Here’s the talk.


Huh.

I love this talk. Spread it around!

Comments

  1. #1 Tony Sidaway
    July 31, 2011

    This is a very powerful and timely talk because it addresses the problems for women both inside and outside the movement. I hope Rebecca doesn’t stop speaking out, but I also hope more of us take the message to heart and speak out too, so she doesn’t ever again have to be the lone voice and subject to attempts, by those within the movement itself, to isolate and demonize her.

    Never again can we ever pretend that humanism as currently configured is pro-woman. It isn’t, and we must change that.

  2. #2 george.w
    July 31, 2011

    Both really interesting talks. The first 17 minutes are about sexism in the skeptic community, and the rest about the Religious Right against Women’s Rights.

  3. #3 surgoshan
    July 31, 2011

    How hysterical was Watson? She showed two, count them, two separate uteruses! That’s two hysterae! That’s pretty gosh darn hysterical. It doesn’t matter that she was calm and reasonable the whole time; she was hysterical.

  4. #4 Jason Thibeault
    July 31, 2011

    surgoshan@3: *applause*

  5. #5 Scotlyn
    July 31, 2011

    Great talk. Just one small factoid that Rebecca had missed in relation to the Irish situation. In a memorable referendum, a majority passed an amendment to the constitution guaranteeing the right to life of the unborn as being equal to that of the mother BUT the accompanying referenda proposals – to ban travel to another country for an abortion, or to ban the provision of information that would lead to an abortion were defeated. The Irish ban on abortion self-consciously requires its availability in the UK, as the Irish voting public made clear.

  6. #6 Joel
    July 31, 2011

    Makes one wonder what the fuss was about.

  7. #7 Jason Thibeault
    July 31, 2011

    Heh. Subtle tagging, Greg.

  8. #8 Rorschach
    July 31, 2011

    Subtle tagging, Greg.

    Oh. I just noted that too. ;)

    So yeah, that’s the damning account of how Rebecca humiliated and maliciously confronted McGraw, right there. Some people should apologise for talking out of their ass for the last month. Friendships were broken over arguments from ignorance. Turns out all it was in the end was a mild-mannered and polite rebuke within a very interesting talk about sexism in the atheist and skeptic movement. The monument looks more and more like a monument for monumental ignorance and premature judgments.

  9. #9 Aerik
    August 1, 2011

    ZOMG, she talked about steph in the clear context of problematic sexism in the atheist/skeptic community and didn’t call her a bitch or anything…

    clearly she’s a man-hating time traveler who edited this video retroactively, b/c my totally non-sexist atheist bro told me she was hysterical about some rapist in an elevator and was foaming at the mouth n shit.

  10. #10 Doug Alder
    August 1, 2011

    Great talk (posted to G+)my only criticism is that Rebecca focused on Western religion (understandable enough) and did not mention (or I missed it) the even sadder fate of women in Muslim and Hindu societies where their lives are essentially worthless. That’s a direct result of the religious right (different religions of course)

  11. #11 Bernard Bumner
    August 1, 2011

    A relatively mild rebuke and polite rebuttal of someone who published a rather debatable and attacking piece of opinion.

    Part of the fuss was that Stef McGraw was supposedly humiliated or embarrassed. I’d ask, by what? It seems to me that if her opinion was considered to be fair and justified, then she would have nothing to be embarrassed about. If someone were to quote my well developed and right-minded opinions – as infrequently as I hold such – then I would be very happy for them to do so.

    Since when did questionable sentiments deserve to be defended via anonymity or special pleading on the basis of student status?

  12. #12 J. Wheeler
    August 1, 2011

    I actually don’t think the video acquits Watson like you do. Watson uses McGraw’s post as an example of ignorance and as a problem in the skeptical community. It’s anything but that.

    McGraw -disagrees- with Watson and with Watson’s interpretation of what Feminism means. But Watson says that McGrath is wrong, period. That, at least in the short-hand used in her lecture, there’s only one right way to be a feminist and that McGrath isn’t it. That’s not a skeptical, or a rational or even a polite argument.

    IMO, Watson would have been fine to disagree with McGrath, but calling her out as a problem takes the matter above and beyond argument and into a level of orthodoxy, some thing I thought our movement was against. Ideas standing or falling on the strength of the evidence and argument marshaled in their favor. Watson doesn’t do that here.

    I also note the irony of someone being very strident in demanding that the skeptical movement take sexism more seriously while at the same time leveling what amounts to an ageist argument against McGrath. It’s one of those glass houses things.

    I think much of Watson’s lecture is quite good. But in calling out McGrath so publicly, she was wrong.

  13. #13 J. Wheeler
    August 1, 2011

    I actually don’t think the video acquits Watson like you do. Watson uses McGraw’s post as an example of ignorance and as a problem in the skeptical community. It’s anything but that.

    McGraw -disagrees- with Watson and with Watson’s interpretation of what Feminism means. But Watson says that McGrath is wrong, period. That, at least in the short-hand used in her lecture, there’s only one right way to be a feminist and that McGrath isn’t it. That’s not a skeptical, or a rational or even a polite argument.

    IMO, Watson would have been fine to disagree with McGrath, but calling her out as a problem takes the matter above and beyond argument and into a level of orthodoxy, some thing I thought our movement was against. Ideas standing or falling on the strength of the evidence and argument marshaled in their favor. Watson doesn’t do that here.

    I also note the irony of someone being very strident in demanding that the skeptical movement take sexism more seriously while at the same time leveling what amounts to an ageist argument against McGrath. It’s one of those glass houses things.

    I think much of Watson’s lecture is quite good. But in calling out McGrath so publicly, she was wrong.

  14. #14 Stephanie Z
    August 1, 2011

    J., which part of this is merely a disagreement? What Rebecca described–someone disregarding her circumstances, her stated wishes, and her probable reaction to the context (i.e., disregarding her as a person)–in order to proposition her is definitional sexual objectification. Sexual interest doesn’t require any of those behaviors. Given the reasons that women give for staying away from atheist events, if your intent is to get more women involved in the movement, Rebecca’s advice stands. The only room for disagreement is created by leaving out parts of what Rebecca said in her first video, as she pointed out here.

    The reason Stef is a problem is that her job within her organization is to present welcoming events. Also, the ageism charge is crap, unless you’d also like to suggest that Rebecca is claiming that her age affords her a wisdom that Paula Kirby’s doesn’t give her. This is an argument about the lessons of experience, not one that says these experiences can’t come at an early age.

  15. #15 J. Wheeler
    August 1, 2011

    From Stef McGraw’s blog:

    “I found the qualification of this incident as objectification, sexualization, and sexism to be a mischaracterization, and responded via this post.”

    She disagreed with Rebecca’s view… and Rebecca’s response was, very simplified, “If you disagree with me, not only are you categorically wrong, you also support those who wish to rape me.”

    Rebecca’s public response to Stef’s post was out of order.

  16. #16 J. Wheeler
    August 1, 2011

    From Stef McGraw’s blog:

    “I found the qualification of this incident as objectification, sexualization, and sexism to be a mischaracterization, and responded via this post.”

    She disagreed with Rebecca’s view… and Rebecca’s response was, very simplified, “If you disagree with me, not only are you categorically wrong, you also support those who wish to rape me.”

    Rebecca’s public response to Stef’s post was out of order.

  17. #17 Greg Laden
    August 1, 2011

    Jody Wheeler rephrased:

    Stef disagreed with Rebecca’s view… and Rebecca’s response could have been interpreted by someone unfavorably predisposed towards her as, “If you disagree with me, not only are you categorically wrong, you also support those who wish to rape me.”

    I would have phrased it differently, but I also understand what Rebecca meant.

    Right?

  18. #18 Stephanie Z
    August 1, 2011

    Stef was was responding to a different incident than the one Rebecca actually described and categorized. That is what was wrong and what supports those who wish to rape her. That’s why there have been many thousands of words spent on trying to suggest Rebecca was wrong about the details of what had happened. If the incident as she described it isn’t objectification, there is no point in trying to undercut her description of the event.

  19. #19 Jody Wheeler
    August 2, 2011

    I would have phrased it differently, but I also understand what Rebecca meant.

    I’m a writer. I have a predisposition for the dramatic. :-D

    And it’s that rough rephrasing that lead me to conclude Rebecca was wrong in her treatment of Stef.

  20. #20 Jody Wheeler
    August 2, 2011

    Let me add that, even if she’d left the darker associations out, I’d still find fault with Rebecca’s treatment of Stef, for reasons I mentioned before.

  21. #21 hoary puccoon
    August 2, 2011

    J Wheeler @14– “R’s response was…, ‘If you disagree with me, not only are you categorically wrong, you also support those who wish to rape me.'” [NOTE TO LURKERS: Rebecca Watson never said that.]

    J Wheeler @17– “It’s that rough rephrasing that led me to conclude Rebecca was wrong in her treatment of Stef.”

    Let me make sure I have this straight. You made up something Rebecca Watson never said, posted it in this blog in quotation marks– giving the impression it was an exact quote– and *based on that* concluded Rebecca Watson was in the wrong?

    Two points here:
    1. Never, ever post a “quotation” that isn’t– as accurately as you can make it– the exact words of the person you are quoting. Adding “very simplified” as a disclaimer doesn’t cut it. It’s too easy to cut-and-paste the RW non-quote, and it could follow her for years.

    2. In academia, certainly, people disagree all the time. The disagreements are frequently more pointed that the RW-SMcG discussion. What is never done, however, is quoting an academic with whom you disagree without naming him or her. There are two reasons naming the person is actually considered courteous.
    a) Citations count in academic promotions, whether they’re positive or negative.
    b) It’s not fair to criticize someone else’s ideas without giving your audience the information necessary to see for themselves what your opponent actually said.

    I don’t know if Rebecca Watson is in academia, but she followed the standard rules for academic discourse– as Stef, being a student, should know. I’m sure Stef was telling the truth that she was “embarrassed” [I believe that is a direct quote] by what Rebecca said– but that doesn’t mean Rebecca was in the wrong for saying it. In fact, Stef’s embarrassment, or lack thereof, has no bearing on whether Rebecca was right in saying Stef confused sexual interest with sexual objectification. And it seems fairly clear to me that Stef did exactly that.

  22. #22 itzac
    August 2, 2011

    Well said, hoary puccoon.

    Watson very thoroughly dissected what McGraw said. It’s simply not the case that she just used her “authority” to slam down McGraw. McGraw put an idea out there with her name on it. This is one possible outcome of such an action. And frankly, if your idea is wrong in some way, this is probably one of the best possible outcomes.

    It’s also clear that folks who were upset that McGraw’s comments were juxtaposed with threats of rape were full of crap. There’s a clear and obvious segue into the topic of women who don’t understand feminism. This reminds of people who whinge at the term Climate Change Denier.

  23. #23 Raging Bee
    August 2, 2011

    Even if RW was totally wrong in every dispute that’s been discussed here, the scale of her errors still would not justify even one-tenth of the sheer undisguised hatred that’s been spewed at her (and others) here and on ERV and PZ’s blog. I think it’s long past time to admit that the overwhelming majority of the hate isn’t about RW’s behavior at all.

    My own guess is, part of the hate comes from Dawkins’ more immature loyalists: it’s a pretty safe bet that if Dawkins had not opened his mouth about RW, very few people would even care about any of these disputes, let alone take a side with such undisciplined rancor as we’ve seen.

    Another part of the hate probably arises from pre-existing personal animosities that predate recent events, and just found this time to blow up. There seems to be some bad blood between RW and McGraw, and possibly between RW and others of whom I know even less. There’s DEFINITELY a lot of hatred of PZ coming into play here — most of the people who voice any support for RW are immediately attacked as mindless PZ-loyalists, and PZ himself has been called all kinds of nasty names, whether or not he actually says anything on this or that thread at all. Some people seem to hate RW only because PZ likes her. If PZ had trashed RW, I’m sure a lot of his haters would be defending her and using that as further proof of what an asshole PZ is.

    And then, of course, there’s the “men’s rights” axe-grinders, who came VERY late to the pile-on, hijacking nearly every thread with old grudges of their own that had absolutely nothing to do with RW’s actions — or anything else in the real world. They’re now gumming up ERV’s latest thread on this subject, and ERV seems to enjoy having them to validate some personal grudge of her own against RW.

    Most of this rancorous dispute isn’t about RW at all — she just ended up being the flash-point, more by pure chance than by her actions. I’m pretty sure this will all end with almost everyone quietly slinking off and desperately trying to forget how shamefully they behaved. Hopefully RW won’t suffer any serious undeserved consequences in the meantime.

  24. #24 Raging Bee
    August 2, 2011

    Even if RW was totally wrong in every dispute that’s been discussed here, the scale of her errors still would not justify even one-tenth of the sheer undisguised hatred that’s been spewed at her (and others) here and on ERV and PZ’s blog. I think it’s long past time to admit that the overwhelming majority of the hate isn’t about RW’s behavior at all.

    My own guess is, part of the hate comes from Dawkins’ more immature loyalists: it’s a pretty safe bet that if Dawkins had not opened his mouth about RW, very few people would even care about any of these disputes, let alone take a side with such undisciplined rancor as we’ve seen.

    Another part of the hate probably arises from pre-existing personal animosities that predate recent events, and just found this time to blow up. There seems to be some bad blood between RW and McGraw, and possibly between RW and others of whom I know even less. There’s DEFINITELY a lot of hatred of PZ coming into play here — most of the people who voice any support for RW are immediately attacked as mindless PZ-loyalists, and PZ himself has been called all kinds of nasty names, whether or not he actually says anything on this or that thread at all. Some people seem to hate RW only because PZ likes her. If PZ had trashed RW, I’m sure a lot of his haters would be defending her and using that as further proof of what an asshole PZ is.

    And then, of course, there’s the “men’s rights” axe-grinders, who came VERY late to the pile-on, hijacking nearly every thread with old grudges of their own that had absolutely nothing to do with RW’s actions — or anything else in the real world. They’re now gumming up ERV’s latest thread on this subject, and ERV seems to enjoy having them to validate some personal grudge of her own against RW.

    Most of this rancorous dispute isn’t about RW at all — she just ended up being the flash-point, more by pure chance than by her actions. I’m pretty sure this will all end with almost everyone quietly slinking off and desperately trying to forget how shamefully they behaved. Hopefully RW won’t suffer any serious undeserved consequences in the meantime.

  25. #25 Jody Wheeler
    August 2, 2011

    hoary puccoon: Let me make sure I have this straight.

    You don’t, so I elect not to respond to the rest of your comment.

    itzac:

    Watson very thoroughly dissected what McGraw said. In the video Greg posted? No she didn’t. She declared Stef doesn’t understand what feminism is and was part of the problem she sought to remedy.

    There’s a clear and obvious segue into the topic of women who don’t understand feminism.

    Your view is that there’s a clear segue. I don’t share that view. Nor do I accept that RW is the arbiter of what feminism is and means. Nor did SM, which was why she posted and which is why I’m noting that RW was wrong in her response.

    Raging Bee:

    Even if RW was totally wrong in every dispute that’s been discussed here, the scale of her errors still would not justify even one-tenth of the sheer undisguised hatred that’s been spewed at her (and others) here and on ERV and PZ’s blog

    Never said it did. What I did say is that, IMGO, the video doesn’t acquit RW of her actions towards SM.

    Most of this rancorous dispute isn’t about RW at all — she just ended up being the flash-point, more by pure chance than by her actions.

    I actually agree. The kerfuffle that resulted is more about feelings, egos, bad blood, vendettas and power-plays than about addressing sexism, skepticism, rationalism and propper dating / getting laid protocol.

    It’s all very human. :-D

  26. #26 MartinM
    August 2, 2011

    McGraw -disagrees- with Watson and with Watson’s interpretation of what Feminism means.

    Feminism may not be physics, but it’s not some completely arbitrary set of statements, either. Watson said that McGraw was wrong because McGraw was demonstrably, factually wrong. She was wrong about what Watson said, and she was wrong about what feminism is.

  27. #27 Stephanie Z
    August 2, 2011

    Jody, there was, in fact, an entire slide explaining what was wrong about Stef’s interpretation of the difference between sexual interest and sexual objectification.

  28. #28 Greg Laden
    August 2, 2011

    Raging Bee, I essentially agree. I don’t know of any preexisting animosities between RW and SM, and in general I’d avoid making any assumptions about interpersonal relations that don’t have very clear and direct evidence. This mushroom cloud of hate could be entirely as a result of latent misogyny vaguely structured by various kinds of fanboi-ism or anti-fanboi-ism.

  29. #29 Ophelia Benson
    August 2, 2011

    Since no one else has mentioned it, I will.

    I also note the irony of someone being very strident in demanding that the skeptical movement take sexism more seriously while at the same time leveling what amounts to an ageist argument against McGrath.

    Very strident? When, where, how, what? From everything I’ve seen, Watson is notably unstrident. No not quite everything – she showed some temper in her retort to Dawkins. But most of the time her affect is very relaxed.

  30. #30 Jody Wheeler
    August 2, 2011

    Jody, there was, in fact, an entire slide explaining what was wrong about Stef’s interpretation of the difference between sexual interest and sexual objectification.

    Yes there was and it was RW point of view. But, again, SM has a different take on the matter, to which she listed on her blog. And just a simple Wikipedia entry on Sexual Objectification shows that there is a great deal of disagreement on what constitutes objectification. That, to me, indicates that SM was well-grounded in questioning if the elevator incident should be considered sexual objectification.

    It’s also why I think that RW was wrong using a segment of her lecture to call out SM for not following / being ignorant of an orthodoxy that doesn’t exist in the first place.

    I’ll reiterate that I think that what RW did was rude and uncalled for and that she should apologize for that one element of her lecture. My thought and a dime still won’t buy you a Coke Zero, but there you go.

  31. #31 Jody Wheeler
    August 2, 2011

    >Very strident? When, where, how, what?

    You are right. Bad word choice. Forceful or emphatic would be more apt.

  32. #32 Wowbagger, Man-Hating Man of Pharyngula
    August 2, 2011

    Raging Bee wrote:

    Most of this rancorous dispute isn’t about RW at all.

    Ain’t that the (very sad) truth.

  33. #33 MartinM
    August 2, 2011

    Yes there was and it was RW point of view. But, again, SM has a different take on the matter, to which she listed on her blog. And just a simple Wikipedia entry on Sexual Objectification shows that there is a great deal of disagreement on what constitutes objectification. That, to me, indicates that SM was well-grounded in questioning if the elevator incident should be considered sexual objectification.

    And if that’s what she’d actually done, I doubt we’d be having this discussion. Unfortunately, she instead claimed that Watson “[took] issue with a man showing interest in her.” This is not what Watson said. McGraw claimed that Watson was objecting to men showing sexual interest in her, not to sexual objectification.

  34. #34 Jody Wheeler
    August 2, 2011

    MartinM:

    McGraw claimed that Watson was objecting to men showing sexual interest in her, not to sexual objectification.

    Nope. That’s not what SM did. From SM’s blog:

    “I found the qualification of this incident as objectification, sexualization, and sexism to be a mischaracterization, and responded via this post.”

    Taking names, genders and agendas (real or imagined) out of it, the argument starts with:

    Person A saying “This was a case of sexual objectification.”

    Person B saying “No, I don’t think it was.”

    and then morphs into Global Thermonuclear Skeptical War.

  35. #35 MartinM
    August 2, 2011

    Nope. That’s not what SM did.

    Yes, it bloody well is. You quoted McGraw’s later characterisation of her original post. It simply isn’t accurate. In that original post, she said:

    My concern is that she takes issue with a man showing interest in her. What’s wrong with that? How on earth does that justify him as creepy? Are we not sexual beings?

    Watson is upset that this man is sexualizing her just after she gave a talk relating to feminism, but my question is this: Since when are respecting women as equals and showing sexual interest mutually exclusive? Is it not possible to view to take interest in a woman AND see her as an intelligent person?

    If you really want social equality for women, which is what feminism is, why not apply the same standards to men and women, and stop demonizing men for being sexual beings?

    Watson quite clearly did not ‘take issue with a man showing interest in her’. She quite clearly did not claim any contradiction between “respecting women as equals and showing sexual interest”. She quite clearly did not “[demonise] men for being sexual beings”. McGraw’s post was a blatant misrepresentation of Watson’s actual statements.

  36. #36 hoary puccoon
    August 3, 2011

    Speaking generally, when a man tries to get a woman to do something that could easily harm her career (like sneaking off to his bedroom at 4 in the morning when she’s at a conference as a paid speaker and people are expecting her to behave professionally) that’s a good sign the man is interested in putting the woman into a relatively powerless position, i.e., sexually objectifying her, than simply responding to his own feelings of sexual attraction.

    In one case I knew about, where a professor was constantly flirting with his woman students (and making life hard for the ones who didn’t flirt back) it eventually came out that the professor was gay. His objectives in flirting were to stay in the closet– and also probably to manipulate the women into appearing frivolous, unserious about their studies. In that case, it was clearly sexual objectification, not sexual attraction. Yet some people argued exactly as Stef McGraw did, that the students should be flattered by the professor’s attention. The fact that he was actually repulsed at the idea of having sex with them was used as proof that he “respects women” [exact quote from another faculty member] not that he just didn’t swing that way.

    This is a messy topic. In fact, I’m not sure sexual attraction vs. sexual objectification is too useful, since it involves making assumptions about what goes on inside a man’s head.

    But using presumed sexual interest as an excuse to pressure a woman into a situation where she can be hurt, either physically or professionally, is always a lousy thing to do. And that’s what Elevator Guy did to Rebecca Watson.

  37. #37 Raging Bee
    August 3, 2011

    …I’m not sure sexual attraction vs. sexual objectification is too useful…

    I try to avoid phrases like “sexual objectification” simply because it’s so vague it doesn’t really say anything, and has absolutely zero descriptive value. I prefer words that actually describe what happened, and hopefully, more clearly describe what certain people felt.

  38. #38 Raging Bee
    August 3, 2011

    …I’m not sure sexual attraction vs. sexual objectification is too useful…

    I try to avoid phrases like “sexual objectification” simply because it’s so vague it doesn’t really say anything, and has absolutely zero descriptive value. I prefer words that actually describe what happened, and hopefully, more clearly describe what certain people felt.

  39. #39 Raging Bee
    August 3, 2011

    This mushroom cloud of hate could be entirely as a result of latent misogyny vaguely structured by various kinds of fanboi-ism or anti-fanboi-ism.

    There’s another troubling possibility here: some anti-feminists may be trying to marginalize the feminists within the skeptic/atheist movement, using the excuse that if the movement wants to grow and be relevant, they have to embrace diversity make the misogynists and anti-feminists feel as welcome as the feminists. Because being an atheist shouldn’t have to mean conforming to the radical feminist agenda or something. I heard something close to that said early on in this dustup.

    Another troubling possibility is that the men’s-rights whiners are seeing this as an opportunity to engage in a concerted campaign to hound, harass, and generally shout down the women, and override nearly every debate with their own relentlessly whiny voices. The ongoing hate-fest at ERV positively reeks of such deliberate persistent whinery, with the men’s-rights crowd relentlessly spewing the same nonsense and blatant misrepresentations over and over and ignoring all responses and refutations. I’m sorry if this sounds paranoid, but it’s really starting to look like something Karl Rove could have deliberately orchestrated.

  40. #40 Raging Bee
    August 3, 2011

    This mushroom cloud of hate could be entirely as a result of latent misogyny vaguely structured by various kinds of fanboi-ism or anti-fanboi-ism.

    There’s another troubling possibility here: some anti-feminists may be trying to marginalize the feminists within the skeptic/atheist movement, using the excuse that if the movement wants to grow and be relevant, they have to embrace diversity make the misogynists and anti-feminists feel as welcome as the feminists. Because being an atheist shouldn’t have to mean conforming to the radical feminist agenda or something. I heard something close to that said early on in this dustup.

    Another troubling possibility is that the men’s-rights whiners are seeing this as an opportunity to engage in a concerted campaign to hound, harass, and generally shout down the women, and override nearly every debate with their own relentlessly whiny voices. The ongoing hate-fest at ERV positively reeks of such deliberate persistent whinery, with the men’s-rights crowd relentlessly spewing the same nonsense and blatant misrepresentations over and over and ignoring all responses and refutations. I’m sorry if this sounds paranoid, but it’s really starting to look like something Karl Rove could have deliberately orchestrated.

  41. #41 MartinM
    August 3, 2011

    To extend Hanlon’s razor somewhat; never attribute to conspiracy that which is adequately explained by malice.

  42. #42 Raging Bee
    August 3, 2011

    I agree. This looks like a conspiracy, but there’s enough malice here that no conspiracy is needed to arouse or direct it. This is probably more of an incited mob than a conspiracy.

  43. #43 Raging Bee
    August 3, 2011

    I agree. This looks like a conspiracy, but there’s enough malice here that no conspiracy is needed to arouse or direct it. This is probably more of an incited mob than a conspiracy.

  44. #44 Quietmarc
    August 3, 2011

    @34 – I clearly see a difference between “sexual attraction” and “sexual objectification.” The first may or may not take into account the recipient’s personhood, the other by definition does not. Attraction and Objectification are two different words with different meanings that are pretty obvious.

    I’ll allow that a lot of this conversation (when not descending into vitriol) uses language that may not be clear to people who haven’t spent any time thinking or reading about culture, sexism, and the like, but to me those two terms are specific enough.

  45. #45 Raging Bee
    August 3, 2011

    Quietmarc: the problem is, MANY of the people who hear and participate in debates like this haven’t done the reading you prescribe; which is one reason (possibly among many) why they’re not clear on the actual meaning of words like “objectification;” and why such words need to be abandoned in favor of words whose meanings are clearly understood by the general population.

    I also think that the stories of women who have suffered violence, abuse or harassment would be more compelling to more people if they avoided vague words and stuck to words whose meaning was easily understood by as many people as possible. For example, a woman who was forced to endure FGM should be spoken of as having been “mutilated,” not “objectified.” Using the latter word in this case just sounds lame and evasive. You want to say something, use the words that say the most.

  46. #46 Raging Bee
    August 3, 2011

    Quietmarc: the problem is, MANY of the people who hear and participate in debates like this haven’t done the reading you prescribe; which is one reason (possibly among many) why they’re not clear on the actual meaning of words like “objectification;” and why such words need to be abandoned in favor of words whose meanings are clearly understood by the general population.

    I also think that the stories of women who have suffered violence, abuse or harassment would be more compelling to more people if they avoided vague words and stuck to words whose meaning was easily understood by as many people as possible. For example, a woman who was forced to endure FGM should be spoken of as having been “mutilated,” not “objectified.” Using the latter word in this case just sounds lame and evasive. You want to say something, use the words that say the most.

  47. #47 Jason Thibeault
    August 3, 2011

    I could not be in more perfect agreement with MartinM @32.

    Also, defining “objectification” versus “interest” is not just important, it’s the core of the argument. If the terms are not useful, and if we don’t have acceptable definitions, then we have to be mind-readers and the mental state of the person doing the flirting is in play. We’re not mind-readers (as the EG-defenders keep pointing out), so we rely on these definitions. Rebecca pointed to definitions on the Feminism 101 site, and they’re generally accepted. They’re obviously not accepted by the crew running around whining that men are being oppressed somehow, but they’re generally accepted. And for the purposes of Rebecca’s talk, she pointed to the definitions she was using, and by those definitions, she’s right. Period.

  48. #48 Jody Wheeler
    August 3, 2011

    MartinM, the kicker is in the paragraph that wasn’t quoted. It gives further context to SM’s original remarks.

    “…Someone who truly abides by feminist principles would, in my view, have to react in the same manner were the situation reversed; if a woman were to engage a man in the same way, she would probably be creeping him out and making him uncomfortable and unfairly sexualizing him, right? But of course no one ever makes that claim, which is why I see Watson’s comment as so hypocritical.”

    SM is debating with RW on what feminism means, what the proper response to the elevator incident should be and how she thinks RW position isn’t self consistent and ultimately hypocritical. There’s no attempt at misrepresenting RW remarks. SM disagrees / has a different position / doesn’t understand what RW was arguing. But SM didn’t try to misrepresent. An informative blog debate could have resulted, but that wasn’t what happened, at least not at first.

    Rather, RW, in a public lecture to which SM was in attendance, invoked an orthodox view of feminism and said that SM comment was ignorant of that definition and part of a larger problem.

    Now, RW could have used her forum to publicly dissect SM and shown where she was wrong on the idea itself. She could have written a blog post back with her counter and let the argument proceed from there. She could have even taken SM aside during the conference and discussed or argued it out. But instead she used her position as a speaker to invoke a final judgement. That’s very unfair, rude and, in my opinion, wrong to do.

    Based on what I’ve seen and read, I still feel RW should have apologized for that one element of the presentation, argued with SM further in a blog or by email, and not let the argument become a distraction from the ongoing discussion about about skepticism and feminism.

  49. #49 Stephanie Z
    August 3, 2011

    Actually, Jody, what you quoted is the classic “You can’t legitimately talk about that if you don’t also talk about this at the same time” silencing tactic. Nobody has any requirement to address all of the world’s issues at once in order to address one of them. Someone answering the question of how to get more women involved in atheism and skepticism, as Rebecca was, is certainly not required to provide an answer that is about making more men comfortable–even if any men claimed it was an issue, which I have yet to see.

    As for orthodox feminism, I’m not really sure what Judaism has to do with this.

  50. #50 Wowbagger, Man-Hating Man of Pharyngula
    August 3, 2011

    Raging Bee wrote:

    Another troubling possibility is that the men’s-rights whiners are seeing this as an opportunity to engage in a concerted campaign to hound, harass, and generally shout down the women, and override nearly every debate with their own relentlessly whiny voices.

    Yeah, the current muck at ERV seems far more a case of a bunch of women-haters, bitter about not getting their privilege stroked in atheist/skeptical movement and enjoying their chance to sink the boot in under the guise of ‘rejecting dogma’ or ‘exerting their right to free speech’ rather than a genuine expression of either of those motivations.

    ‘Teaching uppity bitches a lesson’, in other words. In any other situation I wouldn’t imagine Abbie wouldn’t see that, but her own apparent hatred for Rebecca Watson has overpowered her judgement.

  51. #51 pornonymous
    August 3, 2011

    @ Raping Bee: for example, a woman who was forced to endure FGM should be spoken of as having been “mutilated,” not “objectified.”

    Really unka Bee? Is that so? “Yuh mean dat if we use mean words, we get more attentshun then nice wordz?”

    … sounds like advice for the chronically mind dead–or anyone else who engages with that little girl chasing, speedo wearing douchewater sipper from Arizona.repeat, “repeat, repeat, repeat–and *eventshully someone will like me* thinks the little raping bee…”even though I am hard wired to be a rapist”

    @ Stephanie: “I’m not really sure what Judaism has to do with this.”

    Really? Really? The entire last wave assault on truth was waged by Kissinger, via Steinem, Friedan, Wolf, et al…I mean, are there any non-Jewish feminist leaders? I mean, real leaders that aren’t merely signal repeaters? If there are, they sure don’t get any press.

    http://pornalysis.wordpress.com/2011/08/04/the-swedish-sex-purchase-act-another-tool-for-gender-feminists-if-you-know-what-i-mean-2/

  52. #52 pornonymous
    August 3, 2011

    @”the current muck at ERV seems far more a case of a bunch of women-haters”

    You use the word muck: is that a signifier or a symbol of your own objectification of male anatomical possibilities, or just a personal fetish?

    You shitty schmuck….

    ERV rocks yer boat,apparently because she gets dem web hitz. The good news is po’ PZ nd his misandristwhite privileged and abject horrified little hags are too cowardly to mosy on over there and teach all dem womyn haters their proper lesson: KEEP US ON A PZDESTAL or ELSE!!!

    Or else–what? The implied threats of womyn united means that men get raped in the Congo–and no one will talk about it!!
    Dem menz deserbes dat!

    Here is a live feed of the overall discussion:http://pornalysis.wordpress.com/2011/07/22/when-reason-fails-emotion-takes-its-place/

  53. #53 MartinM
    August 3, 2011

    MartinM, the kicker is in the paragraph that wasn’t quoted. It gives further context to SM’s original remarks.

    What? It doesn’t give any context at all. It simply refers back to “the situation”. The situation being, according to McGraw, that Watson “takes issue with a man showing interest in her”, etc. Which is, once again, wrong.

  54. #54 Raging Bee
    August 3, 2011

    Aaaand…splat. Pornonymeme is back, with absolutely nothing to say. I’m not sure whether to be bored with his labored insults, or flattered by his desperate fixation on getting my textual attentions.

  55. #55 Raging Bee
    August 3, 2011

    So now pornonymeme is mixing Jew-bashing with feminist-bashing? It’s amazing how few words it takes for such a verbose poseur to show his true colors.

  56. #56 hoary puccoon
    August 4, 2011

    Leaving aside some very sick people like por–whatever, this thread is confusing two issues:

    Was Elevator Guy in the right in what he did, coming on to Rebecca Watson?

    and, Was Rebecca Watson in the right to criticize Stef McGraw from the podium?

    Jody, I really would prefer that you NOT respond to anything I say– but I don’t think you are doing Stef McGraw any favors at all by going on and on about how poor little Steffie got embarrassed. If McGraw wants to take her place in the world, she is going to have to toughen up. Otherwise, she’ll start censoring herself to avoid those “embarrassing” attacks she’ll keep getting when she speaks out. I do not see that as a good thing at all. I would far prefer that young women say what they believe, accept that sometimes they’ll be criticized for it, and learn to roll with the punches and come back swinging. Where do you think our current Secretary of State would be if she dissolved in a puddle of hurt feelings every time someone said something negative about her?

    But the whole issue of “did Steffie get her little feelings hurt?” is far less serious than the issue Rebecca Watson is addressing. First of all, I knew someone who was raped in an elevator– worse, she was a coworker in the building where I worked, and the man was never caught. And if you think the rest of us didn’t stop using that elevator and start using the stairs, you aren’t getting it at all.

    Second, even if the man wasn’t planning rape, he was certainly trying to put Watson in a bad situation for her career and her marriage. And Watson was right to point out to men in the skeptics/atheist movement that if they want more women in the movement, pressuring them to do foolish, self-destructive things like going to a strange man’s room alone with him at 4:00 am is not the way to increase female participation.

    If Elevator Guy had approached Watson in the lobby at four in the afternoon, and had said exactly the same thing, except instead of ‘coffee in my room’ he’d said ‘coffee in the Starbuck’s next door’– if that had happened, and Watson had made a big deal about how “creepy” the guy was, she would have been in the wrong.

    But that isn’t what happened. The issue isn’t that Elevator Guy came on to Watson. Heterosexual men and women are *supposed* to be interested in each other. That’s how the species gets propogated. The issue is that Elevator Guy tried to get Watson to do something incredibly foolish, and he tried to do that in a space where a lot of women would feel extremely vulnerable. I know if it had happened to me any time in the first five years or so after the rape incident I mentioned above, I would have been terrified– and I wasn’t even the woman who got raped.

  57. #57 Quietmarc
    August 4, 2011

    Raging Bee @39: I’ll agree that, all things considered equal, plain language is better than jargon, but even so, words have meaning. The difference between “objectification” and “attraction” is as difficult to understand as it is to look at a dictionary. I’ve found, too, that a really effective technique to shut down conversation or debate is to simply be and stay ignorant. “I don’t like or understand the words you’re using, so I’m not going to listen.” That way, the other side gets to spend all their energy educating instead of other things and you win the debate.

    Elevator guy didn’t do anything apocalyptically bad, but by ignoring RW’s stated interests he was definitely demonstrating attraction AND objectification. No one cares what a lamp thinks about being turned on and off, and he showed the most superficial concern (“Don’t take this the wrong way but….”) for RW’s desires at that moment.

    Also, accidently or not, he chose the worst possible time and place to make that sort of request.

    Regarding the RW and SM incident, I’ve posted tons of stuff on the internet that I’m embarrassed about, and would hate if someone called me out on it in public, but….we live in a world where posting is publishing. We’re giving this stuff away, and once it’s out there, it belongs to the world. As far as public shamings go, RW’s of SM was pretty mild. She posted Stef’s opinion and simply said that she disagreed and that she felt Stef was wrong in saying what she said. I’m amazed that anyone can watch that video and come to a different conclusion (but then, I’m easily amazed).

    (Not all of this was directed at you, Raging Bee. :) )

  58. #58 hoary puccoon
    August 4, 2011

    Quietmare @ 50–
    I was the one who originally said I didn’t think the distinction between attraction and objectification was useful, because it depended on Elevator Guy’s (or some other guy’s) state of mind.
    I’ve now changed *my* mind. Since reading your and other comments, I can now see that objectification, if it refers to an actual act that involves manipulating someone to do something without regard to her (or his) will and feelings, is a useful term. It could apply to a racist, an anti-semite, or just a person with a generic “kiss up kick down” attitude toward life. The fact that the kicker-down happens to be sexually attracted to the person he wants to kiss up to him (or her) is completely beside the point.

  59. #59 Raging Bee
    August 4, 2011

    Wowbagger: “Muck?” Try “open sewer.” ERV’s latest long-term guest is a twit named DavidByron — a truly nasty piece of work I’ve dealt with elsewhere years ago — who is now saying that feminists want to exterminate all men. I kid you not. If that shite appeared on any blog of mine, I’d block it out of sheer shame — and my blog is nowhere near the stature of a SciBlog! I’m torn between feeling sorry for ERV, and hoping this shameful crap she’s invited bites her in the ass real hard.

    She’s broken PZ’s comment-quantity record. Now she seems to be trying to break that of the Free Republic Forum. And she also seems to be doing it with help from the same pool of commenters.

  60. #60 Raging Bee
    August 4, 2011

    I’ve found, too, that a really effective technique to shut down conversation or debate is to simply be and stay ignorant. “I don’t like or understand the words you’re using, so I’m not going to listen.”

    Which makes it all the more important to use words whose meaning is already widely understood by just about everyone who hears the argument. And “objectification” fails on this score (IMO at least) because it can include so many things (from tactless sexual advances to forcible rape) that it doesn’t really say anything. If a woman says to me “I was objectified,” my first response would be to ask her to clarify exactly what she was talking about. So if she wants me to understand what happened to her, she might as well skip the vague word and go straight to the important details that really matter.

    Besides, words have meaning, but they also have varying degrees of power. “Assaulted,” “harassed,” “threatened,” “treated like a pet” have (IMO at least) more power than “objectified.”

  61. #61 Quietmarc
    August 4, 2011

    Raging Bee> You might not have a dictionary, so in my own words, if a woman tells you that she felt objectified, it means that she felt that someone was treating her like an object by ignoring or dismissing her own interests and motivations.

    This should be helpful, because it happens a lot, and sometimes it’s rude to expect someone to provide you with every sngle detail when they are explaining something that hurt them.

  62. #62 Raging Bee
    August 4, 2011

    “Objectified” covers a wide range of actions and feelings, and we already have commonly-used words for most of them. “Insulted,” “degraded,” “dismissed,” “violated,” “mocked,” “belittled,” and “spat on” work pretty well, and I’m sure there are plenty of others that more accurately describe the various feelings created by various actions of others. Why bother with a vague generalization when there’s plenty of specific words for specific feelings? People need to be understood here, and the right choice of words is necessary to ensure understanding.

    And if a woman doesn’t want to describe her feelings to me in detail, she probably won’t talk to me about them at all. So again, vague generalizations don’t help here.

    George Orwell once said you should always stick to common sense and use words that describe specific real things whwnever possible (and yes, I’m including emotions as “real things” here). The more you think in abstractions, the more your words will end up doing most of your thinking for you.

  63. #63 Quietmarc
    August 4, 2011

    I think “objectified” is just as specific as any of the examples you’ve provided. Which of those actually means “treated me like an object”? Maybe degraded or belittled come close, but, really, I think you’re making a problem where there isn’t one.

  64. #64 Quietmarc
    August 4, 2011

    Incidently, does this mean that you feel that if someone does not have the right language to describe how they’ve been victimized, that they have less right to complain? Because if a woman is treated badly, I think that’s a problem whether or not she’s able to communicate effectively.

  65. #65 Raging Bee
    August 4, 2011

    Incidently, does this mean that you feel that if someone does not have the right language to describe how they’ve been victimized, that they have less right to complain?

    Where did I say anything even remotely like that?

    I think “objectified” is just as specific as any of the examples you’ve provided. Which of those actually means “treated me like an object”?

    Actually, I suspect that in most of the cases you call “objectification,” the target was not actually treated like an object (such as a chair or a sack of potatoes), but more like an animal, servant, slave, or hated enemy whose feelings (if any) did not matter. To be super-technical and pedantic, that’s not really the same as being treated like an “object.” Inanimate objects generally aren’t insulted, lied to, or beaten bloody in quite the same way too many women are.

    Yes, yes, I know, I’m being horribly pedantic about all this. But the reason for this is, I’m a technical writer by trade, and a SF writer by hobby, and I’ve always been taught, by teachers and experience, that words MATTER and should be chosen with at least some care. And besides, our language has SHITLOADS of words to choose from, so why not expand our range to tell our stories as compellingly as possible? The Eskimos have fifty-odd words just for snow, so why do we have to be stuck with one vague generalized word for mistreatment of people by other people?

  66. #66 Stephanie Z
    August 4, 2011

    There is utility to specificity, and there is utility to language that makes it clear that different behaviors are related. Can we not argue about which is more important, since it’s largely situational?

  67. #67 Quietmarc
    August 4, 2011

    @58. Things can be -implied-, which is why I used a question mark. From your statements you seem to think that the use of the word “objectification” is harming the feminist movement, and I am seeking clarification. If I was sure that you were doing that I would have used a period. I, also, write and punctuation matters.

    Yes, you are being pedantic. Just because you do not know a word or do not like a word doesn’t mean you can just decide its worth or its meaning. “Objectification” is hardly an obscure word in anything dealing with social justice, sexism, racism, and the like. It’s been around for ages, especially in feminist theory, and is a useful term for describing a set of behaviours. I used a lamp as an example, in that no one cares if they’re turning the lamp on or off as the lamp is an object. A person is objectified when their feelings are given the same consideration as we give a sack of potatos or a chair: do you think about a chair before you sit on it? Do you think about how you hate the chair and want it to feel your weight keeping it down? No, you (hopefully) don’t. That is how this word differs from your description of it.

    You’ve described “dehumanising” quite well, and they are similar words but they are different.

    Last, FYI, the eskimo words for snow is a myth (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eskimo_words_for_snow). And we aren’t “stuck” with one word, we have this word along with several others to describe a wide range of human behaviour.

  68. #68 pornonymous
    August 4, 2011

    RB @ 52 ” I’m feeling sorry for ERV”

    How fucking nice and sexist of you to feel sorry for the po’ hapless womyns. Idiot. She obviously is enjoying the hell out of it over there, and has said as much.

    And remember, ass, you started it, you threw the first insult, and you revealed your true nature as an sniping insulting troll, way back there on another Greg post.

    And you pedantically demanded substantiation about things you deny and fail to read or become involved in BTW, have you seen the latest statistics about male rape victims in the Congo? I doubt it. 22% of survivors ( meaning the men who are alive after their rapes) report being rape victims.

    So go change out of that that crusty Speedo, and put on some overalls, and get to work acknowledging your initial harm–and insult–or go fuck yourself.

    @49 hoary puccoon@Was Elevator Guy in the right in what he did, coming on to Rebecca Watson?

    Um, yes, he was within the norm of existing biological impulses, and evolutionary drives–so if we can infer that women who are awake at 4 a.m.aren’t “easy” then we can also infer that men who are also awake at 4a.m. aren’t “hard,” as well.

    and, Was Rebecca Watson in the right to criticize Stef McGraw from the podium?

    Yes, she was well within the norm of people who seek power, and status, and who are also known to misuse power and status. For examples, think Mao-v-Deng, or Lenin-v- Trotsky, etc

    Or Karl Rove versus a vaccuum cleaner…

    This whole thing is the equivalent of a very large note passed around the schoolyard by the mean girls, with the net effect of harming some at the expense of others.

  69. #69 pornonymous
    August 4, 2011

    Remember how hard women and feminists were hoping and praying that men could or should get raped?

    They got their wish, while everybody here was arguing about whether one privileged white girl was slighted in an elevator.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/2011/jul/17/the-rape-of-men

  70. #70 Raging Bee
    August 5, 2011

    Yes, she was well within the norm of people who seek power, and status, and who are also known to misuse power and status. For examples, think Mao-v-Deng, or Lenin-v- Trotsky, etc

    Rebecca Watson is comparable to Mao? Unhinged troll is unhinged.

  71. #71 Quietmarc
    August 5, 2011

    Raging Bee> Hey, just wanted to say that upon reflection, I want to back up a bit.

    I think objectification is a perfectly useful word for the discussion, but, frankly, I can’t find it in the dictionary (with the definition I’ve given it), which, while not conclusive, could mean that it does fall under the category of jargon or specialist language. I agree that using jargon can make these sort of conversations more difficult. I can’t chastise you for picking and choosing acceptable words based on your taste while doing the same myself based on -my- taste. It may be that “objectification” isn’t useful at all: I think it is, but I can see how opinions could reasonably differ.

  72. #72 pornonymous
    August 6, 2011

    @ hoary puccoon: aptly named in the first part, indeed. You schmuck.
    So for what comment do I deserve the dubious honor of some hoary creature labeling me “sick”? Are you perhaps a disgruntled Fabian? A Kristevian expert on disambiguated abjectio?
    Takes one to know one you slop bucket of ad hominem opinions.

    @Raping Bee: “slpaaat.”

    Is that a threat? Oh you menz is sooo violins! Yer rape switch must be vibrating on high alert! The violins mechanisms are kicking in–and we all know how closely related you menz sax and violins are!

    Now run along Be-yotch, and troll the streets of Phoenix in your grey ponytail and Speedos–some superhero you are.

  73. #73 Raging Bee
    August 12, 2011

    Wow, pornonywotevs, you can’t even spell “splat?”

  74. #74 MuleHeadJoe
    Nor-Cal
    August 5, 2012

    Raging Bee sed: “There’s another troubling possibility here: some anti-feminists may be trying to marginalize the feminists within the skeptic/atheist movement, using the excuse that if the movement wants to grow and be relevant, they have to embrace diversity make the misogynists and anti-feminists feel as welcome as the feminists. Because being an atheist shouldn’t have to mean conforming to the radical feminist agenda or something.”

    WHY is that troubling? Cannot supporters of a given ideology want to keep associates and outreach (public disccussions and expression of conformal viewpoints) kept to the “straight and narrow” as they perceive? I do belive this is the norm in any clique. That’s how schisms occur. I personally do not believe in the “big tent” approach to any particular ideology or facet thereof. I don’t see how “atheism” has anything to do with “feminism” nor vice versa. Are there intersections of interest? Sure. Are they co-requirements of eachother? I cannot in any way believe so. Anyhow … thread’s a year old … who’s gonna read my comments here? LOL.