Last weekend I gave a talk at CFI’s Student Leadership Conference. They asked if I’d talk about the Religious Right’s War on Women, and I was only too happy to oblige because it’s an important issue that I enjoy discussing. The night before I spoke, though, I became aware of what I think is a pretty serious problem with anti-feminist thinking amongst the very people I was meant to be addressing.

You may recall that last week I posted this video, in which I describe an unpleasant encounter I had with a fellow atheist that I thought might serve as a good example of what men in our community should strive to avoid – basically, in an elevator in Dublin at 4AM I was invited back to the hotel room of a man I had never spoken to before and who was present to hear me say that I was exhausted and wanted to go to bed.

The night prior to my talk, I happened across a video rebuttal from a woman who I was told would be at the CFI conference. I was pretty frustrated, seeing a young woman who I’m sure is intelligent be so incredibly dismissive of my experience and that of other women in this community, and so uneducated about the fundamentals of feminist thought. She ends the video by asking, “What effect do you think it has on men to be constantly told how sexist and destructive they are?”

I made the mistake of replying to the uploader (stclairose) and some of the hateful commenters at 2 AM – never a good idea. My response to her question at the time was that I never called all men sexist and destructive, nor did I do it constantly. In fact, in my video I specifically said that most of the conference attendees – men and women – were awesome. What I should have added is this: for the men (and women) who are behaving in sexist and destructive ways, I hope that pointing it out to them has the effect of making them consider their actions and stop being sexist and damaging.

When I was discussing the video with friends the next day, I was blown away to be told that there were other student leaders who had expressed similar dismissive attitudes recently on Facebook and on other blogs. An hour or so prior to my talk, someone sent me this link to a post by Stef McGraw on the UNI Freethinkers site. I added a paragraph of that response to a slide for the intro to my talk, in which I hoped to call out the anti-woman rhetoric my audience was engaging in.

This is the paragraph I ended up quoting:

My concern is that she takes issue with a man showing interest in her. What’s wrong with that? How on earth does that justify him as creepy? Are we not sexual beings? Let’s review, it’s not as if he touched her or made an unsolicited sexual comment; he merely asked if she’d like to come back to his room. She easily could have said (and I’m assuming did say), “No thanks, I’m tired and would like to go to my room to sleep.”

I pointed out that she posted a transcript of my video but conveniently left off the fact that I had already expressed my desire to go to sleep. I also pointed out that approaching a single woman in an elevator to invite her back to your hotel room is the definition of “unsolicited sexual comment.” But those are unimportant details in comparison to the first quoted sentence, which demonstrates an ignorance of Feminism 101 – in this case, the difference between sexual attraction and sexual objectification. The former is great – be attracted to people! Flirt, have fun, make friends, have sex, meet the love of your life, whatever floats your boat. But the latter involves dismissing a person’s feelings, desires, and identity, with a complete disinterest in how one’s actions will affect the “object” in question. That’s what we shouldn’t be doing. No, we feminists are not outlawing sexuality.

I hear a lot of misogyny from skeptics and atheists, but when ancient anti-woman rhetoric like the above is repeated verbatim by a young woman online, it validates that misogyny in a way that goes above and beyond the validation those men get from one another. It also negatively affects the women who are nervous about being in similar situations. Some of them have been raped or otherwise sexually assaulted, and some just don’t want to be put in that position. And they read these posts and watch these videos and they think, “If something were to happen to me and these women won’t stand up for me, who will?”

After my talk, I met a ton of amazing young men and women who came to talk to me about their own experiences. Some were considering not attending the conference due to the anti-woman sentiments they were reading. Some told me that the previous year, they watched in horror as Heidi Anderson was shouted down while on the stage discussing feminist issues. I think that the intelligent, thoughtful, caring people I met at the conference were very much in the majority, but are often out-shouted by an angry minority. Over the next two days I would see that kind of angry bile dominating the #CFICON Twitter hashtag, demanding I retract my statements and apologize. The Tweets emanated from only three or four Twitter accounts, none of whom appeared to be McGraw or stclairose. Those that weren’t anonymous were men (EDIT: @ramenneedles has informed me that one was @DoctorHoenikker, who is a woman).

The demands for an apology were very interesting. None of my critics at any point offered any counterargument concerning my points on objectification or feminism . . . all their criticism was entirely about tone. At first they were angry because I had criticized a student. For instance, Trevor Boeckmann, a CFI intern, Tweeted, “It’s one thing to call out a public figure, it’s another to spend your keynote calling out a student.” (Boeckmann must have actually missed my talk, since I spoke about McGraw’s post for about two minutes out of sixty. Despite this and the fact that he did not mention my name, I saw the Tweet on the #CFICON feed and correctly guessed it was about me, anyway. See below for more on that topic. )

This struck me as extremely disrespectful to McGraw. She is not a child, and is not incompetent. She is an adult woman who is a director for a prominent campus organization and who is more than capable of defending her own words if she chooses. When I pointed out that we all should be held accountable for our words, I was told that I should have informed McGraw before my talk. I’m not sure why that’s a requirement since it would have only given her a few minutes’ additional notice, but I would have been happy to had I known who she was at the conference. I was then informed that I was in the wrong because (according to @AaronFriel) I “ridiculed” a person instead of attacking an argument when I said that McGraw’s “post was a pretty standard parrotting of misogynistic thought”. I hope I don’t need to point out to this audience that criticizing a person’s words is not the same as criticizing the person. At no point did I ridicule McGraw, and I even started that part of my talk by stating that I had no desire to embarrass anyone — only to use actual, relevant examples to show the anti-feminist thought that seems so pervasive.

With all other complaints answered, my critics fell back to one complaint: I was wrong to use McGraw’s name.

Now I must share one additional fact about me: I loathe passive aggressive behavior. Loathe it. I sincerely believe that if you are going to criticize someone’s argument, you should clearly and honestly state to whom you are referring and what exactly they have said or done that you find objectionable.

For me, this is a question of respect: I have enough respect for the person I am criticizing to not make them guess that I am talking about them or guess at what they said that needs to be defended, and I have enough respect for my audience to allow them the opportunity to double check my work. If I hide the person and the exact words that I am criticizing, how does anyone know whether or not I’m creating a strawman? How can the person in question respond?

McGraw and stclairose had enough respect for me and/or their audiences to state my name and link to my video when they criticized me, and though I vehemently disagree with their arguments, I appreciate the fact that I at least knew they were addressing me directly. And so, I did the same during my talk, using McGraw’s name and exact words as an example of what I see as a problem in this community. And I hope that when she or anyone else disagrees with what I’ve written here, they again have enough respect to say my name.

Zombie Fail Whale image courtesy of our friends at Topatoco.

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca leads a team of skeptical female activists at Skepchick.org and appears on the weekly Skeptics' Guide to the Universe podcast. She travels around the world delivering entertaining talks on science, atheism, feminism, and skepticism. There is currently an asteroid orbiting the sun with her name on it. You can follow her every fascinating move on Twitter or on Google+.

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156 Comments

  1. Avatar of malimar
    June 28, 2011 at 4:38 pm —

    Just putting this out there: A hopefully unbiased account of the event and its aftermath from somebody who doesn’t have much of an opinion in favour of one side over another: http://malimar.livejournal.com/412658.html

  2. Avatar of kimberlychapman
    June 28, 2011 at 4:46 pm —

    “I have enough respect for the person I am criticizing to not make them guess that I am talking about them or guess at what they said that needs to be defended, and I have enough respect for my audience to allow them the opportunity to double check my work.”

    That encapsulates the entire reason why I’ve joined the skeptic community, because I heard you, Rebecca, on those early SGU episodes telling it like it is, naming names, not fearing to be doubted or questioned yourself, inviting people to look it up, and being forthright yourself without having to be a jerk about it.

    Unfortunately, these kinds of experiences are precisely what keep me out of the community beyond here-and-there reading and posting online. My skin is thick but my time is thin and I’m just too bloody tired to argue with dipshits anymore, be they sexist skeptics who appear to have been raised in barns (and are putting barns to shame), bigoted skeptics who argue that all people who believe X are stupid and worthless, or the “other side” of anti-vaxers and assorted peddlers of nonsense.

    I can’t be in the nonsense camp and there’s too much social ineptitude in the skeptic camp. I’m hardly the paragon of social grace but I’m so sick of the vicious attitudes I keep uncovering as I try to get involved in skeptic groups.

    Go you, Rebecca, for standing up to decry it even amidst the piles of crap being thrown at you. You rock. Not all of us have time to say it very often but know that we’re out there cheering for you and what you do.

  3. Avatar of sevandyk
    June 28, 2011 at 4:48 pm —

    I’m glad you addressed this. I think it’s important to stand behind what we believe – and if we aren’t prepared to defend what we’ve said, we should be prepared to admit we were wrong. It’s not that scary and it’s the only way we learn.

    At this conference, it was frustrating to see the level of discourse by such apparently brave and intelligent people degenerate into name-calling and tone-trolling. I also thought it was particularly patronizing when people said that she was “just a student” or (in an ironically misogynist twist) “just a girl”, as if this means we should just pat her on the head and smile.

    What is being skeptical about if we aren’t able to change our minds or tolerate critism? If we’re so thin-skinned, we going to be one shitty set of skeptics and an even shittier bunch on leaders.

  4. Avatar of simonsays
    June 28, 2011 at 4:58 pm —

    You quote a comment and give a name and it’s unfair to the person you’re naming. Had you withheld the name and posted the comment anonymously you’d probably have been accused of quoting a non-representative or not credible sample.

    Go figure.

  5. Avatar of airbornemint
    June 28, 2011 at 4:59 pm —

    Here’s a tiny observation that’s possibly relevant and totally lost in all this:

    Two people. One says “I want to X”. The other says “Would you like to Y?”. Badness ensues, in no small part because saying “Would you like to Y?” sounds a lot like “I am ignoring your already expressed preference for X”.

    There is a *lot* of cultural programming that teaches people to never ever directly say what they want, but to instead express their wants as questions directed at other people. Because, see, that way you can be considerate and not pushy.

    I do not even remotely enjoy or encourage the dynamic in which someone expresses what they want by asking me what I want. However, it might be worth thinking about whether “Would you like to X” is maybe the best way that the person in question knows for non-threateningly asking a question, and that maybe that way of asking such questions does not arise directly out of a disregard (even a subconscious disregard) for your preference, but from dysfunction from their own life, in all likelihood related to the manner in which such transactions were carried out in their birth family.

    • Avatar of Rebecca Watson
      June 28, 2011 at 5:06 pm —

      If you’re referring to the exchange in the elevator, wouldn’t “I want you to not X” be closer to the truth of what happened?

      • Avatar of airbornemint
        June 28, 2011 at 5:33 pm —

        I don’t know, I wasn’t there. It sounds to me like you said “I want to sleep” and he said (poorly) “I want to keep talking to you”. (I am not willing to extrapolate from “come to my room” to “have sex with me” without further information.)

        I honestly feel that it is possible for two adults to exchange statements of their mutual preference about the future in such a way that neither feels like they are being held personally responsible for fulfilling the other’s desire. (And I *really* want the rest of the world to get on board with both parts of that — the stating of desires and the not expecting other people to fulfill them.)

        However, I look around me and I see people teaching others to communicate in other ways — ways which IMO add a lot of cognitive noise and result in explosions like the one we are talking about here.

        If A says to B “I want to spend more time with you”, and B takes that to mean “I hold you personally responsible for ensuring that I spend more time with you, and I will punish you if you do not live up to that expectation”, it’s extremely unlikely that is what A actually meant, and it’s extremely unlikely B hasn’t previously been in a situation where someone else actually meant *exactly* that.

        And I’d be thrilled if A and B could look at each other, recognize that, and get to understand each other better, rather than alienating each other further (which is my impression of what’s been going on since).

        • Avatar of delphi_ote
          June 30, 2011 at 10:13 am —

          You don’t get out much, do you? Asking someone over for coffee at night has a pretty direct meaning. Maybe spend some time studying your own species by looking it up on Urban Dictionary. Consider it anthropology. Rebecca didn’t misunderstand anything. That people keep saying she did just further demonstrates how completely socially inept and oblivious skeptics can be.

          Rebecca was propositioned in the elevator. She handled it well. She has a very relaxed and healthy attitude about flirting and sex. This shouldn’t be about her. This type of experience IS something we should be talking about. But can we please grow the fuck up and stop pretending “have coffee” at 4:00 means the guy has Juan Valedez in mind? It’s a waste of time, bullshit childish distraction.

      • Avatar of Buzz Parsec
        June 28, 2011 at 7:44 pm —

        Sigh, not this again. I don’t want to think about this any more. Oh, wait… (Too bad we can’t cross link to posts on other threads anymore, because Mr. Misconception had a perfect response in a comment on Amy’s post earlier today. Essentially, he said I’m a guy, so I don’t have to think about this. Unfortunately, other people don’t have that option.

  6. Avatar of The Edge
    June 28, 2011 at 5:06 pm —

    I’ve been reading these posts (and others) about sexism and the comments and I have come to a conclusion. Most men and some women can’t understand why the elevator event is such a problem because THEY DON’T FEEL LIKE PREY.

    As a young, hot, curvy blonde I was the subject of a great deal of harassment [such as perverted comments about my bra size by a grown man who lived down the street and my chemistry professor staring at my chest when I went to him for help understanding the material. He then invited me to stop by his office. I don't think he could have told you the color of my eyes] and unwelcome “accidental” groping (especially at college football games or other crowded situations) when I was in high school and college (now that I’ve over 40 that has come to a grateful end). I took self defense training because I knew I was a potential target for rapists, serial killers and general jack asses. I learned to be prey.

    Prey animals are careful to avoid situations where they are near a potential threat. Sure the lion in the grass looks sleepy but let’s tiptoe past him quickly just in case. Sure the guy in the elevator may have missed out on social skills but maybe he’s a serious nut job who has a roll of duct tape in his room.

    Women who have been targeted by misogyny and sexism know that we are prey. [Most] Men don’t understand this feeling. Apparently there are also some very lucky women who have missed out on being treated as prey by predatory men.

    • Avatar of Anne S
      June 28, 2011 at 5:17 pm —

      “[Most] Men don’t understand this feeling. Apparently there are also some very lucky women who have missed out on being treated as prey by predatory men.”
      .
      Luckily, [most] humans are capable of empathy! While I’ve definitely “felt like prey” and experienced other forms of sexism, I also know I’ve never had it as bad as some of my fellow women. However, just because I haven’t had a particular experience does NOT mean that when someone brings up just such an experience, I get to go “Well, that never happened to me/I’ve never felt that way, so it must not be a real problem.” Instead, I can check my privilege and listen to what this individual is actually saying.

      • Avatar of BlackCat
        June 28, 2011 at 8:30 pm —

        [Luckily, [most] humans are capable of empathy!]
        True enough, but I’m beginning to think that people choose not to exercise that ability.

        • Avatar of Anne S
          June 28, 2011 at 9:59 pm —

          I’d prefer to think that it’s less of a willful choice not to empathize and more a factor of people just being out of practice. I’ve got to have hope that people can change.

    • Avatar of jamesmadison
      July 4, 2011 at 9:46 am —

      More men view themselves as prey than I believe is generally accepted. That’s of course in large part because so many of them were prey (generally at the ands of a family member) as children and young men. there is a significant amount of silence on this issue for a number of reasons; one of course being that it is just so out of kilter with the way our culture views, well, men.

  7. Avatar of AdamVonWillis
    June 28, 2011 at 5:25 pm —

    Great, great, great article, Rebecca. You can really tell how passionate you are about this issue.

    And that was such a powerful story, The Edge. I’ve had multiple conversations with my sister about how it’s like being a woman in society, and she’s had pretty much the same experience as you. Hopefully, with people like Rebecca and other intelligent feminists out there, this problem will start to go away.

    • Avatar of pieroxy
      July 1, 2011 at 7:23 am —

      The road will be a long one though. One of the problem I can find is that men consider being objectified actually exciting (sexual fantasy). So they have a hard time figuring out why women would object to it (apart from the fact that women are frigid or other clueless assumptions). Of course: they can’t relate to the problem.
      Getting the message through needs to be done though. But you have to see the male’s point of view to make sure the arguments you use are visible from their standpoint.

  8. Avatar of ad_astra
    June 28, 2011 at 5:30 pm —

    I agree Edge. I think men are often unable to understand women’s reaction to this sort of thing because even if they have had the experience of being objectified, they are not as often in a position of physical and cultural vulnerability. Males do not experience the modeling and coaching of being coy, playing dumb, specializing in domestic arts as opposed to science or math, being valued for your sexual attractiveness, and the many other subtle messages our mothers and culture often teach us as girls. I hate that nice people feel like they are being accused of something they are innocent of but in my life I have experienced and witnessed a world where young girls and adult women are frequently patronized, sexualized, objectified, and violated in so many ways, often flippantly and carelessly. This is why reactions from feminists (and myself) is strong.

    • Avatar of sevandyk
      June 28, 2011 at 5:44 pm —

      … “feminists [like] myself”… (sorry for being pedantic. :P)

      Anywho, excellent point. I agree. It’s often hard for males to see their privilege.

      • Avatar of ad_astra
        June 28, 2011 at 5:51 pm —

        Yes, pedantic commenter is pedantic. I realized the misspellings and grammatical errors as soon as I posted it despite several proofreads. I work in the medical field and usually write in fragments using jargon so my grammar-fu is weak sauce.

  9. Avatar of Jennifurret
    June 28, 2011 at 6:23 pm —

    Trevor was cranky enough that I sided with you in a post, that he posted a photo from a facebook conversation I was having with (an apparently) mutual friend referencing guys attractiveness. As apparent proof that if I find some people unattractive and some attractive, obviously I should be cool with guys making ignorant, scary advances. Or something.

    Yay being immature and leaking personal conversations to prove your twisted point!

    And you’re totally in the right. Let the haters hate. I started my blog when I was in the same position as McGraw, and I’ve dealt with more shit. She’s an adult – she should have to deal with the consequences of her actions. Which, you know, may be someone disagreeing with her when she saying something fucking ignorant.

    • Avatar of jchesher
      July 3, 2011 at 4:15 am —

      I don’t understand why you’re characterizing what she said as “fucking ignorant”. What makes it ignorant? She gave her opinion on the situation, which actually I agree with as well, not that it’s important. I think she explained her view in a logical manner given the information she had on the situation. Just because you don’t agree with it doesn’t make something “fucking ignorant”.

  10. Avatar of thebewilderness
    June 28, 2011 at 6:35 pm —

    In our culture women objecting to inappropriate behavior by men is always considered worse than the inappropriate behavior.
    http://www.leftycartoons.com/street-harassment/

    • Avatar of ebrooks
      June 29, 2011 at 10:00 am —

      Okay, I just wasted* my entire lunch reading through the feminist cartoons on that site. It is seriouly my new favourite thing EVER.

      Thanks for posting that!

      *enjoyed

    • Avatar of BeardofPants
      June 29, 2011 at 11:23 am —

      I’ve read his stuff before, but it fell off my radar. Thanks for letting me find his work again!

  11. Avatar of sexycelticlady
    June 28, 2011 at 6:54 pm —

    I think it really comes down to individual perception and what some of my friends call the butcher’s bill, preconceptions based on prior experiences that lead to a certain expectation of final behaviour based on preliminary data. Everyone does it in negative and positive ways.

    I think part of the problem is people make judgements based on certain things and rarely give people the benefit of the doubt any more. Assuming the best/worst intentions from an individual will likely cause controversy or problems simply because of misreading them in the first place.

  12. Avatar of Bookitty
    June 28, 2011 at 7:09 pm —

    Oh dear. Mcgraw has bought into the bargain so deeply that she’s practically gone MRA. (The bargain: I will only go thisfar with feminism and will be nice about it. In return, you will tone down the misogyny. Also, you’ll tell me I’m so special, so different from those *other* feminists, the unlikeable ones.)

    Rebecca stated that she wanted to go to sleep. Elevator dude wanted to talk. He decided to make this clear in an elevator that was going to open on a floor with no witnesses. His needs trump her needs, he has the physical advantage, the location provides him with cover. That is at the very least creepy.

    This event wasn’t huge misogyny but it is the type of subtle sexism that is insidious. People who do things like this think that they are one of the good ones (“I only asked her for coffee, not a one night stand!”) and that they don’t need to examine their own actions. So things don’t change.

    Using this event to illustrate “But teh poor menz! How will they meet women?” is completely disrespectful. It’s saying “If you’re at a conference and you think someone is hot, go for it! It doesn’t matter if they’ve been saying they don’t want that. It doesn’t matter if it’s 4 AM. It doesn’t matter if you haven’t said a word to them. Just weasel them into the most uncomfortable social situation you can find on short notice and pounce!”

    • Avatar of azinyk
      June 28, 2011 at 10:49 pm —

      What did the man do after Rebecca declined his invitation? He left her alone, right? You imply that he wanted to put her in physical peril, but we know from her safe exit that that wasn’t the case.

      I don’t think people have a right not to be unintentionally intimidated. If they did, racists would have a right not to ride elevators alone with black men, homophobes would be provided straights-only washrooms, etc. I would live in a world where dogs never went off-leash. Does the reasonable woman standard apply? Perhaps, but we can’t say whether Rebecca’s response (“This guy is giving me rapist vibes”) or McGraw’s (“No thanks, I’m tired”) is what a “reasonable” woman would do. The reasonable man standard is also relevant, because very few men would probably interpret their invitation to chat as threatening.

      I don’t think it’s disrespectful or misogynist to offer an alternative to someone’s previously stated plans. If I said I needed to catch a bus, and someone said to me, “Perhaps you’d like to hang out with some of my friends instead. Noam and Ayaan will be there. Paul McCartney is bringing his vegetarian lasagna.” then I would probably change my mind, and be glad that they hadn’t foreclosed that possibility because I already had plans. If the offer to chat was indeed an offer for sex, then that could change a person’s decision calculus. It’s new information. He didn’t take away her right to choose for herself, he just offered a new possibility, one she was free to decline.

      “the location provides him with cover. That is at the very least creepy.”

      Can you guess why he waited until they were alone to make his invitation? I think it’s very likely that he didn’t want anyone to see him being rejected. Asking a woman to share your company, even for coffee, can be very stressful. Romantic invitations are even more so, which is probably why he offered to talk instead, if indeed romance was his goal – plausible deniability. It’s likely even harder to ask a celebrity surrounded by her fans. If Rebecca had told him to get lost in front of a crowd, could he ever show his face again?

      “So now Rebecca needs to see elevator guy as a fellow flawed human, extend to him some sort of humanistic empathy, try to understand him better”

      Obviously not. She bears no obligation to do anything of the kind. But the entire thrust of this story has to do with Rebecca telling men to consider women’s feelings and not make them uncomfortable. It has nothing to do with violence or rape; it has to do with empathy, understanding, and consciousness-raising. A little reciprocity would not be out of place.

      Why am I defending the actions of some guy I’ve never met? Not because it was appropriate – it was inconsiderate, privileged, and a dick move. No, it’s because there’s a vast gulf between what this guy did, and misogyny.

      • Avatar of mrmisconception
        June 28, 2011 at 11:15 pm —

        First you say that this was not a sexual advance, then you say that he did it in the elevator so that others wouldn’t see him get shot down.
        Your apologetics seem to be at cross purposes; try again.

        • Avatar of azinyk
          June 28, 2011 at 11:45 pm —

          I wrote “if indeed romance was his goal”. I also used the words “guess”, “I think” and “probably”. I’m not a mind-reader.

          I also didn’t say that he wasn’t making a sexual advance. I said he might have been. I’m not going to tell you how to be a skeptic, because I don’t want to be a jerk, but the way I do it, I’m very careful to distinguish between things I know and things I can only guess at. Elevator guy’s intentions are in the latter category.

          • Avatar of mrmisconception
            June 29, 2011 at 12:18 am

            And Rebecca’s feelings on the matter are in the former so your making excuses for elevator guy is unnecessary; after all this is about how she felt not what his intentions were. But then maybe you should school me on how to be a skeptic since I obviously don’t don’t have it down pat like you do.

        • Avatar of
          June 29, 2011 at 1:13 am —

          mrmisconception, your sycophancy, while perhaps admirable on occasion, is quite clearly clouding your perception. azinyk has posted some very cogent thoughts. And you, contrary to most of your usual commentary, have responded with empty rhetorical hostility verging on missing his/her point, entirely for the sake of making friendly.

          In my opinion.

          As I alluded to in some of my other posts, I think much of this may be cultural. The fear, and the almost paranoic assumptions presented in this whole anecdote, and let’s please remember it is just an anecdote and not the Word of the Goddess, are … fuck, I am not sure of the word, or the phrase, but perhaps “endemic” of America’s paranoid, cultural moral panic-based society, would fit.

          Maybe.

          Just a thought.

          • Avatar of mrmisconception
            June 29, 2011 at 2:32 am

            And your pedantry, while never helpful, is starting to get on my fucking nerves. I was not being hostile with @azinyk until they accused me of practicing bad skepticism because I simply pointed out a contradiction in their logic.
            Throw around all the ten-dollar words you wish; it doesn’t keep you from being a tone and concern troll. Nobody here is able to make a point about the original subject (whether Rebecca was out of line for naming names) because you and your ilk have to hijack the thread (not the fist one I might add) to second guess the intentions of elevator guy; which is completely beside the point.
            Rebecca felt threatened therefore she felt threatened; that’s it, there is no more to that part of it and there is no need to speculate about it. It was simply being used to show the degree of the problem which was then attacked by misogynists and a few skeptics; which was again pointed out as endemic of the problem. Repeatedly going back to elevator guy, no matter how many “IMHOs” or “I thinks” or “maybes” you couch it with, is changing the subject to tone; stop it!
            .
            And by the way, nobody here is claiming to be omniscient, or a mind reader, or having every bit of information on every subject but we can make a statement without having to hem and haw or beat around the bush to cover all the bases; this is a fucking blog thread not a thesis, imprecision is not a high crime.

  13. Avatar of Bookitty
    June 28, 2011 at 7:20 pm —

    “And I’d be thrilled if A and B could look at each other, recognize that, and get to understand each other better, rather than alienating each other further (which is my impression of what’s been going on since).”

    So now Rebecca needs to see elevator guy as a fellow flawed human, extend to him some sort of humanistic empathy, try to understand him better and (at 4 AM, in a very creepy situation) to shoulder her part of the blame for this “misunderstanding.”

    Wow. What a crock of dung. She owes him nothing. She is not in any way responsible for this situation. She should not be forced into trying to understand him.

    In this case A should have said “I am tired.” and B should have understood that to mean that she wanted to be left alone. If there is any alienation between A & B at this point, the fault is with B and hopefully he has learned from it.

  14. Avatar of Dustin Williams
    June 28, 2011 at 11:26 pm —

    When you only focus on the wrong approach with no mention of what the right approach would have been it opens up room for a lot of confusion. I had some confusion about the video, hence my question on that thread. I thought the message was that expressing any interest, rather it’s romantic or sexual, at a conference is inherently misogynistic. Even a simple “He could have at least bought me a drink before I said I was going to bed” would have cleared a lot up.

    • Avatar of Dustin Williams
      June 28, 2011 at 11:47 pm —

      I should add a thank you to Rebecca for taking the time in the last thread to clarify things for me and for clarifying things in this post.

  15. Avatar of Glow-Orb
    June 29, 2011 at 1:11 am —

    I don’t understand this game where we pretend that asking someone back to your hotel room in the middle of the night is not a sexual advance.
    Intentionally being obtuse?
    Insulting my intelligence?

  16. Avatar of
    June 29, 2011 at 1:23 am —

    “I don’t understand this game where we pretend that asking someone back to your hotel room in the middle of the night is not a sexual advance. Intentionally being obtuse? Insulting my intelligence?”

    Yes, indeed. We men are all unquestionably, irrevocably, constitutionally guilty of predatorial sexualisational behaviour in early morning elevators until proven otherwise.

    Are any of you people familiar with the concept of, oh I don’t know, curiosity, wanting to meet someone for reasons other than sex while working hours that do not fit the norm and hence 4 a.m. is early afternoon?

    Huh? No of course not. You all have your set of definitions of normalcy, and adhere to it with the glue of SuperGod, or some such.

    I wish I could be so certain of so many unknowables as all of you sultans of the absolutee are.

    The complacent and oh-so-comfortablre assumptions of hostile intent are, well, frankly, they blow me away.

    And yes I know that my incomprehension of these great fears makes me an evil mean and nasty sexist white male privileged person because disagreement and different perspectives are NOT ALLOWED, but Jeebles….

  17. Avatar of Glow-Orb
    June 29, 2011 at 1:29 am —

    Ok. Intentionally being obtuse. Thanks for clearing that up.

    • Avatar of airbornemint
      June 29, 2011 at 1:57 am —

      I have in the past invited recently-met people (men and women) to my hotel room in the middle of the night without it being a sexual advance, and without it being taken as such. Sometimes, the middle of the night is when I am talking to someone. Sometimes, my hotel room is the most convenient comfortable space.

      I have also invited people to sleep in my bed without it being a sexual advance, and had people take off all their clothes in private without it being a sexual advance, and been naked in a tub with someone I’d only known for a few minutes without it being a sexual advance.

      I understand the argument that it’s a good bet that “come to my room” means “have sex with me”, and I understand the argument that it’s physically and emotionally safer to assume so. All I am saying is that I wish we lived in the world where “I am tired” / “Would you like to come to my room and talk?” at 4 AM in an elevator resulted in more compassion on both ends, not less.

  18. Avatar of
    June 29, 2011 at 1:53 am —

    /rolls eyes at such black and white absolutist assumptions

    I wish I was as omniscient and so certain of all the world’s reality as you are; real life would be so much more comfortable.

    • Avatar of AstroCJ
      June 29, 2011 at 4:53 am —

      *Tries to empathise with Rebecca:
      “Drinking in a bar. It gets late, and I’m tired, so I excuse myself and go to bed. Some guy I don’t know follows me into the lift and makes sexual advances when there’s no-one else to see.”

      I would be creeped out. All Rebecca has done is state that she *was* creeped out. It’s reasonable to assume most would be (at least) creeped out and this guy should have anticipated that. Your lengthy expositions don’t address this. I think I’m with Glow-Orb, here.

  19. Avatar of Improbable Joe
    June 29, 2011 at 7:49 am —

    At this point, the people who are still defending Elevator Guy are just being ridiculously misogynistic and dismissive of Rebecca as a person. The fact that they are seemingly incapable of moving past an accusation against a man in order to see any bigger issue, even just how Rebecca felt about it, is pretty strong evidence. The fact that this thread is several steps removed from that initial encounter and there’s no room in their brains to address the backlash to the video or the speech shows what this is really about: preserving their personal right to impose themselves on women whenever they want without regard to a woman’s feelings. In the name of avoiding passive-aggressiveness… that’s you, John Greg. You’re parents must be so proud of your constant defense of a man’s right to proposition women without having to listen to or care about how women feel about it.

    Moving on to the larger issue. There seems to be a general sense of “go along to get along” that never fails to amaze me. Instead of organizations and social groups gathering around the member who has the grievance, they seem to always circle the wagons around the offending party. It seems that in some people’s heads, the actual problems are never “The Problem.” “The Problem” is that people won’t STFU about the problems and if we can shun, shame, or silence the critics then we’ve done better than solving individual problems. If we can force complete loyalty, obedience, and above all a refusal to rock the boat by complaining, it is just like solving all problems at once, by making them disappear!

    You see it when it comes to racism, politics… it is all over the place. People pretend that problems don’t exist, and want everyone else to shut up and help them maintain the illusion.

  20. Avatar of johnk
    June 29, 2011 at 10:03 am —

    I’m afraid I am still not too clear on the elevator guy issue. As a man, what lesson should I take from this? Never make any type of sexual advance in a confined area? Is rape and sexual assault so prevalent that when a man shows sexual interest, a woman must immediately take stock of her situation and prepare for the possibility that there is intent to assault her?

    Perhaps I am being naive, but if someone propositioned me in an elevator in such a non-graphic way I would politely decline and not give the situation a second thought. Even if the person was a 6 foot 300 pound bodybuilder, I would assume he would respect my decision unless I had reason to think otherwise. Clearly, if there was an attempt to block leaving the elevator or repeated attempts after I said no, there is a problem. I am not aware of any such issues in Rebecca’s case though.

    Given recent posts, I am not going to tell anybody how to feel, but it is my sincere hope that everybody could live without any reasonable fear of sexual assault. I would really like to know exactly where this guy crossed the line. I don’t want anyone to feel like they are prey, but then again I might just have unrealistic expectations.

    • Avatar of sevandyk
      June 29, 2011 at 10:40 am —

      Since it appears you’re asking this question out of an honest desire to understand, I’ll make a good faith attempt to answer.

      The problems are as follows:
      - this man ignored her previously stated desires. Namely, her desire to not be sexualized (see the panel discussion from earlier that day) and her desire to sleep (from moments prior).
      - this man made no attempt to *treat* her as a whole person, as evidenced by the fact that this was the first time he had spoken to her. Ever. This also shows he did not *view* her as a whole person, but as a object.
      - this man put his own fear of rejection over her possible fears of assault, as evidenced by the fact that he waited until she was isolated and effectively trapped to make his move. He might not have done this consciously, but by not considering how this might appear to his prospective partner, we’re back at objectification.

      If you want to approach a person in a way that is not threatening or objectifying, it’s simply important to consider their feelings and desires. Do not try to trick them or intimidate them or pressure them. Talk to them, proposition them, and gracefully accept should they reject you. Be aware of what they want, and accept it. Look for enthusiastic agreement! Don’t be satisfied with merely a lack of rejection.

      As for “Is rape and sexual assault so prevalent that when a man shows sexual interest, a woman must immediately take stock of her situation and prepare for the possibility that there is intent to assault her?”

      Yes. Yes, it is. Those of us who have been previously assaulted, doubly so. We know we’re smaller, or weaker, and that there are men out there who would gladly do us harm. We don’t have the luxury of assuming otherwise.

      I’m from Canada, where 1 in 3 women have been sexually assaulted and 1 in 4 of us are assaulted by our *partners*. The stats are similar in other developed nations. We live in a culture of rape, a culture of assault. The stats also show that while it is a very small number of men who rape, these men do it repeatedly. And these men look normal. We can’t tell which ones they are, so we have to be on our guard.

      It is a kind and excellent thing for men to try to understand this. Empathize with us on this one. Be aware of this, be empathetic and be honest with your partners about what you want, while encouraging them to do the same. Then you’ll be fine. :)

      • Avatar of Anne S
        June 29, 2011 at 11:01 am —

        @sevandyk, that was a really nice breakdown. And @johnk, thank you for your earnest question.

      • Avatar of rrpostal
        July 2, 2011 at 12:53 pm —

        I am also really trying to understand the basic “rules” and things that offend people more often than not. I agree that approaching someone alone in an elevator is something you’d only do if you had too much creep-atin (Eagleheart anyone?) in your system. I would not do it myself. I think it lacks an awareness of the situation. Most likely alcohol, naivete or sheer cluelessness were also involved in the creepy decision.

        But I have less empathy for the “he should have been aware of everything I had previously said” argument. I wasn’t there. Maybe direct eye contact was made and she hit him in the head while saying it. But to expect someone to clue in to all your words and whims and then, simultaneously, not be overly twitterpated (Bambi anyone?) by you is kind of unfair.

        It was s stupid move on this guys part, obviously. I’m sure he’s crawled in a hole somewhere. But we may be assuming a bit much and making him out to be a bit more villainous than is necessary given the boorish behavior I see in my college town nightly. While I never would have done what he did, I truly can’t say that I know how to avoid crossing the unwritten rules of feminism. I’m sure someone will let me know.

      • Avatar of skepmaam
        July 14, 2011 at 5:00 pm —

        This is my first time posting. Have read through various blogs, read various linked articles and watched lots of Youtube videos last 2 days on this topic.

        I had not known of SkepChick or any of the players in this drama prior to running across it when was remarked on sarcastically by a guy’s atheist comic Youtube channel. First I watched the lecture Rebecca Watson gave sitting next to Dawkins and AaronRa in Dublin. I gathered that she was supposed to speak on a topic to wake folks up about an anti-woman vibe that many felt.
        I was seriously saddened that this young lady ever got rape threat emails, which would most definitely set even a thick skinned woman on edge, IMO. Everything is IMO obviously, as other folks can clearly be free to view things differently. I was moved by her saying she felt alone when first receiving such threats and saying she had cried. Made complete sense when she used the word “misogyny” later to describe awful comments posted under that video of her lecture.

        I watched RW’s week’s event video where she went to MythBusters and then mentions the Elevator Guy episode. Scrolling down the comments was amazed to see it full of spewing venom at women in general and RW in particular. I couldn’t fathom why a young woman making what appeared to be simple comments about her feelings and basically some casual dating advice that seemed nothing but obvious was reacted to with outrage by so many. That this was the reaction to either her lecture or her week’s event video did seem that she had indeed scratched the surface of some really nasty stuff brewing underneath. A few women felt she over-reacted, but mostly negative comments appeared to be from men.

        Have been heartened that there are indeed men who politely said “Sure, I can see why she would be upset and she has the right to say so.”

        So… my point of joining SkepChick today is to say that sevandyk’s comments to the young man are very much needed. Young men are talking to each other encouraging each other to make lewd comments or even to accost women at future meetings as some sort of joke. Too many are taking advice on how to view the world from folks like ‘The Amazing Atheist’ or worse. How to get such men to listen? Even folks like Dawkins need an education on how better to treat a young woman expressing her feelings. Too many men appear clueless and won’t unstop their ears to listen to try to be empathetic nor to accept a woman has the right to have feelings they cannot understand.

        As an aside, I don’t think a boycott of Dawkins is beneficial, but that is people’s choice.

        I saw young men call RW a “retarded b**ch” (mild) and then add “But what should we do?” They attributed mere social awkwardness to Elevator Guy because they self identified with him. Elevator Guy shouldn’t be named, as is in a way he represents the “every man”. I do think having people be anonymous is good many times. See that is another sub-plot debate.

        They say “What about the guy’s feelings!” then react with rage in their frustration. “Should we never approach women?” They do not know the definition of sexual objectification and confuse it with sexuality. Even if they did listen they do not understand the meaning. Words are misinterpreted, so failed communication.

        I didn’t know feminist jargon. I didn’t know the buzz word “MAR” or concept of male white “privilege” or the precise meaning intended of unwanted sexualization. See confused men pointing out the Stepchick calendars, which is puzzling to me why those were done. Sure self sexualization, but definitely makes things murkier for young men. This has been an education for me too. I’m not sure I know the definition of a “feminist”. I am not sure I am one or not, but I do want to see equal rights for both sexes. The misunderstanding of basic terms complicates communication. How to communicate (yet again, as obviously done before) the terms? Flesh out the concepts expressed in the Elevator Guy incident vs just assume men understood?

        Another aside… for meetings… can there be an escort set up for women coming back alone at night? It isn’t really safe because more than just skeptic attendees are at hotels. This might help more females to attend, particularly ones who come alone.

        There is an attitude I’ve noted that isn’t specific to feminist issues. There is a view that mocking, ridicule and calling folks idiots should be a supported and even an encouraged strategy used by many atheists / skeptics. I think that same attitude is seen in this situation. I know it has been discussed. This should be discussed even more.

        Can logic be used to explain more optimal social behavior? Can logic be used to understand feelings? Surely listening to when someone may feel fear of being harmed and being cornered can be understood. I think even Mr. Spock could relate to not scaring a woman or man if you know better how not to do so. RW was trying to do that with her “Don’t do that”, but the message was lost to many. Why is that a difficult concept? I doubt that it is, but seems getting lost because too many men cannot self identify with a woman. If they are incapable of empathy, then how to get them to understand? Maybe this can be discussed at these meetings?

        Under Youtube videos I repeated that a guy should start by listening to a woman’s feelings, even if they can’t understand them. They should allow her to have them & they can learn how better to approach women if they would just listen. I think I made a small bit of headway with a couple of young men, who at least stopped using profanity in responding. LOL… I think that folks are teachable, even while they are screaming obscenities. I have horses and you have to calm down a horse before they can learn. If this situation calms down, then maybe there can be teaching moments in future.

        Sevandyk and some other women have done a good job of breaking down the situation and giving some steps a guy can take. I’m not sure how Skepchick works, but maybe there needs to be more of such break down. I saw some good links that I had not read before, such as “Schrodinger’s Rapist”. That may not ring true for all women, but it did for me.

        Sorry… to go on so much, but this has bothered me that so many young men are railing against a young woman’s simple comments and feelings. Even big name men weighing in to seemingly try to silence a voice.

        Definitely education needs to be done and hopefully this has sparked more dialogue. Suppose I’m tossing out some ideas. How to get men to open their ears? Perhaps need some young men to weigh in on how to do that, then maybe listening can happen. Maybe a woman’s skeptic forum needs to be done? Maybe there is a sub-forum meeting. I’ve only been to one atheist meeting several years ago. Women discussing shouldn’t just be self identifying feminists. I am confident that women can rise above any upsets that have happened between them to find common purpose.

        The point is that a woman was trashed for expressing some of her feelings on a vlog of a week’s events. She has been trashed for expressing her feelings about receiving misogynistic emails. I don’t know why that isn’t obvious. Problem is… too many really really really can’t see that belittling her and spewing awful crap towards her and telling her to STFU is impolite at the very least. How to get that across? Glad that discussion is sparked, as definitely was needed!

        SkepMaam (I’m older, so no longer a Chick… aka young lady)

    • Avatar of AstroCJ
      June 29, 2011 at 10:58 am —

      I see sevandyk has already responded, but I’ll respond as well, since we have very different writing styles.
      .
      “As a man, what lesson should I take from this? Never make any type of sexual advance in a confined area?”
      .
      That would be an excellent lesson to take from this. Seriously, it would.
      .
      It’s not just that it was in an enclosed space like an elevator; it was also late at night, when Rebecca was tired and had (I assume) had been drinking, and neither of them had any imminent engagements. The context would have been very different if it had been midmorning, everyone was wide awake, and there had been a seminar in 45 minutes. To me, that wouldn’t have appeared unambiguously sexual and I would expect that we’d probably sit around with our laptops talking (though if I didn’t know the guy I might still refuse).
      .
      I find it *really* weird that there’s been this huge backlash against Rebecca’s comment, which just seemed to me to be… reasonable.

    • Avatar of Improbable Joe
      June 29, 2011 at 10:59 am —

      Funny/odd/sad thought I just had:

      I remember drivers ed in high school. Do any of you remember that? 10-and-2 and all that?

      Anyone remember “defensive driving” where you try to anticipate the potentially dangerous conditions and behavior of other drivers? You follow the rules, and you don’t assume that other people are going to follow them. You try to stay out of blind spots, and don’t assume that there’s no one in your blind spot.

      When we talk about a bad driver riding in other people’s blind spots, driving too fast and aggressively, driving too close to other people, ignoring other people’s signals while being ambiguous with their own signals… no one acts like it is everyone else’s fault because the bad driver doesn’t really mean anyone harm. No one pretends that anyone is saying that all driving should be banned, or that people are attacking all drivers everywhere.

      When a guy behaves in a similar manner towards women, getting in their blind spots, being too forward or aggressive, violating their personal space, ignoring the words they say and their body language, acting in ways that aren’t exactly benign and nonthreatening… all of a sudden it is different. Now it is the woman’s fault for not giving a man 50 excuses for his behavior, while that man isn’t required to respect women in any way. They throw up strawman nonsense like “no man can ever approach a woman, waaaaaaa!!”

      Load of BS.

      • Avatar of Improbable Joe
        June 29, 2011 at 11:01 am —

        Oh… and no one attacks drivers for being safe defensive drivers. Women who attempt to be similarly safe and defensive in their lives are attacks for it.

      • Avatar of GeekGirlsRule
        June 29, 2011 at 2:25 pm —

        Improbable Joe, I think I love you for this comment.

        It’s a good analogy, I think.

  21. Avatar of ebrooks
    June 29, 2011 at 10:05 am —

    I just registered here for the first time purely to say I absolutely loved this post. And also, after a headdesk-inducing read-through this morning of a thread on Friendly Atheist which left me utterly depressed at the state of the “feminist” part of “humanist”, that this post was very, very much needed.

    Just thanks.

    (And yes, unsolicited advances in elevators from total strangers are, in fact, TOTALLY CREEPY.)

  22. Avatar of northerner
    June 29, 2011 at 12:01 pm —

    Has Elevator Guy contacted Rebecca to apologize? Maybe to say something like:

    “Sorry I was creepy in the elevator. I really wasn’t trying to be like that. I can see how you could feel that way. I just didn’t think about it like that before. Upon reflection, it was pretty bad, no wonder it made you uncomfortable.

    You are a public figure, and I feel like I know you and it is easy to feel like we are already friends. I clearly did not approach this well, and can see the (now) obvious connection to your talk and the group discussion afterwards. I feel pretty stupid for not seeing it before, but I don’t think I can miss it again. So for that, thanks for showing me my own blindness.
    Again, sorry for being creepy and scaring you.”

    Or maybe just “Sorry I was a creep.”

    As far as naming poeple, of course McGraw can handle it. Even if this is the first time for such a spotlight, she can handle it.

  23. Avatar of johnk
    June 29, 2011 at 2:56 pm —

    I appreciate the honest answers to my questions. And wow, having to be on your guard all the time must really suck. Sexual assault on someone is so far out of what I consider acceptable I doubt I could do such a thing even if my life depended on it, so I guess it is hard for me to consider it a realistic possibility that anyone should have to guard against. Sadly, I suppose this attitude is wrong.

    Given what the guy did then, I would mostly suspect he was clueless and insensitive. He posed a question without paying enough attention to other indicators in an easily misunderstood situation. It also occurs to me now that there may have been body language or other cues that would be hard to describe in narrative.

    I would suggest responses to situations like this that let the guy know how he is making you feel. If they are anything like me they most likely don’t understand what you could be worried about, and if they really do intend to do something unspeakable you are out of luck anyway.

    • Avatar of GeekGirlsRule
      June 29, 2011 at 3:06 pm —

      I would suggest responses to situations like this that let the guy know how he is making you feel. If they are anything like me they most likely don’t understand what you could be worried about, and if they really do intend to do something unspeakable you are out of luck anyway.

      Which sometimes (frequently) backfires, as there are a subsection of people (men and women) who get off on intimidating and making other people uncomfortable.

      Generally a firm, “No” is really all these situations merit. It doesn’t give anything those types of people can feed on, and it makes your position clear. Contrary to popular belief, women do not owe anyone an explanation for their responses. And while I appreciate that you may not think that’s what you were asking for, it was.

      • Avatar of Anne S
        June 29, 2011 at 4:44 pm —

        Not to mention that an explanation is unlikely to make the person feel any better. It’s embarrassing to have an invitation rejected, especially a romantic one, and one we’re embarrassed, we tend to get defensive. As a woman, when I reject passes I am NOT willing to take the chance that the person I’m rejecting will react violently, and I don’t see an explanation (which, as GeekGirlsRule points out, is unnecessary anyway) making the situation any better.

        • Avatar of GeekGirlsRule
          June 29, 2011 at 4:56 pm —

          I’ve primarily found that when (mostly) men ask for an explanation for my “No,” what they’re really looking for is a way to argue me out of it. Because once you offer an explanation, even as banal as “You’re just not my type,” they can start going, “But, but, you’re HERE at a Sci Fi convention, and I’M here at a Sci Fi convention, so we both like Sci Fi, right? And look, you’re wearing a Red Dwarf shirt. I LOVE Red Dwarf. And is that an X-men button on your jacket? The X-men rock! How can you say I’m not your type?”

    • Avatar of Improbable Joe
      June 29, 2011 at 3:30 pm —

      John, here’s a crazy idea for you: maybe people should learn how to behave some time before they are following someone into an elevator at 4AM? You wouldn’t jump out of an airplane before you took the basic skydiving class, would you? Gonna hop into the pilot’s seat because you saw it on TV a few times? “Wanna come up and see my etchings?” is sort of an advanced move, and most people know pretty early that you don’t go straight from “hi” to “etchings” in the space of an elevator ride.

      Like you, for instance… you don’t need someone to explain this to you again, do you? I’ll bet you can even carry this lesson into a more general lesson about interacting with other people. I’m willing to wager $20 that you’re not going to follow strange women into elevators at 4AM, OR into dark hallways or unlit parking lots, or into the restroom, or anything else like that at 4AM. You’ll make your move earlier, and definitely provide a little more run-up to the move than “hi, you’re cool, hotel room alone with me?”

      You cared enough to ask, and I’m assuming you’re taking the answers to heart. I hope you also understand that the moment you put someone in what they find to be a negative and possibly even dangerous situation that they have an obligation to THEMSELVES to remove themselves from the situation. They don’t have an obligation to THE OTHER PERSON to give them a meaningful life lesson. They can learn here and elsewhere online, and from conversations with female friends. Of course, it is hard for guys to get that lesson when there’s a large amount of people who are basically arguing that guys don’t have to change their behavior.

      • Avatar of AstroCJ
        June 29, 2011 at 7:00 pm —

        Are you confusing johnk with John Greg? There are two Johns posting in this thread, and they seem like quite different people…

      • Avatar of Ben Weiss
        March 23, 2013 at 4:23 pm —

        I’ve been legally blind my entire life. I have often found myself in situations in which a woman reacted to me and I could easily tell from her tone of voice that she (a) thought I was creepy and (b) thought that somehow I should have known why she thought this. Would you please direct me to where these skydiving-like behavior lessons are taught? Other than reading these posts (Thank goddess for John’s sincere question, without which I wouldn’t have had the gumption to even post) and talking with my friends (who are mostly sick and tired of telling me the same boring every-situation-is-different slogans) I really have been hurt a lot by women who obviously have been hurt a lot by other men. If I’m really that scary, would you please just wait until we’re around others and say, “you scare me; go away” or something? That hurts too, but at least it’s honest.

        -Just trying to do my part to fill your world with one fewer creepy guy.

    • Avatar of GeekGirlsRule
      June 29, 2011 at 3:32 pm —

      I feel I need to clarify a bit, people who predate on others sexually look for victims with mushy boundaries, who aren’t good at naming or enforcing their boundaries. So, if you try to explain or justify your “No,” that indicates a need for validation from the person you are telling No. Predators look for that.

      A very firm, simple, “No!” with no explanation indicates that you have and will enforce your boundaries.

  24. Avatar of GeekGirlsRule
    June 29, 2011 at 3:09 pm —

    Rebecca,

    I waffle on the whole “Do I call them out by name or not?” issue all the time. Yes, not calling them out does feel kind of passive-aggressive and weaselly, but sometimes calling them out feels too aggressive, which is totally my damage. But ultimately, you’re right. Clearly naming the person you are discussing eliminates a lot of “Is she talking about me?” questioning, and leaves no doubt.

    So, yes, I applaud you, and all the people saying, “she’s just a student” are completely being dismissive of Ms. McGraw’s ability to be an adult, fight her own fights, and deal.

  25. Avatar of ad_astra
    June 29, 2011 at 3:37 pm —

    I’ve been pondering the points raised in this blog and the subesequent responses for the past day or so. I’m so glad awareness is being brought to these issues and it brought to mind 2 additional points that have stuck with me:

    -I feel there is a stigma associated with expressing strong opinions over womens’ issues. In my own thoughts I often preface feminist musings with “I don’t want to be a bitch but…” I think this comes in part from how girls are socialized (especially in the religious deep south where I grew up) to be demure and just get along no matter what. Even though I have passionate opinions and standards regarding equality for women, I often feel the old tug of that social norm restraining me from expressing myself irl. Being more aware of this now (thanks to this blog and others recently raising issues of feminist atheists) I plan on being more vocal going forward. So, thanks for this.

    -I thought about instances in my life that reflect similiar concerns and issues as Rebecca’s “elevator guy” incident and I remembered not just 1 but 3 instances of guys getting creepy with me at places I’ve worked. One issue which I’m dealing with right now. There is a man who works in the same hospital but not the same dept as me, who I see at least once a week on the various hospital floors. I’ve only had a few banal verbal exchanges with him that were things you say to someone at work to be polite. He’s never even introduced himself to me or asked my name but he knows it somehow. How is he a creeper? Several times I’ve been ambushed by him saying hello (fine) but actually touching me as he approached (NOT fine).
    Each time has gotten creepier and more intrusive. First it was my shoulder, then my upper back, then my lower back, and last encounter he actually came up behind me and *hugged* me. I was so horrified and uncomfortable. Now I have to deal with either making a small “knock it off” scene or finding out his name and telling my supervisor so she can get this stopped. The whole thing pisses me off! I am angry it took me so long to realize this wasn’t accidental and that it was progressing and that I didn’t say something forceful the first time it happened. Then there is the whole “Did I make him think I was flirting?” guilt thing and the suggestions from my friends that I start wearing my wedding ring at work. I shouldn’t have to do any of these things! He should never have taken the liberty to touch me in the ways he has. Some men wonder why women act defensive, fearful, paranoid, bitchy, etc. with nice guys who “don’t mean anything by it.” This is why I act like that with men I don’t know, because a simple response to hello can turn into an uncomfortable issue that I have to figure out.

    TL;DR: These blogs have made me aware that I need to be more vocal and active about sexism. I have a creeper at work (not the first) and I’m pissed that some inconsiderate men put women in these situations.

  26. Avatar of Improbable Joe
    June 29, 2011 at 3:52 pm —

    I’m going to try to quit posting so much on this stuff… I swear!

    I just wanted to leave with a thought about men and issues of respecting women’s safety and boundaries. Guys, getting this stuff right is IN YOUR BEST INTEREST! You avoid a face full of pepper spray, or a sexual harassment lawsuit, losing your job, being the focus of Internet controversy, all sorts of stuff. You get to be friends with women, which is (surprisingly?) worth doing for its own sake. And then maybe you even get to date/sleep with/marry/pay alimony to some of them one day!

    -

    It’s a lot easier to do if you’re a decent guy with a little empathy who shows a bit of respect. There’s two key points in starting any sort of relationship with another person, whether it is a friendship or a one night stand or a lifelong romance or I guess even a business partnership or being in a band together. 1)You have to find someone looking for the same interaction and 2)you have to be the sort of person who they’d be interested in having that interaction with. A lot easier to find #1 if you put in the legwork on #2 first.

  27. Avatar of johnk
    June 29, 2011 at 4:48 pm —

    @ GeekGirlsRule
    I think it is possible to be firm and un-intimidated and still call out the specific poor behavior. I.E “NO, and trapping me in an elevator to ask me that kind of thing is really inappropriate.” The offending people are going to have a hard time figuring out what they are doing wrong if they never get called on it.
    The twisted people that are trying to intimidate are only going to enjoy the fear they inspire, so it seems like you could call them out without being afraid or apologetic about it.
    I will admit that I am advocating for what would work with a person like myself. I just hope that someone will let me know if I am doing something that makes them feel threatened, intimidated, or uncomfortable in any way, because I don’t want to make people feel that way. Clearly, this approach can backfire if the offending person has the opposite mentality, I am just of the opinion that most people are not like that. I could be wrong. If you think following my advice will put you in more danger, then please don’t do it.

    • Avatar of mrmisconception
      June 29, 2011 at 5:02 pm —

      I just hope that someone will let me know if I am doing something that makes them feel threatened, intimidated, or uncomfortable in any way, because I don’t want to make people feel that way.
      .
      The crap thing about how how society works is that since you care to know if you are making people uncomfortable you are far less likely to be the person making someone uncomfortable; empathy goes a long way toward helping with both, it’s the assholes who are making people uncomfotable that are least interested in knowing that they are. Bass ackwards as usual, go figure.

    • Avatar of GeekGirlsRule
      June 29, 2011 at 5:07 pm —

      @JohnK…

      I would like to believe that you are arguing in good faith here, and honestly misunderstand that when I say we don’t owe you an explanation, I’m talking in general terms and not specifically about being trapped in an elevator by someone, however, having read your comments above, my hopes are not high.

      I am very much a proponent of telling someone specifically that what they have done is wrong, covered here: http://www.polimicks.com/?p=201 – The word creep serves a purpose
      http://www.polimicks.com/?p=205 – The Crux of Creep is Unwanted Attention – Part 1

      I think that women SHOULD tell men exactly when and how their behavior crosses lines. HOWEVER, not all boundary crossing behavior occurs where and when a woman feels physically secure enough to do that. Women have gotten shot for refusing to give men their phone numbers, or otherwise spurning their advances, literally shot, or otherwise assaulted. I believe there are links in at least one of those posts I linked above.

      So please quit trying to find ways to make this about us victimizing men. Lots of men manage to flirt with, talk to, be friends with, actually score with women every day without being accused of being sexist douches. It really isn’t as hard as a lot of people here are making it out to be.

      That said, I also know that

  28. Avatar of johnk
    June 29, 2011 at 5:01 pm —

    @ Improbable Joe
    In my own case, something like that would only happen out of misunderstanding. You are right that I do not go around stalking or cornering lone women. I just wanted to get across that there are likely a good amount of men behaving poorly out of ignorance, and these men are not going to have any realistic way of figuring out what they are doing is wrong if they never get called out on it. I can’t really know if what that guy did was out of careless ignorance or malicious joy in intimidating people, it just seems like assuming the later can be counter-productive.
    Being quietly intimidated is not a reasonable method for effecting change. Being vocal about the problem is.

    • Avatar of GeekGirlsRule
      June 29, 2011 at 5:16 pm —

      And here Rebecca is, TELLING YOU THAT THIS IS NOT OK, yet all you can do is argue about her being wrong about this somehow? She’s not even just telling one guy and being done with it, she is instructing all of mankind that this is not ok, and yet, there are people here arguing with her that she’s wrong. That is hardly being “quietly intimidated” and expecting change. She’s being vocal to effect change.

      Look, women are telling you, cornering women in isolated or confined spaces is wrong. We do not like it, and if you’re lucky ALL that will happen is we think you’re a creep. If you get someone with really sensitive PTSD triggers, you could get pepper-sprayed.

      If you are happy to have this input and will take into consideration and not do that, then shut up. Objective achieved. Otherwise you just sound like you’re telling us over and over and over again that we’re wrong because “gosh darn it, guys don’t mean any harm…”

      As I’ve stated before, women spend our lives conditioned to do all of these really fucking restrictive things to “avoid sexual assault,” things that don’t work, btw. When we do them, we’re bitches. When we don’t, we’re doormats. Are you not seeing the problem yet? There is no win.

      We women get no win in this situation, because there is no win to be had. We suck no matter what we do. Speak up, we’re ball-busting bitches. Stay quiet we’re “quietly intimidated and not reasonably effecting change.”

      If you want to know why we’re angry, this right here is why we’re angry. THIS. You and everyone else quesitioning Rebecca’s actions, and threadjacking this fucking thread to talk about if she was right to feel intimidated by that incident in Glasgow.

      And I apologize for dumping all of the bile everyone who is doing that on this thread has generated. But it had to land somewhere, and it seems like spamming to post this to everyone who’s being an ass.

    • Avatar of Anne S
      June 29, 2011 at 5:42 pm —

      johnk, as GeekGirlsRule says, what Rebecca is doing here is being vocal about problem. Part of the hope is that people, like you, will read or watch what she has to say and learn from it. If you can only learn by being called out directly, in the moment, well, that’s not always going to happen, for reasons already stated.

  29. Avatar of johnk
    June 29, 2011 at 5:56 pm —

    I don’t think Rebecca was wrong. She had every right to get creeped out and I appreciate the discussion here. I have gotten way to preachy. I had some legitimate confusion, I got some great clarification, and tried to find a way to move forward. Nobody is ever wrong for feeling intimidated, and nobody in my opinion is EVER a bitch for speaking out about being mistreated. Anger about being called that is totally legitimate. There are guys out there that are trying to do harm, and I will try to be more aware of that in the future.
    At some level I think I resented the implication that as a man I would want to rape or assault someone, but that is on me. I am not into antagonizing people and will not post here any more. I apologize to anyone I may have pissed off, it is not what I was trying to do.

    • Avatar of GeekGirlsRule
      June 29, 2011 at 6:55 pm —

      Johnk, I apologize again for you catching some shrapnel. But the thing to remember is that if it isn’t about you, if you aren’t the kind of guy who does shit like that, then it isn’t about you.

      Yeah, there are some bad guys, and some clueless guys and a whole lot of good guys. Just try to realize if we’re talking about “guys who do X” this doesn’t mean we’re talking about all guys, or assume all guys do X.

      There are some awesome dudes out there like MrMisconception, SashaPixlee and Improbable Joe who get it. And one of the most valuable tools they’ve figured out is that second line of mine here: If it isn’t about them, it isn’t about them. They’ve also figured out that their experiences aren’t universal, which is a trap most everyone falls into.

      I don’t hate you, I don’t necessarily want you to leave, but I really, really, really hate repeating myself, and watching other women have to repeat themselves over and over. It’s a personal failing, I realize.

      I just want you to get it.

  30. Avatar of thegreatdeceiver
    June 29, 2011 at 9:28 pm —

    Have we accomplished so much as a movement that now we can waste our time and effort taking sides in a melodrama? The only thing this in-fighting does is make us look like children.

  31. Avatar of texaskeptic
    June 30, 2011 at 1:52 pm —

    I think, perhaps, that this discussion should be broadened beyond the politics of gender to the politics of perceived power.
    I concur with Rebecca 100% that the elevator incident was creepy, uncalled for and that she was right to feel intimidated. I’m not trying to say anything to the contrary here. I do want to say that, perhaps, Rebecca wasn’t completely correct to include the Stef McGraw quote in her address to the student group, and she may have mishandled her response to criticism after the fact. And this is my thinking here:
    1. Like men in general she was,in this instance,operating from a position of real or perceived power as an invited speaker with a large national following.
    2. She brought unwanted attention to Stef McGraw. Whether Ms. McGraw is adult enough to handle this attention is irrevelent, she didn’t see this coming and didn’t ask for it.
    3. There was a PERCEIVED threat or attack in this attention, even if the INTENTION was not there.
    4. When confronted with the perception of the threat, Rebecca dismissed the perception of an attack as unwarranted and proceeded to defend her intentions.

    These are the exact issues that are brought up throughout this thread; those in power not recognizing that power, and not paying any heed to the way their actions are perceived because they the intent of their actions were not threatening.
    Again, I am not trying to argue with the fact that
    misogyny exists. I know it does; and all men, including myself, should be treating women as whole people and as equals. I’m also not trying to create any false equivelencies here- being cornered in an elevator at 4AM and being pointed out in a lecture are by no means the same thing.
    But I also think that gender isn’t the only way a person can hold power over another. A boss calling you out at work, a professor singling you out in class can all be frightening and intimidating.
    I can’t make any claim that Rebecca should have said one thing or another in her speech or the aftermath thereof, but she should be cognizant of the power she held in that position and perhaps an opportunity lost to discuss it.

  32. Avatar of stefmcgraw
    June 30, 2011 at 11:10 pm —

    For anyone who is interested: my take on “naming names.”

    http://www.unifreethought.com/2011/06/fursdays-wif-stef-33.html

    -Stef McGraw

    • Avatar of Improbable Joe
      July 1, 2011 at 9:15 am —

      I can see why calling you out by name was a mistake, because now there’s no convincing you that you were wrong. You’re on the defensive, rallying people who agree with you, and there’s no way you’ll ever be capable of backing down at this point.

      • Avatar of sevandyk
        July 1, 2011 at 4:52 pm —

        That’s a really good point, Joe. Really good.

        • Avatar of Improbable Joe
          July 1, 2011 at 7:28 pm —

          It is actually a better point than I initially meant it to be. I was initially just being snarky! :)
          -
          I think almost everything that Stef McGraw has posted on the subject is childish and wrong-headed and missing the point entirely. The more I think about it, the more I agree that calling her out publicly the way Rebecca did was completely the wrong way of going about it. I’m not sure I buy the “power imbalance” idea nearly as much as I just think that when you call someone out in a crowd, you force them out of a position of possible discussion and into a place where they are required to be your opponent.
          -
          And I guess that Rebecca has to fight too now… once fighting words are spoken, you have to fight. Gosh, it is now Fight Club. At least it is nice to once again confirm that dick-waving contests transcend gender.

  33. Avatar of Danarra
    July 1, 2011 at 11:35 am —

    *heavy sigh* I’m not a joiner. This is exactly why I’m not a joiner. This is kinda painful to watch. The one thing that I admire in groups that work is they have a certain amount respect for each other and refrain from eating their own.

    Instead of calling this girl out publicly, embarassing her and making this all highly unpleasant, was there maybe another way to address it? Something that would have been encouraging to someone who is basically a sister-in-arms in the culture wars?

    Rebecca and Steph both speak from a feminist perspective and have slightly different views on that. Why not find the common ground and build from that instead of having this turn into some kind of squabble?

  34. Avatar of Lobo
    July 1, 2011 at 1:03 pm —

    I’m a little confused. Since when does disagree = dismiss?

    That’s the crux of the problem here. Rebecca, who considers herself somewhat of an authority figure on feminism, found out that there was someone out there (a woman, even) who did not agree with her interpretation of the “Elevator Situation”. Not the actual event, just the interpretation of what was happening. This disagreement upset her so much that she willfully used her position of power to victimize a member of her audience. I don’t care how she tries to justify it, she exploited the power imbalance between the speaker and audience to single out and humiliate a member of that audience.

  35. Avatar of mlaclair
    July 1, 2011 at 6:26 pm —

    Rebecca,

    I think the reason that people only criticized you for your tone was because, well, they didn’t like your tone. Perhaps the reason that “no one” criticized your points on objectification or feminism is because for the most part, we agree with you.

    I think there are a few reasons that many people at the conference, like myself, did not like the way you mentioned the student and her comment.

    1. The talk was announced as being about The Religious Right’s War on Women. The topic was not about the war on women among our own groups. Not that it isn’t an important subject. But it seemed as if it was tossed in there, almost as if you had a bone to pick. (Honestly, reading some of the comments you receive, I can understand why. People can be ridiculous.) Anyway, this is a minor point, but it did set up some confusion about the speech.
    2. You brought up Stef’s comment among the more brutal, vicious and sexist comments, as if it was just another comment to be thrown into the same category. Her comment was clearly of a different caliber, and I felt your transition into her comment made it seem like she was just as bad as the rest.
    3. You have more power as a speaker than anyone sitting in the audience. If you had written a blog post about her comments, I would not have the same issue. In that case, she would be able to defend her views in the same capacity as you. When you were speaking, she did not have the same opportunity. Sure, she could have come up after the Q&A, but I think she made a wise move by staying seated. This was not the right venue for it, unless you had discussed it with her before hand and explicitly provided her with an opportunity to respond.

    The way you spoke about Stef’s comment, and the way you are writing here, makes it seem as if you see things as fairly black and white, at least when it comes to the views and opinions of other people.

    For example, you write in this post about Stef’s comment: “I pointed out that she posted a transcript of my video but conveniently left off the fact that I had already expressed my desire to go to sleep.”

    “Conveniently left off…” you make it sound as if she were a right wing news reporter unfairly editing a story. I hope you don’t really think that she left that point out of her paragraph intentionally.

    During the conference, based on her online comment, you stated that she was ignorant of feminism. You have reiterated something similar in your blog post here. “demonstrates an ignorance of Feminism 101” If somebody sees differently from you on a point of feminism, it does not mean they are ignorant of feminism. That is the sort of thing I hear from evangelicals all the time. If I disagree with a point in the topic of discussion (in the case of evangelicals, Christianity) then they tell me I am ignorant of Christianity. We can both read and analyze the very same material, but come away with varying points of view.

    These previous two statements do criticize the person, and not the words, and from what I recall, you said very similar things during your talk. By stating that she “conveniently left off” words and that her words “demonstrate an ignorance of Feminism 101,” you are not just saying that her statement was misguided. You are stating (at least, it appears you are stating) that she left out facts for the purpose of making her point stronger, and that she is ignorant of feminism.

    I think it would have been very beneficial for everyone if you had, in fact, sought her out before her speech and told her that you were going to comment on her statement. That would have eliminated a good amount of the shock factor, especially for her, and you could have also had a brief discussion about it with her. I am saying this assuming that you speak at conferences such as this one with the intent of informing people, creating allies, making friends and influencing change. Don’t get me wrong, there are cases in which it is useful, or more beneficial, to surprise. But this was the wrong time and place.

    Like you, I am passionate and I like heated debate. The concern I have is that it should be done in an appropriate context. I agree with you on many things, and I enjoyed your speech. On this issue however, we disagree.

    Best,
    Matthew LaClair

  36. Avatar of Bubba
    July 2, 2011 at 11:56 am —

    On the issue that started this hooraw, if any of the ladies I know were approached under those circumstances the only issue would be how long that idiot would be in intensive care.
    As I see it, Stef McGraw called Rebecca out publicly and by name. The fact she couldn’t respond to Rebeccas rebuttal within a microsecond means nothing since there was, and is, plenty of time to hash it out. Since Stef named Rebecca it was entirely appropriate for Rebecca to name Stef in return. The entire tone thing is just crap to coddle fools and idiots my implying respect they don’t deserve. Keep it up Ms Watson.

  37. Avatar of Vene
    July 2, 2011 at 1:39 pm —

    I’m late to this, but whatever. I was talking to one of my mates and it helped me, as a man, to understand what the problem was. I think some of the reason there are so many issues with people seeing what the problem is with the elevator incident is that men and women are trained in radically different ways. As a man, I don’t think anything about being alone or even in a relatively confined space (like an elevator), so my first thought was that since he accepted the “no” he was being a little rude to ask in such a situation, but not much more. I know this is my privilege showing, but most of us are not even aware we have privilege.

    Anyways, my point is that men are not even taught that approaching a woman in an isolated setting is bad. I don’t think it should be innately bad (seriously, fuck the rape culture that makes women default to prey and men to predators), but the society we live in makes it impossible to not be an issue. I think that both sexes have a duty to educate the other about what the cultural norms we are taught actually are. It would help men understand women and women understand men. And, ultimately, our sexually segregated culture harms everybody. The opposite sex is an “other” and I hate that. I hate that I intimidate women because I have a relatively large frame, I also hate that they have just cause to be wary of a man with such a frame.

    I also hate sexism like this, the “minor” and the “trivial.” Overt bigotry is obvious and easy to combat, but it is when people who try to respect everybody have a hard time seeing the problems with actions, that is what I find the most insidious. It turns people who should be allied with each other into enemies, even though they each want to destroy the same thing.

  38. Avatar of ggallin13
    July 2, 2011 at 3:31 pm —

    I agree completely with this blog post. It is absolutely correct to name names, as without that there can be no dialog. Now, that dialog may become childish and combative, as humans are involved, but not necessarily. And maybe, just maybe if more people are called out personally for their assertions they’ll think a bit more before they speak/write.

    And I think that Elevator Guy is a complete douchebag. And so are the people who attempt to explain or “understand” his behavior.

    Yes, risking rejection can be scary. So what? Act like a grown up. Show some confidence. Just by doing that, not only will more people find you attractive, but you won’t come off like what you are, namely an insecure creepy jerk.

    Why is getting rejected all that horrifying? Everyone everywhere has been rejected, more often than not. It is no big deal. Not only that, with practice (and considering that the D-bag involved is an adult he should have had plenty) you begin to pick up on clues that let you know if your advance is welcome–or not. Why would you ask anyone back to your room at 4 a.m. without having so much as a chat? Would he have asked a man back to his room for “coffee”–especially without talking to him first? Why or why not?

    He should have known better. Why bring up empathy for him after the fact, and not require empathy for her beforehand? I am 6’5″ and 240lbs, and I never feel threatened anywhere, yet I know how someone else would feel if I got onto an elevator and started hitting on them–especially a stranger. Get out of your own head for a few seconds for Chrissakes. I have a pretty healthy ego, and even I don’t think that I am so totally awesome that strangers will look at me and want to follow me back to my room or anywhere else.

  39. Avatar of bgskeptic
    July 2, 2011 at 5:39 pm —

    As a witness to the event that went down last year at the CFI leadership conference involving Heidi Anderson; There were no “guilty” participants in that discussion. To use an analogy everybody there was rolling in the mud and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. It shows that people are taking these issues very seriously. There were a broad variety of opinions and not just two sides. And that was not the only time there were heated debates that weekend. Not to mention all of the “unsanctioned” debates that went on. People are there to critically engaged. Heated emotions as inter-personally messy as they may be are not necessarily just causes of behavior but rather responses to stimuli. There were plenty of people there who would debate get emotional and than enjoy the rest of the time time with said “opponent”.

    Try to keep in mind that being critical is not the same as being aggressive. Passion is much different from anger. And what I saw that weekend was people trying to communicate with each other. Do egos get bruised in debate? Absolutely. But that is no reason to stop the debate. We are all human and part of being human is dealing with emotions.

  40. Avatar of tab1ndent
    July 2, 2011 at 7:47 pm —

    I feel compelled to chime in on a small point:
    I was at the CFI conference when Heidi Anderson spoke. At no point was she shouted down- quite the opposite in fact, as she shouted down several people during the Q&A. It’s true that the Q&A was quite heated, but the blame can hardly be stopped at “because feminism was the topic.” While feminism does not typically go over well, at that time the problem was compounded by Heidi insulting the audience multiple times. I hardly shy away from feminism (and wish more of the young women leaders weren’t so reluctant to take the label for themselves and weren’t so tragicly ignorant of feminism 101), but Heidi was highly insulting and I honestly felt insulted for the guys in the audience.
    So while I will agree that feminism rarely goes over well among the community’s young leaders, particularly some of the other women, that case is a poor example for multiple reasons.

  41. Avatar of petria
    July 2, 2011 at 10:11 pm —

    It is such a shame that these necessary discussions on sexism turn into heated debates about what the women said not what the man did. It is so convenient for the misogynists among us that we allow the conversation to turn away from demanding to know why men continue to behave in ways that intimidate and threaten women. I have spent the last couple of hours catching up on this latest furore but would love to know why intelligent men who attend skeptic events can’t learn some fundamentals about behaviour. Of course there are many who do know. Can you guys please tell the others?

    Rebecca I can’t find fault with a thing you have said or done. I am one of the few regular female attendees at my local Skeptic Meetups and find myself having the same conversations.
    I want to know why a percentage of men in civilised countries still commit sexual crimes and engage in sexual harassment to such a degree. While gay and racial violence has decreased over the last, say, 40 years, it seems that women are as much a target as they ever were. However these conversations seem to end with me repeating,’No guys, it doesn’t matter what she was wearing’

    I get the feeling that changes to the ugly side of male sexual behaviour may only result from men educating men. A misogynist won’t take advice from a woman. Does anyone agree?

    Women have been ranting about their safety for many years but I suspect we need all the awesome feminist men to find a strong voice on this issue and take a stand. (to the ones that are – thankyou!)

    Can we please step over the mad blogging/trolling he said/she said crap and start figuring out what we can do.

    • Avatar of para
      August 12, 2011 at 8:10 am —

      I think that’s due more to the fact that ‘what she said’ is something we can see and respond to; ‘what he did’ happened on an elevator with two people in it, neither of them us. Less misogyny and more practicality… fact is, we just don’t know how the elevator thing went down, we have to take her word for it. However, we DO know how her words are put together, so that’s something we can nibble at with more confidence. Now if it was a video of the event, I doubt there’d be as much discussion over her interpretation of events, and much more discussion about the actual events themselves.

  42. Avatar of generichuman
    July 2, 2011 at 10:48 pm —

    Rebecca:

    Would it have been inappropriate if he had asked her in the lobby or in the bar?

  43. Avatar of scanadensis
    July 3, 2011 at 7:53 am —

    I know you’re getting a lot of negative attention because of this, so I just wanted to say that because of all this, I am now here in support and subscribing to your blog.

    • Avatar of para
      August 12, 2011 at 8:16 am —

      I know you’re getting a lot of positive and negative attention from this, and so I just want to say I am now here to apply critical thinking and support only ideas I honestly agree with, not support opinions because I like the person saying them.

  44. Avatar of Bubba
    July 3, 2011 at 9:40 am —

    The key issue isn’t so much gender as it is respect. We live in a culture that has long held little respect for females in general. There have been periods of public display of gentility toward women, but only in the upper classes and that public display was most often very different than what went on behind closed doors. That attitude of disrespect remains ingrained in our society. For myself, I married a very strong woman whom I respect greatly and I treat her, and women in general, with respect. Of course, that respect can disappear if undeserved, but that’s an individual issue, not general behavior. I find it sad that I, a poorly educated redneck, treat women better and with more respect than presumably more cultured and better educated men do.

    • Avatar of mrmisconception
      July 3, 2011 at 2:14 pm —

      Respect for women has little to do with intelligence and education and more to do with respect and openness; those qualities come in all neck colors.

  45. Avatar of kittynh
    July 3, 2011 at 6:16 pm —

    I do not see where Rebecca called this woman “fucking” ignorant (as said in the comments). That would be a personal attack, she’s “ignorant”, that’s enough of a comment.

    Also, if anyone else says “oh yeah 4am and how drunk were these 2? It was IRELAND” and laughs, they are getting a punch. Hard. There is joking about drinking, and real life what happened.

  46. Avatar of seaside681
    July 3, 2011 at 7:05 pm —

    Stef,
    It seems to me that you are very much in the right about your elevator experience, a situation which clearly rests on a power imbalance. It also seems to me that you were wrong to criticize an audience member about a highly charged issue from behind the podium at the conference. And although there are obvious and important differences between them, it seems to me that both behaviors were wrong for *the same basic sort of reason*. In each case, after all, one person in some way wields more social power than another, in a setting that is different from everyday life (roughly, a fair initial presumption of greater physical strength, in a confined space, or greater access to an extended speaking role). The first person disregards the existence of the power differential and of the setting that creates or exacerbates it, even though it has an negative effect on the other person, to pursue a legitimate goal in an unfortunate way.

    I am sure you had good intentions in expressing your view, but you might reflect on the parallel a bit. It does seem to me that the harms in the two cases are different, but a little imagination should suffice for people inclined more to recognize one kind to also understand the other. And while not everyone will mind being called out in front of an audience for their attitudes or mistaken views alongside criticisms of those who clearly trivialize sexual assault, many would mind, especially if they won’t have the same chance, as an audience member, to explain and defend their view at length that the initial speaker would. Why take the risk of causing this harm when you could confront Stef McGraw in person or in the safer space of the blogosphere, where neither of you would have a privileged position? Your choice of venue has distracted many people from the legitimacy of your view on the initial issue. Again, for the same reason — because there’s a clear power imbalance at work — I think Stef McGraw was wrong in her initial post and should have done more to imagine your experience of vulnerability and discomfort on the elevator rather than treating your concerns as an attempt to suppress sexuality in a wholesale way. Incidentally, as the logic of my position would imply, I have posted a similar appreciation-and-criticism of Stef McGraw’s position at her blog, highlighting what I think you’ve gotten right as well as what I think she has.

    (By the way, this is my second attempt at publishing this comment — if you could make sure it gets through, I’d really appreciate it.)

    • Avatar of Buzz Parsec
      July 3, 2011 at 11:33 pm —

      Hi Seaside: Your earlier comment is in a different thread in Rebecca’s video where she talks (briefly) about Elevator Man.
      .
      I think people have gotten themselves banned from this site, but it is extremely rare, you really have to be an extremely abusive troll.
      .
      Speaking of which, I wonder if EM was one? Maybe he actually did listen to everything you (Rebecca) said and then went out of his way to annoy you. Right now he may be lurking on these threads, chortling, rubbing his fingertips together and cackling “Excellent.” He certainly has managed to drive a wedge between people who ought to be friends and allies.

  47. Avatar of astinnett
    July 4, 2011 at 12:08 am —

    Rebecca, if you are going to be a public figure, it is your job to keep as much of an audience as possible. You attacked and divided your audience; writer/speaker/public figures’ biggest mistake.

    Being a public figure isn’t about being right, it’s about having an audience, regardless of how those of us in the media want to argue against it. Criticizing your audience, even when they are wrong is unprofessional and, as this drama shows, a bad decision.

    I actually agree with your about creepy-elevator-creepy-guy and the fear of rape and that the dirty old men are simply way too abundant in the secular community, however, it doesn’t matter what you and I feel on this issue in the public arena, it matters that you keep your audience happy, unified, and engaged.

    You accepted the role of public figure when you took up the mic, and with that comes criticism that you are harming yourself to correct. I learned this from my own editor, BTW. Unless the criticism is likely to cost you your career, you kinda have to ignore it publicly. Addressing it keeps it fresh in your audience’s mind, and you don’t want that. You want them to be concerned with the issues you are writing or speaking about, not about you. What you speak or write about is what’s on their minds, luckily.

    I don’t know you or how old you are or how long you have been writing, but delight in the fact that it’s in one ear and out the other for most people and that your audience is to be respected for bothering to have an opinion about your work, good or bad.

    I think your choice to pose in a calender shows a lack of seriousness as a journalist/intellectual. If you respond to this opinion, the issue becomes about the calender, not your next project. See what I’m saying? The most a public figure should say is, “I appreciate your opinion” and ask if they would like a sneak preview of your next project……Writing and speaking is showbiz/politics and that’s just how it is.

    • Avatar of Rebecca Watson
      July 4, 2011 at 8:41 am —

      “Rebecca, if you are going to be a public figure, it is your job to keep as much of an audience as possible.”
      .
      OMG, that is one of the funniest comments I’ve seen in a long time. You seriously think that’s my “job”? No, seriously? Seriously. Seeeeeeriously?

  48. Avatar of Glow-Orb
    July 4, 2011 at 3:51 am —

    @Astinnett:
    And then there’s the school of thought that any publicity is good publicity.

  49. Avatar of bynkii
    July 4, 2011 at 9:17 am —

    There are two issues here:

    Elevator Guy and Stef

    Elevator Guy was wrong. I don’t think anyone with a brain will disagree there. *how* wrong is up to everyone’s own worldview, but yeah, he was wrong, and I can agree a mite creepy. Some people are just that ignorant of what’s going on around them.

    Stef may be wrong, she may not be wrong with regards to the content of her criticism. Her criticism and disagreement in and of itself is not wrong. Freedom of speech is never freedom from disagreement and criticism.

    However:

    “Now I must share one additional fact about me: I loathe passive aggressive behavior. Loathe it. I sincerely believe that if you are going to criticize someone’s argument, you should clearly and honestly state to whom you are referring and what exactly they have said or done that you find objectionable.”

    What I think you’re missing Rebecca is that to a *huge* number of people, your actions on the podium (in whatever form the “podium” takes), were just that: Passive-Agressive. You’ve spoken before. You know that by and large, most people may, during a Q&A disagree with your points or content, but getting up, when you’ve been called out *by name*, walking up to a mike, and taking *personal* issue with a speaker’s actions is almost never going to happen.

    Stef had *precisely* two options in that moment: sit there, say nothing, and feel, (legitimately i think), like a bit of a target but at least retain some anonymity, or stand up, face the crowd, who was more than slightly sympathetic towards your view of the incident and of stef’s comment, and turn a Q&A on the topic of your talk into “Yo, why you gotta hate on me like that”.

    That was the only way she could have questioned you in that moment. She would have *had* to turn a talk into a personal issue between you and her. It would have been seen as a total dick move, and made her look totally oversensitive.

    So really, she didn’t have a choice other than sit there and take it, something which I cannot believe didn’t occur to you. You speak, publicly, entirely too often to be completely unaware of the power a speaker holds over the audience.

    (And to those saying “Stef should grow a spine”, well, I can only hope something similar happens to you in the same circumstances. The video of you and your mighty spine will be something I look forward to.)

    Furthermore:

    “For me, this is a question of respect: I have enough respect for the person I am criticizing to not make them guess that I am talking about them or guess at what they said that needs to be defended, and I have enough respect for my audience to allow them the opportunity to double check my work. If I hide the person and the exact words that I am criticizing, how does anyone know whether or not I’m creating a strawman? How can the person in question respond?”

    Indeed. How could Stef have really responded? Stand up in the middle of what could have felt a bit like a (polite and probably not dangerous) mob who were on your side, and again, turn a Q&A into a personal discussion?

    Not bloody likely.

    Talk about it on her site? Well, yes, but it’s not exactly the same, power-wise, is it?

    (note: I actually help plan conferences, and have been a regular speaker at tech conferences since 1999. I am *highly* aware of the power dynamic between speaker and audience, and who has more of it. Hint: it’s never the audience.)

    Talk to you after your talk is over? Maybe a few HOURS later, but certainly not while you’re surrounded by your supporters. Again, going into a hostile crowd alone, knowing you’re going to stir them up? Yeah, that’s a way to feel safe. Not.

    You claim to have shown her respect, but you seem to be missing how you also put her in a position where she had no real option to directly respond to you. That’s not respecting someone. That’s calling them out when you know that in the end, there’s not shit they can do about it.

    Finally:

    ““Rebecca, if you are going to be a public figure, it is your job to keep as much of an audience as possible.”
    .
    OMG, that is one of the funniest comments I’ve seen in a long time. You seriously think that’s my “job”? No, seriously? Seriously. Seeeeeeriously?”

    Here, in case you’ve forgotten, your bio from this site:

    “Rebecca leads a team of skeptical female activists at Skepchick.org and appears on the weekly Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe podcast. She travels around the world delivering entertaining talks on science, atheism, feminism, and skepticism. There is currently an asteroid orbiting the sun with her name on it. You can follow her every fascinating move on Twitter: ”

    I can’t imagine how anyone might possibly think you do this as a “job” from that bio. Wow, what kind of schmuck could possibly infer that?

    Note to any who made it this far: This has nothing to do with elevator guy, (whom I notice, has yet to be called out by name or appearance or anything. ) He was still wrong. But one incident does not excuse nor require the other.

    john
    [email protected]

    (just so no one thinks I’m “hiding” behind a pseudonym.)

    • Avatar of Rebecca Watson
      July 4, 2011 at 9:36 am —

      “Here, in case you’ve forgotten, your bio from this site”

      Uh-huh, and where does it say that I have to “keep as much of my audience as possible”? My job is to do what I want to do, and that is currently to speak out against anti-woman rhetoric. Are you going to call my boss and have me fired?

      • Avatar of bynkii
        July 4, 2011 at 9:47 am —

        (sigh).

        No, nor was I going to tell your mommy on you, narc you out to Principal Skinner or make sure that Roy Stalin never lets you on the ski team.

        I was pointing out that someone who knows nothing about you other than that bio and being a casual reader of the site might understandably think your job is that of a professional speaker on a variety of issues.

        that’s all.

        • Avatar of Rebecca Watson
          July 4, 2011 at 10:07 am —

          That IS my job. Where did I say otherwise?

          • Avatar of bynkii
            July 4, 2011 at 10:31 am

            Ah, i get it.

            You’re reading it as “My JOB is to keep audiences” and laughing at that because to you that’s ridiculous, your job is to speak on (topics) and if the audience likes it, great, if not, sucks to be them.

            I read that (and still do) as:

            “As a professional speaker, part of your job is to keep an audience that wants to hear you.”

            Which makes sense. If no one wants to hear you speak, it’s rather hard to be a professional speaker.

            Funny that, how different people can look at the exact same statement and come away with somewhat different meanings, neither of which are wrong. Yet, your first reaction was to mock that person.

            I can’t imagine why Stef was reluctant to confront you when you clearly respond to people who don’t agree with you in a way that tells them “we can disagree and I’ll still treat you with respect.”

  50. Avatar of feminista
    July 4, 2011 at 10:39 am —

    Supporting you 100% Rebecca. It’s sad to see how many men feel this sense of entitlement, even in the skeptical community. Very, very disappointing. Best wishes to you.

  51. Avatar of anisharmin
    July 4, 2011 at 11:32 am —

    Rebecca,

    I don’t often comment here, but thought I’d chime in. I think it’s ridiculous how people are accusing you of overreacting, since in your video, you were very calm and nice about it. I agree with PZ Myers that your response was appropriate.

    Also, I disagree with that comment made by Dawkins at Pharyngula, in which he basically (the way I read it) is accusing you of not caring about or trivializing the experiences of Muslim women. I’m an atheist from a Muslim family (born in and living in the US). There are definitely people who ignore or trivialize the problems of women in Islam (e.g. the “it’s their culture” argument) and who should be called out on it; however, I think it’s important to make sure that a person actually did that before accusing them of it, instead of just wrongly accusing any women who talks about a problem faced by non-Muslim women of ignoring Muslim women. I don’t like it when people try to use Islam as a distraction tactic to avoid answering questions about a problem in their own country, instead of actually showing genuine concern for women in Islam.

    In your talk about feminism (Why Chicks Matter) at Skepticon a while back, you included FGM and women being killed due to belief in witchcraft. Of course, the issues of birth control and abortion affect women regardless of where they live or what religion they’re a part of. I just thought I’d let you know how much I appreciated that you showed concern for women in different situations.

    “For me, this is a question of respect: I have enough respect for the person I am criticizing to not make them guess that I am talking about them or guess at what they said that needs to be defended, and I have enough respect for my audience to allow them the opportunity to double check my work. If I hide the person and the exact words that I am criticizing, how does anyone know whether or not I’m creating a strawman? How can the person in question respond?”

    I absolutely agree with this part.

    Sorry for the long comment. I think I’ve written most of this, in various ways, in the comments of other people’s blog entries on this topic, so I thought I’d write it here, too, since you’re the person at the center of this.

    -Ani Sharmin

  52. Avatar of mraby
    July 4, 2011 at 11:47 am —

    Just want to communicate my support for you, Rebecca. (Finally joined because of this.) Enough has been said already otherwise, but I just want you to know how glad I am that you are speaking out on feminist and social issues within the skeptical and atheist communities. It needs to be done. Keep doing it.

  53. Avatar of rcreative1
    July 4, 2011 at 2:49 pm —

    I was flabbergasted when I caught wind of this “controversy.” What could be more ordinary than stating how you feel about something and asking people not to do it? Every rebuttal I’ve read could be boiled down to, “Rebecca, you are not allowed to feel how you feel.” On the bright side, the venomous reaction provides empirical support for your original point. Keep up the good work!

    I’d merely add that while sexual objectification intensifies the disrespect, the problem of dismissing or ridiculing another person’s point of view or feelings is endemic to online discussion generally, and we should all strive to do better.

  54. Avatar of jwray
    July 4, 2011 at 3:31 pm —

    The original video neglected to mention that the stranger was PRESENT when you said you were tired and wanted to go to bed. Without that crucial detail, there is no evidence that he was “dismissing a person’s feelings, desires, and identity, with a complete disinterest in how one’s actions will affect the “object” in question”.

  55. Avatar of Danarra
    July 4, 2011 at 4:28 pm —

    Just read the Dawkins stuff and am completely in shock.
    Ummm…quick note to the good guys who just do not understand why women are always on their guard – the bad guys who are out there are impersonating you. And I, for one, cannot tell the difference. A guy in an enclosed space can be just socially awkward or drunk and clueless or about to commit a crime. There’s no signal light that goes off to indicate which way this is going to go. The good guys don’t realize they’re a threat and the bad guys do an awfully good job of looking like good guys until they attack.
    And as for the elevator being a safe place, there isn’t one. I don’t think my experiences are all that unusual – as a child I was assaulted in my own home with my parents nearby and as an adult have been assaulted in a workplace with my manager in the next room.
    Being female is apparently a very different experience from being male in this regard.
    I still think there may have been other ways for Rebecca to handle the situation with the commenter – but that she was creeped out by the guy in the elevator seems like a mild and reasonable reaction to me and calling him out on it was the right thing to do.

    • Avatar of allanw
      July 5, 2011 at 4:55 am —

      You’ve received some applause for your understanding of this situation and I’m about to add to it. Your comment is full and clear but the part that most clarified for me the mystifying behaviour and responses I’ve been seeing about this issue is here;

      ‘The good guys don’t realize they’re a threat ..’

      Thank you for making crystal clear why discussion about this issue has been impossible to conduct rationally.

    • Avatar of tezcatlipoca
      July 5, 2011 at 1:21 pm —

      Thank you fro this post. I find myself compelled to add to it’s applause.

  56. Avatar of DaMuzz
    July 4, 2011 at 5:14 pm —

    Just wanted to say that I’ve been following the discussion of this incident for a while on various blogs, and it’s been a great help in educating myself about my own (white, straight, middle-class male) privilege. I’ve always had a problem with critical thinking and with boundaries, and reading these discussions helps to me improve my understanding of the issues.

    I wanted to express my support and thanks for everyone here, even the people arguing the other side.

  57. Avatar of petria
    July 5, 2011 at 2:08 am —

    ‘Ummm…quick note to the good guys who just do not understand why women are always on their guard – the bad guys who are out there are impersonating you’

    Brilliant comment Danarra!

  58. Avatar of mooeypoo
    July 5, 2011 at 10:48 am —

    I’m somewhat of a latecomer to this discussion (Sorry, internship takes my time) but this made me quite angry, and I had to comment.

    This isn’t about the actual encounter in the elevator anymore. You can disagree about Rebecca’s interpretation, and you can argue that, perhaps, some women are more sensitive than others, or interpret things differently. You can argue that it may be difficult for men to know how “far” they are allowed to go before something is sexist. That’s a fair question, one that, at least in my opinion, deserves public debate even for the mere fact that some men really don’t get it. The only way we WILL get it as a society is if we discuss it openly.

    (But really, guys.. he invited her to his hotel room at 4am after she spoke about sexism. I am not sure how many here TRULY thing this was a coffee and cookies invitation)

    Which is the crux of the problem here: The problem I saw with the replies to Rebecca’s experience is the dismissal of it. Replies ranging in the attitude of “you shouldn’t have been afraid in an elevator!” to “you should have known he didn’t mean it” and/or “take it as a complement, sexy, rawr, rawr” to “raging [expletives abundance] feminist”.

    So, what these people are saying, really, is that Rebecca Watson (and others like her) is allowed to be a strong, smart, intelligent woman as long as she doesn’t speak out about her views of the mistreatment of women in day-to-day life. When she does? Hell, then she’s just a raging feminist! It’s the hysterical woman of the 18th century. Quick, ignore her babble and bring a doctor.

    This, at least in my opinion, is the most offensive thing here. We can argue about misogyny and sexism and their prevalence in our modern world. We can try to educate one another about our experiences and try to better our society. We can try and figure out how is it that women are still not going for sciences all that much as we’d like them to. We can discuss anything and everything in a polite manner.

    But to DISMISS a person’s comment so casually because it’s “Feminist”? Really? That doesn’t just show a severe lack of understanding of the TOPICS of misogyny and sexism, it also shows huge disrespect to women in general.

    Those are my two cents on the matter. I shall now retreat back to my little woman-corner and stop being hysterical.

    ~mooeypoo
    Physics Undergrad that can be quoted, criticized and named for her opinions.

    P.S, Just for the record:

    If you have a blog and you use your name on it, you are prepared to have others criticize you publicly. That’s the point of blogging. If you don’t want that, don’t blog – or hide behind an anonymous persona.
    You can’t eat the cake and leave it whole, bloggers. No matter who you are, if you use it to speak out, you should expect replies. Social Media is supposed to be all about that, doesn’t it?

  59. Avatar of exarch
    July 5, 2011 at 12:07 pm —

    Damn, now I wash I was going to be at TAM just so I could step into an elevator and ask you up to my room :p
    Maybe I’ll have Scrut do it for me instead …

  60. Avatar of Handbasketexpress
    July 5, 2011 at 12:44 pm —

    Don’t quit this subject Rebecca. The more they push you to sit down and shut up, the more I hope you talk about it. It is crucial that this is dealt with now.

    I’ve known women and girls blamed by their own families for being raped. I know the daughter of a cop who refused to report her rape (at the hands of a man she had know since childhood) because she feared social repercussions worse than the attack. I know a girl who was forced to apologize to her rapist and his wife, because she dared to tell her family what he had done to her at church. I knew a girl who was raped by her female friend’s dad. I had a friend who was invited over to “hang out” with some boys from school that she knew well and they raped her. She never pressed charges. She was too ashamed. I know at least 100 stories of women invited in with a smile and then brutalized and finally, blamed. I’ve gotten in the car with my closest friends and been afraid, because they were male and I was not and if they had decided to harm me, I would have been blamed. What is worse is that I could never speak this fear to them. They would not have understood. They would have been hurt by my reservations. Some men and women like to pretend these attacks are rare or that all rapists look like sweaty toothed madmen or that the women and girls really are asking for it. That is the attitude that allows rape culture to exist. You are not going to be thanked by everyone for making them look at the reality of this situation and the complicated layers of male privilege, internalized misogyny and female shame that allow it to continue, but some of us appreciate it very much.
    Thanks.

  61. Avatar of eduard
    July 5, 2011 at 4:29 pm —

    I understand that RW thought the elevator guy was rude/creepy/insensitive/stupid/inconsiderate. I understand that a lot of other people think so, and maybe even the vast majority think so. And obviously RW can express her feelings/opinions/etc.

    What I don’t understand is how ANY of this is related to sexism or misogyny. How do you go from – “this guy is an ass” to “this guy thinks women are objects and/or hates them”? Had this been an incident with a smaller man and a larger woman (with the woman doing the proposing) – would that also be sexist/misandric? Or what if the elevator guy was a midget? Or what if it’s a smaller woman proposing to a larger man? Etc.

    Should be clear from the above questions that I really don’t understand the transition from “a man did smth I didn’t like” to “a man did smth sexist”. What am I missing? Please, someone, explain.

    • Avatar of exarch
      July 5, 2011 at 5:32 pm —

      The sexism comes in when “no means no” is dismissed in favor of pushing your own agenda (i.e. getting into a girl’s pants) and litterally cornering her in a place she can’t easily escape in the hopes of getting a more favorable response.

      • Avatar of eduard
        July 5, 2011 at 6:26 pm —

        So you’re saying that it was sexist because of what she was saying earlier (about being tired etc)? Then if this was a completely random person (that wasn’t present at any of the earlier times), you’re saying his actions would not be sexist – did I understand you correctly?

        • Avatar of exarch
          July 6, 2011 at 4:37 am —

          But this WAS a completely random person.
          At most, he’d been around at the bar where she’d been having conversations with lots of different people, possibly he exchanged a couple words with her directly, but in the end, he followed her to the elevator to proposition her when she was heading to bed.
          I’m saying that if he’d asked that exact same question at the bar, possibly inviting along other people who were around at the time and not just her, then this might have been a bit less creepy.
          Had he been a complete stranger who’d never seen her before but just walked onto the elevator and asked her that, it would’ve gone straight into sexual harassement territory.
          The sexism part though, is where the guy completely disregards her feelings about the situation and thinks only of himself. The sexism part is that many people think the guy didn’t do ANYTHING wrong, and would like to blame rebecca for being creeped out rather than the guy who followed her to the elevator to make a move on her.

          • Avatar of eduard
            July 7, 2011 at 5:14 pm

            I have no quibbles about the proposition being creepy.

            “The sexism part though, is where the guy completely disregards her feelings about the situation and thinks only of himself.”

            I’m pretty sure that’s called egoism, not sexism, but you’re welcome to correct me.

            “The sexism part is that many people think the guy didn’t do ANYTHING wrong, and would like to blame rebecca for being creeped out rather than the guy who followed her to the elevator to make a move on her.”

            My question was about the sexism of the proposal, not of the peoples’ reaction to RW’s post.

          • Avatar of exarch
            July 7, 2011 at 9:46 pm

            Eduard,
            It’s sexism because even though a guy was being incredibly selfish and egotistical, caring not for what a girl said/expressed, but only for what he wanted from her, yet people still defend his actions because he’s a guy, because it’s a thing guys are supposed to do / always do / etc… And he himself probably expected to get away with it for those very same reasons: you can’t blame a guy for trying to get into a girl’s pants, it’s not his fault if she’s uncomfortable, etc… Well, it’s not okay. The fact that many people don’t even get why it’s not okay shows just how deeply ingrained this bit of male privilege really is.
            Yes it’s selfish, but it’s also sexist because society allows guys to act like this because he’s a guy.

          • Avatar of eduard
            July 7, 2011 at 11:47 pm

            “It’s sexism because even though a guy was being incredibly selfish and egotistical, caring not for what a girl said/expressed, but only for what he wanted from her, yet people still defend his actions because he’s a guy, because it’s a thing guys are supposed to do / always do / etc…”

            This part is again about the crowd, not my question. I agree that if people defend someone because he’s a guy – it’s sexism.

            “And he himself probably expected to get away with it for those very same reasons: you can’t blame a guy for trying to get into a girl’s pants, it’s not his fault if she’s uncomfortable, etc…”

            I really, really don’t understand this “get away with” language at this point, because you have to first establish that he did smth that’s worthy of “getting away with”. And I don’t think that either egoism or creepiness qualify for that (or at least it’s not immediately obvious to me, but, as always I appreciate explanations if I’m missing smth).

            “Well, it’s not okay. The fact that many people don’t even get why it’s not okay shows just how deeply ingrained this bit of male privilege really is.
            Yes it’s selfish, but it’s also sexist because society allows guys to act like this because he’s a guy.”

            This brings us back to my original question – had the genders and/or sizes of the participants been exchanged, would your assessment of this being sexism change?

            Also, (and I’m not saying that’s what you said or meant, you just sort of touched the line of saying it, so just as a caution) saying – it’s obvious and you’re are a privileged male if you don’t get, is not a good argument.

          • Avatar of exarch
            July 8, 2011 at 6:07 am

            I think you misunderstanding hinges on the meaning of “male privilege”.
            Male privilege means that a guy can get away with it because he’s a guy. Society won’t think less of him for doing it, society being both men AND women.
            The same reason OTHERS have said they don’t see the point is the reason the guy himself probably didn’t see it: it’s a privilege he has as a guy. He knows he’ll be excused if it backfires.

            And if the gender roles had been reversed, the situation probably wouldn’t have been brushed off as overreacting.

            Take white privilege as an example:
            Remember that “Eddy Murphy” joke, where he steps into an elevator with a elderly white couple and he says “hit the floor” and they both drop to their knees because he’s a black guy alone in an elevator with them and they’re scared he’s going to mug them.
            Suddenly people understand WHY they’re scared.
            The joke is the fact they don’t recognise him. The reality is that for those people, being mugged is a definite risk. The fact a guy is black makes it, in their eyes, more likely that he’s going to hurt them.
            The white privilege HERE though, is the fact a white man probably wouldn’t instill nearly that much fear. And if the elderly couple still reacted similarly, people wouldn’t understand nearly as well why they’d be so scared of a nice white person just asking them to hit the elevator button.

            What makes Rebecca’s situation any different? Would it be so hard to be aware of the discomfort you may cause and opt not to do anything that would make it worse?

            I will say it again: the sexism is not the fact that in this particular case he’s a guy and she’s a girl, the sexism is the fact that society in general, and this guy in particular, think this is acceptable behavior, and will excuse it on the basis that guys always do this in order to get laid. And guys should be able to get laid, so women are just supposed to put up with being accosted in elevators; because that shit just happens, stop being so sensitive and move on.

          • Avatar of eduard
            July 8, 2011 at 10:42 am

            “Would it be so hard to be aware of the discomfort you may cause and opt not to do anything that would make it worse?”

            You know, you can turn this around and ask the same thing of the black guy, maybe he should be aware of the discomfort he may cause (simply because of people’s presumptions/prior experiences/misinformation/etc) by saying “hit the floor”? My point is not that he should be, but rather that others’ discomfort is not a good measure of whether something is right or wrong to do.

            I think the rest of what you’re saying boils down to (as always, correct me if I misunderstood smth) “it’s never ok for two humans to (cold) proposition each other in an elevator, but if a guy does it (to a girl) society will excuse him, whereas if a girl does it (to a guy) society won’t excuse her (btw where exactly this put gay proposals?) – and since the guy is either implicitly or explicitly aware of this, his actions are sexist”. My problem is that I don’t see several of your assumptions in that sentence as obvious or true.

            I don’t understand why it’s never ok for two humans to cold proposition each other in an elevator (I understand that some people would not like to get propositioned in this manner – and it’s their right to complain about it and try to convince others not to do it, but that doesn’t make it not ok), and I don’t think you’ve made a case for saying that society wouldn’t excuse a woman cold propositioning a guy (the need for excusing in either case would of course only arise _after_ you show that the proposal is not ok).

          • Avatar of exarch
            July 9, 2011 at 6:15 pm

            You know, you can turn this around and ask the same thing of the black guy …

            Actually, that would not be turning it around, that would be the exact same thing (and the point I was trying to make). And you’re right, it’s something a black person should probably be aware of. Is it racist to suggest that he scares people? I don’t think so. But in a perfect world, people would have no reason to fear him, just like in a perfect world, women wouldn’t have to be afraid of strangers on an elevator either.

            I think the rest of what you’re saying boils down to ‘it’s never ok for two humans to (cold) proposition each other in an elevator …’

            I certainly didn’t imply that.
            But it’s not likely to be a very succesful tactic either though. And any guy doing so should be aware that at 4 in the morning, it’s just as likely to end with pepperspray in the face as it is with sex.

  62. Avatar of ruthalice
    July 7, 2011 at 3:14 pm —

    What part of asking someone back to his hotel room at 4 AM is so hard to understand? Wanting to talk some more is a bizarre euphemism and luckily Watson was not as naive – or deliberately obtuse – as some apologist for this hamhanded pass. Guys, if you have never met a woman, never had a conversation with her and you are in an elevator and say “want to come back to my room for some coffee?” and it’s FOUR FRICKING AM, you are a jerk.

  63. Avatar of silencio
    July 10, 2011 at 1:57 am —

    To understand what happened you have to examine the evidence.

    The central question is did he hit on you?

    According to you, “I also pointed out that approaching a single woman in an elevator to invite her back to your hotel room is the definition of “unsolicited sexual comment.”

    Some points-
    1. He might not know your single and if you feel that’s part of what defines his actions as an “unsolicited sexual comment” then that alone might disqualify that assumption.
    2.CONTEXT IS EVERYTHING. You were out partying at a bar until 4 AM. It’s not unheard of to continue socializing even after the party.

    3. In your definition you subtly define yourself as “a single women” almost in a way that subtly implies that that was your presence could possibly symbolize to him.

    However… That is not the case. In fact in his own word this person was interested in you. Did he attend the conference? If he did then that would kind of imply that he might have more interest in you than your being “a single woman.”

    Now lets look at the fact that he walked into the elevator with you. Now the time was 4 AM. Was it possible that he also resides in that same hotel? Then given the time it shouldn’t be surprising that he followed you to the elevator.

    Okay well what about the fact that the man never talked to you prior to this. Does that indicate that his interest in you must have been a last minute sexual maneuver that implies that he had no other interest in you but a sexual interest? …..No, it does not because the fact that you are an interesting panelist in his opinion means that his interests are more than sexual. The fact that he never spoke to you may not be relevant and when you look at the totality of facts I argue it isn’t relevant at all.

    What of the fact that you had “already expressed [your] desire to go to sleep.”???

    Generally it’s seen as polite to give an excuse when leaving a bar. Their is no hard and fast rule that says that if your tired a man can’t ask you if you want to chat. And supposing that there was such a rule then he would have just been rude and that’s not the same thing as sexually objectifying you.

    Okay, you say. “This is a person I don’t even know and he followed me to an elevator and then when the elevator was closed he asked me for coffee….”

    Let’s deconstruct the hidden assumption implied in that part of the narrative.

    1. He might live in that hotel as well.
    2. It’s 4 AM and he might be getting tired too so it shouldn’t surprise anyone that left the bar and would head to the elevator.
    3. You assume that a man who may have had much to drink would be at his best wits. We don’t even know if he had the opportunity to talk to you before he got into the elevator. (or if he did and you did not include that detail)

    Other important evidence that nobody else has brought up.

    The man said..”‘Don’t take this the wrong way, but I find you very interesting, and I would like to talk more. Would you like to come to my hotel room for coffee?’

    Alright, again we have to PUT THIS INTO CONTEXT. This man was interested in what you had to say. He made that clear and if we grant him some degree of honesty in that claim then it clearly backs up the prefacing statement. “don’t take this the wrong way” Since you had a lot to say about not being sexually objectified I think we have to put the statement “don’t take this the wrong way” in that context.

    Well what about the fact that he could have asked you to do breakfast or something else?….

    This is an important point but it’s hard to know without fully knowing the context. It may have been that it was still late and he and possibly you as well were drunk and buzzed and breakfast doesn’t sound good after that does it? In all possibility the fact that he was drunk and buzzed and saw somebody who he thought was interesting and wanted to do something at the moment.

    Is it unusual to hope that somebody might want to chat with you in your hotel room if you haven’t had a lot of interaction with that person. It might be. On the other hand we all have to take risks when meeting new people and rejection, even huge internet phenomenon rejections that get advertised by the like of Richard Dawkins and Salon.com. In the case that you feel uncomfortable or you got bad vibes or you really were just too tired you can politely decline. (and leave it at that)

    • Avatar of nullifidian
      July 11, 2011 at 2:01 am —

      No, silencio, the central question is “Did this exchange make Rebecca uncomfortable?” and, more broadly, “Is this kind of thing likely to make women in general uncomfortable?” If yes—and the answer is yes—and your purpose is to make atheist gatherings more welcoming places for women, then this is something you ought to take on yourselves to correct.

      Now, why does this make women uncomfortable? Because the burden for women to be safe is entirely placed on women. If she had gone back to the hotel room with the guy and she had been attacked, there is not a prosecutor on this planet, even in ‘enlightened’ Europe, who would have filed charges. Why? Because the first question would have been, “Why were you going into a strange man’s hotel room at 4 a.m. if you didn’t want to have sex?” The response “Well, I believed him when he said that he just wanted conversation and coffee” would be laughed to scorn as unbelievably naive.

      So, as long as women are expected to bear the onus of keeping themselves safe, and as long as the first question in rape cases is routinely “What did the woman do to provoke it?”, then you do not get to second-guess the discomfort women feel when they are propositioned in circumstances and with terms like these. Period.

  64. Avatar of silencio
    July 11, 2011 at 12:55 pm —

    “there is not a prosecutor on this planet, even in ‘enlightened’ Europe, who would have filed charges. Why? Because the first question would have been, “Why were you going into a strange man’s hotel room at 4 a.m. if you didn’t want to have sex?””

    Well you want to live in fear go ahead and live in fear but going to a person’s hotel room is not license to rape a person the “enlightened” world.

    “The response “Well, I believed him when he said that he just wanted conversation and coffee” would be laughed to scorn as unbelievably naive.”

    Laughed to scorn? Wow. No it would not be laughed to scorn. That’s a very messed up view of the world and especially of men.

    The fact of the matter is that women will always be in situations where it theoretically possible to be raped. That doesn’t mean that a guy has to literally tip toe around that fact every time he tries to interact with the opposite sex. It’s just reality.

    “”, and as long as the first question in rape cases is routinely “What did the woman do to provoke it?”, ”

    Again, you are wrong. That is not the “routine”. Jesus.

    Rebecca had the right to say no. Your making this an issue of whether a woman can EVER go to a man’s hotel since if she gets raped then prosecutors will say it’s okay. If he’s a stranger then it must be a hook up, and if he’s a known acquaintance then it must have been consensual too because she knew him.

    Under your way of thinking a man can’t ever ask one of his dates back home because if she get’s raped its all her fault according to your skewed understanding of the system.

    Nope, your way of thinking is distorted and sad.

    • Avatar of nullifidian
      July 11, 2011 at 4:41 pm —

      Well you want to live in fear go ahead

      This is not about living in fear, but about precautions that society has forced women to bear the disproportionate burden of taking. If you want women to feel safe in future, don’t corner them in elevators and cold proposition them to join you in the room with your bed in it. It’s really that simple.

      and live in fear but going to a person’s hotel room is not license to rape a person the “enlightened” world.

      It most certainly is. If a woman goes to a man’s hotel room late at night, then physical evidence won’t matter unless the woman emerges so battered that there’s no doubt she violently resisted and he responded with even greater evidence to overpower her. This happens sometimes but not frequently, for the shocking reason that women don’t want to get beat up and it’s unreasonable to expect them to get beat up just so that they can present themselves as having resisted to the utmost. But any less than that, or if your past is not 100% squeaky-clean, and even if you had a good reason for being in that hotel room (like if it were your job to clean it), then even a small mountain of physical evidence will not reverse the presumption that you’re a slut who is lying about it all (even if statistics show false reports of rape happen no more often than any other false allegations of a crime). This is not just speculation, but it’s actually a capsule description of the ongoing rape case against Dominique Strauss-Kahn—or more accurately against his 32-year-old accuser, who is being treated like the criminal. The “case is near collapse” not because the evidence isn’t there, but because his victim doesn’t fit the Victorian ideal of Innocence Ravish’d. There have been no developments that cast doubt on the physical evidence itself, including torn clothing, bruises, and DSK’s semen, which caused his lawyers to change their claim from “It didn’t happen” to “It was consensual”. Now it’s a “he said, she said” case, and in cases of these kind “he said” wins.

      This is the reality that women have to navigate. All your wounded protestations aren’t going to change it.

      Laughed to scorn? Wow. No it would not be laughed to scorn. That’s a very messed up view of the world and especially of men.

      That’s a joke, right? Asking someone up to your room for coffee is an invitation with a clear sexual subtext, and I’ve understood it to be so since I was eight years old. Such a fact becomes even plainer when you realize that Elevator Guy was with Rebecca in a lounge where they serve coffee. If he wanted to buy her a cup and chat, he had all night to do so.

      And yet you don’t think that anyone would factor any of this in, were a woman naive enough to accept such an offer at face value and then get raped in the hotel room?

      The fact of the matter is that women will always be in situations where it theoretically possible to be raped. That doesn’t mean that a guy has to literally tip toe around that fact every time he tries to interact with the opposite sex. It’s just reality.

      In other words, it’s your position that there is no obligation on the man in this equation to make a woman feel safe. The women should just suck it up so you can make your pitch for sex at any time and under any circumstances.

      Well, you’re right, in a sense. One cannot force the man here to not act like a raging jackass with extreme entitlement issues—it’s not against the law—but if he does you can’t whine later that the woman was being unreasonable in rejecting the guy’s advances and saying that he was coming off as skeevy.

      Again, you are wrong. That is not the “routine”. Jesus.

      Prove it.

      Rebecca had the right to say no. Your making this an issue of whether a woman can EVER go to a man’s hotel since if she gets raped then prosecutors will say it’s okay. If he’s a stranger then it must be a hook up, and if he’s a known acquaintance then it must have been consensual too because she knew him.

      Actually, if the woman goes to his hotel room, even if he had only met her that evening, and he rapes her, then that is considered an acquaintance rape. And yes, in “he said, she said” cases, which acquaintance, spousal, and intimate rapes almost always are, the presumption is that he is telling the truth. Always. That’s not to say that the presumption is never reversed, but it’s not reversed except with the utmost of physical evidence, which most women do not get to provide because they prefer to survive their rapes without taking on the risk that added resistance might cause them to be brutally battered or even killed.

      And any adult woman of normal intelligence who goes into a man’s hotel room or back to his apartment does factor that into account.

      Under your way of thinking a man can’t ever ask one of his dates back home because if she get’s raped its all her fault according to your skewed understanding of the system.

      He can ask. He just shouldn’t be surprised when the answer is “no”. To make the analogy close to what Rebecca had to experience, the best analogy would be to a blind date. And I don’t know any woman who would go into a man’s home after a single blind date, because it would be his place and she would have no idea what would be behind that front door and little control over what he did. Would he lock the deadbolt and pocket the keys? Would one of his friends be waiting there? There are just way too many unknown variables for a woman to willingly want to put herself into the power of a man she barely/doesn’t know.

      The same things apply in hotel rooms. It’s really easy to lock that door behind you and slide the swing lock to the closed position. You don’t know who, if anybody, is in the room. You don’t know what might be there to threaten you with. Any woman cognizant of her own safety is going to turn a proposal to go to a hotel room with a man she doesn’t know down flat, so there is no reason to even try unless you prefer making women uncomfortable to your probable success in dating.

      And that is creepy.

    • Avatar of nullifidian
      July 11, 2011 at 5:28 pm —

      For more on the totally non-victim-blaming ethos that pervades the so-called “justice system”, please see this article that ran in a major news magazine:

      http://www.newsweek.com/2011/05/29/inside-the-nypd-s-special-victims-division.html

      “Does a woman who claims to have been raped ask for a female detective? That’s taken as a sign of possible deception. ‘I am betting nine out of 10 times, when a woman asks for a female detective the story is going to be untrue,’ says Lamboy. The operative theory is that women who are lying think female cops will be more receptive to their stories.”

      Yes, even at the point of making a statement, the operating presumption is “How can we excuse and explain away what went on?”

      But then I’ve been informed that I’m “wrong” from on high by you, without you bothering to provide evidence of same, because your words are apparently self-verifying and I should take them at face value, despite what volunteering at a rape crisis/DV shelter and having female friends who have been victims has taught me about the way the world works.

  65. Avatar of silencio
    July 12, 2011 at 11:12 pm —

    An excellent examination of how people’s perceptions can differ.

  66. Avatar of nullifidian
    July 13, 2011 at 12:04 am —

    silencio,

    No, that is a troll video. It deserves to be taken about as seriously as any creationist who claims that they are being forcefully “expelled” from academia.

    Why don’t you address the realities of sexual assault and how SA victims are perceived that I have laid down for you, and how these considerations just might influence the reception of sexual propositions made at 4 a.m. in elevators?

  67. Avatar of silencio
    July 13, 2011 at 2:25 am —

    Because I’m sure that your probably projecting your own psychological issues so I deal with intuitive relational introspective realities rather than made up rape stats.

    Think about this a guy that shows flowers being thrown violently, something that is normally something you associate with romance, but you portray it as a kind of masculine sport, the act of seduction in your mind is unconsciously equate “scoring” and achieving “touchdown”. The mixture of romance and violence implied by your avatar is both very telling of your worldview and frankly it’s creepy. Unconsciously you equate sex with violence and therefor you see it everywhere. Creepy.

  68. Avatar of nullifidian
    July 13, 2011 at 3:06 pm —

    Because I’m sure that your probably projecting your own psychological issues so I deal with intuitive relational introspective realities rather than made up rape stats.

    In other words, you prefer to eschew facts for the “introspective” (i.e. psychological) while projecting your inability to come to grips with the facts of the real world on other people.

    Troll.

  69. Avatar of silencio
    July 13, 2011 at 4:42 pm —

    No, my dear deluded friend. I deal in intuitive relational introspective realities just because it’s the only way of dealing with people who fail to grasp logic. People like you.

    I think of it as the androgynous post-post-postmodern feminist aesthetic.

    Here are the boring facts about the reality of rape statistics….

    communityvoices.sites.post-gazette.com/index.php/opinion/the-radical-middle/27667–one-in-one-thousand-eight-hundred-seventy-seven

  70. Avatar of nullifidian
    July 13, 2011 at 6:39 pm —

    I see. So it’s other people’s fault that you’re a moronic troll.

    Your ‘boring facts’ are actually an absurd abuse of statistics. The fact that you find this ‘analysis’ at all compelling shows that you are fundamentally incapable of applying the “logic” you claim others don’t grasp.

    In short, you are “projecting your inability to come to grips with the facts of the real world on other people.”

    Troll.

  71. Avatar of silencio
    July 13, 2011 at 6:59 pm —

    Well the word “troll” implies that I am deliberately trying to provoke an emotional response rather than being sincere.

    But you also say that I am really not logical and that implies I am sincere.

    That means that you either lack logical thinking skills (more plausible explanation) or you are not being sincere (less plausible explanation) and hence you are the one who is a “troll”.

    You don’t like my intelligence or my superior understanding of social complexities and hence your excessively emotional character induces you to call me a troll.

    Here are more boring facts, this one by a professional sociologist.

    http://www.responsibleopposing.com/comment/1in4.html

  72. Avatar of nullifidian
    July 14, 2011 at 3:47 am —

    “Well the word “troll” implies that I am deliberately trying to provoke an emotional response rather than being sincere.

    “But you also say that I am really not logical and that implies I am sincere.”

    No, it simply implies that you’re an irrational troll, which is hardly a unique variant of the species. I believe you are sincere in your misogynistic rape apologist bullshit, but that you’re presenting it here hoping for an intemperate response that will allow you to write off criticisms. Nothing inconsistent in that.

    “Here are more boring facts, this one by a professional sociologist.”

    LMAO! Hardly. If he’s a professional sociologist, then what’s his institutional affiliation? Who pays him to be a sociologist, as that is what the word “professional” means?

    The fact that he thinks that getting himself listed in the vanity publication “Who’s Who” is something meritorious, or that he wants us to think it meritorious, means that he’s either delusional or greasy.

    In any case, professional or not, the article still suffers from the same Calvinball mathematics as the original, although at least he did try (and failed) to model the number of sexual assaults over several years, rather than assuming that “20-25% of college women will be sexually assaulted during their college years” implies that 25% of the female student body is assaulted annually, like the other guy did.

    Also, he does the tired bit of “date rape isn’t really rape—it’s just the woman regretting it later” misogynist trope, which ignores the fact that it’s rape if the woman is not capable of consent. By his standard, it wouldn’t be rape if a rapist knocks his victim cold with a blow or rapes a comatose woman either.

  73. Avatar of nullifidian
    July 14, 2011 at 4:03 am —

    P.S.

    Are you also an HIV denialist like our friend Michael Wright, who in this article chooses to present himself as a “Former AIDS Researcher”?

    It looks like he’s a self-appointed internet ‘expert’ in everything he chooses to discuss. One wonders where he finds the time….

  74. Avatar of silencio
    July 14, 2011 at 9:56 pm —

    Well lets looksie at the FBI stats.

    “In 2009, the number of forcible rapes was estimated at 88,097. By comparison, the estimated volume of rapes for 2009 was 2.6 percent lower than the 2008 estimate, 6.6 percent lower than the 2005 number, and 2.3 percent below the 2000 level. (See Tables 1 and 1A.)”

    hmmmmm. Can those numbers ever get us even close to the Ms. Magazine 1 in 4 statistic?

    Okay lets look at the frequency of rapes.

    “The rate of forcible rapes in 2009 was estimated at 56.6 per 100,000 female inhabitants, a 3.4 percent decrease when compared with the 2008 estimated rate of 58.6.”

    Now let’s do some napkin math. I know it’s not easy for a person who doesn’t think for themselves to understand the validity of such a procedure but bear with me.

    If we multiply the frequency (56.6/100,000) that rape occurs according to the FBI by the number of years a woman lives in a life time we can roughly estimate the likelihood that a woman will be raped. Now for the sake of being as fair as possible to your view lets suppose this woman lives to be 100. That’s a (56.6/100,000) chance of being raped multiplied by 100. Now 56.6 multiplied by 100 equals 5,660. This means that 5.66 percent of women will be raped in there lifetime which pretty bad when you think about it.

    However that is way way below the 1 in 4 woman women who attend college have been raped stat propagated by mindless ideologues.

    Of course you will try to argue that the FBI was only including reported rapes into it’s estimate. (when it wasn’t) Or that the FBI defines rape too narrowly (when it doesn’t for our purposes here) etc. etc. Blah. Blah. Blah.

    When official stats are good enough for the zealots they feel the need to commission sham studies to confirm their biased world view.

    But basically it’s good news for women or those who care about women because it means that you can talk to boys in elevators at conferences. (even in foreign countries at 4 am.)

  75. Avatar of silencio
    July 14, 2011 at 10:14 pm —
  76. Avatar of nullifidian
    July 14, 2011 at 11:35 pm —

    So the response to being told that the sources you are providing are playing Calvinball with the rules of mathematics is to gather some FBI data and then play Calvinball math with them?

    Yeah, brilliant and utterly convincing. *rolls eyes*

    Do you really think that multiplying the 2009 figures for the incidence of forcible rape per 100,000 women in the population by 100 will give the likelihood of a population 100 year-old woman being raped sometime in her life? And if so, have you always suffered from organic mental damage or can we just write this off merely to stupidity and innumeracy? There is a difference between the concepts of rate and the arithmetic mean, and multiplying the rate by 100 doesn’t give you anything but a abstract figure to play with. If we multiply my zip code by my height in inches, my shoe size, and then divide the mess by the last four digits of my telephone number, that will give you a number too, but it has no real existence and represents no property to do with me.

    At least the MRA rape apologist brigade gives the lie to the notion that men are inherently better at mathematics.

  77. Avatar of nullifidian
    July 14, 2011 at 11:50 pm —

    I also LOLed at this:

    “But basically it’s good news for women or those who care about women because it means that you can talk to boys in elevators at conferences. (even in foreign countries at 4 am.)”

    I don’t think that finding oneself cornered by a random asshole hitting on oneself at 4 a.m. is the goal here, unless you’re the asshole (admittedly, the evidence to date strongly supports the hypothesis that you are an asshole). For the non-asshole part of the population, a sexual proposition from a complete stranger is not what is generally wanted when taking the elevator up from the hotel lobby at 4 a.m, rape stats or no rape stats. It’s just the fact that society places the burden of vigilance squarely on the shoulders of women that makes a woman have to evaluate the risks of an unwelcome sexual proposition at 4 a.m. And you know what? For the vast majority, such a proposition from a stranger is not going to be crowned with success, because hotel rooms are not safe places to interact with people you’ve barely met.

  78. Avatar of silencio
    July 15, 2011 at 5:08 am —

    Hmmmm. I think it’s possible to have a discussion without all the harsh name calling.

    Oh, yes the whole “But it was 4 AM!!!” gambit.

    You know what they say about girls that party till 4 AM don’t you??…………….

    They party till 5 AM, sometimes even later…..

    The idea that every time a guy hits on a girl that he’s just looking to get her into the sack is the problem here.

    I see that you can’t even bother to address the content of my previous argument, presumably because facts don’t interest you as much as sensationalism.

  79. Avatar of silencio
    July 15, 2011 at 7:00 am —

    “Do you really think that multiplying the 2009 figures for the incidence of forcible rape per 100,000 women in the population by 100 will give the likelihood of a population 100 year-old woman being raped sometime in her life?”

    Slaps forehead. You totally failed to even grasp the point of what I was doing.

    People like you are just too smart for their own good. They are good at sophistry and verbally deconstructing things but when it comes to common sense they are miles away from reality.

  80. Avatar of nullifidian
    July 15, 2011 at 8:51 am —

    “Hmmmm. I think it’s possible to have a discussion without all the harsh name calling.”

    It is possible, but I don’t feel like extending rape apologists the benefit of any courtesy.

    “You know what they say about girls that party till 4 AM don’t you??”

    You do know that this wasn’t a party, don’t you? And furthermore that even women who party at 4 a.m. are not asking to be sexually propositioned in elevators anyway? Of course you know that. But you want to ignore these salient facts in the service of making an apologia for an asshole’s ‘right’ to proposition women anywhere at any time.

    “The idea that every time a guy hits on a girl that he’s just looking to get her into the sack is the problem here.”

    That is rather implicit in the definition of “hits on”. Now, if you wanted to use the more neutral term “invites a woman out”, then congratulations: I already agree that when a man invites a woman somewhere, that man is not necessarily doing so for the purpose of sex. However, you’ll have to do a damn sight better at explaining away the circumstances under discussion as being anything other than a barely concealed sexual proposition. Consider that they had just left a lounge that served coffee (all hotel bars do). Consider that EG could have introduced himself and bought her a cup at any time. But all of a sudden, now that she’s alone and in an elevator at 4 a.m., he thinks now is the appropriate time to spring a “request for coffee” in his hotel room. These are not circumstances that lead one to believe that the request was innocent of any subtext.

    “Slaps forehead. You totally failed to even grasp the point of what I was doing.”

    I understood the point perfectly well. You were doing rape apologism with bad math. Understanding that fact doesn’t make your math any less bad.

    “People like you are just too smart for their own good.”

    Thank you. I accept your concession.

    Nobody ever tells me that except when I’ve just shot down their flimsy ‘argument’.

    And here’s some further shocking news: you are not the voice of common sense in this discussion. Common sense would be taking a woman at her word as to how elevator propositions at 4 a.m. make her feel, not second-guessing her in the interests of establishing your ‘right’ to be an entitled jackass with his dick hanging out of his pants everywhere he goes.

  81. Avatar of silencio
    July 15, 2011 at 9:49 pm —

    “Common sense would be taking a woman at her word as to how elevator propositions at 4 a.m. make her feel, not second-guessing her in the interests of establishing your ‘right’ to be an entitled jackass with his dick hanging out of his pants everywhere he goes.”

    No my friend common sense is being aware that their are two sides to every story. That’s something I learned when I was 6 years old.

    Once again you are miles and miles away from ordinary reality.

  82. Avatar of silencio
    July 15, 2011 at 10:23 pm —

    The idea that every time a guy hits on a girl that he’s just looking to get her into the sack is the problem here.”

    That is rather implicit in the definition of “hits on”. Now, if you wanted to use the more neutral term “invites a woman out”, then congratulations: I already agree that when a man invites a woman somewhere, that man is not necessarily doing so for the purpose of sex.

    Well getting someone in the sack is not “implied” in the definition as you evasively state. It’s part of the meaning of the term or it isn’t.

    http://www.macmillandictionary.com/dictionary/british/hit-on

    hit on someone mainly American informal to try to start a conversation with someone because you are sexually attracted to them

    http://onlineslangdictionary.com/meaning-of/hit-on
    verb – transitive
    to attempt to attract verbally; “flirt with”

    http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=hit%20on

    to flirt with someone

    Sex isn’t the entire meaning of “sexual interest” or sexuality despite the sadly typical way of thinking about sexuality that certain supposedly progressive factions of our society adhere to.

    But then I’m a marxist so I don’t always have the same assumptions about human community that is so common among “liberal” thinkers that reduce humanity to a mere abstraction.

    It’s not all about sex bro, despite whatever you learned when you were 8 years old. You’ve been brainwashed by television.

    • Avatar of nullifidian
      July 16, 2011 at 2:54 am —

      So you’re a Marxist, and your big stand for the cause is to come on here spouting MRM talking points from self-appointed internet experts? Perfect. It’s no wonder Marxism is in trouble if it has advocates like you.

      Thanks for allowing me that heaping dose of Schadenfreude, and then finishing it off with a delicious topping of implication that I’m a liberal. That’s yet another way in which you resemble the average far-right loudmouth. I can’t tell you how many of them have told me quite confidently that I’m a liberal Obama-supporter. But I suppose to all authoritarian dickweeds, it’s first necessary to confine anyone who disagrees with you to a handy compartment, and the intellectually incestuous world of Marxist sectarianism, that is even more important than it is to your average teabagger.

      I think that with this last message, you managed to be even more entertaining than if you were to spend the rest of your time defending your ridiculous Calvinball math. But, of course, that means that it will all be downhill from here, so, like a woman who has just been propositioned by a clod at 4 a.m. in an elevator, I will now say “Farewell, and let’s try to not meet again!”

      Bye bye now.

      • Avatar of para
        August 12, 2011 at 8:20 am —

        Was that your closing argument? Because as an impartial 3rd party, I have to say you didn’t make your case. Unless your case was that you prefer ad-hominem attacks and irrelevant but emotionally stirring arguments to logically sound ones.

        • Avatar of para
          August 12, 2011 at 8:23 am —

          Which, by the way, is too bad, because as much as I agree with the distinction between flirtation, friendly interest and sexual interest that silencio makes, I’m a died-in-the-wool capitalist and feel slightly like I’m betraying my country or something by agreeing with him.

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