Episode 92 – 8th July 2011

This week we delve into hackgate, probably upset some feminists and figure out the best way to hang toilet paper. Now you can’t say that isn’t variety.

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Phone Hacking and the PCC (2:10) by Luxmy Gopal
Hacked Off Campaign (10:06) by James O’Malley (ft David Allen Green)
Sovereignty Creep (16:14) by James Firth
Feminism & Elevatorgate (22:42) by Pete Hague
Malton Faith School (30:04) by Salim Fadhley (ft Philippa Hare)
Red Tape Challenge (39:56) by Drew Rae & Tom Hodden
“Gaaaay” (48:52) by Anonymous
Toilet Paper (53:36) by Andrew Gould

Follow-Up Links:

60 thoughts on “Episode 92 – 8th July 2011

  1. Oh, great piece on the PCC, Luxmy!

    There are some really, really serious problems with the way our press are regulated, and I think you have nailed them nicely. Particularly the point about needing to be careful with moving to the obvious alternative of full state regulation, which in some ways could be even worse than what we have now.

    The PCC is, of course, even more toothless when you consider that newspapers can simply opt out of it anyway, as per the Daily Express.

    I once made a complaint to the PCC myself about an article printed in the Observer, which was essentially all made up. I wrote a letter in response to the article, which they printed, but only after editing it so heavily that the meaning was almost completely reversed. The journalist in question had absolutely no excuse for getting his facts so completely wrong, as he’d interviewed me for the best part of an hour while researching it. I guess he thought what I’d told him didn’t make an interesting enough story, so he just ignored it and made shit up instead.

    The PCC ruled that the requirement not to print misleading or distorted information did not apply in this case, as the journalist was expressing an opinion. Clearly, that would be true whenever someone makes shit up. I fail to see how a reader would be able to tell the difference between something reported truthfully and something reported as “opinion” (ie made up) unless they were already familiar with the facts. This made me realise that the requirement not to print misleading or distorted information is utterly worthless.

    One of the problems is the massive conflict of interest in having newspapers regulated by newspaper folk. At the time I made my complaint, the editor of the Observer was Roger Alton (maybe he still is for all I know), who by an amazing coincidence was also a member of the PCC. OK, they told me he left the room while my case was discussed, but even so, that hardly sounds like an unbiased and conflict-free investigation to me.

    It would be great if one outcome of the current shenanigans is that the PCC gets scrapped and replaced with something that’s fit for purpose.

  2. Brilliant piece by Peter Hague on feminism and misandry. I agree with absolutely every point he made. I have written on some of the issues he covered including that Schrodinger’s Rapist essay that I think sums up some of the more insidious aspects of contemporary feminist ‘thought’ . I would be happy to post some links here but if Peter reads this could he leave contact details too? Thanks. I can send him some more detailed stuff.

    P.s. Also feminists objectify men in their positioning them as ‘creeps’ and predators. That man RebeccaW met is now known only as ‘elevator dude’. He as Pete said, cannot tell his side of the story. He is the ‘object’ of feminist rhetoric.

  3. QRG:

    Thanks for the positive feedback. If you want to send me links, you can send me a DM on twitter (click on my name at the top of this comment to go to my page)

  4. I’m not entirely sure what ‘anonymous’ guy’s point is. Does he personally feel pressured to adhere to some kind of stereotype? If so, I’m wondering why. I’m one of them gays too, and I hear views of the kind that he describes from time to time, but nobody’s ever asked or expected me to act in that way. And judging by what he said at the end, he isn’t even out yet – perhaps if he was he’d realise that few people are going to particularly care about his particular foibles and preferences regarding sex/curtains/whatever else.

    Or perhaps it’s more like sampling bias. The ‘out’ gays that he encounters tend to be those stereotypical types he talks about with all the expectations – and they would be, because they’re more noticeable. But by contrast I consider myself out but not everyone I casually know realises I’m gay because, well, it just doesn’t always come up and I don’t fit many stereotypes. So perhaps he’s only getting the, er, fabulous side of the story.

    He’s certainly misinformed about the varieties of what’s “acceptable” for gays to be attracted to. Sure, there’s some more popular ‘looks’ than others, same with heterosexuals, but a quick whip ’round… well, the Internet, will reveal a much wider variety of tastes. Some with entire sub-cultures built around them, if you’re into that sort of thing.

    I just don’t know what to make of it, he seems very worried about what people might expect him to be if he ‘admits’ to being gay, when (unless I’m guessing his background completely wrong here) I expect he’s actually lucky enough to live somewhere where it’s really not too much of an issue anymore. Perhaps he’s just annoyed at the fact that some people are very much into the fact that they are gay, but I don’t see why that could concern him. And I don’t see why those should be denied that after so many years where even to ‘admit’ it would be dangerous.

    If this comment seems a bit meandering and confused, it’s just because I’m struggling to see the point of this segment.

  5. Thanks will do.

    Also as I said on twitter, a feminist response (which I have already seen on twitter to this) to any challenges, is often ‘you think feminism is monolithic. It’s not.’ But if it isn’t, then where are the dissenting voices within feminism, challenging the misandry you have identified? I do not see/hear them. I was one such dissenting voice till I realised that I could not be a feminist and challenge its dogmas. I was labelled ‘anti-feminist’ long before I disengaged from feminism.

  6. There are such voices (Liz actually posted a fairly moderate blog post last night) but they are quiet and too few. You have to hunt for rational feminism, whereas irrational feminism will jump out and yell at you.

  7. ..and irrational feminism is what is endorsed by and expressed in the mainstream media. Amanda Marcotte, Suzanne Moore, Julie Bindel, Bidisha, Melissa McEwan, Tanya Gold, Sady Doyle, Jessica Valenti, all have their voices in the mainstream press. And I can find examples of absolutely blatant misandry from all of them.

  8. Thoroughly enjoyed episode. The only issue I would raise regarding the Pete Hague item is that, although he rightly calls for acknowledgement that not all men are potential rapists, he seems to categorise all ‘feminists’ together just as easily. I’m a feminist, and I certainly don’t hate men, principally because I was one last time I checked.

    I also agree that the whole event has been blown out of proportion and morphed into some kind of men vs feminists and it just isn’t that at all. The male involved in elevator-gate was probably unaware of how his behaviour might make a woman feel in such a confined space. If this tells us anything, it should be that (some) men might need to think such things through a bit more.

    Dawkins was being extremely crass in comparing the elevator event with the things other women have to face. It’s not a contest and context is very important.

    Great episode and I have to stress that I agree with much of Pete has said, its just came across as very reactionary- very much a mirroring of the flusterous pieces some feminists have purported in reaction to this story, and I would have thought a higher ground could have been taken.

    Looking forward to next week 😉

  9. I also think it’s terrifically lazy of the feminists who suggest that Dawkin’s race, sex and class are the automatic reasons for his statements. While such stratifications place a massive distinction between haves and have-nots, it is neither an excuse nor a reason for him to make those comments. Calling ‘patriarchal privilege’ is all well and good, and in many ways a valid position, but feminism needs to better authenticate that and not just call it because it’s a such a well known trope.

  10. Thanks Adam!

    Your experience with the PCC doesn’t surprise me at all. And unfortunately the cliché of journalists being selective with the truth does apply to some in the industry. Your bloke from the Observer seems positively noble compared with some of those at the Evening Standard (which is why I won’t be working there again – well, maybe once I really can no longer afford to have principles…)

    Looks like you’ll get your wish of the PCC being scrapped: http://www.guardian.co.uk/media/2011/jul/08/rebekah-brooks-resignation-david-cameron

    Let’s just hope its replacement has more bite.

  11. I have had some quite hot moments in elevators. Not all women do not wish to be approached in a confined space all the time.

    That is what bugged me about Rebecca’s video. She was doling out advice to ‘men’ on behalf of ‘women’ when there are a range of perspectives.

  12. @QRG Spot on. It’s poor assumptive guesswork, and on both sides of the debate.

    I guess if men could be in a similar situation, it might be if a thick-set 7″2 man asked them suddenly, in an elevator, for sex. Now, I’m sure some men would appreciate this but then a great deal of others would find it a little intimidating in the least. It would certainly be an awkward journey to their floor.

  13. The thing that bothers me about this entire debate, is that the women who were at the forefront of women’s rights and feminism were empowered. They didn’t seem to disseminate this culture of fear that some of the reactions embody.

    I mean, they were all strong willed, intelligent and fucking brave. I hate the portrayal of all women as potential victims! That’s an astoundingly low regard for women! It also bothers me that we keep characturizing men to the extent that they have black/white good/bad behaviours while some reactionary feminists plead that we are all multifaceted. That’s bullshit. We’re the same goddamn species. It’s not a good framework in which to deliver equality for women in the 21st century. It will certainly do more harm than good in getting anyone on your side, not even men but the younger generation of women who simply can’t identify with this idea of being victimized all the fucking time.

    I wish I could find some feminist writing on what we’ve accomplished, rather than what we should be fucking afraid of. Perhaps this is why I just take my cues from history and leave the theory to people who have a less patient view of incorporating evidence or being open to criticizing their own well held views. We have to acknowledge that there has been some progress and reevaluate what the goals for feminsm are now. All my research shows that from the 1880s we’ve done a lot, we’ve progressed alot. There is still a lot to go but there are more people on our side than against it.

    ARG I want to stop thinking about all this now and play Team Fortress 2.

  14. I am fine with there being a ‘response’ podcast to Pete’s piece by a feminist, but why can’t /don’t some feminists who have been arguing the toss with him on twitter leave a comment here? Are they scared of rational discourse in more than 140 characters?

  15. Assuming she doesn’t have a mental disorder that renders her paranoid, Rebecca Watson was correct to heed her emotional warning bells during the elevator event. Everyone should pay attention to their instinctive emotional responses in such cases, because those responses were developed as a way to help us keep ourselves safe. Because Ms Watson seems to be an otherwise rational thinker, it is remarkable that she felt unsafe in that particular instance; her habit of rational thinking may have led her to deliberately ignore her fear and could have caused her to become more in danger.

    Perhaps the real story here is that because Ms Watson is a rational thinker, she was surprised at her emotional response to the situation. That is speculation on my part, of course.

    A male friend of mine said to me one day, “The thought occurred to me that women can never feel completely safe, that from the day they are born to the day they die, they have to be wary of the potential of rape.”

    We know that men are not completely safe either, but the need to be constantly mindful of potential of danger is, I am guessing, fairly unique to people who have vaginas.

  16. ImproperUsername:

    Our instincts evolved in an environment where 250kg predators that can kill you with one bite lurk in the bushes. Its questionable the extent to which such instinct is applicable to the modern world.

    Over application of said instincts could possibly be attributed to Mean World Syndrome. I don’t want to speculate too much on the motives of feminists, but the media sure does like to talk about women as victims and it could easily influence a person.

  17. some of the women in most danger of assault and sexual violence don’t have vaginas. Trans women suffer proportionally more violence than cis women I think, overall.

    The biological reductivism of feminism is a massive problem for me.

  18. Just to be clear, I was talking about human instinct for danger in general, not specific to women. I’m not normally a fan of biological reductivism either.

  19. @Peter As a gay person, I would expect you to know we can be of all types. That was pretty much the point I was making: because it’s only the loud, flamboyant, obvious gays that get noticed as being gay, there’s a tendency to presume that anyone who’s gay and isn’t like that is repressed (primarily amongst straight people). In particular, if you choose (usually) not to act on gay impulses, not because you think they’re wrong, but because you just think there’s better things to do, that can be hard for some people to understand.

    I realise it’s not a widely-discussed point, but that’s just it: Haven’t we progressed enough that it’s time to move beyond “Gays: We exist” to “Gays: It’s just like anyone else, we come in all shapes, sizes, and preferences.”

    If being loud and flamboyant is genuinely who you want to be, that’s great. But on movies, television and such, gay people are thin, pretty, and inevitably compelled to act on it. We’re starting to move beyond that, but we need to talk about it to get there, and that’s what I’m trying to start the ball rolling on. Perhaps not perfectly – this was rather off-the-cuff; I’ll be polishing future recordings a lot more – but I do think that the issues raised are valid.

    And, frankly, criticising me for not being out is part of the problem. If a straight person doesn’t feel compelled to talk to everyone about his or her sex life, that’s not an issue. If a gay person doesn’t feel compelled to do it, that’s apparently wrong?

    No, we’ve moved past that stage. In Britain, we’ve largely won tolerance, so we don’t need to advocate for that as much anymore. It’s time to make it clear that there really isn’t anything different between being preferring men to women and, say, preferring larger women to thin women. It’s not the defining trait of your life, doesn’t say anything else about you, and shouldn’t have to be.

  20. Anonymous:

    I agree the media portrayal of gays is stereotypical, but I can think of counter examples of television programs that feature gay characters whose sexuality is largely incidental to the character: Caprica, The Shadow Line, and The Wire spring instantly to mind.

    (Long live the Oxford comma!)

  21. @Pete Hague Haven’t seen those, though I did think of the end of the Nixon episode of Dr. Who, which was pretty good. But, well, I was serious when I said I was told by a sympathic psychologist that if I wasn’t actively seeking a sexual relationship that was horrible repression, so I don’t think we’re there yet.

  22. Anonymous: A few things, really.

    First of all, it’s great that some people now feel like tolerance is largely won. But I don’t think it’s nearly enough of a given. We still live in a country that was so nervous about the idea of gay marriage that they had to give it a different name to be on the safe side, to give one example off the top of my head. While I’m largely out, I still need to carefully assess who I’m talking to if I feel the need to bring up my sexuality. And so on. The victories of the gay rights movement are fairly good in the UK, but they’re incomplete and very recent, and a look at any civil rights movement will show you that this is far too early in the game to attempt ‘invisibility’

    Secondly, I get that you have this view that “It’s not the defining trait of your life, doesn’t say anything else about you, and shouldn’t have to be,” but actually that’s not true for everyone. Someone may find being gay a very big deal and thus want to make a big deal out of it. Some might consider it more of a lifestyle. I don’t understand what’s so wrong with that, or how it affects you. I can quite imagine someone who considered themselves different and finding they were only able to come out of their shell once they came to terms with their sexuality and met other people who were like them, and so whose whole social network depends on their sexuality. Or I can equally imagine someone who just chooses to spend their time being gay and loud about it, because they enjoy it. I’m not in the business of telling other people how to live their lives. Which brings me to:

    I never actually criticized you for not being out, though I can understand how it seemed like I was. That’s a personal choice. What I was trying to say is that I was having trouble seeing what stake you have in this since you’re not out – and so I can’t see where this pressure is coming from for you to act a certain way. And I -suggested- that perhaps if you were out, you’d discover that nobody is really expecting anything of you.

    Your naivety on this issue is spelled out when you say “If a straight person doesn’t feel compelled to talk to everyone about his or her sex life, that’s not an issue. If a gay person doesn’t feel compelled to do it, that’s apparently wrong?” Who said anything about being compelled to talk about it? What do you imagine coming out actually is? To me, it was telling the people who I think probably ought to know (very close family and friends – the sort of people who are likely to regularly bring up girlfriends and relationship stuff and wonder when I’m going to settle down and make them some grandkids) Apart from that, it was simply not going out of my way to hide it from everyone else if the subject of relationships, etc. happened to come into conversation.

  23. Also, if any of you are wondering why I did this anonymously, my next report is how I grew out of being raised a fundamentalist Christian in America.


  24. @Peter Just briefly: It’s not wrong to think sexuality or the gay community are important; I’m advocating for an understanding of the diversity of experience. I’m not sure how much I can say. These things are true in my experience, but this is an experience involving mostly social liberals who accept gayness but have a very narrow view of what that means.

    Can’t talk for anyone else’s experience, because it’s not mine.

  25. @Peter Let’s talk after my next report, which won’t be on gayness, but will, perhaps, explain why I’m rather good at avoiding negative consequences thereof.

  26. Long story short, I’d rather not talk about the effects of slowly losing your faith in fundamentalist Christianity at a young age unless I’m going to do so in full, and I doubt James wants me to give a report in the comments before giving it in the podcast =)

  27. Well, those are all fine comments, but they ignore the most important issue;

    Roll over or roll under? Neither! Pre-moistened from a dispenser box! That is analwiping perfection!

  28. Don’t panic!

    That’s what was running in my head over and over as I listened to the bit from Anonymous on “the gay.” As a gay man myself who is out, loud and proud, who happens to hate Lady Gaga, I also don’t fit neatly into the gay stereotype. Much to my dismay, I’m so straight-looking that I get FAR more female attention than male. I do love the gay community and support it as far as it works to promote tolerance, acceptance and equal rights. But let me be who I am, too.

    The, dare I say, anti-feminazi article was excellent as well. I suspect it’s these same “feminists” who make ad-hominem attacks, blasting men with blanket statements that are outright hateful and sexist, who then cry, “Why are there no good men anymore?” Could it be that you’ve so scared him with threats and emasculated him with bigoted remarks that he’s actually afraid to approach you? Any interest in attraction is misconstrued as a desire to rape, even if the desire expressed is for consensual sex, or even just simply telling a woman she’s pretty. Not all of us are monsters. That even includes us Americans. There are far more of us men walking around in the developed world who wouldn’t think to rape anyone than there are who would rape, given the chance.

    I just really appreciated this episode. One final caveat: I’m a roll-over and always will be. Sorry. You won’t convince me otherwise. 😉


  29. Thanks atheist-fire. Nice to get positive comments, because the people with the negative reactions always seem more motivated to express them :)

    My comparison of rape stats was not intended as a denouncement of American men – merely to suggest a possible reason for Dawkins to have rubbed Watson up the wrong way (rather than the more conventional “hes an ignorant, white, rich, old man!” explanation on offer).

    …and are you SURE you are a roll-over person? Maybe you are just repressed and should let your roll-under urges out?

  30. The whole Anonymous piece was possibly one of the most infuriating articles I’ve ever heard on the Pod Delusion.

    It was a straw man from beginning to end, fighting against the kind of stereotypes and cultural depictions of gay men that haven’t existed for years. In fact, the more visible gay people have become (truly the greatest societal benefit of coming out) the less prevalent reductionist assumptions of gay people are becoming.

    As for me, I’ve been out since I was fifteen and even as a gay teenager in rural England did not find myself fighting any kind of social pressures to conform in any way. I tend not to be particularly stereotypical but even if I were, it would be more part of my inherent nature than bowing to the assumptions of wider society.

    Imagining society as being full of villains and obstacles is a common fallacy for minority groups and one of the easiest ways to fall into this way of thinking is to isolate oneself from society. The reason why people come out isn’t just to let people know who you sleep with but to stop yourself from hiding and imagining the world to be a far scarier, more judgmental place than it really is.

    On top of that all, Anonymous seemed to be trying to make the point that society seems to assume that he, as a gay man, is into sex. Well, it does, in the same way it assumes straight men and in fact, all adults enjoy sex. Perhaps this perceived obsession with his sexuality may be less about his gayness and more his self declared asexuality.

  31. In which case Bemmie I can see why he remained anonymous. Now you are making assumptions about his sexuality which was part of the point of what he was saying. And he did point out in the comments he is talking about an American context where the gay rights versus Conservative Christian traditional society binary is very strong.

    I like Anonymous.

  32. Did anyone else think it was comically ironic to argue against feminism on the basis that it stereotypes men, and in doing so stereotype feminists and feminism?! I’m not a hardcore feminist (in the sense that I’m not in contact with any kind of organized movement) but I count myself as a feminist in the sense of how I try to live my life – I try to ensure that I am not bound by the stereotypes that society has created for my gender, and I support female empowerment wherever I can. There are cool, and not cool feminists. Just as there are cool and not cool men, white people, black people, muslims, christians, atheists etc. The lesson is surely to argue against particular arguments and practices – not to go after a group.

    And the other thing was the “women in other country’s have it worse than you so don’t complain”. It reminds me of a friend (who, by the way, I love very dearly but who I don’t always agree with) who when her mother died decided no one else had the right to feel upset about anything in their lives. Clearly that’s not the way it works – you feel things on a personal level.

    Other than that… another though provoking Pod Delusion! Thank you!

  33. No Dizzy I don’t see an irony. ‘Men’ are a huge proportion of the population as a whole, whereas ‘feminism/feminists’ are a political ideology/dogma in action.

    To criticise feminism is not like stereotyping or hating on men.

  34. Just a couple of quick points on the feminism piece. There’s an awful lot to bite into here, but since we are (I hope) all concerned with rigorous argument and critical thinking, I will focus on two points where I feel these are somewhat lacking. To state that ‘I have the impression that a lot of self-identified feminists are motivated by misandry, don’t argue logically, and poison the debate’ is one thing, but that thing is an emotional response, not a well constructed argument.
    In fact, to conclude that there is a problem with feminism, not with your perceptions, you are making an argument of exactly the same form as the one that ends with the conclusion that all men should be characterised as rapists. That ‘feminists’ and ‘men’ are different kinds of category does not change this. It is nothing more that the mistaking of ‘some’ for ‘all’, and because these issues are so vastly skewed by, for example, confirmation bias, to prop up this argument requires evidence of a vastly more thorough and rigorous kind than here presented.
    Meanwhile, to talk about potential sexual assault in a lift is a different case. The comparison with racial stereotyping is not valid. This is because in one case the ‘potential’ – or ‘risk’ – depends (to within a completely negligible margin of error) entirely upon the variable, and in the other the relationship is very much more fluid. Unless someone has (good quality) statistics that say otherwise, I will contend that it is so rare for a woman to be sexually assaulted by a female stranger, as compared with assault by a male stranger, that it is perfectly valid to say that in the one case there is a risk of assault, and in the other, there is none. That the risk is low does not exclude the validity of describing it as a potential situation in the one case, not in the other. This is not equivalent to the situation where we make the assessment based on the race of the individual. Neither does identifying this as a situation of potential assault, as opposed to other situations where the potential does not exist, entail the assumption that all men are, by their internal nature, potential assaulters.
    Your own feelings should not be allowed to stifle this mode of speech – unless you follow a similar line of argument to that which allows the religious to say, for example, that challenging the factuality of their narratives is a personal attack on them as individuals.

  35. QRG – I’m not arguing against his right to criticize feminism, I’m all for debate and discussion. I think it was poorly argued though, as the idea that feminists “hate men” is a stereotype – perhaps true for some, but definitely not for all, and in my opinion not even true about a majority. Stereotyping, about any group, is lazy and ineffective. I don’t think the size of the group is a relevant consideration.

    But for the record I think misandry is also wrong! And anyone who made you feel that if you challenge misandry you are an anti-feminist was just plain wrong in my opinion. But please don’t paint all feminists with that brush. Certainly none of my feminist friends could be accurately be described as men-haters. Quite the opposite!

  36. It would seem that it is common sense to think that after a person declares they are tired and would like to go to sleep, that is a really bad time to offer them coffee and a chat. Even if it was the person was not in an elevator.

    All it requires is some basic listening skills, and perhaps some sense that 4am is not a good time for a chat with someone you just met.

  37. Pete, your point that a man’s intentions/thoughts are known only within his own mind are exactly something that many commenters are failing to stop and think about a bit more, it seems to me.

    You are taking offence to this on the basis that you personally, and no doubt most people you (and I) know would not be thinking about deliberately being threatening towards someone, considering assaulting them or whatever.
    But the thing is, it does happen. How are you supposed to tell who is entertaining such thoughts and who isn’t? You said it yourself – you can’t.

    So instead of individuals being personally offended because they don’t fit the worst-case-scenario and never will – great! Keep it up – perhaps consider that it is this exact fact that causes such feelings of fear in *potentially* dangerous situations women find themselves in.

    I’ve shared lifts with plenty of blokes who are no doubt perfectly lovely. But that doesn’t mean I don’t feel uncomfortable. I make a snap judgement – if he’s drinking or drunk I’ll probably go and take the stairs instead. If he just ‘looks a bit dodgy’ – now I’m sorry if that’s a harsh judgement but I’d rather risk hypothetically offending him if he were to ever find out what I thought (which he won’t, so moot point) than my own safety.

    Especially considering the comments of that Toronto policeman, that women should ‘avoid dressing like sluts to avoid becoming victims’ – well, every day we avoid a lot of things to maximise our safety. It’s just life. We wouldn’t do well as a species if we didn’t do that.

    So the reason people are saying, often to men but not exclusively, ‘you don’t get it’ is because you seem to be taking more personal offence than stopping to think about WHY people are saying these things.

    Plus you stated ‘something men fear about feminism’ – to me, this fear is exactly part of the problem. Fear is what leads to prejudice and discrimination; much of the misogynistic practices that have persisted throughout human history come back to fear. And we can substitute misogynistic with racist or homophobic or various other things.

    Historical and present power imbalances haven’t been considered in the ‘make it about racism’ argument, but other people have gone into why it’s an invalid analogy so I won’t here as I’ve rambled on long enough.

  38. I would have been utterly creeped out by being propositioned by a man I didn’t know in the elevator. I’m sure elevator guy meant no harm, but it was a huge misjudgement on his part and Rebecca was being helpful to point this out. It really is about trying to understand no matter how honourable your intentions your actions can cause real distress to other people so you might want to modify your behaviour accordingly (I believe they used to call it being a ‘gentleman’), for example you make your proposition before getting in the lift, when you are still within earshot of the bar and people in it, and if you get turned down agree to take the next elevator. It’s as simple as that. I’m not a feminist, and I don’t hate men, but that doesn’t change the fact that as a woman I would have been really frightened to be propositioned at 4am in a confined space by a stranger, and perhaps there are some men would think twice about doing that kind of stuff if it ever occurred to them that in real life (as opposed to the hypersexual world of TV and film) the woman might feel intimidated. I don’t doubt that elevator guy is one of them – as was pointed out we don’t know his side of the story.

  39. Noodlemaz – “But the thing is, it does happen. How are you supposed to tell who is entertaining such thoughts and who isn’t? You said it yourself – you can’t”

    Sometimes ‘got the time mate’ can be a prelude to assault. The next time someone asks me for the time, would i be justified in striking a preemptive blow to their throat? Or would that be a bit of an over-reaction?

  40. Anonymous – sounds good. Always willing to listen. And also I do apologize if I came across a little harsh/annoyed in my first comment. I think I understand where you are coming from, it just doesn’t have much to do with my own experience, is all.

  41. Nick G – she did nothing of the sort though, and I never suggested doing such a thing either so I don’t know why you’re putting those words in my mouth.

    Sensible reactions are what people tend to have – like feeling uneasy and perhaps waiting for the next lift, or if someone follows you in… well, feeling uneasy and a polite refusal is all your left with. That’s one of the points against Dawkins, who claimed that ‘well there’s always the emergency stop button’ – what the hell use is that, when if the situation does turn sour you’re likely to have been overpowered anyway? It’s the situation people create for others that Rebecca (and most of us who are arguing along these lines) is asking people to consider.

    To consider, not to change your life completely, not to refrain from flirting or asking people out entirely, not to become some caged asexual oppressed former-male. The overreaction is on both sides, as you’ve just demonstrated.

    Going back to the Toronto policeman, slutwalks, ‘is clothing to blame for rape’ (no) and so on – is it unreasonable to say to men ‘don’t rape people’? No, it’s not, for obvious reason – one can argue that telling people not to has no effect, but considering the differing rates depending on where you look, I’d argue otherwise; society’s norms do impact on people’s behaviour.

    So is it really so unreasonable to *politely* ask men to consider the situations they create with their actions and words (if they really give a shit about women, surely that’s something they want to be doing?) or is it just a sensible reaction to something that happened?

    You can’t tell someone else how they feel, or how they should feel – it just happens, so people saying ‘that’s not threatening or scary or inappropriate!’ is just invalid; if someone feels threatened, they do, end of. No one snapped and threw a punch, it’s just discourse – and for some reason an alarming number of people seem to be railing against that, and that worries me a lot.

  42. Sorry, meant to say more but iPod are temperamental sometimes.

    Yes, some feminists go to far when they claim that all men are one way or another, or think one thing or another. But he fact still remains that it is safer for a women to be cautious in situations where she doesn’t know another persons intentions. And if we feel uncomfortable, it should not offend men who don’t have those intentions.

    While I could see how Dawkins’ culture could have impacted his response, I still disagree that “putting it in perspective” to the plight of a Muslim women was either appropriate or valid. Especially after Mr. Hague himself put it into the perspective of a women’s chances of sexual assault here in America. It lazy and belittles problems that women face.

  43. Well done, NoodleMaz. You’ve saved me from a whole lot of typing.

    I’m a bloke and I have an analogy some non-feminist blokes might appreciate. I’m variously ill (technically disabled). My consciousness can go crazy with no warning. This being the case – when someone is a dick around me (playing loud music, being gobby, acting up) and demands some kind of response – I am terrified. I might start the confrontation reasonable enough but I might regain consciousness over their bloodied frame and all of a sudden we’re in the papers. Pete Hague would apparently argue “why shouldn’t I play music loud, gob off in a cinema, whatever? Your medical problems aren’t my fault.”

    While that is true, a dick move is still a dick move and can cause all kinds of unforeseen consequences. The fact that something has never bothered YOU only means your imagination isn’t broad enough.

    You ARE Schroedinger’s rapist and Schrdgr’s Nazi apologist and Schrdgr’s paedophile. Everybody either IS or ISN’T one of these things. That’s how that mental exercise works and Pete should know it.

    The intellectual laziness of the whole report made me furious and the irrelevant stats that Britain is slightly “less rapey” than the US only fueled my rage (I say rage – I mean the kind of rage you feel when someone says “Haitch”).

    I’m sure Pete Hague isn’t the oppressive “MAN” in charge but he makes a bloody good case for joining the same club. Massive disappointment.

  44. Noodlemaz – I wasn’t putting words in your mouth. I just struggle to see why its ok to presume someone’s probably an attacker, but not ok to act on it. They’re both pretty bad. As Pete alluded to in the piece, you wouldn’t get off a train because you saw an Asian person with a rucksack would you? I think we could all agree that that would be pretty bad indeed.

    As for telling people what to feel. Quite right, no one can tell you how to feel or how you should feel. – but i think its reasonable to tell people whether their actions are rational or not. Hardly any men are rapists. Hardly any people get stabbed. Why is it ok to convince ourselves that every lone man is a rapist and that all teenagers are fully armed?

  45. I don’t think that’s the point, Nick.

    The point isn’t whether or not the elevator guy was a rapist but that he should have known the anxiety his actions would cause. There was no presumption that he “probably was an attacker” – just that his actions caused Rebecca Watson to enter a state of being defensive and concerned.

    Women trying to avoid situations where opportunistic rape may occur is entirely rational.

  46. I’ve just had the chance to listen to Pete Hague segment and he was pretty much echoing the exact same sentiments that I expressed to my brother about this in the pub.
    First off, what has annoyed me about this the most is the patronising tone RW took when explaining herself on this weeks SGU. The, “guys don’t this” as if she somehow speaks for all womankind. Some women may not have any problem with the attention (RW didn’t seem to have a problem with attention for the first 2 or 3 years on the podcast but suddenly she has changed the rules and escalator fella is feeling her wrath).
    The second thing was the whole “I was kinda OK with it but imagine if I’d been a victim of a sexual assault or if I’d been raped in the past?” Well, as one of the apparent few non rapey men that are out there, I refuse to go through life always second guessing if a woman has been assaulted in the past, I have never and will never assault anyone. One of the reasons I am pleased that the NoTW has folded is the divisive effect it has had on British society, telling their readership that they should be scared of strangers, don’t trust this group or that group and what RW is trying to achieve here is on a similar scale.
    Thirdly, and this is mere speculation, (but I’ll share it anyway) RW has always enjoyed being in the limelight (the marriage proposals, dropping into the SGU when her birthday is, getting married on stage ffs), basking in the reflective glow of people who have had the occasional original idea. She has name dropped RD several times in the past as if they were sharing equal billing on the numerous atheist cons. Turns out he had no idea who she was, and for someone who drops names like RW that must of hurt. Result, RW gathers all the support she can muster and goes after RD.
    Hell hath no fury etc , etc.

    Incidentally, saying “I see what you did there” after someone makes a joke is about as hackneyed as you can get, also see “I’m here all week”. Annoys me almost as must as Jay describing everything as fucking profound.

  47. Why can I only see the last two comments? The feed link only gives me a few more… I want to read the thread!
    Anyway, judging by the last comment, some people still just don’t get it. Depressing. Luckily, here’s a brilliant point-by-point takedown of Hague’s piece:

    Just to be clear about one thing – when someone fairly politely says that a particular behaviour is pretty bad manners, and the whole world goes crazy attacking them, it’s not them that is being divisive. When someone (see poster above), decides that not talking about abusive behaviour for ages, then politely mentioning that actually abusive behaviour is, well, not really OK (and I’m talking about the offensive emails etc. as much as elevator dude) is ‘changing the rules’ as if they… actually, this is too much. Women get to say ‘no’ and say ‘actually the way you did that wasn’t very nice’ without getting slagged off for ‘changing the rules’, ffs. Funny the News of The World gets mentioned here – it seems that the assumption that because someone is a woman in the public eye they don’t get to complain about dickish behaviour has rather a lot in common with NOTW’s attitude to people in the public eye…

    And finally! All the slagging off of the SGU because you don’t like their manners of speech – honestly, if you don’t like it, don’t listen. What have you done lately? Have a little time for people who are trying to make a difference. Did you listen to Dean Burnett’s piece last week about Johann Hari? You know the bit about not being a dick and slagging off the people who are trying to do good things, because they are also human? He was talking to YOU. I mean, he really was, go listen.

  48. Dan
    Mentioning a man asking a woman back for coffee and rape in the same item is divisive. It has two effects, a) Men may end up not acting on the spur of the moment (like humans sometimes do) for fear of being outed as some possible sex case and, b) It may reinforce in young women the irrational (i.e. the overwhelmingly vast majority of women will never be assaulted) fear that men are something to be scared of.
    Where did I mention that because a woman is in the public eye she doesn’t get to complain about dickish behaviour? What she doesn’t get to do is elect herself spokeswomen for Sceptical Females which she did when she said, “guys, don’t do that.” “Don’t do that to me”, fine, “some women don’t like that”, fine also.
    As for changing the rules, sure she obviously gets to say no, what she doesn’t get the right to do is act like party girl then get massively offended when a totally innocent bloke tries his look (or rather, she can but it makes her look like a bit of a tool.) He probably woke up thinking “god, what a dick, turned down again” …then turned on his computer to read that he is being discussed as a possible rapist. That is beyond the pale.
    As for the SGUs’ manners of speech, that was kind of tongue in cheek. I listen to it every week and enjoy 99.34% of all the input but those phrases highlighted in my previous post really get on my wick. What can I say?
    Next episode listen how many times Jay says something is profound.

  49. Dan, as an aside, download a RSS reader then copy the RSS Commets feed link in the top right hand corner and paste into said reader, all the comments will be there.

  50. Ta for the advice re RSS!

    The thing is, though: ‘what she doesn’t get the right to do is act like party girl then get massively offended when a totally innocent bloke tries his look (or rather, she can but it makes her look like a bit of a tool.)’
    That is simply not what happened – or at least , that is not the account she gave and she did not get massively offended, she just said ‘that’s a bit creepy’. The offense comes from the rabidly misogynistic response – and some of the things I’ve read are truly foul. Although the fact that this incident happened right after a speech all about not behaving like a dick in just this manner – like, duh, that guy is absolutely saying ‘I just don’t get it’, and frankly, that would worry me!

    I do think that there is a real problem with ‘she doesn’t get to act like a party girl and then…’! What difference does that make? That sounds dangerously like all the wretched ‘she shouldn’t have got drunk/worn that, it’s her own fault’ double standard stuff. It makes zero difference. Women can talk about enjoying alcohol and parties and yes, sex, without being labelled as somehow ‘fair game’.
    And if I don’t precede every statement with ‘it’s just my opinion but’ then I am just assuming people are smart enough to get what I mean to be my opinion and what I state as fact, it does not mean that I am trying to be a spokesman for all, er, middle aged perpetual students, or whatever!

    As for his being discussed as a possible rapist, the post I’ve linked to deals with that much better than I can. Suffice it to say that’s just not what happened – again, with the proviso that someone somewhere probably did say it, but on the internet someone says everything somewhere.

    Dawkins’ intervention was really wretched, by the way, (and of course imho) and he deserves any and all stick he’s getting for it. I am rapidly losing my remaining respect for that man, I wish he’d stick to what he understands.

  51. Dan
    I realise that it does look a bit like I’m saying,
    “Bah, short skirt? The slut was asking for it!”
    I’m not, because we’re not talking about anyone being raped. We are talking about two adults chatting in a bar until the early hours and one of them trying (and failing) their luck. I know women who I would never go up to and ask back for a coffee and I know some that I might and the difference is their previous behaviour, e.g. more liberal, more relaxed, basically more fun, however no still means no and no offence would ever be meant. Obviously she has every right to to be offended but if everyone was constantly worried about offending people we’d be stifled by our own fear to such an extent that the only way the human race would ever procreate would be via sperm banks. (By the way no one knows whether or not he saw her speech just that they got in a lift together.)
    As for the blog you linked to, his take down of the black male analogy is flawed. It suggests that if a single female gets assaulted then she may be raped but if a man gets robbed he may lose his phone. Leaving colour out of it, young men have a far higher chance of serious assault (not just losing a phone) whilst out than any other group.
    Do we teach boys about the danger of other men? Do we have to explain to men who attend atheist/sceptical cons not to approach young men in case they feel threatened? Well following a purely evidence based approach, we should do if it has been decided that it is OK to lecture men on how to interact with females.

  52. Male on male violence is a significant issue but it is a different issue. This is known as ‘whataboutery’.
    Boys, generally speaking, though, are socialised from birth into understanding violence as being a daily risk of life and interaction. In fact, have you watched any television lately? You know, ANY cop show, Game of Thrones, er, Harry sodding Potter? Bullying and male on male violence are not just mentioned, they are they key subject matter of vast swathes of public discourse. But mention the risks that women face and it’s ‘but what about the poor men’. Of course, the real take home from this is – men are violent. More so than women.

    The man in the elevator did not just ‘approach’ her, he made a sexual proposition.

    Much of this debate has got overcomplicated. The fact and manner in which it has done so is clear evidence that yes, sexism and indeed misogyny are real problems in this ‘movement’ and the men who don’t like that being explained will just have to put up with it.
    Nice neat summary here:
    ‘ Hitting on stranger in an elevator–creepy

    Criticizing (and vilifying) the woman who says not to creepily hit on strangers in elevator for having the nerve to suggest guys change their behavior–sexist

    Defending the prerogative of all men to hit on any woman at any time no matter how it might make women feel, even at the expense of women feeling safe in their environment, because it’s “just how men work”–misogynist’

    (I think this came from a comment on a skepchick thread.)

  53. It seems to me that it is easy to see the logical fallacy inherant in Elevatorgate with the application of a technique I’ve heard used by the SGU:

    If you replace the gender qualification with, say, a racial qualification like ‘black’ you can probably see the predjudice inherent in RW’s position. It would not be proper for anyone to pre judge another on the basis of their percieved similarity to a negative stereotype.

    As a tall scary looking man I have had to console the nervous and dodge the confrontational all my adult life, perhaps experiencing this has enabled me to spot such prejudice more clearly. Our actions, not the colour of our skin or gender, should be that by which we’re judged.

    That said, the action in question here was, I’m told, an unsolicited proposal in private with sexual conotations. The devil is in the detail, but I imagine if the admirer was female, or indeed any individual of a perceived physical power equal to or less than the subject; fear of rape would not have arisen.

    The only thing we need do here is apply the logical tools we apply to understand all prejudice.

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