In which I lose all respect for Richard Dawkins

So… Rebecca Watson was recently propositioned in a lift, at an atheist conference, by a strange man, at 4am. She quite rightly complained that this was (at best) a little creepy, and made her uncomfortable.

Richard Dawkins posted on the Pharyngula comment thread about the incident… well, read it yourself.

I’m horrified by this. Does Dawkins seriously mean to tell Watson, in effect, to stop complaining because other women have it worse? Hey, Richard, apostates can be executed in Saudi Arabia, so you can shut up about creeping creationism in the UK and USA. The argument doesn’t work that way around, does it? So why should it work the way round you did it?

Worse still are the hundreds (yes, hundreds) of comments on three comment threads on Pharyngula actually defending creepy elevator guy, the vast majority of which are privileged clueless males defending male privilege (go figure).

For the terminally clue-impaired, here’s a link about why women have to treat all interactions with men with suspicion. And while you’re there, check out this guide to ignoring your privilege in online discussions.

Sometimes I despair of my fellow men.

Update: Phil Plait has weighed in on the issue here, saying the same as what I think, but in a much more eloquent fashion. Go Phil!

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1 Response to In which I lose all respect for Richard Dawkins

  1. markfiend says:

    Crosspost of my my latest comment on Phil’s blog:

    Right, let’s try this one more time.

    I am a man, Phil is a man, PZ is a man, none of us seem to have a hard time understanding this, what is so difficult?

    Nobody is saying that men are not allowed to talk to women, (even in an elevator) nobody is saying that all men are rapists, what people are saying is that making a sexual proposition to a woman you’ve not even made any effort to speak to beforehand is a Bad Idea.

    (I strongly suspect that people are being disingenuous in their denial that “come back to my room for coffee” is a sexual proposition, but if you do honestly deny this, well, I have a bridge you may be interested in buying.)

    “Creepy Elevator Guy” made no effort to approach Watson in the bar, he waited until he was alone in the lift with her. If you do not understand why this is creepy and threatening, maybe you are part of the problem.

    (Again, I strongly suspect that denials that what CEG did was creepy and threatening, are disingenuous.)

    All Watson said is that she found the encounter creepy and threatening, and suggested to men that perhaps creepy and threatening behaviours are not a good idea.

    This has prompted a ****storm in which a load of men have piled on with all sorts of defences of the creepy and threatening behaviour. This is what I mean about “defence of male privilege”; all these people have been telling Watson that she should “get over it” and not feel threatened in a creepy and threatening situation.

    Forget that.

    By belittling what Watson felt in this situation, Dawkins (and the rest of the defenders) are being sexist. And that is the problem.

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