Thanks to PZ for the format/inspiration!

Be self-aware. You are the speaker in a room filled with dozens, hundreds, thousands of people. Especially at atheist/skeptic conferences, we are all very interesting people, but out of those dozens/hundreds/thousands of people who could have been chosen to give a presentation, you were chosen. Your opinion and your words are most likely highly valued, because other people want to hear them. Other people want to learn from you. Other people look up to you. Other people have not had the exact same life history, education, experience that you have had, and want to peek into your world, and hear about your perspective for a few minutes.

Not a round-table discussion where anyone can interrupt or disagree– you are a speaker, and the audience has chosen to spend their time with you. Not each other in the bar. Not with any of the other concurrent speakers. You. And if you are invited to be a keynote speaker, the conference stops, and everyone listens to you. All the more responsibility.

That opportunity requires one to be self aware. “Am I using words this audience understands?” “Am I taking the appropriate tone for this audience? Too stuffy? Too casual? Is it age appropriate?” “Will this choice of sentence advance my cause, or unnecessarily confuse the audience? Unnecessarily anger the audience?” “Could I be more articulate?” “Am I 100% this statement is true?” “Is the audience interested in this topic? Even if it is important to me, how can I engage everyone?” “Is this joke necessary? Could someone think this joke is offensive? Racist? Sexist?” “Am I talking down to the audience? Am I talking over them?”

All eyes are on you, so your own eyes need to be on you. Critically analyzing your every move, as critically as you would be critiquing an Enemy Speaker.

Be aware of your potential targets. Especially at atheist/skeptic conferences, we are pretty much always attacking/making fun of someone. Whether its Jenny McCarthy or Michael Behe or Deepak Chopra, or Sarah Palin, sometimes you need to talk about a person and their actions, not just purely vaccines or evolution or psychology or politics. Sometimes you might even feel the need to address the words/actions of someone in the audience. If you chose to do this, from a privileged position as The Speaker, where The Target will not have a fair opportunity to respond, you need to be Dexter. You need to be 100% sure. “Is this attack 100% necessary?” “Will pursuing this attack advance my goals?” “Will this attack take attention away from my primary goals?” “Is attacking this individual the best way to call attention to this issue?” “How would I feel if someone attacked me, maybe even misrepresented me, to a group of hundreds of people, and I wouldnt get a chance to respond?” “Am I 100% sure I understand this persons perspective/position myself?” “Is it possible that this persons opinions are equally valid as mine, I just dont understand their world view myself?” “Is this person really relevant to the topic Im speaking about?” “Am I abusing my position as speaker to ‘get back’ at someone on a personal level?” “If I pursue this attack, is it possible I will come out looking like an asshole? Have I honestly reflected on this attack, or am I actually being an asshole? (see ‘Be self-aware‘)”

Being a Decent Human Being is actually the best defense you can have against abusing your position as a speaker at atheist conferences. Dont abandon it for short-term gain: youre in a community, and youre going to lose that if you think of yourself as a predator on the make.

What about tactics? Lets say you are super passionate about an issue, but is a keynote speech really the best forum for your issue? Would a moderated, recorded brain-storming session be better? An official debate? An intimate, one-on-one conversation in a quiet side room? A light-hearted, open to everyone conversation in a noisy bar? Or maybe even an online discussion, where everyone can take time to think about their input and responses and questions carefully– where everyone can simply send links to others, so everyone is on the same page, even everyone didnt start on the same page? Using a keynote address to pitch an idea for a skeptics football league is no more appropriate than using a keynote address to confront someone who said something that you found personally offensive (while others did not) is no more appropriate to rant for an hour about how the rent is too damn high. Yes, you have been given the opportunity to give a speech at an atheist conference– but that doesnt mean a speech at an atheist conference is the appropriate tactic for what you are excited about 2 minutes before you give said speech. You need to put thought into this, or you will alienate your audience not because you are wrong or had a bad idea, but because you used the wrong tactic. People will think you capitalized on your invitation as a speaker, not to engage with the audience, but to pursue a personal interest (or vendetta). You abused the forum you were given. They might not be interested in providing you with that same platform in the future.

Of course, if any more experienced commenters would like to offer further suggestions, theyre welcome to continue…as long as they remember these are guidelines for Decent Human Beings, not assholes who will excuse someones bad behavior just because they are friends with the offender.

Comments

  1. #1 Robert Bruce Thompson
    July 3, 2011

    What a refreshing breath of sanity you provide.

    PZ doesn’t understand that anyone can take offense at anything or nothing, and that offense does not equal injury.

  2. #2 John C. Welch
    July 3, 2011

    As someone who helps determine speakers for the Mac IT conference track at Macworld Expo, and allowing for the difference in atmosphere, purpose and size between that entity and skeptic/athiest conferences, anyone, ANYONE who used even a second of podium-time for an off-topic attack on someone would be persona non grata forever. There is no place, no excuse, no justification for that on any level.

    As someone who’s been speaking at conference regularly since 1999, I cannot imagine doing what Watson did. It was juvenile, stupid, petty, passive-aggressive bullshit that has made me start thinking more critically about how I view skepchicks as an organization

  3. #3 Ray Percival
    July 3, 2011

    “It was juvenile, stupid, petty, passive-aggressive bullshit that has made me start thinking more critically about how I view skepchicks as an organization”

    This.

  4. #4 harrync
    July 3, 2011

    I was about to give up reading Science Blogs until I read this post. OK, there is still someone who makes sense on SB.

  5. #5 lido209boi
    July 3, 2011

    Off the top of my head there are two times in which i disagree with PZ, the whole ‘what is an atheist’ thing and … this.

  6. #6 ERV
    July 3, 2011

    harry– ‘Starts With A Bang’ is *my* favorite science blog on the entire internet, possibly in the history of the internet, ever. ‘We Beasties’ is also a great blog, and I wish they had a following that reflected that to encourage them to post more often. Branch out ;)

  7. #7 Jen
    July 3, 2011

    Sorry, but I disagree. Intellectual honesty and the ability to have open discussion without feeling obligated to coddle individuals or avoid angering famous people is more important to me than being seen as an asshole. Rebecca’s remarks were not off topic or some random pet issue because she was specifically invited to talk about feminism and atheism. And if you’re putting your ideas out there publicly (like Stef did), you do so with the knowledge that people can call you out. The people who have been saying it’s inappropriate because she’s a student leader – or worse, a young girl – a part of the problem. She’s an adult, treat her like one. If I – a young female student blogger – say stupid shit that becomes fodder for a talk, you know what I would do? Try to think about why what I said was so goddamn stupid, and correct it in the future.

    I guess I’m just not a decent human being.

  8. #8 ERV
    July 3, 2011

    If I – a young female student blogger – say stupid shit that becomes fodder for a talk, you know what I would do? Try to think about why what I said was so goddamn stupid, and correct it in the future.

    I do not agree that what McGraw wrote was ‘goddamn stupid’. Yet she was accused of being anti-woman and misogynistic in a forum where she (nor I, nor anyone who disagreed) would have a platform to respond to those accusations.

    If I quoted a snippet of something you wrote and declared you homophobic at a large convention, when you dont think (and many other dont think) what you said was homophobic, and you had no means of responding to that accusation, that would be wrong, and you would be (rightly) mad.

    Accusing someone of racism, sexism, classism, etc, is extremely personal. What Watson did was inappropriate. Just like it was also inappropriate when Casey Luskin did it. I do not want to be able to compare my supposed allies with Creationists.

    I am accusing Watson of doing something inappropriate, and I hope she sees that her choices did not have the effect on ‘feminism’ she was shooting for, and I hope she tries to correct it in the future. But she wouldnt know that I think she was very, very wrong unless I said something. So, here we are.

  9. #9 rnb
    July 3, 2011

    I’ve pretty much decided people are blind to anything outside their own experience. Therefore I expect people to see things in a simplistic manner.

  10. #10 lido209boi
    July 3, 2011

    Why are all of the prominent bloggers (PZ, Greg, Jen) going on about naming names. Stef never said she had a problem that her name was mentioned, she didn’t say that she felt that as a student she shouldn’t of been named nor criticized. She has specifically said the issue at hand in which she thought Rebecca to be unprofessional was that as a “student attendee” she was not allowed to address her accuser.

    Why, why, why, why are all of the prominent bloggers making this out to seem as if the whole issue then is that Stef got butt hurt because she felt she was called out on by name (which she should have been immune to because she was a student). She didn’t say she shouldn’t have been named, she doesn’t ask for anonymity, she isn’t saying she shouldn’t have been criticized. All she is saying is that as a ‘student attendee’ she could not respond back to the accusations of her being a misogynist sympathizer, and that it was inappropriate for Rebecca to call her out in a forum where she could have gone on about it practically nonstop while Stef had to sit there and listen as if Rebecca was her mommy lecturing her.

    It seems no one cares what Stef said, all they care about is Rebecca’s elevator guy encounter and what everyone else is saying Rebecca. Not what Stef is saying about Rebecca (why she thought it was unfair and unprofessional), not what Stef thought about the incident, but what everyone else is saying.

    Am I missing something here? Heck even ERV isn’t saying that it was wrong for Rebecca to name Stef, only that that wasn’t the appropriate place for it. Yet still all of the other bloggers keeps shouting “OF COURSE STEF SHOULD HAVE BEEN NAMED!”, when that isn’t even what Stef took issue with in the first place (nor why ERV is posting all of this).

  11. #11 frank habets
    July 3, 2011

    Cogent, well-stated, and correct. This post should be the final word on the issue. Alas, I fear petty minds will prevail.

  12. #12 ERV
    July 3, 2011

    LOL, hey– Hey you guys? Remember this time last year when everyone was freaking out over Pepsi?

    LOL!!!

  13. #13 Chuck
    July 3, 2011

    I have to start reading this blog more frequently. Thanks for putting the focus on what seems to me to be the only inarguable thing in this whole shitstorm: Watson abused her position as keynote speaker to make a petty swipe at someone who disagreed with her.

    Gender, misogyny, feminism, and skepticism do not come into play here. At all. Watson acted unprofessionally and should own up to that and apologize to McGraw.

  14. #14 Prometheus
    July 3, 2011

    Chuck@#13

    “Watson acted unprofessionally and should own up to that and apologize to McGraw.”

    She might know that, if she had a profession. She is an ex street performer and communications major who is working without qualifications as a copy writer, courtesy of internet celebrity and JREF sycophancy.

    PZ and Laden are defending her because she kisses their bottoms and I suspect the payoff will be the same as Dawkins got from his personal toady.

  15. #15 Onkel Bob
    July 3, 2011

    She might know that, if she had a profession.

    Ouch! That’s going to leave a mark…

  16. #16 ErkLR
    July 3, 2011

    I’m probably just re-stating what’s been said in different terms, but I see what Rebecca did as inappropriate because she was privileged by being a speaker and having prepared in advance. Stef was at a disadvantage because she did not have a talk and the Q&A was not equal footing, nor did she necessarily have the time to recover from the surprise of being called-out publicly in a talk she was attending.

  17. #17 Jen
    July 3, 2011

    I think a commenter on Pharyngula summarized it best:

    “Best I can tell, it’s apparently because publicly refuting her live in front of 100 people for a couple of minutes of a talk is way worse than writing about it on her blog where at least 10,000 people would read it and it would sit around being able to be read for internet eternity. Or some shit like that.”

    I honestly don’t give a crap anymore about Elevator Guy, or what Stef originally said (even though I *do* think it was goddamn stupid), or even Rebecca calling her out. The thing that upsets me about all of this is how fucking crazy everyone is getting, and the really ignorant or oblivious comments this is generating. Especially by people I respect (like Dawkins, or Hemant, or Miranda Hale, or wtf Jerry Coyne telling me to stop swearing). The fact that Woman Saying She’s Uncomfortable ALWAYS devolves into a shitstorm of screaming and/or disregard and/or rape apologetics makes me want to ragequit the atheist movement all together.

  18. #18 hematophage
    July 3, 2011

    Well said. It seems obvious to me (veteran of a whole ONE talk at a conference!) that this is not the way to go about disagreeing with someone in public. I find it odd that so many people who have given so many talks CAN’T see that. It’s abuse of power far worse than asking someone for coffee in an elevator.

  19. #19 thememe
    July 3, 2011

    A lesson that I have learned about talks and public speaking (and i had to learn this lesson the hard way): Don’t play shame/blame-games with the audience, even when the intentions are noble, good, brave and so on…
    It just makes people ‘stupid’ (in quotes, because it makes otherwise smart, clever and reasonable people do and say dumb things)….

    Now, as I give it a second thought, I notice that in other life situations, these shame/blame-thing never (or very rarely) turned into something constructive. And it makes me wonder, why I just cant help and continue doing these things. And I guess that I am not the only one. Maybe it’s just because I am a member of the species homo sapiens (and that’s latin for ‘wise or knowing man’, isn’t it?). And Humans can be pretty slow learners in some areas (doing and continuing things that just don’t work). Maybe these evolutionary psychologists can answer these question….usually they always have something truthy to say about such things.
    Well, I hope that saying such things doesn’t make me guilty of being a misanthrope :)

  20. #20 Greg Laden
    July 3, 2011

    lido209boi: I’m saying that Steph had a forum and need not have complained. The internet is her oyster. I should say though, that a friend of mine and I were just talking about the idea that she should be offered by someone a chance to have a wider venue if she wants it. Personally, I was thinking of a Bloggingheads TV episode with Steph and Rebecca but that may not go well….

    PZ and Laden are defending her because she kisses their bottoms and I suspect the payoff will be the same as Dawkins got from his personal toady.

    I haven’t noticed that. Any evidence? Examples? I need to know if Rebecca has been kissing my ass because I might owe her a favor or something. She’ll be mad at me if I don’t pay off.

  21. #21 Greg Laden
    July 3, 2011

    Oh, and did you see the post by Barb Drescher? Mutual admiration society theory deflated.

  22. #22 lido209boi
    July 3, 2011

    @Greg

    I guess that’s where we both don’t agree with each other. I just really don’t see how you can equate someone on stage calling you out in the flesh to your peers and you not able to respond. But then if you go back home and sit in your bedroom blogging about it at night, YOU HAD EQUAL GROUND, PLATFORM, AND TIME WITH THEM!

  23. #23 lido209boi
    July 3, 2011

    PS – I thought these gnu atheists was supposed to be confrontational, but I guess what confrontational meant was that you go out in public, get ripped on in public, and come back home to blog about it on the internet. *shrugs*

  24. #24 QuantumSinger
    July 3, 2011

    It should be noted that Watson spent almost 30 minutes building up to that 2 minute mention of McGraw’s post, before even beginning her talk on “The Religious Right vs Every Woman on Earth”. I was there in the audience, and timed it.

    And to be honest, I missed a good majority of that talk because my mind was spinning with what she had just done.

  25. #25 Prometheus
    July 3, 2011

    Greg Laden@#20

    “I haven’t noticed that. Any evidence? Examples? I need to know if Rebecca has been kissing my ass because I might owe her a favor or something.”

    You dumped pages of ecstatic self congratulatory crap about you and Meyers speaking at the Skepchick conference without a blip about being third billing to Watson’s less credible uneducated racist false rape accusation apologist buddy Amanda Marcotte.

    Isn’t it nice to be fancied at our age?

    Ass kissed. Watson defended. You are even.

  26. #26 John C. Welch
    July 3, 2011

    Sorry, but I disagree. Intellectual honesty and the ability to have open discussion without feeling obligated to coddle individuals or avoid angering famous people is more important to me than being seen as an asshole. Rebecca’s remarks were not off topic or some random pet issue because she was specifically invited to talk about feminism and atheism. And if you’re putting your ideas out there publicly (like Stef did), you do so with the knowledge that people can call you out. The people who have been saying it’s inappropriate because she’s a student leader – or worse, a young girl – a part of the problem. She’s an adult, treat her like one. If I – a young female student blogger – say stupid shit that becomes fodder for a talk, you know what I would do? Try to think about why what I said was so goddamn stupid, and correct it in the future.

    Stef put her ideas out in a forum where all are reasonably equal, and all can respond with close to equal power. Watson did nothing even close to that. I’ve been behind that podium. even when people do disagree with me, I have the microphone, and I have a position of (implied) power the audience does not possess at that moment in time. I can cut off a question, or, should I choose, completely ignore the questioner and take questions from everyone else. In other words, if I see that someone might be inconvenient, it is fairly easy for me to shut them out and/or down, and they can’t do much about it but bitch on the internet, after the session, or to the organizers. But in that moment in time, they ain’t doin’ shit that I can’t stop.

    The power imbalance is what made Watson’s actions wrong. This is not complicated. Just like being a company with a 90+% marketshare means you play by different rules than the company with 5%, when you’re a speaker, you play by different rules than the people in the audience. You don’t have to like it, but you do have to accept that reality.

    Finally, I’m beginning to think that stef’s crime wasn’t disagreeing with Watson, it was that she dared question one of the skeperati.

  27. #27 John C. Welch
    July 3, 2011

    LOL, hey– Hey you guys? Remember this time last year when everyone was freaking out over Pepsi?

    I’m still trying to decide which was stupider. It’s harder than it looks.

    (that’s what she said)

  28. #28 Lorax
    July 3, 2011

    I’m saying that Steph had a forum and need not have complained. The internet is her oyster. I should say though, that a friend of mine and I were just talking about the idea that she should be offered by someone a chance to have a wider venue if she wants it. Personally, I was thinking of a Bloggingheads TV episode with Steph and Rebecca but that may not go well….

    I usually agree with you Greg and when I don’t I often learn something new (even if I still end up disagreeing with you). Not this time. The idea that the internet can be her oyster, seems absurd to me. When women are treated like objects by key note speakers at atheist meetings (see how pretty Christina Rad is?) do you tell people not to complain or imply they shouldn’t be concerned since the internet is available? Does a post hoc podcast make it all better? I don’t think so and find it odd that you seem to.

  29. #29 D4M10N
    July 4, 2011

    Possibly interesting meta-question — Which issue is more important to the health of the skeptical community: the one addressed by PZ one how to be ethical about trying to get laid after hours at conferences, or the one addressed here about how to be ethical when arguing amongst ourselves during the day at conferences?

  30. #30 D4M10N
    July 4, 2011

    Right now, I’m leaning towards the question addressed (quite aptly) by ERV for a few reasons.

    Firstly, it seems like the more difficult question. I just don’t think it takes that much thought to see the potential threat involved in cornering someone and awkwardly propositioning them in an elevator. The actual threat of humiliation from a podium is a bit subtler, and apparently requires a bit of explaining, as we’ve seen above.

    Moreover, the way popular speakers behave is far more public and reputational than the way random douche-bags do. Granted, it’s a bit of a stain on us to have such people around, and I’d personally like to see Elevator Guy publicly shamed by name (you can do that here in America without much risk of libel) but I still doubt that his actions carry much weight in terms of how people see the sceptical community as a whole.

    Finally, even when the big names actually address the original incident, it has the potential to backfire horribly and make us look like a bunch of privileged old white men. Enough has already been said about that.

  31. #31 Phyraxus
    July 4, 2011

    Interesting how the power shifts in our lives. In conference, the one at the podium has power. In elevator, the one with the penis has power.

    LOL

  32. #32 John S. Wilkins
    July 4, 2011

    Yet again, Abbie, you are my hero. BTW: Great minds and all that:

    http://evolvingthoughts.net/2011/07/more-on-tone/

  33. #33 Rorschach
    July 4, 2011

    Jesus Christ, I’m agreeing with Jen on this. That’s almost as bad as Drescher agreeing with Rebecca.

  34. #34 Jack
    July 4, 2011

    Erhmm…

    Happy 4th of July to you all. Be you male or female.

    From the other side of the pond :)

  35. #35 ttch
    July 4, 2011

    PZ never did address what someone in the audience who is “called out” (insulted) by a conference’s keynote speaker, thirty minutes before the end of a talk on some completely different topic, should do. Immediately demand a microphone and equal time? Disrupt the Q&A? Or complain about it in his/her blog?

    Does he actually say that the last option is wrong?

  36. #36 John C. Welch
    July 4, 2011

    ttch, well he sort of has: “Suck it up, and blog about it later” would be the general response towards stef on this from PZ’s side. Essentially none of them are willing to even entertain the thought that Watson MIGHT have been out of line for what she did to stef. In fact, if it’s brought up, their response is OMG, ELEVATOR GUY!!!

    They’ve decided that Watson, at least in this case, can do no wrong whatsoever, and any criticism of her with regards to this incident is therefore automatically wrong.

    Which is of course, bullshit, but once you close your mind….

  37. #37 Sigmund
    July 4, 2011

    The comment about ‘Heathers’ is exactly right. I stopped being a regular commenter on Pharyngula a few years back when it became apparent there was a party line you couldn’t cross and that demarcation line involved criticizing the ‘more equal’ skeptics. If you have to be 100% behind everything the correct people do and say otherwise you are deemed an enemy of the people then I guess, despite being on the same side on 99% of questions, you’ll have to put me down on the enemy column.

  38. #38 John C. Welch
    July 4, 2011

    Sigmund, you pretty much nailed it. it’s why i *rarely* comment on anything over there.

    It’s so pathetically bad that when I commented on “pepsigate”, i was accused of being an astroturfer for pepsi. Why? Because due to the way SB deals with commenter auth, the only reliable way for me to log in was to use gmail. So CLEARLY, because I didn’t agree with PZ lockstep and I was logging in as “jcwelch@gmail.com”, I was an astroturfer.

    For a group that prides themselves on their mighty brains, they don’t think so good sometimes.

  39. #39 Divalent
    July 4, 2011

    “remember these are guidelines for Decent Human Beings”

    Very nice. But now how about guidelines for the rest of us?

  40. #40 Greg Laden
    July 4, 2011

    libo (22): I think I see what you are saying, but I don’t think that anything is ever going to “equate.” Unless everyone in ever conversation is always on their own identical podium, there is always going to be an instantaneous difference. And, that will relate to fame and power relations. Dawkins lame comment on PZ’s blog is bigger than Rebecca’s whole speech (possibly) and standing in front of a room is different than being in an audience.

    By the way, I totally get why Steph did not comment in the Q&A. I probably wouldn’t have either. But you and many others seem to be asking for people to only say certain things at certain times to somehow even out or compensate for the heterogeneity we have in the broadcast characteristics of a given effort at communication, but that is a) impossible and b) usually not demanded unless it happens to be convenient to supporting an argument, and it really has nothing to do with the argument anyway.

    It is reasonable to check and see if someone is not getting a chance to have a voice and to try to step in and help, but it is not reasonable to shape one’s discussion to avoid or underscore different things because someone else may or may not speak during a Q&A or because someone else may use livejournal rather than a blog, etc.

    Otherwise none of us could make a move.

    (Well, that may be a good thing, but still…)

  41. #41 Greg Laden
    July 4, 2011

    Prometheus (25) You need to clarify. So far what I see you saying is that there is something I didn’t say. And I’m not sure what it was I didn’t say or what the topic is. Also, I think you just told me to not promote my own involvement in an effort to promote science and stuff. Is your preferred strategy that we do this public promotion of science in secret?

    John (26/27) The power imbalance position is valid, but it is valid only as a consideration, not as a basis for splitting the community asunder, charging convicting sentencing and punishing Rebecca. Steph was not silenced. You say it is not complicated but I’m afraid that is a stand in for “this is not nuanced.” And it is.

    Pepsigate was stupider because it was about not wanting to be associate with soda. This discussion is about not wanting to be hit on in an elevator by someone who is probably harmless. On the other and, the degree to which it is dragged out of proportion may be reversed. Or maybe not. Hard to say if people quitting their blogs (which they did for reasons other than soda) is a big deal.

    Lorax [28]: Your point is totally valid, but here’s the thing: We are telling a woman, effectively, that she is not allowed to complain about a man hitting on her. But she does in fact have that right, and all of the telling her to shut up is mysogynist. Steph is very unlikely to be a mysogynist asshole, but what she did was the act of one and she needs to learn that.

    I’m fine with questioning the strategy Rebecca used, but it is simply not true that a) Steph does not have a voice or b) that the fact that anyone you address in a talk can’t reasonably jump to the podium and defend themself means that we never mention anyone in a talk.

    Here’s the thing: One is always going to be able to make a post hoc argument about the nature of the broadcast or about access. Most of what we are seeing here is an anti-Skepchick reaction, little more. Had a skepchick been in the audience and some big-ass skeptic took them down a notch from the podium, most of the people who are now berating Rebecca (who, by the way, I hardly know and have almost nothing to do with despite the sense I’m getting that we are somehow in each other’s back pockets) would be silent about it. One piece of evidence for this is the fact that so much of the “Shut up Rebecca” rhetoric comes packaged with some notation or another of the Skepchicks as some sort of negative force.

    Does a post hoc podcast make it all better? I don’t think so and find it odd that you seem to.

    I don’t think it does, I don’t see the world as so simple. But I do acknowledge that public debates are complex and messy. What is really happening here is post hoc, but not intrinsic to the debate. See comments above.

  42. #42 Greg Laden
    July 4, 2011

    Rorschach [33] Jesus Christ, I’m agreeing with Jen on this. That’s almost as bad as Drescher agreeing with Rebecca.

    FTW.

    John/Sigmund [36,37] FTW also.

  43. #43 ERV
    July 4, 2011

    This discussion is about not wanting to be hit on in an
    elevator by someone who is probably harmless.

    Maybe elsewhere, but not on ERV.

    One piece of evidence for this is the fact that so much of the “Shut up Rebecca” rhetoric comes packaged with some notation or another of the Skepchicks as some sort of negative force.
    Where have I told Watson to shut up?

    I told Watson that she abused her invitation as a keynote speaker to settle a personal vendetta. This was not a well thought out, carefully considered point– Watson made a split-second decision right before her speech to accuse someone of being anti-women and mysogenistic in front of a large group of people, where the accused had no position to respond.

    That was an unwise decision.

    What ‘motivated’ me to respond was my conscience. I have been in McGraws position, and I have been in Watsons. What Watson did was wrong, and I want her to be concious of her position in the future.

    This has been clear on ERV.

    Elevator guy is a lark that is being used to excuse inappropriate behavior.

  44. #44 Galwayskeptic
    July 4, 2011

    I find it disconcerting that the skeptical community has assumed that we’re all on board for what would be commonly described as ‘liberal’ political viewpoints. I, for one, am tired of having this crap shoved down my throat. I’ve asked several of my female friends (Save your breath. I know that that’s not a scientific survey) and they find the whole debacle ridiculous.

    There’s no debate, no argument. An expression of doubt, a hesitation to unquestionably accept any kind of action touting itself as feminism (in this case, public humiliation of an individual), and ‘male privilege’ is invoked. From then on, you are supposed to prostrate yourself and beg forgiveness for your ignorance in even questioning this viewpoint.

    How patronising! How thoroughly unreflective of avowed skeptics to insist that everybody accept their point of view while providing only ready-bake thinking/heuristics like ‘male privilege’.

  45. #45 Peter
    July 4, 2011

    But she does in fact have that right, and all of the telling her to shut up is mysogynist. Steph is very unlikely to be a mysogynist asshole, but what she did was the act of one and she needs to learn that.

    I fail to see how telling someone to shut up is an act of hatred or dislike towards a gender, surely it’s more of an attempt to well, shut someone up because you don’t like what they say, or think them foolish. Not that I’ve seen Steph, or in fact anyone here say that anyway. Perhaps telling women in general to shut-up, or saying someone should shut-up because of their gender, but I haven’t seen that either.

    I keep seeing this sort of statement, has misogyny changed meaning lately?

  46. #46 rnb
    July 4, 2011

    I was tempted to ask one of those who said a guy’s intent doesn’t matter, and that anyone who didn’t agree was suffering male privilege, if they had heard of Emmitt Till.

  47. #47 Greg Laden
    July 4, 2011

    Erv [43] I wasn’t actually referring to your post at all.

    I told Watson that she abused her invitation as a keynote speaker to settle a personal vendetta. This was not a well thought out, carefully considered point

    That’s a reasonable interpretation. I’m not sure how split second it was since there was a screen capture and stuff, but something along those lines, could be.

    Galwayskeptic, Peter, I know, I know, it’s hard.

  48. #48 Peter
    July 4, 2011

    What’s hard, specifically?

  49. #49 Greg Laden
    July 4, 2011

    Seeing how telling someone to shut up is a sexist act, from the point of view of someone who has not had the experiences, learning, training, or self reflection needed to get to that place.

    This guy in the elevator thing is totally stupid. So what. He just said some words. He was not a rapist. He didn’t do anything but say some stuff, get rebuffed, and then moved on. It seems like nothing.

    It is hard for many people to see why it is not nothing.

  50. #50 Peter
    July 4, 2011

    Well, ignoring your second paragraph since that isn’t what anyone else is discussing, yes, it is very hard to see how telling someone to shut up is a sexist act, I’d most certainly agree there.

  51. #51 ERV
    July 4, 2011

    It is hard for many people to see why it is not nothing.

    Why are you avoiding the topic of the post and trying to keep bringing it back to elevator guy. Do you think elevator guy gave Watson a carte blanche to behave inappropriately?

    Being creeped out in an elevator gives you the right to abuse a speaking platform and abuse a student. Since I lived through an attempted drugging/date rape in college and serious stalking in my adult life, can I go to TAM and scream “RAPIST!! RAPIST!!!!” all through Watsons speech for trivializing sexual violence?

  52. #52 Peter
    July 4, 2011

    I mean, surely a man telling a woman to shut up has to be more than a man telling a woman to shut up for it to be sexism, let alone the term you’ve backed off from, misogyny?

    He has to have some sexist sentiment for it to be sexist. He has to be utilising his privilege to put himself above the woman (you know, like Watson abused her privilege?)

    Or does he?

    Can someone commit a misogynistic act (whatever that means regarding speech) without even targeting someone that they think is a woman? Does the woman have to know it’s a man? If just the act is sexism, then it doesn’t matter that he knows because you’re saying it’s an intrinsically sexist act, right? Does misogyny have to even involve a woman? If it doesn’t need to involve any privilege or sexism, why not? Words don’t have to mean anything.

    Certainly not the word “misogyny”, that wouldn’t hurt any group if the word was completely devalued.

    Or maybe, just maybe, a man telling a women to shut up can be, but might not be, a misogynistic attack?

    Or are you just talking total nonsense? Am I?

    Is this sexist because I’m a woman?

    Woo, gender betrayal!

  53. #53 Justicar
    July 4, 2011

    Peter, in 52:
    “I mean, surely a man telling a woman to shut up has to be more than a man telling a woman to shut up for it to be sexism”
    Redundant department of redundancy, or typo?

  54. #54 Petercx
    July 4, 2011

    ERV continues to point out, and at least to me, correctly so, that the only issue worth discussing is “were Watson’s actions (in her keynote) appropriate?”. Just as with any other speech, context matters. Here, the context appears to be embodied in the question “did Stef deserve what she got?” or, put another way, were her actions wrong enough to deserve being called out? Perhaps another relevant question would be “was she effective?”

    Arguing that there is a factually correct or objectively true answer to these questions seems silly. Having said that, my opinion is that calling someone out in that fashion, or “naming names” if you prefer, is a rather drastic remedy. While it is certainly an appropriate remedy at times, this was not one of them. If Stef was wrong at all (a debatable point) it didn’t justify Watson’s response. I think Watson’s goal was a good one but rather than achieving that goal she simply came across (to me) as self righteous and self aggrandizing. In short, not effective. Please note that I am not at all referring to her reaction to the elevator incident; I am solely referring to her reaction to Stef.

  55. #55 Rystefn
    July 4, 2011

    Yeah, I’ve told a lot of people to shut up in my life. Men, women, adults, children, young, old, gay, straight, bi, queer, pretty, ugly, rich, poor, friends, family, strangers on the internet, cats, dogs, birds, alarm clocks… is it misogyny or sexism if it’s a female dog? Where’s the line? Is it just on sex lines? Or gender lines? What if it’s a man with long hair and a skirt? What if he’s just Scottish? What if I don’t know whether it’s a man or a woman?What if I know it’s a woman, but I was just telling a man to shut up for the same reason? What if it’s a man and a woman at the same time?

  56. #56 eddie
    July 4, 2011

    So many on here using the ‘youre not allowed to insult us’ thing as a way to have a dig at pzm. not rebecca watson but pzm. Nice to have classy side of the argument eh?

  57. #57 Petercx
    July 4, 2011

    PZ is an expert on evolution and the non-existence of god. Socially or morally correct behavior? He has interesting opinions, for sure, and he’s often right, but he’s not an expert.

  58. #58 dexitroboper
    July 4, 2011

    You’re out of your tree on this one Abbie, McGraw’s being a student is irrelevant because an atheist/sceptic meeting is not an academic meeting – the rules for disagreement/dissent aren’t the same. McGraw chose to disagree in public, Watson responded in public. Your idea that internet drama is not real world drama is bullshit and it hasn’t been true since USENET, ie forever.

  59. #59 Sigmund
    July 4, 2011

    Dexitroboper, I think you’ve either got this one very wrong or you are unintentionally spot on.
    First, OK the student status is not the main issue (although not unimportant given the nature of the meeting). It is also not at issue that RW should not be able to respond to criticism. The argument is, essentially, that her reaction was way out of proportion to the criticism. She essentially accused McGraw of enabling or supporting rapists or those advocating rape.
    That is pretty much godwining the debate. That fact and the additional fact that the criticism came during a talk that was on a subject not particularly relevant to the point at hand meant that RW used the talk simply as an opportunity to score points against someone who criticised her.
    Then again, I think that, following many of the postings about this, it appears that many people see no problem with her actions. Criticise someone on a blog post and its fair game for them to respond in any way possible, including labeling you a rape enabler.
    All’s fair in love, war and skeptical blogging.

  60. #60 Prometheus
    July 4, 2011

    “You’re out of your tree on this one Abbie, McGraw’s being a student is irrelevant because an atheist/sceptic meeting is not an academic meeting – the rules for disagreement/dissent aren’t the same.”

    Maybe that is the case because Watson has turned atheist/skeptic meetings into singles meat markets, fancy dress drinking contests and impromptu (by impromptu I mean elaborately staged coup attempts) wedding ceremonies.

    If the environment has changed to the point where you get to elaborately hit on people or pillory students from behind a podium then that steaming pile of crap is all about Watson and her ilk’s self aggrandizement…no matter how many rapidly expanding balding internet/atheist celebs she has tickled under the chin for a photo op.

    Who the hell do you want making the rules? Academics/students or a self important star fucking former juggler.

  61. #61 dexitroboper
    July 4, 2011

    Who the hell do you want making the rules?
    James Randi? No, he’s a well known entertainer. Maybe Penn Gilette or Adam Savage who are well respected for their science chops.

    Atheist/sceptic meetings are much more like SF conventions than academic meetings and you want meetings that mainstream atheism not make it an ivory tower pursuit.

  62. #62 Prometheus
    July 4, 2011

    dexitroboper@#61

    “James Randi? No, he’s a well known entertainer. Maybe Penn Gilette or Adam Savage who are well respected for their science chops.”

    They are well respected for their respect for science and because they were professionally successful celebrities on the basis of merit prior to their association with skepticism.

    That also entitles them to have their names spelled correctly. Dunce.

    Watson’s celebrity is entirely based on association rather than any professional accomplishment as demonstrated by the fact that she objects to bad behaviors in midst of the keg parties she created.

    This failing of fundamental diplomacy should disqualify her from pretending to speak on anyone’s behalf or act as arbiter of anything.

    Like Josh Timonen she is ultimately an embarrassment who does not intend to let merit get in the way of her ambitions.

    “……and you want meetings that mainstream atheism not make it an ivory tower pursuit.”

    Watson let her freak flag fly at a CFI student leadership conference on a University Campus.

    That is the very model of an “ivory tower pursuit”.

    Pro tip: Skeptics don’t fling epithets against the institutions devoted to the life of the mind.

  63. #63 ErkLR
    July 4, 2011

    In academia the self-aggrandizing hangers-on who appoint themselves arbiters of what people are allowed to say is called “The Communications Department”.

  64. #64 danmeek
    July 4, 2011

    I just want to tweak your #1 a bit. If you analyse yourself like that in the moment, you WILL choke. The key is to do all that thinking *ahead* of time. Block out time for it in your calendar and don’t underestimate how much time it will take.

  65. #65 John C. Welch
    July 4, 2011

    John (26/27) The power imbalance position is valid, but it is valid only as a consideration, not as a basis for splitting the community asunder, charging convicting sentencing and punishing Rebecca. Steph was not silenced. You say it is not complicated but I’m afraid that is a stand in for “this is not nuanced.” And it is.

    Rebecca is getting punished for what people perceive as a dick move. it’s called “criticism”. She has no more right to exemption from criticism than anyone else, especially, *especially* when she is so loudly saying the *exact same thing about stef*. If Stef is not exempt from criticism, then neither is rebecca, and if that is all it takes to “tear the community asunder” then the community had little strength or lasting value and needed to die anyway. Seriously, just a tad overdramatic.

    Pepsigate was stupider because it was about not wanting to be associate with soda. This discussion is about not wanting to be hit on in an elevator by someone who is probably harmless. On the other and, the degree to which it is dragged out of proportion may be reversed. Or maybe not. Hard to say if people quitting their blogs (which they did for reasons other than soda) is a big deal.

    Actually, no. It has to do with Rebecca abusing her position as a speaker to bag on someone in public from a position of power knowing full good and well they weren’t going to say fuck all to her when she’s on the podium in a room full of fans. That is *100%* of my, and many people’s problems with her. The elevator incident is related to that, but that does not excuse her behavior. If someone treats you like crap at work, and on your way out the door, you kick a hobo in the taint, YOU’RE STILL WRONG.

    That is the point. Which you seem to be completely missing. Rebecca’s stunt on the podium was a dick move to a lot of people. You may disagree, fine. But stop making it out that everyone who disagrees with her dick move at the podium thinks that elevator guy did nothing wrong. They are in fact two separate, but related incidents and it is entirely possible to agree with Rebecca about Elevator Guy, (WHO STILL HAS NOT BEEN EVEN VAGUELY IDENTIFIED. WHY IS THIS DUDE’S PRIVACY OF SUCH PARAMOUNT IMPORTANCE TO HER?), and think she made a dick move at the podium. Really. No one is saying rebecca can’t complain. They are disagreeing with her about the severity of the incident, and honestly, if that is causing her consternation, put your grownup underwear on, not everyone is going to agree with you about that kind of situation.

    But evidently, unless you are lockstep with Rebecca on this, you’re a misogynist. What kind of groupthink bullshit is that?

    Seeing how telling someone to shut up is a sexist act, from the point of view of someone who has not had the experiences, learning, training, or self reflection needed to get to that place.

    Da Fuck? No, it is not unless the only reason you’re doing it is because the speaker is female or male. It is entirely possible to tell someone to shut up because you think they just said something stupid, and the sex of the speaker has nothing to do with it.

    This is really simple Greg. I, and many others, (Abbie as well) think that Watson’s actions on the podium were wrong. Elevator guy is a related, but separate incident that does not justify nor excuse her actions.

    You may disagree of course, but stop trying to justify one with the other, it’s not even strong enough to be weak.

  66. #66 Miranda Celeste Hale
    July 4, 2011

    @65-

    But evidently, unless you are lockstep with Rebecca on this, you’re a misogynist. What kind of groupthink bullshit is that?

    Yes indeed. The groupthink is incredibly frustrating. Most people who dared to dissent at Pharyngula, for example, were met with some variety of “STFU YOU SEXIST IGNORANT PRIVILEGED FUCKER!!”.

  67. #67 Peg
    July 5, 2011

    Want to know how to determine if Rebecca Watson had the position of power here?
    Read PZ’s Blog Always Name Names. Who does he link? Whose side do readers get to hear? Rebecca Watsons.
    PZ apparently did not even bother to read Stef’s blog posts nor did he link to them for others to read.
    Rebecca was the only voice he presented.
    That is pretty indicative of who had the power.
    One of the major defenses that Watson used for calling out Stef at the conference was that Stef could have used the Q&A to respond to her.
    So, Please, go to this youtube video and listen from 2:30-3:05 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W014KhaRtik
    Watson takes issue with something Paula Kirby said during an earlier panel discussion. Watson says she did not use the Q&A to address it because
    “I didn’t have a question so much as an hour long lecture, so I would like to give that now, ha ha ha.”
    She says this from her position on the panel.
    When Watson took issue with something someone said, the Q&A was insufficient for her to respond.
    She used her position on the panel. In fact, it determined her whole talk.
    But Stef McGraw? Student, audience member, mute by protocal from not having a panel?
    “If you disagree with my saying you ‘propagated misogynist thinking’ in front of all your peers, you could have addressed in in the Q&A”
    Wow, If that is not showing an imbalance of power, I don’t know what to tell you.

  68. #68 Justicar
    July 5, 2011

    Miranda @66:
    I’ve just embraced it. If not agreeing to be labelled a rapist-in-waiting, oppressive, hateful, sexist and what not is an appropriate use of those words for saying, “I don’t think you’re right here”, then these terms have lost all meaning. To that extent, I’ll wear them happily within that group. However, to the rest of the world, these words still have power and meaning.

    But, you know, I’m privileged. My white male power is so strong that saying I’m not convinced actually gets people sexually assaulted. And I’m stupid, too.

    One has to wonder the strength of one’s position if the riposte to its not being immediately assented to involves: you’re too stupid to understand (only people smart like I am smart can “get” this – you’re excluded from that – even if you’re being oppressed right now), you’re a woman hater (even if, you know, you actually hate no woman in particular, or women in general), you’re a sexist (yes, I guess I am; don’t let my lifetime of arguing for equality of gender and race stand in the way of that charge though), you’re a fucker (here, I must confess it’s true, but incomplete. I’m happier being the fuckee!).

    There was once a time when I worked under the impression that we faggots and women were natural allies in social equality. This weekend has severely damaged that – (hi, blaghag and others!). While I will of course never oppose equality for women, I will no longer be attending women’s rights events knowing now that my faggoty ass will be seen as a rapist by a non-trivial set of attendees. Fuck that; I can go get accused of doing things I actually do by other bigots, for some benefit even. Sorry, if one has to denigrate entire swathes of the human population to make a point that one’s way is The Way, there’s a big problem somewhere.

    The problem? It is irrelevant to them to that others must be trampled; their way is The One True Way. Anyone who disagrees with every jot and tittle is the enemy. After this weekend, I will never again say that atheists eschew dogma; we positively eat it up it would appear.

  69. #69 Rorschach
    July 5, 2011

    Being creeped out in an elevator gives you the right to abuse a speaking platform and abuse a student.

    That’s really the crux of Abbie’s (and Prometheus’, although he seems to have a personal axe to grind with RW) argument, isn’t it. That Watson mentioning McGraw in her talk somehow amounted to “abuse” of some kind. I find that argument unconvincing at best, and utterly naive at worst. There is no power imbalance, if you write stuff on a blog, you better be ready for someone to quote you and take you to task for what you wrote. It’s just not true that RW has the upper hand here because she can dial 555-PZ, and her cause will be supported by a Technorati top 100 blog. PZ defended her because he thinks she has a point, not to do her a favor, and so did I by the way. Greg and I have offered Stef a platform to tell her side, same goes for elevator guy, who I after all spent a weekend with.
    You write shit about people on your blog or anywhere else, those people might pick up on that. That’s what RW did.

  70. #70 John C. Welch
    July 5, 2011

    That’s really the crux of Abbie’s (and Prometheus’, although he seems to have a personal axe to grind with RW) argument, isn’t it. That Watson mentioning McGraw in her talk somehow amounted to “abuse” of some kind. I find that argument unconvincing at best, and utterly naive at worst.

    Let’s play a game. It’s called, “Who’s got the power”. I will pack a room with my supporters and friends. I will get them going, all riled up. At some point after I start, I’ll put some, or all of this statement on the screen, and call you a “Fucking stupid douchebag”. Your assignment? While wearing a nametag that clearly identifies you, walk up to a mike during the Q&A in a room full of people actively opposing you, and call me out on it. You must do so with absolutely ZERO trepidation, and ZERO worry, and you must somehow be ready to shout down a guy with a better mic who can completely ignore you.

    That’s kind of what Stef faced. There was in fact a power imbalance. Your refusal to acknowledge it doesn’t change that fact.

    There is no power imbalance, if you write stuff on a blog, you better be ready for someone to quote you and take you to task for what you wrote. It’s just not true that RW has the upper hand here because she can dial 555-PZ, and her cause will be supported by a Technorati top 100 blog. PZ defended her because he thinks she has a point, not to do her a favor, and so did I by the way. Greg and I have offered Stef a platform to tell her side, same goes for elevator guy, who I after all spent a weekend with.

    You and laden offered her the same platform she *already has*: a blog. Wow. You offered her what she already has. Go you.

    Everything is not the same. A blog is not a keynote is not a car is not a Mongonian War-Zeppelin. You want to offer her the same platform? Make her a keynote at the next TAM, pack the room full of her friends and supporters, then plunk Rebecca Watson down in that room, with maybe a friend or two at most.

    THAT will then be an equivalent platform.

    You write shit about people on your blog or anywhere else, those people might pick up on that. That’s what RW did.

    No, it’s not. Watson could have answered her back on Skepchicks, she could have talked to her one on one, or over email. Those would have been equivalent responses. What Watson did was nuke her from orbit.

  71. #71 ERV
    July 5, 2011

    Rorschach– PZ is listening to Watson, in person. He didnt even bother to link to Stefs response, so Im assuming Watson didnt tell him it existed, and he never read it. And it doesnt matter what PZs motivations were– my motivations were pure too. What matters to me is how the ‘defended’ have responded. Ultimately, McGraw and the students at the CFI conference didnt need me to say anything. They have established that they are fully capable of writing intelligent, impassioned responses, far more articulate than anything I have written on ERV. Watson, on the other hand, is hiding behind PZs apron and proud of it, gloating on her facebook page that ‘she deosnt need to say anything. PZ covered it perfectly.’

    That doesnt ‘raise a few red flags’ for you?

    Welch– In fairness to Watson, the audience she started with was not the audience she finished with. Numerous students who attended the conference have contacted me with their version of events, and they are ‘not pleased’ with Watsons behavior. I think McGraw would have been given some slack if she walked up to the mic in the Q&A and flipped Watson off.

    And, what Watson did was way worse than calling someone a ‘fucking stupid douchebag’. She called McGraw anti-woman and a misogynist. You would need to accuse Rorschach of being a homophobe who wants all gays to shut up, or better yet, strung up.

  72. #72 Blargh
    July 5, 2011

    She brings up a youtube discussion in front of a serious audience. I avoid reading those comments and sure as hell won’t get involved because it’s the most ridiculous form of discussion possible. The fact she not only thrives on crap like this but actually brings it up as somehow being relevant to the greater issue of sexism in the atheist community should immediately have disqualified her from ever being invited back.

    It’s really not about whether or not she had a ‘right’ to call out McGraw. Hell, as far as I’m concerned, if you blog your opinions you’re fair game. What matters is that she somehow doesn’t realize that nobody wants to be involved in her petty little e-feuds, much less her views on ‘Thug4Life95′ and his ‘lol i hop u get raped lol!’ comments on youtube.

  73. #73 Spence
    July 5, 2011

    After a couple of busy days I sit down and surf the skeptic blogs and see what is going down. And the crap at Pharyngula and other places reminds me that my mentor has a point. Miranda nails it above and it is worth repeating:

    Yes indeed. The groupthink is incredibly frustrating. Most people who dared to dissent at Pharyngula, for example, were met with some variety of “STFU YOU SEXIST IGNORANT PRIVILEGED FUCKER!!”.

    Scientists are (usually) trained to be their own greatest critics. That’s an important part of skepticism. Not just to question other people’s ideas, but also your own. The Pharyngulites have shown that they are not able to do this. The aggressive arrogance of the mob prevents introspection.

    I’ve often skirted around the periphery of skeptic groups, tempted to get involved but there have always been higher priorities. I’ve mentioned this to my mentor (great scientist, proper old school type, free thinking atheist) who tells me he is not impressed by the skeptic movement; he points out they are often as ideological as those they criticise. I’ve tried to argue that while no group will ever be perfect, the principles are pretty sound and worthwhile. I’ve never convinced him, or myself for that matter, that he is wrong on this.

    So EG didn’t have empathy for Rebecca’s position. And Rebecca didn’t have empathy for Stef’s position. But it is Rebecca who brings (via PZ) a huge internet following to bully anyone who dares to disagree. Free thinking: not so free any more.

    Anyway, thank you ERV for being a ray of light in this otherwise stupid episode for rational skepticism.

    (Aside. Lack of empathy for another person’s feelings is a common symptom of Asperger’s. This symptom appears evident in both EG and RW’s behaviours. Can we rule out that EG has Asperger’s? Even RW? And has PZ effectively declared such people who have difficulties interacting socially are not decent human beings and are not welcome at skeptic events?)

  74. #74 c0nc0rdance
    July 5, 2011

    The sooner we can close this chapter, the better, IMHO. Everyone’s had a chance to be heard, and the schism hasn’t changed anyone’s mind. It takes two sides to fight a battle. A gracious moment of concession, an apology, or a short online meeting between the aggrieved to clear the air could have ended this days ago. Instead, everyone is nursing bruised egos. If rational atheists can’t be frank and honest with each other, put their feelings aside and agree on what really matters, I’m not sure anyone can.

    If I come away from this episode with any deep feelings, it is a profound loss of respect for Richard Dawkins for his offensive rhetoric and faulty logic in comments on Pharyngula.

    He has become the elder statesman of this community, and his comments were the kind of flame-baiting I expect of YouTubers. Jen called him on it, PZ concurred, and I was glad to see that. I think he needs to go public at RDF forums and just be honestly contrite. It was an egregious error, and it deserves a proportional response.

  75. #75 John C. Welch
    July 5, 2011

    Welch– In fairness to Watson, the audience she started with was not the audience she finished with. Numerous students who attended the conference have contacted me with their version of events, and they are ‘not pleased’ with Watsons behavior. I think McGraw would have been given some slack if she walked up to the mic in the Q&A and flipped Watson off.

    Oh good, i’m quite happy to be wrong about that then. Given the rampant sycophantic behavior i’vs seen towards her, I forgot the rule about how few people in any group ever actually speak up.

    And, what Watson did was way worse than calling someone a ‘fucking stupid douchebag’. She called McGraw anti-woman and a misogynist. You would need to accuse Rorschach of being a homophobe who wants all gays to shut up, or better yet, strung up.

    Good point, but there’s only so far I’ll go in making a point.

    (Aside. Lack of empathy for another person’s feelings is a common symptom of Asperger’s. This symptom appears evident in both EG and RW’s behaviours. Can we rule out that EG has Asperger’s? Even RW? And has PZ effectively declared such people who have difficulties interacting socially are not decent human beings and are not welcome at skeptic events?)

    Spence, you raise a really good point there, although I tend to blame it on Asshole’s, not Asperger’s. But PZ’s declarations of “unless you behave in this precise manner that “we” approve of, you’re not welcome” has a lot to do with my general antipathy towards such gatherings. (That, and the actual conference/talk tracks SEEM to be just a tish full of “Aren’t we so much cooler than they are” content. But I could be wrong there.)

    I really don’t want to be in a place where an inopportune comment and the knives come out. That’s just mob rule. It may be a normally polite, well-educated mob, but it is a mob. It makes me really, really not want to spend the time or money to go to a TAM or TAM-like meeting.

    It’s also somewhat surprising at how many people are so completely lacking in awareness, self- or otherwise, as to even begin to entertain the idea that maybe what Watson did was wrong to many people. Not to agree with them, but be able to see “Okay, yes, given what you’re saying, I can see why you think that. I disagree, but I understand.” I can, although it’s a bit difficult, see where folks don’t agree with my opinion on Watson’s behavior. I disagree with them, but I understand where they are coming from.

  76. #76 Joe Fatzen
    July 5, 2011

    What if you blog FROM a Mongonian War-Zeppelin?

    Welch– In fairness to Watson, the audience she started with was not the audience she finished with. Numerous students who attended the conference have contacted me with their version of events, and they are ‘not pleased’ with Watsons behavior. I think McGraw would have been given some slack if she walked up to the mic in the Q&A and flipped Watson off.

    Hard to know while you’re in the thick of it; it’s not like you’re going to poll the audience before stepping up to a mic. ;-)

    Not to mention people objecting to unreasonable jerkassery don’t usually want to respond in kind. You tend to want to respond conscientiously, even if the reverse hasn’t been done to you.

  77. #77 Justicar
    July 5, 2011

    C0nc0rdance, I must say that I’m disappointed in hearing you say this. You see, I had thought you were something or another and because I and others agreed that you should be what I thought you were, imagine my shock when you turned out not to be who I demanded you to be.

    Sorry, he is not an elder statesman. He’s a man who has thoughts, opinions and views on things, and is amenable to discussion that will convince him to his satisfaction that he’s wrong. He’s said he’ll even apologize publicly if someone can make him understand the issue.

    Claiming he owes you anything because of what you demand he’s supposed to be doesn’t actually burden him in the slightest. Or if it does, how large of a following does it take before we get to vote on what you’re allowed to think, say, feel and do that actually obliges you to think, say, feel or do as we tell you’re supposed to do?

    Goddamned Richard Dawkins. He’s just so fucking stupid as to not accede to a bunch of nattering about how he’s not a humanist, he’s anti-woman, a rapist-in-waiting and other things. He asked for a calm, reasonable explanation to convince him. You whined about it with a guilt trip.

    Yes, Jennifer McCreight called him on ‘it’. Also in calling him on it, she’s pressed into service all convenient minorities she could get away with using: we faggots, those niggers, and kykes, and even some cunts. I’m glad this is what you find an appropriate way to make a point. I’m glad that the oppression I actually deal with makes for a good point to guilt a man into accepting a point that hasn’t been cogently made by anyone yet. If we little old minorities can be any further use by firming up our necks to get her better footing while taking on The Man, just let me know. You know we fags love the gym anyway.

    An egregious error, like actual human rights violations?, deserves the proportional response of a public apology on a website. One of us doesn’t seem to appreciate the gravity of “egregious” with respect to what he’s been accused of through RW, Jen, PZ et al. An apology on a website doesn’t seem to fit with “egregious”. I think we should publicly flog him on the way to the Hague. That might make some people almost satisfied.

  78. #78 tyson koska
    July 5, 2011

    With all the calls to “put this behind us”, I wonder why? Might’nt it be better not to? i mean, let’s talk the shit out of it… seriously. I for one have learned much by the diverse opinions, and am hoping for someone (erv, pz?) to do a compare/contrast piece between accommodating sensitivities of women v. accommodating other types of sensitivities…

  79. #79 Justicar
    July 5, 2011

    Tyson Koska:

    Well, don’t count on PZ to do one. Anything less than complete appeasement is unacceptable. He’s going to be so feminist it won’t matter who gets trampled in the process. Goddammit, women are going to be equal if it means making everyone else inferior.

    If there is a standard of equality that exists, it must, at a minimum, not include the subjugation of one group of people for the advancement of another. It doesn’t matter if the group is male, female, gay, straight, black, white, asian, or ninja turtle. The moment you realize the way to help another group advance is to take your foot off their necks is the moment you should realize you haven’t been working on equality.

    The goal is here to have equal privilege in society; it isn’t, such as I understand it, to have distributed oppression. One of those I’ll work towards. The other I’ll probably die opposing.

  80. #80 In Vitro Infidelium
    July 5, 2011

    Elevator guy is a lark that is being used to excuse inappropriate behavior.

    I can’t see how the ‘elevator guy’ can be divorced from the ‘abuse of platform’ problem, one directly follows the other. Solipsism is neither Feminism nor Scepticism, and if the postulant of the ‘elevator’ experience had actually approached her solipsistical postulation with scepticism, she would in consequence have presented a criticism of her own perceptions along with the inherent criticism of the other occupant of the elevator; if she had done this she would have created a context in which a critical and sceptical dialogue could have proceeded with equity.

    For any reasoning person who has a conception that humanity consists of 6 billion plus beings, to see supposed sceptics ‘elevating’ 4 in the morning failings of social niceties, elevated to the modern equivalent of how many angels can stand on the head of pin, is vomit inducing. What happens in ‘conferences’ or ‘elevators’ is irrelelevant to what reasonably must be the current concerns of ‘feminists’, both male and female, which with any sense of priority must focuss on how power and economics impact upon the 2.5 billon women and girls who live lives that mean riding in an elevator or attending a conference are possibilities that are as far removed from them as being able to take a trip into space.

  81. #81 John C. Welch
    July 5, 2011

    What if you blog FROM a Mongonian War-Zeppelin?

    KNEEL BEFORE MING!

    I can’t see how the ‘elevator guy’ can be divorced from the ‘abuse of platform’ problem, one directly follows the other.

    It’s actually pretty simple. Watson had a bad time in an elevator. Elevator guy’s intentions don’t really enter into it, she is within her rights to see his actions as she sees them. We don’t have to agree with her interpretation, but, we all are allowed to see things our own way.

    Stef didn’t agree with Watson’s take and said so. Could she have said it differently? Maybe, but that’s not the larger point. (to be honest, i find a lot of the “skeptic community pretty whiny about this. They bitch about being able to “be blunt” et al, then when they get it back, oh my, they get a bad case of the vapors! Dish it out, take it, etc.)

    The forum stef used was a blog. A blog is, in general, a fairly equal forum. You do have moderators, etc, but everyone can comment whenever and from wherever they wish. You do not have to do it in front of a room full of people.

    Watson then replies, not on her site, not on unifreethought.com, but from the podium at a session.

    There is a clear chain from elevator guy to Watson’s dick move, but Elevator guy doesn’t justify the dick move, nor does Stef’s post. Watson’s dick move was her choice. She could have responded to Stef in one of many other ways, she chose one that I, and many others view as a dick move, (or any other pejorative for it. The specific term used is immaterial).

    it is just that simple. Watson is responsible for her behavior in this case, and it seems obvious that she, and her supporters, are doing whatever they can to avoid that.

  82. #82 Sigmund
    July 5, 2011

    Someone on the Friendly Atheist site made a remark that, I think, answers the underlying problem with this whole debate. As far as I can see it most of the men that state “EG was wrong to make a pass in the elevator, it was the wrong place and bound to creep her out and RW was fine to point that out in her video” were still getting called mysogynist pigs. The answer came in the Friendly Atheist post that stated to the effect that the problem here is the refusal of people to realize that making a pass at anyone at such an event is inherently offensive.
    If you actually feel that way then it all makes sense. If it is not just unacceptable, but inherently offensive to try to chat up someone at a skeptical or atheist conference (thus sexually objectifying them) then this justifies RW equating Steph McGraws remarks to remarks condoning rape.
    That explains why there has been little or no dispute about RW doing anything wrong with her speech – many people actually agree that condoning the acceptance of attempting to chat up other adults at conferences is akin to condoning calls for rape.

  83. #83 Blargh
    July 5, 2011

    If that’s actually what the underlying problem is, you can pretty much forget about ever working this one out. Call it quits and separate into several groups.

  84. #84 c0nc0rdance
    July 5, 2011

    @ 77 Justicar

    I wasn’t very impressed with your response. I’d much prefer if you offer your opinions or support your position without the sarcasm and reductio ad absurdum. It’s always more productive if we keep our barbs to ourselves, and just address actual issues.

    I would like it if Richard Dawkins would respond to criticisms of his comment on Pharyngula. I don’t think that’s out of line. He has celebrity in this community, whether he likes it or not. Certainly he is an individual, but he’s also the public face for atheism, an author of best-selling books, and the namesake of a large public fund for atheism and rationality. His considerable name recognition carries some responsibility to the foundation he represents, the movement that he is a leader in, and the people who respect and admire him.

    He’s welcome to do, say, or think what he likes, but the consequences will affect more than just him. If I post a video extolling the virtues of XMRV assays as a diagnostic for prostate cancer, people understand that’s my personal position. If I am Chair of the Institute of Virology Research, that’s a different thing entirely. This is a simple reality for leaders and spokespeople of all kinds.

    The principle that Abbie is addressing is very relevant. Someone with the audience of Richard Dawkins (or RW) needs to step much more carefully than someone like me (or McGraw). Posting a scathing and poorly reasoned argument “en clair” as Dawkins did is similar to a keynote speaker attacking small-audience critics by name. I agree it’s a relatively minor sin, and so was Rebecca’s, but it’s still worth the effort to clear the air, address it honestly and frankly.

    If they don’t… *shrug*. I’ll deal with it.

  85. #85 Justicar
    July 5, 2011

    C0nc0rdance:
    Given the amount of thought and emotional appeals you put into your post, I didn’t think mine required more effort. But I like you, so I’ll oblige.

    Dawkins is well-known, and his views quite often overlap with the views of many people in the atheist community. Therefore, he’s popular. He’s not our leader. If you choose to view him as that, then you’re welcome to it. I see him as a thoughtful man who quite often has views I share. When it turns out that his views and mine don’t coincide, and I see no reason to think his estimation is superior to mine, I’m not disappointed in him. But I don’t need him to be perfect, or to think exactly as I think for me to respect that he’s thoughtful, and any incorrect views he has are amenable to modification. And when he’s not made to understand in a way that convinces him it’s probably not for a lack of effort or concern.

    To be disappointed implies some expectation of him to transcend the limitations of which both you and I are also subject. You think he’s wrong. He’s invited you, or anyone for that matter, to explain it to him calmly without using “fuck” every sentence. I also do not see why he’s wrong, so if you have the answer to the question, it would likely solve it for me too. Instead of changing our minds with a crafted argument, of which you’re overwhelming capable if one is to be had based on your YT channel, you pack your bags and take us on a guilt trip.

    I want a frank, honest discussion. One doesn’t seem to be forthcoming. I’ve asked in each discussion about this why it is that I’m wrong for not immediately thinking “rapist” is a proper stance to have when one is approached without previous, explicit consent. Even if it’s a less than ideal place.

    Also, some women are asking that question. Some of them rape victims. I did a video on it. It’s mostly sardonic, but the point is made. Why is it that there are some female rape victims who are saying they do not feel that way in elevators with men who chat them up? For that matter, why don’t I?
    I’m at risk for being raped as much as is any randomly selected woman, and yet when a guy approaches me in a hallway, parking lot, or elevator and flirts with me, I am no more concerned that he’s my rapist, than a mugger, than a suicide bomber, than a spanger (spare changer), or anything else.

    I have no fear of it at all. No discomfort. If I’m not interested, I say as much. If it seems like something that could be fun, I might accept.

    So, why then is it that you and your side are arguing that all men must walk around considering themselves rapists so as to “get it”? Or, if not that, then what is it?

    Since there are some women who think all men are potential rapists, some who think not, some who are aware that some are but refuse to be governed by cowardice, and some like Rebecca Watson (who would much prefer to lambaste McGraw in a keynote speech than answer a single question about this supposed man one notes), how is a man to know? And then the further question: why is someone’s irrational fear an argument that anyone else is required to prostrate themselves before said person?

    With respect to Abbie’s point. It isn’t that someone like Rebecca needs to tread more lightly than you or I. It’s that someone who exploits the position of being an invited, keynote speaker needs to consider it. When I’m giving a lecture, I have considerable control over what gets said. People who refuse to get with the program get escorted out of the building by force if necessary. Security at events isn’t there for decorative purposes.

    Remember the youtube videos of students (oh my!) getting escorted out? And then the guy getting tossed out for saying “and earning profit” when Richard was speaking? Three words, he was taken out by the police if I recall correctly. That’s what it means to be The Speaker; you control that time period. Rebecca chose that time to excoriate McGraw for the great crime of writing something unflattering on a blog. The man who actually set off the “creepy” vibe by “cornering” her in an elevator – this person she protects, and will not say anything about. Indeed, she’s bragging on facebook right now that she is immune to having to deal with that issue anymore because of PZ. And she’s positively loving the attention from it, like, say, publicity is a goal. She calls it a “score”. I know, that’s cynical.

    No one is saying that Rebecca pulled out a knife and stabbed McGraw to death. We’re saying she abused her position to silence a critic who she knew damn well simply could not respond. Remember the video of RW on stage with RD? Her issue with a previous panel wasn’t appropriate for the Q&A because, apparently, the 30 – 60 second time limit to *ask* a *question* isn’t sufficient for her. But she makes the non-argument that it’s more than fully sufficient for McGraw to have called her out and refuted her. Yeah, I call bullshit.

    Oh, and note: I disagree with you. And I’ve lost no esteem at all for you. See? That’s because I understand that your popularity while related to your work on youtube isn’t an immunity to error. I don’t make gods out of men and women. Why a man who has said that if he’s wrong he’s fully willing to be convinced and even apologize for being wrong in the first place loses your respect confuses me. It has to be that you expect freedom from error. Or that RD is lying about changing his mind if convinced. Either that, or the Richard Dawkins you’ve created in your mind doesn’t track with the human being we’re discussing – which is a point you found unimpressive earlier I note. It’s worth repeating: your failure to see him as a man and nothing more is not his problem.

    Or, if it is, at what point of popularity will you substitute what your fans tell you to think and do for what you think to be right and proper? It’s not a trivial point. If it’s a concession you won’t make, it’s a dick move to demand Richard Dawkins accept it for having the misfortune of being successful.

    There, does that more plainly lay out the issues in a way that doesn’t bother you by way of ToneCard?

    Anyway, all that stands between success and failure is air, opportunity and a cogent argument.

    Your move, my friend.

  86. #86 becca
    July 5, 2011

    Is there a link where I can read McGraw’s take on the keynote?
    (apologies if it’s already there and I missed it- there’s a lot to wade through)

  87. #88 ERV
    July 5, 2011
  88. #89 Spence
    July 5, 2011

    I see Phil Plait has joined in and has (unsurprisingly) decided to vigorously defend Rebecca’s honour. More skeptical opinions are just a clique away. From the bad astronomer:

    Rebecca, apparently, handled this situation with aplomb, and I’m glad. She turned it into a useful lesson for men on how not to treat women.

    Yes Phil, and she also gave us an object lesson on how keynote speakers shouldn’t treat audience members, although perhaps not quite in the way intended. Although “aplomb” isn’t a word I would use to describe the handling of that little fiasco.

    That said, bad astronomy has a much less aggressive / arrogant atmosphere than Pharyngula which means interesting points are being made by both sides in the commentary.

    PS: John Welch, I agree with your assessment re: assholes vs. Aspergers.

  89. #90 BrianX
    July 5, 2011

    Abbie:

    I’ve been trying to decide how to explain my point of view on this.

    I think your inner /b/tard is affecting your judgement on this case.

    A certain degree of obliviousness is forgiveable, but once it’s gone, the actions it causes need to stop. Now as far as Watson naming names, I’d take a look at who’s got her back on this one — essentially, complaining about tone or the form of message does nothing to address the issue at hand. I mean, look at Slutwalk — yes, it could have been a silent vigil with people dressed conservatively, with only women showing up, but it would have completely missed the point of the message. Sometimes you have to get in people’s faces.

    Look, you’re a beautiful woman. A very beautiful one. I’m sure you’ve gone through the kind of crap Watson is complaining about — being objectified, harrassed, whatever. Bitching Watson out because you don’t like the way she delivered a message that you apparently agreed with shows a bit of a tin ear for others who’ve gone through the same problem. Remember, not everyone reacts the same way to such things and you can’t expect someone to shrug it off just because you can.

    I’ve been a fan of this blog for a few years now, and I probably will be for some time to come. But you’re only shooting yourself in the foot here.

  90. #91 Justicar
    July 5, 2011

    Gee, Brianx. That’s nice of you to note that she’s beautiful. How does she manage to make it through life? It’s called not playing the victim card and taking ownership of one’s life. It’s also a little something I like to call a “good example” of another concept I’m going to call “smart decisions”.

    You know why? Because Abbie apparently managed somehow against all of the odds, contrary to having a vagina and being attractive to assess the realities of life and deal with it head-on. I’m so proud of her – atta girl, Abbie.

    Yes, Abbie, can you explain where would you manage to summon up the strength to deal with and shrug off being invited to coffee by a “man” in an elevator?

    Oh, never mind. I’m going to magically guess:
    “Watson did not confront her male proposition-er, nor did she ‘NAME NAMES!’. Personally, I would have said “Dude, did you hear my speech today? Cause you are being super creepy. LOL. Peace out, Dude, Im going to sleep.” I wouldnt trundle off to bed and write a post about it in the safe shelter of my blag. But fine, I recognize that not everyone has my self confidence and quick wit (DUDE!).”

    I bet if Abbie were smart, she’d probably take self-defense lessons too. It’s just a guess.

  91. #92 BrianX
    July 5, 2011

    Justicar:

    What, fleeing from the Pharyngula beatdown?

    Normally I would see no reason to point Abbie’s looks out, but it’s an attempt to illustrate *why* this is a women’s issue. If the entire thing was a mountain out of a molehill, it would be completely irrelevant. However, look at Laci Green — same deal. Sometimes it seems like she can’t win — people complain about her being attractive and busty, even though it really has no bearing on what she has to say. It’s not right, but as long as people are ignoring that it does in fact happen, the problem is not going away.

    And for the record, I think Abbie is a generally awesome person, and I thought that before I ever saw a picture of her.

  92. #93 ERV
    July 5, 2011

    Now as far as Watson naming names, I’d take a look at who’s got her back on this one…
    Lets do just that.

    Who is on her ‘side’? People who were not present.

    Who is on my ‘side’? The students who were actually present in the audience.

    An ultimate positive out of this– all the emails Ive gotten from student atheist groups lately, who didnt know I existed five days ago.

    Bitching Watson out because you don’t like the way she delivered a message that you apparently agreed with shows a bit of a tin ear for others who’ve gone through the same problem.
    Elevator guy asked her for coffee. She declined. They parted ways. Sure, his choice of venue was a poor decision, and if he were a guy friend relating this story to me, I would slap him upside the head with a “Really? She turned you down? NO WAY! **SLAP!!** THINK MCFLY!”

    There was a guy I met in college. He wasnt creepy– tall, cute, could hold a conversation. He didnt corner me in an elevator. He didnt ask me for coffee. He didnt ask me for sex. Unlike Elevator Guy, he didnt ask me anything. He just dropped some drugs in my one drink for the night, and was planning on raping me while I was unconscious. But it didnt happen because apparently The Virgin Mother, Thor, and an unnamed Cherokee deity were watching over me that night. But that one night at the beginning of my freshman year of college totally changed my life.

    There was this other guy– about this time last summer he said ‘Good morning’ to me, and I said ‘Good morning’ right back. This apparently meant that I was into him, and he asked me out. I said ‘No’. Unlike Elevator Guy, he didnt take ‘No’ for an answer. The next >6 months were a living hell. I have always done some kind of martial art, but it was just fun. Kids games. Exercise. Suddenly, it became a life-or-death reality. I had a professional fighter beat the shit out of me, just to know I could take it. He also physically prepared me to kill another human. That wasnt really the problem. I also had to mentally prepare myself. Someone who doesnt do animal research because ‘I cant’. Someone who eats meat once every two weeks for health reason, but otherwise hates it. Someone who is a life-long atheist and believes that death is The It for all of us. I had to prepare myself and forgive myself for killing another human, in advance, so I could do it to save my own life if I needed to. Have you ever been that afraid? Saying ‘Good morning’ to the wrong person changed my life.

    Meanwhile: Elevator Guy asked. Elevator Guy took ‘No’ for an answer. He fucked up the location, but otherwise, he did things right.

    I dont agree with Watson.

    But my voice doesnt matter to Real Feminists.

  93. #94 windy
    July 5, 2011

    Now as far as Watson naming names, I’d take a look at who’s got her back on this one

    Argument from authority? Really?

    It’s not right, but as long as people are ignoring that it does in fact happen, the problem is not going away.

    Apparently, not everyone agrees that the elevator incident and/or Stef’s disagreement were good examples of “it” happening.

  94. #95 BrianX
    July 5, 2011

    ERV:

    Well, that’s obviously quite a bit worse than Rebecca’s situation, but it isn’t a binary situation. Just because you’ve dealt with something as bad as those rapey shitbags doesn’t mean Rebecca’s situation might not have been intimidating enough in its own right. I mean, just because I once knew a kid who was severely autistic doesn’t mean my Asperger’s syndrome is any less crippling for me.

    *shrug* Getting a sense of perspective does not mean belittling real problems because they aren’t as severe as the worst case scenario.

  95. #96 BrianX
    July 5, 2011

    Should say “the issue at hand isn’t a binary situation”. Original phrasing was fail. Okay, done now.

  96. #97 Cheng Vang
    July 5, 2011

    Well, that’s obviously quite a bit worse than Rebecca’s situation, but it isn’t a binary situation. Just because you’ve dealt with something as bad as those rapey shitbags doesn’t mean Rebecca’s situation might not have been intimidating enough in its own right. I mean, just because I once knew a kid who was severely autistic doesn’t mean my Asperger’s syndrome is any less crippling for me.

    *shrug* Getting a sense of perspective does not mean belittling real problems because they aren’t as severe as the worst case scenario.

    Can these people not see the hypocrisy in their arguments? Yes just because Rebecca was creeped out by a guy in the elevator doesn’t mean that others can’t criticize her for her unprofessionalism as a speaker and abuse of power to launch a personal attack on an attendee.

    Getting a sense of perspective does not mean belittling real problems because they aren’t as severe as others. Durr.

  97. #98 Petercx
    July 5, 2011

    I’ve never asked a girl for sex (directly or indirectly) in an elevator at any hour much less at 4am and I don’t have any friends who would do so. If I heard about a friend acting that way, I would give serious consideration to modifying the friendship if not terminating it.
    Having said all that though, I wonder, do any of the RW people believe that EG should go to jail for his actions? If not, why the level of emotion? “Wrongs” are relative; everything about our criminal law is based on that concept and I don’t think anyone is suggesting that it change. So what’s the appropriate penalty for EG? And does it allow room for harsher penalties for worse crimes?

    And being a rational community, shouldn’t our collective response be related to relative wrongness?

  98. #99 Justicar
    July 5, 2011

    Brianx:
    Did you just accuse me of running away from a closed thread where it’s literally not possible to write in? Yeah, I’m a fucking coward!!!!! lolololol

    Abbie, I wish there were a way I could tweet your last comment here. I wish there were a way I could tell more people to read your thoughts. I wish there were a way that reflective people interested in issues beyond “hey! look at me!” were made more prominent.

    Alas, all I can do is read your blog and write (hopefully) an occasionally not entirely useless comment.

    I haven’t seen a picture of Abbie (that I know of anyway). I don’t need or want to. It’s not relevant to me what she looks like. She writes like the kind of person who wakes up each day and tries to make her life what she wants it to be, learn about the universe, help others learn about it, and to treat people with the respect they deserve. That I have to type an “s” in front of “he” to get the right pronoun is immaterial to me because race and gender should not be features that are at all considered in evaluating someone’s capacity. Bleh, I’m starting to get kumbaya up in this motherfucker.

    No, trauma and oppression aren’t binary conditions. But the supposed elevator guy did what I consider to be the right thing: he took no for an answer and left it there. Not no means maybe. Not no means let’s negotiate. No ended it. I fail to see what other outcome is even equal, let alone superior to that one. I have asked. Including on pharyngula. The answer I’ve gotten is Schroedinger’s Rapist. Well, if that’s a valid chain of reasoning then so too is Schroedinger’s Fake Rape Victim, which I’ve made a video on. As well as others. None of them should be taken seriously because I quite frankly think that to give them the courtesy of a reasoned video pretends that the argument has merit. An emotional ploy to exploit people into thinking they should devalue their own existence is not convincing to me. The idea of equality is to pull everyone up to a shared and common equal status. It’s not to have a roughly distributed system of situational oppression and self-loathing.

    Or, if it is, then the system you’re talking about is repugnant to me. If one has to devalue other people to achieve success in equality, one hasn’t thought through the problem hard enough or carefully enough. Simply put, it’s student work and it’s not fucking good enough. Go back and work harder or you must fail this class.

    I’ve been told that all that matters is how a random woman might potentially feel. Sorry, I fail to see how that is a good enough argument that half of the human race is somehow required to do anything. Can I demand certain graces of etiquette from society if I’m just having an emotionally taxing day? Can I just point at random women and accuse them of falsely claiming rape because it’s possible one of them might?

    If I’m in an elevator with a Rebecca Watson, am I required to leave? After all, she’s already uncomfortable just because I’m male and present. Pharyngula is good on identifying perceived problems that I just don’t understand. What isn’t happening is a non-ridiculous solution to these supposed problems.

    So, all that stands between you and my assent to your claim is air, opportunity and a good, cogent reason.

    My email is differentialmath@gmail.com if you don’t want to have a public pissing contest, but actually want to state a case that will force me to assent to the proposition. You see, that’s how good arguments go. Why does no one doubt that Earth revolves around the sun anymore? Because the sheer weight of the reasons to think it does indeed do it is so overwhelming that it is nearly impossible not to accept that it must be the case.

    And the benefit of it is that you can make your point without distraction of the groupthink and mob mentality that you seem to think scares me off. And you can be as thoughtful and take as long to compose the argument as you like – no pressure at all from the comments going back and forth saying “what now, bitch?”

    So, if you want to explain it to me and convince me that your ethic here is superior to my ethic, you have the option. If you want to be a comment-hero on a blog, you’ll do much better back on pharyngula where justifying a conclusion is more important than developing a chain of reasoning.

    You decide.

    Regards,
    Johnathan

  99. #100 John C. Welch
    July 5, 2011

    Can these people not see the hypocrisy in their arguments? Yes just because Rebecca was creeped out by a guy in the elevator doesn’t mean that others can’t criticize her for her unprofessionalism as a speaker and abuse of power to launch a personal attack on an attendee.

    I’m beginning to think that within the “skeptic” community, you’re pretty much not “allowed” to criticize her at all.

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