Rebecca Watson v. Richard Dawkins

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Beebub
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Rebecca Watson v. Richard Dawkins

Post by Beebub » Mon Jul 04, 2011 3:29 pm

Anyone see this story develop?

Rebecca Watson did a blog on her experiences at the AI conference and gave out about a guy asking her to his room for coffee at 4am in the lift.

You'll see the clip here:

http://furiouspurpose.me/2011/06/21/reb ... new-video/

Richard Dawkins replied to the thread and his comments were made on PZ Meyers blog here:

http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2011 ... e_unto.php

I didn't bother commenting on it on the site because there are 100's of repsonses at this stage.

I have to say, I'm sort of with Dawkins on this, in that I don't really get it. I also think some of the responses he has been getting are over the top.

Firstly, was Rebecca's problem solely that he approached her in the lift? If he had asked her up to his room for coffee at the bar, would that have been ok?

The responses have been along the lines of suggesting the Dawkins said 'Shut up, you weren't raped'. But I don't think that's what he was saying. I do think he could have chosen his words better, but he's suggesting that there was nothing in the guys approach rather than as PZ is suggesting, that he was saying it was only minor harassment and compared to what muslim women have to go through it's no big deal.

Was he not suggesting that the guy merely asked her for coffee to his room and she said no. Don't guys approach women all the time? Don't women approach guys all the time? Is this no longer acceptable? If it was done in a sleazy way I could understand but she says herself that the guy said 'Don't take this the wrong way, but I find you very interesting, would you like to talk some more over coffee in my room? He might get done by the cheesy police, but is calling it harassment over stating it?

My question, asking if it would have been ok if he asked her in the bar is not meant to be smart, it's a genuine question. So when she says 'don't do that' is she saying don't do it at all or don't do it in a lift?
Dev
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Re: Rebecca Watson v. Richard Dawkins

Post by Dev » Mon Jul 04, 2011 4:45 pm

Storm in a tea cup. Just happens to be a small tiff with big names involved.

Dawkins response could have been worded better but the sentiment is right. She should get over herself, seriously, the dude did nothing wrong and thus not worthy of comment. PZ is a fine blogger but I think he is suffering from a bit of the "women are fragile" mentality many get when they discuss the etiquette of approaching women. Inviting a girl up for coffee or even a drink isn't even that cheesy. She should be flattered that a guy liked her and simply move on.

I think she is being a little silly.

To paraphrase Dawkins rebuttal - words don't matter because they can be ignored.
Words matter. You don't get that because you've never been called a cunt, a faggot, a nigger, a kike. You don't have people constantly explaining that you're subhuman, or have the intellect of an animal.
The words mentioned above are nothing . . . nothing like those that took place in the elevator. She is taking this out of context.
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Re: Rebecca Watson v. Richard Dawkins

Post by bipedalhumanoid » Mon Jul 04, 2011 5:46 pm

A few years ago I was waiting for someone on Parnel st and I witnessed a Garda issuing a parking ticket to an illegally parked car. The owner of the vehicle appeared just as he was writing the ticket. The owner was a man of West African appearance who immediately began to protest the parking ticket. It got to a point where the man was shouting at the Garda, insisting that he was only getting a ticket because he was an immigrant. The Garda tried to get him to calm down, told him to get into his vehicle, but as the man refused and became increasingly irate, the Garda called for backup and arested him.

Bigotry exists in this world, but the outrage caused by that fact often leads people to seek out and find such bigotry where it doesn't exist.

Rebecca Watson's attack on Paula Kirby at the event was one big straw man. Her outrage that a man dared to ask her back to his room was just plain loopy. In my opinion, both were examples of this phenomena. That kind of oversensitivity is damaging to the feminist cause.
"The fact of your own existence is the most astonishing fact you will ever have to face. Don’t you ever get used to it." - Richard Dawkins... being shrill and offensive again I suppose.
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Re: Rebecca Watson v. Richard Dawkins

Post by Byron » Mon Jul 04, 2011 5:58 pm

I'm somewhat on the fence about it. I understand Rebecca's point of view in that she was asked a rather benign question in an uncomfortable setting which in turn makes the benign question somewhat more malevolent. On the other hand, Richard is also right in that in the end, it was probably one of the least harmful things that could have happened to her as well as the fact that she seems to forget that she was in a busy hotel, albeit late at night, in the middle of Dublin.
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Re: Rebecca Watson v. Richard Dawkins

Post by funkyderek » Mon Jul 04, 2011 6:23 pm

I have to say, I'm sort of with Dawkins on this, in that I don't really get it.
I think that's the point. We can't fully get it because we have the privilege of being male and not having to constantly put up with unwanted sexual advances, sexual harassment and threatening behaviour.
Firstly, was Rebecca's problem solely that he approached her in the lift? If he had asked her up to his room for coffee at the bar, would that have been ok?
I think so. It's not about being propositioned per se, it's about the circumstances. The time and place were inappropriate. Firstly, it was around 4:00 in the morning and Rebecca had announced she was going to bed; this is not the right time to begin wooing someone. Secondly, the lift is a confined space with no exit. A woman could feel anywhere from uncomfortable to terrified being alone with any man, especially one who has declared a sexual interest in her. ("Coffee" in a hotel room at 4 a.m. is sex, or should certainly be assumed to be.)
Was he not suggesting that the guy merely asked her for coffee to his room and she said no. Don't guys approach women all the time? Don't women approach guys all the time? Is this no longer acceptable? If it was done in a sleazy way I could understand but she says herself that the guy said 'Don't take this the wrong way, but I find you very interesting, would you like to talk some more over coffee in my room? He might get done by the cheesy police, but is calling it harassment over stating it?
I think Rebecca's initial response was right on. Don't do it, it's kind of creepy. I think the shit-storm that has developed is disproportionate, with a lot of nonsense being spouted from all sides. The chances are, the guy just didn't think. He had a few drinks and thought he'd try his luck, or he was shy about propositioning a woman in public and waited till he could have a moment alone. Unfortunately, his behaviour was indistinguishable from that of a sexual predator and he should have realised that.
My question, asking if it would have been ok if he asked her in the bar is not meant to be smart, it's a genuine question. So when she says 'don't do that' is she saying don't do it at all or don't do it in a lift?
I got the impression that it wasn't just the lift, but that the guy was a complete stranger. He hadn't given Rebecca the chance to find him interesting, and so his question carried the implication that she was likely to have sex with any random guy who found her interesting. Women tend to find such an implication insulting.
"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." - Margaret Mead

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Tulip1
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Re: Rebecca Watson v. Richard Dawkins

Post by Tulip1 » Mon Jul 04, 2011 7:19 pm

I asked a few woman how they would take this. They said (including my wife) said it is over sensitive if the guy just asked the question and buggered off when she said no.

I was trying to find out why this could be perceived as out of order but had no luck since the woman I asked didn't see it as such.

One remarked an interesting point; would she have mind if she found the guy atractive?
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Re: Rebecca Watson v. Richard Dawkins

Post by Beebub » Mon Jul 04, 2011 8:45 pm

funkyderek wrote: I think that's the point. We can't fully get it because we have the privilege of being male and not having to constantly put up with unwanted sexual advances, sexual harassment and threatening behaviour.
Just to clarify. I was saying that I didn't comprehend what made her uncomfortable. Was it the approach, was it just the fact that it was in a lift or was it a combination of both? It's not that I understood what she was saying and felt like she shouldn't have felt uncomfortable, if that makes sense.
I think so. It's not about being propositioned per se, it's about the circumstances. The time and place were inappropriate.
I think you're probably right. I ran it by my better half and she thought that it was the fact that it was in a lift and she also felt that Dawkins shouldn't have belittled her for feeling uncomfortable.

I'm still on the fence a bit though. I think there's an argument to be had on both sides. If Rebecca had just said, 'guys don't do that' as PZ suggests that she did, then it probably wouldn't be such a big deal. But she didn't leave it it there. She referred to her talk on sexual harrasment and said even after all that, this guy still didn't get it. So she was likening his action to harassment rather than simply inappropriate. And is there some validity to the argument that this doesn't really do much for the wider movement?

The other interesting thing to come from this is that it shows how difficult it is to have a conversation about this stuff. The reaction to Dawkins' commments went way overboard and stifled the opportunity for a real debate on the issue.
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Re: Rebecca Watson v. Richard Dawkins

Post by Tulip1 » Mon Jul 04, 2011 10:15 pm

My wife said also that it was probaly the confined space, but she also said that the reaction of the guy when turned down is important on how uncomfortable she would feel.

Maybe we should our beter halfs write the posts? LOL
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Re: Rebecca Watson v. Richard Dawkins

Post by bipedalhumanoid » Tue Jul 05, 2011 9:00 am

Beebub wrote:I think you're probably right. I ran it by my better half and she thought that it was the fact that it was in a lift and she also felt that Dawkins shouldn't have belittled her for feeling uncomfortable.
I don't think he did belittle her for feeling uncomfortable. His issue with Rebecca was more about the fact that she was trying to turn it into a feminist issue.
Beebub wrote: If Rebecca had just said, 'guys don't do that' as PZ suggests that she did, then it probably wouldn't be such a big deal. But she didn't leave it it there. She referred to her talk on sexual harrasment and said even after all that, this guy still didn't get it. So she was likening his action to harassment rather than simply inappropriate.
She also didn't leave it there. Another feminist activist made a you tube video suggesting that Rebecca was being oversensitive. In a talk that Rebecca later gave she responded to that video and also blogged about it. Int he blog entry she claimed the issue was objectification. So now she is saying she felt the man in the elevator objectified her.
Beebub wrote: The other interesting thing to come from this is that it shows how difficult it is to have a conversation about this stuff. The reaction to Dawkins' commments went way overboard and stifled the opportunity for a real debate on the issue.
I would love to know how many of those comments were written by Americans. In my experience there is a disconnect between ultra-sensitive, guilt ridden, American liberals and those who live elsewhere. I'm thinking in particular of their reaction to the "Racist" Australian KFC ad a couple of years back.

Post Edits: Just providing links
"The fact of your own existence is the most astonishing fact you will ever have to face. Don’t you ever get used to it." - Richard Dawkins... being shrill and offensive again I suppose.
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Re: Rebecca Watson v. Richard Dawkins

Post by funkyderek » Tue Jul 05, 2011 9:28 am

Beebub wrote:If Rebecca had just said, 'guys don't do that' as PZ suggests that she did, then it probably wouldn't be such a big deal. But she didn't leave it it there. She referred to her talk on sexual harrasment and said even after all that, this guy still didn't get it. So she was likening his action to harassment rather than simply inappropriate.
In terms of sexism, the worst e-mails and comments that Rebecca gets are those that threaten her with rape or suggest she "needs to get laid" as well as those that belittle her based on her sex, suggesting that as a woman her opinion is of less value. However, there is another class of sexist comment which is what I'm going to call the "sexual compliment". This can go all the way from lewd and graphic propositions (sometimes with pictures) to joking proposals of marriage. What they all have in common, even the most ostensibly polite ones, is that they view her primarily as a sexual entity. Rather than treating her as an intelligent human being with worthwhile opinions, so many of these correspondents also feel that they have to add (implicitly or explicitly) that they'd be interested in having sex with her.
There's a tendency among men to believe that she should be flattered by this attention, but there's really nothing particularly flattering for a young woman to discover that random guys off the internet would deign to have sex with her.
The guy in the lift was of the same type. He presented nothing of value, only his desire to have sex with her. No woman with any self-respect would accept such an offer, so it carries an implied insult. He compounded this insult because he had listened to her ranting passionately about this earlier in the day, and had chosen to ignore it.
And is there some validity to the argument that this doesn't really do much for the wider movement?
Yes. If women are made to feel uncomfortable at atheist events, they will stop attending. If women go to atheist events and see very few other women there, they are likely to feel uncomfortable and will stop attending. These women are likely to have useful skills and valuable opinions, and without their input we are poorer as a group. They are also likely - and here I may be courting controversy - to have a different perspective to men. Broadly speaking, women see the world differently to men, and are likely to have different skillsets. Thus, by losing them, we are not just losing numbers, but valuable viewpoints and areas of expertise.
The other interesting thing to come from this is that it shows how difficult it is to have a conversation about this stuff. The reaction to Dawkins' commments went way overboard and stifled the opportunity for a real debate on the issue.
Agreed. It's an emotive issue and the division seems to fall largely along gender lines. Men don't see what the big deal is, while women find the man's behaviour totally unacceptable. This should tell us that, as men, there's something we're not getting. We need to realise this and work on it. Women too, need to realise that men just don't get this intuitively.
It's not so much about debate, as there's really no point in men proving that they have the right to proposition women in this manner if women still feel uncomfortable when it happens. Unless you're an asshole you don't want to make strange women feel scared or vulnerable, so you will make reasonable adjustments to your behaviour to avoid doing this unnecessarily.
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