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Orlando

I'm boycotting elevators (we call them lifts). Stairs provide exercise, and minimize being trapped in a box with people who may be unpleasant.

One other point; much of the discussion is equating men wanting to "get laid" with the threat of rape. Rape is usually not about obtaining sexual satisfaction, but more about power.

Our social structure has the sex act as women having a precious gift that men must ask for.

So from the start sex is a complex social dance, based on women withholding something men desire, which engenders frustration. And layered on top of that is that women are taught that sex is dirty. Curious, if you look at it objectively.

Ace Of Sevens

To expand on what I said: RW apparently thought that EG or some other men who might behave as he did wouldn't behave like that would stop if someone encouraged them to think about their options or made them realize the consequences of said actions. If she thought EG's actions were sociopathic, there'd be no point is saying "don't do that," because no one would do that would care, so she implicitly agrees with me on this point.

Linus V

Slow day at work, so I slogged through this entire thing. I have to say, I am impressed with the level of comments here vs the rest of the internet. There are the obvious trolls but most of them didn't do too much damage. People seemed smart enough to ignore them.

I learned a lot over the course of this thread, especially about the male privilege. Being male, I have it, and it does make you rather blind towards it. I never realized that before.


Thanks to all who contributed, and to Greta for writing another great article!

Greta Christina

John Rambo has been banned from commenting on this blog, due to the extremely offensive nature if his comments, as well as the fact that they seemed to be commercial spam.

And please note: There is more than one frequent commenter in this thread who I have seriously considered banning, due to their repeated use of a sarcastic and disrespectful tone towards other commenters. I have not yet banned them, as their comments in my opinion did not quite cross the line into personal insults. But I will remind you all once again: I expect commenters in my blog to treat one another with courtesy and respect, and to focus their criticisms on ideas and behavior rather than sarcasm and insults aimed at people. This policy will be enforced regardless of whether I agree with the opinions you express or not. Please remember that this is my blog, in which you are all guests, and please respect my right to set the rules of conduct here. Thank you.

JustAnotherGuy

@SallyStrange: 1. The comments of "nerdy atheist guys" don't make what is patronizing not so. But on second thought I will admit to not having read closely enough: in fact Greta's comment about "getting laid" was directed only to "the men who have been resisting and pushing back against the feminists on this issue" and not to men in general. 2. A straw person. I'm not unwilling to be educated, but I can and will demand some proof of the qualifications of the one wishing to educate. That is something all skeptics do; otherwise we'd be learning biology from Creationists and medicine from woo-meisters. 3. I'm glad you acknowledge there is a real difficulty and challenge in "de-programming" oneself from sexist memes we have all been exposed to since childhood.

@RobertB: a) This is about "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", not about where the actual sexism comes in. And as stated the proposal is a false dichotomy. b) Agreed, but "privilege" isn't always what it's cracked up to be; systemic privilege sometimes acts to the detriment of those in the privileged group.

@Beaker: Yes, the tone argument. You have free speech but do not have a right to demand anyone listen to you, and thus you want to maximize your chances. Of course there is always an issue when you are telling people things they don't want to hear. That doesn't mean the charge of shrill, rude, patronizing, or condescending is always wrong, even though sometimes it is just a reaction from telling people things they don't want to hear. Yes IN THEORY people should be able to distinguish the content from the tone, but that does not change the facts that IN PRACTICE they do not always do so, and that one should treat one's listeners with a modicum of respect. I don't think "clueless doodz, agree with what feminists are saying if you want to get laid" qualifies.

Vincent Lyon

@Lyra
I think you make some excellent points. I agree the subjective fear absolutely should not be dismissed.
In fact I think it's one of the underlying points. I just also believe that the world would be a better place if we looked at issues factually. If you want to cure a problem (rape and it's societal cost) you have to deal with its causes and effects and invest energy into where it actually happens, not raise false scares so that people live in a state of fear.

To my mind it is similar to the TSA. We spend billions of dollars every year not to actually make people safer, but to make people feel safer. We could spend far less if we focused on far more effective methods, but people are scared so we waste money instead of dealing with the underlying issue. And now we're entrenched in fear. Some agency just issued a notice yesterday that hotels could be havens for bomb-makers and are very dangerous - while in the same report it said there was no history of such uses of hotels and no evidence that anyone is currently using or intending to use a hotel for that. But now people are scared of hotels.

Alfarr Hotei
    One other point; much of the discussion is equating men wanting to "get laid" with the threat of rape. Rape is usually not about obtaining sexual satisfaction, but more about power.

Not so sure about equating it. But I would assume it's usually a combination. Still, I agree that attributing a single motive to all rapists is a bit stupid.

    Our social structure has the sex act as women having a precious gift that men must ask for.

It certainly seems to be what many ads, movies, etc. are trying to tell me. I am bombarded by it. And it annoys me.

Truly.

But that's probably a bit off-topic.

JDoubek

Well darn. I came here because I had heard about (and thought I actually saw with my own eyes somewhere) some salient level-headed comments by Greta Christina on this Elevatorgate topic. I was going to send some folks here, allegedly skeptical folks who were awash in their own histrionics (from both sides) about this.

But I'm disappointed in this article. A clever device ("helping you get laid") followed by unfair and inaccurate assumption after assumption about "men". Granted, all prefaced about how fair the author actually is. (The effective way to be unfair is to first declare your fairness. And if you find yourself often needing to declare your fairness... shouldn't that tell you something?)

I found nothing offensive about Rebecca Watson's initial video blog. She was creeped out. OK. Was she fair? No. So what? She's human. Were her feelings valid? Sure, as valid as the next person's feelings. Had it been a different person in the elevator or if she was in a different frame of mind it might have led to a smashing great time.

I found nothing offensive about Richard Dawkin's comment. Sarcastic, sure. Sensitive - not very. But there is a valid point there.

I found nothing offensive in the actions of the guy who propositioned Ms. Watson. Well-timed? No. Effective? No. Sexist/Rapist? No.

In the wake of all this non-offense, the ensuing blogocalypse and commentary-wars is more fitting of Nancy Grace and Rush Limbaugh.

So let's see - men who speak out and counter the steady stream of bullshit are "trying to shut women up". But women who speak out and lay generalized accusations at men are ... heroes?

I find my own mind taking in all the hyperbole, all the subtle underhanded insults, all the over-the-top insults, all the unfair characterizations of Watson and Dawkins and "the guy", all the trumped-up charges. And as the human mind likes to do, my mind tries to categorize and build generalizations around what it sees. But I have to practice self-discipline. Categorization and generalization was a helpful adaptation and still is for some things. But not for this.

Or perhaps the reasonable conclusion here is a universal generalization: we're all stupid together, just with different flavors of stupidity.

One personally positive result of all this. I have a better perspective on how a black man must feel when white people assume he is a criminal. I grew up in the American South and still live there. This kind of generalization is common. Some white people avoid black neighborhoods because they think they'll be attacked. Some white people suddenly reach over and lock the car doors if they pull up to a corner where a black man is standing. And watch out if a group of black men sit near you at the pub... watch your purses and smartphones! Rationally, I knew this was awful, but I didn't have much gut understanding of how offensive these attitudes are to a black man. But now that I'm similarly thrown in with "potential rapists" and "persons you should fear being on an elevator with", I have more sympathy toward what they must feel.

kagerato

@JDoubek :

LOL. I have to wonder whether you realize that only a hundred before you have pulled the same "a pox on all your houses" nonsense, plus the erroneous comparison to a group where the power dynamic runs in absolutely the opposite direction. At this point it's simply comical.

Beaker

@JDoubek
Could you explain to me how a woman might differentiate you or me from a rapist if she hasn't met you or me before? So if we do something creepy, how is she to now we do that without any bad intent?

I have asked this question repeatedly now, but still haven't gotten an answer to that question from anyone. Perhaps you can?

Robert B

@JustAnotherGuy:

a) I suppose there could be lots of motivations to refuse to listen to such guidance. Maybe Greta was imprecise to couch her thesis in the language of motivation, because it's in the nature of privilege that the privileged don't always know they have it. Sometimes people maintain their own privilege deliberately, and sometimes people maintain their own privilege as an unexamined side-effect of their own habits.

I would say rather, "men who steadfastly and angrily refuse to listen to women giving guidance about when and where their advances are likely to be welcomed are not increasing their chances of getting laid, they are perpetuating their own privilege." Here I cast the point pragmatically, as an issue of practical effect rather than intention. The actual outcome is bad, and if that's not what one was intending, one has made a practical (though not a moral) mistake, and should correct one's behavior to get the results one wants.

b) I definitely agree that privilege has negative effects on the more privileged group as well as the less privileged. But by definition, given that the privilege exists, one is better off on the privileged side than not. I think the inherent asymmetry of the situation is very important to keep in mind.

Zac

JDoubek: I agree with you.

Beaker: Could you explain to me how a woman might differentiate you or me from a rapist if she hasn't met you or me before? So if we do something creepy, how is she to now we do that without any bad intent?

It is a fair question, but a difficult one. The answer is that she cannot, any more than I can differentiate somebody I have not met from a serial killer. I don't really see why rape is a special case in this example.

Your second question is similar to the first - she cannot know fully that any action is performed without ill intent. There is a bit of an issue with the idea of 'creepy', as it is a subjective term. So I may have no idea that I am perceived as 'creepy', and may have the best intentions. Furthermore, if I do one thing it may be seen as 'creepy' by half of all women, while the other half don't mind, and if I do another I may 'creep out' the other half instead.

This is an example that just came to mind, although I'm sure there are better ones. Suppose you're in an elevator late at night and a girl attending the same conference as you walks in on her own. You say nothing. That is creepy, perhaps. After all, you might at least have acknowledged her presence, and could have just said "hello". So you say hello. "Why is this creepy man talking to me in the lift?" wonders girl in Possible World 2.

I'd hate to ever make anyone think I'm 'creepy', but I'm sure that I must have inadvertently done it at some point, perhaps even many times.

kagerato: I understand what you mean when you speak of power dynamic (and its general importance), and perhaps I'm being stupid, but could you tell me how it is relevant to the analogy?

JDoubek

@kagerato - I wish I could say that what is passing here for thoughtful conversation was "comical" but for the most part, it's only sad. Mocking me helps reinforce your self-talk, I'm sure. (One moment while I check if I'm on a religious blog or not....).

Well, a more serious answer - you misunderstand the analogy. I'm not refering to the power dynamic of white privilege. I'm refering to the generalization of black people as dangerous. Maybe you didn't grow up in the deep South during the 60's and 70's so it's understandable my analogy doesn't harmonize with you.

@Beaker - where to even begin. Besides the point that your question has nothing to do with the original event, your bias is built into your question and that is why you will
never get an answer that satisfies yourself (which appears to be exactly what you're aiming for).

By your argument, how do I distinguish a black person from an assailant or not if I haven't met them before? I was indoctrinated as a kid that black people are potential attackers. I have childhood experiences that are not favorable toward black people. I have tons of statistics! (Don't we love statistics!?) Maybe I should reach over and lock the car doors real quick if I drive through a black neighborhood. Maybe I should tell my daughters to be extra careful around black people. Should I go around asking myself the question that you want me to answer in regards to this class of people? You know... lots of black people commit crimes.... It's all bigotry of course and sadly parallel to the "thinking" that some persons contribute to this discussion.

Yes, there are rapists and all manner of bad people. And some people have had very bad experiences that predispose them to believe their generalizations. I understand that. I fight it in myself. I just don't think a community built around skepticism should tolerate nonsense. Not even highly-charged emotional knee-jerk nonsense.

Beaker

@Zac and JDoubek
Sure, that was what I was aiming at. I will tell you why I do not agree with both your examples.

Girl in the elevator: I agree that we shouldn't overanalyze this and I do not think that men should miss an elevator just because a woman is in there alone. I even do not think you shouldn't talk to another woman in an elevator, if you have a reason to (for example by telling Rebecca Watson you really liked her talk, or perhaps did not like it). But it seems to me it would be reasonable to assume that inviting her to your room crosses a line that increases a situation that might be uncomfortable but normal, to one that would easily be perceived as just uncomfortable.

Similarly, I don't share your (previous?) prejudice to black people or people of other ethnicities for that matter. However, I can get uncomfortable around all strange men who act in a certain way that might start to indicate threat. If some men who I do not kow just stand together talking (a Schrodinger's brown shirts if you will), I am not uncomfortable. Even if I were, I would not expect them to disband because I am in the neighborhood. However, if they start shouting at me, I do get uncomfortable and I would hope they would not do that.

Similarly, I can imagine that being alone in an elevator with a man may make a woman slightly uncomfortable, but she will in fact not think much about it because this is something that is expected to happen. At a conference, that someone starts to talk with her is also something that might happen. Inviting her to your private place, however, is at the very best awkward and raises the threat level, similarly to the guys in the street yelling at me raises the threat level.

JDoubek

@Beaker - fair enough. I didn't expect us to agree. :)

Yes, the prejudice was previous. By the time I was 10, I realized that ugly behavior was not a matter of color or race (or gender for that matter). After that, I grew up self-aware of the indoctrination I was subjected to and aware of the pervasive racial attitudes around me. Those positive life lessons, I hope, help steer me to this day.

Eric Pepke

I was referred to this by a post on the rationalskepticism.com forum.

There is a problem with your initial assertion. I'll focus on this.

Getting laid is very important to me. I was once such that I couldn't get laid to save my life. (Quite literally; following a two-year dry period after a divorce, I was in a suicidal depression.) Since then I have figured out how to get laid, and I can get laid as much as I want to. It's a lot better.

One of the first lessons I had to learn was not to listen to women who told me how to get laid. There is one exception to this: lesbians. Lesbians know all about it, and if a man has the good fortune to befriend a lesbian, all sorts of great information will come to light. (Bisexual women don't work.)

The reason for this is simple: women don't know how to seduce women, unless they are in the position of having to do it.

It's sort of like Roger Ebert. I think he's a fantastic movie critic, but he doesn't know how to make a movie to save his life. If you've seen any of the movies he has been involved with, you see my point.

Women know all about how to respond to a seduction from a man (whether the answer is Yes or No), but they do not know squat about how to make it happen.

Alfarr Hotei
    There is one exception to this: lesbians.
I feel I should just point out to you that Greta is, in fact, bisexual. Which I am pretty sure also counts as lesbian. There you go. Someone you should listen to :)
Gibbo

The principal players in this certainly did not do or say much that warranted the following storm.

The way Rebecca was approached was creepy and out of place, and feeling uncomfortable about that was fine.

What made me uncomfortable was that out of the thousands of comments on the various blogs, no one seemed to consider that maybe Elevator Guy was just a shy, introverted fellow whose social skills let him down at that particular time and place. If this is in fact the case, the poor guy must be feeling completely gutted by now.

The only saving grace is that I have never seen him named.

Robert B

@ Gibbo:

I've seen plenty of people on this thread consider that EG might have been misguided or awkward rather than malicious. But the problem is, many, perhaps most of the thousands of comments aren't reacting directly to EG. They're reacting to the reaction, and then reacting to the reaction to the reaction. To use a military metaphor, this is a secondary explosion.

Nothing EG did actually warrants this much coverage, and if I was in his shoes I would be enormously embarrassed. But what we're really talking about here is each other - we're discussing the different values about gender relations in the atheist and skeptical community, basically. That's a big topic, which is why the debate seems so much bigger than the instigating event deserves.

Vincent Lyon

@Beaker,
I don't know that you're not a rapist, or that you might not become one in any particular set of circumstances.
Should every woman live in abject terror of you always?


@Alfarr,
How hard is it to read the very next words Eric said after your quote? (bisexual women don't work)

Scott Davis

"I am boggled by the number of people who are blaming Rebecca Watson for "creating" Elevatorgate. You want to know who "created" Elevatorgate? People trying to shut Watson up. People insisting, not only that she had no right to be upset over being propositioned by a strange man alone in an elevator at four in the morning... but that she shouldn't have said anything about it in public."

Thank you! That's what I've been saying from the beginning! Except apparently not as clearly. I'm amazed at how defensive and upset people (mostly guys) have been from Ms. Watson's short and totally reasonable comment in her video blog. She never said all guys were rapists, or even that "Elevator guy" was a rapist... just that the situation made her uncomfortable : a completely natural reaction, given the location and circumstances. Why shouldn't she have the right to mention the incident?

The "How sexist she is to feel uncomfortable!" and the "Since she wasn't assaulted, she should just shut the f--- up!" responses being thrown around are both bizarre and ridiculous.

Ace Of Sevens

Actually, I'd blame Jen McGraw for starting this. She mischaracterized what RW said and most of the bad reactions seemed to start with people taking Jen's characterization at face value rather than going to the source.

Thorny

@ Ace of Sevens:

1) It's Stef McGraw, not Jen.

2) You could include a link like
http://www.unifreethought.com/2011/06/fursdays-wif-stef-33.html , yes?

3) Seriously? Stef deserved to be called an example of "anti-woman" behaviour for voicing her concerns about misuse of language?

To honour the request of our gracious host:

a) Yes, sure. So what? This is perfectly normal behaviour when one has moral convictions and is not obsessed about getting laid.

b) I don't think this is specific to the incident at all. Yes, respond to the argument and respond by an argument. Always.

c) I'd rather have this argument now, yes. However, I do not think that we are having an argument, what is happening is a shouting match and very few people will actually learn anything. Every little bit helps though, so overall, it's still better than not talking about the issue.

Ace Of Sevens

@Thorny, yes, typo. This system doesn't let you edit. I didn't say she deserved to be called anti-woman. In fact, i clearly said the opposite in a earlier posts. What I did say was she started the shitstorm by projecting views onto RW that RW never actually expressed.

Alfarr Hotei
    How hard is it to read the very next words Eric said after your quote? (bisexual women don't work)

Apparently, some parentheses slip through the cracks that late in the evening. Sorry about that.
Though I do have to wonder about the reasoning for that. If anything, I would think that bisexuality gives one a more nuanced view on the subject.

But the word "seduction" also grates in my ears. Never liked it for various reasons. It seems to imply a kind of deception.

But that may just be me.

Beaker

@Vincent Lyon
"I don't know that you're not a rapist, or that you might not become one in any particular set of circumstances.
Should every woman live in abject terror of you always?"
No, and that is also not what was said.

What was said was that in certain situations women might become uncomfortable with men and that one reason for this is the possibility of rape. One of those situations is being in a place with a man she hasn't really spoken to before and that man asking her to a private place.

Similarly to me not being constantly afraid of groups of men, but if I am alone on a street and there is a group of men that I don't know talking and they start shouting at me, this makes me uncomfortable, even if they are perhaps just joking.

Jesus Fetus Fajita Fishsticks

Not all women agree...

http://jesusfetusfajitafishsticks.blogspot.com/2011/07/note-to-miss-andry.html

Beaker

@JFFF
"Not all women agree..."
Nobody ever said all women agree.

Beaker

Something strikes me here, and this ties in very much with the actual topic of the post above. I've basically seen two reactions. The first is mostly from men, which is "If we are not allowed to hit on women in elevators, we'll never be able to talk with them, flirt with them, or have sex." Which is a reaction that is inherently sexist, whichever way you put it.

The other is basically: "I agree with you, but if you would only take another tone, if you would not be so confrontational about it, then people would listen." I find that a bullshit reaction when it is applied to atheism and similarly here.

If you agree with the message, but disagree with the tone, fine. Be the NCIS of feminism and put out the message in a tone you think will be listened to. Personally I think the combination of militant and non-militant tones works in atheism and I don't see why it wouldn't work with feminism.

Realee

@brian t

I can't speak for all women but I don't feel that any of this reflects on all/most men or women. I don't think anyone is asking you not to speak or not drink ever. I get that it would really be exhausting to hear the countless ways you could cause offense and feel like it wasn't okay to be yourself or relax in a social setting. At a certain point I'd wonder why I was bothering. If I do something to cause offense (I know despite my best efforts I do) I try to hear what the other party has to say, if I disagree (sometimes I do) I try to acknowledge that regardless their emotion is valid (they are feeling what they're feeling... so I try to take the time to hear them out), try to learn what I can from the situation, mostly that at least some people will feel that way in those given circumstances. If you do this most of the time you can even recover later and move forward say in a party situation with a friend of a friend or whatever if you still want to. I can't remember ever staying angry or hurt by someone who actually heard me out after that kind of misunderstanding.

Generally, just meeting someone at 4am in an elevator and inviting them to your hotel room is going to be annoying/uncomfortable if not worse. (I wouldn't do it to a guy and I sure wouldn't want that from a man or a woman.) With a lot of women it will not be a successful way to ever continue a conversation or anything else. Someone saying as much deserves to be heard. The initial issue didn't upset me the response that she was overreacting to say anything did.

And of course "getting laid" isn't what would be needed to get most guy's attention. I'd guess that's more of a response to those who suggest that feminists don't want men to get laid ever. But honestly giving a little consideration to how my actions influence someone else isn't that hard. I really do hope you're able to be yourself and just be aware and willing to listen.

Illuminata

"As Greta said so well, I've been forced to the conclusion that for many of them, this isn't about getting dates or getting laid - it's about proving a point."

It's not even about proving a point, its about maintaining privilege.

That's why there are people attempting to equate a woman's discomfort with potentially threatening/dangerous situations with white racism in that badly constructed ATM scenario.

Its obvious to everyone not trying to defend the indefensible that its a racist, patently absurd analogy that casts the wrong parties in the wrong roles.

But, to the person desperately trying to maintain the delusion that there's nothing to see here, move along, it makes perfect sense: cast yourself as the REAL victim, so you can derail the conversation about things that argue with your delusion.

Also, Can someone point out to me where Greta and/or Rebecca said "I speak for all women and if you disagree with me, you're a rapist"? I can't find it.

CG

Is there another suggestive calendar coming out this year? Perhaps Rebecca could be half naked in an elevator. For me, she really is the Al Sharpton of the feminist movement. You go girl!

StevoR

Well said, Greta Christina and thankyou for saying it and expressing it so well.

I was astonished that such mild "common sense" comments form Rebecca could trigger such a huge avalanche of fractal wrongness from so many - incl. of all people, Richard Dawkins.

I've been one of the commenters on this in a few blogs - most notably the Bad Astronomy blog and Pharnygula and this has really made me think.

I knew there was sexism and some horrible stuff and attitudes out there but the tsunami of it in all too many of the comments from various people and trolls was a real shock.

For me, it boils down to a simple basic rule of human interactions :

Be considerate and respect other people, always think of how another person (women especially but not only) may see things in the context and act accordingly.

I always try to be polite, to be a good person. I'll admit I don't always succeed. I'm not great socially and have made my share of errors (or more than even) in my time. But that Rebecca Watson's comments could ever be considered so controversial and blow up into this firestorm would never have occurred to me beforehand.

I thought our society, our culture and various sub-cultures within it had come a long way. I've learnt we haven't come nearly as far as I'd thought previously and still have a terribly long way to go.

Comment Monster Chimichanga

Greta, you're one of my heroes. I'm with you on the guy in the elevator basically deserving a blast of keychain mace in the face. You lost me with the email from the poor p-whipped sap who felt guilty for complimenting your hair in public. In no possible way could you have felt threatened in that context, and I'll bet you didn't even catch a whiff of creepy, assuming you even remembered it.

You conflated genuinely threatening, at best cluelessly aggressive behavior, from the elevator guy, with a harmless compliment from a star-struck fan.

This is exactly why men like me just roll our eyes and tune out feminists. Sooner or later, no matter how reasonably it starts, it almost always ends up in PC crazy town.

You should have told that guy's wife to stop being such an A-R pain in the ass. No harm, no foul. HE MEANT NO HARM and YOU WERE IN NO POSSIBLE DANGER.

Instead of graciously helping an awkward fan out, you help his harridan wife pillory him in public.

This is exactly why guys like Dawkins will jump to conclusions and have reflexively tuned out all complaints from women that have a whiff of feminist-speak. After a a while, it's just bwaahh bwaahh bwaahh.

That guy should divorce that bitch. If he had real male friends, he would.

Martha Knox

This blowup has been rather eye-opening for me. At first I just rolled my eyes and thought "Great, another long, hot-headed Internet storm over something minor." And I haven't been offended really by anyone on any side in all this. Instead, I just became intrigued by why people on both sides feel so strongly, and why there are sides at all. It seems to me that the real meat of the conversation is peoples' emotions - both the feelings of fear/anger that women feel about the potential for sexual abuse (and that many men feel about women they love being potentially abused) and the feelings of frustration/anger that many men feel from being feared or under suspicion even when they haven't done anything and their intentions were good. I really don't see a lot of this person is right and this person is wrong in this discussion. I see a lot of people with strong emotions, most of whom are not listening or being listened to.

Martha Knox

But what is most eye-opening for me is that while I have experienced many uncomfortable incidents such as Watson's in the elevator (not even so much incidents where I felt I would be assaulted, but just incidents where I felt creeped out and objectified) I would never talk about them publicly as Watson did because I just take that sort of thing for granted, and indeed I would be afraid that people who say I'm just making a mountain out of molehill. For this reason I am quite glad Watson said something and that the shitstorm happened as a result. Indeed we do need to keep talking about these things, even though it isn't fun or easy.

Dillinger

Women need emancipation. Women need liberation from thousands of years of tradition’s chains. This is a declaration that stands on the clear recognition that for humanity as a whole to advance, half of humanity must be lifted from centuries of being condemned to being the property of men and pitilessly exploited, demeaned and degraded in a thousand ways. Women are not breeders. Women are not lesser beings. Women are not objects created for the sexual pleasure of men. Women are human beings capable of participating fully and equally in every realm of human endeavor. When women are held down, all of humanity is held back. Women must win liberation. That’s my outlook..some women may not agree with this; however that is the reality we all live in. The man in the Elevator made a bad choice in asking a woman for a date or maybe he didn’t maybe he was really just wanting to talk. But I tell you I’m a man and I would have been asking that to get her in my room because maybe there might be a chance I’d get some. But really I don’t work that way. I was a hustler, a prostitute for about 18 years in Hollywood. I know what it feels like to be creepily hit on like that. If that were me in that elevator, and I truly wanted just to talk more about that subject and it couldn’t wait, I would have made look like I was gay. But really at 4 in the morning I could have waited. There are some messed up people out there who just do not see this for what it truly is. A guy getting turned down by a person on a mission, of trying to open people’s eyes to the social and political relations between men and women. And that guy’s advance was inappropriate at that moment. Im getting nailed on FB for being on both sides, like saying both people Richard and Watson do important work for our world. Time to move on.

Dillinger

And I don't need help getting laid.

Tony Ryan - Coffee Loving Skeptic

Wow. You went on for far too long about an issue that doesn't require such lengthy discussion.

You were also, consciously or unconsciously, far more sexist than the "Elevator Guy" and most of the anti-Watson brigade. Many of the people against the ironically titled "skepchicks" are also very intelligent female feminists.

Anyway, for the shorter version, in a more rational prose, try this:
http://tonyryan.org.uk/?p=602

Dillinger

i don't need to be trolled by you. Just make a comment. If you have nothing intelligent to say then don’t say it. I am in support of Watson and you are not. I do not need to look at you crappy website either.

Tony Ryan - Coffee Loving Skeptic

I wasn't talking to you Dillinger, I was referring to the original blogpost.

ds

I'm happy to see that there are more nuanced positions on this than initially it seemed from some blogs like PZ's and Laden's.

When I first knew about it, from a "Dawkins knows what ladies should do to be safe from rape" and perhaps one or another cursorial readings, I was just about 100% on Watson's "side", and I thought Dawkins was just being somewhat idiotic.

But whereas this specific post was really stupid, and the "dear muslima" also seemed at first, to me seems that the second one wasn't a direct response to the video where Watson reported the elevator incident, but, I suppose, rather from a context where this incident was connected with much more serious problems, with actual misogyny and rape and all that. When it was more likely just a case of some men not having a good grasp no how to make women comfortable when they have some interest (whatever sort of non-rapist interest, even sexual, but not necessarily) on them. This has scantly anything to do with a supposedly western "rape culture" and female oppression or whatever. It's just lack of social skills. Perhaps on both sides.

One could even make the point that it has also to do with female privilege. Women don't need to be that cautious to make any sort of advance and not be judged as a potential aggressor. It's, as many have pointed, somewhat like white and asian privilege of not been as often thought as a potential mugger in comparison with blacks and latinos. At the same time, men are "supposed to" make the advances (and here we have a bit of "female disvantage" anyway, in the sense that they fear being thought as sluts by doing the same). And one could then connect it somehow with male whining of the sorts of Warren Farrell's "the myth of male power", saying that men are the ones who are really oppressed by women who just stay at home and are supported by them in their dangerous jobs for the most of the time.

But note that I'm not saying that this point is valid, the problem is that both are equally invalid. These innocent social scenarios barely touch with anything that is really serious, real oppression. Yeah, it may be troublesome, it can certainly annoying, but there's no connection with some huge societal problem of male oppression. One totally can feel creepy by some dude approaching in an elevator at 4 am, even if nothing really happened, and she totally has the right of making a video saying, "dudes, don't do that, it's creepy", given that she is careful enough not to expose the guy to humiliation or even danger of being thought as someone who "attempted rape". And I didn't saw that on the video, even thought, as some people have pointed, perhaps the "elevator guy" could eventually be identified and it can cause him some trouble.

The problem starts when such description of events is: a) interpreted as a symptom of an overarching problem with men and their rampant misogyny, and/or b) interpreted as an outright accusation of a rape attempt and that the accuser thinks all men are just about to rape women at any given moment in time, not doing just to keep them in a state of fear.

Both things happened to a great extent, everyone has blown it out of proportion, it seems. And then it ended out in everyone being either a mysoginist/rape-enabler or a feminazi. While I concede that there might have been some actual misogyny in this discussion, the whole boycott on Dawkins also has some disturbing similarities to book burnings.

Everybody should just chill, always assume the best intentions from the other side, and politely, without name-calling, try to make clear that the "not so good" intentions interpretation is in fact true if it really seems to be what is been put forth.

skepticscott

Sorry, but I'm still having trouble figuring out what this has to do with atheism in general. It's been discovered that some atheists have attitudes towards women that many women may consider inappropriate or downright offensive. Just like men in every other grouping you could name. Oh-Kay....so?

If atheists were loudly proclaiming that their worldview promotes greater enlightenment and a higher level of morality, and that religious people were by necessity less moral as a group, then this might be an issue, but atheists (that I've ever heard) aren't making this claim. They may argue against the claim that one cannot be moral or a good person without god directing you, or point out that religionists claim to a higher morality has the lie put to it by numerous examples, but that's hardly the same thing.

Unfortunately, a piece like this plays right into the (false) notion of equivalency between atheism and religion that religionists like to use an attack tactic ("There are religious charities, why are there no atheist-sponsored charities?", etc.). But atheism is a lack of belief in gods, nothing more. It is not (unlike many religions) an overarching philosophy or a guide for living your life. An atheistic worldview tells you nothing about how to behave or how to treat people, any more than preferring butter over margarine does, and holding it to such a standard is simply ridiculous.

In the end, every atheist male in the world could have the sexual morals of a rutting warthog, and it would not provide one shred of evidence that gods exist.

Greta Christina

Note: Comment Monster Chimichanga and Dillinger have both been banned from this blog.

And yet another reminder: I expect commenters in my blog to treat one another with a basic level courtesy and respect, and to focus their criticisms on ideas and behavior rather than sarcasm and personal insults aimed at people. People who violate this policy will be banned. Thank you.

Robert B

@ skepticscott:

I don't think anyone's claiming that this has anything directly to do with atheism, as a philosophy. As you point out, the events that started this could have happened more or less the same way in almost any group.

Rather, this incident has to do with atheists - us personally, as people, as a community. Whatever kind of group we were, we'd have to deal with this - the way one half of us treats the other half, whether we're going to value fairness and respect, or privilege and contempt. Or, to take a purely practical stance, are we going to go ahead and marginalize half the atheists in the world? How far are we going to get as a movement if we're that short-sighted?

Africangenesis

Hmmm, "If at least one woman says it's OK, then it's OK" Wrong, it would probably have to be at least one woman five or so for it to be OK, because it would probably take a one in ten or at least twenty chance of success for women to reinforce this behavior in men.

I think part of the reason this controversy has taken on a life of its own is that the twists and hypocrisy in "reasoning" are enormous. Progressive sites which love to flaunt their sacrilege, mocking, vitriol, vulgarity and skepticism have their politically correct sacred ground.

Would the elevator situation be sexism or unacceptable, if it had been between two homosexuals? The same blogs are all over Representative Bachmann because her husband tries to counsel homosexuals about their sin, yet an progressive/atheist element of feminists expect to get a free pass when they try to counsel heterosexual men about their politically incorrect sin. What is the apologia for the distinction? Supposedly homosexuals can't help themselves they are born that way, homosexuality isn't a defect or disease or sin. But where does the evidence lie? The scientific evidence for a genetic basis for heterosexuality in males is far greater, it isn't even close. Heck, (pardon my french), the evidence for heritability of homosexuality isn't even close to that for the heritability of obesity, yet the obesity is increasingly being excoriated as a moral failing.

Knative

I don't get the problem. Rebecca Watson says it makes her uncomfortable to be propositioned in an elevator at 4 AM and people lose their shit over it? Why is this a "controversy?" What Rebecca Watson said in her video seems very reasonable, and it makes sense. Misogyny is funny to me, like as a man. When I read some of the posts here and elsewhere, it's like, dumbfounding.

DFS

@Africangenesis your analogies are ridiculous. Gay reparative therapy is criticized because it has been demonstrated to be ineffectual and cause psychological harm. That is completely incomparable to whether or not Elevator Guy's approach was appropriate; no one is trying to counsel men out of being heterosexual.

Of course it wouldn't be "Sexism" if it was a homosexual encounter, since they would be people of the same sex

Obesity is "criticized" not because it is immoral but because it leads to health complications, the costs of which we all bear as a society.

If you have a gay identical twin you are more likely to be gay. If you are a male and have older male siblings from the same mother you are more likely to be gay.


And what exactly is the scientific evidence for a genetic basis for heterosexuality in males?

You obviously have an issue with homosexuality since you seem deadset on forcing it into a conversation for which it is not relevant

Africangenesis

@DFS,

If you have a gay identical twin, you are more likely to be heterosexual than homosexual! If you have older male siblings from the same mother you are more likely to be heterosexual than homosexual. The genetic basis of heterosexuality has been established across the animal kingdom, independent of the complexity of human intelligence and culture. In humans it has been established on many levels, from cross-cultural concordance of waist to hip ratio preferences, to genetically controlled developmental processes.

I have no issue with homosexuality, and appreciate male Darwin award winners. My issue is with the hypocrisy of those advancing arguments for special rights for collective identities rather than individuals. Homosexuality rhetoric is just a convenient exemplar. I don't think you will find the per capital health care cost comparison favorable to homosexuality vis'a'vis obesity. The acceptance of obesity is much less in this society than the acceptance of homosexuality and the obese don't have the option of being in the closet.

DFS

"The genetic basis of heterosexuality has been established across the animal kingdom, independent of the complexity of human intelligence and culture. In humans it has been established on many levels, from cross-cultural concordance of waist to hip ratio preferences, to genetically controlled developmental processes."

I have no idea what any of that has to do with the genetic basis for heterosexuality.

"Male Darwin award winners" again, WTH a total non-sequitor

"I don't think you will find the per capital health care cost comparison favorable to homosexuality vis'a'vis obesity."

What are you talking about AGAIN. What are the per capita heath care cost of homosexuality? You do realize lesbianism is also homosexuality, and if your reference is to AIDS, lesbian are in the lowest risk group for AIDS. AIDS is not a result of homosexuality, it is a result of specific behaviors.

"The acceptance of obesity is much less in this society than the acceptance of homosexuality and the obese don't have the option of being in the closet."

Your evidence of this assertion is what? All those laws against obese people marrying one another? All those anti-obese hate crimes? The degree to which politicians have banked on anti-obese prejudice in order to win elections?

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