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Rebecca Watson - Skepticism and Feminism
Posted: 19 July 2011 12:26 PM   [ Ignore ]
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Our guest this week is Rebecca Watson, the founder of the Skepchick blog. Recently, she’s been at the center of an explosive controversy over the relationship between feminism and the skeptic/atheist movement.
It all started when Watson made a relatively casual remark in a video to her followers. She was discussing her travels and a talk she’d given in Ireland about sexism in the atheist/skeptic community. Overall, Watson said, the response to her remarks had been great—but then she added something else. After the talk, she said, she’d received an advance from a man in an elevator—a man who apparently didn’t get the message.

“Guys, don’t do that,” said Watson. “I was a single woman in a foreign country at 4 am in a hotel elevator with you. Just you. 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.”

In one way or another—and with many other debate participants involved-this story led to thousands upon thousands of blog comments, and an outpouring of support-and criticism. So Point of Inquiry asked Watson to address the controversy, and to talk more generally about atheism and feminism.

Rebecca Watson is the founder of the Skepchick blog, a co-host of the Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe podcast, and a prominent speaker and commenter on skepticism, feminism, freethought, and the religious right.

http://www.pointofinquiry.org/rebecca_watson_skepticism_and_feminism/

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Posted: 19 July 2011 01:26 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Rebecca is seriously confused as to what feminism is all about. She seems to believe the feminist movement is all about stopping flirtation. Her bit was all about women being hit on and not liking it… Heaven forbid!

Wikipedia: “Feminism is a collection of movements aimed at defining, establishing, and defending equal political, economic, and social rights and equal opportunities for women.”

Women have the right to hit on men, equality would be men having the right to hit on women… You do not have a right to not be hit on, no one does. You have a right to not be touched or sexually harassed. However, everyone (Male or Female) has the right to flirt with other people. You need to toughen up, you are going to get hit on, take it as a compliment and get over it… Fight for important issues like wage equality, reproductive rights and other important issues.

(For the record, I’m gay - so I know exactly what getting hit on by men in awkward situations feels like… Think an elevator is awkward? Try a urinal.)

It also needs to be noted that the fact that the sceptic society is populated by mostly males does not make it automatically sexist. If it was no one would be paying any attention to Watson. Lots of industries and communities have more men than women or more women than men… Doesn’t mean it’s a de facto sexist community.

Rebecca also seems to have a serious issue with men in general, she recently tweeted “Misogyny: the assumption that a woman gets upgraded for her tits, not for total miles flown. How did the self check-in even SEE them?”

Misogyny is a hatred or dislike of women… Such an assumption shows no hatred or dislike… A sexist comment; maybe, misogynistic? No. If a man got a promotion and a woman said “he only got the promotion because he’s a man” no one would accuse that woman of misandry in fact most feminists would probably support such an assumption.

As a sceptic, I am sceptical of the feminist use of the word “equality” because they seem far more focused on replacing a male dominated society with a female dominated society or at the very least on giving rights and protections to women that do not exist for men. Perfect example: Spain’s recent requirement that 40% of boardroom members be female… A 100% female board is perfectly acceptable because there is is no equal requirement that 40% be male.

[ Edited: 19 July 2011 02:06 PM by omniomi ]
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Posted: 19 July 2011 02:23 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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This is a shame.  I feel badly that this happened.  I am a man and I apologize for these things (if that’s possible).  I must admit that I have found it a very attractive thing when a woman is a skeptic but these sorts of behaviors should not have happened.  It also surprises me in the extreme that Dawkins handled it in the manner that he did.

[ Edited: 19 July 2011 04:23 PM by drstrangelove ]
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Posted: 19 July 2011 02:57 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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I thought that Rebecca did, as usual, a good job of explaining what the problem in the skeptics/atheist community is.  Unfortunately, her argument needs little more proof than many of the responses it elicits.  Frankly, many of the members of this community would not survive basic HR training in the average corporation or institution.  (Don’t take that too literally ... they would survive it in that they would still be alive after it. That was a metaphor.)

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Posted: 19 July 2011 03:02 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Personally i wouldn’t proposition Rebecca in an elevator in that situation, as yes it would obviously be perceived as awkward, or in ill taste. But to flat out say that people without this kind of common sense are ‘wrong’ or shouldn’t be allowed to act in a certain way is blatantly bigoted. Who is to say the majority ‘mode’ of flirtation, or Rebecca’s personal preference is the best one for all people on earth. This guy’s only game plan may be forward unrestrained communication. Sure it does not work on her, or most women probably, but that is his way of putting himself out there. Rebecca you need to re-assess what is right and wrong in the world and separate objectivity from subjectivity on such matters. ‘awkwardness’ is not a universal language i am afraid.

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Posted: 19 July 2011 03:09 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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craggles - 19 July 2011 03:02 PM

...you need to re-assess what is right and wrong in the world and separate objectivity from subjectivity on such matters. ‘awkwardness’ is not a universal language i am afraid.

here’s how objectivity vs. subjectivity works in much of the skeptical community:  If you agree with me, we are both being objective.  If you disagree with me, you are being subjective and I am being objective.

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Posted: 19 July 2011 03:15 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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greg_laden - 19 July 2011 03:09 PM
craggles - 19 July 2011 03:02 PM

...you need to re-assess what is right and wrong in the world and separate objectivity from subjectivity on such matters. ‘awkwardness’ is not a universal language i am afraid.

here’s how objectivity vs. subjectivity works in much of the skeptical community:  If you agree with me, we are both being objective.  If you disagree with me, you are being subjective and I am being objective.

When it comes to preferred mode of flirtation, how can one claim to have some kind of objective position as though culture has had no influence. We can all agree physical harm is a total no go area as its very easy to define black and white rules on such matters. But to try and turn this massive grey area of ‘what one considers awkward’ into a black & white rule set reeks of nothing but subjectively. Rebecca seems as misguided as most feminists I have met.

[ Edited: 19 July 2011 03:19 PM by craggles ]
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Posted: 19 July 2011 04:53 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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omniomi - 19 July 2011 01:26 PM

You do not have a right to not be hit on, no one does. You have a right to not be touched or sexually harassed. However, everyone (Male or Female) has the right to flirt with other people. You need to toughen up, you are going to get hit on, take it as a compliment and get over it… Fight for important issues like wage equality, reproductive rights and other important issues.

Since when does anyone have a right to harass someone else and invade that person’s space without consent?

Actual right guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution: privacy

Not actual rights guaranteed by any constitution or charter in any country: flirting, harassment, sexual harassment

Your rights stop where another person’s rights start, and it’s beyond time for everyone to regard women as people with rights. No one has the right to harass and intimidate another person, and many women (and some men) regard getting hit on as harassment and/or intimidation. It’s not a compliment to have guys yelling obscene crap at you when you walk down the street. It’s not a compliment to be in the middle of something that requires attention and to get interrupted by someone who places his desire to talk to you above whatever you’re doing or saying. It’s not a compliment to have a drunk person stagger up and say s/he likes your body parts—that person is judging you based solely on their desire for sex and is totally ignoring the fact that you’re a human being. You have every right to be upset when people treat you as an object or as anything less than an equal person.

This behavior is not ok, and it happens to women constantly. Our body parts are judged by everyone around us, and the overwhelming majority of women experience some level of harassment from men who won’t back off or take “no” for an answer. Why should anyone have to put up with it? Why is it so difficult to acknowledge that women should be treated as whole human beings with rights and not as assemblages of body parts that exist for the pleasure of others? Why is it so difficult to acknowledge that there are times and places for everything, and that it wouldn’t kill people to pass on flirting with others under awkward or creepy circumstances?

I say this as a married woman who still isn’t safe from this type of harassment…you’d think that people would have more class than to hit on someone wearing a wedding ring. Nope.

As for the “fight for ‘important’ issues” canard…seriously? Any intelligent person should understand that the societal image of women existing solely as sexual objects and not as human beings with equal rights impacts us at work, at home, through government law…change the attitude, and then it’s easier to change the rest.

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Posted: 19 July 2011 04:58 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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I haven’t heard the interview yet, but I have been reading the blogs. This one from Blag Hag is one everyone should check out. She addresses what is NOT mysoginistic, FYI omniomi. Also Greta Christina went on for great length, including saying that discussing what is and isn’t kosher and how we all feel about it is great, but attacking Rebecca and making assumptions about her character is not so great.

Otherwise, I plan to not get too deep into this discussion.

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Posted: 19 July 2011 04:59 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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@Sethra Lavode,
Thats a very passionate rant, but it does not address my point of how we can somehow magically draw a line in the sand for a universal ‘awkward’ situation. Men objectify women, but so do women men. Sexism to me is only when double standards are in use, NOT when the world at large refuses to adhere to a womens personal wants & desires.

[ Edited: 19 July 2011 05:02 PM by craggles ]
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Posted: 19 July 2011 05:14 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Sethra Lavode - 19 July 2011 04:53 PM

Actual right guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution: privacy

Not actual rights guaranteed by any constitution or charter in any country: flirting, harassment, sexual harassment

Flirtation is not sexual harassment or regular harassment unless it progresses past “I’m not interested.” In Rebecca’s original video she does not say the man in the elevator pressured her beyond the initial invitation.

Harassment: “commonly understood as behaviour intended to disturb or upset, and it is characteristically repetitive.”

Sethra Lavode - 19 July 2011 04:53 PM

Your rights stop where another person’s rights start, and it’s beyond time for everyone to regard women as people with rights. No one has the right to harass and intimidate another person, and many women (and some men) regard getting hit on as harassment and/or intimidation.

It doesn’t matter that you regard flirtation as harassment UNTIL you tell me that. Society and the law does not see innocent flirtation as harassment, until you ask for the flirtor to stop you have no case for harassment.

Sethra Lavode - 19 July 2011 04:53 PM

It’s not a compliment to have guys yelling obscene crap at you when you walk down the street. It’s not a compliment to be in the middle of something that requires attention and to get interrupted by someone who places his desire to talk to you above whatever you’re doing or saying. It’s not a compliment to have a drunk person stagger up and say s/he likes your body parts—that person is judging you based solely on their desire for sex and is totally ignoring the fact that you’re a human being. You have every right to be upset when people treat you as an object or as anything less than an equal person.

This is not a conversation about cat calling, or obscene flirtation.

“I find you interesting, and would like to talk more” does not equal “Hey tuts, nice rack”

Sethra Lavode - 19 July 2011 04:53 PM

This behavior is not ok, and it happens to women constantly. Our body parts are judged by everyone around us, and the overwhelming majority of women experience some level of harassment from men who won’t back off or take “no” for an answer. Why should anyone have to put up with it? Why is it so difficult to acknowledge that women should be treated as whole human beings with rights and not as assemblages of body parts that exist for the pleasure of others? Why is it so difficult to acknowledge that there are times and places for everything, and that it wouldn’t kill people to pass on flirting with others under awkward or creepy circumstances?

We are not talking about men who won’t take “no” for an answer… Rebecca directly addressed ALL MEN and told ALL MEN that propositioning for coffee is not acceptable.

Further, ones definition of a creepy or awkward situation will be different from that of others.

Sethra Lavode - 19 July 2011 04:53 PM

I say this as a married woman who still isn’t safe from this type of harassment…you’d think that people would have more class than to hit on someone wearing a wedding ring. Nope.

I’m gay (I mentioned this previously), in your country I don’t get to wear a wedding ring, not a nice thing to bring up in a discussion about equality.

Sethra Lavode - 19 July 2011 04:53 PM

As for the “fight for ‘important’ issues” canard…seriously? Any intelligent person should understand that the societal image of women existing solely as sexual objects and not as human beings with equal rights impacts us at work, at home, through government law…change the attitude, and then it’s easier to change the rest.

Do I need to keep reminding you I’m gay? I’m that guy who women go to for some gossiping about men and ogling of men. Women tell their gay friends everything. Don’t try and feed me some bullshit about women not objectifying men, My female friends constantly point out hot men to me.

Why do you think shows like True Blood which are marketed at women feature dozens of extremely attractive men constantly removing their clothing…. Women online who post on True Blood fan sites or twitter seem to love the character of Eric Northman even though he is a manipulative ass… Do you really think they all love him for his personality? Or could it be his stunning good looks, amazing muscles, and tight ass which is constantly shown.

I have worked under female team leads, female directors, and female national directors and do you know what industry I am in? I work in IT a predominately male industry. There are also plenty of laws protecting women’s rights and you are perfectly free to leave your marriage if you have issues at home. I will not deny that we still live in a male centric society still but you come off as suggesting we still live in a society where women cannot get ahead at work, where women are the property of their husbands, and where government and the judicial system ignore the plight of women… That is simply not the case… We have a ways to go yet, but we are not still sitting at the beginning of the feminist movement, the movement has accomplished much - you be little the accomplishment of feminists before you.

[ Edited: 19 July 2011 05:23 PM by omniomi ]
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Posted: 19 July 2011 05:19 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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omniomi - 19 July 2011 05:14 PM

I’m gay (I mentioned this previously), in your country I don’t get to wear a wedding ring, not a nice thing to bring up in a discussion about equality.

I live in Canada now, and same-sex marriage is perfectly legal here. That’s one of the reasons that I prefer this country over the U.S. - they actually care about *all* of their citizens, and the Charter specifically states that everyone regardless of gender must be treated equally under the law.

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Posted: 19 July 2011 05:25 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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Sethra Lavode - 19 July 2011 05:19 PM
omniomi - 19 July 2011 05:14 PM

I’m gay (I mentioned this previously), in your country I don’t get to wear a wedding ring, not a nice thing to bring up in a discussion about equality.

I live in Canada now, and same-sex marriage is perfectly legal here. That’s one of the reasons that I prefer this country over the U.S. - they actually care about *all* of their citizens, and the Charter specifically states that everyone regardless of gender must be treated equally under the law.

My apologies, you quoted the U.S. constitution - so I assumed.

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Posted: 19 July 2011 05:54 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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craggles - 19 July 2011 04:59 PM

@Sethra Lavode,
Thats a very passionate rant, but it does not address my point of how we can somehow magically draw a line in the sand for a universal ‘awkward’ situation. Men objectify women, but so do women men. Sexism to me is only when double standards are in use, NOT when the world at large refuses to adhere to a womens personal wants & desires.

Here’s a good litmus test for you.

If you see a man at your local library and he’s typing away on his laptop and frowning intently at the screen, would you wander over and interrupt him to start a conversation with him?

If you see a woman at your local library and she’s typing away on her laptop and frowning intently at the screen, would you wander over and interrupt her to start a conversation with her?

If you would consider it rude to interrupt either of them, then you’re way ahead of many men. This happened to me a couple of weeks ago at my local library. I still don’t understand why a complete stranger thought it was acceptable to interrupt me when I clearly looked like I was concentrating on something. I gave him a short, terse answer and kept working, and he stood there staring at me for nearly 10 minutes before going away, getting visibly angry that I wouldn’t try and continue the conversation. This behavior is rude, regardless of whether a person has any sexual interest in another person or not.

If you see an attractive woman reading a book and you want to talk to her, ask yourself if you’d interrupt a man who was reading the same text. If you wouldn’t interrupt the man based on it being rude but you would interrupt the woman, then your interest in the woman as a sexual object outweighs her status as a human being deserving of equal consideration.

A belief that what women are doing or saying is less important than a man’s perceived right to interact with them is sexist.

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Posted: 19 July 2011 05:57 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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Sethra, well put.

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Posted: 19 July 2011 06:06 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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Sethra Lavode - 19 July 2011 05:54 PM

If you see a man at your local library and he’s typing away on his laptop and frowning intently at the screen, would you wander over and interrupt him to start a conversation with him?

If you see a woman at your local library and she’s typing away on her laptop and frowning intently at the screen, would you wander over and interrupt her to start a conversation with her?
............................................

How can you outright ignore all the laws of the jungle responsible for our very existence? Male/Female interactions dont exists in a vacuum devoid of any bias or intentions. That goes for either side.

Why not flip the question around? If i dont feel it outright rude to interrupt someone in this situation then why should i NOT prefer talking to the female over the male? There is always the possibility we are both single and have a mutual interest in each other. You will never know if you never try right? The rest of it about hanging around in a creepy fashion need not apply, that much is common sense and is not the issue at hand. Your question and following paragraph seems to completely ignore mechanisms deep set in our biology. It is also very opinionated. One could argue the case just as easily that banning such behavior would severely damage our well-being in that we can no longer exist in a community where we are not afraid of meeting new people. If you want a sexless society then well, you really have to look at moving to a new planet.

Sethra Lavode - 19 July 2011 05:54 PM

If you see an attractive woman reading a book and you want to talk to her, ask yourself if you’d interrupt a man who was reading the same text. If you wouldn’t interrupt the man based on it being rude but you would interrupt the woman, then your interest in the woman as a sexual object outweighs her status as a human being deserving of equal consideration.

A belief that what women are doing or saying is less important than a man’s perceived right to interact with them is sexist.

Its a risk scale value judgement. Obviously if I deemed it incredibly rude i wouldn’t approach either. But if the rude factor was small enough and the possibility of reward was favored over the risk of her small inconvenience then I would consider approaching the lady. You cant just make these closed questions and not consider all the factors involved.

[ Edited: 19 July 2011 06:11 PM by craggles ]
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