A week after this whole Richard Dawkins shit-storm began, I’m still getting flooded with messages that all ask the same questions. With that in mind:

  1. No, I don’t hate men. All men are not rapists. Most men aren’t, even!
  2. No, I don’t even hate Richard Dawkins.
  3. Yes, if he recants we can all hug and maybe I’ll buy one of his books in the future
  4. My current disinterest in his books is entirely about conscientiously giving my money to people and causes I believe in and who believe in me. I am not calling for a boycott. Analogy: I am a vegetarian, but publicly stating that fact and appreciating that other skeptics are vegetarian is not a campaign to make you be a vegetarian, too.
  5. Saying I’m “too ugly to rape” misses the scientific fact that rape has nothing to do with attraction. Babies get raped, in case you hadn’t noticed.
  6. Joking that you will rape or sexually assault me at a specific time and place is not joking in the sense that we understand jokes to be sentences that are humorous. Try harder.
  7. No, I haven’t organized any action to occur at The Amazing Meeting this weekend in Vegas. No protests, no mass gum-chewings, no walk-outs, nada. Others might, but I don’t condone by default any anti-Dawkins action.
  8. A black person and a white person in the elevator is not analogous to my situation, unless you’re talking about a strange white person following a black person onto an elevator and then inviting him/her to his/her hotel room for fried chicken. In that instance, yes, I do believe that the black person is well within his/her rights to politely ask the privileged white majority of skeptics/atheists to not do that.
  9. Publicly whining about how you’re sick of this topic and want it to go away makes the topic continue in public. I know, it’s crazy how it works.
  10. Whether or not I continue discussing the topic publicly, the topic will continue to be relevant to me and to many other women who have contacted me to talk about the behavior that drives them away from the skeptic/atheist community. Not talking about it doesn’t make it go away for us, so we go away instead. Don’t get too excited, though: the most annoying of us will probably stick around.

EDIT: Commenter karenx just posted something that I failed to address, and she did it in a better way than I would have. So here it is as #11:

Hitting on stranger in an elevator–creepy

Criticizing (and vilifying) the woman who says not to creepily hit on strangers in elevator for having the nerve to suggest guys change their behavior–sexist

Defending the prerogative of all men to hit on any woman at any time no matter how it might make women feel, even at the expense of women feeling safe in their environment, because it’s “just how men work”–misogynist

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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276 Comments

  1. Avatar of Madfishmonger
    July 12, 2011 at 7:02 pm —

    Mass gum-chewing sounds like such a good protest though.

    • Avatar of Rebecca Watson
      July 12, 2011 at 7:05 pm —

      You know, if it was Big League Chew I might join in.

      • Avatar of Sethra
        July 12, 2011 at 7:16 pm —

        If you can get 500 people to chew gum, then combine it all together and get an air compressor…

        Rebecca, I haven’t said this directly to you yet — thank you. Thank you for not only bringing this up in a clear and rational way, but for giving us a space to hash it out. It seems like at least a few people (men and women) “get it” that didn’t understand the issue before…and that’s a wonderful thing.

        Cheers,
        Sethra Lavode (or at least I wish I was!)

        • Avatar of jedibear
          July 12, 2011 at 8:30 pm —

          Ramen! You can count me among those. I had never really thought about this kind of situation before.

          Thanks again, Rebecca.

      • Avatar of SadWhaleFamily
        July 12, 2011 at 10:54 pm —

        Oh my Void, I love Big League Chew! I could cram a whole pack into my mouth right now and get TMJ from enjoying it for hours.

  2. Avatar of jjg.denis.robert
    July 12, 2011 at 7:20 pm —

    1. There is a point to be made about western women being privileged relative to their third-world sisters. BUT: this doesn’t change the fact that a privileged white male accosted a somewhat privileged but markedly less so white female in a manner which made her feel uncomfortable. So Dawkins might have had a point to make, but he made it in the very worst way possible, and from a perspective of incredible privilege. It’s hard to criticize privilege when one is oneself part of the most privileged minority in human history. (White, Anglo-Saxon, ex-Protestant, Rich, Highly educated, male, in no particular order).

    2. Whoever claims that you are too “ugly to rape” is an idiot in many ways (the main one you’ve directly alluded to), not the least of which is that you are actually quite attractive if I say so myself. (let’s hope my wife doesn’t mind my saying so!).

    3. Without sweeping the core issue under the rug, can we stop bashing each other now? I’m really tired of this internecine fight between people who should be able to have a reasoned, calm discussion about issues, not scream past each other like Fox News anchors.

    • Avatar of weatherwax
      July 12, 2011 at 10:01 pm —

      “Whoever claims that you are too “ugly to rape” is an idiot in many ways (the main one you’ve directly alluded to), not the least of which is that you are actually quite attractive if I say so myself. (let’s hope my wife doesn’t mind my saying so!).”

      I know your hearts in the right place, but it’s not really something to joke about. “You’re too ugly to rape” comes from the same attitude as rape itself. (And no I’m not saying it’s the same as rape, just that it comes from the same attitude and behavior).

      They rape you to degrade you, call you ugly to degrade you, and tell all their friends what a lousy lay you were to degrade you.

      • Avatar of jjg.denis.robert
        July 13, 2011 at 6:12 am —

        Hence the “the main one you’ve directly alluded to”, that reason being that rape has nothing to do with attractiveness.

  3. Avatar of containscaffeine
    July 12, 2011 at 7:20 pm —

    Rebecca, you are truly inspiring. I have been really upset by this whole thing, and I wasn’t even directly involved! You’ve handled it all gracefully, calmly, and with humour. You are a huge asset to the skeptical community. I hope your efforts to educate people on these topics will yield some results and make skepticism a more welcoming place to women. Keep up the awesome work.

  4. Avatar of Timothy
    July 12, 2011 at 7:21 pm —

    I think any form of protest will likely be dismissed by their intended target.

    If simply stating the facts doesn’t change a person’s mind, walk-outs and loud noises and cardboard signs probably won’t do the job.

  5. Avatar of 2020science
    July 12, 2011 at 7:36 pm —

    While the issues raised here go way beyond the Dawkins incident, it would be good to see a mea culpa from him to draw a line under this particular set of events. Sincerely hoping he doesn’t consider himself too big to fail.

  6. Avatar of jeremysea
    July 12, 2011 at 7:39 pm —

    What is that panda picture? Entirely too adorable.

    That’s not why I signed in though.

    Rebecca you have rocked this whole thing all the way through. Keep it up!

    • Avatar of Hume's Bastard
      July 13, 2011 at 1:00 am —

      May I suggest the adorable pic/pointed editorial become a regular feature? I like the combination – it’s like a Skin performance.

      This episode is just the sort that showcases a premium blogger – one that takes a seemingly mundane occurrence and turns into the opportunity for an entire community to talk and criticize. And, props, she isn’t backing down!

  7. Avatar of pteryxx
    July 12, 2011 at 7:42 pm —

    “Not talking about it doesn’t make it go away for us, so we go away instead. Don’t get too excited, though: the most annoying of us will probably stick around.”

    Beautiful. Simply beautiful. *snif*

  8. Avatar of Salo
    July 12, 2011 at 7:53 pm —

    For what it’s worth, I appreciate your original comments. Not hitting on someone while drunk at 4 AM was pretty intuitive, but I never really thought of an elevator as a threatening place. That’s the sort of thing that wouldn’t occur to me out of the blue but makes sense when pointed out. It’s good to know that, so thanks.

    • Avatar of MrFancyPants
      July 12, 2011 at 8:13 pm —

      Salo, me neither, had I not had the good fortune to have two older sisters to help clue me in. I’ve made a point of *not* getting into an elevator with a single woman in 4:00am-ish circumstances ever since I was a teenager as a result, though. My motto is “don’t do something that my sister(s) would find to be creepy”, and it’s served me pretty well, I think.

  9. Avatar of JeffGrigg
    July 12, 2011 at 7:57 pm —

    Now we need to find some other reason to do the mass gum-chewing. ;->

    Oh; and please feel free to keep talking about that other thing. …until you feel that it’s been settled, to your satisfaction. Us privileged white guys need to be reminded of reality, from time to time.

  10. Avatar of weatherwax
    July 12, 2011 at 8:21 pm —

    Thank you for calmly discussing an important issue while all kinds of hysteria are circling around you.

    And a red panda, totally awesome.

  11. Avatar of andiis
    July 12, 2011 at 8:24 pm —

    I follow you on twitter and fb and have been for almost as long as I’ve been listening to SGU. A couple of years at least. I saw you talk in Melbourne and have sometimes disagreed with some minor use of language and stereotypes,( that I don’t want to revisit ).

    Above all this I have found you entertaining and informative, and funny too.

    Your very first post on this elevator incident was just so normal and everyday, that it definitely needed highlighting. I remember saying my sister who talks to health professionals on sexual rural health often comes home with the same observation that some men have no sense of what’s appropriate as well as such bad bad timing.

    I believe this can of worms is not of your making but the result of people ” taking sides “, as if there are ” sides ” in this.

    In Melbourne last week I saw a woman wearing a t-shirt saying ” DON’T EVEN THINK ABOUT IT “. I now know what she means, and why she wears it.

  12. Avatar of sevlevboss
    July 12, 2011 at 8:24 pm —

    I’ve been trying to understand this, some extra insight would help from anyone who understands this situation.

    Obviously, when asked to a strangers hotel room, saying “no” is the only way to go, he could after all be a predator, or a creep.

    Chances are better though that he’s clueless, and was just interested/attracted and wanted exactly what he offered: conversation and coffee.

    How is that sexist? I don’t get it.

    • Avatar of plugger
      July 12, 2011 at 9:06 pm —

      Re: “Chances are better though that he’s clueless, and was just interested/attracted and wanted exactly what he offered: conversation and coffee.”

      If you are a man, you need to get out more.
      If you are a woman, please be careful

      • Avatar of sevlevboss
        July 12, 2011 at 9:20 pm —

        I am pretty geeky, so I can be socially naive, fortunately, I don’t need to get out more as I got lucky and married someone great.

        That said, let’s step it up then and say the guy was hoping she would be attracted in return and there might be more than coffee and conversation…I still don’t get how that would be sexist.

        • Avatar of cdevine
          July 12, 2011 at 9:50 pm —

          Oy, I get socially naive, but please ask your spouse why this situation is creepy, particularly in context.

          • Avatar of skeptony
            July 12, 2011 at 10:07 pm

            He didn’t ask why it was creepy, he asked why it was sexist.

          • Avatar of sevlevboss
            July 13, 2011 at 7:07 am

            I completely understand the “guys, don’t do this” part of the video. There are lots of socially awkward guys out there who don’t understand why asking a girl to your hotel room is going to set of alarm bells.

            It’s the part where she says he didn’t get her speech on sexism in the skeptic community that baffles me.

            Guys who come off creepy to girls are not always creeps, nor are they necessarily sexist.

        • Avatar of
          July 13, 2011 at 11:28 am —

          Technically, being heterosexual and limiting one’s overtures to women is sexist. It’s discriminatory against men, based solely on their sex.

          I’m unapologetic about my sexism in the dating scene. I only date women. That’s my privilege.

        • Avatar of binjabreel
          July 13, 2011 at 2:40 pm —

          It’s sexism because men get to assume that any woman anywhere who they find attractive is fair game to be hit on, and it’s her job to avoid being hit on, but not the men’s job to learn when it’s okay to hit on her.

          It’s sexism because men get to have the privilege of not having to learn to read the facial expressions and body language of women to know when it’s okay to approach or not. They get to say, “Well, how was I supposed to know until she said no?”

          It’s sexism because it’s sexist that women are forced to constantly be the gatekeepers of our species’ sexuality.

          Also, seriously, if you ask a girl to come up to your hotel room for coffee at 4 am, how the fuck is that not just a proposition for sex? Don’t you watch Futurama?

          “The two of us are going back to his car, for coffee…”

          • Avatar of sevlevboss
            July 13, 2011 at 4:53 pm

            binjabreel: I would be very interested to see what you think the definition of sexism is. I thought it had something to do with discrimination, you seem to disagree?

            “It’s sexism because men get to have the privilege of not having to learn to read the facial expressions and body language of women to know when it’s okay to approach or not.”

            By your weird definition, all male victims of Aspergers syndrome must be sexist and discriminatory towards women (and all female victims must be discriminatory towards men), because not being able to read your facial expression or body language is a form of discrimination.

            Wow.

            “It’s sexism because it’s sexist that women are forced to constantly be the gatekeepers of our species’ sexuality.”

            How so? Who is forcing them and why? Are we talking about Bible commandments here? Sex is not bad, it is not a sin, it requires no gatekeeper. If every couple who wanted consensual sex just had consensual sex, the world would not be a worse place for it.

        • Avatar of freemage
          July 14, 2011 at 3:54 pm —

          This is actually fairly straightforward. She had been making speeches during the convention (which he’d been to an heard) saying, “I really don’t appreciate being hit on at conventions.”

          He was then also present in the bar when she said, “It’s 4 AM, I’m tired and want to get to sleep.”

          So, as you recognize, he was being creepy in going back to the elevator with her and propositioning her when she was all alone. However, at that point, he was also ignoring her very clear wishes in the matter. This is where the sexism comes in–he wasn’t willing to accept her prior statements on the issue as factual, and assumed there was still some chance of getting her to come back to his room for some “coffee”.

          When a man overlooks a woman’s agency–her blatantly stated wishes–in order to pursue his own agenda, that is a blatant sign of sexism.

          • Avatar of sevlevboss
            July 14, 2011 at 8:10 pm

            “Thanks Freemage,that explains it.”

            Is what I would have written if it wasn’t untrue. Not sure if you are being untruthful, or you are guess that is what she must have said (you shouldn’t guess here, this is a skeptical forum)

            See for yourself: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W014KhaRtik

            IF she had said that, it would explain very clearly what he “didn’t get”, but being a skeptic, I couldn’t help watch her speech again to verify your quote.

            Her speech is quite good, she is an excellent speaker, and makes great jokes. I’m more impressed considering she has said it was off the cuff…but not only does she not say,“I really don’t appreciate being hit on at conventions.” She doesn’t mention anything even close to that, or imply that. She doesn’t talk about her experiences at conventions, she doesn’t talk about being hit on, so obviously she doesn’t mention her opinions on combining the two.

            The closest thing I could find in her entire speech would be saying that emails that describe graphic sexual acts they would like to do to her make her uncomfortable and are misogynist, which is pretty clear. There’s nothing about that which implies that she really means, “don’t hit on me at conventions”

          • Avatar of chriswillett
            July 16, 2011 at 1:14 pm

            “This is actually fairly straightforward. She had been making speeches during the convention (which he’d been to an heard) saying, ‘I really don’t appreciate being hit on at conventions.’”

            Ms. Watson’s defenders repeat this point ad nauseam because they believe it enhances their argument that the elevator proposition was “sexist misogyny.” Unfortunately, there is not a shred of evidence that she actually uttered those words or something close to them.

        • Avatar of apostateltsopa
          July 22, 2011 at 2:24 am —

          @sevlevboss “I still don’t get how would that be sexist”

          Perhaps you’ve missed the elaboration that this guy knew Rebecca was heading up to bed to sleep.

          The guy had a chance to talk to her in public, he was in the bar. He had a chance to show he was interested in her as a person with opinions and a mind, however his approach said only “can I have some time alone with your body?”

          It’s quite possible he didn’t intend to say that, it sounds like he was about as socially inept as they come but to me this has all the hallmarks of a guy who thought the fantasy he’d created in his head about Rebecca was the same thing as the woman he followed into the elevator. Instead of seeing the person and the person’s desires he saw an object of sexual desire.

          Reduce woman to object = sexism.

    • Avatar of karenx
      July 12, 2011 at 9:10 pm —

      Hitting on stranger in an elevator–creepy

      Criticizing (and vilifying) the woman who says not to creepily hit on strangers in elevator for having the nerve to suggest guys change their behavior–sexist

      Defending the prerogative of all men to hit on any woman at any time no matter how it might make women feel, even at the expense of women feeling safe in their environment, because it’s “just how men work”–misogynist

      • Avatar of skeptony
        July 12, 2011 at 10:12 pm —

        There we go. Great post karenx.

        It would be different if Rebecca had pulled a Bachmann and claimed that she was being held against her will or something. She just said to be away how creepy that situation is.

        I suspect that the publish of the Skepchick Calendar probably has a pretty healthy and good-natured outlook on sex and the human body in general. That doesn’t mean that she is looking to hook up with anyone who gets her in a dark alley.

      • Avatar of
        July 13, 2011 at 12:08 am —

        1) Hitting on stranger in an elevator – creepy.

        Agreed, and let that be the end of it. Don’t go calling people who try to form relationships with you, misogynists.

        And for an added question, do you know what misogynist means? It’s the hatred of women by men. I don’t know how you can connect misogyny to an awkward social situation.

        2)Criticizing (and vilifying) the woman who says not to creepily hit on strangers in elevator for having the nerve to suggest guys change their behavior–sexist.

        The act of criticizing or disagreeing with someone from the opposite sex does not equal sexism. Sexism is discriminating or acting prejudice towards someone BASED on their gender.

        3) Defending the prerogative of all men to hit on any woman at any time no matter how it might make women feel, even at the expense of women feeling safe in their environment, because it’s “just how men work”–misogynist

        Again, misogyny is the hatred of women. Defending some creep in an elevator is not an act of misogyny. I’m not agreeing with his choice to “hit” on Ms. Watson in an elevator. I’m defending his right, as a human being, to move and speak freely. Now if you asked him to stop or told him no, than that would be the end of it. And if he continued than I would have a problem, because it would a violation of your rights. But that didn’t happen, and I see no fault.

        And yes, I do defend the right for men to hit on woman anytime, anywhere. Just like I would defend the right of women to ask them to stop if they feel uncomfortable.

        • Avatar of punchdrunk
          July 13, 2011 at 1:01 am —

          “I don’t care, I’ll do what I want!” – Eric Cartman

          • Avatar of TheGripester
            July 13, 2011 at 2:13 am

            Irrelevant? Tiresome? Well, always…
            *yawn*

      • Avatar of Hume's Bastard
        July 13, 2011 at 1:02 am —

        props!

    • Avatar of Timothy
      July 12, 2011 at 9:30 pm —

      From what I understand, this individual was part of a group that Rebecca was talking with for a good portion of the night. He made no attempts to converse with her until getting in the elevator at 4am, asking her to his room.

      Maybe he was genuine, a very socially awkward nervous guy who just couldn’t pluck up the courage to speak until they were in a one-on-one situation. Rebecca didn’t dismiss this idea. She only said that the situation made her uncomfortable, that it seemed creepy. She advised men who find themselves in these situations to think about it from the woman’s perspective, and just don’t be creepy.

      If I was in that situation I’d find it creepy. Unlike Rebecca, I don’t recieve daily threats of murder and rape from scores of strangers.

      Somehow, Rebecca’s statement was taken as sexist. People were accusing her of claiming that all men are rapists. Any response she made was taken as further proof that she was a man-hating “feminazi”. Even Richard Dawkins weighed in at one point, posting a comment on Pharyngula that can be summarized as “Muslim women have it worse, so shut your mouth.”

      All because Rebecca dared to say “Guys, don’t be creepy.”

      • Avatar of meko
        July 13, 2011 at 2:28 pm —

        It’s even worse than your impression. He hadn’t talked to her as part of the group.

    • Avatar of AttorneyAdam
      July 12, 2011 at 9:36 pm —

      Chances are that you are right-elevator dude was just interested in an intelligent attractive woman and was hoping to have some romantic times with her. The problem is that there is a real danger that any random male stranger *could* be a rapist or someone who reacts violently to rejection. They don’t wear signs, you know. ;-) Women (even relatively wealthy first-world white women) have to be on guard for this possibility at all times. Isolated places with no easy escape route are just the sort of place that a rape could happen-an elevator is a prime example. It is not “sexist” to ask Rebecca to come to your room for coffee under such conditions, but it does betray a certain obliviousness to the lived experience of most women, including Rebecca. The sexism comes later in dismissing Rebecca’s concern about such behavior as hysteria or attacking her supporters by labelling them “Femi-Nazis” or worse. We men have a nearly unimagineable amount of privilege with regard to this issue, so it is especially important for us to listen to the ladies here without callously judging their concerns to be petty or irrational. It is definitely a learned skill, but comprehending that there is an issue is the first step.

      Hope that helps.

      • Avatar of riddlemethis
        July 12, 2011 at 10:10 pm —

        I actually think that his making such an approach was ‘sexist’. I say this on the basis that a)why would you think a woman you don’t know would want to come to your room at 4am, unless she’s up for some stranger-sex and b)his hope that he might just luck out on this front trumped his better judgement (he said “don’t take this the wrong way” – it’s like saying “with all due repsect” or “trust me”!). He knew what he was doing was at least ill-advised & he went ahead with it anyway. That shows a willingness to put his own needs above what he clearly knew Rebecca’s were likely to be. Frankly I think she picked this bloke in one – creepy.

        There is a pervasive thought process that I’ve noticed in all of this, that its a ‘right’ of some description to be free to hit on other people, even if you don’t know them from Adam. I find it perverse & I’m no prude. Why the hell would someone who has given you no indication that you are even on their radar want to have a sexual liaison with you? It’s almost like we think porn scripts are reality tv shows. Siiigh.

        • Avatar of skeptony
          July 12, 2011 at 10:25 pm —

          “I actually think that his making such an approach was ‘sexist’. I say this on the basis that a)why would you think a woman you don’t know would want to come to your room at 4am, unless she’s up for some stranger-sex and b)his hope that he might just luck out on this front trumped his better judgement (he said “don’t take this the wrong way” – it’s like saying “with all due repsect” or “trust me”!). He knew what he was doing was at least ill-advised & he went ahead with it anyway. That shows a willingness to put his own needs above what he clearly knew Rebecca’s were likely to be.”

          A – Not sexist at all. He was obviously up for some stranger sex, so he obviously was not making that assumption just because Rebecca is a woman.

          B – Also not sexist. This is actually selfish. The “Don’t take this the wrong way” part was probably just a lie. He probably meant exactly what you would assume if you took it the wrong way.

          Not every male jerk is necessarily sexist.

        • Avatar of chriswillett
          July 16, 2011 at 1:18 pm —

          “There is a pervasive thought process that I’ve noticed in all of this, that its a ‘right’ of some description to be free to hit on other people, even if you don’t know them from Adam.”

          So, if you’re in America, you don’t believe that the First Amendment protects asking someone back to your room?

          I know, I know; since I’m a Privileged™ Sexist™ with a Misogyny™ problem, my opinion doesn’t count.

      • Avatar of Hume's Bastard
        July 13, 2011 at 1:07 am —

        Props!

        I might add, that accepting the fact that a woman is both a person with a unique personality and intellect AND a member of a class of humanity that shares certain biological and socially constructed characteristics is a challenge men need to appreciate.

    • Avatar of NelC
      July 12, 2011 at 10:45 pm —

      My take on it is that Elevator Guy seemed to have attended Rebecca’s previous talk and decided that she was worth getting to know better (I.e. wanted to make sweet sweet love to her), but somehow managed to miss the message about not being creepy to women at atheist cons. Then he avoids her while she’s chatting in the bar until the early hours of the morning. And then he hits on her after she’s announced that she’s off to bed for some shuteye. He clearly had no interest in what she had to say at all. (And he wasn’t just interested in coffee, since he could have bought her one in the bar.)

      A man ignoring what a woman has to say for the sake of his desire seems pretty much an iconic example of sexism to me.

      • Avatar of Hume's Bastard
        July 13, 2011 at 1:08 am —

        Good point!

      • Avatar of chriswillett
        July 16, 2011 at 1:20 pm —

        “He clearly had no interest in what she had to say at all.”

        We don’t know this. Good arguments do not rest on assumptions made only to enhance your existing point of view.

    • Avatar of nikoel
      July 13, 2011 at 10:41 am —

      EGs actions were misogynistic and sexist because he decided his desire to have sex with her was more important than her desire to go to sleep as she’d previously stated she wanted to. THAT’s what the issue is. He didn’t take into account that following her and propositioning her in an enclosed space might make her uncomfortable. He may have just been clueless, but that’s still his privilege as a male. He doesn’t have to care about that kind of thing unless he chooses to. Women are told by society from the time we are little girls to be wary of ALL strange men. If we’re not and we get assaulted, it’s our fault. He was objectifying her by disregarding her wishes, comfort and autonomy.

      • Avatar of maxd2
        July 13, 2011 at 9:09 pm —

        Nikoel,

        07.13.2011

        Reply

        “EGs actions were misogynistic and sexist because he decided his desire to have sex with her was more important than her desire to go to sleep as she’d previously stated she wanted to.”
        We really cannot know what EG’s desire was. We can make nothing but guess work of his desire. I think it is safe to say that since he didn’t go off on her and call her any number of stupid epithets relating to her gender and her general lack of brilliance based on her XX sex chromosomes that his actions were not “woman hating.” I am not sure we can call his actions sexist either because this behavior happens the other way too. We can maybe call it impolite, inconsiderate but I think to say more than that a great deal more would have to be established. What we have is RW’s description of an even that made her feel creepy and her advice to not do it again, and to pay much closer attention to people’s statements. All well and good by the way. But we don’t really know anything about EG, and nothing upon which we could call him a sexist and certainly nothing that justifies calling him a misogynist.

        “THAT’s what the issue is. He didn’t take into account that following her and propositioning her in an enclosed space might make her uncomfortable. He may have just been clueless, but that’s still his privilege as a male.”
        It is anyone’s privilege to be clueless.

        ” He doesn’t have to care about that kind of thing unless he chooses to. Women are told by society from the time we are little girls to be wary of ALL strange men. If we’re not and we get assaulted, it’s our fault. He was objectifying her by disregarding her wishes, comfort and autonomy.”
        Everyone is told to be wary of strangers. Males and females face different kinds of risks but both face real and considerable threats to their autonomy just in different ways.
        That isn’t to discount sexist attitudes by the way. I am just not sure we can say much about EG in this regard. We don’t really know what he heard of RW’s talks. He clearly did try to ask her to his room for coffee, and yes he did so after she asked him not to. But I, and I am sure many other people here have been asked if I wouldn’t reconsider on more than one occasion. Without knowing more, and given that EG dropped it can we adjudicate convincingly on his motives?

        • Avatar of punchdrunk
          July 14, 2011 at 5:08 am —

          I’m perfectly comfortable stating as fact that the guy was trying to get laid. No doubt, reasonable or otherwise.

          I’m autistic, my son’s Asperger’s, and neither one of us would have had any confusion about the motives or social cues in this situation. Only people living in a headspace removed from reality would think differently.

          • Avatar of
            July 14, 2011 at 4:08 pm

            I really do not understand such absolutist assumptions.
            .
            You. Were. Not. There.
            .
            And anecdotes are not evidence.

          • Avatar of Ashamanic
            July 15, 2011 at 10:06 am

            On what basis?
            Are you a male who frequently propositions women you have never spoken to before by saying “don’t take this the wrong way, but I find you interesting, would you like to come back to my room for a coffee?”
            Or a female, who when propositioned like that, always gets the sex she expects?

            Simply claiming that “coffee” is established code for sex totally omits any relevant context and the actual words he used

          • Avatar of chirez
            July 16, 2011 at 11:49 pm

            There are a number of people present who appear to me to be skeptical in the ancient greek sense of the word.

            I would argue that the questions ‘Did he say that? Did he mean that?’ could reasonably be followed by ‘Was he speaking English? Did he even exist? Is this all a dream?’

            There is no such thing as Truth outside the realm of pure mathematics. Please stop looking for it in an anecdote about an elevator encounter.

            If it helps, read it as a stated problem in ethics. Take the actions and intention as given, then is this ethically right, or wrong?

  13. Avatar of lepperk
    July 12, 2011 at 8:26 pm —

    Great post, Rebecca. I really appreciate the way you’ve handled this entire situation. You’ve been direct, honest, clear and uncompromising, and you been gracious in not responding to nasty attacks in kind.
    You even have a nice touch with the wry humor.

    I appreciate the fact that you’re willing to fight for this issue. Just wanted you to know that you have a lot of support.

    Karen

  14. Avatar of Orac
    July 12, 2011 at 8:29 pm —

    Yes, if he recants we can all hug and maybe I’ll buy one of his books in the future

    Uh, are you sure you want to use the word “recant”? That word has definite religious connotations. I thought we were a bunch of godless heathens.

    • Avatar of jedibear
      July 12, 2011 at 8:36 pm —

      It also has a literal definition, legal connotations, and happens to be what many atheists do with religion. It’s a good and healthy word. People should recant more often.

      • Avatar of maxd2
        July 13, 2011 at 1:33 am —

        Why should he have to recant? Can’t people disagree, critique, and argue and still find merit other aspects of their “sparring” partner’s work? I mean Gould and Dawkins had some major disagreements over the years, and both found merit in each other’s work outside of those disagreements. Christopher Hitchens is apparently good friends with Francis Collins. Do we need to make membership in the club of unbelief a matter of lock step agreement?

        • Avatar of meko
          July 13, 2011 at 2:30 pm —

          Just because someone gets to stay a member of the club is no reason to be a fan or provide financial support.

          Saying “no harm/no foul” is a statement he should take back.

        • Avatar of freemage
          July 14, 2011 at 4:03 pm —

          Well, first off, I have a problem with your use of the word “have” in that sentence; Rebecca isn’t trying to force Dawkins to do anything. Rather, she’s set up an if-then clause: “IF he recants the initial statement, THEN I’ll let it go and be a fan again.”

          Second, while Dawkins and Gould have had disagreements, how many of them have consisted of a personal slam against the individual, as opposed to a scholarly critique of the other man’s position? Dawkin’s post used the same sort of tone and casual dismissal that he usually reserves for, say, Ray Comfort and his ilk.

          • Avatar of chriswillett
            July 16, 2011 at 1:22 pm

            If you’re going to slam Dr. Dawkins on his tone, then you can’t ignore the published positions of Skepchick on this issue:

            Ms. Watson refers derisively to Dr. Dawkins as a “stinking rich” “wealthy old heterosexual white man,” states that she will boycott his work, and thanks her supporters for “bravely battling [Dawkins] and the hoards of clueless privileged people who didn’t get it.”

            The open letters to Dr. Dawkins are more severe: “I look forward to watching your legacy crash and burn,” wrote Mindy, who concluded with “you don’t get a second chance.” Another letter opened with “Dear Dick” and accused Dr. Dawkins of making the skeptic community “blatantly unsafe” for women.

  15. Avatar of Tortorific
    July 12, 2011 at 8:30 pm —

    Rebecca, I will love you forever but promise never to attempt to express that awkwardly (or otherwise) in an elevator or after you have told me not to and/or maced me.

  16. Avatar of brettinvancouver
    July 12, 2011 at 8:55 pm —

    Sigh

    After thousands of comments, I can’t imagine anything I type is novel, but it really pains me to see this blow up the way it has. As a single male, I understand fully that it’s simply a no-no to corner a girl in an isolated place and ask her out.

    Without suggesting that I’m in agreement, I know where Richard Dawkins is coming from, too. If we assume that men and women are equivalents, one person asking out another in an isolated place shouldn’t be a big deal. If Rebecca was a gay male, I don’t think there’d be a problem here. Thus, the gravest slights against women are those that are human rights abuses to begin with. Hence the muslima example.

    Of course, that presumption is incorrect. Men and women are not equivalents and it’s the responsibility of men to understand where women are coming from. That so much vitriol is directed towards Rebecca in this case makes me wonder what proportion of men in the atheist community evade that responsibility altogether. Anyway, just my two cents…

    • Avatar of riddlemethis
      July 12, 2011 at 10:14 pm —

      Brett, RD used a fallacious argument to demean the experience of Rebecca as being invalid. That other worse stuff happens doesn’t negate the inappropriateness of what happened to her. Indeed that’s the whole bloody point. Just as moderate religion paves the way for fundamentalist nutjobs, so too does dismissing the little acts of objectification against women as ‘harmless’. Funny to me how RD can see that so clearly on one hand, but not at all on the other. Rationalism ftw?

      • Avatar of Karen James
        July 13, 2011 at 4:31 pm —

        Just as moderate religion paves the way for fundamentalist nutjobs, so too does dismissing the little acts of objectification against women as ‘harmless’.

        As is my wont, I’ve mainly been weighing in on this on Twitter, but this comment by @riddlemethis inspired me to log in and add a “+1″.

        I’ve been mulling this particularly hypocritical element of Dawkins’ initial comment for… well at least 24 hours now, trying to figure out the right way to highlight it. This comment gets it right.

        And while I’m here, I want to say what I said on Twitter: I want her & everyone to know that I support & agree with her. Rebecca Watson, thank you for living up to your bio, ‘fearless leader’. And it’s not because we are friends (which we are) — I disagree with plenty of friends — or because she’s influential (which she is) — I’m really only at the fringes of the skeptic/atheist movement and don’t consider myself as someone with something go gain or lose there, but because I agree with her.

    • Avatar of riddlemethis
      July 12, 2011 at 10:17 pm —

      Sorry, hit submit too soon! Otherwise, yes, exactly!

  17. Avatar of amysrevenge
    July 12, 2011 at 9:23 pm —

    Hooray for Rebecca!

  18. Avatar of mrmisconception
    July 12, 2011 at 9:25 pm —

    I’ve been thinking of writing a “things Rebecca didn’t say” blog post, just for my own edification at least, and you saved me the trouble; thank you for that.
    I have learned a lot about sexism and privilege from this blog, mostly before this brouhaha, and, even though I still have lots to learn, hope that I helped to explain it to those who didn’t get it; those who would listen anyway.
    I sincerely hope that the “WHAT ABOUT TEH MENZ” trolls who have descended from the MRM and other disturbing corners of the intertubes either go back to the irrational nether reaches from which they came, or even better, that they stick around, shut their mouths and listen, and learn more about women than any of their fellow complainers could ever hope to teach them.
    Perhaps I hope too big.
    .
    I hope also that you are not disheartened by all this; after all you have to prepare yourself for the next round or she said/he said she said/she said that’s not what she said/he said that’s what she said/ad infinitum.

  19. Avatar of T-Storm
    July 12, 2011 at 10:08 pm —

    Answer this. Why are you so awesome?

  20. Avatar of ksnider
    July 12, 2011 at 10:14 pm —

    I know others have said it, but I’ll say it again – thank you. We need someone to speak up and say that no, this isn’t respectful behavior, and yes, guys should know better. I’m glad it could be someone as articulate, passionate, and polite as you.

  21. Avatar of Charles Minus
    July 12, 2011 at 10:21 pm —

    I hope that the SGU does not invite RD to join them at TAM, unless he so asks. At this point, it is entirely up to him to make amends for the awful thing he has done. It has been explained to him and he has chosen to remain silent. Until we hear otherwise, we can only assume he stands by his position.

    • Avatar of riddlemethis
      July 12, 2011 at 11:02 pm —

      I think he’s the sort of person who might apologise personally, but not so much in the public space. To be honest he has displayed a pretty ham fist in circumstances like this in the past. But it’s probably between him and Rebecca to deal with face to face now. I’m sure it’ll be terribly uncomfortable.

  22. Avatar of riddlemethis
    July 12, 2011 at 10:26 pm —

    Rebecca, I’d like to add my thank-you to the chorus! That you spoke of the situation you found yourself in took courage – I expect you had an incling of the shit-storm that would follow & went for it anyway.

    In trying to articulate to people why what you were saying was so important, I’ve been forced to really engage with a school of thinking that I’d only brushed over before. It’s been both fascinating & confronting at the same time.

    There are myriad ways in which women are objectified & it seems to me that there is an expectation that any ‘modern’ woman will brush most of them off as being ‘not really harmful’ in the scheme of things. It’s a relativist argument that completely misses the point of how accepting the ‘little sleights’ provides apologetics for the atrocious, unconscionable & horrendous. It’s the kind of thinking that is at the heart of all the subjugation & objectification of every minority, because if it can be done to half the worlds population, it can be done to anyone.

    Thanks again & I really hope we get to see you in Melbourne for GAC2012

    riddlemethis/@tradrmum

  23. Avatar of texasnightrider
    July 12, 2011 at 10:48 pm —

    #11 (rebecca’s points) sums up things so perfectly. I love answers like that, I frequently look for those in my physics class and find them about once a year…

  24. Avatar of markf
    July 12, 2011 at 10:51 pm —

    I think this will be the last time I comment on this, but the first time on Skepchik. As I see some people are list people like me, here we go.

    1) Rebecca, you did nothing wrong, said nothing wrong. You are completely in the right here. I know you know this, but I figured this is the best place to start.

    2) After reading many comments on many blogs I am greatly disapointed to see how few people who consider themselves skeptics actually bothered to check out the source material. They have just been commenting on comments and distorting the whole thing into a horrid game of telephone.

    3) The atheosphere has, for a very long time now, had lurkers just waiting to troll and/or start a flame war. In most cases I think we have learned to handle/ignore them so that they are no longer prominent, at least in the blogs I have been reading. It would seem that there are lso these types lurking around in the blogs of prominent women. I think we need to get up the same ability to ignore them.

    4) Correct me if I am wrong, but this has nothing to do with a freaking elevator. It could have happend in a crowded hotel lobby at noon. The whole issue is this guy invited a woman he did not know back to his ROOM! That’s the creepy part. That’s the part in horror movied where everyone is yelling at the screen “No, don’t go!!” And yes, if a woman I did not already know came up to me and asked to come back to her room I too would be a bit creeped out.

    5) Keep up the good work :)

    • Avatar of weatherwax
      July 13, 2011 at 11:43 am —

      “Correct me if I am wrong, but this has nothing to do with a freaking elevator. It could have happend in a crowded hotel lobby at noon.”

      I do have to correct you. If it had been in the lobby, or in the bar, where they had been together for several hours, it would have been quite boorish. Especially since he new quite well she had expressed a desire not be invited back to anyones room.

      It was creepy because he deliberatly followed her to the elevator and put her in a vulnerable situation before he propositioned her.

  25. Avatar of wynne
    July 12, 2011 at 10:56 pm —

    Thank you, thank you, thank you Rebecca.

    In my corner of the world gender and skepticism are finally open to discussion. By men even. And most ‘get it’.

    Despite all the discomfort, especially for you, Rebecca, it’s worth it. And we might even find ourselves with more of us skeptical women to hang out with. What could possibly be wrong with that?

  26. Avatar of donaji
    July 12, 2011 at 10:59 pm —

    Well done Rebecca, for speaking up! You are so right!
    Of course it’s creepy to be hit on in an elevator at 4am. As an old feminist it saddens me that so many men are no closer to understanding how women consciously or unconsciously can feel threatened, at night, in enclosed spaces, in all male environments, in a variety of situations because we, our sisters, our friends, our mothers, our neighbours ARE attacked. Sometimes we are raped, sometimes merely threatened , sometimes simply insulted for rejecting an advance. We know that most men are not rapists but we also know that almost all women experience very upsetting acts of aggression at sometime. Of course this makes us wary, uncomfortable, cautious and pissed off. Just because we don’t get stoned as well we are supposed to be grateful? We can only keep trying to get the message across, as you tried to do. Some men do understand. Maybe one day a lot more will.

  27. Avatar of bug_girl
    July 12, 2011 at 11:20 pm —

    You rock, Boss.

  28. Avatar of physicsboy
    July 12, 2011 at 11:44 pm —

    Rebecca you have every right to feel the way you do and you are totally correct about the situation. I can imagine why it’s creepy to be approached at 4am by a man regardless of what his intentions are. It’s inappropriate and he shouldn’t have done it.

    I must say reading about this incident has brought up a lot of old feelings for me. I grew up like a lot of guys here might have grown up: nerdy, unattractive, unpopular and inept. Now I turned out to be one of the lucky ones – I somehow met an amazing woman and we are now engaged. But I spent many lonely years convinced that I would never find someone, and I must confess to having an idea of where this guy might have been in his head: “you’ve gotta get out there, youve gotta give it a try, muster up your courage” and so on. There aren’t a lot of skeptics out there, and a conference must seem like a great place to meet like-minded people. If he’s anything like I was, he’s watching all of this unfold and thinking to himself “boy look what happened. I’ll never try that again”.

    you’re 100% correct and he was wrong to do what he did. The show of support that the community is showing you for what youre doing is appropriate and deserved. I just wanted to throw a shout out to elevator boy. If youre reading and you’re in fact a decent guy who thought you’d give happiness another try – sorry dude, I know it sucks.

  29. Avatar of
    July 13, 2011 at 12:01 am —

    LOL! to this whole chain of obsequious sycophantcy. Really.
    .
    Words and phrases to ponder:
    .
    - sycophant
    - anecdotes are not evidence
    - privilege
    - gender traitor
    - sexist
    - self confirmation bias
    - skepticism
    - critical thinking
    - dissent
    - allowance to hold a differing opinion
    - power
    - group think
    - dialogue
    - disagreement as foment to constructive thought
    - shut up (Pharyngulated)
    - fuck off (Pharyngulated)
    - for us or ag’in us (erstwhile G.W. Bush mantra; current Skepchick mantra)
    .
    etc., etc., etc.
    .
    Having often found Skepchick.org to be something of a refuge against the madness that is the Internet, it is quite disheartening (Ohh! Oooh! He’s a concern tone troll! Oooh!) to note how Pharyngulated, biased, angry, irrational, and lacking in critical thought, objectivity, and wisdom Skepchick has become. All hail the group think uber-feminists of the modern tautolgical Big Sister universe.

    Oh yes, oh yes, I know that criticism and disagreement renders me a mysogynist, sexist, white male overly privileged ad homineming fool who just does not get it simply through my disagreement … but, so it goes brothers and sisters, so it goes.

    • Avatar of utakata
      July 13, 2011 at 12:17 am —

      “Oh yes, oh yes, I know that criticism and disagreement renders me a mysogynist, sexist, white male overly privileged ad homineming fool who just does not get it simply through my disagreement … but, so it goes brothers and sisters, so it goes.”

      If the shoe fits dude, wear it. Just saying.

      • Avatar of chriswillett
        July 14, 2011 at 6:24 pm —

        “If the shoe fits dude, wear it. Just saying.”

        That’s precisely the attitude that inspired me to get involved in this issue. I, and others, have been classified as “sexist” and “misogynist” simply for disagreeing with Ms. Watson’s assumptions, analogies, and conclusions.

        Many, many so-called skeptics seem to have left skepticism and rational thought at the door. I see a lot of language dripping with negative emotional reactivity. Exhibit A is Mindy’s letter to Dr. Dawkins, which includes, “I look forward to watching your legacy crash and burn.”

    • Avatar of TheGripester
      July 13, 2011 at 12:32 am —

      If there’s any group think that I see, it’s in how many different comments supporting Dawkins have EXACTLY the same arguments, over and over, and very little in the way of supportive critique. I don’t agree with everything Rebecca Watson says, because she like me is a work in progress. But since you’re obviously a completely evolved individual who is free from all error and blame, then it really makes one wonder why are wasting your time on such an obviously flawed and trivial comment page.

      • Avatar of maxd2
        July 13, 2011 at 1:09 am —

        Aren’t we all works in progress then? I mean at root the Watson/Dawkins thing boils down to a simple disagreement about when one should be offended by an action? Why the need to accuse him of privilage? Why the whine about the fact that he will probably always be a rich white guy? Why is it the only way she will give his contributions to skepticism, atheism, and indeed humanism further thought, time and reflection is if he recants and comes around to her point of view? That seems like a rather ruthless constraint to place on a “freethinker.”

        • Avatar of TheGripester
          July 13, 2011 at 1:35 am —

          One may as well ask why it is so important to some people, since they place such little value on RW’s opinions, that she apologize to Dawkins and back down?

          But with all respect, there is quite enough bouncing off of points as it is, and I will not address your first question, which attempts to spin off my comments about how I do not agree with everything RW says (maybe you missed this) in light of the huge bucket of superior judgement that John Greg attempted to heap upon her at the top of this thread.

          • Avatar of maxd2
            July 13, 2011 at 2:11 am

            Why should she apologize to Dawkins? Why should he apologize to her? They disagree. So what? I am certainly not discounting RW’s experience. I just don’t happen to aggree with her that it falls under sexism or misogyny (here I am speaking about the elevator incident). He hasn’t said that he will stop reading her work, or that he would suggest other people not read her work, or her blog. I’m perplexed by the fact that Rebecca cannot seem to handle a difference of opinion despite the fact she and Dawkins are probably in agreement about 90-95% of the time. That seems somewhat disproportionate to the disagreement between them.

            I see no reason why she should have to back down, or agree with Dawkins critique of her. But I don’t see why he should have to recant either. I further don’t understand why associating with him and his works must be contingent on their 100% agreement. If he took the same stance I would be just as confused.

            It is of course completely up to her, but the stance smacks somewhat of a test of ideological purity.

            Hopefully I am not talking past your position.

  30. Avatar of utakata
    July 13, 2011 at 12:35 am —

    Um…yeah, I’m new here….so I’ll try to not make too much of an ass of myself. Other than to say, I’ve been lurking here for year or so…but never posted before. Until Richard put his foot in it a week ago. And that’s about time to come out say something here…

    …to that, some men really need to grow up. So that’s my two cents to some already an amass of amazing pointed comments here and anywhere where else there’s enlightened bloggers and posters about it. To bad the tone trolls don’t get it though…even when the obvious evidence is suggesting they should.

    On another note:

    http://gretachristina.typepad.com/greta_christinas_weblog/2011/07/why-we-have-to-talk-about-this.html

    …I thought what Greta had to say was very fitting.

    Anywhose…I hope I wasn’t too-too off topic. As you where. :)

    • Avatar of pteryxx
      July 13, 2011 at 12:18 pm —

      Thank you for linking that. I hadn’t seen it and it’s a very good summation of why the conversation exploded.

    • Avatar of smudge
      July 13, 2011 at 10:08 pm —

      Thank you so much for linking that – it’s beautiful!

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

      This. Is. Getting. Better.

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

      I have to wholeheartedly agree with this sentiment. This particular iteration of the long-term ongoing discussion is one of the most encouraging I’ve seen to date. Rebecca, like many others who’ve been around for a while I am happy that you’ve brought the issue up again. Please know that many of us recognize what you are doing as using your love of the movement to help it get over its troubles rather than simply giving up on the movement as a whole.

  31. Avatar of timdelaney
    July 13, 2011 at 12:43 am —

    A few days ago, I expressed the opinion that the EG was, in effect, simply a boor, nothing more. I was wrong.

    Since then I have read what Rebecca had to say, including this FAQ, and pondered what the male-dominated world must look like to a woman. I was not reassured; many people of my gender behave in a way that transcends boorishness.

    Let’s face it: Some men are really creepy. One need look no further than Congress or the RCC or the PGA tour to confirm this. A minority, perhaps, but a significant one.

    And given that men are generally more physically powerful and aggressive than women, it is not terribly surprising that women can feel threatened, even when no threat is intended. It’s very likely that EG intended no physical threat, but that doesn’t excuse him.

    I have a feeling that guys at atheist conferences will, in the future, be a bit more circumspect. You did good, Rebecca.

  32. Avatar of scribe999
    July 13, 2011 at 12:54 am —

    I’d like to propose a survey. I was thinking about this after all of the multitudes of commenters repeating the same arguments over and over again. While I do agree with Rebecca’s positions from logical inferences and my own observations, it wouldn’t hurt to have additional data of some kind. And considering the Atheist/Skeptical communities should put some value on this kind of research, I think it should help at least illustrate a preliminary image of if and where problems appear along gender identity lines.

    It came to me after considering Darrel Ray’s recent survey done on the sex lives of atheists, and I was wondering why some surveys couldn’t be given out amongst attendees of conferences, and perhaps the general community as well. Wouldn’t it make sense to get a fuller picture of men and women’s feelings on the level of comfort they feel at these events and within the community at large? What’s the actual level of discomfort felt by women? How many men notice such difficulties? Are there areas regarding this issue that a majority of men and women mostly agree on? Disagree on? I imagine there are many individuals within the skeptical community who would have the expertise and the resources to propose such data gathering.

    We know that some sense of discomfort exists among women in skepticism, which has given us a place to start (if an overdue place). But as to exactly how large a problem it is and what might be done to address it, mostly it’s been based on a handful of prominent (and strong) female voices speaking to these concerns, with the possibility that more women don’t state their own concerns due to the usual game of argument ping-pong that follows each of these flare-ups.

    Any thoughts?

    • Avatar of TheGripester
      July 13, 2011 at 1:11 am —

      My thoughts exactly. What if we made a concordance of all the basic anti-RW points, with the most common permutations, along with refutations? Then all one would have to do is say, “Oh, that’s Fallacy #42, check the list.” Also, one could list the proportion of comments that had a respectful tone, which were ad hominem, and which were just plain insane. I’ve read about 10-12 full comment pages (easily several thousand comments), and I am estimating a very low level of respectful critique, whereas arguments in Rebecca’s favor run an even gamut from patient to mildly irritated to peevish to chilly to exasperated to furious. As well they should in the face of hundreds of completely clueless comments from guys who have about as much chance of getting laid as a Fabergé egg.

      • Avatar of maxd2
        July 13, 2011 at 1:26 am —

        The Gripster,
        Your observation is probably mirrored by the arguments of those “on” Watson’s side. I’ve seen lots of the same venom going the other way. Consider the venom fo Jen McCreight’s early post on this subject which seemed a bit over the top to me. Or all the jabber about mansplaining, and the censorship. I would predict you would find, with any such analysis about an equal number of uninformed, unreflective hot heads on both sides of this issue.

        • Avatar of TheGripester
          July 13, 2011 at 1:47 am —

          “jabber” about “mansplaining”? So you are saying that no mansplaining whatsoever has happened anywhere on any of these comment boards? That every comment in support of Dawkins is justified? Or that there is no such thing as mansplaining? Please enlighten us.

          • Avatar of punchdrunk
            July 13, 2011 at 2:01 am

            Condescending? Pompous? Well, I never!
            *harrumph*

          • Avatar of maxd2
            July 13, 2011 at 2:21 am

            ““jabber” about “mansplaining”? So you are saying that no mansplaining whatsoever has happened anywhere on any of these comment boards?”
            I am not entirely sure what mansplaining is other than code for an argument with which you disagree. Attaching the perjorative label allows for easy disregard. But you will note that I did not say that no mansplaining took place. All I was saying the the thoughtless vitriol has been present on both sides. That the quick dismissals are present on whatever side of this debate you care to look.

            “That every comment in support of Dawkins is justified?” Perhaps you should read what I actually wrote.

            “Or that there is no such thing as mansplaining?” Perhaps there has been, again I am not sure what mansplaining is. I would suggest that calling an argument that, and dismissing it is not the same as explaining why you think it is wrong, nor does it justify mods pre-emptively axing in debate fora such as this.

            “Please enlighten us.” Now who is waxing superior?

        • Avatar of TheGripester
          July 13, 2011 at 2:32 am —

          wtf, max? condescending? get real. You know perfectly well that the phrase “jabber about mansplaining” contains within it a judgement call that those types of claims are hysterical and not worthy of serious consideration. And then you claim not to know what the word means, except for to characterize it as an argument that disagrees with your viewpoint.

          God help us – and I say that as a determined atheist.

          • Avatar of maxd2
            July 13, 2011 at 6:34 am

            Gripester,
            On one of these blogs in agreement with RW, the mods clearly stated that no mansplaing would be allowed, they would axe it. Does that seem fair to you? Again have the arguments I say, and let readers decide if an argument is ill concieved. Don’t judge for me, or your readers what is mansplaining, or what is shallow in the form of censorship, and the silencing of ideas.

          • Avatar of lijakaca
            July 13, 2011 at 2:50 pm

            Max, if you don’t know what mansplaining is, how about you look it up before talking about it and using it incorrectly? Oh I know why, because you’re being disingenuous.

            And if by some small chance you’re serious (see, I’m giving you the benefit of the doubt, I hope you appreciate it!), you could google the term and read the first few results, there are good explanations in most of them.

            Then you can come back here and discuss it some more, and it might actually be worth people’s time to argue with you.

          • Avatar of maxd2
            July 13, 2011 at 6:43 pm

            lijakaca

            “Max, if you don’t know what mansplaining is, how about you look it up before talking about it and using it incorrectly? Oh I know why, because you’re being disingenuous.”
            I’m actually not being disingenuous. I dislike the dismissive term becauase I think mansplaing is simply too plastic, to easy a charge to make with out bothering to refute content. “Oh that is just mansplanin’.” I think it is intellectually lazy. And I certainly don’t want other people on fora such as this making an executive decision for me on what is, or is not errant thinking. I’m quite capable of thinking on my own.
            It seems to be a term that is too plastic. But if you care to offer a defition of what you think ‘mansplaining’ is, I am certainly all ears.

            “And if by some small chance you’re serious (see, I’m giving you the benefit of the doubt, I hope you appreciate it!), you could google the term and read the first few results, there are good explanations in most of them.”
            Okay, I have just looked it up for the according to Urban Dictionary definition. I still think it is a bullshit term. Either sex can be condescending and rude and dismissive, and utterly self assured that they and they alone are the only correct experts(this seems especially true on the fabulous internet). I’ll gloss over the freely used gender specific stereotype here that seems embedded in the term mansplaining, and point out that it still too plastic, still fails to address whatever specific content to which one objects.

            “Then you can come back here and discuss it some more, and it might actually be worth people’s time to argue with you.”
            I have answered some of your questions, hopefully you can see that I am interested in a real discussion. Now if I may return to my point in this particular wing of the FAQ, wouldn’t you agree that there has been plenty of overblown, overwrought, less than critical going both ways? That was all I was trying to say to Gripester and all I am saying to you, and anyone else reading this post. I am in fact trying to point out the fact that we probably ought to avoid in group/out group characterizations, and deal with the best arguments offered on both sides, sneer and be critical of the trolls, and have an interesting conversation.

    • Avatar of pteryxx
      July 13, 2011 at 2:23 am —

      I’d also like to see the results of a survey of conference attendees, just to see how widespread the harassment problem really is (both in incidents and perception). Events often have feedback forms, or a feedback session near the end of the conference. It might even generate data useful in a broader context.

    • Avatar of meko
      July 13, 2011 at 2:38 pm —

      I’d love to include in that survey a question about how many women have decided not to go to atheist events at all or have decided to only go with an escort as a result of this event, as well as as a result of treatment they received at previous events.

      I appreciate Rebecca and all those who are willing to put up the good fight. To me, meeting the people at atheist events isn’t worth it (especially if it’s just non-stop getting hit on by men who want to talk about my eyes – what does that have to do with atheism?) But it would be nice to get the same benefits out of attending that a man can get.

      • Avatar of pteryxx
        July 13, 2011 at 4:05 pm —

        I agree, but obviously there’s no way to survey the conference-goers to find out who decided not to attend. Maybe survey visitors to the event websites?

        (Survey design’s a fascinating and complicated field in itself; order of questions, phrasing, priming and all that. I’d love to hash out a survey for the purpose if it wouldn’t explode just like the original discussion, heh.)

    • Avatar of smudge
      July 13, 2011 at 10:13 pm —

      My one concern is this: women who have been uncomfortable at the meetings are less likely to return. They’re also less likely to stay involved in the movement, as often the first encounters with the IRL meetings are uncomfortable.

      In short, if the lack of comfort is causing women to leave the movement, the ones who stick around are likely the ones who are more comfortable with the status quo and it could skew the numbers.

    • Avatar of Jack99
      July 14, 2011 at 3:41 am —

      Excellent idea. I was thinking of doing some data analysis on the closed thread here. Male/female, pro Rebecca/pro Dawkins, degree of comprehension …..wait no….impossible….so much fail.

      A prospective survey would be good!

      • Avatar of Jack99
        July 14, 2011 at 11:02 pm —

        AAAAARGH! That last comment was for @Scribe999. I so hate this thread system. Chronological would be so much better.

  33. Avatar of Crip Dyke
    July 13, 2011 at 12:55 am —

    Lloydy!

    People still don’t get it.

    It is not that some guy hit on someone. Ok? Do I have to say it in all caps???

    ElevatorGuy (EG) was at her talk where she spent all her time saying, “Please don’t hit on me! And if you want more women to come to athiest events, you should think very carefully about how you hit on anyone.”

    Then EG was in the same bar with Ms. Watson for 4 HOURS where what she talked about *over and over* was how she did not want to be hit on. EG hears this over & over & his brilliant plan is to wait until she says the words, “I don’t want to talk anymore, I’m too tired” (or their equivalent) then follows her to the elevator, gets in with her, waits til the door is closed, then…wait for it…hits on her.

    EG ***violated her consent*** by hitting on her b/c she had already said *over & over* “Please don’t hit on me.” Also, by asking her to conversation when she said she was too tired to talk anymore, he proved that he didn’t care what she wanted. Really? “I’m too tired to talk” “Um…okay, wanna go back to my room all alone & talk?”

    It does not make you creepy to hit on someone. It makes you creepy when you ignore the expressed consent of the women with whom you interact. When Ms. Watson told the story originally she was very clear that he had heard her “No” already & still followed her to the elevator to hit on her when she was at her most vulnerable.

    When we don’t know you, guys, you are Schroedinger’s Rapist. You may know that you are a “good guy” ™ just like Schroedinger’s Cat might know it’s alive. But We. Have. No. Idea. So when you approach us for the first time, we have to make a Bayesian safety calculation (You are also Schroedinger’s BFF and Schroedinger’s AllKindsOfOtherThings, but let’s take rapist for this example).

    Since we know that we are going to have many interactions compared to our lifetime total of rapes, the Bayesian calculation enables smooth interactions most times. However, think about what defines a rapist. It’s that s/he ignores your consent around sexual topics. EG ignored Ms. Watson’s consent around social but not sexual topics the moment he hit on her. That makes the calculation veer dramatically towards “unsafe”. It doesn’t mean he’s an actual rapist, but if he’s willing to ignore our consent in some situations, we don’t know which situations exist in which he’s willing to respect our consent.

    This caused a short, serious bout of anxiety. Fortunately EG did respect her consent around sex in a way he was unwilling to do around being hit on. That also led the anxiety to be short lived. However, if we as women have to put up with many of these moments where men ignore our consent around something other than sex (especially, like here, when it is related to sex although not actual sexual consent itself) many of us are going to come to fewer & fewer events.

    Men keep asking Ms. Watson how they can make these events friendlier to women. She calmly said, “Don’t do what EG did” and she included in that info that he had already heard and ignored her no.

    This should be uncontroversial. Whether it happens in an elevator or at noon. DO NOT IGNORE A WOMAN’S CONSENT. Thinking that your boner is more important than our consent is sexist. Asking again when you’ve already (like EG) been told no is a good clue, although not conclusive proof, that you are thinking your boner is more important than our consent. Asking again after you’ve been told no (esp if you’ve been told repeatedly for 4 Hours1) is a mild form of sexual harassment.

    EG is a creep, and yes following her to the elevator made what he did more creepy, but what really makes him awful is that he IGNORES THE CONSENT OF WOMEN.

    • Avatar of Hume's Bastard
      July 13, 2011 at 1:11 am —

      Props! Excellent point!

    • Avatar of chriswillett
      July 14, 2011 at 6:37 pm —

      “ElevatorGuy (EG) was at her talk where she spent all her time saying, ‘Please don’t hit on me! And if you want more women to come to athiest events, you should think very carefully about how you hit on anyone.’”

      The more Ms. Watson’s defenders lie about the events that occurred, the more I’m convinced that emotional reasoning, not rational reasoning, is winning the day.

  34. Avatar of amandapaberry
    July 13, 2011 at 1:39 am —

    Former lurker here: Just wanted to say thanks, Rebecca. Whether or not this particular situation continues to be an issue, I’m glad we’re talking about it now. As a single woman living in a large city, I sometimes feel like I’m constantly trying to protect myself from unwanted advances – and every time a guy gets pissed at me when I don’t respond to him, I remember why I’m protecting myself.

    It seems elevator guy is only guilty of being clueless, and he should have thought twice. He probably worked up all this nerve to go up to you too! I think most men don’t really think about these situations from a woman’s perspective because they don’t know what it’s like. Hopefully more dudes will learn from this. So go, Rebecca!

    The youtube comments though…are horrifying.

  35. Avatar of maxd2
    July 13, 2011 at 1:43 am —

    Some thoughts:

    I think Karenx’s points (which Rebecca thought deserved to be highlighted) need a bit more reflection:
    Lets look at them:

    “Hitting on stranger in an elevator–creepy”
    Is it always? Is it necessarily always bad? Especially when, if rejected, you cease to make advances? Was EG a complete stranger by the time he asked Rebecca back to his room for coffee? They had been hanging out in a larger social unit for much of the evening it seems, so some level of ice-breaking may have occurred. It may not have as well, I am not sure it matters to my question about the univeral creepyness of asking someone you have just met out even in an enclosed space like an elevator. Regardless it is hard to see how asking a stranger out is a sexist act. Inconsiderate? Maybe. Ill-timed? Given Rebecca’s complaints about such things, in this context we again have to suggest that yes probably so. But any charge of sexism will have to be supported a bit better I think. We have only Rebecca’s recollection of the events. She cannot be privy to what the man who asked her out, heard or didn’t hear of her talk or her bar talk. We have no transcript of the entire event from talk, to bar chatter, to elevator. That isn’t me calling Rebecca a liar, but she cannot reliably account for someone else’s experience of an evening.

    “Criticizing (and vilifying) the woman who says not to creepily hit on strangers in elevator for having the nerve to suggest guys change their behavior–sexist.”
    Maybe. But looking at the Dawkins case and several of Rebecca’s other blogging critics only the former was done. I’m sure other people vilified Rebecca, called her names etc. But Dawkins, ERV and others have simply criticized her (in Dawkin’s case there was sarcasm but really so what? I’ve seen him use the same tone with proponents of group selection-was that sexism). PZ Myers used rougher criticism of the NASA “new biochemistry” paper, and has been rougher on Mooney and his accomdationist ilk. Rebecca’s odd stance on Dawkins work seems silly. Here is a fellow humanist who has contributed mightily to the dismantling of religious thought, and misogyny, has always supported women and equality and she is willing to dismiss his book, engage in a letter writing campaign, this “Dear Dick” business (do I sense a double standard operating in her use of language here?), and refuse to buy his books. You will note an odd difference in their responses to one another. He didn’t dismiss Rebecca’s efforts, or her site. He critized her position on whether or not her experience fit under the label misogyny. His critique was not a sexist, or misogynistic. He did not say, “Let us discount her experience because she sports XX chromosomes, is addled with a genetics that makes her overly emotional, and unreliable as a witness.” He seems to be suggesting that the elevator incident was not an instance to level a feminist critique. This seems like an interesting place to begin a conversation not the place to terminate one, or to stop contact with him or other reasonable people. Rebecca however will now have nothing to do with Dawkins. Unless of course he recants. That is certainly her right, but it also my right to see that as a shallow approach to disent among largely like minded individiuals. However that doesn’t mean I am going to dump Skepchick from my favorites, or never watch another Rebecca Watson video, or read another one of her blogs.

    “Defending the prerogative of all men to hit on any woman at any time no matter how it might make women feel, even at the expense of women feeling safe in their environment, because it’s “just how men work”–misogynist”
    Isn’t it important to keep in mind that misogyny means “woman hating?”

    Its probably a good idea to defend everyone’s right to free speech. By all means critique the manner in which they speak, but that doesn’t make the matter, necessarily, misogynistic, or even sexist.

    The entire privilage charge seems like something of a red-herring. It is easily made and allows for a quick and thoughtless dismissal of an unwanted critique or disagreement. And Rebecca’s mentioning of Dawkins being forever rich (in the Privilage Delusion), if I may say so, and even if folks would rather I didn’t, is kind of a useless whine.

    • Avatar of TheGripester
      July 13, 2011 at 1:59 am —

      “But Dawkins, ERV and others have simply criticized her…” Oh, it was much more than that. RD pretended that this was the first time he’d ever heard of her (when he’d actually shared a stage with her), conflated the highly charged accusations of sexism from her supporters with her very mild initial comments in order to make her seem over-the-top, and drew a false equivalency between being creeped out by clumsy passes in elevators with genital mutilation in an attempt to shame RW by making her seem like a hysterical first-world suburbanite with a trivial grasp of world problems and ethical concerns. This was more than simple criticism – it was an attack on RW personally, one which requested a perhaps rhetorical request for enlightenment. Many have responded both politely and also in blind rage – and yet Dawkins remains silent. So in my view as someone who takes responsibility for the affect my comments make on others, he is every bit the player in this that RW is.

      • Avatar of maxd2
        July 13, 2011 at 2:29 am —

        So it was a harsh critique from RD that utilized rhetoric. And he did respond to the outraged response at his initial critique. Jen McCreight found his response unconvincing, and didn’t agree with it. PZ also posted a response to Dawkins response. All of which is fine. It seems to me that Rebecca Watson is an adult who has put her ideas out on the interwebs and so opened them to critique both benign, harsh and inbetween as well as agreement and praise. RW lumped a woman who disagreed with her in with people who want to, or claim to want to rape her. People can be over the top. She can be, RD can be, Jen McCreight can be. Who cares?

        • Avatar of TheGripester
          July 13, 2011 at 2:40 am —

          “Who cares?” after leaving thousands of words on these boards… Come on, maxd2, it’s obvious you care a great deal. If nobody cares, then why are you here, sticking up for Dawkins? Because “who cares” about PZ, RD, and JMcC, but Rebecca’s reaction to criticism is far more worthy of condemnation?

          I for one expect a much higher level of critical thinking from Dawkins as a spokesman for the atheist movement. If someone has gained a deserved reputation for championing reason, then I expect to see a certain level of it when that person makes a critique about another public figure – not some icky appeal to an imaginary muslim woman and her misery. That is no small cause for concern.

          • Avatar of maxd2
            July 13, 2011 at 7:18 pm

            “Who cares?” after leaving thousands of words on these boards… Come on, maxd2, it’s obvious you care a great deal. If nobody cares, then why are you here, sticking up for Dawkins? Because “who cares” about PZ, RD, and JMcC, but Rebecca’s reaction to criticism is far more worthy of condemnation?”

            Fair enough. “Who cares” was perhaps the wrong phrase. Maybe “so what?” So he criticized RW. She and others rebutted and offered criticism of their own. That is certainly the nature of dialogue, debate.
            Or maybe I should have said, why should we care? I am not exactly sticking up for Dawkins, I am sticking up for level heads, rational thought and critical thinking.

            “I for one expect a much higher level of critical thinking from Dawkins as a spokesman for the atheist movement. If someone has gained a deserved reputation for championing reason, then I expect to see a certain level of it when that person makes a critique about another public figure – not some icky appeal to an imaginary muslim woman and her misery. That is no small cause for concern.”

            I actually think it may be cause for no concern at all. If people think that Dawkins is so off base -and clearly that is a not inconsiderable portion of our community- why not skip all the “you just don’t get it” all the “you white “filthy rich” know nothing male” and just explain why you think he is wrong about his critique. Why not address his points, rebut them etc? His critique may be flawed or it may not be, but within his initial criticism I think there are points that certainly warrant discussion over dismissal.

            Another part of your response to me:

            TheGripester

            07.13.2011

            “RW lumped a woman who disagreed with her in with people who want to, or claim to want to rape her.” This tired old saw has been grinding around for days now, as if somehow the fact of it would dismantle RW’s points. They don’t. RW may have erred here, but the admission that she is human does not mean that every argument that she ever makes is wrong in every way.”

            Nor did I ever even imply that it did. I believe I said that even though I find myself in disagreement with her on some of her conceptions of misogyny, sexism and the whole EG incident, I had no plans to drop her or Skepchick in general from my favorites.

            But your last sentence could be used in the same way for Dawkins. “Dawkins may have erred here, but the admission that he is human does not mean that every argument that he ever makes is wrong in every way.” My reason for bringing up RW’s foul wasn’t to deflect your appraisal of Dawkins behavior, or justify his tone (which even I thought was a bit over the top). I brought it up to point out that everyone on RW’s side who can bring themselves to admit that was bad form has cut her slack for her error, admitted she was human to use your term. She, and apparently you, seem incapable of offering the same courtesy to Dawkins. I’m curious as to why that might be. I don’t want to be attributing positions to you that you don’t hold though so by all means set me straight if I am off base.

            “Also, you seem to be excusing RD for making an illogical, highly personal attack on someone based on his character and viewpoint, and yet damning Rebecca for standing up for herself on the basis of her character and viewpoint. There’s a fallacy in there somewhere, I’m sure.”
            Actually that is exactly what I have not done. First off I am unsure he made a highly personal attack on RW (see her youtube commentors for excellent examples of that nonsense), nor was it necessarily illogical. He may be wrong of course, but I thought all he was saying was that in the great affronts female autonomy he did not feel EG was high on the list. That is of course a paraphrase that leaves of the sarcasm of his comment.

            But I also have not suggested RW should not feel free to counter him. She should certainly feel free to do that very thing. I think her decision to suggest that he isn’t worth listening to anymore, and that Humanism can safely ignore him, despite the fact that he will probably always be a filthy rich white man is a bit childish and out of proportion with his critique. While they may not agree on what offends or should offend our feminist sensibilities it seems ridiculous to suggest that he isn’t for equality, parity and all the rest. On top of that Dawkins has proven himself amenable to argument, he has actually changed his mind (eg Pharyngula and Zara on Evidence for God comes to mind, and he seems to have been at least partly swayed by Harris in the Moral Landscape).

            Back to you…

        • Avatar of TheGripester
          July 13, 2011 at 3:03 am —

          “RW lumped a woman who disagreed with her in with people who want to, or claim to want to rape her.” This tired old saw has been grinding around for days now, as if somehow the fact of it would dismantle RW’s points. They don’t. RW may have erred here, but the admission that she is human does not mean that every argument that she ever makes is wrong in every way.

          Also, you seem to be excusing RD for making an illogical, highly personal attack on someone based on his character and viewpoint, and yet damning Rebecca for standing up for herself on the basis of her character and viewpoint. There’s a fallacy in there somewhere, I’m sure.

      • Avatar of maxd2
        July 13, 2011 at 2:34 am —

        Gripester here is Jen McCreight’s take on both Dawkins initial sarcastic critique and his rationale. I’m linking this to you because yousaid Dawkins didn’t respond. http://www.blaghag.com/2011/07/richard-dawkins-your-privilege-is.html

    • Avatar of greenstone123
      July 13, 2011 at 9:14 am —

      Women and men can and do engage in romantic liaisons without the creepy factor all the time! What about an approach not in an elevator? What about asking the person if they would like to dance or would like a drink? See if they are in the least interested in you before asking to share genetic material :) Then let things go from there. If a woman is openly saying that she doesn’t want to be hit on and a guy continues to pursue, that is creepy behavior. Out of the blue a man asking a woman, that does not know him, to engage in *romantic behavior* while riding in an elevator or anytime she is *trapped* with him and can not easily leave the situation is creepy behavior. Feminism is all about treating women equally. Inherently, the woman is at a disadvantage in these situations. The statistics don’t lie and if a woman has not been raped herself or has been subjected to physical violence, it is likely that she knows someone that has and will be on guard in these situations.

  36. Avatar of smhill
    July 13, 2011 at 1:47 am —

    “Oh yes, oh yes, I know that criticism and disagreement renders me a mysogynist, sexist, white male overly privileged ad homineming fool who just does not get it simply through my disagreement … but, so it goes brothers and sisters, so it goes.”

    I think you just failed to notice how dumb and irrational most of the arguments coming from your side are.

    • Avatar of
      July 13, 2011 at 5:46 pm —

      smhill, what, exactly, in your opinion is my side?
      .
      Do you honestly feel that a call for rational debate over name calling dumb and irrational?
      .
      My observations and participation in this community leads me to the belief that to a large degree the gender feminist/atheists that comprise this community tend to behave rather like religious nutheads.
      .
      I am more of an equality feminist and find that the general ideology of radical gender feminists here to be rather frightening in that to a large degree it appears to be based upon shaming, name calling, dimissing dissent “just because”, labelling of any dissent as either mysogyny or gender traitorism, and so on and so forth. Those are not the trademarks of a sane, valid, constructive social movement; they are the trademarks of a fundamentalist and rather fanatic ideology of suppression.
      .
      Dissent fosters debate and dialogue, and debate and dialogue open the door to change. Name calling and dismissing any dissent as traitorous or mysogynist fosters little more than anger, resentment, and frustration; it certainly does not foster debate and dialogue nor open any doors to change.
      .
      Finally, in my opinion Watson has handled everything post-elevator guy in a disturbingly immature fashion using rhetorical trickery and word games to shame, belittle, and dismiss anyone who disagrees with her however slightly. Is this really the kind of behaviour we should expect and encourage from a so-called leader of the feminist/athiest community?
      .
      But still, if you honestly feel that all of the above is dumb and irrational, you are, of course, entitled to your opinion.

      • Avatar of chriswillett
        July 14, 2011 at 6:39 pm —

        ^ Thank you. That’s precisely why I decided to get involved in this issue. I, and others, have been classified as “sexist” and “misogynist” simply for disagreeing with Ms. Watson’s assumptions, analogies, and conclusions.

  37. Avatar of Jack99
    July 13, 2011 at 2:36 am —

    Make no mistake guys, there are serious accusations from the women here.

    Where I come from the behaviour of EG, and the syndrome of women being propositioned over and over, once or twice an hour, is called SEXUAL HARASSMENT – you may get a warning but you can be fired for it if someone complains.

    The behaviour that @eyeroll and others spoke of – “I had my tit grabbed” – or women being mauled – is SEXUAL ASSAULT which is a police matter and you would be lucky to escape gaol.

    Sexual penetration of ANY kind without consent is RAPE and you will be lucky to be out of gaol in less than ten years.

    Laws may vary, but in a civilised society, some libertarian male types need to “wise up and show a bit of class”, as somebody here said. Is that so hard? I certainly will not have my wife or daughter treated that way.

    RD has a duty of care to his followers, male and female, to condemn such behaviour in no uncertain terms.

    • Avatar of rawr
      July 13, 2011 at 8:53 am —

      EG didn’t proposition her over and over. He asked, she said no and that was (presumably) it. (Also, fired? Last I recall this wasn’t exactly a workplace incident between colleagues)

      To suggest that RD doesn’t think sexual harassment and/or assault or even rape is detestable is ridiculous. He never implied, much less directly stated anything of the sort, rather he has always spoken out against it the clearest terms imaginable.

      • Avatar of Jack99
        July 13, 2011 at 10:03 am —

        Ok so I was unclear.

        Women in this discussion have complained about unwanted advances, and the offence of EG was in a similar category.

        If it was at work you would be warned then fired, at a conference by analogy you should be ejected.

        By categorising the scale of the various offences and using the correct terminology, rather than ZOMG RAeP! at every second word, we may have a more reasoned discussion.

        Regarding RD, I suspect you are correct, in which case he may well be prepared to stand with Rebecca and issue a joint statement condemning sexual harrassment and addressing the well justified concerns of women expressed here and on the other threads.

        Given the context of RD’s comments on Pharyngula, I wonder if the uncertainty of his actual position makes him a kind of “Schroedinger’s misogynist” if you like,so that he has some room for manoever or accomodation without loss of face, and I hope that a peaceful reconcilition may eventually be reached.

        Or not. I could be totally wrong. What do you think? Maybe you could suggest another way forward?

        • Avatar of skeptony
          July 13, 2011 at 10:34 am —

          “If it was at work you would be warned then fired, at a conference by analogy you should be ejected.”

          Incorrect. Asking someone out one time is not considered sexual harassment under any conditions that I can come up with.

          Not every stupid thing we do is actually illegal or a firing offense. Some stupid things are just stupid.

          If EG has come across this conversation (and he probably has), he probably thought “Geez, I never really thought about that. That was stupid of me.”

          Unfortunately, Rebecca’s relatively measured and probably helpful rebuke has been turned into a crusade by bystanders. Now, EG is the personification of rapists and misogynists anywhere and Rebecca has somehow been turned into a hypersensitive prude. How about we treat people like people instead of categorizing everything by sex?

        • Avatar of rawr
          July 13, 2011 at 11:10 am —

          I’d suggest everyone take a step back and re-evaluate the situation.

          I saw RW’s video and didn’t feel the slightest bit outraged, offended, attacked or whatever. It was a video relaying her personal experiences during the convention and that’s how I interpreted it. I was somewhat puzzled on what the hell ‘don’t sexualize me like that..’ meant, but, since it’s unlikely to ever matter, wasn’t bothered by this somewhat vague comment.

          I read RD’s comment in the context of the absurd shitstorm that was going on at Pharyngula, where th discussion had pretty much degenerated into a pro-RW faction and a pro-rape faction. Not everyone did and it’s been subsequently characterized as a direct reply to RW’s video. Then everything went in overdrive and for some reason there’s a letter campaign where women tell him about their rape experiences as though RD somehow dismissed rape as a trivial concern.

          I’d people should stop focusing on EG’s actions and start talking about it in the broader context of the way women experience atheist conventions. As long as it’s just about EG, you’ll continue to see people dismissing it as ‘no big deal’ because.. it wasn’t. Not as a separate incident.

          However, in light of continual propositioning it’s not hard to see why a woman might not bother returning. Not that it’s some huge evil sexist misogynist conspiracy of the patriarchy, but simply because it’s annoying as fuck. Put it in the right perspective and you’ll make a much stronger case, as far as I’m concerned.

      • Avatar of meko
        July 13, 2011 at 2:41 pm —

        Based on my experience of having attended as a single woman, atheist events are all about sexual harassment. The are about one man after another coming up to hit on you and not even wanting to talk about the subject presented. They are about “accidentally” brushing up women. They are about following women out of events when they are alone.

        However, just as in the Muslim world, you can avoid the harassment by being accompanied by a male escort.

        • Avatar of skeptony
          July 13, 2011 at 3:35 pm —

          “Based on my experience of having attended as a single woman, atheist events are all about sexual harassment. The are about one man after another coming up to hit on you and not even wanting to talk about the subject presented. They are about “accidentally” brushing up women. They are about following women out of events when they are alone.”

          Really?!!!! I may have misunderstood the extent of the problem. That is just wrong (and weird).

          That does not convict EG for sexism, but does bring up a question of why these conventions are so bad in this regard. Are other conventions like that, or is it particular to this community?

          I may have been too hard on some of the posters here, sorry. I had no idea that it was that explicit.

          • Avatar of punchdrunk
            July 14, 2011 at 5:14 am

            Thank you for listening.

  38. Avatar of azinyk
    July 13, 2011 at 3:27 am —

    Here’s some questions to add to your list:

    - Have you apologized, or do you intend to apologize, to Stef McGraw?
    - Do you still think she’s “anti-woman” or that her position is misogynist?
    - Do you intend to apologize to the organizers of the CFI Student Leadership Conference for spending your keynote on internet drama?
    - Do you understand why you got the response you did, when you accuse your fans of misogyny? I’ll give you a hint, calling someone who disagrees with you (or even agrees with you) a misogynist is roughly the same as calling them a Nazi, and we all know what a persuasive arguing technique that is.
    - If you still claim that you didn’t say the skeptical & atheist communities hate women, do you understand why so many people thought that you did?
    - Have you made any mistakes in this affair?

    • Avatar of gregladen
      July 13, 2011 at 10:17 am —

      One thing this extended internet discussion has done is to provide ample proof that the skeptical community is riddled with sexism.

      It is interesting, azinyk, that in your comment you suggest that this internet discussion should not have happened, and you also imply that the skeptical community is not riddled with sexism.

      Do I need to connect the dots for you?

      • Avatar of rawr
        July 13, 2011 at 11:20 am —

        Interesting analysis. As far as I can tell, most major names in the atheist/skeptic blogosphere sided with RW uncritically.

        The comment sections on pharyngula and youtube are hardly representative of the whole community since both are riddled with trolls. You’re free to take those as seriously as you like, but it’s not a very convincing presentation of evidence.

        • Avatar of gregladen
          July 13, 2011 at 12:32 pm —

          raws:

          Uncritically? Are you sure that is not just a word you are using for people coming to a conclusion that you don’t like?

          I don’t read the comments on Pharyngula or youtube. I did write three or four of my own highly analytically sound blog posts on this, and I refer you to Barbara Drescher’s post as well. And, I read most of the comments on my own blog (3-400 or so, IIRC). Is that supposed to make me more or less stupid? (Sometimes it is hard to tell, I admit.)

      • Avatar of
        July 13, 2011 at 5:58 pm —

        Laden said:
        .
        “It is interesting, azinyk, that in your comment you suggest that this internet discussion should not have happened, and you also imply that the skeptical community is not riddled with sexism.”
        .
        I have read azinyk’s post several times, and I fail to see anything that supports your claim as per above. Could you connect those specific dots for me?

  39. Avatar of ryan72
    July 13, 2011 at 5:57 am —

    Fuckit – what is so difficult to understand about this issue? Newsflash – It’s not up to guys to decide whether their behaviour is sexist or not. If enough woman decide that it’s unacceptable then it is. It’s really simple and frankly I’m getting tired of guys bleating about it.

    • Avatar of skeptony
      July 13, 2011 at 6:52 am —

      “Newsflash – It’s not up to guys to decide whether their behaviour is sexist or not.”

      That’s true. That is why words have literal definitions.

      “If enough woman decide that it’s unacceptable then it is.”

      Unacceptable? Probably. Sexist? This is not something that is determined by public decree.

      Once again. Someone can be a total a-hole and commit truly anti-social acts without being sexist (even if that person happens to be male).

      If this discussion keeps up, there will have to be a discussion about why every unpleasant interaction a man has with a woman is being defined as “sexist”.

      • Avatar of nikoel
        July 13, 2011 at 11:00 am —

        You don’t get to decide what is or isn’t sexist. Women are who gets negatively affected by sexism so WE decide. We’re telling you what EG did was sexist. He disregarded her stated wishes and personal comfort because his desire to get laid trumped her desire to go to bed alone. It’s really not difficult.

        • Avatar of skeptony
          July 13, 2011 at 12:05 pm —

          “You don’t get to decide what is or isn’t sexist. Women are who gets negatively affected by sexism so WE decide. We’re telling you what EG did was sexist. He disregarded her stated wishes and personal comfort because his desire to get laid trumped her desire to go to bed alone. It’s really not difficult.”

          No, I don’t get to decide what is sexist, and neither do you. We have dictionaries that define the words we use to communicate with one another. Your hypersensitivity does give you supernatural powers of definition. If a large group of people on this forum insisted that a rabbit was an airplane, that would not make the rabbits landing any softer if you dropped it from 10,000 feet. Part of being a skeptic is removing emotion from evaluation.

          Making a suggestion after someone has expressed a desire to do something else is not sexist. If you told someone that you were going home to do some laundry and they countered with a proposal that you go see a show together instead, is that sexist? What if the other person is the same sex as you? Sure, you could consider it rude or selfish. I am certainly not arguing that EG took the right approach.

          EG was inappropriate due to timing and a lack of appreciation of the implications of getting Rebecca alone in an elevator before making an approach. The act of asking someone to spend time with you, however, is not inherently wrong.

          It is a somewhat fun exercise on these forums to determine who is here primarily as a skeptic and who is here primarily as a feminist. I value women and men the same and I hold both sexes to the same standard.

          • Avatar of nikoel
            July 13, 2011 at 1:00 pm

            Actually, I do get to decide what is sexist and what’s not because as a woman I experience sexism regularly. You don’t get to dismiss my experiences as “hypersensitivity” just because they don’t fit into your world view. That right there is sexist.

            “It is a somewhat fun exercise on these forums to determine who is here primarily as a skeptic and who is here primarily as a feminist. I value women and men the same and I hold both sexes to the same standard.”

            Being a skeptic doesn’t excuse you from willingly participating in the perpetuation of sexism. It doesn’t absolve you from being guilty of it. Dictionary definitions of societal imbalances don’t tend to accurately convey how those imbalances are leveraged or how actual people are affected by them. You’re not showing me that you value women at all. Not listening to them and denying their world view is not equality.

        • Avatar of chriswillett
          July 14, 2011 at 6:42 pm —

          ^ This is an example of where rational thinking has been completely abandoned.

      • Avatar of pteryxx
        July 13, 2011 at 11:18 am —

        “every” unpleasant interaction? Sigh. Universalize much?

        Was this individual incident sexist? Probably. Is there a demonstrated pattern of sexist behavior that fits this incident perfectly? HELL YES.

        • Avatar of skeptony
          July 13, 2011 at 12:10 pm —

          ““every” unpleasant interaction? Sigh. Universalize much?

          Was this individual incident sexist? Probably. Is there a demonstrated pattern of sexist behavior that fits this incident perfectly? HELL YES.”

          This place needs a better way to quote.

          Anyway, the point I was making is that the work “sexist” is being so loosely defined that it has lost any real meaning.

          I am not sure which “incident” you mean was sexist. I am not sure the EG was being sexist (other than that inherent in sexual preference). I know that RW was not being sexist in her reaction. I am, however, in the camp with those who feel that the reaction to RW’s comments contained a lot of sexist rhetoric.

          • Avatar of nikoel
            July 13, 2011 at 1:04 pm

            Sexism = privilege + power of men over women

            Is that taut enough for you?

  40. Avatar of truthwalker
    July 13, 2011 at 6:26 am —

    I said this on the overflow page. I just don’t get the flap about this. If a person says “Hey, my friends and I would prefer that you not engage in behavior X because it makes us uncomfortable”, then unless behavior X is really required…the only appropriate response is “Sorry, now that I know it makes you uncomfortable, I’ll stop and do what I can to see my friends stop too.”

    That didn’t have to have anything to do with feminism. It could have just been about human decency until people started validating every possible feminist point with posts that said they felt they had a right to do whatever the fuck they want to women, because their desires (about women) are more important than women’s desires (about anything).

  41. Avatar of locklin
    July 13, 2011 at 9:21 am —

    Rabbeca, I believe this concludes your very own “cracker incident” (alluding to the incident that made PZ Myer’s infamous among skeptics). This blog is now right at the top of my Feed reader, and, I’m willing to bet, many others.

    You have demonstrated a thick skin up against some of the most disguising human beings (people who I am ashamed to share a gender with), as well as a willingness to stand up for those suffering.

    Keep up the wonderful work.

  42. Avatar of Kaloikagathoi
    July 13, 2011 at 9:22 am —

    Thanks, Rebecca, for talking about these important issues. Lots of people are able to learn from these posts, even if a small number of really vocal people apparently can’t.

  43. Avatar of gregladen
    July 13, 2011 at 9:32 am —

    I’m sorry, but you are wrong.

    There is no valid rational argument that equates fried chicken to coffee. If there is, please provide evidence.

    But seriously, I’m sitting here thinking of what our achievable measurable objectives should be, as a community of skepto-feminists, other than awareness raising.

    Also, there is something that I want to say but I’m at a loss of words to say it meaningfully and publicly without looking like a pandering idiot, a mansplainer, or a fanboy. All of which I am, of course.

    Perhaps something like: Your grace does not belie what must be a painful wrenching knot in your gut. It isn’t always good enough to know that you are right, or to know that there are people who love you and support you, or to know that what you do makes a difference, but I sincerely hope that knowledge of all three together combined with a stiff drink gets you through the day.

    • Avatar of Rebecca Watson
      July 13, 2011 at 9:49 am —

      “There is no valid rational argument that equates fried chicken to coffee. If there is, please provide evidence.”

      I still don’t think it’s a great analogy, but a helluva lot closer than the one that relates women to white people and men to black people. The thing that makes them analogous is that in both instances, the person with privilege is saying something that would understandably make the less privileged person extremely uncomfortable because of the context, the culture, and the past experiences of the less privileged person.

      • Avatar of gregladen
        July 13, 2011 at 10:33 am —

        a helluva lot closer than the one that relates women to white people and men to black people.

        The “logic” that makes some commenters draw that analogy may prove to be interesting. I think you’d have to be pretty clueless about both sexism and racism to really believe such a thing.

        Referring back to my original question about objectives, one of my goals over the next few weeks is to parse out these specific issues and try to make clear statements about them that may even be generalized beyond the current argument.

        The race analogy is one, the comparative “watch the monkey” argument, which was also being used in the early days of the Fukushima meltdown (comparing car accidents to nuclear power plant accidents) is another. A third is the argument that “I wouldn’t be bothered so I declare that you should not be.” Then there’s complaint that if you refer to a spectrum of behavior (or anything) that you are therefore equating the two ends of the spectrum with each other. Then there’s the one about the probability of harassement or assult is low enough based on, say Irish Crime Statistics integrated in a model with the dynamics of elevators and expectations of nerds/geeks etc. etc.

        And finally, the Subway model of argument. This is where each stop on the subway represents a different kind of event or point of view, each the opposite of the prior one, and to win your case you just step off onto the correct platform. Here, EG dis something. You commented. SOmeone commented on your comment. You responded. Others responded. Some famous guy (can’t remember who) stepped in. Others responded. At each stage it is possible to jump in and say “Everything to this point was fine but THIS HERE THING is GOING TO FAR”

      • Avatar of nikoel
        July 13, 2011 at 11:05 am —

        Well said! It’s definitely a better analogy.

        I said this earlier, but seriously, thank you for talking about this. Despite all the men who think being called sexist is worse than actually experiencing sexism, there seem to be a number of people for whom this is all *welcomed* brand new information.

  44. Avatar of Lyr
    July 13, 2011 at 9:50 am —

    Picture this: A woman has just finished giving a talk about how women shouldn’t be sexually harassed, and then says she’s tired and wants to go to bed. You — knowing she’s tired and knowing she dislikes sexual harassment — decide to follow her and trap her in an enclosed space, then proposition her.

    Are you stupid, ignorant, or do you just consider yourself so much better than her that what she wants just doesn’t count?

    • Avatar of skeptony
      July 13, 2011 at 10:21 am —

      “Picture this: A woman has just finished giving a talk about how women shouldn’t be sexually harassed, and then says she’s tired and wants to go to bed. You — knowing she’s tired and knowing she dislikes sexual harassment — decide to follow her and trap her in an enclosed space, then proposition her. ”

      Has it been established that EG was present at Rebecca’s presentation? Is asking someone out one time considered sexual harassment?

      I thought we were all skeptics here. Why are so many posts ignoring the literal definitions of words?

      You don’t need all of the hyperbole. Propositioning a woman whom you have never met before while alone in an elevator with her is a bad idea. As I understand it, that was the extent of Rebecca’s point.

      So anyway, I was wondering what the actual subject of Rebecca’s presentation was at the conference? Was the presentation about discounting the opinions of women in the skeptical community, the prevalence of male skeptics hitting on female skeptics, or both?

      • Avatar of weatherwax
        July 13, 2011 at 11:53 am —

        EG was present at a table with Rebecaa and others while the subject was discussed over the course of several hours.

      • Avatar of pteryxx
        July 13, 2011 at 12:10 pm —

        “Is asking someone out one time considered sexual harassment?”

        If this were a workplace, and the invitation contributed to a hostile work environment, yes it could be. Again, you’re saying “just one time, just one time” when the problem is a pattern of ongoing, multiple interactions. EG’s behavior is ONE EXAMPLE. See also “This shit doesn’t happen in a void.”

        http://www.dotcr.ost.dot.gov/Documents/complaint/Preventing_Sexual_Harassment.htm

      • Avatar of nikoel
        July 13, 2011 at 1:08 pm —

        “EG was present at a table with Rebecaa and others while the subject was discussed over the course of several hours.”

        But he never actually spoke to her until they were in the elevator together.

        • Avatar of weatherwax
          July 13, 2011 at 3:08 pm —

          I don’t understand your point. The question has been raised (repeatedly raised and answerd) that maybe EG didn’t know Rebecca had given a talk on how annoying it was being propositioned all the time. My point was that EG was at the table while it was being discussed, for several hours, and therefore yes, he knew.

          • Avatar of weatherwax
            July 13, 2011 at 8:26 pm

            I’m really sorry I was short in my response. I see what you mean.

  45. Avatar of herr314
    July 13, 2011 at 10:05 am —

    I totally agree with you Rebecca; men should stop hitting on you at conferences, etc… However, I have been a SGU listener for about a 1.5 – 2 years now. And, one of the things I have noticed is that you make an awful lot of sexual jokes, implications, innuendos, etc… on the podcast, much more than the guys on the podcast. So my 2 cents would be to stop with the sex jokes and focus on skepticism, and then guys will more than likely stop objectifying you. I believe that this is mostly self-inflicted.

    • Avatar of punchdrunk
      July 13, 2011 at 10:56 am —

      Holy shit. I’m too tired for this one. Are we done yet?

      • Avatar of pteryxx
        July 13, 2011 at 11:46 am —

        Because once a woman shows any interest in sex, she’s TOTALLY CONSENTED TO EVERYTHING EVER WITH EVERYONE. Yeaaaahhhh no. Herr314: Many women in these threads have said they’ve been harassed at atheist, skeptic and Mensa gatherings. But they aren’t Rebecca and don’t have a podcast. They start getting unwanted harassment as soon as they even show up. It’s *not* because of their reputations.

        • Avatar of skeptony
          July 13, 2011 at 12:27 pm —

          “Many women in these threads have said they’ve been harassed at atheist, skeptic and Mensa gatherings. But they aren’t Rebecca and don’t have a podcast. They start getting unwanted harassment as soon as they even show up. It’s *not* because of their reputations.”

          Not having been to any of these gatherings, I would have to say that this is because the men at these gatherings are dicks. There is a pretty good chance that these types of gatherings attract very pretentious men with little social skill.

          You should be able to make whatever jokes you like without it being any kind of come-on.

    • Avatar of Sethra
      July 13, 2011 at 11:03 am —

      “So my 2 cents would be to stop with the sex jokes and focus on skepticism, and then guys will more than likely stop objectifying you. I believe that this is mostly self-inflicted.”

      Great victim-blaming there. That’s exactly what people say to a woman who gets raped if they find out she was wearing a short skirt or flashing any skin…in spite of stats establishing that women’s clothing and appearance have exactly zero effect on who gets raped.

      Victim-blaming allows offenders to escape responsibility for their actions. Do you really want to encourage that mentality?

      • Avatar of maxd2
        July 13, 2011 at 7:32 pm —

        Sethra could you provide references please to these authoratitive statements on rape stats? I don’t want to derail the thread here but I find the social science model of rape less than convincing, and if you have some decent links to research that actually backs up your statements I would really like to see them.
        (So I am not misunderstood here, I am not supporting victim blaming or anything, I just think that there is really not much supporting the mantra of power not sex when it comes to sexual coercion and sexual assault)
        Thanks.

    • Avatar of gworroll
      July 13, 2011 at 4:24 pm —
  46. Avatar of celticwulf
    July 13, 2011 at 10:20 am —

    I’ve never seen this analogy, but for some of the men who can’t quite get it through their skulls as to why this would make a woman uncomfortable, to all the men like that out there:

    What if this question was asked of you by a stranger while standing at the urinal? Would that make you uncomfortable, and would it be something that perhaps you’d blog about going “come on people, just don’t do that”?

    Just thoughts, I’m totally in the wouldn’t have thought about the uncomfortable situation until Rebecca brought it up, so I’m glad she did. Sorry I missed saying it in person at CONvergence, but was busy chasing around mini-Dr Horrible and didn’t get a ton of time to hang out in the Skepchick room.

  47. Avatar of emilkarlsson
    July 13, 2011 at 10:41 am —

    I support rational and evidence-based feminism. I think misogyny is unjustified on every possible level. However, there are at least one problem with this entry.

    Watson states that there is a “scientific fact that rape has nothing to do with attraction” with the justification that “babies get raped, in case you hadn’t noticed.”

    This is, in fact, not a scientific fact. We know that rape (or “forced copulation”) occurs in other species where the explanation cannot merely be “because he wants dominance”.

    Usually, psychologists view things on three different levels of analysis: biology, psychology and environment. These are not incompatible, but collaborative. So there are many factors that influence rape (as there are for sexual behavior at large), which, for sexual behavior, may include possible evolutionary adaptation, genetic predisposition, chemical and neurological factors in the brain, alcohol and drug consumption, motivational and coping factors, thoughts, feelings, attraction, urge for dominance, past and current environments where you live and where raised in etc.

    It is a mistake for Watson to arbitrarily exclude one factor (in this case attraction) as a contributing factor in rape because it doesn’t fit with her feminist ideology.

    To be sure, many rapes are not date rapes or assault rapes; many rapes occur in intimate relationships where the urge for dominance may be a more important factor, but it is a mistake to make naive generalizations from this subset of rapes.

    As for the “babies get raped” justification; pedophiles that sexually molest children are drawn to them and find then attractive (check out the DSM-IV-TR or ICD-10 definition and criteria). Now THAT is a scientific fact. Or rather, it is a definition, but since we know that pedophiles that sexually molest children do exist, it can be thought of as a fact.

    • Avatar of nikoel
      July 13, 2011 at 11:10 am —

      How about “even elderly women get raped”? Does that make it more clear? Women of all shapes, sizes, colors, and ages get raped. It’s about power, not sexual attraction.

      • Avatar of rawr
        July 13, 2011 at 11:34 am —

        You do realize that there are men who are *shock* attracted to elderly women, right? There’s a reason why granny porn exists.

      • Avatar of maxd2
        July 13, 2011 at 7:39 pm —

        Nikoel,
        At least another possiblity exists I think: It simply possible that some males utilize violence to get off sexually, and chose victims of convience, and least risk. Rapests can certainly come from all walks of life, but most victims indicate that being a woman between their young teens to mid twenties are the most likely to be victims off rape whereas sexual assault drops off considerably prior to those years and after (Thornhill and Palmer 2000). And the fact that some older women, males and children male and female are raped doesn’t rule out sexual attraction or desire as a factor.

    • Avatar of Sethra
      July 13, 2011 at 11:12 am —

      It seems like you’re attempting to say men prefer to rape women who would make good genetic contributions to the gene pool. How do you explain why the elderly and disabled people get raped?

      Answer: because human rape is about dominance and control. We are not animals; we have higher brain functions that strongly affect our interactions with each other. You infer that at one point, but also mention how dominance isn’t a factor for animals. They don’t have the same higher brain functions that we do, and it’s not a valid comparison.

      • Avatar of emilkarlsson
        July 13, 2011 at 2:47 pm —

        Sethra, that is NOT what I am saying. I am saying that there are many different biological, psychological and environmental factors that influences sexual behavior, (including coerced sex) in humans.

        It is very harmful to ignore the complexity human interaction and just go with the idea that rape is exclusively about dominance. Because an incorrect view on the problem of sexual coercion and its causes will have profoundly strong negative impacts on solutions that we as a society attempt to implement against the problem.

        Humans ARE animals. If not, do you believe that we are plants? bacteria? fungi? Human brains are very similar, but also different, to other animals and comparative behavioral ecology is an important area to study.

        I am also NOT saying that dominance is not a factor in forced copulation in other species, but that it cannot alone explain all instances of sexual coercion.

        What we need to realize is that dominance is an important factor in human rape, but that it is not the only one and that all rapes cannot be fitted into a naive, single, specific, one-size-fits-all mold.

        • Avatar of pteryxx
          July 13, 2011 at 3:23 pm —

          Well, the problem with considering sexual attraction as a factor in rape is that it DOESN’T hold up to actual scrutiny. All the stats show correlations between rape and power disparity, rape and predatory tactics, rape and offenses to the rapists’ egos, rape and gender role reinforcement, on and on. But there is no correlation between rape and sexual attractiveness of the victim.

          What IS demonstrable is a persistent cultural narrative that conflates sexual attraction with rape, which often colors public discourse about rape and contributes to both cultural and internalized victim-blaming. So, you should be aware that you’re making a discredited and offensive assertion by suggesting sexual attraction is a factor of any significance.

          • Avatar of maxd2
            July 13, 2011 at 7:54 pm

            When you interview rapists sexual gratification, attraction seems to be a huge factor in why they do wha tthey do. Having once worked on ward full of sex offenders I cannot say I ever noticed much in the interactions, or the case files that indicated that such behavior was motivated by anything but the need to achieve that sexual gratification. The choice of victim seems often to be a matter of convenience, as it is attraction.

            Brushing aside the potential biological compent of rape seems to me rather the wrong approach. Dogs hump the hell out of legs, you ducklings and other young birds can imprint on decidedly unbird like organisms like people, human males seem to be moved to erection by two dimensional images of those things to which they are sexually attracted be it porno movies, erotic comic books, or pictures in Details magazine. Saying that sometimes a behavior pattern has some variance (in the case of human rape types of victims) doesn’t explain the shape of that variance or where the preponderance of the behavior sits on any graph. Rape, like any behavior, is certainly complex so there is still much to learn about it. However we ought not pretend to have certainty by saying that is definately all about biology, or all about environment. Like most human behaviors it will be influenced by both.

    • Avatar of pteryxx
      July 13, 2011 at 11:35 am —

      Comparative biology isn’t the only science in the world, you realize. And victim-blaming isn’t a science at all. If rape were about sexual attraction, there wouldn’t be so much male-on-male rape in prisons and the military. Also, most children that are raped aren’t raped by preferential pedophiles, but by self-identified straight males, often in sexual relationships with adult women at the time. Rape prevalence correlates closely with power disparity and with cultural narratives; that’s why it happens so much in warfare, though war isn’t sexy.

      • Avatar of emilkarlsson
        July 13, 2011 at 2:56 pm —

        Nowhere did I advocate blaming the victim. Acknowledging that there are more causal factors, such as physical attraction, involved in many forms of sexual coercion is not “blaming the victim”. It is just a cold, hard fact about the flawed internal motivations of the rapist.

        A lot of rape also happens in close intimate relationships where the partners usually love each other, so in these cases sexual attraction is probably a partial factor.

        I am NOT claiming that rape is solely about sexual attraction or that sexual attraction needs to be a contributing factor in all forms of rape. Quite the opposite; I am arguing against this type of naive one-size-fits all explanation for sexual coercion in favor of a view that incorporates many contributing factors. This does not belittle the dominance factor, and it does not belittle victims of rape.

        If we are genuinely interested about creating effective solutions to the problem of sexual coercion, we need to understand the various contributing factors. If we have an incorrect understanding of the problem, then any attempted solution will fail miserably and the ones who will pay for our ignorance is the future victims of rape. I do not want to see such a world.

        • Avatar of pteryxx
          July 13, 2011 at 4:09 pm —

          Whoops, I accidentally gave my reply here to your *previous* comment.

    • Avatar of weatherwax
      July 13, 2011 at 11:58 am —

      “This is, in fact, not a scientific fact. We know that rape (or “forced copulation”) occurs in other species where the explanation cannot merely be “because he wants dominance”.”

      In the animal world, mating behaviors are often also used to assert dominance. Dominant males often engage in courtship behaviors towards subordinate males to make it clear who’s boss. Think of dogs mounting other male dogs.

  48. Avatar of erulora
    July 13, 2011 at 11:19 am —

    Rebecca, I just want to thank you for keeping at it. Your tenacity is one of the many things I respect about you.

  49. Avatar of botzu
    July 13, 2011 at 11:34 am —

    I posted this in the other thread but I guess i should re-post the question here.

    Rebecca, I just want to know your stance on where this discussion has been taken by some prominent bloggers. Do you feel that EGs actions were a form of sexual harassment? Do you agree with bloggers like Amanda Marcotte, that EG used implications of rape,if you said no, to try and coerce you into sex?

  50. Avatar of smhill
    July 13, 2011 at 12:04 pm —

    “I still don’t think it’s a great analogy, but a helluva lot closer than the one that relates women to white people and men to black people. The thing that makes them analogous is that in both instances, the person with privilege is saying something that would understandably make the less privileged person extremely uncomfortable because of the context, the culture, and the past experiences of the less privileged person.”

    I have a fondness for analogies. For those who don’t like analogies or those who are sleepy and wish to stop reading, feel free to skip.

    The two people in the elevator could be of any gender.

    If someone appeared to follow you from the bar, after you said you were tired and then offered up this (straw but analogous) elevator conversation, ask yourself how you would feel. Remember, this person is larger than you (most of the time).

    In elevator: “Hey, I notice we’re both going to the 3rd floor. Can I come to your room and borrow your toothbrush? I forgot to pack mine and I just don’t like the way my mouth feels when I don’t brush. I know you said you’re very sleepy, but I’m sure it won’t take me longer than 20-30 minutes. No bother at all, really.”

  51. Avatar of skeptony
    July 13, 2011 at 12:21 pm —

    ““Is asking someone out one time considered sexual harassment?”

    If this were a workplace, and the invitation contributed to a hostile work environment, yes it could be. Again, you’re saying “just one time, just one time” when the problem is a pattern of ongoing, multiple interactions. EG’s behavior is ONE EXAMPLE. See also “This shit doesn’t happen in a void.””

    I am unaware of any law that is contingent on the behavior of other people. Even the document that you linked states that a firm “no” to an advance should make you back off to avoid a hostile workplace. The implication is that the advance itself is not harassment. If someone in a workplace was really having an issue with so many people making their single attempts to establish a relationship, then management could just make it a rule that such activity is not allowed in the workplace. Many places have such a rule.

    I don’t doubt that there is a problem with too many men hitting on Rebecca, but this is more to do with being a celebrity in the community than sexual harassment. By your definition, no man can ever ask a woman out due to the possibility that some other man has already made an advance.

    • Avatar of pteryxx
      July 13, 2011 at 12:42 pm —

      *eyeroll* Once again, harassment DOES depend on the EFFECT of the behavior; as does stalking, as do hate crimes, as does discrimination. That’s not “my” definition, that’s part of the legal definition of those behaviors.

      Once again, you’re universalizing: “no man can EVER ask a woman out” (emphasis mine). All that’s being asked is to hit on women LESS often, at better times, and with consideration. Heck, let them initiate sometimes.

      And once again, while universalizing the response, you’re minimizing the original incident (EG’s proposal) by pretending there IS no pattern. Not true. There’s disproportionate sexual attention focused on women, by men, and women are disproportionately threatened and discomfited by it. That’s only the whole bloody point of RW’s discussion of the issue in the first place:

      “Guys, don’t do this… But everyone else seemed to really get it.”

      • Avatar of skeptony
        July 13, 2011 at 1:44 pm —

        “Once again, you’re universalizing: “no man can EVER ask a woman out” (emphasis mine). All that’s being asked is to hit on women LESS often, at better times, and with consideration. Heck, let them initiate sometimes.”

        You say I am universalizing, yet your comment cannot be taken any way but universally.

        Unless you believe that men have some sort of extrasensory perception that allows them to know the impact of an approach or to know how many other men have already approached a particular woman, the only guideline left is to make fewer approaches. Since I had established one attempt as the safe limit, making fewer approaches only leaves zero (unless there are partial approaches).

        1-1 = 0
        0xX = 0

        How is my math wrong on this?

        My point in all this is that it is hard to come down too hard on one guy for one attempt to ask someone out. EG’s approach had a lot of other problems with it that made it very inappropriate, but the mere act of asking was not the problem.

        • Avatar of nikoel
          July 13, 2011 at 2:02 pm —

          Is a possible missed opportunity for sex more important than another person’s stated wishes or more important than their desire to feel safe in their surroundings? Is it the end of the world for men if they just don’t hit on a woman? Most women simply don’t like being approached by strangers. There is too much potential danger involved. Asking men to just choose more appropriate times, places and circumstances and even to have a *gasp* conversation about mutual interests before hitting on her really doesn’t seem like that big of a trade off and in fact, it seems that it would be more advantageous as far as getting the desired outcome. I mean, really.

          • Avatar of skeptony
            July 13, 2011 at 2:15 pm

            “Is a possible missed opportunity for sex more important than another person’s stated wishes or more important than their desire to feel safe in their surroundings? Is it the end of the world for men if they just don’t hit on a woman? Most women simply don’t like being approached by strangers. There is too much potential danger involved. Asking men to just choose more appropriate times, places and circumstances and even to have a *gasp* conversation about mutual interests before hitting on her really doesn’t seem like that big of a trade off and in fact, it seems that it would be more advantageous as far as getting the desired outcome. I mean, really.”

            Well, you are now adding a lot of additional conditions into the situation. I have never “hit on” a women for a purely sexual relationship. If that is the extent to what you are talking about, then I can agree with you.

            The problem is that attempting to develop a relationship with someone is like eating. It is not always appropriate and too much can cause real problems, but it has to occur to some extent. The problem is still not in the act itself, but the surrounding facts.

            Any given person is unlikely to know all of the variables at play when asking someone out. We can agree that EG chose very poorly for place, time, and context. However, that does not by itself make the act sexist. RD, on the other hand, was more objectively sexist.

        • Avatar of pteryxx
          July 13, 2011 at 2:16 pm —

          Simple; your math is wrong because you’re applying absolutes to a probabilistic situation. I’d argue that your interpretation of the discussion suffers similarly. Even science doesn’t need absolute certainty of anything to draw a valid conclusion.

          If you honestly can’t understand how being more considerate to women differs from banning all dating everywhere, you have my sympathy, though not my trust.

          • Avatar of skeptony
            July 13, 2011 at 2:42 pm

            “If you honestly can’t understand how being more considerate to women differs from banning all dating everywhere, you have my sympathy, though not my trust.”

            I understand the difference, but that is not what you were saying.

            You stated that EG’s actions were sexist because of a pattern created by other people. By that same rational, you could justify holding a Muslim man on terrorism charges for the mere act of boarding an aircraft.

            You really can’t see the problem here? Sure, from Rebecca’s perspective, this was the millionth guy to hit on her in a 24-hour period. From EG’s perspective, he was one guy politely asking (in the creepiest possible way) to spend time with someone he admires. Oh, who am I kidding, he was asking for sex. Still, until he is informed, he cannot know about the other 999,999 guys who already tried.

            I could fault the guy for being stupid, shallow, socially inept, probably drunk, and selfish. But, “sexist” requires more insight into the guy’s psyche than the story allows.

            Sexism needs to go away (as much is that it actually possible). That means that we need to clearly identify the problem. I have no reason to believe that this man felt in any way superior to women. In fact, he likely admires Rebecca’s intelligence and wit. What he did was wrong, but I think Rebecca dealt with it appropriately. The backlash against Rebecca seems more problematic.

          • Avatar of pteryxx
            July 13, 2011 at 2:54 pm

            Well skeptony, we do live *in a society* comprised of *other people* who have some say in how they’re treated. We also have statistics. Really.

        • Avatar of binjabreel
          July 13, 2011 at 2:44 pm —

          Men do have that extrasensory perception.

          It’s the subconscious mechanisms you use to constantly evaluate the emotional and mental states of the people around you based on their facial expressions and body posture.

          Seriously. It’s not that complicated, you just have to start paying attention. It’s a skill, like any other. We usually call it “empathy”.

          • Avatar of skeptony
            July 13, 2011 at 3:22 pm

            Men do have that extrasensory perception.

            It’s the subconscious mechanisms you use to constantly evaluate the emotional and mental states of the people around you based on their facial expressions and body posture.

            Seriously. It’s not that complicated, you just have to start paying attention. It’s a skill, like any other. We usually call it “empathy”.

            That’s great and all, but hard to base policy on.

            Maybe I am living up to one of the male stereotypes of immediately wanting to solve any problem that comes up without dealing with the emotional aspects.

            I can’t figure out another reason why a guy who thinks EG was a jerk, Rebecca responded with real tact and professionalism, and RD responded in a sexist and childish manner is getting so much flak just for suggesting that EG was not necessarily a sexist (in the strict definition) because of that one act.

            There is an interesting social dynamic at work here. Am I now labeled a heretic? Seems strange for a skeptic site. I could see it if I was claiming that magnets can cure depression.

  52. Avatar of singlestick
    July 13, 2011 at 1:25 pm —

    I am almost glad I missed the uproar the first time this subject came up. I have no particular axe to grind, and regret that apparently some skeptics and supposedly rational minded people can be just as creepy, disrespectful and outright hostile as the dumbest yahoos anywhere.

    Nor do I see any point in trying to dismiss, minimize or deny the discomfort that many women feel in these situations.

    I might want to argue that neither “privilege” nor “appropriate” and “inappropriate” seem to be quite adequate, especially since there is no universally accepted code of behavior, no Emily Post or Mr/Ms Etiquette to which we all subscribe. But this doesn’t answer any questions, or minimize anyone’s pain or discomfort.

    I can only hope that the conversation gets less heated and more respectful going forward.

  53. Avatar of skeptony
    July 13, 2011 at 1:34 pm —

    “Actually, I do get to decide what is sexist and what’s not because as a woman I experience sexism regularly. You don’t get to dismiss my experiences as “hypersensitivity” just because they don’t fit into your world view. That right there is sexist.”

    Actually, it isn’t. I treat everyone who rants hysterically the same way. You can accuse me of being elitist, but not sexist. Just because you are a woman does not mean that the rules are different for you. Any other standard would be sexist. Perhaps you experience sexism so frequently because you define it so broadly, perhaps not. Either way, your experiences in no way impact the definition of words. Sorry, you are not that special.

    “Being a skeptic doesn’t excuse you from willingly participating in the perpetuation of sexism. It doesn’t absolve you from being guilty of it. Dictionary definitions of societal imbalances don’t tend to accurately convey how those imbalances are leveraged or how actual people are affected by them. You’re not showing me that you value women at all. Not listening to them and denying their world view is not equality.”

    “World view” is a bullshit term. There is one objective world. We each have an imperfect understanding of that objective world and have to work towards a better understanding. Removing emotion from the evaluation of the objective world is an important aspect of improving our understanding.

    We are not going to come to a resolution since we are having two completely different conversations based on different criteria. You way want to think about how you play the victim while calling everyone who challenges you a “sexist”.

    • Avatar of nikoel
      July 13, 2011 at 1:52 pm —

      “hysterically” – Nice choice of word there. Not sexist at all.

      “Any other standard would be sexist.” – That would only be true if men and women were treated universally equal. The facts are out there that this is not true yet you choose to ignore them because you can. I don’t have the privilege to just ignore it nor do I have the privilege of not getting emotional about when I experience unequal treatment solely because of my gender. It must be a nice feeling to get to be so above it all, but the rest of us who deal with unfair discrimination based on who we are don’t have that same choice.

      You could really use a tune up on your empathy chip. Marginalized people aren’t “playing the victim” and denying that their experiences are invalid based on so called “objectivity” only shows us your ass.

      http://www.derailingfordummies.com/#opinion

      • Avatar of skeptony
        July 13, 2011 at 2:07 pm —

        “http://www.derailingfordummies.com/#opinion”

        Oh look! There is a whole infrastructure behind demanding that nobody hold your opinions to any kind of intellectual rigor.

        I particularly like this bit:
        “You can pretend you are oblivious to the fact most studies have been carried out by Privileged People® and therefore carry inherent biases, and insist that the Marginalised Person™ produce “Evidence” of what they‘re claiming.”

        Obviously, since you are victim, you can completely disregard research as being part of the “conspiracy”. Here I thought religion held the monopoly on intellectual placebos.

        We could move this over to the SGU site to start listing the logical fallacies that you employ at every opportunity. Are you sure you are on the right site? “Skeptic” doesn’t just mean that you are argumentative.

        • Avatar of nikoel
          July 13, 2011 at 2:38 pm —

          “Oh look! There is a whole infrastructure behind demanding that nobody hold your opinions to any kind of intellectual rigor.”

          We’re not talking about science here. We’re talking about human beings in an extremely flawed and imbalanced society. Trying to take emotion out of the equation is disingenuous as we’re all both emotional AND rational beings. The rational thing to do here is recognize your privilege, listen to what the minority (women in this case) have to say and don’t be a dick.

          Social progress was never made by people being quiet and just taking what the privileged group deigns to give them. That’s not playing the victim, it’s trying to achieve actual equality.

          • Avatar of pteryxx
            July 13, 2011 at 2:44 pm

            Besides, ignoring evidence and making fallacious criticisms isn’t exactly intellectual rigor, however comforting it may seem to claim so. That’s pretty much what “bias” IS.

          • Avatar of skeptony
            July 13, 2011 at 2:51 pm

            “We’re not talking about science here. We’re talking about human beings in an extremely flawed and imbalanced society. Trying to take emotion out of the equation is disingenuous as we’re all both emotional AND rational beings.”

            Well, you may be right there. That has always been my weak spot. It works out great for my job, where I need to analyze problems as the actually exist and not as they are perceived, but I have to admit that I don’t do well on the political aspects.

            That, however, does not mean that playing the victim card is a way to win an argument. It also does not mean that emotion trumps fact. The fact is that sexism is still a problem in society. If that fact changes, the emotional aspect will work itself out.

    • Avatar of binjabreel
      July 13, 2011 at 2:50 pm —

      Way to undercut yourself, Skeptony.

      ‘“World view” is a bullshit term. There is one objective world. We each have an imperfect understanding of that objective world and have to work towards a better understanding. Removing emotion from the evaluation of the objective world is an important aspect of improving our understanding.’

      Yeah. Which means that we need to listen to other people when they describe their experiences of the world, because we all have an IMPERFECT understanding of it. Therefore, the ‘objective world’ can only really be fully grasped by- and this is the important bit- assimilating and synthesizing EVERYONE’S world view. Which means that women’s experiences of the world- Even this particular woman- all have the same value as yours.

      Seriously, how is saying that, “We all have an imperfect understanding of the world”, even a little different from saying, “We each have our own world view”?

      • Avatar of skeptony
        July 13, 2011 at 2:56 pm —

        “Seriously, how is saying that, “We all have an imperfect understanding of the world”, even a little different from saying, “We each have our own world view”?”

        It is different in that the phrase “different world views” implies that those world views are all equally valid and don’t require change. An “imperfect understanding of the world” implies that there is one objective reality and that each of our understandings needs to evolve in order to become more perfect.

        I also never implied that we should not listen to each other, just that we are not each entitled to our own reality.

        I’m probably not as clear as I could be. Philosophical discussions can get pretty fragmented in these forums.

  54. Avatar of dtkgreg
    July 13, 2011 at 1:41 pm —

    Wait … so you didn’t say that you wanted to castrate every male member of the species? I could have sworn that was in the original video somewhere.

    What this sort of kerfuffle does is open the eyes of men (I suppose it might be worth adding ‘especially the single ones’) about how to communicate. It hadn’t occurred to me, until a recent and similar discussion, that if I find myself walking behind a woman on a deserted street, maybe I should cross the road so I’m not scaring her. Small sacrifice for me, really, in exchange for her peace of mind and a generally more pleasant humanity.

    The elevator thing falls in the same line. It made me recount my past and wonder if I ever did something like that. I couldn’t remember anything in my short dating career, but it’s possible I glided right past something that I didn’t even notice.

    Meanwhile, can I derail this thread by talking about how high menz’ car insurance is? No? Okay, never mind.

  55. Avatar of PrimevilKneivel
    July 13, 2011 at 2:02 pm —

    I think the idea of protest is bad. Rebecca’s statement was a reasonable and calm suggestion of decorum.

    The fuss is all in the reaction to it, by protesting the fuss it’s just fighting fire with gasoline.

  56. Avatar of buffstro
    July 13, 2011 at 2:20 pm —

    Here is an idea…

    For those of you who cannot grasp the problem – put your daughter, niece, grand-daughter, wife, etc in the role as the one propositioned – what would you like to do to this guy – rapist or not – enough said. I hate to personalize it this way but maybe it will strike a chord – this may have been mentioned before but with the discourse going on maybe not…

    • Avatar of dtkgreg
      July 13, 2011 at 2:48 pm —

      They’re way past reasonable discourse now. They’re in to arguing about what “sexist” means and how it’s not really sexist to trash a woman for a polite request just because you wouldn’t trash a man for any such similar request.

      Or did I miss the part where we trashed RD for being annoyed at loud gum-chewers?

      Yeah. But it’s a good idea. I see a lot of womanizer/player types who have their eyes opened by the arrival of their first daughters.

  57. Avatar of skeptony
    July 13, 2011 at 3:07 pm —

    Sorry, pteryxx, the “reply” button is getting wonky so this is out of position.

    “Well skeptony, we do live *in a society* comprised of *other people* who have some say in how they’re treated. We also have statistics. Really.”

    Are you suggesting that EG is a sexist because he asked a woman out in a sexist society? Or, that he should have known that Rebecca would (statistically) been asked out 47.345 times in the past twelve hours? Or, are you suggesting that I have ever criticized Rebecca for her reaction (hint: I haven’t)?

    • Avatar of pteryxx
      July 13, 2011 at 3:57 pm —

      Nope, nope, nope, and you’re putting a remarkable amount of effort into strawmanning me.

      I’ve said (a) EG’s behavior was *probably* sexist; (b) EG himself may or may not be; and (c) the larger societal pattern of men making inappropriate sexual advances on women is DEFINITELY sexist. These are different statements, though you persist in misinterpreting and conflating them. However, I agree with Rebecca that EG’s behavior (see: a) was a fitting example of a larger, real problem (see: c) regardless of his particular, unknown motivations (see: b).

      And while I sympathize with your apparent inability to comprehend the difference, the fact remains that people are not identical and cannot be rendered in absolute terms. The best that can be done is to make a suggestion, as Rebecca did, that points out a problem affecting *many-but-not-all* women, that suggests a solution to *many-but-not-all* men, and that *many-but-not-all* people consider the suggestion’s merits and adjust their individual behaviors accordingly.

      As for the actual *merits* of said suggestion, I refer you to the citations I’ve made in this and the previous two threads, because I see no reason to go over them all again.

      • Avatar of skeptony
        July 13, 2011 at 4:12 pm —

        “Nope, nope, nope, and you’re putting a remarkable amount of effort into strawmanning me.

        I’ve said (a) EG’s behavior was *probably* sexist; (b) EG himself may or may not be; and (c) the larger societal pattern of men making inappropriate sexual advances on women is DEFINITELY sexist. These are different statements, though you persist in misinterpreting and conflating them. However, I agree with Rebecca that EG’s behavior (see: a) was a fitting example of a larger, real problem (see: c) regardless of his particular, unknown motivations (see: b).”

        I have not strawmanned (is that a word?) you at all. I may not have gotten what you were getting at, but that was not intentional.

        I actually have no problem with this summary (well, “probably” is a bit unsupported). Was I wrong in thinking that you said that EG would be guilty of sexual harassment if event had happened in the workplace? This forum makes us jump all over the place to track a conversation. I may have misunderstood.

        • Avatar of pteryxx
          July 13, 2011 at 4:39 pm —

          “Was I wrong in thinking that you said that EG would be guilty of sexual harassment if event had happened in the workplace?”

          Yes; because I said it COULD be sexual harassment, not that it absolutely was or was not. Sexual harassment claims also depend on showing a pattern of behavior, usually not just single incidents (unless it’s a really egregious single incident). However – and this is important – it’s a pattern from the viewpoint of the person harassed, not necessarily the ones doing the harassing. So, (hypothetical situation here) if ten different co-workers made sexual comments to the same individual, that’s likely to be a pattern of workplace harassment that could be pursued under the law, even though each co-worker only made one comment.

          On a larger scale, this is the societal problem: women in general get unsolicited sexual comments very frequently, sometimes multiple times per day or week regardless of the situation.

          If meko doesn’t respond to your comment above, I suggest looking for her comment on the “Dear Richard Dawkins” thread, where she described how she was treated.

          • Avatar of skeptony
            July 13, 2011 at 4:50 pm

            “On a larger scale, this is the societal problem: women in general get unsolicited sexual comments very frequently, sometimes multiple times per day or week regardless of the situation.”

            Here I thought that was a special case. My wife, mother, sister, and most of my female acquaintances are all nurses. They get harassed (literally) a lot, both physically and sexually. I thought that was due to the nature of their work (dealing with mentally altered patients). There really doesn’t seem to be any push to do anything about it.

            I would hope that an employee trying that type of thing would be shown the door.

  58. Avatar of aiabx
    July 13, 2011 at 3:10 pm —

    White guy who is not as young as he used to be here, and I just wanted to say thanks, Rebecca. I was acting under the assumption that feminism was a dead issue, and that we had all the problems wrapped up and taken care of. My eyes were opened. The pig ratio in my gender is still way too high, shockingly so for a bunch of self-proclaimed rational people, and I’ll be getting back to work until the women I care about feel welcome in our community.

  59. Avatar of thebewilderness
    July 13, 2011 at 4:43 pm —

    In case anyone want to know what prompted the word mansplainer to be listed as a 2010 word of the year I offer a link to an article written in 2008 that prompted the coining of the term.
    http://articles.latimes.com/2008/apr/13/opinion/op-solnit13

    It is another one of those, guys! heads up! Don’t do this please, that prompted a kazillion comments remarkably similar to the comments this creepy stalker d00d issue has received.

    • Avatar of jessiexl
      July 14, 2011 at 2:38 pm —

      Your link contains the following sentence by Rebecca Solnit:

      “Most women fight wars on two fronts, one for whatever the putative topic is and one simply for the right to speak, to have ideas, to be acknowledged to be in possession of facts and truths, to have value, to be a human being”.

      Seemed rather apt.

  60. Avatar of davew
    July 13, 2011 at 5:55 pm —

    If you haven’t seen Mr. Deity this week I recommend it. He did a last minute rewrite to address this topic. It was awesome and brave.

    “Criticizing (and vilifying) the woman who says not to creepily hit on strangers in elevator for having the nerve to suggest guys change their behavior–sexist”

    This is fractally wrong. Criticizing an opinion because you disagree with the opinion is not sexist. Even criticizing and vilifying Rebecca personally wouldn’t be sexist unless your only reason for doing so is because she is a woman. The fact that this nonsensical statement gets any traction at all amongst otherwise reasonable people shows how thoroughly Skepchick has become Pharyngulated. I really hope it comes back some day.

    “Publicly whining about how you’re sick of this topic and want it to go away makes the topic continue in public. I know, it’s crazy how it works.”

    I don’t expect this to happen any time soon because every time you drag this topic back up, in spite of the fact that you haven’t said anything new in over a week, most of the people respond with “You’re so awesome, Rebecca!” . Who could possibly leave this attention fire unstoked? I’m not sure I could. It reminds me ever so much of Ada “I saw something nasty in the woodshed” Doom.

    • Avatar of Sethra
      July 13, 2011 at 6:14 pm —

      “If you haven’t seen Mr. Deity this week I recommend it. He did a last minute rewrite to address this topic. It was awesome and brave.”

      It was well done, but I think my interpretation of it is quite different from yours. I have no idea what their intent was, however. Do you?

      “Criticizing an opinion because you disagree with the opinion is not sexist. Even criticizing and vilifying Rebecca personally wouldn’t be sexist unless your only reason for doing so is because she is a woman.”

      Yes, that’s what many of the objections seem to be based on: the male “right” to hit on a woman 24/7 regardless of circumstances. I’d never heard of it before I started reading up about this mess…glad to know I have no choice in the matter, and just shouldn’t worry my pretty little head about it.

      • Avatar of davew
        July 13, 2011 at 6:48 pm —

        “Yes, that’s what many of the objections seem to be based on: the male “right” to hit on a woman 24/7 regardless of circumstances. I’d never heard of it before I started reading up about this mess…glad to know I have no choice in the matter, and just shouldn’t worry my pretty little head about it.”

        Please read exactly what I wrote. The part you quoted. Nowhere did I mention hitting on women, your pretty little head, or what may or may not worry it. The only thing I said was disagreeing with an opinion does not make anyone sexist. I’ve seen a few people offer opinions contrary to Rebecca’s that are non-sexist mixed in with a few that I think are quite sexist. It’s not the criticism of Rebecca’s opinion that is sexist, however.

        As someone pointed out earlier, tongue-in-cheek I hope, if I were to hit on everyone I rode in elevators with I would not be sexist. My treatment of gender, race, age, weight, and disability would be consistently, perfectly neutral. I would still be a creep, however. A megacreep in fact and a pedophile, but I wouldn’t be sexist.

    • Avatar of
      July 13, 2011 at 6:18 pm —

      davew said:

      “The fact that this nonsensical statement gets any traction at all amongst otherwise reasonable people shows how thoroughly Skepchick has become Pharyngulated. I really hope it comes back some day.”

      I agree completely with that statement. and I have the scars to prove it too! What was at one time a thought provoking and frequently eye opening forum seems to have descended into a blog of didactic ideologues.

  61. Avatar of smhill
    July 13, 2011 at 7:31 pm —

    I will stipulate that one unwanted proposition in one elevator is not automatically and unequivocally sexist. However, thinking that this rather large discussion storm is about that one specific incident is sidestepping the point. RW put this incident in a broad context in her post titled the privilege delusion.

    What she had to say is this:
    “And I got messages from women who told me about how they had trouble attending pub gatherings and other events because they felt uncomfortable in a room full of men. They told me about how they were hit on constantly and it drove them away. I didn’t fully get it at the time, because I didn’t mind getting hit on. But I acknowledged their right to feel that way and I started suggesting to the men that maybe they relax a little and not try to get in the pants of every woman who walks through the door. Maybe they could wait for her to make the first move, just in case.

    And then, for the past few years as the audience for Skepchick and SGU grew, I’ve had more and more messages from men who tell me what they’d like to do to me, sexually. More and more men touching me without permission at conferences. More and more threats of rape from those who don’t agree with me, even from those who consider themselves skeptics and atheists. More and more people telling me to shut up and go back to talking about Bigfoot and other topics that really matter.”

    I think some of the “why is this sexist” repeated questions have come from people that didn’t read the blog(s) at the top of the elevator threads here on this site.

  62. Avatar of hedgepig
    July 13, 2011 at 8:28 pm —

    The idea of some sort of handy identification markings has come up a few times. I suggest the following:

    If you are a man who has commented that it is sexist and unfair on men for women to fear any man who hasn’t assaulted them, in any situation that you personally wouldn’t find frightening, and that there’s no such thing as male privilege because you personally haven’t noticed it, please wear a bright green writsband (keep it nice and visible, in order to attract women).

    If you are a man who has commented that you get what Rebecca is saying, or are genuinely trying to get it, please wear a bright orange wristband (keep it nice and visible, in order to attract women).

    (Psst, nobody let on which marking may actually attract women.)

  63. Avatar of mimeparadox
    July 14, 2011 at 1:12 am —

    “Saying I’m “too ugly to rape” misses the scientific fact that rape has nothing to do with attraction. Babies get raped, in case you hadn’t noticed.”–R. Watson

    Corollary: sexual harassment and rape are not compliments. The mindset that leads to comments suggesting that hey, at least the person getting raped got some sexual attention, or worse still, that a victim should thank the rapist/harasser for the “favor” of raping him/her, is one of the linchpins of the rape culture. While thankfully nobody has made that argument here (as far as I’ve seen, anyway) it’s still something that’s always worth repeating.

  64. Avatar of
    July 14, 2011 at 4:34 am —

    “No, I don’t hate women. All women are not irrational. Most women aren’t, even!”*

    How does that read for people?

    * Please note that I am just making a point here and not calling women irrational.

  65. Avatar of Billy Clyde Tuggle
    July 14, 2011 at 11:21 am —

    I believe the reason that this topic has created a firestorm is that it is one of those continuum topics like abortion (e.g. at what point in the development of the fetus does a medical procedure suddenly become a capital felony).

    Clearly mostly people would agree that EG would have been in the wrong to have said to RW “Hi, I am horny. Would you like to come back to my hotel room and have sex?” on the other end of the continuum, I think most would agree that it would have been okay if EG would have said to RW “Hi, I am EG. I saw your talk today and enjoyed it. I’d love to discuss this topic with you sometime when you are feeling rested. Would you have some time to chat tomorrow?”

    There is a grey area that lies in between those two black and white extremes. Different people will have differing opinions on where in the gray area EG crosses from polite flirt to creepy horndog. Men aren’t provided a manual when they reach puberty as to what sorts of sexual overtures are acceptable and which are not (at least I wasn’t), so as a man I find it helpful that RW is providing “feedback” as to what sort of behavior is acceptable and what is not. RW is just one women, so this is a single data point, but taken in concert with other data points one should starts to get a feel for where the boundaries of acceptable behavior lie.

    Coincidentally, I went to see a doctor yesterday. I think he might have been sexually attracted to me. His behavior seemed odd. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, but I got the feeling he was trying to power trip me (i.e. keep me psychologically off-balance). It was disconcerting. I consoled my knowledge that I am bigger than he is and could have probably thrown him threw the exam room window had he crossed the threshold, but still it was creepy, so I can relate on that level to what RW was feeling while dealing with EG.

    \BCT

  66. Avatar of savi
    July 14, 2011 at 11:29 am —

    “My current disinterest in his books is entirely about conscientiously giving my money to people and causes I believe in and who believe in me. I am not calling for a boycott.”

    I’d bet that many of the people you give your money to might also disagree with you and think you’re wrong from time to time. You may not know it yet. As I said before, a single disagreement with someone on a single issue is no reason to ignore all the positive things about that person and the good points they make on other issues. At first you said you would “no longer” support Dawkins with your time and money. This means that you did until this disagreement. And I told you that his good points are still good, and his positive input in many areas is still positive. But you haven’t addressed this yet.

    It is COMPLETELY IRRATIONAL to ignore everything good about a person because of one thing you consider to be bad.

    • Avatar of nikoel
      July 14, 2011 at 1:55 pm —

      Except he didn’t just “disagree” with Rebecca. He tried to silence her by dismissing her experience. That is something men have been doing to women for eons and it’s plainly unacceptable. It’s not just one bad thing, it speaks volumes of what Richard thinks of women and rape culture in general. She’s well within her rights not to want to give him any more of her money. Deal with it.

      • Avatar of
        July 14, 2011 at 4:25 pm —

        nikoel said:
        .
        “He tried to silence her by dismissing her experience.”
        .
        Well, except for the fact that a lot of people have stated their theory that he was actually trying to silence the screaming irrational ranters at Pharyngula, and not, in fact, trying to silence Watson but trying to point out that the public/Internet reaction to her elevator experience was ridiculous when compared to other women’s issues, in particular those in the Islamic states.
        .
        “That is something men have been doing to women for eons and it’s plainly unacceptable.”
        .
        Granted, except, of course, that it seems to be entirely acceptable for radical gender feminists to assume the worst of all men (and so-called gender traitors — gads, what a truly idiotic phrase that is) and to silence them because a few men’s opinions are contrary to the gender feminists’ ideology. That, by the way, is most definitely not a call to MRA, or any such goofy thing — I no more support MRA twats than I do any other didactic fundamentalist fanatical ideological twats — it is simply a statement reflecting the majority of statements here and on several other “feminist” blogs.
        .
        Apparently, to the great disadvantage and alarm of equality feminists everywhere, Andrea Dworkin lives on.
        .
        “It’s not just one bad thing, it speaks volumes of what Richard thinks of women and rape culture in general.”
        .
        Only if you misunderstand what he was aiming at, which many folks, myself included, might think you do.

        • Avatar of jessiexl
          July 14, 2011 at 5:53 pm —

          Relevant part of third comment on Pharyngula by Richard Dawkins:

          “…..But my point is that the ‘slightly bad thing’ suffered by Rebecca was not even slightly bad, it was zero bad. A man asked her back to his room for coffee. She said no. End of story.”

      • Avatar of maxd2
        July 14, 2011 at 11:32 pm —

        Nicoel,
        “Except he didn’t just “disagree” with Rebecca. He tried to silence her by dismissing her experience.”
        No he didn’t. He didn’t tell her to shut up, didn’t tell her to stop talking. He did offer an opinion on the matter and as near as I can tell treated her like something an equal.

        “That is something men have been doing to women for eons and it’s plainly unacceptable. It’s not just one bad thing, it speaks volumes of what Richard thinks of women and rape culture in general. She’s well within her rights not to want to give him any more of her money. Deal with it.”

        You are going to have establish that Dawkins actions fall into this catergory. If he had prefaced his remarks with, “man that sure is like a woman,” or maybe, “too bad women cannot think straight, let me help the little lady out,” or something even vaguely like that, you might have a case for saying that Dawkins was using his man privilege to shut some uppity woman up. He thought she, or a least some of her readers and listeners were over-reacting to the EG story and said as much. I’ve had people do similar things to me, dismiss my feelings about a situation, or suggest that I was over-reacting. Sometimes I agreed with them, sometimes I didn’t.

        And no what Dawkins said doesn’t speak volumes about what he thinks of women, or rape culture (whatever that might be). It does speak volumes about what he thought of one person’s experience, and a group of people’s reaction to that experience. Dawkins is probably no less of a good liberal than PZ (as nearly any writing of his, on public policy, politics, equality attests). You may think he could do more ( and maybe he can) but please don’t act as if he supports ‘rape culture.’ Or that he thinks less of women, their opinions. Because that would be fucking stupid.

        She is well within her rights to no longer buy Richard Dawkins’ books, but I hope it is simply because she hated being called out like that and not because she agrees with much of what you have stated.

    • Avatar of maxd2
      July 14, 2011 at 11:41 pm —

      Savi,
      You win the internet! That last sentence was very succinct and on point.

  67. Avatar of Ezri
    July 14, 2011 at 1:14 pm —

    Dear Rebecca Watson.

    I write to express my gratitude for all the awareness that you raise in all the inspiring ways that you do. But I write to you later than I should. You see, I live in the north of Sweden, and the story of the privilege delusion reached me two days ago. And I should’ve thanked you then, but I did not get it.

    So now, I want to sincerely apologize to you. Because for these past two days I have made a few attempts to justify Richard Dawkins behaviour towards you. I even tried to justify the guy who caused you to say “guys, don’t do that”. Maybe it was so or so, and maybe… How wrong of me to do that, how very wrong of me. This made me think about a lot of different things so I took the time to read and reflect. And I’m not sure exactly how I came to realize my mistake, but the realization freaked me out. A lot. How could I fail to see it straight away? And when did I become someone who makes excuses for men who overstep the mark? I’m not entirely sure yet, but I suspect it has something to do with suppressing some of my own fears as a woman instead of facing them. Maybe that is what has become denial of things that are very real. This has given me a lot to think through, and I thank you for making me aware of that.

    I also thank you for giving me new hope, and not just me I know that. You have shown us all that there is no need for women to settle for anything less than equality. Thanks to amazing people like yourself, we will get there one day.

    And as for Richard Dawkins. I guess it was good to be reminded he is human and makes mistakes. He is a very smart human too, there’s no denying that. So let us see now, if he is smart enough to understand his mistake and human enough to admit it.

    Sincerely

    Emma Söderberg

  68. Avatar of B Hitt
    July 14, 2011 at 1:40 pm —

    I think an important point that has been ignored by much of the lengthy discussion here is Rebecca’s goal in bringing up the elevator incident in the first place. This is at the heart of where Dawkins went wrong. Rebecca is addressing the need to encourage more female participation in the skeptical/atheist communities and explaining what men can do or not do to make women feel more welcome. She’s not arguing that her concerns should be at the top of the list of threats to the human rights of women. Thankfully, I think this triggered a much-needed discussion about the broader subject of sexism and it’s more subtle manifestations in daily life, but I think a lot of the backlash Rebecca is getting is from people ignoring her original intent.

    This really dovetails with the great discussions that went on a while back in response to Elyse’s posting about the “creepy guy” problem at skeptical events. Take home message in my opinion: When women are telling you what behaviors make them uncomfortable, DON’T try to explain why they shouldn’t feel that way! Just listen! They DO feel uncomfortable and that’s valid. If what you’re doing makes women feel objectified, even if it’s not a major crime against humanity, stop doing it for the sake of everyone’s ability to feel comfortable and enjoy themselves.

    • Avatar of nikoel
      July 14, 2011 at 1:56 pm —

      “When women are telling you what behaviors make them uncomfortable, DON’T try to explain why they shouldn’t feel that way! Just listen! They DO feel uncomfortable and that’s valid. If what you’re doing makes women feel objectified, even if it’s not a major crime against humanity, stop doing it for the sake of everyone’s ability to feel comfortable and enjoy themselves.”

      Thank you! How is this difficult?

  69. Avatar of smhill
    July 14, 2011 at 3:31 pm —

    ” Rebecca is addressing the need to encourage more female participation in the skeptical/atheist communities and explaining what men can do or not do to make women feel more welcome.”

    In support of this goal, I want to suggest a book that might make both “sides” of this argument feel more included at skeptic/atheist events. The book is Weird Ideas That Worked and it about developing innovation in businesses, which is also broadly applicable to organization and crusades. The basic idea is that it takes a large number of ideas to generate a really great transformative (and even lucrative) idea. The arguments made in the book are supported by some business research. The book explains why having a more diverse membership (e.g. more women, or more people from different countries) in the organization helps the organization be more innovative. (In short, a more diverse group generates a wider range of ideas; having more ideas is strongly correlated with having more good ideas, yeah and more bad ideas.)

    Anyway, if no one ever gave you a reason to have more diversity in the work force (other than fairness) the book makes some good points. The kicker is that the book also suggests that it is desirable to hire iconoclastic thinkers with bad social skills. Yes, people who value their own ideas or their own vision over following all the rules also have something valuable to contribute to a large group that is trying to increase it’s success by being innovative. (The theory here is that very cooperative obedient people often won’t express criticism, they just fall in behind the boss’ vision and clone his (or her) opinions. Thus they may in fact add no ideas to the idea pool.)

    So, in the arena of ideas, diversity of culture, gender age and race (and the ones I forgot) is valuable because more ideas will be generated and ideas will be evaluated from many perspectives. And diversity in socialization or social skills is also valuable. I’m taking some figurative language literally when I say this, but “wild” ideas >> “tame” ones.

  70. Avatar of
    July 14, 2011 at 5:26 pm —

    Re. point 4: You were indeed calling for a boycott:

    “So many of you voiced what I had already been thinking: that this person who I always admired for his intelligence and compassion does not care about my experiences as an atheist woman and therefore will no longer be rewarded with my money, my praise, or my attention. I will no longer recommend his books to others, buy them as presents, or buy them for my own library. I will not attend his lectures or recommend that others do the same.”
    http://skepchick.org/2011/07/the-privilege-delusion/

  71. Avatar of chriswillett
    July 14, 2011 at 6:44 pm —

    What’s been forgotten throughout the angry discussion of this issue is that Dr. Dawkins was probably responding not to Ms. Watson’s video, but to PZ Myers’ blog post and the arguments raging in the comments.

    Further, unlike many of his opponents, Dr. Dawkins – after his first comment was widely panned – clarified his position, requested additional information, and acknowledged that he could be mistaken. I think he deserves the benefit of the doubt, not backstabbing decrees such as the Skepchicks’ “I look forward to watching your legacy crash and burn.”

    But for merely disagreeing with Ms. Watson’s assumptions, analogies, and conclusions, I have been branded as “sexist” and “misogynist” in language dripping with negative emotional reactivity. These constant allegations, thrown about without much thought, degrade the meaning of those terms.

    • Avatar of maxd2
      July 14, 2011 at 11:38 pm —

      Chris could you provide a link to the original exchanges between Dawkins and PZ?
      Thanks.

      • Avatar of chriswillett
        July 16, 2011 at 1:09 pm —

        Sorry for the late reply. I’m not sure I can post links here, but if you run a Google search for “Pharyngula Naming Names” it should be the first result.

  72. Avatar of skepmaam
    July 14, 2011 at 7:25 pm —

    Just joined SkepChic today & posted long comment under entry from several days ago that probably no one will ever read other than the moderator approving the post. I am just another small voice, but many voices can make a wind. This episode brought to more people’s attention what you probably already knew. I had never heard of you or your group prior. Applaud your being able to keep bucking the system. What needs doing is more dialogue, but obviously not the kind trashing a young woman for merely stating some feelings and offering bit of good advice. The outraged reaction by many has completely amazed and puzzled me. I am not disheartened, as think good will come of it over time.

    I’m old enough to be your Mom, so perhaps this is motherly input from a protective nature. I would like to suggest that there be an escort available to walk women back to their hotel rooms late at night at these conferences. It isn’t always safe to walk back alone unfortunately. There are more folks at the hotel than just attendees. This might encourage some more women to attend if they thought there was a structure to support their safety. This would be especially good for women attending alone or who don’t know others attending. Many universities have set up such escorts, which I think is a wise and prudent idea.

    SkepMaam

    • Avatar of
      July 14, 2011 at 9:03 pm —

      “What needs doing is more dialogue, but obviously not the kind trashing a young woman for merely stating some feelings and offering bit of good advice. The outraged reaction by many has completely amazed and puzzled me.”

      Stating feelings and offering advice is completely natural. But verbally bashing Dawkins on his statements is childish, immature and counter-productive. (Both Dawkins and Watson are guilty of this.)
      Not to mention her calling the actions of elevator guy sexist, and misogynistic, which is untrue.

      I will still be following the blog however, because I think a small misunderstanding is completely human, and offers opportunity to grow.

      • Avatar of weatherwax
        July 14, 2011 at 10:45 pm —

        “Stating feelings and offering advice is completely natural. But verbally bashing Dawkins on his statements is childish, immature and counter-productive. (Both Dawkins and Watson are guilty of this.)”

        No. Dawkins response was snoty and dismisive, and completely out of line. Rebeccas reponse was clearly angry, but understandably so.

        • Avatar of
          July 14, 2011 at 11:51 pm —

          “Richard Dawkins believes I should be a good girl and just shut up about being sexually objectified because it doesn’t bother him. Thanks, wealthy old heterosexual white man!” -Ms. Watson

          Seems snotty and dismissive to me.

          Not to mention she supported letters sent to Dawkins which, for the most part, are filled with childish insults.

          http://skepchick.org/2011/07/dear-richard-dawkins/

          It seems insulting people is not OK, unless it’s done to someone else, such as Dawkins in this case.

          • Avatar of weatherwax
            July 15, 2011 at 12:07 am

            “Seems snotty and dismissive to me.”

            Not even even the same league as Dawkins original post.

          • Avatar of maxd2
            July 15, 2011 at 12:24 am

            Some of those letters, while I think misguided, are nice, but that one from Mindy, and the one that began “Dear Dick” those are detestable. Richard Dawkins never said anything at all about RW. Never said she was stupid. I am a little shocked that RW posted those first two letters on her blog. “I hope your career crashes and burns?” Misogynistic, and a racist? By odin where does one get that? You don’t get a second chance? How odd.

            Lets all leave aside because its agreed that people make a lot of stupid sexist comments on the internet. And its terrible and it should really be called out. But Dawkins didn’t support any of that, didn’t criticize RW based on her sex. He said nothing misogynistic, and wasn’t being sexist. And he certainly wasn’t being racist as that first letter implied.

        • Avatar of punchdrunk
          July 14, 2011 at 11:55 pm —

          “Snotty and dismissive” seems to be the favored style on these threads.

          Also wrangling the reality to fit the agenda. Also ignoring basic human decency and common sense in favor of pie-in-the-sky thought experiments. Also ignoring perception and emotion as a valid part of a person’s lived experience. Also an inability to listen, being too busy trying to ‘win’ the argument. Also jumping to conclusions without bothering to read, comprehend, and think before marshaling a counterattack.

          There seems to be a need to separate us from our shared humanity in the worship of the rational and logical.

          This has been disturbing and eye-opening. Good luck.

  73. Avatar of infundibulum
    July 15, 2011 at 1:09 am —

    Wanted to say thanks. I don’t identify with the skeptic movement, per se, but I’ve had big problems in this movement.

    I once was invited to attend a pub event about how to talk to creationists. In about 3 hours of happy hour, I had maybe four conversations about communication, for a total of 45 minutes or so of talk. The rest were about how pretty I was or if I had a boyfriend. I had been warned of this by another women who did a pub, but did it by myself anyway.

    At a recent conference of a professional society related to the skeptic movement, I was showing my Darwin tattoo to some people after science tattoos had come up in conversation. The tattoo is on my side, so I pulled up my shirt a bit to show it. A bunch of people were asking me about pain, cost, what my research was on, etc. One university professor shouted out “Let’s see what else is under there!” In front of a bunch of my colleagues. I was so uncomfortable that I was speechless. I went to talk to other people I know. throughout the night, a few people who floated in and out of the conversation mentioned that I shouldn’t have taken his “joke” so harshly.

    Naked disrespect of women occurs in these societies. I hate the fact that so many women have to lay bare their experiences for it to be taken seriously. I hate the outpouring of ugly comments (from Richard Dawkins, no less!) that have been required to demonstrate it. But here it is. The skeptic movement can deal with it or not.

  74. Avatar of bandolian
    July 15, 2011 at 3:45 am —

    I find it slightly incredible that after all the words that have been spilled on this subject that there are still some simple points that continue to be missed. The one I want to make here is about as simple as you can get — this game is effectively over, and has been for some time now.

    The faction that has been subjecting Rebecca Watson to the Internet equivalent of a garbage-throwing mob still has no inkling that by doing so that have delivered her a victory on a silver platter. A message that had been coming from a single voice has been amplified to the point that everyone in the organized skepticism community has to be aware of it. (Extra credit to Prof. Dawkins for unintentionally ramping the attention factor up by an order or two of magnitude.) Moreover, by putting their ignorance, opacity and just all round nastiness so spectacularly on display, they’ve proved her point that this is a problem that urgently needs serious attention. Believing themselves to have been firing salvos at Ms. Watson, her attackers have only been delivering her ammunition.

    The irony is that if they could have only exerted a bit of self control and remained silent, the anti-Watsoners would have made her task of consciousness-raising hugely more difficult than has so far been the case. In the early going I had been thinking, “How dreadful for her to be subjected to this”, but realize now that Ms. Watson at that same time must have been thinking, “I cannot believe how well this is going.”

    The core issue that seems to have suffered for lack of attention amid the hair-splitting about privilege, sexism, misogyny and the subtleties of Elevator Guy Psychology is that the atmosphere at skeptical/atheist gatherings is unwelcoming to the women who, vastly outnumbered by men, find themselves being repeatedly hit on and more than likely decide never to attend such an event again. To her everlasting credit Ms. Watson has stood up and said, “This behavior is stunting the growth of this community, and has to change.”

    Anyway, the message is out there, and now has to be addressed by people of influence in the skeptical community. A choice that before this eruption wasn’t even on the table is now imperative: you can foster an atmosphere friendly to guys who like hitting on women, or one friendly to women who would prefer not to be hit on. Or in other words, one appealing to a small fraction of men or to the vast majority of women. It’s pretty clear, now that the issue cannot be avoided, which of these options will be chosen.

    So, to the anti-Watson faction I say: Well done. You’ve fought Rebecca’s battle for her vastly more effectively than she could have ever dreamed. A little bit of the world that you knew is already dead, and it would be best for you not to dwell on the fact that you were the ones who killed it.

    • Avatar of Jack99
      July 15, 2011 at 7:46 pm —

      Wow! Beyond excellent – look at this! ^^^^^

    • Avatar of chriswillett
      July 16, 2011 at 1:07 pm —

      You should work for Fox News. Your talent for spin is unmatched. Also of value is your ability to reduce a complex issue into a simple mutually exclusive dichotomy.

  75. Avatar of Jack99
    July 15, 2011 at 5:15 am —

    I for one feel that the real object of all our anger ought to be the originator of the foul and despicable threats against Rebecca.

  76. Avatar of Jack99
    July 15, 2011 at 6:47 am —

    Good job back there @Cripdyke, @Pteryx and @ Skeptony! Together you seem to have established that EG would have (prime facie) faced reprimand or dismissal in the workplace under industrial sexual harrassment law. So much for “Zero Harm”!

    I know someone who can check this out properly – wonder if I should ask- any other takers out there?

    Obvious corollary – code of conduct for meetings – everybody signs – one warning, any more complaints and you are out, no refund . ?Blacklist for future meetings? Volunteers to police? Simple as. Thoughts anybody?

    • Avatar of infundibulum
      July 15, 2011 at 9:29 am —

      I think that’s a hard question. When I approached conference organizers about my experiences, I got a mixed bag – often something along the lines of “Oh well that’s Bill, he’s been in our group for X years, so I’d feel bad sending him away.” And I’m sensitive to that. I think at the least, organizers have to give women a voice – they need to say that any threats or conduct will be taken seriously.

      Geek Feminism has a post on a generic anti-harassment policy that I agree with. It makes it clear that harassment isn’t tolerated and lays out consequences but allows for subjectivity in application: http://geekfeminism.wikia.com/index.php?title=Conference_anti-harassment_policy

      • Avatar of Jack99
        July 20, 2011 at 9:41 pm —

        So was your polite and discrete complaint then ignored? Not even a quiet word in the ear of the offender? Often that is enough. If that was not done, it’s outrageous!
        I read the code and agree that looks good, heaps better than nothing, and sure, women should be in control of this.
        @Skepchicks: what do you think of the code of conduct for exhibitors – I would be sad if it cramped your exuberant and youthful style :), but then again, there are all those accusations of “tu quoque”?

  77. Avatar of Jack99
    July 15, 2011 at 7:01 am —

    AAiiiii….it was supposed to go BACK THERE!
    Lord Chthulhu, your faithful servant implores you, take your mighty revenge on this blog layout!

  78. Avatar of Ashamanic
    July 15, 2011 at 9:57 am —

    “A black person and a white person in the elevator is not analogous to my situation, unless you’re talking about a strange white person following a black person onto an elevator and then inviting him/her to his/her hotel room for fried chicken. In that instance, yes, I do believe that the black person is well within his/her rights to politely ask the privileged white majority of skeptics/atheists to not do that.”

    So it’s not about feeling uncomfortable or any sense of intimidation or threat, real or perceived? It’s only about people with “privilege” having to limit their behaviour more than everyone else?

    • Avatar of punchdrunk
      July 15, 2011 at 10:28 am —

      No. Let’s reverse the privilege. I used this analogy earlier. It’s not being afraid to be on an elevator with a poor person. It’s being uncomfortable on an elevator with a poor person who asks for money. Don’t ask strangers for sex or money. More clear?

  79. Avatar of OedipaMaas
    July 15, 2011 at 7:06 pm —

    How many years did we have a ban on gay people serving in the military based on the argument that a man being hit on by someone whose attention he didn’t want would be so detrimental that it would undermine US defense. Yet a woman is supposed to be flattered by the attention.

    • Avatar of chriswillett
      July 16, 2011 at 1:04 pm —

      If you’re using the discriminatory policy of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell to justify your stance on this issue, then perhaps it’s time to reexamine your position.

      • Avatar of OedipaMaas
        July 16, 2011 at 3:37 pm —

        A number of comments on this topic have been to the effect that a woman should expect to be hit on by a man anytime, anywhere and that she should not only not object, but be appreciative of it. The idea conveyed is often that such advances should not be seen as a threat. My point is, that when men fear a potential sexual advance that probably doesn’t even exist, we adopt a national policy around it.

    • Avatar of Sethra
      July 16, 2011 at 5:08 pm —

      “A number of comments on this topic have been to the effect that a woman should expect to be hit on by a man anytime, anywhere and that she should not only not object, but be appreciative of it. The idea conveyed is often that such advances should not be seen as a threat. My point is, that when men fear a potential sexual advance that probably doesn’t even exist, we adopt a national policy around it.”

      Well said.

  80. Avatar of jjmac
    July 16, 2011 at 1:11 am —

    I find this highly interesting. Totally understand the reaction to the elevator guy. What I am having trouble with is the relation to the skeptic/atheist community. Isn’t this a problem in general? I would imagine it occurs quite frequently across many settings.

  81. Avatar of jackiekjono
    July 16, 2011 at 3:45 am —

    Hi!

    Re: #6

    You know, I’ll bet there are enough people interested in this issue right now that you probably have a few folks reading with the right kind of computer skills and spare time to trace back threatening emails and identify the people they came from.

    It would probably be more of a pain in the ass than it is worth to try to pursue anything legally but, you may be able to get a few folks onto a no-fly list for conferences where you may be speaking.

  82. Avatar of smhill
    July 16, 2011 at 5:41 pm —

    I don’t know if there are any opponents of the elevator approach still reading, but I wish that this detailed and convincing block of text had gotten a lot of reads prior to the introduction of the phrase “potential sexual assault” into the discussion. This paragraph by ‘muffincupcake’ commenting on the article on Gawker explains a lot of unpleasant happen more often than completed penetration while still in the elevator.

    Since the three words “potential sexual assault” really prompted a derailing of the discussion, I’d like to suggest reading this instead.

    “… Yes it’s “awkward” to be hit on when you’re not interested — but if you were a woman, you would understand that many men use intimidation in their advances, and many don’t accept no for an answer. Intimidation can be as subtle as hitting on a woman when she’s in a vulnerable situation — walking by herself at night, or in an elevator alone — or much worse. Also, many men take “no” as the beginning of a negotiation where they corner and pressure women, so that women’s choices are to let the guy keep making advances or to do something dramatic that potentially escalates the situation in a dangerous way (like, “if you don’t stop following me, I’m calling the police”). And then of course if she does that, she’s a huge bitch who should have been flattered that he had been interested. Maybe you always respectfully leave women alone after they indicate that they’re not interested, but many men don’t — and women have no way of knowing what kind of guy you are, which is why it’s not just “awkward” to be hit on when you’re vulnerable. It’s scary. I’ve been followed home by men who wouldn’t stop hitting on me, wouldn’t stop walking beside me after I’ve said I’m not interested. I’ve had my ass grabbed by strangers on the street. And once, when I was just outside my own building at night, someone hit on me and then tried to assault me when I said no. So I don’t care if you just want coffee. Don’t hit on me when I’m in a vulnerable situation, and if you do, don’t call me an unreasonable bitch when I find it intimidating instead of flattering. I haven no way of knowing if you will respect my “no” because my experience is that some men don’t accept no, and they don’t wear “I’m a rapist” signs around their neck that let you tell them apart from the “nice” guys.” [end]

  83. Avatar of fatsteve
    July 16, 2011 at 10:21 pm —

    Frankly, I think it’s obvious that it was a sexual comment, which she has every right to be aggravated about. Sure, not every woman would react the same, but it seems rather ridiculous that Rebecca is not even allowed the slightest opinion. Her original comments were pretty much given as advice and opinion, no more, no less. Recently I was in an elevator with a woman who had so much perfume on it was making me nauseous (Calvin Klein’s Eternity- a particularly disgusting scent to my nose.) If I was to repeat the story of that encounter in a public forum and give the advice – ‘women, men don’t like it when you stink of a repulsive scent,’ how is that different than Rebecca’s original comments.? Advice to men: don’t hit on women who’ve clearly got no interest. She’s giving advice, not suggesting it be a federal offence.

    However, I have to slightly disagree with her objection at his just blurting out the comment without starting a conversation based on the possible alternatives. I think his ‘putting his cards on the table’ gave her a much easier opportunity to say ‘no’ than someone who earned her trust by pretending to be a feminist man completely uninterested in her sexually, to the point of where she did feel comfortable enough to go to his room for coffee- and then all he wanted was sex.

    Question for rebecca (the answer could be #12) If that elevator guy gave you a frank and honest apology would you consider the matter done with and perhaps re-evaluate your thoughts on him? Would you have even brought it up had he done so immediately?

  84. Avatar of Billy Clyde Tuggle
    July 17, 2011 at 2:20 am —

    Has anyone considered contacting Lalla Ward (Richard Dawkins’ wife) to see how she feels about this topic? Who knows, depending on how Lalla feels about the subject, poor Richard could end up sleeping on the couch for a few days :-)

    \BCT

  85. Avatar of zylla
    July 17, 2011 at 2:13 pm —

    A toast: to Parry Otter, the Chosen Boy Who – or something like that.

  86. Avatar of thebewilderness
    July 17, 2011 at 6:24 pm —

    It isn’t about the guy. It is about the behavior. That was the point. The all too common behavior.
    Dawkins judged it “zero bad” along with dozens of d00dz on the internet.
    This in no way alters the simple fact that if you behave like a creepy stalker d00d it is quite likely that women will be uncomfortable and think you are a creepy stalker d00d.
    If you don’t care that your behavior makes women uncomfortable then say so. This business of trying to argue that some woman somewhere might not mind creepy stalker dood behavior and therefore it is perfectly okie dokie is absurd. Almost as absurd as Dawkins claiming that because some women somewhere have it much worse that makes creepy stalker d00d behavior “zero bad”.

  87. Avatar of hedgepig
    July 17, 2011 at 8:14 pm —

    The illogical way so many men (Dawkins included) have been arguing, neatly summarised above by thebewilderness, indicates something Greta Christina pointed out on her blog. These men are not interested in making themselves, atheist and skeptic communities, or society in general more appealing and less threatening to women: they are interested in protecting their privilege.
    Many don’t even recognise these things as privileges; they see them as rights. The right to not have to think about sexual relations from the perspective of their sexual partners, (actual and potential). The right to behave exactly as they please in any situation and not be challenged or questioned. The right to say “we gave you the vote, (or “we don’t cut off your genitals” or “we let you drive cars” etc) now shut up.”

    • Avatar of punchdrunk
      July 17, 2011 at 11:39 pm —

      Also astonishing to me, is the number of people claiming that this wasn’t necessarily a sexual proposition. In spite of the fact that, had she accepted the invitation at face value, it could be used as evidence of consent in a rape trial. Also ignoring the fact that any woman who has ever taken this kind of thing at face value has, likely as not, found herself alone with an angry, gropey man, asking “What the hell did you THINK I meant, idiot?!”

      I just keep reminding myself that all (before this, I would have said ‘most’) men aren’t like this. But holy fuck, it’s depressing and infuriating and disheartening.

  88. Avatar of Buzz Moonman
    July 17, 2011 at 10:22 pm —

    But what would Richard Dawkins do if he was in a lift with one other person?

    I have just found out.

    I was rereading an article in The Skeptic magazine Vol 31 #2, issued in June, about the Sydney TAM.

    The author Chris Higgins started by relating his experiences at the 2010 TAM 8 and his brush with fame with Richard Dawkins in an elevator.

    He wrote “I even got to rub shoulders with TAM 8 keynote speaker Richard Dawkins (although as we were the only two people in the elevator, he politely asked me not to stand so close to him.)”

    When I read the article first in early June I paid no attention to this bit of information but rereading it had a completely different effect, ie What the !!!!!

    I have to presume Higgins is accurate and not merely making stuff up to big note himself. Either way someone’s a big (or bigger) drongo as it indicates that Dawkins does understand the elevator problem.

    I wonder when the goose cooking recipes will appear on RDF. I presume that his Time Lord wife has banished him to the Tardis dog box.

    • Avatar of
      July 18, 2011 at 9:21 am —

      I see, so basically what happened there was Dawkins was in a lift where he felt uncomfortable because someone was within his personal space (as the vast majority of people do feel when someone is within about 0.5m of them) so he politely asked the person to not stand so close.

      Did he feel the need to blog about it and tell people certain groups of people to not do that as it makes him very uncomfortable? Or did he just think nothing of it as it was such an unimportant event and remain polite at all times and move on with his life?

      Whatever about Rebecca Watsons’ initial video where she told all guys that asking someone politely for coffee at 4am in an elevator was creepy, it was the massive big deal out of nothing that came along afterwards – which Rebecca Watson clearly supported e.g. PZ Myers blog post which she backed, that prompted Dawkins to comment that it was a nothing event.

      I can’t believe the mods here are allowing talk of approaching Richard Dawkins’ wife.

      • Avatar of weatherwax
        July 19, 2011 at 11:44 am —

        When Mr Dawkins feels that certain behaviors are making old white men unconfortable at skeptic conventions, he should absolutely call attention to them.

  89. Avatar of crab43
    July 25, 2011 at 5:47 pm —

    #8 is a load of shit. We’re talking about being mugged/raped. Whether one is privileged and the other isn’t has no bearing on the odds of being the victim of a crime, or the odds that the strange person over there may be a criminal. If they’re a mugger/rapist all the privilege in the world won’t save you if you’re alone.

    All you’re trying to do is pretend your irrational fear/judgement of men is different than “that strange minority might mug me” because you know that from that angle it wouldn’t fly.

  90. Avatar of weatherwax
    July 26, 2011 at 1:17 pm —

    I think you’re confusing different aspects of privilege. This issue is about the general privilege men have by virtue of being the larger sex, and by being the dominant sex at these events. Social privilege doesn’t enter into it. In the case of sexual assualt, the privilege is entirely on the male side, and skin color/ social standing are irrelevant. (As you pointed out).

    And because men are the dominant sex at these events, they often get away with, well, inexcusable behavior, because other people (mostly men) don’t think it was really a big deal.

    Rebecca has made it very clear, not only in her words but in her prior behavior, that she does not have a fear of men in general. But any women is justified in being afraid when a man starts behaving suspiciouly, like intentionally trapping them in a vulnerable position.

    • Avatar of crab43
      July 30, 2011 at 7:06 am —

      I don’t see how it’s on the male side. Men get sexually assaulted (sometimes by women) and it doesn’t get taken seriously.

      I also think that the idea that a larger person is unlikely to be sexually assaulted by a smaller person oversimplifying it.

      Smaller person can have a weapon or just be stronger.

  91. Avatar of Arpit Chauhan
    December 8, 2012 at 4:28 pm —

    I’m totally with you on this, Rebecca. As an atheist, I’ve had respect for Dawkins due to his contribution to skepticism through his book “The God Delusion” (although, I haven’t read it). But, his attitude towards women is preposterous and reaffirms the notion that even rational people need to reflect a lot to get it right and thus can’t afford to be complacent. The hatred that skeptics have spewed towards you is symbolic of the dormant anti-feminism that lies among men. This also explains the refusal to understand the totally rational arguments against meat-eating (e.g. the health and environment ones) and give animals’ sufferings any consideration because they aren’t intelligent enough. (Shouldn’t their capacity to suffer be taken into consideration?) Although, I’m baffled as to why you aren’t a vegan.

    Thanks.

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