Monday, July 4, 2011

Feminism and Mr. Elevator Guy

"Is my male privilege showing?

So I was sitting on the couch tonight watching episodes of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe (1983 represent, son) and browsing Facebook on my iPod when I came across this link to the A-Unicornist:

Attack of the feminism: Richard Dawkins v. Jen McCreight edition

Few things would cause me to put the mighty He-Man on pause, but it turns out this issue is one of them.

I watched Rebecca Watson's video this morning. I read PZ Myer's entry afterward. Then I saw Jen McCreight's critique of Richard Dawkins' comment, and once again there's controversy. When I first watched Rebecca's video, I just thought she was explaining an awkward scenario. And I definitely agree: it's an awkward situation. At the very least, Mr. Elevator Guy is guilty of being a dumbass. I didn't get Rebecca's "sexualization" implication the first time around. I watched it again as I began writing this blog entry, and noticed her assumption of sexualization more, but maybe that's because I'm just looking for it now.

What strikes me as odd is the fact that it's all based on an assumption. Yes, when a man asks a woman to go back to his room, the first thing I think of is, "this guy wants sex." But we don't know for sure. Maybe this guy really just wanted to talk with her more, and asked her in a really goofy way. Some guys are just socially inept. Maybe this guy was a radical fundamentalist theist who wanted to take a moderately popular atheist back to his room so he could kill the infidel. I honestly don't think that's the case, but my point once again is that we don't know.

I'm bothered by the fact that people have assumed Rebecca was "sexualized." Look, I've been put in similar awkward situations by men, and I'm a man. Was I being sexualized? I honestly don't know. A leather-clad biker with a handlebar mustache once told me (and I quote): "I'm not gay or nothin', but you got pretty eyes." Awkward? Yeah, a bit. Sexualization? I have no idea. Like Rebecca, I showed no interest in what the man had to say or potentially offer.

I didn't find Rebecca's comments to be that bad. As far as Mr. Elevator Guy goes, she pretty much said, "hey guys, what Mr. Elevator Guy did... don't do that." I agree. It's a bonehead move, regardless of one's intentions. Rebecca's comments alone don't (in my opinion) warrant all the current controversy. Not surprisingly, PZ Myers provided the fuel and Jen McCreight lit the match on this one. Actually, Richard Dawkins brought his own box of matches to the party as well, but Dawkins makes a valid point: there are much worse things happening in the world to women than getting hit on (if, again, that was indeed what Mr. Elevator Guy was doing).

I agree with the A-Unicornist on this one. He wrote:

Now, if the guy hadn't taken "no" for an answer, if he'd made lewd comments, or if he'd tried to make any uninvited physical contact whatsoever, I'd be totally fine with seeing this as harassment or "sexualization". But the sap just complimented her and asked if she'd like to talk more; she declined, and that was the end of it. Okay, so it's kind of awkward having to turn down an invitation for a date while in an elevator. When is it not awkward to refuse a date?

Inevitably, angry feminists will tell me what a horrible person I am. To which I say, no, you are the horrible ones, assuming that a sheepish guy asking a girl out on a coffee date really had no other intention than to get into her pants or even rape her. Richard Dawkins was totally right to call out Rebecca on her hypersensitivity. She wasn't "sexualized". She was complimented (for being "interesting", not for, say, "having a killer rack"), politely asked on a date, and left alone when she refused. If that's "harassment" or being "sexualized", I am the fertility god of Germanic mythology. And when self-proclaimed feminists use hyperbolic language like "sexualized" and "harassment" to characterize such innocuous circumstances, it's an insult to the real difficulties that women face.

Here's the problem: If we continue to assume every questionable act from a man is "sexualization" then we'll never achieve any kind of resolution. Women will always live in fear, and men will always be viewed one-dimensionally. Feminism should always be about elevating women, viewing women and men as equals, not women constantly looking down on men.

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