The elevator thing again?

PZ has insisted on rehashing the elevator incident one more time. Now he has two more things to be wrong about:

Let’s stop the shouting that Richard Dawkins is some kind of raving misogynist. What’s happened here is that he is at some remove from all of the details, and this issue got blown up by lunatics who felt their manhood threatened and who exaggerated the situation to an absurd degree. I think he is wrong, but what he was arguing against was a cartoon of feminism which far too many people have been peddling on the blogs.

No one is about to doubt the intelligence of PZ Myers, but to be such a condescending little prick to someone like Richard Dawkins is risible. Dawkins is not “at some remove” from anything. He had access to the video. He used details provided in that video when he wrote about it. If he’s short on any detail it’s only insofar as everyone else who wasn’t on that elevator is short on detail. Including PZ.

The second place where PZ is wrong is where he pretends that it’s been those who disagree with Rebecca Watson that have been blowing this out of proportion. Go take a look at the comments on all the blogs, including Pharyngula. It hasn’t been the dissent that started drawing connections with rape and deep-seated misogyny. No, what has happened here is that everyone except caricature feminists has been saying that the elevator guy made a bad move, he should have been paying better attention, but we don’t know what his intentions were. It would be no surprise if he hoped for something sexual, but all he did was ask Watson for coffee in his room, which was in the general direction they were already heading. As Dawkins said, “zero bad” happened here.

What I find really interesting about this is PZ’s defense of Dawkins. If any non-celebrity male said the exact same thing, there would be zero defense from PZ. And he knows it. If anything, he would join in the chorus of feminists who portray those who disagree with the Designated Feminist Position as women haters who are against first and second wave feminism. As I’ve said elsewhere, it is that sort of reaction – and we all know it’s a common one – that leads to Internet feminists being seen as caricatures. This isn’t some big crazy patriarchal conspiracy. (No, really, I swear. It isn’t my penis talking.) Overreacting to minor situations (or even non-situations, as is the case here) is why so many third wave feminists get portrayed as cartoons.

You can’t blame this one on men.

10 Responses

  1. I just wanted to stress how much you and I agree that it’s dishonest to characterize people who disagree with modern feminists as misogynists who want to take away womens’ right to vote.

  2. I’m not sure if it was that exact post of yours I read, but I recall reading something similar you wrote some time ago that actually influenced my post here.

  3. For over a week, a not-insignificant portion of the internet (including a NYT best-seller) has been prattling on about how Rebecca Watson was hit on. A lot allegedly. Myers recognizes he’s been trolled and is trying to gracefully extricate himself from a mess that, in large part, is his creation.

  4. I came up with this idea on my own and I like thinking you got it from me, so I’ll assume you did. I can do that, right?

  5. If guys weren’t blowing it out of proportion the response would have been “Oh, thanks for pointing out behavior that you find creepy and apparently a lot of other girls do too” not “But how can I ever get laid if I can’t hit on strangers in the elevator at 4AM???”

    I don’t understand your position on this at all, to be honest. And I’m surprised by that. It’s not that I think you’re being a misogynist, or anything like it, I just don’t understand why you don’t get that there’s a problem with hitting on a woman who has repeatedly asked not to be hit on and stated her intentions of wanting to be left alone, and doing so in a very uncomfortable environment.

  6. Ashley, I can’t speak for everyone else, but my problem is the extrapolation taken from this case that it’s proof of widespread misogyny, and in the video she said “I’m going to bed.” A lot of us say we’re going to bed to end a conversation and don’t for several hours.

    I also didn’t hear in the original view (and thats the version of events that really matters) that she repeatedly asked not to be hit on. I’ve listened to the SGU podcast for years, and Watson was all too happy when losers gave her marriage proposals. I saw it in person at TAM 6 and she seemed happy for the attention then.

    She’s allowed to change her mind, but it is ironic that she spent so much time encouraging creepy behavior.

    The guy in the elevator gave an invitation that implied, but did not directly state anything romantic. From her version he did everything right afterwards. As to being afraid of attacks on elevators – they are not a hotbed of assaults of women. This is an irrational fear, much like being more afraid of flying than driving, and it’s the sort of things skeptics should fight, not court. As for this being a “foriegn country,” it was Dublin! She had been living in the United Kingdom, why is that a factor?

    Ashley, while we disagree I have to give you credit for being reasonable with your disagreement. You’ve been fair and courteous, and I hope I’m returning the same respectful tone to you.

  7. The socially awkward actions of one guy–which were in no way threatening or hostile–do not justify the hysteria, the cries of oppression, and the “atheists are all sexist scum!” accusations that inevitably result whenever PZ Myers posts on gender issues.

    There’s quite a few radical, fanatical feminists on the Pharyngula blog… and Myers, while clearly a smart man, is no smarter than any other observer when it comes to topics outside his area of expertise. In gender issues, he frequently grovels and kowtows to the most radical-feminist interpretation of any given fact or incident. And the chorus, by and large, backs him up with their own “personal testimony” of sexist incidents in their own lives.

    On any other topic, you can point out the old line “the plural of anecdote is not data”–but ask for evidence and critical thought on a gender topic, and the screaming and vulgarity begins.

  8. I’m not saying what the guy did was the best thing in the world. I never would ask someone out on an elevator in a situation like that because it would be awkward for both parties should the answer be “no”. That’s a degree of uncomfortableness, though not a degree that relates to some inherent danger.

    The heart of the problem here is that people are saying it makes women uncomfortable to be in an enclosed area with a strange man. If that’s the case, then the guy was in the wrong from the moment he decided to not take the stairs or wait for the next car. The fact that he said something is just being used as an excuse to overreact. If you don’t believe me, search “rape” throughout the Pharyngula threads and see which side is drawing the connection.

  9. It seems to me that there are two main issues, and they are different.

    1) It’s creepy to hit on a girl in an elevator at 4AM if you’re a total stranger and you’re asking her to go back to your room. This is because that reasonably makes a woman feel unsafe — not every woman, but a huge number of women, feel very uncomfortable in this situation. Partially because of a fear of rape, partially because it’s awkward, but not because this is misogynist, just not at all taking into account how someone else feels.

    I think that if you aren’t a woman it’s very difficult to understand how scary it is to be alone at night with a strange man. If I was in that elevator with him, I would have freaked out. Being alone already raises your alert level, but being invited to another, even more private location when you don’t know the guy? I would have been terrified. Because I have been assaulted by men in this situation, and I know many woman who have been as well. And statistics don’t say elevators in particular, but they do say assaults happen when you’re a girl alone in the middle of the night. And assaults on elevators do happen.

    That, again, doesn’t make it misogynistic, it makes it a really bad idea and an example of how some guys (a minority) in the movement don’t think enough about how much shit women have to deal with in the form of guys hitting on them constantly when they try to participate. I thought her advice was really advice on how to actually get laid if you’re a guy at one of these events: step one, don’t be scary.

    2) It is misogynistic to ignore when someone repeatedly says that she doesn’t want to be hit on and says she’s done for the night. (And I can see how not knowing her public discussion/speech was about how much it bothers her to be hit on at these events would skew perception here). It is misogynistic because you’re ignoring explicit and implicit “No”s from a woman because you think your right to hit on her is more important than her clearly stated wishes. The ignoring of no’s also makes the rape thing more of a legitimate fear — if he didn’t hear me say no every other time, why is he going to listen now?

    I don’t like Rebecca Watson particularly, and I don’t disagree with your assessment of her previous behavior, and I think her post blow up reaction to this has been absurd. (Boycott Dawkins, WTF?) But it’s still wrong to ignore her wishes because of your dick.

    Part of the reason that this has blown up is because so many women were already talking about how uncomfortable they were. It’s not that this particular interaction is a big deal, it’s that it’s been bubbling under the surface. People are upset with the public support of men who are really gross to women (Michael Shermer, Lawrence Krauss), people are upset with being treated poorly at conventions by men who aren’t reprimanded at all for being creeps, and if the movement wants women to be a part of it and be comfortable this needs to be changed. If the movement doesn’t feel the need to make women comfortable, then that’s another thing entirely.

    I highly recommend Greta Christina’s blog on this issue, even if you disagree, I think it helps with getting the other perspective:

    And yes, I think you and I agree enough that it would be very silly to get worked up over disagreeing on this. It’s very hard for a lot of the women in the conversation to stay reasonable because they’re hearing that their history of being mistreated by others sexually isn’t important. And it’s hard to rationally deal with that, but a very large number of women have a story of being groped, fondled, grabbed, punched, molested, assaulted, or raped. I understand that you think it doesn’t make sense, but I also think that if you want to have traction with arguing against it, you’ve got to take that into account.

  10. @Ashley: You sound like a very reasonable person, but I just can’t bring myself to agree entirely with your first point.

    I can understand that women can feel scared if cornered by a strange man in the middle of the night, but I honestly don’t think this is our problem, and I don’t think it’s fair that men should have to constantly worry about how their completely normal and impulsive behaviour is being perceived by women around them.

    If I happen to be walking the same way as a woman in the middle of the night, and she freaks out and calls the cops on me, I can sort of understand it, but I won’t feel sorry for this helpless little woman afraid of a 6’6″ guy walking behind her – I’m going to be pissed off at being judged on my gender and the extremely low probability of me being a psycho rapist because of it, when I did absolutely nothing wrong. I should not be required to take a longer route because I could potentially be a threat to someone.

    It’s like how male kindergarten workers aren’t allowed to change diapers on girls sometimes, because people are afraid they might molest them. It can, in very extreme situations, be a necessary method, but it certainly shouldn’t be encouraged or viewed as a good thing. It’s racial segregation all over again, only with gender.

    What this elevator guy did doesn’t sound like the slickest move in the book, but he could have been socially retarded, not thinking or even just not caring. As long as he did nothing threatening, whatever threat the girl perceived is not his problem, just like “Hey, that black man looked at me – he was probably going to rob me!” isn’t the black guy’s problem.

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