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Misogyny

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It ain’t limited to religious discourse.

Paul has already mentioned the disgraceful behavior of Richard Dawkins, but the additional detail Watson provides here is both instructive and chilling.

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  • Holden Pattern

    And the MRA Objectivitards have promptly flooded the comments to the piece. What a bunch of assholes.

    • Leeds man

      I was wondering what this all had to do with Magnetic Resonance Angiography, or the Manitoba Ringette Association. Thank God for the urban dictionary.

      • sharculese

        Fun fact one of the ways MRAs judge how their cause is faring is by looking at how they’re defined on Urban Dictionary. Because in addition to being assholes they are spectacularly incompetent.

        • JKTHs

          By that metric they don’t look too good

      • Rhino

        I think we viewed the same google search.

      • Pestilence

        Magnetic Resonance Angiography? Have a heart

    • I first heard of Rebecca Watson in the brouhaha surrounding the elevator video, which still seems to me to be reasonable, well-delivered, and unthreatening.

      It’s amazing how bananas people can go over nothing, and then somehow the real crime is noticing it.

      • Curmudgeon

        The notion that the skeptic community blew up after one video is one version of events. The reality is that TSHTF when a clique of people who agree with Watson’s ideas broke the skeptic community into two warring factions by going maximalist with an us vs. them mentality, complete with a manifesto (now Atheism+) and litmus tests.

        A tiff started with Watson’s ‘don’t hit on women in elevators.’ A war started when the clique demanded that hitting on women is wrong, period, that anyone who disagrees is a misogynist, rape enabler, rape supporter, or rapist. The clique goalposts have gradually shifted towards increasingly maximalist demands and now sit upon a position that anyone who disagrees with them in any way, on any point, is a harasser/misogynist/rapist/etc. Prominent critics have been targeted offline, including one threat to employment.

        I have no evidence–nor do I believe–that Watson is leading the clique. Watson is a lightning rod but the skeptic civil war now has little to do with her. It has become self sustaining and no longer has much to do with whether it’s appropriate to proposition someone in an elevator after a night of drinking.

        • snurp

          Atheism+ became a thing in August. Elevatorgate happened last year. Also you can read the original comments on the vid still, so not sure how you’re getting defenders -> threats and assholery when the threats assholery were there to start with. The link is actually in the comment! Prominent members of atheism plus have also been target offline, including dozens of threats of violence. causality how does it work

        • Leeds man

          I have no evidence–nor do I believe–that Watson is leading the clique.

          And yet, you wrote earlier

          I have never had much reason to doubt that Watson is a highly skilled self publicist with a very large ego, a very thin skin, and an echo chamber of like-minded followers.

          Watson; Leader, or lightning rod?
          Curmudgeon; Just giving us true curmudgeons a bad name.

          • Curmudgeon

            The statements are not mutually exclusive.

            • Nor is either factual.

              • Curmudgeon

                It is not factual that Watson is not leading a clique?

                You believe that Watson is leading a clique?

                • Mere cleverness is a poor substitute for accuracy.

                  You’s think a self-proclaimed skeptic would get that.

            • Leeds man

              Super. If you have anything more than opinion to offer, please share. After you’ve presented the documentation, maybe you could grace us with your take on PZ Myers’ treachery. Watson stooge, or Dawkins-hater?

        • sharculese

          A war started when the clique demanded that hitting on women is wrong, period, that anyone who disagrees is a misogynist, rape enabler, rape supporter, or rapist.

          None of this ever happen.

          • Yeah. If you can make your case without lies and hyperbole, you don’t have a case.

          • So its a war over a misunderstanding between one bunch of people who threaten rape and death and another bunch of people who say you shouldn’t threaten rape or death.

            Which side should I choose? Thinkumator engaged.

            • Dunno. Remember: bitches be crazy.

            • Curmudgeon

              That’s the kind of black and white thinking that has caused the elevatorgate spat to go on for so long.

              There is no one of any consequence in the skeptic community who endorses rape or violence against women.

              There are idiots on YouTube who post trash talk for attention. They are the background noise of the Internet and, despite trolling videos (such as Watson’s) posted by prominent atheists, very likely have nothing to do with the skeptic community. They are trolls.

              There is a clique of skeptics who have ad-supported blogs, profit from creating drama, habitually conflate all disagreement with hatred of women.

              There is the rest of the skeptic community, which is collectively scratching its head, wondering what the clique’s problem is and who gave them the right to describe everyone they disagree with as a misogynist.

              There is no one of any consequence in the skeptic community who endorses rape or violence against women.

              • sharculese

                What’s kept this ‘spat’ going on for so long is that a bunch of hypercreeps cannot get over an offhand comment on a video.

                • Curmudgeon

                  I don’t see any “hypercreeps” writing articles in Slate 15 months after the fact.

                  I do see Watson reigniting the controversy, 15 months after the fact, by writing for Slate.

                  Elevatorgate was a very dead issue until the day the Slate article was published.

                • The point of linking to the video in the first place is that it isn’t controversial in itself.

              • There is no one of any consequence in the skeptic community who endorses rape or violence against women.

                Nor, apparently, is there anyone opposing the tide of shit loosed upon Skepchick or other women perceived as uppity.

                Your outrage would be a lot more impressive if you actually took on the boys’ club currently infesting Watson’s comboxes.

                • Curmudgeon

                  Most people aren’t in the habit of leaping to defend those who unjustly attack them.

                  I might have cared about Watson’s alleged plight if her clique hadn’t completely and utterly poisoned the well by frequently equating all criticism of her position or tactics with misogyny or support for rape.

                  The moment I am called a rape enabler, or face the risk of being victimized by offline attacks for disagreeing too vocally, all potential for sympathy goes out the window.

                • witless chum

                  No, you wouldn’t have cared about any such thing. Anyone who feels like they’re the target of Watson, Jen McCreight et al is by definition an asshole because all they’re asking is that you not be an asshole.

                • Leeds man

                  “I might have cared about Watson’s alleged plight”

                  Convincing. So Watson and her clique poisoned a previously unpolluted well. Your sympathy will be missed.

                • sharculese

                  those who unjustly attack them.

                  That never happened, so your high dudgeon is just oh so stupid.

                  The moment I am called a rape enabler, or face the risk of being victimized by offline attacks for disagreeing too vocally, all potential for sympathy goes out the window.

                  Sorry, I forgot how something that happened to someone else is actually all about you and your persecution fantasies. Truly a rational mind.

        • This reads like an update of Oleanna, only not as subtle

      • Rhino

        It seems reasonable, measured and unthreatening because you are not an MRA. To them, it’s a cannon aimed at their manhood.

        The whole thing was pretty predictable, at least with enough repetitions, one of these would metastasize.

        The worst part about these bozos, is that they are rather like the tinfoil hat crowd. Their very existence means that if you actually want to discuss a real area of inequality (and there are not many, but they do exist), it is impossible. You are immediately going to be lumped in with the loonies.

        In the case of the 9/11 truthers, the Voting machine cassandras, this means nobody can ever bring up real concerns. Maybe the most concrete example would be the Dan Rather Bush National Guard memo. Once it was imprinted in the public mind as fraud, the very real issues surrounding the Draft Dodger in Chief were off limits.

        • spencer

          Who are these “voting machine cassandras?”

  • parrot

    dawkins is such a shaved c*nt … rape jokes are for b-team amateurs … and yet, cumbersome elevator overtures get pretty high marks on the akin/mourdock index … incidently, i am the product of a successful self-medication homeopathic regime … down to just H2O … just saying …

    • parrot

      ‘incidentally’, i kain’t spell it … speech impediment drives my keyboarding …

      • DrDick

        I know the feeling. My fingers have dyslexia.

    • parrot

      But still, there are leaders in the skepticism community who refuse to accept that there is a problem, and those who play the “both sides are wrong” game, insinuating that “misogynist” is just as bad an insult as “cunt.”

      probably not good dinner party words, but this is what is known as thinkin’ gone all-boogered-up… jeebus, beam me the f*ck up … these skeptics and the religious fundies deserve a separate, but equal planet to go work their sh*t out …

      • Colin Day

        I would hope that “misogynist” is at least as much of an insult as “cunt”. After all, misogyny is at least as bad as being a cunt (whatever that is). Also, misogyny is a more specific practice, and is therefore more verifiable. You’s think that skeptics would know that.

        • mark f

          a cunt (whatever that is).

          Be sure to call Mitt Romney the week before you get married.

          • Colin Day

            Do people who use the word “cunt” in that manner believe that their targets are actually female genitalia?

        • sharculese

          Misogynist isn’t an insult. It’s an accurate descriptor for widespread behavior that should be, but isn’t, socially unacceptable.

          People who treat it like an insult are the same people who claim that liberals pointing out racism is the real racism.

          • greylocks

            Misogynist is an insult when I use the word.

          • Colin Day

            And if that description has negative (but justified) connotations?

    • UserGoogol

      I think the better way of looking at it is that rape jokes are for pros. No topic is particularly off limits for jokes, but when you talk about sensitive subjects like rape, you need to be very careful about it so that you’re actually being funny, and not just being an asshole. Amateurs should not fool around with such difficult topics.

      • Rhino

        This is exactly how I feel about pie crusts, and gas appliance service.

        And considering I’m an experienced chef, and a journeyman gasfitter…

      • Exactly. You can make jokes that touch on rape. For example, Stephen Colbert dubbing GOPers like Mourdock and Akin “The Rape Gang,” and adding, “They probably will say they hate the name, but look at ’em. You know they really want it.”

        But Colbert is one of the premier satirists of the modern age. He can pull that off. Daniel Tosh can’t, and he’s a professional…well, I guess technically he’s a “comedian.”

  • sharculese

    A year and a half later and supposedly rational dudes are still outraged that a woman had the gall to say ‘hey, don’t hit on me in an intrusive and predatory manner right after I talk about how I don’t want to be hit on.”

    • But, elevator! Coffee! Creepy is an insult! Skeptics are intelligent and all women should want to breed with them at all times!

    • Cody

      I haven’t been in love so deeply with a girl I just met enough to start slandering her across the internet since High School…

    • I know, I don’t get it. All Watson said — all she said — was, “Hey, don’t do that.” If your response to “Guys, this is the kind of thing that makes women uncomfortable” is to scream, “YOU’RE A CASTRATING BITCH WHO SHOULD BE RAPED,” the problem is with you.

      • Incontinentia Buttocks

        But…but…but…she insists on continuing to say it. Even as people keep screaming “YOU’RE A CASTRATING BITCH WHO SHOULD BE RAPED!” How divisive of her!

        As Curmudgeon helpfully explains upthread, if she’d just STFU, the problem (i.e. Watson) would go away!

  • bradp

    I certainly don’t want to argue with the greater point, but the proposition in the elevator doesn’t seem overly inappropriate.

    • Leeds man

      And she didn’t treat it as “overly” inappropriate! Read the damn piece – she brought it up with a shrug and a “hey guys…”. It’s the response to that which was a few parsecs past appropriate. Jesus.

      • bradp

        You are absolutely correct.

        I did read her very wrong.

    • John (not McCain)

      Please direct me to an elevator you use on a regular basis.

    • rea

      Jeez, dude, do we have to explain why it’s not appropriate to proposition a stranger in an elevator, where she can’t get away from you?

    • Elevator: closed box with no escape until next floor (unless totally rational and not at all creepy guy hits the STOP button).

      Person being hit on: Has just delivered a speech about What Is Creepy to an apparently oblivious (but skeptical!) audience.

      Proposition: Not “I’ve just met you; let’s make a date to go to a public place when you’re less fatigued to learn more about each other” but “won’t you come up to my room and see my etchings?” No, not at all creepy.

      • rea

        You have to give them an opportunity to back off or decline contact, e. g.:

        “Hey, I just met you, and this is crazy
        But here’s my number, so call me maybe.”

        • SatanicPanic

          Damnit now that song is in my head

          • rea

            DocAmazing started it, if you look closely.

            • SatanicPanic

              Haha, I try to block out all references to that song. That song is the Genghis Khan of earworms.

              • I know a trick for that. I once had “Key Largo” by Bertie Higgins stuck in my head for days, until someone told me this.

                Sing the song to yourself, and then at the end sing, “By Mennen,” like the 1980s Speed Stick ads.

                If you are a certain age, that last bit fools your brain into thinking “This is the end of that bit,” because you heard it so many times at the end of things.

                • mark f

                  Sit, Ubu, sit.

                  Joe, this reminds me for no reason of the SEIU’s ad against Ovid Lamontagne, the Tea Party candidate for NH governor. Have you seen it? I can’t get that lady who just says “Radical.” out of my head.

                • bradP

                  Good dog!

                • Leeds man

                  Listening to Bitches Brew while getting drunk works fairly well.

                • prufrock

                  I know a trick for that. I once had “Key Largo” by Bertie Higgins stuck in my head for days, until someone told me this.

                  There’s a name I haven’t heard in years. One of my dad’s closest friends new Bertie well. Apparently, Bertie snorted all of profits from “Key Largo” up his nose. My dad’s friend said it was sad to see him in run down night clubs, playing his “medley of hit”.

                  I use that phrase all the time now.

                • SatanicPanic

                  That’s so crazy it just may work. And I do remember that ad.

                • (the other) Davis

                  Joe, I think I love you for this.

            • Oh yeah, blame me for bubblegum pop. Next I’ll be retroactively responsible for “Sugar, Sugar”.

        • Rhino

          You pitiless bastard.

          What kind of man deliberately releases an earworm in a comment thread?

      • Jon H

        My suspicion is that it was a case of the guy not working up the nerve until the last possible moment and/or wanting to be rejected in private, combined with not perceiving how the situation could be problematic from her perspective.

        • If he derived his understanding of women’s behavior from watching pr0n, then such an approach becomes more understandable.

          • Jeffrey Beaumont

            OK… assuming pr0n means pornography, then this is a little weird. What porn are you watching that involves a lot of awkward propositions in elevators?

            • Steve H

              Just about all of it, I think.

              • parrot

                logjammin, no elevators, just a nihilistic cable ‘installer’ … but a classic just the same

                • Jeffrey Beaumont

                  I’m here to fix deine kable.

                • The Lorax

                  You can guess where it goes from here.

                • He fixes the cable?

                • Don’t be fatuous, Jeffrey.

              • Jeffrey Beaumont

                A few minutes of internet research turned up zero elevator-propositions or similar scenes. I’m going to stop looking because most porn scenarios are way more fucked up, and wholly detached from reality.

                • rea

                  Check your filter settings. Bing search on “porn” and “elevators” gave me 10,300,000 results, including numerous videos.

                • rea

                  And now I have to worry about my grandkids looking at my search history.

                • Jeffrey Beaumont

                  Good call, now I see apparently elevator porn is a thing. I am still not sure that matters a lot to the discussion, but there is definitely elevator pornography.

                • rea

                  Or (not porn, but not obscure, either) this.

                  But don’t try to act out your Steven Tyler fantasies on strangers.

                • mark f

                  There’s a grand tradition in pr0n where the set-ups are absurd, be they in elevators or with pizza guys or whatever. There’s also the Spring Break/Girls Gone Wild crap that gets perpetuated on any number of mookish radio and television shows. And, worst of all, such a thing as “rape culture,” whereby certain men feel pretty much entitled to have whatever sex they want at whatever particular moment they happen to be feeling randy.

                  Neither the man nor the woman needs to have deep familiarity with elevator-specific pr0n in order to recognize the above and thus the problematic nature of an elevator proposition.

                • sparks

                  And now I have to worry about my grandkids looking at my search history.

                  That’s what private browsing is for.

        • Craigo

          I could grant that if he had not just listened to her talk about sexism and creepiness. It takes utter stupidity or willful disregard to hear that and then make your move in an elevator minutes later.

          • mark f

            Malicious intent seems likely to me. Not necessarily to commit rape, but to weird her out and therefore put her in her place.

        • bradP

          combined with not perceiving how the situation could be problematic from her perspective.

          This is where I’m at. How strong is the obligation to understand “how the situation could be problematic from her perspective.”

          • Jason

            Very strong.

          • parrot

            are you married? ever been married? have any sisters, daughters, nieces, … , mom’s? if not, once you’re married you’ll be able to answer this question… if you are married wtf, over?

            • bradP

              Married.

              Let me ask something a little different:

              Is this similar to a situation where a big man asks a little man to pay his bar tab outside a bar at closing time?

              Is the sexual nature of the proposition a problem, or is only a matter of intimidation?

              • Intimidation. No one around to help, no exit, someone larger than you…

              • sharculese

                Yes and no.

                You’ve got the basic threat down, now just imagine that almost all the little men in the world live under the constant threat of this happening at any time, and that things can go really bad if they give the wrong response, and that a fuck ton of big men think this is perfectly acceptable behavior and even if they see that maybe it’s not totally correct that’s just the way he is and why can’t all the little men just be more understanding and accommodating and maybe if he got his bar tabbed paid more often he wouldn’t be like this and you’ve got a better handle on things.

                • DrDick

                  This.

                • Lyanna

                  Well said.

              • Lyanna

                Almost like, except outside a bar is not a small enclosed place. The little man can back away or flee to his car, at least.

                • Lyanna

                  Plus there’s also what sharculese said.

            • bradP

              And an alternative question that is probably going to go over poorly:

              Is there ever a point where a woman could be in the wrong for seeing a man as a would-be rapist?

              • sharculese
                • Jeffrey Beaumont

                  That is a very strange blog post, and I think possibly more than a little paranoid.

                  Look at it this way. If we remove childhood molestation from the discussion (and the blogger is talking about adult interaction), then the chances of getting raped are similar to the chances of getting cancer. People’s behavior clearly shows they dont wander about all day worried about getting cancer. So maybe this blog post is a little paranoid.

                  I say the same thing to the concealed-carry yahoos out there. Dont worry so much, the worst case scenario doesnt happen often enough to lose a lot of sleep over it.

                • bradP

                  Thank you. That is much to the point.

                  One comment:

                  The second important point: you must be aware of what signals you are sending by your appearance and the environment. We are going to be paying close attention to your appearance and behavior and matching those signs to our idea of a threat.

                  I’m trying to tread lightly here, but this is a frog hair away from Juan Williams talking about Muslims on a plane.

                  If such a high proportion of men are rapists that every man is “Schrödinger’s Rapist”, there isn’t much I can say about it though.

                • Murc

                  I’m of two minds about this.

                  On the one hand, it seems crazily paranoid.

                  On the other hand, I’m a white dude.

                  I’ve never lived in a neighborhood where if I walk to the bus stop, I am guarenteed to get catcalled on the way there. I’ve never been in an environment where I know if I voice my discomfort, everyone will assume the problem is ME.

                  So I dunno. I have no alternative perspective, which puts in the position of trusting people who do.

                • sharculese

                  the chances of getting raped are similar to the chances of getting cance

                  Cancer doesn’t flip the fuck out because you won’t talk to it on the subway.

                • bradP

                  So I dunno. I have no alternative perspective, which puts in the position of trusting people who do.

                  Me too. It seems unfair to most men to see male strangers as potential rapists.

                  With that said, I am certainly in no position to tell women that they shouldn’t see male strangers as potential rapists.

                • sharculese

                  I’m trying to tread lightly here, but this is a frog hair away from Juan Williams talking about Muslims on a plane.

                  If Juan Williams chances of getting killed by Islamic terrorists were anywhere near as close to a woman’s chances of being sexually assaulted, and if Juan Williams lived in a society where the media, when it wasn’t glamorizing islamic terrorism was making excuses for it, they would be a lot closer.

                  The thing is, a woman wondering if she’s gonna have to fend off sexual assault is in a lot more realistic territory than the dude who’s wondering if he’s gonna have to pull a Die Hard because those guys in row 15 are wearing robes. That’s the difference.

                • Leeds man

                  the chances of getting raped are similar to the chances of getting cancer

                  Another minor difference between rape and cancer. Cancer is binary; you either have it or you don’t. Rape is at one end of a spectrum of threat that women live with every day. It would seem you’ve never talked to a woman about this.

                • bradP

                  The thing is, a woman wondering if she’s gonna have to fend off sexual assault is in a lot more realistic territory than the dude who’s wondering if he’s gonna have to pull a Die Hard because those guys in row 15 are wearing robes. That’s the difference.

                  Definitely get where you are coming from here, but there is a certain degree to which one must err on the side of the stranger.

                  If the likelihoods were the same, I would still have a bit of a problem with William’s comments (although it appears that I underestimate the number of rapists out there).

                • Even assuming the likelihood of something happening is similarly small (which, obviously, no, but even under this assumption) there’s also the wider social context the behavior takes place in. Someone freaking out about Muslims on a plane is reacting to a very specific circumstance that occur in discrete and isolated and small sections of time.

                  A woman concerned about the potential for sexual violence has to confront those feelings all the time, and while interacting with other people, the same people that cause those feelings.

                  The psychological mechanisms available to Juan Williams to keep him from being scared by someone at the airport just aren’t available to someone in the latter environment.

                  Keeping constant awareness of behavior and appearance while matching those signals against an idea of a threat seems like the only reasonable and psychologically healthy thing to do in that situation.

                • rm

                  {can’t reply directly this low in the thread, but this is in reply to the following by J.B.}

                  Because if a lot of women are walking around all the time seeing all men as would-be rapists, that is really really fucked up.

                  Yes, but you seem to think it’s the women who are f’ed up here. It’s the men who are f’ed up; it’s our culture that tolerates and minimizes all sorts of assault on a spectrum from catcalling to violence. Of course a woman in public has to account for this, and the fact that she does actually have to think about it — that’s what’s f’ed up.

                • Lyanna

                  I can’t reply to Jeffrey Beaumont directly because of the blogging thing, but here’s my response to him:

                  (1) No, it’s not paranoid to see male strangers as potential rapists. It’s intelligent and factual. Sorry.

                  (2) Concealed carry? Are you out of your fucking mind?

                  Yeah, I realize that’s not polite, but let’s get one thing 100% clear right now. A woman crossing the street to avoid male stranger does not equal someone carrying a concealed firearm. A woman getting a little creeped out by a 4 am elevator proposition does not equal someone carrying a concealed firearm. A woman rejecting a flirtatious man’s advances does not equal someone carrying a concealed firearm.

                  Me drawing boundaries for myself does not equal the THREAT OF DEADLY FORCE.

                  Seriously, you just analogized a woman’s non-lethal enforcement of personal boundaries to carrying around deadly force. Inadvertently, you have demonstrated how threatening women’s boundaries are to many.

                • witless chum

                  That is a very strange blog post, and I think possibly more than a little paranoid.

                  Look at it this way. If we remove childhood molestation from the discussion (and the blogger is talking about adult interaction), then the chances of getting raped are similar to the chances of getting cancer. People’s behavior clearly shows they dont wander about all day worried about getting cancer. So maybe this blog post is a little paranoid.

                  I say the same thing to the concealed-carry yahoos out there. Dont worry so much, the worst case scenario doesnt happen often enough to lose a lot of sleep over it.

                  I can’t read her mind, but my guess is that the post is akin to the Bechtel test, which isn’t intended as an argument to only watch movies that feature a conversation between two females characters about something other than a man or children.

                  I found it eye-opening because someone COULD view the world that way and not be that crazy.

              • DrDick

                Well yes, if he had not engaged her in any way or if she knew him and he simply was passing the time of day with no obvious sexual or intimate overtones. Otherwise under these circumstances, given the realities of life in America, she would be completely reasonable to regard the man as at least a potential rapist.

              • rea

                Is there ever a point where a woman could be in the wrong for seeing a man as a would-be rapist?

                It’s not a matter of seeing the guy as woud-be rapist. It’s asshole behavior + subtext, not overt threat.

              • Murc

                Obviously the answer to that is “yes” but I’m curious as to why you’d ask the question in the first place.

                • Jeffrey Beaumont

                  Because if a lot of women are walking around all the time seeing all men as would-be rapists, that is really really fucked up.

                • bradP

                  For some reason I find the discussion interesting.

                • JL

                  Jeffrey Beaumont: Context matters.

                  If I’m walking down a busy street during the day, then no, this is not generally something I’m thinking about (though I certainly know enough women who have been groped in public places like subways by strangers, and they might in fact be thinking about it).

                  If I’m walking home from the subway in the dark down a bike path through a deserted parking lot surrounded by deserted soccer fields (which is my actual route), and there’s a couple of guys hanging out in the parking lot watching me walk by? Damn right I’m thinking about it. Not in the sense of “Oh, those horrible guys over there, they’re probably rapists” but in the sense of “I am on extra alert right now and am going to feel uneasy about this until I’m through this area or until those guys go away, even though they’ll probably not do anything.”

                • Anon21

                  Because if a lot of women are walking around all the time seeing all men as would-be rapists, that is really really fucked up.

                  Hey, you’re right. That is fucked up. I think the answer is probably ending rape culture, and not telling women they’re wrong to be scared or on-edge about this stuff, though.

                • Jeffrey Beaumont

                  So is a woman worrying about being attacked in a dark alley in any way different from any person’s worry about being attacked in a dark alley?

                  I still think my analogy to the concealed-carry people stand. I am not a woman, and have never been raped, or threatened with rape. I have also never been mugged. But I think carrying a gun because you want to live out Die Hard is silly, and I suspect that assuming all men are potential rapists, in any more meaningful way than assuming all men are potential astronauts, is unrealistic and paranoid.

                • Anonymous

                  No, what’s really really fucked up is women walking to work at 8AM in the morning and being raped in an alley, at gunpoint, by police officers who, despite witnesses to the rape, don’t get convicted of rape.

                  Women aren’t mind readers; they have to resort to risk assessments and adjust accordingly.

                • Jeffrey Beaumont

                  Obviously monsters do exist, and sometimes people get hit by buses or raped b cops at 8AM. Those are not normal experiences, and should not really shape how people go about their lives in any but the most cursory (dont walk in front of buses) way.

                  You might die in a plane crash, but if you worry a lot about it every time you get on a plane then you will eventually hate traveling.

                • aclarke

                  Obviously monsters do exist, and sometimes people get hit by buses or raped b cops at 8AM. Those are not normal experiences, and should not really shape how people go about their lives in any but the most cursory (dont walk in front of buses) way.

                  Yeah but you’re reacting to a pedestrian saying they always look both ways before crossing the street by saying “Do you really think about getting hit by cars all the time? Isn’t that kind of fucked up?” except in this case all the traffic laws are slanted towards drivers and most people who hit pedestrians with their cars never go to jail and the drivers are intentionally running over pedestrians.

                  On second thought maybe the bus thing isn’t really a good analogy.

                • sharculese
                • Jeffrey Beaumont

                  Like I said below, the really eye-popping stats about rape clearly dont apply to getting raped by cops randomly at 8 in the morning. That does not happen to 1 in 4 or 1 in 6 or 1 in 1000000 women. Ever. Anywhere.

                • aclarke

                  Like I said below, the really eye-popping stats about rape clearly dont apply to getting raped by cops randomly at 8 in the morning. That does not happen to 1 in 4 or 1 in 6 or 1 in 1000000 women. Ever. Anywhere.

                  Yes, that Schrodinger’s Rapist article shouldn’t have said that women are constantly assessing the risk of being raped by cops at 8 in the morning, that was way too specific.

                • Leeds man

                  Shorter Jeff: Lighten up wimminz!

                • piny

                  Hey, Jeffrey, you know the real lightning-strike part of that story? It wasn’t the cops–it definitely wasn’t that the rape happened during the day. (Marriages are valid round the clock, after all, including the abusive ones.) It was the fucking witnesses. It was the fact that the woman got to bring a case against her assailants.

                  Most rapes are not stranger rapes. Most take place between women and men they know. Most culprits seem like totally normal men. But which way does that cut? If a woman can’t limit her anxieties to dark alleys full of balaclava’d bogeymen, wouldn’t she naturally be a lot more scared a lot more frequently? And wouldn’t she feel far more isolated, given that she’s most likely to be attacked in a scenario most people–e.g. you–cannot imagine?

              • Lyanna

                Oh, for fuck’s sake.

                Look, we don’t even have to get into the Schrodinger’s Rapist argument here. Because that’s not what Rebecca Watson was saying.

                Rebecca Watson was not saying or implying that women should constantly view men as would-be rapists. She wasn’t even saying that Elevator Guy was a would-be rapist.

                She was saying that, if you hit on a stranger in an enclosed area at 4 am, that person will likely be creeped out and uncomfortable.

                That’s IT. That’s what caused this firestorm. It’s depressing as hell that such a basic observation should inspire so much vitriol.

                It’s also depressing that RW’s observation inspired you, bradp, to start wringing your hands about how all men aren’t rapists. It’s depressing that you’re that defensive. It’s depressing that you can’t handle a very mild statement of personal boundaries without getting nervous about women seeing men as would-be rapists.

                • thebewilderness

                  This is the bit that astonishes me.
                  Following a lone woman out of a bar at four am is effing creepy!
                  Following a woman out of a bar and on to an elevator at four am is totally effing creepy.
                  Following a lone woman out of a bar at four am in to an elevator and inviting her to your room is so effing creepy stalkers shit that it screams creepy stalker dood in a sharp shrill voice.

                  Saying “Guys, don’t do that” when this happens to you is a terrible insult to every man on the planet, cuz WTF, they’re entitled to creep us out every effing minute of every day without ever being told to cut it the eff out. So clearly the outrageous behavior is objecting to being subjected to creepy stalker d00d behavior.

                • DrDick

                  Shit. That kind of thing could creep me out and I am a guy.

              • Until men stop excusing rapists, and start putting them in their place? No. I can’t fault a woman for thinking any given man could be a rapist, including me.

                • Just Dropping By

                  Well, based on your picture, that last point is totally justifiable.

                • Leeds man

                  @Just Dropping By

                  Ah, the Insightfulness of Douches. Where would the internet be without it? Anonymity is your best friend, isn’t it, sad little man?

              • Hogan

                Possibly. But the consequences for me of being seen as a would-be rapist by a woman I don’t know and will never see again tend to be trivial. I eat a small amount of shit because I have unearned privilege and sometimes it comes back at me in ways I can’t usefully resist; I won’t pretend it’s chicken salad, but all things considered I have a pretty good life .

                • witless chum

                  This. This. This. This. This. This. This. This. This. This. This. This. This. This. This. This. This. This. This. This. This. This. This. This. This. This. This. This. This. This.

          • DrDick

            Imperative.

        • Ed

          My suspicion is that it was a case of the guy not working up the nerve until the last possible moment and/or wanting to be rejected in private, combined with not perceiving how the situation could be problematic from her perspective.

          Possibly a little too charitable, but it is true that the timing was 4 am after mucho hours spent by all in the hotel bar. Social missteps do get made.

    • Whatever you think about the appropriateness of that incident, the point is that it’s entirely appropriate for Watson to say, “That is a dumb thing to do which displays a lack of concern for my own preferences, which in any case were publicly broadcast for hours on end.” For which she was insulted in nasty ways.

      • bradp

        This is true.

        I misread the article (in a way that I am not proud of).

        • Cody

          If it makes you feel better, I completely understand your misreading. I caught myself interpreting it the same way. Isn’t it great being a man?

          The bottom line is this though: You don’t corner someone and ask them to do something for you.

          If he was asking her for $50, it would be called robbery. Instead he was asking her to come back to his room. She had no escape and anyone can see how uncomfortable this would be.

          I doubt he meant it this way, and was either nervous or drunk. And she didn’t seem to be going all crazy “shun this man!” or something, just wanted to express her observations on just how many things people don’t notice.

    • It’s easy to not see it if you’ve never been cornered in a threatening manner, but almost all women have.

    • bradP

      Not much more to say on this topic, but I did want to say that I appreciated the civility, even though I was kinda being a contrarian.

      • DrDick

        No, you came off, at least to me, as someone who honestly wanted to understand. A bit naive, perhaps, but still honestly interested and open to learning. This is the Brad I like and why I still engage you.

  • Leeds man

    Who could have guessed that a smug condescending twerp like Dawkins could also be a clueless dick?

    There were certainly plenty like him, and worse, when I was going through grad school in physics in the late 70s and early 80s.

    • Credit where due: The Ancestor’s Tale is not bad, and it does take some brass to tell off Jesus freaks in public.

      • Donalbain

        It doesn’t. Not really. Jesus freaks don’t have nearly the power in the UK that they do in the USA. Here, it is entirely possible to rise to (near) the top of the political tree while not being Christian. If Dawkins lived in the USA it would be a different story, but here he basically just fits in with the rest of us.

        • Jesus freaks also aren’t as heavily armed in the UK.

    • rea

      Also, if you’re just some guy, being an asshole is unfortunate, but if you’re a person with an audience, you have a special responsiblity not to be an asshole in public, where you incite others to behave in a similar way. Dawkins ought to know that if he leaves a nasty public comment on someone’s you-tube site, people are going to take that as authorization to do the same or worse. With great power comes great responsibility.

      (I remember once trying to explain this to Meagan McArdle in the context of 2X4s–she did not get it).

      • Uncle Ebeneezer

        Agreed. I love Dawkins but this episode was one of the few times where I think he was totally in the wrong. His lack of concern over the issues of sexism and misogyny within the skeptical community is especially sad as he is often viewed as one of the leaders. The past year and a half has illustrated just how rampant the problem is, and how it is probably a big reason that the community is predominantly white and male. Females have good reason to feel unwelcome. Fortunately, one great aspect of the community is that many prominent atheists/skeptics did not hesitate to criticize Dawkins, explain why he is wrong, and organize a new division of the community (Atheism+) with an explicit mission to address these issues going forward. Rebecca Watson, Jen McCreight, Greta Christina, Richard Carrier, Ophelia Benson, and PZ Myers have all stepped up nobly on the topic. It’s an exciting (though divisive) development for the skeptic community, and is shining a light on a serious problem. It’s about time.

    • DrDick

      Dawkins has a long record of misogyny, which also shows up in his published work.

    • Ed

      Dawkins adds injury and insult to injury and insult by employing a line of argument commonly used by righties to sneer at the feminist concerns of Western women – you’re not getting beheaded for adultery or having your genitals mutilated, so STFU.

  • njorl

    I understand why predominantly male groups exhibit sexism. They’re drawn from a sexist society at large, and have less influence from women to curtail sexist habits. Ignorant behavior, while not excusable, is inevitable. What I just can’t fathom are the berserk, hateful backlashes against women who point out sexism.

    When you say or do something sexist out of ignorance, you should :

    a) Apologize and say that you had not considered your actions in that light before and continue on with your existence.

    b) Commence a vendetta of harassment and threats of sexual violence against your accuser in order to vindicate the purity of your motives.

    • If you still can’t see you own sexism or don’t feel a wrong was done, then Jesus, just blow it off. The vitriolic MRA-style responses are the truest indicator of a fragile ego residing in a sub-par brain.

      • greylocks

        There appears to be a significant subset of men who get very defensive, to varying degrees, at any perceived slight to their gender.

        My brother is like this. He doesn’t go all MRA, and most of the time he can be reasoned with after he calms down, but here are some of the idiotic things I’ve seen him get upset about:

        * a female member of the family commenting that Viagra was being promoted in those “singing” commercials as a recreational drug — although that’s clearly what she said (I was there), my brother interpreted this to mean that she felt men shouldn’t have access to ED treatments.

        * Danica Patrick getting more endorsement and sponsorhip deals than better drivers; he went completely apeshit when I pointed out that (a) she’s actually a pretty good driver whose average finish position is way higher than the average for her male competitors (at least in Indy cars); (b) I haven’t heard him say the same thing about Dale Earnhardt Jr.; and (c) while women do follow Patrick with some interest, her sponsors sell products clearly aimed at a male audience, so if you don’t like Patrick getting all this money, tell your buddies to stop buying Peak products.

        * white men being portrayed in commercials as the “dumb” member of the family because of “political correctness”; to which I replied, “Seen any beer commercials lately?”

        • sharculese

          There’s also the important point that an attractive woman being paid large amounts of money to associate herself with a product is not really a result of feminism.

          • This is totally off-topic, but it’s been bugging me:

            Is your handle pronounced “Shark-u-leez?” Like, a shark version of Hercules?

            Because that would be a pretty awesome handle.

            • sharculese

              That is correct. And thank you.

        • Jeffrey Beaumont

          Isn’t the Danica Patrick thing actually sexist as hell? I mean she gets a lot of advertising dollars because an attractive woman in a male-dominated activity apparently sells like crazy (see all the female sideline reporters in football, or the whacky young-attractive-female-conservative pundit phenomenon). And the only Danica Patrick commercials I can think of now are those awful godaddy commercials where she is very much used as a sex object…

          • Western Dave

            And Sarah Fisher who was a pretty good driver herself had one decent ride, ever, for one year. But since Sarah was not conventionally pretty and something of a math geek (she was trying to do an engineering degree while she was racing as a teenager), she didn’t attract those corporate dollars. Sigh.

          • sparks

            Unfortunately remember those godaddy things. I thought she was about one step from adopting a pornstar name. Also not fun to think she at the very least acceded to her own objectification, if not actively participated in same.

            • witless chum

              Hopefully Patrick is laughing nervously and rolling her eyes when nobody’s looking all the way to the bank.

    • Craigo

      I blame the Internet.

    • sharculese

      The thing is that’s not quite the situation here, and it’s actually sadder than that.

      We don’t know how elevator guy responded to Watson’s vlog because he’s never identified himself. What happened is a bunch of other dudes decided to launch a campaign of misogyny and harassment on his behalf, over something that had absolutely nothing to do with them.

      • njorl

        You’re right. I took a short cut because elevator guy’s name was never mentioned so I wouldn’t really be slandering him. For all I know he has had an epiphany. It’s all of the men’s-rights rape-threatening superheroes coming to his rescue that are the problem.

        • Cody

          I assume it’s a power relationship thing. People in power do not want to give their subordinates even the smallest amount of daylight to seek uprisings.

          The “upper class” (read: males) saw the “lower class” trying to muscle into their positions, and responded in the natural human way of beating the snot out of them.

          Best example? Stalin!

  • Wido Incognitus

    Any dispute between the lunacy of feminism and the adolescent self-satisfaction of new atheism is best considered as a low-stakes Iran-Iraq War.

    • greylocks

      Okay, I’ll feed the troll. What’s lunatic about feminism?

      • mark f

        This seems like an especially good DNFTT candidate. I once tried to share a “straw feminist” video with someone who’d made a similar comment. How naive I was! Turned out the woman hosting the video was the same woman involved in a recent spat between feminists and video gamers, and had been the subject of a “beat this bitch up” type of, er, parody. So that went well.

        Point being, FTT is not going to be fruitful or even fun.

        • njorl

          Let’s just delay him until sunrise.

  • Jeffrey Beaumont

    Hasnt this story about Watson in the elevator been circulating for a while now? And maybe I am misremembering, but I think she did have an article in which she was a little more offended/upset about the elevator incident, perhaps more than the “come on now” attitude in this article, which seems like the right response…?

    • greylocks

      Your point would be….?

    • sharculese

      Watson’s original response was a five second thirty second aside in a vlog in which she described the incident, shrugged, and said ‘guys, don’t do that.’

      Because of the vitriol directed at her for that mild response, her entire participation in skepticism has now become about that thirty second aside.

      As to why Slate has decided that now is the time to dig up elevator gate again, do we really need a better explanation than because it’s slate and can you imagine how much ad revenue they’re generating from misogynists furiously refreshing to get in another insult at ‘elevator whore rebitcha twatson’

      • Jeffrey Beaumont

        But I am right, this is old news, yes?

        My point is that while the response Watson highlights in this article is totally appropriate to the elevator story, the story came across differently in one of the earlier write-ups I saw. As I recall the incident was equated to a rape-threat, and there was a lot of posts of the scene from “It is Always Sunny in Philadelphia” where Mac and Dennis talk about how girls would be more willing to have sex on their boat “because of the implications”. That was a great bit from the show, but I think the analogy was somewhat weak. While there may well be rape-implications involved with propositioning someone on a boat, I think elevators are a pretty different situation. Making someone uncomfortable and threatening rape are not the same thing. Watson seems very clear on that in this article, but in the past, that distinction wasnt there.

        • Leeds man

          I think you may be confusing this with another story, Jeffrey. The Watson story has been around for a while, but it is as I remember it from its first telling.

        • sharculese

          There were a lot of assholes who claimed that Watson did was no different by singling the guy out by name and calling him a rapist, but no, Watson never came close to that.

          • Jeffrey Beaumont

            OK, maybe that was something else.

            But I think a general point that is worth making here is that accusing someone of threatening rape is pretty serious, not unlike accusing someone of being creepy with children. It is a finger you cant un-point. I am really wary of people equating dumb/awkward/stupid propositioning with rape-threats.

            • djangermats

              Uh, no, that’s an idiotic point that you should feel embarrassed to have made.

              • CJColucci

                I’d bet a modest amount of money that the elevator guy was a clueless doofus who didn’t mean any harm. Watson, however, had to bet bigger stakes, and didn’t even have the option of not playing.

                • thebewilderness

                  On Skepchick there is about a six hundred comment thread of men claiming over and over that a guy who sits in the bar with you until four am and then follows you into the elevator to proposition you is just a clueless doofus who didn’t mean any harm and so it is horrible for women to object to stalker behavior because there is an off chance that the stalker dood might not be a stalker dood but just a clueless doofus.

                  If women make the mistake of treating a stalker dood like a clueless doofus then tough shit for them. They should have known better.

              • Jeffrey Beaumont

                Nice way to get insulting there jangermats. Justify your crappy comments…

              • Rhino

                Free disclosure: it sounds to me like everyone In that elevator failed basic human interaction in high school, but to flame beaumont for this particular comment (1) is unacceptable. Actually, it is an entirely reasonable point and one which contributed to the discussion. And your comment debuts you into the thread as an asshole.

                Or do you think that accusing someone of rape, or child molesting are not serious? The undoubted existence of actual wolf-cry cases means that this issue is extremely serious.

                (1) previous comments by him have been IMHO less appropriate, but were well addressed by others.

                • Lyanna

                  How exactly did RW fail basic human interaction? By not wanting to be hit on by strangers in small enclosed spaces? Give me a break.

                • witless chum

                  Depends on the accusation. To the cops, pretty serious. On the internet, anonymously? A little less so.

            • sharculese

              Here’s the thing. Rape is at the far end of a continuum of sexual violence that is primarily, (but obviously not exclusively) male against female and tied in to a lot of the things men use to control women.

              But we treat it as if it’s not, as if there’s this bright line between rape and everything else that doesn’t really exist, and if you try to acknowledge it you get a lot of hand-wringing about comparing people to rapists because that’s a Really Bad Thing. And people who don’t want to talk about sexual violence know this and know it’s a great way to shut down any discussion.

              Is following and trapping someone in order to make a proposition they already said they don’t want the same as rape. Of course it’s not. But it is enabled by the same cultural forces that enable rape, and that is a thing that has to get talked about.

              • Jeffrey Beaumont

                While I can see how one might “trap” a woman on an elevator, I have to assume, lacking any other evidence, that this was not the fellow’s intent.

                And I do truly see the spectrum from unwanted advances to rape, but there is a line there somewhere, and crossing it is a really big deal. So is accusing someone of crossing it.

                • sharculese

                  While I can see how one might “trap” a woman on an elevator, I have to assume, lacking any other evidence, that this was not the fellow’s intent.

                  He waited until she was isolated in a place where she had no way to get away from him. What are we supposed to call it?

                  And I do truly see the spectrum from unwanted advances to rape, but there is a line there somewhere, and crossing it is a really big deal. So is accusing someone of crossing it.

                  If you’re talking about lines between conduct that’s criminal and conduct that isn’t, yeah I agree. Otherwise, not really. It’s a whole bunch of gray areas going from stuff that is predatory and uncalled for at one end to horrific acts of violence at the other, but it’s all the product of the same social forces and trying to draw lines is counterproductive because you can’t get at the really bad stuff without getting at all of it. That’s why it’s called rape culture.

                • He waited until she was isolated in a place where she had no way to get away from him.

                  Yes, at supposed smart-person gathering where she’d just spent hours talking about being smarter than that sort of thing.

                • Mo

                  The line is about where Watson drew it. I have friends who would have been appalled that she didn’t get out of the elevator and wait for the next one if a lone man had gotten into it. They would see doing that alone as why all of this has been brought down upon her.

                  It’s really a shame that rape prevention materials are aimed only at women. Men would get a much better idea of what was going on if they knew what behavior was seen as suspicious. Women have been told since they were old enough to walk outside to beware of strange men. But the boys are just left out of it, which leads to this really strange discourse where women are told not to be alone in an elevator with a man and men don’t have a fucking clue as to why hitting on a woman in an elevator is not a good idea.

                  I know there was slagging of the Malcolm Gladwell Sandusky article in these parts, but I thought it did a good job of showing how predators test boundaries with potential victims. Read the Gladwell article and this fits right in with the sort of “grooming” he talks about. A little strange, but innocent enough that no real complaint can be made. I’ve thought that the reason the guy hasn’t come forward is because he has a history of bad behavior with women that would become public. A social misfit would probably have jumped right into the fray.

                • piny

                  Where? Tell us all exactly where the line is between “potentially threatening” and “clearly threatening.” Everyone would really like to know your magic trick for figuring out whether a complete stranger is dangerous. Especially women, who will be blamed for their failure to anticipate and prevent sexual assault. So please: tell us exactly how this guy would have telegraphed bad intent in a way that could not be misinterpreted and yet does not amount to actual fucking assault. Where’s the line? Following you, invading your personal space, touching you, making demands on you, bugging you on the subway, approaching you after dark, approaching you when you’re alone? What is something only rapists and no harmless sexists do?

                  This is what you’re not getting: a woman doesn’t get to evaluate these situations in hindsight, with all the information at her disposal. She needs to figure this out in the moment. So of course you err on the side of self-protection, and of course you want well-intentioned men to understand that you will tend to show reserve.

                  And no, I don’t actually think accusing guys of being creeps and predators is so bad. Do you think that when people hear an accusation, they immediately band together to expel the evil man? That doesn’t seem to have happened in this case!

              • Jeffrey Beaumont

                And obviously I want to talk about sexual violence, otherwise I wouldnt be… talking about it.

                • sharculese

                  I didn’t say you didn’t. I argue with MRAs. I know what trying to shut down the discussion looks like. Believe me, compared to that it’s a delight to talk to people who are basically well meaning but don’t get what rape culture is.

                • Jeffrey Beaumont

                  I agree, I am well meaning and definitely dont get “rape culture”.

                  Let me expound a little… I understand that the stats for sexual assaults are pretty staggering (1 in 6 women, sometimes you see 1 in 4), but I suspect the vast majority of those assaults fall into two distinct categories:

                  The first is juvenile sexual assaults, which I dont think our culture promotes at all. This is terrible, and apparently happens more frequently than one would expect, and I suspect it accounts for a large percentage of all sexual assaults.

                  The second is the spousal/partner/friend rape scenario, which I tend to think of as part of a spectrum of domestic abuse. This also seems really common, and the most of the rape victims I know fall squarely in this category. This is also really terrible, and I suspect that it accounts for the vast majority of rapes. I am not really sure how our culture promotes this type of assault, especially because I think these attacks happen less in the context of objectifying women, and more in the context of the possessiveness/jealousy/anger that often accompany broken relationships. I could be wrong, but that seems to be the case in the situations I have observed.

                  That leaves the stranger/violent/random rape category, the kind that makes people worried about dark alleys and elevators. I think crime statistics show that these rapes are really uncommon. This is what I am talking about when I say that it is paranoid for women to see all strange men as potential rapists.

                • And it’s nice that you’re able to think of it as paranoia. But every time I’m out walking or jogging alone, it’s something that’s hovering in the back of my mind. Since it *DOES* happen, and far more often than it should, worrying about it really isn’t that wacky.

                  Don’t get it? WELL, AREN’T YOU LUCKY?

                • Mo

                  But if she had accepted his coffee invitation and things had gone wrong, it would have counted in the friend category, not as a stranger rape.

                  I agree with you completely that the being grabbed in a dark alley scenario looms too large in the imagination (3% of rapes take place out of doors is the statistic I remember). But… what is not acknowledged is that the elevator scenario does not mean being attacked in the elevator. It means a discussion where the man convinces a woman to go with him to someplace where he has the time and privacy to rape her. And that the first move will be something which afterwards he can plausibly deny having any meant any harm to her. And that if he succeeds, he will lie about what happened.

                  This social manipulation, both the getting the woman alone and then convincing the larger world that he did nothing wrong, need to be seen as stages of rape as much the violent act itself. You would assume that a murderer trapped the victim and then hid the body, but “he can’t be a rapist, he wouldn’t lie about that” is as stupid as “he can’t be a murderer, he would never hide a body.”

        • witless chum

          I think Amanda Marcotte brought up the “It’s Always Sunny” episode as part of the spiraling discussion that followed Watson’s original off-hand remark, in response to people denying that there could be anything wrong with propositioning someone in a closed space. She’s often written about being a big “It’s Always Sunny” fan, so I bet I’m remembering right.

          • Jeffrey Beaumont

            Ah. That’s a good angle to discuss the issue with for sure.

        • Lyanna

          Links or it didn’t happen.

      • Karen

        The post got more than 5,000 comments, any one of which is enough to destroy your entire faith in humanity.

      • Scott Lemieux

        sharculese really has won this thread a large number of times already.

        • Hogan

          Hear hear.

  • The Dawkins “Dear Muslima” comment is just horrible in so many ways.

    I mean, goddamn.

    • Jason

      Certainly not science’s best prophet.

  • Glenn

    I had not seen the Dawkins comment before. Disgraceful. Still a great mind and a forceful communicator, but I hope he has at least realized how shitty that was.

    By the way, one point that doesn’t quite come across in Rebecca’s Slate article (and I’m not suggesting she needed to, it’s her article to write however she wants) was that much of the skeptic/atheist community did rise to her defense — even men! (PZ Myers being a particularly good example.) The article sort of left one with a different impression. That doesn’t make her criticisms any less cogent or important, of course.

    • Leeds man

      I thought she made it quite clear that she had many supporters in the community.

      • Glenn

        I guess I was reacting to a some of the comments to the Slate article, which seemed to be questioning why the skeptic community had stayed silent in the face of this barrage of abuse directed at Rebecca. And I could see how someone could come away from that piece with that impression. Again, I don’t mean that Rebecca should have said more, the point of her article was (rightly) to call out the abusers.

  • I will always refer to Richard as Dick.

    • DrDick

      Hey now!

      • You’re a doctor. He’s just a dick.

        • ThatOtherMike

          But he is in fact also a Doctor. :)

          The thrust of his argument – “Other people have it worse, so quit yer bitchin’!” – is dubious at best, and he was very hamfisted about it, too. A shame, really, that someone who is otherwise so clever would put his foot so squarely in his mouth.

          • witless chum

            That was what shocked me about it. It wasn’t that shocking that Dawkins would show up on the wrong side of this, but it was shocking he’d really post something that you wouldn’t be surprised to hear from pancakes or the Pancakes-onalde.

            • ThatOtherMike

              Yah, sure. I tend to overlook feet of clay in people I admire, a lot of the time, but this was really clueless…

          • I figured he was, but I was kinda hoping the joke–tepidly funny as it was–could just skate.

          • Scott Lemieux

            “Deees prick is really a doctor?”
            “Close. I’m a prick doctor. Get it?”

          • Joey Giraud

            I’m no MRA, but I agree with Dawkins completely.

            You people are outrage junkies.

            • Yes, because we threaten rape and death over an elevator anecdote.

              • Joey Giraud

                Because you just can’t think straight with a mind full of sarcasm, snark, and anger.

                • Thinking straight and the Dawkins Muslima comment aren’t the model you want to agree with completely. Trust me!

    • mark f

      I knew a “Strip” Tease whose youthful friends apparently didn’t realize his first name, Richard, translated to a similar joke.

      • DrDick

        For the record, my handle is from the nickname my nonacademic friends gave me. They seem to find it rather humorous for some reason.

        • CaptBackslap

          I was thinking it was after the ex-husband of Christine Baranski’s character on “Cybil.”

          • Western Dave

            Cybil, the show where they got all the supporting characters right, and miscast the lead.

          • Lord, she was funny in that show.

            I loved the pink squeeze bottle full of vodka.

  • scott

    Atheism doesn’t make you cuddly or even enlightened; it just means you don’t believe in God and doesn’t provide any assurances either way about your values. I read with growing horror the “End of Faith” book by Sam Harris where he argued, not with reluctance but clearly irritated at the lack of realism of his opponents, that an appropriate response after 9/11 might be widespread use of nuclear weapons in Muslim countries or other forms of genocide. He’s continued to double down on that sort of argument since then, so I take whatever he says with a factory full of salt.

    • Uncle Ebeneezer

      Yes. Harris is quite good on alot of stuff (like debunking “after-life” nonsense and explaining morality from a secular perspective) but his writings on Muslims and torture are pretty awful. Just shows that everybody has blind-spots/weaknesses.

      • Another Halocene Human

        Harris is privileged as Meghan McArdle but fortunately not quite as dumb. With great privilege comes the great closing of the mind. He doesn’t have contact with people from the ME so he can comfortably write them off as human beings in his mind.

      • Lee

        Harris take on religion seems to be that all are wrong but some are worse than others in terms of bad effects on the world. He clearly sees Islam and Christinaity as being more harmful than say Jainism.

        • Rhino

          I would also find that hard to argue with.

          • scott

            The “who’s better than who” argument I don’t mind SO much since it just exercises our lungs, but the part I do mind is where we take the “better” conclusion and use it to to advocate collective punishment and genocide. That’s what Harris does, and it’s what makes him (at least on this issue) crazy and depraved.

        • I don’t think it’s crazy to say that if X rulebook says 120 horrible things and Y rulebook says 60 horrible then Y rulebook can be quantified as somehow better.* The thing is you have to assume a person pays attention to the rules in order to frame them as less-than-a-person, which requires an omniscience Harris should be skeptical of but is not.

          *Yes yes, I get that if the 120 horrible things are in reference to the NY Yankees X would be better.

          • CaptBackslap

            And lo! Jeter’s ankle DID shatter like a cafeteria spork thrust into an overdone chicken patty, and there was weeping and wailing through the Land of York.

    • Lyanna

      It also doesn’t make you particularly logical.

      If it did, then Dawkins would have realized the stunningly hypocritical illogic of his Dear Muslima crap.

      The Dear Muslima letter basically boiled down to “shut up about sexual harassment because there are more serious forms of oppression out there.”

      Well, Dickie dear, then why don’t you shut up about atheism?

      There are, after all, more serious forms of oppression than a child being called a “Christian child” instead of a “child of Christian parents.” (One of Dawkins’s bugaboos).

      • I wonder if Dawkins has ever told black folks not to get upset about racism because they are no longer lynched. Or gay people not to care about bigotry because they are not killed for simply being gay like in, say, Uganda.

        WHAT LUCKY DUCKIES ALL US NON-STRAIGHT/WHITE MEN ARE!!!!!

      • Leeds man

        If it did, then Dawkins would have realized the stunningly hypocritical illogic of his Dear Muslima crap.

        Like many successful academics, Dawkins has been told he’s brilliant since at least early adulthood. I think this bestows some people with an aura (in their own minds) of infallibility, and a blindness to their prejudices. Cleverness never guarantees wisdom.

  • Joe

    Jen McCreight (Blag Hag) stopped blogging regularly because of the b.s. and then they targeted her dad for defending her.

    • Another Halocene Human

      Wow, I did not know that. The MRAs were known during the early days of the internet as “Nice Guys” or “Internet Nice Guys”. The label is ironic. They used to whine on soc.men that marriage is theft and girls only like thugs. There used to be this great website in the 1990s called the BITCH Report or BITCH files or something that explained the “nice guy” phenomenon in detail.

      It seems like as the internet has marched on that these folks have gotten even more hostile and anti-social than in the past, when they tried to pretend to be civil, decent human beings even though they were manipulative, pusillanimous shits.

      • sharculese

        “nice guys,” a.k.a. incels (involuntary celibates) or zeta males are still a thing and they’re probably the second largest block of the MRA coalition after deadbeat dads and before rape apologists.

        • Lyanna

          Yep. They’re pretty scummy.

        • Casey

          “Zeta males”? That’s a new one on me… Puts a new spin on the “Hardy-Littlewood Conjecture”.

          • thalarctos

            hee! excellent.

        • Today I have learned the word “incel”. And ha ha ha.

  • Anon21

    From an instrumental perspective, violent misogynistic harassment is a great way to shrink your movement. I haven’t been involved even in online “skeptical”/atheist communities for a number of years, and shit like this just tells me that that’s a good thing.

    • Another Halocene Human

      It has certainly raised the profile of feminist skeptical bloggers and kind of created a new movement.

      Which is good, because the old one needed to die.

    • Uncle Ebeneezer

      Exactly. Sadly, I imagine alot of girls have had similar experiences as yours. Which is why, the whole episode has been a good thing for making atheism more welcoming to women. As I mentioned above, the brou-ha-ha led to the idea of Atheism+, which will hopefully provide a better option for many and minimize stories like yours in the future*. Here’s a pretty good explanation of Atheism+ by Greta Christina, and a rebuttal to the worry-warts within the community who are crying about it being DIVISIVE!!1!

      *I’m also excited that the atheist movement is recognizing the benefit of embracing political activism. I know many who feel that religion has always had an edge over atheism in allowing people an avenue for this sort of thing. I have always felt that my liberal beliefs and skeptical/atheist outlook are pretty finely woven together and that there is alot of overlap between the atheist community and various political communities that I participate in. Combining the two is a win-win, from my perspective.

      • Anon21

        To be clear, I’m a man. I’m just not interested in participating in misogynistic communities.

        • It kind of makes me feel like I’m not holding my end up, actually… Watson is engaging and funny and a great spokesperson for her cause, and balancing out the assholes should be a good thing.

          • sharculese

            I’ve been trying to find it and can’t but at the height of Elevator Gate Watson had a great post about how she used to admire feminism in theory but assumed that all it’s goals had been reached and as soon as she started moving in skeptical circles she realized she was wrong because any time she brought up attracting more women the response was ‘why, women are stupid and irrational’ or ‘yeah, so we can fuck them’, and basically skeptics turned her into a feminist by embodying it’s opposite.

            • Leeds man
              • Anonymous

                Yes, thanks.

  • CaptBackslap

    This one time like a decade ago, I was walking home from the bar on kind of a back street, and this girl was walking alone more slowly in front of me. When I got close I said, “don’t mace me, I’m harmless.” She turned out to be very nice, and we chatted until she got to her apartment complex, but I didn’t ask for digits or anything.

    When I got home, a vision of Sir Gawain appeared

    • CaptBackslap

      NOTICE: A small portion of the preceding may be fictionalized.

  • The Lorax

    I already knew the skeptics groups are chock-full of cocksure assholes who are certain that anyone who doesn’t agree with them is a total idiot. I didn’t know about the sexism, but I’m not surprised.

  • CaptBackslap

    Some dude wrote an essay last year called “Why I am no longer a skeptic” that started out decently enough, with calling out the elitism, sexism and Islamophobia. But then, it took a turn, and it became clear that the real issue is that the author is a Marxist, and the Skeptic movement is too supportive of KKKAPITALISM. By the end of it, it was clear that he was one of those people who air-quote “facts” in speech.

    • witless chum

      Inappropriate air quotes are a worse trait than sexism, I’m almost sure.

  • Rebecca shows more impulse control than I do. Had I just finished giving a discussion about being a woman in the skeptic community (with–I’m assuming something of a feminist bent) and RIGHT AFTER I was approached with not discussion by a come-on, I probably would have walked to the elevator wall and slowly started to beat my head against it.

    • *but* *but a come-on*

      EDIT BUTTON, PLZ.

    • Also, I’m not sure how one *gives* a discussion. My lady-brain is having trouble processing all the stupid in world and it is showing in my lack of typing skillz.

  • Quercus

    Jeff @2:47 :”I agree, I am well meaning and definitely dont get “rape culture”.”

    Maybe it would help to consider it a ‘sexual assault culture’ and think about acts that stop short of being full-on rape. A culture of violence isn’t about just murder; it’s also about savage beatings and less-savage beatings, and occasional quick one-time punches and shouldering/pushing someone aside and getting in someone’s face and intimidating them without actually touching them.

    And when a woman talks about our rape culture, she also includes other things that aren’t full-on rape, like grabbing a woman and grinding your crotch into her, but letting go after a couple minutes. Or pulling up her skirt, or lots of other kinds of actions. There can be a whole range of things, from mild to maximum, that are morally wrong. And, I think everyone can think of actions that are morally wrong (for physical violence, think of maybe intentionally not getting out of someone’s way when you’re walking towards each other), but shouldn’t be criminalized, because it’s too petty.

    Now, if you’re in a culture of violence, it’s not just murder you need to worry about, right? You need to consider the bullies just pushing you hard into a wall and walking on, or maybe they push you hard into a wall and when you get up and turn around they get pissed off and beat the crap out of you. Or maybe, they’re just shouldering your aside every single day as you walk past each other, which is obviously annoying and even mildly painful, but also reminds you that maybe one day you will get the crap beat out of you or even killed.

    That’s what a ‘rape culture’ means. It’s not just fear of rape; it’s fear of all the other things, from mild to just-short of rape. And these things don’t just happen between people who know each other well; it happens to women from strangers ALL THE TIME. So, yeah, they do have to be wary, and to some degree, consider every man a potential sexual assaulter, until proven otherwise.

    • snurp

      I was just about to make this comment, but you did it better. Actually, I suspect the reason many women pull out rape statistics first when talking about how intimidating secluded run-ins with strange men can be is that the vast majority of male-type people will at least publicly agree that rape is bad. But groping or verbal harassment? I’ve found far less consensus.

      “Schrödinger’s sexual harasser” is a more accurate take on my own nervousness, but this is pretty much something I’ll only discuss with women because some men can be dismissive of unwanted contact and extremely graphic sexual “compliments.”

      Thus, if a dude asks why I’m driving rather than walking, it’s easier to point out the string of rapes on campus instead of trying to explain that four guys in my neighborhood surrounding the sidewalk as I approached and having a conversation about me that started with “Aw, she looks scared.” “Should be.” freaked me out. The latter gets unasked-for (and unwanted) assurances that I probably misinterpreted it or that they wouldn’t do anything anyway, the former gets at worst an uncomfortable silence.

      • Joey Giraud

        it’s easier to point out the string of rapes on campus

        Why not just say “safety?” Why the need to dramatize your decision, why even the need for justification?

        It’s as if you don’t want to own your decision, but need to have a lot of validation and support from others.

        Perhaps this is what Dawkins was thinking when he made the “why the big deal? ” comment.

        • snurp

          Whoop just saw this.

          1) I justified because I was asked, fuck off is generally considered rude, and a change in behavior is most readily explained by a change in behavior. No one gets validation by dissembling when they answer a question – the listener wouldn’t actually know what they were validating, how would that even work? Also, what do you think “safety” would imply in that context anyway?

          2) I don’t see pointing out an recent string of violent crimes as more dramatic than indicating that I felt personally threatened, and the latter would require more explanation than the former since the former was already a topic of conversation.

          3) It’s entirely unrelated to Dawkins’ comment, since he was responding to someone who had pointed out that a personal interaction made her uncomfortable, a.k.a. the opposite of what I described myself doing. Skepchick behaved more honestly than I, and got shit for that, rather than, as you put it, “dramatizing.”

          • snurp

            *change in circumstances

            • Joey Giraud

              You’re just piling more emotional defensiveness on.

              Dawkins saw skepchick’s complaints as overblown, and your over-explaination is similar.

              Sorry if you don’t like that.

              • DocAmazing

                Dawkins wrote the “Dear Muslima” letter.

                That was pure assholery.

                No excuse possible.

              • snurp

                You don’t auto-win arguments by use of the words “emotional” and “defensive.” I’m defending a behavior because you’ve attacked it and I believe you’re either wrong or misunderstanding, and I’m not seeing much of an emotional component to the argument (is it related to your use of drama? is that what you’re aiming for?) apart from the fact that all human interaction have some emotional components, so you may need to spell that out for me.

                • snurp

                  Wait, are you interpreting the swearing in the previous comment as an indication of anger? Sorry about that if so, it’s simply how I tend to modify most words if I don’t go back and reread. I know tone can be hard to interpret in text.

        • snurp

          Actually I’m both being rude and not explaining myself very well, so let me try again:

          Fear of rape (both stranger and the far-more frequent acquaintance rape, which I’ve seen some people on this thread conflating with rape in relationships, but is pretty distinct), and the necessity of protecting oneself from rape because any such crime will be analyzed to determine whether or not the victim was asking for it, is a backdrop to women’s lives, whether or not it should be realistically.

          The specifics of daily harassment require personal information rather than reference to a well-understood backdrop, and are therefore more emotionally fraught (because personal), and from the perspective of the person experiencing them more dramatic (because personal).

          Furthermore, the background of the fear of rape is the context of the specific fear of a group of harassers, and referring to the context (which is a necessary component of why the harassment is threatening enough to make me nervous walking home) provides information sufficient for anyone who I know well enough not to brush off (and accurate information, since it is in fact an ultimate if not proximate contributor to the decision) but don’t know well enough to want to be personally revelatory.

          I have noticed generally that women don’t tend to talk about daily harassment to men, though, and I suspect that using the shorthand of pointing to the broader contributing context may give some men an inaccurate impression of the amount of time women spend thinking of stranger rape rather than lesser but still intimidating verbal threats/followings/gropings/grabbings, which is all I was trying to convey with original example.

  • Curmudgeon

    Scott Lemieux — shame on you for spreading this garbage uncritically without any apparent fact checking.

    Watson and her not insubstantial clique of supporters have a history that makes it, in my opinion, very, very difficult to take her claims at face value.

    I have never had much reason to doubt that Watson is a highly skilled self publicist with a very large ego, a very thin skin, and an echo chamber of like-minded followers. I have never found much reason to consider people with those personality attributes to be trustworthy.

    • Leeds man

      Mmmmm stroopwafels.

    • aclarke

      Okay but her original vlog was public, the responses of men flipping their shit at being told how to behave were public, all the arguments about the level of awareness women are allowed to have about their surroundings were public, the Dawkins comment was public, the hate sites are public, so I’m not really sure what facts you want to check or what claims shouldn’t be taken at face value. Is this all supposed to be a giant conspiracy set up by Watson’s minions?

      • piny

        Yes. All those people with names like rights4dadz who leave comments like fuck u dyke bitch!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! are actually feminists. You see, sexism disappeared during the Carter administration, but by then there was research funding involved, so women have spent decades crafting an elaborate hoax to trick men into thinking that some men harbor prejudice towards women as a class. That’s not really Congress you’re seeing during “hearings” on birth control and parental-consent laws. It’s a sound stage hidden in the wilds of upstate Michigan. There is no Todd Akin, or Mike Huckabee, or Richard Mourdock. They’re actors. It’s all a lie.

    • Anonymous

      a very thin skin

      It’s weird then how it’s all her detractors who threw the massive, totally unhinged shit fit while she remained relatively calm.

      Almost as if you’re making things up.

      • Sharculese

        anonymous was me. danged switchin computers nonsense.

    • Scott Lemieux

      Your unsupported assertions that are contradicted by an extensive public record are highly convincing, and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter.

      • Curmudgeon

        Google each of these, without the quotes:

        “Rebecca Watson Stef McGraw”

        “Rebecca Watson JREF forum moderator”

        “Someone left a bottle of expensive wine on board this plane”

        “Elevatorgate Freethought Kampala”
        (both parts)

        “Letter to the Slime Pit”

        “Bad form, Rebecca Watson : erv”

        “Preliminary report on the Cologne (Koeln) 2012 European Atheist Convention, Germany”
        (Begin reading with the paragraph which opens with “PZ Myers gave a very odd speech which was largely disconnected waffle”)

        “One alleged TAM Harasser Responds”

        “TAM t-shirt gate”

        “Surly Amy Justin Vacula DMCA”

        • I believe the proper response to “Google each of these” is go fuck yourself.

        • “Elevatorgate Freethought Kampala”

          See below. Already been addressed. Bottom line: a few women made the argument “that wouldn’t have made me uncomfortable, therefor there’s no problem”; several people got swept away by their hero-worship of Dawkins, to the point of attempting to whitewash the “Dear Muslima” letter; and the usual crowd of “what are those crazy bitches complaining about?” posters. Oh, and a really praiseworthy thread at ERV’s place.

          Trust me, there’s nothing new or especially complex about this.

  • cpinva

    wow. just……………wow. i read watson’s piece and, just………….wow. i am clearly the product of incredibly poor parenting, as it would just never occur to me to say, do or write any of those things, regardless of how much i disagreed with a female type person’s opinion. i will try to do better in the future.

  • Steve S.

    Dawkins’ sarcastic comment seems to be saying that Watson is flogging a pet issue which she indulges from a position of white, western privilege.

    • As noted above, atheism is such a pet issue.

    • Sharculese

      Rape culture is a ‘pet issue’. That is cute.

      • Sharculese

        And for that matter she didn’t do anything except make a throwaway comment in a vlog and a thousand self-righteous tools took it as an excuse to seize on their pet issue of ‘HOW DARE YOU INSINUATE ANY MAN HAS BAD MOTIVES EVER!!!!!1’

        • I have a difficult time believing she was not well aware of the potential for this to blow up. Not to say she is wrong, but I sort of think she was trying to start a fight with these twerps, and succeeded far beyond her wildest dreams.

          Like I said upthread, sounds like nobody in that elevator actually acted well, though arguably Watson should be credited with being RIGHT, at least.

          • Lyanna

            I really don’t see why, before all this happened, RW should have known that mildly saying strangers shouldn’t hit on her in an elevator at 4 am would cause a fight.

            At that point, RW had been talking frequently on attracting more women to the movement and reducing sexual harassment without such flamewarring resulting.

          • aclarke

            I have a difficult time believing she was not well aware of the potential for this to blow up. Not to say she is wrong, but I sort of think she was trying to start a fight with these twerps, and succeeded far beyond her wildest dreams.

            I actually don’t think she was aware, though. She’d sort of adopted the role of Skeptic Ambassador to Women after listening to the sorts of common complaints female skeptics had about being part of the movement; I think she honestly thought that the movement as a whole was just unaware of how it was driving women from the movement and only needed a few reminders of how they should be treating their female members.

            It’s actually really difficult to predict how people will react to criticism. I know I’ve mostly been surprised at the vitriol towards people who say mildly critical things – Watson in this instance, but also Kate Beaton asking fans not to be overly sexual in their compliments or Anita Sarkeesian doing a fundraiser for her video series about the roles of women in video games – when there’s a lot of people out there who are saying things that are much more acerbic, vindictive, or confrontational.

            Additionally, I don’t understand why you think Watson didn’t act well in that elevator. She didn’t blow up at the guy at the time or in the video afterward, she only pointed out that this kind of behavior makes women uncomfortable and is therefore undesirable if you are trying to attract women to the movement.

            • sharculese

              Everything about this post is incredibly correct.

    • aclarke

      Yes, it is a common derailing tactic to insist that an issue should not be addressed or discussed because there exist other, more dire issues that should be dealt with first – as if we are obliged to fix the world’s problems one at a time in descending order of harm caused.

      Even more frustrating is that another common derailing tactic is to insist that foreign problems should not be addressed or discussed until we have fixed all problems in Western culture! Basically what I’m saying is that we need to set those two groups up to argue against each other into infinity while the rest of us talk about problems of varying intensity as they come up because we are capable of trying to solve more than one problem at once.

      • Leeds man

        It’s too soon to talk about derailing tactics.

        • The phrase ‘derailing tactic’ is almost always used in one of two situations. The person doesn’t want to admit that they are suffering from a first world problem, and are a ‘whiny ass titty baby’ (ie, your average incel zeta male MRA); or both problems are actually serious and related, but the speaker wants preference for their problem over yours.

          Both are instances of intellectual dishonesty, one to themselves, the other to the other stakeholders.

          The final and much rarer incidence is when actual derailing is occurring, as it is here.

          • Uncle Ebeneezer

            Here’s a great post along these lines, and pertinent to this topic:

            It’s depressingly predictable. When an instance of misogyny gets pointed out on the Internet, in a forum big enough to garner more than a couple dozen comments, you’re almost guaranteed to see some or all of these types of comments. It’s happening now. In case you haven’t heard, there was a recent incident on Reddit/ atheism, in which a 15-year-old girl posted a photo of herself holding a copy of Carl Sagan’s Demon-haunted World that her mother had given her for Christmas… and was almost immediately targeted with a barrage of sexualized, dehumanizing, increasingly violent and brutal comments. Including, “Well 15 is legal in many places, including my country, so I’ll only have to deal with abduction charges.” “Relax your anus, it hurts less that way.” “Blood is mother nature’s lubricant.” “Tears, natures lubricant.” “BITE THE PILLOW, IM GOIN’ IN DRY!” And including comments blaming the girl for posting a picture of herself in the first place.

            Rebecca Watson and others — including Stephanie Zvan, Ed Brayton, Jason Thibeault, Jen McCreight, John Loftus, and Ophelia Benson — have been pointing out how revoltingly misogynistic this is and why. And the “Yes, but…”s have been coming thick and fast.

            It’s depressingly predictable. And it’s depressing that anyone should have to explain why this is a problem. It seems totally obvious to me. But apparently, it’s not so obvious. So I’m going to spell it out.

            When the topic of misogyny comes up, and men change the subject, it trivializes misogyny.

            When the topic of misogyny comes up, and men change the subject, it conveys the message that whatever men want to talk about is more important than misogyny.

            When the topic of misogyny comes up, and men change the subject to something that’s about them, it conveys the message that men are the ones who really matter, and that any harm done to men is always more important than misogyny.

            And when the topic of misogyny comes up, and men change the subject, it comes across as excusing misogyny. It doesn’t matter how many times you say, “Yes, of course, misogyny is terrible.” When you follow that with a “Yes, but…”, it comes across as an excuse. In many cases, it is an excuse. And it contributes to a culture that makes excuses for misogyny.

            • scott

              Yep. Although in my more pessimistic moments I get depressed about progress, there is some in this country, but it happens in a particular way. Eventually people decide not just that something like racism is bad but that they’ll socially shame anyone who engages in it me and not tolerate any excuses for it. That’s how progress happens because the people who would feel tempted to engage in it are afraid of the stigma and embarrassment. We’re not going to get to that place on misogyny, though, until we cue the zero-tolerance, no-excuses stigma for it. Bring it on.

  • justaguy

    New Atheists and skeptics frequently use ideals of rationality to argue for the superiority of Western culture over non-Westerners. This often descends into Orientalism, racism, promoting colonialism of one stripe or another, etc.. Its not at all surprising that you’d find misogyny in the mix.

  • Kiwanda

    The controversy is more complicated than “Watson expresses gentle feminist remarks, huge misogynist backlash ensues”: basically, disagreement about any aspects of the “elevator incident” were conflated by Watson and others with the worst of the anonymous youtube commenters.

    For example, Stef McGraw, a college student who disagreed about the incident as objectification, and asked “Since when are respecting women as equals and showing sexual interest mutually exclusive?” was called out by Watson in the course of a lengthy speech, who called McGraw’s comments a “parroting of misogynistic thought”, just after Watson gave a series of examples of obscene hate mail.

    Graduate student Abbie Smith called Watson’s public dressing down of McGraw “bad form”, and became another enemy of all that is good.

    Dawkins’ dismissal of Watson’s distress at being asked in an elevator to drink coffee in a hotel room, while admittedly rude, lead in turn to dismissals of him as too old, too white, and too male to have an opinion that could be respected.

    PZ Myers, with his usual smug pompous windbaggery, and Greta Christina condescended to explain Human Relationships 101, since only utter cluelessness could explain any possible disagreement. Phaedra Starling kindly explained to an audience of “good men” that they should not rape.

    Various Watson allies, mostly at freethoughtblogs, joined together in trashing a number of other people, mostly for the sin of not taking the right side (of only two possible ones) with enough enthusiasm.

    Here is a reasonable discussion of the initial controversy.

    • aclarke

      For example, Stef McGraw, a college student who disagreed about the incident as objectification, and asked “Since when are respecting women as equals and showing sexual interest mutually exclusive?” was called out by Watson in the course of a lengthy speech, who called McGraw’s comments a “parroting of misogynistic thought”, just after Watson gave a series of examples of obscene hate mail.

      Yes, because there is a difference in “showing sexual interest” in a non-creepy way and cornering a person who has indicated her disinterest in sexual advances at 4 in the morning in a small, enclosed space, and the conflation of these two things is indicative of the kind of thinking that holds that a woman is not allowed to draw her own boundaries when it comes to being hit on. And that kind of thinking is pretty misogynistic.

      Graduate student Abbie Smith called Watson’s public dressing down of McGraw “bad form”, and became another enemy of all that is good.

      And here I thought it had more to do with the hosting of a site specifically dedicated to hating on Watson (or “Rebeccunt Twatson”) and anyone who agrees with her.

      • Kiwanda

        cornering a person who has indicated her disinterest in sexual advances at 4 in the morning in a small, enclosed space

        It’s not actually so clear that ElevatorGuy knew about her deep disinterest in sexual advances, nor that she was (literally) “cornered”, nor was the conversation unambiguously a “sexual advance”.

        hosting of a site specifically dedicated to hating on Watson

        I don’t know if that site is hosted by her; I don’t think so. She did allow uncensored comments on her blog.

    • Actually, no: that’s just a bunch of retelling of the back-and-forth. You have Hoggle’s frankly (see what I did there?) MRA bullshit; you have Jennifer Keane making the case that since she (trained in the martial arts) does not feel threatened, there’s no issue; Russel Blackford defending Dawkins without, apparently, being aware of the “Muslima” letter (and, in a truly amazing twist of cluelessness, describes Watson as “get(ting) to glide on the lube of entitlement”); Jennifer McCreight, who you neglect to mention is blogging a lot less due to the harrassment she has experienced due to this entire issue; and Stef McGraw, who is very sensitive about the imbalance of power between a speaker and an audience but not about that between a possible stalker and a woman on an elevator.

      Additionally, you use the word “feminist” as an epithet throughout.

      No, I don’t find that a reasonable discussion at all.

      • Kiwanda

        “re-telling”==”discussion”, and “back-and-forth”==”controversy”, so I don’t see your point; I didn’t say that all opinions or action described in the discussion were reasonable. A later post on that blog more overtly expresses opinions.

        • The point: You’re trying to make the claim that this is a complex issue, with more than one side, but the posts that you bring up belie that–they’re all very binary. Additionally, you make clear your distaste for feminism, and your inability to see anything wrong with stalkerish behavior (catching someone alone on an elevator to proposition her is by definition cornering the person, and one need not know of another’s disinterest in sexual advances –despite having sat through that person giving a speech on just that topic–to know that such a manner of come on is creepy at best).

          • There’s a reason why people talk about the “elevator pitch” in business. They person you’ve cornered in the elevator can’t get away and is forced to pay attention to you.

            • STH

              So, let’s say you’re successfully able to smear Watson’s reputation here, Kiwanda. So . . . then what? She’s not a perfect person, therefore, there’s no sexism in the skeptical community? The murder and rape threats she’s been getting are okay?

              Shorter Kiwanda: bitch was asking for it.

    • Dan S.

      Graduate student Abbie Smith called Watson’s public dressing down of McGraw “bad form”, and became another enemy of all that is good.

      Scienceblogs.com blogger Abbie Smith enthusiastically hosted and participated in a vicious 1000+comment thread (which she dubbed a “monument to everything [she] holds dear”), followed up by several others, dedicated to mocking “Twatson”, as she dubbed Rebecca. Whatever merit there was to complaints about Watson’s treatment of McGraw (and it arguably was somewhat bad form) got rapidly buried under that ludicrous “monument”.
      .

      Dawkins’ dismissal of Watson’s distress at being asked in an elevator to drink coffee in a hotel room, while admittedly rude, lead in turn to dismissals of him as too old, too white, and too male to have an opinion that could be respected.

      Dawkin’s absurd and dismissive “Dear Muslima” comment made it pretty obvious than on this sort of matter his opinion shouldn’t be respected. And really, when someone who happens to be an old white guy says something that, to quote Jen McCreight from before she was driven off the internet by a torrent of deranged abuse, “makes me want to cry a little when you live up to the stereotype of a well-off, 70 year old, white, British, ivory tower academic,” is that kind of reaction so horrible?

      There’s an interesting pattern here – an agonized wringing of hands for everybody *except* anyone who speaks out against sexism, an this endless well of sympathy for everyone *except* folks who wake up every morning to an inbox bulging full of rape threats…

      • Kiwanda

        There’s an interesting pattern here – an agonized wringing of hands for everybody *except* anyone who speaks out against sexism, an this endless well of sympathy for everyone *except* folks who wake up every morning to an inbox bulging full of rape threats…

        Indeed, there are only two sides here.

        • Dan S.

          Functionally speaking? Well, kinda, yeah. Sorry?

  • melior

    I confess I found it amusing at first to follow a passionate online discussion among cripplingly geeky social misfits about where exactly the line should be drawn in 2012 between painfully awkward conference come-ons and douchebaggy creepy elevator propositions.

    But when it descended into Ellen Jamesian Society members swapping obscenities with flame-fanning juvenile b-tard trolls, I lost interest completely. Kinda seems now like they were made for each other (just don’t invite me to the wedding, please), like they each had a hate-shaped hole the other filled.

    I just don’t bother with Pharyngula at all anymore and don’t miss it much, instead I drop in on someone like Coyne or Thunderfoot who doesn’t want to play that game.

    • sharculese

      Thanks, I was hoping for the maunderings of a living embodiment of trite ‘both sides do it’ bullshit.

    • Joey Giraud

      I just don’t bother with Pharyngula at all anymore

      The redesign turned me off, but the continual PC harping is keeping me away.

      Pity too, PZ is a good writer.

  • The loathsome Dawkins lectured to a class my (female) partner was taking. She politely raised some point that amounted to a question about whatever he was presenting (sorry, forgot the content.)

    He took offense and reminded her, in front of the class, that among non-human animals, if she were in estrous, they wouldn’t be able to have this conversation — he’d just be jumping on her.

    The man is a bully.

    • That is indeed loathsome.

    • melior

      I can no longer tell… this is parody right?

      • Leeds man

        Of course. Carefully constructed for your detached amusement, but I thought you’d lost interest completely.

    • Joey Giraud

      I don’t believe your story. You just made that up.

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