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John Morales

Heliotropic, I see you blithely indulge in the etymological fallacy; the term 'prejudice' is polysemous and you do not address the primary sense(s).

Tsk. (Vapid argument is vapid)

So why don't you go back to playing with your dollies and let the adults handle things?

JafafaHots is like unto a little girl, eh?

(Revealing choice of vilification)

Ace Of Sevens

Most people criticizing Watson here don't seem so much to be saying Elevator Guy was behaving in an acceptable fashion or that Watson should have gone to his room for some coffee instead of being so stuck up. Their main points of contention are as follows:

1. EG was more likely a social incompetent than a sexual predator. He likely didn't realize Watson felt trapped in the elevator.
2. Hitting on a woman isn't saying you don't value her as a person.
3. It's sexist to assume men are potential rapists just for being strange men and unreasonable to expect men to bear the burden of demonstrating they do not intend to rape any woman they come across.

I actually agree with all these statements. The problem is that none of them are actually responses to anything Rebecca Watson actually said. These are responses to what you might expect her to say if she were your standard issue straw feminist, which she isn't. ironically, many people accusing her of being overly sensitive actually got incensed by a one-line summary of what she said and let their imaginations fill in the rest rather than following a link and trying to engage her actual argument. You can hardly ask for a better example of oversensitivity than leaping to defend your privileged group from a slight which never actually occurred.

To be fair to such people, some people defending Watson did make arguments that could be reasonably interpreted in such a way to merit those responses, but conflating such people with Watson because they are on the same "side" is hardly skeptical or fair. It reminds me of the "some atheists are jerks" strategy used by Christian apologists. Also, some people were arguing that all things considered, strange men in elevators are a negligible threat compared to situations that we encounter all the time and don't think twice about, which I think is worth discussion, but kind of beside the point when the topic was how to stop driving women away from conferences.


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

The fact that people are attempting to defend someone who propositioned someone he had never interacted with before, at four AM, IN THE ELEVATOR is not a problem?

Do explain what the fuck is acceptable about propositioning someone in a way that common sense dictates will make them think that you're trying to rape them (and, by extension, why it is not problematic that people are defending someone who has done exactly that) =/


well said.


"It's a bit confusing in a society where women try their best to look attractive, and in most cases men are supposed to ignore their attraction."- Pewtergod

I'm seeing a lot of men confused about how to approach a woman and why contect matters.

I'm going to give the following example to (hopefully) give some insight on what it's like to be "hit on" as a woman.

I am a woman and a long distance runner and I also enjoy the sight of the shirtless men I see when out on my run. In fact, there a few that I find down right HOT. There is nothing wrong with enjoying the sight of them running past. However, I do NOT do any of the following (all of which I have experienced directed towards myself, multiple times, from men):

1. My eyes do not bulge out of my head, complete with cartoon noises. Staring is considered rude and so I try not to do it.

2. I don't wolf whistle at him. Because WHY? Hey, LOOK! I can whistle. My Dad taught me that when I was six!

3. I don't yell anything at him. "HEEEEYYY SEXXXXXY!"- As if getting yelled at by a stranger is SUCH a compliment. On a related note, if I pass him in a car with my friends I don't roll down the windows so I (and my friends) can yell at him and then turn around so I can come back from the other direction for a second round of yelling. < That happened to me on Sunday.

4. I don't grab him. Anywhere. For any reason.

5. I don't stop him and demand his time so I can get his phone number or just admire his general sexiness. He's out on his run and clearly busy.

6. I sure as hell don't start following him.

If I want to hit on him and every way I can think of hitting on him is rude or crosses a boundary then I DON'T HIT ON HIM and I don't even get sad about it because there will be other guys and more appropriate times.

Some of you may look at and think "What asshole would do any of that stuff?" but I have to tell you there are PLENTY. All of those have happened to me and they happen to other women with stunning regularity. To add another layer to the afore mentioned scenario think about the fact that women are often attacked while out running and it makes all those things even more stupid and inappropriate.

The point I'm trying to make is that you can take notice of the attractiveness of other people and that's fine. That's healthy. The deciding factor is how you act on that attraction. Time and place matter. You're behaviour and the amount of respect you are projecting matters. A good thing to keep in mind if you want to approach someone with the intention of striking up a relationship is don't initially do anything that you wouldn't do if you wanted this person as just a friend. People will either like you in a sexual way or they won't. You can't trick them into it with sly moves but you sure as hell can scare them away.

Phil Giordana Fcd

Hello Greta, and thank you for this great piece.

Just to give in my two cents, I think what exasperated a lot of people (me included) who totaly agree with Rebecca's views is the fact that this subject tended to pop-up EVERYWHERE. Here you are, making fun of Casey Luskin's unibrow, discussing the mating habits of the Platypus, crying at the syupidity of politicians... when BOOM! All of a sudden this pops in, for no actual reason at all other than the commenter wanting to bring a flame war.

It is extremly tiresome, even for someone who agrees 100% that this is an important subject that really needs to be adressed.

Anyway, thanks again for this nice text.


Stan Brooks

Thank you Greta for a well stated and calm appraisal of this ongoing debate. I hope that you will continue to write about these issues as they are so important to the overall success of the atheist endeavor. Sexism, and the other "isms" of privilege, are poisons that need to be addressed wherever they raise their head ('scuse the pun).

I find it saddening and a bit astonishing that some people don't get the idea that when you tell me how you feel about an incident or event I don't have the right to say you shouldn't feel or react in the way you did, regardless of the fact that others may not have felt the same way about similar events. Wow, NEWS FLASH, how about that, we are different!! You are so right that the fact that some women don't believe they would have reacted that way in no way diminishes the fact that Rebecca and many, many other women did.

I was glad you published the email that you included, and that David Eller apologized. This is being human. In my own sometimes misguided attempts at humor I have offended and insulted people in ways that I never intended. Sometimes in ways that I wasn't able to see immediately. But when someone tells me that they were angered or hurt or offended by something I've said or done, then I pay attention, because I have found it to be in my best interest to do so, not only in getting laid (not that that's a bad reason), but in just getting along, having a fun and enjoyable life.

I hope we come to a time when these issues don't arise, when as a species we evolve to understand that paying attention to what affects those around us is important no matter how smart we are or important we deem ourselves to be. It certainly won't come by being quiet about the issues that bother us, men or women, and, again, THANK YOU for your invaluable and insightful contribution to this discussion.

Alfarr Hotei

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


I rest my case. Everyone who has replied to me has taken issue with what I said, and no one takes issue with matters such as the Toronto school I mentioned.

Notice, incidentally, that Greta reparses the famous "Silence = Acceptance" slogan. Quite right. You lot are silent about FGM, female segregation, honor killings, gang-rape and all the rest of it. You accept that. So, since you decide to abandon my sisters under the veil, I am more than happy to abandon you lot to Elevator Guy and Richard Dawkins's sarcasm.

Whose weight of Sin do you think is greater?

Ace Of Sevens

And to clarify, I'm defending what Watson initially said, less so what she said later. Stef McGraw is definitely in the camp of people who were responding to something Rebecca Watson didn't actually say and it takes a lot of assumptions to think she was implying, but that just makes overly-sensitive and a bad skeptic, at least in this particular instance, not an anti-feminist.

To expand on what Azkyroth said above, this is limited to a particular side or a particular issue. Plenty of people out there are emotionally invested in a particular position and will tend to jump on anyone who seems to be making an argument for an opposing position as A. evil and B. supporting all arguments that they disagree with. In this case, the other side of the issue is people who saw that Watson was criticizing a man for hitting on her and lept on it as if she were arguing it isn't okay for men to hit on women in general because their defense alarms went off.

I would like to second the call for the data to show that elevators are a common place to get raped. I did some research as best I could on the subject and did turn up a couple cases, but mostly a bunch of urban legends and porn, certainly nothing to support the idea it was common. The most recent crime victimization data I could find for the US was from 2008, but it seemed to say that rape and sexual assault by acquaintances are roughly three times as common as the same by strangers. We encounter hundreds, if not thousands of time more strangers than acquaintances in our lifetimes, which would mean any given stranger is a miniscule threat compared to the people we deal with every day. If we say a woman has a one-in-three chance of being raped in her lifetime and encounters 200 acquaintances and 5,000 strangers in that period, a given acquaintance has a 1/800 chance of being a rapist, while a stranger has a 1/60,000 chance. My numbers are likely off, but this shouldn't affect the general conclusion unless the true numbers are really counter-intuitive. (If anyone can point me to real figures on how many strangers vs acquaintances as defined by the Bureau of Justice Statistics the average person encounters in a lifetime, I'd be grateful.) Fear of stranger-rape seems to be like fear of flying: the media pushes it because of sensationalistic and xenophobic tendencies, but it isn't based on real risk.

Greta Christina

I am once again going to remind EVERYBODY:

1) This is not Pharyngula. The expected standard of discourse here is vigorous but civil and respectful debate, with heated rhetoric kept to a minimum, and with criticism focused on ideas and behavior rather than insults directed at other commenters. Please remember that you are a guest in this blog, and that other commenters here are also guests in this blog. If you can't treat one another (and me) with basic courtesy and respect, you will no longer be welcome here. Some of you have already violated this rule; anyone who does it again will be banned without further warning.

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

If this continues to just be another re-re-hashing of the same old details of Elevatorgate, and if the conversation is not kept civil, I am going to shut the entire conversation down. I'm going to be at TAM for the next few days, and I don't have time to keep a constant moderating eye on this thread. Thank you for your co-operation.


"Fear of stranger-rape seems to be like fear of flying: the media pushes it because of sensationalistic and xenophobic tendencies, but it isn't based on real risk."

I, as a repeat "plane crash" victim, appear to be an anomaly.

Ace Of Sevens

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

Ace Of Sevens

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


I wholeheartedly agree with the point that we should not tell anybody (male or female) to shut up about any issue.

I have no issue with Rebecca Watson (who I'm not very familiar with) recording a YouTube video and saying that she doesn't like to be invited for a coffee late at night in an elevator.

[An aside: What would have happened if she had accepted the proposition? She might have said "I met someone at the conference - luckily he was brave enough to ask me to his room!" - to which everybody would be congratulating him and her, and wishing them all the best. If anyone was consistent enough to still call ElevatorMan some of the derogatory names we've been hearing him called, I would imagine all RW supporters would be flaming them too.]

What saddens me about this is that so many people have turned against people such as Richard Dawkins because they disagree. He did not tell her to shut up, and certainly did not say anything sexist. In fact, he politely requested that "somebody explain to him what he is not getting". Ok, so you disagree with him. Argue properly, like good skeptics. All that this crazy internet-event has shown is that the skeptic community is just the same as any other community, complete with irrationality, emotional outbursts, inquisitions... - they just don't believe in ghosts.

Rebecca Watson clearly disagrees with your points b) and c) Greta, since she called for a boycott of Dawkins. That is extremely disappointing. If she had outlined just why Dawkins was wrong, in a calm and reasonable way I would respect her, but I'm afraid that her pusillanimous whining (note: I DO NOT mean the original YouTube video) is a very poor example for the skeptic community.

I'm a philosophy student. When we disagree we reason, we argue, we discuss. We do not, ever, ever call for a boycott of those with opposing views.

Ace Of Sevens

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

Beyond Ken

"To the men ... We are trying to help you get laid."

Please don't.


Ace of Sevens: Another way to be dismissive is to simply not comment at all. I doubt there would be any calls for a boycott on that basis.

Being dismissive is not the same as telling somebody to shut up. He commented precisely because he wanted to register his disagreement that this particular event constituted a real problem for women. Right or wrong, it is better that he is able to speak his mind without accusations of heresy. The skeptic community (should) thrive on the ability to argue back and forth.

[Another aside: The appeal to bigger problems is not really a logical fallacy unless you say that X is a problem iff there is no problem Y such that Y is a bigger problem (even that is not a strict LOGICAL fallacy, although it is clearly false). One reading of Dawkins' first comment might be that any woman oppressed in a Muslim theocracy may consider it quite galling for someone to complain about being asked for a coffee at a convention, and therefore we might want to concentrate on the larger issues first. That is not a logical fallacy, even if it turns out to be a bad argument.]

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



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

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

I'm afraid the assertion that the boundaries are sex-specific is neither logically nor factually correct.

Almost all men I can think of will instinctively be able grasp the threatening and unwelcome nature of a larger male approaching them in an isolated setting and propositioning them for sex. All prison shower block jokes, and the DODT Act, are based on the instinctive understanding of the unwelcome and unpleasant crossing of boundaries this entails. As does the widespread misogynist trope of large (read: fat), sexually aggressive women cornering reluctant (usually younger) men.

The problem we have here is that grasping that boundaries that go "physically threatening $person1 propositioning smaller more vulnerable $person2 for sex in circumstances where the latter is isolated and/or threatened" are perfectly acceptable, when $person1 is male and $person1 is female seems to be a challenge, primarily for a subset of people who fit the profile of $person1.

My contention[1] is that this failure of basic logic (extending a syllogism from in-group to out-group agents) is a fundamental feature of all bigotry. To say "I have the right to inflict on others treatment that I would not want inflicted on myself" is worryingly lacking in empathy, and a symptom of a society in which this logical breakdown is so pervasive it becomes invisible (read: patriarchy).

To further say "those requesting that I do not inflict on them treatment that would be inimical to me are asking for special treatment" is a further level of irrationality. It's what the philosopher would call "un quéstion mal posée". The question is not "do women deserve special care?" but "is this level of care really special?". To refuse to acknowledge that[2] when it is rationally and repeatedly explained is paradigmatic sexism: a refusal to consider women as full human beings with the same subjectivity as one's self.

tl;dr version: you try being propositioned by a larger, probably drunk dude in an elevator at 4am, and tell me how much of a delicate flower I am for not liking it.

[1] Well, I say it is mine, but of course it's something that's been written about extensively by far greater minds than mine, and I'm just borrowing it.

[2] Which I'm not saying you're doing, but the zombie-like persistence of these so called "concerns" hints that you and others are drawing on a larger body of thought here.


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


@Matt Hone

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

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

Stan Brooks

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

What he said, great comment!!


This is also about someone who demands that her feelings be respected going public with an embarrassing piece of information about someone else -- someone who I don't imagine anyone who was there at the time would have difficulty identifying.

You can't claim your own feelings are worthy of consideration while at the same time publicly humiliating somebody else who has done you no harm whatsoever.

I appreciate that Rebecca and Greta and the others have a good deal of bottled-up resentment against all the men who have come on to them inappropriately. We're even on that score, because I have a good deal of bottled-up resentment against all the women who have turned me down. But I've never singled any one of them out for public humiliation, because that's fighting dirty. Public humiliation is never an appropriate response.



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

Quoted for heart-rending truth.

Sisterhood and sympathy to you, Lyra.


So what's the problem in this situation - the perceived mismatch in power in the dynamic. The assumption that a man has more power than a woman and is thus unfairly pressurising the woman to accede to his request.

Now as true as that is in many circumstances (workplace etc.) it was not the case here. As it turns out Rebecca had ALL the power and used it as she wished.

People act irrationally in enclosed and pressured circumstances thanks to our nature, which is why Rebecca was right (in a perfect world wrong) to say not to hit on people in an elevator at 4am when there are only two of you there (or when there are only two of you on a subway train or in a dark alley etc.) mainly because it makes the majority of people feel uncomfortable - irrational as it may be. Greta, I am more than happy to take this back and profusely apologise if you provide some statistics on sexual assaults in perceived risky places (i.e. NOT the home) that show their prevalence to be an actual concern.

But please note I have said people because this is NOT a gender specific problem, sure it is much more prevalent in straight m-f situations but it applies to gay m-m and f-f situations too and also, less commonly, straight f-m.

So don't do it because:
1) it is likely to make the other person stressed (however irrational that may be it's still a natural reaction);
2) it almost never works;
3) it's currently impolite.
But not because it is sexist, it simply isn't - the idea that another human is a sexual being is not sexist as I hope I have at least hinted at by including gay situations as well as straight ones.

So what could he have done? Elevator guy could talked to her while waiting for the lift, saying he'd get the next one so as to not crowd her. He could have waited until he was getting out (or Rebecca was) so as to remove the confinement aspect and asked if she'd like to come to room 123 later to discuss it further, thus not putting any immediate pressure on an answer and leaving the proverbial door open. Does anyone think these options would have been better? Or acceptable, in light of the talk Rebecca gave earlier?


Thank you for this wonderful, beautiful post. I am a man who agrees completely with your position, I just don't like it when folks like Rebecca and PZ call me a hate-filled anti-woman misogynist.

I saw you speak live in Edmonton and thought you were fantastic. Always level-headed and eloquent.


Arguing men should fight sexism in order to get laid? Fuck. What pseudo-egalitarian bullshit is THAT?

Part of the reason society is sexist against women is that it is expected that women perform for men, and expected that women service men sexually.

Just like it's bullshit to say "you're free to be [religion x]" under a theocracy of [religion x], it is utter CRAP to insist that men can fight sexism by trying to get laid, in a society that already caters to the assumption that men deserve to get laid!

Engaging the status quo doesn't deconstruct the status quo.

What a failure of a post. Again.


I getting tired of the 'She asked for a boycott' lie.

Rebecca never called for an outright boycott of Dawkins. Sigh.

This is what she said:"So many of you voiced what I had already been thinking: that this person who I always admired for his intelligence and compassion does not care about my experiences as an atheist woman and therefore will no longer be rewarded with my money, my praise, or my attention. I will no longer recommend his books to others, buy them as presents, or buy them for my own library. I will not attend his lectures or recommend that others do the same. There are so many great scientists and thinkers out there that I don’t think my reading list will suffer."

If that sounds like a cry for an outright boycott of Dawkins, you need to take a reading comprehension test. Do you see the word 'boycott' anywhere???

I don't know how people get form "I personally won't be recommending his books to my friends." to "Let's boycott the Bastard!"

You aren't, as Greta suggested, listening to her, but somehow misreading her.

And after what Dawkins said to her, I don't blame her position on not recommending his books to her friends.


Armored Scrum Object


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

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


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



Correct. The right word for what she wants is blacklist.

Ace Of Sevens

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


You are right. This has very little indeed to do with getting laid. Indeed, the assumption that this was mainly to do with getting laid explains why this became such a big issue, so quickly.

OF COURSE it never had anything to do with getting laid.

Rebecca complained that she was being "sexualised" by being asked, by a man exhibiting signs of nervousness, if she'd like to continue the conversation over coffee. This may well have been a come-on. But why assume that it was? Why this desire to sexualise MEN in this way, as though the ONLY POSSIBLE REASON any man might want to speak to a woman in an elevator was out of a desire to get laid. This is insulting.

Another red-herring has been "privilege" - as in the criticsm of Dawkins that his comment (which was not a good or even a reasonable comment, by any means) was evidence of his "privilege" - i.e., his being white and male. Dawkins is of course highly privileged, because he is rich and famous; but it is not out of "male privilege" that he spoke, but rather out of generational misunderstanding. He was young in the Sixties - a time when there was more casual sexism (boo!) but also - more importantly - less fear. A generation of women has been brought up in a state of near-constant fear about the possibility of sexual assault.

This has infantilised them. It has left many unable to escape mentally the "stranger danger" paranoia of childhood. Of course men should act with greater sensitivity. But just to say, "women are sensitive, so watch out - and, by the way, follow these rules and you might get laid" misses the point. It's not about getting laid. It's about the tragedy of women being locked into a fear mentality. And also into a sex mentality, in which they find it impossible to imagine that any man might want to talk to them without wanting to get into their knickers.



You are quite right. It beggars belief to here one person carping about being sexualized followed by tarring of all men as potential rapists

If it soothes RW's hurt feelings, you may inform her that I couldn't bring myself to sexualize her, no matter what the incentive.


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

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

First of all, she should open a dictionary and check out what the word 'brutalized' means. Second of all, this is a very shady lie. It is true that there are many feminists throughout the third world who are having the most appalling time of it. Guess what? Richard Dawkins has been their best ally. On the other hand, the spoiled pampered little princesses of the first world feminists - Miss Watson would be an example - have been worse than worthless.

They should just stay at home and at least not waste everyone's time.


I agree about alot of what you have said about this whole saga. But what I cannot agree with you on is how this whole thing blew up, and resulted in the mess that followed.

In this(and other)articles partly about at how this issue became so much of a shitstorm. I find it unbelievable and somewhat disheartening that so many people are incapable or even unwilling to place any blame at Rebecca or Skephik.

The entire flaming shitstorm that has engulfed the last couple of weeks was not created by peoples reaction to Rebecca's video or the incident described within it.

To say this getting blown up had nothing to do with how Rebecca handled the situation with Stef McGraw. Or the endless stream of interpretation and rhetoric about the incident.

Everyone divided up and felt the need to take sides and what ensued was an over emotional clique-ish highschool was embarassing.

Nobody ever took a step back and looked with any objectivity what was said in the first place, and what lesson should of been learnt from it.

Ace Of Sevens

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

Greta Christina

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

Gareth Fouche

There is a point that is getting lost here Greta, which is why people are saying Rebecca 'started' things. Rebecca didn't JUST claim that this was an example of a context where women are uncomfortable. She specifically held it up as an example of misogyny. So did PZ. I'm sorry, I completely disagree. Even if the guy should have chosen the location better, there is something deeply wrong with saying that a sexual advance equates to the hatred of women or treating them as inferior beings.

It's an adult male coming onto an adult female after drinking till 4 in the morning morning. He got turned down, he left. Alcohol doesn't excuse bad behavior, but it can make people more forward. Simply coming onto a woman, even in a brazen manner, while it may be unwelcome, isn't sexism in and of itself.

It was forward, a bit inappropriate. And everyone screams that he should have known better than to approach her in the hotel elevator. Sure, he should have. I've done things I didn't think through too clearly after drinking to 3am too. It's regrettable, but there is a genuine chance he simply didn't think it though. Bars/clubs ARE the most socially acceptable place to approach women.

Sure, he got on the elevator as she left the bar, not actually in the bar itself, but generally these things are close together in hotels, he may have just been waiting for her to finish talking with other people so he could introduce himself, seen a chance and jumped for it. Maybe not the best decision but again : 4am drinking in a bar. Let's take a reality check here people. Let's not immediately paint the guy a creep and potential rapist.

Dawkins' dismissal of women's fears in elevator is a problem, that fear is based in reality and shouldn't be dismissed. But Rebecca needs to be called out too. I'm sure there is legitimate sexism in the community, but holding that up as an example of it is rather annoying, as a male. Being politely hit on, late at night in a bar, is an example of how lots of us are sexist?

And you cannot speak up without being painted as a total misogynist who is completely unfeeling toward all the women who've ever suffered sexual abuse. It's sexism if women say so, and a man who disagrees only does so because he's sexist himself. Our points are dismissed under a landslide of rants about how men don't understand the fear women live with of sexual abuse, and do we understand the rape statistics are high?

It's apparently NOT sexist to make broad claims that anyone who disagrees is doing so because of their gender (male). Only women who say Rebecca is exaggerating to call that encounter 'misogyny' are taken seriously.

And that the line about how men should pay attention because you're trying to help us get sex is simply insulting, btw. Don't ask for respect without giving it in turn, please. Assume we are capable of caring about the issue without the motivation of whether we'll get more sex out of it, please.

Richard L

There is so much I don't understand about sexism so I don't know where to begin...

I think asking someone for coffee and then accepting the "no, thank you" is perfectly fine behavior, no matter the circumstances. Not because it increases the chances of getting laid, not because it is a good way to actually get to drink coffee with someone, not because there isn't situations in which you probably shouldn't ask because it might be taken the wrong way, but because real, non-american, coffee taste good and asking someone about it doesn't hurt or in anyway impair the other persons right or safety. If it is creepy or not, that's another question. Oh, and you might switch coffee with sex, if you think it is necessary - just don't take this the wrong way...

Rhetorically: Now, does this mean I am privileged? Most certainly! I am privileged to think that the chance of rape in an elevator for a woman is probably on pair with the chance of being beaten up by a man. I am privileged to this thinking because I know that about 2/3 of the victims of assaults are men*, and that the number of rapes are pretty much the same as that 1/3 of women being assaulted. Though most rapes occur in private settings, where the perpetrator know the victim quite well* --- I am not privileged to the friendship status of assault victims, so in the spirit of assuming things, I'll say it evens out the odds between the genders. So the chance of being harmed by a stranger in an elevator seems, at this first glance, to be about the same for women and men. To me, this rings of the old saying: "crime is down, but the fear of crime is up". Why should women fear being alone with a man in an elevator more than men? What makes this a sexist issue and not just** a matter of better crime control?

Assuming there is a good answer to the questions above, where do we draw the line? Am I a danger to an alone woman by (0) being near her, (1) entering an enclosed space with her, (2) talking to her in said enclosed space or (3) by in any way indicating a possible sexual interest in her? Why is this dangerous?

Dear person reading this, could you please enlighten me on what you mean by privilege? My quasi-sarcastic take on the work in my second paragraph probably won't get close to what you mean. I do wish to educate myself on this issue, regardless of what you might think. Oh, and if you agree with me, please refrain from saying so. There must be something I am missing and you won't help by agreeing with me.

*Swedish statistics, ask me for it and I'll try to provide a translated link. You're probably better of Googling statistics in your own country though, as we probably have quite a low number of un-investigated cases of rapes compared to the average.
**I love and hate how this word makes such a serious issue seem trivial.

Ace Of Sevens

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

Steve Vowles

Assume that both people involved were as they appear to be from what we know and trying to assess the situation from both POV we seem to have this:
EG Best case - I get laid.
Worst Case -She turns me down and I go to my room unharmed.

RW Best Case - I turn him down and I go to my room unharmed.
Worst Case - I get raped.
Notice that EG’s Worst Case is the same as RW’s Best Case and that both assessments are reasonable.
The asymmetry is the privilege that seems to escape so many.

Am just being too simple minded (yet)again?



Being at the hotel bar after these things is par for the course. PZ himself was there and left only an hour before this all happened.

When I first watched Rebecca's video it came over to me as a non-event. Perhaps I know Rebecca's style to well. She basically said 'Wanna here something ironic, after all day of saying we don't have enough women at these conventions because they are tired of getting hit on, I get hit on."

Then Stef McGraw says some nasty things about Rebecca, like you just said, not once did Rebecca call the man a misogynist. Stef did that.

It exploded when PZ brought up Rebecca calling Stef out to the blogsphere's attention.

Go back and read what Rebecca has written, and what PZ has posted. Neither one of them called him sexist or misogynistic.

Besides, like Greta says, let's not focus on the elevator incident. It is irrelevant at this point.

The point is people are painting PZ, Phil Plait, Josh Rosenau,Jen, and Rebecca (and others) as calling all men rapist when that is NOT what they have done. Their real message has been buried by the ton of stupid (on both sides) comments.

BTW, Greta, thank you for banning Heliotropic if only for reading incomprehension skills. Blacklisted indeed... how clueless.


And forgive me for all the typos, it is too dang early in the morning.


@Steve Vowels, I think that's one the best, clearest expositions of privilege I've ever seen.

Timothy (TRiG)

Bah, MyOpenId is down, so I can't sign in.

Leum, I've wondered for a while about the the question "Why are so many in the community consistently FAIL on feminism while being WIN on LGBT stuff?" And I've thought about it mainly because of reading Greta Christina, who's addressed both points but never, as far as I've seen, addressed the difference. Like you, I'd love to see a discussion of it.

You say you saw the question asked somewhere. Could it have been by me, at Shakesville?


Twenty Trees

***It's a long post and you can just skip to the last paragraph and not miss much if you don't want to read it all***

For context, I'm white, male and heterosexual and I am one of those who "just don't get it", but this is why I think I don't get it and why this debate is impossible.

The blame is put on us. You may not realise it, but there are somethings that offend us as well, and as soon as you say one of these things, we won't hear another word you say. Privilege is a good start. When I feel I must sit at the opposite end of a train carriage to a woman because I'm "Schrodinger's rapist," or dare not read a funny message on a woman's T-shirt and when I know there are some jobs I could apply for but will be given to people who are equally or even less qualified for, because I'm the wrong race, gender or sexuality doesn't make me feel very privileged. All we hear when you tell us we are privileged is "you haven't given up enough, yet".

Also, a soon as someone says "misogyny" to us, the conversation is OVER. It's like accusing someone of antisemitism, it is sometimes a valid and accurate description but there's a difference between suggesting that Israel's treatment of the Palestinians is too harsh and claiming that Jews deserved the holocaust, and there's a difference between suggesting that women should be more thick skinned to creeps and slicing up vaginas and no meaningful conversation can be had after that card is played frivolously, it's just over. And why would I waste my effort talking to someone who presumes I hate my Mum?

"Men just don't get it..." That sounds to us like an incredible scale of arrogance and hypocrisy. I've never met a woman who "gets" Rocky, but that movie is the best exploration of masculine emotion (if everyone's forgotten, Rocky was afraid of fighting Apollo). We don't understand what it's like to be a woman, but guess what, women don't understand what it's like to be a man. I constantly feel like Wittgenstein's Lion. Here's an experiment, tell a man why you think Rocky is such a compelling movie to men, and see how right you are. Who knows, maybe this tension creates a Hofstadter Strange Loop, that keeps the human race vital.

But the whole furor is utterly besides the point. Rebecca Watson is not the first to suggest I not be such a creep to woman and I've never been offended like I was when Rebecca did it. So what was different? I didn't realise it at first, but it's the verb "sexualise" which creeps me out. Which as far as I can tell is the crime of either finding a woman sexually attractive or admitting to it. I cringed when I read Tim Ridge's painfully contrite letter, that he had been made to feel guilty about complementing the author's hair, that's just how bizarre this nonsense is, but I cringed because I know exactly how ashamed he feels. What am I supposed to do? I can't help it, heterosexuals are also "born this way" and I won't apologise for my mind, my heart or my balls.

So I offer the heartfelt advice to feminists who wish for a productive discussion with men, we suspect that feminism is as much about the emasculation of men as it is about the empowerment of women. I can wholeheartedly support the latter, but if we sense that it is masculinity that you want compromised, then guess what happens...all of this bullshit.

Michael Dobson

Just wanted to add that one more male, at least, agrees with you and sees it the same way. I think your points were well stated, positive, and very rational.

I don't feel offended that a woman under physically vulnerable circumstances will be suspicious of me; I think it's common sense.

The military defines "threat" not by someone's intent to do you harm, but rather by their potential to do so. It's not personal; it's strictly business.

If you can't read my mind, you can't be sure of my intent. If you're not sure of my intent, then I become a potential rapist whenever I'm in a position where I *could* commit rape. The probability may be low, but you can't safely conclude it's zero.

My own *aha* on the subject also happened in an elevator, though I wasn't asking a woman out. I was simply going back to my room late in the evening. I followed a woman onto the elevator, and she pushed the button first. It was, coincidentally, for my floor. She got off first. There were two ways to go; she turned right. My room was also to the right.

At some point, I became aware that the woman was quite nervous, looking back at me and walking a little faster. Suddenly, I got it: from her perspective, I was a potential rapist. My behavior might be innocent and coincidental, but it could also be stalking. I was a threat.

As soon as I figured this out, I stopped in the hall and ostentatiously searched for my keycard so that she'd have time to increase her lead. She reached her door and quickly let herself in.

Again, I'm not offended in the slightest that she regarded me as a potential rapist. I don't think she *believed* I intended to rape her; in fact, she probably thought it was highly unlikely. But she had ample reason to feel threat, and ample reason to be relieved once she was safely in her room with the door locked.

The circumstances arise more often than you'd think. I was chatting with a woman on an airport bus (she had Shelties), but when we both got off at the same stop and there were no one else in view in a deserted parking lot, I could sense the immediate change in attitude. I walked in the opposite direction from her even though that wasn't the way to my car so she could get enough of a head start to feel safe.

When we were on the bus with plenty of people around us, I was no threat — regardless of intent, I had no power to do her harm. Off the bus and alone, I was a threat — even though I had no ill intent, I did have the power to do her harm.

Another time, I visited a woman I'd known in college whom I hadn't seen in 20 years. She was alone in her house. After about 10 minutes, she suggested we walk down to the local coffee shop. As soon as we were on the street, she became much more friendly.

She knew me; we were friends. On the other hand, it had been 20 years, and I might have changed. In her house, I was suddenly a potential rapist: a threat. I had the potential to do her harm.

Leaving her house, I ceased to be a threat because I no longer had the potential. Over public coffee, I was utterly safe, and we caught up on old times. Later, when her partner was home, I went back to her house. Her attitude was remarkably different.

Obviously, this doesn't apply exclusively to women. While rape is clearly a greater threat to women, being mugged or robbed isn't gender specific.

If I'm alone on a city street late at night and see a bunch of guys walking together, I feel threatened. They might be honor students on their way home from a Mensa meeting, but they could also be hoodlums. They are a threat because they have the potential.

I'm sure I've been inadvertently guilty many times of making women feel at risk or otherwise uncomfortable because of my earlier lack of awareness. My *intent* has never been to do a woman harm, but women aren't telepathic any more than men are.

I find it hard to understand why so many of my fellow men are up in arms about this. I, for one, see no reason to take offense because a woman can't read my mind.

Gareth Fouche

Ron -

I watched the video, I read the post. Rebecca was talking about how female skeptics have to deal with misogyny and gave that incident as an example of men not getting that they are being sexist.

And PZ's blog post was about men being sexist, using that as one of the examples. It was direct, unambiguous. Stef was not the main issue.

The elevator thing isn't irrelevant. It's all right to call Dawkins out but not say Rebecca was wrong in her initial claim?


That asymmetry always exists though. I approach a woman in a crowded bar, worst case scenario she doesn't notice me slipping something into her drink.

It totally sucks, and men should definitely should be aware of and sympathetic to it. But does it make us automatically sexist to approach a woman in any situation of asymmetry? Then we can never approach. Not anywhere. Cause it's always asymmetric.


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

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