• Dawkins Elucidates Relative Privation

    The fallacy of relative privation is an informal fallacy by which one compares the subject under discussion to something else which is generally agreed to be far more serious, in an effort to “suggest that the opponent’s argument should be ignored” or else to justify the lesser privation as zero bad. According to Rational Wiki, the “most blatantly fallacious form of the argument” runs like this:

    B happened, and is worse than A.

    Therefore A is justified.

    Human Probably the most glaring example of this fallacy widely known in atheist circles is a satirical letter from an American feminist to an hypothetical Muslim woman, penned by Richard Dawkins:

    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

    He would later (unconvincingly) claim that he was not attempting to invoke the fallacy of relative privation, but it’s difficult to see how this particular missive can be seen as anything other than an attempt to justify the actions of the boorish fellow in the elevator by way of comparison to vastly more oppressive and systemic sexism. He would much later walk back that entire line of argument:

    There should be no rivalry in victimhood, and I’m sorry I once said something similar to American women complaining of harassment, inviting them to contemplate the suffering of Muslim women by comparison.

    (It would have been plainly uncharitable to fail to note this evolution in his thinking, naturally.)

    I bring up the fallacy of relative privation here and now mostly because I was feeling cramped talking about it on Twitter. At least one esteemed colleague takes a different view, and I’d like to give them the chance to argue their case in a more robust way.

    Category: Philosophy

    Article by: Damion Reinhardt

    Former fundie finds freethought fairly fab.
    • You too?!? Oh, c’mon! Gimme a break.

      A is justified because *there’s nothing wrong with asking a woman for coffee and taking a “No” for an answer*.

      There’s no B.

      • Of course there is nothing wrong with that. Asking someone back to your bedroom after cornering them in a metal box, well now, that’s something else.

      • Who said anything about cornering? He made a cold proposition, she said no, he took “no” for an answer. No cornering.

        Asking someone back to your bedroom inside an elevator, with no cornering and taking “no” for an answer can be kind of creepy-ish, at most.

        A is still justified because being creepy was *his* right and he is not to be held accountable for her feelings, however disgusted she might have felt (if the whole thing ever happened, that is – let’s remember we’re dealing with a pathological liar and intelectually dishonest person, who will do anything to further her own dishonest agenda; that which can be asserted without evidence [elevator guy existence] can be dismissed without evidence).

      • What evidence do you have that she is not merely a dangerous ideologue, but actually a pathological liar?

      • Hehehe, I asked first!

        But you could always argue that being a dangerous ideologue is not mutually exclusive with being a pathological liar. I could even make the case for the two of them being mutually compatible and complementary.

        Whether a pathological liar, a dangerous ideologue or both, there’s no evidence of Elevatorgate even taking place whatsoever, so… my point stands, right?

      • Sorry I didn’t directly address your question about cornering. My answer may be found elsewhere in this thread: http://www.skepticink.com/backgroundprobability/2014/12/05/derp/#comment-1734374110

        As to whether Watson is a pathological liar, we would need examples of things that she says which even groupthinking ideologues can agree are demonstrably false. For example, Rebecca has repeated harmful untruths about Skep Tickle, but the claims she makes appear to be widely accepted as fact by the social justice wing within atheism, so they could be either deliberate lies or merely the least charitable possible interpretation of actual events.

      • No problem about that.

        1. Can you prove Watson wanted to avoid or get away from the guy before entering the elevator? If so, why did she get into an elevator with him? If not, there was no cornering whatsoever.

        2. What I mean by “pathological liar” is someone who lies on a regular basis. It’s a pretty much objective thing – it has nothing to do with what fanatics and her pseudo-skeptic pals think.

        She goes around spreading misinformation and claims that can be proven wrong and counter-factual, on a regular basis: pathological liar.

        Should we drag Caleb to this comment thread? xD

      • 1. According to wikipedia “a man from the group followed her into an elevator” but you make it sound as if they boarded contemporaneously. No way to really know, only one eyewitness has come forward.

        2. Lying requires knowing the truth and deliberately avoiding it. True believers can utter all sorts of falsehoods without lying.

        3. Caleb knows better than that.

      • 1. Like you said: no way to know. And what can be asserted without evidence, can be dismissed without evidence.

        2. Not always. Lying can also be about promoting an ideology or advancing a narrative without even caring about getting the facts straight. We can say that many good spirited religious leaders are liars, because they mean well (or what they figure well is) but they don’t take the necessary steps in order to find out the truth and they don’t care, either (bad for business, right?).

    • Clare45

      I may be ignorant, but I don’t see the logic here. It does not follow that if B is worse than A, then A is justified. It simply means that on a scale of bad to worse, then B is worse than A. For example if I have the flu (B) it is worse than a cold (A). It doesn’t mean that I am not sick if I have a cold.

    • josh

      Dawkins clarified shortly after the initial satire that he was not arguing A is worse so B is not bad. (Which I thought was obvious but… here we are.) He was arguing that B is trivial, i.e. not bad simply by itself. Comparing it to a serious wrong (A) only highlights the triviality. I have never met anyone who doesn’t endorse this sentiment in real life for one thing or another.

      • If he was arguing that B is justified on its own terms (causes no cognizable harms) why produce a lengthy satirical tirade about A?

        “Comparing it to a serious wrong (A) only highlights the triviality.”

        That is precisely what it means to invoke the fallacy in this case. You take something non-trivial (e.g. causing foreseeable emotional discomfort), compare it to something vastly worse (e.g. FGM) and then claim that the non-trivial harm is either trival or justifable in light of how much worse it could be.

      • josh

        “If he was arguing that B is justified on its own terms (causes no cognizable harms) why produce a lengthy satirical tirade about A?”

        As I said, it highlights the triviality. This is really not an unusual rhetorical technique and it isn’t a fallacy.

        “That is precisely what it means to invoke the fallacy in this case. You take something non-trivial (e.g. causing foreseeable emotional discomfort), compare it to something vastly worse (e.g. FGM) and then claim that the non-trivial harm is either trival or justifable in light of how much worse it could be.”

        Then you aren’t using the term fallacy correctly. Some discomforts really are trivial. (And of course there are many cases where it is quite legitimate to point out that an actual harm is not worth the concern devoted to it in the face of a greater problem, but that is largely a separate issue from what I’m talking about.) You want to argue that the ‘harm’ was non-trivial, that’s your business, but it explicitly wasn’t the argument Dawkins was making.

        Watson was perfectly within her rights to say she felt slightly uncomfortable, and other people were perfectly fine to say that they don’t think she should feel that way. That would be a normal adult conversation. To insist that the guy did something wrong (comparable to stalking and implied rape in some people’s telling), that it was an example of sexism, that he ignored her explicit wishes, that it objectified her, that everyone else should set their behavior by her personal preferences, etc… That’s a fine example of making a mountain of a molehill.

        The irony is that the loudest Dawkins denouncers routinely invoke this ‘fallacy’ themselves.

      • Maybe I’m not using the term fallacy correctly here. Maybe Wikipedia also has it wrong in this case:

        The fallacy of relative privation, or appeal to worse problems, is an informal fallacy which attempts to suggest that the opponent’s argument should be ignored because there are more important problems in the world, despite the fact that these issues are often completely unrelated to the subject under discussion.

        Now maybe I’m mistaken, again, but the Dear Muslima letter seems like a perfect textbook case of suggesting that an opponent’s argument (“Guys, don’t do that…”) should be ignored because there are more pressing problems in the world.

        As to that other stuff about stalking and rape and sexism, yes, those are a rather long walk from awkward unwanted sexual propositions.

      • josh

        The problem is Wikipedia calls it an ‘informal fallacy’, which is a pretty vague term. It’s not an error in logic. An informal fallacy might describe a bad argument, or it might not, it’s rather case dependent. A textbook case of the ‘fallacy’ would be “I could help this homeless guy in front of me, but wouldn’t that money be better used to help starving people in Africa?” resulting in me doing nothing. Note that the principles of considering limited resources or proportionate responses isn’t fallacious. Triage, for example, really does have to be done.

        Dawkins wasn’t even making that kind of argument though. He didn’t say ‘well I could help you, or stop this behavior, but I have to devote my time elsewhere’. Rather, he used satire (which probably wasn’t politically wise in his position, but speaking openly was how he got there). Basically, ‘shouldn’t you be embarrassed to class your petty problem with real ones’. Like if someone shorted my order of french fries and I started talking about how I was suffering from the problems of world hunger.

      • How did the “Guys don’t do that” video make the claim that the (allegedly petty) problem of unwanted sexual propositions should classified in with forceful removal of sexual organs?

    • An Ardent Skeptic

      I probably should not be commenting on this but here goes (despite my better judgment);

      Of the following, which things are not zero bad?

      1) Inviting someone for coffee and conversation when alone with them in an enclosed space.
      2) Assuming negative intentions about someone based on an invitation to coffee and conversation made in an enclosed space.
      3) Putting forth an interpretation of a particular human interaction which assumes bad motivations on someone else’s part, then insisting that everyone must agree with your highly negative interpretation of events and, furthermore, anyone who doesn’t agree also has bad motivations.
      4) Defending bad interpretations about human interactions as reasonable by discussing very bad things that occasionally happen but didn’t in the specific case under discussion.
      5) Complaining about your own discomfort while, at the same time, inflicting discomfort on others.
      6) Using a specific negative interpretation of a human interaction as proof of a larger problem.

      As a skeptic, if I were to engage in the fallacy of relative privation I would say that number 1 on my list is the least bad and, had it been me in the elevator, I would have interpreted the event as zero bad. Therefore, I can understand why Dawkins could also perceive the event as zero bad and want an explanation for why it wasn’t zero bad – an explanation which was based on the facts as initially given by Rebecca about the incident, not negative interpretations of those facts. And, of all the things that occurred in 2011, a scientist taking an objective look at a specific human interaction and the nature of the discussion that ensued as a result, then questioning the badness of the specific event that triggered all of these other bad things was neither clueless or callous. Furthermore, I do not think that his claim that he was not attempting to invoke the fallacy of relative privation was unconvincing because, like me, his analysis of the facts resulted in the conclusion of zero bad.

      People are made to feel uncomfortable every day. Being made to feel uncomfortable is not proof that what triggered the discomfort is bad. As an example:

      In 2010, Armchair and I attended a CFI Secular Humanist conference. Paul Kurtz asked everyone to hug the people within close proximity to themselves. I thoroughly despise getting hugs from people I don’t know. I find it “creepy” and cringe inducing. And, as someone who has been raped, I’m not sure it is advisable to provide possible lechers with the opportunity to grab women under the guise of friendship. But my visceral negative reaction to this request from Paul Kurtz does not make his request bad or Paul Kurtz a callous, clueless, misogynistic, privileged, white, heterosexual, old bastard for having made it. It isn’t unreasonable for people to interpret the event in the elevator as zero bad, if they are unwilling to think the worst about their fellow human beings. Just like it is not unreasonable for Kurtz to assume that people attending a Secular Humanist conference are, on the whole, good-hearted, friendly people lacking in bad intentions towards others.

    • 1. Rational wiki is not a reliable source. Just saying.
      2. You quoted the “most blatent form” but not the form RW calls the “sometimes valid” used:

      Action B is worse than action A.Therefore action A is the right thing to do.

      Which is, more or less, my reading of Dear Muslima on day one. Resources like time, energy, and money are finite. Everything that might be done therefore can’t be done. Therefore, if B is worse than A, and if B and A can’t both be done, then B deserves remedy and A does not.

      It is arguable how well the details of a real situation match such logic, but it is intellectually dishonest and just, wrong, to declare by fiat that the logic is fallacious and suggestion is unethical.

      • I don’t see how Dawkins framed it as a problem of allocating scarce resources, at least not in the original text.

      • I did not say scarce. And why would it need saying? To clarify that resources aren’t infinite? That problems are relative in scale and scope (spawning the term “first world problems”)? Because otherwise you wouldn’t be sure?
        And even if there are multiple interpretations, why is it acceptable to leap to the most offensive possible one? Why isn’t that poor behavior worth your notice, Damion?

      • There is nothing particularly offensive about using an informal logical fallacy. It’s just bad thinking, and not particularly unusual bad thinking at that. If there is a non-fallacious reason for changing the subject from bad behavior at atheist conventions to genital mutilation in the Muslim world, I’d be interested in knowing what that reason might be.

        If both A and B deserve remedy, and we anglophone atheists can only directly influence one of those two things, what could possibly be the utility in pointing out that the other one is far worse?

      • There is nothing particularly offensive about using an informal logical fallacy

        Oh but there is. The story instantly was that the fallacy flowed from Dawkins’s purported sexism, and that that fallacy was evidence of it.

        and we anglophone atheists can only directly influence one of those two things

        This premise is false. I believe that we are talking about commentators and public figures, bloggers, right? I see nothing “direct” about blogging or tweeting about something versus the same effect someone like Dawkins can have (and indeed, has had) on the treatment of women in certain Muslim-majority countries.

      • I’m not saying that atheist bloggers, commenters, and public figures have loads of influence over anything, but surely we have at least some direct influence over the social norms that prevail at atheist conventions. Probably we have nearly zero influence over the cultural norms that prevail in the African FGM belt.

    • An Ardent Skeptic

      1 & 2) You neglected to mention the status of the people involved and the public persona which people exude. These things are also part of the context. Moreover, the assumption that an invitation to a hotel room for coffee and conversation means “hey-we’ll-see-what-pops-up” is just that – an assumption.

      I often come off as a blunt, pragmatic, independent, and strong-willed woman. If someone were to be listening to my conversation in a bar for however long, even though they never spoke to me, they would likely get the impression that I would not be upset, insulted, or creeped out if they said, “I find you interesting and would like to talk more. Would you like to come to my hotel room for coffee?” while I was alone with them in an elevator. And, they might be right in their assumption. My response would likely be, “Sorry. I’m really tired and need sleep, but thanks for the invitation.” And, that would be the end of it. No, I don’t expect everyone to react the same way I would.

      I do not think Rebecca is unjustified or wrong for saying she found the guy in the elevator creepy. But, I’m entitled to not assume a guy is a creep if I find myself in the same or a similar situation (which I have been). Moreover, I think giving people the benefit of the doubt is the right thing to do. So, feeling that the invitation was “creepy” is an understandable response even though it wouldn’t necessarily be mine. However, I don’t believe that I should accept that this invitation proves sexualization and objectification based on the flimsy proof we have been given – she said she was tired and was going to bed before exiting the bar, and he must have heard her.

      Which brings us to Number 3, (part of which you did not respond to):

      3) Sure, we’re all free to argue our own particular interpretation of events, but insisting that others must accept our interpretations without sufficient evidence, and then condemning them if they don’t, is wrong, IMO. That’s what has been happening.

      4) A fuller explanation is required, (understandably), as I didn’t make myself clear. A negative interpretation is justified because something really terrible could have happened because really terrible things have happened to others sometimes. So, we are not allowed to question Rebecca’s negative interpretation of this event because people have been raped in elevators and hotel rooms? The fact that people have been raped in elevators and hotel rooms does explain why she would feel the guy was creepy, as the prospect of going to the hotel room of a guy you don’t know can heighten the awareness of your vulnerability. But, that heightened awareness doesn’t prove that the guy is definitely a creep who objectifies women, or even that the invitation was made in the hope of receiving enthusiastic consent for sex.

      5) Inflicting discomfort by calling out a member of the audience to which you are speaking about an incident which made you uncomfortable, and then making statements which are based on a negative character assessment of that audience member.

      And, while we’re at it, 5b) Callous disregard for the reputation of a young college student whose career prospects upon graduation could well have been limited by ugly smears being posted on the internet. Fortunately, this young woman has been hired by CFI. But what if she had wanted a career as a counselor at a rape crisis center or women’s shelter, or in public relations, or politics, or as an activist for human rights? How is casting her as a callous, know-all, narcissistic, ignorant parrot who can’t think herself, in multiple blogposts and comments, a responsible or reasonable thing to do? This public display of negativity towards a young woman, all of which is readily available to any of her potential employers, is unacceptable, IMO.

      6) Something on which we agree.

      • You neglected to mention the status of the people involved and the public persona which people exude.

        It’s not obvious to me how that effects the moral calculus or the relevant social norms in play.

        Moreover, the assumption that an invitation to a hotel room for coffee and conversation means “hey-we’ll-see-what-pops-up” is just that – an assumption.

        It is an assumption based on the expert observation that “[w]hen people talk, they lay lines on each other, do a lot of role playing, sidestep, shilly-shally and engage in all manner of vagueness and innuendo” and that “[s]exual come-ons are a classic example” of when they do this.

        If you’re not into Pinker, we also have various pop-cultural depictions of this phenomenon. An invitation for coffee has been a recognized sexual come-on at least since Seinfeld was still cool: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-skZx5liyaM

        I’m guessing that it goes way back before then.

        No, I don’t expect everyone to react the same way I would.

        An important point. Some people are more sensitive than others, and outspoken gender feminists are more sensitive than most.

        I don’t believe that I should accept that this invitation proves sexualization and objectification based on the flimsy proof we have been given – she said she was tired and was going to bed before exiting the bar, and he must have heard her.

        I’d like to say that sexualization and objectification are two very different things, and only the latter of which involves treating people as fungible or as property or as lacking in self-determination. Sexualizing people can be excellent, if it is welcome.

        3) Sure, we’re all free to argue our own particular interpretation of events, but insisting that others must accept our interpretations without sufficient evidence, and then condemning them if they don’t, is wrong, IMO. That’s what has been happening.

        Here we completely agree. I welcome everyone to argue for their interpretation, I do not welcome condemnation of anything other than harm.

        No disagreements or comments on point 4.

        Inflicting discomfort by calling out a member of the audience to which you are speaking about an incident which made you uncomfortable, and then making statements which are based on a negative character assessment of that audience member.

        Obviously (at least to me) punching down from the podium like that was well beyond unprofessional. With a podium or a platform comes responsibility, and it was neither the time or the place to tear McGraw down like that.

        Please let me know if I missed anything. As always, I enjoy these exchanges.

      • An Ardent Skeptic

        Because I enjoy these exchanges as well, here I go again not exercising my better judgment. 🙂

        Just because people communicate sexual desire indirectly doesn’t mean that, as a result of these obfuscations, we must assume that coffee always means sex. So it isn’t unreasonable to take action based on the realities of how people communicate (Rebecca did by refusing elevator guy’s invitation), but I will resist any demand that I *must* accept negative assumptions about others, and think badly of them based on these assumptions. I’ve had this done to me far too often, and know how hurtful it can be. I object to being told that I must accept that Elevator Guy has to have meant sex and Rebecca’s classification of the incident when she first discussed it in the video as “sexualization” and, then in her talk at the CFI Student Leadership conference, as “objectification”. ( I do know there’s a difference between the two. She’s used both.)

        So you’re wondering how our public personas figure into social norms and moral calculus. Well, IMO, they play a huge part in how we interact with others. We get a sense of people based on what they say and do, and these impressions figure heavily on how we choose to interact with them.

        I give the rightful impression that I’m not easily intimidated by men. Why shouldn’t someone use this impression I give when doing the calculation about the appropriateness of extending an invitation for coffee and conversation in their hotel room when alone with me in an enclosed space, whether I know them or not? Some people enjoy having casual sexual encounters with strangers, and because I give the impression that I’m not easily intimidated by men, it wouldn’t be completely out of the realm of possibility that I might be OK with this type of sexual encounter. And I’ve stated that I wouldn’t have accepted the invitation, but I would likely not have been upset or insulted by it either, which means elevator guy would have gotten the moral calculus right had he spoken to me in the elevator. The only certain way to know if our human arithmetic is correct is to let the person we’ve been adding up check our work. Elevator guy got it wrong when he did his calculations of Rebecca. He would have been wrong if he thought I would accept his invitation, but not wrong about extending the invitation.

        Bottom line – my number one priority is to treat people with charity.

        Even though I wouldn’t have been creeped out by Elevator guy, I find nothing wrong in Rebecca feeling creeped out and suggesting that men avoid doing this.

        Despite Rebecca feeling creeped out, I won’t judge Elevator Guy as a creep who just wanted to get a leg over because he thought of Rebecca as nothing more than a penis receptacle.

        I don’t think Dawkins’s intent was to say other people have it worse so people shouldn’t be complaining about this. I do think he didn’t understand why what had happened was bad in any way, and his “Dear Muslima” comment was meant to draw attention to the seemingly disproportionate outrage about a situation which caused no harm when we don’t see the same outrage being expressed about the horrendous treatment of women which does cause harm.

        So there you have it…

      • “I do know there’s a difference between the two. She’s used both.”

        It is one of the most profoundly misandrist tendencies in third-wave feminism to conflate sexualization (a man hoping to have sex) with objectification (a man hoping to treat a woman as a sexual object devoid of subjective desires). But this may be too far off the original track.

        “We get a sense of people based on what they say and do, and these impressions figure heavily on how we choose to interact with them.”

        Preusmably part of the point of RW’s original video was to modify her public persona to make her less readily approachable.

        “Bottom line – my number one priority is to treat people with charity.”

        Agreed. Does it seem like this priority factored into the composition of the Dear Muslima missive?

        “Even though I wouldn’t have been creeped out by Elevator guy, I find nothing wrong in Rebecca feeling creeped out and suggesting that men avoid doing this.”

        Agreed, and I would point out that the original video was her talking primarily to her viewers and fans about how she would like to be treated by them, should they ever meet in person.

        “I won’t judge Elevator Guy as a creep who just wanted to get a leg over because he thought of Rebecca as nothing more than a penis receptacle.”

        Agreed. Fairly wide gap to be had between psychopathic disregard of a woman’s subjective mental life and the narrative at hand here.

        “I do think he didn’t understand why what had happened was bad in any way…”

        Agreed, and he was not alone.

        “…his “Dear Muslima” comment was meant to draw attention to the seemingly disproportionate outrage about a situation which caused no harm when we don’t see the same outrage being expressed about the horrendous treatment of women which does cause harm.”

        I’m not generally in favour of internet outrage as a means to an end, especially in a community that prides itself on calm and reasoned disputation about emotionally sensitive issues. That said, the level of attention paid to this issue (and closely related feminist issues) by activist atheists seems about right to me, given two factors:

        1) The people actively discussing these issues will have the final say on how they are resolved, since it’s an internal dispute about the subculture that we create amongst ourselves.

        2) There was and remains widespread disagreement within the community about exactly how they should be resolved.

        By comparison, the activist atheists of the anglophone world do not disagree about the morality of FGM and have basically zero say in whether it will be normalized, criminalized, or anything in between. When it comes to FGM, there is not any point in us arguing, and we have nothing to argue about. This is why I maintain that bringing up FGM was a distraction tactic at best, an informal fallacy at worst.

      • An Ardent Skeptic

        It would be wonderful if atheist activists were actually discussing this issue as a way to work towards a solution. Unfortunately, that’s not what’s been happening, IMO. What we seem to be doing is reactive rather than proactive. And, the demonization rather than treating people with charity makes it appear as though we can’t deal with these issues with calm and reason. (Except, of course, for you and me. 😉

        As for the focus on the elevator incident rather than things like FGM (because FGM is something on which we all agree) – well, atheists pretty much all agree on the lack of existence of gods and the downside of religious belief but there is certainly plenty of discussion about that, isn’t there? So perhaps we should be discussing all of the things that Dawkins mentioned in his “Dear Muslima” comment more rather than less. Discussing the bad things that God seems to want for women might help convince women that God and religion are not in their best interest.

        (But what do I know about convincing anyone about anything? I grew up in a devoutly religious household and was never convinced that God even existed much less that he is great. That means I’m certainly no expert on how to unconvince people about something I always found unconvincing as I don’t understand why people are convinced.)

      • An Ardent Skeptic

        BTW, I do agree that Rebecca was talking to her fans in the video with the goal of setting personal boundaries as regards to how she wants to be treated. And, initially, before the Stef McGraw thing, she responded to the one commenter on her blogpost who questioned the “sexualization” classification with the following response:

        There is a small chance that this man meant nothing sexual in his comment, despite the fact that I had clearly indicated my wish to go to bed (alone) and the fact that the bar had coffee and therefore there was absolutely zero reason to go to anyone’s hotel room to have it. Sure. There’s a chance.

        But regardless, the point I was making was that people need to be aware of how their comments might make someone feel extraordinarily uncomfortable and even feel as though they are in danger. This person failed to recognize that even though I had been speaking about little else all day long.

        This is a perfectly reasonable response so I don’t understand her treatment of Stef McGraw when Stef asked the same question. And, pretty much ever since that debacle, Rebecca, P.Z. Myers, and many others on that “side” have insisted that all Rebecca said is “Guys don’t do that.” That pretty much distances all of them from the original and subsequent claims of “sexualization” and “objectification”. It’s most unfortunate that the dialog didn’t continue the way it started.

    • Brive1987

      I always read DM as a reaction against the disproportionate colour and movement directed to fluff/ideological issues. In this case a coffee invite (which resulted in zero tangible bad) that bonfired for no good reason into a frenzy of Schrodinger’s rapists, patriarchy and rape culture.

      I don’t see Dawkins condoning sexist behaviour that actually impacts the victim. And I don’t see him saying that tangible First World problems are moot because they have to be offset by the Third World.

      I saw the Muslima reference as providing a stark contrast between the opposing ends of the spectrum – FGM vs the unicorns of the SJ brigade. Naturally there is a lot going on in between.

      Naturally this message was lost amidst the increased clamour against mansplaining privileged white males wrapped up in implicit calls for boycotts.

      QED really.

      • I cannot take any argument too seriously which is grounded in the notion that “coffee” meant merely coffee given that English speakers are well-known to euphemise sexual invites. Don’t be surprised if your hostess doesn’t actually spend much time showing you her etchings, for example, even if that was ostensibly why she invited you up.

        As to “zero tangible bad,” that depends on whether you think it is bad to make people feel socially uncomfortable in that particular way. I don’t think it’s a particularly humanistic thing to do, to corner a stranger and invite them back to your bedroom, but then I live in a fairly sexually repressed subculture.

        As to the ideological bonfire, it was inevitable. The burgeoning feminist wing of freethought was bound to insist that everyone learn their terminology and accept their norms at some point. Both FtB and Skepchick were in the process of transforming themselves into bastions of Tumblr social justice, with all the usual ingroup lingo and outgroup demonization. Perhaps Dear Muslima was meant to pushback against that process, it’s hard to say, because it doesn’t make any sense to compare emotional discomfort in Dublin to genital mutilation in Djibouti.

      • Brive1987

        Of course “coffee” is (for argument) 95% of the time an invite for more. It’s that grey 5% that makes its useful as a social lubricant. It offers both parties “exit with honour”. Even in a lift.

        And that’s exactly what should have occurred in Dublin – until a simplistic view of ‘rape culture’ got injected into an otherwise sane scenario.

        We are over thinking Dawkins and his DM.

        All he is saying is:

        while rape exists it was not present in that lift. Further the circumstances that night did not require the introduction of rape as a meaningful variable. And the “zero bad” outcome confirms this as a sensible point of view. In fact it’s obvious from the video (as opposed to later SJ editorial) that RW did not see rape as a pressing threat that night – though her SJ sensibilities were offended for other reasons.

        the massive colour and movement of EG is therefore a construct based on an irrelevant anecdote and premised by questionable SJ concepts.

        concerned pragmatic feminists have a whole world of non-constructed ills to confront with their energy and concern.

        actual victims, be they in Africa or America, would likely find the whole EG focus offensive to their real world issues.

        I don’t find any of this controversial or obscure.

        tl/dr

        There is no relative privation because there was no privation in Dublin unless you accept Shrodingers Rapist.

      • Further the circumstances that night did not require the introduction of the threat of rape as a meaningful variable.

        Assuming that we already know the outcome in advance, yes.

        (and btw your characterising of Stuttering Stan’s verbal arched eyebrows in Dublin as ‘cornering a stranger and inviting them back to your bedroom’ can only be a rhetorical flourish)

        corner verb

        : to force (someone who wants to avoid you or get away from you) to stop and talk with you

        http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/cornered (3b)

        The colour and movement of EG is therefore a construct based on an irrelevant anecdote and premised by questionable SJ concepts.

        That depends on how much you are trying to stuff into the idea of EG. From what I can tell, Dawkins was addressing the fact that Watson had the temerity to complain out loud about what seems like a breach of the usual etiquette of seduction.

        Concerned pragmatic feminists have a whole world of non-constructed ills (big and small) to confront. And RD referenced the most dramatic to make a clear point.

        The clear point being that feminist women should just shut up about being cold propositioned for sex at atheist conferences, because other people have it far worse?

        Ok, maybe that is being uncharitable. What did he want her do to, if not shut up and bugger off?

        Actual victims, be they in Africa or America, would likely find the whole EG focus and priority offensive as compared to their real world issues.

        Maybe so, maybe not. Ever heard of the “broken windows” theory of policing?

      • Brive1987

        .

        “Assuming that we already know the outcome in advance, yes”

        Every one-on-one is a potential rape scenario. You need something special to justify increased focus. The sending of a socially recognised “coffee” signal does not qualify. And that is clear from RW’s own video.

        ……………………….

        “corner verb”

        There is no evidence EG manipulated the one on one. Even if he did it was a pretty short and limited 7 sec ‘cornering’ based on JustinV’s recreation. I call “over egging”

        ……………………….

        “That depends on how much you are trying to stuff into the idea of EG.”

        ‘Stuff’ is an ugly word. I’d suggest RD was ‘triggered’ by the transition of an SOP arched eyebrow into an intense melt down over Shrodingers Rapist.

        ……………………….

        “The clear point being that feminist women should just shut up ..”

        The clear point being that grounded feminists would look less self possessed and achieve better practical outcomes from addressing pragmatic ills rather than pursuing ideological dragons.

        ……………………….

        Maybe so, maybe not. Ever heard of the “broken windows” theory of policing?

        Do they even have windows in Somalia? Your privilege is showing.

        ……………………….

      • “There is no evidence EG manipulated the one on one. ”

        There is no evidence for his existence, all of the people in a position to testify are keeping schtum about who he might be. That said, the narrative provided included “a man got on the elevator with me” followed immediately by the awkward invite.

        “…grounded feminists would look less self possessed and achieve better practical outcomes from addressing pragmatic ills…”

        I’m not sure what “grounded feminists” you’re talking about, but the feminists in the atheist/skeptic community do seem particularly concerned with the subculture that we construct within our communities. Will that culture encourage 7-second elevator pitches for coffee/sex, or will it encourage the usual ritual of mutual flirting and gradual escalation? Personally, I’d much prefer that we stuck to the latter approach, and I’ve yet to see a good argument for adopting the former. Perhaps such an argument does exist but surely “Muslim women suffer vastly worse in terms of sexual oppression” will not be among the premises therein.

    • In English the term “sexism” covers basically any disparate treatment based on sex, so it runs the gamut from forceful infibulation to unwanted invitation, just so long as the treatment is systemically unequal. This conceptual overbroadness can be unwieldy at times, but surely it does not necessitate that we assume all examples of sexism are equally serious, hence the invention of phrases like “casual sexism” and “everyday sexism.” Moreover, while it seems obviously boorish to cold proposition someone (however euphemistically) in a situation like this, to me, it doesn’t seem like evidence of anything more that bad manners. To call it sexism is to imply a much larger problem where women generally receive disparate treatment within the community.

      And yes, I am assuming that when a man invites a woman back to his bedroom, after a night of drinking, that the possibility of sex is definitely in play. Unless they have some preexisting Platonic understanding, of course.