Rebecca Watson v. Richard Dawkins

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Bik
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Re: Rebecca Watson v. Richard Dawkins

Post by Bik » Thu Jul 07, 2011 8:13 pm

This nonsense is gaining further publicity and is doing the image of atheism no favours. Certainly none of the main protagonists come out of this smelling of roses.

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Re: Rebecca Watson v. Richard Dawkins

Post by bipedalhumanoid » Thu Jul 07, 2011 8:52 pm

Bik wrote:This nonsense is gaining further publicity and is doing the image of atheism no favours. Certainly none of the main protagonists come out of this smelling of roses.

http://www.politics.ie/forum/culture-co ... ident.html
Someone in that thread quoted Terry Pratchett.

"Authority that cannot be questioned is tyranny and I will not accept tyranny, any tyranny, even that of heaven."

I think that's very appropriate.
"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 Ygern » Thu Jul 07, 2011 9:20 pm

For the most part, I think we're on the same page; but I want to clarify a few things. (long rant, sorry)

First of all, no-one knows what "elevator-guy"'s motives were, unless they are psychic. An awful lot of time and energy has been expended by people saying - he was a creep - he was hitting on her - it was a harmless invitation. Nobody knows (except him). What you can analyse are his actions (at least as reported by Rebecca Watson) - and that is that it was a badly misjudged invitation. She never said he was rude or threatening; and we all know that he certainly took "no" for an answer. To give RW credit, she never claimed that he was a potential rapist. However, that is precisely the claim that has been made by rather a lot of other people, and they have NO BASIS to say that what so ever. She said no, he went away. That is the opposite of what rapists or misogynists do.
Equality does not mean treating women like men. It means giving equal values to the rights, needs and interests of men and women. And that - among other things - means recognising that women are physically weaker than men, and have a justifiably greater fear of being sexually assaulted.
I appreciate the sentiment as you intend it. But I do not want to be treated like a helpless feeble creature who requires every man around her to constantly second-guess themselves in case they offend me. How do you know what offends me? How do you know what my needs are?
The problem is that people respond to situations differently; it really ought to be sufficient to be polite and considerate. You cannot possibly predict everything that may offend or upset someone. It is at least one of the reasons why we so often say that no-one has the right not to be offended.

Here's an anecdote of my own: Once upon a time at an office Christmas party I got into a lively debate with a co-worker about multiculturalism. We exchanged opinions, rebutted each others points, disagreed on details. It was all perfectly amicable, polite and enjoyable - at least, on this last point, I thought so. Later on, he apologised to me. Just out of the blue apologised. He had done absolutely nothing wrong at all, but he felt he had to apologise because I was a woman and I might be feeling offended or insulted. I then awkwardly had to try and make him feel less awkward about it. He was trying to do the right thing. But it made me feel ashamed that he thought that just by the act of debating a point with me, he might have done something wrong.
That, my friends, is (slightly) insulting.
Please note: he was not insulting me, he was trying to do the opposite of insulting me. I can tell the difference.

It is a tricky situation for men, I appreciate this. You never know what will or won't offend or upset someone. And that is precisely why this subject ought to be able to be discussed. However, on most websites that have posted about it; no-one is allowed to discuss different points of view. And that beings me to my second point.

Point the Second: How the Community reacted to this, and why it stinks.

Just for starters, you should take a look at how women (yes, women) have been treated by the so-called self-proclaimed pro-feminist community if they chose to dissent from the RW side. Take a look at how AbbieSmith, MirandaCelesteHale and Stef McGraw have been treated by others. The reaction has invariably not been: you are incorrect, this is why. The reaction has been a torrent of abuse and invective, they have been told they are "gender traitors", that they ought to "die in a fire" and that essentially, they just haven't been abused or raped enough to know any better. This last point is often couched in exceptionally polite, passive-aggressive language to mask the horror of what they are actually suggesting.

This is not the way civilised or sceptical people debate issues. You would also think that it is not the way that intelligent pro-women activists would talk.

My next issue: How Rebecca Watson has behaved.
First, lets get this straight. I am a single woman too. I know what it is like to live by myself, travel by myself and walk in strange places by myself. Yes, it can be intimidating. and if someone says that they experienced Person X doing Activity Y and they were uncomfortable with it; then I am not going to argue. I would encourage anybody to listen to such a complaint seriously and examine it carefully. Feelings and reactions are what they are: they are genuine and they have to be taken as such.
Where it all goes horribly wrong is when no-one is allowed to question how this should impact on society at large.
When Catholics got very offended at PZ Myers desecrating a consecrated communion host, how many atheists thought that this was an outrage and that any such atheist ought to be branded a reckless vandal and scorned? Not many.
When Christians vandalised billboards because they were offended at the American Atheists advertisement on it, who in the atheist community thought that it was fair enough and that AA ought to be barred for life for depicting something others would find a threat to their way of life?
My point is not that all offence is equal, or that all offence is unjustifiable. It is just that differing opinions ought to be able to be aired. And this isn't happening on the major websites.
Dissenters are being abused, and the main leaders in this have done nothing to try and foster an adult conversation.
In addition, Rebecca Watson appears to be rather enjoying this. Apart from her gloating on Twitter that she now has a billion followers thanks to this, "SCORE!"; she has now decided to take Dawkins head-on, encouraging people to boycott him and his books.
That is the act of someone supremely confident of their own influence.

A word on the Richard Dawkins comment that has earned him so much trouble: I think you could interpret his comment to be offensive if you are looking -even innocently - to see something offensive in it. But I find it hard to see how he was supposed to be trivialising lesser forms of sexism by his comments if you see them in the context of the blog discussion where they were written (this was on Pharyngula... people are LOUD, and SHOUTY, and SWEARY, and the general drift of the discussion was that elevator-man was very nearly almost a creepy rapist).
His mistake was that his comments showed sheer exasperation with the soap-opera style self-pity of the situation and could therefore be read as not sympathetic towards Watson. However, it is a discussion that the other side has declared off-limits and verboten; and anyone not offering 100% support is automatically The Enemy.
Yes, perhaps he shouldn't have said anything. But then again, everyone else was allowed to pontificate at length.
[Post edit: those who think Dawkins doesn't understand anything about abuse might read this: http://richarddawkins.net/articles/118 Make sure you read the 4th & 5th paragraphs]

It is a shame that a community that once prided itself on never holding any subject as taboo, and never granted anyone the right to not be offended has decided that certain people must unquestioningly be accorded special deferential status.

I am glad that this community still will discuss these things, even if we have different opinions and takes on the subject.
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Re: Rebecca Watson v. Richard Dawkins

Post by bipedalhumanoid » Thu Jul 07, 2011 9:25 pm

She's not done yet either. She now wants people to write letters to RD:

http://skepchick.org/2011/07/dear-richa ... epchick%29

In the words of a character from the long forgotten TV comedy stech show The Mary Whitehouse Experience:

'Milky milky'
funkyderek wrote: I think that's a bit harsh. Dawkins doesn't get it. He's read Rebecca's point of view and hundreds of comments on Pharyngula and he still doesn't get it. The letters are an attempt in consciousness-raising. Maybe someone will be able to make him see why such behaviour would be likely - hell, virtually guaranteed - to make a woman feel uncomfortable. I would suggest reading them if you haven't already done so. They provide some helpful perspectives.
"You don't get it" is a weasel phrase used by ultra-liberal Americans when they fail to convince their audience with their reason. It's a cop out. It's as good as saying "you're obviously too stupid to understand my argument" or "you're an idiot". It's a form of appeal to popularity mixed with appeal to ridicule... you know... the logical fallacies PZ Meyers went to great lengths to point out in his now famous (thanks to Richard Dawkins) courtier's reply.

Also, it isn't even that Dawkins doesn't understand that Rebecca felt uncomfortable. He even said that's her privilege. He equated it to the expectation some people have to not be offended. He is offeded by chewing gum no less.

BTW, racists feel uncomfortable in the presence of Black people. Bigotry often results from fear. Do we go back to making Black people walk on the other side of the street to help avoid the discomfort of racists?

Maybe this video is appropriate: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HRfjLfyXYlA
"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 » Thu Jul 07, 2011 10:22 pm

Beebub wrote:Meaning because he did what he did, he didn't get it. Because if he did get the issues she was discussing he wouldn't have hit on her. Therefore she was equating what he did with the nasty stuff she said she experiences. I don't think that fair of her.

Had she left it at, 'don't do that guys, it makes me feel uncomfortable', I wouldn't have a problem with it. The fact that she demonised him and equated him with the categories of people in her talk, to me was unfair.
I don't think saying that he didn't get it means she was equating him with those who threatened her with rape, but merely that he did not understand what things are like for women in her position. If he had, he would have realised that a random attendee at a conference making a pass at her would be unwelcome, and that doing it in a confined space would make her very uncomfortable.
You may be right. It doesn't mean my point is without validity. She certainly knows her audience and calling for an all out boycott of everything Dawkins including books and talks he's participating in, to me is over the top.
I don't see where she did that. While some of the letter-writers have said they'll never buy anything from Dawkins again, I'm pretty sure neither Rebecca nor anyone else at Skepchick has called for a boycott (which, I agree, would be over the top). Incidentally the call for letters to Dawkins came from another contributor at Skepchick, not Rebecca.
The nice thing about this discussion is that we can have it. This is not the case on the other fora and blogs on the subject. Most if not all dissenting voices are shouted down.
I don't think there's enough of a consensus to identify any one as "dissenting". It seems to be a wide open argument with far too much noise at the absurd fringes. But yes, for once the relatively low volume of traffic here is an advantage as it allows a more nuanced and reasonable discussion.
I came across a new term on these blogs used by Rebecca and others, which is 'mansplain'. Several men with dissenting voices on the topic have been thanked for 'mansplaining' the situation to them. It's not a term which endears me to them on this issue.
It's a rather ugly portmanteau, if nothing else. But there's clearly a feeling among many of these women that they are treated in a condescending and dismissive manner by men. Many of them are active feminists and have spent a lot of time considering this sort of issue, while many of the men involved have never even thought of it as an issue. For some, it may feel a little like it does for us when a Christian apologist blunders onto this forum.
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Re: Rebecca Watson v. Richard Dawkins

Post by funkyderek » Thu Jul 07, 2011 10:24 pm

Byron wrote:And now Dawkins has been sent a letter by survivors of sexual assault. The ridiculousness of this knows no bounds.

http://almostdiamonds.blogspot.com/2011 ... -from.html
Byron, would you mind explaining why you feel this is ridiculous?
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aiseiri47
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Re: Rebecca Watson v. Richard Dawkins

Post by aiseiri47 » Thu Jul 07, 2011 10:25 pm

Sort of late to this debate but I wanted to throw my two cents in because I was watching it unfold through the various blogger's involved.

I like PZ Meyer's approach to the situation. I think Richard Dawkin's was, in all honesty, being a bit of a prat.

There are a lot of problems with what happened - the main one is that prior to The Incident, Rebecca Watson had been discussing how she doesn't like being objectified by men in that way at conferences. If the guy had merely though she was sexy and propositioned her in a bar, far enough - but it's almost as if he was purposely being a troll by doing exactly what she'd made a point of saying she was uncomfortable with. What a way to prove you see a woman as nothing more than a sex object than by showing you weren't taking in anything she was saying all evening. Considering what she had been discussing, I don't see how that situation could be worse.

In addition, the elevator aspect. I'll state for the record, I have no issue with men objectifying women, If I had an issue with it, I would be a hypocrite, because I objectify both men and women on a daily basis (in my mind that is; I don't go around smacking arses and inviting people to my bedroom). And let's face it, most normal human beings do. When men hit on me, I often feel awkward and uncomfortable but not offended.

But, as I said, it makes me feel uncomfortable. And I like to be able to say an awkward "thanks but no" and sidle off somewhere. You can't do that in an elevator. I had a middle-aged man hit on me on a bus when I was about 15 and even that was too much for me; sure it was a public place, but I still couldn't just hop up and get off the bus right then and there. In that situation, the man was inappropriate and frightening and I wanted to leave so I could feel safe.

I can't imagine how it would have felt if not only was in a situation where I wasn't free to simply walk away, but also alone with the man.

So, I think the guy was out of line. Maybe he didn't realise how creepy he was being, but I think Rebecca Watson was fairly sound in saying "guys, don't do that". Which is what she did.

The backlash of people saying she was overreacting is unfair. The people defending the guy are far worse than the guy himself. He might have been tired and slightly drunk and had impaired judgment and didn't realize what a creeper he was being. But everyone else has the clarity of hindsight and the knowledge of how the woman in the situation made feel, and STILL can't cop on and say "Yeah, maybe he shouldn't have done that, and maybe I'll try not to do anything similar in the future".

And the fact that so many people are defending him and saying that Rebecca Watson is whining about nothing has thrown a harsh light on the fact that sexism is rather more embedded in the skeptic community than the skeptic community would like to admit. Especially since we all know that most religions are rampant with misogyny.

The reason that I didn't like Richard Dawkins' response was because he more or less said that because women in other cultures face worse hardship, it means Rebecca Watson shouldn't complain about what was basically a non-event. To me, that's like being told you shouldn't complain about food poisoning because people in third world countries are dying of starvation. No I don't think I'm worse off than those people, but it doesn't mean it's okay for restaurants to serve undercooked food.

What the guy did in the lift wasn't appropriate. And the response to Watson's very casual criticism of it has been overwhelming and shown that there is a problem with sexism in the skeptic community. And I don't think it's fair for people to claim that Christianity and Islam or outdated patriarchal systems when, even in the absence of religion, men don't respect a women's right to be creeped out by a guy propositioning her in an elevator.
Last edited by aiseiri47 on Thu Jul 07, 2011 10:27 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Rebecca Watson v. Richard Dawkins

Post by leo » Thu Jul 07, 2011 10:25 pm

Ygearn, thank you for articulating what I could not.

In my mind, this is the key point.
Ygern wrote: In addition, Rebecca Watson appears to be rather enjoying this. Apart from her gloating on Twitter that she now has a billion followers thanks to this, "SCORE!"; she has now decided to take Dawkins head-on, encouraging people to boycott him and his books.
That is the act of someone supremely confident of their own influence.
This demonstrates a bullying mentality. It's clear that she gets something out of personally attacking people. We saw it at the Atheist convention when she attacked Paula Kirby. We saw it again when she attacked Stef McGraw. She clearly had the power on that stage, with the microphone as she attacked McGraw. Lets also not forget that feigning the victim is a classic bullying tactic!
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Re: Rebecca Watson v. Richard Dawkins

Post by funkyderek » Thu Jul 07, 2011 10:34 pm

bipedalhumanoid wrote: "You don't get it" is a weasel phrase used by ultra-liberal Americans when they fail to convince their audience with their reason. It's a cop out. It's as good as saying "you're obviously too stupid to understand my argument" or "you're an idiot". It's a form of appeal to popularity mixed with appeal to ridicule... you know... the logical fallacies PZ Meyers went to great lengths to point out in his now famous (thanks to Richard Dawkins) courtier's reply.
See http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2011 ... nt-4309418 where Richard Dawkins says:"No, I obviously don't get it. I will gladly apologise if somebody will calmly and politely, without using the word fuck in every sentence, explain to me what it is that I am not getting."
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Re: Rebecca Watson v. Richard Dawkins

Post by aiseiri47 » Thu Jul 07, 2011 10:36 pm

Ygern wrote: In addition, Rebecca Watson appears to be rather enjoying this. Apart from her gloating on Twitter that she now has a billion followers thanks to this, "SCORE!"; she has now decided to take Dawkins head-on, encouraging people to boycott him and his books.
That is the act of someone supremely confident of their own influence.
leo wrote: This demonstrates a bullying mentality. It's clear that she gets something out of personally attacking people. We saw it at the Atheist convention when she attacked Paula Kirby. We saw it again when she attacked Stef McGraw. She clearly had the power on that stage, with the microphone as she attacked McGraw. Lets also not forget that feigning the victim is a classic bullying tactic!
Maybe she is enjoying it. Maybe she is a bully. Maybe she should have just left it. To me, gloating on Twitter in that way sounds more like a defense mechanism, like she's trying to shrug it off and act like she's not fazed by what's happening, like it's all fun and games. For the Richard Dawkins part, maybe it's because she disagrees with him, which she has a right to; she has very little chance of denting the influence of good old Dawkins, though, so I doubt he's bothered; I'm sure he, too, is confident of his own influence, or he wouldn't have made his original comment, which he had to have known was going to draw attention before he posted it.
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