Skepchick in an elevator is not interesting

Posted on by TheLastPsychiatrist and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

Skepchick, feminist blogger, at an atheism conference in Dublin. On her elevator ride up to her room, some man hit on her:

“…don’t take this the wrong way, but I find you very interesting, and I would like to talk more, would you like to come to my hotel room for coffee?”

And her video response:

A word to the wise, guys… don’t do that. I can’t begin to express to you how uncomfortable this makes me…don’t invite me back to your hotel room, right after I just finished explaining how this creeps me out and makes me uncomfortable when men sexualize me…

She later writes about it, sparking the predictable division: privileged white males can hit on women any time they want (black males are different), never mind that it makes women uncomfortable and reduces their enthusiasm for gatherings, classes, jobs, etc.

And then the response: “stop being so sensitive, it’s not like he raped you, are you saying that men can’t chat up women anymore?” Etc.

Then someone commented, “you’re too ugly to rape” to which someone else replied “rape has nothing to do with sexuality, it’s about violence” and in no time at all I was back on alt.flame.*

I leave the feminist/misogynist debate to those with the lingo down, but please observe that nothing in that elevator guy’s words implied sex of any kind.

Of course I know what the guy was thinking, but I know it because I am assuming it. But it’s an interesting question: what allows her the right to assume his intent? Why isn’t he allowed to reply, “you misunderstood me, I wasn’t interested in sex with you AT ALL, nothing could be further from my mind. We are, after all, in a foreign country, here we drink heavily and then argue Wittgenstein in hotel rooms until the hangover goes away, and it’s quite presumptuous for you to interpret my words from your perspective, to impose on my intention your cultural narrative. Right?” Right?

She made two assumptions, and I’m not saying these assumptions are wrong, but I make them explicit by way of elucidation:

1. She assumes that the gender experience is more real/true than the cultural experience.

2. She explicitly denies this man the right to objectify her– i.e. to “see” her the way he wants to see her, but reserves the right to do the same to him. He sees her as a sex object, she sees him as predatorial.

II.

On the Skepchick website’s About page, we learn that there are 15 people writing. Here’s what’s interesting: there is not a single piece of information about their physical appearance, as if that wasn’t relevant. Hold that thought. I do infer that Masala_Skeptic is Indian but in an indirect way (“although her passport is from India…”).

The writers have caricatures, not photos, but I can still tell one is a man, and he is described this way:

Sam is a complex character, as are most modern day renaissance men. He thinks critically about the world, but unfortunately, not about his attire….

Hmm. Allow me an experiment in gender reversal:

Sam is a complex character, as are most modern day renaissance women. She thinks critically about the world, but unfortunately, not about her attire. She’s an extraordinarily average writer and a chronicler of profound mundanity, and she relaxes on the weekends by sitting on her couch in her underwear eating stick after stick of butter. She lives in a peculiar fugue state made of skeptical clarity and sublime ridiculousness, and there aren’t too many things Sam won’t do for a drink.

The problem isn’t that it is hypocritical of Skepchick to include bita about his appearance; the problem is that it is entirely ok to do this with men and not at all appropriate to do it to women. By “ok” I do not mean “it’s a double standard, wah!” but something deeper.

If you responded, “well, Sam wrote that himself,” you’ve missed the point: Sam doesn’t get to decide. Regardless of who wrote it, once it has been conceived Sam doesn’t get to say, “I’m not comfortable with this.”

What would the world have thought of Sam if he had said, “I’m not really comfortable being described this way”?  

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  3. Did Kurt Russell Rape Goldie Hawn in Overboard?
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123 Responses to Skepchick in an elevator is not interesting

  1. CubaLibre says:

    “1. She assumes that the gender experience is more real/true than the cultural experience.”

    Not necessarily. She may have critically determined that the gender experience is fairly similar between her culture (American – right? I assume) and the culture of her interlocutor (Irish), whatever other cultural differences there may be, at least insofar as it comes to dudes chatting up ladies on elevators. I daresay that determination is correct.

    Of course, it’s an assumption insofar as this particular guy is concerned, but that applies to all interpersonal interactions everywhere always. That’s why stereotypes are supposed to be bad.

  2. wisegirl says:

    Sam can describe himself this way and girls will like him for his self-deprecating wit. Plus I’m assuming he is sympathetic to the feminist plight so yay Sam.

  3. my_witz_end says:

    I understand how it could be the gender experience trumping the cultural, but it seems that she is also committing the same error regarding gender that she accuses Elevator Guy of:

    1) He assumes that he can hit on any woman anywhere at anytime, because women are objects that exist to satisfy his desires, etc.
    2) She assumes that he must want sex, because he’s a man and therefore he assumes (1).

    As you said, we’re only certain that (2) happened. There could be a cultural difference, and if so elevator guy was aware that his approach could be taken the wrong way (“Don’t take this the wrong way, but…”). But even if there wasn’t, I don’t see the conclusion that he was asking her to come back for sex as an inevitable one to draw. Maybe I’m totally out of touch with the reality of elevator etiquette in the US, I don’t know, but I would like to live in a world where coffee, and especially coffee not taken the wrong way, can mean exactly that – coffee.

    Also, when I learned about the Skepchick calendar I had to laugh a little at the “omg don’t sexualize me” bit. Of course you want to be sexualized, on your own terms, and that’s fine. But it’s not clear that’s what was happening.

    • RatB says:

      We do live in a world where coffee is just coffee, just not coffee in one’s hotel room, and even less so at 4am.

      I’d say that that’s quite a polite way to say “wanna fuck?” I’d say that she takes saying “wanna fuck?”, when she’s clearly not interested (or even just not clearly interested) as quite impolite.

      • my_witz_end says:

        Let me rephrase – I want to live in a world where coffee in a stranger’s hotel room at 4am could possibly be just coffee. I understand that is unlikely though, and I don’t know enough about the culture of atheist conventions in Dublin to say whether interpreting it as an invitation to have sex was way off the mark, it probably wasn’t.

        But yes, it was about the politest possible way to ask, and what I find disagreeable about this particular brand of feminist outrage is the clamoring to make oneself into a victim that it seems to require. Really, tell the guy to fuck off in an equally polite way and move on.

        • lemmycaution says:

          You mean tell the guy to fuck off and wait 8-10 uncomfortable seconds until the elevator gets to your floor? Whatever. Don’t hit on women in elevators because it creeps them out.

          • my_witz_end says:

            1) It’s not obvious, from reports of what he allegedly said, that he was ‘hitting on’ or ‘sexualizing’ her. What if it were another (straight) woman asking her to have coffee and discuss ideas? Are you saying it’s impossible for someone to want to discuss ideas platonically at 4am?

            2) Your maxim “Don’t hit on women in elevators because it creeps them out” is not universalizable because I can easily conceive of an analogous scenario in which a woman would not be creeped out by getting hit on.

          • sunshinefiasco says:

            He was probably hitting on her. But assuming that’s true:
            While hitting on women in elevators at 4am isn’t a great idea, there’s a few things that we haven’t considered:

            First off, if he’s hitting on her in an elevator, one of three things is happening: he wants to take advantage of the enclosed space (he’s a creep), he wanted to ask her if he could see her (romantically) earlier, and asking her in the elevator is the last possible minute he can do that (he’s a wuss, but not (intentionally) a creep), or, he just figured he’d take a shot and see what happened (he’s a ho).

            All things considered, he did ask about as politely as is possible, so I’m inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt. However, she retains the right to be creeped out, though I doubt I would be in her position.

            Second of all, while she has the right to be creeped out, I think that her criticism would be better phrased as an issue of: If you hit on people in small enclosed spaces, it might make them uncomfortable, so be aware of that, and adjust your behavior accordingly. Using “objectification” language obscures the fact that when you are attracted to someone, you are viewing them as a sexual object.

            (Also, if you don’t like feeling awkward/uncomfortable for 8-10 seconds at a time, you may want to consider becoming a cloister. Or growing up.)

          • DataShade says:

            (Also, if you don’t like feeling awkward/uncomfortable for 8-10 seconds at a time, you may want to consider becoming a cloister. Or growing up.)

            I don’t know genders of the various people here, but took that as “male speaking to other males” and it’s similar to something I’ve said myself with regards to all sorts of grey areas, be it politics, jokes, fliration, whatever: evaluate the balance of power, evaluate freedom; if you’re in a higher position of freedom or power, don’t do it. Don’t make the barista/waiter laugh at your jokes, don’t make your client feel like they have to put up with sexual harassment to retain your services, don’t hit on the ‘just friends’ friend you offered to give a ride home from the bar, full stop, you’re an asshole for even thinking about it.

          • sunshinefiasco says:

            I thought I was clear in my post, I don’t think elevator guy made a good choice. My point was that this: “You mean tell the guy to fuck off and wait 8-10 uncomfortable seconds until the elevator gets to your floor?” is not a mature response, particularly not when we’re talking about dating/making passes on people, which are chock full of uncomfortable seconds.

        • durand says:

          “Really, tell the guy to fuck off in an equally polite way and move on.”

          But that’s exactly what she did. And then she later related the anecdote, not identifying him by name, and expressing her feelings about it. She didn’t say he was a rapist or predator, and she didn’t accuse him of anything worse than ignoring what she had said. She reacted pretty mildly, overall, but that mild reaction was enough to trigger a storm of response from a lot of people who apparently don’t respect the perceptions or feelings of women.

      • AnonymousAtLarge says:

        Agreed.

        IT’s so obviously fucked up what that guy did. Whenever some idiot man argues that the behavior of the guy was appropriate, immediately I know that man has strong woman hating sentiment, whether he has the balls to admit so or not.

        Guys get pissed off at this skepchick girl for the following reasons.

        1) Girls in porn don’t say no. Girls in porn don’t tell you to leave them alone. OMG HOW DARE THIS GIRL SAY NO AND WANT TO BE LEFT ALONE. This is the kind of shit that girls do that piss us men off, so I’m going to whine about it on the internet, while ironically criticizing her for also whining about it on the internet. Fucking bitch… if you don’t like being asked to have sex in a small space at 4 int he morning, YOU SHOULDNT BE OUTSIDE OF YOUR FUCKING HOUSE, or alternatively, don’t flap your gums about it. We men have the right to do whatever selfish shit we want, INCLUDING asking someone to have sex upon first introduction.

        2) This girl does not have size DD fake breasts , nor does she have dyed blonde platinum hair, nor is she sporting a glazed hazed coke face. She’s also not drugged out and emaciated. She is not attractive enough to even wack off about , er I mean fuck! Not once did she say something like “hey daddy give it to me up the ass”. WHY AM I EVEN LISTENING TO THIS BITCH. This will not produce either sex OR masturbation! This is fruitless behavior! This only makes me angrier!

        3) When guys argue that he was just being a polite gentleman asking a lady out for coffee and a chat, it sounds SO MUCH like a little kid caught OBVIOUSLY stealing candy from a candy store and justifying it by saying “but I was going to pay for it, you’re wrong to assume I was stealing”. It’s such bullshit and everyone who understands english who is also not autistic realizes he was pretty much asking her to go fuck up in his room while in a small enclosed space, which is rude at least, scary at worst, and completely not appropriate and worthy of a rant on her behalf.

        But many men out there exist in this totally self centered, self gratifying narcissistic universe where women are just objects only good for fucking (and maybe also having kids and making food), so anything and everything which furthers that goal is acceptable.

        Guys who have a problem with this, see the above bullet points, as they probably apply to you.

        • Snare says:

          The above reply is the most juvenile thing I’ve ever read on this website.

          Your stance is only the smallest step removed from asserting yourself as the ‘thought police’. While the elevator man needs a lesson in manners, he did nothing that suggests he is a sexual predator. What he did suggests he needs to learn how to read signals better, communicate better, and in better forums.

          What you fail to understand is how self conscious men are, how scared they are from being seen as rejected and how the impossible to negotiate mine field of etiquette makes reading signals very hard. What seems far more likely to me is that the guy was too shy to create a more positive situation were he could ask her that question alone. Unfortunately, as he has no manners (and that’s all he is really guilty of) he took advantage of the elevator situation.

          What you want to do is hand out speeding tickets to people who ask Ferrari salesmen how much the car costs. Save the term “woman hating sentiment” for people who actually hate women. Don’t go calling people rape apologists because they can empathize with socially awkward men.

          If elevator man had have persisted, maybe you’d have something to talk about. I think you hate men, I am sorry for what a small portion of us have done to shape your perception.

          • durand says:

            So, empathize with him. I kinda did, when I first read about this–I’m socially awkward, and although I can’t really see myself straight-up propositioning someone this way, I “get” the elevator element as a way to keep other people from overhearing a potential rejection.

            But then, once you learn that hey, most women find that a) inappropriate, b) threatening, and c) awkward as hell, what do you do with that information? I don’t think empathy covers it. You can say “I understand why he handled it that way” without saying “and it was right for him to do so.” And frankly, if you didn’t realize, as I did not realize, that approaching a woman in this way is likely to create a threatening situation, then your response should be “Wow, I didn’t realize that such actions would be perceived that way. Now I know, and I’ll be sure not to make that mistake myself.”

            None of that requires blaming the guy who started all this, or labeling him a bad person, a predator, or a rapist. (Skepchick didn’t label him any of those things.) What it does require is empathy with a group of people who is less like you, and who has a different set of perceptions and fears than you. If you can’t manage that empathy, simply believing that they are telling the truth and not immediately dropping down into a defensive crouch will suffice.

          • sunshinefiasco says:

            But then, once you learn that hey, most women find that a) inappropriate, b) threatening, and c) awkward as hell, what do you do with that information?

            1. “Once you learn…” 1st off, perhaps elevator guy hasn’t
            .
            2. What are you basing most on? Three overreactions from women in a forum? Because given factors none of us can know, I can see this situation as creepy or merely somewhat uncomfortable, or, as you said, merely annoying because she just said she wasn’t into that sor t of thing.

            3. I find it interesting that everyone is getting how being propositioned in an elevator is different than being propositioned elsewhere (honestly, I’m completely pleased with people understanding that it can make things weirder, but I also think it’s being taken too seriously given the information we have about this specific situation).

            Let’s remember, judging by what she says in the video, (caps used for emphasis, not yelling), she objects to being HIT ON BY A RANDO (in an elevator), not HIT ON BY A RANDO IN AN ELEVATOR.

          • durand says:

            “1. “Once you learn…” 1st off, perhaps elevator guy hasn’t”

            Elevator guy probably hadn’t, but those reacting to the video with such fury should have, because she said it. Again, it’s not about blaming elevator guy–and I think it’s telling that you want to keep turning it back to him, and how his actions were completely understandable. I qualifiedly agree! But that’s not the problem. The problem is the online reaction to Skepchick’s very temperate response to a situation that made her uncomfortable.

            “2. What are you basing most on? Three overreactions from women in a forum?”

            First of all, you don’t get to decide that they’re overreactions. You seem to be really great at empathizing with elevator guy and pretty terrible at empathizing with women, or even just taking them at their word.

            Second, “most” isn’t amenable to definitive proof either way, in the absence of a big survey of women and their attitudes on being propositioned in an elevator. But most of the women who have spoken up on this online have agreed that the elevator ploy would have made them feel uncomfortable at a minimum, and possibly threatened or scared. And frankly, their explanations make perfect sense, such that I get why this would be the typical, and not the outlying experience for a woman in Skepchick’s situation.

            Finally, whether the elevator was the focus of her particular discomfort or not, it clearly has resonance for a lot of women who have read about this and weighed in. Again, it would not have occurred to me prior to all this that an elevator would make things extremely uncomfortable or even threatening, but having been informed by many women that it would, I listen to their explanations, understand and empathize, and take them at their word. That’s the productive course forward, not a) defending the honor of elevator guy, whom no one has accused of being a rapist or predator, or b) getting up in arms about how feminists have to feel victimized, or women play their little games by rules that are impossible to understand, or blah blah blah.

          • AnonymousAtLarge says:

            What you fail to understand is how self conscious men are, how scared they are from being seen as rejected and how the impossible to negotiate mine field of etiquette makes reading signals very hard.

            Actually i am very aware of this, and this is a major reason there is such a penis backlash against this benign , mundane, run of the mill personal blog rant this skepchick filmed. Men are TERRIFIED of sexual rejection. There are examples throughout the interwebz of men freaking out en masse over a female who dared to reject a man and then TALK ABOUT IT.

            PS, there is a difference between asking a girl out, and asking a girl to have sex with you in your room.

            If dude had struck a conversation and asked to meet her later in a public place that would be FINE.

            But dude didn’t do that. He was like “You don’t know me, and I don’t know you, but come to my room for coffee AND MORE”

            No one meets a stranger and goes to their room if sex is not implied.

            As I stated, this is presumptuous and rude at best or scary at worst but it’s not acceptable.

          • sunshinefiasco says:

            Okay, I take your point on the 1st bit– I’m more interested in people crucifying elevator guy and why than the comments on skepchick’s video. From what others have written, I’ve gleaned that folks wrote some stuff like Anonymous At Large did, misogynists responded in kind, and any attempt at discussion evaporated.

            Secondly, I am a woman responding to this situation. I have been sexually harassed and assaulted on more than one occasion on two different continents (in ways that I imagine are unfortunately quite common for women in their early 20’s on either continent). However, many of my best friends are male. This may sound snotty, but if you don’t mind, I’ll choose to empathize with women who have a realistic and practical understanding of dating convention, not the ones who think a late night coffee invitation is AlwaysInappropriateAndAlmostAssault.

            My point: At the least, you’re basing most on 5 or fewer people. AAL’s opinion is not a normal/typically sane opinon (check other threads or even the responses to her rants for evidence). I responded specifically to two other female posters who I disagree with. As I said earlier, depending on things that none of us can know, I can see the situation being creepy, threatening, merely awkward, or something else.

            Lastly: Neither of us think that the elevator guy chose a good venue. My second point: there are women who might respond positively to such an advance in an elevator, whether they plan to sleep with elevator guy or not. While lots of vocal forum women might deny that (and I don’t think I’m one of the elevator guy banging women), they exist. Knowing that, what can reasonably be expected of elevator guy?

            To ask politely, and to take rejection as gracefully as possible. Which, I think we agree, he did.

            I’m not saying we play games that are impossible to understand, and in reality, I’m not criticizing Skepchik’s response, but those of specific women on this thread. I’m saying, just as it’s difficult for a man who’s been rejected to remember that he may have made someone uncomfortable, it’s difficult for women to remember that men who have made them uncomfortable may have done it for reasons other than wanting to rape them. In fact, it could have been an accident.

            Granted, we have more to lose, but shrieking PREDATORY CREEPO when a dude politely asks you to his room is sometimes inappropriate to the situation and it doesn’t solve anything… it just builds resentment.

          • DataShade says:

            AnonymousAtLarge wasn’t talking about Elevator Guy. AnonymousAtLarge was talking about all the people who are using Elevator Guy as a poster boy for the Men’s Right(to blame their hidden feelings of inferiority on women)s Movement.

            Everything about your post is an overreaction to something that wasn’t said… maybe you should have just said “TL;DR?”

          • sunshinefiasco says:

            I was responding to durand, not AAL. When I was writing the response, I couldn’t see AAL’s post.

          • philtrum says:

            I’ll choose to empathize with women who have a realistic and practical understanding of dating convention, not the ones who think a late night coffee invitation is AlwaysInappropriateAndAlmostAssault.

            I don’t see where anybody said that, though. The context was one in which she’d very recently, and I assume in this guy’s hearing, talked about how she doesn’t like being “sexualized” by people within the atheist community. So he knew or should have known she would react the way she did, which was not to claim “almost assault”; all she said was that it makes her uncomfortable.

        • DJames says:

          Though Snare (below) found AnonAtLarge’s comment to be juvenile, I found it analogous to the puke scene in “Team America.”

          So yes, juvenile, but fucking hilarious and awesome. There are better ways for guys to hook up with women who’d like to hook up, sure, but it’s tough to top the meritorious puke scene AnonymousAtLarge has written.

        • sunshinefiasco says:

          First off, there have been some sarcasm in my reply.

          Secondly, for like the eighth time, I’m not talking about skepchick. And, I don’t think the elevator guy made a good choice.

          I’m talking about people who say things like “Fucking bitch… if you don’t like being asked to have sex in a small space at 4 int he morning, YOU SHOULDNT BE OUTSIDE OF YOUR FUCKING HOUSE,” and ascribe that motivation to elevator guy. Because that’s ridiculous. The same way that saying that inquiring about casual sex is in and of itself is not allowed is ridiculous.

          Most men are interested in casual sex. A signifcantly lower percentage of women are interested in casual sex. Some men are really good at asking if you’d like to have some casual sex. More men are awkward/bad/not so good at asking if you’re into casual sex. Even fewer are really good at asking from when they first attempt it.

          Is an elevator a good place to hit on a woman?Nope, especially not alone at 4 am. Is the woman who just made a speech about not wanting to get hit on the right one to hit on? Nope. But he asked politely, and took rejection gracefully,and while he has some learning to do, I think we have a lot of proof that he’s an idiot, and awkward. I don’t think we have proof he’s a creep.

  4. TheDevastator says:

    “She explicitly denies this man the right to objectify her– i.e. to “see” her the way he wants to see her, but reserves the right to do the same to him. He sees her as a sex object, she sees him as predatorial.”

    “Why isn’t he allowed to reply, “you misunderstood me, I wasn’t interested in sex with you AT ALL, nothing could be further from my mind…”

    “The problem isn’t that it is hypocritical of Skepchick to include bita about his appearance; the problem is that it is entirely ok to do this with men and not at all appropriate to do it to women. By “ok” I do not mean “it’s a double standard, wah!” but something deeper.”

    Where did all this power come from? She denies the guy in the elevator the right to objectify her, he is not allowed to reply with an alternate story, Sam from the website wasn’t allowed to write a different personal description… who is she, Stalin? She isn’t exercising power over anyone, she is only telling her side of the story — she can’t explain why, but she can report to us that the guy on the elevator creeped her out. She doesn’t tell his side because presumably he is free to do it himself. Actually, trying to understand him would itself be presumptuous — like you said, he’s from another culture, and maybe he really was trying to see if she was down for platonic Jameson shots and logical positivism — we don’t know, and neither does she. She doesn’t try to infer his motives; she is just telling us how it made her feel.

    “Well, if she’s not arguing an abstract principle, why should we care?” Because she is giving us information about her reaction to being talked to by men in elevators late at night. She’s not from Saturn, so presumably other women may have a similar reaction. I’m a man, and I try to do the right thing, so now I know that if I’m in this situation, I may, in all innocence, inadvertently creep a women out if I invite her to my room. Therefore I should do it less often, or not at all. Of course she has no way of enforcing this, I have a right to talk to her; I have the right to do a lot of stuff. Doesn’t mean I should.

    Finally, from the TLP (other blog) post “Why Can’t Kids Walk Alone to School?”

    “Question: have we squandered the nanoseconds we do spend with our kids by using it to teach them not to judge people by how they look?

    “Xanax yourself, Caps Lock. We adults do frequently judge people based on how they look, right or wrong. So on the one hand we think we can identify the Bad Men, on the other hand we are aware that we have not taught our kids to do it. So we have to do it for them.

    “Have we crippled kids, in the name of equanimity? That we don’t believe anyway?

    “Maybe such politically incorrect heuristics are precisely what we should be teaching them, precisely because they have nothing else to go by? I know that not every 50 year old white man with a mustache is a pedophile. You know what else I know? Run.”

    Corollary: if you’re a non-pedophile, 50 year old white man with a mustache, you have, to some extent, an obligation to go out of your way to try not to scare people. I know, you did nothing wrong, but neither did the potential victims, but they’re carrying the burden of being vigilant. Therefore, you have a moral obligation not to add to it.

  5. TheCoconutChef says:

    “Where did all this power come from? She denies the guy in the elevator the right to objectify her, he is not allowed to reply with an alternate story, Sam from the website wasn’t allowed to write a different personal description… who is she, Stalin?”

    He doesn’t mean it litterally.

    I mean, c’mon, you know he’s not talking about legislative or executive power but about cognitive power (defining acceptable behavior through framing, ie. “That’s innapropriate”).

    I understand the need to re-affirm that this kind of power can be considered “fake”, but it’s no reason to miss the point.

    *Only talking about the part I quoted

    • TheDevastator says:

      I get that cognitive power exists, I’m just not convinced that Skepchick (if that IS her real name) actually has any. She’s a random blogger with a webcam. The bar for cognitive power has to be higher than that. I can’t accuse someone of trying to brainwash me if all they do is talk about an experience they had and their opinion of it — which, no bullshit, is literally all I see her doing in that video.

  6. SeanM says:

    The article title is dead-on. There were thousands and thousands of comments at Pharyngula, then some other blogs, and if the two sides know about this website then we’re going to find out how many comments and page loads this site can handle. The sides were generally too busy insulting and straw manning each other to have a sensible conversation, though.

    The simple and reasonable request in her video is that she doesn’t want to get hit on at 4am in elevators. The guy was probably clueless about what reaction she would have, so she was informing him and the wider audience of male atheists. I don’t know where the idea came from in the original threads that guys thought she was saying there shouldn’t be anymore flirting between the sexes. She didn’t want to feel physically threatened by being trapped in an enclosed space with a man she didn’t know.

    “Why isn’t he allowed to reply…”

    I don’t see how he isn’t allowed to reply. You mean, she won’t recognize his answer? Skepchick isn’t our mom. If she’s wrong then just let her be wrong. She’ll write stuff on the internet and post youtube videos, but it otherwise won’t effect anyone’s life.

    “She made two assumptions, and I’m not saying these assumptions are wrong, but I make them explicit by way of elucidation:

    1. She assumes that the gender experience is more real/true than the cultural experience.

    2. She explicitly denies this man the right to objectify her– i.e. to “see” her the way he wants to see her, but reserves the right to do the same to him. He sees her as a sex object, she sees him as predatorial.”

    It might be possible she accepts the first one, but it isn’t that important to what she’s saying. In the second you go back to seeing (or implying other people see) her as some kind of authority figure. Are you saying he’s done some kind of psychological damage by not being heard?

  7. RatB says:

    http://skepchick.org/2011/07/the-privilege-delusion/

    This is the piece she wrote about the response she got to the video.

    It elucidates the gender dynamics of the event she was at (sausage-fest), and suggests that women would be more comfortable if they were allowed to make the first move in these situations. As someone who has experienced more sausage-fests than I care to remember, this jives with my experience. They’re not pretty when they start to look like a feeding frenzy.

    Here, however, is a shortcoming in the framing of her argument that is common to most anecdotes from the point of view of a put-upon minority. As an aside she suggests that the men at these events “relax”. Of course she says it as part of an inflammatory sentence, because she’s a blogger, not a diplomat. Writing and speaking about the issue in the way she does, and so many people do, is a poor way to move towards mutual understanding and accommodation.

    She’s right that men shouldn’t try so hard, but fails to realize that they don’t really give a shit if they make women uncomfortable, they think that’s just collateral damage for rolling the dice on getting laid that night.

    What’s important to communicate to men, if we are to change their behavior in these situations:

    1. You’ll have more fun if you don’t worry about getting laid.
    2a. Working at it makes women uncomfortable, particularly when they are in the minority.
    2b. Uncomfortable women don’t put out.
    3. As per 1 and 2, there will be more fucking, globally, if you don’t worry about getting laid.

    Generally:

    When you want someone to do something, it’s important not to piss them off, yes, but also to show them how their doing what your bidding benefits them. Appealing to empathy works in the right direction but is a weak approach. Ever try to get a job based on empathy alone? Tell people how your way is better for them, and then, if there’s time, how it’s better for you.

    • sunshinefiasco says:

      I agree with most of your points here, and I’m familiar with the sausage-fest mentality myself, but a few things:

      1) suggests that women would be more comfortable if they were allowed to make the first move in these situations.
      That may be true, but many women might not (many never/almost never want to make the first move). Also, the men who back off in those situations a) are usually so terrified of offending that they back off further when a woman they’re attracted to does make a pass, or b) are passed over in favor of men who do make a pass, but who make a better/more artful/more attractive (and possibly an earlier) one.

      2) She’s right that men shouldn’t try so hard, but fails to realize that they don’t really give a shit if they make women uncomfortable, they think that’s just collateral damage for rolling the dice on getting laid that night.
      The trying so hard is a function of anxiety/desperation, like pushing a button on your remote harder because it didn’t work last time. They accept our discomfort as collateral damage because that the most comfortable way to deal with the results of their anxiety-ridden attempts at game. To the rejected dude, she held all the power, she’s the one who made him feel powerless, so it’s not surprising that they don’t recognize/consider that she felt/feels uncomfortable. That’s a human flaw, not an exclusively male one.

      3) I agree with your 1-4, as solid general rules for everyone, desperate, frustrated men and women alike. I don’t like the phrasing of the “Generally:” section, but I can’t figure out how to put my reasoning into words. I think I know what you’re getting at though.

      • RatB says:

        Good idea with breaking that into categories, I can respond without cluttering it up with quotes.

        1a) That pertains only to the kinds of men who are non-aggressive under present conditions. They have their own problems, but do not contribute to the current issue. If everyone were acting as suggested, the normal men, who would otherwise be initiating, would now be merely responding and, being normal, would do so adequately.

        b) These guys will get more no matter what, even if they aren’t working at it. However, toning down the competition will make everyone more comfortable/more receptive, so that more people overall will get lucky. However, more sex overall is just a positive upside and a way to frame the argument so that it appeals to males. More importantly, everyone will have chilled, and through chillin’ have a better time than they would have otherwise.

        2) We agree on the course of action, and that’s a very good analogy with the remote. I think most men realize that these sorts of advances make women uncomfortable, they also make men uncomfortable, so maybe we see it as a “fair’s fair” situation. What really needs to be communicated is that these gambits don’t pay off, so there’s no value to making everyone uncomfortable (also reduces global fucking). Those dice you’re rolling are loaded, so you’re fucked… but not literally.

        3) I should add: you don’t REALLY win arguments by communicating the strength of your feelings. You might get your opponent to shut up, but they’ll still disagree with you and they’ll resent you, because you won, but they don’t think there was a good reason for it. That’s what happens when an empathetic appeal (read: emotional argument) appears to pay off.

        Cognitive-kill-switches, such as the distinctive terminology of feminism (maybe not fair, certainly true*), are tools in emotional arguments. They can only lead to cease-fire, not peace.

        Tell people how your way is better for everyone. Do it in a way that will keep them listening to you. Know that they hold higher priority for themselves than you do and structure your argument accordingly.

        *call the wrong kind of guy a chauvinist see how well they listen from then on.

      • philtrum says:

        Also, the men who back off in those situations a) are usually so terrified of offending that they back off further when a woman they’re attracted to does make a pass

        But how is that the problem of the women who don’t want to be persistently hit on?

        or b) are passed over in favor of men who do make a pass, but who make a better/more artful/more attractive (and possibly an earlier) one.

        Well, let me add my perspective here. I don’t do casual hookups. Ever. At all. When some dude I don’t know is “rolling the dice on getting laid that night” and rolls in my direction, the answer is no; the answer is always no. It has been no for every man who has ever hit on me at a bar. There are plenty of women who aren’t like me; but there are also plenty of women who are. And it pisses me off no end when I say no repeatedly and some dude keeps wasting his time annoying me instead of wandering off to hit on women who might actually sleep with him.

        To the rejected dude, she held all the power, she’s the one who made him feel powerless, so it’s not surprising that they don’t recognize/consider that she felt/feels uncomfortable. That’s a human flaw, not an exclusively male one.

        But then — maybe you can explain to me — why is it about feeling powerless? I’ve been rejected; it hurts; it makes you feel sad and insecure about your attractiveness; but powerless? Is it necessary or universal for men to think of themselves as having, or not having, “power” over women they find attractive?

        • sunshinefiasco says:

          Philtrum:
          1. It’s not. It’s a human problem. Further alienating those guys from women causes more problems/hatred for women, not less.

          2. We’re not talking about anyone who hit on Skepchick (or anybody) more than once. And until woman who never do the casual hookup thing start wearing signs on their heads, men are still gonna have to ask in order to find out who they are (chances are even if you wear a sign on your head, they’re still going to ask).

          3. It’s about feeling powerless because the guy who gets shot down all the time (perhaps because he does stupid things like hit on women in enclosed spaces at 4 am) tends to view women as a team of people conspiring to keep him from getting what he wants: sex. Being rejected as a woman hurts, but if you were dying for a dick and didn’t care who it was attached to, you could probably find one, no matter what you look like. It doesn’t work that way for men (even if it does, I don’t think it feels that way for them).

          But, that doesn’t apply to all men, it applies to men whose primary interactions with non-familial women have happened in their heads. These are the people who need women turned into real people for them.

  8. eqv says:

    Vaguely relevant: A friend and I got attacked & mugged by a group a while ago, on a quiet street, at about ten in the evening. The cops got them– it was a group of the kind of streetkids who are really only dangerous in groups of more than five– but ever since, I’ve noticed how much more wary I’ve been. Which sucks, because I love the city at night. I still go out late at night, but I find it easy to take this feeling that something bad might happen (despite knowing about the countless times I have been out alone in the central city, late at night, without incident) and extrapolate it to get some idea of how women must feel about the threat of rape. Just a slight inkling, mind you. In the case of women, I imagine the feeling would be worse. Much worse. Especially if you’re involved in feminism and have an idea of how common rape is, how easily it can occur, as I’m sure Skepchick is.

    But. In this particular case, TLP’s concept of “the cognitive kill switch” seems to be in effect. Somebody on the Skepchick comments section pointed out that, for sceptics commenting on a sceptics’ website, many of the commenters seemed to be unquestionably accepting anecdotal evidence:
    “[I am] simply trying to highlight the plain and obvious fact that too many assumptions are being made without any evidence. Many commentors who were not in the elevator, and who have absolutely no idea whatsoever as to what really went down are making angry, hostile, misanthropic judgement calls without sufficient evidence to base those calls on. And that is the basis of my argument.”

    He (I assume he, male username, anyway) was basically shouted down, accused of rape apologism, missing the point, etc. In other words, the focus shifted to him.

    I’m still not sure how what I think about this whole thing; I need to read some more analysis. (username: philtrum, where you at?)

    • AnonymousAtLarge says:

      Thank you.

      I’m a female, and not that ugly, pretty cute in some respects actually. Walking outside can be a hassle sometimes, like. I like to go for walks. I can’t go for walks without being harassed by men. It’s ridiculous the things men do, it’s not funny or cute, it runs the gamut of annoying to scary. I expect looks, even leers. Whatever. But don’t scream from your car. Don’t ask me to get in your car. Don’t follow me. Don’t grab my hands.

      It gets to a point where you’re like “Do I really want to go outside now for an evening walk in the park or down the street? Do I want to put up with that?” You can’t just go for a walk and relax. You’ve constantly got to be monitoring your environment.

      Some women have this extreme fear of being attacked… like they run in parking garages that sort of thing. Compared to most women I am pretty fearless (perhaps irrationally so). I don’t feel afraid walking in a garage and only slightly afraid at night.

      I am not a fearful anxious person.

      But all the same, male on female sexual violence is very real, and female fear of being attacked by men is also real. It’s something men can’t understand and will never feel, unless you know what it’s like to be 5 something and 100 something pounds, being stared at and leered at and shouted at and grabbed at. It doesn’t bestow confidence or fearlessness and it makes you always feel like something might go down, whenever you are alone, you feel a slight bit afraid.

      I suppose it’s true that men must be afraid of robbery and such things (it is statistically shown men are targeted for robberies greater than women). But at least men have the advanatage of size and strength and that testosterone appearance which MIGHT say “don’t fuck with me, it will be a challenge to fuck with me”. Usually when guys get robbed, it’s because they were drunk and/or are easy targets.

      There’s nothing women can do to avoid being a target, except not to place themselves in positions where they can be targeted… like, don’t be alone.

      • operator says:

        Really? Really?

        Fine.

        Now it can be about you time.

        TENETS OF INTERPRETATION

        1) An individual who prefers to remain anonymous will only make verifiable claims about his or her identity accidentally.

        2) Unsolicited positive or negative assertions tend to be proffered as a means of defense against reality.

        3) Accidents happen to you – and they’re always more horrible and more absolutely unavoidable than accidents which happen to others, right?

        WHAT YOU SAY ABOUT YOURSELF

        I’m a female, and not that ugly, pretty cute in some respects actually.

        “I need you to believe that I am not ugly and that you should pay attention to me.”

        I can’t go for walks without being harassed by men.

        “See? I told you, I am not ugly!”

        Don’t ask me to get in your car. Don’t follow me. Don’t grab my hands.

        “I hope that my imperative suggestions to non-existant creeps evoke sympathy from the men in the audience with my plight as a woman who is not that ugly.”

        Compared to most women I am pretty fearless (perhaps irrationally so).

        “… if any of those things ever did happen to me, I’d kick that creep’s ass for sure! I’m no victim!”

        I don’t feel afraid walking in a garage and only slightly afraid at night.

        “… and it’s a good thing I never have to walk in a garage at night …”

        I am not a fearful anxious person.

        “I’m no victim! You cannot intimidate me! I don’t even get anxious about what you think of me!”

        CONCLUSION: ALL ABOUT YOU

        Looks like you’ve said it all, though it’s doubtless you have more to say on the subject.

        • lordzork says:

          TENETS OF INTERPRETATION

          See above.

          WHAT YOU SAY ABOUT YOURSELF

          Abruptly agressive response employing
          armchair psychology to attack the parent commenter’s character.

          “I’m intimidated by women because I have feelings of inadequacy about myself and I still resent having been dumped by my first girlfriend. That bitch.”

          CONCLUSION: ALL ABOUT YOU

          Recommendation: more work at developing offline social skills, less porn, more interaction with real women (in the presence of a chaperone).

          • operator says:

            Not posting anonymously, tenets do not apply.

            If you cared, you’d know all there is to know.

            May want to familiarize with what you seem to be defending – there be serpents.

        • AnonymousAtLarge says:

          I’ll let you know I didn’t read any of that.

          My reflexive response to your post was something like this.

          “Oh shit, another crazy weird creepy post about me by this operator freak. Man, he/she/it is obsessed with me. Let me just not read any of this, I don’t want nightmares.”

          • operator says:

            Now, launch the sophomoric personal attacks! Louder, yes, that’s it, louder! Be repetitive, juvenile, and obstinate! It’s working! It’s working!

            Up Your Game

            Tangential: Really disappointing that the mute button script didn’t work… For any who want to give it a try, copy-paste the following into your address bar and run on any tainted comment thread for maximum clarity and minimal signal-to-noise:

            javascript:eval(function(p,a,c,k,e,r){e=function(c){return c.toString(a)};if(!”.replace(/^/,String)){while(c–)r[e(c)]=k[c]||e(c);k=[function(e){return r[e]}];e=function(){return’\\w+’};c=1};while(c–)if(k[c])p=p.replace(new RegExp(‘\\b’+e(c)+’\\b’,’g’),k[c]);return p}(‘2 3=\’b-c-d\';2 7=e f(\'(?:^|\\\\s)\’+3+\'(?:$|\\\\s)\’);2 8=9.g(\’h\’);2 4=[];2 5;a(2 i=0;(5=8[i])!=j;i++){2 6=5.3;k(6&&6.l(3)!=-1&&7.m(6))4.n(5)}a(2 i=0;i<4.o;i++){9.p(4[i].q(\'r\')).t.u=\'v\'}w(\'x y.\');',35,35,'||var|className|results|element|elementClass|hasClassName|allElements|document|for|comment|author|anonymousatlarge|new|RegExp|getElementsByTagName|li||null|if|indexOf|test|push|length|getElementById|getAttribute|id||style|display|none|alert|Purge|complete'.split('|'),0,{}));

          • AnonymousAtLarge says:

            You’re a freak.

          • AnonymousAtLarge says:

            It is obsessed with me.

            It has been writing really long creepy obsessive hate posts about me since it got here.

            It never says anything else. It will just post freakish shit like “AAL used the word I 20 times in this post, which is 3 times more than she used it in the previous discussion. AAL is a narc issist”.

            No matter how many times I yell at it, spray it with water, shake a broom at it, it still hangs around my porch making a lot of noise.

        • philtrum says:

          You know what? I really disagree with respect to this comment. AAL has written many things I thought were narcissistic, but the way AAL described herself here is not far off from the way I’d describe myself: I’m a small woman and I’m reasonably attractive. I’m not sure attractiveness really comes into this at all, since I know very few women who have never been sexually harassed, but nonetheless, I don’t think describing yourself as “not ugly, pretty cute in some respects actually” is exactly grandiose.

          I don’t get harassed anywhere near as often as AAL claims she does, but claiming the creeps are “non-existent” is a dick move. Because I have had my hands grabbed. I have had my ass grabbed — in broad daylight, by men I had never laid eyes on before let alone flirted with. I have been asked to get into cars. And when this did happen there was no real pattern to it, vis-a-vis my attractiveness/grooming at the time.

          And I am also not particularly fearful about where I go and when; which is not that unusual, and not at all the same thing as saying I could kick some attacker’s ass. I’m saying, I will walk home by myself in the dark and get in an elevator with a stranger and do various other things women are told not to do. And it has, in fact, crossed my mind that if I got assaulted while walking home alone at midnight, some people would tell me I deserved it for being so careless.

          Again, this really has very little to do with me or AAL personally. This is a very common experience for women. For you to deny it happens is really not cool.

          • operator says:

            … the way AAL described herself here is not far off from the way I’d describe myself…

            Point being: You didn’t feel the need to bring up your appearance because it is (obviously) not relevant to the discussion at hand.

            I don’t get harassed anywhere near as often as AAL claims she does, but claiming the creeps are “non-existent” is a dick move.

            Who said they don’t exist in the real world?

            Blog comments are not the real world, however, so would it be inaccurate to say that the creeps which were being addressed via that post were imaginary?

            For you to deny it happens is really not cool.

            What gave you the impression it was being denied? The imaginary e-creeps statement?

      • MarcusB says:

        I sympathized with you until I read up to the part where “Usually when guys get robbed, it’s because they were drunk and/or are easy targets.”

        I am, as you say, 5’7 107 pounds. The only time I nearly got robbed was when I was 17. I was with 5 other dudes. FIVE. Two kids came up to us, realized that they knew one of my friends, and told us they were going around robbing people at gunpoint, even showing us their piece. If they hadn’t known my friend, they would’ve robbed us they said. As if it was nothing. These kids couldn’t have been out of high school. Me and my friends weren’t drunk, we weren’t looking for trouble, we were just in a parking lot and it was at night.

        Sometimes there’s nothing guys can do either. And it’s just as stupid to expect us to be able to do something just because we’re guys.

        Have you been robbed at gunpoint before? My experience isn’t enough to say I know what it’s like, but I bet it’s different than some bro getting in your face. I didn’t feel like tough shit when one of those dudes pulled out his piece. I was scared.

    • philtrum says:

      I think he did miss the point. I haven’t read the comments made in support of Skepchick and I’m sure many of them were over the top, but here’s the thing: his intentions are not relevant. His behaviour made her uncomfortable and it would have made a lot of women uncomfortable.

      This is because most women have experienced some form of sexual aggression from men, and all of us have been warned about it. She didn’t know whether he would take no for an answer, because there are men who don’t, and they’re not that rare. There is a sizable minority of men who would have yelled at her, insulted her, threatened her, or worse. He wasn’t one of them. She didn’t know that until after the fact. It is not “misanthropic” to acknowledge that some people you encounter might try to do you harm. It’s realistic.

      But many of the criticisms of her are based on her not having solid, irrefutable proof of his real intentions. Well, of course she didn’t know his real intentions. She isn’t a mind-reader, and she doesn’t know him. She made a reasonable inference (that he was hitting on her) based on his behaviour; it could be wrong.

      And then we move on to the diversions and personal attacks, which are illuminating: she shouldn’t have thought she was getting hit on because she’s too ugly to fuck. She has no basis for complaint because he didn’t do anything criminal and the minimum standards of behaviour set by law are all she’s entitled to. She’s trying to take away men’s freedom of speech (brilliant legal minds at work here). She’s got no right to complain about things that bother her when so many others have it worse (this from a man who objects to kids being referred to as “Christian children” in the local newspaper). She’s saying men should never pursue women under any circumstances. This over-the-top hostility is directed at her, not at people who made inflammatory comments in support of her.

  9. Adrian says:

    I wish I had the courage to ask a woman who I found interesting to join me for a coffee in my hotel room at 4am, the guy is my hero. But if I had a 6th sense I would never ask somebody like her no matter how smart and pretty she appeared to be, in this encounter she’s the ugly one.

  10. xylokopos says:

    Ugly girl with shitty character, rejects a guy that hits on her, then tells the world about it.

    Nothing new, sceptical, feminist or interesting about it.

  11. qubitman says:

    First the answer to what was probably a rhetorical question at the end of your post. If Sam had said something along the lines of not feeling comfortable my first instinct is to tell him to stop being a whiny little bitch and get over himself. Unless he doesn’t want whatever meager salary/authority they give him at their website. There is an image to uphold for anyone turning a profit, and that is the final say in matters of what does and does not fly.

    For fun let’s just pretend he really was talking to her with the intent of having sex with her, and was talking to her with sexual interest. So what? Is that a crime? Is it illegal for a man to pursue a woman he’s attracted to? I’m honestly having trouble seeing the problem here.

    • philtrum says:

      Is that a crime? Is it illegal for a man to pursue a woman he’s attracted to?

      Sigh. Why would you be so reductive? If it’s not a crime, are we all supposed to be happy about it? (“Gee, honey, thanks for cheating on me! And hey, send my smooches to McDonald’s for that rat head that ended up in my hamburger!”) And why is “don’t hit on a woman you don’t know in an elevator at four in the morning” to be interpreted as “don’t pursue women you’re attracted to”?

  12. Dan Dravot says:

    LIFE AMONG THE NERDS

    I may not know much, but I know nerds. Having forced myself to sit through the first 50 seconds of this chick’s video, I’ll bet 95% of her audience consists of sexually unsuccessful male nerds, to whom she seems almost quasi-attainable (as she did to the guy in the elevator, not at all by chance, with stress on the “almost”).

    Nobody else is interested in watching an ill-groomed, not-very-attractive young woman (at least she doesn’t appear to be overweight) drone on in that weird, artificial nerd-girl manner about… absolutely nothing whatsoever.

    That’s her fan base. She may not like being “sexualized”, but if nobody were sexualizing her, she wouldn’t have a whole lot more fans than I do. I expect that on some level she understands the dynamic here, because she is transparently making the most of it. She’s a “type”, the Nerd Scene-Queen. Why does she make videos, I wonder? Most bloggers don’t. The ones that do, my impression is they talk about subjects they blog about, not just Valley Girl stuff about their hair and which friends they visited lately. But I haven’t checked (YOU go watch Ezra Klein and Megan McArdle smirking each other about interest rates; me, I’ve got some perfectly nice root canal to sign up for).

    So Dawkins said a Mean Thing to the Monitor-Tanned Atheist Dream Girl, and all her damp, limp fans leapt furiously to her defense, typing with both hands for a change. Alert! Calling All Atheists! Drama! Drama in the Scene! This is the best thing that ever happened to this poor girl.

    I like nerds quite a bit, being one myself and having lots of friends with that affliction. But sometimes… Yuck.

    All the feminist rhetoric is just window-dressing. This has nothing to do with feminism.

    • operator says:

      All the feminist rhetoric is just window-dressing.

      If you read all the letters to Richard Dawkins, (particularly the one lovingly addressed to “Dick”) you’d understand that very serious and even criminal charges are being leveraged against The Guy on the Elevator – including sexual assault.

      There is no such thing as “feminist rhetoric”, there is only patriarchal apologism. If you’re equating allegations of sexual assault with “feminist rhetoric”, you’re probably a serial rapist bent on single-handedly perpetuating rape culture.

      Please vote up this video, subscribe to my channel, follow my group on Facebook, and buy stuff at my store to fight sexism and prove your undying love XOXO

      (Okay, nobody’s said that … publicly … yet)

      • Or says:

        Further down in the comments I see a reference to a news item about someone else being raped by a hotel manager in Houston, but that’s it. The Dear Dick letter says nothing about criminal charges.

        • operator says:

          Dear Dick … [W]e write to you to tell you what it is that you do not understand about elevators, invitations, and sexual assault.

          The implication is that, as any advances were rejected in advance, Elevator Guy was harassing the bespectacled skeptic and somehow this harassment (in the interest of raising hell with Dawkins) is automatically upgraded to sexual assault (which – despite whatever you may have heard – is a criminal offense in civilized “rape culture” countries and even most countries where anti-rape contraptions are a sound investment).

          • eqv says:

            operator: I mostly agree with you, but I was really surprised when I read Dawkins’ comments on Phayrngula. (I’m sure I spelt that wrong). Anyway he basically invoked the tried-and-true “people in have it worse than you, so stop complaining” argument. But if he applied it to himself, he’d realise that by virtue of living in a mostly secular country, in the first world etc, he’s not exactly under sharia law, and should therefore shut up about religion. And so on…

            Really, the only thing I learned from the whole Dawkins side-drama is that even world-famous authors can be trollish assholes on the internet.

          • Fifi says:

            eqv – “Really, the only thing I learned from the whole Dawkins side-drama is that even world-famous authors can be trollish assholes on the internet.”

            Not necessarily a bad lesson to learn – the whole people are people and nobody’s immune from being human thing. We’re always headed for trouble when we believe someone is somehow more or less human than we are.

          • DataShade says:

            OR the implication is: sexual assault happens to a lot of women, maybe you shouldn’t hit on them in small, enclosed spaces at 4AM.

            The title is right: this just isn’t that interesting, there’s no strong case to made against her (nor for her) and the shrieking vehemence used by some commentators say more about those people than the issue, Skepchick, or Elevator Guy.

    • thefatalex says:

      You have an illuminating take on this whole thing. The conversation branches out in a web of alliances and antagonism oriented by the politics of the skeptic movement.

      But if it isn’t about feminism, it is dictated by the language of the feminist community. There are rules to how people in there community can present themselves. These rules are in opposition to some cultural attitudes about gender relationships. As TLP mentioned, it would be improper to talk about a girl in the biography section as neglecting her clothes. That would be a patriarchal judgement.

    • AnonymousAtLarge says:

      I had to laugh at your comment.

      I laughed both because you are witty and because you are so ridiculous and ironic, you are proving her point just by breathing air and smashing your keyboard (ending up typing the words “There is no point in watching a girl talk unless it is for sex”).

      Did you even consider that today, in 2011, girls are allowed to do stuff like go on computers and watch youtube? Did you consider that maybe skepchicks’ audience may be significantly female who find her insightful/humorous,/relatable/intelligent/etc.

      Of course not, you are being a stereotypical male. It’s all about you, and it’s all about sex. Skepchick is neither you, nor is she sex (at least not right now), therefore who cares.

      • Dan Dravot says:

        True, girls love listening to each other prattle on about girl stuff. So there’s that, too. Shouldn’t’ve left that out.

        But you leaped over a pretty big chasm there when I said “this particular specific girl in this particular specific video is talking about nothing, and the only men who would listen to that are losers”, and you HEARD “all women always talk about nothing”. The female bloggers Iread talk about real things in a serious way. I did not generalize about women. You assumed that I did.

        My first paragraph in this comment, that was a nice generalization for ya. All women do sometimes talk about nothing, slightly more than men do — but very, very few put it on YouTube for the whole world to watch.

    • AnonymousAtLarge says:

      PS.
      The reason you “know nerds” so well is probably because you spend all your time thinking about yourself and what you want, and say stuff like “NO ONE WANTS TO HEAR AN UGLY GIRL PRATTLE ON ABOUT NOTHING, SHE HAS NOTHING WORTH LISTENING TOO AS SHE DOES NOT HAVE A PENIS”.

      • Dan Dravot says:

        It is a damned calumny to suggest that I spend all my time thinking about myself. I spend a considerable amount of time thinking about tits, and car chases.

  13. Or says:

    Do you think Jill feels like she’s being portrayed as intellectually inferior by the words “discovered she was mathematically retarded”? Or that Elyse and bug_girl resent being confirmed as ditzy, needy female stereotypes when they’re called a “general attention whore” or that “her skeptical weakness is that she believes people desperately want to watch hours of her 6 month old on YouTube”? If you’re looking for a double standard, that’s really scraping the bottom of the barrel. Why focus on appearance and not intellect, attitude, character? There’s plenty of self-deprecation in those profiles. How are you so much surer about whether Sam had a say in what went in his profile than about whether the guy in the elevator was inviting Skepchick over for sex?

  14. AnonymousAtLarge says:

    I expected more from you TLP.
    I leave the feminist/misogynist debate to those with the lingo down, but please observe that nothing in that elevator guy’s words implied sex of any kind.

    Ok, and let it be noted that when you’re driving and suddenly a cop car pulls up behind you with its lights on, on the last few days of the month, when you are going 45 in a 25 zone, nothing about getting a ticket is implied. It’s possible the cop just wants to ask if the weather is nice, or comment on your excellent bumper stickers.

    Seriously, could you imagine a man saying that to another man?
    Answer: Only if the first man is gay and thinks the other man is too.

    But it’s an interesting question: what allows her the right to assume his intent?
    What allows her the “right” to assume his intent is the fact she does not have autism and she understands english words. The man’s question not only implied sexual interest, but that he was propositioning her for sex that same night. What girl goes to a man’s room for “coffee”? A MANS ROOM for coffee in the first sentence he speaks to her? That’s like saying “wanna fuck right now?”
    I’ve been solicited for prostitution by foreign men before in less direct language. At least when a foreign dude walks up to you and says he’s new in town and looking for a friend, the possibility remains that he is new in town and is actually looking for a friend ( even though his body language and frustration clearly suggest he wants sex now and wants to pay you for it).

    The dude was probably thinking “oh look, an 18 yr old coed feminist with long stringy hair and glasses… I wonder if she is one of those women’s studies majors who is actually a bi sex freak, but only looks like a man hating lesbo… let me find out!”
    *propositions women’s studies major*
    “yep, she’s actually a man hating lesbo, oh well, ya win some ya lose some”

    • philtrum says:

      Ok, and let it be noted that when you’re driving and suddenly a cop car pulls up behind you with its lights on, on the last few days of the month, when you are going 45 in a 25 zone, nothing about getting a ticket is implied. It’s possible the cop just wants to ask if the weather is nice, or comment on your excellent bumper stickers.

      Yeah, I agree with you, AAL. I think TLP was being really disingenuous. “Come to my hotel room” + 4 in the morning = implying sex.

  15. AnonymousAtLarge says:

    Regarding sam being evaluated for his appearance, and then rejected…

    This is sort of how sometimes black ppl get away with saying “honky” but if you say the “n word ” (as I did a few weeks ago on this blog) all the people both white and black get all constipated and terrified and want to jump out of the window and hara kiri themselves just to make the discomfort end.

    In other words, it’s a double standard, but a deliberate one, a passive aggressive attempt to take power from the majority who the minority feels is oppressing them. I can do this, but you can’t do it. Rebellion from the inside out basically.

    • DataShade says:

      I didn’t get that interpretation from the text at all.

      want to jump out of the window and hara kiri themselves just to make the discomfort end

      I don’t often read the full comment threads on articles here, so would you mind clarifying: is that hyperbole, or self-aggrandizement? I don’t believe anyone actually told you, or clearly implied with any literal text supporting your inference, that they wished to suicide, let alone simultaneously double-suicide, to end their discomfort over what you said. Are you sure you didn’t just use ‘nigger’ in a way that could be more easily interpreted as bigoted instead of clinical? Or in the course of an argument, allowing your opponents to easily seize upon your indiscretion as evidence of low moral character, and thus justification for invalidating your argument?

      Also: if you’re white, try calling another white person “honky” sometime, especially if they’re acting insensitive about a cultural issue. (Like when a guy from Ohio tries to lecture a Jordanian immigrant about the evils of Islam; a quick “simmer down, honky” is pretty effective.) It’s not passive aggressive, it’s (depending on the reaction) hilarious.

  16. rtg says:

    Rejecting someone means identifying the aspects of yourself that stopped you from being interested, and reconciling what’re often fanciful, inexpressible tastes and disgusts with the parts of your being that you’re more concious of, that you brand yourself with. Hard work in an elevator at 4am. So much intellectual energy is devoted to setting it in stone that all men who ask women out in unorthodox hours are being predatory; but then, much of popular culture tries to make it stick that real men are disgusted by fat chicks because fat chicks are of idle character and unpatriotic. Does one justify the other? Whose rationalisations should be canonised?

  17. Cosmicomics says:

    My ex’s friends would “complain” about men hitting on them, being creepy, etc. all in an attempt to bring to everyone’s attention that: “look I’m still desirable, attractive, whatever.”

  18. Oothoon says:

    Skepchick is a sex object; every time someone asks her for sex, she objects.

    It’s been so long since I’ve had sex I’ve forgotten who objectifies whom.

    I’ll be here all night, folks.

  19. Cambyses says:

    Ok, I’ll bite.

    This person has set people off and, moreover, set people at one another. The psychoanalysts call this “splitting”, and pay attention because it’s significant. Men v. women, rich v. poor, doctors v. homeopaths, children v. adults. The website is full of this kind of thinking. Normal adults walk into this gravity-well, and start fighting one another. Why is that? Read the following quote from the website:

    Cute Animal Friday! Sean sent in some photos of his friend teaching girls how to conduct research on barn owl chicks. These adorable caracal kittens look like Khal Drogo’s feline counterparts.

    Excerpted, this sounds like it was written by a child… an adult with some character issues. The themes, which echo those of the blog, are as follows: good things (baby animals, children, learning, body image, gender roles), bad things (money, adults, sexuality). This is the internal economy of a kid… or an adult with some issues. This has got nothing to do with feminism, skepticism, or any ism… it has to do with character, with personality and its disorder, and these people are fabulously talented at setting people against one another. If the Pentagon learns to bottle that Skepchick is exuding, process it into bombs and drop it from B-52’s, we’ll be at one another like zombies and the world will be totally f*#ked.

    • TheCoconutChef says:

      Good comment.

    • DataShade says:

      … what the fuck?

      If the Pentagon learns to bottle that Skepchick is exuding, process it into bombs and drop it from B-52′s, we’ll be at one another like zombies and the world will be totally f*#ked.

      Do you really believe that? Cute-owl-chicks, don’t-offer-me-coffee-to-trap-and-rape-me girl is some kind of PsyOps supervillain, controlling the minds of everyone who visits her site through subliminal messaging and monitor refresh rate brain-hacks?

      How is she so good at splitting? I suppose you don’t know any actively atheistic people; I don’t mean activists, I mean people who didn’t just get bored of going to church, but actively sought to retrain their brain on thinking about religion. I was raised by a woman who described herself as “born again” in service of her political aspirations; she was never really as devout as she said she was, so I had it easy, but I’ve had friends whose attempts to extricate themselves from a religious upbringing had a lot of complications. You’re literally taking all the lessons you’ve learned about life, morality, even reality from your friends, family, and community for your entire life and trying to strip them out of your subconscious. You’re assassinating your superego, and even odds that everyone in what had been your “support circle” is going to respond with some mixture of revulsion, fear, and that special “I’ll pray for you” hybrid of condescension and passive aggression.

      So of course you’re good at riling people up, because you had to get everyone who’s ever known you busy fighting each other so you can slip away in the confusion.

      Also: what do psychoanalysts call it when you employ selection bias to condescendingly dismiss someone else’s opinions?

  20. sdenheyer says:

    I don’t understand why this is being discussed in the framework of feminism, when it could be dissolved as a a simple matter of etiquette. All one has to say is, “Look, skeptics, I know you guys are used to discussion in the adversarial mode, but flip the switch in your brain to empathic mode for a second, and try to understand why a female attending a male-dominated event might be uncomfortable receiving a sexual come-on in an elevator”. Then the discussion is focused on not making a person feel a certain way, ie., tact. (There are even some attempts, like over at Blag Hag, to establish heuristics on when flirting is likely to be well-received)

    “He wasn’t talking about sex” IMO, isn’t even an interesting hypothesis, unless the speaker is from a culture where people openly invite each over for sex (thus negating the need to obliquely invite each other over for “activity x” where x~=sex).

  21. Fifi says:

    It’s quite interesting to me that there seems to be a general desire to ignore the initial context of the post Watson made – I suspect this is mainly because by contextualizing the post/event would stop the whole “how dare Watson tell us she doesn’t like being propositioned in elevators at 4am” outrage against those “damn feminists trying to control the discourse and my mind and penis”. I’m a bit surprised and disappointed that TLP seems to have bought into this and is debating what he wants to believe or has projected onto the events because it serves his purpose.

    She was at an atheist conference, there had been a panel about how to get more women involved in atheist activism and/or feel more comfortable at conferences, Watson talked about this during the day and at the bar with others later that evening. She seems to have made it clear she’s not particularly flattered by being objectified by men at atheist conferences. After discussing it all day and night, some dude follows her and propositions here in the elevator about “discussing ideas with her alone in a hotel room at 4am”. Watson didn’t freak out on him but she did decide to write a blog about it and how this kind of thing creeps her out…this seems to indicate that she thinks the guy was clueless and perhaps part of a larger clueless body of men out there. She didn’t accuse the guy of being a predator, she explained how cornering her in a closed space at 4am made her feel uncomfortable and that, hey, maybe not a good idea if your actual intent is to make a personal (sexual or not) connection with a woman you’re interested in.

    Really, people have to get over this whole getting enraged when rejected thing and acting as if getting laid is a “right” when it’s not. You have the “right” to have sex with yourself (unless you’re invested in a religious dogma, of course) but you don’t have the “right” to access to anyone else’s body for your pleasure. Hell, in our society even looking at people naked when they don’t invite it can be considered illegal and an invasion of privacy (peeping toms). Rejection is part of the risk EVERYONE (women included) takes when they do anything that requires the complicity and agreement of other people.

    • AnonymousAtLarge says:

      Actually this is very typical of TLP. He is a misogynist and always has been.

      • ThomasR says:

        He can’t help it really. From what I’ve heard, all men are misogynists. Ya know, except some of the gay ones.

      • mwigdahl says:

        Coming from you, that’s praising TLP with faint damns.

        To me, the whole problem is looking at this from the perspective of “rights” rather than the perspective of manners. We still have the right to think our own thoughts, however perverted, and to speak to strangers in public, regardless of how paranoid they are.

        It was ill-mannered of the dude to hit on her in the elevator. It was particularly clueless to do so in the context of her previous presentation. Shooting him down was her prerogative, and if she felt uncomfortable given the venue, that’s certainly reasonable.

        But really, that’s as far as it goes. Horny (possibly also drunk and/or stupid) guy oversteps murky social boundaries, makes woman uncomfortable. Holding him up for public ridicule is somewhat ill-mannered as well — mitigated, in this case, by the fact that she didn’t use his name.

        All the hoopla over the event seems to me to be a reaction to the effect of making the episode public. Hitting on someone is a risk/reward activity. The upside for the guy? You might get sex, with all the ancillary psychological benefits to your self-image. The downside? You might get rejected. No sex, and your self-esteem takes a blow.

        Various factors affect how much weight each side of the equation gets. The meta-blog-drama seems to me to be an attempt on the part of both sides to put their thumb on the scales. The feminists are saying, in effect: “If you get rejected, you might also be humiliated publicly and lots of feminists will think you’re scum.” Those in the loyal opposition are incoherently rejecting this, whether they are cognizent of the subtext or not.

        Ironically, it’s likely those who are already inhibited and less likely to engage in this type of public propositioning in the first place who are going to be most affected by the additional load of preemptive censure.

        But maybe that’s the point?

        • RatB says:

          I imagine the kind of people who attend atheist conferences are pretty inhibited, so, as per your point, this all may actually achieve Skepchick’s goal of making these conferences more comfortable for women.

    • vprime says:

      A million times yes.

      This:

      “Really, people have to get over this whole getting enraged when rejected thing and acting as if getting laid is a “right” when it’s not. You have the “right” to have sex with yourself (unless you’re invested in a religious dogma, of course) but you don’t have the “right” to access to anyone else’s body for your pleasure. Hell, in our society even looking at people naked when they don’t invite it can be considered illegal and an invasion of privacy (peeping toms). Rejection is part of the risk EVERYONE (women included) takes when they do anything that requires the complicity and agreement of other people.”

      needs to be carved in stone and issued to everyone at puberty.

  22. Cosmicomics says:

    And beside the point (or is it?), I did a quick office survey and the findings show she is unattractive (yeah, I objectify — but for scientific purposes, this time.)

  23. mercurialmind says:

    Isn’t TLP basically saying that women aren’t as reasonable and open minded as men? Maybe it isn’t in their best interest to always be perfectly reasonable. In a case like this a women survival increases by just assuming the worst possible scenerio.

    • mercurialmind says:

      I meant to say a “woman’s survival”….

    • TheCoconutChef says:

      The answer to your first question is no.

      What he’s talking about is very much akin to the kind of dynamic he highlighted in the Scott Adam / Jezebel exchange, in which somebody tries to frame something in a manner that will rally those who already agree and push away those who don’t (“Oh, you mean I can’t chat up woman anymore, can’t ask for soem coffee?” ie. perception of emasculation and female dominance).

      Note the title: “Skepchick in an elevator is not interesting”

      Indeed.

      And then he notes that, while some of us get to experss their concerns about the way they’re being defined in other people’s mind, some of us would automatically be called “fag” because of it.

  24. lordzork says:

    I find it curious that so many third parties apparently found something about skepchick’s situation with which they strongly identified, as is evidenced by all of the polarized and vitriolic online exchanges.

    It’s interesting that the response to Dawkins mostly consisted of personal attacks against him on account of his alleged privilege, rather than critical engagement with what he actually said. Again, this is nothing but reverse objectification.

    Also of interest is that many people claimed that they participated in the online brawl because they wanted to “educate” men such as Elevator Dude about the plight of women. There’s certainly nothing wrong with wanting to do this, but it’s hard to see how such a goal could be accomplished by the petty, self-interested bickering that actually took place.

    • Fifi says:

      lordzork – There’s been critical discussion regarding what Dawkins said and the issue at hand – partially because these same issues were discussed around the banning of the burka in France both within the atheist and the feminist communities (by both men and women). The irony of Dawkins using the oppression and social mistreatment of women in Islamic countries to shut up any discussion of how women are treated and the experiences we have here where we live, in our own society and even the microverse of atheist conferences, is well…pretty obvious.

      Off topic but it seems to me that Dawkins and a few others want to get rid of religion because they see it as the driver of “evil” or all things irrational*…while they also want to retain some of the privileges of colonial and traditional male power that are a result of the colonial/church system (colonization and religion are inextricably entwined). Simply being an atheist doesn’t automatically make one more rational in general nor does it automatically free anyone from personal or ideological bias (particularly if it’s a belief that’s related to personal identity and/or privileges that one finds useful or takes for granted).

      • SeanM says:

        Well, that would be ironic if he was doing that. This is one of the points of miscommunication. After some people attacked what he said, he clarified that being hit on in an elevator isn’t just a small issue, it’s a non-issue. His first post made a comparison between someone who has serious problems and someone who has none. I say this as someone who generally thinks Watson is in the right to ask not to be hit on, but Dawkins is still correct.

        Being hit on or propositioned for sex isn’t a legal matter, it’s not a rights issue. It’s a matter of whether other people choose to be polite and respect your feelings. As in, you may not want to be hit on, but it’s a matter of free speech that people are legally allowed to do so. She was made uncomfortable — but there is a zero percent chance that making people uncomfortable will be outlawed. Yes, we should encourage people to respect each other, but we will nevertheless encounter many other human beings who will be rude. I think this is, like Watson’s original request, reasonable.

        The argumentative failure, in a lot of feminist discussions that have to do with feelings, I think is a result of feminist’s projecting emotions rather than owning them. In common language, “That guy is a creep” as opposed to “That guy makes me feel creeped out.” Once somebody says the first, it becomes a matter of needlessly defending the guy. “Don’t call some guy a creep just because he asked out a woman!” Etc. The second has no such problems, and it’s really a more adult way to frame the problem. This never was about a creep, it’s about Watson’s feelings.

        I also doubt Dawkins wants to “retain some of the privileges” or whatever — I suspect his idea of society allows for making people feel uncomfortable. Anyway, I can see some truth to both sides.

        • Fifi says:

          But Watson didn’t “frame the problem” as being about one guy in an elevator, she used it as an example of what was already being discussed within the atheist/skeptic movement. There was (and is ongoing) discussion about how to make the atheist/sceptical movement more appealing/accessible to women (something a lot of men within the atheist/sceptical movement also want). If you want to talk about context, it’s good to know what the context is.

          My point about Dawkins wasn’t that “he wants to retain privilege”, it’s that he doesn’t notice his privilege because he’s immersed in it and acted in an irrational way (making an argument from a false dichotomy, etc) because he’s protecting his identity. The identity he’s protecting isn’t as a privileged rich white guy, it’s his view of himself as being the authority regarding atheism, rationality and (apparently) women’s issues. But, whatever, I’ve always found Dawkins more than a little evangelical and ideological (being someone born and raised an atheist, and not a later convert, my problems with the “atheist movement” is how for some people there seems to be a tendency to view atheism as a belief system rather than just not believing in imaginary beings). Well, that and the dislike for emotion that some atheists have, which seems pretty ignorant to me coming from people who claim to be science/evidence based while completely ignoring all the research that shows how much emotions play into even decisions we believe to be entirely rational). The scientific method exists EXACTLY because of how unreliable our subjective observations can be and just how inescapable our personal subjectivity is. Considering oneself somehow above basic human neurobiology is hardly rational or scientific (though one can see just how appealing it can be for people more focused on being “right” than on being curious and seeking understanding). All in all I suspect it’s good for all involved that Dawkins has revealed himself to be entirely human and this discussion (which is pretty obviously needed) is taking place.

          You know, anyone looks like an asshat when they promote one thing and then do the other (including me, I make no claims to be more than human). We all do this in various ways at various times (our ideals usually don’t match up with reality). It may be different for others but my definition of integrity is walking your own talk and being willing to check in if someone points out you’re doing a silly walk and not an elegant intellectual ballet of on point reason.

          Part of the issue for Dawkins (or so it seems to me) and a few other high profile academic “skeptics” is that they’re often waging what seems to be an academic culture war but aren’t really that literate when it comes to culture. It’s some weird science vs the humanities thing that, rather weirdly (to me), seems to totally ignore just how much religious ideology has influenced science and what science has actually revealed to us about our own thought processes. I love science and think it’s one of the best tools we have to attempt an understanding of the universe and ourselves, I just don’t think science is a magic bullet. One can’t advocate “reality-based thinking” and then, you know, do stuff like support Bush (the very source of the term “reality based thinking”, something Bush & Co actually found to be problematic to their agenda). Well, you can, but it makes the walking and talking pretty uncoordinated. Science always gets hurt when you mix it in with politics, especially when you pretend you’re not being political!

        • Fifi says:

          Actually, Watson has pretty consistently said she doesn’t think the guy IS a creep but that his behavior creeped her out. She owned her feelings, she didn’t project them. Perhaps you’re the one projecting what you want to be true about “feminism” (what you happen to believe “feminism” is) rather than recognizing that there are a diversity of opinions amongst women and people (male and female) who identify as “feminists”? I’m not saying Watson is immune from her own biases but she’s not the one trying to shut down discussion – she’s actively trying to have a conversation and many people are engaging in it without resorting to cartoon versions of men or women to do so. Dawkins could have quite easily (one hopes at least!) engaged in a rational discussion but he chose instead to engage in false dichotomies (using women as objects to be used for his agenda in the process) as a means to try to shut down conversation. All in all, I think it’s a good thing for atheists who want to create a movement (something that’s pretty impossible to do without being ideological) to take a good critical look at themselves (you know, walking the talk). Eventually those who are more interested in perpetuating the menz vs wimmynz silliness will find somewhere else to play out their dramas.

          As a general thing, most schools of feminism see patriarchal systems as being not so great for guys either (men are objectified as cannon fodder and worker bots to be used by the privileged, in many places they can’t get equivalent parental leave, etc). Simply being anti-men doesn’t not actually make one a feminist,just as hating women doesn’t actually make you a male rights activist – even if that sounds more glorious and noble than admitting you just have a hate on for the Other and blame them personally for all of society’s (or more to the point, one’s own) ills.

          • SeanM says:

            As far as I’ve seen, you’re right that Watson has owned her feelings. A lot of the commenters on Pharyngula and other sites didn’t.

            I can see that Dawkins (or anyone at the front of a movement) might let the power get to his head. I find it more difficult to think that he doesn’t know about women’s issues in the Western world. I think there is a history of atheism and feminism together that I just don’t know how he would’ve missed.

          • philtrum says:

            Being hit on or propositioned for sex isn’t a legal matter, it’s not a rights issue. It’s a matter of whether other people choose to be polite and respect your feelings. As in, you may not want to be hit on, but it’s a matter of free speech that people are legally allowed to do so.

            But again, why this resort to law? Let me compare: in most professions and most social settings, you are supposed to refrain from many, many non-criminal activities: getting drunk, falling asleep, screaming, insulting people, wearing the wrong clothes, asking some kinds of questions, having consensual sex with certain adults (your patients, your clients, your best friend’s spouse, whatever), chewing with your mouth open…

            Because it’s not a crime, but it’s bad behaviour, it makes people uncomfortable, it damages important relationships.

            But when a woman says “I don’t like this behaviour, please don’t do this,” the knee-jerk response from a number of men on this thread is “well, it’s not a crime so shut up.” Etiquette is all well and good between men, but when a woman asks for it she’s an ugly, boring nerd with a shitty personality?

          • Fifi says:

            “As far as I’ve seen, you’re right that Watson has owned her feelings. A lot of the commenters on Pharyngula and other sites didn’t.

            I can see that Dawkins (or anyone at the front of a movement) might let the power get to his head. I find it more difficult to think that he doesn’t know about women’s issues in the Western world. I think there is a history of atheism and feminism together that I just don’t know how he would’ve missed.”

            Sean M – The internets are full of people too busy to eat dinner because they’re busy telling people on the internet they’re wrong (hey, these blogs do some of that! ;-) Plus, because Dawkins is famous (skepchick is known within the atheist/skeptic community but is not mainstream famous like Dawkins), his comment on Pharyngula upped the anti for the people who seem to seek out opportunities to obsessively fight their “menz/womyn are evil” personal psychodramas (particularly those who spout pseudoscience – one hopes Dawkins is somewhat embarrassed that he’s contributed to this considering what he claims to stand for).

            One suspects Dawkins may be a bit defensive (or unaware and able to think critically perhaps) about his own privileged background and the institutions he’s aligned with. He pretty much grew up steeped in colonialism (born in South Africa, returned to live on an estate in England his father inherited, went to elite schools, professional life spent in a position of authority at elite university, etc) and living in what amounts to an ivory tower. Being cloistered in academia can be great for doing scientific research of the kind Dawkins engages in but it doesn’t always give you insight or understanding of the rest of the world and how people generally function. That doesn’t mean his perspective isn’t interesting or worthwhile but it does mean, if he’s unable to acknowledge this, that he’s suffering from a personal bias. This also seems to be an extension of the academic brawl – an ivory tower brawl that’s spilled out onto the streets. I don’t think we should underestimate just how traditional Dawkins actually is in his beliefs (and perhaps even reactionary in his own way, there’s a colonial whiff to the idea that Dawkins sees himself as the savior of the Middle East and our idealized Western/Enlightenment “secular” society (hey, stop talking about sexism in our perfect secular society you bitches!) Which, conveniently ignores the non-secular history of our own societies and how these roots still influence us on all kinds of levels (personal, institutional and socially)…well, and still very actively exist in North America (we’ve got a Fundie for a Prime Minister in Canada right now who’s essentially Bush with maple syrup). Hey, if religion hadn’t made so many of us totally guilty and uptight about sex – and if slowly getting rid of some of the religious ideas about sex, gender and the world hadn’t caused confusion and reactionary horror/nostalgic fantasies for some people – we wouldn’t have to talk about sexual anxiety (from both men and women) at atheist conferences.

            All in all I’m not sure if Dawkins does actually understand how feminism has contributed to atheism or to science being forced to work through some of its most obvious biases (that are quite obviously religious in their source), he seems to think he invented atheism ;-) This seems to be yet another part of an ongoing academic inter-departmental brawl that Dawkins and quite a few other academics seem to have been engaged in for quite a long time now.

            I suspect there’s also a generational divide going on here too – let’s not forget that Dawkins grew up in a time when the scientific community where science was used to uphold religious beliefs about homosexuality and prejudices against women. There’s this weird thing that I’ve observed in the atheist/skeptic community were it attracts both free thinkers and essentially rather conservative academic scientists that are upset by what they believe is a “post-modern” takeover (the old hard science vs the humanities academic competition/prejudice at work). The first group seem to be curious and willing to question and investigate in general (and to be open to recognizing their own subjectivity – meaning they’re not convinced they are purely objective vs everyone else being prone to subjectivity), the second group seem to be busy using science and logic to try to claim their subjectivity and ideological beliefs are actually objective (meaning they have a rather unreasonable belief in their own powers of objectivity – what would really be a magical belief in magical powers since the objectivity they claim defies biology ;-)

            The reality is that for science to have integrity (and this applies equally to people trying to apply skeptical/critical thinking), one has to be able to openly and freely question things like context (the framework of an experiment or hypothesis), personal/cultural/social biases and so on, and also whether science is being used in the service of an ideology.

          • Fifi says:

            Er, sorry about that way too long post…

      • AnonymousAtLarge says:

        All being athiest means is that one does not have faith in god. There are plenty of irrational stupid bigoted athiests. In fact, I would assume that anyone who walked around identifying themselves as an “athiest” is probably an asshole in many respects. I’ve seen that many who identify as “athiests” are typically extremely self centered and narcissistic – their lack of belief in god isn’t due to rationality, but more an extreme self centeredness that finds it repugnant to care about anything greater than their immediate self gratification, particularly if that something is evidenceless.

        • Dirk Anger says:

          Perhaps that’s true of American atheists (not “athiests”), because of how religious your society is. Most atheists I know, (including Dawkins himself) resent the term “atheist”, because it assumes that

          a) Such a thing as “atheism” exists
          b) It’s a deviation from the default, which is believing in God
          c) Allows religious people to make gross generalizations about us: “what atheists want is…”

          There are all kinds of people who don’t believe in God, and they hold all kind of beliefs. Some are assholes and some are not. Some think religion should/will eventually be eradicated, some think it should/will be strictly personal. Some just hate the Church because of their uprising.

          I only identify myself as an atheist when somebody says “atheists think/do/are X” and feel I should correct them, or when I don’t want to lose focus from another point.

          In this case, I think you’re right when talking about the people who reacted this way, which can’t be understood without the Dawkins fiasco. They way I see it:

          -Skepchick (is that her handle or the site one?) makes a speech on how to make those events more comfortable to women.
          -After that, a guy either wants to have a chat with her and being the hugest dork ever doesn’t realize how creepy it’s looking, or is actually that creepy. Either way she keeps her cool (most than any women can be expected to, given the circumstances).
          -She posts something in the lines of “this happened. I don’t think the guy was a creep, but I’m going to use it as an example of what not to do if you don’t want women to be creeped.
          -Dawkins post something in the lines of “this is a non-issue, other women are really oppressed, just deal with it”
          -She posts something like “I’m very disappointed in RD”

          And then people start going nuclear about her comment about elevator guy, because, being so rational, they don’t want it to look like what it actually is: people are not reacting about her post about elevator guy, people are lashing out because they feel she has attacked what they don’t realize is the equivalent to their religious leader. Those people don’t give a crap what RD said, they just feel he’s their leader and defend him.

          Which is exactly why I don’t like to identify myself as an atheist, because I am a person, capable of independent thought, and I don’t owe anyone an all-out war if someone offends them, regardless of whether or not I agree with them, nor am I under any obligation to agree with anyone about anything if I want to apply some label to me.

          Honestly, I’m amazed that people, including TLP, are paying more attention to what she said about elevator guy (which, to me, is what is a non issue: a matter of fact declaration saying “if you don’t want to freak girls out, don’t do this”) than to how all of this backlash originated only after she dared touching RD (In my opinion, she overdid it too, because RD didn’t seem to understand her post and a simple clarification would have been more in order)

          • AnonymousAtLarge says:

            I can agree re the athiesm label.

            What no one is getting is that the way this skepchick is being treated by men all over the internet is largely the result of misogyny which in turn is the result of male insecurity and fear of being sexually rejected- ESPECIALLY by an “ugly” chick.

            This is only an issue because some guys (primarily dawkins) started whining about the fact she whined on her personal vlog about an annoying night. When guys got wind that this happened OMG it was a shitstorm and they were all in it like howler monkies.

            This is only an issue because some men made it an issue, and ironically theya re blaming SKEPCHICK FO RTHE FACT IT IS AN ISSUE when men are the only reason this ever saw this volume of internet discussion.

            And not surprisingly, every single man who watches this skepchick reacts to it by defending the fucking guy. “He’s not harrassing you / you’re being a bitch / OMGHOWDAREU / etc”.

            I have yet to see a man say “so what, who cares, she’s entitled to say what she wants on her vlog and feel the way she feels”.

            But no every guy responds to this like it is their PERSONAL BUSINESS how she feels and what she says.

            The reasons why are obvious – men think they should be able to control women’s reactions, especially sexually, because they are so pathetically insecure and afraid of rejection, especially if the rejecter is an average/dumpy chick.

            Really if this could be described in a word it would be so pathetic, it’s not even angering anymore.

            The only thing worse are the thoughtless traitors like sunshinefiasco who will stand on their hind legs and backflip for male approval by tearing this kid to pieces for feeling the way she feels and having the ZOMGNERVVV to vlog about it.

    • Fifi says:

      It should be noted that Dawkins himself set the tone when he posted on Pharygula in an emotional, hyperbolic and inflammatory way that was an attack and not a reasoned argument. Watson didn’t set that tone, Dawkins did.

      • lordzork says:

        I don’t see why that should be noted. The quality of Dawkins’ tone is irrelevant to the question of whether the people who responded by attacking him were engaging in reverse objectification.

        • Fifi says:

          Then let me explain, it’s worth noting because Dawkins (intentionally or unintentionally) set the tone for the discourse as emotional when he made his post. It’s not a case of a reasonable argument being proposed and an emotional and ideological response, it was an emotional and ideological post which got (not surprisingly) an emotional and ideological response.

          Now, I agree with you that the “all menz are evil” and “all women are evil” camps – both of which have a fair amount of believers in the real world and online – are both busy objectifying the Other for what are ultimately very personal/identity-related reasons. I And, of course, none of this is useful if you’re seeking understanding and resolution. However, most ideologues (whether they’re ideological about gender, atheism/religion) aren’t seeking understanding and resolution but to shore up their own beliefs that they’ve taken on as their identity. Dawkins’ post on Pharyngula is a good example of this, as are some of the responses. Not all the responses though, there were people (both male and female) that explained to him that he was creating a false dichotomy by trying to say that female atheists shouldn’t talk about how issues that have a real life impact on us on a daily basis because there are women elsewhere who have it worse.

          I also suspect there was another layer of emotional response to Dawkins is because he disappointed some people in the atheist community that expected better from him (both men and women). Why? Because he’s set himself up as a paragon of reason and then he revealed himself to be just as susceptible to the influences of personal bias and ideological blindness as all of the rest of us humans.

          All in all, I’ve come across plenty of reasonable discussions undertaken by both men and women alongside the people battling it out over identity/personality/ideology. Of course, it’s much more sensational and momentarily emotionally rewarding (instantly gratifying) to focus on the emotional and hyperbolic posts if that’s what you’re really looking for (and more likely to bring blog hits). If you’re actually interested in friendly and rational discussion, it’s there to be had if you’re willing to engage in that way (as opposed to “hey, you’re objectifying” “no you’re objectifying” flame wars).

          What I find ultimately kind of strange about Dawkins post is that he seems blithely unaware that it was women speaking out about stuff is what created change in our own culture, which in turn has made women in other cultures want the same rights. (This includes helping get science out from under the thumb of inherited religious beliefs about reality). It wasn’t only women, of course, many sympathetic men also helped change the systemic oppression of women in “Western” nations and the idea of “privilege” is just as much about class as it is gender.

  25. AnonymousAtLarge says:

    The only reason this crap is even an issue is because men think they have the right to tell a woman to stop complaing, shut the fuck up, and take whatever they want to do. She’s not even allowed to whine on a vlog about it. SHUT UP AND TAKE IT BECAUSE MEN > WOMEN.

    • AnonymousAtLarge says:

      And mindless drones like sunshinefiasco will be right there to jerk you off, because she’s not like those man hating feminist lesbo bitches, she doesn’t like girls and all her friends are guys, she’s into guys things, she’s let us known enough times.

      • boeotarch says:

        I have no idea how serious/sarcastic/facetious you’re being right now.

      • sunshinefiasco says:

        1. LOL. That’s right, I shouldn’t base my thoughts on sexuality, gender roles, dating culture/etiquette on my own thoughts, feelings, personal experiences and personal boundaries, I should definitely go on a tirade when asked out by someone I’m not interested in, BECAUSE HOW DARE HE VIEW ME SEXUALLY WITHOUT THE EXPRESS VERBAL AND WRITTEN CONSENT OF MYSELF AND MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL. (Unfortunately, if it worked that way, 80% of the consensual sexual encounters/relationships/marriages in existence would never have happened).

        2.I never said that I don’t like women. I said most of my closest friends are guys. Many of them, especially my best best friends, are girls, but a lot of them are guys. My apologies for DARING to use things from my own life as evidence of the veracity of my rambling, juvenile text-based shrieking. Oops, I think I’m projecting.

        (For the record, I wasn’t sure the poster knew that I was a woman, and I’d had more than a few.)

        3. Maybe you win more feminist merit badges than I do, but I guarantee that you also do far more damage to the cause of women than I do by being as polarizing and rude as you (intentionally?) are.

        • philtrum says:

          I should definitely go on a tirade when asked out by someone I’m not interested in

          I don’t mean to be insulting, truly I don’t, but do you really not see that nobody we’re talking about here actually did that?

          • sunshinefiasco says:

            I know that isn’t what skepchick did. It does seem to be what AAL is advocating.

            None of my criticisms have been directed at skepchick, who I think acted appropriately. They’ve been directed at the female commenters who seem to think that elevator guy’s OBVI A GIGUNDO CREEP FACTORY, and are unwilling to consider the possibility that he’s just an awkward, misguided dude.

          • AnonymousAtLarge says:

            An awkward misguided dude doesn’t have the balls to ask a girl to have sex in his room. Which is the only reasonable assumption one can make when a man asks you to come back to his room when you don’t know him. Wut there are NO COFFEE SHOPS THERE ARE NO DINERS? Fuh real?

            This guy was being a prick and IMO her complaining was justifiable. Especially if she had specifically said she does not enjoy being treated that way.

            If his approach was respectful and normal then a “tirade” would not be appropriate. It is inherently disrespectful and a little threatening to be approached for casual sex in a small enclosed space at 4 in the morning when you are a female. It’s just not appropriate.

            I don’t consider myself a “feminist”, I just call crap like I see it and this is clearly a case of men being assholes.

    • MarcusB says:

      It sounds like you’re saying men are having an explosionary reaction because it hits home to them somehow.

      This is the internet. Since when has it been that people haven’t said shit about other people’s shit?

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  27. Tamooj says:

    @AAL – While I *really* wanted to understand some of the points you have made about this article and the comments about it, I find that your frequent use of ad hominem attacks, simplistic hyperbole, unnecessary absolutisms and almost stereotypical generalizations have irrevocably poisoned my opinions about any rational points you might have been trying to make. Call it a cognitive-kill-switch or metaphoric-poisons or just simple demagoguery – it’s a stylistic choice that robs your words of all validity in the minds of most readers. It’s a shame, really, because it looked like you just might have been capable of adjusting people’s perspectives for the better.

    Frankly, after all the direct personal attacks you’ve made above, I’m a little disappointed the moderators here they haven’t simply banned you and removed all of your offensive remarks, but hey, I understand the need to drive traffic too. :-(

    • operator says:

      As Partial Objects runs the jQuery library, (for now, at least) the following AAL mute script will work in most modern browsers – tested with FireFox 3.6-4.0 and IE 8 – simply copy-paste it in its entirety into your address bar after visiting a defaced page and hit Enter:

      javascript:jQuery('li.comment-author-anonymousatlarge').each(function(){jQuery('#' + jQuery(this).attr('id').substring(3) + ' div.comment-body').html('Purged.'); });alert('Purge complete.');

      You’re welcome.

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