The Damage Richard Dawkins Did

And now, the final installment in this series of posts (the previous installment is here).

Picture of Richard Dawkins Scowling

This is Richard Dawkins. There are about 27,000,000 atheists and other sorts of non-believes in the United States.

Richard Dawkins didn’t do any damage to himself. Most of the people who were going to buy his books will still buy his books, he’ll continue to pack lecture halls as he travels around giving talks, and he’ll continue to have the kind of influence that he has had for several years now, which is by and large a very positive one, on the way society approaches things like religion, atheism, and skepticism.

But he has probably lost some colleagues. His treatment of both the issues surrounding Elevator Gate and his treatment of his colleague Rebecca Watson was appalling. And yes, Rebecca and Richard were colleagues. The two of them have traveled similar circuits, sat on panels together, and so on. Despite what star struck fans may think, Richard Dawkins does not actually live in an utterly different world than the rest of us. He still puts his pants on one leg at a time, and he is still part of a community of people doing similar, and overlapping things.

A funny thing happened to me a few years ago. Richard Dawkins was passing through town to give a talk about his book, The God Delusion. So, those of us who heard he was comming contacted others to let them know, and pretty soon we had a respectable number of individuals all going to go to the talk. The truth is, some of the people I went with that evening would have not gone to the talk had I or someone else not told them about it, and reserved the tickets for them, etc. Of course, had those individuals not gone, someone else would certainly have taken our place … if I recall correctly, the house was sold out. PZ Myers (of Pharyngula) also went to the talk and a lot of people got together with PZ Myers and Richard Dawkins before hand at a bar. A lot of those people may not have even known about the talk had PZ not announced it on his blog, but again, others may have taken their place.

Tim Tebow in Gators Uniform praying to god

Tim Tebow is an American Quarterback who often prays to god when things go his way on the ball field. On a good weekend, about 125,000,000 people in the United states watch a professional football game. If all the Atheists who watch football stopped watching it tomorrow and began to actively campaign against the game, there would not even be a ripple.

So a bunch of us parked somewhere, ate, and then walked over to the theater where the talk was to be given. On the way, some guy stopped me on the street corner. Someone I didn’t know. He said, “Hey, do you have ticket?” and I said “Yes, I do! Why?”

He wanted to buy my tickets. I asked him how much he was paying for them, and he said something like “Maybe fifty dollars?”

Holy crap, I thought. I could give this guy my ticket and get fifty dollars. As it turns out, I had an extra ticket with me that I planned on giving to a random bystander at the lecture hall. I could have made 100 bucks and sat out the talk and met my friends later. Maybe some of them would sell their tickets too! Fifty dollars to skip a talk by Richard Dawkins was pretty tempting.

So I said to him, “You would give me fifty dollars for a ticket to a lecture by Richard Dawkins?”

And his reply was, “Richard Dawkins? Who’s that? I’m looking for tickets to the game!”

Apparently there was a game that evening, probably the University’s football team or something.

So it turns out that a ticket to a Richard Dawkins talk is not that big of a deal. It turns out that of all the people with whom I ended up rendezvousing that evening before the talk would probably not bother going to a Richard Dawkins talk today, because of the way he handled Elevator Gate. It turns out that the Gophers are way way bigger than Richard Dawkins. And who knows, a lot of the people at that sports event are going to be praying to god on behalf of their team, or they are going to watch the athlete thanking the Sky Daddy for his divine intervention in their successful plays. And those athletes can do things … bad things … and still attract a large audience.

The problem with Richard Dawkins is that he has a more discriminating audience. And a smaller one. It is unfortunate that he seems to not understand his place.

A point of clarification: Although I make the comparison between audience size (indirectly) that Richard Dawkins may garner or the Gophers, or atheists generally vs. the NFS, I’m not trying to make a point here about competing audience sizes or the effects of an act on readership, viewership, etc. What I’m trying to say is this: The big money, the main stream press, the overall stuff that makes up the day to day activities and various investments of energy by Americans and others is about things like Football (or whatever) and not about the philosophy of religion, atheism, skepticism, etc. We are small fish and our issues are small issues and our activities are largely unnoticed, no matter how easily we may forget that. The things we do as a community are important, but they are small. They are things that a handful of people can do working together. It has been said (by an Anthropologist, of course) that we should never underestimate the effects of the determined activities of a small group of people. But for those small groups of people to have those effects, they can’t be fissioning on the basis of stupid-ass shit that has nothing to do with anything. This is not about Atheists or Skeptics increasing their audience to rival the NFL, or about how many books Richard Dawkins sells; It’s about how many things we can do that have a positive effect, and making those effects meaningful and lasting.

In the end, were you as surprised as I was that Dawkins didn’t come out of his shell to make some sort of helpful statement? To be honest, I’m still expecting it.

This is the last post in the present series, which starts here.

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109 Responses to The Damage Richard Dawkins Did

  1. gwen says:

    I agree, I am still very unhappy with his handling of ‘Elevatorgate’ AND separately, his treatment of Rebecca Watson. I would still (probably) attend a lecture, but without the amount of enthusiasm I would have had pre-kerfuffle.

  2. Alecthar says:

    Gwen, in what way did Dawkin’s handling of “Elevatorgate” differ from his treatment of Rebecca Watson?

    That’s a genuine inquiry, I didn’t really read blogs in this community until very recently, so I’m ignorant of much of these events.

  3. PZ Myers says:

    I didn’t just go to the talk, I was the guy who introduced him. I almost didn’t make it in time, because it took forever to find parking…because of the stupid game.

    I think you’ve set up a bit of a straw man here. Dawkins is an academic; as we both know, the academic side of the university simply cannot compete in the public’s eye with the athletic side. I had to stop and think for a moment to even remember what UMM’s mascot was (a cougar, I think), but to much of the public the only reason they set foot on campus is to go to the games. It’s no surprise that the Gophers are bigger than Dawkins to people who don’t give a damn about the intellectual side of life (that is, the majority of citizens).

    What I remember most, though, is that the morning of his talk, CASH (who sponsored it) were very worried about filling the auditorium, and that there were a lot of unsold tickets. What happened, though, is that Richard did a morning rush hour NPR interview with a snide scold, and came across as interesting, combative, and controversial…and there was immediately a huge surge of interest in the event, and there was a morning rush on tickets. Don’t give me credit for getting a crowd there, it was Richard himself and his personality and a fortuitous radio foil who did the job.

    And you know I’m on Rebecca’s side on the elevator nonsense, but realistically? It didn’t make the slightest dent in Dawkins’ popularity. He’s known for a heck of a lot more than that one event, and that stands as a reason to pay attention to him, no matter how much we might regret what I consider an error of perspective on his part.

  4. julian says:

    I honestly doubt Richard Dawkins’ behavior is going to have any impact on his attendance ratings. Atheists are also essentially stuck with whatever high profile speakers we have. It isn’t like we can create another Dawkins over night. And there is a reason so many atheists listen to him. He’s one of the people that best represents the views of this group.

  5. colubridae says:

    “He still puts his pants on one leg at a time, and he is still part of a community of people doing similar, and overlapping things.”

    Trousers – please.

  6. Here’s the direct link: Man sets fire to woman in elevator.

    The woman, who had grocery bags in her arms, turned about 180 degrees and then crouched in an attempted to protect herself, he said. But the man sprayed her directly in the face and continued to spray her “sort of methodically” over her head and parts of her body as the bags draped off her arms. She turned around and retreated to the back of the elevator….
     
    Neighbors reported a fire in the building, unaware that the woman, whom police declined to identify, was burning to death in the elevator.

  7. But elevators aren’t dangerous because you can always stop them!

  8. julian says:

    But elevators aren’t dangerous because you can always stop them!

    Yeah, that’s one thing I will not be getting over any time soon.

  9. julian says:
    But elevators aren’t dangerous because you can always stop them!

    Yeah, that’s one thing I will not be getting over any time soon.

    I mean, wtf? It was the most dismissive fucking thing I’ve ever heard. It was almost on par with ‘you should have screamed louder.’

    Gah!

    Now I’m shaking again. Fuck you, Dawkins.

  10. Marcel Kincaid says:

    And you know I’m on Rebecca’s side on the elevator nonsense

    Part of Rebecca’s side was that Dawkins is a has-been and we should stop buying his books. Greg talks about “damage caused”, but many in this community think that he’s misidentifying the source of the damage.

  11. Greg Laden says:

    PZ, thanks for the clarification on the details. I did not know that they were having trouble filling the hall… (But I quickly add, that the place Dawkins gave the talk is really really big … the previous talk I had seen there was Desmond Tutu.)

    I’m not so sure the comparison I make is a straw man as much as it is a reality check. In the lifetime of a person living in the late 20th and early 21st century, victories in atheism are not about shifting culture and civilization to be fully secular, but rather, smaller and more bite sized ones. Seriously: Getting “In God We Trust” off our money is unattainable (and maybe not that important). I would feel a great sense of accomplishment if I could help one school district to have a middle school that did not have anti-athirst bullying!

    Which brings us back to the point: I agree (and started out with the statement) that Dawkins’ popularity did not suffer because of this event, but when we measure our successes one vaccination program at a time or one billboard campaign at a time, mucking up the structure of our alliances can potentially have a measurable effect.

    I fully agree it was an error of perspective.

  12. julian says:

    Strawwomen are no nicer than strawmen, Marcel Kincaid.

  13. Midnight Rambler says:

    He still puts his pants on one leg at a time

    Slightly OT, but does anyone actually put their pants/trousers on one leg at a time? It’s always bugged me because I do put my pants on both legs at once (starting from sitting down). When I first heard this I thought it was sort of a joke with the opposite meaning, that the person was stupid.

  14. John Moeller says:

    Part of Rebecca’s side was that Dawkins is a has-been and we should stop buying his books. Greg talks about “damage caused”, but many in this community think that he’s misidentifying the source of the damage.

    I don’t recall Rebecca saying that. I think it may have been one of the Skepchicks who said that she personally was going to boycott the books, but I don’t remember a call for everyone to do the same.

    Slightly OT, but does anyone actually put their pants/trousers on one leg at a time? It’s always bugged me because I do put my pants on both legs at once (starting from sitting down). When I first heard this I thought it was sort of a joke with the opposite meaning, that the person was stupid.

    I guess it depends. If I’m sitting, there’s no reason not to pant my legs in parallel. If I’m standing, then I pant each lower leg individually and then pull them up the rest of the way.

  15. To pant ones legs, LOL! Verbing weirds language.
    (No sarcasm, happy LOL, it’s cute)

  16. I do. I sit down to put socks on, but not trousers. Sitting down for trouser-donning seems weak. I’m a big girl, I put my trousers on standing up!

    Really; I think sitting down to put on trousers feels like riding a tricycle or something.

    No offense to sitters-down, of course.

  17. John Moeller says:

    “To trouse” is a synonym. :-)

  18. julian says:

    @John Moeller

    Ms. Watson did say she wouldn’t be giving Richard Dawkins any of her support because of how dismissive he’d been to her and what she described as the fears of many women.

    She explicitly said she was not calling for anyone to join her. Nor did she say that Richard Dawkins wasn’t worth listening to or that he was ‘washed up.’ Her decision to stop buying Richard Dawkin’s work was entirely a personal one.

  19. julian says:

    re pants

    I only ever put them on both legs at a time if I want to avoid getting wrinkles in ‘em. Usually have my shoes on when I do that too.

  20. John Moeller says:

    @julian — Thanks for the clarification. I knew there were some facts somewhere, I just had a hard time teasing them out of the stew.

  21. Greg Laden says:

    Marcel [11]: I wonder what thing someone said led you to think that Rebecca (or someone else?) suggested that Dawkins is a “has-been”? Also, Rebecca did not say that “we should stop buying his books.” There are people who inaccurately said that she called for a boycott, but she did not.

    Greg talks about “damage caused”, but many in this community think that he’s misidentifying the source of the damage.

    What, did you just have a meeting? Can I see the minutes! :)

  22. Greg Laden says:

    Julian [20] … that’s “Has-been” not “Washed-up” … totally different things!

  23. Marcel Kincaid says:

    If people want to get fired up about atheist icons being dismissive of women, see http://www.thenation.com/blog/165222/regarding-christopher

  24. Marcel Kincaid says:

    I don’t recall Rebecca saying that.

    Uh, so what?

    http://skepchick.org/2011/07/the-privilege-delusion/

    Dawkins is not the present. He is the past.

    I think that’s reasonably close to “a has-been”, which was my characterization of what she wrote, not a quotation. (And I didn’t write “washed up”).

    And

    Despite the fact that I’ve seen hundreds of comments from those of you who plan to do the same, I’m sure Dawkins will continue to be stinking rich until the end of his days. But those of us who are humanists and feminists will find new, better voices to promote and inspire, and Dawkins will be left alone to fight the terrible injustice of standing in elevators with gum-chewers.

    She was not just speaking for herself. Not all of “those of us who are humanists and feminists” don’t share her view of Dawkins. (And I didn’t hold a meeting any more than she did.)

  25. Marcel Kincaid says:

    There are people who inaccurately said that she called for a boycott, but she did not.

    Indeed she did not call for one but she did encourage one, with the implication that those who do continue to recommend or buy his books or attend his lectures are not among “those of us who are humanists and feminists”. This is clear to all who are intellectually honest.

  26. Greg Laden says:

    Marcel, Rebecca was clearly speaking about “the present and the past” in a very specific ways that had to do with her own relationship to skepticism and atheism, not about him being “washed up” or “has been” Here is the larger context of the quote you pulled out, which has a much different meaning:

    What is the point in continuing?

    That’s where you come in. You, dear reader, have been incredible. You posted in response to Dawkins on the Pharyngula thread, bravely battling both him and the hoards of clueless privileged people who didn’t get it. You emailed me to tell me to keep talking. You introduced yourself at SkepchickCon and told me how much you loved Skepchick and SGU. You wrote blog posts and made videos and were kick ass, and you made me realize that Dawkins is not the present. He is the past.

    So many of you voiced what I had already been thinking: that this person who I always admired for his intelligence and compassion does not care about my experiences as an atheist woman and therefore will no longer be rewarded with my money, my praise, or my attention. 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.

  27. Greg Laden says:

    Indeed she did not call for one but she did encourage one

    No she didn’t. What she said and didn’t say in this regard is on record and this has been debated and discussed extensively. The simple truth is that for some reason, the idea of Rebecca Watson calling for a boycott of Richard Dawkins drives them crazy, and Rebecca haters really want her to have said that. I have no idea why, but they do. So they keep insisting it happened. But it really didn’t.

    I for one think that people should think twice about buying Dawkins’ books or paying for his lectures. I feel similarly to Gwen, who’s comment tops this comment thread. This is not a boycott or a call for a boycott, just a suggestion that in fact Richard Dawkins is not god, and maybe there are better ways to invest.

    (As it happens I did buy one of his books after he dissed Rebecca.)

    Do tell me, though, why are these things you imagine Rebecca to have done so important? What difference would it make?

  28. julian says:

    Marcel Kincaid, what was that I said about stawpeople up thread?

    This is clear to all who are intellectually honest.

    I’ll believe you’re being intellectually honest when you’re on WEIT berating Jerry Coyne for trying to bully and intimidate the NCSE.

  29. Marcel Kincaid says:

    I’ll believe you’re being intellectually honest when you’re on WEIT berating Jerry Coyne for trying to bully and intimidate the NCSE.

    You demonstrate your own extraordinary intellectual dishonesty with such an absurd tu quoque. You have no idea what I have or have not said in regard to Jerry Coyne, nor is it at all reasonable to pose your own preferred action out of the trillions of possible actions as a test of my intellectual honesty. You don’t even know whether I agree with you in your characterization of Coyne … if I don’t, then it would be intellectually dishonest for me to berate him for it, and it would be low pandering for me to do so merely to avoid your charge of intellectual dishonesty.

    Enough said in this forum.

  30. julian says:

    I for one think that people should think twice about buying Dawkins’ books or paying for his lectures.

    You really shouldn’t buy a book just because it was written by someone you like. That’s what led to Stephen King getting away with complete crap for almost a decade.

    Funny thing is I couldn’t disagree with Rebecca Watson more on this. The only reason I would buy another book by Richard Dawkins as this point is if it were about feminism. I find it very worthwhile to read the works of people you disagree with especially if you’ve found them to be a clear thinker on other issues.

    Within reason, of course. I won’t be reading anything else by Rick Warren. The Purpose Driven Life made me want to rip out my eye balls.

  31. julian says:

    You demonstrate your own extraordinary intellectual dishonesty with such an absurd tu quoque.

    Wasn’t a tu quoque.

    For starters, I’m not saying, you too. I do not accept your characterization of me. I didn’t feel compelled to point that out, since our blog host already accused you of quote mining Ms. Watson’s post.

    What I was doing was accusing you of holding a double standard for the actions of two different individuals involved in E-gate. You could criticize me for that assumption. And you are right, I don’t know how you feel about Dr. Coyne. So what? You’ve done the same in this very thread. (That’s a tu quoque.)

    PS I find it very ironic that you flip out after one criticism when you were the first to accuse everyone of being intellectually dishonest. Perhaps you should grow that thicker skin Richard Dawkins was talking about.

  32. Greg Laden says:

    Julian [33]

    Sure, but … there is a sea of books and any one person has time for a creel or two of them. I actually bought Dawkins’ anthology of science writing, even though I criticized (and got in trouble for this) the lack of female contributors even though there certainly are many. In a way, that is the LAST book of his I should buy, but since his last few other books were all given to me I have the luxury of boycotting him (or any writer) while still getting their books.

    Also, I don’t think Dawkins and Rebecca disagree on much. I don’t actually think Dawkins agrees with himself on what he said to Rebecca, which is why I am astonished he hasn’t come out with something about this.

  33. Achrachno says:

    What is an error of perspective? How is that even possible? Standing in the “wrong” place?

    Don’t all perspectives necessarily have a unique view of the situation?

  34. Barry says:

    Greg, have you contacted Dawkins and asked him why he hasn’t “come out of his shell to make some sort of helpful statement?” I understand the sentiments on display, but rather than speculating and hand-wringing, why not pose the question direct and either get an answer…or at worst, be ignored?

    Maybe you already know that Dawkins is a regular reader of this blog, but absent new information I was puzzled what your purpose was in repeating what has already been said and covered countless times already. Unless Dawkins’ continued silence is somehow new information.

  35. Greg Laden says:

    Barry, are you suggesting that I should stop talking about this issue? You seem to be.

    OK, I will. As soon as you read this: http://goo.gl/vXZ98 and report back.

    Of course Richards reads my blog. Who wouldn’t?

  36. Physicalist says:

    Who wouldn’t?

    My sister doesn’t.

  37. frankboyd says:

    Well, it’s good to know that the defences of reason and civilisation are so well manned.

    If RW and here fanclub are reduced to hysterics over this non-issue, what on earth will they be like against a real threat?

  38. Stuartvo says:

    If RW and here fanclub are reduced to hysterics over this non-issue, what on earth will they be like against a real threat?

    Yeah, you can’t rely on those hysterical bitches for anything, they’re just too emotional.

    And where’s my sammich?

    </sarcasm>

    Sheesh. There’s always one of them, isn’t there?

  39. julian says:

    Wow frankboyd, I can totally tell you read all of the recent posts here on this issue. I am blown away by your mastery of the case facts. Truly you are something we should all aspire to be.

  40. julian says:

    It’s funny too that he’s talking about a “real threat.” Several of the women commenting have faced what I would call real threats and spoke out because of it. But of course, they weren’t frankboyd certified real threats so they don’t count.

  41. interrobang says:

    I made a personal decision to ditch Dawkins too, especially after that Pharyngula thread where he posted the now-infamous “Dear Muslima” comment. I’ve noticed from some other of his writing that he’s very much of a mindset where if things don’t bother him, they shouldn’t bother anybody else, either, and (as anybody who writes or reads horror fiction knows well), that’s not the way the world works. Something that you find insignificant could traumatise me in life-changing ways, and vice versa. So maybe if your first impulse is to be callow and dismissive about other people’s experiences, you should try listening instead of talking, and Dawkins failed that one, bigtime.

    Speaking of horror fiction, Stephen King didn’t “get away with” anything; the decade or so of (alleged) crap happened because of his massive drug and alcohol habit; well, that and it’s hard to know what you’re getting if you buy a book you haven’t read before. (Personally, I don’t think there is all that much “crap”; I’ve only read about three novels of his — of over thirty — that I thought were really bad. That’s a pretty good record, by Sturgeon’s metric.)

  42. julian says:

    I’ve noticed from some other of his writing that he’s very much of a mindset where if things don’t bother him, they shouldn’t bother anybody else, either, and … that’s not the way the world works.

    Can you be more specific? I’ve only read a couple of his books so I’m working with a very small sample size but I haven’t really seen that attitude from him.

  43. The Ys says:

    I find it interesting that out of this series of posts, the one that gained the largest number of responses (and thus possibly the most attention?) is the one with Dawkins in the title. Name recognition FTW.

    Regardless of his intent and of his personal feelings on the matter, his continued silence is highly depressing. I realise that any quality I assign to it is something out of my own mind, but continued silence seems like a lack of concern or a complete dismissal of concern. It may be some degree of embarrassment for all I know, however.

    I was personally upset by the dismissive tone (due to harassment issues that I won’t touch on just now), but I think that Dawkins actually did us a huge favour. His comments showed that even the big names of the movement are susceptible to believing their own hype, and it showed that we can’t stop questioning our own beliefs or those of the people around us. It also allowed everyone a chance to see the exact mindset that Watson referenced…and on a large scale too. It clearly delineated the scope of the problem, and the language and attitudes we need to address. It also energised a bunch of bloggers into speaking up more loudly and more often, and prompted a number of atheist women to start commenting more frequently on a variety of issues.

    Overall, I think his words unintentionally wound up doing more good than harm. I won’t be buying his books, though, or reading more of his work. I don’t need to – there are other authors out there who don’t stomp on women for the amusement value. I’ll stick with them.

  44. julian says:

    I don’t need to – there are other authors out there who don’t stomp on women for the amusement value.

    Is this something Richard Dawkins has a history of? To my knowledge he generally keeps discussion of women confined to religion and the negative impact it’s had on them. The Muslima and ‘push the stop button’ comments seemed pretty far removed from his normal style. (Which I think is why it caught so many off guard.)

  45. nippletwister says:

    I actually gained a little extra respect for Dawkins (and a giggle or two) over this. The best thing he could have done for himself would have been to say nothing. Leave it alone and let it die a quick and natural death like most pointlessly hyped non-troversies(as many reasonable and well-meaning people did). But it was truly refreshing to see someone prominent give the whole kerfuffle a well-deserved raspberry instead of politely ignoring it or joining the caterwaul chorus because of peer pressure or an overactive righteous indignation gland.

    I hope he maintains his silence, while others continue to pout and act as if he owes them something. He could choose to expound his remarks. That would be a mistake, not because there is anything indefensible about them, but because any defense or explanation would never, ever be fairly or honestly considered by any of those who have been demanding that people treat this non-issue seriously. They wouldn’t listen in good faith, as they ask of everyone else- but would, without any serious consideration, just set to chopping it up for political kindling and make another six months’ hand-wringing and smugly pious shaming material out of nothing, using and abusing the reputation of someone who has actually earned his celebrity.
    Or he could change his tune to sell a few more books, and be praised (or at least smugly forgiven and patted on the head) by the fickle self-appointed gatekeepers of feminism for his dishonesty. But silence is both honest and all this “issue” deserves. It’s always fun to watch a sparrow-fart of manufactured outrage choke itself to death on its own fumes instead of catching fire.

    But hey, keep blowing on those flickering embers of indignation for a few more months…maybe if you have enough faith in your cant, then like the fabled Phoenix an actual issue will emerge and take flight!

  46. julian says:

    But it was truly refreshing to see someone prominent give the whole kerfuffle a well-deserved raspberry instead of politely ignoring it or joining the caterwaul chorus because of peer pressure or an overactive righteous indignation gland.

    Yes he was entirely right in telling other sexual assault survivors all you have to do to get away from an attacker is push the stop button. That wasn’t at all something he should apologize for or feel ashamed of. He should feel proud. His fans certainly do. You lot can’t help but praise such sentiments.

  47. julian says:

    And I’m shaking (with rage) again. Nice to see the true face of atheism today. I’m sure you could teach the Repugs a thing or two.

    And fuck now there’s another one of your lot over Pharyngula stating that the only way rape can occur after alcohol is consumed is if you’re to unconscious to know what’s going on. All that slight discomfort doesn’t amount to rape per se.

    Fuck all of you.

  48. julian says:

    They wouldn’t listen in good faith, as they ask of everyone else

    Listen in good faith. You fucking sack of shit.

    He berated the group demanding someone explain why what he said was offense ‘without using the word fuck.’ (Because, of course, only his feelings mattered. Never mind how all those he had just treated with complete contempt might feel) A rape survivor explained it. Hundreds of those affected by rape and sexual assault co signed it. And you fucking pissed on it without showing any hint of having read it.

  49. Greg Laden says:

    nippletwistie:

    Leave it alone and let it die a quick and natural death like most pointlessly hyped non-troversies(as many reasonable and well-meaning people did).So you are saying this: http://goo.gl/vXZ98

    Julian [47] I’ll only point out one thing because it was a conversation on the internet: People were a bit shocked when he came out with his science writing anthology and had a severe under-representation of women. Any such anthology (of scientists, writing) would have far more men than women if it is historical (and it was) but other anthologies with similar criteria put together in earlier times had more women. One could guess that it never occurred to Dawkins or anyone else involved in that project to take a diversity count and be aware of where they were.

    This became an argument at the time in which the Dawkins-symps insisted on a lot of “truths” that were demonstrably wrong.

    I don’t know about the amusement value but the stomping on general womanness is blatant, considering what century we are in.

  50. Robert says:

    Here’s a new, humorous law for you.

    “As an atheist blog goes on, the probability of taking a shot at Tim Tebow approaches 1.”

    AS a complete outsider who can barely remember how I ended up here…okay I think it was Watts Up With That> Greg Laden’s Blog> The X Factor…I had almost forgotten about the Dawkins/Watson Tempest until I read the whole series today. Thanks, it was entertaining an enlightening.

    And now, I dare any of you to tell me that as soon as you read “Watts Up With That” you didn’t judge me. :)

    Theme song for this comment thread:

    I built the House
    I felt the Pain
    You’re victimized
    But got no one to blame

    Just another victim
    You’re just another victim, kid
    Just another victim
    You’re just another victim, kid

  51. Greg Laden says:

    You won’t be judged for visiting “Watts Up With That” … the smiley face, on the other hand … that’s a different matter entirely!

  52. frankboyd says:

    Yeah. A ham-fisted offer of coffee is equivalent to sexual assault. Hysterics doesn’t even begin to cover this.

    Let’s state what this is really about, shall we? Dawkins, who must have noticed that the whole “ain’t we free-think-in” crowd” barely rouse themselves to the most minute of efforts when the ammo is live and the stakes are real. He had the temerity to call you lot on it. Hurts, doesn’t it?

    Another way of looking at this is the converse. Where would the defence of reason be without Dawkins? It’d be crippled. Where would it be without RW and her fanclub? Hell, people wouldn’t even notice. You know the religious right is pointing at you and laughing, right?

    This is exactly why Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a member of the American Enterprise institute.

  53. Robert says:

    “You won’t be judged for visiting “Watts Up With That” … the smiley face, on the other hand … that’s a different matter entirely!”

    Touche.

  54. Greg Laden says:

    Yeah. A ham-fisted offer of coffee is equivalent to sexual assault.

    OMG, did somebody make that claim? That’s absurd! Holy crap! Of course it isn’t!

    Or, is somebody making this mistake: http://goo.gl/RmeXj

  55. julian says:

    Yeah. A ham-fisted offer of coffee is equivalent to sexual assault. Hysterics doesn’t even begin to cover this.

    Do you even know what you’re talking about? Did you even read the thread where Richard Dawkins laughed off the concerns of women who (in situations similar to Ms. Watson’s) had been sexually assaulted? (One had even been molested in a hotel elevator.) Did you read him cavalierly dismiss all such concerns because you could push the stop button on an elevator?

    You know the religious right is pointing at you and laughing, right?

    Because they have such a wonderful track record with women’s rights.

  56. The Ys says:

    Nippletwit @ 48:

    I actually gained a little extra respect for Dawkins (and a giggle or two) over this.

    My tealdeer says you’re full of shit. You didn’t gain respect for Dawkins – you’re flattered because you think Dawkins agrees with your ridiculously low opinion of women.

    Keep patting yourself on the back. With any luck, you’ll twist wrong and break your own arm, and then we won’t hear for you from 4-6 weeks.

  57. The Ys says:

    Oh, that’s what I get for typing whilst watching the Big Bang Theory. That should’ve been:

    “With any luck, you’ll twist wrong and break your own arm, and then we won’t hear from you for 4-6 weeks.”

  58. The Ys says:

    Frank @ 55:

    Yeah. A ham-fisted offer of coffee is equivalent to sexual assault. Hysterics doesn’t even begin to cover this.

    ‘Testerics’ might be the better word since certain men seem to be the ones throwing tantrums.

    Another way of looking at this is the converse. Where would the defence of reason be without Dawkins?

    What does this have to do with the issue under discussion?

    You know the religious right is pointing at you and laughing, right?

    Yup. They’re laughing because they think women have nowhere to go where they’ll actually be respected and treated as human beings.

    That’s what religion is built on: control and subjugation of women. Nice to see a few of you took that lesson to heart.

  59. Greg Laden says:

    Why do people pay attention to Rebecca Watson at all?

    Because she is very funny (for a woman), smart, does interesting stuff. If you have a chance to pay attention to her, you’d be a dumbass not to.

    Granted, Dawkins has similar problems

    I know. Why do people pay attention to Dawkins, who knows?

    I plan on buying every book and video he’s ever released just to spite people looking for the nails to their self-pity cross and critical theory hangers-on.

    You are so smart. Can I have your babies?

  60. satan augustine says:

    Greg, you say:

    “I don’t actually think Dawkins agrees with himself on what he said to Rebecca

    Well, first of all Dawkins never said anything to Rebecca. He responded to the pharyngula horde on the subject of RW. And he was responding to many hyper-emotional, unreasoned, over-reactive comments (not that they were all like this, but, Greg, I’m sure you know how vitriolic and downright mean the comments section of pharyngula can get if anyone disagrees with the horde). When Dawkins’ comments are put in perspective it becomes quite clear that he:

    1)Was not responding to Rebecca; she wasn’t writing comments on pharyngula. In fact, Rebecca’s comments about the elevator situation were quite mild: “Word to the wise, don’t do this guys. This makes me feel uncomfortable.” (a paraphrase)

    2)Was responding to the pharyngula commenters whose comments were far from mild.

    Dawkins did considerably less damage than those who responded to his 3 posts on pharyngula as though he were a misogynistic sexist who was harming the atheist/skeptic cause (this appears to be the view you are expressing here, Greg). Dawkins initial post on pharyngula was merely putting in perspective an incident that the commenters were blowing out of proportion. His subsequent comments showed some naivete (the whole push a button to stop the elevator thing) and some lack of empathy, but nothing worthy of your characterization of him here. I repeat for the severalth time, these were comments on a pharyngula thread, where the discourse can tends toward the emotional, not rational. Dawkins did not post an article on his website addressing Rebecca, nor did he leave a comment on one of Rebecca’s Skepchick posts. Given all this I find nearly everyone’s response to Dawkins 3 comments an absurd overreaction. I’m surprised that Rebecca took them so personally that she saw fit to write a lengthy blog post about it. It is certainly her right to do so, but her response, like most everyone else, seemed overblown to me.

    I for one am not at all surprised that Dawkins hasn’t responded further. As another commenter here points out, whatever he says would be picked apart in order for those on Rebecca’s “side” (I’m not on anyone’s side. I like Rebecca and I like Dawkins. That there are sides is a perfect example of how needlessly absurd and silly this whole situation is). I suspect that Dawkins’ primary reason for not commenting further on this situation is that he knows he’s in a no win situation and does not wish to engage in what became a childish game.

  61. julian says:

    @satan augustine

    1) many didn’t believe it was Richard Dawkins who posted and largely ignored him. Those that didn’t actually explained why it was idiotic to pull the pain olympics bit considering no atheist anywhere outside of the middle east can compare to what other minorities deal with.

    2) when they were convinced it was Dawkins most were still very respectful and continued to explain why being dismissive of sexual assault fears was offensive going so far as to share their stories of survival with him.

    3)The discussion had always been about how legitimate the sexual assault fears of women were. That was the entire basis for telling Rebecca Watson she was just a hysterical woman who needed to get over herself.

    Please don’t make things up in order to make your case. Richard Dawkins messed up. He could have fixed it at any point by admitting he’d spoken grossly out of turn on a subject he had given zero thought. He didn’t. He dug deeper.

  62. julian says:

    Was not responding to Rebecca

    Also he was definitely replying to Rebecca Watson. That’s why he derisively called her skepchick during his muslima comment.

  63. satan augustine says:

    Julian – I think you missed my point, which was that he was not in conversation with Rebecca, but with pharyngula commenters who were blowing the situation out of proportion (which Rebecca did not do). Obviously he was referring to Rebecca, but he was not speaking to Rebecca. Like I said, he didn’t write a post on his website addressing Rebecca and did not respond in the comment section of any of Rebecca’s Skepchick posts. That is what I meant when I said: “Not responding to Rebecca.”

    If Dawkins had responded directly to Rebecca in either of the ways I mentioned above then my thoughts and feelings about this situation would be different: I would probably see the outrage expressed as more justified and would be wondering “What the fuck is wrong with Dawkins?” That he was responding to an emotionally overloaded pharyngula thread lead me to a different conclusion.

    Thanks for asking for clarification. I hope that is what I have provided.

  64. julian says:

    But he wasn’t just referring to Ms. Watson and, to me, it appeared he was criticizing her response as well as that of the posters at pharyngula. He derisively referred to her as skepchick (“she calls herself skepchick”) echoing the comments and views of many throughout this ‘kerfuffle’ and before it. That ‘she calls herself skepchick and expects to be treated with respect lol!’ which you see across many comments whenever her name is brought up.

    Yes, the posters at pharyngula were fired up. If you read the thread many had come by to laugh at the idea any woman had any reason to be afraid of sexual assault in elevators (Richard Dawkins unapologetically among them) and the posters who themselves have felt intimidated in similar situations. I think it worth pointing out there were many infrequent and new posters posting just to express how they understood why someone wouldn’t feel safe in such a situation and to share whatever stories of sexual harassment or assault they had.

    All, of course, to counter the idea (again, expressed by Dr. Dawkins) that this was a non-issue and that any woman who felt otherwise was being hysterical.

    And no, Richard Dawkins was not treated harshly. Not even after he started digging in his heels. It wasn’t until he dismissed everyone and demanded he be answered without the use of the word ‘fuck’ (nevermind the replies he’d gotten that began by expressing the writer’s respect for him) that people got genuinely angry with him.

  65. satan augustine says:

    I wrote a lengthy rebuttal, but then realized that I didn’t agree with half of what I wrote so I’ll keep it simple.

    Yes, Dawkins fucked up, but not to the degree that Greg and many others seem to think.

    I did not make things up to make my case. If you believe I did, please give an example, preferably with a quote. I do not claim infallibility.

    I did not say that Dawkins was treated harshly and if I implied this that was not my intent.

    The reality is that no one is responsible for the reactions of others to their statements. If I say something that is interpreted as a slight or a put-down or disrespectful when I didn’t mean it in that way, I am not responsible for the person addressed’s reactions to that. People should own their own feelings, especially in a situation where there is some ambiguity about the intent of the speaker, in this case Dawkins. Yes, clarification of what one really meant can possibly be helpful, but it also can lead to further miscommunication and misinterpretation, especially on the internet where we are not privy to the facial expressions, tone of voice, or body language of one another. Thus my statement that I can understand why Dawkins has remained silent on this issue – anything short of a full capitulation would be seen as suspect and even that could be misinterpreted. I do hope that Dawkins learned something from this: that even the relatively “small battles” do matter, but Dawkins did less “damage” than Greg implies here.

    I’m tired and so I’m signing off.

  66. Greg Laden says:

    satan augustine: Interesting comment. I’m pretty sure, though, that this conversation did not involve parallel worlds with no communication between them.

    Go read Richard’s comment… as a matter of fact,I’ll make it easy and print it below … and check your position on this. There is no doubt that Dawkins was speaking directly to Rebecca in sarcastic parody.

    ——

    Dear Muslima

    Stop whining, will you. Yes, yes, I know you had your genitals mutilated with a razor blade, and . . . yawn . . . don’t tell me yet again, I know you aren’t allowed to drive a car, and you can’t leave the house without a male relative, and your husband is allowed to beat you, and you’ll be stoned to death if you commit adultery. But stop whining, will you. Think of the suffering your poor American sisters have to put up with.

    Only this week I heard of one, she calls herself Skep”chick”, and do you know what happened to her? A man in a hotel elevator invited her back to his room for coffee. I am not exaggerating. He really did. He invited her back to his room for coffee. Of course she said no, and of course he didn’t lay a finger on her, but even so . . .

    And you, Muslima, think you have misogyny to complain about! For goodness sake grow up, or at least grow a thicker skin.

    Richard

  67. Greg Laden says:

    satan Yes, Dawkins fucked up, but not to the degree that Greg and many others seem to think.

    What degree is that? I’m stating that he broke some previously useful allegiances. That’s a demonstrable fact. I’ve not calibrated this to a “degree” of fuckediuppity on any kind of scale. You’re adding that.

    The reality is that no one is responsible for the reactions of others to their statements.

    I don’t think that is the point. The point is that Richard lost track of the fact that all of these conversations move along a spectrum ( http://freethoughtblogs.com/xblog/2011/12/16/a-spectrum-as-a-slippery-slope-and-omg-hitler-is-a-nazi/ ) and he made a logical error and turned it into unnecessary snark. He made an amateurish mistake. That’s all.

    That he made the mistake is not that important. That he leaves it hanging there is. So, his silence is not a reason to label this all as unimportant. It is the thing that is going on, the point, the problem, the fuck-up, the more-than-zero bad.

  68. julian says:

    Re-reading that I am reminded why I will never take anyone who applauded Richard Dawkins for that comment seriously on any issue involving atheists again.

  69. ... says:

    What degree is that? I’m stating that he broke some previously useful allegiances

    Such as? Who exactly is useful here? Let’s be clear about this: RW and her efforts could cease tomorrow and outside of the incestuous “skeptical” blogosphere, the effect would be nil. Dawkins does more for reason and science in a day than they do in their entire lives.

  70. Greg Laden says:

    Such as? Who exactly is useful here?

    You are obviously not in the loop.

    In any event, it is funny you should ask at this moment. A minor example: Five minutes ago a colleague asked me to promote an event. Ten minutes ago another colleague asked me to promote a different event. The first one is about to get promoted, and I’ll pass on emails to other colleagues about that. The earlier one is a Richard Dawkins talk, which I will not be mentioning or promoting.

  71. julian says:

    That’s not true, Horsa. She also posts scantly clad pictures of herself and then bitches about being “sexualized”.

    Oh that’s right. Any woman anywhere who has a sexy persona or poses nude can never ever complain about being sexualized. I shall forward this Aliaa Magda Elmahdy. She should know before she takes any kind of stand that the Islamists berating her for this are 100% right.

  72. nippletwister says:

    My tealdeer says you’re full of shit. You didn’t gain respect for Dawkins – you’re flattered because you think Dawkins agrees with your ridiculously low opinion of women.

    My ridiculously low opinion of women? Rich. Your psychic powers must be waning today. I think of them and treat them as equal human beings. I refuse to treat women as weaklings, inferiors, or some kind of crippled, stunted endangered species. Our society does a great deal of prescribing roles for women, and I detest it, and speak out against it. Year by year, it is still getting better, step by step. I just don’t think we’ll solve anything by returning to some sort of feminism-enhanced victorian sensibility. It reeks to me, not of equality or even sensitivity, but of enforced roles and social conditioning which might make a minority of women more comfortable at times, but does nothing at all to change the realities and even hurts others.

    Example: crossing the street to avoid women as a general rule.(I know, context…I said “general” rule) I’ve spent my entire life living in medium to large sized California towns…I have never seen a place where this behavior was the norm, even at night. If I see that a person seems nervous or out of place, I will keep my distance out of courtesy, but not just women and not all women all the time. I have seen several situations where such actions made things worse, and increased the suspicion and anxiety. In all these years, I have had women on only four occasions cross the street to stay away from me at night. If it helped them feel safer, great. I would never criticize. I walk around town a lot and ride public transportation to work, and talk to women of all ages all the time. I give directions, explain the bus routes, make friendly small talk. I’ve never had anyone get so much as an uncomfortable look on their face or turn away to a phone or ipod. Thankfully, most women I’ve met in the world are not the fear-filled caricatures that seem to populate some blogs.

    When people start to encourage silent, restrictive, hyper-deferential codes of behavior as a norm, it may please some. It may make life easier for the painfully shy, or those who just don’t like people and don’t want to grow out of it. But I know just as many women who would feel annoyed and disempowered by such behavior as I do ones who might like it from time to time. And yes, despite what some probably think, I talk to women about these issues, and I listen…and none, not one, of my real-life friends or relatives is anywhere near as delicate or apparently fearful as what I see online.

    I find that the treating all women as victims-in-waiting, who need my polite silence and a comically wide berth to get through their day without incident, to be a dehumanizing and condescending thing that only perpetuates the attitudes its supporters claim to abhor. It is something we should be striving to leave behind as adult equals, unless equality isn’t really the goal.

  73. ellen says:

    I’m frankly unsurprised by Dawkins’ behaviour, or his subsequent (non) response. He’s typical of the basically arrogant persona who’s had its arrogance validated too many times by too many adoring, uncritical fans. What is it the panty-flingers call him? A ‘rockstar’? How very appropriate; just like a ‘rockstar’, Sir Dickie has revealed himself to be a misogynistic, overprivileged, fawned-over and badly spoilt brat.

    It was all there, way back in the days of ‘The Selfish Gene’…but no one wanted to see the ugly manifestation then, and of course, there will always be the starry-eyed followers who have no wish to see Sir Dickie be dethroned from his ‘rockstar’ status–the status his sycophants in large measure were responsible for projecting him into–even now, and even after how many more nasty displays of puerile overprivilege, condescension and woman-bashing await in his future.

  74. julian says:

    I’m not sure what grounds Elmahdy would have to complain about being sexualized in this case. -Horsa

    Just making sure she understands everything the Islamists have said about how men treat indecent women is true. You and your ilk have made it clear once a woman has done something sexual she forfeits the right to not be sexualized elsewhere and to have her opinion matter.

    One could easily argue that Rebecca Watson has a undeserved fanbase of sycophants. -Horsa

    Excuse me, who’re you to tell people who does or does not represent them, their feelings or who’s had some sor of impact on their lives/experience? Wasn’t your gun-tottin’ buddy complaining about that upthread?

    It was all there, way back in the days of ‘The Selfish Gene’ -ellen

    er

    I’m not seeing it. The Selfish Gene is one of my favorite books and I’m not seeing the hints of sexism you’re describing.

  75. julian says:

    If it helped them feel safer, great. I would never criticize. -nippletwister

    Except of course,

    Thankfully, most women I’ve met in the world are not the fear-filled caricatures that seem to populate some blogs.

    I love how you get to tell women who’ve been sexually assaulted how they can or cannot feel about walking down the street at night. How very patronizing of you.

  76. Greg Laden says:

    Horsa, you should check the dates on those books you just mentioned, and possibly even look at the academic work behind them (and check the dates on those too). It isn’t the case that all ideas are put into books as they occur, then published by Tardis Timelord Publishing Inc at the same fixed point in time and space.

  77. julian says:

    Horsa, I know the book was written before I was even swimming around in my dad’s nut-sack. I know it doesn’t give the full or even necessarily the best picture of evolution. It is still a very well written and informative book.

    I also happen to enjoy Guys and Dolls despite it being a truly sexist, patronizing piece of god botherer twitdom. Doesn’t mean I can appreciate or enjoy the good show tunes.

  78. nippletwister says:

    Julian…okay, your flailing non-responses at least sometimes have the beginnings of a point, but now you’re just doing the same thing I see a whole hell of a lot of on certain posts…being a dishonest shit.

    If woman doesn’t want to be near me (or any other male for that matter) I will of course not try to undermine that, and I will not criticize the choice to move away from me. I am still free to think that people who try to lay down repressive rules on the internet are fear-filled caricatures. Two different quotes about two different but related subjects, lying quote-mining dumbass.

    Also, I could even think that a woman who moves away from me is unnecessarily fearful and only giving herself a hard time in life, but I still wouldn’t criticize her personal choice or say she shouldn’t do it if she feels the need. I’m cetainly not going to try to convince her of anything if she doesn’t want to be near me. But hey, thanks for lying to make it seem otherwise, you’re a real pleasure. Now you should do what some people on Pharyngula do, and compare me to Muslims that stone their wives, or post some horrific video of African women being burned alive with a quote mined from me somehow involved….that seems about your honesty level.

  79. Greg Laden says:

    Horsa, I was not nitpicking. I was criticizing your sloppy and biased scholarship in the politest way I could. You did miss my point by a mile.

    Nippletwisty: If woman doesn’t want to be near me (or any other male for that matter) I will of course not try to undermine that,

    I would hope not, because I imagine it happens all the time.

    Horsa This is boring, too. I’d really like to see a return to discussing Rebecca Watson’s lack of talent or expertise in anything.

    Talk about boring. You have a one track mind. Which sock puppet of Franc Hoggle are you again?

  80. Greg Laden says:

    Horsa, I may have missed this but what is the URL to your blog/podcast?

  81. julian says:

    Another letter opened with “Dear Dick” and accused Dr. Dawkins of making the skeptic community “blatantly unsafe” for women.

    Some of the letters were downright rude to Richard Dawkins but Dear Dick (Dick being short hand for Richard) was not among them. It was exactly what he requested (that someone explain why what he had said was dismissive) from exactly the kind of people who were in a position to make the case (rape survivors and victims of sexual abuse) against him. Honestly, he has very little to complain about given the level of outright violent rhetoric expressed against Ms. Watson by his defenders.

    I understand that sounds like me deflecting but there really doesn’t seem to be a sense of proportionality here. Ms. Watson’s defenders were, at worst, rude to Dr. Dawkins. Dr. Dawkins defenders at their worst boasted of trying to cop a feel at the next TAM. Really there’s no comparison.

  82. julian says:

    Oh for the love of Christ.

    We get it. You’ve got a massive brain and don’t get anything from Ms Watson’s videos. Guess what? No one cares! Shut up already. You think everything from race discussions to sexism in society is a post modernist scam. We get it. Really we do. Now shut up!

  83. julian says:

    Without a blog, I don’t see how we can take Horsa seriously.

    I have a rule against taking high on themselves jerks who rather than engaging others spam mostly o/t nonsense on threads on other people’s blogs seriously.

  84. julian says:

    I am still free to think that people who try to lay down repressive rules on the internet are fear-filled caricatures.

    Calling someone a ‘fear-filled caricature’ is judging them. It’s insulting and dismissive of their experiences. You are telling them they are wrong and cowardly to feel the way they do no matter what happened to them in past (or the very real threat of being assaulted again)

    Now you should do what some people on Pharyngula do, and compare me to Muslims that stone their wives, or post some horrific video of African women being burned alive with a quote mined from me somehow involved

    Whatever issues you have take them up with the people you have them with. Kindly leave me out of it.

  85. Greg Laden says:

    I don’t have either of those and I don’t see the point in you bringing the issue up. Having a blog and/or podcast doesn’t automatically make you an… bla bla bla

    You are putting thoughts in my head. Don’t do that.

    No, I was just trying to get a fix on who you are because so far you are an annoying internet troll. I suspect you are one of those middle school kids who just discovered the internet. Amiright?

  86. julian says:

    Horsa! Go away! No one finds you interesting or insightful. You have said nothing on topic on this thread. You’ve bragged about how awesome all the books you read are and bad mouthed people you don’t even know. Shut up and get lost!

  87. julian says:

    Really, shit for brains? It isn’t important to have some knowledge of people before you talk about them?

    btw, you’ve bad mouthed a lot more than just Rebecca Watson in this thread. Now please go back to your bridge and take your buddies with you.

  88. julian says:

    And I’m done feeding Horsa for the night. I know it’s still day light over in the States so Imma wish everyone a good day and hope they’re as cold as I am now.

    • Greg Laden says:

      Julian, since you’re leaving for now, I’m putting the troll to bed. Actually, it’s bed time here. (Btw I’ve not looked of course, but I get the impression Mr. Horsa is in Europe somewhere, from his use of language.)

  89. Greg Laden says:

    I am not censoring you. Have you noticed that you’ve posted 30 or so innane comments insulting my friend over the last few hours? Who do you think you are?

    I dropped you in the holding bin so I wouldn’t have to wake up to, at the rate you are going, 300 comments on this blog by you. And you are narcissistic enough to do that. because you can’t stop yourself.

  90. But…but…Horsa has all those books to read. How can s/he take time out of being all impressive to write a bunch of blog comments?!?

  91. Spartan says:

    Some of the letters were downright rude to Richard Dawkins but Dear Dick (Dick being short hand for Richard) was not among them.

    Well I guess it’s nice to see some admission that words have multiple meanings; a pity so few can apply that identical logic to a similar word like ‘bitch’. “Intent’s not fucking magic” ya know, or so some seem to think….

    As much as I like Stephanie, her defense of ‘Dear Dick’ stretched credulity. I’d rather she just own up to the double-entendre and stand behind it, or admit that she was ticked-off when she wrote it. Even if she specifically did not intend to use ‘dick’ as a slur, she proudly, and rightly so, will mention how many other people signed on to her letter, and I don’t think there’s any chance that none of them intended ‘Dick’ in the pejorative sense.

  92. Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle says:

    were you as surprised as I was that Dawkins didn’t come out of his shell to make some sort of helpful statement? To be honest, I’m still expecting it.

    Since he specifically asked for women to explain the issue to him, and that’s exactly what a gigantic thread at Skepchick did, his total silence is beyond disappointing.

    And no one ever claimed that he would lose popularity or suffer at all for his sexism. When does that ever happen? But, he’s certainly lost me as a fan. The “dear Muslima” bullshit did him in for me. Happily, there are a lot of other people deserving of respect out there to read and listen to.

    As for the atheist/skeptic movement as a whole: the incident itself didn’t worry me too much, as I get a lot of creepy attention like that and I’m fairly desensitized to creepy dudes. What does worry me is the unhinged rage it brought it in a lot of pseudo-skeptic men. What does worry me is the rape threats and the harassment and stalking behaviors from them, simply because she said “don’t do that”. The testerical, hyperactively emotional and irrational response from supposed skeptics definitely says to me that conventions – where dudes like this are guaranteed to be – presents to high risk. Without male guardians, that is. Yay for post-sexist america!

    The dismissive, stupid dudes – eh, that’s what I expect from coddled, comfy privileged people who can’t see beyond the end of their own noses. That they need to continually show us how utterly ignorant they are, while apparently convinced of their superiority, is baffling, but probably another byproduct of being coddled, comfy, privileged cowards. They wouldn’t last a day as a woman, that much is clear.

  93. julian says:

    Spartan, fuck off. There was nothing in that letter that suggested Dick was being used to mean dickhead or anything like that. You assumed she meant something she didn’t. Actually you’re going beyond that.

    Your assuming that not only the letter meant something it didn’t but that everyone who signed it assumed a meaning you have no reason to believe they did.

    How is that reasonable?

    But hey, you’re totally right. Rebecunt Twatson is totally the same thing.

  94. Greg Laden says:

    I have no idea what was mean by “Dick” in that letter, but I assumed that it was meant to mirror the idea of opening a letter with something with a little startle factor (Muslima). Muslima was meant to startle and to link Dawkin’s missive to Islamic butchery of women’s genitals. Perhaps “Dick” was meant to link a letteer signed by dozens of sexual abuse victims who were being told to shut the fuck up to the internet meme “Don’t be a Dick.”

    I would think demanding that a writer be held responsible to explain or verify a double entendre is rather futile and, frankly, looks kind of stupid.

    “Bullwinkle! What exactly do you mean when you sa Kirward Derby!!! Owne up to it or else!!!!”

    I would expect one to get handed their hat for that.

  95. Actually, Greg, Spartan isn’t asking me to explain. He knows I already did that. He’s saying I’m lying.

    Nice deep Minnesota reference, though.

  96. Spartan says:

    But hey, you’re totally right. Rebecunt Twatson is totally the same thing.

    julian, I said zip about Rebecca so you’re arguing with yourself, and as usual doing a shitty job of it.

    Stephanie, if I thought you were lying I would just say, ‘you’re a liar’. I said it ‘stretched credulity’, meaning I found it hard to believe. And let me clarify the above: I wish it were true that you intended it partly as ‘dick’ and then admitted it were so, I wish that was the case. I didn’t mean to imply that I wish you’d just admit that you are a liar, if that’s how you took it.

    Yes, I’m aware that Dick is shorthand for Richard, and as I’m sure you are aware that dick also means roughly, ‘asshole’. It really never occurred to you at all as you put the letter together that it could be interpreted as also calling him an asshole? In the midst of the explosion of anger after he made his comments, in a letter disagreeing pretty directly with him and ending with the presumptuous ‘when can we expect’ his apology, to Richard Fucking Dawkins of all people who is not exactly known to mince words or shy away from salty and insulting language himself? I have no problem with you calling him a dick, he was kinda being one, and I always assumed you did mean it as a double entendre. But then you apparently got called on accusations of hypocrisy for your stance on genitalia insults, and then you posted your explanation that you meant it purely as the diminutive of Richard. Given all that, you wouldn’t find it a little fishy?

    And how much does it really matter how you intended it? Isn’t one of the main arguments against gendered or genitalia insults is that supposedly ‘intent isn’t magic’ and what matters is how it is interpreted? Would it be unreasonable for Dawkins to assume you intended ‘Dick’ based on what it predominantly means to someone speaking to him from Minnesota, which is ‘asshole’? No, I don’t think you’re a liar, but I just kinda wish you were on this one; I think, ‘I just wanted to see how he liked being on the receiving end of his level of insult’ is enough of an ‘out’ of the hypocrisy charge and to me is better than, well, the truth.

  97. julian says:

    wow, spartan, that makes even less sense than what I thought you had said. Boy do I feel silly now.

  98. Spartan says:

    Ha, well I’m not surprised julian, I’ll try the simpler version for you: if Stephanie was going to be questionably hypocritical about something (and don’t get me wrong, this is a minor something), I’d rather she was questionably hypocritical about the single use of a genitalia insult within a specific context than questionably hypocritical about a reason (that intent doesn’t really matter) why genitalia or gender insults should be verboten to begin with.

  99. Raging Bee says:

    It isn’t like we can create another Dawkins over night.

    Why the fuck not? What does Dawkins do that no other sincere, determined atheist can bring him/herself to do?

  100. Zuche says:

    Raging Bee, thank you for that comment. What’s with some people trying to make Mr. Dawkins into some sort of personal saviour?

    Atheists don’t need someone to speak for them. They need to be people who’ll prepare their successors up to see farther –and more clearly– than they did. (Please excuse this swipe from one of Mr. Newton’s most memorable lines.)

  101. Oh, poor, poor spartan. I’m so terribly sorry that me thinking genitalia-based insults are patently ridiculous (There’s something wrong with genitalia?) and pointlessly non-specific is so terribly much more than you can handle. What damage I must have done. I weep for you. I apologize on behalf of the mother who suggested to me at an impressionable age that swearing is typically just a failure of vocabulary.

    Actually, no, I don’t. Get over your hypersensitive, incredulous self and get a sense of proportion about this entire months-long incident.

  102. Pingback: We’ve Talked About This Enough, We Can Shut Up Now (Or, Don’t Feed the Trolls) | The X Blog

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