The War on Lifts

For those of you who have forgotten the preamble on my last post, and don’t spend all of your time on blogs from across the pond, then I can sum up what has become a bit of a huge debate recently. WARNING: if you dislike feminism as a political position, then you have no grounds for not reading this post.

Rebecca Watson, of the blog Skepchick, was doing a talk at a convention in Dublin (the name of which escapes me the moment). After her talk, which was on the nature of feminism and atheism, she went to the bar. All good so far.

At about 4am in the morning, she decided to retire for the night, as she was tired and wanted to go to bed, whereupon some guy followed her from the bar to the lift* and invited her to his room for “coffee”. Now, this is not a huge deal, but really, at 4am and after she’d just said she was tired, the guy should have had a load more sense than to proposition her. In her own words;

“A word to the wise, here, guys; don’t do that… I was a single woman, y’know, in a foreign country, at 4am in a hotel… 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.”

This is all after a number of recent incidents involving feminism and women in the atheist community, including David Eller making unfortunate comments about ZOMGItsCriss and Laci Green (and his subsequent apology), and quotes from souvenir sales assistants at science conventions. Gender even gets dragged into the whole “diplomacy vs confrontationalism” (or “wimps vs dicks”) argument about which approach works better – apparently there seems to be a bit of a gender divide.**


So, the following day, Miss Watson*** responded by making a video about it, , which is, again, not really a big deal. Just asking for a little common sense, courtesy and all such other nice things is no big deal.

However, even if you think that what she said was out of order, that she shouldn’t have said anything, and especially shouldn’t have made fun of the guy for propositioning her, the response has totally justified all of what she said and more. Cue mouth-breather comments on youtube.

Check them out on the youtube page. Or, in fact, don’t.

Then Richard Dawkins managed to, as I said before, really foul things up with his ill-thought out comment, to be found reprinted here. In it, he essentially claims that “because shit is worse elsewhere, we should make no initiatives to improve shit here.” (Paraphrasing massively, of course.)

My opinion? That conclusion is stupid. Monumentally stupid. One of the whole points of the atheist movement is that we should try to get our own house in order, as well as helping other people with theirs. I’ll agree that female genital mutilation is awful, but that doesn’t mean that rape in the western world is OK by comparison. Young earth christianity is stupid, but that doesn’t mean I have to say that I agree with moderate christians – unless of course , the topic is “is the bible literally true?” And that they agree that it is not. Which it isn’t. We don’t have to stop dealing with one issue just because another one is worse.

There are also a ton of other nutters coming up with weird criticisms, mostly boiling down to questions of tone or accusations of prudery. If Rebecca Watson is  a prude, wants to be a prude, or even wants to be asexual, and live in a world devoid of sexual content, that’s fine. Not that I think that she is or does, or for the last one even could, but she could want it all the same.

There are also a few white knights riding in**** to back her up, including Jen McCreight, PZ Myers, Greg Laden, and a few other interesting posts: my favourites so far have been Schrödinger’s Rapist, and this discussion of the definition of privilege. Oh wait, that isn’t about lifts – it’s just relevant to conversations about lifts. Instead, have another good link here.

Anyway, that’s what’s been going on for the last month. It hardly seems worth it, except that a lot of people have proven themselves to be idiots, and it has shown to us all exactly how quickly some blokes will respond by making claims of victimisation, and how people, both men and women, can become involved in belittling the opinions and problems of other women.

How fun.

P.S. It is important not demonise Dawkins for being a bit blinkered. His heart’s in the right place; I just hope he pulls a David Eller and owns up.

* Elevator, to those who were born without an opinion on the importance of a good cup of tea.

** Don’t worry, it’s better explained here. But not here.

*** This sounds totally patronising, and I apologise for it.

**** No, I am not using that term in its usual, derogatory sense.

EDIT – If you read this and still feel like you’re being oppressed by feminazis, go here.

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Posted on July 11, 2011, in Feminism, Politics, Stuff I found somwhere on an Internet. and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

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