Rebecca Watson v. Richard Dawkins

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aiseiri47
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Re: Rebecca Watson v. Richard Dawkins

Post by aiseiri47 » Fri Jul 08, 2011 10:17 pm

Beebub wrote:She mentions e-mails from atheists who 'describe in graphic detail what they'd like to do to me (sexually)'.

And she mentions religious hate mail where she gets more threats of rape or people saying she should be raped than she does death threats (which she also gets).

At no point does she mention any of the stuff she's been saying since the encounter with 'elevetor guy'. There's no discussion of how she has been treated at atheist conferences or meetings. No mention of the fact that she doesn't like to be hit on at atheist conferences or elsewhere. No mention of the fact that women have told her that they don't like to go to these meetings in pubs or conferences because they'll be hit on.
Because she is an active, well known member of the atheist/skeptic community, she goes to conventions and conferences and speaks her mind because she has an intellectual stake in it; and there are men in the atheist community that instead of appreciating that, see her merely as a women and that it's okay to just ignore and her purpose and instead treat her as a sex fantasy. That's what Elevator Guy did. Clearly, he's pretty harmless, and from all evidence, has better social skills than the guys that send her vulgar e-mails, but I think that it's a situation where people need to realise that severe abuse stems from minor abuse. If you excuse reasonably harmless behavior based because it didn't cause anybody harm, even though it stems from same fundamentals as harmful behavior, then you're going to end up with a muddle of principles. RW clearly felt that this guy was violating the fundamentals behind the abusive behavior she receives due to being a well-known skeptist speaker/blogger.

That said, I didn't follow RW herself after the intitial blog post. I read PZ Meyers updates/links on it, but he dropped it after a day. I read RD's response, and a blog responding to that response. And I read the comments on those blogs. Then my interest dropped. Once you get beyond a certain stage of something, nobody really knows what they're arguing about anymore. As is evident in this thread, there are several groups debating various aspects of it, some people involved in more than one of those various debates.

Personally, I still don't like Richard Dawkin's response. I don't think it's the cleverest thing he's ever done, nor do I think that because he was molested he has the right to tell women not to feel threatened by seemingly harmless behavior. I think it has more to do with sexism and men's attitudes towards women, than sexual assault itself (seeing as she wasn't sexually assaulted and I doubt that the guy had any intention of assaulting her), and Dawkins being molested doesn't make him an authority on what it feels like to be a women and viewed as "nothing but" by certain men.

As to what it has boiled down to since, you know what? Don't know, don't care to find out. I don't think Dawkins is in trouble of losing influence, his enemies haven't defeated him yet, I doubt this will help them close in on him; I'm not a fundamentalist, I don't try to excuse everything Dawkins says or does or try to agree with everything in his books; he's human, it's okay for me to think that in this situation, he wasn't totally right.
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Re: Rebecca Watson v. Richard Dawkins

Post by ocallaghanbohrdt » Fri Jul 08, 2011 10:41 pm

Feardorcha +1. My observation after the Dublin conference was that the youths who surrounded RW after her boast were patricularly reverential.

And just by the way - do any/many other women think men (or even the wusses) in the atheist movement are especially sexist?
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Re: Rebecca Watson v. Richard Dawkins

Post by bipedalhumanoid » Sat Jul 09, 2011 9:34 am

Feardorcha wrote:Elevator-man is innocent and I can prove it.
He's been sitting in a bar for up to eight hours, listening to mind-numbing, ego-tripping shite (I've seen most of her video and read a fair bit of her blog).
If he was interested in sex with her, he would have got the suggestion in much earlier
You're really just guessing here. To the best of my knowledge the only account we have of what happened is Rebecca's
account. In that description of events he hadn't spoken to her at all before getting into the elevator.
"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 bipedalhumanoid » Sat Jul 09, 2011 2:05 pm

The Women in Atheism panel talk is now available on You Tube...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2_O33OsA ... ture=feedf

The portion where Paula Kirby speaks is what RW chose to actively misrepresent in her talk which was supposed to be about Communicating Atheism.
"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 malvolio » Sun Jul 10, 2011 12:23 am

I happened across this debate accidentally tonight, taken several hours to wade through it all.

Seems to me the point is to take seriously what people tell you about their experience, and to use as much empathy as you can muster to try to understand what they're telling you. This applies to the elevator man, Rebecca herself, other commenters, Dawkins...

Even if elevator man really did want coffee, Rebecca had to to respond carefully in case his reaction wasn't civil (she couldn't know what he really wanted, she didn't know him). Women often do have to respond to unsolicited requests carefully, thoughtfully, empathically - sometimes a direct refusal offends and results in being attacked. I believe only a minority of men would ever attack women - but because some do, and many women have experience of being attacked (socially, emotionally, physically) and know how bad it could possibly get, they have to guard against it. That doesn't mean all women believe all men are rapists - but most girls are raised to behave/dress/speak in ways that won't attract attacks - men, on the whole, aren't raised to have to think about that. That's the privilege Rebecca and others have written about e.g. https://sindeloke.wordpress.com/2010/01/13/37/.

Women learn early the necessity of taking sensible precautions against attack. This is true of most societies, and particularly true (in my view) of societies where women are put in the position of responsibility for men's sexual urges - this is more obvious where women are veiled on the pretext that seeing them would arouse men, but is also true in Western culture where what women wear is (still) used as an excuse for assault: "she was asking for it". Many veiled women claim the veil protects them from precisely the kind of proposition Rebecca experienced with elevator man, and from Dawkins' attack. If the "atheist community" is to make any headway to combat these (religious and derogatory) views of women, taking seriously what Rebecca initially highlighted would be a good start.

Men, on the whole, aren't really aware of there being any need for those precautions and dismiss them as "silly" when they are challenged by them: "I don't think it matters so you, little girl/stupid woman, should just shut up about it". Some men, using empathy, do get this stuff - especially (in my experience) those with friends and family who have been attacked, or who become aware that their loved women/girl-folk are vulnerable to their behaviours they realise they have had - fathers often talk about how having a daughter changes how they feel about women. The thought/question: "if your girlfriend/sister/mother/wife told you she'd had this experience and felt uncomfortable, what would you think?" can be useful (though sometimes the seriousness of the thought process is too much for some men, so they dismiss it, shake their heads, and go back to tell women to "stop being silly").

Dawkins' extraordinary initial response was equivalent to the "can't you take a joke" get-out that lots of people use when they don't want to respect someone else's views or take seriously what they're saying. Of course genital mutilation is appalling, but it's on a continuum with Rebecca's experience. Genital mutilation is sometimes entered into voluntarily because of cultural pressure, girls and women can really believe that it's necessary (for their honour, their family, etc) to submit to it, even welcome it, because of societal norms. Same goes - in a very different way, obviously - to being propositioned in an elevator. Women are suppose to be flattered by advances, whether for coffee or sex. Some men - as Rebecca's presentation showed in the vile email screenshot she showed - want to use sex to punish women for not submitting. Women live in this climate all the time - it's not easy to ignore, thought some manage it, sometimes by capitulating to it (hence voluntary clitoral excisions).

Some of this is in the same area of privilege as rich people slumming it and thinking they know how it feels to be poor, or blithely offering an ignorant solution e.g. "let them eat cake". Telling women their experience and self-protecting strategies are silly really is ignorant.

The people who are saying that because men and women sometimes fancy each other and want to get it together are smoke-screening - if there was any mutuality in the situation, none of this debate would have happened.

The women's movement in the 1970s went through these same arguments (yes, I'm that old) and I expect they'll go round and round until empathy becomes an evolved trait in all humans - or until the end of the world, whichever comes first. It would be nice if attacking someone for turning down an advance became something that stopped happening, but a long evolutionary lag, long after the trait became innate, would be required before anyone stopped being wary and careful.

Rebecca's suggestion/request to men - "Please don't do that" - is as mild as it can be, and still there's a storm! Whatever else has gone on since (I know very little about the atheist conference scene or related blogs) we might imagine that some of the voices in response are raised so loud and angry because nerves have been touched. One of those nerves, I believe, is the privilege that many men enjoy, not having to think about this stuff. Saying "it's silly, nothing really happened, it's not important" (or as important and visible as genital mutilation) is a defence against having to recognise the experience of another person, a woman (and it seems to come with a slight hint of wait-until-you-have-something-really-painful-to-complain-about).

It would be great not to have to think about any of it, for it really to be irrelevant and silly - but until the whole continuum of women's subordination is resolved, what it feels like for this particular woman to be tired, on her way to bed, feeling cornered in a an elevator at 4am, and asked "for coffee" by a man she doesn't know, is very relevant, and absolutely not silly.
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Re: Rebecca Watson v. Richard Dawkins

Post by Beebub » Sun Jul 10, 2011 10:37 am

That's a very good, very articulate post, malvolio and welcome by the way.

For the most part, I agree with you, that said your post is a little one sided. You haven't for example addressed Rebecca's behaviour in the face of criticism.

Also, you're repeating the mantra that all she did was say "Please don't do that". This is not all she said. She went on to say that he did it right after she had been speaking about these very issues in her talk and she said that because he hit on her in a lift that he didn't get it. This to me, wasn't fair of her. The stuff she mentioned in her talk, in my view are not comperable to what this guy did. I'm not condoning him in amy way, he shoudn't have done it in a lift. But she really has been saying since that actually he shouldn't have approached her at all because she doesn't like to be objectified and that guys shouldn't hit on women at atheist conferences and meetings and should wait for a woman to hit on them at these events.

What's come out of this for me is that in the skeptic & atheist community it's ok to ask questions or to criticise on any topic, bar this one. I'm not just referring to Dawkins in that. To me he phrased his post very badly. But others questioned Rebecca also, such as Stef McGraw, who was very publicly berated by Watson for daring to question.

I've seen the dicussions on the various blogs on this issue and so far, this is the only tempered and rational discussion on the issue. Dissenting voices are shouted down on other discussion forums with dissenters being accused of 'mansplaining' the issue.
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Re: Rebecca Watson v. Richard Dawkins

Post by malvolio » Sun Jul 10, 2011 12:23 pm

Hi Beebub, thanks for your response. I agree that this seems the only sensible discussion, which is why I chose to post here - I'd seen the bloodbath elsewhere, reminded me of Culloden!

I didn't address "Rebecca's behaviour in the face of criticism" because I think that's part of the fall-out, the defensive strategy I described - we all defend ourselves when attacked. If she hadn't been attacked for saying what she said, but thoughtfully questioned (by Dawkins and others) in an real, open attempt to understand what it's like to be in that situation, to have those feelings, rather than criticised for saying what she felt, the discussion would have been rather different.

I think Rebecca mentioning that she'd been talking about these issues all day falls into the category of irritation/exasperation/despair - wasn't he listening? why can't someone actually hear what she's been saying? Women are expected to be saints, to put up with all kinds of malign and trivial attacks, to forbear, explain, understand, forgive... all without complaint. It may be that Rebecca's irritation/exasperation/despair at being attacked for saying something mild made her feel like giving up trying. It's a traditional trap for women - the focus moves from the issue being discussed to "stop complaining" - it starts the moment a woman stops trying to be a saint.

None of us should have to be saints; we all make mistakes. Elevator man may have been malign, but he may have made a mistake - that's what Rebecca identified and offered (mild) advice about, though having to become alert and defensive (which most women would normally do, when tired and faced with a strange man in an elevator at 4am, asking her to come to his room) shows how close to the surface the irritation/exasperation/despair can be.

Your thought "What's come out of this for me is that in the skeptic & atheist community it's ok to ask questions or to criticise on any topic, bar this one" is so familiar - THIS topic comes up in any and all communities, about any and all topics I've seen it in physics, music, education, journalism, psychology, kayaking, etc, etc...

The point is that it's a general issue of privileged thought. I'll put this crudely, in terms of Master and Slave (I expect this will raise more attacks/defensive "misunderstandings" - I do NOT mean that I think that all men - or women - think they are masters and that women are slaves) but at least using a caricature it should be clear what I'm getting at. Men are (generally) raised to be cultural narcissists, women (generally) are not - but women must also know about being attacked, about being "nice" to avoid attack, and that an attack may become violation. The Master thinks about the world but the Slave must think about the Master, his needs and thoughts... the Slave has to mind-read the Master, the Master expects it, can get irritated when the Slave doesn't do it right. The Slave thinks s/he knows what they are both thinking (and isn't always right), and sometimes thinks s/he is really the boss (which may be a psychological essential, necessary self preservation), but is always alert, always on guard. Having to be defensive, or ready to defend, constantly, saps intellectual strength and uses mental energy which might be better used in intellectual thought. The Master doesn't even have to think about the Slave's thoughts and can come to believe s/he doesn't have any, or that the Slave's thoughts mirror his own - why wouldn't he? So when s/he seems to have ideas and feelings different from his own he may not understand or even deny their existence - it's his thoughts that matter (to both of them, as he's Master) after all... isn't it? Men like William Wilberforce and John Stuart Mill showed extraordinary empathy in their capacity to imagine that subordinates (black people, women) had rights, and had thoughts different from theirs.

I don't blame Rebecca for retaliating to attacks on her (mild) suggestion, and offending people; to do otherwise would be saintly and, if she's to do feminism any good at all, she has to also show that women aren't - and shouldn't be expected to be - saints.
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Re: Rebecca Watson v. Richard Dawkins

Post by bipedalhumanoid » Sun Jul 10, 2011 2:46 pm

Hi Malvolio and welcome.
malvolio wrote: I didn't address "Rebecca's behaviour in the face of criticism" because I think that's part of the fall-out, the defensive strategy I described - we all defend ourselves when attacked.

If she hadn't been attacked for saying what she said, but thoughtfully questioned (by Dawkins and others) in an real, open attempt to understand what it's like to be in that situation, to have those feelings, rather than criticised for saying what she felt, the discussion would have been rather different.
I'm not sure you have the chronology correct. This is the order of events...

------------Original Comment and Rebuttal-------------
1 ) RW comments on Elevator Incident
2 ) Stef McGraw Rebuts RW
------------------------Fallout-----------------------
3 ) RW responds to Stef McGraw personally (by naming her) during a talk given at Stef's university
4 ) Various members of the skeptical, atheist and feminist communities defend Stef and accuse RW of bullying
5 ) PZ Myers leaps to RWs defence
6 ) Richard Dawkins Responds
7 ) Various prominent bloggers and skeptics attack Dawkins
8 ) RW organises a campaign ot attack Dawkins including a letter campaign and a suggestion that her followers should stop supporting him

By your reasoning, Dawkins is part of the fallout.

malvolio wrote: I think Rebecca mentioning that she'd been talking about these issues all day falls into the category of irritation/exasperation/despair - wasn't he listening?
That's another false premise given by RW. She did not say anything in her talk that could be interpreted as "don't hit on me" or "don't approach me in a confined space" or anything of that nature. Her examples of misogyny in the atheist community were emails, the worst of which came from men threatening to rape her. Nothing of the nature of elevator etiquite or how women in general should be approached by men.

malvolio wrote:
Your thought "What's come out of this for me is that in the skeptic & atheist community it's ok to ask questions or to criticise on any topic, bar this one" is so familiar - THIS topic comes up in any and all communities, about any and all topics I've seen it in physics, music, education, journalism, psychology, kayaking, etc, etc...
My understanding of beeb's point, which I share, is that a community where we can normally debate anything, has descended to a point where any opposing view can be shut out by labelling it "misogynistic" or by saying "you don't get it" or "thanks for mansplaining that to me". What RW is now doing to Dawkins is an attempt to bully him into appologising. What she should be doing is trying to get her point across using logic and reason. What I am seeing from her is a combination of bullying tactics, logical fallacies and dishonesty.
malvolio wrote: I don't blame Rebecca for retaliating to attacks on her (mild) suggestion, and offending people; to do otherwise would be saintly and, if she's to do feminism any good at all, she has to also show that women aren't - and shouldn't be expected to be - saints.
What she is doing is presenting women as feeble, weak and precious creatures that need special protections. Dawkins treated her like he'd treat anyone else he disagrees with. PZ treated her like a feeble creature who needs a big strong man to protect her.
"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 aZerogodist » Sun Jul 10, 2011 3:18 pm

Chic v’s Dick
This whole issue??? Seems to converge into sexism, but not about equality, suppressive feminism v’s non-existent male-ism, by constant referral of man/men into one group and postulating how that group should act to another group, is accepted defensive-sexism but in fact is backdoor-sexism, it is discriminating by one’s gender.
I haven’t read anywhere else about the chic vs dick web-opera, but a few notes on what I have here.
1. Elevator-person & 4am (not the right time) but would a stranger in an elevator asking someone up to their room at 4pm even be appropriate.
2. RW says that gender shouldn’t be an issue within rational Atheism, I’ve never been to RebeccaWatson.net or SkepDick.com, but her web persona is very much based on being a woman, more precisely a chic. (which I thick is a demeaning term). One of my favourite YT-atheists is FactvsFiction, who has had many treats against her and never makes it a gender issue.
3. I’ve read: RD shouldn’t of made a comment, I wonder why he did, I suppose he sees RW as a fellow celb-Atheist, a rising Atheist-star.
From what I’ve read, it sounds like RW is annoyed not because a RW-groupie wanted to party on coffee n’ play dawkins audio books loud all night, but the fact she stated she didn’t want to be hit-on, and yet that’s what seemed to have happen.
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Re: Rebecca Watson v. Richard Dawkins

Post by bipedalhumanoid » Sun Jul 10, 2011 3:32 pm

aZerogodist wrote:but the fact she stated she didn’t want to be hit-on, and yet that’s what seemed to have happen.
When did she state that she didn't want to be hit on?
"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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