Weighing in on ElevatorGate: Perspectives and Privilege.


  1. Before I start: Trigger warning for talk of potential sexual assault and misogyny. Oh, also orientalism and Islamophobia and talk of FGM. Also describing the opinions of MRAs, PUAs, and an immensity of mansplaining, so even if you don’t need TWs, you might want to affix a small pillow to your forehead.

Also, if you happen to be my mother, than I’m warning you that I use several different swearwords here. If you’re Richard Dawkins, then you’re not my mother and you don’t get to complain if I swear.

If you’re lucky enough to not have been in the more skeptically and atheistically inclined corners of the internet this weekend, you’ll probably not have heard of ElevatorGate. Here’s a summary of events. For those of you who are already well aware of what’s been going on, I’ve popped some headings up so you can skip the summary, if you like.

What Happened at the Convention

Last month was the World Atheist Convention here in Dublin. One of the speakers was Rebecca Watson. Rebecca spoke on a Communicating Atheism panel. Her talk focused on her experiences as a female atheist activist- particularly her experiences of misogyny and inappropriate sexualisation. That night she went to the hotel bar with other attendees. Stayed up chatting till 4am, at which time she said to everyone that she was exhausted, that she’s had enough and was going to bed*. She gets into the elevator. A man follows her in to the elevator, says that he finds her very interesting, and would she like to come back to his room for coffee. She declines, goes to bed.

A few weeks later, Rebecca puts up a vlog in which she talks about the things she’s been doing, including this. If you don’t fancy looking through all of it, she talks about the afternoon panel from about 2:30, and her comments on Elevator Guy start at about 4:40.

Here’s her criticism of Elevator Guy:

“Just a word to the wise, 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 lay it out that I was a single woman, in a foreign country at 4am in a hotel elevator with you. Just you. And I.. Don’t invite me back to your hotel room, right after I’ve finished talking about how it creeps me out and it makes me uncomfortable when men sexualise me in that manner. So.. yeah”

That’s it. She didn’t call ElevatorGuy a rapist. She didn’t say that this was the worst thing that has ever happened. She didn’t say anything, in fact, about the intentions of ElevatorGuy. She said that a thing had happened, that in that context it was highly inappropriate and made her feel uncomfortable, and she advised people to not do things like that in future. She then, by the way, goes on to say that loads of other people- both men and women- at the conference were awesome.

What Happened Next.

I’d love to say that what happened next was that the internet said “oh, right”, and toddled on about their business with just a little bit more of an idea of how to not make people feel incredibly uncomfortable. Maybe that some people asked for clarification on what had happened, got it, and than moved on. Because this? This should not have been a big deal.

But these things are always big deals.

Accusations fly of how Rebecca hates men. Of how she’s a feminazi who doesn’t want men to ever be able to talk to women. About how men can do nothing these days without being accused of being rapists. Of how she’s making a big deal over nothing** and should Get Over It. Of how she’s villifying poor, innocent ElevatorGuy*** who was probably just a shy, socially awkward chap who wanted nothing more than a cup of coffee. Of how she’s some kind of big-headed vanitybot who can’t accept that obviously an offer of coming back to someone’s room for coffee and a chat at 4am is hardly ever an invitation for sex, and how dare she think that anyone could be attracted to her.

All because, by the way, she said that a thing made her feel uncomfortable and that people should probably not do things like that.

But then things got worse. So, so much worse. Because here is where Richard Dawkins got involved. Yes, that Richard Dawkins.

What Richard Did Next.

Richard Dawkins commented on this. Fortunately for me, Jen McCreight has done a marvellous job of covering this one, so I don’t have to. But because I’d like to keep at least one or two readers here for the moment, I’ll quote RD’s original comment (as posted in Pharyngula):

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

If your forehead’s all bruised from the headdesking, don’t blame me. I told you you’d need that pillow. I wouldn’t be surprised if RD finished this screed with an entreaty to Watson to finish off her vegetables because there are poor hungry kids in Africa**** who’d just love a plate of mushy, overcooked broccoli.

There are a few things I’m not going to even start with here. The lumping of all Muslims into one big, amorphous blob. The assumption that no Muslims are, in fact, Americans. The equation of a religion with a billion or so incredibly diverse followers and the actions of assholes who choose to interpret that religion in a very particular, very narrow, very fucked-up way. Because those things? Those things are important. They are big deals. They are not things that I wanted to leave unmentioned here. But they are also things for another day, and another post. Because here I want to focus not on the ways that the skeptical community can be prejudiced against other groups. I want to focus on the ways in which we have just treated one of our own.

What RD did was not unique, or special. It was not particularly different to what many other people had done. All it did, really, was fan the flames. And oh, what flames there were! Flames and flames and flames and flames and flames. And flames. And that’s just the flames on my own little RSS feed.

Wherein I get to the point.

And here is where I get to what I would like to say about this. What I’m talking about is mainly about how the discussion of this has gone- which is, in turn, a thing which mainly exists in the comments of the posts I’ve linked to so far in this post.

I want to talk about how what happened has been framed. And what that says about who is and is not privileged in our society.

Let’s go back to those accusations against Watson that I mentioned earlier. They tend to fall into a certain small number of categories.

  1. Rebecca is, herself, privileged. Loads of worse things happen to women every day and she needs to get over herself.
  2. ElevatorGuy wasn’t a rapist! Why are people being mean to ElevatorGuy? Can’t a guy catch a break around here? Why did Rebecca call him a rapist?!
  3. Rebecca wants to outlaw flirting. If a man can’t approach a woman in a suggestive manner, then nobody will ever have sex with anyone, ever.
  4. This is totally just another way that women make false accusations against men. Just like those false accusations of rape that happen all the time. ALL THE TIME, DOODZ.
  5. So, yeah, women get raped. But what about the poor non-rapist men who feel uncomfortable being associated with rapists?
  6. …yeah, I’m just expressing my opinion. You want me to not express my opinion now, huh? Fuckin’ feminazis, trying to silence men.

Okay. So I’ll admit that I’ve taken a liberty or two with phrasing here. Guilty as charged. But the concepts are reasonably true to form. And here’s the thing about them:

They’re almost all talking about how men feel, and how ElevatorGuy felt.

This is a problem of framing, and one of perspectives. You see, Watson didn’t actually accuse ElevatorGuy of any terrible intentions. She just said that a thing had happened, and how she felt about it, and that people shouldn’t do those kinds of things if they don’t want people to feel uncomfortable. Particularly if the person in question has specifically stated that they don’t want that kind of interaction.

The responses don’t talk about that. The responses don’t talk about Watson’s perspective. They don’t frame the issue as one which is about her. They frame the issue as something she said, which is about men. Men are the people who are relevant, in these responses. Men are the ones whose feelings we should worry about, and think about, and consider.

A woman mentions a thing that made her feel uncomfortable, and the discussion surrounding this is all about how the men felt to hear about it.

This is systemic privilege. A group of people are so accustomed to having discussions be framed around them, that even when the thing being described is mainly about a non-group member, they are able to alter the discussion to be about them.

A woman mentions a thing that made her feel uncomfortable, and is immediately villified and told that her concerns are unimportant.

This is systemic privilege. A group of people are so accustomed to having discussions be framed around their needs, their issues, their comforts and discomforts, that they are unable to see a thing from an outside perspective.

A woman mentions a thing that made her feel uncomfortable, and her concerns are brushed off and compared unfavourably to a relatively-marginalised group.

This is systemic privilege. A group of people are so accustomed to their privilege that any marginalisation that is not incredibly extreme is invisible to them. So accustomed to their privilege that they cannot imagine anyone can walk in the same circles they do, exist in the same society, and not share it.

There are many, many more things that I could say about this. About why ElevatorGuy acted inappropriately. About the contexts in which this happened. But this post is about framing. About who gets to talk, who they talk about, and what that means. About whose perspectives are seen as worthwhile.

* Can’t fault her on this one, since I, lightweight I am, had begged off about three hours beforehand.

** She wasn’t the one making the big deal here. A minute or so of talking on a vlog? Not. Making. A. Fuss.

*** Did you see anything in that quote where she says ElevatorGuy is a bad person? Because I didn’t. She says that he did a thing, that she felt uncomfortable, and that people shouldn’t do that thing. I’m not a bad person because I ate the last of your cookies. I just owe you a damn cookie and should probably not do that again.

**** Just Africa, of course. And all of Africa. Because Africa’s a country, not a continent, and everything is the same there and everyone knows that all the kids in Africa are poor and hungry, and all the kids in Europe and the US are rich and full. (yes this is snark)

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56 thoughts on “Weighing in on ElevatorGate: Perspectives and Privilege.

  1. I haven’t followed this affair too closely – the first hint I got about ElevatorGate was on Skepchick – someone mentioned the male reaction to Rebecca’s video.

    So, not knowing what to expect, I went and watched it.

    “Just a word to the wise, guys? Uh, don’t do that”

    And I was left asking myself, “is that it, really?!”.

    I just moved on – I figured that the frenzied responses by men trying to paint Rebecca as a feminazi hell bent on imposing an absurd, “don’t flirt with women” ideology on poor old us – would forever stand monument to male ineptitude towards the female perspective.

    Then Dawkins got involved, which you’ve covered excellently.

    I can’t add a great deal to this debate – but one thing particularly bothers me:

    The manner in which Dawkins involved himself in the discussion:
    It smacks of intellectual dishonesty, now whether it’s deliberate or otherwise, I don’t know – but if anyone responds to a calm, measured opinion piece by using straw man like arguments, creating a bizarre and untrue caricature of the other side in order to advance their own argument – then I have to wonder about their motivations.

    Nothing, absolutely nothing Rebecca said was outlandish, or provocative, I think it should just be regarded as common sense. So why the response?

    If he had an issue with what Rebecca said, there were an infinite number of ways by which he could have broached the topic in a more fitting manner, yet he chose not to, he chose to further inflame the debate.

    To what end?

    Dawkins has forever lost my respect.

    Maybe I’m going over the top myself, but I have to draw a parallel to one of your previous posts – the reaction we got on Saturday from the Anti-Choice brigade.

    Instead of letting us shout Choice while they shouted “Life” – a large proportion of their number refused to leave it at that, they went with deliberately emotive language – calling us nazi scum & murderers, some of them screamed those words in our face.

    Once a debate goes down the road of absurd insults, any chance for reasoned debate and discussion is gone.

    As with Dawkins, I have to ask, what then is the motivation?

  2. Cool! I’ve been following this – but didn’t bother posting anywhere because it’s such a mudslide and I have questions I’d like answered. Cos I’m confused.

    Please tell me where I’m wrong.

    Provisio: the elevator guy is a knob. Major facepalm on that one.

    But….

    1. RW describes this scenario as if she stepped in to the lift and the guy says “like your stuff, how bout coffee, my room”. Is it not possible that they were standing at the lift doors waiting for a minute or two, they got chatting, they go up in the lift, gets to his floor he says fancy a coffee (proviso still applies).

    2. “when men sexualize me…” – is that part of the “in my speech” clause or the guy in the lift clause? Because the former doesn’t bother me – but the latter is “way to put words in the guy’s mouth”. If he was trying to sexualize her then yes he would say this, but he could also say it without trying to sexualize her. It’s a bit of a blanket accusation. He could be gay for all we know. (But then I might have just read this wrong).

    3. On Richard Dawkins: search Pharyngula for “FGM” – one thread a year ago 500 comments. On this issue at least 6 threads 5000+ comments. For RD to point out that some perspective is needed is not far off the mark. Also RD was being sarcastic (maybe ill advised) so you can’t be completely clear about his intentions. He might be saying elevatorgate is insignificant OR he might be saying it is significant yes, but hey having your genitals cut off is way more significant especially in light of the 10-1 comment ratio in the wrong direction.

    • He might be saying elevatorgate is insignificant OR he might be saying it is significant yes, but hey having your genitals cut off is way more significant especially in light of the 10-1 comment ratio in the wrong direction.

      It’s obvious to me that it’s the latter: he made a clear connection between two areas in women’s rights. If he were merely saying it’s insignificant, he could have been all “yeah sorry you don’t have food or water, Third World, but I’ve got my own problems!”

      • Well….he came back later and clarified that he saw the incident as involving “zero harm” and likened her experience to having to listen to someone chew gum in the elevator, so…I rather think it’s the former not the latter.

    • In which case, you don’t get to use us (Muslim women) to excuse your own sexism against non-Muslim women. Patriarchal devices.

      • That’s something I didn’t understand: why did he address the message to ‘muslima’ – it would only make sense if ‘muslima’ was another user on Pharyngula, but there was no such user.

        If he was referring to Muslim women in general, I don’t understand what they had to do with anything in the whole elevator incident – and it’s a very atypical for him to use such a coarse method as attacking a specific group.

    • “Please tell me where I’m wrong.”

      For starters, you are questioning Watson’s description of the event not only without having any reason to do so, but without even having the honesty to come right and state that you are accusing her of lying.

      (Huh? What? Did she forget about the hypothetical pleasant conversation that occurred while they were waiting for the elevator?)

      Secondly, you seem to be extremely confused about how internet comment threads work.

      Sadly, the ones with the most comments are not the ones where people magically transform each typed word into a child saved from the evils of Islam. They are, generally, the ones that are the most personal and contentious. That the post on FGM had even 500 comments is actually extremely sad considering the fact that the reason why it was that contentious was because many of those comments were people trying to change the conversation into one about male circumcision (in the West?).

      That this should-be-non-issue has created such a firestorm is not evidence that Western feminists don’t care about Muslim women/women in those other countries,* but rather that the Western Atheist/Skeptic community has plenty of it’s own shit that it refuses to deal with.

      *oh, how I just *adore* the erasure of Muslim feminists and Western Muslims….

      • I don’t think for one second that Rebecca is lying. However, she made a very brief statement about the incident on a vlog, the consequences of which she could not possibly have foreseen. I wasn’t there – so I don’t know if there was more to it – and frankly it doesn’t matter: If he had been talking to her for 5 minutes or 30 seconds – the comment, especially in a lift, was inappropriate.

        But as I said, I find the phrasing confusing – and it unfortunately leaves room for interpretation (which is what you would expect from vlogs). And on reading further comments by Rebecca, I’m pretty sure the term “sexualized” refers to the content of her talk and not the coffee-invite, except in juxtaposition.

        I also don’t think I am confused about Internet comments, as the phrases:

        “Sadly, the ones with the most comments are…”

        and

        “That this should-be-non-issue…”

        suggest that you might agree with Richard Dawkins’ appeal not to go overboard on this issue. Though I’m not overly impressed with his tactics – sarcasm is, in this case, the lowest form of wit.

  3. Pingback: Am I Reading the Wrong Feminists? « Clarissa's Blog

  4. Of how she’s a feminazi who doesn’t want men to ever be able to talk to women.

    Um, yeah, that’s about right. Don’t fucking talk to me. You are not entitled to a conversation.

    I can’t even explain how much this pisses me off. And I can fucking speak for myself Dawkins.

  5. Pingback: Elevators – Michael Alan Miller

  6. I was going to respond to this post yesterday, but it’s National Arts Festival here in Grahamstown and there are so many wonderful people to meet and shows to see that I simply ran out of time, so a lot of what I wanted to say has been covered by David Mee above.

    I think I first stumbled onto this discussion at Pharyngula (although it’s been in so many places it’s hard to be sure) and I was flabbergasted by the amount of anger and hatred directed towards Rebecca, what could she possibly have said to incite such strong feelings? Whatever it was, it must have been bad, so I watched the video. Is that it? 0.o

    Rebecca’s response to the situation was appropriate and proportional, “Don’t do that, it makes women feel uncomfortable” and everyone should have nodded their heads and gone “Duh!” and moved on. Of course that isn’t what happened, the responses ranged from the ignorant to the downright vile and horrific, and it just makes me so incredibly sad.

    When I first read Dawkins’ comment I really wanted to believe that he was reacting to the disproportionate response in general, after all, having seen the comments, it’s not unreasonable to conclude that what Rebecca had said must have been pretty bad. His snarky response may have been justified if Rebecca had been claiming any number of things that people have attributed to her. However I would have still been hugely disappointed that he chose to comment on something in that manner without first getting the facts. Unfortunately his subsequent post shattered any illusion and proved that he thinks “it was zero bad”. Hopefully he’ll use this opportunity to learn and realise his mistake and post an apology, I’m not ready to vilify him yet, but my admiration and respect for him has taken a severe knock.

    All in all, this incident has just served to make me sad, so incredibly sad. Sad that Rebecca had so much hate directed at her. Sad that women have so much hate directed at them. Sad that people are so ignorant and hate filled. And just sad that this topic needed any discussion at all. Rebecca said in a later post (and Jen McCreight spoke of a similar experience in the comments) that she never started out considering herself particularly feminist, that the comments from the atheist and skeptical movements made her feminist, that women are compelled to spend so much of their time and effort simply to be treated as equals, well that’s the saddest thing of all.

  7. As an aside, I know this is off topic but am I the only one who really hates everyone appending “gate” onto everything? I can imagine the first time someone did it after the watergate scandal that it was funny and clever, but now? It’s just uncreative. Obviously I know Aoife didn’t coin it ElevatorGate, I’ve seen it on a lot of the articles on this, but I just wish everyone would let the “gate” meme be relegated to the annals of history.

  8. I enjoyed your take on this issue. While Im disappointed at RD’s response I’m not entirely surprised. I think he has lost some introspection, consequence of believing your own hype? You are spot on with with your comment on systemic privilege. And its when that systemic privilege gets codified in religions and laws that we get the situation in some countries that RD finds so abhorrent. But really, best not to let it get that far I think.

  9. This has brought up a lot of dickishness.

    Oh, why don’t you focus on the nutty end of the pro-Rebecca part of this argument too? The ones who actually state that all me are dangerous potential rapists?

    Schroedigger’s Rapist is one of the favourite chants of those idiots.

    • Sexual assault and rape are very real risks for the majority of women, particularly in my country where we have the highest rate of rape in the world (depressing right?), as such it’s not unreasonable for women to be cautious, particularly when men go out of their way to isolate and proposition a woman. And you know what? Neither you nor me will ever understand that feeling.

      I don’t know if you saw the analogy that Jen linked to on BlagHag, but I found it rather a good explanation of why us, as men, just don’t get it when it comes to feeling sexually threatened. You can find it here, https://sindeloke.wordpress.com/2010/01/13/37/

      All Rebecca was really asking was that men be mindful of this disparity and try their best to minimise any discomfort caused to women when engaging them in social situations. Surely that’s something we should all be striving for?

    • I’m not sure that you understand precisely what is meant by Schrodinger’s Rapist. It certainly doesn’t imply that “all men are dangerous potential rapists”, as you contend. But I can see how it might be an easy distinction to miss- and I can understand having a knee-jerk reaction to the possibility of being accused that way!

      Here is what is meant by ‘Schrodinger’s Rapist’:

      We live in a society where approximately 1/6 of women will be raped at some point in their lives. We also, by the way, live in a society where approximately 1/30 of men will be raped at some point in their lives. Both of these statistics are horrific. That one man in thirty will be or has been raped? Horrific. That five times as many women will be or has been raped? Even more horrific.

      That is, of course, not even including other, ‘lesser’ kinds of sexual assault that aren’t strictly defined as rape. Which raises those stats to even more gobsmackingly awful levels.

      The vast majority of rapes (NOT all, but the vast majority) are committed by men.

      The vast majority of men are not rapists. Rapists tend to be repeat offenders- which is worsened by the fact that the vast majority of the time, they get off scot-free. If they’re even prosecuted.

      However: as a woman, I have no way of telling which men are rapists and which are not. Let’s say that 95% of men would never and have never raped anyone (I don’t know what the stats are here, by the way. I’m just going for a nice, round number with a big majority of non-rapists). If I meet a man, then, there is a 19/20 chance that he isn’t a rapist. However, chances are that at some point, if I meet more than 20 men in my life, I’ll meet at least some who are.

      And I have no way of telling which is which. Hence, Schrodinger’s Rapist. There is no way for someone to know if someone else is a rapist, until they attempt to rape them.

      This sucks. It sucks for me, because there’ll always be a part of me just a little bit on edge in my interactions with most men. It sucks for the vast majority of non-rapist guys out there, because they have to deal with that.

      But here’s the thing. I get how it sucks for the large majority of men who aren’t rapists. Seriously. But the people to blame here aren’t the women who, for the sake of self-preservation, have to worry about whether or not any man they meet might attempt to assault them. The people to blame here? The people whose fault it is that women (and many men- remember that 1/30 statistic up there) have to do this?

      Rapists.

      So instead of calling women ‘nutty’ because we can’t, until we are assaulted, tell who is or is not a rapist? Start working on blaming the people who got us into this whole sorry mess to begin with. You know. The ones who rape people.

      • Taken from wikipedia

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rape_statistics#South_Africa

        More than 25% of a sample of 1,738 South African men from the KwaZulu-Natal and Eastern Cape Provinces admitted when anonymously questioned to raping someone; of those, nearly half said they had raped more than one person, according to a non-peer reviewed policy brief issued by the Medical Research Council (MRC).

        More than 25% ADMITTED to raping a women. How fucking scary is that? Obviously South Africa is one of the most extreme cases, there’s a belief here amongst a sizable proportion of the population that sleeping with a virgin can cure AIDS, which I believe contributes significantly to that statistic. It’s horrific!

  10. This incident really provides an object lesson in manners, although politics has been dragged in, yowling, spitting and clawing like a cat to the veterinarian. When one has declared in a social or public setting that one is exhausted and about to retire, it is bad manners to importune one with requests for further conversation. This particular incident, with its 4 am timing and coffee offer, lends itself to tart rejoinders. (“Oh but I am certain your personal barista is asleep now.” Or “Sorry, I have to be back in my coffin before dawn.”) Though a simple “No thank you” suffices. If the importuner intends only further conversation, he should have suggested a more suitable timing – perhaps elevenses or afternoon tea. If he intended a romantic advance, then rather than a 4 am invitation in an elevator he might send a note, perhaps with a poem. (Although I compose my own verse, there is nothing wrong with enclosing a few lines from C.P. Cavafy’s “Funeral of Sarpedon” or Karl Shapiro’s “The Fly.”) But enough about this fellow’s bad manners. The importunee has also behaved badly by making a public fuss. Though her pretext is that the fuss is meant to be instructive, does her readership really need to be told that 4 am approaches in enclosed spaces to exhausted acquaintances is unseemly? The astute reader cannot help but suspect a self-regarding subtext (“See how appealing I am: people I hardly know throw themselves at me at all hours. Oh how appalling!”) At the end of the day (a horrid cliche for which I pray the end of the day rapidly approaches), the fault may lie with contemporary education. We toddle off to graduate school, where our heads are filled with theories, without stopping first at dancing school, where we learn how to treat other people respectfully. Fortunately a remedial course is readily available via the works of Judith Martin, aka Miss Manners. I recommend her “Guide to Excruciatingly Correct Behavior.”

  11. allah approved misogyny is one of many severe problems with islam which is dangerous no matter how it is packaged…

    the twin fogs of political correctness & ignorance must be dispersed before western society better understands this menace. even a brief review of islamic theology & history quickly exposes the deadly roots of this evil ideology.

    see the links in the pdf version below for more accurate info about islam
    ==========

    islam is a horrible ideology for human rights

    5 key things about islam

    1. mythical beliefs – all religions have these (faith) because its part of being a religion: having beliefs without proof until after the believer dies. the problem is people will believe almost anything.

    2. totalitarianism – islam has no seperation of church and state: sharia law governs all. there is no free will in islam: only submission to the will of allah as conveniently determined by the imams who spew vapors to feather their own nests. there are no moderate muslims: they all support sharia law.

    3. violence – islam leads the pack of all religions in violent tenets for their ideology & history: having eternal canonical imperatives for supremacy at all costs and calling for violence & intimidation as basic tools to achieve these goals.

    4. dishonesty – only islam has dishonesty as a fundamental tenet: this stems from allah speaking to mohamhead & abrogation in the koran which is used to explain how mo’s peaceful early life was superseded by his warlord role later.

    5. misogyny – present day islam is still rooted in 8th century social ethics: treating females as property of men good only for children, severely limiting their activities, dressing them in shower curtains and worse.

    conclusions ??

    there really are NO redeeming qualities for this muddled pile of propaganda.

    islam is just another fascist totalitarian ideology used by power hungry fanatics on yet another quest for worldwide domination and includes all the usual human rights abuses & suppression of freedoms.

    graphics version
    [link removed]

    1 page pdf version – do file/download 6kb viewer doesn’t show fonts well, has better fonts header footer links, great for emailing printing etc
    [link removed]

    • Citation needed.
      Also, a spellcheck.

      By the way, for everyone but the commenter: I was a bit hesitant about approving this comment. However, I’m letting it stay up, purely as evidence to those of us of a more privileged status of several things:

      *Islamophobia- that is, fear and hatred of Muslims, as opposed to criticism of particular Islamic beliefs/practices, of ‘Islamic’ states, of Islamism, or even criticism of religion in general- is a very real thing.
      *Islamophobia is inextricably tied to racism and Western-centricism. See the commenter’s use of a Western/Islamic dichotomy.
      *trolls be trollin’. Trolls be trollin’ more if you are a member of a marginalised group. Or, to a far lesser extent, if you call out marginalisation.

      I have, however, removed the links contained in the comment. Because nobody is linking to that kind of garbage from my blog.

      If any of my Muslim readers want me to delete this, by the way, I’ll be happy to. I’m a bit fuzzy on whether to leave it up as is. Hrm.

      • I think you have made the right decision by letting ecks why’s comment about Islam stand, since it affords your readers the opportunity to consider and reply. The comment seeks to mislead us in ways that are rather clever. It offers an alternative version of the Five Pillars, substituting various negative qualities for the original affirmations. Let us look at the ecks why’s version:

        1. MYTHICAL BELIEFS – it is arguable that “all religions have these” (some Asian and African religions are more invested in experiential knowledge, developmental psychology and other phenomena than in faith or myth, but that is beside the point here); however, Islam actually has been notable for its nurturance of science. The scholar Alhazen played a key role in developing the scientific method. As the commenter later points out, it is law that is central to Islamic thinking, not myth.

        2. TOTALITARIANISM – while it is true that Islam did not separate “church and state” (“masjid and caliphate”?) during the Enlightenment, this does not mean that either historical or contemporary Islam is monolithically totalitarian. The Islamic world, which is vast and diverse, clearly is in the throes of sorting out its ideas about civil and religious polity. Has the commenter failed to notice the Arab Spring and its global resonances (today’s news is of protests in Kuala Lampur)? By the way, the concept of religious totalitarianism has been pushed if not coined by a young Muslim interfaith activist, Eboo Patel, who directs it particularly against extremists within his own tradition but also applies it more broadly to others.

        3. VIOLENCE – while Islam does have “eternal canonical imperatives” that can be used as warrants for violence, so do most other religions. The OP may object to ecks why’s use of Western terminology here, but I am willing to accept it. The term “canonical” cleverly suggests both scriptural and legal authority, and this is apropos in the case of Islam. Both Hebrew and Christian scriptures are rife with similar warrants, but let us consider another tradition – one dear to my heart. HInduism’s central, or at least most popular, text is the Bhagavad Gita. At its most literal narrative level, the Gita must be read as an exhortation to war. Contemplated from other angles, the text is a meditation on cosmology, faith and love. Gandhi and others have made powerful use of it to promote nonviolence. Both Islamic scripture and Islamic law are similarly flexible: they can be interpreted and used to promote either violence or peace.

        4. DISHONESTY – the commenter builds his case on the evidence of “abrogation,” i.e. the idea within Islam that earlier Qur’anic passages can be abrogated, or superseded, by later ones. This gets tricky, since the verses of the Qur’an are arranged not by chronology but by length. Muslims themselves disagree about what abrogates what, and some reject the idea altogether. Adducing this as a proof of systematic dishonesty is highly disingenuous. An analogy would be accusing Buddhism of fundamental dishonesty because one wing of the tradition subscribes to the idea of the boddhisattva while the other does not.

        5. MISOGYNY – ecks why’s critique here is, if obvious, not entirely off base. Fair-minded observers and many, perhaps most, Muslims concede that the status of women in the Islamic world is a real and contentious issue. Muslim feminists constitute a powerful multinational and multicultural movement, and the commenter completely omits mention of them. An irony often cited by Muslim feminists is that in the 8th century – an era referenced by ecks why – Islam markedly improved the status of women but there has been considerable regress in some Muslim societies since then.

        I would conclude by acknowledging that contemporary Islam contains serious problems. It is engaged in what is tantamount to a civil war, or more accurately a series of internecine conflicts, over questions of civil and religious authority. Nations outlying the world of Islam interject themselves or are drawn into these conflicts when their economic and geopolitical interests are engaged. In addition, some of these nations are struggling with their own issues around immigration and acculturation involving Muslim populations. I recognize the power of the temptation to blame everything on Islam in some existential way, or conversely to do the same vis-a-vis the West, but neither understanding nor solutions will be found in that way.

      • LOL! This same person submitted a comment on my blog! I didn’t let it through (though I’m glad you did OMG OMG Aoife I feel so special that we got the same troll!) They found it searching for “Islam misogyny” which was on the FIFTIETH PAGE so I think they are a serial propagandist commenter troll thing. Hahaha

      • My first thought on reading this was ‘Hang on, I’ve read all the arguments against this kind of misinformation’, at this site: http://askanislamicist.wordpress.com/

        It’s by my friend who is an Islamicist, and really does know what she’s saying. When she doesn’t know the answers, she tries to find them and is upfront if she can’t.

        I’m always amazed that people will not only try to pass this stuff off as facts, but also don’t bother to use their shift key…

      • hey thanks for posting my blurb & too bad it apparently hit some nerves here

        here is a good starter link for islam with a focus on sharia law & womens rights

        [linkremoved to 'women against shariah' blog]

        • One of the nerves it hit was mine. As I removed your earlier links, I removed the one you posted in this comment.
          I removed this for two reasons: Firstly, I have no interest in engaging with people who spam multiple blogs with blurbs like this. Either engage with what I have to say, or get your own damn soapbox.
          Secondly, two of the first things in that blog were an intro that talked about “Muslims and Americans” and an article in favour of arresting women who cover. Racism and misogyny are not welcome here.
          You are welcome to engage with myself and the other commenters here if you please. However, if you post another comment with nothing but inflammatory links, I will ban you immediately.

        • that’s a very pro womens rights & pro western freedoms blog, too bad you felt compelled to censor & incorrectly label it with the usual politically correct memes which are nothing but ruses to stifle debate

          i wish y’all the best but clearly more sunshine & fresh air is needed here

          • Oh my God, it lives. It’s not a robot or anything.

            You’re not pro woman’s rights you asshole. Not MY rights. I’m a woman but not the “right” type and so you want me to shut up and let you speak for me. Take your patriarchal mentality and shove it up your ass.

            • i don’t understand your reply, here is 1st part of mission statement from that blog…

              It is our position that shariah law imposes second class status on women and is incompatible with the standards of liberal Western societies and the basic principles of human rights that include equality under the law and the protection of individual freedoms.

              is there something in that you disagree with ? i poked around your blog and it seems like another true believer type no different from those xtian fundies who claim THEIR interpretation of xnity is the 1 true faith & it was hijacked by (insert whoever) etc etc

            • What you do or don’t understand is neither my concern nor responsibility.

          • Right.
            I left this going a while, because I’m nice that way. But adding personal attacks to xenophobia just earned you a banning.
            Enjoy the rest of the internet.

        • My baby just got her first flounce! Awwww, what a special moment!

          PS I don’t REALLY think you’re a baby, pls don’t stop sharing stir-fry with me…

  12. “Men are the ones whose feelings we should worry about, and think about, and consider.”

    And it should be mostly women that do the emotional heavy lifting, of course.

    There have been a couple of men on some of the threads that are getting this close to realizing that what they really want to do is commiserate with each other so they can feel better and move on – but then they veer off and continue demanding that women apologize for the fact that the patriarchy hurts men too, or something.

    * facepalm *

    • Oh, so many times yes to this. Especially this:

      what they really want to do is commiserate with each other so they can feel better and move on

      I think that acknowledging that that step can be so necessary, but that you really need to have it with people in a similar situation to yourself, is so important.

  13. Pingback: Richard Dawkins is a fucking asshole. | the fatal feminist

  14. Pingback: Sexism and Rational Discourse, or What are we talking about again? « Campus Crusade for Bayes

  15. Own yourself. He didn’t “make” her feel uncomfortable, he was just a small part of a huge system that included one uncomfortable woman.

    If I were to say that attractive women make me feel uncomfortable, that is offensive. My feelings aren’t wrong, but to accuse someone else of having responsibility for them leads to unreasonable expectations. If I took the extra step of saying, “don’t do that”, I would be one of those fundamentalist jerks (of all stripes) that are always telling women to hide their bodies in public.

    *Watson* meditated on rape, and *that* is what made her uncomfortable. I guess it’s worth knowing that a lot of women are constantly chewing on all sorts of unpleasant emotions and if you get within a ten foot radius of them you’re sure to get associated with the unpleasantness. You know, the same is true of men.

    But at least she isn’t Adria Richards and she didn’t name names in her public whining. I’ve gained new respect for Ms. Watson.

      • Oh, I’m well aware that male privilege has been involved in a long and continuing history where men really have viciously dictated the behavior of women based on their own male sensitivities, and that this has generally been woefully lopsided. However, dictating a new set of rules to bind men by is not my idea of progress. “I was uncomfortable” is the start of a dialog. “It is your fault, you did it to me” is a common conversational misstep that not only alienates the other but denies self-agency. “Don’t do it” is aspiring to tyranny, at least when it applies to regular speech. Yeah, by most measures we men *do* have it coming to us.

        And more to the point, it simply won’t work. Your profane brush-off here is no more welcoming to me than the brush-off women often receive in other communities. It builds a wall. If you were to discuss this anonymous encounter with your feminist friends, you would easily convince them to dismiss my perspective. And here you’ve provided to me, pre-packaged, the invitation for me to dismiss your perspective. Nice.

        And I don’t have to remind you: On this side of the wall, I’ve got male privilege to fall back on.

        Or, if you’d prefer to communicate by glib href, compassionate communication happens to provide a way to think about people’s needs and feelings that might (or might not) actually be new to you. Have a nice day.

        • And I don’t have to remind you: On this side of the wall, I’ve got male privilege to fall back on.

          Wow, you have male privilege and you get to dictate to me how I speak to you in my own space? I’m impressed.

          I am very capable of compassionate communication when I choose to communicate as such. I have no desire to communicate compassionately with you. Again, please fuck off.

          • Whoa there! I criticized your communication as non-productive, but I certainly did not tell you what to do. If you want to be rude to visitors here, that’s your right!

            And I’m glad you are aware of compassionate communication. At the moment, I am not referring to the technique, but rather to the worldview it implies. It provides a frame where it is relatively easy to recognize that people in different positions have similar needs, and that their feelings are valid and worthy of recognition even while it is unproductive to blame other people for the feelings.

            As an aside, what do you want me to do with my male privilege? You don’t seem to like it when I leave it implicit, but explicitly acknowledging it seems to provoke an even stronger response. I bothered to comment here because I thought your treatment of Watson’s original statement had some points, but I’ll stay for the lecture on how men should talk to angry women. (hey, if you don’t like the characterization, stop telling me to fuck off)

        • I’m well aware that male privilege has been involved in a long and continuing history where men really have viciously dictated the behavior of women based on their own male sensitivities

           Your profane brush-off here is no more welcoming to me than the brush-off women often receive in other communities.

          Right so.

          You are aware that male privilege is a vicious thing where men have dictated the behaviour of women.

          And yet, when women, say, tell men to quit doing that, or tell men who show up commenting on a years’ old thread to tell them to shut up to, y’know, fuck off, then we are supposed to worry about being welcoming to you?

          Dude. I’ve told to you fuck off twice already. Do you really think I’m worried about making you feel welcome?

          • If elevator guy was viciously dictating the behavior of women, I would say “hell yeah he should stop doing that!” I can’t imagine that it is your position that he was viciously dictating the behavior of women.

            Unless I have really fucked up in my prose, I have been describing your behavior, not prescribing it! You are welcome to be unwelcoming to me, no skin off my teeth.

            I should admit, I haven’t seen you suggest that male-dominated communities should be more welcoming to women. For all I know, you are content with unwelcoming attitudes all around.

            Anyways, I was just looking back at elevatorgate because I was curious how it compared to pycongate. Your original post opened my eyes a bit, and I thank you.

    • Richards named names? I didn’t see any in her tweet! Do you even know the names of those men?

      • No she didn’t name names, but she as-good-as. I appreciate your attempt at precision and concede that I was wrong, but nonetheless I think you do see the distinction. Richards personally shamed some individuals in a way that was clearly unproductive. I think Watson failed, but she clearly was attempting to advance a more general and useful understanding. It looks to me like Richards wanted to score points, Watson wants to change the rules of the game. I didn’t appreciate that about Watson until recently.

    • Oh fine.

      There is a difference between being attractive and acting in a manner that someone has already, perfectly politely, asked people not to act towards her.

      One is a thing you are. The other is a thing you do.

      Watson meditated on rape probably because this person had already gone straight through her stated boundaries. Rape is one particular violation of a person’s consent. So is propositioning someone after they have stated clearly that they do not want to be propositioned. A may not imply B, but B sure as fuck implies A and given the amount of women who are raped by men in their lifetimes? It’s a fucking reasonable thing to be afraid of.

      You claim to be aware of male privilege. One male privilege is not having to be worried about rape all the goddamn time when alone with male strangers. Own your shit.

      I guess it’s worth knowing that a lot of women are constantly chewing on all sorts of unpleasant emotions and if you get within a ten foot radius of them you’re sure to get associated with the unpleasantness. You know, the same is true of men.

      You know what else is a male privilege? Not being incredibly fucking aware of what the experience of being a woman in our society is like. Trust me, women do know a hell of a lot more about what male experiences are like than vice versa.

      • Wow, I wasn’t expecting a real response. :)

        Regarding being vs. doing, we are getting a little epistemological here and I have a hard time communicating with just about anyone about that particular distinction (everything is transitory, yada yada). Suffice it to say that if a woman wears make-up and flirts and so on then she is decidedly *doing* something. And even if she is actively doing attractive things, I do not believe she becomes responsible for the feelings in the men that see her.

        Put your trigger down, and read it again: Women are not responsible for the feelings in the men that see them, *even* if she is actively doing attractive things on purpose.

        And I never said she is unreasonable to meditate on rape. It is, however, not something that elevator guy forced her to do, which was my point. The article on male privilege that you linked me to with your first “fuck off” specifically made that point, that the trappings of male privilege are conveyed by society, not by the acts of an individual.

        Anyways, as far as whether he was doing something she had asked him not to, that is not entirely clear to me. One thing about Watson that I frankly do not understand is her repetition of the word “sexualize.” Women and men are nearly inevitably sexual, simply as a biological fact. He said “coffee”, she heard “sex.” I don’t think that she was wrong. But I can’t point to some instant in the narrative where it was suddenly sexualized — now, and not before. I can’t understand what her expectations were, so I can’t tell from this vantage point if he decided not to honor her, or if he couldn’t understand either.

        You know from NVC that she cannot invalidate elevator guy’s sexual feelings any more than he can invalidate her fearful feelings.

        Personally, I err on the side of communication. Women have found many ways to tell me that they have a wide variety of uncomfortable feelings about sex, and I have often found it worthwhile to talk to them and to explore what they mean by that. Sometimes, even over coffee. But I’m not elevator guy, and I wouldn’t be caught dead at an atheist convention, so what do I know.

        And as for the idea that women understand men but not vice versa…is that some sort of slick crimestop? If so, I’d like to one-up you: Women are like Hitler! Neener neener! Like….seriously?

        Hey but I should note, despite your outbursts, you are definitely better at this whole “conversation” thing than most people on my facebook!

    • You’re missing the point a bit there. She said “don’t do that” because getting from the act to the intention was an epic failure. He presumably wanted more than a coffee (let’s not dwell on this point, we all want more than coffee in life) and he failed to get more than coffee. Results matter. He may have been hoping for stimulating conversation, long walks on the beach, hot kinky sex even! Who knows, now we’ll never know and I wouldn’t like to speak for him. But what he got was a woman who couldn’t get out of the lift fast enough. She, I don’t wish to speak for her any more than I wish to speak for him but, she probably enjoys the sex as much as the next lady, so no one won here. She made a video and said “don’t do that” so that the next guy would know that being in an enclosed space with a stranger who is making innocent suggestions about getting you alone with him makes her uncomfortable, not super excited. ie, try other methods to induce super excitement and perhaps even thoughts of divilment. Like, I dunno, a rubber chicken or something. You know, anything but being alone in a lift when you suggest whatever it is you’re suggesting. She’s not saying “don’t do it” as some kind of method of tyranny she’s suggesting that it’s a rubbish way to get her interested in having “coffee” with you. Learn, and move on. Please, please internets… move on!

      • He just saw her do a lecture on inappropriate sexualisation, and he says something that amounts to propositioning her out of the blue in a less-than-subtle manner?

        He’s either totally clueless or an asshole.

        • Aye Jules, very true. Though I was clumsily attempting to be careful not to assume he wanted sex (cause that’s one of the bullshit arguments that keeps getting bandied about for why RW is such a terrible human being, what with wanting to be treated like an actual human being and that). If he indeed only wanted coffee and had no actual intention of sexualising her then he needs her to say, “eh, don’t do that [because it makes me think you're after sex not ceffee]“. So she’s actually being remarkably good to him. Hopefully he’s somewhat less clueless now and can have all of the coffee. Nomnom.

      • Uh, so? Learning to face rejection is a key aspect of being able to communicate respectfully and openly with women. Any strategy based on avoiding rejection at all costs would destroy any opportunity for equality or communication between genders.

        But if you want to consider it simply as a question of utility value, the man’s point of view isn’t the interesting one here. It’s the woman’s point of view. A woman who can say “no” and can also say “yes” has the potential to be an adult member of civilization. Agency is not to be dismissed so quickly.

        • Way to completely miss my point that doing things that make someone feel uncomfortable when you mean to be doing things that make them feel positive is something that it is possible to avoid simply by listening to the person. And way to put words in my mouth too, I’m not dismissing anyone’s agency, that was a scurrilous and dishonest attempt to twist my words. If you had read more than half my comment you might have noticed. I’m out, good luck.

        • Women are not objects to be strategised around.

          I’ve had enough of this. You’re banned.

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