Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Watson in Slate

I'm very pleased to see that Rebecca Watson has written an article in Slate about what happened when she expressed an opinion about something that happened in her life that displeased Richard Dawkins. This means that the issue will finally get mainstream attention.

Watson explains what happened, including Dawkins' infamous "Muslima" letter:

In June of 2011, I was on a panel at an atheist conference in Dublin. The topic was “Communicating Atheism,” and I was excited to join Richard Dawkins, one of the most famous atheists in the world, with several documentaries and bestselling books to his name. Dawkins used his time to criticize Phil Plait, an astronomer who the year prior had given a talk in which he argued for skeptics to be kinder. I used my time to talk about what it’s like for me to communicate atheism online, and how being a woman might affect the response I receive, as in rape threats and other sexual comments. 
The audience was receptive, and afterward I spent many hours in the hotel bar discussing issues of gender, objectification, and misogyny with other thoughtful atheists. At around 4 a.m., I excused myself, announcing that I was exhausted and heading to bed in preparation for another day of talks.As I got to the elevator, a man who I had not yet spoken with directly broke away from the group and joined me. As the doors closed, he said to me, “Don’t take this the wrong way, but I find you very interesting. Would you like to come back to my hotel room for coffee?” I politely declined and got off the elevator when it hit my floor. 
A few days later, I was making a video about the trip and I decided to use that as an example of how not to behave at conferences if you want to make women feel safe and comfortable. After all, it seemed rather obvious to me that if your goal is to get sex or even just companionship, the very worst way to go about attaining that goal is to attend a conference, listen to a woman speak for 12 hours about how uncomfortable she is being sexualized at conferences, wait for her to express a desire to go to sleep, follow her into an isolated space, and then suggest she go back to your hotel room for “coffee,” which, by the way, is available at the hotel bar you just left.What I said in my video, exactly, was, “Guys, don’t do that,” with a bit of a laugh and a shrug. What legions of angry atheists apparently heard was, “Guys, I won’t stop hating men until I get 2 million YouTube comments calling me a ‘cunt.’ ” The skeptics boldly rose to the imagined challenge.Even Dawkins weighed in. He hadn’t said anything while sitting next to me in Dublin as I described the treatment I got, but a month later he left this sarcastic comment on a friend’s 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. 
Dawkins’ seal of approval only encouraged the haters. My YouTube page and many of my videos were flooded with rape “jokes,” threats, objectifying insults, and slurs. A few individuals sent me hundreds of messages, promising to never leave me alone. My Wikipedia page was vandalized. Graphic photos of dead bodies were posted to my Facebook page.

Dawkins has yet to acknowledge his role in this or his responsibility for the deranged reactions of his fanboys. I personally think he gets off on it - he's really a nasty little man and it's a power trip for him.

And Dawkins' letter also demonstrates his habit of conflating female genital mutilation (FGM) with Islam. Not because it's an Islamic practice - it's not; and not because only Islamic cultures do it - plenty of non-Islamic countries practice it. He keeps doing it because he's an anti-Muslim bigot.

In the comments under Watson's Slate article were all the standard idiotic anti-Watson responses. Two of the most noxious - and you see them every time this incident is discussed:

Idiocy #1 - if men can't unilaterally decide the time and place to approach a woman for sex, regardless of her comfort, the human race will die out. I'm not kidding - some guy in the Slate comments literally said the human race will die out. So the future of mankind hinges on women being silent and compliant. Insensitive oafs are heros not obnoxious jerks!

Idiocy #2 - Rebecca Watson is not a perfect person and so she has no right to express an opinion any time ever again. 

Now I have no idea what Rebecca Watson's faults are but like anybody else, I'm sure she has them. I do know that one of her alleged "faults" was that she put together a not-very-risque calendar of male and female atheists to raise money for a skeptic project. The fact that Watson appears in a vaguely sexual way has convinced these people, who like to think of themselves as free-thinkers and skeptical and not under the control of ancient beliefs that she no longer has "good girl" privileges and so therefore has no expectation of ever being treated reasonably again - and if she is not treated well, she has no right to complain. 

The intensely deep-rooted sexism of this belief should be obvious. 

There are many more stupid beliefs expressed in the comments but there's only so much you can stomach. 

And after reading all that stupidity I do have to think - would it really be so bad if humanity became extinct?