As a change of pace, I was the guest rogue on this week’s episode of The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe. We covered a lot of ground, from Futurama heads to asteroid mining to Mayans… and I have an abysmal record at the Science or Fiction segment when I’m on the show, so you can hold your breath in anticipation to see if I finally get one right, or once again go down in flames. I’ll note, obviously, that I always get it right when I listen to the show at home.
And nothing says love like Rebecca promising she’d freeze my head. Such a romantic.
Over the weekend, a full-blown scandal erupted in the
skeptical movement atheist and skeptical communities* over sexism and attitudes about sexual harassment. It started with a fairly straightforward story about a clueless man putting a woman in an uncomfortable situation. The conversation about it was interesting, to say the least. An important point that came up multiple times is that many men do not truly understand what women go through in such situations.
This point was driven home when Richard Dawkins spoke up about it. Through his own words, he proved quite clearly that a lot of men just don’t get it.
Here’s what happened, boiled down from a video post Skepchick Rebecca Watson made about this (she tells this story starting at 4m30s into the video at that link). Rebecca was a speaker at a conference recently. After her talk and a late evening of socializing with attendees at the bar, she got on an elevator to go to her room. She found herself alone on the elevator with a man presumably also an attendee. He said he "found her very interesting", and would she like to get some coffee in his hotel room? Rebecca turned him down, and in her video talks about how uncomfortable that made her feel.
If the story ended here there would be obvious things to say about it (obvious to me, at least, but not everyone, as will become quite clear). This man may have had nothing but noble intentions, but that doesn’t matter. Being alone in an elevator with a man late at night is uncomfortable for any woman, even if the man is silent. But when he hits on her? There’s no way to avoid a predatory vibe here, and that’s unacceptable. A situation like this can lead to sexual assault; I just read in the news here in Boulder that a few days ago a relatively innocent situation turned into assault. This isn’t some rare event; it happens a lot and most women are all-too painfully aware of it.
Rebecca, apparently, handled this situation with aplomb, and I’m glad. She turned it into a useful lesson for men on how not to treat women.
At this point there are many offshoot discussions and tangential topics being discussed on the skeptical blogs and elsewhere. I will ignore those, as they distract from what is in my opinion the most important thing here. As it happens, PZ Myers wrote a blog post about this, and Richard Dawkins — yes, the Richard Dawkins, PZ has confirmed this — left a comment in that post. And what he said… well. Read it for yourself:
It took me a moment to parse this. Read More
Last year I linked to Crispian Jago’s brilliant Skeptic Trump playing cards, featuring a few of skepticism’s stars. He included me in that constellation… but apparently was determined to make up for it by updating the cards and implying I have gained weight, presumably all in my mandible:
Hmph. I think Rebecca faired better, though apparently she ironically has the mumps (I blame Jenny McCarthy). To be fair, though, he nailed Ben Goldacre’s hair and Brian Cox’s teeth. And, I’ll admit: it’s not bad company for a chipmunk.
Well, I assume he’s a low mass star since he was in Red Dwarf. Anyway, Skepchick Rebecca Watson rides in a car with Robert Llewellyn and they talk skepticism and such. It’s an enjoyable video, with some NSFW language.
BTW, Rebecca will be at TAM 5.5, and I will be sure to
mock praise her when I introduce her.