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Elevatorgate Belongs on TNT

It seems that the drama around Skepchick Rebecca Watson’s elevator encounter has escalated and people are starting to leave the greater community of reason over this. If you don’t know what I am talking about, Rebecca summarizes it HERE.

On the plus side, this drama is getting a lot of attention and since all publicity is good publicity, it got me thinking. Over the years there have been a few of my fellow atheists that I had some strong differences with and have taken issue with. I usually just let them do their thing and continue to do my thing without doing the whole drama thing. I tend to leave the drama to TNT… They know it.

Seriously, should I me more vocal in my feuds with other atheists? Does that help the community? Does that help fight against the Religious Right? It might get some new readers though.

Okay, I’m not a huge fan of Greg Epstein (the Humanist Chaplin at Harvard). I think he acts like a silver spooned rich kid who is too full of himself. His book reads like he is bragging about how smart he is with quotes that don’t really add to the narrative and I resent his book cover which seems to have been an attempt to latch on to UnitedCoR’s billboard campaign. Plus, he ignored my question in a Q&A and was kind of rude to me afterward. However, I still agree with him on 99.9% of the issues and think that he does a great job creating a community for Humanists. I support his efforts to put a friendlier face on atheism even though I tend to be more the bad cop sort. In short, I think he is a giant douche, but I wish him luck and if he needs any help I would be more than happy to support his efforts.

I also have an issue with BionicDance on YouTube. Awhile back, I disagreed with her in the comments section of a video she did on the Westboro Baptist Church court case and she went irrationally ballistic on me and started to call me names. The next day, I attempted to smooth things over on another social media outlet and she again went irrationally ballistic. So I unsubscribed to her channel and left it at that. I didn’t tell everyone else to unsubscribe because I think some of her videos are actually pretty good (and I told her so). While I can never take anything she says seriously again after her super emotional and irrational discussion, I am sure other people might find her stuff interesting and useful and the more voices out there the better it is for our community.

That is where Rebecca Watson lost me in this whole elevator drama. Yeah, Richard Dawkins was a big douchebag to her and he was wrong. But she was wrong to encourage people to disengage from the community and to Dawkins’s efforts on other fronts. It is fine to take issue with someone’s personality, but don’t drag everyone else into your drama. Leave the drama to TNT or your favorite drama television network.




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  • http://thebrunettesblog.wordpress.com Ginny

    I pretty much agree. Dawkins has lost credibility for me in the more nuanced areas of sexism: like Hitchens, he’s too far behind the times to give worthwhile commentary on Western gender issues (more obvious stuff like oppression of women in Islamic nations they are, of course, solid on.) Depending on how he responds to the continued criticism of his comments, I may or may not lose respect for his ability to be self-critical. But I see no reason to shun his excellent work in the realm of science, philosophy, and religion.

  • http://ashleyfmiller.wordpress.com Ashley F. Miller

    I think that talking about internal arguments is important because it clears the air and hopefully helps people think about their positions and be self-critical, etc etc. I agree that saying you’re going to ignore everything a valuable member contributes just because they disagree with you on an issue is childish and not helpful. I disagree with Phil Plait on DBAD, but I like 100% of everything else he’s said that I’ve read. So, you know, why write him off?

    The elevator story itself, however, is not drama. And the drama started not because of Rebecca herself, but because of extremely insulting and hysterical responses to her. I’m not saying she didn’t then escalate, but I am tired of hearing how the drama is all her fault — not that you’ve said that as such, but this does read as though it is all on her.

  • http://www.laughinginpurgatory.com/ Andrew Hall

    I can only relate what I do when I disagree with another atheist. Simply put, I attempt to use humor to make my point and disagree without being disagreeable. However, this is the internet and drama does get a lot of attention.

  • http://www.dangeroustalk.net Staks

    Ashley, I think I made it pretty clear that I don’t blame Rebecca for this at all. My only issue with her is that I think she went too far in encouraging others to disengage from the community and from Dawkins. I pretty much put the blame on Dawkins, but I think I could spread it around to a few other bloggers too. I actually had no problem with what Rebecca originally said in her video and I have stated such either in this blog post or in the first post I made about this (link at the end of the blog post)

  • Potential Rapist

    In the end, this high school level silliness will likely backfire on Rebecca, PZ, et al. I doubt Dawkins presence as a representative of the greater atheist community and as an author and scientist will be affected much, if at all. Most reasonable people don’t see his comments, or what may or may not have happened in the dreaded elevator, as that big of a deal.

    On the other hand, Rebecca, PZ and others are going to be directly responsible for turning off a large number of very reasonable people to the nascent atheism and critical thinking movement, due to their condescending, elitism and ad-hominem attacks against people who are otherwise their allies. Especially in regard to attending conferences and other events. Of course, Rebecca, PZ and their respective echo chambers won’t care, because those people they turned off are just misogynistic human scum and/or just don’t “get it” (even though they agree on 99.9% of all other issues). At least that’s what the self-appointed arbiters of atheist elevator etiquette will tell themselves.

  • http://www.dangeroustalk.net Staks

    I think Rebecca had some valid points and i am glad she made them. I do think she should make an effort to re-engage her readers into the community. I think most rational guys will be more conscious about how they flirt at these conventions and meetings in the future due to this incident.

  • Potential Rapist

    I think a non-insignificant number of rational guys (and gals) may not attend conventions or meetings at all anymore due to this incident, for fear that their slightest misinterpreted statement or action may brand them as woman-hating scum and privileged potential rapists for all time.

  • http://www.dangeroustalk.net Staks

    That would be unfortunate and I think we need to encourage more people to come to conventions and meetings and make sure that everyone feels safe and comfortable. This means that guys need to be aware of the concerns of women and that women need to give guys the benefit of the doubt. My question to you PR is this, “Do you think you will me more mindful of the how you make women feel at these conventions/meetings or do you plan to just ignore their concerns entirely as unjustified?”

  • http://www.blacksunjournal.com BlackSun

    “This means that guys need to be aware of the concerns of women and that women need to give guys the benefit of the doubt.”

    Did Watson give EG the benefit of the doubt?

    What valid “concerns” were expressed here? That we should re-write the rules of interaction in public spaces? I’m sorry but this “free thought” community has just gotten a lot less free. And people should not be so quick to jump on the “Dawkins was wrong” bandwagon out of fear of appearing to be “misogynistic human scum.” The old-line feminist bullying of even other skeptical women expressing their own interpretations of this event is appalling.

  • http://www.dangeroustalk.net Staks

    All Rebecca said about the EG was, “Don’t do that.” This is pretty practical advice since most women feel threatened when propositioned in a private setting by strangers. So I have no problem with her advice here. What I have a problem with is other people’s reactions on both sides. I do think Dawkins was wrong on quite a few levels. I think he should have realized that by saying anything he would be creating drama that our community doesn’t need. This had nothing to do with him and there was no reason for him to get involved in it. That was not a wise thing to do. But he did it and what he said was pretty mean spirited and added nothing to the conversation except drama.

    The valid concern that was expressed here is that women often feel bombarded with sexual/romantic propositions at these conventions in situations where they feel threatened if they refuse (i.e. in an elevator at 4am). I think most guys (myself included) didn’t realize that women feel threatened when propositioned in a private setting. So the lesson single guys should take from this is that if you want to get laid or ask a woman out successfully at an atheist function (or anywhere else) it is best to do your propositioning in a public setting or after you have gotten to know the woman a bit and she feels comfortable with you.

    You are free to ignore this advice at your own peril. If you proposition a woman in an elevator (or similarly private setting) you are not taking her feelings into account and you will also probably not get your date with her as you have made her feel creeped out.

    As for me, I am not under any threat of being labeled anything since I have already been labeled pretty much everything from a racist to a misogynist during my radio days. People who no me would never think I was either and I don’t think anything I have said would warrant those labels but as someone who talks a lot about controversial topics, I am used to being labeled unfairly and couldn’t care less if it happened again.

  • http://www.dangeroustalk.net Staks

    I should add that a few years ago if I were single, I might have been EG. I really didn’t realize that women felt threatened by a proposition in an elevator. I don’t think EG was being evil or was a misogynist. I just think that like most guys he was clueless. Now EG and most other guys have learned that propositions in such places probably won’t end with an positive response from most women. “Don’t do that” is some pretty sound and practical advice.

  • http://www.blacksunjournal.com BlackSun

    Clearly EG was socially inept and that was the point. The rejection he got was his punishment. That’s how it works between the sexes: men propose, women dispose. I would never have done what EG did, and I don’t know too many other guys who would. But everyone is free to take their best shot, so to speak. We cannot impose prior restraint.

    Females have been dealing with bad come-ons and violence since we were all some common ancestor of chimps and humans. The elimination of forcible copulation is a somewhat recent development in evolutionary terms.

    Women may feel threatened about a lot of things. What matters is if the threat is actual. Feminism has done its job establishing the fact that “no means no,” and apparently EG respected that. Now they’re pushing into unrealistic territory, where guys are supposed to take responsibility, in advance, for anything that might be interpreted the wrong way. It is a bridge too far. And lumping this situation in with *actual* acts of sexual and physical violence trivializes those acts and the women who suffer them.

    I don’t mind saying I’m far less likely to attend one of these gatherings, and I definitely would not get into an elevator with a woman I didn’t know at one of them. It’s just not worth the trouble of being misconstrued.

  • http://www.blacksunjournal.com BlackSun

    “if I were single, I might have been EG.”

    This is the most important point here! And someone else’s elevator proposition might have gone just fine.

    I guarantee you throughout the history of hotels and conferences, there have been at the very least tens of thousands, (and more likely millions) of elevator propositions which have been accepted.

    Methods of propositioning women are as varied as human males. And every one of them is OK so long as no one is actually threatened, and the answer of “no” is accepted graciously.

    But if women want men to take “no” for an answer graciously, they must also demonstrate understanding and good humor that the guy actually took the shot. This is true equality, not the public airing of hurt feelings that a guy would so much as *dare* to ask.

  • http://www.dangeroustalk.net Staks

    My interpretation of Rebecca’s original comment was just that. It was that she was letting guys know that it isn’t a practical way to get a date. I don’t think she intended it to turn into the drama that it has and I don’t think she is asking for anything unreasonable here (that I am aware of). It seems like she just wants guys to be more thoughtful before propositioning a woman and to think about the setting and how she might be feeling before propositioning. Yeah, EG was not a smooth dude. I’m not either. I’m embarrassed to say how I propositioned my wife for our first date. But let’s face facts here, Dawkins was a jerk. He really should apologize.

    “That’s how it works between the sexes: men propose, women dispose.” While this may be how the world is, it is not how the world ought to be and I think we should actively work to change that.

  • http://www.blacksunjournal.com BlackSun

    “Dawkins was a jerk. He really should apologize.”

    I pray to Darwin that Dawkins does no such thing. He was not wrong. If he does apologize it will be a political move of appeasement.

    I think we should actively work to improve awareness and the setting of personal boundaries and the taking of responsibility for effective negotiation by all parties. The world doesn’t get better by making it “nicer” for those who haven’t figured that out.

  • http://www.dangeroustalk.net Staks

    Come on, let’s be honest, he was a jerk. I like the guy and everything, but that was a pretty obnoxious comment to make. Anyone could make that type of argument about seemingly anything.
    Dear alterboys raped by catholic priests, I know you have suffered a great deal, but not nearly as much as BlackSun has from being told that it is a bad idea to proposition women in an elevator at 4am at an atheist conference. etc. etc.

    See, that is my Dawkins impression here. It is pretty dick, isn’t it?

  • http://www.blacksunjournal.com BlackSun

    Staks, Dawkins was not wrong or a dick. I thought this community was about facts over feelings? Nothing worthy of note happened in that elevator.

    As for me, I don’t think I’ve suffered at all here. I think women have actually suffered from this, and I’m serious. Gender relations have suffered from this. Understanding and awareness of appropriate social norms and responsibilities have suffered from this. Conference attendance will have suffered from this. There are no winners, except possibly Skepchick, who now has worldwide notoriety.

    At least 4 female bloggers (so far) strongly agree with me, not to mention the original post from Stef McGraw.

    http://jewmanist.com/2011/07/06/sexism-and-sex/

    http://mirandaceleste.net/2011/07/03/feminists-can-be-bullies-too/

    http://asystemofrandomtangents.wordpress.com/2011/07/06/potential-sexual-assualt-mr-plait-you-disappoint-me-with-jumping-on-the-rebecca-watson-hurt-feelings-bandwagon/

    http://skeptoid.com/blog/2011/07/06/take-back-the-elevator/

  • http://www.dangeroustalk.net Staks

    I actually read Allison’s blog post and agreed with her. I also agreed with Rebecca on some points. My concern is conference/meeting attendance and that is where I have been critical of Rebecca. But I can’t see how anyone could say that Dawkins wasn’t being a complete dick here. That’s not to say he was wrong necessarily (although as I pointed out in my last comment anyone could say that about pretty much anything), just that he was being a jerk. That isn’t hard to admit and I am surprised that you are so resistant to that idea.

  • http://www.blacksunjournal.com BlackSun

    I think Dawkins’ only blunder was failing to understand the ferocity of the people he was talking to. What he said may have been sarcastic, but it was not wrong. He was pointing out the incredibly privileged and pampered status of the old-line feminists relative to their counterparts elsewhere in the world. I actually think the reason they got as upset as they did is because he cut them to the quick. Nothing hurts like the truth. Nothing infuriates like a lie exposed.

    As for the follow up, again, he only spoke the truth, that a negotiation had gone wrong for a guy, and there was no reason to be upset about it. All EG did was make an awkward proposition to a woman and get shot down.

    But the damage was done.

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  • h

    Dawkins simply told this irrational whiner with a chip on her shoulder to grow up, get some perspective and get a life. I support that message 100%.

  • http://churchofatheism.webs.com Aaron ODonahue

    Mr. Elevatorgate is reported to be in a critical care unit. Apparently the shame from hitting on a woman in an elevator has caused him to commit suicide. He knew full well that made him a sexualizing creeper and potential rapist, but after having some drinks with her down at the bar he just couldn’t resist his perverted impulse to say she was “really interesting.” You won’t be missed, you misogynist freak!