An Open Letter To Richard Dawkins


Dear Mr. Dawkins;

You have requested in the following post that someone please explain to you what your error was. I have posted your request below for readers who may not have seen it. My response, sans F-words follows below that.

Mr. Dawkins wrote:

Many people seem to think it obvious that my post was wrong and I should apologise. Very few people have bothered to explain exactly why. The nearest approach I have heard goes something like this.

I sarcastically compared Rebecca’s plight with that of women in Muslim countries or families dominated by Muslim men. Somebody made the worthwhile point (reiterated here by PZ) that it is no defence of something slightly bad to point to something worse. We should fight all bad things, the slightly bad as well as the very bad. Fair enough. But my point is that the ‘slightly bad thing’ suffered by Rebecca was not even slightly bad, it was zero bad. A man asked her back to his room for coffee. She said no. End of story.

But not everybody sees it as end of story. OK, let’s ask why not? The main reason seems to be that an elevator is a confined space from which there is no escape. This point has been made again and again in this thread, and the other one.

No escape? I am now really puzzled. Here’s how you escape from an elevator. You press any one of the buttons conveniently provided. The elevator will obligingly stop at a floor, the door will open and you will no longer be in a confined space but in a well-lit corridor in a crowded hotel in the centre of Dublin.

No, I obviously don’t get it. I will gladly apologise if somebody will calmly and politely, without using the word fuck in every sentence, explain to me what it is that I am not getting.

Richard

 

My Response:

Mr Dawkins, it is evidently difficult for you to understand the social climate for US women. No it isn’t as bad as what Muslim women deal with (though there are places in the Bible Belt where you will find women being treated like property by their spouses), but that doesn’t invalidate the fact that 1 in 4 women will experience an attempted rape in their lifetimes. Many of those, both attempted and successful, go unreported because of the atmosphere of shame that surrounds rape. Victims, if they choose to prosecute, have been treated by the court system as though they somehow deserved to be assaulted so intimately. You may be aware of the controversy in the 80’s and 90’s surrounding how a woman dressed. Some men used to consider a revealing outfit on a woman to be an invitation to simply take what they wanted.

With that sort of atmosphere of fear, what seems completely innocuous to you is potentially threatening and, for some who have already survived rape, frightening. You say that an elevator can easily be escaped from. If a woman were alone, this is true. However if someone who is a foot taller, weighing 100 pounds more than you tries to stop you, you’re probably not going anywhere.

At 4 am in an enclosed space, after having been drinking, what seems innocuous to a man becomes intimidating and possibly downright terrifying to a woman. Should the man try to press his advantage of height and weight, there isn’t much a weaker woman can do other than fight back and scream (IF she is able) and hope the elevator stops soon or someone hears before something horrible happens.

I hope this explains the situation to you more clearly. Please contact me if you would like to discuss this further.

~Maria~

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24 Comments

  1. latsot said,

    July 7, 2011 at 11:54 am

    Hi Maria,

    I think this is an excellent response.

    I’ve exasperated myself arguing about this with people around this great Internet of ours who don’t and won’t understand. They threw strawmen in my path as nimbly as they made thinly-disguised rape jokes. They dismissed the concerns of frightened people as easily as they pretended that men were somehow the injured party here.

    Seriously? Yes, I’m afraid so. You see, apparently we men are a brittle bunch. Nobody understands how difficult it is to have a penis and an enormous slab of privilege. We take our eyes off the ball for five minutes and suddenly we have women demanding things like respect and equality and we no longer understand the rules. It’s not *our* fault when a woman feels uncomfortable if we barge up to her in a lift and proposition her at four in the morning. Because we don’t understand the rules, you see. The rules that women make to keep men in check and are constantly changing to keep us confused.

    I’m very much afraid that this is the kind of response I’ve had on this issue. The feeling of gradually losing privilege is to many people horrific. Hence the counter-response of churches to their increasing irrelevance; the last ditch efforts of homophobes in making petty gestures to make things more difficult than they need to be for people who are in love; and the trivialising of real problems faced by women every day.

    Personally, I see it as liberation. Sloughing off prejudice feels nineteen kinds of great and not only because you get to feel more enlightened than others and get to strut about: but because you *are* more enlightened than you used to be and so you get to have richer relationships and a richer inner and outer life.

    The vast majority of the responses I’ve had on this topic have been “Well how are men supposed to ask for sex then?”

    The very fact that anyone needs to ask this question when sex is really rather an easy thing to get (even for me: have you *seen* me? If I can get regular sex then pretty much anyone can) probably illustrates the point better than I can.

    *This*, my male friends, is how you ask for sex. You use your intelligence and your words. You take notice of the person and the situation. You bear in mind that peeling (especially) a woman off from a crowd and propositioning her in a lonely place like a lift is an aggressive act. You remember that if she hasn’t been raped, she probably knows someone who has. You remember that if you yourself are not a rapist, you probably know someone who is. And you ask for sex the old fashioned way, by making a *connection* with someone first. You laugh with someone, you flirt with someone, you reveal something about yourself and you learn something about her. And *then* you get to ask for sex without it frightening anyone or being problematic.

    Everyone knows really that this is the way to ask for sex and yet indignant males are pretending it’s a minefield.

    I don’t think Richard is doing any of this. I think he’s a creature of his times and while he’s more liberal than most he needs his consciousness raising with a short sharp mental kick. I don’t really understand the need for apologies. I honestly don’t care whether Richard apologises or not. But if he doesn’t understand the backlash against his foolish comments, then I’m not sure what we can do but stop thinking of him as such a hero.

    • July 9, 2011 at 3:55 pm

      Brlliant!! You can’t see me but I am applauding you and your insight. That is EXACTLY how you ask for sex. Personally, mostly because I’m a nice person, I don’t think Elevator Guy meant any harm. He was just clueless. I also think that alcohol was most likely a precipitating factor.

      As far as Mr Dawkins goes, I agree that his response is more than likely related to his generation. That’s no excuse but it IS a reason. What shocks and saddens me the most is that a man of his intelligence and education hasn’t overcome that aspect of his upbringing.

  2. latsot said,

    July 7, 2011 at 12:21 pm

    By the way, I’m trying to write a letter to Richard, but it isn’t coming together well. The point I’m trying to make is mostly about the ‘backlash’ I spoke about in my previous post. A woman complaining about something is enough for large numbers of men to guffawingly dismiss that concern, sometimes with rape jokes.

    I think that proves Rebecca’s point. I hope it’s an attitude Richard wants to distance himself from.

    But I’m not a great writer and the letter is taking a long time to come right. Annoying.

  3. rosnet said,

    August 11, 2011 at 7:45 am

    Maria,

    While I agree with you ,that for a girl, the elevator situation can be quite intimidating, I don’t its right on the part of females to suspect every man of being a potential rapist. If I had said that I’m scared to get into a flight with Muslims, then I’m sure most people would treat that as an unacceptable prejudice against Muslims. Or similarly if I were to say that I feel uncomfortable going into a black neighborhood, most people would see that as racial prejudice. Yet in both cases, one could argue that my fears are legitimate or at least very a natural reaction. This however, does not justify the prejudice. So although the elevator incident can be scary for a woman, I feel that the prejudice is not warranted. In a liberal society we have to learn to approach a new person without preconceived notions about their character. Otherwise, we will be rife with racial, ethnic and religious intolerance.

    • latsot said,

      August 11, 2011 at 11:35 am

      Rosnet,

      I don’t see where Maria suggested that every man is a potential rapist. I don’t see where she advocated prejudice. I don’t see where she promoted preconceived ideas about a person’s character..

      I do see where she explained to Richard that she finds some things intimidating that he apparently doesn’t.

      Your strawman doesn’t work. Being frightened to get on a plane with Muslims on is plain silly. A woman being concerned when alone in a lift at 4am and a man gets in is not silly at all. Common sense should be screaming at that woman to take care. This isn’t a case of assuming that the man is a rapist, it’s a case of that woman working out how to protect herself if it turns out he is and/or controlling the situation so it doesn’t matter (in that situation) whether he is or not.

    • August 11, 2011 at 12:10 pm

      What woman that you have spoken to in person has told you that they suspect every man they meet of being a potential rapist? A recent rape survivor may feel that way, yes. But to say that ALL women feel like that? That’s a blatant logical fallacy on a couple of different levels. Latsot has already addressed that particular point better than I might have. Please, if you’re going to argue against what I kindly said to Richard Dawkins, don’t use blanket statements or strawmen. I’m not persecuting men here. I’m just saying that as women we have been raised to be cautious. At 4 am in a foreign country alone in an elevator with a stranger, one who didn’t say a word all evening, that screams “potential threat”. Had that exchange taken place as say 1pm in an elevator with other people, it wouldn’t be intimidating. Had the guy been talking to her all evening, that would be different too. Had he invited her to coffee in a public place, that would also be different. He would be familiar by then. Or in a public place the situation would be much less intimidating. It’s a matter of several different factors in combination. I hope you see my point.

      • latsot said,

        August 11, 2011 at 12:42 pm

        For that matter, I’m male, a shade under six foot, have a fair amount of martial arts training and I’ve lived in some very rough places. But if someone followed me into a lift under Rebecca’s circumstances I’d consider it a potential threat and I’d be wary. If I felt I were being followed home late at night or if it looked like someone in a vehicle was watching people on my street, my spider-sense would be jangling.

        This is not a matter of judging people, it’s a matter of judging *situations*.

        Part of Maria’s point is that this should work both ways. If you follow someone into a lift, worry about whether they might see it as a threat and do what you can to be non-threatening. If you’re walking behind someone at night in an empty street, consider crossing the road or taking a different route.

        Try to be aware of when you might be frightening or intimidating people. That’s all Rebecca really said and, as far as I can tell, part of what Maria is saying.

        Many women have much more reason to feel vulnerable than I do and they judge situations according to that assessment. If we all try to see the world through other people’s eyes, people won’t have to be frightened so often.

        Maria has explained how elevator guy might have reacted to avoid a situation where anyone felt scared. Do that.

  4. rosnet said,

    August 14, 2011 at 3:58 am

    Latsot,

    Well, granted my argument was a straw-man. But I did not use it to imply that Maria had in fact said that. Instead I used it to bring home the point that “prejudice” should be dealt with in an appropriate way.
    When you say-
    “A woman being concerned when alone in a lift at 4am and a man gets in is not silly at all. Common sense should be screaming at that woman to take care.”
    you are admitting to a certain prejudice against men or at least men who happen to be awake till 4 AM in the night. And of course it is a wise thing to be concerned, I wouldn’t want a girl to not be concerned. However, it is important that the prejudice be acknowledged and be dealt with more diligence.

    Avoiding flying with Muslims or avoiding going to black neighborhoods may keep you safe and is therefore probably a wise thing to do. But is it the right thing to “advocate”? I’m someone who feels that in a Liberal society each individual should be willing to sacrifice such extreme levels of security to ensure that everyone gets a chance to prove their character. It seems that in the elevator incident, the guy was simply assumed to be “creepy” by default. Rebecca had gone onto to say that guys should not proposition a girl while in an elevator, which I thought was a good way to deal with her “fear” without coming across as prejudiced against men. However, the comments that followed her post, especially by from some females writers, seem to suggest that they share a common mistrust of men. Some were even arguing that men are bigger than women and hence they are natural threat to them.

    If women want Men to consider them as equals why can’t Men expect the same from them. Why assume that I’m a “creepy” guy when you don’t even know me. OK. so now you know where all this is coming from. :).

    • latsot said,

      August 14, 2011 at 4:39 am

      “But I did not use it to imply that Maria had in fact said that.”

      You didn’t say it explicitly, but saying “I agree with you….but…” is about as close to an implication as you can get. It is an indication that the two statements are linked. I suspect most people would read it as something like “while I agree with some of what you’re saying, you’re wrong because…”, which would certainly imply attributing the statement about potential rapists to Maria.

      But I’m quite happy to accept you didn’t mean that, thanks for clearing it up.

      “you are admitting to a certain prejudice against men or at least men who happen to be awake till 4 AM in the night.”

      No, I’m really not, unless we use “prejudice” in a way that renders it pretty much meaningless. I’m evaluating situations: could the person getting into the lift overpower me? How could I avoid that? Is there help to hand? Is it likely that the person’s intentions are violent?

      Some of that involves generalisation, which might be considered a form of prejudice if used thoughtlessly. I’m generalising when I say that men are likely to be more of a threat in that situation than are women, but the generalisation is based on evidence. Women attack men less often than men attack women. Men are usually bigger and stronger than women and so on.

      It’s quite possible that I could be overpowered by a woman who is smaller and weaker than I am, but it’s not the sort of thing that happens very often. It’s therefore a fairly low risk.

      Also, risks and their consequences are not always symmetrical. A false positive – identifying a man in a lift as a potential rapist despite the fact that it’s a generalisation – is rational because the consequences of being right are dire, but the consequences of being wrong (getting out of the lift and waiting for the next one) are footling.

      This is all entirely rational and doesn’t involve prejudice…. or at least not prejudice in the same sense as we might use it to talk about overt racism or sexism. My ideas aren’t preconceived, they are based on my perception of risk, which might well be skewed.

      “Avoiding flying with Muslims or avoiding going to black neighborhoods may keep you safe and is therefore probably a wise thing to do. ”

      No, this is absolute nonsense. The chances of dying on a flight with Muslims on is no different to dying on a flight without Muslims. The overwhelming cause of death on flights is not terrorism. It is not in the slightest part rational to avoid flights with Muslims on.

      I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that the danger you ascribe to ‘black neighbourhoods’ is an abstraction. That you mean a person of ethnicity X going into a place dominated by people of ethnicity Y might but themself in danger. This might be true in some circumstances, but the details would be key. By which I mean there’d be some evidence to suggest a particular sort of danger. And if there weren’t, the expectation of danger would be irrational.

      “If women want Men to consider them as equals why can’t Men expect the same from them. Why assume that I’m a “creepy” guy when you don’t even know me. OK. so now you know where all this is coming from. ”

      Yes, I’m very much afraid that I *do* see where you’re coming from. You’re coming from a position of privilege and have very, very much missed the point. Do we *really* need to go through all this again? Rebecca was saying that it’s intimidating for a man in a lift at 4am to hit on her. It would be intimidating to many if not most women, I think. It wouldn’t be so intimidating for most men, certainly. Why do you think this is? Is it prejudice by women against men? For what purpose? Or is it a rational threat assessment, based on evidence, with a skew toward false positive because the consequences of false positive and false negative are not symmetrical?

      If people feel intimidated by your behaviour, your first instinct should not be to blame them. It should be to ask yourself what it is about your behaviour that is causing this response. In some cases, you’ll be right and their fear is irrational and unfair. But you won’t know unless you put yourself in their shoes.

    • latsot said,

      August 14, 2011 at 4:55 am

      “you are admitting to a certain prejudice against men or at least men who happen to be awake till 4 AM in the night. ”

      Oh, and by the way, the initial complaint wasn’t that he was awake, but what he did while he was awake.

  5. rosnet said,

    August 14, 2011 at 4:28 am

    Maria,

    I do see your point. I did not mean to say that “you” were advocating such prejudice, although I can see how my post might have suggested that. I apologize.

    My point is not that women should “shut up” or not be concerned. I hail from India where women are more “paranoid” than girls in the west and probably for good reason. However, as a guy who has utmost respect for female freedom, I find that sometimes females can let their fears get the best of them and start treating good men rather badly. And often they may not show it on their faces or get violent, but once they get back with their peers, thats when they start unleashing all their paranoid interpretations of what that guy had “actually” meant to say or do. I don’t think that such mistrust is a good thing even if it has its advantages.

    • latsot said,

      August 14, 2011 at 4:44 am

      ” I find that sometimes females can let their fears get the best of them and start treating good men rather badly.”

      Treat men badly *how*, exactly? I think at this point you really have to give some examples. And if those examples don’t hold up to the prejudice and violence committed against women daily across the entire planet and throughout all history, then your point rather vanishes.

      So enlighten us: to what variety of ‘bad treatment’ of men by women do you specifically refer?

      • rosnet said,

        August 14, 2011 at 5:37 am

        I don’t have to give examples that match up to to the atrocities done against women. Because, my point was not about who is suffering more, but about the problems that crop up when women get too paranoid. Do remember, that Dawkins himself was making a point similar to yours in that the elevator story did not match up in severity to the life of a Muslim woman. If you think that I have no business talking about “men being treated badly” since women get treated worse, then you should not be in support of Rebecca as she did not have it anywhere nearly as bad as some Muslim women do.

        But since you asked for an example, here it is- a close friend of mine, who is a girl, once complained to the college principal when a guy tried to propose her. Now this is India we are talking about. No guy would dare to ask a girl to come to his room or just have a one night stand. All he did was tell her that he liked her. The girl complained to the principal and got this guy suspended for a good two weeks from college. Now, if it was me, I would have probably come back from the suspension and went on with life normally, but the guy in question really had a tough life after that. I know that he went down in the his studies and probably even took to alcoholism. Now I’m not saying that the girl is responsible for all of it, but she surely could have handled it differently. I remain friends with this girl, but I do find her reactionary paranoia somewhat disconcerting.

  6. rosnet said,

    August 14, 2011 at 5:14 am

    Latsot,

    Just to add to my earlier point- It is important to disassociate “rape” from “men”, just like it is with “terrorism” and “Islam”. At airports, we do this by checking every person without discriminating based on their religion. We try to focus on traits that make up a terrorist and exclude “being Muslim” from such a list. Similarly I feel that “being male” should be stripped off from the list of traits that make up a Rapist.

    In short-

    This will be a wrong advice to give – “Avoid getting into an elevator with strange “men””

    This will be a right advice to give- “If you are in an elevator with an unknown “person” and he/she behaves in an immodest or threatening way, then get out of there or use your pepper spray or….”

    Although the first advice probably works better at ensuring safety, the second advice, I feel, is the right one to give. This is a price that women should be willing to pay to be part of a liberal society.

  7. latsot said,

    August 14, 2011 at 5:54 am

    > It is important to disassociate “rape” from “men”

    OK, I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt again. I assume you are saying that all men are not rapists. Granted, and nobody thinks or says that they are. But then you say:

    “Similarly I feel that “being male” should be stripped off from the list of traits that make up a Rapist.”

    Ah, so my benefit of the doubt was ill-spent. Being male is a prerequisite for most types of rape. That doesn’t in any way imply that all men are rapists and nobody seriously suggests it does. But it very much *does* mean that men are overwhelmingly more likely to be rapists than are women.

    Masculinity very much *is* one of the traits that make up a rapist. A more helpful way forward than denying that would be to examine the *other* things that make a man into a rapist or potential rapist. I suggest we deal with those issues rather than arguing that having a penis doesn’t make rape rather more easy.

    “This will be a right advice to give- “If you are in an elevator with an unknown “person” and he/she behaves in an immodest or threatening way, then get out of there or use your pepper spray or….”

    Nonsense. It is perfectly reasonable and rational for people to assess threats based on the details of a situation. It would be silly to base threat assessments on sex alone but evidence shows us that the sex of a person *is* an important factor in determining whether an attack might happen. I’ll say it again: look at the *evidence* rather than at what you’d prefer to be true.

    “Although the first advice probably works better at ensuring safety, the second advice, I feel, is the right one to give. This is a price that women should be willing to pay to be part of a liberal society.”

    So let’s be perfectly clear. What you’re saying is that women should put themselves in more danger than they need to so that men deign to treat them as equals? And you – a male – get to decide what risks women should take in order that men shouldn’t have to modify their behaviour and be slightly more considerate about whether their behaviour might be considered a threat?

    Women should and must *not* have to pay any kind of ‘price’ in order to be able to walk around feeling safe. Consider: who are they paying this price to? Why, to you and your sense of privilege, of course. Get over it: you are *not* entitled to those feelings of privilege.

    The very idea that women should have to pay a price – and a price YOU have determined – in order to be treated as equals is frankly sickening. You really need to examine your attitudes, especially since you insist on telling others that *they* are prejudiced.

  8. rosnet said,

    August 14, 2011 at 6:02 am

    Latsot,

    Its funny that certain things just don’t get picked up even though I had been repeating it.

    Being concerned is fine, what you do next is where I think there should be some debate about. I don’t for a second think that women should not care for their safety or should trust every guy to be nice to them. I’m only contesting where we should draw the line when it comes to giving advice planning to avert such situations.

    When you make it about “males” and not about “rapist” you are allowing for prejudice to take shape. I’m using prejudice to mean “preconceived notion about the character of an individual without having interacted with them”, so yes I am using it in a more general way. And it doesn’t matter if you have evidence showing that rapists are more likely to be males. It is very much the same thing with terrorists and Islam. My point is not that women are basing their fears on “bad evidence”, not at all, any person will agree with you that women do face very legitimate dangers. My point was about how to deal with such fears. Should it make it about “males” or should we only talk about “rapists” disassociating males from it.

    And yes, it would help if you could rethink your position about this :-

    “Yes, I’m very much afraid that I *do* see where you’re coming from. You’re coming from a position of privilege and have very, very much missed the point. ”

    If you are gonna assume that I’m someone who has no real clue about women’s plight or that its my ignorance making me say all this, then I don’t think we can go any where with our discussion. After all, if I’m ignorant, then I should not have anything of importance to say or contribute. That pretty much makes the point of discussion moot.

    • latsot said,

      August 14, 2011 at 6:42 am

      “I’m only contesting where we should draw the line when it comes to giving advice planning to avert such situations.”

      And what makes you feel qualified to give advice?

      “When you make it about “males” and not about “rapist” you are allowing for prejudice to take shape. ”

      I understand this and I think there are situations in many societies where males are disadvantaged. For example, in the UK, in the event of a divorce the woman almost automatically retains custody of children. This is plainly unfair and not based on evidence.

      “I’m using prejudice to mean “preconceived notion about the character of an individual without having interacted with them”

      I’m not sure that’s what you mean. Do you mean that the preconceived notion is based on characteristics of them such as sex, colour etc? My point was that this certainly can lead to prejudice but judgements on this basis are not always prejudice. It depends on the characteristics you have in mind and the particular situation. As I said, the details matter.

      “And it doesn’t matter if you have evidence showing that rapists are more likely to be males. It is very much the same thing with terrorists and Islam.”

      No it isn’t, Any given male is overwhelmingly more likely to be a rapist than any given female. Any given Muslim is not overwhelmingly more likely to be a terrorist than any given non-Muslim. Not the same thing at all.

      “After all, if I’m ignorant, then I should not have anything of importance to say or contribute. That pretty much makes the point of discussion moot.”

      Yes, I suppose it does. Although I didn’t say you had nothing of importance to contribute. I don’t think that at all. I just think you’re wrong. Perhaps you can change my mind.

      I think you’re just running away because you didn’t expect anyone to argue with you.

  9. rosnet said,

    August 14, 2011 at 6:18 am

    Ah

    So this discussion has indeed become moot.

    “””So let’s be perfectly clear. What you’re saying is that women should put themselves in more danger than they need to so that men deign to treat them as equals? And you – a male – get to decide what risks women should take in order that men shouldn’t have to modify their behaviour and be slightly more considerate about whether their behaviour might be considered a threat?

    Women should and must *not* have to pay any kind of ‘price’ in order to be able to walk around feeling safe. Consider: who are they paying this price to? Why, to you and your sense of privilege, of course. Get over it: you are *not* entitled to those feelings of privilege.

    The very idea that women should have to pay a price – and a price YOU have determined – in order to be treated as equals is frankly sickening. You really need to examine your attitudes, especially since you insist on telling others that *they* are prejudiced.”””

    Yes latsot, I’m saying all this because I want to be able to behave badly with women and not have to be considerate to them. I’m saying all this because I feel all of you on this blog are prejudiced and can’t think rationally about anything. I’m saying this because I come a position of privilege, and cannot possibly empathize with a fellow female. I’m truly one clueless twit who thinks his opinion is the truth and that everyone else is wrong.

    Ah, I will be leaving this discussion now. There is no point reiterating what I said, if you’ve already made up your mind about me and conflate what I say with what you think I “really meant to say”. But its has been good to have this rather short exchange and I thank you and Maria for it.

    That will be all.

    • latsot said,

      August 14, 2011 at 6:31 am

      “Yes latsot, I’m saying all this because I want to be able to behave badly with women and not have to be considerate to them.”

      I didn’t say that.

      “I’m saying all this because I feel all of you on this blog are prejudiced and can’t think rationally about anything.”

      I didn’t say that.

      “I’m saying this because I come a position of privilege, and cannot possibly empathize with a fellow female.”

      I didn’t say that you can’t *possibly* do that, just that you obviously do not.

      “I’m truly one clueless twit who thinks his opinion is the truth and that everyone else is wrong.”

      I didn’t say that, although I’m inclined toward that view. You haven’t done anything to prove me wrong.

      Try to understand: your assertion that women should ‘pay a price’ comes from the security of privilege. A price has always to be paid *by* someone *to* someone else. In this case, you are suggesting that women give up something (justifiable fear) in order that men feel a bit better about themselves.

      An alternative view would be that women should *automatically expect* safety and respect and shouldn’t have to fight for it. This is a position *not* based on privilege.

      I have, as it happens, already made my mind up about you and your opinions. This is because I read what you wrote. This is the basis on which anyone decides anything and I’m intrigued to know how you think I should have gone about it instead. You could always surprise me, you know, by showing me that I’m wrong by writing something else. I’m often wrong.

      But consider: I’m not accusing you of anything other than speaking from a position of privilege and not putting yourself in female shoes. I’m guilty of exactly the same thing, but the difference is that I try to recognise it rather than pretending it’s not true.

  10. latsot said,

    August 14, 2011 at 6:20 am

    Rosnet:

    “I don’t have to give examples that match up to to the atrocities done against women. Because, my point was not about who is suffering more,”

    Nor was mine. My point was that there is a clear imbalance and if the harm done to men is a vague feeling of disquiet set against the history of rape, brutality, inequality and prejudice that women have suffered and continue to suffer, then I don’t care all that very much for male suffering in this matter. It seems perfectly clear that any complaints by males should match up in severity and/or magnitude to complaints by females or we’re just arguing about different things.

    “but about the problems that crop up when women get too paranoid.”

    *too* paranoid as defined by you.

    “Do remember, that Dawkins himself was making a point similar to yours in that the elevator story did not match up in severity to the life of a Muslim woman.”

    That is not at all the point that I’m making. You think you have a complaint as a male because women are ‘too paranoid’. Dawkins thinks that some women don’t have a complaint because others have it worse. In fact, you and Dawkins are making more or less the same argument. I’m making an entirely different one. I’m saying that men should modify their behaviour to make women feel less scared rather than insist that women modify their behaviour *despite* the fact that they’re scared.

    “If you think that I have no business talking about “men being treated badly” since women get treated worse, then you should not be in support of Rebecca as she did not have it anywhere nearly as bad as some Muslim women do.”

    Here you go again with the strawmen. I didn’t say that.

    “But since you asked for an example, here it is- a close friend of mine, who is a girl, once complained to the college principal when a guy tried to propose her. Now this is India we are talking about. No guy would dare to ask a girl to come to his room or just have a one night stand. All he did was tell her that he liked her. The girl complained to the principal and got this guy suspended for a good two weeks from college. Now, if it was me, I would have probably come back from the suspension and went on with life normally, but the guy in question really had a tough life after that. I know that he went down in the his studies and probably even took to alcoholism. Now I’m not saying that the girl is responsible for all of it, but she surely could have handled it differently. I remain friends with this girl, but I do find her reactionary paranoia somewhat disconcerting.”

    Aren’t you basing this entire story on your friend’s assessment of the situation? Can’t you consider that his suggestion that they take the relationship further might have been unwelcome for a variety of reasons? Perhaps he wasn’t quite as virtuous as he told you. Perhaps there was an imbalance of power between them. Perhaps he propositioned her – however chastely – in a situation where she felt it difficult to say no. Did he get to know her first? Did he spend time with her? Did he gradually make his intentions clear? Or did he blurt out his feelings unexpectedly?

    I’ve no idea (and I suspect you don’t really either, since you are speaking on the basis of your friend who you’ve already decided was in the right). It’s unfortunate when innocent passes get out of hand and it certainly does happen. And people sometimes over-react. Perhaps this happened in this situation, perhaps it didn’t.

    But so what? Even if we take this story on face value and assume it’s true exactly as you’ve reported it, it hardly implies that it’s women who need to modify their behaviour to be ‘less paranoid’.

    And it doesn’t go the slightest inch toward explaining why women shouldn’t be frightened in a lift at 4am if a man gets in, which was the original point.

  11. rosnet said,

    August 14, 2011 at 7:02 am

    Latsot,

    True that everyone is a stranger here and that our comments make up our personalities. But might I suggest that you form loose opinions about someone, considering all the limitations and errors inherent to such a format of discussions? I feel this can make discussions a little more engaging and interesting. Do understand I’m sitting half around the world from where you are(i’m gonna assume you are American) and I’m having a conversation with you. I don’t know you and I have to make up my mind about you and what you are saying pretty much from the same comments that you leave behind for me.

    Here are some of things we seem to agree on-

    Females have legitimate dangers to confront, They certainly need to be concerned about it and Men should certainly treat women with respect.

    My point about “the extremes of female paranoia” probably does not belong to this thread, since it is mostly about discussing the elevator incident and other legitimate issues faced by women. None of these would be instances of “extreme female paranoia”.

    I really don’t have much disagreement with Maria or you or have a lack of concern for females(I’m an Indian, if anything we are a little too concerned to the point of not letting females do anything Independently).

    About the story of my friend that I talked about- You can doubt the veracity of anything I say. You can even doubt if I’m Indian or whether I am a male. I don’t wish to engage you on that. Its entirely up to you.

    Anyway, I don’t think I should continue on with the point, since it appears to be largely out of place with the general focus of discussions in this thread and also I have nothing more to add to what I said.

    Thank you.

    • latsot said,

      August 14, 2011 at 7:19 am

      “True that everyone is a stranger here and that our comments make up our personalities. But might I suggest that you form loose opinions about someone, considering all the limitations and errors inherent to such a format of discussions?”

      Yes. You might remember where I said, several times, that I’d immediately change my mind if you provided any evidence.

      “My point about “the extremes of female paranoia” probably does not belong to this thread, since it is mostly about discussing the elevator incident and other legitimate issues faced by women. None of these would be instances of “extreme female paranoia”.

      Of *course* it belongs in this thread, especially since we’ve been discussing your personal attitude toward women. If it doesn’t belong in a thread about sexism, where do you think it does belong?

      “About the story of my friend that I talked about- You can doubt the veracity of anything I say. ”

      Not the point. I doubt all anecdotes. But your hair trigger of putting words in people’s mouths is tiresome. I believe you’re Indian. But I expect you reported your friend’s story as he told it. Do you know the woman? Did you speak to her? Is this evidence or just a random story you repeat because it’s the only (really bad) example you can think of?

      “Anyway, I don’t think I should continue on with the point, since it appears to be largely out of place with the general focus of discussions in this thread and also I have nothing more to add to what I said.”

      Yes, I can tell on the grounds that you already said several times that you wouldn’t reply and then did.

  12. rosnet said,

    August 14, 2011 at 7:37 am

    Sheesh Man don’t you read what I type?

    I was friends with the girl and NOT the guy. She is still my friend. And yes please do doubt all anecdotes. That is good skepticism except for the fact that you are changing the discussion from “what the story implies” to “what the story is in actuality”. If you want me to give “evidence” for the guy having been suspended or about the character of the girl then I’m afraid I can’t help you with it.

    I gather that you are a passionate defender for the female cause. Good.

    I’m replying to you because I consider it rude to leave a comment from you addressed to me unanswered. Now that you have this to say about it

    “Yes, I can tell on the grounds that you already said several times that you wouldn’t reply and then did.”

    I feel its better we end it here. If you do reply to this post, please understand that I wont be replying.

    Thank You. Take Care.

    • latsot said,

      August 14, 2011 at 7:56 am

      “Sheesh Man don’t you read what I type?”

      Yes, but I sometimes make mistakes, my bad. The fact that your friend is female hardly changes much though, does it? Nothing about the story or your assessment of it changes, does it?

      You might have replied a bunch of times, but you left a lot of things unanswered. Well, it’s hardly our loss if you choose not to come back. But go on, you know you want to.


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