Digital archaeology of Elevatorgate – a timeline

Oh, the huge manatee! Suirauqa has taken it upon xirself to chronicle the origin of the DEEEEP RIIIIIIFT that the community has found itself in, between people who think Rebecca Watson magically ruins everything by her mere presence, and people who think she’s just another human being. Xir googling efforts are chronicled here, and the proceedings of the event now known as “elevatorgate” make a sort of prequel to the harassment policies campaign in how major forces in the skeptical and atheist movements decided to align for and against female bodily autonomy.

A friend of mine was curious about the ‘Deep Rift’ that has been cooking in the atheist-skeptic blogosphere for about a year now, culminating in the Twitter storm over the FTBullies hashtag. I offered to make a timeline with bullet points. Little did I know that chronicling those cataclysmic events was going to be such a monumental task, requiring the last drop of my Google-Fu and reading/listening comprehension. Anyhoo, I must admit it was eeriely fun revisiting those events, and consequently, wondering anew how, atheist-skeptic or not, we all are subject to the very human foibles and frailties of ego, prejudice, presumptions, and sadly, blind irrationality. Vraiment, the humanity of it all!

Well worth the read, if you’re unsure why people deluge Watson with hate for otherwise completely unobjectionable statements.

In case you missed the link the first time through, click here.

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Digital archaeology of Elevatorgate – a timeline
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70 thoughts on “Digital archaeology of Elevatorgate – a timeline

  1. 1

    Where’s the part about “unidentified bones found at bottom of Dublin hotel elevator shaft – investigators say some of the tooth marks do not match rodent dentition”?

  2. 4

    OT: Any thought to FtB standardizing on the use of nongendered pronouns?

    I confess to some serious cognitive dissonance here. I absolutely recognize the crucial need for nongendered pronouns, but every single one (from ze/hir to xe/xir to singular they) makes my brain go “ew”. I know I just gotta get acclimated to it… I’ve started to feel very slightly less revulsion to ze/hir, because I’ve gotten somewhat used to Crommunist using it, so now I see others and it’s like I have to get used to it all over again… heh…

    I know it’s my problem to get over this… just wondering if there’s been any thought to standardization.

  3. 5

    I know speaking for myself when I need to use gender-neutral singular pronouns (I avoid them as much as I can), I generally use the alternating method.

  4. 6

    My stopgap measure is I use the female pronoun any time I am referring to the gender of a hypothetical person, and “he or she” for a specific person whose gender is unknown. The problem with the latter is not so much that it makes for awkward prose (that can be a problem, but it is not that big of a deal to me), but rather because it enforces a gender binary picture that may not capture all individuals. If somebody asks that they not be referred to as “he or she”, I will generally stop using pronouns for that person altogether. I just haven’t been able to get used to any of the ungendered pronouns enough to feel comfortable using them… 🙁

  5. 7

    If I am aware of a gender-neutral pronoun preferred by the person I’m talking about, I’ll use it. Otherwise, I tend to prefer the X-ones, having shifted from the Z-ones over the past few months. Alternating between them is another good tactic, and I will occasionally use “she” for a gendered hypothetical person (e.g. an example who does not actually exist) but only at about 50/50.

    I could ask the other bloggers what their preferences are. I know Stephanie Zvan likes the non-plural “they/their”, and Crommunist as you mentioned likes ze/hir.

    Standardizing a non-gendered pronoun, and teaching it in school, would go a long way toward unwierding our language. Other languages have it. Why shouldn’t English, made as it is as a pastiche form of dozens of other languages?

  6. 8

    @jamessweet

    I have the same problem, and while it’s not strictly grammatically correct I usually go with plural non-specific “they, their, them”.

  7. 9

    Standardizing a non-gendered pronoun, and teaching it in school, would go a long way toward unwierding our language. Other languages have it. Why shouldn’t English, made as it is as a pastiche form of dozens of other languages?

    I think the way forward, ultimately, is that a mainstream (presumably left-leaning) publication like the New York Times needs to pick one and have their editorial board demand that all their writers use it. As soon as that happens, it should be only a matter of a few decades until it trickles down into common usage.

  8. 10

    For the record, as I seem to recall, back in the day ol’ Watson was organizing a Skepchick party on the theme of a “Wild West Bordello” and attacked anyone who said that the theme was tasteless was attacked as, well I’ll quote her directly:

    At any rate, by voicing my concern with this one issue, I stepped over the party line into the “against us” territory. I was labeled a hypocrite, a femi-nazi, a hater, anti-sex, anti-feminist. I was accused of being a troll, a drama queen and worse

    Now doesn’t that all sound very familiar? And was there a peep from the rest of the Skeptic movement at the time?

    That’s even before I’ve gotten into Watson’s nudie-pics and the rest of it. But sure – “no sexualizing”. Right.

    Incidentally, there’s been huge pity parties whenever someone has called Watson, Greta or Stephanie “ugly”. I don’t agree or like that sort of thing. But the point for the rest of you to complain would have been all the years while watson was pushing her “smart is sexy” line. Now it’s a little late.

  9. 11

    The barrier for general acceptance seems to be lowest for singular they, I think. Arguably, many people use it already, so we just need it accepted in style guides and the house rules of major publications. That way, if the commafuckers complain, we can whack them with an official clue-by-four. 🙂

    My own preference would be for singular they in cases where gender is unspecified or irrelevant, with an option for a pronoun of the xe or ve variety in cases where one wishes to emphasize that the antecedent person is agender or otherwise nonbinary. In addition, I myself am quite happy to use “she” for subtle rhetorical emphasis, in cases such as, “If the mathematician wishes to compute X, she can do so by…”

  10. 12

    mybri said:

    I have the same problem, and while it’s not strictly grammatically correct I usually go with plural non-specific “they, their, them”.

    It used to be the case that there were different forms for the plural and singular “you”, but the singular form, “Thou” got replaced by the plural form, “you”.

    If that happened with “you”, I see no reason why it should not happen with “they”.

    Blake Stacey said:

    In addition, I myself am quite happy to use “she” for subtle rhetorical emphasis, in cases such as, “If the mathematician wishes to compute X, she can do so by…”

    I do that, but I tend to use “she” when the (hypothetical) person is admirable, and “he” when they are not. So a hypothetical doctor might well be she, but a creationist more likely to be he.

  11. 13

    As somewhat of a commafucker myself, I dearly hope singular-they isn’t the solution on which we eventually converge (look, I even undangled a preposition in that last sentence!). I’ll use it in informal communications like e-mail, and even occasionally in semi-formal stuff like blog posts if I really really need a truly gender-neutral singular pronoun. But I just don’t like it. It’s a little ugly to me, and detracts from otherwise mellifluous prose.

    The reformers will only say it sounds ugly because I’m not used to it, but there’s more to it than that… I resist the evolution of language when the effect is to reduce expressiveness, e.g. I am totally down with “incentivize” becoming a word because it expresses a new idea, but I mourn the (apparently now inevitable) redefining of “enormity” to mean simply “enormousness”, because where we once had two words with two distinct and useful meanings we now have two redundant words with only one meaning, and must use many more words to recapture the original sense of “enormity”. By the same token, the singular “they” reduces expressiveness (by making the default singular pronoun the same as the default plural pronoun) in a way that the other ungendered pronoun alternatives do not.

    Yes, yes, I know it’s already that way with second-person pronouns and the situation is tolerable. The world will not end and we will not descend into a Tower of Babel situation if singular-they becomes the standard. But for me, it’s a small step in a direction I oppose (though if that’s truly the only way to get an ungendered singular pronoun into the mainstream, so be it).

  12. 14

    If that happened with “you”, I see no reason why it should not happen with “they”.

    I’ll tell thee why: Because while it may have happened with the second-person pronoun without disastrous results, that doesn’t mean it was a good thing. It creates ambiguity where there need be none.

    If I was late paying a bill last month and had to pay a $5 late fee, and that didn’t bankrupt me, does that mean there’s no reason I shouldn’t pay my bill late this month too? I’m not gonna go bankrupt from that either, but I still want my five bucks. English will not be ruined if we lose cardinality in our third-person pronouns too, but that doesn’t make me in favor of it!

  13. 15

    I just finished a phenomenal book on the falsehood of a Standard English that is universally used, and one of the chapters was on the use of “they” as a singular nongendered pronoun. I prefer that myself because it has been used in such a manner for centuries and is a word that already exists; very few words that have been created for a specific purpose actually make it into the common lexicon. Grammar nazis be damned; it’s already used that way, and it makes perfect sense to continue to use it as such rather than to create new words in order to plug a gap that doesn’t actually exist.

  14. 16

    Since there’s already a lot of popular support for non-plural they/their/them, I’d be willing to throw my weight behind it if it was taught in schools and expressly codified in, say, the AP Style Guide. Since it isn’t, I’ll consider switching back to non-plural they.

  15. 17

    For the record, as I seem to recall, back in the day ol’ Watson was organizing a Skepchick party on the theme of a “Wild West Bordello” and attacked anyone who said that the theme was tasteless

    Care to provide some evidence? The source you quote from (Skeptopia) provides no evidence that Rebecca Watson was doing the harassment.

    That’s even before I’ve gotten into Watson’s nudie-pics and the rest of it.

    Ah yes. Once a women has ever done anything sexually unconventional, she is indelibly tainted, and has forfeited her right to exercise choice in other sexual matters, or to complain about harassment.

    Incidentally, there’s been huge pity parties whenever someone has called Watson, Greta or Stephanie “ugly”. I don’t agree or like that sort of thing. But the point for the rest of you to complain would have been all the years while watson was pushing her “smart is sexy” line. Now it’s a little late.

    “Sexiness” has a far wider scope than physical appearance. If anything “smart is sexy” reinforces the message of not judging by physical appearance, because it promotes another factor as being important.

  16. 18

    But the point for the rest of you to complain would have been all the years while watson was pushing her “smart is sexy” line. Now it’s a little late.

    Got that, bitchez? If you do anything that involves your own sexuality, you have no right to complain about psychotic bigotry and rape threats for the rest of your life!

    If you act sexy once, you’re a slutwhorebitchcunt who deserves to be raped FOREVER. So shuddup about it!

    How’s it feel being a supporter of rape culture, honeybuns?

  17. 19

    a) Nothing has changed as far as Watson and Skepchick’s sex-positivity.
    b) As far as I know, the theme was “Wild West”, the bordello part coming from the fact that a woman’s choices for appropriate costuming are very limited.
    c) Watson posing nude does not give you permission to mistreat her thereafter. If you think it does, you’re exactly the sort of person who is part of the problem we’re talking about rectifying by enacting a harassment policy.
    d) So fucking what? What’s hypocritical about hosting sex-positive parties as well as trying to enculturate a culture of enthusiastic consent? And even if it was hypocritical, which I expressly deny, are people not allowed leeway to evolve their views in the, what, six years interim these events??

  18. 20

    Care to provide some evidence? The source you quote from (Skeptopia) provides no evidence that Rebecca Watson was doing the harassment.

    She did bugger all to stop it – that was all fine and dandy. Others can tell similar stories.

    Ah yes. Once a women has ever done anything sexually unconventional, she is indelibly tainted, and has forfeited her right to exercise choice in other sexual matters, or to complain about harassment.

    After you’re done arguing with the voices in your head, get back to the real world. What it does do is make utter crap of the whole “no sexualizing” nonsense. She was all about sexualization because she couldn’t possibly make her rep based on her thoughts. It’s worth noting that the trouble with Miss Smith started when Abbie Smith was horrified at the thought of being welcomed for her ovaries rather than her ideas. Watson’s never had anything else.

  19. 21

    I appreciate the point about reducing expressiveness by overloading meanings onto a single word, and I would not wish to advance singular they as a demerit-free solution. To me, however, it appears the most viable solution to a real problem, and I’m willing to endorse it on pragmatic grounds, after weighing its negatives in the balance. I am probably influenced in this by the fact that in my biased recollections of my own experience, I have not found they to be noticeably ambiguous. When hearing it in conversation or reading it in un- or semiformal prose, I don’t find myself confused over whether it refers to one person or to a plurality. Of course, that’s just my personal experience.

    My most “formal”, overwrought, deliberately stylistic writing is when I craft mock Shakespearean dialogue, and there, singular they is as obligatory as syphylis jokes and rhyming prove with love. 😀

  20. 22

    c) Watson posing nude does not give you permission to mistreat her thereafter.

    And where, exactly, have I done this? Or is saying that I think she’s a fool is “mistreating” in the pampered worth of the upper-middle class North American?

    She trades on her sex, because she doesn’t have any ideas. Well, fair enough; stacks of glamour models do the same thing and everyone’s gotta make a living in this world. What I have a problem with is seeing such a figure made an emblem of capital R-reason, seeing her voted “most influential atheist” ahead of people like Ayaan Hirsi Ali, or these attempts to drive out Dawkins, Smith, and Grothe.

    You know, people with actual accomplishments.

    If this is the best the atheist movement can offer, then it’s dead. Then there’s no point in even trying and we’re better off cutting a deal with whichever religious movement will be least vexing.

  21. 23

    Expressing attitudes like that reveals a profound contempt for women.

    Yes, that was the other thing that sickens me. This twisted, mendacious claim that watson is somehow representative of womankind. If there’s ever been a generalisation degrading to the female half of our species, that’s surely it.

    I’ve worked with a lot of women who, in the army, have had to face the real thing, and any of them is worth a hundred, or a thousand, of the wastonistas. The idea that this nonentity is representative of women is grotesque.

  22. 24

    Keep going with blatantly false, easily falsifiable claims. It’s amusing.

    Ignoramus. Just go back and read all the calls to have Grothe fired.

  23. 25

    Did Rebecca do nude posing? I remember her doing a sexy pinup calendar thing, but she had clothes on. Not that there’s anything wrong with nude calendars–I am the happy owner of the Nude Revolutionaries calendar–I’m just curious.

    I think he is referring to the 2007 Skepchicks calender, and you are correct, she was not actually pictured nude. As is typical of the misogynists, honesty is something of alien concept to him.

  24. 27

    You mean the calls that DJ step down (e.g. voluntarily resign)?

    Your lies grow very tiresome, elipsis. We know your opinion — since all the evidence you have to bring to the table is demonstrable falsehoods, why should you continue to be part of this conversation? In what way are you actually driving the conversation forward? Answer carefully please.

  25. 28

    I repeat: the very idea that watson is representative of womanhood is grotesque.

    Yet you felt the need to lie ? Why was that ? And why should someone, who is known to lie and is clearly a bit thick, think their opinion is of any value ?

  26. 29

    (I should amend my @34: CALL. Singular. Greg Laden’s the only one to my knowledge to recommend that he step down because his poor communcation skills constantly get DJ Grothe in hot water, to the detriment of the rest of the skeptical community.)

  27. 31

    After you’re done arguing with the voices in your head, get back to the real world. What it does do is make utter crap of the whole “no sexualizing” nonsense. She was all about sexualization because she couldn’t possibly make her rep based on her thoughts.

    Actually I’m arguing with the voices in your head. Perhaps you lack the ability to grasp such subtleties, but I’m criticizing the implications of your comment, not its exact text.

  28. 32

    You mean the calls that DJ step down (e.g. voluntarily resign)?

    Which are all okay. Sure, sure, no attempts to pressure there. “Asking for a resignation” is never a euphemism.

    since all the evidence you have to bring to the table is demonstrable falsehoods, why should you continue to be part of this conversation? I

    Hey, this is the new, improved Skepticism, remember? Facts are irrelevant, accusations are to be automatically accepted, and logic is superfluous.

    I remember the hysteria whipped up against Dawkins. I know perfectly well that Greg Laden tried to make life hard for Smith in real life.

    Look in the mirror boys. That’s where you’ll see the real harassers.

    Nobody has claimed that

    It follows logically. You have claimed that because I despise Watson – and you for that matter – I am, ergo, a misogynist. Someone who hates all women. That only makes sense if watson is somehow representative, rather than recrudescent.

    I notice you’re all scurrying away from the abuse that hit people objecting to anything as tasteless as a bordello themed evening.

  29. 33

    It follows logically. You have claimed that because I despise Watson – and you for that matter – I am, ergo, a misogynist.

    Even if Rebecca Watson was the Paris Hilton of atheism, why would you go so far as to despise her (and to endlessly broadcast this fact)? You seem to give her more thought than her biggest fans. If she’s so unimportant, why do you place so much importance on her? Put her out of your mind, and do everyone a favour.

  30. 34

    I rather agree with them, not because Grothe is some insane woman-hater, but because he’s horribly inept at public communications.

    Yes. This.

    (Gonna have to go in a bit to discuss stochastic mechanics and mathematical modelling of evolutionary dynamics… not entirely sorry to be leaving the Internet behind for the afternoon…)

  31. 35

    I notice you’re all scurrying away from the abuse that hit people objecting to anything as tasteless as a bordello themed evening.

    I notice you’re scurrying away from providing any real evidence that Rebecca had anything to do with the harassment. The fact that she (may) not have explicitly condemned something, doesn’t imply that she condoned it.

  32. 36

    “Asking for a resignation” is never a euphemism.

    “Asking for a resignation” only CAN be used as a euphemism in the case of people who actually have the power to fire DJ. In any other case, it is not a euphemism.

  33. 38

    That’s even before I’ve gotten into Watson’s nudie-pics and the rest of it. But sure – “no sexualizing”. Right.

    Question: do you proudly own the label of “misogynist”?

    If not, you should really think about it.

    Expressing attitudes like that reveals a profound contempt for women.

    Here’s the non-misogynist way to view Watson’s “nudie-pics” (I don’t believe there were any) and Bordello parties: some women, just like some men, enjoy sex, sexy parties, wearing sexy clothes, and so on.

    That doesn’t mean it’s acceptable to reduce the entirety of their accomplishments and contributions to their sexual attributes, which is what “sexualizing” is.

    So, again: either change your attitude or proudly claim the “misogynist” label. There’s no way to hold those attitudes and respect women at the same time.

  34. 39

    Sexualization and Objectification are NOT the same thing. I was actually going to comment on that topic here before this whole thing started, but I thought it might be a bit of a derail. So here it goes.

    They’re not the same thing. Objectification is when you look at someone (man or woman) as strictly a sexual object to be taken. That’s their only value to them. Sexualization is when you take a more complete picture of a human being, and give them, or increase the sexual side of them.

    Objectification is obviously bad. Don’t do it. Ever. Sexualization is an entirely different can of worms. Sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s bad, sometimes it’s neutral. It would suck if we could never portray characters, for example, as being sexy or sensual, or if people couldn’t act that way. Very few people actually want that.

    Looking at it in terms of “hooking up”, it’s the difference between going up to someone and saying Hey! Wanna Fuck! and sitting down, having a conversation, and over time if there’s a connection adding sexualization to the conversation.

    Generally speaking, most people here are pretty much Yay to the latter and Boo to the former. And that’s the way it should be.

    That said, I do think that on occasion there is an issue with some people (i.e. feminists) who mistake sexualization for objectification. Often it’s a form of media bias (I.E. It’s OK in a book but not OK in a video game or a movie), but sometimes you see it blanket. This is not a majority feminist position. It is fringe, don’t treat it like it is mainstream, as that is disingenuous.

    (The irony of this is that I feel that doing this is often its own form of objectification, not sexual, but political. STILL BAD)

  35. 43

    This twisted, mendacious claim that watson is somehow representative of womankind. If there’s ever been a generalisation degrading to the female half of our species, that’s surely it.

    I’m sorry that you are too stupid to understand the actual content of my objection to your foolishness.

  36. 45

    Just go back and read all the calls to have Grothe fired.

    I read them. I rather agree with them, not because Grothe is some insane woman-hater, but because he’s horribly inept at public communications.

    Asking Grothe to step down from a position for which he is clearly underqualified, or preferring not to spend money on Dawkins’ books anymore–these are not examples of attempts to kick anyone out of the movement. Just expressions of disagreement.

    You seem a bit testerical. Perhaps you should take a few deep breaths.

  37. 48

    Yup. And just because you sexualize yourself (which is fine) doesn’t mean that from that point on you’re “on” all the time and in every situation and have to cater to everybodies whims.

    For what it’s worth I understand where ellipse is coming from. When we talk about objectification, we’re including sexualization as well, and that we support sexualization in some situations it makes us hypocrites. It’s still wrong, but the message being sent out is confusing for people. (I also by and large think that hypocrisy is an overused argument. Same with strawmen)

    The caricature, as I’ve mentioned in other comments is of the anti-sex anti-fun feminist. This is something that in this day and age is so far off the mark it’s sad.

  38. MLR
    49

    I am glad “…” is here to point out that Ms. Watson has not contributed anything to skepticism. Why, I actually thought I was learning something from reading Skepchick, and from watching her YouTube videos about abortion rights, feminism, and woo-woo topics like homeopathy. But apparently, I was being duped all this time! I had no idea her only worth in the movement was her sex appeal. I can’t believe I fell for it. But thankfully, “…” is here to save men like me from the sweet siren call of Ms. Watson. So I guess the question is, how do we tell when an attractive woman has no ideas as “…” claims is the case for Ms. Watson? I guess we should just assume attractive women are incapable of having ideas, right?

  39. 50

    Nonono, don’t be silly, MLR. It’s only the women that “…” doesn’t want to fuck, or who disagree with him, that are incapable of having ideas. Magically, those that DO agree with him, naturally have GREAT ideas. Cuz he gave them to them.

    he’s benevolent like that.

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