WTF Dawkins? What the flying fuck?!

Sean Prophet mentioned at a post in Facebook the following comment that Richard Dawkins supposedly left at PZ Myers’ excellent defence of Rebecca Watson.

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.

Richard

He was then called on it

Did you just make the argument that, since worse things are happening somewhere else, we have no right to try to fix things closer to home?

And replied with more derailment.

No I wasn’t making that argument. Here’s the argument I was making. The man in the elevator didn’t physically touch her, didn’t attempt to bar her way out of the elevator, didn’t even use foul language at her. He spoke some words to her. Just words. She no doubt replied with words. That was that. Words. Only words, and apparently quite polite words at that.

If she felt his behaviour was creepy, that was her privilege, just as it was the Catholics’ privilege to feel offended and hurt when PZ nailed the cracker. PZ didn’t physically strike any Catholics. All he did was nail a wafer, and he was absolutely right to do so because the heightened value of the wafer was a fantasy in the minds of the offended Catholics. Similarly, Rebecca’s feeling that the man’s proposition was ‘creepy’ was her own interpretation of his behaviour, presumably not his. She was probably offended to about the same extent as I am offended if a man gets into an elevator with me chewing gum. But he does me no physical damage and I simply grin and bear it until either I or he gets out of the elevator. It would be different if he physically attacked me.

Muslim women suffer physically from misogyny, their lives are substantially damaged by religiously inspired misogyny. Not just words, real deeds, painful, physical deeds, physical privations, legally sanctioned demeanings. The equivalent would be if PZ had nailed not a cracker but a Catholic. Then they’d have had good reason to complain.

Richard

What is this I don’t even

I won’t go into details, as this and this posts say pretty much all I had to say on the matter1. I just was completely stunned by the WTF-ness of the post by someone who should know better.

EDIT: Dawkins has provided yet another reply, showing that he still doesn’t get it

Many people seem to think it obvious that my post was wrong and I should apologise. Very few people have bothered to explain exactly why. The nearest approach I have heard goes something like this.

I sarcastically compared Rebecca’s plight with that of women in Muslim countries or families dominated by Muslim men. Somebody made the worthwhile point (reiterated here by PZ) that it is no defence of something slightly bad to point to something worse. We should fight all bad things, the slightly bad as well as the very bad. Fair enough. But my point is that the ‘slightly bad thing’ suffered by Rebecca was not even slightly bad, it was zero bad. A man asked her back to his room for coffee. She said no. End of story.

But not everybody sees it as end of story. OK, let’s ask why not? The main reason seems to be that an elevator is a confined space from which there is no escape. This point has been made again and again in this thread, and the other one.

No escape? I am now really puzzled. Here’s how you escape from an elevator. You press any one of the buttons conveniently provided. The elevator will obligingly stop at a floor, the door will open and you will no longer be in a confined space but in a well-lit corridor in a crowded hotel in the centre of Dublin.

No, I obviously don’t get it. I will gladly apologise if somebody will calmly and politely, without using the word fuck in every sentence, explain to me what it is that I am not getting.

Richard

Dear Richard, even if Elevator Rape wasn’t an actual thing, it would still be wrong to proposition women in inappropriate locations, such as female you do not know at 4 am in an Elevator. And there is a reason why they are called “inappropriate”. Because by normalizing them, you treat women as sexual objects. As if people who can’t possibly have times where there’s no chance in FSM’s blue earth that they would accept. As if your own desires make their own desires – which common sense has made blatantly clear – irrelevant.

Inappropriate behaviour can be called out and enforced, so that people stop doing it. Because it’s bad, m’kay? Because normalizing the idea that a woman can be propositioned for sex without even taking the time to figure out if there is a chance for it, is degrading to women as it reduces them to sex dispensers. Because using rape culture and patriarchical conditioning to corner a female and implictly pressure her (even if you do not realize the pressure you exert) into sex is reinforcing those bad cultures.

Note that I would love to live in a free world where males and females are sexually liberated and they feel confident proposing no-strings-attached sex without taboo and faux shame. But that world would arrive within true equality, where rape and abuse of females is not the norm at the hands of controlling and horny males.  I get the feeling that some are outraged that what they perceive is a small step towards that world of sexual liberation, is being trounced by “those prude feminazis who get their panties up in a bunch about a harmless request for sex”. They fail to see the institutionalized oppression who cannot make this step valid, without further marginalizing females in every other context.

If you want sexual liberation, you need to fight first for female liberation and true equality. Then, and only then, will a sex positive culture occur.

And finally, PZ nails it once more

I’m taking one last stab at explaining this. Imagine that Richard Dawkins meets a particularly persistent fan who insists on standing uncomfortably close to him, and Richard asks him to stand back a little bit; when he continues, he says to the rest of the crowd that that is rather rude behavior, and could everyone give him a little breathing space? Which then leads to many members of the crowd loudly defending the rudeness by declaring that since the guy wasn’t assaulting him, he should be allowed to keep doing that, and hey, how dare Richard Dawkins accuse everyone present of trying to mug him!

I’ve also had enough of a discussion with Sean Prophet trying to explain to him in Facebook why Dawkins is not saying anything relevant and why feminists are not in the wrong to call out inappropriate behaviour. I’ll post it below for your perusal.

  • Sean Prophet
    Absolutely!!!! If agreeing with Dawkins makes me misogynist, then hate me and bring it on. The feminists have a right to their opinion, but this is totally subjective, and in fact goes pretty far toward the demonization of men by calling them “creepy.” All the feminist definition of “creepy” means in this case is “made an unwanted advance.”
    Men are at a distinct disadvantage in this game since they *always* have to deal with the high likelihood of rejection, something women have far less experience with. This is not a “moral” or “progressive” issue. This is an issue of *equality.* And that means women get to say “no” and as long as the guy is polite and leaves, he has done nothing wrong or anti-feminist. He may have been clumsy, or simply not attractive, but that should not be a crime. Nor even an offense.
    And this does call for the phrase “grow up.” If women want to be considered equals, then *act like it!*
    I think Skepchick just made a colossal fool of herself. And shame on the others like Blag Hag and PZ Myers who doubled down on the foolishness.
  • Gretchen Chadwick
    I consider myself a feminist and I agree with you 100%. Well said!
  • Gretchen Chadwick
    However, there’s a lot of degrading crap that goes on on a daily basis that isn’t polite, as you’re probably aware…or maybe not, since you don’t have to deal with it.
  • Sean Prophet
    I agree many men are creeps. Which is why when a guy just screws up and politely leaves, he should be applauded for *not* being a creep.
  • Gretchen Chadwick
    I liked what you said about men having to regularly face rejection and how difficult that is. Women need to understand that and cut men some slack, as long as men are being polite. Women also need to stop participating in their own exploitation and then playing the victim. I’d love to see more respect and healing between the sexes. This is a good discussion to be having. Thanks for bringing it up.
  • Sean Prophet
    Hey no problem. I’ve got a blog post coming, where I provide more links and details. ;-)
  • Divided By Zero
    What a bunch of nonsense from Dawkins. First of all, yes, he is making the argument that people should raise an issue with things happening to them because “children are starving in Africa” kind of thing and it’s obvious how ridiculously wrong that is. His reply to that is completely irrelevant. So it’s just words. Sure, and Rebecca replied with “just words”. What’s the problem again? Oh, is it because those words make you uncomfortable in propositioning unknown females you find in elevators? Are you for serious?
    Recebba has a right to point out bad behaviour, and privileged males like you don’t lose time in putting her in her place. It’s disgusting.
  • Gretchen Chadwick
    No, Dawkins has a good point. Feminism needs to set priorities. A guy asking a woman to have coffee with him is no big deal. I had a guy run down the street after me to invite me to dinner and I thought it was funny/sweet. I didn’t go because I didn’t know him, but, even if it had made me uncomfortable, he did nothing wrong. There are such bigger problems that feminism needs to tackle, not the least of which is how young women are being systematically trained through a variety of media to become perpetually youthful sex objects. Picking on men for asking to spend time with a woman just creates tension between the sexes and makes feminism seem stupid and frivolous. There are bigger fish to fry.
  • Divided By Zero
    You’re dismissing the very real concerns of why these women do not like this objectifying behaviour – and this has very little similarities to someone asking you out for coffee. The idea that there are other things to do is simply a derailing tactic used to silence and has no benefit to the discussion. People talk about their own experiences and the things that affect them on a daily basis. Just because some other people have other, more difficult situations to face, does not make those issues invalid.
  • Sean Prophet Db0 I addressed this in my blog post. As did Dawkins in his comment. This was a simple overreaction on the part of Skepchick, and now people are just doubling down to avoid offending feminatheists. Is there anywhere you would draw the line? Or do women just get to completely dictate every detail of men’s acceptable behavior?
  • Sean Prophet
    And I’m actually glad Dawkins has burst this little pustule of pompous powermongering entitlement. And it also smokes out the men who have absolutely surrendered and ceded all pretense of balance between the sexes. Certainly everyone has a right to their opinion, but I want nothing to do with women who act this way nor the obsequious men who follow them around. If I’m going to be that submissive, it’s going to be for a hot scene with a self-aware domme who has her shit together.
  • Sean Prophet
    Gretchen, I do think the media makes things worse, as you said. But youth and beauty are tied to fertility, so will always be desirable. Where I think there’s room for growth is broadening the range of what is considered beautiful. (As well as prolonging and preserving health.) Increasing the beauty in the world is really something we call all do with a simple shift in consciousness.
  • Divided By Zero
    They get to dictate behaviour when it affects them. This is not a contentious issue or something difficult to grasp. One is not “sumbissive” for recognising that women are not sexual objects you can proposition at any and all time.
    This ridiculous pompousy of yours is just absurd. Just bang your chest a bit more and declare you don’t care what those damn bitches want. Maybe you’ll feel manlier.
  • Sean Prophet
    Women *are* and always will be sexual objects. They are also a lot more than that. And there’s a whole other dimension to both sexes. But nothing can remove the fact that life is pretty much an endless stream of penises searching for vaginas.
  • Divided By Zero
    The problem is that such behavious treats them as *just* a vagina. Because you apparently do not see anything wrong when people treat women as if they’re there just for their enjoyment and they couldn’t possibly be some contexts were propositioning them is inappropriate.
  • Sean Prophet
    I don’t need to beat my chest (which is not all that large). I simply demand a balance of power between the sexes. My relationships with women have been the most important relationships in my life. I love and respect them, and they do the s…See more
  • Sean Prophet
    BTW I dislike overly submissive women (or men) just as much as the petty dominants. Self-aware people do not act out either extreme. They know unctuousness quickly turns to contempt. This kind of crap on either side is essentially two sides of the same developmentally-challenged coin.
  • Sean Prophet
    I agree elevator guy was inappropriate. Wrong time and place. But once he realized that, he quickly went home and left her alone. We can’t legislate (or even socially regulate) all the nuances of what goes on between people who are drinking late at night in hotels at conferences. There should be plenty of leeway so long as basic social norms e.g. consensuality, are being observed.
  • James Scott ‘Doc’ Mason
    My issue was with Skepchick’s characterization of the encounter as misogynistic. I agree with Sean that it was inappropriate, but only because she is a young, attractive woman. If he had said the same exact thing to a man, we wouldn’t have this conversation. Maybe I need a better understanding of misogyny, but from what she described it didn’t feel like he was hateful or sexualizing her. We simply do not have enough information to be objective about his intentions. Isn’t it possible that he found her interesting and simply wanted to continue the conversation in a quite setting? We’ll never know, because she did the right thing by politely saying no, and he did the right thing by accepting her refusal.
  • Divided By Zero
    Cheezus, you people are acting as if he asked her out for a coffee during work. Are you completely incapable of recognising the fact that propositioning is completely inappropriate at times and with particular styles? Do men get excused at all times as long as they accept the “No”? This is completely obtuse. Think about it for a second for crying out loud.
  • Sean Prophet
    Db0 did you not read where I said “elevator guy was inappropriate”
  • Divided By Zero
    And then you said “But once he realized that, he quickly went home and left her alone.”, which implies that all was OK. But all was NOT OK. You can’t proposition a woman at any time and method and act as if nothing was wrong as long as you accepted rejection. Some things need to be called out, and this is what Rebecca did in the first place.
  • Sean Prophet
    Rejection *is* the penalty. Nothing else is called for. Negotiation 101.
  • Divided By Zero
    Yes. There is. To give an example even you might understand: if someone comes to a woman an propositions her for money, simple rejection is not enough.
    Rejection, by itself, is not a penalty, except in the mind of midguided PUAs
  • Sean Prophet
    The guy was *not* a pua. He was simply inept. That is not a crime, or even an offense.
  • Divided By Zero
    Oh gawds…I didn’t say he was a PUA. I said “Rejection, by itself, is not a penalty, except in the mind of midguided PUAs”. And you haven’t countered my point that simple rejection is not enough.
  • Sean Prophet
    You haven’t supported the point. Shall there be a law passed to prosecute inappropriate speech? Public shaming? Ban from elevators? You’re going really overboard, just like Skepchick. And especially for an anarchist.
  • Divided By Zero
    I’m “going overboard” for the srawman suggestions you made? Are you for real?
  • Sean Prophet
    I still don’t understand the issue. He was shut down and went home. What more does anyone want??
  • Divided By Zero
    Have you see the video Rebecca posted about it?
  • Sean Prophet
    Yes, that was not a big deal. What was a big deal is that when Stef disagreed with her she called her out publicly and tried to turn the non-incident into some kind of feminist rallying cry. That was *way* out of line, and that’s what all the controversy is about.
  • Divided By Zero
    You’re not criticizing THAT though. You (and Dawkins) are criticizing her reaction to guy in the elevator. Whether she should have publicly made an example of her disagreement with Stef is up for debate. I’m with PZ Myers on that front http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2011/07/always_name_names.php
  • Sean Prophet
    It was still an overreaction no matter how anyone slices it.
  • Divided By Zero
    It’s an overreaction to point out that there are inappropriate times to proposition women and that women are not sexual objects?
  • Grace Feldmann
    NOT an overreaction and Thank you Divided By Zero!
    Grace Feldmann
    please see my note on this. And BTW I take the dare Sean. This IS in part about a blind spot around not just White, but male privilege and power. Absofuckinglutely.

 

And this is where the discussion stands at the moment.Hopefully, he starts to get it but I won’t get my hopes up.

However this whole Brouhaha does show how little connection there is between Atheists and their lack of common positive goal. Atheism is a negative cohesive point. It’s as unifying as the lack of hair and the more people that identify as atheists there are, the less cohesion the movement as a whole has, as it stops becoming novel (within a religious community) thus requiring support for others, and rather becomes the norm. But I digress. As I was saying, this just another example of how little one Atheist has with another.

You can’t demand that other Atheists are feminism or anti-racists because this is not a defining aspect of the irreligion. It’s precisely because you can have racist and sexist atheists that there is so much friction in the movement, and the secondary reason why I stopped wasting my time with it. The primary being the same for most others I presume: I live in a country where religious oppression does not exist anymore and therefore my irreligion is not used as a point of oppression.

 

  1. Dawkings absolutely misses the point, continues derailing and generally dismisses the concerns of a female due to his extreme privilege blindness []