July 23, 2011

Rebbeca Watson, Richard Dawkins, and The Mountain of Molehills

This is a topic that came up in the skeptical community between to people I respect, and after listening to the latest SGU felt compelled to write about.

There really was two incidents. The first was a video Rebbecca Watson made where she made what was really a off the cuff remark about one night when she was doing an event and talked about sexism in the skeptical movement, which can be a problem, and then went out for drinks afterwords. Which led to her being proposition in an elevator at 4 am or incident one. The second incident is the reaction that has come from some of the big hitters in the skeptical movement, PT Myers, Phil Plait and Richard Dawkins.

Now the problem is that I agree with both Rebecca and Richard while disagreeing with them as well, which will probably lead me to be a misogynist to some and a panderer to others....not exactly the prettiest fence to find yourself on, but it's where I'm currently perched.

The initial point - Well this was simply the remark that Rebecca Watson made, that it wasn't a good idea to proposition a girl in an elevator at 4 in the morning, she said 'don't do that.' which is pretty hard to argue against as it isn't the classicist move in the players handbook. Yet, this simple, almost superficial, remark was the starting point of a debate, where mud would fly.

The scene of slinging would really start when PT Myers would blog about Rebecca's experience. PT Myers had to say that, propositioning a women like that shows that, "Women are lower status persons, and we men, as superior beings, get to ask things of them." and  that "Maybe we [men] should recognize that when we interact with equals there are different, expected patterns of behavior that many men casually disregard when meeting with women, and it is those subtle signs that let them know what you think of them that really righteously pisses feminist women off." and he finishes up by talking about Phil Plaits Don't be a Dick speech.

Richard Dawkins ended up writing a response to the blog post saying,

"Dear Muslima

Stop whining, will you. Yes, yes, I know you had your genitals mutilated with a razor blade, and . . . yawn . . . don't tell me yet again, I know you aren't allowed to drive a car, and you can't leave the house without a male relative, and your husband is allowed to beat you, and you'll be stoned to death if you commit adultery. But stop whining, will you. Think of the suffering your poor American sisters have to put up with.

Only this week I heard of one, she calls herself Skep"chick", and do you know what happened to her? A man in a hotel elevator invited her back to his room for coffee. I am not exaggerating. He really did. He invited her back to his room for coffee. Of course she said no, and of course he didn't lay a finger on her, but even so . . .

And you, Muslima, think you have misogyny to complain about! For goodness sake grow up, or at least grow a thicker skin.


That's when the shit really hit the fan and the over-reactions started to pour in on either side, but lets step back for a second. Rebecca said, that it wasn't a good idea, fair enough. PT than is more general, and goes down the road of sexual objectification by those kind of actions, which I'm not sure qualifies at 4 in the morning after a night of drinking. Dawkins then says, whats the big deal? Which is a fair question because the drama over such a slight incident was making the molehill larger, but it would later become a full mountain when Phil 'Potential Sexual Assault' Plate would blog about the issue.  

Phil states that, "The real problem here is that Dawkins (and several others who left comments) didn’t see this as a potential assault scenario." and he goes further to say,

"You [A women] may not be able to just press a button and walk away — perhaps he has a knife, or a gun, or will simply overpower you. When there’s no way to know, you err on the side of safety. And what makes this worse is that most men don’t understand this, so women are constantly put into situations ranging from uncomfortable to downright scary."

Where did the knife and gun come from, how did the original question turn into a attempted rape? If that is the case than define what is a potential sexual assault scenario then. Is it anytime a women is alone with a man they don't know well? Who knows the man might have a gun or a knife in their sleeves.

The start was reasonable, it's a bad idea to hit on a girl in an elevator at 4 am and a little creepy, I might add, but calling it a potential sexual assault or saying that it was morally wrong is jumping into an over-reaction.

This wasn't a funeral for her mother, or someone who crashed into her car on purpose to proposition her, it was someone who asked a girl back to his room after a night of drinking, if it is morally wrong or a potential sexual assault in this case then it is a short step to being wrong to ever proposition a girl, which doesn't seem to make a lot of sense.

Don't be a dick, but don't put a knife in a persons words,
-the moral skeptic