Boycott Richard Dawkins? – #Elevatorgate 73


A bit of a fuss has been set in motion. Many of you may already be up to speed so I don’t propose to go into too much detail, but I’ll start with a few links for the truly curious:

OK, so what is all the fuss about?

The story is that Rebecca Watson attended a conference and spoke about sexism in the skeptical community. At 4am she was closing down the bar with fellow skeptics, declares she is gonna go to bed, so gets on the elevator, and a guy from the bar hops on, too. The guy on the elevator says: “Don’t take this the wrong way, but I find you very interesting, and I would like to talk more. Would you like to come to my hotel room for coffee?”. Rebecca says “no”. Later, on her video blog, she tells the story and simply says …

Just a word to the wise here, guys. Don’t do that. I don’t know how else to explain how this makes me very uncomfortable, but I’ll just sort of lay it out: I was a single women in foreign country in a hotel elevator with you, just you, and I—don’t invite me back to your hotel room right after I finish talking about how it creeps me out and makes me uncomfortable when men sexualize me in that manner.

In response to that, lots of folks chipped in with comments in various places, and it just so happens that one of the commenter’s happened to be Richard Dawkins (here, its comment number 75).

Now I don’t propose to get drawn into the details of what is now known as “Elevatorgate”. Many disagree with what Dawkins wrote, as a result there is now a proposal to boycott Dawkins.

Rebecca has now called for a complete boycott of Dawkins here. Also we now have the skepchicks launching a letter writing campaign against Dawkins here.

OK, let me try a couple of quick questions now:

  • Do I agree with what Richard wrote? – Nope, the folks being critical of him have a point
  • Do I feel inclined to boycott Dawkins because of this? – Nope, thats crazy … and this is my key point.

We (skeptics / atheists) have a great deal in common, we are refusing to drink the woo cool aid being offered to many, but it is also true to observe that we have no party line. I can guarantee you that when chatting with others in the community you will often be faced with folks who have views and/or opinions that are not the same as yours, and thats OK. We also have one huge advantage over many other communities, as we debate, we look for evidence and when presented with new evidence that proves us wrong, we change our minds. In fact, it is fairly common for most of us to have believed crazy stuff or spouted silly views at one time or another, and so are quite open to rational discussion and changing our minds.

If you really wish to boycott everybody with whom you disagree with, you will end up in complete isolation. So while I might not agree with every utterance ever issued by Richard Dawkins, (this specific case being an example), I do not propose to join any boycott; we both still have too much in common, and I for one still respect him for his rational stance on so many other issues.


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73 thoughts on “Boycott Richard Dawkins? – #Elevatorgate

  • Benson

    What Dawkins did was indeed creepy and weird. Sounds like it was even planned-

    After a night of drunken revelry and stimulating, non-stop, pseudo-intellectual discussion, and mutual adoration of all the attendees towards one another, a 70 year old, British, intellectual, academic, corners and propositions a 20-something, hipster-chick in elevator. To add to the insult and injury, he creates a silly and transparent subterfuge, based upon sipping coffee in his lair and the continuation of same pseudo-intellectual jabber.

    Hipster chick predictably becomes ‘creeped out’ and offended. Understandably so. Thinking about Richard Dawkins naked, or even having a sex drive, would scare any rationalist thinker.

    Just a few comments I need to get off my chest here- Is Ms. Watson actually naive enough to believe rationalist academics types, are in full control of their penises and are immune to evolutionary-based, sexual urges? Perhaps more importantly, does she believe rationalist/skeptic types are in any way better or superior to other folk in morals, character, etc? This is her fundamental mistake. I think this incident perhaps ‘burst her bubble’ a bit that ‘skeptical types’ are above such coarse aspects of human nature.

    Disclosure- I am myself an engineer/scientist, cold rationalist, atheist, pseudo-intellectual, and I am in no doubt, in many regards, eerily similar to Ms. Watson and her crowd of skeptical skeptics, with one keen distinction- I find that group of people, no more interesting and no more worthy of respect, adulation, or adoration, than anyone else. I find them just as annoying, if not more so, than born-again x-ians and their lot. The idea of “atheist/skeptic conventions,” groups, organizations, and such is quite nauseating to me. Replete with its heroes, best-selling authors, evangelists of the movement, etc. I would not want to be in the same city as one of these gatherings, never mind the same hotel. It’s just a mutual-adoration, mutual-verbal-masturbatory, society. Surrounding yourself, because of the lack of intellectual security, and for reasons of self-doubt and comfort-zones, with a bunch of like-minded, clone-ish, people. All eerily similar in their thinking and beliefs.
    Anything humans organize into a group, goes to hell in a handbasket, whether it is religion, politics, “skeptic societies,” etc. In any case, I still have hope for Ms. Watson. If she is smart, she’ll become a misanthrope such as myself, and start to see the pettiness and hypocrisy within her own movement and crowd of people.

  • noboychildrenformethanks

    Yep. The skeptic community is still steeped in misogyny. But singing “la la la la”, reading The Game for the millionth pathetic time, and whining about critiques on the nasty yet boring Bayonetta will not save you now.

    He’s been riding the wave as an ivory tower academic, but those types tend not to be radical. So he got beat in moral debate by a radical. Natch.
    A bummer, to be sure. But the guy’s way to uppity to be a good example anyway.

  • SmithSmith

    Are you telling me that man in the elevator had the audacity to ask that poor, poor girl to have coffee with him. Oh the humanity! Grow up, people have the right to attempt to start a conversation with each other, yes even men.

  • ou812

    I’m a straight man who often gets propositioned by homosexuals, sometimes late at night in isolated areas. I’m not large, and many of them could overpower me if they wanted to. But as long as they respect my wishes, I just let it go. If I was to make a blog post saying “Gays, don’t do that”, and accusing them of sexualizing me, I suspect I would have received about as much hate mail as Rebecca did, but much less support from the feminist movement.

  • iain

    I’m new to this debate and seemed to have missed its kick off, but as the atheist movement grows, it will enounter the same problems every group aiming at mass acceptance has struggled with over the course of history.

    If you are going to set up a group based on the sovereignty of the individual mind over what it is told to do by less able leaders, you’re on to a winner and will attract those able to think for themselves. But if you are going to base it on the individual’s absolute right to use their own conception of right and wrong to do what they like to others, the end result casn only be anarchy.

    Groups like Anonymous are often supposed to be anarchic. But they are not: they depend on their reputation of inspiring a fight against oppressive and criminal groups; the mask also symbolises the anonymity of those who, behind the scenes, manipulate the media so that 491,000 separately reported Iraq atrocities and another 91,000 in Afghanistan – all commited by the US military invaders – were completely ignored by the US media. That’s a hell of a lot of deaths, considering that in one incident alone, 181 people in a village were killed by an attack helicopter.

    Assange with Wikileaks, and the Anonymous group, are two examples of people who stand for something. They’re not just exercising their own self-indulgence: they are willing to sacrifice their time for a higher cause. This is highly appealing to the human mind: an inner sense of justice.

    It’s true that every group also attracts those who just want to be on a winning side. But groups who have to make some kind of sacrifice tend to attract less of them, because it’s much easier to join one conferring power and untouchability. Sociopaths gravitaed to religion throughout history because of the power and unaccountability it offered. Today, they gravitate to the weapons business, government, and large corporations, where they do extreme damage to our world..

    But any group offering unlimited scope for self-expression, at no cost to them, is going to fragment, sooner or later, into those who feel morally bound to sacrifice on behalf of their cause on one side, and on ther other, a chaotic anarchy.

  • Man42

    You don’t have a right to not be made uncomfortable. What makes one person uncomfortable does not make another so. Whether you would like to believe it or not, there are plenty of people who would have said “yes” to the coffee offer. Whether the elevator is perceived as a threatening place is also just a matter of opinion. There are elevator cameras in most places, it was about to open at some point in a crowded hotel.. it wouldn’t have been a feasible situation for rape either way. This is an attempt to force everyone to view all situations from a victim mindset, which sadly, many feminists who are so concerned with non-issues like this tend to have. Dawkins tried to point this out as a non-issue by citing some examples of what misogyny actually is, but was sadly just added to the hate train.

  • Pyramus

    People have used the phrase ‘hitting on’ as in a man hitting on a woman. I think this shows that some people have quite old fashioned ideas about sex that come from religion. They associate sex with aggression, violence and death. Maybe he was looking to start a new relationship, maybe that’s how he met his wife. Rebecca Watson doesn’t speak for all women. Some women respond to men’s advances, if that is what it was. Men are attracted to women, it isn’t evil, and to use the word ‘sexualize’ doesn’t make a lot of sense.

  • Jim

    after reading all the comments I have to ask myself about some of these posts, who really is “drinking the woo cool aid” that Mr. Gamble makes reference to?

  • Amy

    I’m probably going to regret stirring this shitpot, but here goes:

    *RW never said that men hitting on women are sexist, misogynist or potential rapists, just that there is a time and place for everything. Elevator guy displayed a case some bad judgement – yes. Was he a rapist? Probably not. RW said she was creeped out by this since she was in a confined space with this stranger. So far, so good.

    *RD did a unfair comparison between the horrors some muslim women face in their patriarchal society and RW’s experience. He probably just read the comments, as many do, and jumped to conclusions.

    *Rape is not always getting grabbed in an alleyway, in fact, most women do get raped by their boyfriends, husbands or other people they know. This does not stop moms from teaching their sons and daughters about stranger danger. Women learn early on that we need to watch our backs, we are ushered into this kind of behavior. And when rape happens and women go to the police and the rapist is caught, some tend to not believe rape-victims and side with the rapist.

    Anecdote: My sister-in-law got raped by a person she thought was her friend. She went to sleep alone in the bed and woke up with him entering her with his dick. She is a tough one so she screamed and hit him and he got convicted because she kept her wits about her. Still, to this day, every time my sister-in-law visits our home town the rapist’s family scream horrible things at her and claim that she lied just to get their money. Despite all the physical evidence of his sperm in her, skin samples under her nails and that his case went up to the highest possible court in our coutry, they still can’t believe their son is a rapist. Denial is a powerful thing.

    Many people seem prone to gut-reactions in this discussion. “RW is such a such” or “RD is such and such.”
    It’s so easy to pass judgement on people we don’t know on the internet and say horrible things about them just because we’re anonymous and don’t have to look people in the eye while saying these things. I thought skepticism was about getting all the facts straight, doing the research and not about jumping to conclusions in the comments.

    People make mistakes, just because you’re a skeptic atheist doesn’t mean you’re always doing or saying the right things. We’re not robots and hopefully we learn from our mistakes.

  • Eric

    Apparently being a feminist, or pro-feminism, means that I believe men should have well considered every possible interaction with a woman before having it, and living with the reality that women will not do the same. It means that, as a man, if I falter and somehow misread a woman and dare to initiate a conversation with one I should be prepared to be shamed and abused for my utter “misogyny”.

    Wanting equal treatment for men and women means I need to accept the bitter pill that I should treat all women as though they are survivors of rape, living with the memory every minute of every day. It means that any and all of my actions can and will be interpreted as hateful to women if they, in any way, are not sanctioned by the woman. If I do not treat a woman as though she is a princess and that I am a knight in her service, considering her every whim and circumstance prior to taking any action, then I am most certainly guilty of…misogyny? No. I call that chauvinism.

    Rebecca has a lot to offer the atheist movement, as does any atheist. She may one day have a lot to offer the feminist movement, if she will someday learn what it is. I will not hold my breath on that one, because her self-centered, damsel-in-perpetual-distress, self pitying rage is just too sad for any hope of growth. Of course she has acquired a following. I’m not comparing her specifically, but Charles Manson acquired a following too. I would like to see Rebecca grow up and realize that there is much of the world and human interaction that she doesn’t have the answer to, that the world doesn’t exist so that she can lay eggshells around herself while spouting hateful diatribe when someone steps on one.

    She has effectively bored me to death and her wish to be the feminist “Captain Planet” firmly christens her an irrelevant narcissist, brazenly guilty of everything she blames men for.

  • Some Woman Skeptic

    I have to say, being a female loner who’s lived in a large city, that I understand where Rebecca is coming from. I had a lot of close calls, what seemed like over-the-top sexual harassment to being molested on the train to having a guy break into my apartment and try to grab me.

    Even prior to that, I had seem some close calls and a friend was raped in college, in a dorm room. As a teenager at a science fair in a smaller city, I saw a girl waiting in our hotel lobby almost get jumped by a homeless-looking guy. It was early morning, nobody around, and the guy was looming over her before I walked in. She was extremely frightened.

    When you get hassled this much, you end up behaving like a prey animal. When every day you are being harassed on the street and hearing crime stories about women being attacked, you end up feeling like an antelope on the Savannah. It takes a long time to build up the mental armor to deal with it. Which for me consisted of imagining various scenarios and how I could escape them (including gratuitous violence against my imaginary attacker); also learning to be surly to men right at the outset when they started bothering me.

    And don’t give me crap about feelings being irrational — I know all you skeptic men have phobias and quirks. Men’s anger at rejection and spurned chivalry is also pretty damn irrational. In fact there is a whole complex of irrational male psychology, but somehow all that strange alchemy that goes on in your minds is considered logical.

  • Richard was spot on

    Richard Dawkins was spot on with ridiculing Rebecca. To add to that: she’s a sexist whiny immature little misandrist. O yeah, I said it: she’s a men hater. And definitely not an open-minded, critical and/or skeptical humanist thinker.

    In an equal, open and individualistic society as ours it’s all about ones boundries and respecting those boundries. But in order to know what ones boundries are, one will have to assertively express those at the given moment in the given situation.

    Getting asked a question — whatever the proposal — can be answered with an assertive “no”. And when you respect that answer, i.e. respect ones boundries, no-one is to blame for anything.

    The fact that the question made her feel uncomfortable is irrelevant. I feel uncomfortable on many occasions as well. But I can’t expect everybody in the world to know up front how a question will make me feel exactly, can I?

    I will have to communicate it in an assertive manner (meaning: clearly and unambiguously voice *my* feelings/ boundries with self-confidence) at that moment, so that there is no misunderstanding for the other person what my boundries are.

    Now, if that someone doesn’t respect those boundries, then it’s a whole different ballgame. But that was not the case here was it? He respected her boundries just fine after she made it clear to him that she wasn’t interested by saying “no”.

  • brett caton

    Interestingly, the bit about elevator rape seems to be a myth. i contacted my local dep’t of crime statistics and they said it doesn’t qualify for a category as it is too rare. Maybe Dublin is some freaky place and Hotels are hotspots; in which case I would have thought signage indicating that women should not travel unchaperoned would have been essential!

    I actually saw one extremist argue that facts and data were irrelevant as the feeling of fear was a transcendent truth. Don’t bother me with reality, boys, for the divine truth is in my heart and i care nothing for your so-called “reason”!

    Another myth seem to be that RW told everyone not to hit on her. Feel free to disprove this but several people i know of now say they sat through the footage of what she said beforehand and there’s nothing about it, the whole “don’t hit on me!” speech was said privately. In any case, who’s to say Elevator guy was present at that time?

    The big question has got to be “is it ok to hit on a woman at an atheist conference” and the extremist feminists seem to be saying “no, you potential rapist!”.

    The fine details of when an advance is allowable(not if it’s after lunchtime unless it’s a tuesday after July but not during a leap year) can thus be skipped over entirely. On behalf of men, i should like to say that if you don’t desire our advances, then knowing beforehand will save everyone grief.

    Wouldn’t it be more sensible for such women to simply wear a badger indicating their hatred for such behaviour and they can be avoided. Indeed, constant usage over sufficient time might result in an entirely new species of human, one that can only reproduce through technological intervention. I’m cool with that, so long as they don’t then decide to exterminate the older type, ala Joanna Russ.

  • dungone

    @Gomushin, I don’t even know how to begin responding to that huge confused mess.

    Shrodinger’s rapist is a joke of a blog entry that I’ve read a long time ago. Yes, it does present your side well, and I still don’t agree with it. Not because I don’t get it, but because I really do. I’ve responded to it so many times I’ve lost count. The entire argument rests on the premise that women can’t read men’s minds, so it’s okay for them to be as bigoted as they want and treat all men like a rapist. And this is all in about as much good faith as you could expect out of an article titled “how not to get maced” that ends with the last ProTip being “don’t rape.” Wow, that’s not offensive at all, is it?

    Ironically, it’s the same exact argument some men use – the Shrodinger’s New Girlfriend line of thought. I probably don’t have to explain it. It’s just as “reasonable” And what about Shrodinger’s Mugger? What if we wrote a blog entry on THAT and targeted it at black men, telling them how to behave around white people “how not to get shot” and end it with “and lastly, don’t mug!” This is where you’re coming from. This is why you fail to see how the feminist response has been so offensive to a lot of men.

    You have a lot of points that aren’t half bad, in fact whenever you sound really reasonable I think you must be arguing with imaginary opponents because I don’t disagree with a lot of it. It’s the unreasonable parts that really get my goat.

    Incidentally, I have been sexually harassed on numerous occasions and you really shouldn’t presume that someone wasn’t raped or sexually assaulted just because they’re a man.

    Guess who was sexually molested? Richard Dawkins! And yet Dawkins selflesly says that worse things happen to other kids. Does that give you a new perspective on what he said to Watson, who by her own admission hasn’t suffered a sexual assault?

    Therein lies the rub. Watson, by virtue of being a female, claims that her own personal experience of never having been assaulted herself are beyond reproach, while a man who is actually a survivor is called a rich white privileged pig.

    But go ahead, keep telling us how you really feel…

  • Gomushin Girl

    For the record, some of us *do* ask men out. We get rejected, too. Y’know what? It hurts, it sucks, and it’s part of life. I don’t think the objects of my affection have ever owed me a yes for having asked them out or any consideration at all. I don’t think that even in a perfect world, though, I or any other human can or should be successful every time.
    If I, as a woman, went to a convention on . . . say, quilting where the vast majority of participants were female, and a well-known male quilter sat on a panel and said that he didn’t like that when he came to these conferences the women fussed over him and made passes at him, my next instinct is not to ask him to my hotel room. Even if it is my instinct, I supress it because he just said that he does not like that. As a decent human being, I will listen to what he says and not ignore his wishes so I can pursue my own. A) I’m not likely to succeed and B) It would be rude. Even if we’ve just spent the small wee hours of the morning drinking and talking together, if he gets up and says that he’s tired and going to bed, my next reaction is NOT to follow him to the elevator and ask him back to my room because DUH! He just said he is tired and going to bed, making any attempt A) STUPID and B) RUDE.
    In my own past, I have not asked some guys out even though I thought they were attractive, wonderful dudes because hey, they weren’t interested. If I had hit on them and they complained, my response would not be “Hey! But it’s hard being a woman! Rejection sucks and you owe me and you can never mention that some random anonymous woman creeped you out, EVER” because . . . well, it’s a stupid response.

  • Gomushin Girl

    @ dugone (although I think I’m wasting my time . . .)
    Do men suffer from more violence overall -mostly perpetrated by other men? Yeah. But they’re NOT more likely to suffer from sexual violence and at least in American society they’re not taught to be cautious riding elevators with strangers at night precisely because they don’t have any particular social need to fear such a situation. Women most certainly are taught to excercise caution because they DO. Male rape levels (and honestly, if the rates of male rape are the same as for women I will eat my hat) are irrelevant here because this is not the situation in whic most men find themselves vulnerabel. Again, go google “elevator rape” and have a nice time scouring those images from your brain.
    Dude, *individual people* have different psychologies. “Women” as a group do not have a single group psychology. What we do have is a society that teaches us that yes, these are potentially dangerous situations and if anything happens, no only will we have to bear the burden of the assault itself, we’ll have everybody blaming us for it afterwards. Because of course, we were “stupid” enough to “make ourselves vulnerable” and “put ourselves in that situation” so we “deserve what happened.” Do some men have anxiety and caution because they too have been assaulted or harrassed? Of course, and they have my deepest sympathy – also, unlike you, they actually understand how threatening some of these behavoirs really are.
    “We” didn’t agree any such thing – other women on this thread have informed you that one cannot always know in advance if a man will rape you. They don’t wear blinking lights or nametags saying “Hi, I’m a rapist.” However, it’s a dangerous sign when a man ignores your expressed wishes to stop, leave, not take part in something. If he’ll ignore my wish to not drink more by ordering or pouring me another drink, if he’ll ignore me saying I want to go to sleep now, if he’ll pressure me when I’m leaving to stay, then this is a man who is willing to perhaps ignore me when I say STOP in other situations. He *may* not be a rapist, but he’s certainly displaying a lack of interest in my concent, and that indicates that he might well rape me.
    You’re also positing this man as ignorant of her wishes, but that’s clearly not the case. She SAID she didn’t want to be objectified at these conferences, she SAID she was tired and going to bed. He was willfully ignoring her wishes, which again, is why he would set off alarm bells here.
    Your horse analogy never worked at all, which is what my comment was about showing. Also, I never mentioned Marcotte, so I don’t know what your point is.
    The thing is here that it’s not women and it’s not Rebecca who got their knickers in a knot. Rebecca vlogged a bit and offered some advice, which was basically, “Please think about not being not quite so vaguely creepy” and then a vast sea of insulted men arose declaring that she was a terrible person for gently suggesting how men might behave. She was trying to help ya’ll out, and you’ve done nothing since but whine and complain. Who are the real whiny princesses here, now?

    And since you *really* don’t seem to get it, I’ll recommend you go read about Schrodinger’s rapist and see why women aren’t always so damn eager to be hit on. http://kateharding.net/2009/10/08/guest-blogger-starling-schrodinger%E2%80%99s-rapist-or-a-guy%E2%80%99s-guide-to-approaching-strange-women-without-being-maced/)

  • dungone

    Ah, I wish I could edit comments here…

    *She should either be ashamed of herself for being in a group where men are clueless about women and quit bitching about how women like her are gonna take their balls and go home unless they’re presented with an assortment of perfectly honed Rico Suaves, – OR – she should live up to her own lot in life, see her peers as a reflection upon herself, and realize that unless she can find some positive trait about the men in her community to build upon and make things better, then every outsider is going to look at the entire group and laugh at the petty infighting, herself no different than anyone else involved.

  • dungone

    @Susan, you’re painting yourself into a corner here and you’re talking past me as if I failed to grasp the point of hitting on women. I’m a guy – let’s agree on one thing – I fully grasp the purpose of hitting on women. I don’t need a lesson in this, thank you! I’m quite content with my own success, if I might add.

    In a perfect world, yes, guys would be successful each and every single time they made a proposition. No arguments there! But in reality, failure happens. The generally accepted rule of thumb that both men and women USUALLY say as a matter of encouragement to shy guys is that they’ll have to ask 10 girls before they meet where things click. And how do you get better? Practice, practice, practice! Do you disagree?

    Did he blow it big time? Hardly! That he didn’t get to shag Rebecca is hardly a loss. He’s better off! No guy needs to be with a woman who sees a sexist conspiracy in everything he ever does.

    You’ve gotta crawl before you run. So what do you propose, then? How do you propose that men learn to judge a situation except to try and fail? Failure is okay! It doesn’t make someone a loser, a creep, or a sexist, does it? Should it? That kind of message is exactly the sort of crap that makes sweaty-palmed inexperienced dudes turn to PUA tricks and pressures them to get the big paying jobs with the nice cars just to hedge the bets in their favor. I don’t know how else to say this, but some of you people are your own worst enemies. When you start handing out scarlet letters for failed pickup attempts, when you turn lack of experience into a huge social taboo, these are the very things that give men a low opinion of women.

    Time to wake up and face the music – these nerdy, socially awkward men who don’t know how to hit on a woman – they are Rebecca Watson’s counterparts – her own social group, her demographic. She’s every bit of a geeky nerd as they are. She should either be ashamed of herself for being in a group where men are clueless about women and quit bitching about how women like her are gonna take their balls and go home unless they’re presented with an assortment of perfectly honed Rico Suaves. With women like Watson in their social group, it’s no wonder these men know nothing about dating.

  • Susan

    Dungone, it is not inappropriate for men to make passes at women, but they should learn how to do it so as to get a positive result. That means that you learn to gauge who is interested so you can target the ones likely to say yes rather than taking a scattershot appeoach in which you hit on any woman who comes within a 3 metre radius and is attractive.

    For example, a strange man hitting on a strange woman in an elevator at 4AM is very unlikely to succeed. Why waste the effort and potentially creep out the poor woman who might be in fear of the man being a rapist?

    It’s probably best to hit on women who have at least given you some clear signals that she is interested in a shag. Like maybe she’s just spent half the evening with you in the pub, talking to you intimately, making eye contact, flirting, etc.

    Can you not see that this fellow really blew it big time if a shag with Rebecca was his goal? He needs a lesson in how to meet women and Rebecca was only trying to be helpful in offering advice on what isn’t likely to work.

    Broad hint: When a woman spends time at a skeptic convention talking about how it is not good when women are continually being sexualized at skeptic conventions, and then says she is tired and going to bed, and a strange man hops onto the elevator and propositions her, it’s not likely going to be successful. It’s likely going to make her wonder if he has hearing comprehension problems, never listened to a word he said, is totally inept socially, or might be a creep.

  • dungone

    I really can’t wait for the day when women get off their asses and start asking men out themselves, like true equals should. They’ll be in for a rude awakening once they realize just how difficult it actually is and how badly they suck at it. The vast majority of the times when I was ever propositioned by a girl, it would be fully inappropriate if I did it the same way to a woman. I can’t wait to see the look on everyone’s faces when ALL women start propositioning men the same way. We’ll be looking back at Elevator Guy and calling him a saint.

  • dungone

    @Beth, happens all the time to me. In fact, 2AM-4AM is when I usually get propositioned by women. Once when I was bartending a 70 year old women recounted losing her virginity 55 years ago in boarding school to a Catholic priest who looked just like me… and then she asked if she could touch my hair. I laughed it off, she left a $30 tip. I’ve had drunk girls who lost their shoes and purses follow me out to my car at night. I’ve had lots of girls, sometimes very beautiful ones, walk up to me at after-hours after the lights turn on and say things like, “hey I’ve been checking you out all night and you seem cool… what are you doing after this?” Sometimes several in one night. I’ve had many, many drunk girls flash their boobs at me and ask me for a ride when I’m out on my motorcycle. I’ve had one woman come up to me when I was listening to the pixies and say, “You know… I was at their concert when you were still in diapers… wanna hook up?” I’ve had lots of fat old women driving by in their cars cat call me… dozens. I’ve had lots of women grope me, whether it’s ugly strangers or a girlfriend doing it in front of my family, it hasn’t always been appropriate or someone’s wife doing it in front of her husband.

    The difference between the women taking up Rebecca’s side and guys such as myself is that I have the intellectual honesty to admit that when it comes down to a polite request such as Elevator Guy’s, the way I feel about it really does depend on whether or not I find the woman attractive. I would never have the temerity to label someone a sexist creep just because I was the one who happened to be tired or I found her to be a little too nerdy and chubby for my tastes. More often than not when I’m getting hit on in an inappropriate way, I’m more worried about letting the girl down easy and trying not to hurt her feelings, lest she thinks that I’m a shallow jerk who said no just because she’s fat. It’s obvious from this episode that the women for whom Watson speaks don’t give a damn how nervous and uncomfortable Elevator Guy might have felt and how much courage it probably took him just to say something to her. These women are just making themselves look like cruel, stuck up dicks who can’t take what they dish out.

  • Beth

    how would men feel if an old, hideously ugly, obese, hairy, toothless woman with bad hygiene; encountered them in an elevator and invited them back to her room for coffee?

  • Manuel Ferrera

    the elevator-guy’s behavior was not inappropriate.
    but it made Rebbecca uncomfortable. we cannot blame someone for how they feel.

  • william

    If we should all boycott Richard Dawkins because of a sober statement that he made, well then, we should in turn boycott Rebecca Watson for calling herself “SkepCHICK”. After all, referring to herself, a woman, as a “chick”, i.e., a “little chicken” shows self-deprecation, and therefore, disrespect towards a woman, and therefore, toward women, putting them on the level of cute, stupid little domesticated livestock birds. Carol J. Adams’ THE SEXUAL POLITICS OF MEAT would be relevant here. Or, worse yet, “little chicken” means a young prostitute, something we’ve learned from Martin Scorsese’s TAXI DRIVER! I also want to say that I am the one who asked Rebecca in the elevator to drink coffee with me. And I only asked her that after she blurted out that she wasn’t wearing any panties, and promised me that she would make me “believe in God or at least call out to him” after she had her way with me. I told her I wasn’t interested, but that perhaps we could have some coffee with my wife and my wife’s sister in our hotel room, in order to help Rebecca sober up a bit. She said “No thanks” and then proceeded to grab my tie and force my face into her breast cleavage. I yanked my tie away, the elevator door opened, and I quickly departed. So, please, Rebecca, just because you didn’t get your way that night doesn’t mean you should take it out on Professor Dawkins, love.

  • dungone

    @Gomushin, you’ve made many points that I would like to rebut, but I may run out of space here.

    “Women generally have to be more cautious and excercise more extreme measures to guarantee their personal safety than men.”

    I would say that our culture is much more concerned with women’s safety and trains them to be diligent, but the reality is that men face far more dangers, especially at the hands of other men. They don’t spend as much time worrying about it because they’re not trained to value their safety as much. Notice how women from different cultures perceive the elevator incident… notice how British women generally don’t find the incident to be that big of a deal.

    “I really don’t know any men who worry about being alone in elevators at odd hours with women.”

    This doesn’t prove anything. Men and women have different psychologies. Ask a guy who has been sexually harassed how he feels about asking someone out. And if you think guys who got raped are treated with dignity, you’ve got another thing coming. And you don’t even know how often men get raped – some studies indicate that the rate is the same as for women. The famous 1 in 6 number only considers rape if the victim is penetrated, which excludes women who use men to penetrate themselves… yet the same study still found 1 in 32 for men.

    “Your privledge, it shows.”

    This is not an argument. It’s just a way of using feminist lingo to tell someone to shut up.

    “the guy did exhibit at least one characteristic associated with rapists: He was ignoring her clearly stated wishes.”

    Wait, I thought we just got done agreeing that you really can’t tell who the real rapists are.

    This is such a blanket statement. Being ignorant of how someone else feels doesn’t put anyone in the same category as rapists. Women ignore how I feel all the time, doesn’t make them evil, it just means they have a different agenda and sometimes two people feel differently but they make a compromise. He asked if she was willing to change her plans, she said no, he left her alone. No rape here, no rapist qualities. Also, did she talk to him personally beforehand, at the bar, when she told “everyone” that she was tired and going to bed? What was she, like a princess leaving her subjects in the royal court?

    The horse analogy – all analogies fail when you stretch them beyond their original intent. You never addressed mine for what it was, you just made new ones.

    One more thing – Marcotte is an outright bigot who doesn’t seem concerned with intellectual honesty in the slightest, by the way, and people who see eye to eye with her don’t exactly give me warm and fuzzies about their own capacity for sexist thought.

  • Charisma

    And I doubt that the man in the elevator was anything but sincere and kind in his request. He was probably a fan of hers.I would have simply politely disagreed.

  • Charisma

    You know, I agree with Dawkins to an extent. I think it’s perfectly natural to feel uncomfortable in that kind of situation. A complete stranger in an elevator asking you to go back to his hotel is not something you want to deal with at 4 am in a foreign country. On the other hand, why is this lady going out in public and whinning about it? As a woman I sometimes have been in situations such as that. It’s creepy. It really is, but why does she have to go complaining about it? It happens to everyone once and awhile.

  • Gomushin Girl

    For the original author, as others have pointed out, she’s not calling for a boycott of Dawkins. She’s saying that she will not endorse a guy who made some pretty disguisting comments about her and has generally shown himself to be a first class jerk.
    It’s also privledged behavior to say that she’s boycotting him just because she dissagrees with him. She’s boycotting him because he was personally insulting, in addition to being pretty impervious to a rational and logical explanation from several different sources. We may be unwise to disengage from all those who we disagree with, but it seems pretty damn logical to me to not want to deal with people who insult and belittle us.

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  • Gomushin Girl

    @dungone: Too bad for you that it isn’t her argument. Her argument is that in our society, women are substantially more likely to be sexually harrassed, assaulted and raped than men under normal circumstances. Women generally have to be more cautious and excercise more extreme measures to guarantee their personal safety than men. This doesn’t mean that no men are ever sexually harrassed, assaulted or raped, but that men are not exposed as often, nor are the social consequences the same. I really don’t know any men who worry about being alone in elevators at odd hours with women. Now go google “elevator rape” and see why exactly that women routinely told that this is a potentially dangerous situation.
    Your privledge, it shows.
    You’re also missing that, in this case, the guy did exhibit at least one characteristic associated with rapists: He was ignoring her clearly stated wishes. She had just finished saying that she was icked out by being sexually objectified at conferences. She had just said she was tired and going to bed. Elevator Dude then proceeded to hit on her – do you see how this might be a problem? “Don’t hit on me. I’m going to bed” =/= “Hit on me, I’m totally up for coffee with a strange man in a foreign country in the wee hours of the morning.”
    Your horse analogy also fails. Your niece is comfortable with her stallion because she’s been trained, knows the animal, and is in a situation where she is able to excercise and control the situation. Accidents can and do happen, but all in all the situation is safe and controlled, and she’s the one in charge. You are unsafe because you’ve not got the experience or the training to handle the animals. You don’t know about this particular animal (although I’ll also point out that it’s a lot easier for even the untrained to pick out which horse is potentially dangerous), just like Rebecca didn’t know this particular person well enough to evaluate the potential danger. And just like you get nervous around horses, she got nervous around this dude. Nobody here is taking you to task for being nervous around horses, so maybe you should do Rebecca and other women the courtesy of not making a big deal over them feeling slightly uncool being trapped in an elevator with a guy who ignores what they say?

  • dungone

    @AM, I know a lot of women who love horses. When I go up to a horse, I get pretty nervous about getting thrown off or kicked. But my teenage niece feels perfectly comfortable entering horse jumping competitions with her stallion.

    Dough may have been bigger and stronger than the woman who sexually assaulted him, but she did not seem to be afraid of him then. Likewise, when I was in a relationship with an abusive woman, she was not afraid of hitting me in spite of my larger size and military background.

    If the only thing that makes Doug Reardon’s sexual assault less of a big deal than when the same thing happens to women is the relative size of the harasser, then I don’t think you have much of a case. Given that women are perfectly capable of taking on powerful animals and big men when it suits them, I don’t think you can argue that sexual assault is worse when it happens to women because men are relatively bigger.

  • dungone

    “Dungone, the problem with your thesis — and something that a lot of people don’t seem to be able or willing to understand — is that rapists don’t have a signature behavioural trait that identifies them before the fact. It’s only after the fact that they are known.”

    How is that a problem with my thesis? My thesis rests on that very assumption.

    The person I responded to insinuated that Elevator Guy’s behavior was indicative of a rapist, or at least what society deems to be a indicative of a rapist. I see this as a problem because the principled response would be to say he is no more or less likely to be a rapist in spite of societal stereotypes. Ergo, the likelihood of him being a rapist should not come into play.

    Hypothetically speaking, if her husband (pre-divorce) got on the elevator with her at 4AM and started asking her for coffee, aka sex, she might have a similar chance of being raped. Even if it’s not true in this specific case, let’s say for the sake of argument that it holds true. The fifty dollar question is, what would her response be if her husband (or some old friend) was the one inviting her back for coffee? If not, then the follow-on question is which parts of the response (hers and the public’s) are based on legitimate rape fears and which parts of it would only be possible because she rejected the guy?

  • CNB

    @Susan:

    Exactly right. The really disturbing part of the whole thing, to me, is that Rebecca just got done giving a talk about misogyny, and how uncomfortable and unwelcome getting hit on at skeptics conventions made her.

    So this is a guy who clearly didn’t much care about how Rebecca felt about the matter–does that sound like the sort of person you’d want to find yourself trapped alone with, whether in a hotel room or an elevator?

  • Susan

    Dungone, the problem with your thesis — and something that a lot of people don’t seem to be able or willing to understand — is that rapists don’t have a signature behavioural trait that identifies them before the fact. It’s only after the fact that they are known.

    They look just like every other guy on the planet and approach women in a diverse number of ways, including in broad daylight and late at night in an empty elevator at a hotel, in the stairwell of your apartment building at noon, in the underground parking lot after work, and any other number of venues and situations. They are the guy in a uniform who knocks at your door in the afternoon, the man you met last week at a bar and asked you out for a date, your classmate, your neighbour’s teenage son, your Uncle John, Mr. Carson who works in the DMV, Bill the Construction Worker. It would be so much easier if rapists and assaulters had some consistent behavioural trait that women could use to pick them out from the ordinary decent guys who just want company or a consensual shag. Unfortunately, these very small minority of men tend to wait until they are alone with a woman and then use force or threat of force to achieve their end. Until it happens or doesn’t happen, you just don’t know.

    This is why being alone with a strange man in a confined space late at night can be unnerving to many women.

    Many women keep this reality in the back of their minds at all times and always keep an eye open for potential danger signs, but often, it is someone you don’t suspect who turns out to be your rapist or sexual assaulter. That is why many women feel uncomfortable when strange men proposition them late at night when they are alone in a hotel elevator.

    If you are mad about this, if this pisses you off and cramps your ability to hit on women, get mad at the rapists and sexual assault perps rather than women.

  • dungone

    “Think about it this way: had she accepted the invitation and been raped, everyone who is whining about how she made such a big deal out of it now would probably be blaming her.”

    This is the crux of the problem. This false dichotomy only makes sense is if Elevator Guy’s behavior was in any way indicative of a rapist. What if he’s not a rapist? Chances are that if she really did accept the invitation, nothing would have happened and no one would be outraged at the inappropriate nature of the proposal. The proposal would no longer be seen as having been inappropriate by virtue of her having accepted it. Everyone would say, well, to each her own.

  • AM

    Apologies for the triple-post but I’d like to make one more point.

    When a moderate Muslim complains that people are judging them because of the actions of extremists, we might tell them that yes, you are suffering for something that isn’t your personal fault, but you can’t deny that these extremists are real and in your midst. You can’t blame us for being afraid. Don’t blame us for being wary of you, blame the extremists for putting us on our guard – they are the ones who are harming you here.

    The same is true for men who are offended when women are afraid of them in potentially unsafe situations. Yes, you’re probably not a rapist; most men aren’t. But if you’re being judged unfairly, you need to blame the actual rapists for making women afraid, not the women.

    It’s not personal, it’s self-preservation. The risks are real.

  • AM

    @ Doug Reardon:

    “I was on an elevator late one night, in the distant past, with a woman who pushed the stop button, grabbed my crotch, and kissed me. She invited me to her room. I declined as I was going back to my room and my wife, but I was pleasantly taken aback, and felt complimented. I guess we all react differently in different situations.”

    Okay, while you may have enjoyed it she was still wrong to have done this and you’d have been within your rights to feel violated.

    But it’s not a case of ‘we all react differently’. I imagine that you were larger and stronger than this woman and could have fought her off and restrained her easily had you wanted to. This is the distinction, and this is why women don’t feel safe. It’s not that all men are rapists. It’s that enough are that women do not feel safe in their daily lives (and even more so in enclosed spaces in the early hours of the morning) in the same way men do – if something does happen to a woman she is probably not strong enough to defend herself. And it’s a pretty common occurrence.

    And I’m not calling you, personally, sexist or a rapist. I’m just saying this is a perspective you don’t understand because you’ve never had reason to.

    (Personally I wouldn’t dream of boycotting the talented science writer Dawkins. I’d just quite like him to see things from another perspective, and understand why women are so annoyed with him over this.)

  • AM

    What a lot of guys don’t seem to realise about this situation is that, in the event a woman DID take a guy up on an offer like this at 4AM, and subsequently HAD been raped, then a vast amount of commentators would have claimed it was partly her fault for being so naive, for not taking better care of herself, after all what did she expect after going off with a stranger at 4AM.

    Take precautions and you get accused of calling all men rapists. Don’t take precautions and you were ‘asking for it’ if something does happen.

    All RW was doing is informing the man involved (and any others who may not realise) that this is not a situation where women feel safe WITH GOOD REASON (and most of the time, women have plenty of men telling them they need to be more careful in situations like these). While calling for a boycott is a bit far, (and I haven’t seen where she’s called for this) if anyone is being hysterical here it’s the guys who are claiming she’s accusing the whole male sex of being sex attackers.

  • Susan

    I really really reject this call to boycott Dawkins. People make stupid statements from time to time, and later upon reflection, might actually learn something from the mistake and be a better person for it. Even *I* have been wrong on the rare occasion. :) RD is far too valuable and important a thinker to boycott him and his work. It seems just as petty and irrational as the original faux pas — even more egregious for the one wrong was minimal — dismissing a person’s perspective and belittling it while the other wrong could harm a person’s reputation and livelihood and ultimately, the movement itself. How many times have I read the extremists and nutters pointing to infighting amongst rationalists, skeptics and atheists and claimed “See! They eat their own!”

    Put down your knives and forks, people!

  • Susan

    Is it sexist to hit on a strange woman in an elevator at 4AM in the morning?

    I would classify it as socially inappropriate, that could, depending on the context, border on a form of sexual harassment. It’s not unnatural for men to want to have sex with women, and vice versa and men with men, women with women, etc. It is just not socially appropriate to hit on strange women who you corner in an elevator at 4AM. This kind of behaviour is common but just because it is common doesn’t mean it is desirable or something we should ignore or shrug off. Why should a woman have to put up with such behaviour? It’s unwanted. If you have a daughter please stop and think for a moment how you’d feel if yours was cornered in an elevator at 4AM in a foreign country by a strange man who asked her to come to his hotel room ‘to talk’?

    Wouldn’t it be a better world for her to not have to worry if this guy was a nice guy who just made a bad call, got his signals wrong, or the kind who might push things, try a grope, or worse? Since we are all aspiring to be non-sexist rational beings who value the inherent humanity of each individual, why not teach all our children to treat each other with respect and take the other person’s feelings into consideration when approaching them? Sure we all have sexual drives and desires, but goodness, we also fly robots to Saturn and smash atoms and sequence genes. We can certainly control our urges and act in a considerate manner towards others.

    Elevatorguy’s behaviour was inappropriate, full stop. Rebecca merely made note of her discomfort with it. Should have been end of story.

    Then all hell broke loose. I think Richard was wrong to step in and throw gasoline onto the fire by suggesting that Rebecca’s sense of discomfort was trivial. It was the way he did it rather than making that point that really bothered me. If he had used a more rational tone and was more thoughtful about it rather than dismissive and belittling, things might not have gone so far south.

    Yeah, in the end no harm came of the elevator proposition, but it did make Rebecca uncomfortable and she took the opportunity to share her experience so the men hearing her vlog might consider their actions in the future. Instead of taking her comments as they were intended, people made all kinds of outlandish statements and were dismissive and outright sexist on many fronts and ultimately irrational.

    Not a great showing for a crowd of skeptics, rationalists and humanists, sadly. I guess reason extends only so far with some people.

  • Amanda

    “Rebecca has now called for a complete boycott of Dawkins here.”

    I’ve seen this on another blog which also links to her post ‘The Privilege Delusion’ but as far as I can tell at no point does she call for a boycott.

    “I will no longer recommend his books to others, buy them as presents, or buy them for my own library. I will not attend his lectures or recommend that others do the same.”

    That to me is a statement of her intention, not a call for anyone else to do the same. She says that she will no longer recommend that people attend his lectures, but that’s not the same as actually telling people not to, is it?

    Please correct me if I’m wrong? I mean that sincerely :)

  • Susan

    “So the same action, yet directed towards a woman, is considered “assault” simply for the fact it was directed at a woman? Perhaps think on that for a sec…”

    Yes, let’s do. First, please don’t put words in my mouth.

    I didn’t say that the same action against a woman is considered an assault by virtue of her gender. I said that as someone who had been the recipient of such a grope and proposition, I would consider it an assault instead of an ego boost. Are you telling me that because Doug found his late night elevator grope to be an ego boost, I should as well?

  • Susan

    Arick – you are correct, what happened to Rebecca wasn’t assault.

    It made her feel uncomfortable given the hour, the location, the fact he was a stranger, and the fact that she had spent the day talking about sexism. I have a simple question – why is it that people cannot accept what a woman says about her experience of something? It creeped her out. That should be that. Why not just accept it and say, yeah, maybe it was a nobber thing to do given the circumstances? Why is that so hard? Instead, it becomes this great contentious issue that ends up being a dividing line with people going into their corners, and rational discussion ends.

    The fellow may have actually only wanted to talk about the issues already raised at the convention – I have to admit it is a possibility. Rebecca apparently said she needed to go to bed and sleep. Maybe he didn’t hear her or didn’t believe her, or thought she was speaking in a code only he understood.

    If he had desired the discussion to continue, given how she said she was tired, he could have asked to have a coffee with her the next day. No one would think that was creepy. The fact he hopped onto her elevator, apparently a stranger, and made the request — proposition — suggests he has bad judgement. He could be totally harmless. Who can tell? Rapists and those who assault women don’t wear a blinking light to warn others of that fact.

    So a woman in an elevator alone at 4AM who has a stranger jump in the elevator and ask her to come to his room to continue the discussion might be forgiven if she’s a little creeped out — she just won’t know his intentions until after the fact.

    In this case, he accepted her refusal. What if he didn’t? What if he, like Doug Reardon’s woman elevator groper, decided to grab her crotch and press her against the elevator wall, and offer his body for sexual purposes? I doubt many women would find that to be a turn on or an ego boost. There may be a few but my own research into this kind of issue suggests most women would label it sexual assault as would most police departments. You’d be surprised at how often this kind of thing happens to women. It’s so commonplace it seems almost normal. It shouldn’t be. No one has a right to grope someone just because they feel like it.

    Is it a crime to ask a woman to your hotel room at 4AM? Of course not. Is it socially wrong to do so? The rational person could suggest that it is at least bad form, if one takes into consideration the whole context and doesn’t abstract away from the concrete details. Apparently, Rebecca did not know this fellow, nor had she given him any indication that she was in for a bit of a romp, so if he did fancy one and that was his intent, well, he’s pretty lame at best for bad timing and an inappropriate venue to launch his proposition.

    It is also entirely possible, at least from Rebecca’s POV, that he might be a man who won’t take no for an answer, who claims he wants a bit of talk but instead intends on getting some T&A whether she wants it or not. These fellows really do exist. In Dublin, approximately 2 rapes are reported every day. Statistics suggest that only half of all rapes are actually reported at all so we can magnify this two fold — at least.

    Most women I know try to avoid putting themselves in situations where they are vulnerable. If Rebecca were to take elevatorguy’s offer at face value and assume he really did want to chat about deep issues, and then he proceeded to rape her, everyone would say — why was she going into a strange man’s hotel room at 4AM if she didn’t want sex? What — is she stupid enough to think he meant talk? Nudge nudge, wink wink, say no more.

    A woman must take all these possibilities in mind when facing a potential interesting conversant / sexually interested propositioner / rapist in the elevator at 4AM. If she doesn’t know him from a hole in the ground, she might consider him to be daft, rude or a jerk for thinking that a strange woman is likely to just go to his hotel room at 4AM out of the blue, especially after she’s spent the day talking about sexism.

    If she’d been hanging on this guy’s every words all evening, doing shots with him, dancing and otherwise flirting to show her interest in him, and they left together on purpose, and there was a chemistry building between them, she might be quite happy to have him offer his room at 4AM whilst alone together in the elevator. He still might be a creep and harm her — that is always a possibility that she has to consider, however unlikely, but at least she has had some time to size him up, finds him attractive or desirable, and is interested herself. One can make mistakes about the men one meets in bars late at night and end up dead, battered or raped.

    In this case, Rebecca merely opined that it made her uncomfortable and showed a lack of, well, sense given the setting, time and the fact she had been a speaker about sexism.

    I don’t see what is so hard to understand about her position. Given the backlash against her for merely mentioning her experience, I suspect there is still a very great divide between people on how women in our culture have a different experience than men when it comes to their personal safety and sexual safety. People have effectively told her she has no right to be creeped out by some stranger hopping on her elevator at 4AM and propositioning her. I think that’s wrong and insensitive.

  • Chris

    “A man like Doug Reardon abobe, might find a late night elevator grope and invitation to sex to be an ego boost, but as someone who has been so groped and propositioned, you might be surprised at how much it feels like plain old assault to a woman.”

    So the same action, yet directed towards a woman, is considered “assault” simply for the fact it was directed at a woman? Perhaps think on that for a sec…

    I’d go so far as to say it’s about the individual parties, not their sex, as to how an encounter should be judged. Whether its a man propositioning a woman, a woman propositioning a man, or a man propositioning a man… it’s all about the individual interaction between the parties. If its a polite proposition, then its polite no matter what sex it’s directed at. If its impolite, then its impolite regardless of sex.

    I’m amazed at the amount of people (male and female alike) that complain about sexism, yet lower themselves to sexism, in their attempted arguments against it. Reverse the sex roles in the story, or make both parties men… and I can imagine the observational complaints dying right down – a clear sign of sexism on the part of the observers (not the parties themselves).

  • Arick

    “Think about it this way: had she accepted the invitation and been raped, everyone who is whining about how she made such a big deal out of it now would probably be blaming her.”

    Heina, that is simply absurd. You changed this situation, and then kept the original response. If you change the situation, then you have to change the response, as the original is no longer a ‘response’ anymore. Your argument is baseless.

    Susan, you seem to forget that what happened in the elevator is not sexist, or at the very least open to debate. In your example you give a white man giving a distasteful comment to a black man about race. In this situation, you have a man hitting on a women. Your example shows something that is obviously racist (as there’s really is no grey zone in racism.), while in the actual situation it was something that was innocent and came across sexist. Richard Dawkins merely pointed out that this situation was insignificant and being made out to be sexist.

  • Heina

    Think about it this way: had she accepted the invitation and been raped, everyone who is whining about how she made such a big deal out of it now would probably be blaming her.

  • Susan

    Here’s where I let out a little sigh of frustration.

    I am certainly not going to boycott Richard Dawkins. I admire him highly for his work in science, for his efforts to promote atheism, humanism and skepticism.

    That said, I think he was wrong and showed an appalling lack of sensitivity on an important issue. His boot is so far down his throat on this, I don’t know if he can recover in the minds of some of those he insulted. For me? I can overlook his faux pas because not everyone is right about every issue. Sometimes, one does eat boot leather.

    Just for a moment, imagine an African American who spoke at a skeptic conference on the topic of racism. Imagine that he blogged about the conference and remarked in passing about being cornered by some white guy who spoke to him in a way that made him uncomfortable regarding race. Imagine Richard Dawkins posting in response, calling him “Tebogo” and saying he had no right to complain because Africans in South Africa and elsewhere on the African continent had it so much harder than he did, were *really* oppressed and impoverished, and subject to genocide, etc. Calling him a whiner because he had it so good in comparison because he lived in the USA and should shut up. That white guys can voice opinions about blacks anywhere and anytime they want — that maybe this white guy was just a bit of a nerd and didn’t know better, that it is a white guy’s free speech to make comments about race and that the speaker is just playing the race card. That the speaker was just overly sensitive and shouldn’t take it personally.

    Imagine!

    The fact that so many fail to understand how inappropriate it is to hit on a woman in an elevator at 4am when she has just spoken at a skeptic conference about sexism… well, it saddens one the level of just plain ignorance, willful or otherwise.

    Now, I expect to hear roars that racism and sexism are not commensurate, but hey, been there, done that.

    This will blow over. I hope some in the community will understand that it is not polite to hit on a woman in such circumstances. A man like Doug Reardon abobe, might find a late night elevator grope and invitation to sex to be an ego boost, but as someone who has been so groped and propositioned, you might be surprised at how much it feels like plain old assault to a woman.

    Maybe that should be the lesson of this whole affair — perhaps people can just accept that your personal level of comfort with such propositions is not universal. Circumspection whilst approaching a woman in an elevator at 4am might be in order.

    • noboychildrenformethanks

      Yeah but see: when a moral debate is to be had, and the scientifical guy is WRONG is said debate, then he has been superceded. By some FEMALE on the net! ARrggggghhh! lol.
      Anyway, his material is great. But you’ll burn through it all pretty fast as all us fans did. Then you’ll have to go elsewhere to find what he leaves out: radical feminology.

  • Doug Reardon

    I was on an elevator late one night, in the distant past, with a woman who pushed the stop button, grabbed my crotch, and kissed me. She invited me to her room. I declined as I was going back to my room and my wife, but I was pleasantly taken aback, and felt complimented. I guess we all react differently in different situations.

  • Chris Willett

    Why I stand with Dr. Richard Dawkins:

    The skeptic community is embroiled in an acrimonious debate concerning whether “Elevator Guy” was obtuse and harmless or sexist and harassing in his overture to Ms. Watson in an elevator in Dublin. When I arrived to this debate, quite late, “Elevator Guy” had been repeatedly insulted and his motives thoroughly debated (in commentary long on assumptions and emotional intensity and short on facts). Some “feminists” derided his actions as sexist and emphasized the potential for sexual assault, citing statistics and research on rape. Others, siding with Dr. Dawkins, argued that this perspective constitutes “hysteria” (admittedly a sexist term) and serves not to elevate women, but to demean men by presupposing that they are all potential rapists. Some “feminists” shot back by accusing their opponents of ignorance on issues of sexism and male privilege.

    While I certainly do not doubt or have any desire to minimize the experiences of Ms. Watson and other women who repeatedly receive unwanted sexual advances (and threats), I believe that the entire issue is overblown.

    First, I disagree with the notion that this event was unquestionably an act of sexism:

    Sexism is the belief (and more importantly, the differential treatment that results from such belief) that one sex is superior to the other. In the American historical context, men have long been (incorrectly, obviously) regarded as superior to women. (Undoubtedly, Christian doctrine played a large part in promoting this view.) It is clearly apparent that “Elevator Guy” dismissed Ms. Watson’s statements concerning her discomfort with unwanted male pursuit and her intent to retire for the evening. He is thus rightly chided for being obtuse, selfish, and disrespectful. Concluding that his actions were sexist, however, requires demonstrating that he disregarded Ms. Watson’s stated intentions because of her sex. While there is certainly a long history of men ignoring women’s preferences concerning sexual advances, I am not convinced that the fact of this history alone is sufficient grounds to state with certainty that “Elevator Guy” is sexist or misogynist.

    I also resent the assertion that my position is patently callous or sexist. I recognize that I not only enjoy male privilege, but that I also experience what could be termed “double male privilege” due to my sexual orientation. As a gay man, I do not relate intimately with women and thus am unaware of the personal concerns that they may express only in the privacy of their romantic relationships. Nor must I heed such concerns when pursuing romance, since I pursue men. Nevertheless, I remain unconvinced that merely believing that this issue is overblown makes me (or Dr. Dawkins) ignorant or insensitive concerning issues of sex inequality.

    Certainly men must recognize the legitimacy of female discomfort in enclosed spaces. But when some “feminists” suggest that “polite” and “considerate” men decline opportunities to enter an elevator in which a woman stands alone, I do not see an argument promoting respect and equality for women. Instead, I see a rather insulting assertion that women are frightened, helpless, victims-in-waiting unable to defend themselves. This perspective also limits men – presumably even gay ones like me – by implying that a woman’s right to not feel any level of discomfort, whether justified or not, transcends a man’s right to ride in the elevator. This is not equality; this is a reversal of who has privilege.

    Second, and much more importantly, I believe that Dr. Dawkins has been unfairly pilloried:

    Dr. Dawkins entered the debate shortly after it began, sarcastically comparing the incident to the appalling oppression of women in fundamentalist Islamic societies. I believe he intended to express that the incident hardly merits the attention it has received. After his comment was widely panned, Dr. Dawkins clarified his position, requested additional information, and acknowledged that he could be mistaken. Whatever your opinion of his tone, a close reading of his three comments does not reveal him to be the domineering misogynist he has been made out to be.

    But I am no longer chiefly concerned with my ability to convince others of my perspective on whether or not the elevator proposition was sexist. A much more pressing matter is the extreme, divisive reactions that Ms. Watson and some of her supporters have recently posted on Skepchick. In “The Privilege Delusion,” Ms. Watson refers derisively to Dr. Dawkins as a “stinking rich” “wealthy old heterosexual white man,” states that she will boycott his work, and thanks her supporters for “bravely battling [Dawkins] and the hoards of clueless privileged people who didn’t get it.” The open letters to Dr. Dawkins are more severe: “I look forward to watching your legacy crash and burn,” wrote Mindy, who concluded with “you don’t get a second chance.” Another letter opened with “Dear Dick” and accused Dr. Dawkins of making the skeptic community “blatantly unsafe” for women.

    Language such as this, dripping with negative emotional reactivity, eclipses the legitimate perspective the writers wish to express, reveals as hypocrites those who have targeted Dr. Dawkins for his tone, and threatens to split apart a movement that already has more than enough challenges. (Dr. Dawkins now faces retribution in the actual press.) Further, the ferociousness of the accusations of sexism and misogyny directed at Dr. Dawkins and others only serves, rightly or wrongly, to provide ammunition to the real “men’s rights activists” out there who believe that feminism is about revenge rather than equality.

    We can do better than this. The first responsibility of any skeptic is to be skeptical of his own perspective. That ability, along with a healthy dose of modesty and humility, has been abandoned in recent days. It is long past time to let this issue go.

    • noboychildrenformethanks

      Blahblahblah, but DAMN if that entitled commentary is far too long and rape-apologetic to actually read.
      No one’s letting this go. I’m late to the party, but have already started dropping every link I can find about this on social networking sites.
      And people are picking up on it…even just now!

  • Chet

    You don’t understand Haggis. All the ‘creepy’ stranger did was ask her for coffee, the troll said no and that was it. From what I get from it he didn’t try to physically overpower her, wasn’t being intimidating. This is just a case of a whiny feminist who thinks that every man out there is going to rape them. Yes it was probably the wrong place and time to ask her out, but the guy was most likely a social retard. Richard Dawkins was pointing out how ludicrous she is being making it sound like she was sexually victimized when there are women out there who are REALLY being victimized.

    • Jezzy

      She made no attempt to sound sexually victimized (although she HAS BEEN). She didn’t say he was a rapist or imply that he had bad intentions, she said that the situation made her uncomfortable and that you should avoid doing that. I am so sick of the ignorant portion of the skeptical community saying, “ZOMG, SHE’S SAYING ALL MEN ARE RAPISTS AND WHAT THE HELL, IS IT WRONG TO ASK WOMEN OUT NOW?!” FML.

    • noboychildrenformethanks

      Men should NOT be introducing themSELVES to women. See, that’s what introduction MEANS. It means someone does it FOR you. When you APPROACH, you are being creepy and threatening in this ugly, male-made world of today.
      Seriously dudes. Cease and desist. And tell other dudes not to do this. Ever.

      • ghostla

        “Men should NOT be introducing themSELVES to women. See, that’s what introduction MEANS. It means someone does it FOR you.” lol lol lol lol wut? Reread those sentences, dude. You can’t be serious.

  • HaggisForBrains

    @ CWB – NO! Dawkins’ comment was ill-judged, and being stuck in a lift on your own at 4.00am with a creepy stranger must be very threatening to a woman. What is happening to women in the Middle East is appalling, but irrelevant to this discussion. I had hoped that RD might reconsider his comments in the light of the general view that he got this wrong, and he may yet do so. In the meantime I agree with David that we should move on. Richard Dawkins remains one of my heroes, but nobody is perfect.

  • Charles W. Belser

    Dawkins was right on. The whiny little girl who complained about the man in the elevator needs to get a taste of real life. She needs to be slapped into reality. Send the snot to the Middle East and make her live the life of a Muslim woman for a year or two. Maybe that will make a real woman of the spoiled bitch.

    • Jezzy

      That’s disgusting. Why don’t you, instead, try living as a woman? Dawkins is brilliant but he needs to stay out of social issues if he doesn’t understand them. He made a couple pretty serious fallacies. Ad hominem, and saying that because it’s worse in the middle east, you can’t complain. Bullshit.

      Maybe you feel safer in your world where everything is fair in magical America-land, merely because everything SUCKS everywhere else, and feminists and practically all women feel some sort of compulsive need to whine about inequalities that don’t exist or “aren’t a big deal”. But in the REAL world, people aren’t just fighting sexism because they’re bored. Get a brain. If you can’t handle “please don’t come onto someone in an enclosed space in the middle of the night in a foreign country when they’ve made it clear they’re uncomfortable”, which is NOT “whiny” by the way, then something is wrong with you.

    • noboychildrenformethanks

      Oh I’m late to the party. But let me say to your toolish talk: you should either get it together or put a gun in your mouth.