Wednesday, July 20, 2011


This probably doesn’t deserve a whole blog post, but I didn’t want to have to go and use in on a comment on every blog in the whole skeptic community.
Since I got embroiled in the Elevatorgate nontroversy, I have seen many commentors referred to as “trolls.” In my experience with internet trolls, they have never been people with strong feelings about a cause who simply disagree with others that have strong feelings. The trolls I’ve come across have always just wanted to be dicks to piss people off, and get well-meaning bloggers to freak out and rage against them.
To make sure I wasn’t defining it incorrectly, I checked with Their first definition is:

One who posts a deliberately provocative message to a newsgroup or message board with the intention of causing maximum disruption and argument
In other words, what I thought it was.
Now here’s the second definition:

One who purposely and deliberately (that purpose usually being self-amusement) starts an argument in a manner which attacks others on a forum without in any way listening to the arguments proposed by his or her peers. He will spark of such an argument via the use of ad hominem attacks (i.e. 'you're nothing but a fanboy' is a popular phrase) with no substance or relevence to back them up as well as straw man arguments, which he uses to simply avoid addressing the essence of the issue.
This, I assume, is what people have been trying to say. But I think it’s important to note that this definition states the purpose as “usually... self-amusement,” and that there are three more definitions listed on the site, all of which are much closer to #1 than #2.
For the sake of clarity, I humbly suggest pointing out specific logical fallacies rather than just calling people “trolls” and accusing them of “trolling.” It’s easily misinterpreted by those of us who’ve had to deal with truly awful trolls.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Yet Another Elevatorgate Post from a Pissed-off Atheist

I want to ask Rebecca Watson to please reread the link she posted as “Feminism 101” in her blog post titled “On Naming Names at the CFI Student Leadership Conference.” Then to revisit her tale of the “Elevatorgate” incident. By that definition, and by her description of the event, that man did not objectify her. He did the opposite. He treated her as a complex person, one capable of interesting conversation and coffee drinking, and one that had the option of declining his polite offer. He did not turn her into an object.
I fail to see how telling a woman you find her interesting and you'd like to have coffee with her is "sexualizing" her. Yes, even at 4am in an elevator when 10 minutes ago she said she was tired, dammit! I'm sure the internet will tell me what an anti-woman gender traitor I am.
From my point of view, I identify as feminist, by the old-fashioned definition of "the radical belief that women are human beings." There is nothing wrong with one human being propositioning another. The Elevator Guy can't know you're a paranoid until he winds up as fodder for your vlog. Maybe I shouldn't pass judgment on an incident I didn't witness, but I'm treating this as a hypothetical: What if you're at a conference in Dublin, it's 4 in the morning, a guy gets in the elevator with you and says this? Has he done something, ANYTHING, wrong? The answer is no. Absolutely not. Dawkins was right to compare it to chewing gum. He didn't trivialize it; it was trivial to start with. That's what Watson clearly doesn't “get.”
Many reactions I'm seeing online are dealing with the infighting aspect of this. There are all kinds of debates raging, but most skeptics are up for a good debate, right? Except those that aren't. When Dawkins wrote his (I'll admit it was snotty) response to PZ Meyers' sycophantic reaction to "Elevatorgate," Watson’s response to him was juvenile and irrational. "I will no longer recommend his books to others, buy them as presents, or buy them for my own library. I will not attend his lectures or recommend that others do the same. There are so many great scientists and thinkers out there that I don’t think my reading list will suffer." So those books that you were recommending for years are suddenly invalid because the author has justifiably called you out on your irrational fear of men? Note: Your reaction was not to invite Dawkins to a discussion, but to dismiss him as a "wealthy heterosexual white man." Because of those attributes, his opinion on the matter doesn't count? Well, I'm a woman. I've been importuned in a similar manner, in Dublin AND in London, at 2, if not 4, in the morning. And when I politely refused these polite offers, I was able to return to my room without incident. I didn't go online and tell men they should never do that to women. Because that would be ridiculous.
One thing coming out of all this, and I hope it continues, is that many atheists are questioning Watson’s place in the movement. I hope she has to justify her existence at these events and in this community, because a lot of careful readers out there have noted that she seems to bring very little to the table on the SGU podcast and in her blog.
I am not anti-woman. I am anti-Rebecca Watson. I am a woman, and I never gave Rebecca Watson permission to speak for me. When she says that, as someone who can't see the incident she described as objectification, I "don't get it," well, that really raises my hackles. I'm not stupider than you because I disagree. I know what it is to be objectified, and that's not it. You don't get to tell me how I'm supposed to feel about it. You don't have that privilege. You don't get to rewrite the rules of social interaction to suit your paranoia. You don't have that privilege. Richard Dawkins never said "be a good girl and keep quiet." You made that up. Your paraphrase of his comments adds things that weren't there. I paraphrase what he said as "NOTHING BAD HAPPENED TO YOU IN THAT ELEVATOR." And I agree with him completely. I'm sorry whatever mental illness you're clearly suffering from tells you otherwise. Good luck getting help, but you won't, because it's all of us who "don't get it" that have to change, right?

PS: The upshot of all this stupidity is it helped me find lots of cool bloggers. Here are some fun links on the subject, mostly from my side ("Team Elevator Guy")
  • The Justicar, who is pretty hilarious (imho)
  • Miranda Celeste, who I'm now following
  • Stef McGraw, who RW treated unprofessionally (imho)
  • ERV, awesome science nerd
  • Amy Alkon, great title on this post
  • and I'll include one more Team Rebecca post, The Blag Hag, who I have lost a lot of respect for in all this (note that I'm not urging a boycott of everything she's ever written. That would be childish.)