Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Rebecca Watson and Good Intentions

I feel like a total jerk. About a year ago I took the Skepchicks to task with a blog comment criticizing them for their yearly Skepchick calendar. I thought it was playing into sexism and thought, men don't take us seriously so why on Earth would you play into the idea of women as eye-candy?

Now that Rebecca Watson is at the center of a shitstorm for simply asking for a little space and common courtesy (like don't just walk up to a complete stranger in an enclosed space at 4am and ask them to come back to your hotel room in your very first couple of sentences to them, duh.) I cringe at my previous comment. I was aware of sexism and misogyny in the skeptical movement, but I see the problem is much, MUCH bigger than I imagined. She even got a few patronizing and insulting responses from none other than Richard Dawkins on the Pharyngula blog.

So I'd like to apologize to everyone at Skepchick and especially Rebecca. I thought my intentions were good, i.e., not giving men a chance to see women as purely eye-candy. But I was completely, completely in the wrong. There is absolutely nothing wrong with the calendar or women wearing what some would be considered sexy clothing (sometimes this could be anything less than a burka). Women are fully human and nothing diminshes that, not even when you pose for a calendar. Not that I ever thought that it did, I just worried about how some men would react. But it's not a woman's job to educate men that being human and being 'sexy' for a woman aren't mutually exclusive. That should be self-evident, right? I shouldn't have been worried about how any man would react. Intelligent men get it, the ones who don't aren't worth the time or energy to worry about. The fact that there are some people actually connecting the two now to discredit Rebecca makes me sick to my stomach. And even worse the fact that I said something slightly similar, even though I thought I was saying it in an enlightened way and wasn't trying to shame anyone at Skepchick, or sound like a sexist against other women.

I have a great deal of admiration and respect for Rebecca Watson. The nastiness that's been thrown her way is truly sickening and I don't know if I could have handled the same situation with the grace and humor that she has.

So, my apologies Rebecca. You are a new hero to me and a great voice for both skepticism and women's rights. ;)


EggFilledApples said...

The thing that people keep ignoring is that the main reason this all blew up is that she accused him of "sexualizing" her.

Men and women reacted angrily because they probably think that expressing interest in someone even if it is for sex is no reason to accuse someone of "sexualizing" them.

He expressed interest in her after seeing her presentation. Surely that means he found the subject interesting and as a result found her attractive? Or at the very minimum interesting. We don't know his intention but she accused him of doing something that she had no evidence of and no reason to think about him.

She didn't say whether they spoke at the bar although she most likely did since she expected him to hear her announcing that she was tired.

Yes, it was creepy and probably inappropriate but that isn't grounds for making such an accusation. If he pressed her and refused the answer of "no" then that would be different. She's asking all men to realize that they will be thought of as rapists by her.

Her doing this is HER problem. She wants her insecurity to dictate half of the human races lives.

When I was younger I was beaten badly. It happened twice. Each time they asked for the time. Now, if I was approached by a man in an elevator and he asked me for the time do I have the right to tell all men from there on to bare in mind that when they ask for the time it's only fair that I assume I'm about to be beaten? And so they should never ask anyone the time again?

The problem would be mine. I have no reason to assume ALL people from then on MIGHT beat me. I could look at statistics for violent crimes and look at my past. A lot of my friends have been through the same. One was stabbed nine times in the back after they asked the time. This was mostly because he had long hair and so did I.

It was traumatic but it's the exception. In a hotel should I assume that I'll be getting a beating? Should I accuse everyone of intimidation because I FEEL intimidated? It makes no sense.

The issue, for me anyway, was the fact that she accused him of "sexualization". It'd be the same as me accusing someone of intimidation.

She, without reason labelled him as sexist and told all men that if they ever approach her to show interest then they will be accused of the same.

The rest of this thing was ridiculous. She didn't help herself by reacting the way she did. Dismissing everyone who "didn't get it". It just shows the arrogance that many people have noticed in her. Anyway, I hope this makes sense.

If you have some way of explaining why she should have assumed he had no interest in her talk and had no reason to believe that he really didn't find her feminism interesting please explain it because I've tried viewing this from every way possible and as a skeptic it makes no sense. There are just too many unfounded assumptions.

theoreticalgrrrl said...

Thanks for your comment.

"Yes, it was creepy and probably inappropriate"

I think that was the point she was trying to make. Really, that sums it up. So why the controversy?

She never accused him of being a rapist. She just said it made her uncomfortable. I don't remember her even labeling him a sexist. Rebecca said he didn't say a word to her at the bar, that he only talked to her in the hotel elevator when he asked her back to his room.

If you're interested in someone, there's a time and a place for it. It would have been different if he had asked to meet her the next day to chat or have coffee. Context matters. If he was interested in her talks on feminism, just ask if she'd like to meet the next day to talk some more. If they had actually been on a date, then it would have been totally normal to ask if she'd be interested in coming back to his place. But, in the middle of the night in a elevator is not a good place, and asking a complete stranger back to your hotel room is asking for sex, let's face it. Context matters. It's just common sense.

It's not like they were chatting for a while prior to this...he asked her back to his place in literally his first few sentences to her. I don't think he was "sexist", maybe just very clueless. It's not that there's a problem that he approached her at all, but about how, where and when. I think that point has been made again and again. I don't get how that's difficult to grasp.

The issue of women being afraid of rape was not brought up by Rebecca but by other women in response to her story, which I think is a legitimate point to make.

I know it may be hard for you to understand as someone who doesn't have to walk around being female 24/7, but bear with me. If she had believed it meant just to chat and joined him in his room and something did happen, believe me she would have heard an earful on how she was stupid and "even asking for it" if this stranger had actually attacked her.

We are barraged with constant "advice" on how to avoid being raped, how not to be "stupid" and go back to a man's apartment/hotel room etc. And if we do, well, what did we expect. I don't think your analogy of being beaten up is a good comparison in any way. It's apples and oranges. Imagine if you hear on the news and from family and friends how a woman is "just asking for it" ("it" being rape) by trusting a man and going back to his place or even for wearing the wrong length skirt or drinking in public or flirting or having had consensual sex with other men in the past or posting a 'sexy' picture of herself on facebook, or whatever. And if you have friend after friend who are survivors of rape who tell you that their own family and friends and trusted authority figures told them it was their fault, that they had no sympathy them and told them that rape was their just punishment for trusting the wrong man, believe me you would think twice.