Tag Archives: Elevatorgate

How does Richard Dawkins corner the Atheist market?

Years ago I knew Richard Dawkins as a fellow evolutionary biologist (met him only once, at a memorial event for WD Hamilton, but we have numerous mutual friends and colleagues). To be frank, and I’m only being frank now because I’d prefer not to use my real name, Dawkins was considered a bit of an enigma. He had great fame (and fortune and privilege) but that was without doing much important research. I always defended him back in those days. His fame came from The Selfish Gene and his subsequent books, and his popularization of science was well done and important. Those who complained,and there were many (but always behind his back) were just jealous.

Then, later, Dawkins got famous in another area, as a spokesperson for atheism. In fact, as a leader of the Atheist movement worldwide. A major milestone in that digression from biology was, of course, his book, The God Delusion. In The God Delusion, he told most people in the world that they were afflicted with a psychiatric disorder that caused them to believe in god. Atheists totally ate this up and for good reason. Also, Dawkins did the whole thing in his quaint British Accent and that took some of the edge off of it, and really, he did it well.

Then Elevatorgate happened, which had absolutely nothing to do with Richard Dawkins, but he chimed in. When he chimed in he said “Ladies, there is no way to get raped in an elevator. All you have to do is push the Stop and Door Open button and leave.” (or words to that effect).

Then just a few weeks later the person of all the people in the world who is closest to me was raped in an elevator.

The rape was interrupted not by her pressing the stop or open button, because they did not work. The rape was interrupted because she decided to kick the rapist’s ass. Then, he was the one pushing the buttons and when the door finally opened he ran. But it certainly did not have to turn out that way. He happened to be unarmed, for example.

Anyway, Richard Dawkins is a dick and that is not just because of his name. He’s a dick because he is utterly unaware of his white, male, British, academic, authory, etc. etc. privilege. Which would be OK, because who really cares, but privilege interferes with activism and being the guy who wrote The God Delusion makes you an activist. Privilege interferes with being a member of a diverse community (diverse as in other people don’t have the same privilege). You can only be an effective leader of a movement if you recognize your membership in the community, even if as a leader.

But you can stay in charge for longer than most, for longer than you deserve, if you corner the market you’ve developed for yourself. My friend and colleague Sarah Moglia overheard Dawkins say something one day that seemed to be an example of his cornering the market. He told someone in charge of major public event that if a particular person was allowed to speak at that event, Dawkins would not go. In other words, he used his huge and unchecked privilege to get another speaker tossed off the podium.

Why? Who did he get tossed? When did this happen? Why are we only hearing about it now?

It all comes down to Elevators, real and metaphorical. And shoes. Dawkins is actually pretty short.

Go read Sarah’s excellent post and find out what happened.

PS. I happen to know what Sarah is doing right now, as I’m writing this post. The image above is a clue so you can guess what that might be!

What does sexism and harassment feel like to you?

I’m a guy who “gets” nasty threats from haters. I receive anti-atheist threats and icky comments, I receive a LOT of nasty stuff from climate science denialists (and that often comes along with bogus threats of law suits), I receive nasty emails and tweets from the sexist and racist SlymePitters and those folks seem to spend more time than is healthy for them making Greg-hating memes and videos and comments on web sites I would not normally visit.

So, I receive nasty horrid verbal attacks from people who hate me and what I stand for, but do I get these nasty horrid verbal attacks in the way that, for example, Rebecca Watson or Amy Roth or Jen McRight get them? Continue reading What does sexism and harassment feel like to you?

The Rape Switch, Again

The idea of a “rape switch” came from the work of a student of mine at Harvard, who’s name I would normally provide because this was a research project and one cites one’s sources. However, given the lengths to which sick puppies like The Justicar and others will go to harass people forever if they say things not agreeable to them, I’ll not mention the name.

I only watched a small part of a video made by The Justicar who had apparently discovered the Boston Massacre and could not stop himself from commenting on it, just enough to be certain that he is willfully misrepresenting the idea. I am not sure why he has this fascination with the idea and spends so much energy on this. It looks to me like a strong case of denial of one or more of his own inner switches.

The idea has always been discussed as a model, or as a hypothesis. There is not a hypothesis that men who at home and in non-war time situations do not rape do so in war time situations. This is established fact, not in dispute, and not hypothesis. The rape switch is one version of an approach to explaining this, and it remains a reasonable idea, if somewhat oversimplified.

An aside to address a question Stephanie brought up in her post: As I recall, the idea of writing about war time rape at that time was presented by Sheril Kirshenbaum to a couple of her fellow bloggers then at Scienceblogs.com, including me and Dr. Isis, and I mentioned it to Stephanie.

This post has some 20 or so references that address much of the discussion in the comment section of Stephanie’s post.

The “rape switch” is not a trigger, and it is not “conditioning.” The concept of a “trigger” is already there and in use and was not cooped by the original research. The “rape switch” is different.

One of the points of confusion caused by my initial wording in my post, and also clarified by me then (but that clarification was duly ignored of course) is this: That in the context in which the theoretical “rape switch” is turned on the men for which it is turned on (not “all men” as is often misstated) are rapists. This was meant to indicate that given certain circumstances (and here you can have your triggers if you want) this man would now have the possibility of rape on his list of actual possible behaviors to carry out, as opposed to when the switch is turned off. This is a unique and nuanced use of the word “rapist” which is usually used to refer to someone who has actually raped. The two concepts are clearly different, and as mentioned I did clarify that at the time, but that clarification was willfully ignored by many, as it is being ignored today. The problem is that the word “potential rapist” does not work either because at some level all men and maybe even all women are “potential” anythings. I chose the term “rapist” to indicate men with the “rape switch” turned on (hypothetically) quite intentionally. I was correct in using the word. But I was wrong to assume that nuance would be understood and appreciated.

I will put that another way to be clearer, because the fog of ignorance is thick. The following is a metaphor that will be especially useful for people who regularly smoke or have regularly smoked.

If you smoke tobacco for several years, you are a smoker. One could say that you are a smoker because you smoke. Then, say you quit. One could say you are no longer a smoker. But, smoking is still very much something on the list of things you could do in a very different way than smoking is considered by a non-smoker who has never smoked. A smoker who has quit, for quite some time, is still quite capable of smoking but does not do so because of willpower and other reasons (supportive friends and family, anti smoking rules or agreements in the workplace or at home, etc.) After a person becomes addicted to smoking the “smoking switch” is on, even if the person does not smoke (because they quit).

This is not to say that the “rape switch” has anything to do with addiction (there are those individuals who will willfully take the above paragraph out of context and abuse what I’ve said to suggest I meant that). The point is that a person who is capable of smoking and wants to smoke and could smoke but does not smoke is by one definition of “smoker” not a smoker, and by another definition of “smoker” is.

Let me give you another example. Because I know this is hard for some of you. A person might learn a second language. But then, they never speak it, or hardly ever. For example, I am proficient in KiNguana, a Central and East African language. But I never really use it these days. I am, however, still a KiNguana speaker. In theory, one could even learn a language with intense private study and never utter a word in that language to another human being. Such a person is still a speaker of said language. The rape switch hypothesis says that in certain social settings most men walk around not having rape on their list of things to do. It is unthinkable to them, they are not motivated to consider it at all on a day to day basis, but then, under other social circumstances, the idea of actually carrying out rape is within the range of possibility for them. Wartime would be one of those social setting. Many men in a wartime setting would have the “rape switch” on with simply means that raping someone is a possibility for them. They may also have reasons to not light up, not speak the Esperanto they quietly learned on their own without telling anyone, or to not rape. What they do is not necessarily what they are psychologically capable of doing, in an immediate and easily retrievable way.

The reason that a “rape switch” is an interesting idea is that a wide range and a large number of men in the context of war (but not all war-time situations) become individuals who are quite capable of rape. A very small proportion of women who work for Neiman Marcus or any other corporate entity in New York City or some other place not in a state of war might possibly be raped by their bosses. A much larger proportion of women who work for the military and are deployed in war zones are. A very small number of men walking around on the streets of Saint Paul, Minnesota rape the women they encounter now and then. A very large number of soldiers on patrol in the country side in Viet Nam and World War II and other wars did. These men are all different, from different backgrounds, with differing moral and ethical codes, ideas, and experiences, but a lot of them end up raping women anyway. A switch is an interesting hypothesis exactly because it is a direct connection between simply being a man and being in a war time situation, without going through all the other conditional variables. The rape switch is not a trigger and it is not conditioning. The rape switch hypothesis is interesting, and it may be incorrect.

This is all interesting and worth discussing, but there is a more immediate question that comes to mind. Why do people like The Justicar do what they do? What is wrong with them?

Women in Elevators and Black Guys Sneaking Up Behind You

As you may know, I wrote a post, Women in Elevators: A Man To Man Talk For The Menz, in which I wrote:

I am not afraid of dogs, and most women are probably not “afraid of men.”

Except I’m actually afraid of dogs and most women are justifiably afraid of men. If you get what I’m saying so far, go away and do something useful because this post is not written for you. If you are puzzled, especially about the idea of women being afraid of men at all, then sit down, shut up, and allow me to slap you across the chops a couple of times with a little reality because that is what you need. Assuming you are a sentient adult and still have no clue.

Several people got really really mad at me because of that post … I literally lost a few friends … and they got even madder when I pointed out that getting mad at me for that post increased in my mind the chance that you are likely to be abusive to women. Holy crap. Anyway, it all relates to the whole Schrödinger’s Rapist thing. (See this recent post at Camels with Hammers for more on that)

Anyway, one of the responses to that post (and other conversations going on at the time) was to point out that a man saying that he recognized that women could be justifiably nervous about running across an unknown male on a lonely street at night was equivalent to saying that all black people are criminals. Or something like that.

Well, my bloggy friend Ian Cromwell who it turns out is a big scary black guy has addressed that issue, skillfully and engagingly, in a post called “Shuffling feet: a black man’s view on Schroedinger’s Rapist.” Go have a look.

Calibrating and Recalibrating Sex Positiveness

Continuing our discussion (see Making sense of our fights on the Internet, Power and Presence on the Internet and Elsewhere, and A Spectrum as a Slippery Slope and OMG Hitler is a Nazi!!!!) …

I was at a local event recently where a group of sex-positive third-wave feminist women had traditionally used a certain amount of overt sexuality to raise some money. They had been doing it for a few years and had gained a certain reputation and a certain following. A friend of mine who knew of their work but did not know them personally joined in during this most recent event and volunteered to work the door, as it were, to help to relieve some of the visitors and participants of a little cash (this was a fundraiser). I was not present for that part of the event but some of the people involved, who had been involved for several years, later said to me that they felt my friend had gone a bit over the top in her performance. I asked for a description of what concerned them, and when I heard it I had to laugh a little. You see, over the years, these women have changed their own act from a more to a less sexy parody version of themselves, toning it down and calibrating, for a number of different reasons. The young woman who joined them this year had calibrated her own approach to their reputation and not to their current approach. She was a blast, as it were, from the past, and that was a little shocking. Continue reading Calibrating and Recalibrating Sex Positiveness

Making sense of our fights on the Internet

After the Big Bang, more or less evenly distributed stuff and energy somehow became slightly unevenly distributed, which caused a kind of Universal Angular Momentum to set in which gave early heterogeneity and structure to everything that existed. The lightest elements formed more or less spontaneously, but in order for heavier elements to form matter had to get sufficiently clumped in stars that massive gravitational forces changed light elements into heavy ones. Perhaps if the initial clumping and spinning of stuff in the very early universe was a little bit different, the whole universe would have come out differently, in detail if not in other more profound ways. Or at least, I’d be wearing a blue tee shirt instead of a black one right now and I’d be using vim instead of emacs to type this blog post.

When Elevatorgate happened, the ensuing Universe Known as Rebeccapocalypse was shaped and determined by a number of early events that have caused the final result … well, not the “final” result, but the result that we are stuck with as of this writing … but had those first few days of Internet activity been a little different things might have come out a different way.

Here I would like to do two things. Continue reading Making sense of our fights on the Internet