About a year ago, a month before our wedding, I was walking with my wife (wife-to-be, I guess) and some friends through New York City. It was a hot, sunny summer day, so she was in a sun dress.
We walked through parks, we met various friends throughout the city, and generally had a good time.
That evening, talking with her mom, she mentioned that she needed to pin the front of her dress, because it showed too much cleavage, and people had been staring at her cleavage whispering crude things to her all day.
Folks, I was right there, arm around her waist, pretty much all day. But jackasses walking past us were making quiet little comments to her, so quietly I didn't even notice. I was too blind, or too unaccustomed to notice the stares. I was, to be blunt, pissed. But she shrugged it off. That's just how it is when you show some cleavage. If anything, she felt like it was her mistake not to wear something different, or to have altered the dress to be less revealing.
Ladies: This doesn't happen to men. Ever. I've seen cartoons and stuff from the '50s, and I've watched Mad Men, so I know there was a time when that happened all over the place, but honestly, I thought society had grown out of that. I simply didn't think this happened anymore to anyone.
Guys: This happens all the frigging time. You don't know about it, because women don't do this to us, and we don't do it to each other, but it's a real thing.
Imagine not being able to wear comfortable clothing on a warm day because you didn't want to deal with the barrage of comments all day. Imagine not being able to wear the shoes you like, or get the haircut you like, or the shorts you like, because the inevitable result would be a cavalcades of douchecanoery. Imagine not being comfortable dressing up to look nice for your special somebody without knowing that lots of other people will take advantage of your appearance, treating it as a gift to them.
Then imagine giving up, and simply accepting that your lot in life is to have dickheads hoot at you, that your body, your privacy, your choices on every level are not entirely your own, that this all is just the cost of being a woman.
Lots of women do that. To get on with their lives, they give up on their autonomy. They let the worst of us control their choices and their behavior.
For some, the circumstances are so bad as to make it unsafe or impossible to entirely give up, and they have to live in fear. Emily Finke describes some of what she goes through just because she's a lady:
I live in a world where I've had to change my work schedule because I was afraid of being alone with a coworker.
I live in a world where I have to (regularly) suddenly find some reason to go back to the lobby because I don't want some man following me to my hotel room, or grab a random acquaintance to ride the elevator with me.
I live in a world where I have to take a male friend with me through a convention hallway so that I don't get cornered, alone, in what should be a safely patrolled area. Having another woman doesn't help. They just try to corner both of us.
I live in a world where I have had to call a professor and tell them I wouldn't be at their class because my newest follower has been standing outside of the room waiting for me for the past half hour.
I live in the world where I have had the thought, as horrible as it is, that "at least the newest stalker walks with a cane, so I can outrun him".
I live in a world where the only reason I can use my real name online without fear is because my real address is in no way associated with that name. (And partially because I've just said F*** it and decided to be who I am.)
I live in a world where I (and several other women I work with) have strict rules for whether security will even confirm whether we work in our building due to problems with people showing up in the past.
I live in a world where it's okay to call me a bitch because I won't drink the random cup you just offered me or sit down at your table or let you touch me.
I live in a world where a former boss thought that it was perfectly okay to tell other women that I am harassed because I dress nicely.
I live in a world where men I've dated don't think it's a problem that I've been touched without permission by other men, and excuse it with "well, he's just like that".
I live in a world where I am a statistic, and where I am soundly renounced if I dare raise my voice to be anything but a statistic. If I dare complain that I don't want to ever be put in the situation where I have to fear for my physical safety simply because I am a woman, or have to rebuild the pieces of a shattered and invaded psyche.
Again, ladies: This doesn't happen to men. And guys, again: this happens to women all the time. Dickbag guys do this in ways that good guys don't notice it, and women don't talk about it for all sorts of obvious reasons. Including the fact that when they do speak about it, it's as likely to get folks criticizing them, rather than the dickbags.
I thought back to that walk in New York, and Emily was inspired to write about her experiences, because a woman spoke up. As Gawker explains:
In Dublin last month, Rebecca Watson attended a conference and spoke about sexism in the skeptical community. (It was technically an atheist gathering, but it was probably attended mostly by skeptics.) Now, you should know that Rebecca Watson is the founder of the Skepchick blog and a very big deal to skeptics...
So Rebecca Watson does her spiel on feminism vis a vis the skeptical community, and wants to party with the conferees. Suddenly it's 4am, and she's closing down the bar with fellow skeptics. She's sleepy. She says she's gonna go to bed. She gets on the elevator, and a guy from the bar hops on, too. From Rebecca's description of the encounter, he's pretty nervous. (For a certain kind of skeptic, sharing an elevator with Rebecca Watson is a very big deal.) Maybe he's constitutionally awkward. This is a likely bet, as male skeptics are not known for their suavity. According to Watson, the guy on the elevator says: "Don't take this the wrong way, but I find you very interesting, and I would like to talk more. Would you like to come to my hotel room for coffee?"
Rebecca rebuffs him. Eventually she flies home, and posts a video on her blog. Most of it's devoted to the nicer bits of her trip. She briefly recounts her elevator adventure. She does this in a calm, measured voice, before saying in an equally calm, measured voice:
"Just a word to the wise here, guys. Don't do that. I don't know how else to explain how this makes me very uncomfortable, but I'll just sort of lay it out: I was a single women in foreign country in a hotel elevator with you, just you, and I--don't invite me back to your hotel room right after I finish talking about how it creeps me out and makes me uncomfortable when men sexualize me in that manner."
Fair enough. Don't sexualize Rebecca Watson. Or, if you must, don't do it in an elevator, one-on-one, at 4am. Not because you're a creep, but because if you hit on her that way, you're behaving in a way that's indistinguishable from creepiness, and it's apt to make folks antsy. Flirt in the open. Rebecca's a progressive gal; she probably won't be morally scandalized by your desire to hook up. (And if she is, well, fuck it. Not your fault.)
Or maybe it is your fault. Whatever.
The point is, there's the whole "creepy" factor, and also the "elevators are an enclosed space, and at 4am, no one can hear you shout rape" factor. And there is, as Amanda Marcotte brilliantly explains, "the implication."
Continuing Gawker's narration:
But some people--perhaps people who've never been propositioned in a pre-dawn elevator--thought her point was a little weird. The blogosphere debated. Righteous uglinesses were exchanged. Accusations of sexism were flung. And then, on the very famous science blog Pharyngula, Richard Dawkins made his thoughts known. In a comments section, he wrote:
Stop whining, will you. Yes, yes, I know you had your genitals mutilated with a razor blade, and ... yawn ... don't tell me yet again, I know you aren't allowed to drive a car, and you can't leave the house without a male relative, and your husband is allowed to beat you, and you'll be stoned to death if you commit adultery. But stop whining, will you. Think of the suffering your poor American sisters have to put up with.
Only this week I heard of one, she calls herself Skep"chick", and do you know what happened to her? A man in a hotel elevator invited her back to his room for coffee. I am not exaggerating. He really did. He invited her back to his room for coffee. Of course she said no, and of course he didn't lay a finger on her, but even so ...
And you, Muslima, think you have misogyny to complain about! For goodness sake grow up, or at least grow a thicker skin.
And that really did it.
Dawkins was asked to explain himself. Was he really arguing that, because greater evils happen elsewhere, lesser evils oughtn't be fought close to home? He issued an exasperated response, which did him no good at all. Then he posted another response, in which he literally begged for someone to explain to him what he was missing: "I obviously don't get it. I will gladly apologise if somebody will calmly and politely, without using the word fuck in every sentence, explain to me what it is that I am not getting."
And so, they tried. Rebecca Watson, for instance, explained:
So to have my concerns - and more so the concerns of other women who have survived rape and sexual assault - dismissed thanks to a rich white man comparing them to the plight of women who are mutilated, is insulting to all of us. Feminists in the west have been staunch allies of the women being brutalized elsewhere, and they've done a hell of a lot more than Richard Dawkins when it comes to making a difference in their lives.
That wasn't the end, of course. Dawkins went on to compare my experience with his frustration at riding in an elevator with a person chewing gum (presumably he was once accosted by such a person who rubbed Bubble Yum into his silky white hair). You can read all his comments to date at Shakesville or one of the other sites linked above.
And Amanda Marcotte (above), and Dr. Isis, and John Rennie took different angles on explaining what Dawkins was missing, as did PZ Myers (in whose comments section Dawkins made his remarks). Skepchick has posted a series of letters to Dawkins. Jen McCreight posted a helpful list of dos and don'ts. Anthropologist Greg Laden brought it back to monkeys, but explained where Dawkins went awry. Also Phil Plait.
And there are other folks saying that Dawkins was right, and Watson wrong. That being propositioned (subtly) on an elevator isn't a big deal, that there are bigger issues, that she's making a mountain from a molehill, and that we should move on. And they'd be entitled to do that if placed in Watson's shoes. No one is obliged to care about anyone else's issue. Nor are entitled to tell someone else that her issue shouldn't matter to her.
It reminds me of a line from Pete Seeger's Where Have All the Flowers Gone:
There's probably not a joke one could tell anywhere that someone somewhere would not say seriously, "Hey, that's not funny."
But if another says, "You're too sensitive," tell this other: suppose your shoulder was rubbed raw and later I come along and just touch it. You wince with pain. It's not for me to say, "You're too sensitive."
I think that's right. I've never walked through a park in a sun dress, and had guys whisper in my ear about my boobs. I've never been propositioned by a potential rapist in an elevator. I've never feared for my safety because of a spurned or misguided suitor. I've never been raped. I've never been afraid that a casual drink could turn into a rape. I've never worried that someone would slip roofies into my drink. I've never been accosted because I look little and meek and ladylike. Not having walked in her shoes, it would be wrong for me to say Watson is being too sensitive, but I can listen politely to her concerns, and the similar concerns of other women, and I can be respectful and appreciative of their different circumstances, and be empathetic.
I can also, and this is a different topic, think about ways to change my own behavior and that of other guys, to make this less of a problem. If I see a guy acting like a douchecanoe, I can call him out on it. Maybe privately (which is more likely to actually change the guy's thinking), but maybe in public, so that other guys know that folks are watching, and so that women know they aren't alone in this.
And also, we can not stare are ladies chests. Seriously, it's not subtle (video via Roger Ebert):
If that all doesn't help, here's my message to Dawkins:
Remember when Mormons were going through records from Nazi death camps, and retroactively baptizing folks, so that those dead people could be Mormon and go to Mormon heaven? And people threw a shitstorm over it, and the Mormons agreed to stop, because it was heinous, except that they didn't really stop?
That, too, was "just words." But words are important. When parents tell their children about hell, those are "just words." And you called those words a form of mental child abuse on par with violent sodomy.
Symbols are important, too. Even though Mormon retroactive Baptism doesn't do anything to change the dead, the living object to it because these baptisms symbolize an appropriation. It's just words, but it feels like graverobbing. By baptizing the dead, the Mormons appropriate our loved ones for themselves.
Guys ogling women, or hitting on them creepily in elevators, appropriate women's bodies for themselves. And that's a problem bigger than "just words." It's important, however much less momentous ogling is than female genital mutilation. Both stem from the same tainted soil, ground poisoned not by religion, but by sexism.
*Title courtesy of Gloria Steinem.
Just a word from a girl: I stare at man's croch all the friggin time! If a guy wear tight pants, I look at it and wonder how big is his cock. if his butt crack is showing, you bet I'd look at it. Specially, if the guy in question is attractive. I know they see me staring, I just don't see anyone complaining. I suppose the women you know are way too sensitive, thin-skinned and too a-sexuated. I have raging hormones, babe and I too asked a guy out IN AN ELEVATOR, at least once. Actually, when I was single, I used to aske guys out all the time. I used to get asked out all the time as well. I've said lots of yes and no (s) and got accepted and rejected as much. What's the big deal? If this guy was a rapist and was planning to attack her, she would be telling right now that she was raped! He wouldn't ask anything, he would just RAPE HER! Get it? So, that's why she made a fool out of her self trying to make an example out of him. Why am I mad at this whole situation? Because, a woman that make something so trivial look monstruous is not doing any good to real victims. The ones that are raped, the ones that are spanked, the ones that are killed! She was corned? Oh, really??? I seriously doubt it! I was corned on a bus seat when I was 20 years old (after changing seats to get rid of a follower) by a cocked out pervert 10 times bigger than me! I've managed to scape as soon as the bus made a stop, and got into a cab (yep, the motherfucker ruinned my plan to save money that day, and scared the shit out of me). Really, time to let this stupid ass subject just die out. It's not my problem if a woman can't take a compliment or can't handle a cleavage. I'm a woman and I'm pretty comfortable with my own sexuality. if I'm wearing a cleavage or tight pants, I know man will stare, I want them to. I'm a woman and I get really pissed at another women, in this case, a supposed "feminist", trivialising such a serious shit as being assaulted or suffering sexual harassment. This king of shit legitimate women's victimization (like, we're way too frail, and need special protection), shits all over REAL feminists and mocks real victims!
I think these attempts to âprotect womenâ from ogling men âhowever well-intendedâ underestimate and disempower women. An empowered woman, such as my wife, either doesnât notice (because she really doesnât give a damn) or she notices and decides to either take it as a compliment or ignore it. If a guy goes beyond ogling and starts making rude comments, she will stop right in her tracks, confront the guy and tell him to shut the fuck up (french and all). Guess what? They do shut the fuck up. One dude went far enough as to walk up behind her and whisper remarks of a sexual nature right up in her ear. She turned around and pushed the guy almost off his feet. Sheâs 5'4", mind you, and well under 120 lbs., but she doesnât give a shit, sheâll push a dude.
Thatâs empowerment: Standing your ground and claiming your personal space. It is not empowerment to walk with your head held high with pride and confidence only _after_ youâve managed to guilt and bully everyone else into walking on eggshells around you and taking your poor little feelings into consideration.
Couple of things on this one. WOMEN ARE NOT VICTIMS. There are no victims, only volunteers. If a man is walking around with a clevage showing in his pants, or his zipper is undone, people look, that is fact, I know, I have seen it time and again and even take the time to say "Your pants are unzipped." Now, can someone say to a woman, "Your cleavage is showing". No. Why?
Read the article above and see why they can't do that. Further, I am a woman and had a man do that to me which was so blatant and obvious, in a meeting we were in and guess what I did? I bent over slightly and stared at his crotch.
Guess what he did? He freaked out and said "What are you doing"? Everyone laughed. WE ARE NOT VICTIMS, WE JUST HAVE TO BE WILLING TO GIVE BACK WHAT WE GET AND WATCH US CURE THAT PROBLEM OURSELVES. That man later apologized to me and told me what I had done taught him a lesson.
So, girls, women, get out there and give back as you get. If some one grabs your breasts, then grab his crotch and squeeze hard. Tough love works. You will have contributed to curing him of that disease.
It's one of those rare times where Dawkins puts his foot in his mouth, but instead of removing it, he ended up putting in the other one and left himself without a leg to stand on.
In some conversations, there comes a point where saying anything more only makes things worse, even if your intentions are good. Dawkins needs to realize he's at that point.
Dawkins: It's just some piece of American hysteria.
Oh, wait, that was the Pope (talking of massive child abuse). Sometimes it's just so hard to tell them apart, isn't it?
@Prophit0 Maybe I'm reading you wrong but your suggestion to a woman being raped is to rape her attacker?
Your advice may (or may not) work in a business meeting but would it be as effective in a lift at 4am?
Actually, as a beardy long-hair with a slightly eccentric dress sense, I [i]do[/i], occasionally, get abuse from random arseholes in the street. Of course, it's very occasional, rather than all the fucking time, and I almost never have to worry about it escalating into violence because it's always from passing cars - nobody seems to have the guts to pull that kind of crap with me in a situation where they might have to deal with return fire. Even so, it can totally ruin my day... So I don't have much trouble appreciating just how mightily it must suck to have to deal with the sort of crap that all the women I've ever known well enough to discuss such matters openly with seem to have to deal with on a routine basis, and have to deal with the implicit threat, along with the social pressure not to hit back.
I'm also not sure that it's entirely true that "[d]ickbag guys do this in ways that good guys don't notice it"... I fucking notice it, but then I'm paying attention, and I listen to the women in my life. Maybe I'm uniquely perceptive, or the women in my life are unusually open about these matters... Or maybe lots of those "good guys" are ignoring what they see and not taking what women tell them seriously enough.
This sort of shit is half the reason why I am saving up to get my D-cup boobs completely removed and get a manly chest. While I love boobs and chests of all sorts of shapes and sizes, I never understood why the chest of women were somehow magically any more sexual than the chests of men. Is it the frequently rounder areolas that do it? Oh well, at least it will be easier to make people STFU when I not only can point out that many really flatchested women and hairless overweight men have chests that would be considered great on the other gender yet they get shamed, but also have a manly rather than just flat chest. The different attitudes about men's and women's bodies are so much bullshit it's not even funny. Since I never felt attached to my boobs and have plenty of other parts just as sensitive, the numerous drawbacks outweigh any advantages for me. Only a few drawbacks are physical, most are social. It's too damned fucked up that in a lot of "civilized" countries a topless female can be arrested for indecent exposure, even if she is merely breastfeeding or on the beach, while an as attractive guy with as big rack is just considered ugly and dull. A guy doing topless gardening in the heat is normal, but a woman doing the same will get catcalls and jeers, and if someone gets "inspired" and rapes her because of it she totally deserved it because she was being a provocative shameless slut for working without covering her magical shame bits.
Judging by my own notions of what the social rules are, what those men did to your wife would be considered unacceptably rude where I am. Staring at her cleavage would also be considered unacceptably rude. Looking will, of course, happen, but you're expected to be at least somewhat discreet about it.
Maybe the problem is not so much sexism, but the fact that basic manners seems to have gone out the window.
I read a bunch of the comments at PZ's and other places and figured Watson had been publicly flaming the guy for half an hour. Then I read a transcript of what she said and couldn't believe the atheist-boys were throwing such a massive hissy fit over being told that it's a really bad idea to come on to a woman, alone, in an elevator at 4AM. And, remember, these are the guys who think they're so Bright.
Dawkins has a history of saying quite stupid and offensive things, as Melissa McEwan pointed out
Apparently it's something that just skipped the attention of these boys but women are frequently attacked by men when they are alone with them, especially when there's a good chance that there won't be anyone around to hear calls for help.
I'd say that maybe Watson should do a redo where she really goes into detail and really let them have it since they didn't learn from what was a rather mind call out.
In Spain men are expected to make polite remarks about the feminity of women. If they don't, the women take it as an insult.
Who is making a mountain out of a molehill? The answer isn't Rebecca Watson.
"In Spain men are expected to make polite remarks about the feminity of women. If they don't, the women take it as an insult."
I doubt that what Josh's wife experienced were polite remarks about her femininity. If they were, they would have said it loud enough so that Josh could have heard as well.
"Who is making a mountain out of a molehill? The answer isn't Rebecca Watson."
Then please, oh wise one, enlighten us as to who precisely is and why.
Josh, I think your description of gender relations is hopelessly simplistic. Women want to be hot--come on, we all know that. I have boy-girl twin teenagers who dress in standard ways. One wears tight and skimpy clothes, the other baggy clothes. I'm sure you can guess which is which. This is on the same day, with the same weather. They've both learned gender roles, and the fact is, part of what women learn is how to attract attention. The low-cut dress your wife wore wasn't just air-conditioning--why pretend? Or maybe for her it was, but then she's atypical. Women wear skimpy, tight clothes because they want the attention. Duh! The thing is, there are rules, and everyone needs to know what they are. Some kinds of attention are OK, some kinds not. Attention is desirable for most women wearing skimpy, tight clothes, harassment is not. As a woman, I really do "get it"--trust me. Even though I do get it, there are still grey areas, still questions about what's allowed and what's not. I can see how Dawkins could have thought the elevator coffee-proposition was not against the rules, without being guilty of sexism, misogyny, and general stupidity. The rules are not written anywhere, and it really is possible for reasonable people to disagree about what they are.
Josh -- THANK YOU for this.
Women want to be hot--come on, we all know that. Jean Kazez
My first thought when I saw that Watson styles herself "Skeptichick" was that the skeptiboy was confused by mixed messages. But then I read the description of the incident and could see her point about the way he came onto her. I don't think even young women who want to be seen as hot want to be scared by a stranger at 4 AM in an elevator. There's nothing liberating about that.
I do think that a lot of younger women have internalized the backlash against feminism, which began in the mid-70s and has only gotten worse. The original insight that the objectification of women was intrinsic to their subjugation was one of the most important and one of those attacked most strongly. It was no accident that one of the chief, early forms of backlash was the promotion of "femininity" by religious conservatives. I don't know if anyone else remembers the nauseating Maribelle Morgan.
I don't see the "hot chick" "feminism" can escape falling into the same framework she encouraged women to trap themselves into. I certainly don't want my nieces to fall for that baloney.
Pop culture has been a constant campaign of objectification of girls and women to be used and disposed of by boys and men. Looking at the effect of the recent, alleged, feminism that says that it's possible for women to own themselves as "hot chicks" clearly doesn't take into account that boys and men have been the focus of the same propaganda that encourages them to see "hot chicks" as being available for their use, it's all part of the same campaign of backlash against the feminism that rejected objectification. The extent to which women go along with their objectification will limit the extent to which they own themselves.
This is no different from the ways in which any image driven oppression works. Gay men, such as myself, can't escape that our oppression is intrinsically tied to negative images of us and that self-reinforcement of those negative images is counterproductive.
The low-cut dress your wife wore wasn't just air-conditioning--why pretend?
But it is highly likely that the low-cut dress was for her husband (or her friends or for the people at whatever location she was en-route to, etc) rather than random dudes on the street. There are lots of reasons to wear tight or skimpy clothing that don't equal "I want random guys to make suggestive comments at me." I also don't think the rule of "don't make suggestive comments to people you have had no other interaction with" is all that complicated. Men should be smart enough to realize that they should strike up a conversation first so that they can have some way to gage a woman's reaction before moving on to sexual comments.
The rules are not written anywhere, and it really is possible for reasonable people to disagree about what they are.
You're right, the rules are not written. But the "rules" would probably be a whole lot clearer if women who voiced their concerns and preferences weren't told that they shouldn't be "so hard on the guys" all the time.
I honestly don't know why this ended up being a big deal. All she did was suggest that this was not a proper way to behave.
However, I'm quite glad that it did escalate in the way it did. While I would call myself a supporter of feminism before this, the blogs and discussion that have stemmed from this issue has allowed me to further re-evaluate the interactions that I've had and that I've heard from my female friends. It has given me new perspective on how things that may seem harmless to me can be completely different in their situations, and why I perceived it as such until now.
I think these discussions have helped me, and I hope it has helped others in a similar fashion. I want to thank the bloggers and commenters that have kept up fighting to illuminate the issue, and hope those who object so fiercely will take this opportunity to really think about it closely.
Kierra, Did I say women want suggestive comments from random guys? No, of course not, because that's harassment. I did explicitly say that women do not want to be harassed! I think many women do want to be seen as hot--by everyone, including random guys. Wanting to be seen as hot is obviously not the same as wanting to be harassed.
"Again, ladies: This doesn't happen to men."
I call BS
Wanting to be seen as hot is obviously not the same as wanting to be harassed. Jean Kazez
Being "seen as hot" can't be delinked from what being "seen as hot" means in its most common context, you aren't going to turn around that product of pervasive pop culture. You can't wish it to mean something other than what it will mean to the men who will do the "seeing as hot". Being "seen as hot" is seen as an invitation to being used by the men who are allowed to do the using. You can deny that's the case but it won't change it. The intention of the woman to take control of her sexuality might be how it's wanted to be seen by her, how it's seen by the men who will see them as "hot" won't be changed by their intentions.
For crying out loud, the problem is men who didn't want to take womens thoughts and ideas seriously to start with. They're not going to hear the intended intentions, they're going to go with what they want it to mean. Look at how confused these clueless "Bright" boys are even with those intentions being laid out in the plainest of terms in what Watson said, never mind what numerous others have said.
Women who want to take control of their sexuality should at least know what this form of that is going to result in. You don't gain control by ignoring the obvious results a course of action is going to have. You gain control by taking that into account. Gay men ignore the results of their image making at peril to their civil rights and some of those have been incredibly stupid and counter productive. They've been fatal in the most literal possible way. It's the way the world works.
There isn't anything difficult about understanding how this happened. It won't be universally popular to face the fact that to the boys it means "look at me as an available object" and that they'll be too busy pursuing their own ends to listen to the real intentions. You can have one thing or the other, you're not going to be able to have it both ways. No group that is the victim of stereotype does. They try to master the stereotype only at the cost of real progress.
Watson was absolutely right in what she said. But the boys clearly didn't hear it, confused by the image they already had in their heads.
Then I read a transcript of what she said and couldn't believe the atheist-boys were throwing such a massive hissy fit over being told that it's a really bad idea to come on to a woman, alone, in an elevator at 4AM. And, remember, these are the guys who think they're so Bright
Some people did not become defensive at the suggestion that it would be best not to annoy people in elevators at 4 AM, they became defensive when told that they should not take the elevator when a woman is already riding it, or crossing the streets when they there is a woman walking on the same side of the street than them, or affect focus on their iphone if they are in a parking at the same time as a woman late at night, etc...
There is a difference between the two kinds of demands: not annoying people in elevators is a normal polite behavior which usefulness is reinforced by realities already described by people who took Watson's side. On the other hand, the elevator-avoiding, streets-crossing, angry-birds-in-parking-playings kind of demands are not much more than demands for yet another shallow pseudo-gentlemanly etiquette that is supposed to demonstrate the harmlessness of the men following it by making them send ridiculously easy to fake signals of harmlessness.
On thing about the video, though: the video is not about the creepiness of men who keep staring at women forms: it is merely a jab thrown at all the men who think that as long as they do not go beyond the creep threshold they will be subtle, and invisible, and the women they look at will not perceive it. So unlike Watson's serious point, the video is more of a joke at the expense of men who overestimate their own discretion.
Laurent Weppe, I didn't look at a video, I read a transcript. What I read was about the incident, nothing she said about that was anything but reasonable.
I suggested that the boys who were howling be asked how they'd like to be propositioned by a larger, stronger man in the same situation. My experience of straight men is that they frequently imagine gay men are attracted to them, often with absolutely no likelihood that anyone would be.
I'm reminded of the truly awful movie, "As Good As It Gets" for a view of how straight men can believe it's likely that a creepy, rapidly aging middle aged asshole can not only get the nice, attractive young woman half his age, but will get to turn down the offer he's made by the nice, attractive young gay man half his age as well. Straight men sometimes have an unrealistic view of their desirability. A lot of the whining sounded mightily like a denial of that illusion. However, the message for women and gay men is that's part of what they need to take into account when they're constructing how they present themselves. You're going to get a lot more of what you want if you're realistic about it.
Jean: I agree that some women dress in skimpy or tight clothing because they want the attention. Others do it because they want attention from someone specific, or from a specific kind of person. I'm saying guys shouldn't assume a woman wants their attention, just because she's dressed a certain way. A woman dressed that certain way would probably be disappointed not to have guys come up to her at a bar or a club, but she probably still doesn't want to be hit on by creepy guys on the subway, or the elevator or whatever. Context matters. Ditto if she's walking arm-in-arm with someone else.
As creepy as the harassment can be, we're social animals and getting attention is rewarding. Getting attention for creepy/bad reasons will still trigger the brain's pleasure centers, and in chatting about this issue with ladyfolks over the last week, I'm reliably informed that however much they don't like the attention, they do notice and worry about it when they dress a certain way and don't get that attention. That's how sexism gets internalized by its victims. And we do that from an early age, in a million ways that are probably impossible to avoid.
As to the particular case above: my wife usually feels chilly, she usually wears dirty sneakers, jeans, and couple of fleece pullovers, and reports no creepy attention when she does that. In the case above, I think she was wearing a sundress because it was finally warm enough that she could do so, and it was a lovely day. And hopefully a bit for me, too. But she wears dresses less than she'd like to because she doesn't want that attention.
I don't doubt that some women dress scantily because they just want attention. From anyone. But I'd wager that most dress like that because they want a certain sort of attention from a certain someone. They aren't trying to be public property, and shouldn't be treated as such. Guys aren't being unfair in assuming that someone dressed in tight clothes wants attention, but they ought to stop for a second and ask: "Does she want my attention? Does she want my attention now?"
That, I think, was Watson's original point.
My broader point here is about the casual sexism of The Way Things Are. I don't disagree with your description of The Way Things Are, but I think that The Way Things Are is bad, and should be changed. I think there's a slippery slope between thinking a woman's body is your property to stare at, and thinking a woman's body is your property to touch, and on to thinking a woman's body is your property to have sex with. It's a long, shallow, slope, not one most people move far down, but a slope nonetheless, and we should teach people to climb up it.
Kierra, Did I say women want suggestive comments from random guys? No, of course not, because that's harassment.
Sorry, but you didn't clearly define in your original post what you think constitutes harassment. And if the reams of comments on this topic tell us anything, it's that such simple things can't just be assumed.
I disagree, however, that there was that much grey area in the elevator incident. And Dawkins response was pretty offensive even if such grey area had existed.
Laurent Weppe, I didn't look at a video, I read a transcript. What I read was about the incident, nothing she said about that was anything but reasonable.
I'm not talking about Watson's videotaped comments, I'm talking about the video in Josh's post showing a fellow French walking in Paris while dozens of men end up being caught looking at her cleavage.
My experience of straight men is that they frequently imagine gay men are attracted to them, often with absolutely no likelihood that anyone would be.
Then again, my own experience is that several gay men have been trying to get lucky with me, with attitudes going from politely flirty to "Dude, stop massaging hand, I never asked you to do that!", so gay men going after straight men does not seem that unlikely from where I stand. Then again, my own experiences do not invalidate in any way Watson's point, and I never challenged it to begin with.
I have twin teens too - daughters. They don't go overboard regarding dress, but they know how to look attractive and that's fine, that's their personal choice, it's normal.
They're also fairly talented martial artists and they know how to do serious damage if necessary. We live in a large city and I've also made sure they know that they can explore and enjoy the city and their friends, but be aware that a safe situation can turn unsafe very quickly. Don't be afraid, be aware.
Because, as much as I can, I get it. I got it before I had daughters. I learned to understand that appearances can be deceiving, and I'm glad that was just a nervous and clueless guy in that elevator instead of a predator lulling her into a false sense of security.
I get it because I have been a clueless guy before, and so I won't take offense if someone tells me I make them uncomfortable about their security. I will instead listen seriously and not do that again.
Because that way, I become less of a clueless guy.
Josh, There's attention as in just being seen as and judged as hot and attention as in comments, advances, invitations, etc. I was only thinking of the first when I said most/many women wear tight/skimpy clothes "because they want the attention." Attention as in being seen and judged as hot, that's all. The active sort of attention is a very different matter--clearly that's wanted in a very selective way, if at all, and it depends an enormous amount on the woman and the situation. The tricky thing is that (many, not all) women dress for passive attention, then get active attention they don't want because the set of rules people are supposed to follow aren't followed. (And--getting back to Dawkins--some of the rules are debatable.)
Guys Don't Care.
Sure, it's better if a woman dresses revealingly sexy. But not doing so is not a roadblock for a guy. You think no one gets hit on at ski resorts? Think about that for a second.
Women don't have to be sending a message for someone to hit on them. And women can be sending very clear "don't hit on me" messages and still get hit on.
One of my best friends - a guy - described it best: Men will f*** mud. He told that to women friends who would wonder, for instance, why men would hit on them when the women are dirty, sweaty or tired and seem to be obviously unattractive.
It's crass (sorry) and hilarious and summarizes a lot of truth all at the same time.
It really doesn't have anything to do with how a woman dresses.
Josh's post showing a fellow French walking in Paris while dozens of men end up being caught looking at her cleavage. L.W.
I didn't address that.
Then again, my own experience is that several gay men have been trying to get lucky with me, L.W.
Well, gay men can have the experinece of having gay men come onto them who they'd rather wouldn't come on to them too. It happens, especially if they're dressed "hot". And if a larger, stronger man chooses to do it in a small enclosed space, in the early morning when there isn't anyone around, it can scare you.
Attention as in being seen and judged as hot, that's all. The active sort of attention is a very different matter--clearly that's wanted in a very selective way, if at all, and it depends an enormous amount on the woman and the situation. J. K.
"Hot" in this context means sexually desirable, it means dressing in a way to enhance sexual desireability. It also means wanting to be seen as being sexually desirable. Women certainly have a right to dress however they want to but they should know how those who they want to see them as being sexually desirable are going to see it while they're deciding that.
There are two different issues in this discussion. First, how men should act, which is clear. They should treat women with respect and keep their distance, avoiding creepy behavior and being sensitive to how their actions could well seem to women, or other men, in the instance of men worrying if another man is coming on to them.
Second, is the full range of possibility of this kind of "being seen as hot" in the social context in which "being seen as hot" fits. Someone is supposed to be doing the "seeing as hot", you can't pretend that they aren't part of the situation because they are there from the beginning. Pretending that how they see the person who wants to be seen as sexually desirable isn't relevant is a denial of the obvious. Men are taught that they're allowed to consider "being seen as hot" as permission to pursue sex. I'd certainly never want my nieces to not know that is how their dressing "hot" will be seen by at least some of the boys they want to see them that way. Clearly, in 2011 that's the way it is. Being the most unfashionable of all people, a gay man who opposes pornography, who believes that the anti-feminist backlash is intrinsically linked to the pornographization of pop culture, I can't see it getting anything but worse. But that's for a different discussion.
Oh, and L.W. I should say that in my life men who identify as "stright" and married have come on to me, two of them quite aggressively. I've never welcomed married men coming on to me, or "straight" ones either.
I didn't address that.
I wrote a paragraph about the video in Josh's text: you misunderstood what I wrote and came back to the transcript of Rebecca Watslon's interview, so I specified that I was not talking about Watson's video.
Well, gay men can have the experinece of having gay men come onto them who they'd rather wouldn't come on to them too. It happens
You claimed that straight men "often imagine" that gay men are attracted to them. I know by experience that being straight and receiving unsolicited/unwanted advances also "happens", to use your term. I was here adressing this specific point, not Watson's comment about Elevator Guy with which I was never in disagreement to begin with.
I find all the discussion interesting to read. There certainly are a lot of lost-in-translation type comments where one comment gets misinterpreted by the next and it cascades out of control.
So Richard Dawkins is from the UK and Rebecca Watson the USA right? Could the elevator scene not be chalked up to a lost-in-translation moment as well? Culture clash dropped like a match into a heap of folks ready to burst into flame. Richard privately asks Rebecca something; Rebecca publicly retaliates on her blog; Richard publicly retaliates; etc.
Another thing that bothered me was the offer to come to his room for coffee. Coffee? Is that normal for the UK? I'm sorry that does not sound like a hidden word for romance. Coming from Dawkins, I would think he might have genuinely wanted intellectual conversation.
Personally I wish I could complement all the pretty women I see (and the cute men) but I don't want to offend or make them think I am hitting on them so I generally just don't say anything.
I've skipped the comments (because they're exhausting), so if someone has said this already, I apologize. You alluded to this, but it can stand to be repeated: It's not just "dickbags". Seventy-five percent of the men I talk to at TAM (and a large portion everywhere else I go) stare at my boobs when we're talking and I find myself crossing my arms over my chest in hopes that they might actually start listening to what I am saying.
Thank you for writing this. It's the most articulate expression of the bottom line I have read so far.
"Personally I wish I could complement all the pretty women I see (and the cute men) but I don't want to offend or make them think I am hitting on them so I generally just don't say anything."
There are ways of complementing people without seeming creepy. Public spaces, specificity of the comment, how long you linger after making the comment all play a role. It saddens me that complaints of "some things are creepy and offensive" sometimes translates to "all things are creepy and offensive."
Josh, I love your advice to Mr. Dawkins. That's a wonderful way of reframing the question to echo parallel situations that he may be more familiar with. Thank you.
Thank you. :)
"In sum, men who corner women know what they're doing. And yes, they are relying on the fear of rape to grease the wheels towards getting laid."
I only have a problem with Marcotte's statement. This idiot could have easily been some guy who thought "Oh, she is finally away from a crowd. Here is my chance to try to get lucky with her." It is a bit much to say he is using the implications of rape to try to sleep with her. That isn't to say the implications donât exist; I am sure it does. It's just that I am not assuming that it must be the case that this guy was doing that.
That being said, I am always amazed when men talk about feminist issues. There are always some who are quick to be defensive. I am not going to pretend that inviting somebody to your room, even for coffee, is not a proposition for sex. Dawkins is a bit dishonest to pretend it was only an offer for coffee. There is also some kind of "battle of the sexes" aspect that leaves some guys to say stuff like "WOMEN ARE NOT VICTIMS. There are no victims, only volunteers." (I know the poster said she is female but this response usually comes from males.) You can admit that one guy was creepy and inappropriate without giving up your manhood.
@Jean Kazez - If you're going to say "women want to be hot," you need to come up with a clear definition for "hot." If "hot" means "more or less in line with Western beauty ideals," I suppose I do work for that as I'm getting ready in the morning. If "hot" means "stylish," I guess I go for that, too, mostly for the benefit of my female friends and coworkers who notice and appreciate such things.
If by "hot" you mean "sexually appealing and/or available," you can slam the brakes right on, because my goal is seldom if ever to solicit sexual attentions from anyone who isn't my boyfriend (and I generally save that for when we're at home). When I get ready to go out, my goal is to please my own eyes, not anyone else's. As a woman living in a big city, though, I get a lot of reminders that what pleases my eyes sometimes pleases other people's eyes, and that's not something that particularly chuffs me. Of course, I can't speak for other women on the matter--but then, neither can you.
You're going to confuse a lot of men with posts like these. The message seems to be: male attention makes women frightened. But, if that is the case, why do women often seek out the more dangerous looking men to date and leave the nice, quiet boys alone? Why do so many women go to nightclubs and suck face with strange men?
And if it's really true that unregulated dealings between the sexes leaves women frightened, then isn't the conclusion to be drawn that feminism was wrong to attack the traditional restraints placed on sexuality? In other words, shouldn't men start once again to see women as the more modest and vulnerable sex and adapt their behaviour accordingly?
Wow. The avalanche of mansplaining in the comments is staggering.
Guys. She's got ALL of us dead to rights on this one. Man up. You are not entitled here. You are not of a superior position. You may have been 100 years ago but you aren't any more. It's time to grow up.
I've seen many a guy turn tail and run when a strong willed woman corners a guy and dominates his ass at the level that I see guys doing it to women. Guys don't like being cornered with implied threats that have no intention of following through on.
As for the "Don't show tits"... pathetic. Don't you realize that the only reason you can't resist is because you have convinced yourself that it's some personal private naughty naughty zone because it's sensitive? How about the lips? Maybe we should all cover our mouths since our lips have more nerves than any part except our penis head and vulva. Do you instantly run up and kiss that guy or gal because they expose their lips?
And the ears. Many, many a time I've been nibbled there as a guy and it's awesome. Maybe we should wear ear muffs 365 days out of the year because someone just MIGHT think "wow. He's showing his sensitive earlobes!" and take it as an invitation to nibble on them. We don't' do this. Why? Because it's not socially acceptable. But we don't cover them up Now do we.
I could name more body parts that we use as sensitive sexual zones when we're in the mood and with the right person but I think you just might be getting the idea finally. Just because some body part that could be used in a sexual manner is showing does not mean it's an open invitation. Only the individuals reaction to your saying "hi" while looking them in the eyes is an avenue of invitation. All else is just simply assumption of right of access without permission due to arrogance and assumed superiority.
And if it's really true that unregulated dealings between the sexes leaves women frightened, then isn't the conclusion to be drawn that feminism was wrong to attack the traditional restraints placed on sexuality?
The "traditional restraints placed on sexuality"? I complained earlier about trying to create new shallow pseudo-gentlemanly etiquette, and now there's someone asking to go back to a set rules who put all real burdens on women and demanded nothing but shallow pseudo-gentlemanly etiquette from men?
I think the initial comment from Jean Kazez hit the nail on the head.
I also don't believe that tons of strangers were creeping up to Josh's fiancee and whispering lewd things to her so stealthily that he couldn't notice. I'm sorry, I just don't believe that. I know that women are sometimes subject to catcalls, and certainly to unwanted attention. I don't deny that, and I'm certainly not defending it. But, while I think it's possible that Josh's fiancee may have overheard a whispered comment that one dude made to another dude or something like that, to suggest that a barrage of stealth harrassment--direct, whispered, and person-to-person--is actually happening all the time to women strolling around with their oblivious boyfriends is absurd. The notion of some sort of "Illuminati Misogyny" going on under our noses all the time is not a reality. There is NO WAY that that claim was not exaggerated.
These debates stemming from the now-infamous "Elevator Incident" have been raging for over a week now. The bizarre tone and the outrageous claims on this article are not helping. Let's pause for 2 seconds and inject a little common-sense, human reality into these proceedings, to wit: Women want to be seen as attractive. They want the attention of some men, but not all men. The unfortunate fact of the matter is that in capturing the attention of some, a woman will also capture the attention of unwanted others. She should not be harrassed, but gender roles being what they are, women will not approach men, so men must necessarily try to approach women. Some will be polite and respectful, others will not. We may not all always agree on which is which. Still, we bumble through as best we can despite our differences, some of which are fundamental and are as old as our species. We will never see fully eye-to-eye, so can we just accept that and go back to just trying to be decent people to one another as best we can? I swear, if I see one more link about this elevator pop up on my Facebook or any of the pages I visit, I think I'll rip my hair out. I'm sorry Rebecca Watson felt uncomfortable, I'm sorry this poor bastard from Dublin has been cast as Satan Incarnate because he liked a girl and didn't know the right way to go about approaching her, but honestly, enough is enough. We have belabored this point into oblivion, and do we truly not have bigger fish to fry?
Roger: "Still, we bumble through as best we can despite our differences, some of which are fundamental and are as old as our species. We will never see fully eye-to-eye, so can we just accept that and go back to just trying to be decent people to one another as best we can?"
LOL! Whether it describes you or not, that did bring to mind Wilkin's take on this:
"Now, as an exercise, replace âatheist menâ with âscience-supportersâ and âwomenâ with âbelieversââ¦
The Tone Warriors like to say that to ask someone to take a measured and moderate tone (i.e., to not be a dick) is to effectively silence them, or try to. The Tone Moderators (i.e., me and those like me, wonderful people every one) ask that the style of argument matters as well, and that to be constantly attacking and aggressive will, guess what? alienate those we want to work with (i.e., religious people who do not have a problem with real science). So the irony here is so thick you could stir it with a stick."
As for Jean's take, it's already pointed out how her theory fails, by me and others. You're free to deny that of course, but it doesn't mean you've disproven it.
Survey answered, with the assumption that 1="does not answer well at all" and 10="answers very well."
You may wish to explain the scale in the survey text.
TB, Really, you "pointed out how her theory fails"? I hadn't noticed that! I think you made some points that were orthogonal to mine--which is a polite way of saying "not relevant"! I don't see what there is to argue about here. I said something pretty obvious, Roger has elaborated very eloquently. Josh even said I was probably right about The Way Things Are. I will just add--I agree with him that The Way Things Are is not unproblematic.
The notion of some sort of "Illuminati Misogyny" going on under our noses all the time is not a reality. There is NO WAY that that claim was not exaggerated. Roger
Oh, it was all in her mind?
The "skeptical" clique was long noted to be a boys club and a frat house (hope this pastes coherently)
CSICOP is heavily dominated by men, and until 1991 there were no women at all on the Executive Council. A reporter for New Scientist described CSICOP as âwhite,â âmale,â and âslightly geriatricâ (Anderson, 1987, p. 51). The inside covers of recent issues of SI display the gender imbalance; the results are summarized in Table 2. The predominance of men characterizes the local affiliates as well. Of the 40 listed local leaders, only two are women.
Certainly academia is predominantly male, and so it is not surprising that a majority of CSICOPâs members are men. However, the percentage does seem disproportionate.
Not all the local groups are totally dominated by men, and a CSICOP manual prepared for local groups encouraged the involvement of women. The East Bay Skeptics in California reported that 27% of its members were women (âMembers Elect First Board,â 1988), and in a 1990 election of the National Capital Area Skeptics, 3 of 11 listed candidates were women. Despite these efforts, the debunking movement is overwhelmingly run by men.
The perceived demeanor. Some have perceived the gender imbalance as
DISTRIBUTION OF MEN AND WOMEN IN SKEPTICSâ GROUPS
Fellows Scientific and Leaders of
Technical Consultants Local Groups
Men 53 52 38
Women 3 4 2
Figures based on pages 447-48 and the inside covers of the Summer 1990 issue of the Skeptical Inquirer.
influencing the demeanor of CSICOP, the Skeptical Inquirer, and the local affiliates. A few have even suggested that some debunkers project an insecure and macho attitude. Commenting on the 1985 CSICOP convention in California, Auerbach (1985) wrote:
I felt an air of insecurity in the audience, and some of the presenters. It was very strange to be in an audience that laughed at the mere mention of the names of a few of the better-known parapsychologists, listening to presenters who seemed to enjoy that reaction, and even encourage it. (p. 10)
Michael Swords (1986) painted a similar picture of the 1986 conference.
Such perceptions are not limited to outsiders. This has been an issue within CSICOP as well. In the March 1985 newsletter of the Bay Area Skeptics, Mary Coulman (1985) wrote a piece titled âWhere Are the Women?â She reported that sometimes she was the only woman who attended meetings of the Bay Area Skeptics and that often there were only 2 or 3 women present with 60 to 70 men. Coulman wrote another column in the June issue asking the same question, noting that no women had yet replied. Finally, months later, Elissa Pratt-Lowe (1985) responded:
I think another aspect of organized skepticism that may deter women is the aggressive, âmachoâ attitudes held by some of the (male) participants. It seems to me that some âskepticsâ are more interested in ridicule than in exploring and challenging pseudoscientific beliefs. [This was followed by âVery true, I think-MCâ]. (p. 7)
The Bay Area Skeptics are not the only ones to confront the problem. In response to an article by physicist George Lawrence in Rocky Mountain Skeptic, John Wilder (1988) wrote: âFor all of the authorâs [Lawrenceâs] scientific, academic and intellectual credentials, he displays a level of disrespect for others that, in my opinion, is completely inappropriate. . . . The author succeeded only in subjecting a group of sincere . . . people to outright ridiculeâ (p. 8).
One of the most extreme cases was that of Drew Endacott. He undertook to form a local affiliate in the Philadelphia area and sent out letters saying, âI am forming such an organization with CSICOPâs backing, and I want people who are willing to get dirty. . . . What we will do is employ a very thorough, proven technique for getting the point across to people who have no demonstrated facility to reasonâ (copy of letter in possession of author). Once Kurtz was alerted to this, he disavowed affiliation with Endacott and forbade him to use CSICOPâs name. Endacott was not a lone crackpot however, but a charter member of the Austin Society to Oppose Pseudo-science (ASTOP), and before trying to start his own chapter in Philadelphia, he consulted with ASTOP as well as with Richard Busch, chair of the Paranormal Investigating Committee of Pittsburgh (âElsewhere in Philly,â 1985). Certainly the vast majority of members of local affiliates are not this radical. However, these groups do attract persons with extreme views, and a number are active within the local societies.
I'd think this incident would show that a lot of its members haven't evolved far from when this was written.
"by me and others" Jean, yes.
I liked bwolfe comments for one. Or Caperton's. Or badresche's. Or any of the countless personal testimonies you can find from women on the web on this subject.
As for me, I'm a guy. You don't want to listen to me, fine.
But you can't hand wave off everyone Jean. That's not going to work.
"Let's pause for 2 seconds and inject a little common-sense, human reality into these proceedings, to wit: Women want to be seen as attractive. They want the attention of some men, but not all men."
You ask to inject a little common-sense and human reality and that's what you come up with?
Walking into to this thread I was afraid I might be on the same side as Mr. McCarthy. Thankfully, he is full of his standard nonsense, even if he is on Ms Watson's 'side.'
Julian, I assure you I looked up some of Hansen's rather extensive citations and, in all of those, he fulfilled the requirements of responsible scholarship. I know that kind of thing is a novelty in your cult but it's the way it's done in the adult world.
As to your agreeing with me on something, a coincidence, perhaps.
Let me add something about your point Jean.
It's not that your assertion that women dress to get attention is trivially true, it's that you brought it up in the context of this debate, where a whole lot of people are trying to make the point that it doesn't really matter how a woman dresses, they STILL get unwanted attention from men and sometimes extremely inappropriate attention at that.
So because that happens IN SPITE of how they dress, your point, while trivially true in a very limited sense, not only fails as an explanation for the wider argument but actually implies that half the blame for the behavior must rest with women.
You're opening the door on the assumption that since a women is complaining about unwanted attention, they must have been dressing 'hot,' and so were in some measure asking for it.
You may not intend that implication, but it's there. And it makes it appear that you don't get it.
Now, I've told you as a guy that it doesn't matter how a woman is dressed, but if you don't want to take my word for it, that's fine. But there are a whole lot of women out there telling their stories of being objectified, getting unwanted attention, and they don't deserve to have an unproven assumption - that they were all dressing in skin-tight, revealing clothes, ignorantly thrust upon them without any proof.
Which is what you did, whether you realize it or not.
TB, My comment was about Josh's post, not a contribution to this debate that came out of the blue. I didn't respond to Rebecca Watson's video by saying "What was she wearing? It was her fault!" My response to the EG business is at my blog, and I don't dismiss Watson's complaint.
Josh painted a picture of one woman (his wife) dressed entirely functionally, and getting a lot of unwanted attention. From that he made some generalizations about what life is like for women--there's all this bombardment. I responded to that. Yes, there's bombardment, but something more complex is going on. Women often signal a desire to be looked at with their clothes, and there are ambiguities about what sort of attention is wanted and not wanted. So the truth is not simply that there are all these clods out there bombarding women with unwanted attention. There are also confused people out there, trying to figure out where the line is between wanted and unwanted attention.
This point about confusion just isn't refuted at all by what you said about ski resorts, where people are bundled up and clothing doesn't create confusion. I never said women's clothing *always* creates confusion, so you can't rebut my point by giving an example where it doesn't. I also didn't say clothing is the only source of confusion--there are lots of sources. So you can say there's confusion at ski resorts, and it still does nothing to rebut my point.
If Josh's point about bombardment helps us understand why Watson found Elevator Guy annoying, then my point about confusion says a little something about why Elevator Guy might find interacting with women confusing, and why reasonable people (Dawkins and Watson) might disagree about some of the rules of M/F interaction. Lots of them are obvious, but there's a grey area, because in fact most women do welcome some kinds of attention.
"Josh painted a picture of one woman (his wife) dressed entirely functionally, and getting a lot of unwanted attention. From that he made some generalizations about what life is like for women--there's all this bombardment. I responded to that. Yes, there's bombardment, but something more complex is going on."
No Jean, you said this:
" I think your description of gender relations is hopelessly simplistic. Women want to be hot--come on, we all know that."
You dismissed Josh's post because "women want to be hot." Not some women, not certain women, not any other nuance we can think of. You may think you differentiated in some way, but you didn't.
"From that he made some generalizations about what life is like for women--there's all this bombardment."
That's just dense. He didn't use baseless generalizations. He specifically quoted Emily Finke. Does this sound familiar?
"I live in a world where a former boss thought that it was perfectly okay to tell other women that I am harassed because I dress nicely."
So he gave his specific personal example, and quoted Finke with another. And in the comments here, there are even more examples. And I know from personal experience that "dressing nice" or In gender-specific tight clothes has nothing to do with a man's actions. They still get harassed even when they don't dress that way.
But obviously i've put you too much on the defensive here, so there's nothing I doubt there's anything i can say to convince you.
Your demand for nuance from me is laughable, since you're the one who declared "guys don't care" and quoted approvingly your friend who says "men will f*** mud." Apparently you get to say what all men want, but I must not speak about what I think women feel. In any event, I did add nuance in my subsequent comments-- I spoke about "many" and "most" and the like. You, on the other hand, have added no nuance at all. Guys don't care, end of story. That's your position. As to the rest, my last comment is all I have to say--see the next to last paragraph. That's all I have to say about this.
I had a longer answer in mind, Jean, but since you're leaving nevermind. I answered your generality with a generality. Where you were specific, as with your kids, I talked about my kids. I could have gotten really specific, and made you really uncomfortable about those specifics about what said, but I didn't.
Instead I pointed out other commenters on this thread - women - who have disagreed with you. But you don't want to listen - to other women - and say "I must not speak about what I think women feel. "
That's not what you're doing. You're ignoring what other women think. And you left the thread so you can continue to do so.
TB: But you don't want to listen - to other women - and say "I must not speak about what I think women feel. " That's not what you're doing. You're ignoring what other women think. And you left the thread so you can continue to do so.
I can't let you say false things about me. Go back and look at my comments. As soon as women like Kierra started saying they didn't want attention, I did listen, and I did adjust. What I said at first was just a rough truth -- obviously. But I was happy to make that more explicit. For example, in reply to a comment from Josh I restated my point more carefully--
There's attention as in just being seen as and judged as hot and attention as in comments, advances, invitations, etc. I was only thinking of the first when I said most/many women wear tight/skimpy clothes "because they want the attention." Attention as in being seen and judged as hot, that's all. The active sort of attention is a very different matter--clearly that's wanted in a very selective way, if at all, and it depends an enormous amount on the woman and the situation. The tricky thing is that (many, not all) women dress for passive attention, then get active attention they don't want because the set of rules people are supposed to follow aren't followed. (And--getting back to Dawkins--some of the rules are debatable.)
There are a lot of phrases in there conveying individual variability, and there in there because I was listening. I am not interested in continuing with this argument but I'm not going to let you say false things about me.
Jean I'm not saying false things about you. I'm talking about exactly what you said and other commenters said. Kierra still disagrees with you. You never addressed Caperton. I don't think Josh agrees with you as much as you yhink he does.
My disagreement with you is based on my own personal knowledge and experience as well as others.
Let me ask you question - it's a loaded one but I'm going to ask it.
Badresche's said: "Seventy-five percent of the men I talk to at TAM (and a large portion everywhere else I go) stare at my boobs when we're talking and I find myself crossing my arms over my chest in hopes that they might actually start listening to what I am saying."
Granted seventy-five percent is probably hyperbole, but it probably isn't that far off - knowing myself and knowing other guys.
The question is this: Does badresche bear some responsibility for unwanted attention from guys? We don't know how she dresses, so we can't assume. Does she bear some responsibility?
TB, There's no reason for me to personally reply to everyone who disagrees with me at a blog. No, of course she doesn't bear responsibility, but I've said nothing that entails she does. You've evidently confused what I've said with a very extreme position on which women completely control all the attention and harassment they ever get through their clothing. Not my view.
Good luck with your twin daughters and thanks for the idea of martial arts for them--never thought of it. Great idea.
" No, of course she doesn't bear responsibility, but I've said nothing that entails she does."
Sorry, Jean, the question needed to be asked. But I'm glad to hear that you think however a woman dresses, it isn't really pertinent to the situation.
"But I'm glad to hear that you think however a woman dresses, it isn't really pertinent to the situation."
As I said, I won't let you say false things about me. You didn't hear me say that, and as you know, that's not what I think. I've explained my position countless times now, and it's time to just agree to disagree.
So she doesn't bear responsibility for unwanted attention, but how she dresses might matter? And so therefore she's not responsible for dressing herself?
Jean, I'm not trying say false things about you and I would appreciate it if you would consider that - since others in this thread have also questioned your clarity - maybe you're inadvertently implying things you don't intend to.
In fairness, it was a pretty tough question. If you answered no, as you appeared to before but now ? - then one has to wonder why you focused on clothing in the first place. Especially after others, including me, were vainly trying to tell you that unwanted attention happens in spite how a woman dresses.
If you answered yes, well that puts us on the slippery slope to who gets to judge what level of dress absolved a woman of responsibility for unwanted attention - and suddenly burgas become a possible choice.
I thought you'd answered no before, but now it seems maybe the answer is yes or maybe or...?
Women either bear some measure of responsible for how men respond to the way they dress or they don't. Since I have found that men are attracted to women - sometimes inappropriately - regardless of how women dress, I don't think much of arguments that women bear some responsibility.
I am not suggesting you're making that argument simply because I have no idea what argument about how a woman dresses you're trying to make.
TB, I think you're mischaracterizing what Jean was saying. Jean stated somewhat generally that women want to be "hot", which--certainly generally--is true. She further implied more specifically that Josh's fiancee was probably motivated in her choice of wardrobe on the day in question by trying to appear her best--or, depending on how you choose to phrase such things, to be "hot". The assignment of responsibility for men's attention isn't really germain to what Jean was saying about this. In making her assertions, Jean's primary point was that Josh wasn't being intellectually honest in his presentation of his fiancee's travails. Josh suggested that it would be a horrible burden to be unable--due to sexist pressures--to wear the most comfortable thing at any given time. It was his strong implication that comfort was the primary motivating factor in choosing an outfit. Jean's point was that Josh was being very simplistic in his appraisal of gender relations. OF COURSE outfits aren't chosen for maximum comfort. Comfort is a factor, but it ALWAYS takes a back seat to how we want to present ourselves to each other. In essence, she was politely telling Josh to grow up and assume a realistic adult perspective that acknowledges our differences and doesn't demand shock and outrage over every perceived clash. Judging and blaming women for their choice of dress was never on her agenda, and any reasonable reader will have to acknowledge that.
Jean, TB, etc.: Let's play nice. It's a heated topic, and one that has real and important consequences well worth discussing thoughtfully, so let's not make this personal.
Men who make inappropriate advances on women have the responsibility for that in every case. No one forced them to make the advance, they take the moral and other risks of forcing themselves on someone who doesn't welcome it.
If these men don't want to be called on being jerks, they shouldn't be jerks.
I don't think the men who are objecting to what Watson said would have any problem with understanding that responsibility if it was a man coming on to them if that was unwanted. They wouldn't have any problem understanding why a larger, stronger man coming on to them in an enclosed space was a violation of their right to not be scared.
I didn't bring up the "looking hot" issue first, nor did I mention the increased risk of staying in a bar till the early morning, since the issue I talked about was only the reasonableness of what Watson said and the unreasonableness of the reaction to what she said.
People have a right to be free of that level of inappropriate come-ons by strangers. That right doesn't go away just because, in real life, those things are going to happen. The only thing that analyzing that fact should be used for is thinking about how much of that risk do you want to try to avoid, not as a means of excusing the man's inexcusable behavior.
The issue of acting in ways that might lead to a higher chance of an unwelcomed attempt at being picked up is s separate issue, though the relation ship to unwelcomed pick up attempts is clear. You take an increased chance of getting unwanted advances if you are "trying to look hot." Pretending that some of the being seen as "hot", which is the reason for dressing for hotness doesn't risk it being seen as an invitation to make a try is dishonest and foolish. It's irresponsible to not point out that purposely trying to "look hot" carries a risk. Whether or not that risk should be there, it is. Women have a right to plan their behavior in their day to day life.
The bar issue is also going to be used to excuse the man's behavior. The issue is that bars are a frequent venue for picking someone up who is looking to be picked up and that drinking is a voluntary form of temporary incapacitation to at least some extent, which, I'd guess, is why they became places to pick up people who have been known to regret their choice when they realize who they had sex with after they slept it off. Even men can have those kinds of regrets.
A straight man who went to a gay bar would be putting himself at risk of having a man come on to him in an unwanted way. If that was not welcomed, he'd be pretty stupid to knowingly do that, considering there are other bars he could go to where it was less likely to happen. He has every right to go to the gay bar if it's a place of public accommodation, just as a woman has a right to go to a hotel bar Both take some risk at people being willing to violate their rights to people breaking rules of propriety in those cases. But the person who comes on to them also takes risks of having their rule breaking objected to. They don't have any right to use how someone is dressed or where they are as an excuse for their own behavior. People have a right to be unbothered.
All of this is just to point out that some behaviors carry risks and that no one should be unaware of those risks in planning what they are going to do. Analyzing it as a merely an exercise in doing what you want to is incomplete and will lead to increased likelihood of results you don't want.
That doesn't excuse the behavior of a man acting like a creep in an elevator at 4 in the morning, it doesn't mean a woman doesn't get to point out what that action means and that it's not acceptable. It doesn't mean that people who object to her pointing that out aren't being jerks.
Josh, TB has repeatedly misrepresented me. That's frustrating, to say the least.
What's going on here is that I keep on being challenged with examples that do not represent any real challenge, logically. When I explain why not, there's no "uptake." The same kinds of examples are just repeated.
To repeat the general point--we ought to be honest about what people want, not just pretend women are hapless victims of other people. One way that people communicate what they want from others is with their clothing. For example, if a woman wears a drab business suit, it communicates something to others--she wants to be respected and taken seriously. When I teach, I wear clothes that communicate how I want to be treated. This kind of communication has some impact. On the whole, people respond differently to people, depending on how they are dressed--and studies do show that.
Women also use clothing to attract sexual attention, just like they wear business suits to attract respect. To say that is not to say every single woman uses clothing this way, or anything terribly strong. It's just like the business suit example--really no more controversial. It's also not to say anything utterly ludicrous, like that women communicate their physical availability. Of course they do no such thing. But they do communicate (to be straightforward) "look at me!"
Now, I'm also making a further claim about how the semantics of clothing can create some confusion. What's the receiver supposed to do? There is some ambiguity about that. This is a part of gender relations that was omitted in Josh's post, which focuses on a woman who wears functional clothing and gets unwanted attention.
Now, TB seems to think what I'm saying can be refuted by pointing out that men are attracted to women no matter what they're wearing. He made the point using the ski jacket example and I explained why that's no problem for what I'm saying. He then made the point again by talking about badrescher and I responded. It puzzles me enormously why those responses weren't enough.
My response is that these example are simply irrelevant to what I am claiming. I say--women use clothes to communicate that they want to be found attractive, and this can cause confusion. You can't refute that by giving an example where someone is wearing functional clothing and is still found attractive. Female athletes get respect without wearing business suits. Of course that doesn't refute the claim women use business suits to communicate a desire for respect. Likewise, women in bulky ski jackets can be found attractive. Of course that doesn't refute the claim that women use skimpy, tight clothing to communicate a desire to be found attractive.
What I see in this thread is a very old-style feminism, where we are required to see women as helpless prey, and men as predators. We are not allowed to acknowledge what women want, and what they actively do to get what they want. As a feminist--I've taught feminist philosophy, organized several women's events, and taught female students for 25 years--I'm just not at all impressed with that sort of thing. Even in the very first version of "Our Bodies, Our Selves," one of the bibles of feminism, there are women who talk about wanting to be looked at, and the gratification of being able to put on a tight shirt, walk out the door, and have men stare at them. No, not all women feel that way, and not all attraction comes about that way. But it's okay to recognize that dimension of gender relations.
@Jean Kazes - I'd still like an answer to my question as to how you define "hot." If you're working from the definition of "potentially sexually available," you have several anecdotes on this comment thread from women who have said that they unequivocally do not do that. And the defense that you didn't say all, just many, doesn't completely fly. Unless you have some figures to support that, it's hard to generalize that men are getting that signal enough to confuse them in everyday life.
There are plenty of reasons to wear a suit outside of a desire to command respect, and there are plenty of ways to command respect without a suit. (And a "drab" suit, at that? Can I at least wear a nice one?) There are plenty of reasons to show skin outside of a desire to attract attention, and there are plenty of ways to attract attention without showing skin (or dressing "hot," or however you want to define it). Where I live, skin is more or less the norm--in the summer, we get 97-degree days with a heat index of 110, and that's on a cool day. If you wanted to assume that every woman in a short skirt is dressing to attract attention, you'd be wrong on a massive scale--but that doesn't stop the catcalls.
Again, show me the numbers. Show me data that backs up your claims. Correct me if I'm wrong, but you seem to be asserting that enough (but not all) women dress "hot" that men can safely assume that they're looking for attention, and thus women who aren't looking for attention are sending mixed signals. That assertion puts me--and Kierra, and a lot of other women--in the hot seat for somehow soliciting attention we don't want. If you're going to lay that on me, I want to see something more than generalizations based on you and your daughter.
"In Spain men are expected to make polite remarks about the feminity of women. If they don't, the women take it as an insult."
Bullshit. I don't know what your source is, but that's simply not so.
Jean, I have a comment in moderation with a number of links but let me say this: I'm not misrepresenting what you wrote and I'm not trying to piss you off.
I am challenging some basic assumptions that you happened to introduce. I'm sorry if you're offended that I'm doing that, but it's nothing personal.
Hopefully the post that's in moderation due to the number of links will explain that better.
Caperton, Kazez has a z at the end.
I don't think I need to define "hot" any more than I need to define "respect" when I say women wear business suits (Ok, nice ones) to command respect, but I have said repeatedly that I don't think "hot" means physically available. Why do you choose to ignore that?
I hear you--yes, there are individual women who aren't into dressing to attract. You're wrong to think I'm describing my own way of dressing. Um, I'm 55. We 55 year olds tend to buy our clothes from Lands End and the like. That stuff is not that hot.
I mentioned teenagers like my son and daughter, but really my data base is the women at the university where I've taught for 25 years, plus high school girls I hear talking about how "awesome" they are, plus articles about sexting, plus articles about how often girls change their facebook photos to attract compliments, plus noticing women on the street and in fashion magazines and on TV, plus, plus, plus.
I would say there's an awful lot of wanting to look hot going around. No, I didn't say that women wearing functional clothing are sending mixed signals. I don't know why you think that.
Please ask Josh for statistics on how many women feel bombarded by unwanted attention while you're asking me how many women want to look hot. Personally, I think we're both entitled to make rough generations based on anecdotes and every day observations. A comment at a blog isn't a submission to an academic journal.
And @Roger, if you're going to basically accuse Josh's wife of lying about her experience that day, there's no reason to have this discussion. This entire post is about something that women have to endure that men generally don't, so if you're going to reject out of hand her story just because you don't have personal experience in the matter and dismiss it as "absurd," there's no reason to be here. It's one thing for you to say "there's NO WAY that claim was not exaggerated"; it's another thing for a woman to walk down the street and experience exactly that. If you're not open up enough to accept that, we might as well be discussing football.
@Jean Kazez - I'm sorry about the name. I just caught that. As someone with a frequently misspelled last name (and one you'd think would be fairly simple), I'm sensitive to that myself.
But no, you really do need to define "hot." I honestly don't know what you mean when you say it. I don't know if the way I dress would be considered "hot." I don't know if the women walking around my town dressed for summer would qualify as "hot" in addition to functional. (Well, obviously they're some kind of hot, because seriously, it's brutal. It was above 80 when I woke up. I would have come to work in a bikini top if it wouldn't have attracted some seriously unwanted attention.) It's such a subjective concept that I need to know what you specifically mean when you say "hot."
When a girl says she looks "awesome" or dresses like someone she sees in a magazine, that's completely different from actively pursuing the male gaze. I like to think I look awesome today (although when I caught myself in the mirror just now, I think my pants make my butt look big. That's disappointing. Linen does that). Good hair, good eyes. I sincerely ask: Does that qualify as "hot"?
I think regardless of what Jean said to begin with, what she's saying now is what she meant. Either she expressed herself technically incorrectly or you got the wrong impression, either way it doesn't matter now - she has clarified where she stands.
In the less likely event she has consciously or subconsciously changed her position, it still doesn't matter she now advocates a more nuanced position - address that, in this case she will continue to deny your original reading as she either believes her new position was her original one or is lying, either way you have nothing to gain trying to pin her to a meaning she now denies.
On my phone so excuse the lack of nuance myself.
Sorry, I just think it's an exaggerated claim. Not necessarily an outright lie, but certainly an exaggeration. I don't know if it was Josh's fiancee's exaggeration or an exaggeration that Josh himself built into his article; possibly the passage of time coupled with the story passing through a few different hands has resulted in something akin to a game of "Telephone". In any event, when someone tries to sell me on the idea that day-in and day-out, women are beset upon by unrelenting hordes of lewd whisperer-ninjas that the rest of us just blithely disregard, my BS-detector goes off. I mean, we all know that women receive unwanted attention, but let's keep our feet on the ground here.
Thanks for that, Ender. My first comment had a blurted out quality and was more negative toward Josh than it should have been. Mea culpa. I don't think I've changed my mind, just slowed down.
Caperton, In Dallas there's a lot of very overt, clear-cut "hot" dressing--think cover of Cosmopolitan. I don't know where the line is between hot and not hot, and hot vs. awesome. The word "awesome" is interesting--I hear girls and women just blurt out "I'm awesome!" a lot. I'm taking notes, trying to understand what that means. No theory yet. This is what happens when you get older--you feel like an anthropologist.
@Jean Kazez: That pretty much covers it! Thanks for that.
@Ender: See? SEE?
Caperton, Do you seriously think we cannot say women use clothing to look hot (i.e. sexually attractive--surely you understand the word) without precisely defining exactly what is sexually attractive and where the line is between sexual attractiveness and other things? Let's see--Jon Stewart uses his face to be funny. Can I say that without first defining "funny" and drawing precise lines between the funny and the unfunny? Of course I can. Many concepts are fuzzy and imprecise--it doesn't mean we can't use them to convey information.
Forgot to post this before the weekend.
Jean: "There's attention as in just being seen as and judged as hot and attention as in comments, advances, invitations, etc. I was only thinking of the first when I said most/many women wear tight/skimpy clothes "because they want the attention.""
That's certainly a valid distinction, but I still think (not having done any sort of systematic survey or anything) that women don't dress a particular way just to get any and all attention. They might be seeking that sort of passive attention from certain guys, but I'd guess that getting even passive attention from some guys would be creepy. And if one just wants the privilege of walking down the street without being stared at, one shouldn't have to bring along spare pants and a jacket to be able to control when one is to be objectified and when one isn't. At a bar or a club, people go to objectify and be objectified, so I don't have an issue, but outside that setting, not objectifying seems like the right standard.
Rebecca Watson and the other feminazis continue to demonstrate that they only care about themselves and their own feelings, and are completely incapable of any sort of empathy towards men.
Rosenau: "I've never been propositioned by a potential rapist in an elevator."
Of course, nobody suspected he was a potential rapist and there was no evidence of such. But don't let little facts like that get in your way.
One of the lamentable aspects of this uproar is that some men have with great expediency thrown aside common sense and seized upon the opportunity to parade their own righteousness.
Thank you, Jean Kazez and Roger, for being the voice of sanity in this mess.
As a general rule, "uptake" does not happen in the blogging world, so there's no need to feel slighted. People love being right while sitting at their computers, and it's one rare bird who is willing to give up that feeling.
Online discussion often devolves into be a game of multiplayer solipsism. It's perhaps the worst form of human interaction ever invented.
Personally I'm disturbed by the way most of those criticizing Watson(the bloggers mostly) seem to feel the need to make derogatory remarks about how she looks. At least one blog I read commented on how any woman who looks like her should be privileged to actually be hit on, one even going so far to mention that his Masculine pheromones would have attracted her and then given him the chance to turn her down as she stood meekly next to him with her head bowed.
Some seriously creepy people out there blogging.
Watch the video. How many of the guys have their shirt open down their chest? How many of the guys are wearing suggestive clothing? This has nothing to do with wearing "comfortable clothing" and everything to do with women showing cleavage. There are a lot of comfortable, loose fitting summer clothes that do not show cleavage. Where is the video of the guy walking around with a spedo and his behind half showing -- see if anyone looks at that. Step back and take some perspective on the differnce between the clothes that women choose to wear and what men choose to wear (and what is acceptable in our society).
Furthermore, don't you blog on evloution? If the opposite sexes were not attracted to each other, where would we be?
[In addition, I believe your video is from France, which has significantly different veiws on sexual harassment than the United States.]
Maybe there's something lost in translation to me about this "teacup storm" drama...did American White Anglo Women reverted to a new Victorian era? I guess these women have been living a sheltered life were no males approach them without first contacting their family and asking permission to visit them in front of a chaperone.
Anywho, ladies -and equally sheltered males-, being an an attractive female and being looked at, and admired and even *gasp* asked or propositioned by an interested party is NOT a fucking prison. I am a female (Hispanic and non-white), an engineer, I can talk about a diversity of topics and I possess an awesome ass and killer abs that men and females alike stare at. Yes, I am female, I am a bright person, I am fucking hot and when guys approach me, I won't faint. Before I got married, if I liked the guy, I would pay attention. If I didn't like the guy, I would say no. If the guy was a pest, I would advise him to get out of my fucking face. That is being empowered. Crying rape and shaking like a leaf whenever a guy asks you for coffee -or looks at your tits- in this part of the world reeks "First World Problems" and, yes, I agree with Dawkins a "zero bad" situation.
BTW, that whole "this doesn't happen to men" made me laugh like you have no idea...dude, my girlfriends and I indeed did it. Specially to the baseball team guys, they had the most delectable asses. Yes, we talked about their asses. To their faces. Oh, and if I wanted a guy I would wait for him outside of his classroom. Totally shameless.
To finish this diatribe, click on this link http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/ngm/0303/sights_n_sounds/media2.html
Listen to "Feminine Strength". That's the place where I come from. An American territory.
Josh: âAnd if one just wants the privilege of walking down the street without being stared at, one shouldn't have to bring along spare pants and a jacket to be able to control when one is to be objectified and when one isn't. At a bar or a club, people go to objectify and be objectified, so I don't have an issue, but outside that setting, not objectifying seems like the right standard.â
Perhaps there is problem a in the expectation of not being stared at. As you yourself made a distinction, Josh: Walking down the street without being stared at is a privilege, not a right.
Furthermore, I have to question the idea that staring at someone is necessarily objectification, or âworseâ that a strangerâs objectification of oneâs body and appearance should have such an effect on us as to prevent us from carrying on with our lives in peace. This puts oneâs peace of mind in the hands of the stranger. How is that practical, or even reasonable? Isnât it much more empowering to learn to value ourselves regardless of how other people see us?