"Elevatorgate" has lit a fire within me, because it brings up issues that really hit home. This is my third entry on the topic, which is telling of just how fired up I am about all of this. Hopefully the remainder of this blog entry will explain why.
What follows are my observations and analyses of what I've seen from Rebecca Watson and her ardent followers. My desire to write yet another blog post about "Elevatorgate" isn't because I'm all that interested in Rebecca Watson, Skepchick or whatever really happened in that damn elevator (after all, who really knows but Rebecca and Elevator Guy?). I care about the ongoing struggle to ensure women's rights, equality and security in a world that's been dominated by the patriarchy for way too long.
Here are my previous "Elevatorgate" entries:
I've also created this list of "Elevatorgate" entries from other bloggers worth reading. I have dubbed this group of bloggers the "Gets It" Gang, because each one of these wonderful writers really gets it (see Wednesday's blog entry to get the joke):
- Attack of the feminism: Richard Dawkins v. Jen McCreight edition
- Elevatorgate, part II
- Elevatorgate III: On feminism, and being a victim (Added 7/10/11)LadyAtheist
- My Take on "Elevatorgate"Staks Rosch (Dangerous Talk)
- Atheist Drama
- Elevatorgate Belongs on TNT
- Elevatorgate: Moving Forward (Added 7/9/11)
Okay, let's get started...
1. Rebecca Watson is promoting a lifestyle of fear and weakness for women.
Rebecca Watson isn't a hero in this scenario. She not a villian, either. She's just behaving in a way that hurts both the feminists' and the skeptics' causes by jumping to conclusions and, in my estimation, unwittingly promoting an attitude of fear. Women shouldn't live in fear. And women shouldn't have to wait for dumbass men to allow them to live without fear by waiting for all the Elevator Guys of the world to stop acting creepy. Should Rosa Parks have waited for the government to pull its head out of its ass and change the laws before she dared to sit in the front of the bus? Should Harriet Tubman have waited for all the white guys who liked to be called "colonel" to change their minds and let slaves go free? It's time to take the power back, ladies.
Rebecca is inspiring women to be afraid. Ladies, are you really going to live in fear and wait for all the men to finally "get it" before things get better? Again, I say take the power back! Don't allow any man to rob you of your confidence and sense of security. Don't give men any power over you - especially the kind of power that keeps you emotionally oppressed.
Men who assault women are cowards who prey on the weak to feel a sense of power. Don't be weak. Be smart.
Rebecca is unwittingly promoting weakness. I believe women have the capability to defend themselves both intellectually and physically. If some creep tries to touch you in an elevator, rip his fucking nuts off. "Oh, but men are bigger than women." Statistically, yes, men are larger and stronger than women. But some men are larger than other men too (as are some women, or perhaps you've never seen Isis the Amazon). I got myself into many fights in my younger days, and most of them were against guys at least twice my size. I never used my attacker's size as an excuse to not defend myself or fight for what I believe in. Size and strength are tools that fighters who possess them can utilize, but they certainly aren't the only weapons in one's arsenal - especially on the streets.
Use your heads, ladies (for more, Consider Me vs. The Rock).
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.
This brings me to my second observation:
2. Rebecca Watson Doesn't Use Her Head.
At least, Rebecca didn't use her head on the infamous elevator in which "Elevatorgate" took place. I love the piece of advice given by my sister-in-blog LadyAtheist in the comments section of the latest entry on The Atheist Experience blog:
LadyAtheist is a kick-ass blogger - not just in her awesome writing, but also in the fact that she's a student of Krav Maga. She's also the perfect example of what I'm talking about.
Driver's Education classes teach students "Defensive Driving"; similarly, Martial arts instructors and self-protection experts teach "Defensive Living." For example, when I walk to my car in a parking lot at night, my keys are in my hand and ready: ready to both get in my car quickly and, if necessary, to use as a weapon in the event that someone tries to assault me. Rebecca has just enough celebrity status that she should learn to use her head when she's out in the world. The fact that she didn't is part of the reason why "Elevatorgate" was born.
Rebecca walked into the elevator. Elevator Guy followed her into the elevator. Rebecca could have gotten off the elevator before the doors closed. An elevator isn't like a Venus Fly Trap. She put herself in a vulnerable situation, and had the power to prevent it. She chose not to. Why not? Time to learn defensive living, Rebecca.
A person can choose to either live in fear, or live in readiness. Rebecca obviously didn't choose readiness. But that's not all...
3. Rebecca Watson is simply wrong.
Elevator Guy made a huge blunder that night, no question. Rebecca's request that men not do what Elevator Guy did is fine, and even good advice to guys. Don't be creepy. Hell, don't even give the impression of being creepy. Rebecca's insistence that he was "sexualizing" her is, however, where the problems begin. Her weird implication that her getting hit on (if that's what happened) is equivalent to being sexually objectified is just plain wrong.
Here's the funny part: most of the people who are frothing at the mouth over this actually know a little about evolution. Some have even studied evolutionary psychology - you know, the science of why we have courtship rituals instead of using rape to further the species and how we differ from bonobos or chimpanzees.
Our courtship ritual involves approach and rejection or approach and reciprocation. We all know that. Why is it such a big deal that 1) a man approached a woman and 2) the woman rejected the advance?
4. Rebecca Watson requires her sacrificial lamb.
Enter Richard Dawkins, a man who needs no introduction among members of the atheist/skeptic community. Dawkins employed his usual over-the-top sarcasm, incurred the kind of wrath only skepchicks can muster, and now his proverbial (or not so proverbial) head has been demanded on a silver platter. His point was missed, but I'll do my part here to grab the rebound like Dennis Rodman back when he wore 91 on a red jersey: Muslim women have it bad. Really bad. So bad that, if I had to choose to either be a woman or a pig in a Muslim country, I'd choose the pig any day. Muslim women need an uprising. I mean, they need to take up arms and revolt - or run like hell. If only there were a "Muslima" version of Harriet Tubman.
Or maybe they could all learn Krav Maga. The irony of Muslim women claiming their freedom with an Israeli combat system would be priceless.
In all seriousness, all the energy spent on the Richard Dawkins witch hunt could and should be used for more important matters. Dawkins isn't going anywhere. He is, after all, still Richard Effin' Dawkins. But honestly, when did it become cool to excommunicate people? Dawkins obviously has a different point of view on the matter. He might be wrong, but... okay. Why bother with the "skeptic" label if we can't allow for any difference of opinion? I think Rebecca Watson dropped the ball on this whole "Elevatorgate" debacle. You don't see me telling my readers to stop reading her blog or buying her T-shirts and sexy pin-up calendars. Why? Because I'm not in the habit of shooting my wounded or demonizing those who hold different points of view, and I sure as hell don't exile those who "dare" to disagree with me. As iron sharpens iron, so do the clash of thoughts sharpen our minds.
That is where Rebecca Watson lost me in this whole elevator drama. Yeah, Richard Dawkins was a big douchebag to her and he was wrong. But she was wrong to encourage people to disengage from the community and to Dawkins’s efforts on other fronts. It is fine to take issue with someone’s personality, but don’t drag everyone else into your drama. Leave the drama to TNT or your favorite drama television network.
Now, for an added bonus, what Rebecca Watson actually did right:
5. Rebecca Watson gave good advice to men.
This one's for the guys. Look, a lot of women have been assaulted, threatened, harassed, beaten, raped, even murdered. Even more have heard the horror stories, and have good reason to be concerned for their own well-being. There's a lot of hurt, a lot of fear, and even though everything I said above about women "taking the power back" is true, many of them still have to overcome a lot of fear to do it. It's a lot easier for me to say than for them to do. There are a lot of creeps and nutjobs out there. It's time to give women the encouragement, respect, admiration and love they deserve. To all the Elevator Guys out there - regardless of your intentions - don't be creepy.
[UPDATE 5/11/2012: Read the latest entry concerning Elevatorgate: Why Elevatorgate is Still Relevant]