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The Problem with Privilege (or: Evidential Skepticism)

It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these posts, so to catch you all up, here are my prior entries in the series.

From blacklava.net. Buy one today! (If you're privileged.)

The Problem with Privilege (or: you got sexism in my skepticism!)
The Problem with Privilege (or: no, you’re not a racist misogynist ass, calm down)
The Problem with Privilege (or: missing the point, sometimes spectacularly)
The Problem with Privilege (or: after this, can we get back to the actual issues?)
The Problem with Privilege: Manifesto for Change
The Problem with Privilege (or: cheap shots, epithets and baseless accusations for everyone!)
The Problem with Privilege: some correct assertions, with caveats

It appears that many of the bloggers now on FtB, once from various corners of the intertubes, are embroiled once again in the total catastrophic meltdown of reason that is discussing the nexus of sexism and skepticism.

The focus this time? The same as every other time — how Rebecca Watson can’t be trusted at her word, and how one must be skeptical — SKEPTICAL, I SAY — of anything she says because she’s making the obviously extraordinary claim that someone asserted his privilege to flirt over her request to not be treated that way. I mean, who’s going to believe THAT tall tale, right?

Stephanie Zvan challenges the Elevator Guy Apologists to try assuming Watson isn’t lying, and see what you think about EG’s actions thereafter. A number of folks dance around the challenge but ultimately refuse to participate. Some idiots took the opportunity over at Xblog to turn a post promoting Dawkins’ new book Magic of Reality into another thread about how poorly we’ve been treating Dawkins over his dismissive and sneering post regarding Rebecca Watson. And Ophelia Benson posted an evisceration of the meme that a man “cannot know” that a woman is interested until he cold-propositions her as a perfect stranger in an elevator at 4am.

What do these threads have in common in what’s driving their commentariat? Well, aside from having two trolls (Justicar and DavidByron, both making flat unevidenced assertions and ignoring all counterpoints to their chosen points of view) in common, the posts’ comments also run the gamut of questioning every aspect of Rebecca Watson’s story and present every conceivable method of character assassination of Rebecca Watson herself.

But isn’t that how skepticism works?

Well, in short, no. There’s a subset of skeptics that are skeptical well past reasonable levels. There are people who will pore over every detail of a paper or news article hoping to find (or spin) some part of it into something supporting their overarching worldview that the paper doesn’t actually do by itself — think global warming denialists. There are people who will not take at face value the most trivial parts of a person’s story, where every scrap of evidence must be subjected to CSI-level scrutiny — think the right-wingers checking the kerning on the fonts on Obama’s birth certificate. And there are people who must actively sow disinformation about any case or example that undercuts their chosen narrative of How It All Works, who are so skeptical of every piece of media that runs counter to their worldview that it MUST be “liberal bias” — think FOX News.

These people are unhinged lunatics, for the most part. And the manner in which they are unhinged is that skepticism normally works by keeping us from believing every little thing that’s suggested to us uncritically. I posit that the abovementioned groups are victims of a runaway skepticism of the sort that produces AGW denialists, Birthers, the Tea Party, 9/11 Truthers, New World Order conspiracy nutjobs, and just about anyone else who says something about “the establishment keeping the truth suppressed”.

To some of the cranks looking to provide apologetics for Elevator Guy’s behaviour, the problem is not EG’s behaviour at all. Nor his intentions, nor his motivations. No, the problem is entirely in how Rebecca Watson reacted to them. By… saying she was creeped out. Which I guess was totally out of proportion to what he did, according to them, given the chorus of “zero bads” you’ll hear whenever the topic is broached.

You can explain til you’re blue in the face that Watson’s reaction was entirely proportional, and that the death spiral began when Stef McGraw accused her of demanding that men never flirt or express their sexuality. Which was, demonstrably, not Rebecca’s intention at all. This fact doesn’t matter to the apologists. They’d prefer it if Watson actually said the things McGraw accuses her of saying, so they pretend like she did. That is their first presupposition.

The apologists must then gain the moral high ground of being the better skeptic, so they call into question every aspect of Watson’s story. The bar closing times are questioned, despite hotel bars in Dublin being able to serve alcohol 24/7. The photographic proof is offered that the bar setting can’t possibly have involved EG hearing her exhortation given the number of people in the picture and their relative positions to her. Never mind that Watson was in that bar for, by all accounts, ten hours, and the picture represents a few microseconds of that time, and worse, she’s even talking to someone off-frame. The existence of exhortations to please not mistreat Watson in her speech by paying her sexualized “complements” is questioned, even though the video evidence is well available. The possibility that EG didn’t hear either exhortation is raised, though he’s said “your ideas are fascinating” making him either present for one of the exhortations, or lying about what he thinks of her for even creepier reasons. The fact that Rebecca claims prosopagnosia and therefore couldn’t identify Elevator Guy if she wanted to, given that it takes her longer to pick up on unique identifying features or body language for any given person, obviously must suggest that she couldn’t even recognize the guy as someone from the bar despite it being fairly easy to tell that someone exited a room at the same or nearly the same time as you and got into the same elevator with you, alone, at 4 in the morning. The guy’s intentions are called into question, because all of these apologists would never dare ask for coffee as an euphemism for sex, and therefore he must be of noblest intentions, never mind that the hotel in Dublin didn’t provide coffee makers in the rooms and they could have had coffee in the bar they just left.

And even the existence of Elevator Guy is questioned. This last doesn’t have an adequate answer — it depends entirely on Rebecca Watson making the entire event up.

This is a level of skepticism that is predicated on one solitary idea: that women are untrustworthy when it comes to their sexual self-determination, so feminists will lie to make points that undercut a man’s privilege to flirt when and where and how he wants without consequences.

None of these pieces of evidence actually undercut Rebecca’s story, but they don’t have to. The apologists have already decided that Rebecca is guilty of inventing the story of some evil man accosting her from whole cloth out of some twisted demand that men be treated as rapists, even though no aspect of this story bears any sort of scrutiny. It is a conspiracy theory and it is somehow exempt from the especial brand of skepticism that these people claim.

So, I ask you, apologists: what evidence would it take to convince you that Elevator Guy did what Watson claims he did? What evidence would it take to convince you that Watson does not intend the subjugation of all men to a gynocracy? What evidence would it take to convince you that you’re actually the ones making it all up?

I expect the answer to that to be something along the lines of “an unbroken line of video evidence from the talk proper through to Watson’s hotel room”, but even then, I expect you’d all go over it frame by frame to prove there’s no wrongdoing.

Take Stephanie’s challenge if you want a little perspective. If you assume that Watson’s story checks out, would you continue providing apologetics for EG’s actions? I’ll go one step further — take every aspect of the story out of the equation but the encounter in the elevator. Is it acceptable to find a physically smaller and less imposing member of the opposite sex and approach them in an effort to make a transaction that’s generally considered well beyond your level of familiarity (even if you only mean coffee)? With the foreknowledge that it might be “taken the wrong way”? In an environment that has cut off any escape route for that smaller person and may in fact trigger fight-or-flight reactions? When that person has obviously had some not insignificant amount of alcohol? When that person doesn’t know you from Adam?

If you said yes to all of these, then your actions are creepy. To Rebecca, to any number of women that have been assaulted or have been taught to avoid situations like the described one, and yes, even to me. I would be very creeped out if someone more physically imposing than me had, say, decided to ask me for a loan of a few hundred dollars that he’ll pay back tomorrow in an elevator after I’d been drinking in a foreign country and I had no clue who the hell they were. I might get worried that he’d try to forceably take that money from me.

Or hell, change the analogy back to coffee in his room. I’m still creeped out, knowing that this man could very well mean sex. He could be the nicest, sweetest teddy bear of a man outside of my initial impressions of him, which are that he followed me into an elevator and propositioned me cold, without knowing me. I’m going to be creeped out regardless, because I don’t know the guy and he asked for a transaction well beyond our familiarity threshold.

Why do we need extraordinary evidence before we take Rebecca Watson at her word that this happened exactly as it did, considering how proportionate her response to the event was, and how disproportionately everyone else has taken everything else since? Why aren’t we demanding extraordinary evidence from the conspiracy theorists, that we take her as a rational and impartial actor in that play until extraordinary evidence turns up that proves that she was lying willfully about some aspect of her story, or that her motivations were not exactly as presented?

Comments

  1. quantheory says

    One of the weirdest things to me about this whole incident is that I’ve actually been propositioned creepily before, as a (openly bisexual) man, by men who’d cornered me at conventions. I don’t know what signal those guys picked up on to zero in on me; I don’t think I’m that attractive, but it could be a dozen things, or nothing in particular.

    So when I heard Rebecca Watson’s account, it was not only immediately plausible to me, but I had some empathy with her. Not because of her gender, but because I’ve felt that flash of anxiety before.

    It’s too fast to really translate into words, but at its worst, it goes like this: “Who is this guy? Why is he talking to me in particular? Does he know who I am? Is he a potential stalker? Drunk? Has a sense of entitlement? Just weird and impulsive? Will he take no for an answer, the first, second, fifth time? Will he follow me? Will he get grabby? Will he be angry or vindictive?”

    And you know that it’s probably just some guy who hasn’t been thinking too hard about it, who maybe is kind of stupid about this sort of thing, who just is horny and thought it was worth a shot, although it’s still weird that he’s propositioning you and not someone he actually knows.

    But you also know that some people (even internet-famous people or con celebrities), have been stalked, or have had incidents like this that escalated. And so it sets you on edge, because even if only 1 in 20 such people refuses to let it go, it’s worth keeping your guard up, just because this idiot is too pleased with the idea of getting you into his hotel room to think about how he might sound to someone who has actually had to worry about creepy strangers.

  2. Glenn Davey says

    I’ve had the same experience as a small, boyish 20-something straight man among larger gay men.

    Not stereo-typing, but gay men can be a lot like straight men- entitled and sexually aggressive.

    For someone like me for whom gay sex is ALWAYS off the cards, I’ve more than once felt intimidated by the approaches made towards me in such circumstances as social gatherings and other more secluded environments like hotel elevators.

    I have no trouble accepting how Rebecca Watson feels, and I’ve gained a lot of insight over the years to how women must feel.

    If anything, that insight has helped me become MORE successful in social situations. We can all instinctively tell when someone is respecting our personal boundaries — respecting us as autonomous individuals.

    A person who gives us that respect is more accessible and more charismatic, and more likely to make and keep friends and potential partners.

  3. Randy says

    The answer is that this is a political discussion, not a scientific one. It involves issues of standards of behaviour, and legality, and neither of those as practised in the real world, has any relation to rationality.

    I don’t think either side in this discussion is doing itself any favours by dragging it out.

  4. cristopherallen says

    @quantheory

    I agree. It does not seem to me to be too difficult to see this as extremely creepy behavior on the part of EG. Apologetics are superfluous as usual.

    However: @PP4, ln2: I’d replace “Stupid” with “Ignorant” myself. Just sayin’

  5. quantheory says

    @Randy: “It involves issues of standards of behaviour, and legality, and neither of those as practised in the real world, has any relation to rationality.”

    This statement is false. It has some understandable cynicism to it, but is nonetheless false. Though I have to say, if it was true, cognitive science would be quite hopeless (not to mention psychology, sociology, economics, and so forth). Luckily, people actually do things (and feel things) for specific reasons (whether ultimately good or bad ones), and those reasons can be discussed and evaluated.

    @cristopherallen I didn’t really mean “stupid” or “ignorant”, so much as “socially incompetent”. Certainly you can learn a list of guidelines that help you to not be creepy. But I think that “not being creepy” in general (while still having satisfying interactions with others) is more of a skill than anything. But you’re right; the phrase “stupid about this sort of thing” wasn’t very clear.

    Addendum: It has occurred to me from time to time that some straight men are homophobic because they are afraid that someone might treat them in the same way as they themselves (or their friends) treat women. There must be some cognitive dissonance involved in feeling that certain of one’s actions are just inherently what men always do (“boys will be boys”), and yet fearing being the target of those actions from others.

    It represents a loss of one’s previously unquestioned, privileged status as the “active”, more powerful player in sexual negotiations. As long as such men retain that privilege, they never really have to grapple with the problems associated with it. (Maybe not even for sisters, wives, daughters, or mothers; “honorable”, “chivalrous” men used to extend their protection (ownership) over female family members without necessarily caring about their desires, reducing all sexual interactions, in effect, to deals and contests between men, at least in the public sphere.)

    Added Addendum: One possible analogy to the random-propositioning-people thing would be if a middle-class person went around sincerely asking random strangers for two hundred dollars. It’s not violent in itself, but at the same time it would be an imposition, and his targets would be put off, if not freaked out, by his eccentricity, sense of entitlement, and aggressive air of desire. Because those whom he propositions are targets. They aren’t people whose feelings he knows enough to consider, just people he wants something from, something he’s boldly pursuing with no apparent discretion.

    The only difference is that the guy who asks for sex thinks he is asking for something that the other person would also enjoy. But most random strangers probably actively want to not have sex with him, so from their perspective it’s certainly not any better than being asked for money (and because health is more visceral to most people than wealth, the sex scenario may be far worse).

    Added Added Addendum: I was almost completely silent through most of Elevatorgate, since I didn’t think I had much to contribute, but I just sort of had to weigh in all of a sudden. Probably time to go sleep now.

  6. says

    I don’t think either side in this discussion is doing itself any favours by dragging it out.

    It appears to me to rather be a matter of some MRAs and obsessed internet losers keeping the topic in circulation, and those who don’t regard “Guys don’t do that” as a command to cut one’s penis off are at this point just responding to the unbelievable nonsense that is still being uttered from the Watson-haters. For an example see the rubbish written by that Onen guy that Jason links to above.

  7. Philip Legge says

    Dear Jason,

    first off, as I haven’t posted here on your blog before, at the very least I’d like to thank you for the recent technical help you’ve freely given to some other FTBloggers in migrating their archives, for example Greta’s. That’s totally awesome of you.

    I’d read a couple of these blog posts without realising they were a series of eight or so longish posts, and thus have taken time to look at what you were posting back in July. Permit me to add a few little out-of-date glosses before getting to the current topic:

    On respectful replies to Richard Dawkins. It’s often asserted that “both sides have been as bad as one another”, i.e. epithets, ad hominems, bad faith argumentation, whatever. There might be some unclearly defined alliances, but they are not really “sides”, and hyperbole that the “pro-Watson” side is uniformly “anti-Dawkins” is just that: hyperbole. (To blow my own trumpet: I was one of a number of posters on Pharyngula to offer a respectful reply to Dawkins, and at his request, refrained from using the word “fuck” in doing so.) Like you, I’m slightly disappointed that after asking in his third posting on the subject for a polite explanation of why his first two posts had been argued with, that he has given no acknowledgement that he has read or engaged with the proffered explanations.

    On exerting pressure on listeners in elevators. I must say I was unaware that there actually was a high-powered business practice that consisted of giving a fifteen- to thirty-second sales pitch to a businessperson while they are temporarily incarcerated with the spruiker in the same elevator cage for the duration of the journey. That puts a rather unexpected spin on both the inappropriateness and ineptness of Elevator Guy’s uhh, “sales pitch”, which I’m still trying to think through the ramifications of. I think it adds another item to the list of things that the Elevator Guy Defence League have to make excuses for, that he has to be ignorant of such coercive techniques for the situation to be “zero bad”.

    As for the current post: the hyper-sceptical approach to analyse every tiniest detail of the Rebeccapocalypse has been there pretty much from the start – early on I recall one poster on Greg Laden’s blog not-so-subtly insinuating as a supposedly “sceptical” approach that scepticism demanded considering the possibility that Rebecca’s story was a complete fabrication and Rebecca a pernicious liar. They’ve raked over her personal past at obsessive length – her university degree, her on-line presence (including prankish, bannable behaviour on the JREF forum that one kooky hyper-sceptic regards as verging on criminal), photos in calendars or on the internet, you name it. I think I heard another Pharyngula poster sum this approach up nicely: It’s not that they don’t understand, they just don’t like the answer. It would be too hard for some people to actually give Rebecca any credit as to the truth of the initial Elevator Guy anecdote, or her subsequent additional statements on it.

    Along with the hyper-scepticism, there’s also wilful goalpost shifting as to exactly which particular infraction of the litany of so-called “crimes” that Rebecca has committed is being cited as the reason why she should be hurled into the darkest corner of sceptical obscurity: today it’s the “vicious attack” on Stef McGraw, yesterday it was her un-scientific communications degree, the day before that the crassness of the Skepchick calender or her marriage at TAM, blah blah blah. In short it’s nothing short of incredible the unjustifiable lengths some people are going to, to be total arseholes about this.

  8. laurentweppe says

    The apologists must then gain the moral high ground of being the better skeptic, so they call into question every aspect of Watson’s story

    Wow: last time I checked, the worst I could see about this meltdown was people shooting “How DARE Watson question the Incorruptible Pure Pureness of Richard Dawkins, beloved Godfather of us Skeptic-Übermenschen”, which was already pretty bad, but this is falling down to holocaust deniers’ level of trickery.

  9. Dread says

    Now i’m also commenting but already hating it. When i first read about EG i thought something like: well its her opinion. But after reading all the other blog entries i started informing myself about male privileg. I just found amercian entries to this topic (not only in wikipedia) so i thougth maybe it’s something american. Then i started thinking why her statement made me angry. Well, this is why: First, it sounds little bit like a blasphemy law. Don’t say … because it offends me. Second, it’s to black and white. Third, i felt accused for beeing a possible rapist because i’m a man. There are a lot more to say to this points but it already feels better to have them out of my head. Hope my english is readable. I’ve also didn’t read every comment in every blog so maybe all my points are allready answerd.

  10. etcetera says

    In this case, none of the evidence actually matters because the issue is one of philosophy; how should men and women interact? You can argue all you want about the facts*, but it boils down to a disagreement over whether or not women should legitimately feel threatened when asked for sex and therefore, the rest is moot.

    Watson was caught in a horrible trap wherein she was attempting to actually help men understand how (man)women tick. Men (and some women) took it as an attempt to restrict their behavior, jammed their fingers in their ears and went after her personally and then the facts, as though any of that made any sort of difference.

    The entire thing feels like watching my nephew running around with a piece of bread, getting angry at the ducks that are running away from him. The ducks are terrified and he refuses to accept that his actions are causing it. He can’t draw the line between his intentions, his actions and their consequences. He only sees his intentions and the opposite of what he wants happening.

  11. ChasCPeterson says

    Thanks, Jason Thibeault, for this eminently reasonable and straightforward OP. I agree with everything in it.

    Dread, you are confused.

    First, it sounds little bit like a blasphemy law. Don’t say … because it offends me.

    A law? Ms. Watson has no authority whatsoever. It was a request. A simple, polite enough, nonconfrontational, perfectly reasonable and understandable request.
    And the reason the request was made was not because she was offended, but rather because she was obliviously (best case) and, yes, in context, creepily imposed upon.

    Second, it’s to black and white.

    You think she wants to prohibit all flirting, on-hitting, and male-initiated conversation.
    That’s stupid. She didn’t and doesn’t. It was all about the specific setting and context. 100%.

    Third, i felt accused for beeing a possible rapist because i’m a man.

    aww. Poor unjustly accused and misunderstood Dread.
    This is the attitude I do not understand at all.
    A woman who does not know you is perfectly justified in entertaining the possibility* that you are a rapist, and yes, just because you are a man. How in the world is she supposed to know differently?
    Want to know why it’s justified?
    Because some men rape.
    I know, not you. Actually I don’t know. Kind of the point.

    *possible. Even if the probability is very low.

  12. darlene says

    I was shocked at the level of vitriol directed at Rebecca, for what they think she meant–not even for what she said.

    I used to work in a major motorcycle dealership. I experienced less overtly sexist and misogynistic behavior there than I did on the atheist and skeptic websites. If I had been creeped out by a guy my co-workers would have absolutely defended me. Most of my customers would have defended me.

    I used to be bartender, and again, my male customers were mostly very respectful, and quick to defend me if someone else wasn’t.

    That my fellow atheists and skeptics–men and woman who are supposed to critically thinking–can’t be trusted to have my back is, well, sad. They can apply wild skepticism to Rebecca’s every word and action, but not to their own preconceived notions and privileges. That isn’t, actually skepticism.

    And they level of sheer nastiness, the ugly words and threats…it’s a sad commentary on privilege, and how resistant people are to even examine their’s, let alone admit to or let go of some…

  13. says

    He can’t draw the line between his intentions, his actions and their consequences. He only sees his intentions and the opposite of what he wants happening.

    Absent or incomplete theory of mind. He’s under the age of 4, yes?

    Unlike the hoggles and justicars.

  14. Pteryxx says

    On exerting pressure on listeners in elevators. I must say I was unaware that there actually was a high-powered business practice that consisted of giving a fifteen- to thirty-second sales pitch to a businessperson while they are temporarily incarcerated with the spruiker in the same elevator cage for the duration of the journey. That puts a rather unexpected spin on both the inappropriateness and ineptness of Elevator Guy’s uhh, “sales pitch”, which I’m still trying to think through the ramifications of.

    For what it’s worth, I was taught the importance of having a fifteen- to thirty-second persuasive summary of one’s project and being able to trot it out at a moment’s notice, with one very important difference: doing it on request. So when someone asks “Give me your elevator pitch now.” you can quickly state why your novel is worth buying, your project idea has merit, or your grant should be funded. Whether it’s socially acceptable, or even meritorious, to impose your elevator pitch upon someone without being asked, seems to vary a lot with the culture of the field: being pushy about it tends to be lauded in business, meh in science, and poor form in writing or art. …In fact, it seems to parallel the sexism and/or value placed on pushiness within a given field. Hmm.

    etcetera:
    The entire thing feels like watching my nephew running around with a piece of bread, getting angry at the ducks that are running away from him. The ducks are terrified and he refuses to accept that his actions are causing it. He can’t draw the line between his intentions, his actions and their consequences. He only sees his intentions and the opposite of what he wants happening.

    I ♥ this analogy.

  15. Pen says

    Third, i felt accused for beeing a possible rapist because i’m a man.

    I see somebody already responded to this, but I think there are much nicer ways of putting it than they did.

    Women know that most men are not rapists but the cost of entangling with the odd one is extremely high. Unbearable even. The cost of avoiding such encounters is also high. I think men are just being asked to share some of that cost in small ways. Avoiding giving out danger signals and preferably giving out safety signals is all it takes. But yes, flirting in some circumstances gives off a danger signal we must respond to with aversive action.

    Some men handle these situations extremely well, and incur small costs to themselves to improve our comfort levels. I have often been out in London at 3am by myself. More than once, a man has crossed the street to avoid walking along behind me for long periods. I’ve seen him walking along on the other side, and really appreciated him, I can tell you. However many men may be rapists, he signaled that he wasn’t one of them. There’s a cost to me in not being able to get to know him better as well, because that’s the kind of guy I want, but there it is. There is nothing that either men or women can do about it. Sometimes you just have to accept stuff.

  16. Ys says

    I’ve discussed this event and others with my husband, and thanks to the fact that he’s male, tall, and very strong, he doesn’t get how anyone could be intimidated by size and actual entrapment.

    I find that unfortunate. If someone cannot understand or empathize with my fear of entrapment, how can that person acknowledge that I have a right to say that entrapment makes me extremely uncomfortable and nervous?

    I’ve been graced with men trying to – and succeeding at – sexually assaulting me (both as a child and as an adult). I’ve had men stalk me (twice in real life, once online), and a man raped me.

    Most people talk about these in this fashion: “I was raped”; “I was assaulted”; or “I was stalked”. We are conditioned to remove the agency of men and refer to the event as something that only involved ourselves. Why is that?

    I certainly didn’t rape myself. I didn’t sexually assault myself either. Saying “Hey, not all men are rapists!” is true – but so is the fact that the only people who have ever hurt me are men. I agree that people should generally receive the benefit of the doubt. However, I’ve had some pretty good evidence that my wishes are irrelevant when men don’t want to listen to them…so please *explain to me* why I owe men an apology for my fear.

    I didn’t put that fear there. Men – specific men – put that fear there by hurting me. By disregarding what I told them and forcing themselves on me in various ways.

    If someone isn’t going to listen to several polite statements of “I have no interest in this sort of thing” and “I’m tired and heading to bed”, then that person has demonstrated one thing that all of my attackers/stalkers had in common:

    They didn’t listen when I said “no” or when I said “stop”.

    I understand that not all men are rapists…and in return, I ask you to understand that women like me have been hurt *by men*, and we have no clue in advance which ones of you will actually listen to us and accept it when we say “no”.

    I would apologize for my fear, but responsibility for it rests with the men who hurt me. I am not responsible for the fact that they chose to do so, just as I am not responsible for the fact that none of them were willing to accept it when a woman said “no”.

    I try to be as civil and non-judgmental as I can, but if someone shows me that he will disregard what I say when it’s not what he wants to hear…what should I think about him?

  17. dread says

    @Pen: Thanks for the explanation. I think i get it, espacially because I allready got peppersprayed because I didn’t had that in mind when I was walking home “following” a women who had the same way.
    @ChasCPeterson: Okay, law isn’t the right word. Rule? It would have been better if she had said that to the guy in the elevator and not to everyone in her blog. But I understand that it is differnet in the actual situation. I also had situation were I afterwards knew what I should have said. These situation were also most time with men, trying to pick a fight.

    A woman who does not know you is perfectly justified in entertaining the possibility* that you are a rapist, and yes, just because you are a man.

    and I’am perfectly justified in entertaining the possibility that every muslim is a terrorist. I think the problem is that he entered the elevator and it’s regardless what he said. Thats why I thanked Pen for her comment.

  18. Philip Legge says

    I think i get it, espacially because I allready got peppersprayed because I didn’t had that in mind when I was walking home “following” a women who had the same way.

    I’m very sorry that that happened to you, but did you learn anything from the encounter? Also, when you say “following” why are putting quotation marks around the word? Is that to tell us that you were contriving to stay behind the woman (singular; women=plural) for some reason?

    and I’am perfectly justified in entertaining the possibility that every muslim is a terrorist.

    Just as women are criticised for not having psychic powers and thus being unable to distinguish between non-rapist men and rapist men at sight, I’m extremely puzzled how you are able to visually distinguish Muslims from non-Muslims.

    I think the problem is that he entered the elevator and it’s regardless what he said.

    No, because there are numerous non-threatening, non-coercive things he could have said by way of small talk, as opposed to what he did say. Nuance, context, as well as content, you are missing it. (I gather English isn’t your native tongue?)

  19. Dread says

    @Philip First, yes I’m not a native english speaker and I hate it not being able to fully state my thoughts (always a dictionary in another tab). Second, I like your blog! Now back to the issue.
    I put following in quotation marks because I was not following her but thats obviously what she thought. I understood why she sprayed me but to be honest never had the possibility in mind to “cross the street” like Penn said. Thats something I learned today!!

    I’m extremely puzzled how you are able to visually distinguish Muslims from non-Muslims.

    Is it possible to distinguish gay men from hetero men?

    No, because there are numerous non-threatening, non-coercive things he could have said by way of small talk, as opposed to what he did say. Nuance, context, as well as content, you are missing it.

    I feel I’m realy missing something. But I’m willing to learn. I would think that the fear of rape has more to do with being trapped in a small room with a stranger than with what he says. I also think that the fear of rape has a lot to do with media coverage today. Of course, Y’s fear is a fear from experience and I don’t want to talk it down. But, at least in my country, the fear to be a victim of a crime and the numbers of real victims is (excuse my bad english) in the opposite direction.

  20. dread says

    Is it possible to distinguish gay men from hetero men?

    Okay thats stupid, so maybe oriental looking is the better formualtion?

  21. Ys says

    “I also think that the fear of rape has a lot to do with media coverage today.”

    No. The fear of rape comes from knowing the statistics on rape (1 in 6 women have either been raped or suffered an attempted rape in the United States) and from talking amongst ourselves. More than half of the women I know have been harassed, sexually assaulted, or raped.

    http://www.rainn.org/get-information/statistics/sexual-assault-victims

    These stats are backed up by the U.S. Department of Justice.

    1 in 6 is a conservative estimate because victim under-reporting is very high for this crime. Example: I didn’t report my rape because I knew they wouldn’t arrest the guy. Why? Because he was my ex-boyfriend, and I let him crash on my couch for the night. I willingly let him into my apartment and didn’t even lock my bedroom door! What was I thinking?!

    My best friend reported her rape to the police. They dropped her case because they “couldn’t find enough evidence”. My stepsister reported her father for sexually assaulting us. She told adults she trusted – her teacher and the school principal. They didn’t believe us and wouldn’t report it to the police.

    Here’s another good source of material for you to read up on:

    https://yesmeansyesblog.wordpress.com/2009/11/12/meet-the-predators/

    It’s a smallish sample, but the results are appalling.

    I understand that there are many good men out there and that it’s a small subset that actually commits these crimes. Unfortunately, we have no way of figuring out which ones are the rapists until they hurt us. They don’t come with convenient signs or warning beacons.

    The one key step we have in recognizing when someone might be one of those people is when they reject boundaries. Rebecca set two boundaries (“I don’t like being treated that way” and “I’m exhausted and going to bed”). This guy ignored both of them. That’s a classic warning sign of someone who manipulates a situation to his advantage in order to get what he (or she) wants.

    If you truly respect women and want them to feel safe and included in the movement, respect their boundaries. Is that really too much to ask? I’m not asking people to tell me complete life stories or give me written documents stating they won’t hurt me…I’m asking for my boundaries to be respected. How does *not touching me without permission* constitute harm for a man? How does *not cornering me* put an undue burden on a man? How does *not invading my person space so you can stare down my shirt* really inconvenience someone?

    I don’t understand why the concept of “exhibit a slight bit of self-control around women” is such a contentious issue.

  22. says

    Confused by something Dread said. Do you have a blog, Philip?

    Dread, the issue isn’t JUST the fact that the guy entered the elevator with her. If he’d not interacted with her, I’m sure Watson would have thought nothing of it. WHAT he chose to say and the way he chose to say it (content), WHEN he chose to say it and WHERE (context), all matter.

    I also suspect you’re suggesting that there is a visual difference between Arabs and Caucasians, but you substituted “Muslim” for it. Muslims don’t necessarily have to look like brown people in turbans, you realize.

    And as for assuming all of them are terrorists, there are just as many non-Muslim terrorists in recent history to suggest that what you mean is that you’re justified in thinking that anyone who is overzealous about some particular dogma is a potential terrorist. Meaning animal rights activists, Christians, men’s rights activists, anti-abortionists, et cetera. The problem with that is, you can’t visually distinguish that someone is an adherent to a dogma unless they do something to self-identify, like wearing some distinctive symbol. And even then, your fear responses shouldn’t automatically trigger or you get incidents like where clerics are arrested for praying in an airport.

  23. says

    Sorry, I actually meant to continue that comment.

    And in the States, carrying guns or knives is legal in some circumstances, so even if they were, that doesn’t mean they’re planning on using them.

    So, you can get situations where people’s fear responses are triggering unnecessarily. You’re within your rights to be afraid of every person you meet being a terrorist, but unless you see them with a bomb or knife or gun, there’s something slightly irrational about it. Likewise with women who have already been assaulted, or have already been trained by seeing others assaulted, or have been trained by just about every “rape avoidance” sheet, that there are certain behaviours that, to them, are like seeing a gun or knife or bomb.

    Following a woman into a secluded area where they don’t have any potential backup and don’t have an easy escape route (like an elevator), making your first contact with them something that doesn’t make any sense outside of being an oblique request for sex (because there’s no coffee maker in the rooms and there was coffee at the bar you just left), or even just waiting until the girl has had a few drinks and is heading to bed because she’s tired — all of those are predatory behaviour. Whether Elevator Guy knew it or not, he was sending off all sorts of signs to Watson that he was carrying a gun or knife or bomb like your hypothetical “potential terrorist”. And just like your “potential terrorist”, he doesn’t have to actually use those weapons to be scary.

    Maybe I should promote this part of the discussion to a full post.

  24. Ys says

    Jason – promoting it is a good idea. A lot of people (not just men) use predatory tactics to get what they want, and it’s worth discussing to make clear what those tactics are and how they’re viewed by the target and society as a whole.

  25. Dread says

    @Ys I think my problem is that there are a lot of things (again, I don’t want to play your experience down) which once were okay and then some assholes came, did things which were not intended and now its regulated. For me it feels like loosing a bit freedom without beeing responsible for it. I haven’t opened the links yet but I will do it. Exhibiting a slight bit of self-control around women is no problem and I will try to keep that in mind the next time I’m in a similar situation.

    @Jason Sorry I mistook Philip for you. Maybe because of the profile picture? Its your blog I like. Found your blog a few months ago and reading it since. Again back to the issue.
    I get your point. You are right, he showed predatory behaviour. Activly discussing something helps apparently more then only reading stuff from other people. Maybe there is something to this privileg thing. I think I will still have problems identifying this kind of situation but I get it.

  26. Ys says

    @ Dread:

    “I think my problem is that there are a lot of things (again, I don’t want to play your experience down) which once were okay and then some assholes came, did things which were not intended and now its regulated.”

    Um…no. For millennia, women (and feminine-looking men) had no protection at all unless a male family member or friend killed the person/people who hurt them. Women used to be stoned to death if they weren’t virgins on their wedding nights, and virgins who were raped were forced to marry their rapists. Rape was considered impossible within a marriage.

    Legislation recognizes that we all have an equal right to protection and to be kept safe from those who would harm us. That’s it.

    “For me it feels like loosing a bit freedom without beeing responsible for it.”

    Wait…what? Do you think freedom means having the right to harass women? I don’t find it particularly charming when a guy grabs my ass or brushes up against my breasts when I walk past him. That’s not freedom – that’s assault and harassment. I am not an inanimate object, and no one has the right to touch my body without my permission…and that includes my husband.

    I’m sorry if I’m misreading your statement, but it had a bit of “But if I recognize women have rights, I can’t have fun!” to it.

    “Exhibiting a slight bit of self-control around women is no problem and I will try to keep that in mind the next time I’m in a similar situation.”

    Thank you! I’m glad you understand how women (and men too) can view interactions like these. I know other women have different views on this than I do, but I think we can all appreciate it when people respect our boundaries.

    I’m not asking people to never hit on anyone under any circumstances…just use some common sense to evaluate what’s happening and determine whether it might be a bad time to press your attention. Also, getting to know the other person for a bit *might* be a good idea. When a guy introduces himself to me by inviting me back to his room/apartment/house without making any effort to converse with me or find out anything about me, that’s a pretty clear sign he regards me solely as a sexual object rather than as a person. I’m not the only woman who can recognize that, and I stay as far from those type of men as possible.

  27. fastlane says

    When I first heard about this, I thought that Rebecca had slightly blown things out of proportion. So I did a little more reading, and my view has pretty much changed to the opposite. A lot of male privelege (and the whole concept of privelege in general) is not really being able to see things from another’s perspective.

    Twenty-ish years ago, I would have been elevator guy. Not intentionally, but because I was young and completely unaware of these kinds of issues.

    Women know that most men are not rapists but the cost of entangling with the odd one is extremely high. Unbearable even. The cost of avoiding such encounters is also high. I think men are just being asked to share some of that cost in small ways.

    This. And there’s no way to know what an individuals back ground might be that might exacerbate the situation. If someone happened to hit on my wife in an elevator, I wouldn’t go after him and demand an apology. However, if she had just given a speech on the subject, and the guy was there, and then proceeded to do so anyway, I might have found the douchebag, and required an apology.

  28. Philip Legge says

    Jason, I see a case of mistaken identity is the cause of confusion: I do have a couple of long neglected blogs, but I would have thought them sufficiently obscure to have required some natty detective work for them to be easily discovered. I think the chic geek appearance of goatee and glasses must merely be the most obvious things we have in common.

    Back to the irrational hyper-scepticism on this issue. The Elevator Guy anecdote is at its core, a personal story of a fleeting encounter with some significant surrounding details and events leading up to it, some of which are well-documented, while the encounter itself relies only one participant’s testimony: so after this amount of time, I find I am more interested in teasing out the implications of what it entails if it is true, than in ruthlessly wielding the razor to minutely dissect the argument as though we were in a forensics cop show or a legal drama on TV.

    For example, it is manifestly ridiculous to make conclusions about what happened at 4am, based on one photo snapped perhaps several hours earlier; at best, one can make some tentative hypotheses (e.g., a proportion of conference attendees continued to wear their conference passes on the yellow lanyards; this might have allowed identification of Elevator Guy as a conference attendee, even if the witness has prosopagnosia).

    The hyper-sceptics have adduced virtually no evidence to show that Watson is a compulsive liar, or that in this one instance, where she could not have known how the situation would subsequently explode, that she explicitly fabricated an incident which had not actually occurred to insert into her regular vlog. For that reason it is reasonable to provisionally give her the benefit of the doubt that something did occur, rather than requiring the surveillance tapes from the hotel elevator, corridors, and bar, or a list of every attendee of the conference to begin cross-examining the possible witnesses, etc. etc. This willingness to believe is not unreasonable, because the story she relates is not in itself extra-ordinary, and therefore should not require an extra-ordinary quantity of evidence to buttress it: moreover, other conference participants (e.g. PZ, and regular bloggers/commenters like Rorschach and latsot) have confirmed salient parts of the background.

    Your comment #24 mentions the importance of content (what was said) and context (the situation in which it was said), but there is also subtext (what was not said, but may be reasonably or unreasonably inferred from both content and context). The hyper-sceptics are busy here, too: there is constant denial that any of the individual phrases of the conversation related by Rebecca have any other possible interpretation apart from the one which the hyper-sceptic wants it to have at the time he* is arguing. (* By no means all, but I’ve empirically observed a high proportion of the hyper-sceptics seem to be male. Hmm…)

    Again, as an example, the first words uttered in the elevator:
    “Don’t take this the wrong way, but …”
    This strongly suggests an awareness on EG’s part that he knows very well that what he is about to suggest will be taken the wrong way, because he knows the common interpretations of unspoken subtext; or contrarily, that he is using it as a disarming technique to confuse the listener in the same way that “I’m not a sexist or a misogynist, but …” is used as a defensive rhetorical overture to prepare for a statement that is itself, baldly sexist and/or misogynist.
    The hyper-sceptic however, will demand that “scepticism” entails considering that EG’s use of this linguistic device is essentially honest, and that EG does want the following statement to be treated purely on face value, despite the content and context being so far from reasonable as to almost shout out to be interpreted subtextually.

  29. says

    Philip, you’re absolutely right that I left out subtext and shouldn’t have. And the best evidence we have all points to confirming Watson’s story happened the way she said it did, as you say. It takes a lot of misinterpretation of the facts to “prove” something didn’t happen per Watson’s story.

    And this:

    This strongly suggests an awareness on EG’s part that he knows very well that what he is about to suggest will be taken the wrong way

    I made that exact point in a previous entry in this series, and it’ll factor into tomorrow’s (hopefully) post regarding predatory behaviour.

    Something something echo chamber. :)

  30. DavidByron says

    Nice ideological nut case rant there.

    Why do you think feminists are incapable of being skeptics or of discussing things like adults? Here you have a really quite minor issue, which I guess the feminists blew up, with their ridiculously petty “let’s boycott Dawkins” sort of behaviour, and you have a lot of people on the other side offering long and carefully thought out articles on it…. but there’s ZERO ability on the feminist side to discuss this.

    I mean censorship, banning, segregated blogs — it actually looks like this whole freethoughtblogs thing is part of that segregation too. Zero ability to listen or discuss from the feminist side. Silly rants like the one above instead of thoughtful presentations of a case. Anyone who is foolish enough to actually bother to come to your blogs you attack as a troll and then ban. And you are all too cowardly to show up at any blog not run by the sisters, where you can’t “win” the debate by censorship.

    It’s pathetic.

    How do you live with yourself lacking in integrity so badly? I would be ashamed to type crap like that let alone to be such a coward. But then I actually believe in my opinions and want to test them against other peoples’ You treat your ideological crap like a rare hothouse plant that will wither up and die if it accidentally gets exposed to the “wrong” set of fact.

    Your attitude and actions (and I mean collectively) already announce ahead of time that you don’t have any faith in your own arguments.

    So basically what I’d like to ask is some meta here:

    Why are feminists terrified of open debate? Why do feminists think their own opinions are so weak that they must be protected from other ideas?

    I think that’s a far more interesting question than all this crap about Rebecca Watson.

  31. says

    You’re not interested indebate, DavidByron. I’ve seen your style of debate on other blogs. Anyone says anything that implies that one sex is statistically more likely to rape than the other, you’ll call them a sexist. Anyone says Elevator Guy did something impolitic and dumb and insensitive to context, you’ll say we’re accusing him of rape. Anyone puts up long, detailed explanations of why Dawkins isn’t particularly sexist (as I did in one of the posts linked at the top), you’ll ignore it and go on… and on… and on… about how we’re defaming him and boycotting him. Even when we aren’t.

    And when all else fails, you’ll talk about how all us feminists just want men to be subservient to women when none of the feminists you’re talking to do anything even remotely similar to that.

    If you want to discuss rationally with anyone here, sure. Stick around. I’ll calmly and rationally walk you through everything I’ve already said on the matter. If you just want to gainsay us and call us names, please leave of your own volition.

  32. says

    @DavidByron
    WAT?

    Women are people too, they deserve to be respected. I don’t see a big deal in that. Seems like your trolling for a angry response, maybe to justify some perceived hostility? This is one of the more thoughtful blogs on FTB, you might gain more traction here with a well thought out argument rather than baiting.

  33. Philip Legge says

    That DavidByron, he is a master baiter.

    After that gratuitous cheap shot I should point out that it is people like DB who have routinely derailed discussions that were being conducted in good faith; to that extent, the community of trolls have enforced this segregation themselves by their unwillingness to engage in the standards of civil discourse.

  34. DavidByron says

    Ah the name calling starts immediately of course as predicted, but it doesn’t answer my point as to your lack of integrity does it? You pretend I’m a troll so let’s say I am. How does that help you? Unless you’re saying everyone is a troll who doesn’t agree with you it doesn’t. Are you prepared to say that every skeptic who disagrees with you is a troll?

    “If you want to discuss rationally with anyone here, sure. Stick around. I’ll calmly and rationally walk you through everything I’ve already said on the matter.”

    Yeah right.

    That would be the first time in twenty years. While I suppose it is possible you’re radically different from the several hundred other feminists I’ve talked to the odds are against it.

    In any case like I said I’m not that interested in the Watson squabbling but the meta question of why NO FEMINIST is capable of debating this issue with a skeptic. Not with me horrible troll that I am but with ANYONE. Not just you either.

    My hypothesis is that your ideology prevents you participating in any debate you don’t think you’re going to win easily. However I am open to other ideas. Do you have any idea why the feminists and the skeptics just cannot seem to communicate at all on this issue?

    Reading some of your old stuff I notice a very considerable deterioration from the bottom of the list of links there, or your account of being accused of rape for example, when compared to the crap you wrote above. Those first essays were good. Not that I agreed with much of it but it was well reasoned and supported. It was falsifiable. It’s a subjective impression of course but I bet if you did something as simple as count the number of statements and propositions you’d find it had a lot more in it even before considering how plausible they were. And there was a LOT of deterioration in how plausible it was too.

    I would interpret it as you early on thinking you had a case to make and actually believing in your own words. People who believe in their own opinions act differently from those who don’t and that’s the difference I see.

    For example from this article: you say that men have a privilege that allows them to talk to people which women lack. Presumably on your planet women have their lips sewn together? Considering how in some of your earlier essays you went on at length about how operationally its men who lack that ability (in the sense that they find it harder to do and that society judges them for doing so), and considering that you appear to want to impose a rule that literally stops men talking to people now, you obviously don’t believe what you’re saying about male privilege here and also of course its idiotic.

    But then “male privilege” is the feminist voodoo isn’t it? Arguing from feminist voodoo is about as stupid as a creationist arguing from “the bible says so”. Guess what? I don’t share you religious views about “male privilege” so why do you bring them up? It doesn’t help your argument except with other true believers. But you just can’t help it.

    Now if you can discuss things like that first essay and not like this last one I’d be very happy to participate as politely as you like and even discuss that rather pointless Watson thing with you.

  35. says

    based on one photo snapped perhaps several hours earlier

    Either that, or very close to 4am. Because I’m not in it…:-)

    I see that Byron has arrived, so if it was my blog, I’be closing comments at this point, it’s going to deteriorate rapidly from here…

  36. DavidByron says

    Briefly looking at the comments it looks like this is another “all men are rapists” blog. Just to note the obvious: that is a disgusting and bigoted statement and one wholly typical of feminism.

    Again, even feminists can see that its bigoted to demand that eg all black people should cross the street to walk past a white person because any white person’s fragile racist mind is worth so much more than any black person’s human dignity. Yes even feminist can see that would be racist. But of course an identical situation between men and women they approve of.

    This is what I am talking about with the lack of integrity.

  37. Philip Legge says

    Hi Rorschach,

    that would be this one then, wouldn’t it? ;-) Actually, it looks like PZ tweeted four photos from that night, rather than one. Even so, it’s drawing a long bow to make grandiose conclusions from those, which show that at some point, PZ, Skepchick, Rorschach, and various others were together in a bar. In a hotel. Apparently drinking lots of Guinness and other beverages.

    [meta]

    One has not seen a rational proof that a sceptic cannot also be a feminist, or that a feminist cannot also be a sceptic.

  38. says

    Philip,

    I think once you are reduced to peering over pictures of some people in some bar to find clues, it’s time to pack up and go home, unless your obsession is of the pathological variety. Even if you came across one with a guy sitting next to Rebecca with a sign saying “I’m going to be famous as Elevator Guy in 10 minutes from now”, that would not change the fact that a woman in a confined space might feel uncomfortable because she doesnt know whether the person addressing her is the real bullet in the revolver or just one of the dummies (to paraphrase a metaphor made on Ophelia’s blog the other day).

  39. DavidByron says

    I tend to assume that the people I talk to are not utter morons but in your case I am wondering. Feminists lie as easily as they breathe, and so I tend to credit them with enough intelligence to know they are lying. But in your case I wonder if that’s not more credit that you deserve.

    This for example:

    “Sure, you [men] have some small amount of necessity to avoid these areas because you might be mugged, but not statistically more than a woman might”

    Are you saying you are so ill informed and stupid that you don’t know that sentence is false? REALLY???? Or did you know that was a lie when you typed it?

    The problem is half your argument hangs on that sentence being correct, whereas everyone who’s ever taken any interest in gender issues knows its false. And too you call yourself a skeptic. Well any skeptic reading that statement is going to have alarm bells ringing I think.

    So which is it? I don’t even know which is less insulting for me to assume. Should I assume you’re a clueless and reckless repeater of sexist propaganda, but I should go easy on you because you are just mindlessly parroting what you were spoonfed….

    Or should I credit you with sneaky low down smarts and think of you as the sort of sociopathic liar that will do and say anything to get their point across? Fooling your naive audience.

    Men are always the victim of violence more than women – or far more than women. and come to think about it you’ve quite likely heard me point this out by now (although maybe after you wrote that sentence).

    So what will you do now its been pointed out this statement is false? I bet you keep right on repeating it.

  40. DavidByron says

    Racist too. Most feminists are racist in the sense that they are constantly attacking racial minorities by trying to steal their legitimacy as a social movement or issue of concern.

    He’s a classic example of you employing feminist racism:

    “a problem that, every time it’s brought up, is generally pooh-poohed by the privileged white men of the community”

    Leave the sexism alone for now. Where the hell did “white men” come from? Unless you are prepared to show evidence that non-white men have significantly differed in their opinion here and by large majorities back the Watson-Myers angle on this “controversy”…. it sure looks to me like you just threw that word in their to steal the legitimacy of blacks as a minority group.

  41. Dread says

    @Ys You misread my statemant which was bad written so i guess my fault. I meant the freedom to talk to women werever i want. It should be normal but now I’m aware that it is more complicated than that. Also its hard to get my head around a few other things in this debate but it slowly drips in so… there is hope (for me). I know there is no right for being not scared and I experienced situation were I was scared myself, but I don’t want to be the source of fear for others. I’ll keep that in mind.

  42. says

    Briefly looking at the comments it looks like this is another “all men are rapists” blog.

    No it is not, and I promise you, I will ban anyone making such a blatant, patently false blanket statement without retracting it after being asked to do so.

    I would not, however, ban the perfectly correct “all men are potential rapists”. Nor would I ban “all guns are potentially loaded” or “all human beings are potentially astronauts”.

    I’m very sad that you agreed with my early posts but where our opinions started to diverge, you assumed that that’s when I got brainwashed by someone. How about, instead, taking all my writings in toto and seeing if there’s anything hypocritical about them? As far as I can tell, they’re all internally consistent with one another.

    Now, are you planning on actually debating any point, or are you just here to spout invective and lie about us? You said you were here to debate, but so far, all you’ve done is talk nonsense about what feminists are. A true shame that after twenty years of hearing “no we’re not, stop saying that”, you haven’t figured it out for yourself.

  43. says

    He’s a classic example of you employing feminist racism:

    “a problem that, every time it’s brought up, is generally pooh-poohed by the privileged white men of the community”

    As a privileged white heterosexual man, I recognize that I enjoy positions of privilege over both non-whites, and non-males, and non-heterosexuals. What’s wrong with acknowledging this?

  44. says

    Men are always the victim of violence more than women – or far more than women. and come to think about it you’ve quite likely heard me point this out by now (although maybe after you wrote that sentence).

    So what will you do now its been pointed out this statement is false? I bet you keep right on repeating it.

    No, in fact, you haven’t pointed out that my statement about men being statistically more likely to be rapists is false. You have ASSERTED it, without corroborating evidence. Kindly provide that evidence, or withdraw the statement.

    From Wikipedia:

    The U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics (1999) estimated that 91% of United States rape victims were female and 9% were male, with 99% of the offenders being male and 1% of the offenders being female.[1] Several studies argue that male-male and female-female prison rape are quite common and may be the least reported form of rape.[2][3][4]

    For your convenience, here’s the links marked as footnotes:
    http://healthcenter.ucsc.edu/shop/sexual_assault_prevention_education.shtml
    http://www.hrw.org/legacy/reports/2001/prison/report7.html#_1_48
    http://jiv.sagepub.com/content/21/12/1591

  45. quantheory says

    In what situation would it ever be reasonable to enter a forum and ask why everyone else there is incapable of having a rational discussion? To the degree that the accusation is false, the question is based upon a false (and grossly insulting) premise. If the accusation was mostly true, then the worst place to ask such a question would seem to be within the forum itself.

    I submit that whenever someone does something like this, that person must either not be thinking very intently about their own words, or else must be trolling, trying to irritate people without a sincere desire for mature discussion. Either way, it seems pretty hopeless to debate someone who starts out assuming that it’s pointless to try to debate you. Especially if, like a certain rant-filled asshole here, that person insists on constant misrepresentation of their opponents. Repeatedly getting very basic facts of your opponents’ arguments wrong, or putting exaggerated words in their mouths, these are signs that a person is not interested in a sincere discussion, and instead has some other motive (like “winning” an argument, trolling for entertainment, feeling superior, or defending oneself or one’s social group).

    If I went over to some Protestant blog, asked them why all Christians are incapable of rational discussion, and then accused them of worshipping the Pope, they would probably think I was an ignorant asshole. And in that context, they would be right.

  46. says

    In Davidbyron’s world, we shouldn’t do anything about sexual violence because men deal with higher overall rates of violent crime in the U.S. Never mind that the rates for completed violence go from lowest to highest such: white men, white women, black women, black men. In Davidbyron’s world, that doesn’t mean we need to attack racism. It means we can’t attack sexism.

    Do note as well that he can’t tell the difference between being censored and complying with a simple terms of service statement. He knows exactly what he needs to do to be able to post on my blog. He’s just unwilling to stop conveniently leaving out bits of Rebecca’s story while he blathers on about how it’s “zero bad.”

  47. says

    Repeatedly getting very basic facts of your opponents’ arguments wrong, or putting exaggerated words in their mouths, these are signs that a person is not interested in a sincere discussion, and instead has some other motive (like “winning” an argument, trolling for entertainment, feeling superior, or defending oneself or one’s social group).

    It’s like you’re reading from my playbook, considering my post from last night about Andrew Breitbart.

  48. Ys says

    It’s not a thread about feminism and the skeptical community unless David Byron comes by to troll it.

    I’m pretty sure that belongs as a corollary to either Godwin’s Law or Poe’s Law.

    I’m not sure if it’s ok to link to other blogs – so I won’t – but DB isn’t hard to find. Just check out comments on any atheist blog post regarding feminism…especially if the post was written by a woman.

  49. DavidByron says

    Again as I am more interested in the meta let me note that a number of comments in the thread after I wrote my stuff start to lay the foundation for banning me and removing the threat of debate from this forum. Phrases used included,

    it seems pretty hopeless to debate

    not interested in a sincere discussion

    I suspect this attitude enjoys broad if not 100% agreement here. But why is that? Contra the characterisation of what I said by quantheory, I am not saying feminists are especially dumb or brainwashed or even incapable of debate (on any issue OTHER than feminism). Again on any OTHER issue you all seem capable of skeptical thinking too. Nor are you incapable of debating each OTHER on the feminism issue.

    As an aside I think skeptifem (who apparently you’ve had disagreements with) might be the best of the bunch of you in terms of skeptical thinking. I say that despite her obvious extreme disagreements with me. I’ll also say she appears the most internally consistent with her feminism (ie its of the nastiest kind).

    While I obviously blame feminist ideology for the inability of the two sides of the former skeptical movement to discuss this issue, I am open to hearing other suggestions. As I said above I am not talking about me. I always give feminists an “out” to slag me off as a “troll” or whatever, although I could certainly clean up my act to remove that possibility. The only result I can see coming from that is to humiliate people, which I have no wish of doing. So sure I’m kinda of an asshole for you, which is just what you want, but while you can comfortably dismiss me, how do you account for the inability to talk to any other skeptics?

    Or do you deny this is the case? Is there a calm exchange of ideas going on somewhere between the two groups that I don’t about? I’d love to read such an exchange. At any rate denying the premise of my meta question is certainly valid, but to begin with I’d actually love to hear all your views on this question.

    Because normally I know pretty much what a feminist is going to say before they say it (20 years of talking and listening does that), but in this case I am ignorant I’d like to learn.

    What is the reason for the inability of the two sides to talk?

    On Stephanie’s board for example she’s banned people who try to talk, even after going out of her way to invite people to talk (for which incidentally she gets credit from me). Why the schizophrenic behaviour? This article also contained an element of invitation for critics (and therefore I am here) which is also creditworthy.

    Hm. Guess I have some specific stuff to reply to (next comment).

  50. DavidByron says

    (1) “all men are rapists”
    Not sure what to make of your apparent harsh disagreement with “all men are rapists” when you then endorse the almost identical phrase “all men are potential rapists”. For the record then you should know that many people see you as a sexist bigot because of that statement you endorse. You and Ys and the others. To begin with then I would like to hear you recognise that I at least consider that statement to be as blatantly sexist as let’s say “women are good for nothing but fucking and making babies”. That’s the level of offense you cause and I’d like you to acknowledge you heard me say that before I attempt to explain to you WHY it’s offensive. I actually find it VERY VERY HARD to beleive you don’t already know, just as I would tend to assume anyone saying “women are good for nothing but fucking and making babies” was just trying to screw with me.

    (2) brainwashing
    Everyone is a bit brainwashed. Yes I’d say any cult like movement such as feminism or a religion is like minor brain damage. However it is also the normal human state isn’t it? In that regard you might think of a evangelical christian the same way. I am not immune to these forces. it’s not intended as an insult.

    (3) internal consistency
    I don’t think I made that accusation but it is true that these ideological mental traps do typically contian multiple internal inconsistencies and accordingly I accpet your challenge to point them out within your own beliefs. The most obvious contradiction in feminism is of course so open it is often unstated: namely that feminism claims to be for equality while actually being about female supremacy. The next best would probably be the way feminists insist on women being treated like children at the same time as they say women should be treated as adults. In general it is an interest question as to why cultish ideologies generate internal contradictions. My guess would be that they tend to be authoritarian and so lead to the absence of critical thinking, as well as attract naturally authoritarian types. Feminism is actually not a great fit here, although close enough.

    (4) lie about us
    We disagree about the nature of feminism. when I state my opinion eg that feminists are sexist that isn’t lying about you. That’s stating my position, which I certainly think is true, and as I understand it, you disagree. You should understand this concept as you used it to excuse feminists who were calling some other people names in one of your essays. So yes I can hear what you are saying. I just don’t always agree with you, ok?

    (5) feminist racism example
    I apologise for not putting a link or something when I quoted you as I should have guessed you’d want to contest my comments. Right now I am getting 404s there. At any rate the context was (of course) this whole Wason issue and race plays no part in this. What I am saying is that you were racist to say white men instead of just men, because you attempted to dragoon black people on to your “side” with that word. Why did you do that? Have you surveyed black people and determined they agree with you (black men anyway) to a higher degree than white men? I think you said white men because you wanted to steal the moral legitimacy of a recognised legitimate minority group.

    (6) men are the majority victims of violence
    You didn’t claim that women were raped more than men. The word you actually used (and I quoted) was “mugged”. Even Stephanie has admitted you were wrong (although she then dismisses male victims as unimportant of course). Again I apologise for the lack of a link (404-ing still). It’s one of the essays you link to at the top. Context was you were attempting to justify the sexist gender profiling of men as all being potential rapists. However you broadened the claim to any attack “mugging” to tell us shitty men that we don’t deserve to think we know anythign about beign victims or beign in danger. Apparently we just don’t get it. So I point out to you that women are in fact the safest demographic. That observation undermines half your case btw. Your claiming a false statement also goes to your integrity. In passing I observe that men are probably raped more often than women are in the USA.

    Now in “answering” you didn’t respond to whether men are the majority of assault victims. You did a bait and switch and talked about how many attackers are male. That’s blaming the victim – a typical feminist response. It’s also collective guilt – a typical hate movement concept. Basically it is saying that because some men are rapists we can morally ignore any male who is not a rapist but who is a victim of violence. “Men deserve it”. This is a very seriously bigoted argument. Was it your intention to make that argument? The reason I don’t think it was just an accident is that your response is a very common one for a feminist put in your position. But please you tell me why you think you ignored what I was talking about (men as victims) and leapt to talk about men as attackers.

    So that’s two issues now. The original statement by you that falsely said men are the minority of assault victims, and now this new hot water yuo got into whereby you used this classic collective guilt argument. let’s call that (6) and (7) respectively.

    Now there was some stuff raised by others but I am not sure it is worth addressing them too. As for me I am interested in an answer to my meta question. Talking about feminism directly is unlikely to be fruitful but if I did want to I might start by asking you if you think your religious “privilege” belief should be used in an argument since it is a doctrine of your faith and not something non-feminists believe in. Pretty much the other half of your argument depends on that fiction which is no different from someone arguing “the bible says so”.

  51. says

    In case you haven’t read it, the post on predatory behaviour addresses at great length why I don’t believe “all men are rapists” is even approaching rational.

    That I recognize when one group wields more power than another, and name the attendant advantages given to that power-wielding group “privilege”, does not make it a religion. I do recognize that religious folks in a situation where they are members of the dominant regional religion have considerable privilege over people who are not members of that “in-group”, so it took a few seconds for me to unpack your “religious privilege” assertion. I don’t think sociologists are particularly religious just because they study society and recognize social power dynamics, and I got the foundation of the knowledge I have about social power dynamics from my minor in sociology. Everything else I’ve learned by merely observing society and watching as data is accumulated to show how certain groups with the majority of the power, collect that power and claw back against any attempt at egalitarianism.

    Your anti-feminist movement appears to me to be a clawing back against this erosion of power, in much the same way as Pat Robertson decries how white folks are losing their position of privilege (slowly, ever so slowly) over non-white folks. I see no religion in your views, but I do see dogma — you’ve dealt with feminists for 20 years, and the only one you respect is the one that most closely resembles what your dogma demands that we all must be. If you think there’s any faith behind what I’m talking about, you’re mistaken. And if you think I’m a bad skeptic, you’re doubly mistaken. You’re welcome to read more of my archives if you think you can prove me wrong on this point.

    I also note that you’ve given me no reason to believe that men ARE the primary victims of sexual assault, so unless you’re going to give me some evidence to that point, I consider you’ve already ceded it.

    I will eventually address the rest of your absolutely ridiculous assertions about what I do and do not believe at another time. The server’s been spotty today, I need to spend time with my lovely wife, then I need to go Mock The Movie. And I suspect we’re about to get another hardware upgrade anyway (we’re growing by leaps and bounds, this cesspool of feminists, I tell you!). So I don’t know how stable the connection’s going to be tonight for a protracted fight, but you’re welcome to throw comments (or aspersions, as seems your modus operandi) against the server and see if they stick.

  52. says

    One thing I will point out — I only just now realized that you’re saying men are more likely to be victims of general violence, rather than explicitly sexual violence. I wouldn’t mind seeing the statistics on that too, but I consider it a totally separate issue and completely off topic. And I don’t know why you’d bring it up in any context related to sexual assault and the privilege that men have in being able to perform it and for the most part get away with it. Well, actually, I have an idea why you’d bring it up — for the same reason that I’d bring up that your violence against men pales in comparison with the widespread ethnic cleansing going on around the world (which is indiscriminate in its assaults on men and women — and even involves high numbers for men getting raped).

    It’s a distraction from the topic at hand. It is only tangentially related to the topic at hand. It is therefore a derailing tactic, designed to elicit an emotional response and/or to try to entrap the person you’re arguing with into arguing about something that has nothing to do with the topic and that, in fact, they don’t support. I no more support violence against men than I do any other sort of violence against people in general. I have been entirely consistent in that regard, and again, I defy you to prove me wrong.

  53. DavidByron says

    I’m seeing warning sides that you can’t take this any more. You are getting ratty, you don’t read what I am writing, you are lazy and insulting, you make no response to any substantial points. Stephanie managed to last longer as did Ophelia. Skeptifem knew her own boundaries and didn’t even start.

    You want to do this or not?

  54. Nepenthe says

    *cough* Ethnic cleansing is anything but indiscriminate with respect to gender. Perhaps Google “rape as a weapon of war”.

  55. says

    If by “can’t take this” you mean “don’t drop hours at a time responding to walls of text that bear little resemblance to what I’m actually saying”, then yes, I actually decided to spend some quality time with my wife, and enjoy a really horrible movie, instead of spending it commenting on your nonsense. If you want to go on spouting said nonsense, you go right ahead, I’ll get to you when real life is less important to me.

    In other words, not all of us are as single-mindedly obsessed about our bete noirs as you are, DavidByron. You’ll take what attention I deign to spare for you, when I spare it, and you’ll like it.

  56. says

    Nepenthe: I agree that rape is prevalent in ethnic cleansing efforts. I don’t discount the fact that it happens, only that men and women are affected — the men mostly by being killed, sometimes by being raped, and the women mostly by being raped, sometimes by being killed. It’s horrific no matter how you slice it, I know.

  57. DavidByron says

    Btw anyone who actually has looked at the figures knows it is men who get wiped out in gendercides not women. Very few exceptions indeed. It is a typical practise in war time to separate men from women and then execute the “battle aged” men. Meaning from eight years old to eighty. Like the USA did in Fallojeh in Iraq.

    You guy are utterly clueless about the basic facts of the debate aren’t you? Have either of you even read the gendercide watch web site?

    I really don’t understand people who just make up factoids and present them as if they were accurate. Well if they are members of a hate movement then yes, I do understand that. Love to hear why you guys think you do it though.

  58. DavidByron says

    “In other words, not all of us are as single-mindedly obsessed”

    You’ve written more than *I* have.

    And I don’t care if it takes you a while to reply. What I was commenting on was the poor quality of the reply once it did arrive. Look, if you don’t bring your best to this then you might as well give up now because I know ten times more than you do about this topic, and I have a hundred times more experience talking about it.

    All I am saying is don’t phone it in. If you do, we are both just wasting whatever time we do decide to spend on this.

  59. DavidByron says

    Men probably get raped more in wars than women do, too. Interesting article just the other week or so about the war in the Congo and the rape of men. Of course as it noted the feminists all try to block any news of male rape victims and say that if anyone helps male victims they won’t get any funding. Nice job by the feminists there. Same MO as they had with the VAWA where they made it law in the US that male victims couldn’t be helped (and therefore were never counted in statistics).

    That’s who much feminists believe in equality.

  60. DavidByron says

    Btw could you address this briefly?

    re. “all men are potential rapists”

    “To begin with then I would like to hear you recognise that I at least consider that statement to be as blatantly sexist as let’s say “women are good for nothing but fucking and making babies”. That’s the level of offense you cause and I’d like you to acknowledge you heard me say that”

  61. 'Tis Himself, OM says

    DavidByron is on a one-person crusade to get feminists to admit that forcing him to acknowledge his male privilege is “sexist”.

  62. says

    Jason, I hope you don’t mind if I weigh in on this. I find this particular issue interesting, and I’ve raised the idea of treating RW’s testimony with skepticism in several comments on various blogs. I think it’s important to discuss, as it is the method of inquiry which unifies the movement and if we shelve it we may as well disperse.

    Firstly, I disagree that the problem with global warming deniers, birthers, etc. is “too much skepticism”. These folks make claims like anyone else – claims open to scrutiny, open to skepticism. Indeed, without a healthy dose of skepticism we wouldn’t be questioning their reasoning – we are not dogmatists after all.

    Secondly, how do we decide how much skepticism to apply to any given issue? Do we say “we should question these claims over there, but not these claims here?”, and how do we decide where and when to apply the skeptical approach?

    If you say RW was lying then you are making a positive claim, a claim requiring evidence. I have no evidence for that, and hence I make no such claim. Of course, it might well be the case, but I don’t see how any of us know either way. Suppose I posted under another name saying that I met RW and she told me privately that she was delighted with the amount of fame Elevatorgate was getting her. I would be lying, and yet why not just take my word for it? Well, because I might have an agenda and may well be lying! (This is to make no claims about RW’s character. I don’t know her at all. Likewise, you don’t know me. Even if you did, people can be “wrong about people”.)

    So how should a skeptic treat the testimony? Well, it probably happened. People tell the truth more than they lie, so I don’t see why we shouldn’t accept it. Did EG know RW was tired and going to bed? We can’t tell. Maybe he did, maybe he didn’t. If she mentioned it, perhaps he wasn’t there or if he was, perhaps he wasn’t listening. Maybe she thought she mentioned it, but in fact didn’t. This one seems difficult to call either way.

    The part that I have most problems with is the way that EG’s words have been analysed. How can we possibly deduce anything from these words, when we cannot be sure that he used these exact words and have no idea about his tone of voice? People often recount events by paraphrasing the words of others – there is nothing wrong with it – but the resulting quote is often created to reflect the perceived intention of the speaker. The difficulty is that if they were misinterpreted by the testifier, the misinterpretation is cemented in the resulting paraphrase.

    This is quite compatible with RW recounting the event with the best intentions. How often do we remember what somebody said, without remembering the exact words they used to express it? From experience, I’d say almost always. Why is this important? Because if RW misinterpreted EG, we will share her misinterpretation if we do not doubt the testimony. So, how do we know this interpretation is correct? The truth is, we don’t. Only RW is in a position to know – if she is right then we are also right. If she is wrong, then we are wrong. We rely on her to convey EG’s real intentions, and we cannot know whether her interpretation was sound or not.

    Now, this is not to say that she has no right to make the claim in her video. She is fully entitled to say that she doesn’t like to be invited for coffee in a hotel room at night in a lift. My problem is only with the way the initial testimony is quoted as if we are absolutely certain that “these are the facts”.

    You ask:

    Why do we need extraordinary evidence before we take Rebecca Watson at her word that this happened exactly as it did, considering how proportionate her response to the event was, and how disproportionately everyone else has taken everything else since?

    My answer would be that there is no evidence at all, save for one interested testimony, which is poor and unverifiable evidence.

    Just because evidence is unavailable does not mean that we should assume that “this happened exactly as it did”.

  63. Ys says

    “Secondly, how do we decide how much skepticism to apply to any given issue? Do we say “we should question these claims over there, but not these claims here?”, and how do we decide where and when to apply the skeptical approach?”

    Do you question every single thing that comes out of your friends’ mouths, especially when they talk about interactions with other people that happened when you weren’t around?

    Just curious.

    Not sure about you, but I tend to take people at their word unless they make wildly exaggerated claims or give me reason not to believe them.

    There is such a thing as going too far with skepticism, because you reach a point where you’re so busy over-analyzing every single detail and scrap of minutae that you completely fail to grasp the overall story. Kinda like creationists and how they fail at getting the theory of evolution.

  64. says

    Notung: you absolutely may weigh in, I don’t censor here. I even allowed DavidByron to weigh in at great length until I revoked his rights to continue posting, but I have no intention of going back and scrubbing all his posts because they make his position exceedingly clear without further domination of the comment fields.

    I accept the possibility that Rebecca Watson might be lying about the whole thing, just as I accept the possibility that you might be lying about having NOT posted under false names regarding Watson’s ostensible glee over the whole debacle. But I’m not about to go digging through Google to see if I can find some instance of someone saying something like that. I’m going to trust you at your word that you haven’t, because I haven’t seen such a comment, and I have no reason to believe you’re lying.

    The problem comes entirely with the disproportionate response to a mundane claim. As I’ve analogized before, if I claim to have returned from the grocery store with a quart of milk (say on Twitter where people say shit like that all the time), a disproportionate response would be to dig through my Google Latitude account to see where I was, and note that I had it turned off (to cover up for the fact that I didn’t go anywhere), and that a picture I posted a little later of my kitchen doesn’t have a quart of milk anywhere to be seen. Nor is there even a fridge in the frame! Conspiracy!!!

    See what I’m saying? These people want Watson’s story to be untrue, so they’re “checking the kerning”.

    Additionally, as I pointed out in the original post, one does not have to assume that EG heard either of Watson’s points where she sent clear signals of being closed to such a proposition. Without those points (even assuming you overlook the “I find your ideas fascinating”), the transaction requested in the elevator (even assuming it was coffee) was still a massive overreach of their level of familiarity. And her response to it was understated enough that this cross-examination is well past overkill.

  65. says

    Re: 67, 68.

    I think what you say is fair enough. We wouldn’t question our friends’ mundane statements, so why question this? There really does seem to be a level of conditional assent we afford to these sorts of testimonies. I agree, therefore we have no special reason to dismiss RW’s testimony.

    My issue would be with the way that third parties are analysing the testimony, and this is true of both sides of the debate. We are happy to accept mundane testimonies, but when the issue starts to become contentious the details of the testimony start to become important.

    I wouldn’t question your trip to the grocery store, unless you remarked that the grocer said something like “don’t take this the wrong way, but philosophy is silly and pointless” (not a great analogy, but it’ll do). Now, at this point I have two options. Become terribly angry at the grocer, analyse what he said and show why his opinion is misguided – or realise that it was just how you interpreted his statement, that he may have meant (and even said) something different and that I should withhold judgement. For me, the second is more rational – you may have projected your interpretation into the quote, or simply misremembered the exact words. It would be unfair of me to blame the grocer without more evidence.

    In fact, this has happened to me. I once joked to a group of friends that the drums are an inferior musical instrument to the others. Of course, I didn’t mean it seriously and would have been more explicit that I was joking if there was a drummer present. Somebody recounted my light-hearted comment to a drummer, ignoring my jovial tone and even altering the words I used, making it sound far worse than I had intended. I was later confronted – but the drummer should have questioned the testimony in advance.

    So, to clarify: Mundane statements are too mundane to waste time over, but when the issue proves contentious we should not analyse the content of the testimony as if it was axiomatic.

  66. says

    Notung, as long as we’re just doing this as a thought experiment, let’s keep going. Let’s assume that you came back and said, “don’t take this the wrong way, but philosophy is silly and pointless,” and you complained about it.

    Let’s then further assume that people started telling the world that you thought all grocers were thoughtless louts, that you were persecuting grocers, that others started complaining that you claimed everyone should be a philosopher, that people started saying you were the reason philosophy should never be taken seriously, that some grocers union started lobbying for you to lose your job. Then let’s assume that a fairly large number of people upon whom your job actually depended started looking at the fuss and forming opinions of it and you based on all the weird things that were being said.

    At that point, would you be telling us we should not be going back and insisting that people base their opinions on what you actually said?

  67. says

    Re: Stephanie.

    I’m not saying that people should not base their opinions about RW on what RW (the grocer’s customer) said. As I stated above, she had the right to say what she said. I’m saying that people aren’t justified in making any judgements about EG’s (the grocer) behaviour/intentions based on this sort of testimony.

    I suppose we could make hypothetical judgements. Like “well, if he said such-and-such in a particular tone of voice and if he heard her say she was tired then he was wrong to do it”. I see no problem with that.

  68. 'Tis Himself, OM says

    When even someone as socially inept as me determines that a man asking a woman to come to his room at 4 AM for “coffee” isn’t intending to break out the Maxwell House, I doubt there’s no reason to doubt Watson’s version of the story. Especially when all the other versions accuse her of being the castrating, man-hating bitch from Hell along with doubting her story. Context is everything, especially when looking at Watson’s opponents.

  69. Dhorvath, OM says

    Notung,
    Okay, I can play that game.
    If EG approached RW in an elevator and asked her to do something he stepped on several trigger issues and leveraged dominant social scripts to make it easier for him to say whatever he said and harder for RW to respond in a casual manner. While the specific response engendered might be altered favourably or not by the words he used, the tone of voice, how he stood, what he knew beforehand about her opinions, and so on they can not undo the social capital that he tapped in approaching her alone in an enclosed space. He pushed over the line, it was one of the poorer places he could have selected to approach her regardless of what he said or how he did so.

  70. Bips says

    Of course the website with the “photographic proof” is under password lock. It must be SO definitive and proof-y.

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