“It Stands to Reason, Skeptics Can Be Sexist Too”

I spoke out about sexual harassment among atheists and scientists. Then came the rape threats.

Blogger and podcast co-host Rebecca Watson has a piece up at Slate about the sexist backlash she received in the skeptic community when she talked about feminism and her experiences as a woman.  Sadly, her story resembles others you’ve probably heard:  threats, accusations that she’s lying or exaggerating or can’t take a joke, more threats, etc.

Her piece is somewhat cathartic, especially with snappy observations like this:

What I said in my video, exactly, was, “Guys, don’t do that,” with a bit of a laugh and a shrug. What legions of angry atheists apparently heard was, “Guys, I won’t stop hating men until I get 2 million YouTube comments calling me a ‘cunt.’ ” The skeptics boldly rose to the imagined challenge.

40 thoughts on ““It Stands to Reason, Skeptics Can Be Sexist Too”

  1. I agree with someone else who wrote that the vile misogyny and violence toward Rebecca Watson must end and be condemned. However I don’t see why she objected to the guy at he conference even approaching her. He didn’t seem to be belittling her, asked mildly and left her alone when she expressed no interest.

  2. Can’t figure out why Rebecca Watson feels that way? I wonder if there is some magical way to fix this problem. Oh, I know! You could read the linked article! Or read one of the many articles Rebecca has written about the issue since it happened. Or perhaps you could just google it and see how other feminists feel about the issue. But instead of doing any of those things, for some reason you decided to ask here. Weird!

  3. I have to agree with Jarrod that it is easy to find the evidence that contradicts your assumption that she was “asked mildly”. She certainly objected mildly by causally pointing out what should be obvious: It’s creepy to follow someone onto an elevator and then proposition them after the doors close. It’s extra special fail to do so when someone is tired, has been explaining all day about the problems women face in such situations, and you haven’t said two words to them before then. Starting with “Don’t take this the wrong way” is another warning sign.

  4. Note, that it doesn’t matter what elevator guy’s internal state was. Perhaps they were shy. Perhaps they had been working up the courage and only were able to ask when the closing doors forced the issue (which is weird, but let’s pretend).

    It’s hard to argue that he shouldn’t have known and done better. And it’s really hard to argue that Watson’s mildly pointing out that it wasn’t a good move was in any way problematic.

  5. ‘Starting with “Don’t take this the wrong way” is another warning sign…’

    I don’t think so. It showed that the guy acknowledged that it *could* be taken the wrong way and was hoping to avoid that, which is a *good* sign. (Many guys are just oblivious to the potential.)

    Still creepy, but, some guys are just creepy. That’s probably as much about us as it is about them, if you think about it.

  6. Hi Kat,

    I took it as a warning sign in two ways: 1) it’s evidence that the situation and action were problematic and 2) it indicates that he knew or may have known it was problematic but decided to go ahead. Not being oblivious to the potential is compatible with the “because of the implication strategy.

    Also, if you were aware of the potential in this context it seems extra weird that you would forge ahead.

    I’m not sure how it’s as much about us as them? I mean, it’s certainly possible for people who are not creepy to be found creepy or some people just to have an unfortunate air (I suffer from this). But here, it’s not the manner of the person that’s the problem, it’s the inappropriate behavior in a trapping situation that is the problem.

  7. Hi Bijan,

    I guess it shows he knew his behavior was *potentially* problematic. Is that what you meant? Or do you think it shows he knew his behavior was in fact problematic?

    I presume he was under the (false) impression that the difficulty could be defused by saying “don’t take this the wrong way”.

    About us and them: I only meant that ‘creepy’ is a way things seem to people, rather than a way things are in themselves. Maybe you don’t agree.

  8. I hope I don’t offend anyone with this (never a good way to start a conversation), but I get the feeling that sometimes these discussions are hobbled by a lack of forthright consideration of the underlying issues. I certainly have my own biases about these things, but from what I’ve seen there is an underlying issue here that’s not been considered.

    Briefly, I’m bothered by the kind of victimization Skepchick’s original response pins on women. It presents them as beleaguered by the evils of patriarchal society. ‘Oh noes, the menfolk are hittin’ on me.’ Seen by that light, Dawkins’ note strikes me as apt.

    For he’s calling attention to how ludicrous it is to characterize this event as a case of anything other than an awkward social interaction. For Skepchick to feel as though she has some obvious entitlement to apology here strikes me, in this context, as false. Ask for it from the guy if you’re inclined. But Skepchick’s original characterization of the event makes it clear that, prior to the rash of ignorant abuses she’s received after her video, the only threats she faced were the ones in her head. If she had been offended she should have raised it with the boy at the time—my guess is he would have apologized profusely. Instead, she takes an awkward situation and makes it worse by posting an indignant video characterizing herself as a victim and he an aggressor. She had a late night with some friends, and one of them asked if she’d like to continue the conversation over coffee in his room. Heaven forfend! What a travesty of the patriarchy!

    Chick got hit on at a nerd-fest. Big deal. Most chicks aren’t that uptight at her age. Most guys her age are better at gauging receptiveness than that guy was. But then, who’s surprised given the venue? (I know, I know, there are hip intellectuals, too—but one swallow does not make a spring, and in an environment like that you don’t exactly have flocks of swallows flying around.)

    What irks some people about those who identify as feminists is the tendency to adopt victimized lenses when characterizing things. There are more dimensions of value at work in society than are dreamt of by feminist skepchicks. No one deserves to be abused, and no women anywhere *wants* to be abused, but being modestly hit on in an elevator is not an abuse. Unsurprisingly, this prudishness on the part of some women seems more common in America than in European countries. After a woman has declined an advance, a scoff and a tossed shoulder suffices to communicate anything a guy in that situation needs to know—heck, if it’s that bad, just give him the scoff and the tossed shoulder. But women shouldn’t paint themselves as victims in these contexts. They pale in comparison to the real abuses that many women actually *do* go through on a regular basis.

    The proponents of feminism often seem to fail to see that lots of us actually like a little sexual tension, even in professional settings. Lots of us think there is no loss of respect due to another simply by engaging with them according to pretty standard gender norms, nor in courting the affection of members of whatever gender we’re attracted to (especially after we’ve spent an enjoyable evening with them). And it can be frustrating to know that much of the culture around us, the educated, adult, thinking men and women of the communities we live in, have a view of things that fits much better with our sensibilities than do those who issue public exhortations after having been hit on in an elevator.

    But then, you can’t always help it if you have to work with people whose views you don’t much care for. It seems to me the important thing is to make sure your relationship with them, whatever it proves to be, is one of respect.

  9. Not bothered, I must confess to being entirely bothered by your comment. There are a multitude of reasons why, and I will attempt to outline a couple of them. First, I agree– being hit on pales in comparison to some of the other kinds of sexism women face. That said, a broken toe might not be cancer, but it’s still a broken toe. That is, just because being hit on like this is not *as bad* as other things, doesn’t mean that it could not possibly be bad.

    Now- why is it bad: Well, obviously being hit on is not always bad. Sometimes it’s good (one more reason why I take serious umbrage with characterizing these attitudes as prudish and uptight– believe me, I am niether of these things and I doubt she is either). But here are some ways in which it can be bad:

    1. It’s bad when it happens in a way that makes women feel unsafe. Guy you don’t know, who you’ve never talked to, follows you into an elevator then asks you back to his room. I wouldn’t feel safe. Maybe you would. But, when one in six American women have survived an attempted or completed rape, situations like this are the sort in which very often, women feel uncomfortable and for good reason. I feel uncomfortable walking across the quad by myself at night. I feel uncomfortable staying late in the library by myself. I feel uncomfortable walking to the parking lot when it’s dark out. It’s that much worse when it looks like someone’s following you.

    2. It’s bad when it’s disrespectful, demeaning, or objectifying. The woman had just been talking about how gender dynamics at these events are problematic– all day– and without having even a conversation with her, he says he finds her interesting and intimates he wants to have sex with her. I’m not sure in what world that isn’t a little insulting. I’ve been listening to you all day, and I thought it was interesting–interesting enough that I want to follow you into an elevator and ask you back to my room at 4 am, but not interesting enough that I want to ask if we could exchange emails about this later (if he’s shy) or interesting enough to join the group conversation (if he’s not). I mean, it seems fairly obvious that he was asking her to his room for a particular reason that didn’t have too much to do with talking– and given the context in which that happened, it seems fairly disrespectful to me.

    3. It’s bad when it makes you feel like folks see you as an object of desire first and foremost rather than a person (and this is relevant to you saying it’s no “big deal” that she got hit on at a nerd fest). Look, philosophy is full of folks who supposedly just are a bit “socially awkward” and it’s also a male dominated field. Does that mean that I shouldn’t find it insulting when time and time again I get treated like a potential girlfriend rather than a colleague? The very first grad student conference I went to, I presented a paper, I thought it went well, and some folks came up to talk to me about it after. In the middle of chatting about my paper, one guy asked “Are you single?” and when I said no he walked away. Without bothering to say anything else. I suddenly felt incredibly small and embarassed. Were these guys only pretending to be interested in what I had to say because they thought there was a chance of a hook up? This anecdote is representative of my entire experience thus far. Being a woman in philosophy is incredibly demoralizing at times because you feel as though others don’t see you as intellectually interesting, just romantically interesting. This is not a “victimized attitude”– that’s just how we’re often treated. We get hit on regularly. Often times, when our (male) friends are getting complimented on their thoughts, we’re being told our hair looks nice, or our outfit is lovely, or, wouldn’t it be nice to go out for dinner some time? Is this as bad as some of what else goes on? No. Of course not. But it is a problem and it has real consequences. Not only do women feel less comfortable, but that lack of comfort inhibits learning, inhibits performance, and inhibits the sort of development that comes with being fully able to participate in an intellectual community.

    So, I’m bothered.

  10. Shit, you don’t even have to click the linked article to know that this is not what Watson was saying. Time to lower my standards, I guess:

    “What I said in my video, exactly, was, ‘Guys, don’t do that,’ with a bit of a laugh and a shrug.”

    I am guessing that one does not need to have read Freud or Nietzsche to see who is really feeling victimized here.

  11. Thanks anon; that was helpful. Let me just lay out a couple of responses in an effort to help you see where I’m coming from. Please allow me to be frank. And remember, I’m talking about the event Skepchick described.

    First, by way of general perspective, I don’t think anyone stubbed their toe here. An awkward encounter took place between a guy and a gal in an elevator. Happens all the time. No one as a matter of fact was wronged, no matter how anyone might ‘feel’ about it. Now, on to your individual points.

    1. This sounds like people being scared of the dark. If someone feels uncomfortable in a situation like that, leave or say something. But they don’t get to put on a show of having been accosted. I’m sure to lots of people that will sound like a denigration of others’ feelings, but I get the impression people are too worried about getting their feelings hurt to be talked to like an adult. If you’re old enough to be outside your parents’ house without supervision, you should be able to handle a modest advance in an elevator without making a big deal of it. If you can’t, don’t get into elevators without supervision.

    2 & 3: I don’t think Skepchick’s being hit on in an elevator was disrespectful, demeaning, or objectifying, so as far as I’m concerned you’re not pulling any weight with this response. And let’s not be too quick to elide the fact that women (like everything else in space) are indeed objects, nor to ignore the value to be had (given our physiological dispositions) in being treated like an object at times. The fact that Skepchick at that time didn’t want to be an object of that guy’s affection just means that, well, she had to go through an awkward situation. Big deal.

    I am familiar with the feminist line about how these interactions are demeaning and soul-sucking, and I’m sure they are at times. I’m certainly not advocating carte blanche for pick-up culture in academia. Philosophy in particular seems to be a shitty place for women, and that’s something that *does* genuinely bother me. But here’s a protip for life: guys are gonna hit on gals, even the ones who don’t want to be hit on. Any guy with a half-assed sense of the game figures out pretty quick what kind of gals are receptive to him, and any gal with a half-assed sense of the game learns pretty quick how to handle her suitors with dignity. But from now until the end of time there will be gals hit on by guys they’re not interested in, and guys who get rejected by gals they should have known not to approach. But the ‘should’ there is not always a moral one–often it’s just epistemic.

    I don’t think we should let our urge to make things better turn us into ninnies jumping at every perceived slight we happen to think we ‘feel.’ Feminist rhetoric seems to me particularly suspect when it comes to this tendency. Just because a person feels some way it does not follow that their feeling is tracking a fact about that particular situation. And in this particular situation, Skepchick comes off like a bird hopping around hugging a clutched wing for dramatic effect.

  12. Eh, the use of the second-person in the last two sentences of the third paragraph should be replaced with the third-person ‘one.’ Sorry if that comes off as more confrontational than I mean it to be–I want to be sincere in expressing my view, but not an asshole about it.

  13. What bothers me about this thread is that we are spending time talking about the elevator incident at all, and not the gut-wrenching outpouring of violent hate and stalking behavior that came after it. Let’s pretend for the sake of argument that RW was being whiney and victimy and totally unfair to Elevator Creep. That seems to me literally 100% morally and politically and epistemically irrelevant to the substance of her article and what this thread should be about, namely how quickly violent misogyny show up and how unsafe the world becomes when a women says or does any little thing that flips the collective hate switch. It seems to me that analyzing the elevator incident, in this context, is downright offensive.

  14. It’s amazing to me how this story continues to draw out people who, instead of remarking on the incredible amount of sexism and misogyny that must exist given the *reaction* of the masses to skepchick (whatever one thinks of her original complaint about the elevator situation), people continue to criticize that complaint and offer not even one second of condemnation of everything that came after.

    There must be something quite, quite interesting going on in people’s heads when the takeaway they get from this story is “let me explain to the feminists” on a feminist blog why women are being oh so very silly to be at all scared of rape (in a cultural context in which significant numbers of them have been or will be raped) and why women’s feelings generally about not being treated as sexual objects when attending a professional conference to speak about sexism are just completely unimportant.

    Imagine what this would mean for the kind of tales which women tell on “What’s It’s Like” over and over again about being hit on over and over again by advisers and on the job market, having people believe they are there only because they are pretty, etc. I guess the women-folk are just too silly to realize this is just how men are and the apt response would be for some prominent man in the profession to write all female philosophers a note explaining to them that they are lucky they haven’t had their genitals cut off and to stop whining.

    What could the point be in even bothering to try to respond to this kind of thinking?

  15. I mean, did you folks actually click through to the blog and the twitter feed devoted to hating on her? It was chilling – like from a horror movie. I can’t imagine how unsafe I would feel if those things were directed at me.

  16. I find this reaction to be an instance of what I’m talking about with regard to how feminist rhetoric lends itself to a victim mentality. I came here to share a view on this that, to my knowledge, hasn’t been discussed anywhere. And I did so in this venue because 1) this is a blog for feminist philosophers, and 2) I am myself a professional philosopher. I tried to be careful in framing my view, while showing that, for some of us, the way in which Skepchick handled the incident was problematic to begin with. In no way does that license anything that was said to her afterward.

    But we ought not be barred from having a critical disucssion of her behavior, or the trends it exemplifies. And we shouldn’t try to suppress that criticism, it seems to me, with more flag-waving about how someone is offended by its presence. Once again, there are going to be lots of people who won’t license a warrant for anyone having been offended in this context. Mature, thoughtful, people ought to be able to talk with other mature, thoughtful people over issues they have a disagreement about wiithout worrying that people’s ‘feelings’ are constantly on the line. As much as it may offend some people to know it, there are going to be plenty of other people who think the right thing to counsel in situations like these is to toughen up and not be so easily offended.

    Again, this is not to say that anything that was said to Skepchick by way of threat is in any way justified–but I take it that no one here was or would be guilty of that sort of thing. Instead, I honestly think that the issue I’m attempting to bring to light is of more relevance for a context like this.

  17. Would it be so out of order in this thread to suggest a campaign to make 2013
    “let the woman take the first step” year?

    That is, a year in which males are supposed to wait and to see if women approach them (about sex).

    That would be easier for everyone, I think.

    One of the many things I always hated about the male role was the responsibility of taking the first step. I’m sure that I’m not the only one.

  18. Not Bothered,

    First off, I would recommend getting some help on this issue. Your comments do not read as someone who is trying to have an honest debate. They read as someone who is willfully blind to the facts. I say this realizing that you may be a woman, yourself. If so, you would not be the first woman to find particular zeal in undermining another woman. Whatever your gender, it would be better for you and those around you if you stopped for a while (knowledge was not built in a day!) and reflected on these issues.

    Blaming the victim is not unique to you. In fact, that is where most victims start. They think, “this must be my fault,” and fail to speak up, report real crimes, etc. Voicing what is wrong and when one is wronged is very brave and, for many, can be cathartic.

    You might be trying to claim that these instances that seem to be harm to the would-be victims may in fact result from the mindset of being a member of a long-wronged group. You might say that this calls for that long-wronged group to merely buck up and take it on the chin. To say so is to forget that the members of this long-wronged group have been taking it (sometimes literally) on the chin for a very, very long time and don’t need lessons on that. Women have been allowed to vote for less than 100 years almost everywhere. Don’t you think that most women know how to suffer in silence?

    I don’t think that an accurate description of this conversation, or any conversation in my memory from this blog, is that it is built on a “victim mentality.” On the contrary, I think speaking out is the first step toward empowerment. Speaking out is a way of moving the harm from one’s own shoulders and asking others to help carry it. It is uncomfortable to be confronted with such a request and it is normal to react with indignation and to try to justify non-action. It takes great strength to fight this weakness of mind and to support those who have been harmed, to make changes that will prevent such harm in the future. The creators of this blog are pillars of courage in this respect.

    In sum, I do not find your commentary original nor insightful. I find it to be an example of the pernicious thinking that has been and is still used to silence women. If anything, I think women need to be encouraged to speak out, to read one another’s stories, and to fight for a better and more respectful world.

  19. Hi Carolyn (if I may),

    Who’s asking women to be silenced? I’m claiming that what she said was wrong, not calling for her voice to be shut up. Telling me “it would be better for you and those around you if you stopped for a while” looks more like a call to silence than anything I’ve been saying.

    Talk of ‘victim-blaming,’ like talk of ‘the patriarchy’ or ‘mansplaining,’ has the practical effect of inducing silence on the part of the accussed simply for the fact that they have sustained the accusation. THAT is a pernicious sort of speech act, and one that I wish feminists were a little more cognizant of the effects of.

    And I have no idea where you’re going with talk about ‘long-wronged groups’ or 100 years of the vote. I’m not speculating about any kind of female zeitgeist that’s been passed down from generation to generation. The people I’m talking about are young adults in the professional setting of early 21st century America (for the most part). If all one wants to do is emote support for gyrll power, more power to you; but I was hoping we could have a bit more substantive discussion here.

    For you’re making my point. Notice, for instance, how easily you shift from trying to ward-off a claim that some folks in these conversations adopt a victim mentality to talk of “moving the harm from one’s own shoulders and asking others to help carry it.” Indeed, you see this as a case where talk of victimhood is apt; your talk of harm shows as much. I don’t. So can you not understand why, from my perspective, this would be a situation where it looks like the trappings of feminism encourage a victim-mentality?

    The fact that someone feels uncomfortable does not suffice to show that they have been wronged. And in the case at hand, there simply has been no wrong done here, no matter how much it is clothed in feminist rhetoric.

    Now I know this is liable to send some people fuming, but please try to understand where I’m coming from–just because someone feels like fuming, it doesn’t follow that there’s anything anyone ought to see them as justifiably fuming at. Lots of smart, reflective people simply don’t share the lenses with which any one group–even the feminists–happen to habituate their conception of any given gendered social interaction.

    And telling me that “it would be better for [me] and those around [me] if I stopped for a while” looks, from my vantage, like the very sort of patronizing condescension and appeal to the privilige of gender that those of us who don’t identify with this kind of thinking find particularly irritating about what passes for feminism today.

  20. Just a quick concession–in post 12 I did say the following:

    “If someone feels uncomfortable in a situation like that, leave or say something. But they don’t get to put on a show of having been accosted.”

    And that might look like I’m calling for silence, so let me clarify. She is of course entitled to post a video complaining about the event; she’s even entitled to issue the exhortation. And anyone else is entitled to share in her sentiment of disgust. But no one is entitled to be recognized as having been wronged by what’s happened, nor is anyone else obliged never to ask a woman up to their room for coffee after an evening out with friends as a result of the exhortation. Even if she’s a feminist at a feminist conference. The wheres and whyfores of young adult sexual tension are more nuanced than that.

  21. Not Bothered:

    You say, “I find this reaction to be an instance of what I’m talking about with regard to how feminist rhetoric lends itself to a victim mentality. I came here to share a view on this that, to my knowledge, hasn’t been discussed anywhere…But we ought not be barred from having a critical disucssion of her behavior, or the trends it exemplifies. And we shouldn’t try to suppress that criticism, it seems to me, with more flag-waving about how someone is offended by its presence.”

    As I said, these ideas have been discussed elsewhere. In fact, they fit right in with many of the comments on Rebecca Watson’s video, which might be a good place for you to get more support for your ideas. But you seem to want more than support—you claim to want a critical discussion. The problem is that, because of the quotes I give below, this request comes across as dishonest. It looks like you are coming here to anonymously insult someone who finds themselves in a place of pretty serious attack by her peers.

    Some quotes:

    You start off by criticizing Rebecca Watson’s response. You paraphrase her thus: ‘Oh noes, the menfolk are hittin’ on me.’ This is not an accurate paraphrasing of Rebecca Watson’s video and comes off as mockery of Rebecca Watson, in order to insult Rebecca Watson.

    You say, “Chick got hit on at a nerd-fest. Big deal. Most chicks aren’t that uptight at her age.” This description of the video, that it is about objecting to having been hit on, is inaccurate. To call Rebecca Watson uptight is to insult her again.

    In your next post, you say, “An awkward encounter took place between a guy and a gal in an elevator. Happens all the time. No one as a matter of fact was wronged, no matter how anyone might ‘feel’ about it.” Rebecca Watson and others have given reasons for why this might be viewed as a wrong that do not constitute mere “feelings.” That it happens all the time is irrelevant and may actually support the need for Rebecca Watson to speak out if it is, as she argues, a wrong.

    You say about one poster’s fear of rape that “This sounds like people being scared of the dark. If someone feels uncomfortable in a situation like that, leave or say something. But they don’t get to put on a show of having been accosted.” The last sentence is not an accurate description of the case. The former two are insulting to both Rebecca Watson and the poster and recommend that Rebecca Watson and the poster “leave,” when this is impossible in all of the cases described (walking home at night, being trapped in an elevator, etc.).

    You say, “I don’t think we should let our urge to make things better turn us into ninnies jumping at every perceived slight we happen to think we ‘feel.’ Feminist rhetoric seems to me particularly suspect when it comes to this tendency. Just because a person feels some way it does not follow that their feeling is tracking a fact about that particular situation. And in this particular situation, Skepchick comes off like a bird hopping around hugging a clutched wing for dramatic effect.” Again, this is an inaccurate description of the actual situation parsed in language that is insulting to both Rebecca Watson and feminists everywhere.

    If you want an honest, critical discussion, you are going to have to start giving facts and reasons, like many of the people here, instead of cheap insults and mischaracterizations.

  22. Hi Carolyn,

    To move the debate forward, you cannot list a bunch of things I’ve said and assert “that’s insulting, and it’s not true.” Nor can you appeal to some nebulous sense of threat that someone feels when they’re walking home–we all get scared sometimes. It doesn’t follow that everyone that scares us is a Bad Person. As I’ve said, I just don’t find these sorts of interactions to be insulting. If you’re insulted by it, then I’m sorry for you; but I’m sorry for *you* and not for anything I’ve said. Because I just don’t think a conversation had in this tone is insulting. You can hate me for that, or try to shut me up. But that’s my position in this; I don’t think you or she has been wronged by anything I’ve said (or anything that happened to her in the elevator), even though you and she may feel offended by it. Mature, thoughtful, reflective people will sometimes get offended by what others say and do. It doesn’t always follow that anyone, as a matter of fact, has been offended.

    And though the way this encounter was spun reinforces my personal distaste of feminist sexual mores, I surely don’t expect to bring you around to my sentiments. Instead, I’m trying to spell out the underlying set of values that motivate them, because like it or not, we’re all going to have to live together despite our different sentiments. My hope is that by seeing the rationale for the values that underlie those sentiments, you’ll be more inclined to understand people from my perspective.

    Please try to bear that in mind before you accuse me, for a third time, of not genuinely engaging in this conversation. For what it’s worth, my impression is that the values I am espousing are ones that lots of well-adjusted young adult men and women share. And they go missing when the dialogue shifts to talk of ‘victim blaming’ and the like.

  23. I’m sorry for the spamming, but I find it puzzling that someone could write up a response listing supposed insults when it begins with this:

    “As I said, these ideas have been discussed elsewhere. In fact, they fit right in with many of the comments on Rebecca Watson’s video, which might be a good place for you to get more support for your ideas.”

    Are you not implicitly accusing my view of being in bed with the threats of violence and rape that Skepchick received? It sure looks like it to me. I have a hard time thinking someone who takes offense at what I’ve said wouldn’t classify that as offensive as well.

  24. Let me suggest, Not Bothered and others, that we wind down this part of the discussion. I think we have gotten far enough with that topic, and people are not going to get closer to agreeing.

  25. Hi Rebecca,

    I’m a bit torn here. I agree with you that it’s “100% morally and politically and epistemically irrelevant to the substance of her article and what this thread should be about, namely how quickly violent misogyny show up and how unsafe the world becomes when a women says or does any little thing that flips the collective hate switch”. But I do think that it’s relevant that what’s being enforced here by a range of mechanisms (from the very extreme, continuous, and borderline to actually criminal, to the hugely public, condescending, and shaming (i.e., Dawkins), to the milder, “I’m so puzzled” or “Yes, it’s bad all the other stuff happened, but don’t be a victim” variant that we see in this thread) is sexual/romantic/interpersonal availability.

    In other words, I think she had a point then, before the horrific torrent, and I think it is an important point. I find it very worrisome that people like Eric and NotBothered don’t see that point.

  26. And a quick follow up to post 25. I’m personally not looking for agreement. I’d be happy with understanding. The world is never going to be a place where eveyone agrees on the underlying values at work here. But it can be one where we converse with and try to understand one another without being bothered by the little things.

  27. Not Bothered, i am asking you and others to bring this discussion of you and your views to an end. This discussion is outside the purposes of this blog. Your complying with this request is important; your comments will be monitored.

  28. I wonder what it is about that community such that those kinds of abusive responses count as legitimate discourse. That goes way beyond skeptics being “sexist”. Philosophy may have sexism problems, but I’ve a hard time envisioning the scenario in which any part of the philosophy community could act that way – even in the worse old days.

  29. I think it’s a misunderstanding to suppose Rebecca Watson’s Slate article is about that incident in the elevator. The article is about what happened next. For more on what happened next, her “page o’ hate” is required reading.

    http://skepchick.org/page-o-hate/

  30. Hi Anne and Not Bothered,

    Since Anne’s requested we don’t continue this bit here, but since I named Not Bothered explicitly in my comment, I wanted to answer their query. To do so, I posted a follow up to my blog. (See the traceback.)

  31. Hi Jean K,

    While I agree that the aftermath is really important, I also found the path that led her there to be very interesting and enlightening. The response to her view on male vs. female genital mutilation is similar in nastiness to the elevatorgate reaction.

    That she’s kept going through this whole arc is pretty impressive. That’s she’s had to is really awful.

  32. Jean K:

    That’s really incredible and saddening.

    I’m 66 and I’ve not led a particularly sheltered life (or maybe I have). I’ve listened to lots of sexist male talk, but not even my most sexist “friends” (people whom I avoid as far as possible, especially when they drink) talk in that kind of violent and vulgar fashion.

    Maybe they wait until I’m not around to reveal the depths of their violent sexism.

  33. Amos, It really is incredible and saddening. I find it all really mind-boggling. Don’t think I’ve ever had any contact with people like that, and I want to keep it that way.

  34. A few responses to Not Bothered:
    1. “If someone feels uncomfortable in a situation like that, leave or say something.” Dude, you can’t leave an elevator, at least not right away. And when you do leave, how awesome that the questionable guy now knows what floor your room is on, or might follow you!

    2. What exactly are “feminist sexual mores”? Before deciding whether I’m for or agin ’em, I need to know that. Victoria Woodhull, for example, is all about the absolutely vital-to-life necessity of the female orgasm, every time one gets down. I have to say, that sounds ok, and I learned of this in feminist philosophy class. Maybe you are thinking of some other feminist writing about sex, or maybe you don’t like female orgasms? Oh, I have Helene Cixous over here, let’s see… ah, yes, it turns out that female writing is going to make me burst forth with jouissance. Also sounds promising. More writing about sex… Audre Lorde, Simone de Beauvoir… a general impression that reciprocity is good and that use of fruits as props is optional but nice. Are you with me so far?

    3. I don’t think women should be too quick to adopt the victim mantle either. I also don’t think that happens as much as you seem to think it does. I don’t really care whether this Rebecca person’s shrug and objection went too far or not; the blast of vitriolic hellfire she received in return kinda makes up for whatever sins she may have committed. Talking to strangers can be great. Let’s all try to have our heads about us, though, so as not to scare people in the process. Cool?

  35. You can take down the above comment if you like; I hadn’t noticed the comment above where someone requested that replies to this person not be posted, or I wouldn’t have put it up here.

  36. I’m so disappointed in Richard Dawkins. He was one of my heroes before I read this. There is no way his comment can be understood as a helpful comment, is there?

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