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…?)
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.