The Last Thing I’ll Ever Say About Elevatorgate

Or rather, the last thing I’ll quote, because there were two comments on Friendly Atheist that sum up the matter perfectly:

First:

Misogyny shows not because of a guy being unaware that the circumstances in which he is asking people out are creepy. But the misogyny shows when people quickly jump into trying to make it look like doing that is fine. The correct non-misogynist reaction to this is “oh, I didn’t stop to think about this before, but I think that you may be right and doing that is not a good idea. I will try to consider this before asking women in our community out”. Rather than “big deal! You are wrong, this does not matter. I am a man and I will ask you out in any situation I find convenient. All you can do about it is say no. The new information I just heard about that it may actually be uncomfortable for you is irrelevant to me.”

Second:

I don’t attend atheist conferences, because everything I’ve heard indicates that I can expect to be hit on by strangers all weekend, and that doesn’t sound like any fun at all to me.

I’m reading all these arguments full of men defending why it’s harmless for them to hit on women at conferences, and they apparently don’t understand why a woman might not want to spend her weekend that way.

So I stay home. Because that isn’t my idea of a good time. In fact, it sounds just awful.

Now, you’re a man. If men make unwanted passes at women all weekend, that doesn’t affect your ability to enjoy the conference at all. Unless, of course, you have any female friends whose good time you care about. Or unless it bothers you that these conferences will remain mostly male for the foreseeable future. But if neither of those things bother you, then you have luxury of not caring about the kind of experiences women have at atheist gatherings.

That must be nice. I don’t have that luxury. Since I’m female, I don’t get to decide that I don’t care about the kind of experiences women have at atheist gatherings.

But what I’ve learned from this ‘controversy’ is that, if I were to go to such a gathering, I’d be surrounded by mostly men, some of whom will make clumsy passes at me, and most of whom will think that’s okay, and if I even mention that this is unpleasant for me, I might become the target of a maelstrom of male anger.

If you’re trying to make atheism an all-male endeavor, you’re doing great.

And to forestall the inevitable onslaught of misunderstanding: No one whatsoever is saying that it’s wrong under all circumstances for a man to talk to a woman he doesn’t know. There are appropriate and inappropriate ways to hit on women. It’s not that hard to tell which is which. Make an effort to learn the difference. That’s what this is about; that’s all this has ever been about. And now, I think, it’s long past time to move on to other topics.

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About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Arc of Fire, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.


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