I love Richard Dawkins. I like his books, I love watching him read his hate mail, I loved listening to him talk at TAM last year, I loved watching him smirk about everything, I loved his documentary and I just like him in general.
But he doesn’t get what it’s like to be a woman. Not that one would expect him to have a total understanding, he is not a woman, but you would think that he’d be able to empathize just a little with women. Apparently not. Apparently if your genitals aren’t being mutilated and you’re complaining about creepy behavior from men at conferences, you’re just complaining about nothing. Wow, that’s great PR from a movement trying to get more women involved.
Have some background:
- Rebecca Watson was part of a panel about feminism.
- A stranger followed her into the elevator at four in the morning, waited for the doors to be closed, and tried to get her to go back to the room with him.
- She was creeped out majorly by this behavior. And was bothered that her talk had apparently made no difference and that her wish to go back to her room and sleep, which she said to a large room of people that included the stranger, was being ignored by someone who thought it was his right to hit on her regardless of what she wanted.
- Another female blogger, Stef McGraw, said she was overreacting.
- Rebecca Watson mentioned Stef, by name, in another panel.
- Stef then said it was abuse of power for Watson to call her out in a panel.
- A bunch of guys in the movement started protesting that if you can’t approach a stranger in the middle of the night (in an enclosed, inescapable space) then how will you ever meet anyone in the movement??? Plus, Freedom of Speech!
- PZ posted about it, which garnered much response and vitriol from various people.
- DAWKINS came into the comment thread and said basically that it was OK for guys to be creepy because some women get their genitals mutilated. That the creepy behavior was NO DIFFERENT from someone chewing gum on an elevator. Richard Dawkins said this, PZ confirmed it was actually him.
- My head exploded
Here’s some advice for guys: If a woman, particularly a complete stranger, can literally not get away from you, that’s not a good time to proposition her. If you’ve got her trapped in a small space or are between her and her escape route, don’t imply, on any level, that you’d like to do things to her body. Just don’t.
Why? Because she doesn’t know if you’re a good guy or not and she’s trapped in a space suddenly with someone who doesn’t care about how safe she feels, and in this particular case, has already intentionally ignored her stated wishes. Why on earth would she think you’re not going to ignore it when she says NO? There are lots of opportunities to express interest in ways that don’t feel incredibly dangerous to a woman — if you put yourself in her shoes and think, “Would this seem safe if I was a woman who might get raped by a strange man?” If the answer is anything but, “Yes,” DON’T DO IT.
Here is an amazing post about how not to make women feel scared shitless when you try to hit on them. Don’t act like a threat! Don’t ignore what people say! Don’t ignore body language! And don’t accuse women of complaining about meaningless crap when they’re afraid for their safety because some people have it worse!