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.
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”?