Elevatorgate, 2013 edition

It sure seems like an eternity and definetely longer than 2 years since Rebecca Watson moved house and made a rather tedious video about it, one in which she briefly mentioned that she didn’t appreciate being hit on in the hotel lift in Dublin during a conference on her way to catch some sleep in the early hours of the morning, after talking about sexism in the atheism movement for 10 hours that day.

Anyway, 2 years onwards, the trenches are still dug and battle lines drawn, and there is still some oozing from the wound where the regressive misogynist cancer was excised from the atheism/skeptic movement in the wake of Rebecca’s video. I was just re-reading some of the blog threads from that time, to mentally prepare for my trip to Dublin for the “Empowering women” conference there next week, and I came across some lies, and also this awesome comment that summed up the whole situation rather succinctly even back then:


October 3, 2011 at 10:29 am (UTC -5)

Sigh. Directed at the “zero harm” contingent: Some women are sexual assault survivors. Some survivors experience PTSD. Propositioning a woman in an elevator after she has communicated that she does not want to get hit on at conferences says that a) you are the sort of person who is willing to violate stated boundaries, and b) you are the sort of person who is at best unconcerned with the effect of trapping a woman in an enclosed space to make your desires known. EG was not a rapist, but this is *how rapists behave*. This behavior may trigger flashbacks; i.e., cause actual mental harm to the woman you’re approaching. Did that happen here? No. Is it a risk? Yes. You are of course free to decide that the risk of traumatizing another human is less important than your freedom to express your desires at that particular moment. Decent human beings, once appraised of the risk of harm, will tend to try not to do it again. Which was the point of the “guys, don’t do that.” If you weren’t already aware that this behavior is creepy and possibly triggering, you’ve now been informed.

Furthermore, in the context of a discussion on “how do we get more women to attend atheist conferences”, the presence of creepy dude is a disincentive. Sexism in the atheist/skeptic movement makes some women unwilling to attend the events. Irrespective of the harm done to any particular woman you’re approaching badly, it’s damaging to the movement insofar as it drives otherwise sympathetic people away. Of course, the MRA contingent probably views this as a feature, not a bug: “yay, we get to keep our boys’ club! no gurlz allowed! o wait, this one agrees with us, she can come in.”

So one link led to another, and I ended up suffering through this dishonest post from (gasp) Justicar, in which he claimed:

Now, we are met with a story (I don’t mean that in a pejorative sense one notes) about some set of events that are alleged to have happened. 1.) is that EG was at the bar and 2.) EG was listening to Rebecca Watson.

Ok then. 2 propositions. If either or both of them is correct, one should expect that a randomly taken photograph of the group at the table would have EG in it. It doesn’t. Further, this is a wide shot of the bar, and seems to include everyone in the bar in it except for the photographer (PeeZus) himself. No one disputes this. It is therefore a proper question (at least in keeping with the maxim that one should always name names) to ask of Rebecca Watson: which of these dozen people is the one in question?

Ok. So here’s the photo of the bar that was circulated at the time, IIRC taken and tweeted by PZ Myers:

Well, here’s another photo from that night, also taken by PZ, some random yokel with Rebecca:

Now, I note that this random yokel wasn’t in Justicar’s piece de resistance above, so why should we think that EG had to be in it?

I don’t know who EG is or was, apparently Rebecca mentioned in this Bloggingheads talk (salient part starts at around 38.00) that he was a guy in his early 50s (which is news to me, but anyhow, did anyone consider that Rebecca may really have prosopagnosia, or if she does not, that she simply did not know who the guy was, or did not want to reveal the guy’s identity? ), but irrespective of who he was, the fact remains that the movement is now split into a regressive, misogynist and harassment-enabling wing and a progressive social justice wing. These wings may clash next weekend, but may I remind everyone attending from the regressives side that the goal of the conference is to advance and empower women through secularism.

If empowering women is not a concern of yours, or ranks behind empowering the rights and powers of men, then may I suggest that you do not attend this conference. And if you are still going to attend just to stir up some controversy, fill radio shows and blog posts, or harass or annoy attendees, please make sure that you do not approach me, do not record me, do not talk to me.

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