Everyone Needs to Calm the Fuck Down

Yeah, yeah, yeah, everyone else has had a go at it, so I might as well jump in, right?

Here’s the story so far, from what I can gather.

1) Female 1 says she is tired and wants to go to bed. It’s 4:00a.

2) Unknown Male approaches Female 1 in the elevator and asks her if he’d like to come to her room. (Guys, that’s creepy. Don’t do that. No matter what you think, you’re never going to be suave enough to pull that off. If you wanted to talk to Female 1, you had several hours to do it and now she’s going to bed. Game over. I don’t care if you just wanted coffee. That’s irrelevant.)

3) Female 1 says no and then goes to her room.

That should be the end of the story. We all learn a lesson in What Not To Say To a Tired Woman at 4:00a and we move on.

But of course that’s not the end of the story.

4) Female 1 makes a video in which she mentions the situation.

5) Female 2 responds to the video saying that situation doesn’t sound as bad as Female 1 made it out to be.

I think Female 2 is wrong here, because (from what women I know have told me) those situations have a history of escalating badly… so even if it sounded harmless — even if it was harmless — it’s the principle of the thing: Don’t be creepy. Inviting a woman to your room when you’re in an elevator with her sends off Creepy Vibes. Was it misogynistic thinking on her part (as some have suggested)? Are you kidding me? No. I don’t think Female 2 is anti-women or anti-their-rights. But if she hasn’t been in a situation where a guy made unwanted advances (perceived or otherwise) on her, I can understand why she’s questioning how scary this situation could possibly have been.

In any case, that should be the end of the story. Female 2 gets some comments on her blog which point out where she gets it wrong. Or, better yet, those who disagree with her can email her privately and have a conversation about it.

That’s what you do with people who are on your side when it comes to the big picture. You don’t have a public spat. You take them aside privately and tell them why you have a problem with what they did. Everyone wins.

But of course that’s not the end of the story.

6) Female 1 calls out Female 2 in front of her friends and peers at a conference.

This was bad form for two reasons. One, it was a distraction from an otherwise important talk. Instead of us discussing the incredibly important issue of how the Religious Right harms women (the subject of the talk), we’re all discussing whether it’s right for someone with a big megaphone to pick on someone with a smaller one, whether someone was being a “bad feminist,” and all sorts of shit that doesn’t need to be aired in public.

Two, whether it was the intention or not, you’ve convinced a young female in our movement that if she says something you don’t like, she better be ready for an all-out barrage of criticism from every “big name” in the atheist blogosphere. By opting for public humiliation instead of private criticism, who knows how many other potential atheist bloggers and podcasters and writers are now even more hesitant to voice their beliefs out loud. We should be helping them and encouraging them. If needed, we should offer constructive criticism. But tearing them down because they said something they probably shouldn’t have? Whatever happened to a learning curve? I’ve said about 3984239423 embarrassing things on this blog since starting it. If I got publicly reamed every time I did that, I probably would’ve stopped blogging a long time ago.

Could Female 2 have volleyed the criticism right back during Q&A? Why bother. The damage was already done, and the last thing I’d want to do in that situation is draw even more attention to myself. Not to mention bringing it up again would’ve only distracted people from the real issue even more. (Religious Right is harmful to women? Anybody care about that? Anybody…?)

Since then, everyone and their mother (and their angry uncle) has chimed in, taking sides… as if there were sides to this.

Maybe everyone has forgotten: We’re all on the same goddamn side. We’re supposed to be the rational ones. That means we should know how to discuss things privately before they become a public spectacle where no one wins. We should always encourage more atheists to speak up with their opinions, not shy away from it, because we’re the ones who know how to handle differences in opinion. No one’s saying “Keep quiet if you disagree.” It’s the opposite of that, only more tactful.

We’re also lucky enough that most of the leaders in our tiny movement know each other, see each other, email each other, and work with each other on a regular basis. It’s not like we can’t reach someone when we have an issue with him/her. We don’t need to “Post first and ask questions later.” You have a problem with someone in our movement? Pick up a fucking phone and call them. Send them an email. Find them on Gchat. It’s. Not. That. Difficult.

I think Female 1 and Female 2 — ah, fuck it, Rebecca Watson and Stef McGraw — are important voices in our movement. They’re leaders in their own right, and I want to hear more from both of them. More importantly, I want other people to hear more from them and change their minds accordingly. The fact that they have such wildly different perspectives ought to make us stronger as a movement.

Too bad we’re wasting our time on petty in-fighting.

  • http://discussingreality.wordpress.com/ Charris

    I love this post. I feel your frustration, Hemant. I think there’s a huge difference between voicing your opinion and calling someone out.

  • sailor

    Et tu Hemant?

    All the blogs are full of this. Enough already.
    (Though I think you did explain the situation better than anyone else).

  • DiscountDeity

    Wasn’t there recently some controversy in the community about calling women “females”?

  • http://scienceblogs.com/erv ERV

    I think Female 1 and Female 2 — ah, fuck it, Rebecca Watson and Stef McGraw — are important voices in our movement.

    Wouldnt it have been nice if Watson made the mature decision to have a discussion with McGraw over beers at the conference, instead of what she ended up doing?

    Has Watson recognized that she made a poor decision yet?

  • http://healthyhumanist.blogspot.com Healthy Humanist

    I’ve never read a positive blog post about men at these conventions. Do male secularists just not know how to flirt or what? I can’t wait until I can actually go to one and see all these knuckleheads.

  • Matt

    A threesome involving Female 1, Female 2, and Unknown Male should clear this matter up nicely.

  • female person

    I’m happy I don’t know what you’re talking about. This sounds like the kind of internal politics/bickering that makes me not want to join groups.

  • Pam Ellis

    As soon as I read this post…I went to the PZ Myers blog because I knew it would be there.
    And indeed it was.
    Over 600 comments full of derp as I type this.

    I much prefer your calm take on the matter.

    This kind of “blow up” seems to keep happening. I don’t know whether to just get depressed or grab popcorn.

    I going with the grabbing popcorn option for now.

    I can’t wait for something to happen at TAM in a few weeks. Because you KNOW it will.

  • http://verballyunfiltered.blogspot.com/ Drew Claar

    I watched both videos and was pretty bored throughout. Basically i think that they took an awkward guys pitiful attempt at human interaction and made it into a big deal. He shouldn’t have approached her in the way he did but its likely he just wasn’t very smooth. My advice for a guy in a similar situation: talk to her throughout the night and NEVER offer to take her to your room(Creeper) if you feel its appropriate to make any attempt for further conversation offer your number if she calls you she agrees if not then move on no harm done.

  • Angel

    I couldn’t have said it better. I find it shameful that professionalism and politeness was tossed aside so easily in order to Be Right.

    It’s petty, it’s bitchy, and it is the exact opposite of the message that those individuals are supposed to be providing. Want women to be treated better in the atheist community? My suggestion is to stop acting like junior high brats. Thanks, girls, for setting that wonderful example. Like it isn’t hard enough to shake a stereotype.

  • abadidea

    While not over anything terribly important, (which actually makes it even more puzzling) I also had a “uhh, I thought we were all on the same side” moment recently with some other atheist blog commenters… some people can’t just say “I disagree and let’s go on the record as disagreeing”, they have to make every tiny little disagreement into some all-out nuclear war and say hurtful things like “I thought you were a rational person but apparently not! Blocked.”

    Over. something. REALLY. trivial. It blew my mind.

    So people, all of you. Try not to immediately assume the worst of EVERY person if they say something you disagree with. A joke in bad taste does not make someone Hitler; not thinking that your pet issue is the Most Important Thing In The Universe does not make someone your enemy. It just means they have a different background approaching the issue and see things through a different lens, and politely asking for clarification/offering a counter discussion point is a million and three times better than jumping to the conclusion that they are a bad person.

    More often than not, they end up saying, “oh, geez, I didn’t think of it from that angle; it never would have occurred to me; I didn’t know complicating factor XYZ that you just told me about. Sorry about the misunderstanding.”

    The only unifying factor of people in the atheist movement is that we all agree there is no divine babysitter. There absolutely is going to be wildly different opinions on every issue within atheism as a whole. Please, let’s stop demonizing each other over these differences.

  • AteoAbsurdo

    @DiscountDeity,

    That was because “female” was used impersonally in a personal situation–”Does anyone know how to get females in the movement?” as opposed to, “How can we get more women involved?” When you reach out to people, you don’t treat them impersonally.

    Here Hemant is trying to make the situation impersonal, so “Unkown Male” and “Female 1″ are appropriate.

    Great post, imo.

  • http://scienceblogs.com/erv ERV

    We always have some kind of blow-up the beginning of July, dont we? Too hot outside. Everybody is bored and tap-tap-tapping at our keyboards. Nothing really gets done, just lose respect for like, everyone, one by one.

    But at least SciBlogs doesnt have a PepsiBlog, amirite??

  • http://sunnyskeptic.wordpress.com Crystal D.

    Posted on FB, but thought I’d post it here too… “…who knows how many other potential atheist bloggers and podcasters and writers are now even more hesitant to voice their beliefs out loud.” Yeppers… The blogging world is fairly messed up to me, it gets out of control so easily. And it’s really lame, also, all of the back and forth all of the time. It seems to me like there’s almost always some kind of major drama and back and forth and it is very tiring.

  • B

    Wonderful overview of the entire mess. The closing paragraph really sums up my view of the whole thing.

    We’re all in this together, and for the benefit of the greater good, someone needs to wave the white flag. Forget about pride, hurt feelings, whatever…stop expecting an apology or admission of fault…move on and lets get back to the real issues at hand, lets get back to fighting the good fight.

    There are people being disowned by their families because they come out of the closet as atheist. Kicked out onto the streets. There are women in the middle east still being stoned to death. Women’s rights. LGBQT rights. Human rights…all being harmed by religious dogma and superstition. Those are the battles we need to be fighting. That’s what we need to be focusing on.

    Divided against each other, we only make ourselves weaker…if we can let go, move on, and remember the greater good that we’re all working towards, then we will become even stronger.

  • Kenny

    Fucking hell.. I’ll make sure not to even look at any female I see… Oh no… I just called them “females”. Next thing you know there will be a big fuss over someone commenting on how good it is to have attractive bloggers… Oh we’ve already been there.

    The fact is, there is NEVER a good time to come on to someone if they don’t find you the least bit desirable. Maybe some ugly women would be flattered, or 100% of guys would thank their lucky stars, but I bet Rebecca would’ve kicked up a fuss no matter what time and place the “Sex plz?” took place.

  • matt

    This was my favorite thing you said in this post:
    “We should always encourage more atheists to speak up with their opinions, not shy away from it, because we’re the ones who know how to handle differences in opinion.”

    And it puzzled me that the rest of the post was about criticizing someone for speaking up about her opinion. I love the infighting and squabbling. If we were all united by common dogma we would be guilty of turning atheism into an ideology.

    This is the grown-up world. If you say something, you will get challenged. Sometimes you will be called out in ways that make you uncomfortable. Boo freaking hoo. This goes for all participants in this discussion. I take no side in this one.

  • http://liberalfaith.blogspot.com/ Steve Caldwell

    If you put a large group of diverse folks from many different communities together, you may incidents where someone feels they have experienced harassment or oppression.

    Perhaps conference organizers should look at having:

    (1) guidelines or expectations for conference attendees

    (2) procedures in place when incidents happen

    The Unitarian Universalist Association has guidelines that they use for their annual convention could be adapted for atheist conferences:

    Anti-Racism, Anti-Oppression, Multiculturalism
    http://www.uua.org/ga/values/13298.shtml

    Since they have been hosting annual conferences for years with around 5000 attendees, adapting their work may be easier than “re-inventing the wheel.”

  • http://religionsetspolitics.blogspot.com/ Joshua Zelinsky

    This seems like a pretty good summary of things.

  • Pam Ellis

    @DiscountDeity Re: Females

    That happened in Alabama, and after seeing the video from the talk, that was totally a mountain out of molehill, IMO.
    (The same guy who used the term “female” also used the term “male” in the same talk to refer to men.)

    I am a female, and I don’t care who knows it!

  • Surgoshan

    Comment is made.

    Discussion begins.

    Discussion continues.

    INTERNET CATCHES FIRE

  • http://bornagainyesterday.com Justin

    This whole thing has taken on a life of its own, hasn’t it? It’s like the conversation isn’t really about the inciting events anymore.

    I suspect the whole blogospheric conversation is more about a problem that has existed for some years now but is only recently seeing the light of day.

  • http://ashannon.us Adam Shannon

    “Unknown Male approaches Female 1 in the elevator and asks her if he’d like to come to her room. (Guys, that’s creepy. Don’t do that. No matter what you think, you’re never going to be suave enough to pull that off. If you wanted to talk to Female 1, you had several hours to do it and now she’s going to bed. Game over. I don’t care if you just wanted coffee. That’s irrelevant.)”

    Replace “Unknown Male” and “Female 1″ with “Person A” and “Person B”. Does the situation seem the same to you? Does it still seem “creepy”? Does it sound the same with the sexes reversed? How about if they are both male or both female?

    When Unknown Male approached Watson, it was probably the only time he had had to talk to her. She was at a conference, and she was busy. To assume that he only wished for sex is just furthering the stereotype of “men want sex *grunt*”.

  • Discount Deity

    You know what? We are not all on the same goddamn side.

    Some of us are feminists.
    Some of us are misogynists.
    Plenty of us are scattered on the spectrum in between.

    And, to be frank, I have a lot more patience for a theistic feminist than for a misogynistic atheist.

  • Pam Ellis

    I think sometimes the term “misogynist” is bandied about too easily and in effect, shuts down genuine conversation.

  • http://www.freedomloversacademy.com Kristina

    @ Kenny

    The fact is, there is NEVER a good time to come on to someone if they don’t find you the least bit desirable. Maybe some ugly women would be flattered, or 100% of guys would thank their lucky stars, but I bet Rebecca would’ve kicked up a fuss no matter what time and place the “Sex plz?” took place.

    Quite frankly, there are nice subtle ways of asking the same question. In an elevator is probably not the best place to do it. It makes the woman feel vulnerable. Being a past victim, I probably would have kicked him in the head.

  • mthrnite

    SOMEONE IS WRONG ON THE INTERNET.

  • http://ashannon.us Adam Shannon

    @Kristina

    Quite frankly, there are nice subtle ways of asking the same question. In an elevator is probably not the best place to do it. It makes the woman feel vulnerable. Being a past victim, I probably would have kicked him in the head.

    Because women are defenseless and need a “true man” to protect them from other men? Fuck that train of thought.

  • Michael

    It is generally easier to fight with your own side than to fight with the enemy. Thus people take a zero-tolerance approach to their friends and ignore atrocities from the people they claim to oppose.

    Welcome to every movement ever.

  • Discount Deity

    @Pam:

    And I thnk people are sometimes too hesitant to call misogyny misogyny. Sounds like we’re even.

  • http://askanatheist.tv pinko

    Maybe some ugly women would be flattered

    Ugggghhhh. I don’t know of many women, ugly or not, who would consider some creep hitting on them in an enclosed space like an elevator at ANY time of the day, let alone very very late at night, flattering. It’s just creepy. Perhaps you meant “maybe some women with low self esteem and little judgement when it comes to potentially dangerous and/or predatory behavior would be flattered.”

    Otherwise, this is the first I’ve heard about it and I don’t see how it’s a big deal or why it even deserves this additional attention. Two people fighting? How could this possibly happen within the atheist community!! *clutches pearls*

  • Marc Barnhill

    Ditto Discount Deity. There are many “sides” of many issues that emerge in the course of even a tightly focused discussion among atheists. If this expanding discussion demonstrates nothing else, it’s that issues of gender, power and appropriateness remain deep and divisive ones in our overlapping movements. They need talking about.

  • The Captain

    Im sorry but I have lost all respect for Rebecca because of this whole thing. She has acted like a spoiled baby from the moment she got hit on. Sorry, but we do not have a right to not be creeped out or offended. What is creepy for her, is not creepy for others, but guess what, that’s the price we pay for living in a society that consists of more than 1 person. She then had to act like the spoiled child and destroy Stef for not agreeing with her. In both cases her Rebecca is upset that someone does not think and do as she thinks they should and has thrown a fit because of it.

  • http://dogmafreeamerica.com Rich Orman

    Excellent Post, Hement. The problem is, many people in the atheist/skeptics/humanist moments (if they really are, in fact, movements) tend to forget that the thing that brings them together is their beliefs/philosophy/rational viewpoint in the core subject of atheism/skepticism/humanism. Many people in these “movements” assume they hold Belief A (atheism, for example), everyone else that holds Belief A must, ipso facto, hold the same beliefs on every other subject, including feminism, politics, labor unions, tax policy, abortion, etc ad nauseum. Thus, when a fellow traveler as far as Belief A is concerned comes along that might have a different viewpoint on things like politics, taxes, you name it, they are considered Not A True Atheist/Skeptic/Humanist, etc. I don’t think that most people associated with on of the “movements” feel this way, but there are some particular celebrities (such as they are to you and me–I mean, very few people in the grand scheme of things have even heard of most of the people who are celebrities in the “movement”) and small groups that will go on the attack when anyone who considers themselves an atheist/skeptic/humanist publicly espouses a viewpoint on what they consider an important issue if that viewpoint is different than what the particular celebrity or small group thinks an atheist/skeptic/humanist should believe. The most obvious example of this is PZ Myers, who seems to have no use for anyone unless they agree with him on everything, from atheism, to skepticism, to left-wing politics, affirmative action, feminism, abortion, etc. Of course, most reasonable people will look at this and consider it obnoxious, which, to some of these celebrities and small groups, means that that the very same reasonable people are themselves not true atheists/skeptics/humanists. I think that we have also seen this phenomenon with some of the topics that have begun creeping into organized atheist/skeptics/humanist events and conferences. While I think that there are many very important political and social issues outside of the core areas of atheism/skepticism/humanism, do we really need to devote our time and energy to those issues when we are wearing our atheist/skeptic/humanist hats? For instance, a few years back at TAM 5, Christopher Hitchens gave an impassioned talk about the danger that the Islamic religion posed to the civilized world. I personally loved the talk, but a good number of people I spoke to were very much turned off by it, and complained, and called Mr. Hitchens a jerk for spending time at a skeptics conference speaking about it. I heard similar things when Michael Schermer has talked about libertarian economic policy, with his viewpoint apparently being that it should be the Official Economic Policy Of Skepticism. Similarly, digressions into issues of feminism, labor policy, and so forth are important issues that need to be discussed, but many people seem to think that they need to be part of the accepted dogma of the organized “movements” and that anyone that feels otherwise is a borderline heretic.

  • pirmas407

    This sounds like shit from roommates after living with one another for a bit to long. Have a pint, grow up, respect each other’s opinions.

    What is weird and what is not is just like everything else, it is subjective. My girlfriend loves roller coasters, I am terrified of them. I love long, boring war movies (ala Das Boot) and she hates them. Neither of us are right or wrong: we are different people. Weird is just like this too.

  • sunnybook3

    Thanks for this, Hemant. I think this is the sanest and fairest explanation of the situation thus far.

  • Michael

    In times gone by it was simple.

    If you are interested in someone, there is one question to ask yourself. Would you tear the world apart for a chance?

    You still need to ask this question, because as demonstrated in this example, and many other examples I have witnessed, including a grand total of one I have instigated (and another that was instigated at me), if it goes badly then tearing the world apart is exactly what will happen.

    The world in this case is the atheist community, no that’s overstating it and pretentious to boot. It’s a tight-knit part of the atheist activist community, and it’s falling apart because one man admitted that he found one woman attractive.

    This is why I resorted to internet dating years ago. An internet dating site is the only place in existence where asking someone out is guaranteed to be neither offensive nor criminal. Until the real world gets its act together, well, I’m the one getting the action. Byee!!

  • Audrey Le Fleur

    The comments over at Pharyngula are more than I’ve been able to stomach today. A socially inept man made a wrong move and came off as a creeper, but not a misogynist. Rebecca Watson was unprofessional in calling out Stef McGraw in the manner in which she did. It was inappropriate and childish. The automatic assumption of misogyny is getting more than tiresome, and talk of “rape schedules” put things over the top today.

  • Cassie

    What some of you guys are conveniently forgetting is that if that guy in the elevator had been a rapist instead of a clueless idiot, you would now be asking questions like,

    “What was she doing at the conference alone?”

    “What was she still doing there at 4am?”

    “Why did she allow herself to be alone in the elevator with that guy?”

    “How do we know she wasn’t asking for it?

    The sad fact is that we women live in a world in which some men are rapists. These men who are rapists do not give us the courtesy of pinning a sign to their shirt so we know who they are. See, even though you know that you’re a Nice Guy Who Would Never Ever Rape Anyone, if we have never met you before, we have no idea whether you are a potential rapist or not. That means we have to act in such a way as to (hopefully) ensure our safety until we know you well enough to make that determination.

    If you are a man who prides himself on thinking and behaving rationally, why would you complain about a woman who treats you like you’re a creep when the only thing she knows about you is that you are acting like a creep?

    If women have that reaction to you a lot, then maybe it’s time to examine your behavior before you start blaming women for their reactions.

  • Surgoshan

    When Unknown Male approached Watson, it was probably the only time he had had to talk to her. She was at a conference, and she was busy.

    Actually, the incident occurred at 4 AM after Ms Watson had spent several hours down at the bar talking with multiple people about various things, during which time he had ample opportunity to talk to her, but didn’t. Then she said she was tired and going to bed, and that’s when Elevator Guy got her alone and asked her back to his room.

  • Akheloios

    Maybe everyone has forgotten: We’re all on the same goddamn side. We’re supposed to be the rational ones. That means we should know how to discuss things privately before they become a public spectacle where no one wins.

    I disagree. We’re the rational, scientific ones because we have these arguments in public, in front of the world where everyone sees our, possibly, dirty laundry.

    Scientific conventions are filled with examples of speaker ‘A’ publically calling person ‘B’ out on something they’ve claimed, and we’re stronger for it.

    The last decade has been one long example of what happens when the important people only disagree in private with one another and come to a cozy consensus without the rest of us. Illegal wars, bad science, bad ethics, anti-women, anti-gay, anti-poor, and anti-racial minority laws have been agreed on time and time again in the privacy of the elite’s immediate social circle.

    The best thing about us as sceptics, atheists, feminists, equal rights activists and scientists is that we have our arguments in public where everyone can chime in with their opinion, can raise points that the elite may not have thought about or disregarded. It’s how we hold ourselves to account, and our argument and evidence base is stronger for it.

    If you’re worried about our opposition pointing to such public disagreements and using them as evidence against us, they’ll do that anyway, we all make different arguments that are not always consistent within the movement, they can point at person ‘A’s blog and say how it disagrees with person ‘B’s blog no matter what we do. Do we want to do what the opposition does and exclude all but the most popular and most powerful and go the route of the religious fundamentalists who speak with one voice, have one message, and get it wrong time and time again, or do we want to argue in public, let everyone speak, have more voices, more opinions and get to the real solution with evidence and argument?

  • http://notanygods.blogspot.com/ Miss Coconut

    DiscountDeity Says:
    July 2nd, 2011 at 5:47 pm

    Wasn’t there recently some controversy in the community about calling women “females”?

    Why is that bad? We could say ‘males,’ couldn’t we? I prefer girl or female, and then woman. ‘Woman’ is just an odd word for me. Why does it matter though? Unless it’s ‘female dog,’ they should get over it.

    As for the situation, and as a female myself, it’s incredibly awkward, and definitely scary if you’re in an elevator with some guy who asks if you want to go back to his room, in any way. I would like to mention, though, after watching her video, I don’t see how the man was ‘sexualising’ her in any manner. It’s not like he said, ‘Wow, you’re hot. Want some…coffee? With cream and sugar? *wink, nudge*’ — So, in that respect, I agree with Stef M., especially here:

    Someone who truly abides by feminist principles would, in my view, have to react in the same manner were the situation reversed; if a woman were to engage a man in the same way, she would probably be creeping him out and making him uncomfortable and unfairly sexualizing him, right? But of course no one ever makes that claim…

    I can see how it could be uncomfortable for Rebecca W., but sexualising and making it a feminist issue seems to be going too far. — But, I also agree with what SM said prior to this, that she wasn’t there and he may have been creepy. RW doesn’t make out that he was being creepy though. She said she doesn’t like to be ‘sexualised in that manner,’ not, ‘He was scary as freaking tartarus and I thought I was going to be raped and murdered.’ Maybe it was like that, but she didn’t say it.

    pinko Says:
    July 2nd, 2011 at 6:40 pm

    Ugggghhhh. I don’t know of many women, ugly or not, who would consider some creep hitting on them in an enclosed space like an elevator at ANY time of the day, let alone very very late at night, flattering. It’s just creepy. Perhaps you meant “maybe some women with low self esteem and little judgement when it comes to potentially dangerous and/or predatory behavior would be flattered.”

    Agreed.

  • http://ashannon.us Adam Shannon

    Actually, the incident occurred at 4 AM after Ms Watson had spent several hours down at the bar talking with multiple people about various things, during which time he had ample opportunity to talk to her, but didn’t. Then she said she was tired and going to bed, and that’s when Elevator Guy got her alone and asked her back to his room.

    You don’t think she was busy talking to many other people? At the AA conference there were many big names (on the level of Watson) who were always being talked to. I doubt she was just sitting there waiting to be talked to.

    Let me ask you this, do you see the situation any differently if a women had asked her? How about two men?

  • http://awesomethingoftheday.tumblr.com t3knomanser

    Look, let’s go back to (5). If someone says, “I’m upset about X,” the proper reply is never- never “Well, you shouldn’t be.”

    What should and shouldn’t be has little to do with what is. People don’t get upset because they reason themselves into the state. They feel upset. You might not be able to sympathize with them, but you can at least empathize with them.

    This over is void for people who are the cause of their own problems. Like that friend that complains about never having money but can’t budget to save their life. That clearly doesn’t apply here. “This guy did this and it skeeved me out and upset me,” is not a self-caused problem. It’s just a rather bland statement of fact.

    In conclusion: guys, don’t hit on girls. It won’t end well. Just have female friends and the rest will work itself out.

  • Noel

    I find it very bizarre to hear the advice to stop being “petty” because we’re rational.

    Ideas matter; at least they should, more so for us than them. It’s not enough that we think differently, but that we get the thinking part right. It’s the part that matters.

    Women are using the atheism movement to serve a feminist agenda that has exceeded its existential warrant. In as far as its core humanitarian issue – gender-based social inequality – is valid, it gains transaction. But the rest of it is sophistry grasping for relevance for the sake of relevance. (What is the difference between sexual attraction and sexual objectification? Objectively, nothing.) The proper way for Man to treat with Man is through reason, justice, and self-respect, with gender a factor – not ignored – in the fullest context possible. I’m pleased to see it subjected to relentless skepticism. This is not a free ride.

  • http://www.mirandaceleste.net Miranda Celeste Hale

    Great post, Hemant.

    & Rich, you really nailed it with this:

    Many people in these “movements” assume they hold Belief A (atheism, for example), everyone else that holds Belief A must, ipso facto, hold the same beliefs on every other subject, including feminism, politics, labor unions, tax policy, abortion, etc ad nauseum. Thus, when a fellow traveler as far as Belief A is concerned comes along that might have a different viewpoint on things like politics, taxes, you name it, they are considered Not A True Atheist/Skeptic/Humanist, etc

    Exactly. Such assumptions are extremely frustrating, to say the very least.

  • Justice

    I personally don’t have a problem with the F-word, but I can’t let my son read this blog if I never know when unnecessary profanity might pop up. I’m not for censorship, but I really don’t see the need for the f-word in this post. As a mother and teacher, I am looking for websites that portray atheists in a positive way and I don’t think that Friendly Atheist fits that model:( Does anyone know of any websites out there for teens that even a school sponsored club could utilize?

  • cbc

    I’m sure you have, by now, read Jen McCreight’s take on the subject (I’m not savvy enough to hyperlink to it). Did you possibly take the time to read her link to an explanation about privilege? I think it’s a must-read. For everyone.

    Oh, and I know it’s been said, but it bears repeating: “female” is acceptable as an adjective, not as a substitute for “woman.”

  • Chyrch

    I don’t follow either of these women, but it was obvious that Stef Mcgraw was mainly pointing out how over-blown the situation became.

    A guy picked a poor time to ask a girl for coffee. She declined, and that was the end of it. I don’t see how that has anything to do with sexism.

    Honestly, when I hear about some of these talks, it just serves as a reminder why I don’t go to these conventions. They’re too full of unqualified people who just want to spew their opinion on an audience.

  • http://anonatheist.wordpress.com/ Hieronymus Fortesque Lickspittle

    At the risk of being seen as a dick, I’d like to say the following.

    1. Rebecca Watson is hot.
    2. I’d like to have sex with her.
    3. I wasn’t there so I don’t know what happened.
    4. I don’t blame the guy for trying.
    5. I hope he was polite about it.
    6. She’s not wrong for calling out his futile attempt as creepy.
    7. It’s also known as “sexual selection” and is referred to in a famous tome you may have heard of.
    8. I hope he took no for an answer and went to his own room and whacked off.

  • http://godconfusion.blogspot.com/ Xanthe Wyse

    I find the referring to holding an atheist viewpoint as a ‘movement’ a bit creepy – sounds like religion where one is expected to share views on all matters with the same level of aggression as these two in the cat-fight.

  • http://shadesthamatter.blogspot.com Amanda

    I think people have put their finger on a really interesting point; the reactions are based on whether or not the person thought that the action was simply creepy or rather threatening.

    As a feminist, I would very much like to believe that the actions in the elevator were just poor form and simply socially unacceptable. As a survivor of sexual assault, I can also see how the action may have come across as threatening to the woman. We’re right to realize that we theorize on one plane and live in another; I think her reaction may have been justified because of her gender, which she is obviously highly aware of.

  • Romo2Austin

    was what he did a little creepy? Yes. Did it necessitate going into histrionics about? No. As long as he gave her an opportunity to say no she needs to get a life. We aren’t freshmen in high school anymore. Not every uncomfortable moment needs to be shared with the world.

  • Grifter

    When I first came across Skepchick, I wanted to like it. I know there’s a dearth of women in the skeptic/atheist movement, and the first few articles I read were great. But ultimately I found that the regular posters are sexist and hypocritical, and I just can’t stomach them anymore.

    The idea that “any unwanted advance is always inappropriate” is ludicrous on its face, because there is NO WAY to be certain, ever, whether an advance is wanted until you do it.

    t3knomanser, I disagree. I have often told friends, and been told by them, that even though I may be upset, I’m overreacting. We discuss, and I may or may not eventually agree with them. In this case (and we weren’t there, so it’s hard) I think it’s possibly justified to say “You shouldn’t be upset”. Just as “I am upset” is a bland statement of fact, the opinion that that is not something to be upset about is a bland statement of opinion.

    The problem here isn’t really that they disagreed, but rather, that Ms. Watson aired them in an inappropriate forum. It would have been fine to post her rebuttal online, or even make her own response video, but it was inappropriate to hijack the talk that was supposed to be about a completely different subject.

    This is not a problem with disagreement, or with the movement; it’s about Ms. Watson, who has been a voice in the movement, showing herself to be unstable and behaving inappropriately.

  • http://yamipirogoeth.blogspot.com/ Sakura

    …this is why I don’t really provide any sort of either constructive criticism or anything more than a witty retort (depending on the situation) or absolutely NO response whatsoever…I don’t like drama and bullshit…and hearing that people are doing that makes me even less inclined to post….Its enough that I hardly feel inclusive to any group that I read a blog of…but bullshit like this…yeah…

  • Hajdownunder

    Sounds like they should all go to someone’s room and have coffee…

  • Rob

    Seems to me that Ms. Watson’s response to (justifiably) being angered and creeped out by the risk of being victimized was to turn around and (unjustifiably) victimize someone else.

    A perfectly human thing to do, but not terribly humane.

    One hopes that, at some point, she’ll realize this.

  • http://stuffelaineispissedoffabout.com Elaine

    How many feminists does it take to screw in a light bulb? …………..One. AND IT’S NOT FUNNY!

  • Mr Z

    I hate the way that this discussion is being framed because it is so poorly framed that nobody can join in without being shouted down by one group or another for various and I dare say dubious reasons. Can we get the discussion tabled until it is framed in a better manner?

    Are we discussing:
    A) The notion that no person should really have to deal with interactions that are or seem inappropriate or less than impeccably mannered?

    B) Only women have the right to demand that they not be bothered by interactions that are or seem inappropriate or less than impeccably mannered?

    C) Men should shut the fuck up and not talk to women in public unless they have graduated (with honors) from the Ward and June Cleaver school of manners?

    D) ??? Sometimes shit happens and what seemed like a good idea really wasn’t, try to think things through before you say them?

    E) Women should wear a mood-ring type button on their lapels so that men can know whether they should bother talking to them or not?

    Perhaps none of these are good options but perhaps we can narrow things down so that the discussion is centered on something we can agree is reasonable and equitable for all.

  • Beriaal

    So that guy dared making slightly untactful suggestions and then left when he was rejected!?

    OMG!, what a sexist misogynistic son of a bitch (what? as long as I don’t reach the Godwin point it’s ok, isn’t it?).

    Dudes, I know we don’t like this particular symbolic, but this guy really deserves to be crucified.

  • Chris aka “Happy Cat”

    Hemant, I think you did a great job of presenting a reasoned summary of the situation. Bad judgment was exercised by all parties involved, for various reasons. Some of the comments at PZ’s blog were calling people sexist and using similarly harsh criticism for trying to bring calm and balanced views instead of name-calling. It was difficult to read the harsh criticism hurled at the those involved as well as those commenting.

    I had trouble with some of the dry feminism expressed over at PZ’s blog lately. There is a lot of pontificating on being a True Feminist. To me, there has been little willingness to see things in shades of gray or degrees of appropriate behavior.

    Hitting on someone like the guy did is creepy and in bad, bad form, not misogynistic nor sexist. Neither are people offering their opinion on it. Concern when being inappropriately approached by an imbecile in an elevator is valid, of course. I doubt most of us would argue with that.

    There are real issues of equality and respect that need debated, but not mudslinging. Mistakes were made. People were human and please can we now go back to dishing on theistic ignorance and what really matters — stopping Teh Crazy?

  • Disraeli Ears

    Thanks, Hemant – this is one of the most rational posts I’ve read about this situation today.

    To quote Rich Orman:

    but there are some particular celebrities (such as they are to you and me–I mean, very few people in the grand scheme of things have even heard of most of the people who are celebrities in the “movement”) and small groups that will go on the attack when anyone who considers themselves an atheist/skeptic/humanist publicly espouses a viewpoint on what they consider an important issue if that viewpoint is different than what the particular celebrity or small group thinks an atheist/skeptic/humanist should believe.

    I have found this trend very disheartening and have started avoiding a couple of atheist/skeptical blogs as a result. Attacking people who are on our side in the movement, simply because they don’t agree with these “celebs” on all subjects, is problematic. How many people out there will be driven away by this petty infighting and insistence on groupthink? How many will abandon the movement because they feel that their views on other issues make them persona non grata? Probably more than we know because most will simply leave quietly rather than incur the wrath of the outspoken.

    And that’s a shame because the atheist/skeptical movement needs all the support it can get.

  • http://www.nowhere-fast.net Tom

    OK, so wow. So many wonderful things float to the surface when lunacy like this happens. My perspective:

    1) “Atheism” isn’t a movement and there is no associated ideology, attempting to attach one is quixotic to the extreme.

    2) You do not have the right to not be creeped out by a creeper. There is a point at which it goes from “creepy” to “illegal” and a (presumably poorly delivered) proposition in an elevator by a socially inept individual is not it.

    3) There is no 3 because the trinity is BS.

    4) There are many completely innocent things that take on a different light when viewed through the lens of individual experience; it is the responsibility of the individual to understand that society is unaware of their idiosyncrasies and adjust themselves accordingly, not of everyone else to tiptoe around anything that could possibly be considered offensive in any context.

    5) You’re not that important and no one really cares! This is true, despite the hellstorm of controversy brought up by a moment’s interaction in an elevator in Dublin at 4am. Ultimately, despite what everyone will say, most of us are just enjoying this as an excuse to cloak another explanation of “why I’m right!” into a topically acceptable conversation.

    6) I’m showing my biased bits here, and anyone willing can jump down my throat for it, but it’s hilarious to me to see the chivalrous “defenders” leap to the fore in a situation like this. Yes, I’m certain that some guys really do believe that there is no world in which men should ever hit on women, and I’m equally certain that they are speaking from the heart. Also, I’m certain that there are many men who hate that other men are better at hitting on women then they are and so agree that there is no world in which men should be allowed to hit on women, and these men are speaking from the pants. Their sad, lonely pants.

    Finally, @t3knomanser, “If someone says, ‘I’m upset about X,’ the proper reply is never- never ‘Well, you shouldn’t be.’” That is totally wrong. There are plenty of times when people shouldn’t be upset about something – and it’s up to the individual to understand why their upset and why they may be being silly. Also, “In conclusion: guys, don’t hit on girls. It won’t end well.” I know from personal and anecdotal experience (anecdotes from males and females) that it often does end well.

  • Erik

    Yeah, I think it’s important that we discuss things like this without always showing anger and outrage to people who end up on the wrong side of a political correctness argument. It’s not easy to know what’s right, we as atheists understand that better than anybody.

  • jose

    Oh God. I always visit the same blogs and everyone is talking about the same thing. It reminds me of my block’s patio, when all my neighbours appear at their windows and argue about the events of the week.

  • Cassie

    I don’t suppose it’s occurred to any of the guys who are complaining about needing a mood ring to know when it’s okay to talk to women, that the actual problem here is not that Rebecca Watson is an evil bitch who shot down Elevator Guy’s dreams of getting laid, but that Elevator Guy needs to move out of his mama’s basement, put on his big-boy panties, and learn how to approach women in a way that doesn’t make him look like a creepy rapist?

    Not looking like a creepy rapist, by the way, is NOT rocket science. It helps if — now I know this is a crazy idea but bear with me — you start with the assumption that women are human beings and treat them accordingly.

  • http://seculardentist.blogspot.com Secular Dentist

    Well. Fucking. Said. Finally someone speaks out on this BS.

  • Audrey Le Fleur

    @Cassie

    How about we assume the fellow in question is also a human being, albeit one who made a poor choice (but obviously didn’t pursue things after Ms. Watson said no), and not automatically assume misogyny on his part?

  • ckitching

    @Healthy Humanist

    You never read positive stories about men at these conferences because it isn’t normal interaction that is worthy of writing an elaborate blog post about. “A guy took a pass at me at an appropriate time, and I refused/accepted” dies before it even gets started. It’s roughly in the same vein as “I bought groceries today.” These things can be elements in a good blog narrative, but they don’t stand alone well.

    All it takes is one idiot (although there usually are plenty more than one) to kick off a firestorm like this. Don’t extrapolate from this that these conferences are like a bunch of construction workers hooting and hollering at passers-by. I don’t think that’s anyone’s intention.

    As the old saying goes, “dog bites man” isn’t newsworthy, but “man bites dog” is.

  • GregFromCos

    If I were a conference organizer, I’d not invite Rebecca to speak. Clearly her personal disputes are more important than what she’s been asked to speak about. I’d be scared she would use the bully pulpit she was given to advance her personal agenda, as she did here.

    In this entire story, not sure I can find anything else that rises to the level of needing the entire communities attention. I think Rebecca was fine to say she found it creepy, and the other woman was perfectly fine in saying that men aren’t always sexualizing.

    Very disappointing.

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff P

    Yawn. It must have been a slow news day.

  • Tony

    You realize this post is just massively hypocritical, right?

  • Tristan Lawksley

    Hemant…

    Creepy? Really? A lone man talking to, or flirting with a lone woman in an elevator isn’t creepy. Creepy would be smiling and offering up candy as you do it, and even then depending on your fetishes it’s not exactly creepy. The fact that you’d apply the ” creepy ” label to that particular scenario tells me that you’ve never had it work for you before. I’m sure others at some point, somewhere were more fortunate than you.

    Regardless, at what point did talking and flirting become such a fucking issue? Don’t bother answering that — it’s rhetorical. This entire thing is a mountain out of a molehill. Some things just don’t deserve attention. This was one of them.

  • Catherine

    Here we go again. Rebecca calls herself “skepCHICK”. Misogyny is not what she experienced, nor what she promotes herself as.

  • http://lovedeathtrees.blogspot.com Andrew

    Thank you for finally giving us a reasonable discussion on this. The whole thing seems ridiculous.

  • Michelle

    Many of these comments certainly clarify why there are not more women in the atheist ”
    movement”.

  • Charles Black

    So let me get this straight, a socially inept man does an admittedly stupid mistake in asking her to her room & it becomes newsworthy?

    If a scenario like this happens again I don’t want to know, its a complete non-story altough I can see why she would find it creepy.

  • selfification

    *shrug* That is all :)

  • http://politicsandpucks.blogspot.com Mike Brownstein

    Thank you for this Hemant. I’m feeling very similar for a variety of reasons. The biggest reason being that there is a history of movements falling apart over in-fighting like this.

  • Neal

    If you don’t get why a man following a woman to an elevator and propositioning her between floors is creepy, raise your hand.

    Okay. Lesson time.

    Men are, on the whole, bigger than women. Men are also more likely to be rapists than women are.

    Does this mean that Elevator Guy is necessarily a rapist? No. Absolutely not. However, 1 in 6 women experiences rape during her lifetime. More are sexually assaulted. This is an aspect of sexual experience we men simply don’t have to think about or take into account.

    Women do.

    So Elevator Guy approaches Rebecca Watson in the elevator, in an enclosed space, and asks for sex. Is it any wonder she feels uncomfortable?

    What makes it creepy for him to do it? The very fact that he didn’t think at all about her perspective. That right there sends a signal: he’s drunk enough, or self-absorbed enough, or clueless enough that he’s not sympathizing with her.

    Lesson conclusion: it’s creepy behavior. All the mature adults among us should be on exactly the same page about this. Get it?

  • Zac

    It always surprises me a little when you swear on here. I have no idea why.

  • http://www.nowhere-fast.net Tom

    @Neal

    Dude, the social inept knuckle-dragger in question (adjectives based on random assumptions) did not “ask for sex.” For all we know, the dude was totally on fire and just wanted a half an hour of intelligent conversation and a cup of coffee.

    The rape statistics are horrible, no doubt, but that doesn’t mean that some creepy mouth breather who never learned basic social interactions should be hurled against a wall due to an awkward elevator exchange.

    And who the hell knows if he though about her perspective or not? Some women, shocking as it may be, actually enjoy and want to participate in casual sex! Crazy, right? I mean, it’s unheard of to imagine a female who would be so comfortable with herself that she would happily defy convention to engage in casual, consensual sex with a man she had only known for a brief period. Absolutely absurd!

    Seriously, hang up the Lancelot trousers and actual consider the ramifications of equality.

  • Alex

    @Discount Deity

    YES. Thank you.
    There is a serious issue here, any woman who’s been harassed on the street knows that. I’ve been followed down the street by cars, harassed on city buses while people stand by and watch, and you know what? It’s not “no big deal,” it’s scary. This is a serious problem and by sweeping it under the rug we allow misogynist assholes to continue to undermine women’s safety and autonomy, religious or not.

  • Tristan Lawksley

    If you don’t understand the not-so-subtle differences of the English language, please raise your hand.

    ” Please do not take this the wrong way ” does not mean ” Listen closely, I want you to be highly offended. ”

    ” I find you interesting. ” does not mean ” I find you physically attractive. ”

    ” I would like to talk more. ” does not mean ” I want to bend you over my couch. ”

    ” Would you like to come to my hotel room ” sometimes really is just convenient and easier to get to after having a few drinks then a coffee shop open somewhere at 4 A.M.

    ” For coffee ” does not mean ” for more alcohol. ”

    And most importantly, not stopping the elevator mid-floors and raping you means that the guy was probably being genuine. Please have your ” all men are raping pigs ” radar examined.

    You know what was most telling… that the woman in question assumed that the guy wanted to have sex with her. Feminist or not, that’s pretty fucking arrogant. Atheist or not, that’s pretty fucking ignorant.

  • Gibbo

    Nice response Hemant, but I think it could go further.

    Forget for the moment, the right or wrong of the interactions between the two ladies.

    Lets assume that this ‘elevator guy’ is simply a shy/introverted individual who for whatever reason, fucked up his timing and his invitation both. Lets also assume that he is out there somewhere, fully aware that this whole shitfight is about him.

    How crushed is he by this point?

    Just because someone gets the timing wrong, has trouble with words, and struggles to convey what he means or wants, he is not necessarily dangerous or creepy.

    Not saying that this is the case, but it is not at all unlikely.

  • gwen

    Stef wasn’t there. Bad move on her part. She was denigrating a situation she knew nothing about. It was as if she were calling Rebecca a liar.

  • allison

    Yeah, um, posting the discussion here is going to stop the in-fighting how again?

    Anyway, I’ve been a bit hesitant to join into the fray, but here goes. Hemant, I think you’re spot on with most of this. With number 1, I would like to point out that it would be nice if all of us who attend conferences could feel as if we’re safe from a physical attack while in attendance.

    My worry comes between numbers 5 and 6 here. My understanding is that Woman 2′s comments about Woman 1′s video were on her own blog without posting a link to it on Woman 1′s site. If so, that’s talking smack about someone behind their back in a public setting, and I would consider such an action to be pretty rude.

    That said, I have read Woman 1′s account of things and what puzzles me was the overall layout for the talk in general. I wasn’t there, but it seems as if not only was there calling out (which may have been warranted), but it sounds as if it was done in such a way that it disrupted the general flow of the talk. I wouldn’t mind a speaker at such a talk reminding the audience somewhere that the atheist movement is not perfect in these regards – that there’s room for us to do better. However, sandwiching it in before the meat of the talk seems an odd choice to me.

  • DazedandConfused

    this whole thing just makes me want to *facepalm*

    it reminds me of my step-daughter’s elementary school girl-drama… except the vocabulary is much more extensive.

  • Neruda

    This has been entertaining AND instructive. A lot of righteous indignation, a lot of valid points made. On all sides.

    I was already looking forward to SO MANY aspects of TAM. And now, riding the elevators in the South Point can be added to the list!

  • http://www.freedomloversacademy.com Kristina

    @ Adam

    I said:

    Quite frankly, there are nice subtle ways of asking the same question. In an elevator is probably not the best place to do it. It makes the woman feel vulnerable. Being a past victim, I probably would have kicked him in the head.

    And you somehow misconstrued that to mean I need a man to protect me how?????

    You said

    Because women are defenseless and need a “true man” to protect them from other men? Fuck that train of thought.

    Did you actually read what I said? Take a breath and read it again. I fight my own battles- figuratively and literally. All women should be able to do so.

  • AxeGrrl

    jose wrote:

    Oh God. I always visit the same blogs and everyone is talking about the same thing.

    I apparently don’t frequent enough blogs…..this is the first time I’ve heard about this.

    There hasn’t been a peep about it on the SGU (Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe) forum!

  • Chris aka “Happy Cat”

    I think people need to check the definition of the epithets they are leveling against the (apparently) socially inpet would-be Lothario and people who view things in a more nuanced way with less vitriol.

    Mysogyny –n
    hatred, dislike, or mistrust of women. Misogyny is the antonym for philogyny, which is fondness, love or admiration towards women.

    Sexism – —n
    discrimination on the basis of sex, esp the oppression of women by men

    Please tell me how either of these labels applies to anyone involved in this idiocy? Some axes are ground to a fine point and wielded needlessly.

    Creepy late night schmoozing. Check. Unpopular response expressed by third party in a public forum. Check. Unprofessional use of a bully pulpit for a perceived slight. Check. FFS, where is the misogyny and the sexism?

  • AxeGrrl

    Neal wrote:

    If you don’t get why a man following a woman to an elevator and propositioning her between floors is creepy, raise your hand.

    Okay. Lesson time.

    Men are, on the whole, bigger than women. Men are also more likely to be rapists than women are.

    Does this mean that Elevator Guy is necessarily a rapist? No. Absolutely not. However, 1 in 6 women experiences rape during her lifetime. More are sexually assaulted. This is an aspect of sexual experience we men simply don’t have to think about or take into account.

    Women do.

    So Elevator Guy approaches Rebecca Watson in the elevator, in an enclosed space, and asks for sex. Is it any wonder she feels uncomfortable?

    What makes it creepy for him to do it? The very fact that he didn’t think at all about her perspective. That right there sends a signal: he’s drunk enough, or self-absorbed enough, or clueless enough that he’s not sympathizing with her

    I think security expert Gavin De Becker explains this well:

    It is understandable that the perspectives of men and women on safety are so different–men and women live in different worlds…at core, men are afraid women will laugh at them, while at core, women are afraid men will kill them.”

  • Jay

    Tristan, until you shrink to a physically smaller size and smaller muscle mass, morph into a body shape that invites lewd comments on a daily basis, switch to a type of human who is statistically likely to be raped, and turn into the category of human beings historically (and currently) often considered by many other human beings to be receptacles…and then get into a small enclosed steel box with a human being physically larger than you who propositions you for sex with not much indication that he’s reading any of your signals, *then* you can declaim about what’s creepy and what’s not to 50% of the human race. Shut up with your Lord High Arbiter Of Acceptable Emotions act otherwise.

  • Neal

    @Tom

    Dude, the social inept knuckle-dragger in question (adjectives based on random assumptions) did not “ask for sex.” For all we know, the dude was totally on fire and just wanted a half an hour of intelligent conversation and a cup of coffee.

    Yeah, sure. It’s pretty commonly known that this is a euphemism for casual sex. I think even someone so horribly clueless would know this.

    The rape statistics are horrible, no doubt, but that doesn’t mean that some creepy mouth breather who never learned basic social interactions should be hurled against a wall due to an awkward elevator exchange.

    “Hurled against a wall”? Not sure I see what you mean. I’m not doing any hurling. I’m explaining why he’s creepy and awkward. You seem to agree with me.

    And who the hell knows if he though about her perspective or not? Some women, shocking as it may be, actually enjoy and want to participate in casual sex! Crazy, right? I mean, it’s unheard of to imagine a female who would be so comfortable with herself that she would happily defy convention to engage in casual, consensual sex with a man she had only known for a brief period. Absolutely absurd!

    Dude, did you read what I wrote? Not talking about casual sex here. I’m talking about why it’s creepy to proposition someone the way Elevator Guy did.

    Seriously, hang up the Lancelot trousers and actual consider the ramifications of equality.

    You probably ought to brush up on your reading skills.

  • Amy

    Some background: I was sexually assaulted in high school on school grounds. I didn’t realize that it was sexual assault until ten years later because I’d been told it “wasn’t that bad”, “that’s nothing” and “he was just kidding”. (A rape threat after groping and asking for sex is in no way “kidding”.) No “adults I trusted” took me seriously. This is the world we live in.

    I can understand Rebecca Watson getting creeped out. Aside from the content of the exchange, there’s also form to be considered. Tone of voice and distance between them especially. I’m very reluctant to deny someone’s feelings that something was wrong, probably because mine were so denied when something was very wrong. Even so, speaking at the conference wasn’t the appropriate forum for such a response. Yes, unprofessional. If a response was called for, that wasn’t the place. A math test, for example, wouldn’t have been the place for me to expound about the assault and how I felt about its denial. It wouldn’t have been a wrong thing to do but a wrong place to do it. Simple as that.

    I take issue with the call to stop that and “focus on what’s important”. Many things of different sorts may be important all at once. The call is valid, though, if it’s “focus on what’s important for us to discuss here and now”. “That may be a valid discussion but this is neither the time nor the place; we need to get to the topic at hand” is entirely acceptable to me, at least so long as suggestions of when or where could be offered upon request.

  • Neal

    @AxeGrrl

    I apparently don’t frequent enough blogs…..this is the first time I’ve heard about this.

    If you want to follow up on other discussions … There’s a nearly 1000-comment thread at Pharyngula, where even Richard Dawkins weighed in. Jen McCreight at Blag Hag got pissed at what Dawkins said and wrote up a nice little rebuttal. Stef McGraw has another rebuttal to Rebecca Watson (somewhere here: http://www.unifreethought.com/). And, of course, it’s been blogged, but earlier in the week, at Skepchick.

  • Tristan Lawksley

    @Jay:

    You’re making the same mistake others are making. A man is no more safer than a woman is in this world. If you think for a moment that a man can’t be lured back to a hotel room so that another man can beat the hell out of him and rob him then you’re either naive, or an idiot. There’s far worse than even that which could happen to a man.

    There’s a lot of sexism going on here… yours included. We live in a world where a man can be just as easily killed and raped as a woman.

    I would have thought that everyone with even a teapot of intelligence would have considered the truthfulness of that by now and stopped making this entire ordeal out to a case where some small, frail, weak, and intimidated woman was being harassed, degraded, and humiliated. None of which was the case if we are to believe what has been said.

    As for you telling me not to speak my opinion about what’s creepy and what’s not? Stuff your ignorance into an envelope and mail that bullshit to someone who wants to read it. The fact is, in this situation and others it’s all about perspective of the people involved. The rest of us are simply observers who have an opinion.

  • Tristan Lawksley

    Oh… and Jay? Please do point out where this woman was propositioned for sex, won’t you? Because so far… you and everyone else that seems to want to jump all over that as being a fact don’t have any evidence that it took place. What you have is an arrogant woman who claims that the man’s intent was to have sex with her.

  • Hugh

    It always kills me how it’s these high school dramas that make the blogs light up like the bridge of the Enterprise… when we have Roe V. Wade being de-facto overturned in a new state every day… when the Republans are plotting to destroy what’s left of the economy because it’s the only way any of their pathetic candidates has a chance against Obama… when the lunatic religious right grows more powerful, delusional, and violent all the time… this is what’s monopolizing people’s attention.

    For the record I don’t agree with Stef’s original blog post but the way Rebecca Watson reacted was immature and bullying. I hate bullying. If you disagree with my opinions, fine, do your worst, as long as the playing field is level. Don’t abuse a position of power and attack me when I can’t defend myself. That’s cowardly and dickish.

  • Vanessa

    Thanks, Hemant. As always, you are the voice of reason. I think the situation was worth pointing out and discussing, but to the point it’s blown up to now, I agree with you – calm the fuck down, people.

  • JD

    Pretty creepy. A lot of situations are in the eye of the beholder, but a total stranger asking to stay the night? What kind of dick asks for that without even so much as a dinner and a movie/show? If he’s not famous, the chances are vanishingly small.

    As for “Female 1″ vs. “Female 2″, frankly, my head is spinning.

  • Neal

    How the fuck else is a reasonable person going to interpret “want to come back to my room for coffee?” at 4 am?

  • Tristan Lawksley

    @Neal…

    Read my post above regarding the understandings of not-so-subtle English language.

    It’s easy to make assumptions about intent, but you know what… sometimes 4 AM coffee is simply 4 AM coffee. In this entire situation there’s been a working assumption by many that this was all about sexual proposition. Hell, look at the person’s post above yours ” Asking to stay the night… “. Seriously? People are just tossing spaghetti to see what sticks. Worse, they’re ignoring facts — something we Atheists aren’t known to do.

    Just a thought here… how many of you have closed down a bar and went to coffee at Denny’s afterwards? In a group? With someone you just met? Alone? It’s not as uncommon as some of you are making it out to be.

    This was a situation, which in my opinion, has been blown completely out of proportion and it started with a guy using obviously polite language talking to a woman in an elevator. Someone should probably stone that guy… Oh wait… only Christians and Jews do the stoning thing, right?

  • Glenn Davey

    Thanks for setting a good example and not reaming either of them while presenting your stance clearly. WWHD? :P

  • Ally

    Augh, thank you SO MUCH for this, Hemant. We really need a voice of reason in this shitstorm.
    This whole thing just really highlights a huge problem for me with the mainstream feminist movements, and one of the biggest reasons why I hestitate to label myself a ‘feminist’ – because ANY criticism whatsoever of the movement so often automatically gets you branded a misogynist without elaboration. The point of the movement is to give women a voice to speak up with, yes? And yet apparently the only voices worth listening to are the ones talking about how awful men are, and how creepy this is, and how unfeminist that is. And believe me, all of these things are worth saying – if it’s what you honestly think, you should argue it. But that counts just as much for people who have a much narrower definition of ‘unfeminist’, and who actually don’t mind a lot of this stuff.

    Time and time again I’m told that X is ‘offensive to women’, or that Y is an awful experience that ‘all women share’. Well, guess what? A lot of these things I don’t mind at all, or have never had any trouble with at all. Do I think my point of view is more important than anyone else’s? Fuck no. I think it is EXACTLY as important as one other person’s opinions. In fact, it’s probably less important, given that my views on the subject tend to be pretty uncommon. But I should still be able to say it, and I am sick to goddamn death of feminists alleging to speak for me telling me what my own experiences are. If I want to say that I actually wouldn’t be too bothered by being propositioned in an elevator at 4 in the morning, I should be able to say it. (Admittedly, I think Stef did word it the wrong way. If it bothered Rebecca, I don’t think she has a right to tell her it wasn’t so bad. But the idea behind it – that, actually, not all women are identical stereotypes and might actually have different points of views on what is or isn’t creepy or sexist – is a good one.)

    And I’m not saying that misogynists don’t exist, either, or that women can’t be them. But simply stating ‘I don’t think this is sexist’ or ‘this actually doesn’t bother me’ isn’t misogynist. It is a woman saying how she feels she is treated by the world. Which is… kind of the point?

    Argh, and yes, I’m aware this is a really silly little point and I feel a bit bad about myself for even caring about it. But the feminist movement for me is just this veritable PARADE of things both big and, much more often, small that just end up putting me off the entire thing. So there it is – I wanted to say something and I’m saying it.

    (Note: Yeah, I haven’t read the other comments. Sorry! I wasn’t really intending to get into a conversation here, but I guess you can if you want to? I just wanted to get it out there that someone, at least, feels this way…)

  • MV

    Tristin:

    I’m impressed. You have managed to pull away in the ignorance and clueless categories. First, the rape statistics. About one in six for women versus one in 30 for men. Not remotely equal. As for violence, I’m afraid women “win” that one too.

    As for the “elevator man” it’s pretty obvious. Those combination of words in that situation pretty much only means one thing. Yes, it could have been innocent and been at face value but if something bad had happened, guess whose fault it would have been?

    That is rape culture. Women are dehumanized. The entire conversation is about him and his needs. Any references to her are vague. And that is what makes it sexist and misogynistic. You are free to disagree. It’s your reputation.

  • Grifter

    “That is rape culture. Women are dehumanized. The entire conversation is about him and his needs. Any references to her are vague. And that is what makes it sexist and misogynistic. You are free to disagree. It’s your reputation.”

    The conversation is about what he said, and what he meant by it. So yes, it’s about him right now. Because we understand her point of view, she’s spoken about it. What we don’t have, and therefore must speculate and discuss, is HIS opinion. So yes, we don’t quibble over her opinion, since we have it. That doesn’t mean she’s not involved, it just means it’s not a point for debate. It is misandrist of you to assume that this is a “rape culture” problem without backing that thought process up. And it’s totally a valid POV that he might have MEANT coffee.

    “I’m really tired…”
    “Want to come back to my room for coffee?”

    Maybe he did hope to get laid, but maybe he also hoped to talk? Maybe he hoped to talk that might lead to getting laid?

    I HAVE invited people over FOR COFFEE. And meant it. Particularly at 4AM.

    None of us were there, though, so I understand that it’s POSSIBLE that he was the creeper. However, her response to someone questioning the validity of her anger was so out of proportion, and so inappropriate, that I think it’s a valid position to say there’s a high likelihood she was over-reacting to a situation that didn’t need to be a situation.

    Honestly, I think, having read the tone of her posts, that she’s more mad that someone made a pass at her than at any “creepiness”. I could easily be wrong.

    And to everyone who says “How dare he make a pass in an elevator!” I would say, what if it were some attractive celebrity, and the other person was you? I know plenty of women who would have 0 problems with Brad Pitt asking them up for coffee, even if he flatly said sex. (Obviously not everyone would, but I think it’s not entirely ridiculous for him to have made the pass, even if we assume it was a pass). Something to think about.

    Also, MV, Tristan wasn’t talking just about rape. He/She was also talking about the myriad OTHER bad things that can happen to a person. Which you may not consider equal, but don’t skew her/his argument.

  • tellmettrue

    Good summary of a terribly handled situation. The public ‘calling out’ is sophomoric at best. Is this what feminists do these days?
    Oh, yeah. How many feminists does it take to change a light bulb? Four; one to change the bulb and three to yank the ladder out from under her.

  • Dekker

    This is pretty much how I feel every time one of these non-controversies flares up on all the atheist blogs: (Warning – language)

    Seriously, petty infighting is one of the main reasons I’ve never been big on joining any type of organized group or club.

  • BEX

    Yet again you summarize so succinctly a situation that I was aware of but was far too convoluted for me to follow. You are certainly my favorite.

  • Michael

    Man says something stupid at 4 AM.

    War is declared.

  • Emma

    I’m not going to read ALL of the comments since there are so many, so I’m not sure if anyone’s pointed this out yet, but this situation seems vaguely familiar. South Park. The Atheist episodes, of the atheist wars. That is exactly where things seem to be heading, unfortunately. No one can get along with anyone. It’s the nature of people: we will never be able to come to full agreement on anything.

  • http://www.bagofholdingsllc.com/ Lobo

    The most frustrating thing about this situation is how no one seems to be able to understand that the “Elevator Incident” and the “CFI Incident” are two different things. As far as I can tell, everyone has accepted Watson’s account of the “Elevator Incident” as she described it. As far as I know, no one has denied that she felt the way she felt. The only disagreement is where this guy falls on the scale between clueless, clumsy, and monster.

    Then you move on to what Watson did at the CFI conference. If you erased the names and described what she did in any other public speaking context, what she did would be condemned as unambiguously petty and unprofessional. She used a position of power to grind an axe against a member of the audience from a position of presumed safety.

    And yet, anyone who tries to point out that what she did was wrong independent of what the guy in the elevator did is either ignored, shouted down as a misogynist, or told that what the elevator guy did was creepy.

    What the elevator guy did is irrelevant to what Watson did. His bad behavior in no way justifies her bad behavior toward a completely different person. What she did transcends gender. It’s wrong when a man does it, it’s wrong when a woman does it, it’s wrong when a dog does it, and it’s wrong when an alien does it.

    So spare me the dissertations of the how and why the guy in the elevator was creepy. Even if I don’t necessarily agree with you, I understand what you are saying.

    And a word of caution to the feminists. If you insist on alienating every potential ally because they don’t toe the line on the subject you’ve chosen to be passionate about, don’t be surprised to be short on allies when it’s time to step up.

  • Cap

    I’m just going to go ahead and say I don’t care the least about this drama, or any other annoying bloggy drama. I don’t read atheism and skepticism blogs for this type of thing.

    Maybe there’s some good thoughts about feminism and the skeptical movement that could come about here, but not through this sort of drama-pile-on. I’ll wait for things to simmer before I even bother reading another thread on it.

  • Surgoshan

    Some people are suggesting that what happened wasn’t inherently creepy by suggesting you change the genders of the two people involved and because the other three scenarios (two dudes, two gals, a woman propositioning a man) are obviously not creepy, that Ms Watson was wrong to complain. This is, in my opinion, complete and utter bullcrap.

    Once there was a study wherein men and women were approached by an attractive grad student of the opposite sex and propositioned, their responses recorded. The men said yes far more often than the women and the minds behind the study concluded “Women are prudes and men are sluts”. Folks all ’round the world rolled their eyes and waited for a rational, nuanced study. Eventually, they got it.

    http://yesmeansyesblog.wordpress.com/2011/03/03/gender-differences-and-casual-sex-the-new-research/

    Once you study in more depth, it turns out that men and women, gasp! have different worldviews. The women said no because they saw high risk and low reward (random guy asks for sex? Could be a psychopath, probably isn’t good in bed). The men said yes because the situation was exactly reversed (doesn’t matter if she isn’t any good, and even if she’s a nutjob there isn’t much risk).

    The second study asked about situations with lower risk and higher reward and, glory be! female responses became more positive. Decrease reward and increase risk and male responses went down.

    The simple fact is that a woman cornered in an elevator by a strange man is in a much, much riskier position than a man would be, particularly if he’s being propositioned by a woman. And a woman being propositioned by a woman is it far less risk than if she’s being propositioned by a man.

    That’s why you can’t just swap the genders around, the dynamics of the situation change radically. Saying that Ms Watson shouldn’t have been creeped out or felt threatened is ignorant, and taking that further and saying she shouldn’t have commented on it because it’s somehow sexist to do so is doubly ignorant.

    In conclusion, regarding Ms Watson’s initial post, she was well within her rights to be creeped out, as most anyone would upon being cornered in an elevator and propositioned by a stranger, taller and stronger than they (playing the odds, here, I have to admit ignorance because Ms Watson didn’t indicate as such in her post, nor did she indicate to the opposite).

    As a final, rather odd note, some people have been wondering how it matters that Ms Watson was in a foreign country. The further you are from home, the more foreign the territory in which you find yourself, the less comfortable you are. If a stranger propositions you in the US, USians are certain of their rights. The same cannot be said of a USian in a foreign country. Did you know that the cops don’t have to advise you of your rights in Europe? Hell, thanks to American TV, even some Europeans don’t know that one!

    Okay, that’s my full thoughts on Ms Watson’s initial post. Ms McGraw’s response was in many ways based in ignorance. I don’t know, but I feel free to infer that she’s never been cornered in an elevator by a man and propositioned (and I, for one, feel no compunction, in calling it a proposition. Hotel room, coffee, four AM, alone… Sex).

    Honestly, though, I don’t give a damn about McGraw’s response because I want to talk about the ridiculous shitstorm that surrounds Watson’s response to that response. People have criticized Watson for calling McGraw by name and criticizing her, specifically quoting her words.

    I’m going to draw an analogy to Penny Arcade.

    PA is now the elder statesmen of gaming webcomics. They may be unprecedented in that they are perhaps the only lazy gamers to successfully found a multimillion dollar charity. There are two things they do with caution: link to someone in praise, link to someone in condemnation. Either way they’re likely to crash a server.

    I am unwilling to condemn Ms Watson for two reasons. 1) I honestly believe that open and honest discourse is awesome, and that we all benefit thereby. Exploring ideas in public discussion leads to the understanding and elimination of the weakness of those ideas, and the understanding and reinforcement of the strength of those ideas.

    2) I honestly believe that a public figure criticizing a lesser known figure… necessarily leads to increased public appreciation of the lesser-known public figure. I can’t be the only person who has sought out Ms McGraw’s website in order to better understand her opinion.

    That Ms Watson confronted Ms McGraw, in whatever setting, necessarily means that Ms Watson directed all of her followers to Ms McGraw’s blog.

    Five dollars gets you ten that Ms McGraw’s readership picked up by at least five. Because Ms Watson commented on her blog. Because Ms McGraw commented on her blog.

    Discussion rewards discussion. Honesty rewards honesty.

    Ms Watson rewards Ms McGraw and Ms Mcraw rewards Ms Watson; each for exactly the same reasons and to exactly the same degree.

  • Dave

    Has anybody considered Elevator Guy’s feelings in all this? Considering that the time zone in Dublin is 8 hours ahead of PST, perhaps he figured that she needed a coffee instead of sleep. Maybe he honestly did want to talk to her. Yeah, he made a bad judgement call but is there anybody here who can honestly say that they’ve never made a bad judgment call? For example, I’m making a bad judgement call right now by writing this. Q.E.D.

  • Michael

    I’m going to have to address the myth that men don’t mind when women treat them the way that women get horribly offended by.

    The fact is, if a woman makes unsolicited sexual advances on a man and the man complains he will be victimised and ridiculed. Simple self-preservation teaches us all at an early age that the only option is to pretend we don’t mind. If we do mind then it will go away much quicker than if we complain about it.

    Women get sympathy and support. Men… well, take a look at how hard it is for men to get support against female abuse.

    Not just abuse either. Next time you see a man struggling to get a pram through some doors or down some steps, make the world a better place and lend a hand. Nobody else will.

  • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com WMDKitty

    Elevator creeps are the worst, and I can understand being a little — okay, a lot — creeped out by some random guy hitting on you in the fucking elevator. Hello, enclosed space, folks!

  • Steve

    Was it creepy and rude? Sure. No question. But he apparently took no for an answer and nothing further happened.

    The thing simply doesn’t justify all this ridiculous drama around it.

  • Pam Ellis

    @Ally
    Your post is exactly my take.
    Thanks for writing it so I didn’t have to. ;)

  • Remus

    Nice job on taking the overbearing and condescending role in this Hermant…
    While I don’t actually disagree with your take on this story it’s just a cheap cop out to say; “This thing has escalated and everybody else is stupid for still caring about it”

  • erger

    Women are the choosers and the men are the beggers. Always has and will always be.

  • http://kats-brain.blogspot.com/ Kat

    Atheism, Feminism, Skepticism, this is what happens when so many “isms” collide. Hemant has it right, we are all on the same side. It is embarassing to see “leaders” play out such petty crap in public, trying to out-do each other in who can take the biggest “stand” against some injustice. Whether it is merely a perceived injustice or not no longer seems to matter, so long as someone gets the biggest megaphone and acts the most outraged.

    My advice to all involved: Try developing an identity that isn’t entirely wrapped up in living the model of a label, like “feminist” or “skeptic.” Try incorporating those principals into just being HUMAN instead, and treat each other with some freaking respect once in a while!

  • Charles Black

    @Kat
    That’s exactly what I was thinking, at least a voice of sanity concerning the ridiculous drama of this.

  • Jeni

    Um, I don’t think it was wrong to voice her opinion that she was uncomfortable… but how exactly are people supposed to get together if one doesn’t make a move? She doesn’t want to be sexualized… okay… is she completely disinterested in being in a relationship? He could have been more socially appropriate for sure and asked to see her the next day, but I’m not sure what’s wrong with asking… as she figured out, she can say no…

  • Marc Barnhill
  • Greg

    Thank you Chris aka “Happy Cat”, you said precisely what I was thinking. Shame no-one else seems to care about it.

    Two things come to mind to me in this:

    1) Words like misogyny, sexism, bigotry, racism, and many other highly powerful words now mean virtually nothing because the people using them don’t know what the hell they actually mean.

    2) My interest in getting involved in feminist movements has gone from quite high to virtually nil ever since I came on the internet. Note that that doesn’t mean that I don’t still want equality between genders, because that hasn’t changed one iota.

    Some of the comments about this beggar belief: not just implying, but pretty much saying outright that all men are rapists. You know what? Fuck you. (And no, that is not some kind of ‘misogynistic’ invitation to come back to my room.)

    (Hell, let’s assume he was coming on to Rebecca, and wanted sex rather than coffee at 4am in the morning, but not go so far as to assume with absolutely no grounds that all he wanted to do was rape her. That pretty much guarantees that he isn’t a misogynist.)

    Finally – yes, I can understand Rebecca getting creeped out about this, and don’t blame her for it. Sounds like the guy was socially inept, and made an absolute mess of everything. Can understand her reaction, and think she is completely justified in feeling that way… it’s what she has done afterwards that I disagree with.

    And as for the subsequent bullying that’s gone on – that tells a lot about Rebecca Watson, and none of it good. Interesting way for her to encourage more female bloggers/speakers in the movement, I must say.

  • SeekerLancer

    It just goes to show you that we can easily be as irrational as the people we say we’re better than. Like them we fall into the trap of wanting everyone to think and act like ourselves and try to ascribe our own morals and beliefs onto everyone else in our movement.

    The sooner we realize that other than our common denominator as atheists that we don’t really need to agree on anything else, the better.

  • allison

    Just above, @SeekerLancer, who has not been alone in this sentiment, wrote the following:

    Like them we fall into the trap of wanting everyone to think and act like ourselves and try to ascribe our own morals and beliefs onto everyone else in our movement.

    The sooner we realize that other than our common denominator as atheists that we don’t really need to agree on anything else, the better.

    Here’s the question, though: If we aren’t going to agree on anything else, why get together for such a talk? I’m serious here. If we’re to agree that the way women are treated by the religious right is a bad thing that should be fought, shouldn’t we make sure we keep looking at ourselves and the way women are treated within our movement as well? Is there not a place for something other than simply patting ourselves on the back as far as women’s rights within the atheist community, as loose as it is, are concerned? While, as atheists, we don’t necessarily agree on anything else, if we’re talking about the religious right waging a “war against women” then that says we have a different view than they do about how women should be treated, about what policies are and are not beneficial, and about the role women play in our society. As a result, I would assume that those in the audience who are friendly to the message that the religious right is waging such a war also have some sort of common ground in their view of what sorts of actions are harmful and what sorts are better.

    Because there is a view here of what sorts of actions are better and we’re saying that we’re friendlier and better than the religious right is, then I don’t think a reminder that, while we are indeed doing better than they are, we know we’re not perfect is remiss.

  • Tristan Lawksley

    @MV

    ” First, the rape statistics. About one in six for women versus one in 30 for men. Not remotely equal. As for violence, I’m afraid women “win” that one too. ”

    Here’s the thing… I don’t care about rape ” statistics “. I look at every situation and realize that what can happen to a man can happen to a woman, and vise versa. A lot of people like to use those stats to justify nailing men to the wall — and I’m not buying it or supporting it. Rape statistics have absolutely nothing to do with what occurred here. Was there a possibility that she could be raped? Yes. Was there a possibility she was a sociopathic man-eater ( Literally. ) who might lure him into a vulnerable position and kill him? Yes. The fact is the man had no more way of knowing her intentions when he approached her then she knew his.

    In fact, everyone, including you, needs to stop using rape statistics, frailty and defenselessness of the ” womenfolk ” as emotional grenades in order to support their own ignorance and sexism. In fact, let’s stop bringing sex, and rape into this entire conversation. You don’t have any proof that his intentions included either.

    ” As for the “elevator man” it’s pretty obvious. Those combination of words in that situation pretty much only means one thing. ”

    Obvious to whom? People who make assumptions with no respect for truth? I suppose so, but I find it pretty pathetic that any ” Freethinker ” or Atheist would do so. I laid out a lot on the subject regarding his use of words. Perhaps you should read it, and if you already have and still don’t grasp the concept that this was more than likely a case where a woman got ” creeped ” out due to her own perspective of the situation then that’s your problem. Personally, I think this woman is pretty fucking arrogant, rude, and obnoxious. This guy is being crucified for *gasp* talking to a woman on an elevator and inviting her for coffee and conversation. Give me a fucking break.

    ” Yes, it could have been innocent and been at face value but if something bad had happened, guess whose fault it would have been? ”

    The perpetrator. The type of people blame the victim are irrelevant. You know what else is irrelevant? Your hypothetical. There’s a whole world of if’s and assuming who wins the blame game is just… whatever.

    ” That is rape culture. Women are dehumanized. The entire conversation is about him and his needs. Any references to her are vague. And that is what makes it sexist and misogynistic. You are free to disagree. It’s your reputation. ”

    It always comes back to how women are frail, defenseless, and unable to protect themselves from the big bad men, doesn’t it? You know, if I was a woman I’d be pretty damn offended right now. I’m not however. I’m a man who’s offended that everyone seems to believe that women are the only ones who suffer from dehumanization, and rape. I’m offended that a fellow man is being thrown to the wolves because he approached a woman. I’m offended because intelligent, rational, and open-minded people are jumping to a lot of conclusions and possibly blaming the victim. You know what *really* offends me? The fact that I know that had she been approached by a woman — we would have never heard about it. I’m offended that she’s using an innocent encounter to further her feminist agenda and put an exclamation mark on her talking points about sexism and dehumanization of women.

    I’ve said a lot about this woman… Her needs? Not so much, so I’ll do that. She has needs and rights. She has the right not to be approached at 4 AM by strangers ( Male or Female ). She has the right to tell someone she’s not interested. She has the right to go about her business unharmed and unmolested. She has the right to take it to the Internet and bitch about it.

    I have the right to say that this arrogant and self-centered woman that needs to stop assuming that every stranger she meets at 4 AM wants to take her back to his room and fuck her brains out — especially when he said nothing to that effect.

    Now, I’m not saying that women don’t have a higher chance of being rape victims. I’m not saying that women shouldn’t be on guard at all times. I’m not saying that men don’t do stupid shit… What I’m saying is that in this particular situation — rape wasn’t the intent, in my opinion. Sacrificing this poor fellow on the altar of feminism isn’t right. Some of you are starting to remind me of militant feminist who believe the possible motivation for every man is sex, power, and rape, and the only response is ” twist and pull. “

  • TychaBrahe

    Dave,

    Has anybody considered Elevator Guy’s feelings in all this? Considering that the time zone in Dublin is 8 hours ahead of PST, perhaps he figured that she needed a coffee instead of sleep.

    If he figured she needed coffee when she’d just said she needed and wanted to go to sleep, then he’s an asshole, even if he isn’t a creeper. Saying he wasn’t trying to harass her, he was just totally ignoring her statements about her feelings and not taking her seriously is hardly complimenting him.

  • Michael

    Continuining their argument in public I have no problem with. It started in public and by all rights should finish there. Not necessarily with anyone “winning”, but with all sides saying as much as they want to say on the topic.

    For me the problem comes down to this: Rebecca was invited to the conference to speak about “the Religious Right’s War on Women.” She abused her hosts’ good will by using that talk as a platform to perpetuate an argument on a tangential topic, and I believe she should apologize to her audience and her hosts for doing so.

  • allison

    @ Dave, I think at the very least it would not be remiss for someone to pass Elevator Guy a copy of the study posted earlier so that he can be aware of how such things come off. Here it is again.

  • Tristan Lawksley

    @TychaBrahe

    Her comments regarding being tired and going to bed were made to friends — or people near her at the bar, which I don’t think included this man.

    My understanding is that this guy was at her talk, found her interesting, and approached her after she left the bar. He probably should have approached her while she was surrounded in the bar and took the chance of public rejection and humiliation, but he didn’t. It’s a common mistake many men make.

  • Duane K

    Wow! 100+ comments at night on a holiday weekend! PZ Meyers had a good post this morning as well on etiquette.

    I haven’t spotted this comment specifically although I’m sure that it is somewhere. Conversational etiquette is particularly important in an elevator since in that case our zones of personal privacy are under challenge. I would say, always wait until the door is open and both parties can clearly leave the elevator before making any “come to my room” suggestion.

    And just one personal story: the one time this situation happened to me (a male) while I was in a position to accept (before my marriage) the lady asked ME if it was interested while we were still in public. That worked out very well and I recommend it to others.

  • MAK

    Couple of things to point out.
    I am 44. I have been a sexual assault victim. I have been in situations where my hackles are raised and perhaps Rebecca Watson felt that vibe.

    RE: Elevator man: Watson says they were all at the bar, she left because she was tired, and the guy got onto the elevator with her.
    She does not say he followed her out of the bar. I feel this is an important distinction to make. SO many are saying “He didn’t say anything in the bar to her, he waited until she left, followed her into a confined space and then sexualized her.”
    He did not follow her, he was apparently walking with her.
    Had I been followed by someone who had just sat and watched me all night without saying anything, I probably would have been creeped out.
    Had I been walking with someone, probably talking to them as we walked and then he did the “coffee in my room bit” I would not have been creeped out. I would have seen it as an extension of the conversation that we had been having and I would not find fault for him waiting until he had some privacy before possibly being shot down. I understand that.

    We know nothing about elevator man. We don’t know if he is from the same culture as she is. This might be a culture clash and nothing more. There are a couple posts out there from guys and women who live in other countries who don’t see this as being creepy, but normal.
    I also am married to a man with Asperger’s syndrome and have seen many, many social faux pas committed by him in the past 18 years. I also have two teenage sons with autism and I am constantly, on a daily basis teaching them social skills.
    For that reason, I am going to withhold judgement on him as the “possible rapist” so many are insisting he is, until he has a chance to tell his side of the story or until we know more about him. It does bother me that he has not commented on this, yet because he has repeatedly been accused of thinking some really heinous thoughts. How could he not be aware of this shit storm if he is in this circle of people?
    But, I don’t blame Watson for expressing that she was uncomfortable.

    Here is my issue with Watson:
    At the talk in Dublin, she used her panel discussion to say that she disagreed with a previous (woman)speaker who felt that sexism was not a rampant problem in the secular community.
    She called this woman out by name.
    Watson chose to use her panel time to address this because she says that the Q and A session would not allow enough time for her to give the “one hour lecture” she wanted to give this woman.
    Watson’s defense for calling McGraw out is that McGraw “Could have used the Q and A session to offer a rebuttal”.
    Do you see the problem with this comment?
    Watson calls McGraw a misogynist sympathizer to a group of her peers and even though she previously didn’t think the Q and A format was good enough for HER (Watson) to offer a rebuttal, it was good enough for McGraw.
    That says to me that she was aware of, and used the power imbalance. She was able to use her panel time, McGraw had no panel time to use.
    I also have a problem with her not naming the “creepy guy”, not naming the dozens of comments she has gotten saying truly misogynist things like “Bitch needs to be raped”, but naming McGraw in concert with the previous two examples of misogyny and being sexualized.
    As far as McGraw’s post, I never saw it as anything but what it was: A post written by a young woman who has not yet been in a situation where her hackles have been raised.

  • Alex

    Hemant, I think you’re totally wrong here..

    You say (after point #3)

    That should be the end of the story. We all learn a lesson in What Not To Say To a Tired Woman at 4:00a and we move on.

    Who learned a lesson here? Unknown Male got rejected; I doubt he woke up in the morning saying ‘hrmm, my advances were denied, so now I know I was totally creepy.’ It wasn’t until Watson mentioned it in her video (#4) that anyone had a chance to learn anything. In fact, there’s a good chance that Unknown Male did watch the video, and though he might have indignantly denied the creepiness of it, I bet he’s not going to be making any elevator advances for some time. Just as importantly, the skeptical community is reminded that attitude towards women [in the skeptical movement] is an issue!

    Now, I’m glad we’re in agreement that Stef McGraw is wrong in her criticism, and I’m sure we’re in agreement that she had the right to express her opinion. What I don’t understand is what makes you think that she can’t be called out by name. She criticized Watson on a public website. Why doesn’t Watson have the right to respond? Because she has more power in the blogosphere? Who the hell cares? As long as she’s not using her power to silence the voice of others, why can’t she use a short portion of her speaking time to address an issue that she finds to be important?

    It’s pretty hard to miss the blatant hypocrisy in your post. You’re spending just as much time criticizing Watson as Watson spent criticizing McGraw. It sounds like you’re more in favor of it because Watson’s more established in the skeptical community, so she can ‘take it’.

    And the hell is this “we’re on the same side” shit? As atheists, we share one thing in common, disbelief in gods. As freethinkers/skeptics/etc we also share an appreciation of critical thinking. None of this means we can’t criticize each other. In fact it seems that we should be more likely to so. I’m all about the ‘big goals’ of the skeptical movement, but do you really think that battling sexism and working to make women feel safe should take a backseat? How much is it really going to hurt the skeptical movement? Maybe someone will be able to point to it and say “oooh, look! Atheists fighting again!” BFD. That’s a cheap price to pay for a movement that continues to value open dialogue.

  • Lena

    This is the first I’ve heard of this incident…I’ve been an atheist for a long time but I’m not a part of any groups, and while I read this blog regularly I don’t keep up with the atheist blogosphere. I agree with Rebecca about the original incident. Seriously guys, don’t do that. I’m not saying you’re all creepy pervs if you’ve done it, but unless you actually have a good reason for thinking you might have a chance, like you’ve been mutually flirting at the bar all night, it’s not going to come off as anything other than creepy. Woman alone in a place where there’s no escape + man she doesn’t know propositioning her = Really Fucking Creepy. And while I really do believe that most men have good intentions and don’t intend to come off that way, if I don’t know you personally, it’d be stupid for me to assume that you’re a just a good guy who’s just socially awkward or something.

    That said, while I’m all for calling people out on their public comments, the way Rebecca went about it was totally inapropriate.

    And THAT said, the real reason why I’m commenting is this…

    “We’re all on the same goddamn side.”

    I don’t disagree, but that statement is so often used to dismiss the very legitimate concerns of people within a particular movement that it makes me cringe. We might be on the same side, but that doesn’t mean we don’t get to call out bullshit when we see it. You see it all the time in feminism when the movement gets called out on racist or classist attitudes…”We’re on the same side! How dare you criticize me on something so unimportant!” If the atheism movement hopes to make an progress, then it’s members have to be willing to take a good hard look at themselves and address the problems within the movement.

  • JD

    I think it’s a really bad idea to invite a stranger at 4am for coffee in your or their hotel room. If it’s really just an innocent coffee invitation, then it can go to the hotel lobby, local coffee shop or restaurant.

  • Epistaxis

    I, for one, was honestly not aware it’s uncouth to hit on a woman in a confined space. Next time I’ll seriously consider waiting for the next elevator because I’m not comfortable being profiled as a potential rapist.

  • Lena

    Next time I’ll seriously consider waiting for the next elevator because I’m not comfortable being profiled as a potential rapist.

    So every time you’re in an elevator with a woman you automatically invite her to your room? Or am I misunderstanding your point?

    Look, no one is saying that you’re a potential rapist. But there are all kinds of behaviors that are considered socially inappropriate depending on the context, REGARDLESS OF INTENTION, and if you don’t want to be seen as creepy/weird/etc. you won’t do them (this doesn’t just apply to interactions between men and women). I, as a woman and an outside observer, can say that most men aren’t rapist and that the man Rebecca describes most likely wasn’t trying to be a creepy and instead was just awkwardly trying to flirt; I can also, as a woman, say that if man were to approach me in the exact manner that Rebecca described I would feel the exact same way that she did. Those two things are not mutually exclusive, and that seems to be where the disagreements on this issue lies.

    Let me put it this way…can you honestly say that a significant percentage of those who are criticizing Rebecca over her reaction to the elevator incident and are getting defensive on that man’s behalf wouldn’t be questioning her actions if she had gone to that man’s room and been raped? We need to take a good, hard look at the way society treats women in general and rape victims in particular, because I’d bet money that a good amount of people who are all, “She’s accusing all men of being rapists and that hurts my feelings!” wouldn’t hesitate to accuse her of being stupid/naive or outright lying if she had been raped by that man after accepting his invitation to go to his room to talk. If it weren’t for that attitude being so pervasive in this world, women wouldn’t feel so uncomfortable in elevators with men they don’t know inviting them to their rooms.

  • Hypatia’s Daughter

    After reading Pharyngula & the FA on this issue (& the previous “female” thread), I have concluded that future atheist/skeptic conferences should offer two seminars – one on reading comprehension and one on consciousness raising.
    And I would suggest Dr Dawk consider attending both of them. He might learn something.

  • Tristan Lawksley

    ” So every time you’re in an elevator with a woman you automatically invite her to your room? Or am I misunderstanding your point? ” — Lena

    You’re missing the point entirely.

    ” …as a woman, say that if man were to approach me in the exact manner that Rebecca described I would feel the exact same way that she did. ” — Lena

    So you’re saying that at 4 AM if a man were to join you in an elevator and tell you that he found your talking points interesting and would love to discuss them with you, in his room over coffee… You would jump to the assumption that he wants to fuck you? You would assume that because he finds you intellectually interesting that he must find you physically attractive and cannot possibly control his hormones or treat a woman with respect? Because when a man has an opprotunity to wield power over a woman he’s going to do it.

    Huh… Yeah, sounds like you’d come off like a self-centered, and arrogant misandrist, just as she does.

    ” We need to take a good, hard look at the way society treats women in general and rape victims in particular ” — Lena

    We need to take a good, hard look at the way society treats people in general and victims of crime in particular, because rape doesn’t just happen to women, and men aren’t always treated with the respect they deserve. No one is denying that rape is a problem. No one is saying that a woman shouldn’t be on guard.

    ” because I’d bet money that a good amount of people who are all, “She’s accusing all men of being rapists and that hurts my feelings!” wouldn’t hesitate to accuse her of being stupid/naive or outright lying if she had been raped by that man after accepting his invitation to go to his room to talk. ” — Lena

    As I told someone else, that point is irrelevant. She wasn’t raped, in the elevator, in her room, or in his and even if she had been — few, with obvious and notable exceptions would ever say that she was at fault. Believe it or not, men as a majority do not support rape, or blame the victim — we’ve ( Again, with notable exceptions which we cannot do a damn thing about. ) come a long way in twenty years, how about joining us?

    This woman took an innocent, casual, and benign encounter and turned it into some kind of ” See that… Right there! That’s what I’ve been talking about. Men are pigs. ” example in order to prove her point. This isn’t about rape. This isn’t about her being creeped out ( She may have been, but I don’t for one second think that it played the role everyone seems to want to make it out to have. ) — this is about her being arrogant, self-centered, and opportunistic.

  • Susan Robinson

    Sad to see so many people are against telling the whole truth about something. It’s ok for Rebecca to criticize her critics by name and in public. They criticized her in a public forum by name.

  • Epistaxis

    So every time you’re in an elevator with a woman you automatically invite her to your room? Or am I misunderstanding your point?

    No, but sometimes I try to make polite conversation, and I’m generally a creepy guy anyway. When I read something like this:

    In an elevator is probably not the best place to do it. It makes the woman feel vulnerable. Being a past victim, I probably would have kicked him in the head.

    it tells me that even polite conversation could be interpreted the wrong way and result in hurt feelings or heads, so now I know not to do it in that situation.

    Look, no one is saying that you’re a potential rapist.

    Really? That seems to be exactly what they’re saying:

    The sad fact is that we women live in a world in which some men are rapists. These men who are rapists do not give us the courtesy of pinning a sign to their shirt so we know who they are. See, even though you know that you’re a Nice Guy Who Would Never Ever Rape Anyone, if we have never met you before, we have no idea whether you are a potential rapist or not. That means we have to act in such a way as to (hopefully) ensure our safety until we know you well enough to make that determination.

    depending on stupid semantics about the definition of “potential”.

    Let me put it this way…can you honestly say that a significant percentage of those who are criticizing Rebecca over her reaction to the elevator incident and are getting defensive on that man’s behalf wouldn’t be questioning her actions if she had gone to that man’s room and been raped??

    There are too many negatives in that sentence for me to figure out what you’re asking, but I agree strongly with the people who said that an invitation to one’s hotel room for coffee at 4 am sounds like an invitation to sex, regardless of how it was meant, so that’s a complicated scenario with lots of issues that aren’t related to the current one.

    All I’m saying is I’ve learned something I didn’t know before: that women are uncomfortable being alone with unknown men in enclosed spaces. It doesn’t matter whether their discomfort is justified or not – that won’t make them any more comfortable – but it makes me uncomfortable to know they’re uncomfortable so I’ll try to avoid it.

  • JenniferT

    I’ll third what Ally said.

    Oh, one other thing while I’m here: it’s rather bewildering that so many “skeptic” bloggers seem to unquestioningly accept that the Pharyngula poster “Richard Dawkins” is… y’know, that Richard Dawkins. Just saying.

  • nanon No 23

    While I enjoyed watching the “Creepy Elevator Guy” episodes on the atheist/sceptics movement channels sometimes I feel like I should watch some real news. Like about this french guy in New York who is accused of actual rape. Might be interesting.

  • ewan

    t3knomanser said:

    Look, let’s go back to (5). If someone says, “I’m upset about X,” the proper reply is never- never “Well, you shouldn’t be.”

    I’m upset that doctors are causing autism with vaccines. I’m upset that atheists are trying to destroy America’s Christian heritage. I’m upset that evolution is taught in schools. I’m upset that women have the vote.

    Does anyone really think that it’s not an appropriate response to say: “Well, you shouldn’t be.”?

  • sailor

    If you really want to know what NOT to say on this topic, check out Richard Dawkins latest post on PZs blog. I feel he has really demeaned himself. If you are a leader in a movement, you need to set higher standards than cheap and snarky sarcasm.

  • Larry Meredith

    that proposition in the elevator was pretty creepy/sleezy, but I don’t see why it’s such a big deal. I get the context. I understand that being trapped in an elevator with a stranger propositioning you for sex can be unnerving, especially in a foreign country. But I still don’t get why it’s such a big deal to talk about and take sides on. It’s not like the guy was harassing her. This is just getting blown way out of proportion.

  • Cassie

    So, I see some of the guys in this thread complaining that women are a total mystery and they have no idea how to tell what they want or how to treat them.

    Here we have a woman who had a creepy encounter with a guy in an elevator, and she says, “Hey guys? This? This is creepy. Please don’t do it.”

    And you’re complaining about it?

    The problem is not that women won’t tell you what they want. The problem is that you’re refusing to listen to them when they try.

  • Patrick

    You are saying the exact thing I was saying at and after the conference. This isn’t worth our time to argue about.

    Also, here is Elevator Man:
    http://i51.tinypic.com/71677o.png

  • Tristan Lawksley

    ” So, I see some of the guys in this thread complaining that women are a total mystery and they have no idea how to tell what they want or how to treat them. ” — Cassie

    What you should be seeing is men getting tired of actions being stereotyped, and consequently being crucified for it. Don’t let that get in the way of a good story though.

    And you’re complaining about it? — Cassie

    I don’t see anyone complaining that the woman in question is asking men not to approach her. She certainly has that right, regardless of her reasoning. She’s entitled, but I’m pretty sure that she’s not going to have to worry about ” creepy ” men approaching her for some time to come — certainly most Atheist men are smart enough to avoid this woman lest they want their innocent conversation to land them in middle of an online shit-storm.

    I’m at the point of sending the elevator guy ( Though I’d imagine we’ll never know who he is… He’s probably hiding due to a false sense of shame. ) a basket of goodies and a goddamn thank you note. This is one woman I sure as hell don’t want anything to do with — on the Internet or off of it.

  • gogoyubari

    @Tristan Lawksley

    “This guy is being crucified for *gasp* talking to a woman on an elevator and inviting her for coffee and conversation.”

    Really? Who’s “crucifying” him? Watson sure didn’t. She said, “Um, guys, don’t do this, k?”

    “This woman took an innocent, casual, and benign encounter and turned it into some kind of ” See that… Right there! That’s what I’ve been talking about. Men are pigs.”

    Citation seriously needed.

    Really, you’ve been bloviating about how mean Rebecca was and how she crucified this poor guy. Now you show me where she said “men are pigs.”

    You’re being a drama queen. In fact, most of the reason this has turned into such a clusterfuck is that guys like you have mischaracterized the incident so freely.

  • Greg

    Cassie – if that’s what you see, may I suggest you go to Specsavers?

  • Pixie Song

    I don’t understand how Rebecca Watson’s suggestion that guys consider the context of a situation and the person they’re speaking with is warped into “All men are potential rapists; so never objectify women and never flirt or ask them out.” That’s not what I got from her video at all. There’s a stark difference between asking someone out for coffee in the middle of the day and following someone into an elevator at 4am and asking them to join you in their hotel room after she had just given a talk about this very thing. It doesn’t matter whether some women would have been OK with this scenario.

    This wasn’t an accusation of sexual harassment. This wasn’t a frightened woman who was trembling or upset by what had happened. It was nothing more than advice in regards to social interaction. Surely we’re all well aware of etiquette and that our intentions can be misconstrued? You may as well write into Miss Manners and tell her what an awful, petty bitch she’s being for giving advice on how to handle tricky social situations.

    I have to disagree with Hemant, in that I see no problem with Rebecca Watson discussing/clearing up the issue at the conference. Perhaps I’m wrong, but I simply don’t see what was so evil about this move. Both of these women discussed this topic in public forums. They both used their names. Why would it have been more appropriate for Rebecca Watson to pull the other woman aside and discuss it privately when it has already been discussed to death in public? If that’s the case then neither of them should blog; they should just talk face to face all the time and keep their opinions to themselves.

    I see this kind of disagreement take place in the Skeptic/Atheist community all the time. There’s a lot of head-butting that takes place off and online. Why is this any different? Is it because the two major players are women and that is what makes it seem so petty? The only people I see getting hysterical over this topic are the commenters themselves. We’re not all on the same page. We’re going to have disagreements and there’s going to be a lot of discussion because we in the atheist and skeptic community love to speak our minds. Is that REALLY such a bad thing? Isn’t it kind of cool that we can butt heads with each other and at the same time work really well together to solve other issues and problems?

    Just because there’s inner conflict doesn’t mean that we’re fucked. Do you think religious groups challenge each other the way we do our own members? Probably not. This is a good thing. We keep each other on our toes; we encourage our own members to think. We’re not just all sitting around, agreeing with each other and getting lazy. Why not take these clashes with a grain of salt? I don’t see them curtailing anytime soon and they probably do us more good than harm.

  • Tristan Lawksley

    Really? Who’s “crucifying” him? Watson sure didn’t. She said, “Um, guys, don’t do this, k?” — gogoyubari

    Take a look around. If you don’t see this guy being pinned up on the wall and being used to justify unnecessary misandry, then you need to have your eyes checked.

    ” Citation seriously needed. ” — gogoyubari

    It’s my personal opinion based on my observations — no citation required.

    ” You’re being a drama queen. ” — gogoyubari

    I suggest you look up the definition of that phrase. The person who was being a drama queen was the woman who turned an innocent encounter into a global event where she was ” sexualized “.

    “… most of the reason this has turned into such a clusterfuck is that guys like you have mischaracterized the incident so freely. ” — gogoyubari

    The only person who mis-characterized the incident was the woman who chose to take an innocent encounter with a man on an elevator, and chose to use it as a talking point to expound upon how woman are sexualized and how there’s so much misogyny in the world today. This poor fellow is being demonized, the Internet over, because he wanted to talk to her — not sleep with her, not rape her, not molest her, not disrespect her, not humiliate her, not to seduce her, not to beat her — but to talk to her about the subject material, over 4am coffee.

    I’m all for equal rights for all, and stamping out ignorance but sometimes people look for things to be offended by, and this was one of them.

  • Laurence

    If the atheist movement wants more women to come to meetings and make it more diverse, then men need to not do things to make women uncomfortable. Rebecca Watson pointed out something that happened to her that made her uncomfortable. Instead of getting all pissy about this, men need to learn from it. I thought Jenn McCreight had a really good post about what kind of actions are okay and not okay.

    However if the atheist movement doesn’t want more women to come to meetings, just keep acting the same ways.

  • Dolores

    See, this is what happens when you don’t believe in God! Ha!

    Seriously, I jest.

    Rebecca Watson is a humorless, dull white woman. She’s also going through a divorce. I think a great deal of this bullshit controversy is pure projection. She’s no more a victim in this situation than the actual elevator is (and I can’t wait for IT to chime in too!)

  • Tristan Lawksley

    ” If the atheist movement wants more women to come to meetings and make it more diverse, then men need to not do things to make women uncomfortable. Rebecca Watson pointed out something that happened to her that made her uncomfortable. Instead of getting all pissy about this, men need to learn from it. I thought Jenn McCreight had a really good post about what kind of actions are okay and not okay. ” –Laurence

    I see… So what you’re saying is that people in the Atheist movement want to have more women involved — we should go out of our way to make sure that they’re comfortable. Okay, that makes sense to me and I fully agree. No one should be forced to be in a situation where they are uncomfortable, or afraid.

    Yet… something gives me pause here. What you’re saying makes sense to me, but it also comes off a bit one-sided. In my opinion, as I’ve stated time and time again, a single woman took an uninspiring event and manipulated it to fit her agenda. I don’t see her as a victim here — I see her as the perpetrator. The man involved has been smeared, had his intentions questioned, and been labeled as a ” creepy ” jerk who preyed on a lone woman in an elevator. I’d imagine that he’s afraid to show his face anywhere she may be — after all, she could at any moment decide to out him and make him a target for pissed off feminist everywhere. He would likely need to consider a bullet proof vest for his penis. And it doesn’t stop with him… This entire situation could happen to anyone, and everyone should be worried about that.

    Women have rights, unalienable rights… just like every other living thing on this planet. The rights of one should not come at the cost of the other. A man should have the right to strike up conversation with a woman, whether she’s alone or not, in a confined space or not, without being labeled a creep, a predator, or scum. That is what I’m personally pissy about.

  • http://thepaintingnovella.com Tielserrath

    Woman: I’m tire of being hit on, of having inappropriate sexual suggestions made in inappropriate places, of my contributions being valued for my appearance instead of the content of what I say.

    Man: Oh, you’re always making generalisations about men. You’re just paranoid and misandrist.

    Woman: [describes specific situation in which she was sexually objectified]

    Man: hey, you can’t call out a specific man’s behaviour! That’s unacceptable!

  • Tristan Lawksley

    Woman: I’m tire of being hit on, of having inappropriate sexual suggestions made in inappropriate places, of my contributions being valued for my appearance instead of the content of what I say. — Tielserrath

    Not to get in the way of a good story, but… she can hardly, at least with a straight face, claim that she wasn’t being valued for the content of her words when the man starts up with… ” Don’t take this the wrong way, but I find you very interesting, and I would like to talk more. ”

    Oh wait… he didn’t mean he found her interesting, he meant he found her ass interesting. Wouldn’t it be nice if men just said what they meant… wait, that apparently doesn’t work either.

    Some of you really need to start paying attention to facts, you know, those funny little things most of us claim to be scripture.

  • J.C. Samuelson

    Being the father of a girl approaching sexual maturity may be coloring my perceptions a bit, but…

    a. The original incident was not – and never has been – about Elevator Guy. It is about male privilege. For those of you who don’t get that, read this.

    Know how some Christians have a persecution complex? Well, those of you defending Elevator Guy are in the same class. Really. Get a clue.

    b. McGraw shouldn’t have made light of the situation Watson found herself in.

    c. Watson could’ve handled her disagreement w/McGraw much more gracefully, and still done so in public (to avoid the whole passive-aggressive thing she loathes).

    That is all.

  • Tristan Lawksley

    ” Know how some Christians have a persecution complex? Well, those of you defending Elevator Guy are in the same class. Really. Get a clue. ” — J.C. Samuelson

    Nice try. Standing up for a guy who is being unfairly tried, and convicted without any factual basis does not constitute having a persecution complex. It’s standing up for a person who did nothing wrong. If you think he did do something wrong by approaching her in an elevator then I’m going to hold you in the same regard as I hold this arrogant, self-centered, egotistical twit. You want to talk about persecution complexes? Take a good look at this lady.

    IF anyone one should be put on trial, and called a creep it’s this so-called victim of sexualization, who was anything but — at least not with the facts we have right now. What she has done is tantamount to crying wolf. Worse yet — if she would have named this guy she would have condemned him to all kinds of backlash — regardless if he would have presented his side of the story or not.

    She, like you, seem to want to make this about the overall oppression and persecution of women — of men behaving like cavemen and treating women like pieces of meat, and you’re wrong. What this is actually about is a woman using an innocent man to make her point about women being sexualized in general — and about her being sexualized by him. Women, along with other genders — including men, are being persecuted. People the world over are being persecuted. She, nor anyone else, is doing any of them any favors by trolling this guy and using him as an example of how ” evil, and oppressing ” men are.

  • Brian Macker

    J.C. Samuelson,

    You post a link to that privilege nonsense and then bitch about others having a persecution complex. That garbage is the very definition of persecution complex.

  • Brian Macker

    BTW, women, a piece of advice. If you do something as creepy as Watson you are not going to get asked about anything. Yeah, we find you ultra-feminists quite a bit creepy.

  • Vincent

    Just an interesting note I have learned through all of this:

    the majority of all rapes or attempted rapes happen to underage children. Of those women (1 in 6) who said they were victims of rape or attempted rape, roughly 53% said it happened before the age of 18. 22% said it happened before the age of 12.

    The vast majority said the perpetrator was a family member or close acquaintance.

    A grown woman in a crowded hotel during a conference is not actually at much risk (and to be fair, Ms. Watson never said she was afraid of rape).

    It doesn’t really add much to the discussion except to consider our perception of risk is very skewed.

  • http://thepaintingnovella.com Tielserrath

    Dear FSM, Hemant – now PZ’s closed things down the MRAs are moving over here!

    We’re (as in DHBs) all a bit battered from the wilful misunderstanding of anything we say, and from discussions being held away from these forums, there are a lot of women seriously reconsidering being part of this movement. It worries me that some of these men may go out of their way to deliberately inflict these behaviours on women at future conferences, just to ‘make a point’.

    I always thought the sceptical atheist community would be a good place for women. I’m afraid the avalanche of misogyny every time these issues are pointed out has made me realise it isn’t. We really aren’t welcome as human beings, and I’m sorry that there seems to be no resolution in sight.

  • http://thepaintingnovella.com Tielserrath

    We get this:

    women, a piece of advice

    You post a link to that privilege nonsense and then bitch

    What she has done is tantamount to crying wolf

    A man should have the right to strike up conversation with a woman, whether she’s alone or not, in a confined space

    And then this:

    So what you’re saying is that people in the Atheist movement want to have more women involved — we should go out of our way to make sure that they’re comfortable. Okay, that makes sense to me and I fully agree. No one should be forced to be in a situation where they are uncomfortable, or afraid.

    Except that everything else is defending a man’s right to do exactly that.

    I’d love to be able to spend time explaining this so that you’d finally get what the problem is with elevator man. Except you’ve all made it plain that you are simply never going to listen to what anyone, especially a woman, has to say. The only only view you are prepared to admit is that the man was right and the woman was wrong. No room for empathy or rational consideration.

    Sorry, Hemant. I lurk here often; I came here today hoping you might have a thread that developed a bit more insight. Instead it’s depressed me so much I don’t think I want to be part of this any more.

  • Lizzy

    It seems that too many people here are whiling to let misogynistic behavior off the hook as long as the person doing it is an awkward skeptic. Is something wrong with this picture?

  • http://www.zazzle.com/briman232?rf=238401551329299757 Aristotle’s Muse

    Oh, for fuck’s sake…

  • KillerChihuahua

    Right. Women who are cornered in a small space with a clueless jerk who makes inappropriate advances – and yes, a stranger asking you to his room at 4 AM is an inappropriate advance – should Calm The Fuck Down.

    Rebbecca just said “this is not cool, please don’t do it” – she made no comparisons to rape, etc. I will happily connect the dots for you, though.

    There is no getting away from someone in an elevator. You are trapped, however briefly, and that makes it an incredibly bad place to proposition someone. Remember that 1 in 4 women has been raped; that a man who is exactly the same size and health as a woman is twice her strength in the upper body, and most men are larger than women, and yeah, you really do need to be a little more tactful about what constitutes creepy or scary behavior. Because men, men you do not know, are scary. Men you do not know who bring up sex (however obliquely) in a small enclosed space are extra-special scary and creepy. End of story. A man who ignores this and propositions a women in an elevator – a woman he does not even know, which women do not find flattering, but instead find frightening and inappropriate – is behaving incredibly badly. It is similar, stress-wise, to being tied up and having torture implements waved in front of you. Were you actually harmed? No. Was it appropriate? No. And before you point out that she wasn’t actually tied up, etc; the difference is in degree, not kind, and its less of a difference than you think.

    Greg Laden explains this well:
    http://scienceblogs.com/gregladen/2011/07/ladies_richard_dawkins_knows_h.php

  • MAK

    I still do not see how the elevator guy was misogynistic. The only way we could know for sure is if we actually got to hear his side of this.
    I keep hearing
    “Well, he KNEW she was tired and going to bed and asked her to have coffee(sex) so that means he disregarded her feelings for his own gratification.”
    How do you know any of this? How do you know he heard her? Because he was in the same bar full of people when Watson said it aloud? Have you ever been in a bar full of people?

    “Because he trapped her in an elevator and asked her to go to his room.”
    How many of the thousands of comments have we seen from men who, until this week, had no idea this was creepy.
    How many women have said “Well, now you do.” or “Of course it’s creepy.”
    I am not buying that this was purely malevolent.
    I am also not buying that this was Misogynistic in any way until we have more information.
    Watson herself blew this off, it was 4 minutes into a very long vlog, it was an afterthought. If she was afraid that this guy was more than creepy, and making her feel fear more than uncomfortable, she, of all people, would have made a separate blog/vlog and gone into great detail about how horrifying it was, how misogynistic it was was. It would not have been an afterthought.
    The only reason she actually spoke any more about it was because so many people did NOT UNDERSTAND why it was creepy.

    So, we can all accept that thousands of men and women don’t get why it was a problem and need to be taught, but, the Elevator guy? He isn’t one of them.
    He was a misogynist.
    He was sexist.
    And anyone who disagrees is as well.

    This is not “No Means NO” which everyone knows now because it has been taught so much that, if it this point they do not take no for an answer, they ARE guilty of rape.

    This is
    “Don’t Ever Ask A Woman for Coffee In an Elevator.”
    And that campaign is just getting started.
    If at the next conference the same situation occurs and you know the man involved has read these blogs, THEN you can call him a misogynist. It still might not be true, but at least you would have a valid argument.

  • KillerChihuahua
  • Gus Snarp

    As noted by Alex, above, you’re wrong when you suggest that

    That should be the end of the story. We all learn a lesson in What Not To Say To a Tired Woman at 4:00a and we move on.

    occurs at step three. It doesn’t occur until step 4, the posting of the video. That’s why a whole one minute of an 8 minute video was spent innocuously mentioning an example of what not to do.

    Also, I think you’re wrong about this too:

    One, it was a distraction from an otherwise important talk. Instead of us discussing the incredibly important issue of how the Religious Right harms women (the subject of the talk), we’re all discussing whether it’s right for someone with a big megaphone to pick on someone with a smaller one, whether someone was being a “bad feminist,” and all sorts of shit that doesn’t need to be aired in public.

    How religious fundamentalists repress women is an important topic, but it’s also pretty well known within the atheist community. Talking about it at an atheist event may be interesting, but what does it accomplish? Basically it’s a moment to sit around feeling really great about how much better we are than religious people. Which is why what Rebecca did was more important. She pointed out that we’ve got our own problems too. It made some folks mad because it made them uncomfortable. Maybe we shouldn’t wallow in our comfort zone of talking about the evils of religion and should take on the uncomfortable task of cleaning up our own house. And now everyone seems to be talking about it, and I’ll be honest, it’s getting a bit old. But what’s getting old is having otherwise smart, rational atheist reveal their privilege and ignorance.

  • MAK

    But what’s getting old is having otherwise smart, rational atheist reveal their privilege and ignorance.

    ignorance-the state or fact of being ignorant : lack of knowledge, education, or awareness.

    This is why a lot of people are getting mad. They are ignorant about this, i.e. not aware, not educated, not knowledgeable but everyone keeps telling them they SHOULD know, should be aware.
    They are shaming them for not knowing something they didn’t know.

  • meko

    After three days of reading this stuff, I’m so glad I trusted my gut when I stopped checking out atheist meetups. I went to 3. After two of them I was followed to my car. At all three I experienced more “accidental” touching than I do in the most crowded of bars. And when I said something about it, it was generally excused that “some of the guys in the atheist world are a little awkward, but they mean no harm” and “it’s really better if you go with a guy or a couple instead of as a single woman.”

    This is the norm, as far as I can tell, based on my experience online and at events. Yes, the number of men who will try to corner you at events is very low, but it was at least one at 2/3 of the events I went to. The more significant thing is that protecting those men from embarrassment and justifying their behavior was more important to a good portion of the community than my feelings of comfort or safety.

    In other words, EG just made Watson uncomfortable, but what is more telling to me is that a good portion of the atheist community supports and defends this behavior (echoing my personal experience).

    I have a choice. I can accept that “accidental” touching and cornering is part of the price of admission for atheist events, and maybe even take on those who defend it in endless arguments. Or I can chose to go to other events where such behavior is not a defended norm. Women don’t have to go to atheist events. There are lots of activities without a religious component. And you can get the benefits of the intellectual exchange from these events without feeling uncomfortable online.

    So I’ve decided not to go back. I’m sure I won’t be missed and another piece of “new meat” will be welcomed to take my place.

  • Tristan Lawksley

    Okay… So, evidently ( And I feel like an ass for not digging deeper on this. ) the Elevator Guy was present to hear her say that she was tired and going to bed — prior to approaching her in the elevator.

    The claim is made here:
    http://skepchick.org/2011/06/on-naming-names-at-the-cfi-student-leadership-conference/

    If, indeed, the guy was present and heard that comment and subsequently followed ( He would have had to, right? ) her to the elevator it tells me two things:

    A) He could have simply offered coffee during the conversation because she was ” tired ” and he figured that it’d help her ” wake – up “.

    Note: I’m not buying this bullshit that ” Have coffee with me ” means ” Let’s fuck. “… Perhaps that’s the intent some have, but if I want to fuck someone I come out and say it — I don’t beat around the bush and use codewords like a child. I’m giving this guy the benefit of the doubt with his offer of coffee and conversation.

    B) He knew what her intentions was and should have given his information to her for later discussion if he was that interested in her points of view.

    None of this however changes my opinion that there’s nothing wrong with a man flirting with, talking to, or approaching a woman on an elevator.

  • KillerChihuahua

    I’m going to copy this from here (http://skepchick.org/2011/07/dear-richard-dawkins) because it explains things better than I could:

    Dear Prof. Dawkins,

    Since you ask, I’ll attempt to explain what you are not getting.

    A man asked her back to his room for coffee. You said it was the end of the story, but that’s not the case. You have cut off the beginning of the story, and the beginning is where the point lies. The reason his request was a problem was not the request itself, but the time and place. The context is what made it creepy, and the elevator was not the only context. I trust that PZ Myers and others have covered the elevator issue well enough that you understand why it’s not a good place to proposition a lone woman. Let me elucidate the rest of it.

    1 – She had had no prior conversations with this man, but he tried to get her to go back to his room anyway. That’s not only creepy, that’s presumptuous and rude.

    2 – It was 4 am, and she noted that he had been present when she said that she was tired and it was time for her to get some sleep. He chose to ignore her explicitly stated desires and tried to get her to have coffee with him in his room. Again, this is presumptuous and rude. It’s creepy because it’s an indicator of what might be a larger problem – if he can’t listen to what she just said, what else might he ignore?

    3 – At 4 am, a hotel, even in a big city like Dublin, is not crowded. That makes it less safe.

    4 – The irony, which is what Ms. Watson originally pointed out in her video, is that this man tried to pick her up at a conference where she had just spent the entire day talking about why that kind of thing is not acceptable behavior. He claimed that he found her interesting, but evidently he didn’t find her interesting enough to actually listen to what she had to say.

    5 – He could have said, “I enjoyed the talk you gave today. When is your next presentation scheduled?” He could have said any number of innocuous things. Instead, he chose to put her on the spot and ask her to come to his room to serve his needs, either conversational or sexual, completely ignoring her stated desires.

    6 – He could have talked to her when they were still both in public spaces with other people around, but he chose to wait until they were alone. This is another red flag.

    It is critical to your understanding of this situation that you grasp that all women, everywhere, are engaged in constant low-level threat assessment when in public. When I go out, I walk well-lit streets. I pay attention to who else is walking near me. If I take public transit, I try to find a populated train car. When I talk to men I don’t know, I pay attention to what they say and how they say it, because that can demonstrate red flags. For instance, if I am at a convention and a man tries to separate me from the rest of the crowd, either by asking me to his room or simply cornering me at a party, that sets off a flag. This man did both to Ms. Watson.

    My argument is that there was no need for him to make her uncomfortable in the first place. He didn’t need to set off all those flags. She had already said “no” by stating her plan to go to sleep, but he chose to ignore that and proposition her anyway. That’s disrespectful, and is exactly the kind of behavior that as a feminist I’m fighting against.

    It’s also critical that you understand that his intent does not matter. What matters is his behavior, and what he did is exactly what predatory men do: they isolate women, they ignore stated desires, and they wait until their target is in a weakened state. Up until the point Ms. Watson got off the elevator, she had no way of knowing that this man was simply rude and not predatory. If men don’t want to be seen as potential predators, then they need to learn how not to act like predators.

    As atheists, we need to address problems like this because they cumulatively contribute to an atmosphere where women feel unwelcome. If a conference is known as a place where incidents like this happen all the time, then people will be less likely to come. Women will stay away because we don’t want to be creeped on, and men will stay away because they don’t want to be around other creepy men. It was a small thing, but small things add up, in society just as in biology.

    In “The God Delusion,” you wrote a moving passage about how feminism raised all of our consciousness, and how you hope to emulate what feminism accomplished. When I read it, I took it to mean that you now identify as feminist. That gives me hope that you will not simply dismiss this issue out of hand, that you will listen to feminists, and raise your consciousness again. We still have work to do.

    Sincerely,

    Robynne W.

  • http://daughterofankh.blogspot.com/ Misaki

    I might as well paste this here as well.

    “Hi everyone, I found out what the problem is!

    This is a conflict between people who think that atheist and skeptic organizations are ways to meet new friends and interesting people, and people who think that the purpose is to improve the world by fixing problems.

    The former now dislike Richard Dawkins. The latter think that the former are stupid, and accordingly they should read http://pastebin.com/Q86Zhgs9 on how to address that stupidity in a very roundabout way.

    To clarify, the first type of person wants to eliminate poor behavior by males who attend atheist and skeptic conferences. The latter type of person puts priority on problems that affect the entire world, not just the social environment of a particular movement.”

    http://riverbendblog.blogspot.com/
    http://wikileaks.org/id/92C2418B-423D-4561-53D7A158D5B5C640/

  • my_wits_end

    “We should always encourage more atheists to speak up with their opinions, not shy away from it, because we’re the ones who know how to handle differences in opinion.”

    *eyeroll*

    Ugh. Get over yourself.

  • Richard Manning

    Okay, Help me understand this. Rebecca is complaining that guys are hitting on her all the time at conferences.Well, okay but what does she mean by that?Does that mean guys are flirting with her and that annoys her because flirting is sexualizing? Or does she mean that men are straight out constantly propositioning her for sex?If it’s the first case then I think she’s a hypocrite because she does that to men. (as has been noted by previous bloggers) If it’s the second case then maybe she’s just interpreting men as propositioning her? I mean based on her knee jerk assessment of a guy asking her out for coffee, it sounds like she kind of projects sexual intentions on to men. Am I naive for thinking that way?

  • Eris Vayle

    Many people have made the following point: men are big and scary and can overpower you. That sounds exactly like the reason why people are irrationally afraid of dogs. It means that either A) most of the dogs in your life have been abused and trained to be aggressive and probably bit you or B) you truly do not understand that despite the teeth and size most dogs have no intention or natural inclination to be violent toward you. Taking one experience or notion and applying it to an entire gender IS sexist, I’m sorry, and while I might not think that asking someone for coffee at 4am is the most suave move in the book I would NEVER defend someone for saying “OMG and he was big and scary and the elevator was so small and omg feminism”.

    Ladies, our definitions of feminism are obviously different. I do not at all preach being afraid of men, or thinking that they are jerks or assholes. Bad behavior exists, yes. IN BOTH GENDERS. I cannot tell you how many male friends of mine tolerate girlfriends who take their emotional insecurities out on them in castrating, dehumanizing ways, and how those men are not ever allowed to admit to themselves that they are being abused. Bad form, yes. But the fact that this has gotten to be such a big deal is bad form on all our parts. Good god, men hit on women. Women hit on men. Sometimes you bark up the wrong tree, and you say “whoops, my mistake” and back out. A man asking a woman for sex (IF coffee meant sex, which we dont know it did) isnt assenine. Men ask other men for sex all the time, and it’s not indicative of an inability to form emotional attachments or have deep sexual experiences with that person. Men ask for sex sometimes. But then again, sometimes men ask for coffee and conversation. Whether or not she wanted to get an advance, romantic, sexual or friendly, in that very moment is only relevant insofar as it dictated her response.

    Sex, or being a sexual creature in general, isnt anti feminist. Sex is sex. It exists. And men arent malicious dogs bred for dogfights who have  a responsibility to know how scary you think they are just because they have upper body stregnth. I say this having been raped, but I guess I had a really wonderful father and male friends growing up so I never really thought that because I was raped by some douchebag it makes every potentially intelligent and worthwhile human being a scary douchebag when they stumble across the wrong way to ask to get close to you (either sexually or…coffee).

  • Eris Vayle

    As women the more we act like victims because we cannot allow ourselves to accept or participate calmly in the sexual nature of everyone, man or woman, around us (and i dont mean accepting offers for sex, or out of line comments) only points out differences that you’d be surprised to find arent really there. Asking men to treat you differently than they would treat anyone they are inclined toward isnt feminism, it’s fear. There arent men or women, there are people and who those people are attracted to. Some people are very obnoxious in their approaches, some are awkward, some are very classy. You pick and choose which approaches you accept, but you cannot change the way people interact with other people as sexual beings.

    AND this is all assuming that he wanted to jump right to sex. He might have thought she was captivating. He might have wanted her to speak more. Maybe he wanted to rub her feet while she drank coffee because he thought she was a superior creature. We dont know, and it’s unfair to assume. It’s especially unfair to assume that he did what he did because he thought of her as some object and is a despicable man.

  • Hawksmere

    Hey guys. This is an interesting group. Would love to hear more and talk about this million dollar question in a grown up manner, as supposed to people saying I’m thick and deluded because I believe in God.
     
    Anyway, I am not religious at all. In fact I think religion itself, and it’s content has disengaged a lot of people. People ignorantly feel they need a manmade scripture to understand the makings of the universe and God, when indeed they need no  such thing.
     
    OK, about me. I am an astrophysicist and have been studying strong theory for about 14 years. I was an religious person before I started studying science and just before I got my PHD I became, if I was to be totally honest, a passive atheist.
     
    I just couldn’t get my head around some of the ridiculous claims in the bible and Koran which were so far from fact. I ridiculed this on radio shows and wrote many articles (including one in the new scientist) and then it hit me.
     
    I was studying Mtheory (combinations of the 5 string theories) and got into Greene’s world of 11 dimensions. I started working for a group (where I still am) in Paris understanding or trying to understand the higgs and how fabric of space rips in other dimensions and indeed multiverses (other universes). Something then shook me about 3 years ago. All the other scientists spoke about this high energy source called dark energy, they spoke about parallel universes and how every possible outcome of every possible action has been preordained or scientifically mapped out.
     
    14 of the 18 scientists I worked with called this energy God but not one of them adhered to any religion. Faraday, Newton, Maxwell, Bohr, Born, Morsley, and indeed Albert were, massive and fundamental believers of God.
     
    Yet the argument between religious people still goes on. Especially when people speak of scientists versus those with blind faith. This is just untrue. I am a scientist and as you one questions, before you dismiss the almighty, prove his absence.
     
    Ask me to prove his existence and yes I will be in the same predicament. This relates to an experiment (which you can simply Google) called Russell’s teapot, where a famous scientist said there was a teapot between mars and earth, he was asked to prove it where he asked for it to be unproven.
     
    Remember, science is based on observational experiment. If it cannot be proven either
    aduggalios@yahoo.co.uk


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