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Author Topic:   Anyone ever heard of Rebecca Watson?
Percy
Member
Posts: 22614
From: New Hampshire
Joined: 12-23-2000
Member Rating: 4.5


Message 1 of 86 (639149)
10-28-2011 12:12 PM


Every so often I scan through the PZ Myers Phyrangula blog, and earlier today I came across this this entry asking readers to send Rebecca Watson a note of support:
Rebecca Watson is founder of Skepchick, a blog promoting science and reason by women, and a regular member of the weekly panel on The Skeptics Guide to the Universe podcast.
So why does Rebecca Watson need a note of support? I began reading the comments and had no hint of the answer until message 20. It mentioned "elevator guy," and then I immediately knew what it was.
I've only seen one video of Rebecca Watson, and I came across it by accident. It's one of her weekly video blogs, and at one point she describes being propositioned late at night on an elevator while returning to her room after a late night of partying during a conference (maybe DragonCon, maybe The Amazing Meeting, I don't know). She doesn't come across well, here's a link, scroll forward to 4:30: Rebecca Watson and the Elevator Incident.
In this video she rakes a guy over the coals for saying to her on the elevator, "Don't take this the wrong way, but I find you very interesting and I would like to talk more. Would you like to come to my hotel room for coffee."
That was back in June, and I didn't think any more about it until I saw PZ Myer's blog. Apparently the comments have blown up in Rebecca Watson's face. I wasn't following this, of course, so I can only guess that in responding to the criticism that Watson only dug herself deeper and deeper. Apparently even Richard Dawkins chimed in at one point (Page not found | ScienceBlogs). Wikipedia has a section describing the Elevator Incident, and it has this to say:
Wikipedia writes:
In June 2011 Watson posted a video in which, among other things, she described an experience at a skeptical conference, concerning an approach by a man in an elevator, who invited her to his room for coffee and a conversation. She stated "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 woman in a foreign country in a hotel elevator with you, just you, and Idon'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." Her statement sparked a controversy among the skeptic community. Her critics said she was over-reacting to a trivial incident, most notably Richard Dawkins, who wrote a satirical letter to an imaginary Muslim woman, sarcastically contrasting her plight to Rebecca's complaint. This in turn caused him to be greatly criticized by those supporting her on the issue, including several famous figures in the community. Watson announced that she would not buy or endorse Dawkins's books and lectures in the future.
So that's all the information I have.
It always seemed to me that Rebecca Watson had a tough skin, so I'm surprised she's being perceived as needing notes of support. Anyone been following this and know what's going on?
--Percy

Replies to this message:
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 Message 9 by Modulous, posted 10-28-2011 1:33 PM Percy has replied
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Larni
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Posts: 4000
From: Liverpool
Joined: 09-16-2005


Message 2 of 86 (639151)
10-28-2011 12:26 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Percy
10-28-2011 12:12 PM


Never heard of her, but the elevator incident did come across as a bit creepy.
Yay, post 3000!

The above ontological example models the zero premise to BB theory. It does so by applying the relative uniformity assumption that the alleged zero event eventually ontologically progressed from the compressed alleged sub-microscopic chaos to bloom/expand into all of the present observable order, more than it models the Biblical record evidence for the existence of Jehovah, the maximal Biblical god designer.
-Attributed to Buzsaw Message 53
Moreover that view is a blatantly anti-relativistic one. I'm rather inclined to think that space being relative to time and time relative to location should make such a naive hankering to pin-point an ultimate origin of anything, an aspiration that is not even wrong.
Well, Larni, let's say I much better know what I don't want to say than how exactly say what I do.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 1 by Percy, posted 10-28-2011 12:12 PM Percy has seen this message but not replied

  
jar
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Posts: 34059
From: Texas!!
Joined: 04-20-2004
Member Rating: 4.9


Message 3 of 86 (639153)
10-28-2011 12:33 PM


It's been a long discussion on another board I g=frequent.
Yup, she got her panties in a wad.
I think it's fine that she was upset about the conversation, but then I get upset almost every time PZ opens his mouth or posts something. This is yet another example.
PZ, grow up.

Anyone so limited that they can only spell a word one way is severely handicapped!

  
crashfrog
Member (Idle past 1551 days)
Posts: 19762
From: Silver Spring, MD
Joined: 03-20-2003


(5)
Message 4 of 86 (639156)
10-28-2011 1:01 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Percy
10-28-2011 12:12 PM


Well, what's going on is that in response to the slightest hint of threat to male privilege (after all, "this made me somewhat uncomfortable" is hardly "panties is a wad", it's the most mild criticism I can imagine) a great deal of men started emailing Watson that she might like elevator propositions more after she is raped and murdered in one, and hey, maybe that's something that will happen to her. Soon, perhaps.
The notion that there are a lot of guys out there like this shouldn't surprise anyone. Remember when they hacked the site for a month because I expressed an opinion on another website that women shouldn't be raped?

This message is a reply to:
 Message 1 by Percy, posted 10-28-2011 12:12 PM Percy has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 7 by Percy, posted 10-28-2011 1:30 PM crashfrog has replied
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PaulK
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Posts: 17838
Joined: 01-10-2003
Member Rating: 3.8


Message 5 of 86 (639157)
10-28-2011 1:03 PM


My understanding is that there were some very nasty attacks made against her (significantly worse than Dawkins' letter).

  
Omnivorous
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Posts: 4001
From: Adirondackia
Joined: 07-21-2005
Member Rating: 5.1


(3)
Message 6 of 86 (639158)
10-28-2011 1:12 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Percy
10-28-2011 12:12 PM


I think Ms. Watson's concern about the incident was justified. Her public response was perfectly appropriate and personally courageous.
The Elevator Guy's behavior was (at best) borderline stalking. I don't buy the idea that he was merely socially clueless.
I admire Dawkin's work, but I'm not surprised that he's capable of that brand of misogynism peculiar to upper-class male academics.
The hate/rape messages she's received show just how right any woman is to be creeped out by an Elevator Guy.

"If you can keep your head while those around you are losing theirs, you can collect a lot of heads."

This message is a reply to:
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Percy
Member
Posts: 22614
From: New Hampshire
Joined: 12-23-2000
Member Rating: 4.5


Message 7 of 86 (639159)
10-28-2011 1:30 PM
Reply to: Message 4 by crashfrog
10-28-2011 1:01 PM


crashfrog writes:
Remember when they hacked the site for a month because I expressed an opinion on another website that women shouldn't be raped?
Oh, gee, let me think. You're maybe referring to the month from hell? Of course on the plus side it forced me to make the site secure. Sometime later Lulzsec tried to break in but failed, so they moved on to other less interesting sites like Nintendo and Sony, so I have you to thank for that.
Whether elevator guy was right or wrong, how did this blow up instead of blow over?
--Percy

This message is a reply to:
 Message 4 by crashfrog, posted 10-28-2011 1:01 PM crashfrog has replied

Replies to this message:
 Message 11 by crashfrog, posted 10-28-2011 1:48 PM Percy has replied

  
Larni
Member
Posts: 4000
From: Liverpool
Joined: 09-16-2005


Message 8 of 86 (639160)
10-28-2011 1:32 PM
Reply to: Message 4 by crashfrog
10-28-2011 1:01 PM


a great deal of men started emailing Watson that she might like elevator propositions more after she is raped and murdered in one, and hey, maybe that's something that will happen to her. Soon, perhaps.
That's pretty fucking twisted.

The above ontological example models the zero premise to BB theory. It does so by applying the relative uniformity assumption that the alleged zero event eventually ontologically progressed from the compressed alleged sub-microscopic chaos to bloom/expand into all of the present observable order, more than it models the Biblical record evidence for the existence of Jehovah, the maximal Biblical god designer.
-Attributed to Buzsaw Message 53
Moreover that view is a blatantly anti-relativistic one. I'm rather inclined to think that space being relative to time and time relative to location should make such a naive hankering to pin-point an ultimate origin of anything, an aspiration that is not even wrong.
Well, Larni, let's say I much better know what I don't want to say than how exactly say what I do.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 4 by crashfrog, posted 10-28-2011 1:01 PM crashfrog has not replied

  
Modulous
Member
Posts: 7801
From: Manchester, UK
Joined: 05-01-2005


(2)
Message 9 of 86 (639161)
10-28-2011 1:33 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Percy
10-28-2011 12:12 PM


"Just a word to the wise guys, don't do that"
And with those words began the strangest controversy in the skeptic movement for some time. The argument goes, as she says, that she was alone in an elevator with a stranger at 4am in a foreign country having spent the day talking about feminist issues. This is not the time to essentially proposition her.
That was back in June, and I didn't think any more about it until I saw PZ Myer's blog. Apparently the comments have blown up in Rebecca Watson's face. I wasn't following this, of course, so I can only guess that in responding to the criticism that Watson only dug herself deeper and deeper. Apparently even Richard Dawkins chimed in at one point.
You might then want to read The Privilage Delusion, which is her response to Dawkins' "Dear Muslima" argument. This pointed retort opens it:
quote:
Richard Dawkins believes I should be a good girl and just shut up about being sexually objectified because it doesn’t bother him. Thanks, wealthy old heterosexual white man!
Apparently the comments have blown up in Rebecca Watson's face.
Some people are upset that she used her time at another conference apparently to go off topic to berate an atheist (another blogger (who happened to be in the room at the time), nobody particularly famous, IIRC her name was Steff) that had some disagreement over the 'elevator guy incident'.
The debate essentially became was the 'elevator guy' incident 'zero bad' (As Dawkins claims), 'slightly bad' (as Watson seemed to be suggesting) or in some rare cases 'very bad' (as some commenters seem to have equated it morally with a threat of rape (even if no rape was intended)). There were some notable examples of saying that it wasn't bad at all, but actually perfect good, to be expected, anticipated and celebrated.
This certain subset of skeptics, who have taken offense at the 'don't do this' line. have sometimes been dubbed 'Male Rights Activists' are saying they should be free to proposition whoever they want and when. Watson's point of course is that they are free to do this, but they will make women uncomfortable.
And some of these people have become quite aggressive. Abbie Smith, if memory serves, called her Rebecca Twatson on her scienceblog, others have called her Rebecunt Watson. It got really quite nasty, to be honest. Incidentally I looked and I can only see commenters on Abbie's blog using those kinds of terms, but I seem to remember them being condoned by Abbie at some point. I may be wrong though. Anyway, here's a link to her take on at least one element of the controversy (the part where Watson called out Steff when she was speaking at a public event)
She doesn't come across well
Why not? She expresses she doesn't like strangers essentially propositioning her in enclosed spaces in a foreign land in the early hours of the morning. She doubly expresses exasperation given the topics she had been talking about all day.
I think there is grievance to be had with Watson. But the 'guys don't do that...' riff is perfectly sensible and rational. Either way she has apparently received a lot of emails and comments that are very passionately arguing against her and many that are quite aggressive. She cites some youtube comments threatening her with rape, and says her inbox has a similar content.
Whatever her crime, I don't think it is serious enough to warrant threatening hate mail. That said, I was capable of ignoring the threats from Markuze - random internet hate mail should be par for the course for any famous skeptics I would have thought. Myers has made it into a semi-regular spot, called: 'I get mail' but not everybody is like Myers or me and not everybody gets credible threats...
It always seemed to me that Rebecca Watson had a tough skin, so I'm surprised she's being perceived as needing notes of support.
I concur - she is certainly adept at dishing it out (just ask Lawrence Krauss (see the coal raking and the rebuttal )), but we're all human and getting the support of the community is always uplifting so I am happy that someone is offering to give her that if she's still getting inundated with angry emails and other public scorn.
My own view is that Elevator Guy was a clueless idiot. There is a slim chance he was so genuinely clueless he didn't realize he was propostioning her, but I think it more likely it was intentional. That's the joyous ambiguity of a society that uses code phrases like 'wanna come in for a coffee?' Nevertheless, if you don't stop and consider the other person's feelings when you approach them, you need to be corrected on that approach to social life.
That just about exhausts everything I can remember without reading through it all again.
Edited by Modulous, : No reason given.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 1 by Percy, posted 10-28-2011 12:12 PM Percy has replied

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CosmicChimp
Member
Posts: 311
From: Muenchen Bayern Deutschland
Joined: 06-15-2007


Message 10 of 86 (639162)
10-28-2011 1:47 PM
Reply to: Message 6 by Omnivorous
10-28-2011 1:12 PM


Best summation so far but I've only been haphazardly following the story since the beginning. Been hearing her on the weekly SGU podcast since she came onboard (might be getting close to three years ago); she's terrific. I find it highly amusing to witness the kind of rabid insecurity complex most of her detractors seem to have been blessed with. Her subsequent courage and thick skin bares itself after the hoopla and controversy. A trek I dare say she would never choose to make again.

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crashfrog
Member (Idle past 1551 days)
Posts: 19762
From: Silver Spring, MD
Joined: 03-20-2003


Message 11 of 86 (639163)
10-28-2011 1:48 PM
Reply to: Message 7 by Percy
10-28-2011 1:30 PM


Sometime later Lulzsec tried to break in but failed
What, no shit? Lulzsec tried to get in? I'm impressed.
Whether elevator guy was right or wrong, how did this blow up instead of blow over?
Well, because a great deal of guys are going to skeptical conferences to bang, and so anything that threatens that program, well, it's like coming out publically against pick-up artistry or child custody rights for abusive fathers - suddenly you're the target of a relatively large and relatively unrestrained male community.
Also her remarks were totally blown out of proportion; mild disapproval of a clumsy pick-up attempt was portrayed as Dworkin-esque "all sex is rape"-type feminazi-ism. And the "big names" in atheism seemed to get attached to it, because it's long been known that the skeptical movement has some problems with their treatment of women. (Like, why are the "Four Horsemen" men? Why the dearth of female voices in the community?) Dawkins has some points - a mildly uncomfortable social interaction is a far cry from the oppression faced by women under religious systems - but you don't defend your own action or inaction by saying that somebody else is worse; PZ, I think, has the right attitude - when women are telling you about their experiences in your community, and you say you're concerned about the plight of women, then if you're really in it for the plight of women and not just using that as a cheap point to claim superiority, you should shut your mouth and listen to what they have to say. Maybe they're wrong or oversensitive. But immediately telling them they are is why there aren't more female voices in skepticism, and why the movement is perilously vulnerable to being written off as nothing more than a diversion for affluent white men.

This message is a reply to:
 Message 7 by Percy, posted 10-28-2011 1:30 PM Percy has replied

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crashfrog
Member (Idle past 1551 days)
Posts: 19762
From: Silver Spring, MD
Joined: 03-20-2003


Message 12 of 86 (639164)
10-28-2011 1:50 PM
Reply to: Message 9 by Modulous
10-28-2011 1:33 PM


The argument goes, as she says, that she was alone in an elevator with a stranger at 4am in a foreign country having spent the day talking about feminist issues. This is not the time to essentially proposition her.
And a lot of people tried to defend this anonymous guy by saying that if he wasn't at those panels, he had no idea what she had been talking about and what her attitude about being propositioned in confined spaces might be.
That strikes me as part of the problem - if she was nothing more than a proximal vagina on legs to him, certainly nobody whose attitudes or activities he should give a shit about when doin' it is at stake, that's hardly a mark in his defense.
My own view is that Elevator Guy was a clueless idiot.
I don't know anything about the guy, he was probably just Socially Awkward Penguin; my ire is directed at the legions of people who should know better who have risen to his defense. Something similar happened with my wife once - not in an elevator, but similar in the sense that she expressed how an interaction made her uncomfortable and angry, and then an enormous number of people, including some of her closest male friends, fell all over themselves to defend the behavior of this completely anonymous guy they had never met and to tell her what an overreacting bitch she was being. (We refer to this as the "cookie incident" and around my house it's a codeword for the code of Omerta that seems to exist for guys, especially nerdy guys, and their obligation to defend each other, sight unseen.)
For what it's worth, if I genuinely wanted to invite someone to a hotel room for conversation, the only refreshment I would probably be able to offer is coffee, because hotel rooms usually have coffeemakers and coffee in them. I'm a bit of a socially awkward penguin too so would I stop myself before I inadvertently propositioned a woman? I don't know. I know that I didn't, the one time I remarked to the cute waitress who had just told us that they didn't have any more tortilla chips that "we've eaten you out!"
Out of chips! Chips! To this day I'm sure she thinks I was a creeper.
Edited by crashfrog, : No reason given.

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Percy
Member
Posts: 22614
From: New Hampshire
Joined: 12-23-2000
Member Rating: 4.5


Message 13 of 86 (639171)
10-28-2011 2:29 PM
Reply to: Message 9 by Modulous
10-28-2011 1:33 PM


I Am Elevator Guy
Thanks for all the information - that was great!
Modulous writes:
She doesn't come across well
Why not?
Good question. I'm not sure I can put it into words, but I recall as I watched the video (which was immediately after it was posted and before I was aware of any controversy) being taken aback and thinking, "Well, isn't *she* full of assumptions."
Did anyone else see the elevator guy video before the controversy? I have a feeling that reading about the controversy before viewing the video may be a spoiler that affects the way you perceive the comments.
So about my controversial title: I Am Elevator Guy. It goes like this. I am an incredibly shy and naive guy who when he sees a girl who looks to him like the most beautiful and wonderful girl in the world who he may never see again if he doesn't speak up now can work up his courage and speak (hasn't happened since the winter of 1982, by the way). If I've worked up the courage to talk you can be pretty sure the girl is already on a pedestal. Who knows what awful conversation opener I might come up with, but come up with one I will. Rebecca's assumption that elevator guy's invitation was automatically low and crass put me off.
But I'm still surprised that it blew up the way it did. The comment was mostly innocuous and I honestly haven't thought about that video until reading PZ Myers blog today.
--Percy

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Percy
Member
Posts: 22614
From: New Hampshire
Joined: 12-23-2000
Member Rating: 4.5


Message 14 of 86 (639174)
10-28-2011 2:35 PM
Reply to: Message 11 by crashfrog
10-28-2011 1:48 PM


crashfrog writes:
What, no shit? Lulzsec tried to get in? I'm impressed.
Uh, there was a smiley at the end of that sentence. We're even now, I misinterpreted your comment about why my rating isn't pegged at 10.
--Percy

This message is a reply to:
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crashfrog
Member (Idle past 1551 days)
Posts: 19762
From: Silver Spring, MD
Joined: 03-20-2003


Message 15 of 86 (639175)
10-28-2011 2:43 PM
Reply to: Message 13 by Percy
10-28-2011 2:29 PM


Re: I Am Elevator Guy
Who knows what awful conversation opener I might come up with, but come up with one I will. Rebecca's assumption that elevator guy's invitation was automatically low and crass put me off.
I feel like, if there's one thing that people like us can learn from this, it's that while we may think our terrible attempts to be sparkling betray how lowly and ineffectual we may think of ourselves as, a lot of women are having the experience where these comments make them feel tiny, vulnerable, and unsafe.
Rather than simply dismiss that viewpoint as a widespread misapprehension, rather than getting angry and defensive, I feel like that should lead us not just to a greater reflection about the kind of environment we foster with our social interactions, but also to the realization that social interactions are something that frequently women are pretty bad at, too, and that we can't really sit here with the luxury of thinking "oh, I'm just a nerd; who could ever possibly think highly enough of me to be afraid?"
There's almost no way to say this that it comes out right, but reflecting on my own ability to make women feel unsafe, while disturbing in many ways (and prone to making me angry and defensive about it in others), also had a profound positive effect as well. I realized that I wasn't a social non-entity. If I could be a threat, then I could be significant. Some people take that realization in a sick direction and derive self-satisfaction from making women feel unsafe but there's a healthy direction to take it, where you realize that the woman you're trying to talk to isn't a goddess on a pedestal for whom you're beneath her notice, but a human being who shares your vulnerabilities and aversion to awkward social interactions. I find that takes a lot of the pressure out, and turns it into a responsibility to act like a human being instead of trying to find the secret Konami code to panty-town.
Edited by crashfrog, : No reason given.

This message is a reply to:
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