Richard Dawkins, oh dear.

For those unaware of what’s been going on there is a link here to Rebecca Watson’s blog but basically, here is my take on it.

The wonderful Rebecca Watson had a weekend of being attacked by fellow skeptics for the crime of mentioning in a vlog that she didn’t like it when a stranger asked her to his hotel room at 4.00 am in the morning while they were alone together in a lift.

Now, I get why some people might see this as harmless, after all, she wasn’t attacked.

The best way I think you can relate to it is if you imagine being in a lift, essentially trapped, while a stranger asks you for money. Saying no, while being stuck in a small space makes you feel a bit awkward, and possibly scared, especially if the person asking you is intimidating. Well, being asked for sex is worse. Trust me.

It was made doubly worse because Rebecca had spent the best part of that day explaining that the skeptic movement needs more women and one way of encouraging them is not treating us like sexual objects. This request was blatantly ignored. And the chap in question obviously knew his faux pas because he said to her ‘don’t take this the wrong way, but‘…

To be fair, in her vlog, all Rebecca said was, ‘seriously guys, don’t do that’.

But some men interpreted this as, ‘you’re all rapists!’

So much so that even Richard Dawkins weighed in in the comments section of a blog. He went on to say that unless you’ve actually being attacked you should, ‘grow a thicker skin’. Because fear and intimidation is just something we ladies should just put up with. Christ on a cocking bike.

So, I’m now boycotting Dawkins until rebecca gets an apology. And will make fun of him at every opportunity x





22 thoughts on “Richard Dawkins, oh dear.

  1. Shouldn’t we all just calm down and deal with this rationally? I’m sure neither Rebecca nor Richard intended to inflame or offend the other? And should we be escalating the situation by encouraging tribal ‘whose side are you on’ behaviour?

    Part of the puspose of the skeptic movement is recognising when our own confirmation bias kicks in and we could be witnessing a little too much of that on BOTH Richard’s response to Rebecca and subsequent responses to Richard’s………..

    So maybe some effort on avoiding the danger of falling into cognitive bias traps and istead find a way of defusing the siutation………?

    Just saying………..

    (Funny book cover though!)

    • I’m actually very pleased Dawkins did make such a tit out of himself in this case – as it makes people in the movement a little more aware of these issues.

      I mean, the man is 70, I’m not expecting him to be without irrationality of some kind. And Rebecca is my friend, hence why I care so much.

      Plus we do need more women in the skeptical movement, as the majority of Woo is marketed to us, and a lot of the offenders (psychics, healers, beauty industry) are women. And, yeah, a room full of blokes, even nerdy cute ones is a bit intimidating as it is, without the added irritation/fear of getting perved on, and men should be aware of this.

      But yeah, if I hadn’t made the book cover, I probably would have left it alone.

      • I’m solidly on the fence on this one.

        Dawkin’s comment was a bit callous and either uninformed or ill-considered or both.

        However, Dawkins is an intelligent man with the capacity for reason and if, instead of attacking and demonizing him for a situation that he clearly did not fully understand, he had been approached calmly I would wager that he’d go “I hadn’t thought of it that way”

        On the other hand, this has raised an issue that I’m sure very few people realized was an issue. I had never considered that anyone would proposition a relative stranger in an elevator.

        So, by turning Dawkins into a bit of a punching bag, we’re all more aware of a very real issue. But we could have been a bit more restrained in our condemnation of the man.

        • For sure, but do remember that Rebecca got stomped on first, and not just by Dawkins, for voicing a completely reasonable concern.

          This isn’t a ‘poor Dawkins’ this is ‘silly Dawkins should know better’.

          Unlike Rebecca, I don’t think he as had any rape threats – just feminist skeptics going ‘oi, hang on a minute!’ and silly arseholes like me finding jokes in his book titles.

          He’s the highest profile opposer so is bound to attract attention and is very lucky no one seems to have gone to the mainstream media with it.

  2. The whole thing does seem to be predicated by women somehow being surprised at the social ineptitude of nerdy men.

    Dawkins is also an old nerdy man and I so would expect his sexual etiquette advice to be up there with his ability on the dance floor although to be fair he did manage to pull that Romana bird.

    I’m slightly suspicious of all this organised skepticism which sounds a bit to me like organised cat herding but maybe that’s me just being sceptical.

    Anyhoo keep up the good work, I enjoy your podcast and the SGU one for that matter to whom I notice you have now offered your voice which does give those offspring of slave trading colonials a smattering of class.

    • I doubt many men, even nerdy ones would think it a good idea to approach someone in a lift, or back them into a corner, or lock them in their car.

      Most men would think that wasn’t really cricket.

      Hence why it is surprising that Rebecca’s ‘don’t do that’ got so much vitriol.

      • Depressing but maybe not that surprising.

        I’ve never been to one of these events and am male so not hugely qualified to comment but I imagine for a woman it would feel not too dissimilar to taking an engineering degree at university.

        I’m not so sure that lecturing these guys on their inadequacies is near as useful as trying to get more women involved and allowing things to fix themselves that way.

        • I’m a female comedian, it isn’t like I’m unaware of male atmospheres.

          And it isn’t like it is only men that are creepy, I’ve had (and heard of) plenty of weird women try it on after gigs.

          Most men would never elicit sex in a lift, so why are they so damn angry that rebecca mentioned it? Because they don’t like to hear women talking about the way they feel. They don’t like to hear the truth that sometimes they can be unintentionally scary to us, it takes away their imagined control, it tells a different story.

          That is why every time a woman speaks up she is usually shouted down. Moaning about nothing. Well, cock that.

    • @Sesh, I think the big deal here is not that one guy lacked insight, it’s that there is a very real issue that much of the population is entirely uninformed of. Dawkins just opened the door.

      Sure Dawkins is getting nailed to a wall, but a swath of others, not just nerdy men, are becoming more aware of the issue.

      Occasionally there is value in someone being publicly clueless as it reminds us that there are still problems.

      • I can’t say I read all 1500 posts or whatever it was but yeah the Dawkins one stood out as being in the top 10 of cuntentious.

        Do you think that was maybe because he had an axe to grind already after not enjoying sitting through her talk?

        • Not at all.

          Dawkins I think is very pro-feminist. I think he is a feminist. Hence why he thinks the women under Islamic oppression should be our number 1 priority, but this has blinded him to the people around him a little, and I don’t think he used his imagination to understand Rebecca’s situation… he just took it as her rejecting a guy, and this somehow bothering her. He pictured himself as the guy getting his heart broken, not as the woman thinking ‘if I say no, will he kick off? or should I say okay, then when the doors are open, make a run for it?’

  3. “I mean, the man is 70, I’m not expecting him to be without irrationality of some kind. And Rebecca is my friend, hence why I care so much.”

    Talk about bias. Wow.

  4. ‘A rare breed – the decent female comedian. Upbeat with nicely improvised material.’ 2005

    Depending on what definition of decent you use this is surely a bit dangerous in these dark times? ;-)

    • Yeah, I’m going to take that quote down. It is really crap. There are loads of decent comedians. I got that quote when I’d only done like five gigs, so I was very happy with it. Especially as I was really awful.

  5. Can Rebecca and Dawkins please just hash this out in person at TAM? All this tribalism, I’m on x side, boycotting Dawkins’s books, walking out of RW or RD lectures at TAM, quit listening to SGU because RW is on it, ZOMG A MISOGYNIST, ZOMG U THINK ALL MEN R RAPIST! shit is destructive.

    Also, not trying to say his comments weren’t tinged with a lack of awareness but I do think its relevant. In 2006, Dawkins wrote a blog entry pertaining to child abuse. In it he discussed that he was molested when he was 9.

    While one can still have the opinion that his comments were inappropriate, I don’t think its fair to assume that they were simply dismissive. One might criticize him for assuming that someone else will deal with an assault episode in the same way he did, its completely unfair to suggest hes never experienced it.

    I’m confident that this actually will be settled at TAM and a month from now this will be largely forgotten.

  6. @ tas121790

    “Can Rebecca and Dawkins please just hash this out in person at TAM?”

    That’s right, no reason to get excited. Sexist behaviour in the atheist-skeptical-rational-humanist movement can be sorted out by two people over a coffee.

    “I’m confident that this actually will be settled at TAM and a month from now this will be largely forgotten.”

    Yeah, the sooner we all get back to the status quo the better. Cognitive dissonance makes me feel icky.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>