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Posted by on Oct 28, 2012 in Atheism Plus, Feminism, Secularism, Support | 63 comments

In Support of Rebecca Watson

That’s right, I’m going there too.

An atheist activist unsuccessfully offers coffee to another atheist activist, at the elevator, during FreeOK 2012

I told myself (and a few others) that I wouldn’t get involved in this kerfuffle again. My friends and I have already hashed and rehashed it a few times. Bucketfuls of ink have spilled, countless megabytes have flowed, endless arguments have spiraled downwards. Nonetheless, in the spirit of Leeroy Jenkins, once again, heedlessly into the breach. Just to be different, perhaps even a bit contrary, I’m going to say only the supportive things that come to mind about Rebecca. I’ve criticized her enough elsewhere.

1) She was right to be annoyed with that guy in the lift. He asked her back to his room for coffee sex without so much as establishing any rapport. That’s a dick move, anyway you cut it. Cold propositions are inevitably objectifying, because they assume that the person being propositioned should be treated first and foremost as sexual object. Moreover, she had been talking about how she is tired of being propositioned by horny fans earlier on at the very same conference.We have to assume that Elevator Guy either skipped that panel or else he considers himself above and beyond ordinary fanboys. I’m going with the latter, because that’s just the sort of blinkered arrogance I’d expect from someone who drops cold booty calls on total strangers.

2) She was right to publish her annoyance to YouTube. Before this was about what happened to Stef (with an ‘f’) or about a deluge of third-party snark and threats, it was merely Rebecca telling her own fans what not to do when they meet her at conferences.  There is nothing remotely wrong with this. Everyone gets to set their own personal boundaries.

3) She was right to complain about the torrents of abuse that followed. Check out her Page O’ Hate. Some of it is just obvious trolling, but much of it is profoundly and obsessively hateful. While I do not share her view that these comments flowed overwhelmingly from the atheist and skeptic community (as opposed to the Men’s Rights Movement, the teenage nihilist community on YouTube, or the dreaded Brotherhood of Scary Hair and Homemade Religion) I’ve no doubt that much of it did. There is nothing about liberating oneself from the gods that automatically makes you a good person, after all. Regardless of the source, though, the volume and intensity of the hatred directed at Rebecca (among others) is completely baffling to me.

I know a lot of my readers are going to disagree with me (and each other) on this mysteriously heated issue, so I’m just going to casually mention that this isn’t ‘Nam, and not unlike bowling, there are rules.

 

  • http://www.synapses.co.za/ Jacques Rousseau

    Thanks for this. As I was also trying to say when I “went there” (http://www.skepticink.com/freesociety/rebecca-watsons-slate-article/), it’s important to recognise this. She was/is indeed justified in all the ways you mention. And while she, her supporters, and people in opposition can spend days talking about other rights and wrongs, all that can sound like – and often is – dismissing what you point out above.

    • http://www.www.skepticink.com/incredulous Edward Clint

      I must disagree. It is not appropriate to evaluate an actor on the basis of the most superficial description of their activity. Intentions and consequences must be taken into account.

      For example, Glenn Beck has as times justified his outrageous statements with “I’m just asking questions”. Who of us will say asking questions is wrong? But in truth, Beck was sowing fear and insinuating misrepresentations and lies. He tried to use pitiful claims to free speech and open discourse to justify a self-serving agenda of moral panic.

      Watson has done much the same. Her self-serving misrepresentations have done tremendous harm to individuals and caused/are causing needless division across the community. None of this is made necessary by the need to say “hey 2% of you guys who do this, don’t be jerkbags” or “hey look, some people are deranged and/or trolls”.

    • http://www.synapses.co.za/ Jacques Rousseau

      But Edward, that takes the conversation further than what’s pointed out in the column (and by extension, what I agreed with). She was right to be annoyed by Elevator Guy, right to announce her annoyance on YouTube, and right to complain about the abuse.

      That in no way entails that she’d be right to do things like over-state the problem, falsely accuse people of x, or to use this to divide the community or promote her own interests, etc. Those are all plausible issues, but discussing them shouldn’t get in the way of recognising where she’s right.

    • http://www.www.skepticink.com/incredulous Edward Clint

      I believe the correct focus does not politically filter claims on the basis of agreement, but rather must mind the salient facts and consequences integral to the topic.

      Doing otherwise, as Damion has done here, may appear self-congratulatory, and may be obfuscatory.

    • http://www.skepticink.com/backgroundprobability/ Damion Reinhardt

      Indeed. When I eventually write up my criticisms of Rebecca, I want it to be abundantly clear that I’m not reflexively disagreeing with everything she does, only those particular things for which I have some justification. Part of this process it making it clear, up front, why I supported her at first.

    • bluharmony

      When you voice your complaints in a public channel and command all men to behave a certain way (and later claim to be speaking on behalf of all feminists), you will be criticized, and that criticism will be harsh. Watson is smart and she’s not naive. Like her tweet that I posted, she knew exactly what she was doing. That’s why she told the elevator story immediately before and after accusations of misogyny in the atheist community. It didn’t just happen by accident; it was scripted that way.

      Whether the incident actually occurred given the photos we have, complete lack of corroboration, and Watson’s face-blindness is another issue, of course.

    • http://www.skepticink.com/backgroundprobability/ Damion Reinhardt

      She commanded ‘all men’ who watch her channel (at the time, mostly fanboys) not to sexualise her when they encounter her, because it makes her personally uncomfortable. I’ve no idea why this warrants any criticism at all.

    • bluharmony

      If you were to take that incident in isolation, nothing would have happened. Other women have said similar things. But, in reality, there’s an issue as to the elevator incident as well, if we *really* want to go there. Are women equal or aren’t they? Are they always weaker then men? Should men always make this presumption? Are they capable of logical thought? If so, a woman should realize that an elevator in a crowded Dublin hotel (going up one floor) is one of the safest places to be in terms of rape situations. And that an invitation to coffee makes groping or rape less likely, not more. Why should men have to cater to women’s irrational fears? These issues are debated in feminist forums ad nauseum, with women constantly at each other’s throats. Why did this need to be dragged in to the atheism/skepticism movement as well? Personally, I’m in favor of egalitarian rather than entitlement-based feminism, even though I understand that there are still many cultural factors that we must compensate for. This is a complicated topic, and someone who knows absolutely nothing about it shouldn’t be giving presentations on it to college students. That makes absolutely no sense.

    • http://www.skepticink.com/backgroundprobability/ Damion Reinhardt

      “Are women equal or aren’t they? Are they always weaker then men?”

      I’ve known women who could kick my ass. Hell, Phaedra Starling probably could kick my ass, since she studies Brazilian jiu-jitsu and I study maths.

      “Should men always make this presumption?”

      That’s an interesting question. I tend to assume that some people might find me intimidating, which is why I usually carry around a baby or a small breed puppy. I suppose it really should vary from person to person.

      “Why should men have to cater to women’s irrational fears?”

      I would say that anyone of any gender should take other people’s fears into account, on humanistic grounds, regardless of how rational those fears might be. My wife has a completely irrational phobia respecting snakes. I’d love to have a pet snake living in a terrarium here, but I would never dream of doing so.

      Whether Rebecca’s particular fears of elevators and men are well-grounded or not, she was asking the people who watch her videos not to (1) corner her by themselves and (2) cold proposition her to come up for “coffee” and whatnot. That’s basically just ordinary good manners, in my book.

      Later on, it somehow morphed into something else entirely.

    • bluharmony

      I don’t think there’s a “right” answer to this. Some people consider this a proposition; some don’t. I certainly wouldn’t call it a “cold proposition” if the guy had actually listened to Watson for 12 hours straight, like she said, including in the bar (which isn’t possible given that he’s not at her table in the photo). Also, it’s hard for me to imagine a situation where for 12 hours straight, someone, who heard every word I said (and I was somehow magically aware that he heard me), would say nothing to me in response. Watson’s story makes no sense, so at best, we have to look at it as a hypothetical, one where we don’t know exactly what happened. Well, if I don’t know, then I can’t judge, but I do know that it wouldn’t be an issue if it were a woman doing the asking. And I doubt it would have been brought up if the man were black. Further, it wouldn’t be an issue if someone asked me the same thing under the same circumstances. I agree that Watson had the right to say whatever she wanted in her vlog, but given the nature of YouTube comments, I think the reaction was predictable. She was a public figure making a public comment in a forum where she had complete control over the comments. She could have simply turned them off. Also, I think being less condescending and not accusing most of her viewers of being misogynists would have helped.

      But anyway, I chat with people in elevators all the time, and I don’t think twice about it. And men chat with me and don’t think twice about it either. I think it’s perfectly polite to smile and acknowledge each other, ask each other question, etc., including strangers. The “cornering” language first appeared in Marcotte’s blog, where she basically said that the guy was a rapist and that Watson went through a huge trauma. On the other hand, talking about my rape got me laughed at on Benson’s blog. I don’t see that as feminist behavior. I see that as privileged and intentional cruelty. But, you know, they think differently, and that’s their right. Still, I’ll stick with equality and with people who don’t view me as a incapable child who needs protection from nonexistent monsters, while at the same time mocking me for whatever traumatic experiences I may have gone through. It makes for much better discourse.

    • http://www.skepticink.com/backgroundprobability/ Damion Reinhardt

      Have you ever written at length about the difference between equality feminism and the other forms of feminism? I’d certainly love to have a reference point on that to link back to when it comes up, as it so often does.

    • http://www.www.skepticink.com/incredulous Edward Clint

      I would like to read such a product as well.

    • http://www.www.skepticink.com/incredulous Edward Clint

      I think you could have done both in a single post, but sure.

    • bluharmony

      Exactly.

    • bluharmony

      I disagree as well. As I just tweeted: The fact that you’ve been dishonest & manipulative explains why you’re being bullied, but doesn’t excuse your behavior or that of the bullies. You can’t look at this incident in isolation, and then dismiss all the abuse & lies perpetrated by Watson and her allies that both preceded and followed the event. The main issues aren’t the elevator incident, but lack of skepticism, tribalism, enforced ideology, and suppression of dissent. That’s why this incident keeps on giving and giving both in terms of controversy and blog hits. And let’s not forget that last bit. As soon as things start to quiet down, someone stirs the pot. And that someone is always on which “side”?

    • http://www.skepticink.com/backgroundprobability/ Damion Reinhardt

      I think we have to look at the elevator incident (and accompanying video) in isolation because if we determine there is nothing particularly controversial in there, that raises the question of where and when the actual shit-stirring and tribalism and groupthink set in. I’ve got my money on a post entitled, “Poor Form, Rebecca Watson” and the events described therein.

    • http://www.www.skepticink.com/incredulous Edward Clint

      I’ve been involved with this from the beginning. It didn’t start with the original video. The response to that was defensible (civil) criticism from people like Stef and Rose plus the usual assortment of anonymous jerkbags who putrify basically all of youtube.

      Things went nuclear because of what she did at CFI. She radicalized her own remarks to respond to Stef (Elevator guy went from creepy to misogynist and sexually harassing). Instead of calling Stef mistaken or wrong about a,b,c Watson had to say “parroting the misogyny..” Watson’s awful behavior against a completely undeserving target and while using CFI’s platform of dignity and respect to service a personal grudge, is what kicked off the larger blogosphere- not before.

      Watson then, and now, was trying to justify her bad behavior in the name of feminism, and to obfuscate the criticism of her needless, selfish actions with the criticism of finer points of protectionist feminism (which you speak to here). They aren’t the same, and they never were.

    • http://www.skepticink.com/backgroundprobability/ Damion Reinhardt

      Pretty much agree this Ed. Just for reference, I was talking about this post: http://www.scentednectar.com/slimepit-archive/E-1Bad%20form/Bad%20form,%20Rebecca%20Watson.%20final%20copy.htm which describes the events you’ve referenced here.

      That said, I’d much rather talk about the finer points of “protectionist feminism” than the unethical actions of anyone on the skeptic speaker circuit. tl;dr – More Kaminer, less Watson.

    • http://www.www.skepticink.com/incredulous Edward Clint

      agreed, though both need the occasional remarking.

    • Guest

      –delete–

    • bluharmony

      Nope, it started when she turned her blog into a tabloid and started attacking (often dishonestly and erroneously) various men inside and outside the movement — Dunning, Krauss, Depp, and others. And when she started receiving support for these endeavors from the FTB 6-1 (which, at the beginning, were independent blogs). It started when she stopped talking about skepticism and started preaching feminist ideology, as learned from a website, and that happened long before the elevator incident. In fact, is started when she started selling calendars featuring undressed (headless) women, when she blogged about dreams of hot college girls & tickle fights, when she hosted bordello parties at skeptic events, and when she constantly got drunk and used the same gendered slurs that are forbidden now. That’s not a good way to make a name for yourself — or for women — in a male-dominated intellectual movement. While there’s nothing wrong with any of these activities per se, it was the wrong time and place for them. And then, suddenly, she did a turnabout, and became a strident, near-radical feminist. The results were completely predictable.

      None of this reflects well on women, but when tactic #1 stopped working, she shifted to tactic #2. Always marketing herself, even during her wedding. She’s excellent at it. It’s a real talent, and the movement could use it, if she cared about the movement at all.

    • ThePrussian

      Flippin’ Disqus keeps eating my comment. I’ll make this simple and straightforward. I might have had some sympathy for that, before she tried to get Dawkins blacklisted. Before her followers tried to get Abbie Smith fired. Before they did the same to Grothe. Oh, believe you me, there’s much, much more where that came from.

      I have a post on this circus in the works, but the short version is that, after all this, she can rot for all I care.

  • Vic

    1) Agreed. Inappropriate behaviour. That somebody could be annoyed by this: fully understood.Everybody has his own standards, but with the environment and background information given, I think, with regards to my upbringing and social standards, that elevatorguy should have known better and not have asked her.

    And even without the background information; it was not a techno club in Berlin, nor a nightclub in Tel Aviv, but a Irish hotel. Expect people not to be as forward or open about sex as you. Anything else is just lack of common sense, in my honest opinion.

    2) Agreed. One ‘could’ argue about the exact wording, or that she was actually not talking “only to her fans”, but in her mind her intention was to school the whole of ‘man’kind on behalf of women. But that’s a big ‘could’ and people make videos about the stupidest things, there was def no reason to blow it out of proportion as it happened.

    3)Partially agreed. I say nobody “deserves” getting threats, being heckled, being bullied or trolled on the internet, but it unfortunatley happens.

    And RW, as I want to emphasize, should be spared from these hateful messages. But so should every other person. Period.

    I’m not convinced what Rebecca Watson goes through is much different than what an antifeminist blogger gets from feminists, liberals and social justice warriors.
    If we want to stop internet abuse for one group of people, every other group of people, regardless of social, political or religious worldview, deserves to get the same treatment.

    Last but not least I want to express critique of the assumption members of the Men’s Right Movement in particular like to send hateful messages or do so proportionately more often than other groups.

    • bluharmony

      It’s worse, the feminists had no problem w/displaying my home address in a hate thread about me (and that was my fault according to them), and they’re still trying to ruin my career. Of course, I probably only think it’s worse only because it’s directed at me, but, on the other hand, Watson is making money from this. This *is* her career.

    • zenspace

      Bingo!
      This is a major point that gets all too little attention. This *is* her business. Keep stirring the pot and keep the hits and dollars rolling in. The Glen Beck comparison made above was really spot on. She fits right into that category of entertainer and it is why I have zero respect for her or anyone closely associated with her. She has done real harm to real people and is gleeful about it, as long as those hits keep coming. She has done real harm to the skeptic movement, but that’s OK as long as the hits keep coming. She has done real harm to the feminist movement, but that’s OK as long as the hits keep coming.
      The whole mess *may* have started innocently enough (I remain skeptical about that) but RW’s actions and behavior since have made it all to clear that, regardless of how it started, the person driving the controversy is a blight. Even if I wanted to give the benefit of the doubt at the beginning, what has since followed thoroughly killed any hope of that on my part. Instead, it has called all of RW’s (and friends) motivations into question.

    • Vic

      I am aware of many incidents of viscious attacks against people opposed to them, which were either supported or even perpetrated by skepchick partisans or the A+ milita.

      I wanted to keep my comment focused on the points raised in the blog post above and not extend too much to the events which come later in the causal chain, mostly because my desire was a wee bit of deescalation and repeating accusations does not help that.

      What happened to you is clearly unacceptable, and I had no intention to keep that “under the rug”. Same goes for any others who had something similar things happen to them.
      And I imagine lawyers are especially dependent on their reputation, which makes this tohuwabohu even more despicable.

    • bluharmony

      Exactly; that’s why they did it, alleging that because I’m a lawyer I, apparently, have no right to complain about defamation. So now my reputation is forever damaged by their distortions, lies & selective disclosures of Facebook private messages, and my every job search will be affected by that. And why? Because I disagreed about the elevator incident. That was reason enough to actually attempt to destroy someone’s career and life, and their attempt may very well turn out to be successful. There’s not a day I don’t think about it, because I have no family & I’m seriously scared. They did the same (and worse) to Abbie.

  • http://www.skepticink.com/notung Notung

    There’s something here that shows the strangeness of ‘elevatorgate’ (i.e. the overall controversy). I’d say that we’re on the same ‘side’ in that our opinions on the overall controversy are largely in alignment, yet I’d say I (conditionally) disagree with you on the ethics of the elevator incident itself. I think that shows just how little this supposedly central issue has got to do with the whole thing.

    • http://www.skepticink.com/backgroundprobability/ Damion Reinhardt

      My point exactly. It is possible to agree on these seemingly central issues while vociferously disagreeing with the subsequent spin put on the events, i.e. widespread misogyny within the skeptic community.

  • An Ardent Skeptic

    My husband is partially deaf and has been since his late twenties. In bars and other noisy environments (rooms with reflective surfaces that amplify sound) he can’t hear most of what is said and only picks up what conversation he is able to by lip reading. In meetings at work, he must position himself in such a way as to be able to see the greatest number of faces in order to “hear”. When we are in the car, my husband often gives me odd responses to what I have said because he can’t read my lip and so makes guesses about what I have said (he doesn’t always guess correctly :). As a result of this impairment, my husband prefers one-on-one conversations in quiet places… his office at work, our home, and when he’s traveling, hotel rooms. In fact, when it is affordable, he books suites in hotels so there is a living room for hosting guests.

    We don’t often consider that the people around us may have non-obvious physical handicaps. And, those people don’t always make us aware of them. My husband rarely talks about his handicap because people assume they need to yell. It’s rather embarrassing having people yelling at you in public and having your conversation widely broadcast. It can also be incredibly disruptive to others trying to have conversations of their own.

    As skeptics, we should not be making assumptions about other people’s intentions based on a limited amount of information. Maybe the man in the elevator wanted to have sex with Rebecca but maybe he is like my husband. If his attention had been focused elsewhere when she stated that she was tired and wanted to get some sleep, he wouldn’t have heard her. And, maybe he did want to have a one-on-one conversation with someone he thinks is “interesting”in a quiet environment. Admittedly, the probability isn’t really high that this is the case, but that probability isn’t zero.

    I don’t think we can claim with absolute certainty what elevator man’s unstated intentions were. Everything that Rebecca said about that incident fits the pattern of a self-centered creep who considers it appropriate to make cold propositions, but it also fits the pattern of someone who is hearing impaired. My husband rarely joins the conversation in bars because he isn’t sure he’s fully hearing what is being said, and he is afraid of inadvertently interrupting another speaker. It is very difficult for people who suffer from this type of disability. It’s hard to participate in conversations and, therefore, hard to make friends because you say so little. Sometimes you take what opportunities present themselves for connecting with your fellow human beings even if those situations are socially awkward.

    This brouhaha will never end until people on both sides of this debate stop insisting that they know what the intentions and motivations are of everyone they disagree with. I don’t like the abysmal, vitriolic sniping since this debacle began, but I also don’t like assumptions as facts. I don’t have a problem with Rebecca asking guys not to do that to her. I do have a problem with people assuming the worst about their fellow human beings. Now we have escalated that first assumption into all kinds of assumptions about the bad intentions of anyone who makes any kind of statement one way or the other about sexism in the atheist and skeptic communities. It’s utterly appalling!

    Unfortunately, what this debacle has proven is that a) making unfounded negative judgements about people is what we do best and, far worse, b) we are incapable of living up to the ideals we claim to advocate – rational thought through critical thinking based on evidence.

    I apologize if this post seems harsh. Mistakes have been made by many people throughout this “debate”. I’m not trying to point fingers at anyone in particular. All I’m really trying to say is that we should all take a more even-handed approach and readily admit that this discussion has been problematic from the onset because of the demand that assumptions be unequivocally accepted as facts.

    • http://www.skepticink.com/backgroundprobability/ Damion Reinhardt

      Thanks for that. Even after all this time and discussion, you’ve raised a possibility that I’d never considered.

    • http://www.skepticink.com/notung Notung

      I don’t think we can claim with absolute certainty what elevator man’s unstated intentions were. Everything that Rebecca said about that incident fits the pattern of a self-centered creep who considers it appropriate to make cold propositions, but it also fits the pattern of someone who is hearing impaired.

      That’s very true – it doesn’t matter if we’re using it as a scenario to say something general about the ethics of propositioning people in lifts, but if we’re making a statement about one particular person’s conduct and thoughts then we have to admit that we simply don’t have much to go by, save for one (presumably paraphrased) testimony by one interested party.

    • bluharmony

      Excellent points by both commenters above.

  • flueedo

    I agree with you for the most part. I remember however watching her video in the wake of the controversy and getting annoyed at her line “Guys, don’t do that” (Though I never felt a need to call her out on it. In fact I think I never directly addressed her anywhere). She said it in a way as if she was scolding all men, that’s how it felt. If I felt like that, though I reasoned myself out of it on spot, then much more people must have felt the same. At that moment instantly it came to my mind memories of many initial interactions I had with the opposite sex, the ones where I was awkward and the ones that went fine (I can’t remember ever proposing to women in confined spaces though), I also thought of some times where women behaved inappropriately towards me and even though it made me uneasy I was able to put myself in their shoes.
    On her next video, instead of toning down a little, she doubled down on the criticism, perhaps because she was deeply irritated at the reaction she was getting, I don’t know.

    After that I paid some attention to her declarations at conventions and at her blog and noticed some hyperbolic and passive aggressive assertions made by her that sure must have(rightfully or not) irritated some. I watched a talk from her once where she read some individuals making a criticism at someone who happened to be a woman and remarked “here we can clearly see how they hate women”. …

    My hypothesis it that a lot of people hear her calling herself a skeptic/atheist and establish a certain set of expectations about her because of those labels but get disappointed by some of her sensationalized declarations.

  • SmilodonsRetreat

    I agree with 1. That’s the only point that I agree with though.

    Point 2: I haven’t seen the video she posted, so I’m going to try not to assume anything here. If her video is a rail against people propositioning her, then I can a bit about the point. If it’s a rail against one guy, in an elevator, then, she had the right to do it, but I don’t think it would be appropriate or smart to post it on youtube.

    Point 3: Probably wouldn’t have happened without point 2.

    Here’s the thing as my many sexual harassment seminars have taught me. “No” means no. If a ‘no’ is given and accepted, then that’s the end of it. If the person continues to make advancements after that, then it’s harassment and appropriate actions should be taken (i.e. notifying the directors of the conference all the way up to notifying the police of a stalker).

    Now, I don’t know what her mindset was, I don’t know how soon after the incident that she posted a video, and I don’t know what the video was about. Again, if the video is list of her personal policies, then point 3 is perfectly valid. If her video is jumping all over a single incident and blowing it way out of proportion, then 3 is still wrong, but it’s something that she did to herself.

    • http://www.skepticink.com/backgroundprobability/ Damion Reinhardt

      The video was mostly about other subjects, and then she puts in the anecdote about the elevator near the end. My initial impression of it was that she was telling her YouTube audience (mostly her own fans) what not to do to *her* when they met up at conventions. Later on, it somehow became decontextualized advice for all men who want to get laid, just like the Schrodinger’s Rapist article. That is when things started getting really ugly.

      That’s my impression, but if you’d like to share your own, here is the video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uKHwduG1Frk&feature=youtu.be&t=4m22s

  • bluharmony

    I don’t think very many people on the “other side” disagree with those points, although it’s obvious that some of the troll comments were not from atheists — especially the “compliment” one that was the focus of her speech — and it would have been better is she said, “Guys, don’t do that to me.” Also, I refuse to read minds and believe the guy necessarily wanted just sex. If he wanted anything more, then it wasn’t objectifying behavior. Or at the very least, it must remain an open question. Therefore, there’s no right to claim objectification, especially when your initial complaint was sexualization (which in non-radical-feminist English has a completely different meaning).

    But how does any of the above excuse Watson’s own conduct before and after these events?

    • http://www.skepticink.com/backgroundprobability/ Damion Reinhardt

      I’m certainly not trying to excuse any of her behavior beyond the specifics which I discussed here. I alluded to Stef McGraw in particular as among the many things that I was not talking about, at least not yet. I’m uncertain whether I want to rehash everything that went down afterwards.

    • bluharmony

      I guess the problem is that I have no reason to believe her about this incident, and every reason not to. But I could easily be wrong. That doesn’t change the main issues, though, which have nothing to do with the elevator event.

  • Guest

    I will post on this when I have a moment, but let us ask the following for the moment: Was she right to whip people up to get Dawkins blacklisted? To get Abbie Smith fired? To get Grothe to “resign”? Oh, there’s more where that came from, a lot more.

    I might have had some sympathy for her before she pulled this shit. Now she can rot for all I care.

  • http://www.www.skepticink.com/incredulous Edward Clint

    I have reservations about the content of this post (as I’ve already articulated), but I am glad for it, inasmuch as the issue has been here discussed in an open and civil fashion (and elsewhere on the network). I know of very few places on the internets where this can be done and I’m proud that Skeptic Ink is one of them.

    • http://www.skepticink.com/notung Notung

      Yes, I agree.

  • xtog42

    Free Thinkers, Skeptics, and Atheists have always been labelled as immoral, untrustworthy, uncontrollable,….their women seen as loose, their men seen as predators. There is no more sensitive issue for these groups than the false allegation that they are less moral than others, particularly involving the sexes.

    http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/religion/story/2011-12-10/religion-atheism/51777612/1

    Her thesis was that atheism has a sexism problem. No level of sexism is acceptable, but why would she trumpet this issue if she could not sufficiently put any meat to the charges?

    My speculation is that she had speech time to fill and had nothing of significance to say so she went on this whining passive-aggressive tangent built off of a fleeting thought that was probably of no real consequence at the time, naively not being aware of the sensitivity of the group to the charge she was making. Either that or she knowingly pimped the topic for the obvious provocational effects at the expense of group cohesion. Both despicable I’m afraid, but i am open to non-despicable scenarios, just haven’t been able to buy the ones I’ve read so far.

  • Copyleft

    Nope. Being offended doesn’t automatically make you right.

    And once the word ‘objectification’ appears in a discussion, all rational thought has ceased.

  • Prepagan

    Option 1
    Watson politely declines an invitation for coffee from a man in an elevator.
    Both parties continue about their lives as though nothing interesting had happened.
    Result: No Elevatorgate.

    Option 2
    Watson politely declines an invitation for coffee from a man in an elevator.
    Later, she casually uses it as an example of what she considers inappropriate behaviour from men.
    Other bloggers and commenters, both men and women, express disagreement with her over the extent to which the behaviour was inappropriate.
    Watson responds to their comments and accepts that they are quite within their rights to set their own boundaries but stands by hers.
    Result: No Elevatorgate.

    Option 3
    Watson politely declines an invitation for coffee from a man in an elevator.
    Later, she casually uses it as an example of what she considers inappropriate behaviour from men.
    Other bloggers and commenters, both men and women, express disagreement with her over the extent to which the behaviour was inappropriate.
    Watson responds to their comments by dismissing these bloggers as ignorant misogynists. She goes further, using her next public engagement to shame a member of the audience for disagreeing with her, accusing her of “parroting misogynist thought.”
    People point out Watson’s poor behaviour.
    Watson acknowledges her poor behaviour and apologizes. Her supporters acknowledge her mistake and support her apology.
    Result: No Elevatorgate.

    Option 4 (the version with which we are familiar)
    Watson politely declines an invitation for coffee from a man in an elevator.
    Later, she casually uses it as an example of what she considers inappropriate behaviour from men.
    Other bloggers and commenters, both men and women, express disagreement with her over the extent to which the behaviour was inappropriate.
    Watson responds to their comments by dismissing these bloggers as ignorant misogynists. She goes further, using her next public engagement to shame a member of the audience for disagreeing with her, accusing her of “parroting misogynist thought.”
    People point out Watson’s poor behaviour.
    Watson continues to treat all criticism as anti-feminism and misogyny. She enlists her supporters to defend her bad behaviour and to do the same.
    PZ Meyers picks up the argument, Dawkins makes his famous dismissive response, and the whole thing blows up.
    Result: Elevatorgate.

    (with thanks to AvalonXQ)

    • http://www.skepticink.com/backgroundprobability/ Damion Reinhardt

      I would much rather have seen option 2 or 3, but the seething conflict between gender feminism and other forms of feminism (not to mention masculism) was bound to boil over eventually. It was just a matter of who would step up into the starring and supporting roles.

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  • http://www.fb.me/bronzmash Arnab Chakraborty

    I am mostly in agreement with Maria on this.

    Plus, the point of possibility raised by ‘An Ardent Skeptic’, about her husband – is one that not many will even be able to think up.. and yet, it IS a possibility. However, that’s just one. In line with that is the use of the word ‘appropriate’. I am of the opinion that it is used, but without consideration of context. Propriety is a highly intersubjective. I once snuck out in my towel to check the mailbox ..and two girls whistled at me as they were walking out of our apartment block. They thought it was appropriate, i thought it was unnecessary – i didn’t mind (not that i live in the fear of rape), but i am sure someone may deem it inappropriate and even offensive. This happened in Stockholm, and i am fairly certain – it would never have happened in the part of the world i originally belong to.
    I use this anecdotal example because you used Ms. Starling’s knowledge of jiu-jitsu to answer the question of “Are they (women) always weaker than men?” – if you’re gonna talk about physical strength, then, on an average – men are stronger.. and this is due to biological reasons, explained fully by evolution. I’ll be clinical with such a question.

    Considering Watson’s claim to be true: in Dublin, or more specifically to this man, the proposition could be appropriate. The conversation at the bar was on till late. The man was not a part of the group that was engaged in conversation. The man prefaced his proposal with a ‘small breed puppy’ of “..please don’t take this the wrong way..”. He was interested in her, maybe.. but that does not automatically qualify her annoyance. It is certainly not impropriety by any ‘common’ standards.. as the debate still shows and as Mallorie Nasrallah also (in)famously said in: http://www.mallorienasrallah.com/skeptic
    Of course she has the right to be annoyed by his advances, as she reads them to be. But you really cannot say “She was right to be annoyed..”. how about “She has the right to be annoyed..”..? You may extend that to your other two points too. Also, coffee is coffee to people working at NORAD or missile bases, so why not to excited activists at 4 in morning – who still have many miles left in them..? You go on to make the unnecessary statement about blinkered arrogance and cold booty-calls – which are assumptions at best, and should be treated in the context of the situation.

    Anyway, we agree that from the scenarios Prepagan listed, Option 2 & 3 would be preferable – and i’d think that Option 2 would be the most ‘appropriate’ – for someone claiming to be a skeptic.. without the need for any apologies, etc.

    Finally, despite your criticism of Watson elsewhere, this post shows a few of her actions in positive light. Something that Edward and Maria address repeatedly in the comments. Her actions and the reactions thereafter did not occur in a vacuum. The statements she made were with the privilege of a mic, a privilege she has consistently abused.
    Also, when answering “Why should men have to cater to women’s irrational fears?”, you replied with a personal example of consideration.. something we do out of compassion, it is humanistic. However, the question was specific in asking about ‘catering’ to demands made out of irrational fears (e.g. Laden crossing the road); you’ll note that your wife will make (hopefully) equal considerations for your irrational fears (if any) – but if you were the only one making concessions every time, it’ll be unfair ..especially if you were asked to make such concessions without any consideration of your comfort, and by ascribing guilt for what others have done, or what you’re capable of doing.

    • http://www.skepticink.com/backgroundprobability/ Damion Reinhardt

      “You go on to make the unnecessary statement about blinkered arrogance and cold booty-calls – which are assumptions at best, and should be treated in the context of the situation.”

      A cold booty call, by definition, involves skipping all the usual conventions of talking, flirting, and dating (typically in a public setting) and goes right to the part where you invite someone up to a private place with a coffeemaker and a bed. That is the very height of arrogance, to believe that you are so amazing as to hold yourself above the usual norms for courting someone. This isn’t a really gendered issue, either, this is just ordinary manners.

      Are you the kind of person who introduces yourself to someone and asks them back to your bedroom in the same breath? If not, why not?

    • http://www.fb.me/bronzmash Arnab Chakraborty

      “A cold booty call, by definition..”
      – You see what problem i have with this, right..? You’ve said ‘by definition'; and i do expect that i cannot know everything at all times (..the woe..!), so i search first, rather than just firing off with “please cite”.. in this case, i did not even find an urban dictionary entry for ‘cold booty call’. When i search that in quotes on Google, the first result points to:
      > http://www.43things.com/entries/view/1353138 <
      ..you can try.

      But i will take your definition, all while advising against a habit of coining catch phrases – seeing as you support "usual conventions". I agree that the content of your definition – in action, may be offensive to many. I agree with you on that – ordinary manners as of most western societies today.
      However, my point is to state that the events in the elevator may not have been concurrent with the definition you've presented. It could have been an honest invite to a conversation, seeing the paucity of time people have – in interacting at such meets. Or it could've been something similar to the case mentioned by 'An Ardent Skeptic', her husband.
      Plus, while it may be offensive to many, it maybe isn't deemed offensive in, say, Dublin – Ireland.. or maybe just by this socially awkward individual. That's the thing with propriety – it's highly intersubjective.. an issue you've not addressed. And that is precisely what was requested for: to be treated in the context of the situation.

      Your question posed directly to me should not be immediately relevant to the contentions i raise, but i'll answer it in the hope that you can deconstruct the bulk of my points from there.
      ~ ..so, no. I will not do so. Not only because in my culture, courtship is a very very delicate thing. Also, i try to be careful about the sensibilities of others and am aware that there is a general human expectation in courtship on both sides, thus for my success, i need to play according to rules not set by me, often even to my disapproval. (an aside: I would very much love to see you skeptically dissect these 'usual norms' – they can be very sexist, i hope you'll agree!)
      That said, if someone were to be blunt to me, i would not take offense, but i would understand that this person wither does not know better and is slightly socially challenged; or that he or she deems it acceptable and proper to make such an advance.
      All this is under three very important factors:
      a.) I am mostly not under the threat of rape, as a woman is. Statistically speaking, of course – for the entire world, in general.
      b.) I do not expect others to have standards parallel to mine; and while i recognize the right of others to take offense, i dismiss a claim to the right of piggybacking one's offense on a larger social issue.
      c.) "Sticks and stones will break my bones, but words will never harm me." – very, Very, VERY important.

      To conclude.. i'd greatly appreciate if you address the general criticism of your points rather than just one statement – if you choose to respond, i.e.
      I'm told that i sound slightly aggressive at all times, forgive me for that.. you'll not find me be irrational.

      p.s. May i reiterate, that by saying "to believe that you are so amazing as to hold yourself above the usual norms for courting someone." for the alleged person in the blasted elevator, you've again made an assumption about a person without any knowledge of him – based on the statement of someone who is notorious for her lack of integrity.
      Something that policemen who pride in their chivalry towards women also often unknowingly do.

    • http://www.skepticink.com/backgroundprobability/ Damion Reinhardt

      “…based on the statement of someone who is notorious for her lack of integrity.”

      Citation needed.

    • http://www.fb.me/bronzmash Arnab Chakraborty

      “Citation needed.”

      – I knew this was gonna come back to me..!
      But i’ll provide two links here, they’re the equivalent of using wiki as reference.. but since we’ve already gone there.. :

      (a) http://freethoughtkampala.wordpress.com/2011/09/11/elevatorgate/
      (b) http://freethoughtkampala.wordpress.com/2011/09/15/elevatorgate-part-2-the-failure-of-skepticism/

      ..just like we need to search out the citations from a wikipedia article, i am sure you’ll find it easy to get screenshots, links, etc. from Onen’s blog above.

      Points of interest:

      1. Behavior at JREF
      2. Skepchick calender (and the recent admission that it WAS sexist)
      3. Dishonestly w.r.t. Stef McGraw and Paula Kirby
      4. “LOGICAL FALLACIES GALORE” section in link (b)

    • http://www.skepticink.com/backgroundprobability/ Damion Reinhardt

      You’re going to have to do far better than that before I can start to take these accusations of dishonesty at all seriously. Here’s what you need to do:

      Rebecca said X [citation]

      But we know that X is false because [citation]

      I’m not going to do your homework or make your case for you. If you want me (or anyone) to believe that she is”notorious for her lack of integrity” you have to make the case yourself.

    • http://www.fb.me/bronzmash Arnab Chakraborty

      8 days ago.. hmm. Unacceptable – really.

      Anyway, yes – you’re right. You need not make a case for me. You can disregard that remark on integrity and answeraddress the rest of the case i make against you. You could’ve, already. You didn’t.
      I do not know if you’re involved in publishing scientific work – but we’ve a nice system.. called Peer Review. In that, ‘peers’, mostly equals working in the same field evaluate one’s work – contentions are raised pointwise, if needed. The reply from the author usually has to address all the issues raised.. even if some of them need further clarification (etc.) from the reviewer. I am fairly certain that you’re open to critical review – but, “Here’s what you need to do:”
      >> Address the 3pts. raised at the end of the penultimate comment by me. (ref.a)

      ..i could again discuss integrity, but, well..!
      I do see, how attractive this mode of reply is though; y’know.. one can just pick up one review issue and ignore the rest thereby escaping the bulk of the criticism. Since i’ve not expended the time to do the “Becky Said X [cit.1], and X is False [cit.2].” exercise, you can choose to not reply to the three points i referred to earlier. (ref.a) You’ve been provided with links, and others have sufficiently disagreed with good arguments already.

      ** (ref.a): ..but just in case you wish to address the body of my case:
      i) you’re applying (by your own admission) a code of conduct: “usual norms”, “Usual conventions”, etc. You do this without questioning whether such norms and conventions are rational or globally applicable. If they are globally acceptable: Citation needed.
      ii) you’ve also always stated that “Watson was right..” rather than saying “watson has the right to..”. {Reasoning..?}
      iii) you’ve decided that this man is guilty of impropriety without the consideration that propriety is intersubjective. (ref. Prepagan’s Option 2)

      Lastly: “If you cannot meet your burden of proof, I will not bother any further with this line of what you might call thinking.”
      >> Of course, but do excuse me for not bothering either – when you’ve not bothered to address any of the main arguments presented, choosing instead to almost take offense at the charge that Ms. Watson lacks integrity. Is that the case? If so – pardon me, for causing you that grief.

    • http://www.skepticink.com/backgroundprobability/ Damion Reinhardt

      You seem to be under the impression that I owe you a point-by-point explanation. I owe you no such thing, you are a guest here in my corner of the web. I choose to tackle these issues one at a time, rather than allowing your wall of text to consume a major chunk of my time. If you don’t like that, you are more than welcome to engage with someone else.

      Now, back to the first issue. If you cannot plainly see that propositioning total strangers for private time in a room with almost nothing but a bed is bound to make of them uncomfortable, then it seems to me that you lack a basic understanding of my Anglo-American culture and the dating norms with which we are inculturated in the West. Let me try to be open-minded though, and ask you whether that behavior is considered socially acceptable in your culture. Can you walk up to a total stranger, invite her back to a private room with a bed, and expect her not to be offended?

    • http://www.fb.me/bronzmash Arnab Chakraborty

      Mighty defensive.
      Sure. I’ll show the common courtesy of replying, and you can disengage as/when you please..

      (a) This is a discussion, not an inquisition. That said, there is some amount of interrogation involved when you present ideas.. if you feel that cornered, as mentioned: feel free to disengage – this is your turf. Forget point-by-point ..thus far, you’ve offered null explanation. But it makes sense, our ideas are precious to us.
      Also:
      “..you are more than welcome to engage with someone else who is more generous than I.”
      – More ‘generous’.:?! You probably meant to say ‘more int..’ ..no, never mind.. not the time for humor. :/

      (b) The anglo american ‘culture’, if any – is not even the point here. The point is people with different cultures interact, and we can have the intelligence to see factors beyond things that suit us. e.g. It was a one-time encounter, and the proposal was put forth very politely – despite the obvious restrictions of language. The other choices were to not engage Ms. Watson at all, or to state that he was interested in her but would not want to threaten her and thus would like to meet her the next day, say in the lobby. This person chose to engage her, and prefaced himself with “Don’t take this the wrong way..” because he knew it was something that could potentially make Ms. Watson feel uncomfortable. He also chose to have a more immediate interaction – without any harm done to her, the man is innocent of your baseless judgment. Plus, let me tell you about the culture in Europe, part-parent to the American ‘culture’ ..it is perfectly acceptable here to be in the elevator-situation. That way, he showed her more consideraton than she, heck.. than she is probably capable of. And i speak from as much anecdotal certainty as you do – since you fail to provide in citations for your ‘courtship norms’ bit, in characteristic style. Lemme also tell you, as per the culture of my motherland India, part-parent to most cultures in the world ..it is totally unacceptable to speak to a woman unless she’s with her parents or her husband; it is also unacceptable to touch a woman unless you’re married to her. How’s that for some perspective on intersubjectivity of what’s ‘appropriate’..? Obviously, your narrow world-view has rendered you incapable of understanding this, at least till now.

      (c) ” Let me try to be globally-minded though..” ..try, but kindly do not injure yourself.

      (d) “Can you walk up to a total stranger, invite her back to a private room with a bed, and expect her not to be made uncomfortable by your invitation?” – The danger of your question is, in true Laden style, the connotation you attach with the Hotel room. You seem to feel hotels have a singular purpose of being bed-containing enclaves. Can _you_ think, or at least can you try to be globally-minded enough to think that to some person, it is a room, which – since they’re paying for it, is a temporary home – even if for short amounts of time. Then, your argument reduces to the space (elevator) being inappropriate – to which, i state that it is [i] intersubjective, [ii] beyond human control (..you never know whether you’ll meet someone you like again.).

      p.s. You nearly nailed it there, with: “..is bound to make some people uncomfortable..” – you see, the key words here, are: “Some People”. And this ‘Courtship Norm’ you keep talking of – is it as made up as your ‘cold booty call’ thing..?? Or do you have some documents you can point to..? Yes..? Good.. let’s see’em. Or wait, No?! Well, then it is an arbitrary (normative) social construction, isn’t it..?

      Think. Again.

    • http://www.skepticink.com/backgroundprobability/ Damion Reinhardt

      b) “The anglo american ‘culture’, if any – is not even the point here.”

      When propositioning an American girl in a Dublin elevator, which background culture should be considered relevant, if you are Humanist enough to care about whether you will make her uncomfortable? That of the girl, or the elevator?

      You are probably correct to say that European culture has somewhat less of a taboo against sexual offers from male strangers, judging by the difference in success rates between Clark and Hatfield’s studies and Voracek’s European results: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16279298

      While Clark and Hatfield were going for quantitative results, rather than analyzing social norms, they did note in their seminal paper ( http://www.elainehatfield.com/79.pdf ) that the men who were directed propositioned for sex were not made uncomfortable, whereas the women who were propositioned were put off and responded with variations of “What’s wrong with you?” Such a response, of course, indicates the presence of a social taboo against directly asking women for sex, since there was nothing evidently wrong with the men enlisted in the experiment.

      p.s. You did not answer my question from last time: Can you walk up to a total stranger, invite her back to a private room with a bed, and expect her not to be made uncomfortable by your invitation? Have you ever attempted something like that? If not, why not? If so, how did it go?

    • Guest

      Thank you for this constructive reply..
      I’ll try to take your queries point-wise so that i do not miss anything.

      “When propositioning an American girl in a Dublin elevator, which background culture should be considered relevant, if you are Humanist enough to care about whether you will make her uncomfortable? That of the girl, or the elevator?”
      – Well argued. “..if you are Humanist enough” is like a kitten here. Can’t say no to that. You’re right about what one should consider if they wish to be successful in the intent of their interaction, even if it is sexual. However, what if, this person is from another culture, one which did not offer priming of the cultures of either the girl or the city..? What i am attempting to ask is, what if someone is unaware of this ‘norm’ we’re discussing..? Like say a man who’s lived all his life in Tokyo, or Bangalore, or Addis Abeba..? Should the girl not be humanist enough to note that all men may not abide by (or even know) the conventions she holds supreme..? Or is this a one-sided propriety street.. a sellers market where the sensibilities of one sex takes precedence everytime..?
      See, we really do not know anything about this person, nothing, nada zilch ..so would you not agree that it is good to be agnostic about it..?

      “..European culture has somewhat less of a taboo against sexual offers from male strangers..”
      “Can you walk up to a total stranger, invite her back to a private room with a bed, and expect her not to be made uncomfortable by your invitation?”
      – I club these together and wish to share my ‘lil experiment (from about 8mnths ago). My own work offers me not the luxury of conducting an N=144 experiment, but i’ve done an N=11 experiment. They were 7 Swedes, 1 Polka, 2 French, 1 Unknown. They were all white, within the 24yr age range.. all people i do not know in any way, and all students at Universities in Stockholm. 8 told me that their response would depend on how the guy looked, and 2 simply told me that that they’d consider it. 1 person said that she would take offense, and also took offense at my question i think – because she did not share her nationality.

      That said, i have invited a group of 4 girls (2 Austrian, 1 German, 1 Swiss) back to our room to join us for drinks at a student cruise.. the proposal was made outside the elevator that connects the different floors, and this, by the way – was a cruise ship, with small rooms and narrow passageways. They accepted the proposal to join me and my friends in our (small) room. This is all the data i can collect from personal experience, which should not be sufficient to form any conclusions whatsoever – but you may explain it away this in at least two ways: (i) It was just luck. (ii) Everybody was already there to have fun.

      “Can you walk up to a total stranger, invite her back to a private room with a bed, and expect her not to be made uncomfortable by your invitation?”
      – You’d asked me in your first reply.. “Are you the kind of person who introduces yourself to someone and asks them back to your bedroom in the same breath? If not, why not?” ..and i had answered it immediately. This time you’ve changed that to “a private room with a bed” – and i still state, that i won’t. Not because it is naturally offensive, but because it is blunt. However, again – if someone were to make a similar proposal, i would not take deem it improper – even if i turned the offer down. All i am debating is the component of ‘propriety’.

      ##

      If i may, allow me to condense your points (correct me if i err), alongside mine:

      You: It is improper for a man to invite a woman to a private room with a bed, because it may make her uncomfortable.
      Me: While that is true for some women, there is no way to extend that to all men (or even the discomfort, to all women).
      You: The discomfort should be something we care about as humanists.
      Me: Then we can cross roads too, like Laden prescribed.. pretty sure some women feel uncomfortable when they see a man behind them on a (not very crowded) sidewalk. Right?
      You: As per courtship norms, it is improper for a man to do this to a woman.
      Me: Courtship norms, as the name states, are normative ..and culturally intersubjective. And if such a norm says that any one sex should be shown some superior consideration, then the norms should be reviewed for sexism. A humanist person will see that (a) people from different cultures will not conform to our standards, (b) a man showing polite interest in a woman is just that: interest ..and victorian standards of courtship need not apply.

    • http://www.fb.me/bronzmash Arnab Chakraborty

      Thank you for this constructive reply..
      I’ll try to take your queries point-wise so that i do not miss anything.

      “When propositioning an American girl in a Dublin elevator, which background culture should be considered relevant, if you are Humanist enough to care about whether you will make her uncomfortable? That of the girl, or the elevator?”
      – Well argued. “..if you are Humanist enough” is like a kitten here. Can’t say no to that. You’re right about what one should consider if they wish to be successful in the intent of their interaction, even if it is sexual. However, what if, this person is from another culture, one which did not offer priming of the cultures of either the girl or the city..? What i am attempting to ask is, what if someone is unaware of this ‘norm’ we’re discussing..? Like say a man who’s lived all his life in Tokyo, or Bangalore, or Addis Abeba..? Should the girl not be humanist enough to note that all men may not abide by (or even know) the conventions she holds supreme..? Or is this a one-sided propriety street.. a sellers market where the sensibilities of one sex takes precedence everytime..?
      See, we really do not know anything about this person, nothing, nada zilch ..so would you not agree that it is good to be agnostic about it..?

      “..European culture has somewhat less of a taboo against sexual offers from male strangers..”
      “Can you walk up to a total stranger, invite her back to a private room with a bed, and expect her not to be made uncomfortable by your invitation?”
      – I club these together and wish to share my ‘lil experiment (from about 8mnths ago). My own work offers me not the luxury of conducting an N=144 experiment, but i’ve done an N=11 experiment. They were 7 Swedes, 1 Polka, 2 French, 1 Unknown. They were all white, within the 24yr age range.. all people i do not know in any way, and all students at Universities in Stockholm. 8 told me that their response would depend on how the guy looked, and 2 simply told me that that they’d consider it. 1 person said that she would take offense, and also took offense at my question i think – because she did not share her nationality.
      That said, i have invited a group of 4 girls (2 Austrian, 1 German, 1 Swiss) back to our room to join us for drinks at a student cruise.. the proposal was made outside the elevator that connects the different floors, and this, by the way – was a cruise ship, with small rooms and narrow passageways. They accepted the proposal to join me and my friends in our (small) room. This is all the data i can collect from personal experience, which should not be sufficient to form any conclusions whatsoever – but you may explain it away this in at least two ways: (i) It was just luck. (ii) Everybody was already there to have fun.

      “Can you walk up to a total stranger, invite her back to a private room with a bed, and expect her not to be made uncomfortable by your invitation?”
      – You’d asked me in your first reply.. “Are you the kind of person who introduces yourself to someone and asks them back to your bedroom in the same breath? If not, why not?” ..and i had answered it immediately. This time you’ve changed that to “a private room with a bed” – and i still state, that i won’t. Not because it is naturally offensive, but because it is blunt. However, again – if someone were to make a similar proposal, i would not take deem it improper – even if i turned the offer down. All i am debating is the component of ‘propriety’.

      ##

      If i may, allow me to condense your points (correct me if i err), alongside mine:

      You: It is improper for a man to invite a woman to a private room with a bed, because it may make her uncomfortable.
      Me: While that is true for some women, there is no way to extend that to all men (or even the discomfort, to all women).
      You: The discomfort should be something we care about as humanists.
      Me: Then we can cross roads too, like Laden prescribed.. pretty sure some women feel uncomfortable when they see a man behind them on a (not very crowded) sidewalk. Right?
      You: As per courtship norms, it is improper for a man to do this to a woman.
      Me: Courtship norms, as the name states, are normative ..and culturally intersubjective. And if such a norm says that any one sex should be shown some superior consideration, then the norms should be reviewed for sexism. A humanist person will see that (a) people from different cultures will not conform to our standards, (b) a man showing polite interest in a woman is just that: interest ..& victorian standards of courtship need not apply.

    • http://www.skepticink.com/backgroundprobability/ Damion Reinhardt

      “However, what if, this person is from another culture, one which did not offer priming of the cultures of either the girl or the city..?”

      Those are some rather long odds, my friend. The crowd at World Atheist Convention 2011 consisted almost entirely of privileged white people. Let’s just suppose, though, for the sake of argument, that Elevator Guy comes from an incredibly sex-positive culture, wherein it is completely acceptable for anyone to ask anyone back to their rooms for any purpose, with no embarrassment. Why then did he preface with “Don’t take this the wrong way…” if he did not see any need to be cautious?

      Watch this: http://youtu.be/3-son3EJTrU?t=1m43s

      Around 6:35 or so, Stephen Pinker starts explaining why we build ambiguity and plausible deniability into our sexual propositions, so as to avoid giving offense. What you’re asking me to entertain here is the possibility that the guy in the elevator (let’s call him “Tony Ryan” because it’s a good Irish name) knows enough about the English language and English-speaking culture to build in linguistic ambiguity into his sexual proposition, but not enough about it to know that some amount of talking and flirting are generally expected to precede the ambiguous offer to see one’s etchings or taste one’s coffee.

      You are piling up unlikelihood upon unlikelihood in an effort to exonerate Mr. Ryan. As a skeptic, you should recognize this as a case of motivated reasoning, rather than a straightforward analysis of the alleged events. It remains far more probable that the guy in the elevator was a native English speaker, fully aware that what he was doing was (1) likely to cause her some degree of discomfort and (2) unlikely to succeed, but he went ahead with it because it was a high-risk high-reward scenario. If the PUA community has taught us anything, it’s that you have to play the odds and never put a woman’s emotional needs ahead of your own.

      “All i am debating is the component of ‘propriety’.”

      Propriety is what we call it when we try to avoid acting so as to make people uncomfortable, out of concern for their feelings. Oftentimes, we cannot know in advance how people will react, so we have to make a guess based on probable outcomes. The relevant apriori probability here is how often a freethinking American woman would be made uncomfortable by being ambiguously propositioned for sex by a stranger, in an elevator, at 4 AM. Of all the women I’ve talked to about this issue so far, only one has stated flatly that she would not be put off, and I’m almost sure she was eliding over some key details. This comports with the results of the original study by Clark and Hatfield, wherein women always said no and were generally offended at the proposition.

    • http://www.fb.me/bronzmash Arnab Chakraborty

      Yes. I concede.. i have made a sandwich of unlikelihoods here. You’re also right in ‘guessing’ what most probably was the case. I cannot argue that.. and you’ll note that that isn’t the entirety of my case.
      I have a contention with the last para of your reply – you’re right about Clark/Hatfields’s study mirroring what we mostly see. And yet, there is no clear reasoning to be concerned for the feelings when the proposal is intrinsically harmless. Should we stop deriding the absurdity if theists for the sake of their feelings..? This is not an exact analogy, but it ties with what i asked about Laden’s advice. Why do you consistently avoid questioning the very plinth of this issue – the “discomfort”. Dissect the norm: your argument is built on it and you refuse to go near dismantling it – please, take it apart. You’ll note that there is nothing rational in this ‘discomfort’ (as Clark/Hatfield also admit). And in the absence of any such rational grounds for discomfort the proposal does not become improper – but it can still be disliked by any individual, of course for whatever personal reason. And by the way, if you feel there is a rational ground for this discomfort – then kindly contact the people carrying forwards Clark/Hatfields’s work and let them know, plus – carefully note that it will eventually end up validating the Schrödinger’s Rapist concept too.

    • http://www.skepticink.com/backgroundprobability/ Damion Reinhardt

      Also, since you’re right about the phrase as a coinage, a little context:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cold_call
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Booty_call

      A cold booty call is when you approach someone who was “not expecting such an interaction” and solicit causal sex. Hopefully, that clears that up.

      Now, you’ve said that you would not personally engage in such behavior. Is that because you are more ethical and “careful about the sensibilities of others” than someone who would? If so, why do you object to my characterization of the elevator guy? Do we need to be more sensitive to his feelings, in your view?

      As to the question of “piggybacking one’s offense on a larger social issue” I think you’ll notice that I did not address that in the OP. Like so many other commenters, you are focusing on my failure to address subsequent events. That’s fine, but surely anyone can treat any issue one step at a time without writing the definitive history.

    • http://www.fb.me/bronzmash Arnab Chakraborty

      ..on to your response:

      “A cold booty call is when you approach someone who was “not expecting such an interaction” and solicit causal sex. Hopefully, that clears that up.”
      ~ ..unfortunately you’ll agree that this only clears up the amalgamated term you’ve coined 9something i’ll still advise against). It certainly does not automatically ‘prove’ that the elevator person engaged in such behavior. I am discussing being agnostic-atheist elsewhere – and i must factor that in, in the form of a question.. how certain are you, that this man was making this ‘booty call’ of the cold type..?

      And yes, i have said that i will not engage in such behavior – but not because i find it necessarily inappropriate, but rather ineffective. It has only a little to do with either ethics (unless i intended malice), or consideration..

      We also need not be sensitive to ‘his’ needs per se – but to the fact that we are not entirely sure of what happened, AND (very importantly) that Ms. Watson has not set a healthy precedent of integrity (ref. above). Plus – irrespective of whether this actually happned as Ms. Watson narrates it, it is like Prepagan says: Option 2. Others CAN disagree that this was inappropriate.

      Next, while i see that you’ve not attended to Ms. Watson’s problem of ‘piggybacking’ – you will at least concede that her tendency to personalize issues to fit her agenda is definitely going to affect this incident..? Since we only have her version..? I’ve actually already addressed this when stating:
      //
      “Finally, despite your criticism of Watson elsewhere, this post shows a few of her actions in positive light. Something that Edward and Maria address repeatedly in the comments. Her actions and the reactions thereafter did not occur in a vacuum. The statements she made were with the privilege of a mic, a privilege she has consistently abused.”
      //

      While you can treat any issue in steps – you will not want to miss the essential correlations therein.

      My problem, if i may attempt brevity for once, is that
      i) you’re applying (by your own admission) a code of conduct: “usual norms”, “Usual conventions”, etc. You do this without questioning whether such norms and conventions are rational or globally applicable. If they are globally acceptable: Citation needed.
      ii) you’ve also always stated that “Watson was right..” rather than saying “watson has the right to..”.
      iii) you’ve decided that this man is guilty of impropriety without the consideration that propriety is intersubjective. (ref. Prepagan’s Option 2)

  • Ahriman

    Notice how skepchick.org’s traffic rank peaked far above where it is now, during the height of the Elevatorgate manufactroversy:

    http://www.alexa.com/siteinfo/skepchick.org

    RW probably wishes she could drum up this much hysteria again. Elevatorgate was a windfall for her. But it seems like her 15 minutes are up…

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