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Time to Raise a Stink


Don’t be fooled by the title of this blog.  I’m in no way referring to an excess expulsion of methane gas, nor am I referring to a proposed vacation to Washington D.C.  I’m going to do what it seems like everyone else is doing: Offer my illegitimate commentary on the Rebecca Watson matter.  I refer to it as illigitimate because I was not there to witness the actions that took place in the ol’ Emerald Isle, nor does my opinion on the matter really…well…matter, at least, no more than anyone else who has weighed in on this topic, from PZ Myers to Richard Dawkins.  Personally, I’d love to live in a world where this type of commentary was unnecessary because it would be second nature to everyone, but we’re just not there yet, it would appear.  But to separate myself from the rest, I’m going to do something unusual, or at least not unique to the matter at hand.  I’m going to apply a little logic to this situation and to the events that followed.

For those who do not know the story:

In the early hours of the morning, after a CFI conference, Rebecca Watson was in an elevator with a “gentleman” who felt it would be appropriate to come on to her in the enclosed and cage-like walls of the modern lifting cart.  He came on very strong and merely asked if she’d like to accompany him back to his hotel for…coffee…or something.  I’m sure we all know what “or something” meant, though, again, I wasn’t there, so I don’t know if those exact words came out of his mouth.  She turned him down, as from what I’ve heard, nothing happened after that.  She returned to her room, and he returned to his to most likely “or something” himself.

Rebecca posted a video citing the situation, saying this: “Um, just a word to wise here, guys, uh, don’t do that. You know, I don’t really know how else to explain how this makes me incredibly uncomfortable, but I’ll just sort of lay it out that I was a single woman, you know, in a foreign country, at 4:00 am, in a hotel elevator, with you, just you, and—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.”

Now, I don’t really see anything wrong with what Rebecca said here.  It didn’t come off as extremely feminist, or radically damning of the man she encountered.  It seemed she was being honest and saying it made her feel uncomfortable.  He was creepy.  I can see that.  I would question the use of the word “sexualize,” though.  First thing, it’s not a real word.  Secondly, being hit on by a man doesn’t mean you’re being sexualized, but, again, I wasn’t there.  I think if he were to walk up to her and start licking her, then she’s certainly being reduced to an object, or being objectified, but from what I understand, that’s not what happened.  He didn’t approach her, take off his clothes and start kissing her shoes or anything creepy like that.  He expressed an obvious interest in spending some time with her in his room.  That is all.

What followed was the disturbing part.  The comments on the blog were extremely radical in nature, running the gambit from claims that many women were afraid to even attend skeptics conventions because, apparently, all skeptic men objectified them and were serial date-rapists.  The comments from the men that followed were even worse.  They ranged from your usual, “Give the guy a break.  You’re hot!” to, “You’re a woman, and I’ll fuck you in the laundry room if I damn well want to.”  Now, I’m obviously paraphrasing, but the comments I read weren’t that far off.  Since then, if you were to click on any singular Skepchick blog, you’ll still see this argument going on between the extremes on both sides.  The extremist feminists claiming that no man has the right to talk to a woman or else it’s a rape scene, and the extreme chauvinists who don’t seem to see anything wrong with pinching a woman’s ass whenever he wants to.  Some comments have been moderate and intermediate, attempting to bring the two sides together with a little bit of logic.  However, others have been anything but.

The following blog was much more disturbing.  After these two extreme groups were screaming at one another through their keyboards, again, the few in the middle being muddled out by the cognitive noise ensuing, Rebecca posted another blog that, instead of quieting the noise and asking people be respectful of one another and not be moronic extremists on one side or the other, she instead decided to fan the flames.  Now, this is just my opinion here, but this blog right here is a great example of how to fan the flames of two opposing sides.

Since then, there has been one more blog from Rebecca herself that seemed to have the same exact aura of flame-fanning – kindling if you will.  Others have weighed in as well, from PZ Myers, who seemingly stood up for Rebecca against the chauvenist side of the argument, and he made good points as well.  You can read them here.  More notably, however, Professor Richard Dawkins included his two cents with this comment:

Dear Muslima

 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.

Richard

Now, was this comment crass?  Yes, yes it was.  I admit that.  He’s a hero of mine, but I can certainly admit it.  I can also say that PZ Myers has a point that we can worry about the plight of Muslim women and also worry about the plight of women in America.  Our brains can handle two things at once (most of us), and the two concepts are not mutually exclusive, in fact, quite to the contrary.  However, there is certainly something to be taken from Richard’s comment here, and that is a commentary on modern feminism in America.  Now, this may seem to contradict what I just said about PZ Myers’ comment, but it doesn’t.  How can something like a woman being hit on in an elevator – not harassed, not objectified as she claims, not sexualized (still not a word), not touched, not groped, not accosted or assaulted, not raped, not murdered, not forced to listen to Justin Bieber albums – when there are women in the third world who are getting stoned for being raped.  I mean, don’t you think that would be something better to get men and women fired up about?  Don’t you think that next to a concept such as this, getting talked to in an elevator is just a little bit of a waste of space in the blogosphere – I’m guilty of it too, now, I admit.

Let me make an analogous point: I’m a person who fights endlessly for the rights of homosexuals.  Homosexuals certainly do have problems in America, and I write about them.  One blog per issue, and I’m certainly not narcissistic enough to make it about my own experiences, as – crazy me – I guess I feel there’s a world outside of my living room that deserves at least an honorable mention.  There are laws in the third world that make homosexuality punishable by death.  There are dictators who will hang you in front of the family you had only to appease your culture, if there were just rumors about you being a homosexual male in their country.  Hell, half of these countries still punish people for witchcraft.  What kind of a selfish prick would I be if I spent a week, a video and three blogs rambling on about how much a friend of mine was bothered because a possible homophobe (though no evidence to say he is) made a slight gesture at him that he took as homophobic (though no evidence to say it was)?

My last point is my most important.  What does this do for anybody?  What does it do for anyone to ramble on with this self-entitlement ideology, which is today’s feminism – not to be confused with real feminism, which at one time was about equality, fairness, civil liberties and equal rights.  Today’s feminism is hardly different from the extreme on the other side.  They both make wild claims and accusations, both against the opposite sex, and about their own entitlement.  One side: A man should be able to rape and accost any woman he wants.  Other side: A man shouldn’t even have the right to speak to a woman that he finds attractive, or else it’s a hostile environment and the man is a would-be rapist.  WHERE DOES THIS GET US? 

How is this extreme ideology on either side any different from extreme religious ideologies.  They both take hold through the human ego, they both stem from a sense of entitlement, and they both hold dire consequences for our species.  Should a woman be afraid to leave her home for fear of being raped?  Absolutely not.  In fact, I don’t think rape laws are harsh enough in this country.  However, should men be afraid of talking to women for fear of having their name or face plastered all over the internet, with words like “creepy” and “rapist” tagged all over the post?  Absolutely not.  Look, I totally agree that the guy probably should have had more respect and more tact, and maybe asked her if she’d like a cup of coffee in the lobby so they could talk more.  Maybe he should have chosen a better setting than an elevator, which has become a modern day rape haven for people.  He could have done a lot of things.  He could have also chosen not to speak to any women at all and just gone back to his room.  We could have all done that at one time or another.  I could have done that 3 years ago when I met my fiancee.  But I didn’t.  Does that make me creepy?  Does that make me a potential sex offender or a rapist?  Does that make me a molester of space or a or a diligent master of masculine manipulation “lookin’ fer a woman to take ma seed and make ma dinner?”  I’m sure that by now you’re seeing the ridiculousness in all of this.

Let’s get over the things that divide us, shall we?  Some men are asses – most aren’t.  Some women are bitches – most aren’t.  Making generalizations to the contrary is doing nothing for us as a society.  Neither is taking extreme positions on one side or the other.  Most of us want peace, equality, men and women to be able to do the same jobs for the same pay and the same opportunities for advancement.  Most of us don’t want men or women to be held up on pedestals as the superior sex, because there’s no such thing.  For all of the faults that one side has against the other, there is a strength to replace it.  It’s the positive and negative energy paradigm.  And without the right amounts of protons and electrons, we’re fucked.  Without unity between us, we’re fucked.  I think it’s time we see that.  And for those who feel that there shouldn’t be equal treatment on both sides of the spectrum, well, then move to the third world where you’ll feel at home, or move to Amazonia where you’ll feel at home. 

Nobody wants you to “be a good girl and shut up,” Rebecca, but if you could quit fanning the flames of hatred and self-entitlement ideology, the rest of us, men and women alike, would surely appreciate it.  It’s not as much your own words as those in the comments on your blog, but you’re doing nothing to diminish it, and you’re making it worse by carrying this on and being continuously insulting to the other sex.  You’re doing nothing for the skeptical movement but painting us all to be a bunch of misogynists, and you’re only reinforcing many of our views on modern day feminism and how it’s become nothing more than another hate movement with entitlement delusions.  Just stop, okay?  You weren’t attacked, so quit acting like you were.

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