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Love (and hate) In An Elevator

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I know, I know. We’re all sick to death of the story of Elevator Guy (I refuse to call it ElevatorGate, come on people, that hasn’t been funny since CrackerGate). That is to say we’re so sick of it that we feel compelled to read every blog and watch every video we find on the topic and then pontificate on the subject at length in the comments section in the most smug, sarcastic and polarising manner possible. That goes for people on both sides, by the way, but more on that later.

So, I have decided it will probably save some time and effort in the long-run if I just put all of my thoughts on the main aspects of this drama into one post that I can refer people to later.  It is impossible to address EVERY side event which has since happened so you’ll have to forgive me if I pass over what you feel to be an important response.

The Elevator

Rebecca Watson was invited as a panelist to the World Atheist Convention in Dublin. During her talk she highlighted the under-representation of women at these events and discussed the experiences that she and other female participants have dealt with and which she feels is most responsible for the problem. Namely, that many of the men at these conferences appear to have some quite outdated notions about how to interact with women and are treating them PRIMARILY as potential conquests rather than equal contributors. To put it plainly, many of the women say they come to these events hoping for thought-provoking exchanges with like-minded individuals but leave them wondering if they had just accidentally stumbled into a singles bar during happy-hour.

Later on that evening Ms. Watson was in the hotel bar with several other attendees discussing this and other topics. At 4am she decided to call it a night, saying that she was exhausted and really needed to go to bed. She then left the bar and went into the elevator, a few moments later a man who had also just been in the bar got on also.

Note: I am not in any way accusing Elevator Guy (henceforth to be referred to as EG) of deliberately following her, for all I know when he heard her make mention of the late hour he could have thought to himself, “Wow, it is late. I might call it a night too.” I don’t wish to assign guilty motives where innocent ones can easily be inferred.

It was at this point that EG put his foot in it and said to Ms. Watson;

“Don’t take this the wrong way, but I find you very interesting and I would like to talk more. Would you like to come to my hotel room for coffee?”

There are numerous reasons why this, while very polite, was a very thoughtless thing to do.  They are as follows,

1: She made it perfectly clear that she was exhausted, don’t tell someone you think they’re interesting and immediately follow-up with proof that you weren’t paying attention to a word they said.

2: She had just spent the day explaining that she finds advances at these events highly annoying.  So doing something that can easily be construed as a come-on, such as inviting her back to your room at 4am, is a no-no. If your intent really was to just have an engaging conversation, then you should have simply said that you hope you can discuss it further tomorrow morning, she is exhausted after all (see point 1).

3:  If you did have something else on your mind besides coffee, that’s nothing to be ashamed of and it’s not a crime.  However, this was obviously not the time or the place, especially since you had not spoken so much as one word to her all evening prior to this (she states that she had never spoken to him before in this post).  You had several hours to engage with her in conversation in a setting that was much more comfortable.  If you had spoken with her and others around her throughout the night and THEN asked her on the elevator if she wished to carry on the conversation, at least there would have been a conversation to carry on.  As it was, however, the invitation came out of nowhere and immediately and understandably put her on the defensive.

4:  It showed complete thoughtlessness in terms of how the other person would most likely perceive the situation.  Lets assume for now that EG’s motives WERE completely honest and innocent.  Is there anyway, bar telepathy, that Ms. Watson could have been expected to know that?  Or, is it more reasonable, given the setting, for her to consider the likelihood that “coffee” meant more than just coffee.  Perhaps it seems unjust to you that EG had to suffer for other men’s sins, but please consider the situation.  Ms. Watson was, as she pointed out;

  • Alone,

  • in an enclosed space,

  • with a man she didn’t know,

  • in an unfamiliar location.

That is to say she was in the exact kind of situation every parent and police officer warns young women to avoid whenever possible.  In such a situation would you not advise that it is in her best interest to err on the side of caution, politely decline and exit as soon as possible (i.e. do exactly what she did)?  If not, why?  Also, if you believe that it was unreasonable for her to be wary, can you please explain at what point a woman SHOULD become concerned in such a situation?

(Disclaimer: These are honest questions, attempts to use them to construct straw-man arguments will be summarily ignored.)

In defense of EG, I think he was guilty of social ineptitude and thoughtlessness, little else.  If he had paused for a moment to consider how it looked from the other side my guess is he would have simply said goodnight and left any attempt to initiate a conversation until the morning.   Given the fact that it was 4am and alcohol was involved it is somewhat understandable that he exercised poor judgement but that does not absolve him of his personal responsibility to consider the other person.  He made a mistake and (hopefully) learned from it.

The Video

A few days later and Ms. Watson posts a video detailing her trip to Ireland and participation in the conference.  Towards the end of the video she makes mention of the elevator incident as follows;

“I loved talking to you guys…all of you except for the one man who didn’t really grasp, I think, what I was saying on the panel because at the bar later that night, actually at four in the morning, we were at the hotel bar…

4AM…I said, “You know I’ve had enough guys, I’m exhausted. I’m going to bed.”

So I walk to the elevator and a man got on the elevator with me and said, ‘Don’t take this the wrong way, but I find you very interesting and I would like to talk more. Would you like to come to my hotel room for coffee?’

Just a word to the wise here guys, don’t do that.

You know, I don’t really know how else to explain how this makes me incredibly uncomfortable but I’ll just sort of lay it out that I was a single woman in a foreign country at 4am in a hotel elevator with you, just you and don’t invite me back to your hotel room right after I finish talking about how it creeps me out and makes me uncomfortable when men sexualise me in that manner.

So, yeah. But everybody else seemed to really get it and thank you for getting it.”

I have already covered most of the points raised by this but I have to take issue with Rebecca on one small point here.  When she says “…don’t invite me back to your hotel room right after I finish talking about how it creeps me out and makes me uncomfortable when men sexualise me in that manner” she has, by default, inferred that EG was definitely sexualising her and leaves no room for more innocent motivations on his part.  Unless you have absolute certainty about a situation it is best to avoid absolute statements of fact.

Within hours the video comments section was full of comments that completely ignored all context and launched straight into melodramatic hyperbole, such as

“How dare men sexual a woman?! That’s just insane! Stupid bitches, it must be pretty terrible to always be a victim.”

and

“The only sexism I see here is women assuming that a man who politely asks them up to his hotel room must, naturally, be a deranged rapist.”

There were also similarly fallacious comments assuming EG’s absolute, automatic guilt.  These occurred much less frequently but that may have more to do with the fact that the video has since become swamped with trolls.   (italics mine);

“…dude, it was 4am and he followed her into the elevator, but you conveniently disregarded that little slice of reality so you could impose your very own hateful reality.”

and

“… here’s the smoking gun: the dude never spoke to her, but as soon as she leaves he follows her, which smacks of predation…”

To such people I have a question.  If you must gut out all of the context and details of someone else’s position or assume things as true with little or no evidence before you can make an argument, what does that tell you about your argument?

Like I said, I think she was incorrect in stating that he had sexualised her but, given the details of that particular incident, she had every right to be wary.  In fact, I don’t think it is going too far to say that it would have been foolish of her NOT to be concerned, at least to some degree.

The Case Of The ‘Privileged’ Professor

So the flame wars were well and truly underway in the comments section and soon other bloggers were making mention of the topic and adding their particular take on the events described.  When PZ Myers posted a Pharyngula entry supportive of Watson’s position it was soon responded to by Richard Dawkins in the comment section.  The response went as follows;

“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”

Many in the thread were unsure as to what, precisely, was the point he was attempting to make and if he was suggesting that because there are much worse things happening elsewhere western women shouldn’t complain about less harmful things closer to home.  He replied thusly;

“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. … 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.

… The equivalent would be if PZ had nailed not a cracker but a Catholic. Then they’d have had good reason to complain.”

In a subsequent post, wherein Prof Myers confirmed that it was the actual Dawkins making these statements, Dawkins gave his (thus far) final opinion on the matter

“…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.”

All in all, I have to say that Prof. Dawkins initially made the same mistake of completely erasing all context from the situation.  If this conversation had taken place at 2PM in a large, crowded, public space then things would have been completely different.  But that’s not how it occurred and when I see people consistently avoiding context when making a counter-argument I can’t help but suspect that they are aware that that is the case.  When he did, finally, acknowledge the context, the rationalisations used were, quite frankly, ludicrous.  While the hotel may have been “crowded” in terms of overall occupancy, at 4am I doubt its corridors were brimming with guests.  The vast majority of occupants were probably fast asleep in their rooms.  So I’m sorry, but that argument is simply a non-starter.

As to the rest of his points I believe Prof. Myers addressed them better than I could so I will post his complete reply here.  This post has been updated several times so make sure to scroll all the way to the end to make sure that you’re not missing something that wasn’t there if/when you originally saw the post.  One thing I disagree with Prof Myers on, as I did with Ms. Watson, is the assumption of sexualisation on the part of EG.  Other than that I agree with almost everything he says.  The main points I want to emphasise are;

“However, the existence of greater crimes does not excuse lesser crimes, and no one has even tried to equate this incident to any of the horrors above. What these situations demand is an appropriate level of response: a man who beats a woman to death has clearly committed an immensely greater crime than a man who harasses a woman in an elevator; let us fit the punishment to the crime. Islamic injustice demands a worldwide campaign of condemnation of the excesses and inhumanity of that religion.

The elevator incident demands…a personal rejection and a woman nicely suggesting to the atheist community that they avoid doing that. And that is what it got.”

And;

“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!

That’s exactly analogous to Rebecca Watson’s situation. She did not make these hysterical accusations everyone is claiming, she did not compare herself to the oppressed women of the third world, she did not demonize the clumsy sap in the elevator — she asked for some simple common courtesy, and for that she gets pilloried.

Sorry, people, but that sends a very clear signal to women that calm requests for respect will be met with jeers by a significant subset of the atheist community, and that’s not right.”

The Boycott

If Ms. Watson chooses to boycott Prof. Dawkins that is her decision but I will not be following her example.  I personally do not feel that disagreement on this one issue is sufficient to warrant a complete boycott of anything and everything Dawkins, this is purely a matter of subjective opinion and everyone is free to decide based on their own feelings on the matter.

Watson Vs. McGraw

While I disagree with Ms. McGraw’s opinion on the initial incident, I cannot agree with the manner in which Ms. Watson ‘called out’ Ms. McGraw over a dissenting blog.  She did so at the beginning of a talk in which she was scheduled to speak on the Religious Rights effects on feminist issues, not that of the atheist community.  If she had wanted to mention this issue she could easily have worked it in during the question and answers session afterwards.  Ms. McGraw was left in a position where she then had to sit through a one hour talk before she even had the option of offering a rebuttal, poor form in my opinion.

I feel that it is much better manners to continue exchanges in the appropriate forum, namely that in which it was initiated and where both parties have equal ability to respond to the other at their own discretion.  It may not have been Ms. Watson’s intent to come across as petty and somewhat spiteful in this instance, but remember, it may not have been EG’s intent to come across as creepy either.  Ms. Watson was just as responsible for the perception created by her choice of timing as was EG.

In Conclusion

Finally,  The people at these events are grown men, predominantly aged 30-60, who should know better by now.  Sorry guys, but boys will be boys simply doesn’t cut it.   It is not a woman’s role to constantly monitor your behaviour and to be blunt, you  need to grow the hell up and take some personal responsibility.  I have just as much testosterone in my veins as any other man, not all of us (or even, I hope, most of us) use it as an excuse.  It is the responsibility of everyone, man or woman, to consider the perspective of the person they are dealing with and if necessary adapt their behaviour to suit the given situation.

It is an unfortunate truth in our society that sexual assaults and rape are still relatively common, with some estimates stating that 1 in 4 women will be victim of a rape or attempted rape.

(For anyone thinking of making the point that this means 3 out of 4 women are unduly paranoid, don’t.  That’s not how it works and you know it.  There is no way of knowing which side of the line you’ll end up on until after the fact, the best you can do is exercise due caution.  Consider how much convincing you would need to play a one man game of Russian Roulette?  There’s a 5 out of 6 chance that your brains WON’T end up on the ceiling, right?)

For those of you who still, after all this, consider Ms. Watson’s initial unease in the elevator to be completely unjustifiable, here’s some reading material that you should familiarise yourself with before making proclamations that some women are simply over-reacting.

Advice to women to reduce instances of sexual assault (see anything familiar?):

http://www.sacpd.org/besafe/safetyguides/rape.aspx

http://www.chattanooga.gov/police_department/74_preventingrape.htm

http://www.snopes.com/crime/prevent/ninetips.asp

http://www.princegeorgescountymd.gov/Government/PublicSafety/Police/assault.asp

Peer-reviewed literature regarding Victim-blaming and the prevalence of Rape Myth Acceptance (can you guess which gender is by far most likely to perpetuate false stereotypes regarding rape?)

http://vaw.sagepub.com/content/15/8/877.full.pdf+html

http://jiv.sagepub.com/content/23/12/1730.full.pdf+html

http://ps.psychiatryonline.org/cgi/reprint/59/12/1450

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Written by NotInMyName2050

July 12, 2011 at 1:11 pm

31 Responses

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  1. Dawkins is being a twat here. Nuff said.

    Isaac

    July 12, 2011 at 2:02 pm

    • The lady made a good point in a good manner, i think it is only the onlookers of the whole thing that have made this into such a drama. Going to that sort of event is not a social event for some and i can understand that when some people take it upon themselves to do good work, for others on issues like these the last thing they want is to feel like they are candy in a shop being looked at by men. However nothing more than an impolite man asked her if she wanted to go to a room, she made a comment about it. that should be that and a reminder to the man in question that he should think a little more before approaching women in that way. The end.

      Matt

      July 12, 2011 at 11:14 pm

      • Agreed, unfortunately this is the internet. As has been pointed out elsewhere:

        Normal person + anonymity + audience = complete asshole

        NotInMyName2050

        July 12, 2011 at 11:20 pm

  2. I have lots of sympathies for lots of sides. But frankly this idea that this is a story where discussion about rape or attempted rape has to be amplified is hyperbole. It does give some context to the worries that do underline some things, but that is the extend of the merit of that point. And that is not to deny the reality, or the actual and certainly in a way justifiable fears.

    But that fear applies in ANY situation. Every time two people meet one can view the other as a potential threat. Context can make the fear worse, but it doesn’t make the fear more real or a better predictor.

    What is the reality in this situation? No rape, no attempted rape, in fact the exchange played out what I would describe as rather normative, polite. No was taken as no, without any indication of lack of grace.

    So what is the victimization here? Rebecca was in an uncomfortable situation, creeped out and felt objectified. Is it really fair to compare this to victims of rape and attempted rape? I may be overreacting but this almost seems like an insult to me to those who are victims. And it’s an insult to elevator guy who, at least it appears, was no perpetrator.

    Why is there this emphasis on talking about rape then? Well to explain to the guys just how awful this was. No, this wasn’t “that awful”. This was inconsiderate, and yes Rebecca was within her rights to feel the way she did and talk about it. There should be no gate here, there should be discourse how the genders should engage, given the complexity that noone can read minds yet and that communication is complex and that in some situations “I’m tired” means “I’m leaving now” and in some situations “coffee” means “one-night stand”. And so this is a complex version of the discussion that indeed “no means no”, and that is where we should have the dialogue.

    For example I wish I had a mind-reader that told me the following things:
    *) Is the other party interested in talking to me?
    *) What is the other party’s preferred communication style?
    *) Will the other party talk to me if I don’t take the initiative?

    Note how we usually don’t have the answers to these and many related questions. If we want to relate to each other at all, we do have to take risks to probe the answers. We should be talking about how to do these things in a non-threatening, socially acceptable, non-sexist(!) way. I would argue that the very fact that men, especially in the US, but also largely in Europe take these risks more often than not, is a big part of the problem. But I see virtually noone propose that we work on changing the sexist patterns that underlie this.

    This much more difficult conversation is not what we are having. We are having hyperbole about threats and rape, about “woman-hating” and objectification, about mansplaining, about gender-traitors and people hating on the side they disagree with (whatever a definition of “side” is here) and so forth. Strawmanning sexist stereotypes such as the “privilege of the while male old rich guy” and attacked as if this is the only chance to actually win the battle over sexism, and the blinders that maintain it. There has been plenty of misogyny as well as misandry that surfaced as part of what happened, further evidence just how difficult gender relations are and how hard it is to actually stay factual, fair, non-sexist, and interested in resolving problems, and most importantly listen to all sides and understand why they say what they say. I know this is hard when emotions run high. And personal feelings are hurt.

    Hitch

    July 12, 2011 at 2:25 pm

    • Thank you for the measured response, we seem to agree on nearly everything but there are a few points I’d like to make.

      “But that fear applies in ANY situation.”

      I’m sorry but it really doesn’t, the wariness a woman feels when stuck in an elevator with a stranger in the middle of the night does NOT apply to a situation in which a guy tries to initiate a conversation in a public place with plenty of people around. As for it not being a better predictor, please read through the links I have provided regarding the advice Law Enforcement Professionals give.

      The situation that she found herself in closely echoes those that women are commonly warned about by people who work with the victims of these crimes on a regular basis. The people who deal with such crimes seem to think it is a definite indicator.

      This is also why rape is being “emphasised”. When people ask as to why she should have been concerned in the first place this is the reason and so I tell them.

      ” Is it really fair to compare this to victims of rape and attempted rape? I may be overreacting but this almost seems like an insult to me to those who are victims”

      I would have been incorrect if I had done that, but I don’t think I have. I answered what has been a common question as to why men should avoid approaching women in this manner. Namely, they have been warned about situations similar to this and as such there is little to no chance that such an invitation will be met with anything but suspicion. Expecting them to give a complete stranger the benefit of the doubt in such a situation is asking them to leave themselves open to an unnecessary risk.

      NotInMyName2050

      July 12, 2011 at 5:12 pm

      • It appears that the event that people are reacting to is not the event on the elevator but the fact that she had to report it to everyone in the world.

        If the events had occurred exactly as described and she never told anyone then her reaction was perfectly proportionate, but the part of her reaction that is disproportionate is her using it as a “lesson” for all men. Her “guys, don’t do that” point is instantly infuriating to men who have found no rhyme or reason to the responses of women when trying to initiate sex. Sometimes women say yes sometimes they say no, but to basically take the position that there are circumstances when men should be barred from asking is expecting more from men than they are capable of handling.

        It is my personal belief that all human beings have the right to talk to each other and that her reply to him was completely acceptable, however, her attempt to condemn all men is totally ridiculous. Understood in the context of our society and the male dominated culture that we all grew up in, I completely understand her reaction and I believe she is totally and completely right in telling all men that basically they are all rapists.

        Men and women are very different and in this situation I am 100% sure that both Skepchick and her critics are correct.

        wwickeddogg

        July 13, 2011 at 10:12 pm

  3. Very well thought out blog on the situation, which people on both sides will ignore to put forth their personal agenda. Thank you for taking the time and effort to do this.

    wickeddollz

    July 12, 2011 at 2:37 pm

  4. Hitch’s reply is the best I’ve seen on the entire subject. I think EG was silly and insensitive and no doubt a little drunk and RW was ultimately guilty of sexism. I think people are missing the point when they talk about other people missing the point about the scenario changing because they were in an elevator. I don’t think anyone is seriously suggesting that RW shouldn’t have been INITIALLY wary at all. The problems occur after the (non) incident when her rejection of the proposal was accepted yet she insisted on playing the victim card nonetheless. People are going to ‘sexualise’ (whatever that means) each other all the time, every day. It’s part of being human and I suggest we all deal with it. Does me wanting to have sex with someone automatically make them less of a rounded person in my eyes? No don’t be ridiculous, the chances are that if I want to have sex with someone it’s precisely because I’m attracted not only to how they look but also who they are as a person. This has all been blown wildly out of all proportion and as Hitch says the real conversation, such as why men need to stick their necks out all the time and risk being perceived as a pervert, aren’t happening.

    Mark

    July 12, 2011 at 4:43 pm

    • ” she insisted on playing the victim card”

      When? She expressed annoyance at what she perceived (not entirely correctly in my opinion) to be a sexual advance. Engaging in this kind of polarised re-editing of what actually happened is incredibly annoying.

      “Does me wanting to have sex with someone automatically make them less of a rounded person in my eyes? No don’t be ridiculous…”

      I wasn’t being ridiculous because I never said any such thing. I said that many women feel as if they are primarily being treated as conquests. Many women do feel this way and it is hard for them to accept that a man is treating them as a “rounded person” when he jumps straight past the pleasantries and tries o seal the deal. This of course does not apply to all men but as long as such behaviour persists it is incumbent on others to highlight it.

      “the real conversation, such as why men need to stick their necks out all the time and risk being perceived as a pervert, aren’t happening”

      In this one instance, the reason this guy came out looking bad was because he didn’t think through how the situation looked. But I have already covered that ad nauseum.

      NotInMyName2050

      July 12, 2011 at 5:21 pm

  5. THANK YOU.

    I am having just the hardest time in the world getting this idea across, and I’ve tried writing *and* a response video and I still keep getting the same feedback… that people aren’t understanding me.

    I’ve been trying to explain why none of this is about the man’s intentions, and that he got the response he did because he made a bad. He took a misstep. He misunderestimated his quarry.

    But people just can’t get the sex part out of their heads once it’s been put there and they keep jumping right over the event that sparked Watson’s (understandable) response.

    zEropoint68

    July 12, 2011 at 11:15 pm

  6. You wrote:
    “However, this was obviously not the time or the place, especially since you had not spoken so much as one word to her all evening prior to this. You had several hours to engage with her in conversation in a setting that was much more comfortable. If you had spoken with her and others around her throughout the night and THEN asked her on the elevator if she wished to carry on the conversation, at least there would have been a conversation to carry on.”
    ~
    Where did you get the information that EG had not spoken with her prior to this? He said “…I would like to talk more.” Doesn’t this seem to imply a continuation of prior conversation?

    markdzima

    July 13, 2011 at 12:04 am

    • I didn’t quote it directly (a mistake on my part) but the page that contained that information was linked to later on (the first link in the McGraw V Watson section)

      http://skepchick.org/2011/06/on-naming-names-at-the-cfi-student-leadership-conference/

      Said page contains the following;

      “…basically, in an elevator in Dublin at 4AM I was invited back to the hotel room of a man I had never spoken to before and who was present to hear me say that I was exhausted and wanted to go to bed.”

      Thanks for pointing it out, I’ll make sure to link it to the earlier portion as well to avoid this confusion being repeated.

      NotInMyName2050

      July 13, 2011 at 12:11 am

  7. To my mind the fellows actions were utterly inappropriate and if you allow me to get dramatic he was lacking honour or consideration.
    If the fellows intentions were, lets say “pure” than it is still inappropriate, if he wanted to talk he should have offered his number and avoided making her feel uncomfortable.

    Dawkins response is what makes this bad because the EG was likely just not thinking about his actions, he didn’t have time or opportunity to realise his error if he thought on it at all. Dawkins has had the chance, and is still acting the prick.
    But Dawkins being a prick shouldn’t be a surprise to anybody at this point, it is his thing and it works for him.

    I agree with what you said here

    CalDazar

    July 13, 2011 at 1:58 am

  8. I think the term “harassment” is a bit of a stretch in this case.

    Prof meyers analogy is flawed for a few reasons:

    Firstly, the man didn’t flirt with her in front of the audience. Unlike dawkins’ persistent fan, the man did not INSIST on persuading her to come to his room after she rejected him, did he? Treating an entire group of men as having one identity… or as having some common mind is one of the most common and annoying fallacies that these feminist arguments make. Saying “it annoys/creeps me when you (everybody or in general) flirts with me” is different imo than saying “you (singular/specific case) are creeping me out” in a private setting. The latter does not necessarily follow from the former.

    Then the analogy then becomes “dawkins said in his speech that he doesn’t like people standing close to him, then later that day, he was talking to someone who stood too close to him, he asked the man to back up, and the man complied. When dawkins got back from his trip he brought up how disrespectful the man was being, and the crowd loudly defended the man”
    This makes dawkins (in the analogy) seem like the unreasonable one, doesn’t it? I don’t believe the man did anything wrong at all. It isn’t his duty to predict how she will react to what he says. I tend to agree with dawkins.

    Secondly, comparing internet comments to a crowd loudly defending… well it’s not quite the same. The latter is much more rude in general (making the crowd seem more unreasonable than it is).

    Gregory

    July 13, 2011 at 3:13 am

    • There are a few issues I have myself with PZ’s analogy but I wanted to let people see how the argument had evolved. I had already stated that I thought assuming less-noble motivations was a bad move but I should, in hindsight, also have added my own analysis on PZ’s analogy but this had already taken so long to put together that I let it slide.

      NotInMyName2050

      July 13, 2011 at 11:04 am

  9. I just watched TJ’s(AmazingAtheist) vid on this. I agree with him on the matter.

    “He should have know” is a logical fallacy. In particular: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hindsight_bias

    I was scared of random people talking to me when I was 12 years old. Not too long after that, I developed a response: “No thanks”.

    This woman seems incapable of that. And now the entire internet is agreeing with everything she says, just because she’s a woman who’s feeling uncomfortable about being asked to someone’s room for a cup of coffee. Everyone is assuming it was for sex. And an assumption is good enough, apparently.

    She said she “saw the man at the bar”. She never goes in to detail about whether or not this person was sitting in the group of people she was talking to, or was simple at the complete opposite site of the bar. He could have been interested in her for a lot longer, maybe having heard her talk during her panel. And not having heard she’s exhausted. But let me guess. In that case, he should have assumed it, right?

    “She had clearly stated she was exhausted, he should have respected that”. Here’s a thought: in the group having heard her or not, what if he’d never see her again after this moment? This was his last chance and he knew it. Take it or leave it? Take it of course. Take a chance. But no. He asked her to his room, so he’s a pervert. Pure assumption on her part.

    What the hell ever happened to walking up to a person and taking a chance?

    Dawkins was right when he said: “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.”

    He’s not pulling things out of context. People are over-analyzing ever little detail that happened or could have happened at every single moment and then saying this guy should have taken all of it in to account before making a decision. If this man was actually capable of this in a couple of minutes, he should apply to join MENSA.

    And even if he only wanted some casual sex, there’s nothing wrong with that. Like Dawkins said: She said no and that was the end of it. He respected her wish not to persue whatever he was planning any further. Then why is she demonizing this guy? Because he doesn’t think casual sex is a bad thing? Well that’s just his way of life then. And if he respects people’s wishes not to join him in it, which he has shown to do, then what is the damn problem?

    As atheists, we fight the religion, because it enforces rules on us and tells us what we should think is good and what’s bad. And this woman, speaker at an atheist convention, goes and says that this kind of behavior is bad and it should not be allowed. Dawkin puts things in perspective and points out the guy respected her wishes, therefor saying nothing is wrong with this, and she boycotts him for it. There’s a term for that: hypocrite.

    Seriously: tons of women have casual sex and have no problem with this. Women objectify men just as much as men do women. What is the damn problem here if everybody respects each others wishes?

    ———————————
    I know the following isn’t your writings, I just want to comment on it in general:
    “she asked for some simple common courtesy,”. No, she did not.
    Here’s what she said, copied from this blogpost: “You know, I don’t really know how else to explain how this makes me incredibly uncomfortable but I’ll just sort of lay it out that I was a single woman in a foreign country at 4am in a hotel elevator with you, just you and don’t invite me back to your hotel room right after I finish talking about how it creeps me out and makes me uncomfortable when men sexualise me in that manner.”

    Hindsight. Pure and simple. After the events, she talks about how wrong it was. And like Mr.Dawkins has stated: nothing bad happened. Her whole “don’t ask me to your hotel room” thing falls flat on it’s face. She said no and the guy stopped at that point.

    “she did not demonize the clumsy sap in the elevator”. Yes, she did. She outright stated the she believes he’s a misogynist. Which is “a hater of women”. That he sexualizes her. In other words, she’s saying he wanted her for possibilities of casual sex. All of this, assumptions on her part. Every little thing that is being said by her and other people about this guy is 100% assumption. That because he is a man, he *probably* had those motives. Pure demonizing. Pure Misandry.
    ———————————–

    This is called being socially inept. And people are applauding her for it. This is a classic “man I don’t know looked at me strangely while on the bus -> almost got raped today” story.

    Here’s a guy who’s interested in a woman, tries his luck and gets accused of being the filth of the earth, a misogynist and a sexual predator. Just some guy, trying his luck with some woman he likes for some reason. How many times you think that happens around the world. Some person working up the courage to speak to someone they’re interested in, asking them if they can spend some time together? A couple of million times?

    This is a prejudiced woman who doesn’t know how to handle the opposite sex in personal situations, but loves to complain about them. She is the problem. Yes, the guy picked bad timing. I’ve had this myself at times and never has a woman reacted like this to me. “Maybe later” “Ok”. And done. What is so hard to grasp about this concept?

    This woman is, beyond a shadow of a doubt, seriously overreacting. Her reaction to this is uncalled for and is completely based on her assumption of what his motives where.

    If you think some person wanting to hook up with you is automatically after you only for sex, you’ve got some serious issues. Yet the only thing she does is complain about how men are the problem and they should change. This woman has problems. Yet instead of recognizing that she’s the one assuming everything here, she makes the other person in to some demon. This woman does not deserve any respect.

    Finishing: this whole thing has been blown out of proportion, especially by the woman in question. Everyone is analyzing the situation in unbelievable detail.

    What happened here is simple: A woman said she’s exhausted and goes to her room. A man who may or may have not heard this asks her if she’s interested in coming to his room. She refuses. It ends there.

    It made her feel uncomfortable? So what? People feel uncomfortable about a lot of things. Nothing happened. In fact, the man showed respect for her wishes. Yet she presses on.

    She’s the one assuming, she’s the one demonizing, she’s the one who wants to milk this for all its worth, because she thinks something bad *might have happened*.

    Rape is bad, it’s horrible. No question there. But when you view every man who talks to you out of the blue as a potential rapist, that’s bad too. This shows that there is no true equality. Only prejudice and fear.

    kaalzog

    July 13, 2011 at 4:21 am

    • I have to disagree with your assertion that I’ve committed a fallacy there. Hindsight bias is when people retro-actively edit previous experience to suit current knowledge. What I said was that this guy should have been aware of his surroundings and I stand by that. Someone does not need to be a card carrying member of Mensa to show some common sense.

      “I was scared of random people talking to me when I was 12 years old. Not too long after that, I developed a response: “No thanks”.

      This woman seems incapable of that.”

      Well, from what she said that WAS her response at the time. I have already made clear the issues I have with her later inference that he had definitely sexualised her so I’m not going to go over it again.

      “What happened here is simple: A woman said she’s exhausted and goes to her room. A man who may or may have not heard this asks her if she’s interested in coming to his room. She refuses. It ends there.”

      I agree, it should end there. The only reason I brought up the rape issues were because there were several people asking what she could possible have been worried about. The question has been answered and it is time to move on.

      Now, if we want to discuss why women aren’t engaging with the sceptic community in equal numbers it is best to leave behind all the melodramatic baggage that this event has raised. There is just no way to get anything constructive out of the conversation if we keep dragging this around.

      NotInMyName2050

      July 13, 2011 at 10:42 am

  10. Great post.

    menonfire12

    July 13, 2011 at 5:10 am

  11. I read it and disagree slightly, the part when you suggest it a lesser crime of harassing a woman in an elevator. I don’t agree with it being harassment, a man propositioned a woman and she said no, thats it.

    Think of it if they were both guys and one was gay, their might have been a bit of awkwardness after the rejection but it wouldnt be considered harassment. I see this as feminists wanting special rules for women, I mean it was a polite question and i dont see anything wrong with asking, It may be considered inappropriate timing but that does not constitute harassment, and if a women can say it to a guy or a guy to another guy then that really is equality

    Mark Bigland

    July 13, 2011 at 7:40 am

  12. “If he had paused for a moment to consider how it looked from the other side my guess is he would have simply said goodnight and left any attempt to initiate a conversation until the morning.”

    And probably completely missed any chance at a conversation happening period. Who’s to say they would wake at the same time, eat breakfast in the same place, cross paths at all in the hotel again, share transportation, be traveling to the same destination, etc., That was most likely his one shot, never the twain to meet again. He took his shot, she turned him down, later on she made it out to be evil male sexuality once again rearing it’s head, the terrible desire of men to want sex with women, “Oh noes”. She assumes he propositioned her for sex.

    kitsunegames

    July 13, 2011 at 7:48 am

    • They were at the hotel for the same conference which was going on for another two days. They had the same schedule.

      NotInMyName2050

      July 13, 2011 at 10:25 am

      • Well if that is the case… but if you’re just speculating; Not everyone stays at conventions for the whole duration, sometimes they arrive a day or two late or leave a few days early.

        kitsunegames

        July 14, 2011 at 8:16 pm

  13. Is it possible that EG wasn’t even there for the convention? Could he have been some random guy who happened to be staying at the hotel? If this were so, would it change Ms Watson’s perception (or anyone else’s) of how inappropriate his behavior was? Meaning, part of her complaint is that EG had supposedly just heard her complain about this type of behavior.

    fedos

    July 13, 2011 at 10:11 am

    • Hmm, well if that were the case it would raise questions on how he came to “find her interesting” as we know he hadn’t talked to her, leaving only her panel discussion. If thats not the case then it was just a line, which would make him look worse not better.

      NotInMyName2050

      July 13, 2011 at 10:27 am

  14. I think you’ve done a fine job laying it out here. The one point I wish people would include is that by the time Richard made his first comment, the comments section had escalated to Femanazis are telling us we can’t hit on women!!!11!! against EG cornered RW on that elevator to demand the blowjob he feels entitled to by every woman!!!11!!!
    Frankly, when his comments popped up, I felt they were not only acceptable, but perfectly matched my feelings. It’s natural when confronted with extremist silliness like that to be a little more harsh in your rhetoric. After taking a moment or two away from the event and having a deep breath or two, I realized that he should have dialed back the tone. Of course, it was already too late. The accusations of ‘Richard Dawkins is a rape apologist’ or the milder ‘Richard Dawkins says if you’re being raped on an elevator, you can just push the button and leave’ were flying free.

    Gabby

    July 13, 2011 at 5:53 pm

  15. I cant understand her reaction because if a women asking me to come back to her hotel room would made me feel that bad she would have to be quite disgusting.

    But I hear girls see if differently because they even everage girls get asked out constantly.

    Ed

    July 13, 2011 at 6:36 pm

  16. Great Post. This is by far the mos rational and level-headed examination of this whole affair I have ye read. Thank you.

    Sebastian

    July 13, 2011 at 6:43 pm

  17. Even though I’ve been through these extreme situations in my personal experiences throughout my life, I don’t demonize men. I also notice that our western culture likes to pride ourselves in being more civilized in our treatment of women, but I think we still have a long way to go. It is still engrained in our culture/society that men are the advancers and women are perceived with this dualism as chased potential receivers or the ultimate giving harlot.

    As a female, which men don’t truly understand unless they are a very feminine gay man, that Its more often than not, that women are the chased and the men are the chasers. As a heterosexual female, I had to develop defense mechanisms to handle very inappropriate circumstances so that I’m not labeled a prick tease, frigid bitch with issues, etc, just so that I could be accepted as a social equal the next day at a convention or business meeting.

    Now, that more than half my life is over, and I look younger than my age, I feel that I’m waiting in vain for our culture to catch up with the idea that men need to be just as responsible in their approach toward women instead of this chastisement toward women who are already so modest that they can’t even experience their own orgasm.

    The bottom line is that this elevator incident is nothing new to me and in her perception, she saw fit to use it as an example. Nothing more nothing less.

    mylunchbreak

    July 13, 2011 at 7:07 pm

    • Although I am from a younger generation and this might be where some of the differences are, I don’t see men as the advancers and women as chased potential receivers (at least not in all cases). However this being said I would say that in general a lot more men do the chasing, and we often feel if we don’t nothing will happen, many young women have even said to me that they expect men to be the ones to do the chasing. Some of these actions may even be ingrained through evolution, this does not mean that the situation can’t be reversed its just that most people might find these roles more comfortable.

      I agree that most men don’t truly understand women, but the exact same thing can be said that women don’t truly understand men, and never will. We are a lot more complicated than women give us credit for. I understand as a women that you would have to develop these defense mechanisms as a lot more men would chase you than the other way around. Please understand that men too have to develop certain ways to deal with these situations in an appropriate way, not all of us do and definitely not at the same rate. Majority of young men would not have labeled you as such things like harlot or prick tease just for saying no, but there are some pricks who would (try not to take some of the bad seeds and think they represent all of us).
      Most of us men were not the good looking popular charismatic guys who women flock to, and through life we often face rejection (which is extremely hard to deal with). From a guys perspective I know that when I was younger I would have probably put some girls in a situation that they may have felt awkward, this was not my intention but I had not completely understood social interactions. If I was going to ask someone back to my hotel room I most definitely would have gone up to a young women when she was by herself, as I would not have had the confidence to face rejection in front of others.

      I don’t think you will ever see our culture properly catch up, as your view will often be skewed by the males of your generation, of which I don’t think will change. This being said I still don’t see anything truly wrong with the approach if we are considering them both as equals, and as long as he isn’t being aggressive and accepts her clear no with out further attempts to come on to her. Please note I am not saying that this would not make her feel awkward but we all have awkward situations in life.
      Think of it if they were both guys and one was gay, their might have been a bit of awkwardness after the rejection but it wouldnt be considered harassment. I see this as feminists wanting special rules for women, I mean it was a polite question and i dont see anything wrong with asking, It may be considered inappropriate timing but that does not constitute harassment, and if a women can say it to a guy or a guy to another guy then that really is equality.

      I clearly don’t agree with your statement “women who are already so modest that they can’t even experience their own orgasm”. This generation of women are not the modest ladies of the past generation. This also implies a misunderstanding of guys having an orgasm when ever they ejaculate, this is most definitely not the case. The pleasure for guys when they ejaculate can range from nothing much to something amazing, however a lot of the time it can be so dismal that their is more sensation going to the toilet afterwards. Most guys will never experience a full blown orgasm that causes their legs to shake and intense sensations, the only guys I know that have gotten their has been through a self experience (I am not trying to say women get their easier just correcting a misconception about men).

      I hope this hasn’t come across as offensive and I understand the reasons for for your opinions, however I don’t agree with some of them. That being said I also would like to say I really don’t like the Idea of feminism, as it isn’t completely after equal rights but more whats best for women and doesn’t consider what its like for the opposite sex, I would prefer equalism and stand for the rights of both sexes.

      stressgranule

      July 14, 2011 at 4:01 am

  18. Great post 🙂

    FW

    July 15, 2011 at 11:52 pm

  19. This is my first time hearing about this (there’s an Athiest conference in Ireland? I should attend it so I can finally meet people on a similar intellectual level) and I think that she was totally justified in being apprehensive about what happened. However, I do think everything was absolutely blown out of pre-portion and I have to agree with Richard Dawkins that she needs to get over it.

    Although I think this all boils down to being (seemingly) over dramatized thanks to the internet, as the internet tends to do with small situations or statements.

    JaTochNietDan

    January 18, 2012 at 4:27 pm


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