A is for Atheist: A Total Shitshow

For the love of all things…

I don’t even know where to begin, so I’ll just start somewhere in the middle, loop my way to near the end, and then brush up against the beginning, and pull a reach around to the end again.

A friend of mine asked me today if I’ve been keeping tabs on the goings-on in the atheism community, always late to the party, I admitted I had not, and I’m finding that I’m glad I haven’t been. It’s nice and cozy under my rock in my cave. I have snacks, so it’s all good.

There’s a popular blogger named Rebecca Watson (http://skepchick.org), and from what I can glean, she has a lot of “ists” attached to her belt: feminist, skepticist (that’s not a real word, but for all intents and purposes, it is now), and atheist. She’s also has a podcast called “The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe,” and tours around the world, as her site bio states: “delivering entertaining talks on science, atheism, feminism, and skepticism. That’s quite the résumé.

For my benefit, I’m going to define those terms and key players in this game so we’re all on the same page:

Feminist (noun): person involved in women’s rights and interests, i.e. social, economic, political equality.

Skeptic (noun): person with an attitude of doubt or a disposition to incredulity either in general or toward a particular object.

Atheist (noun): person disbelieving in the existence of deities.

Rebecca Watson (person, female): bio mentioned above.

Richard Dawkins (person, male): Englishman, atheist, author of “The God Delusion,” really, really smart guy.

Any questions, class? Okay, let’s proceed.

I admit I’m not all that familiar with Rebecca’s work, but have been catching up this afternoon, and well…let me fill you in on some controversy surrounding Ms. Watson.

Over a year ago (I told you I’m behind on the times), Ms. Watson was in Ireland, giving one of her entertaining talks at a conference. Afterwards, some of her fellow conferees decided to socialize in the bar in the hotel room, undoubtedly talking about how entertaining Rebecca’s talk was. The clock on the wall read 4:00 a.m. and Becks (my endearing nickname for her), had had enough, so she goes back to her hotel room. While on the elevator, she is accompanied by a gentleman from the bar and he says to her that he thinks she’s very interesting (he was probably entertained by her talk), and don’t take this the wrong way, but would she like to come back to his room for some coffee and continuing entertainment by talking?

Rebecca declined, and then posts this vlog on her YouTube channel, which you may watch here.

If you don’t want to watch the video, I’ll recap for you, and this is a quote directly from her:
“Just a word to the wise here, guys. Don’t do that. I don’t know how else to explain how this makes me very uncomfortable, but I’ll just sort of lay it out: I was a single women in foreign country in a hotel elevator with you, just you, and I—don’t invite me back to your hotel room right after I finish talking about how it creeps me out and makes me uncomfortable when men sexualize me in that manner.”
Fair enough, Rebecca. You have every right to feel uncomfortable and threatened, because like you said, you’re in a weird place, you’ve probably had a few too many cocktails, are tired from entertaining people with your talks, etc. Some women would feel equally as uncomfortable as you did in that situation.
However, others would not. It’s a matter of personal perspective here. Some women would have said “sure, why not! I’m obviously entertaining you with my talking, plus your Irish accent is making my swimsuit area feel funny. Let’s have that coffee.”
As you can probably tell by now, I’m having a wee bit of fun at Rebecca’s expense. Why? Because I, personally, don’t see what the big to-do is about this. If this had happened to me, I’d have also politely declined…depending on how many drinks I’ve had, that is, and would have gone my merry way and gone to bed, perhaps dreaming of all the entertaining I’ll be doing with my talking the next day. I’d maybe tell a few friends about the encounter, probably in a “Dear Penthouse” sort of way (he was a 6’2″ mountain of a man, chiseled abs, dark hair, and I could tell he had a huge dick by the bulge in his pants…), but I wouldn’t make a big stink about it. It’d be a “hey, here’s a funny story that happened to me!” thing, not a post a vlog on my website telling all men to not be creepy thing.
Again: person perspective. I made this point to my friend when we were discussing it earlier, “I don’t like raisins, and because of that, no one else should, either.” I know, it’s a terrible analogy, but it works somehow. In my humble opinion, for her to declare to the entire male population of earth that going up to a woman you find interesting and has some good things to say not do what this guy did to her is brazen. But that’s just me.
Here’s where it get good. Richard Fucking Dawkins made this comment on a blog:
“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.
That is funny shit right there, people, and I couldn’t agree more with him. Let’s do a comparison study here, shall we? Being propositioned in an elevator…or having part or all of your external genitalia crudely removed–without the aid of an anesthetic, mind you–with equally as crude instruments, such as knives and scissors…hmm…I like my coffee black, thanks.
But, some people failed to see the humor in the situation (imagine that), and ripped Dick a new asshole for his comment. Fellow atheist PZ Myers had his two cents thrown into the pot, saying:
“There is an odd attitude in our culture that it’s acceptable for men to proposition women in curious ways… women are lower status persons, and we men, as superior beings, get to ask things of them. Also as liberal, enlightened people, of course, we will graciously accede to their desires, and if they ask us to stop hassling them, we will back off, politely. Isn’t that nice of us? It’s not enough. Maybe we should also recognize that applying unwanted pressure, no matter how politely phrased, is inappropriate behavior. Maybe we should recognize that when we interact with equals there are different, expected patterns of behavior that many men casually disregard when meeting with women, and it is those subtle signs that let them know what you think of them that really righteously pisses feminist women off.”
It sure pissed Rebecca off, as she called for a boycott of anything and everything Dawkins. He was asked to explain himself, which wasn’t good enough, so he tried again, but again, no dice. You’ll have to forgive Mr. Dawkins, he IS in his 70’s, after all… “I obviously don’t get it. I will gladly apologise (isn’t that cute? Silly British people using “s” instead of “z”!) if somebody will calmly and politely, without using the word fuck in every sentence, explain to me what it is that I am not getting.”
The arguments are so vast, it’s impossible to pinpoint one precise thing Dawkins did “wrong,” so to speak.
Here’s what another blogger, The BlagHag, had to say:
“[It] makes me want to cry a little when you live up to the stereotype of a well-off, 70-year-old, white, British, ivory tower academic. But let me spell it out for you instead of just getting mad (though I’ll do that too): Words matter. You don’t get that because you’ve never been called a cunt, a faggot, a nigger, a kike. You don’t have people constantly explaining that you’re subhuman, or have the intellect of an animal. You don’t have people saying you shouldn’t have rights. You don’t have people constantly sexually harassing you. You don’t live in fear of rape, knowing that one wrong misinterpretation of a couple words could lead down that road.”
She does have a point there. However, I have this to add: has she ever been called a faggot, nigger, or kike either? Bear with me on this, because I’m not quite sure how to phrase it properly because I’m dumb.
Here, try this: put Rebecca Watson in room full of African-Americans, Jews, and gay people. She tries to strike up a conversation.
“You guys, I totally know how you feel about the whole slavery/Holocaust/being beaten up or even killed because I’m gay thing. I was in Ireland and some guy asked me to go to his hotel room for coffee. I KNOW, RIGHT?”
This is when the entire room turns and stares at her, mouths agape at what this privileged white woman who probably lives in the suburbs just said to them. I believe the phrase is “bitch, please.”
Don’t get me wrong, what potentially could have happened to Watson could have been bad. This guy could have gone completely nuts and tried to put creamer in her coffee when she explicitly asked for black coffee. I’m kidding, sorry…but seriously, the situation had potential for turning ugly quickly, and the threat of being sexually harassed could have been very real.
But it didn’t. She declined the invitation. End of story. As a feminist and self-professed empowered female by the very definition of being a female, she had the right to say “no.” And she did. So for her to go off the wall seems a touch melodramatic to me.
But the shitshow continues!
Apparently over the course of this past year, Rebecca has obviously found herself with proponents and opponents, the latter actually have compiled a petition to get her kicked off “The Skeptics Guide to the Universe” podcast stating, “Skepticism should be about celebrating scientific skepticism and critical thinking, not about pushing particular philosophies or ideologies which alienate potential supporters. We think that regardless of Rebecca Watson’s controversial beliefs, her personality is anathema to the free exchange of ideas. She is divisive, hostile and authoritarian. None of these traits promote scientific skepticism, but instead hinder it.”
When I first saw this petition, it was a link from the Atheist Experience site, and I had no idea what was going on because like I said, I live in a rock in a cave, so I did some research. “What did this woman do that caused this petition to be created?” thought sheltered me. So, I went searching for Watson’s website and came across this gem of a post.
At first, I thought she was joking. But as I poked around her site some more, she seems very angry with men. Shit, she seems really angry about everything, not just the fact some people have penises and male pattern baldness.
I’m not saying that the hate mail (heh…Freudian slip–at first I typed “male”) is in any way justified. The people who said she should be raped, call her a cunt, and other wholly unsavory words are equally angry as she is, and her mad is mixing with their mad and we just have a shitshow of madness. But seriously, some peoples’ comments are truly disgusting and they made my stomach roll. No one deserves that sort of treatment.
I’m not denying her right to be mad. I’m mad, too. I’m mad, as an atheist, that there are times when I’m treated differently because of that. I’m mad that as a woman, there are still unfair advantages given to men in the workplace. I’m mad that more people are skeptic of what they are told is true. The difference between me and Rebecca is that I’m not so blinded by rage that I lost sight of what I’m truly fighting for. More and more people are announcing their atheism, and willing to be skeptical. Women’s rights are constantly being fought for, and equality for all is somewhat being accomplished to certain degrees. There’s still much work to be done in many areas, but there is progress.
I realize I have made light of this situation by making jokes about Rebecca, but I hope my point was made: life is too fucking short to let anything piss you off that much. I’m not saying there aren’t atrocities in this world, because there are, and I think that’s what Richard Dawkins was trying to say: while what could have happened to Rebecca had the potential for being very bad, put into perspective there are things going on in this world that are far, far worse than being hit on by a drunken Irishman in an elevator.
Let’s all relax, put on our jammies, get some ice cream, and watch Cosby Show reruns.
As always, thanks for reading.

One comment

  1. J. Paxon Reyes · September 15, 2012


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