Cujo Cat and Thoughts on Elevatoragate and Dudes Not Getting It

Maybe Nosferatu was a good name for this cat after all. He loves to leap at our legs, clamp on with his front claws and start chomping. Same for our arms.

Cujo the cat would have been a good name, too. Still, he's a lovely animal; even when his little teeth are trying to break your skin.

See, he's so sweet.

I guess we all have our moments, some where we're sweet and others when we are vampire-like, trying to do as much damage as possible to another. Sometimes we inflict damage when we're just playing, or even when we're just making an offer (or an observation).

Now, you're no more surprised than I am that I'm going to talk about elevatorgate (good summary here), privilege, and a bunch of skeptics engaging in a massive hissy fit. But all this has dominated the skeptic blogs this last week (I'll provide as complete a list as possible), with thousands upon thousands of comments offered on the various blogs.

Why bring it up in context of a cat who goes from being a sweetheart who sleeps cradled in my arms like a baby to hell on wheels trying to gnaw my flesh? First, because I can. Second, because it's important to point out that one snapshot in time, one badly worded statement in time, does not necessarily reflect the entirety of a person's character, except when it does reveal the important things.

We don't know the dude who asked Rebecca Watson at 4 in the morning in the elevator back to his hotel room. Was he clueless? Was he creepy? Was he socially awkward (or on the spectrum)? But from Watson mentioning this situation and saying that guys shouldn't do that, all this has exploded onto several blogs, privilege is being discussed, the role of women in the skeptic community is being discussed, and directives on how to behave at TAM this year are being offered.

Privilege is being thrown around in the comments, and even more charges of privilege being thrown around are being offered. Privilege and the discussion of it is not confined to the feminist world. It is a concept used in all of the minority communities I've had the opportunity to spend time exploring. Sometimes the allegation of privilege is fairly charged, and the opportunity to learn and grow and change is there for those involved. However, there is a dark underbelly to some of the minority communities where individuals charge the other person of privilege in order to push around the other person and it's about anger, bitterness, and some serious gnawing. If the "privileged" person points out that privilege doesn't apply in this instance, then she is usually hit with the charge that everyone wants the unprivileged person to play nice. It's a no-win situation in this case.

I don't wade into these sorts of things often because it is usually a pointless, messy thing, and let's be real: I have enough areas in my online life that engagement is pointless and messy.

Rebecca Watson doesn't deserve the vilification she's gotten for pointing out that trying to pick up someone in the elevator can be fear-inducing (and for good cause) for the woman and that decent guys should recognize that and not do it. She doesn't deserve the rape threats she's getting, either. No one does and the people who are making these threats are leaving a snapshot that reflects poorly on their character. Decent people do not do that. Ever. You don't threaten to rape, harm, or kill other people and get to pretend you're an upstanding person. 

Richard Dawkins was a jerk for his comment at PZ's. There have been a lot of jerks in the comments at the blogs dealing with this. Dogpiling on Dawkins at Skepchicks, well, having women explain why it's wrong when he asked in a later comment for some explaining, maybe that's overkill for some folks? But maybe it's not. After all, Watson's still getting the threatening tweets. 

Maybe dudes ought to stand up and say that this isn't cool. That women have the right not to walk around afraid someone who disagrees with them will assault or rape them. That's not asking for too much.

And for guys who think women are overreacting, according to RAINN, "60% of sexual assaults are not reported to the police." In addition, "Every 2 minutes, someone in the U.S. is sexually assaulted." Still not getting it? The US Department of Justice reports that "1 of 6 U.S. women and 1 of 33 U.S. men have been victims of a completed or attempted rape."

Treat women as something other than f*ck-buddies. Consider their perspective before you decide that you're God's gift to them and they should be all over you wanting a piece of what you have to offer. When one of them offers up the comment that it's not cool, don't show your complete lack of respect for her as a human being by snidely pointing out that Muslim women have it worse, because you've just revealed that you don't think women are equal. Another snapshot where your character's showing.

And perhaps a larger lesson here is that if one was under the impression that skeptics were better, more decent human beings, reality has shown that skeptics are as prone to being asshats and chauvinists as anyone else. Humanists, on the other hand, one could hope, have higher aspirations. Skepticism and humanism do not go hand in hand, though, and it's a mistake to assume they do.

Links for anyone who hasn't dipped a toe into these waters and wants to get gnawed on:

The video that launched it:

Follow-up posts by Rebecca Watson:



Other posts:

PZ Myers:
Always name names!

Jen at Blag hag: 

Greg Laden:

Melissa McEwan:

Amanda Marcotte:

Brian Dunning:

Alison Smith:

There are other posts hyperlinked in the text, as well. If you have links to this mess, please add them in the comments.


anarchic teapot said...

It's actually very heartening that quite a few men are standing up and telling Dawkins he was completely out of order.

anarchic teapot said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
usethebrainsgodgiveyou said...

There is a counter-feminism backlash among young men these days. I haven't really ever identified with feminism, but my son is a strict-anti-feminist and it kinda breaks my heart that he sees women as over-stepping their boundaries. I can't seem to get through to him that it is justified.

Just as there are men who go over the line, this generation of young men feel some women are dead set on destroying them. That feminism should go so far, and not be so set on destruction of all things male. That's the way he sees it.

I was a bra burning man hater, and felt justified for a time. But I felt comfortable in being me first, and a woman second, and very much felt it was my place to speak my mind.

It all boils down to rape. It all boils down to rape, and that's what men don't get. It's frightening.

But, in many young men's minds all a woman has to do is cry "rape" and they can be destroyed by a false accusation. Remember when the young woman was never believed? It's like that in reverse. Accusal of rape is the antithesis of rape. Both destroy lives.

Just as a man who rapes is into power, false accusations by women who use it to destroy young men are into power. Both have "zero degrees of empathy" (cough, cough)

I'm just putting it out there. I don't know what to think. I just thought I'd let you know what I've gleaned from my son. I know he's not typical, but...

kathleen said...

There is way too much time spent on division..us and them.
Using "privilege" as an insult..is ridiculous..and yet-oh people cower when they are called that..nope don't want to be seen as "having more" or "better" than anyone else! What it at times seems to boil down to is "who gets to be the worst off?" Why is that? Why is oppression sometimes used as status? It solves absolutely nothing.
As for this "elevatorgate" thing...I hadn't heard of it. I agree-it is scary to be propositioned in an elevator AT ANY TIME. Common sense should tell us this. I haven't read any (but the explanatory link you posted) of the threads or posts on this-so I won't comment on them..

Anonymous said...

This whole episode just reminds me of the Margaret Atwood quote, "Men are afraid women will laugh at them. Women are afraid men will kill them."