
    “Or I was supposed to get an interview with you for my paper, and flubbed every other opportunity.”
    I’m so sorry, but I was supposed to do this interview with you. I know 4am is probably not the best time, so would you be able to do this tomorrow morning?
    And sorry, if you try to get an interview with someone at 4am and that is your last opportunity, you’re just an idiot and you should just consider your task failed.
    “I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been having coffee with someone after hours when my wake-up call arrived, and we were totally surprised! And no sex was involved.”
    And this was after you asked them out of the blue in an elevator at 4am? Or the more likely situation that you were already talking, went to your room together and went on talking?

  323. says


    Gareth, I’m a 6-foot tall man. Until recently (read: three weeks ago), I did not drink often, but I can take ‘a couple drinks’ (that being, a glass of Coke containing 1.5-2 shots of 151 rum) and still remember that an elevator at 4 AM isn’t the best place or time to talk to someone you’ve never interacted with, and that you should not use your first interaction with someone to proposition them.
    Drunk people can be stupid enough to do that — but they’ll come up to you obviously drunk, and had that been the case it would have been a different story (and Rebecca probably would have felt far more threatened). This guy did not appear that way; his cognitive faculties appeared to be mostly in place.
    So if alcohol is definitively out, you’re once again back to suggesting that Elevator Guy has the cognitive capacity of a three year old child =/

  324. DavidByron says

    @Setar and other feminists
    I know you hate equality but honestly I figured even you would at least know the definition. Equality is when two things are the same. It s a very simple concept. Liberals believe that people ought to be treated the same (equally) under similar circumstances (blind justice) whereas you conservatives think your friends, family and people in your tribe, the “in group” ought to be treated better.
    You discriminate — ie treat people differently who are in identical circumstances according to how the happened to be born.
    I don’t know how to explain it any more simply.
    There’s a woman in an elevator. Another person is there and talks to the woman. Does that person do wrong?
    As a liberal I can answer that question. I don’t need to know what birth group the person is in. You can’t answer the question because your answer is different for the in-group than the out-group. You automatically think a woman in that situation is fine, but a man does wrong.
    This is the heart of conservatism — tribal hatred of the out-group for no reason at all. Discrimination against birth groups.
    I say that its OK to talk to people in elevators. You can’t decide. Is it a man or a woman talking? Is it a man or a woman being addressed? Until you know the answer your moral system (ie bigotry) can’t say if the person acts right or wrong. My justice is “blind” to the gender, yours is prejudiced.

  325. says

    Setar should heed Greta’s warning as well.
    Okay. Explain to me how an adult human would fail to realize that propositioning someone you have not previously interacted with in an elevator at four in the morning is going to make them feel uncomfortable and possibly threatened?

  326. gr8hands says

    @Beaker,
    After I say in my example that a person might be flying out shortly, you purposely keep suggesting as legitimate alternatives “would you be able to do this tomorrow morning?” — even though I won’t be here. Or your other alternative “could we talk this over tomorrow in the bar” — even though I won’t be here.
    Your final paragraph presumes that Rebecca had not had any interaction with EG prior to the elevator, which does not fit her description. She did not describe him as a stranger — which seems a detail unlikely to be left out. So, yes, it is entirely possible she had been talking casually with him and others in the bar, and they left together, and he asked to continue the conversation. Not sinister.

  327. Robert B says

    @gr8hands:
    It seems we disagree on the ubiquity of male privilege – I’m assuming that male privilege is pervasive in our society, and I understand you to be making the case that male privilege is conditional or limited, and balanced or overbalanced by female privilege.
    I admit I’ve made no particular study of sexism; I’m reasoning not by direct evidence but by analogy with straight privilege and white privilege. As a gay man, straight privilege is obvious to me, sometimes overwhelmingly so. And not just in the ways in which it grabs everyone’s attention, but in ways that straight people around me don’t seem to notice. I see it when a child’s sexual awakening at puberty described as “discovering the opposite sex.” I see it when I’m asked in casual conversation, in complete innocence, if I have a girlfriend. I see it when, in several rounds of vociferous public debate on gay marriage, no one even mentions that “man” and “woman” aren’t even well-defined categories in the first place. It’s not just the big obvious stuff, it’s all these assumptions people make without even noticing. It’s built into the way they think.
    And then, it was pointed out to me that I make assumptions just like this about race. Until someone pointed it out, I never thought about the fact that something called “skin tone” would be a pale pinkish tan. I never realized that if a white man sat next to me on the bus, I would mentally label him “a guy” but if a black guy did so I would think of him as “a black guy.” It was clear to me that this was the exact same thing. I was making all these assumptions, without even thinking about it.
    And the way we think influences what we do, no matter what we want. Our assumptions and mental labels influence our choices.
    Now, counter-prejudice definitely exists – that is, the unfair judgement of the more privileged group by members of the less-privileged. But the less privileged don’t have their prejudices constantly, subconsciously reinforced by the way everyone talks. This kind of prejudice is less insidious – it has more visibility, less support structure, and its less camouflaged by the norms of the language.
    So this is why, in any situation where I’m a member of a historically dominant group, I just assume I have privilege. (Or at least, I do my best to assume that.) All the time, no matter what, whether I see evidence of it or not. And if a member of the less-advantaged group points out what they think is a specific example of that privilege, I listen very hard to their argument. Because I have strong evidence that this kind of privilege is so hard to see, so constantly camouflaged, I have no confidence that I can recognize it in myself.
    I suggest thinking about some historically disadvantaged group that you’re a member of – atheism works, if you’re an atheist – and considering whether the advantaged group (theists, e.g.) have privilege over you that they can’t see as easily as you can.

  328. DavidByron says

    Setar, quoting me:
    ” Most feminists are inconsistent wrt eg reproductive rights because they have a sexist ideology favouring women in all questions.
    Explain.”
    For example, a a liberal I can answer the question of whether young people should have a right to decide for themselves when they are ready to become parents. I think they should have that right. I don’t think the government should force parenthood upon them.
    As conservative you cannot answer that same question.
    Not until you know whether the person in question is in your in-group or out-group. If they are in your in-group you will always respond saying the person deserves rights (eg women deserve abortion). But if they happen to fall in your out-group you say the exact opposite that they must “take responsibility” and must be made parents against their will.

  329. ivr says

    Back and forth, back and forth. Look, some women (including RW) think it’s creepy and uncomfortable in the Elevator situation, some (including many female commenters) don’t think it is. It’s a fair discussion, but fruitless to try and prove that you are 100% correct about that point. You can’t be absolute and right on either side, b/c it’s completely subjective.
    The actual argument going on is about whether a woman can simply have an opinion that it does creep them out. All the ‘potential rapist talk/point of view’ is meant to show why some women see the world that way. Many of those women have been sexually assaulted or have been close to someone who has. How could they be wrong for feeling that way, constantly assessing their safety? I’m sure they don’t want to be scared and see the world that way – who would choose that?
    To demonize the other side’s point of view by exaggerating their claims does nothing for this discussion except inflame it further. If you come to this trying to ram your opinion down the other side’s throat, you’re not willing to listen and learn another perspective other than you’re own. That is what is at stake here – the opportunity for progress and consciousness raising. Not whether all men are creeps or not.

  330. Zac says

    <- my attempt at a closing italic tag…
    Setar: This guy did not appear that way; his cognitive faculties appeared to be mostly in place.
    I stress again. We have no idea what actually happened. Any conclusions we make are purely hypothetical (ie if the man actually said those words and it actually was 4pm and they really were alone in a lift and it really was ‘out of the blue’ etc etc then we would make such and such a judgement).
    This is a skeptical community, and the second commandment in the skeptics’ bible (after “thou shalt not believeth anything upon insufficient evidence) is “thou shalt always consider personal testimony to be a very weak kind of evidence”.
    I’d love to hear EG’s side of the story, but I suspect he’s very rational in not coming forward. After all, even if he tells the truth, who would believe him? If he is a true skeptic, he would have realised that and will keep quiet.

  331. DavidByron says

    @gr8hands:
    “Greta was clear not to make personal attacks.”
    She actually told you all to make personal attacks and has repeatedly made personal attacks against me.
    However for my part I am not aware of any times I’ve personally attacked anyone and if I have been seen as doing that I do apologise (although I’d sure like to know how my words were interpreted that way).
    Well these things do tend to happen, especially if the host and regulars set such a poor example of course. Each board has its own kind of feel to it so you can’t blame visitors from picking up on it too much I think.
    eg When you call all men “potential rapists” and call all critics “TROLLS” that sets a tone.

  332. James Emery says

    @DavidByron
    David, I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt here.
    When I speak of ideology, I’m specifically referring to your penchant here for painting people/groups of people with broad brush strokes. It’s also called ad hominem, namecalling, and depending on the circumstances, strawman attacks. In this particular case, I might have been strawmanning you- but no more or less than I was the other side.
    Now, let me point out something to you: I’m NOT a feminist. I’m also not an MRA guy, nor a conservative, nor whatever. I avoid self-identification, for the most part, as it’s just a self-imposed form of labeling, and it’s restrictive. I agree with some points from all sides there, and disagree with other points. I’m not even a long-time poster here, although I’ve lurked a lot.
    What you HAVE been doing, from your first post onward, has been coming off as incredibly rude and brusque. The manner of speech you’re using (referring to people as man-haters and such) is both ad-hominem and strawman. Try being polite, and ignoring people who were stating things in a rude or too-broad manner, then bring your points. That’s discussion.

  333. Gareth Fouche says

    -Setar
    Uh, no. Since you don’t drink that much, take my word for this :
    Your judgement and social restraints can easily be impaired without you losing the ability to speak clearly, without slurring or stumbling.
    Unless the guy was a teetotaler or the meeting had finished after midnight, he’d probably been drinking for at least 4 hours by that point.
    I’m not saying it’s an excuse for assault or sexual pressure, but assuming he knew she felt threatened, that he was being purposefully predatory?
    A casual, thinly-disguised sexual proposition, late at night, at or around a bar. I’m sorry, this is not an unusual event, it’s not rampant sexism. That’s just what happens in bars at 4am.

  334. gr8hands says

    @Robert B, while it is admirable that you act as if you have privilege even in areas where you manifestly do not (just as a way to keep from stepping on people’s toes), it does not mean that you have privilege in all areas.
    Someone criticizing you for having privilege in areas where you do not, is not being accurate. And it is not necessarily wrong to point that out to them.
    I appreciate that you appear to like to paint with a soft, gentle brush. Would that more people do likewise.
    (For the record, I have not mentioned female privilege, and am not making any kind of case or comment about it. So your analysis is incorrect. But please keep posting, as this is not in any way an attempt to tell you to shut up. Clearly, some people feel that with or without that expressed sentiment, I would be tellign you to shut up. I blame low reading comprehension and emotional baggage.)

  335. says

    This is a skeptical community, and the second commandment in the skeptics’ bible (after “thou shalt not believeth anything upon insufficient evidence) is “thou shalt always consider personal testimony to be a very weak kind of evidence”.
    -headdesk- You don’t think she would have mentioned it if he had been drunk?
    I’d love to hear EG’s side of the story, but I suspect he’s very rational in not coming forward. After all, even if he tells the truth, who would believe him? If he is a true skeptic, he would have realised that and will keep quiet.
    NO! That’s STUPID! I…eg…seriously…it. is. never. rational. not. to. speak. up.
    -sigh- …of course, you’re trying to say “well, we don’t know what happened!”, which requires you ignoring the fact that drunkenness carries symptoms other than social blindness that can be easily noticed…which requires you to have lived under a fucking rock for your entire life.
    Seriously. How far can you fucking go? I want to say you’re just playing stupid to annoy me because of how stupid this is, but…

  336. DavidByron says

    @ivr and everyone else of course….
    quote:
    “Many of those women have been sexually assaulted or have been close to someone who has. How could they be wrong for feeling that way, constantly assessing their safety?”
    I live in Alabama where many people are racist, but it’s OK because their bigotry is completely justified by having at any point in their lives met or heard of a black person who really did steal something or act threateningly.
    You see it’s OK to treat an entire birth group negatively on the basis of bad behaviour by one or two individuals.
    You are advocating profiling — discrimination on the basis of negative stereotypes about a birth group.
    Liberals believe that profiling is immoral. Before we go any further — as a conservative — do you understand WHY liberals like me think profiling is immoral?
    I understand YOU think profiling is common sense (because it benefits the in-group and only negatively effects the hated out-group). Do you understand why a liberal would consider profiling immoral?

  337. says

    Gareth:
    I’m not saying it’s an excuse for assault or sexual pressure, but assuming he knew she felt threatened, that he was being purposefully predatory?
    He hadn’t interacted with her all night, got her in an ELEVATOR, and even acknowledged that he knew the implications of what he was asking (“don’t take this the wrong way, but…”). So…what assumption?

  338. says

    Gareth, is there any chance you could take a look at the post I made a couple pages back that was a response to you? This thread is moving fast, so you may have missed it.

  339. says

    Addendum: Purpose has nothing to do with it, by the way. Pick-Up Artist/Asshattery tactics are the relationship equivalent of alt-med and as such the users are largely ignorant — but the tactics are still predatory, and still should be discouraged, which is all Rebecca did.
    It’s not “don’t proposition anyone, ever”, and I don’t see how so many people blow it out into that.
    It’s “propositioning someone in the elevator at 4 AM is creepy. DON’T DO IT.”
    I’m a guy. I understand full well how creepy that is. You’re getting them alone, and they don’t know you. For all they know you could have been bullshitting them all night and if they say “no” you’ll just hit the STOP button and they’ll be completely helpless.
    The other thing is don’t be a dick and try to defend someone who is being that obviously creepy. Turn around and tell them to stop doing that because every time they do that they make all guys look a tiny bit more like creeps. If you don’t want to be treated like a creep, don’t be a creep, and don’t let other people get away with being creeps either.

  340. gr8hands says

    Setar, you do know that hitting the STOP button alerts Security, right? And often activates an alarm, right?

  341. Robert B says

    @gr8hands:
    The exact purpose of stating my understanding of your case right at the start was to be a check, so that you could correct me if I was accidentally attacking a straw man. Under normal circumstances I would state my revised understanding, check if my misapprehension affected the validity of my arguments, refute or concur with your latest point, and continue the debate.
    However, you have chosen to insult my reading comprehension (in a weirdly passive-aggressive way – “some people”? In a post already addressed to me by name?) over a good-faith disagreement on an earlier topic, so I don’t care to debate you any longer.

  342. DavidByron says

    A very sexist anti-male article.
    The atheist / skeptic movement would be better off with all the man-hating feminists kicked out. They are trouble makers.
    Of course because of their white woman privilege, nobody is allowed to say this.

  343. Beaker says

    @Gr8hands
    “After I say in my example that a person might be flying out shortly, you purposely keep suggesting as legitimate alternatives “would you be able to do this tomorrow morning?” — even though I won’t be here. Or your other alternative “could we talk this over tomorrow in the bar” — even though I won’t be here.”
    Notice that in all my statements, I stated the express purpose of why I would want to talk to her. In none of the stated alternatives did I mention the hotel room. Let me give you a general purpose phrase:
    Sorry, but I would want to talk to you about . I know it is late and you probably want to go to bed, but I fly out tomorrow morning and it would really help me out. We could for example go back to the bar and sit down to discuss this there.
    If you don’t have anything to discuss:
    I found your talk / what you said earlier really interesting, but I hadn’t really had the chance to talk to you yet. I’m flying out in the morning but would really like to talk with you, if you’re still up to it at this time of night. We could go back to the bar and discuss it?
    “Your final paragraph presumes that Rebecca had not had any interaction with EG prior to the elevator, which does not fit her description.”
    It does fit her description, later in the comments on that video as well as a later blog post. There she clarified that she hadn’t talked to him before. If he was actually in the group she was with at that time, he would have overheard her saying that she was really tired and wanted to go to bed, in which case a listening man would not ask her to go to his room for coffee.
    So no, regardless of the way you look at this, the manner of the events as described by Rebecca Watson do not agree with your description.

  344. gr8hands says

    @Setar wrote: “You don’t think she would have mentioned it if he had been drunk?”
    Well . . . let’s see. She was in the bar until 4am with a bunch of other people. Perhaps she had also been drinking. Perhaps her recollection of events might be somewhat hazy. Perhaps she might have chosen to leave out anything which might embarrass herself, or accidentally forgotten to mention (or forgotten) something that exonerated EG.
    Perhaps she even said something quite different out loud from what she remembers saying. Fatigue and alcohol can do that, particularly if you’re still recovering from jet lag going from continent to continent.

  345. says

    Setar, you do know that hitting the STOP button alerts Security, right? And often activates an alarm, right?
    Because security can just walk right through the walls of the elevator shaft when the elevator is between floors, and the security office is built around the back side of the elevator shaft all the way up the building.
    It’s as if you only know what an elevator is and how it works when it’s convenient for you…

  346. says

    Well . . . let’s see. She was in the bar until 4am with a bunch of other people. Perhaps she had also been drinking. Perhaps her recollection of events might be somewhat hazy. Perhaps she might have chosen to leave out anything which might embarrass herself, or accidentally forgotten to mention (or forgotten) something that exonerated EG.
    Why does this sound like something someone would try to say in a case of alleged rape? And why are you so hell-bent on attacking the messenger and propping up the side of the story that we (conveniently enough) don’t know? Would you be laying the same scrutiny on Elevator Guy if he had told his side of the story only and we had not heard from Rebecca?
    Perhaps she even said something quite different out loud from what she remembers saying. Fatigue and alcohol can do that, particularly if you’re still recovering from jet lag going from continent to continent.
    Why are you so hell-bent on trying to say that Rebecca was somehow mistaken, that she was somehow in the wrong, and that if only we knew the other side of the story we’d be set to rights? Why do you have to constantly question Rebecca’s feeling threatened by the advance? And why does it feel like you’d be saying the same thing if Rebecca had accepted the invitation, thinking it harmless, and been sexually assaulted?

  347. gr8hands says

    @Robert B, my apologies for appearing to you to be “weirdly passive-aggressive” — you are not the only person who thinks that any criticism of someone is an attempt to tell them to shut up.
    Not to put too fine a point on it, but when someone explicitly writes “I am not telling you to shut up” and you read that to mean “whenever I say you are wrong I am telling you to shut up” then you have a reading comprehension problem, or are bringing so much emotional baggage in that you cannot read what is actually being written.
    Feel free not to debate me any longer. I am still not telling you to shut up, regardless of whether you feel/think I am or not.

  348. James Emery says

    Sorry guys, I totally tried to be an intarnet white knight and fed the troll instead. My apologies.

  349. gr8hands says

    @Setar wrote:

    Would you be laying the same scrutiny on Elevator Guy if he had told his side of the story only and we had not heard from Rebecca?

    Yes. Any other response would be hypocritical. That should be obvious.

  350. gr8hands says

    @Setar, Rebecca did not say she felt threatened. That is something other people added to her story.
    Rebecca claims to have been saying all day that she didn’t want to be hit on at conferences, but the video of her presentation is available on YouTube, and she never said that. So, since her recollection of her own words is faulty, not long after she said them, I think that casts just a little doubt on her recollection of what someone else said.
    Or is that somehow not being skeptical enough?

  351. gr8hands says

    @Setar wrote:

    And why does it feel like you’d be saying the same thing if Rebecca had accepted the invitation, thinking it harmless, and been sexually assaulted?

    Because you’re using your psychic powers. With predictable accuracy.

  352. Robaylesbury says

    Thank you for this article. As a male who adores women this has raised my consciousness and got me thinking in new ways.

  353. says

    Rebecca claims to have been saying all day that she didn’t want to be hit on at conferences, but the video of her presentation is available on YouTube, and she never said that.
    Last time I checked, the presentation didn’t last all day. As such…
    So, since her recollection of her own words is faulty, not long after she said them, I think that casts just a little doubt on her recollection of what someone else said.
    Hi, victim-blaming asshole!
    Or is that somehow not being skeptical enough?
    Actually, it’s being a disingenuous asshole.
    Because you’re using your psychic powers. With predictable accuracy.
    Those “psychic powers” are simply you constantly trying to say that Rebecca’s story must be unreliable for some reason and fishing to great lengths — including attempting to say that the video of her presentation somehow equates to a video of her entire day — to say that it is =/

  354. says

    Yes. Any other response would be hypocritical. That should be obvious.
    Okay. Would you be laying the same scrutiny if it were your sister rather than Rebecca Watson in this position?

  355. Zac says

    Setar:
    -headdesk- You don’t think she would have mentioned it if he had been drunk?
    She might have mentioned it, she might not. Maybe she thought he was sober and yet he was drunk. After all, it is surely not true that every drunk person is always correctly identified as such. Maybe she thought he was drunk and decided not to say, since it might harm her point. Maybe she thought it was not important. Maybe he really wasn’t drunk. We don’t know.
    NO! That’s STUPID! I…eg…seriously…it. is. never. rational. not. to. speak. up.
    That is a bold claim. Please tell me why it is never rational to stay quiet in these situations. Also, I think that calling it ‘stupid’ in caps is really a proportionate response. If it is wrong, please say why.
    -sigh- …of course, you’re trying to say “well, we don’t know what happened!”, which requires you ignoring the fact that drunkenness carries symptoms other than social blindness that can be easily noticed…which requires you to have lived under a fucking rock for your entire life.
    Seriously. How far can you fucking go? I want to say you’re just playing stupid to annoy me because of how stupid this is, but…

    I do philosophy, and sometimes I read arguments that I think are ‘stupid’, sometimes from very eminent and clever people. It is important to respond in a fit and proper way though – swearing and hurling insults at them is usually a sign that your own position is weaker than you would like. Instead, try to outline their argument as best you can, being as charitable as possible. Then demonstrate where and how they made a mistake. That way, everybody can see the mistake and it can be rectified – everybody learns and rational discussion wins the day yet again.
    I’m not just talking about drunkenness. In fact, I’m less interested in that than in anything else. I’m saying that we have no idea at all about this event. Maybe it is a complete fabrication, and EG doesn’t exist. Maybe he meant a coffee the next morning, as in “would you like to grab a coffee and continue?” and simply failed to be clear. Maybe he never mentioned coffee. Maybe it wasn’t in an elevator, but on the way to it. The truth is that we don’t know, and since I am a skeptic I am forced to admit that given the insufficient evidence, I have no idea.
    I am making a general point about the ‘skeptic community’ having a huge, high profile internal argument about the reported details of a two-person altercation in which we have only heard the interested testimony from one of the people allegedly involved. The skeptic community. Ironic!

  356. Robaylesbury says

    I’m not going to link to my personal blog, but here’s a post that I created based on my mildy ignorant perspective.
    “I follow a blog that has recently been swept up in a furor over some sexist comments. Basically, a female speaker at a conference was in a lift on her way back to a hotel room when she was propositioned by a male. She politely said no, and went on her way. Next day she went online and gently asked guys not to behave this way. So far, so reasonable? Well apparently not, as a positive dust storm has blown up concerning how we sexualize women and by so doing demean them. Now I freely admit to being torn on this issue; on the one hand I recognize that nobody has the right to proposition somebody in such a clumsy, overt manner. For what it’s worth, I’m too much of a coward anyway, but that’s not the point. The point, so far as I can tell, is how we strike a balance between harmless interaction and behavior that steps over the edge? Now as a person with about as much social tact as a dog with a cushion I am not the font of all wisdom here, but it seems to me that the majority of relationships find their own level? We interact differently with some people than we do with others. I’ve some friends where double entendres lace every conversation, whilst with others I make a conscious choice to respect their boundaries and reign my natural mischievousness in. This appears to work fairly reliably, so I’m inclined to conclude that behavior needs to be modulated until any given interaction finds it’s feet. Now I adore women. I am obsessed, fixated, in thrall of you. I always have and I always will be, and you can take that as a compliment. I am attracted to most women in either one way or another, which is to say that I can always find qualities to admire. Note that this doesn’t mean that I am objectifying you, just that I love the gender differences and enjoy spending time with you. Growing up with two older sisters probably removed some of the mystery and I’ve alway felt comfortable in your company, which is something I’m quite proud of. To be sure, I’ve said my share of clumsy and risqué things down the years, but anybody who knows me has long since figured this is just part and parcel of my slightly deranged personality. I’m predictably unpredictable, and if this is a problem for you then nobody is under any obligation to spend time around me. Anyway, back to the matter at hand. To conclude, there’s a good chance that there will always be a certain dynamic when male and female interact. This to me seems normal. Trick is, know where the boundary is, respect the other person and their persona, and be mindful that we all come to the party with different baggage and pre conceived ideas. If a women has been the constant subject of harassment I don’t blame her for being sensitive on the matter, no more than I blame a man who has been wounded at the hands of an ex-partner. This isn’t a one size fits all world, so be a little self aware.”

  357. DavidByron says

    Another 1000 comments and again no feminist can address the central accusation against Watson and her supporters, raised at various times and in various ways but being summarised as why do feminists think its appropriate to endorse anti-male gender profiling (ie “all men are potential rapists”)?
    In as much as an answer has ever been offered it has been “because men fucking suck”.

  358. ivr says

    You are advocating profiling

    Your ‘arguments’ (or paranoid bleatings) are so incredibly weak and fail the most basic logic. I can use the same (non)logic on you – here’s a fact: my wife had been raped twice before I met her. Telling her to never automatically trust strange men, NO MATTER HOW NORMAL THEY SEEM TO BE, WHEN THAT TRUST HAS BEEN VIOLENTLY BROKEN BEFORE BY SEEMINGLY NORMAL MEN – would be common sense. But to you, that’s profiling and sexist (b/c you fail to understand her perspective, and don’t care to). So the question is, why do you so badly want my wife to be raped again? YOU are arguing for her to not be safe thereby exposing her to more possible rape (if it’s happened twice before, it can happen again). See how that works? It doesn’t feel good to have your words twisted to mean something completely wrong right? That’s exactly what you’re doing with the simple request of “dudes, respect boundaries”. You’re response is, FUCK THAT – to tell me to respect boundaries is sexist.
    I’m a white guy, I’ve never had a problem with boundaries that women set, and never take it personally (so controversial to you, I know). You are taking all this incredibly personally on the other hand – and the question is why? I think the answer is b/c you’re completely unserious with your arguments, don’t give the slightest shit about understanding how a women could possibly feel, and want to stir the pot. That’s THE definition of a troll. Not just b/c you disagree with anybody - but that’s what you will continue to say, no cry, b/c you need to protect your deluded little ego.
    You will continue to miss the point that WOMEN DON’T WANT TO GO THROUGH LIFE LIKE THIS. The ones that have to are forced to by their experiences. Experiences that you hopefully will never have to deal with – but instead of trying to understand these women, you’re telling them they’re bigoted for being forced to adjust their behavior accordingly. How enlightening of you.

  359. says

    “Potential rapist.”
    Meaning #1 — A person with a predilection or predisposition to commit rape. I’m not one. Neither, most probably, are you.
    Meaning #2 — A person with the physical capability of committing rape. Have a penis? Have reasonable upper body strength (or access to firearms)? You (and I) qualify!
    I don’t think the women in this discussion are claiming that we men are all potential rapists in the Meaning #1 sense, but rather that when a woman is in a physically vulnerable position, a strange man becomes a potential rapist in the Meaning #2 sense.
    It’s understandable to be offended by an accusation of Meaning #1. But there’s nothing offensive in the Meaning #2 sense.
    If the scene is a city street late at night and there’s a group of guys (race unimportant) walking toward me, they could be honor students on the way home from their community service projects. I don’t need to assume that they have any intent to do me harm.
    But it’s a fact that they have the capability. That means I think, “Potential mugger.”
    And then I cross the street.

  360. says

    @Setar: I’m quite serious. If ou asked EG if Watson was likely to feel trapped in the elevator, he’d probably say yes. However, left to his own devices, he may not think to ask this question, particularly if he’s been drinking and he either has been waiting for her to get out of public so he can talk to her without public rejection or he was excited to coincidentally run into a speaker he liked in the elevator. I’m not excusing him for not thinking of her perspective, but I’m saying it’s at least a strong possibility he just didn’t think to consider how she would feel about being approached in the elevator rather than he did it on purpose to trap her.
    I say this because I personally have done things on numerous occasions that I knew better than doing because I was anxious or excited and not really thinking things through, including some rude things. You probably have done the same, at least at some point in the past before you knew better. The whole field of marketing is about getting people to make ill-considered decisions. This makes the guy at least an intermittently insensitive clod, but not a predator.
    I’d also argue that female privilege does exist and is at least arguably applicable to this situation. When you are being accused of a crime, you are far better off being a woman. (For example, men who are intoxicated in public are far more likely to be arrested for it than women and men who are found guilty of any given crime tend to get harsher sentences than women.) Many of EG’s defenders are seeing him as being accused of sexual predation and think he is being treated with an unfair assumption of guilt. I don’t think this is a fair characterization of what Watson said, but I can see how some thing other people (particularly Gred Laden) said can raise defensive hackles.
    And to be clear, I am not denying male privilege or that, on the whole, it’s more helpful than female privilege. They coem from the same basic root, which is the idea men are supposed to take charge and support their families and women are supposed to be protected and raise the kids. If you are trying to claim responsibility for something, as often comes up in the professional world, women have a hard time being taken seriously. If you are trying to disclaim responsibility for something, as often comes up in court, being a man doesn’t work out so well.

  361. Beaker says

    @Zac
    “The truth is that we don’t know, and since I am a skeptic I am forced to admit that given the insufficient evidence, I have no idea.”
    And the rational thing in this case would be to react to the scenario. In the scenario EG was an idiot. So just say that: “I don’t know what exactly happened, but in the scenario as sketched by Rebecca Watson, EG was a moron and such behavior. Moreover, I notice that quite a few women in the atheist / skeptic community mention feeling harrassed at times in that community. If we want to make the community more welcoming to women, we should listen to them and be a bit more sensitive in our dealings with women and keep their feelings in mind. And the first step in that is recognizing that proposing to a woman in an elevator at 4am when I haven’t spoken to her that day probably is a creepy experience for her and I therefore should not do it.”
    If I say something really stupid here, please explain to me what it is.

  362. Astron says

    I am a man and I completely understand the sensitivity of women in such matters. It is true that we still live in a sexist society and that women are sometimes being treated as if they were inferior to men, especially in sexual matters.
    However, am I the only one that this phrase of Greta made me flinch?
    “We know that most of you aren’t rapists. (…) until we get to know you pretty well, we have no way of knowing whether you’re a rapist or not”
    Instead of trying to explain why I find it insulting, just try this thought experiment. How would this phrase sound if it was addressed to other social or sexual groups:
    To women:
    “We know that most of you aren’t whores but we have no way of telling whether you are one or not…”
    To people of different skin colour than you:
    “We know that most of you aren’t criminals but we have no way of telling whether you are one or not..”
    To priests: “We know that most of you aren’t pedophiles but we have no way of telling whether you are one or not…”
    I think the phrases above would be overwelmingly insulting in any context.
    Also why is Greta addressing men as the only people who disagree, even though it is clear that many women and feminists also disagree with her views? Why do we have to turn this a battle of women VS men instead of having a rational discussion between persons of all genders?
    I also think that it is very strange how so many people who used to support Dawkins suddenly decided that he is the devil himself and a sexist pig, even though it is more than clear from his books and lectures that he is the very opposite of that. I mean after so many books, articles, lectures and the very rejuvenation of the atheist movement it would take far more than a few posts of Dawkins to make me change my opinion of him.

  363. Zac says

    [correction in my last post- "proportionate" should read "disproportionate"]
    Astron: Excellent post.
    Beaker: Not stupid at all. I agree that you can make hypothetical judgements about an abstract EG based on the official word given in the YouTube video by RW.
    My main purpose in reminding everybody just what community this is supposed to be happening in is when I hear people arguing about “what happened”, in the same way people who believe in myths and miracles argue about the alleged facts. We simply don’t know.

  364. ivr says

    Astron:
    Why do you find that simple statement insulting? To women who have been sexually assaulted, or have been scared enough of it, is that so unreasonable? your other statements don’t equate b/c it doesn’t matter to a person’s safety whether a woman is a whore or not, or whether a priest is a pedophile or not (although I wouldn’t take my kid to a catholic church regardless). The ‘criminal’ statement as far as minorities is just bigoted if you’re applying it only to people of a different race than you. If you are saying that in certain situations you couldn’t trust any person of any color b/c you couldn’t know their background, then what’s controversial about that? It may be a tad paranoid, but it’s not wrong if someone unfortunately felt that way.
    The question is directed at men b/c it is men who by far do the raping, and women who by far, are the ones being raped.

  365. SallyStrange says

    In other words, Acron, you find it impossible to listen to women talking about their experiences with sexism without taking it as a personal attack.
    Well, at least you’re not alone.

  366. Alex SL says

    If you don’t agree — with Watson, or me, or any other feminist making a critique about sexism — then by all means, say so.
    Um. Isn’t that kinda what Dawkins did? All he wrote is, in effect, that it appeared to him as if an event of pick-pocketing caused a reaction that should better be reserved for somebody breaking into your apartment, stealing everything valuable and trashing the rest. Sense of proportion, etc.
    Also, I find the assumption running through the whole post that every guy wants to “get laid” rather bizarre. It can be possible to say, well, asking a question and then accepting the answer is not that terrible, even if you are completely disinterested in casual sex yourself, or even if you agree that the approach was inappropriate under those specific circumstances. Not least because a lot of women say the same.

  367. says

    To the guy who is whining about how this would be so unfair if it were applied to any other social or racial group…..God, get over yourself. It’s doubly offensive because it’s from somebody who refuses to listen, refuses to learn, and the victims in his own special way while declaring himself and other men victims. It’s really simple. Don’t be an ass. Don’t whine when women tell you not to ignore their feelings.
    And people should be aware that David Byron has been trolling feminists since the late Nineties.

  368. says

    @Michael Dobson, I used to cross the street when I saw people coming, but then when I was 20 or so, I was walking past a church as evening was getting out about 10 at night and some old lady switched her purse to her far arm, held on tight, and walked back up the stairs a few steps to get away from me. My first thought was that I was being treated like a mugger just because I was a young man and it was dark. Once I realized how it made people feel, I’ve made a concerted effort to not show discomfort if I feel it, keep walking if someone avoids eye contact and say hi without breaking stride if they do make eye contact. Granted, this might be male privilege talking, but from the US 2008 crime statistics, it looks like men are only marginally less likely to be victims of violent crimes than women.
    @ DavidByron, I wanted to respond, but I wasn’t sure if I should engage your alleged points or just LOL and congratulate you. As for the alleged main point of gender profiling, my response would be that Rebecca, Jen, Greta and PZ never actually said this. If other people did say it, go argue with them.

  369. Beaker says

    And now, after my sins, to get the discussion back on track.
    “(a) the proposal that men who steadfastly and angrily refuse to listen to women giving guidance about when and where their advances are likely to be welcomed are more interested in maintaining their privilege than in actually getting laid”
    I disagree. Take the comments of gr8hands, where he puts up some incredibly dense scenarios in order to have to ask someone to their room. To me, his comments indicate one of two things, namely incredible insecurity and incredible lack of inventiveness. I don’t think this is about privilege per sé, but rather about being anxious that you might have to be a bit more careful in your wording.
    “(b) the suggestion that, if you disagree with women who are criticizing what they think is sexist behavior or language, you focus on their ideas rather than chiding them for expressing them, and that telling women to shut up about sexism is equivalent to religious believers telling atheists to shut up about atheism”
    Yes, I think this is very equivalent. Nothing to add here.
    ” (c) the proposal that, as unpleasant as they are, these kinds of controversies are necessary for the health of the atheist movement, and that we are far better off having them now instead of ten or twenty years from now.”
    Personally, I think you’ll be having these discussions 20 years from now regardless. I think the idea that if you want to hit on a woman, or comment on her in some way, you have to be able to do that without regard to her is so ingrained in current society, that it’ll take more than 20 years to fight the idea. Especially since other parts of society still do not tackle these ideas and atheists and skeptics in America will be coming to the movement from these other parts. But it is quite obviously a discussion that needs to be had, so it’s good to have it now just for that reason.

  370. SallyStrange says

    The question is directed at men b/c it is men who by far do the raping, and women who by far, are the ones being raped.

    That’s a sexist thing to say.
    Just like it’s racist to observe that the majority of lynchings are committed by white people.

  371. says

    @Ginmar. That would explain why he seems so practiced at it. David, if we give you a medal and say you’ve reached the pinnacle of trolling, will you accept you have nothing more to accomplish and dedicate what remains of your life to another pursuit, hoping you can reach the level of excellence there you did in trolling feminists?

  372. ivr says

    And people should be aware that David Byron has been trolling feminists since the late Nineties.

    I tried to resist….I swear. I couldn’t help myself. After what my wife has been through, it’s hard not to want to explain with logic to men who don’t understand how and why some women go through life like this, and why they never would want to if they had the freaking choice. But I forgot that, like DB, they don’t really care and just like setting the world in flames.

  373. says

    As far as alternate scenarios to this being an ham-fisted pick-up attempt: the most plausible is he was some sort of crackpot who thought his ideas were very important and someone he had decided was influential had to hear them. I say this based on things I’ve heard from other people who spoke at conferences, from the the academic to the comic-book related. Such people are depressingly common. Ham-fisted pick-up is also a strong possibility of course, just not the only one.

  374. ivr says

    That’s a sexist thing to say.
    Just like it’s racist to observe that the majority of lynchings are committed by white people.

    Exactly.

  375. James Emery says

    And people should be aware that David Byron has been trolling feminists since the late Nineties

    I feel ashamed now. Dammit.
    Also, I find the arguments that RW described events accurately and that she did not, or did not know exactly what was going on, to both be about equally valid. If she’s true, there’s nothing wrong with her response (to that incident). If she’s not, we’ll probably never know, so we shouldn’t really worry about it. Watching Setar and Gr8hands make the same arguments, worded differently, back and forth over the span of a gazillion posts, however, was kinda fun ;)
    Honestly, does that part even really matter, at this point?

  376. SallyStrange says

    some sort of crackpot who thought his ideas were very important and someone he had decided was influential had to hear them

    Plausible indeed.
    Still doesn’t explain why explaining to this subset of people why they might want to raise their level of situational awareness in the future is such a bloody crime against humanity though, you know?

  377. keddaw says

    The biggest problem here is our society’s , and possibly our species’, idiotic attitude to sex and autonomy. But mainly sex.
    If sex was not taboo like, say, backgammon, then the offer and subsequent rejection poses no sinister sub plots and so no need to feel creepy or threatened and this wouldn’t have been a fitting anecdote to represent any form of anything.
    But I’m a dreamer…

  378. says

    However, left to his own devices, he may not think to ask this question, particularly if he’s been drinking and he either has been waiting for her to get out of public so he can talk to her without public rejection
    So why his room and not, say, a coffeehouse the next day? -sigh- Why the fuck is a request that normally would be taken as a proposition for sex suddenly innocuous because, well, Rebecca turned it down and nothing happened? If he wanted to talk he could have done it at the event, or asked to meet her in the morning (considering that she’d announced her intention was to go to bed) at a coffeehouse and talk. He didn’t. He asked her to his room for some shitty hotel coffee. And sex, but wait a minute, he didn’t say that so he obviously didn’t mean it. I mean, we weren’t there, and we can’t trust Rebecca, she was drunk and f…err, drunk! Yeah, that’s right!

  379. Jerry W Barrington says

    I too am curious about this documentation of elevator rape risk. I skimmed the comments without seeing anything.

  380. brett caton says

    The following seems to be repeated a lot:
    “Elevator guy followed her into the lift”
    “Elevator guy had already been told she didn’t want to be picked up”
    I haven’t seen any evidence for either of these. However, it’s interesting to see the myth gaining momentum.
    Another one seems to be “Hotel lifts are really dangerous”.
    Now, I’ve lived in dangerous areas and safe ones (fewer and fewer of the latter exist now, alas). I cannot see how a busy, well run hotel lift is dangerous by any reasonable standard, regardless of the hour. When people go looking for examples of attacks on lifts, they seem to be able to find one or two and proclaim “Thus it is shown!”
    But one or two is nothing. Being attacked at home in your bed? That’s enormously more likely, as is being raped by someone you know, someone who you might be just dating or even married to. And the incidents where attacks have been documented (and it’s not clear if they were attacking people in apartment lifts, which i would think would be more dangerous) seem confined to dangerously psychotic individuals who are incapable of risk assessment in any case. The crazy guy who stabbed someone in a postal office with a screwdriver is not proof that postal offices are dangerous.
    I’m happy to be proved wrong but i haven’t seen any evidence thus far from a reputable source. Here’s an example: http://www.bocsar.nsw.gov.au/Lawlink/bocsar/ll_bocsar.nsf/pages/bocsar_contactus
    Instead people are arguing anecdotally, or using the “everyone knows (except those people with privilege, who don’t count anyway).
    Surely rational people can do better than this?

  381. says

    Still doesn’t explain why explaining to this subset of people why they might want to raise their level of situational awareness in the future is such a bloody crime against humanity though, you know?
    Or why they resort to amazing amounts of sophistry to say that the situational context and the fact that this is a well-known euphemism (to the point where it became the name of the GTA: San Andreas sex mini-game unlocker) suddenly don’t matter, no no, nothing happened so he absolutely could not have been propositioning Rebecca, and we shouldn’t fully trust her story because she could have been drunk or something.
    Because that’s totally not indicative of anything.

  382. Zac says

    Setar: I mean, we weren’t there, and we can’t trust Rebecca, she was drunk and f…err, drunk! Yeah, that’s right!
    Jesus resurrected from the dead. There are female testimonies that PROVE this beyond any doubt. You deny it? But why would they lie?! Oh I see. They’re female. That is why you think they’re liars. You’re so sexist.
    I’m sorry, but if anybody says that her testimony is inaccurate because she is female then that is wrong, sexist, and I will join you in attacking it. I never made any such claim.
    I claim we cannot unquestioningly accept her version of events because of the well-known unreliability of personal testimony, and that is the only reason.

  383. Beaker says

    @ Jerry W Barrington
    “I too am curious about this documentation of elevator rape risk. I skimmed the comments without seeing anything.”
    Tried google? Try it, it isn’t too hard to find newspaper articles on elevator rape. Sure, rape in elevators is uncommon, but it does occur. Just because an event is uncommon, doesn’t mean that people cannot get uncomfortable in a situation that has a very small chance of leading up to that event.
    I know the chance of being hit by lightning is small, nevertheless I’m not comfortable if I’m out in the open during a thunderstorm.

  384. Beaker says

    @Zac
    “I claim we cannot unquestioningly accept her version of events because of the well-known unreliability of personal testimony, and that is the only reason.”
    And it is in fact a claim that is completely irrelevant, even in a skeptical environment. What should be relevant is that this is a situation that came over as uncomfortable to one of the members of your community and that is something you should not neglect. And frankly, that is what you are doing.

  385. Ron says

    Robert B- I apologize at being very, very pedantic here. I agree with everything you said. But I think you meant to say as genders male and female are hard to define. Because sex, except in very rare circumstances (there’s a tribe in brazil i believe where girls are sometimes thought to be boys at birth), is very easy to tell from birth.
    Which of course is opening up a whole new can of worms about society forcing girls to take ‘female’ roles, and boys to take ‘male’ roles. Which is unfortunately true.
    As an example how to not let this happen- I have a nephew who is four years younger then his sister. When he was just a toddler, he saw his sister playing with a doll, all wrapped up in a blanket and feeding it a bottle. He took his toy firetruck, wrapped it up like a baby, held it like a baby and fed it a bottle. My family didn’t do anything, except say it was cute. I know a lot of families where that wouldn’t have been the case and the boy would have been punished, unfortunately.

  386. says

    1. On the whole “all men are potential rapists” thing:
    This is being blown a little bit out of proportions by some.
    I recall Rob talking about threat assessment earlier. Which is essentially what this was about. In a reality where statistics can tell us scary things about the likelihood of women being raped by men (as opposed to the other way around), should we just expect women to forget all about this and act as if there were never any danger? Really?
    2. Some people have also managed to work in a comparison between racism and sexism. Which is a little misguided, I think. As they may (or may not) be aware, reality is a little more complex than that. As I mentioned way back in the thread, a number of hours ago, this is not fairyland.
    Let’s see if I can make this clear, both to myself and others:
    The main physical difference between blacks and whites is something as simple as a skin colour. So defining and identifying racism is relatively easy. Every non-racist will agree that treating people differently based on mere skin colour is stupid.
    However, there are important physical differences between men and women, which can sometimes make the issue of “sexism” and its definition a little muddier.
    A world where men and women treat each other as exactly the same kind of people falls, to me, in the category of “admirable ideal, but also misguided fairyland nonsense”.
    That does not mean that men and women cannot treat each other as equals. In the sense that we have equal privileges, equal rights and equal personal space to be ourselves and do what we want with our lives. And recognise each other as intelligent human beings.
    But removing cultural pressure to allow people to be themselves does not mean that men and women have to end up treating both sexes in the same way in all situations.
    And thus it does not mean that women should not be cautious around men in certain contexts. Because for a variety of reasons (history, upbringing, culture, sex drive, build), perpetrators of rape (and violence in general) do tend to be men.
    This may all sound a little complicated, but life is like that.
    It was good for me to write this down, by the way, because it allowed me to sort out a few thoughts on it in my own head. And if anyone can be bothered, I would appreciate any feedback. I am still not confident I have it quite right.
    But I need to get some sleep now.

  387. says

    @ SallyStrange: That’s an example of the phenomenon mentioned earlier where people see something that looks like an enemy argument and flip the fuck out. It’s one of the most prevalent forms of oversensitivity and bad skepticism to boot, but depressingly common for basically any contentious issue.

  388. says

    Greta,
    Thanks so much for writing this. I can relate to the part about women’s contributions and ideas being ignored in favor of taking about their appearance. I especially appreciated that you made a comparison by pointing out that if it’s okay to say that we disagree with religion, then it should also be okay to point out when we disagree with a comment or action someone took towards a woman or women.
    Also, I think it’s important to remind people that different people are going to have a different idea about how far we have come in dealing with sexism and other -isms, partially based on their own experience with it. Whenever someone tries to pretend that feminism is no longer needed, I think it’s important to point out that rights and/or good treatment which they might take for granted might be things that others are still fighting for.
    Ani Sharmin

  389. Zac says

    Beaker: I am not neglecting it – I am actively discussing it. It is relevant because people are discussing and arguing over the details based on pure speculation, without identifying it as such, or expressing any doubt. It’s relevant because it is a ubiquitous mistake in this discussion and needs addressing.
    Also, it seems that we aren’t totally content with hypotheticals. Recall the blogger who faked the identity of a Syrian lesbian. It really did seem to matter that the testimony was not real. [Of course, and I shouldn't need to do this but I DO need to: I am not saying RW is anything like the fake Syrian].

  390. Ron says

    Another wonderful post Michael Dobson.
    Most of the MRA types are thinking meaning #1 and trying to get us to think that way too.
    The rest of us men are thinking meaning #2. Race is unimportant, it is not sexist and it is not racist.
    I’m done with this thread for several reasons. It is moving far to fast, we are focusing on the elevator incident which Greta asked us not to do, and we are feeding Trolls, which she also asked us not to do.
    I am not a bigot, a racist, a sexist or any -ist. Or at least I try not to be. Anybody that doesn’t see that threat assessment and the ‘potential’ for crime is a bad thing and is racist and sexist or whatever is actually projecting and is sexist themselves.
    I’ve enjoyed chatting with quite a few of you. There are a few I won’t miss at all.

  391. Beaker says

    @Zac
    “Beaker: I am not neglecting it – I am actively discussing it. It is relevant because people are discussing and arguing over the details based on pure speculation, without identifying it as such, or expressing any doubt. It’s relevant because it is a ubiquitous mistake in this discussion and needs addressing.”
    Sorry, but no. What we have been presented with is the scenario as I painted earlier, the fact that this made Rebecca Watson uncomfortable and that she made the suggestion to not do that. The correct response is to take that message aboard whenever you are going to be in that sort of situation, together with the overarching message voiced by quite a few women on the blogs that they feel uncomfortable in the community. This is an issue that the community needs to address. EG in that scenario acted like a jerk. Don’t want to act like a jerk, don’t act like EG in the scenario. And don’t come with the message that Rebecca Watson should just accept that some people are jerks. As a community, you should act against jerks.
    “I am not saying RW is anything like the fake Syrian”
    Then why bring it up? It is completely irrelevant to this discussion, because the context of the blog posts is completely different.

  392. Jcnorheim says

    “until we get to know you pretty well, we have no way of knowing whether you’re a rapist or not”
    This perfectly reasonable idea seems to be controversial.
    To some men, it seems like reverse sexism (which is as silly as the idea of reverse racism), and everyone loves to play the victim.

  393. Zac says

    I’ll start with this.
    Then why bring it up? It is completely irrelevant to this discussion, because the context of the blog posts is completely different.
    You said that it doesn’t matter whether the events happened as RW said they did or not. This example shows that we often do care that our outrage is based on real facts and not merely a hypothetical. It is therefore relevant. Actually I was quite content to think “well I guess women must really have those issues, so I don’t feel that much animosity towards the faker” – but for most people it seems that this revelation ruined everything.
    Sorry, but no. What we have been presented with is the scenario as I painted earlier, the fact that this made Rebecca Watson uncomfortable and that she made the suggestion to not do that. The correct response is to take that message aboard whenever you are going to be in that sort of situation, together with the overarching message voiced by quite a few women on the blogs that they feel uncomfortable in the community.
    Yes, I will take the message on board – if I ever find myself in an elevator with RW late at night I will not speak to her at all (just in case). Of course, there was absolutely no danger of me propositioning her even before, I can absolutely assure you of that. She can only speak for herself of course – it couldn’t be said that since RW feels uncomfortable in our hypothetical scenario, therefore all women would feel that way. I get the impression though that she was only claiming it for herself, and that is of course fair enough. I needn’t worry, since I never attend these events, and I am unlikely to ever meet her.

  394. Robert Thomas says

    I think my major problem with this issue is the accusation that the man’s behavior was not only inappropriate (which is obvious), but also somehow sexist. Rebecca Watson herself claimed that she was being sexualized and sexually objectified by this man. This wasn’t just a personal word of caution toward men, it was an accusation of sexism.
    For one thing, it does not seem clear to me that this man was even interested in her sexually, let alone sexualizing her in any way. It seems wholly possible that he was a fan who wanted to talk with someone he admired.
    I think it is this accusation of sexism and sexualization that encouraged Richard Dawkins to respond with ridicule. I understand that Watson felt uncomfortable and perhaps even threatened, but that alone does not substantiate a charge of sexism. If you insist on regarding any situation in which a man inadvertently makes a woman uncomfortable as if it is an example of sexism, you are asking for ridicule. Sexism is a serious charge that should not be alleged lightly.

  395. Aetre says

    This is the best summary of, and reaction to, the events that I’ve read. Thank you so much.
    I do have one question, and I apologize if I’ve missed it among the “shitstorm” of posts made here and elsewhere:
    My impression has been that racism, sexism, etc. are societal issues that every corner of our populace has a problem with–i.e. that while the burka may be a Muslim thing, sexism in general is everyone’s business. I’m curious: would women here say that there is an *increased* amount of sexist behavior among atheists, or at atheist conventions, versus the general population? Is elevatorgate *more* likely to happen at a skeptics meeting than, say, a Star Trek convention? It would be good for public consciousness, one way or the other, to know the answer. (For the record: I’m atheist, male, happily married. If any of that’s worth anything.)

  396. James Emery says

    I would note, as someone who has been to more than one sort of convention, I’ve never been to one where the imbalance between nerdy men and attractive women didn’t lead to a great deal of slobbering males (yes, I was one too, when I was younger) following around the females like lovesick puppies, and there was certainly lots of partying and f*ckery. Could this possibly be a problem that’s also inherent to the gender imbalance? Would a greater number of attending women, in fact, somewhat negate this issue? I should note, mostly it was anime conventions, so draw your own conclusions.
    Discuss.

  397. says

    I’m not sure if there’s much point in posting at the end of a 400+ comment thread, since I doubt anybody’s going to read it, but I’ll give it a shot.
    Yes, I’m very much one of those people who have been pooh-poohing this “discussion”. Do you think its because I’m miffed at Rebecca Watson for bringing it up? No, actually RW was quite reasonable in her original video. However, what its blown up into and the polarizing rhetoric and gasoline-pouring *on both sides* that has me seeing this as not a terribly useful discussion in its present state.
    Greta, you talk as if one side of this debate has been “toxic and ugly” while the other side (by which I assume you mean the feminist one) has been “calm and nuanced”. Well, that sure as hell isn’t what it looks like from where I’m sitting. Shakesville’s articles on this controversy calm and nuanced? I don’t think so. And while I think Dawkins comments weren’t well thought out, he was pretty far from the most thoughtless or insulting commentator on either side. He was simply the best known. (And as RW herself pointed out, what the hell was he even thinking interjecting himself into an internet comments fight?)
    And at this point I’m hearing that there are now people who actually want to *out* Elevator Guy by name, and that *PZ Myers*, who should know better, is posting pics to aid in doing this. On the other side, rape threats have been sent to RW, Laci Green, and possibly other women who have come out for RW. All of these actions are out of line, lynch mob shit and do no speak well of either the atheist or feminist community.
    And that’s why some of us are wishing this would go away. So that we can have the *discussion* you say needs to take place on these issues. Except that right now it isn’t a discussion, its a fucking grudge match.

  398. Robert B says

    @ Ron:
    First, I don’t think you’re being at all pedantic – personally I consider issues of gender and sex and sexuality and the distinctions between these things as very important.
    I’ll accept that gender is more frequently ambiguous or contrary to societal expectations than sex is, and I was partly talking about gender when I referred to “man” and “woman.” But there are also cases, in all populations, where a person’s physical sex is ambiguous or mixed. “Very rare” is a fair description, but it does happen – if I remember right, it’s called “intersexed.” And in context – a debate where one side claims marriage is between a man and a woman, and the other side is described as supporting “gay marriage,” (implying marriage between two men or two women) the discourse is entirely ignoring the intersexed as well as the genderqueer.
    (Fortunately, I haven’t seen the reformers describe themselves as supporting “gay marriage” much lately – I’ve seen more inclusive phrases like “marriage equality” get a lot of play.)

  399. Jack Lewis says

    @Robert Thomas
    That sort of how I saw it, it is often the case at conferences that members of the audience want to talk some more to the presenter and just don’t know when to quit. If you are going to make a presentation you have to expect this sort of thing. The guy made his request (he wasn’t even rude), he got rejected (which is fine) and then he got more of the same on the web… Dawkins has the misfortune of trying to put things in perspective and he gets the “Privilege Delusion” treatment… And now Rebecca will no longer recommend his books (not sure that it will impact is sales)… I guess her book recommendations are not based on content but some form of personality worship? I would have been more impressed if she had stopped piling the ad-hominems on Dawkins and focused on examples of actual sexism that go beyond being asked for coffee.

  400. says

    DavidByron has been banned. He has been banned before from this blog for repeated trolling, but has come back under a different IP address, which I have now blocked.
    Reminder: Please, please, please, DO NOT FEED THE TROLLS. I will leave his comments up for the sake of clarity, since others have responded to them — but please, everyone, for the sweet love of Loki and all the gods in Valhalla, PLEASE DON’T DO THAT. Again: This is all heated enough without troll-feeding in the mix.

  401. SoccerNut says

    I don’t see this as sexist at all. He was just flirting. I think the people complaining about this need to lighten up. I get hit on all the time, I don’t play the gender card or act like a scared victim. I claim to be a slut, so I act like one goddamnit.
    I think pro-sex feminists are talking out of both sides of their mouths and being hypocrites. On the one hand, they say they like sex just as much as men do and want to stop being called hos, but when it’s time for the propositioning, they get uncomfortable and start crying “sexism”. What’s sexism, the double standard or when men assume the double standard is bogus?
    I agree with Richard Dawkins that this is highly trivial and that there are more important things the atheist movement could be talking about (assuming the atheist movement is important in the first place).

  402. says

    And Setar has now been banned from commenting in this blog as well.
    I am serious, people. Use of inflammatory language and personal insults will result in you being banned from this blog. Regardless of whether I agree with you or not. I am trying to create an atmosphere of lively but civil debate here. Please respect these guidelines. Thank you.

  403. says

    @Beaker
    “Tried google? Try it, it isn’t too hard to find newspaper articles on elevator rape.”
    Of course, it’s not hard to find articles on elevator rape or any other freakish occurence.
    Indeed there was an article on how a woman died from having sex with a dog. She actually had a peanut allergy but “woman died from peanut allergy” doesn’t sell papers.
    The thing is, that’s not a reliable reference, and it gives you no idea how much risk you are at from cano-erotic morbidity or from an attack in an elevator, for example. Crime statistical data is a much better measure. A rational person should be using that and not the popularity of sensationalist tabloid headings as a guide.
    I’ve noticed no-one seems to be bothered looking for this or actually asking a criminologist, so I’ve written to the local department and hopefully I can at least get the matter resolved to my own satisfaction.
    I expect that I’ll never convince some people, even if it did turn out to in fact be the safest possible place for any woman to be, but such is life.

  404. SallyStrange says

    I don’t see this as sexist at all. He was just flirting. I think the people complaining about this need to lighten up. I get hit on all the time, I don’t play the gender card or act like a scared victim. I claim to be a slut, so I act like one goddamnit.

    Well, now that you’ve spoken, the vagina hive-mind must needs fall in line! Whatever SoccerNut is comfortable with, ALL women are comfortable with. It is henceforth decreed, and anyone dissents shall be labeled a “scared victim” who is “playing the gender card.”

    I think pro-sex feminists are talking out of both sides of their mouths and being hypocrites. On the one hand, they say they like sex just as much as men do and want to stop being called hos, but when it’s time for the propositioning, they get uncomfortable and start crying “sexism”. What’s sexism, the double standard or when men assume the double standard is bogus?

    Really, you think that politely requesting an increased level of situational awareness from would-be propositioners means that you’re not really pro-sex? Funny idea of sex you have there.
    Anyway, the truly sexist part happened when RW said, “Word of friendly advice, don’t do this,” and certain people reacted more or less by telling her that she was a hysterical reverse sexist idiot woman who should just shut up. This, after she was specifically asked to speak about what sorts of things keep women away from atheist conferences.

  405. says

    @ SallyStrange “Well, now that you’ve spoken, the vagina hive-mind must needs fall in line! Whatever SoccerNut is comfortable with, ALL women are comfortable with. It is henceforth decreed, and anyone dissents shall be labeled a “scared victim” who is “playing the gender card.” ”
    But .. they didn’t say that all women had to be comfortable with it, SN said they need to “lighten up”. Not bad advice there, SallyStrange. Because you sound like you are frothing at the mouth.

  406. says

    Greta,
    I agree with your point that this should be discussed openly.
    I take issue with two things you have said though. The first is that you paint it as a men v. women argument and has been pointed out, it started with 2 women disagreeing about something, and each seeming to take the position that she was speaking for all women.
    Second is a factual issue that seems to be ignored (and I find just as many women refusing to listen to men in this “debate” as you find men refusing to listen to women).
    You state:
    When we explain ten times, a hundred times, a thousand times, that elevators are well-documented as a common place for women to get raped. . . .
    Is it? REALLY? Honestly I would like to know because I have been searching everywhere and as far as I can tell it almost never happens; maybe 10 attempts, mostly unsuccessful, in the past 40 years world-wide.
    I am an atheist, but I like to think I got there by being a skeptic and a rationalist. I like to base my discussions on facts and not assertions. If you have examples I’d love to see them.
    Rape is a serious problem, but I think mis-educating people about the actual risks is part of the problem.

  407. Allison says

    Greta, I want to thank you for your analysis of this. I wholeheartedly agree with the “This. Is. Getting. Better.” part of things, as I’ve seen the progress over the years. Of course no one who raises these issues does so perfectly – I’m not sure there is a perfect way – but those who start the ball rolling do make a difference overall.
    I’d like to register my agreement that the fact these discussions are happening now is a sign of strength and not weakness.

  408. says

    “The word ‘privelige’ reeks of whiny mealy-mouthed postmodern self-righteous pompous bullshit.”
    ^This.
    I agree that RW has a right to be creeped out. Her initial comments were reasonable, but still only an opinion not shared by all. No harm, all was well…then this Women’s Studies rhetoric started. I haven’t followed SGU in a while, but last time around she and a sister in arms leveled a charge that the sexism in the skeptical community was “insidious”. (This from someone–SkepCHICK–who regularly capitalizes on her gender.)
    Why are so many intelligent, reasonable people buying into the academic pathology of Women’s Studies “thought” so uncritically? This postmodern, soft science theoretic bullshit belongs on Oprah or HuffPo, not skeptic blogs.
    I am a feminist who believes in equality for all humans, but I can’t give credence to any academic discipline which invents its own language and way of thinking that, in the wrong hands, allows for one particular group to never be wrong and to always be able to leverage into the position of victim. The dogma is stark and preposterous to those of us who who have mellowed with and and who haven’t been immersed in the college atmosphere for a while.

  409. Matt says

    “We are trying to help you get laid.”
    Here’s what I am confused about, if this situation was reversed and a man wrote this article about he condescendingly writes about using a tag line like the above would he be a sexist? Because I’m a bit offended at all of the “dumbing it down” so men can understand.
    Moreover, in response to the elevator incident, again if the situation was reversed who would be making a fuss? For example, if a male rockstar (I use a rockstar because Rebecca is relatively famous in the circles in which she moves and to show that her celebrity status could change the equation somewhat) who had just spent a considerable amount of time drinking with people at an after party and was propositioned (or not depending on one’s view) at 4am by some creepy groupie and then complained about it in a video blog later, who would care? No one. If he felt uncomfortable and creeped out by the situation, what then? No one would care.

  410. ivr says

    For the millionth time, his intentions do not matter. They are completely irrelevant for a few different reasons. First, if his intentions were nefarious, then it would only have become obvious after the damage had been done. Second, because this discussion isn’t about Elevator guy, it’s about what seems to be the attitude of – “why are you bitches having a hissy fit and blowing this up”, when her initial statement was only “don’t be creepy, dudes.” It’s the hysterical reaction to this simple non-controversial statement that has blown this motherfucker up.
    As far as your issue with her charge of sexism and being objectified – I cannot say because I wasn’t there, and neither were you, so you can’t say either way. The real sexism came afterwards in the reaction. I have not seen anywhere where she has charged that elevator guy was being sexist – please provide the text where she said that, or point to which post she wrote that specifically.

  411. Robert B says

    @ Brett Caton:
    I’ve said this before, but this is a long, hard-to-follow thread, so I think it bears repeating.
    An statement in a public forum is de facto an statement to that public – that is, to everyone present and listening.
    A claim that a grievance is trivial or exaggerated, or that the solution is for the person(s) complaining to stop being angry about it, implies that the substance of their complaint is not worth discussing or refuting. Do this in public, and you are saying – to everyone – that it’s a bad idea to listen to this person.
    Privileged groups, such as men, have a long history of benefiting from their control over mainstream discourse. Therefore, for someone from such a privileged group to tell everyone not to listen to complaints from a less privileged person is deeply, deeply problematic, even suspicious.
    In other words, you and SoccerNut are telling Sally “shut up, that’s why.” The thing in the elevator was just awkward and unfortunate; this is the sexist part. Sexism is a failing of society as a whole that challenges everyone, men and women, but you are handling the challenge particularly badly here.
    Oh, and that “frothing at the mouth” line? That made me angry and uncomfortable as a neuroatypical person; I can only imagine that it was at least as scary and offensive to its intended target. Comparing a feminist’s anger to mental illness is especially offensive; if you don’t know why that is I suggest you go study the history of it. Your Google keyword is “hysteria.”

  412. Robert B says

    @ repete:
    Okay. If you don’t like the privilege concept, what alternate model of social inequity do you propose?

  413. SallyStrange says

    But .. they didn’t say that all women had to be comfortable with it, SN said they need to “lighten up”.

    This is, I believe, what we commonly refer to as “a distinction without a difference.” As is the distinction between “There are more important things; you should talk about those instead,” and “SHUT UP.”

    Not bad advice there, SallyStrange. Because you sound like you are frothing at the mouth.

    I’ll let this little bit of misogynist ablist nonsense just sit there so everyone can see it. SoccerNut, you’re doing an admirable impression of a misogynist aping feminist positions in an effort to try to discredit feminism. If you ARE a feminist, this should bother you somewhat.

  414. ivr says

    The first is that you paint it as a men v. women argument and has been pointed out, it started with 2 women disagreeing about something, and each seeming to take the position that she was speaking for all women.

    Wrong. This started before that, when men, including Dawkins, had a conniption fit about her saying “dudes, don’t be creepy”. His words were “Zero bad”. At the very least there is a little bad going on here.

    Is it? REALLY? Honestly I would like to know because I have been searching everywhere and as far as I can tell it almost never happens; maybe 10 attempts, mostly unsuccessful, in the past 40 years world-wide.

    Honestly, does it even matter whether elevators are a common place for rape? To a woman in an enclosed space where she can be overpowered, and the elevator halted? There’s at least that possibility of rape, and that’s enough. Why does there have to be a high probability event of rape in elevators for her fears to be justified? Someone can be raped in a place where it has never happened before, or rarely occurs.

  415. James Emery says

    @RobertB
    I know you asked this question of Repete, but I have a proposal:
    Privilege should probably be confined mainly to full academic discourses/papers/lectures on the problems of sexism and misogyny as a whole, and should probably be completely fleshed out as to how privilege occurs and in what different instances (male, female, white, rich, rap artist, et cetera) it arises as a problem. I believe that, in instances of discussion/argument, it comes across as a blanket statement and is conducive, not to getting one’s point across, but to causing one’s intellectual opponent to shut down and assume personal insult.
    In the case of discussions, like this, it would seem to be more useful to replace it with a specific description of where the privileged point of view is coming from. For instance, one might point out well, in Dawkin’s situation, that he might consider how he’d feel, not as a male, but as a female in Rebecca’s situation. I know, it’s really saying the same thing, but if you throw in the word ‘privilege’, it’s going to cause the shut-down reaction, or leave the person confused and bewildered if they don’t understand it. In discussion, it can really only come across as an accusatory statement, and as a label. While it might be shorter to inform someone that his/her/its privilege is showing in the short run, the explanation that follows, after the person is already on the defensive, is going to end up much, much longer than it needed to be in the first place. One might think of it in the same realm as ‘technical jargon’. For that matter, while it could very well apply to the individual in question, it’s a general enough statement to be construed fairly easily as a strawman argument in the context of an actual discussion.
    That being said, this is only my opinion, and is aimed more at creating constructive discussion/debate than at slighting anyone for using the term.

  416. says

    @ivr
    “Honestly, does it even matter whether elevators are a common place for rape?”
    It does if men are being told they have to behave differently there to other places. If busy hotel elevators are actually relatively safe, then why is it so terrible to proposition someone there? Surely it’s better to know whether it is rather than just asserting it as if it was proven beyond doubt one way or another? Isn’t dogma what the other team does?
    “Someone can be raped in a place where it has never happened before, or rarely occurs.”
    So what? The same applies to any crime. We act according to rational risk analysis if we are rational people, or we can go back to fearing black cats and demons and the number 13.
    Ok, 13 demonically possessed black cats would be pretty scary, although the black cat here has inured me somewhat to the worst of it, as the scratches on my neck will testify to.

  417. Matt says

    @lvr
    You are right, to this argument it shouldn’t matter if elevators are a common place for sexual assault [I replace the word rape because it is anachronistic and inaccurate] However, I think the general point there is that the lower the probability is the more irrational the fear becomes.

  418. SallyStrange says

    Brett Caton,
    It doesn’t matter whether elevators are statistically prone to be low or high crime places. I expect it rather depends on the elevator.
    The real question here is why, upon hearing that many women feel uncomfortable about being hit on in an elevator, the “manosphere” exploded into a fury of indignation.

  419. says

    @SallyStrange
    “I’ll let this little bit of misogynist ablist nonsense just sit there so everyone can see it.”
    You’ll let this sit her? You have a choice? You are mod, able to delete this post maybe?? Or just suffering delusions of omnipotence?
    By the way, I don’t know or care what’s between your legs. Saying you are barking mad isn’t misogynist. It’s not an attack on women, just you. And claiming things outside your power happen only by your permission merely makes my point.

  420. ivr says

    But .. they didn’t say that all women had to be comfortable with it, SN said they need to “lighten up”. Not bad advice there, SallyStrange. Because you sound like you are frothing at the mouth.

    Look, man. Would you tell someone who has been raped or sexually assaulted to ‘lighten up’ about this subject? To Just fucking get over it already? I’m not specifically referring to SallyStrange, b/c I have no idea what she’s been through, and that’s the point. But there are some women, many women, who have had to deal with this same kind of bullshit for too long and are fed up, my wife for one.
    Sorry Sally – I know you don’t need me to stick up for you. Please keep your edge (or frothing mad tone), it’s completely appropriate.

  421. SallyStrange says

    No worries, ivr. Was it you who pointed out the link between denigration of women and mental illness? Proposing that SoccerNut google “hysteria”? Whether it was you or not, it was well-said.
    SoccerNut, I don’t know who you are. All I have to go on is your words. Telling a woman to “lighten up” or else she’s a “scared victim” who is”playing the gender card” and “frothing at the mouth” is what misogynists do.

  422. Allison says

    @James Emery:
    “I would note, as someone who has been to more than one sort of convention, I’ve never been to one where the imbalance between nerdy men and attractive women didn’t lead to a great deal of slobbering males (yes, I was one too, when I was younger) following around the females like lovesick puppies, and there was certainly lots of partying and f*ckery. Could this possibly be a problem that’s also inherent to the gender imbalance? Would a greater number of attending women, in fact, somewhat negate this issue?”
    Yes, I think a greater percentage of attending women would somewhat negate the issue. I work in a male-dominated profession and one of the things that’s been noticed is that there does seem to be a critical mass percentage (it’s late here, I forget the percentage right now) where women start feeling more comfortable in the environment and then become more likely to stick around after their first visit. The trick is to get that critical mass in the first place, and one of the ways to do that is to be friendly to women, not treating them as if they’re around primarily for the sex.

  423. ivr says

    Brett,

    It does if men are being told they have to behave differently there to other places.

    It’s common sense, not dogma. There’s no freaking guidebook here that I’m following that you don’t have. I’ve NEVER had a problem not crossing that boundary and don’t have to actually hear a woman say “Don’t hit on me in an elevator” to not hit on them in elevators. Why do you have to be so specifically told of every single place that is appropriate and non-appropriate? If you are not sure, then don’t do it.

    So what? The same applies to any crime. We act according to rational risk analysis if we are rational people

    Except it’s not so cut and dry and always rational like you want to make it. My point was that just because elevators are not a proven rape area – doesn’t invalidate someone’s fears. This is a small space at 4am with a woman alone with a stranger in a forei