In the beginning… Rebecca Watson, a feminist who runs the “Skepchick” website (formerly known for their pin-up calendars), lectured at the World Atheist Convention in June 2011.
The botched approach
Later, after leaving a bar around 4am, someone dared speak to Her Majesty in an elevator:
Don’t take this the wrong way, but I find you very interesting and I would like to talk more. Would you like to come to my hotel room for coffee?
Apparently she did take it the wrong way. Later, she made a video discussing many subjects: “About Mythbusters, Robot Eyes, Feminism, and Jokes”. One item described why Elevator Guy’s approach made her – as she put it – incredibly uncomfortable. She was alone (at least he wasn’t butting into a conversation), it was late (perhaps closing time isn’t always best), she was in a foreign country (Ireland is pretty scary, after all), and her topic was misogyny in the atheist community. Oh my God, right? On that last item, I agree; although she’s a bit cute even despite the weird dye job, feminist rhetoric makes me – how shall we say – incredibly uncomfortable.
Making mountains out of mole hills
How big a deal was this, really? Objectively, nothing Elevator Guy said or did was menacing or even disrespectful. Anyway, that was a little too close to an Apocalypse Opener; he should have waited for some definite IOIs before going direct, or maybe opened with the time-worn “Who lies more?” Routine. Proper Calibration is difficult with less than a minute, though. Elevator Game is tricky; if anyone has successful field reports, please comment below.
More seriously, receiving too many overtures might be tiresome, especially in mostly male environments. Still, no offense is ever intended. Because men don’t read minds (contrary to popular belief), we don’t know for sure if someone will be receptive until opening a conversation, preferably done smoothly. We’re expected to make the first move, so it’s irrational to fault us for doing so. Many advantages come with good looks, but that also gets extra attention from both hot and not-so-hot guys. Women choose who to accept, but not who asks. Beauty fades as time marches on; those complaining of frequent approaches might someday fondly remember when they got any offers.
In fact, this is just silly. If I went to a quilting convention and someone invited me to her place for coffee, I wouldn’t post a video about it to shame her before the world. (Actually, if my greatest problem was women flirting with me, I wouldn’t complain too much!) Even when a gay guy hits on me, I don’t blow a gasket; he has the right to start a conversation, and he doesn’t know I’m not into guys until he asks.
“Dear Muslima” – the post that launched a thousand tirades
In reaction to that video, Richard Dawkins – notable for atheist advocacy and evolutionary biology, but not always for diplomacy – blogged the following on July 2:
Stop whining, will you. Yes, yes, I know you had your genitals mutilated with a razor blade, and… yawn… don’t tell me yet again, I know you aren’t allowed to drive a car, and you can’t leave the house without a male relative, and your husband is allowed to beat you, and you’ll be stoned to death if you commit adultery. But stop whining, will you. Think of the suffering your poor American sisters have to put up with.
Only this week I heard of one, she calls herself Skep”chick”, and do you know what happened to her? A man in a hotel elevator invited her back to his room for coffee. I am not exaggerating. He really did. He invited her back to his room for coffee. Of course she said no, and of course he didn’t lay a finger on her, but even so…
And you, Muslima, think you have misogyny to complain about! For goodness sake grow up, or at least grow a thicker skin.
Hallelujah! Brethren, let’s have an “Amen”! For wittily deconstructing feminist hypersensitivity, I hereby forgive Richard Dawkins for his dreadfully boring book The Selfish Gene. (Readers at Return of Kings are well aware that satire can generate epic controversy!) Telling a feminist to grow a pair is one thing. His mortal sin was pointing out feminism’s rotten hypocrisy. (Jesus called out hypocrites too. He and Dawkins do have a little in common after all; who knew?) Particularly, feminists scramble to find tiny things to get offended about in the Western world, yet pay comparatively very little attention to far worse elsewhere – stoning, beheading, mutilation, acid attacks, just to begin. One feminist cause-du-jour is forbidding men to start conversations with women, even respectfully. (Are we supposed to send smoke signals now? WTF?) Meanwhile, Muslim atrocities receive remarkably little comment, given their severity. Radical feminism is one of the fronts of cultural Marxism – which seeks to make Western civilization look as bad as possible – so pointing out far worse things by others would go against the agenda. Also, noticing them would make it absurd to gripe endlessly about how terrible things are here.
And so it came to pass that “Elevatorgate” began. Some blamed him for all the mess that followed. However, I disagree; this wouldn’t have happened if deep fault lines hadn’t existed in the community, or especially if there weren’t online Social Justice Warriors ready to be directed as a mob to pounce on anything politically incorrect. His post was merely a stray spark that set off the powder keg. Watson and Dawkins probably didn’t anticipate all the drama soon to follow. If they reacted disproportionately, they were pretty reasonable compared to what would soon follow.
Hellfire and damnation
Ms. Watson made a prickly rebuttal to the “Dear Muslima” post, titled “The Privilege Delusion”, without clearly explaining what privilege had to do with anything. Apparently “privilege” isn’t being used in its normal meaning, but as a buzzword loaded with unstated assumptions, leaving it to readers to guess what this floating abstraction means. Media outlets weighed in too: Salon, Gawker, and so forth, mainly to the effect that Richard Dawkins is a dick. One item was “Richard Dawkins and male privilege“. That too didn’t describe what is “privilege” here (or why) – inviting someone to one’s room, saying that inviting someone to one’s room is not an atrocity, a male expressing an opinion, or all the above? The article stated, “This was a potential sexual assault.” Only in the sense that any shopper asking the price of merchandise is a potential armed robber! I thought atheists were supposed to be logical?
Let’s put this baloney to rest. Starting a conversation is free speech. It’s called “socializing”. This is, in fact, how countless relationships have started since forever. Bad taste should be avoided, but even maladroit flirtation isn’t a crime, or even a potential crime. If Elevator Guy had evil intentions, he would have acted on them, quite likely without asking.
Soon the fur really started to fly. Social Justice Warriors, like a hive of hornets, swarmed on command into a place they weren’t welcome and unleashed venom. I haven’t been an atheist since I was a teenager, but I don’t believe they deserved a mob of SJWs crashing their party to poop in the punch bowl. “Elevatorgate” has been called “the day the atheist movement died”. The real problem is entryism: when feminists go into traditionally male spaces and attempt to force their agenda, with online SJW mobs shouting down everyone. Thus, “Elevatorgate” was a prelude to the 2014 “Gamergate” controversy, where feminists butted in to spout outrage about video games they didn’t like, then unleashed their SJW toadies. That was truly some stupid stuff – things like complaining about Super Mario Bros. because the objective is to rescue Princess Peach. I wish I was making this up. Aren’t there far greater problems in the world? Well, that’s kind of what Dawkins said too… Entryism isn’t about fixing problems or debating constructively; it’s about wrecking the community.
For the next three weeks, the flame war within the atheist community resembled the Old Testament wrath upon the city of Sodom. Ultimately, this caused a schism amongst the unbelievers. “Atheism+” was founded by SJWs who mix irreligion and politics. The “Plus” meant the whole SJW ideological burrito. As their website put it, “Atheism+ is safe space for people to discuss how religion affects everyone and to apply skepticism and critical thinking to everything, including social issues like sexism, racism, GLBT isues [sic], politics, poverty, and crime.” (Does this include critically examining their own views?) They announced that atheism is dead, much like Nietzsche said that God is dead. They launched a crusade to take godlessness to the next level and purge all heretics. Declaring themselves the “true” atheists and attempting to shun dissenters didn’t work; the tail does not wag the dog. Two key founders quickly abandoning ship didn’t help either.
The aftermath of the apocalypse
Still, the embers continued to be stirred up. A year after the botched elevator approach, Ms. Watson wrote an article about getting trolled, rape threats, and death threats. Could some of that have been manufactured for outrage? Well, these things happen sometimes. Dare I say that I’m agnostic on the matter?
On August 6, 2014, Dawkins issued a brief apology. Ms. Watson quickly tweeted, “Richard Dawkins just did the blog-equivalent of coughing into his hand while mumbling ‘sorry’ to me. Eh, I’ll take it.” A couple of months later, he backtracked a little, once more foiling her attempt to get in the last word, just like she tried to do with Elevator Guy. Regarding his controversial statements on many subjects, he stated in an interview “I don’t take back anything that I’ve said.” He noted, “There is a climate of bullying, a climate of intransigent thought police which is highly influential in the sense that it suppresses people like me.” We certainly understand. Even so, he called himself “a passionate feminist”. For God’s sake, Richard, they threw you under the bus! Once the SJW Inquisition damns you as a heretic, there is no salvation.