In Rebecca Watson's experience a blog comment by Richard Dawkins encourages Atheist men to harass Atheist women, particularly feminists who speak out. I've lost respect for him.

... he left this sarcastic comment on a friend’s blog:

Dear Muslima

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.


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Steph, that is the point, "you would think he would know better than that." He doesn't! And clearly revealed his bigotry in relation to women. He must be held accountable because he is just the top of the heap of men and women who feel women should not complain, not be crybabies, take it on the chin, forgive and forget. These are all nonsense! As long as we continue to do that we will be victims. Language reveals values that we cannot see. As Dawkins spoke judgmentally to SkepChik, we should use language to hold him accountable, as well as let her know we stand with her on her actions. She behaved honorably and PZ appears to have realized it.  

Sexism is just wrong

The definition of mysogyny is 'hatred of women' which is unnacceptable.

The word is used loosely and I don't think Dawkins demonstrates a general hatred of women here.

Recent political debate has raised questions about the definition and the possibility of redefinition by at least one publisher.

The new definition could be watered down in line with common usage.

I don't think misogyny should be restricted to cases of fully overt and intentional hatred of women any more than racism should be restricted to fully overt and intentional racial insult or oppression.

Discounting unintentional misogyny is in itself a demonstration of empathy failure. Who needs the validation of a dictionary definition to know this?

Ruth, stated perfectly and I agree 100%. 

well, this has been an interesting exploration; I have read and watched all that is printed, I have written to both Skipchick and Dawkins but have not yet received an answer. I feel I/we deserve to understand what happened and why. As for myself, I have come to a conclusion that comparing one person's suffering with another needs to be challenged. Having one's nose cut off, or clitoris cut away, or locked out of access to education or resources because of gender is always a power issue. When power maintains and perpetuates, it is done through language, attitudes, beliefs, customs, traditions and values. If we want to stamp out racism, sexism, or homophobia, we have to start with language and attitudes. If it is a strange man follows a woman into an elevator and invites her to his room for coffee, he has overstepped his bounds. 
I agree it was a minor judgment call, but Skipchick was proper to use it as an example of her previous lecture and to do it publicly. To do otherwise is playing the game of hint and being coquette with "I've got a secret" and not naming names is immature and nothing changes. Just simple manners should have been the issue, and a valid one. 

As to Dawkins, shame on him! He should know better. I find his response crude and un-helpfull. He allowed a teachable moment slip out of his hands. How else are we going to put a stop to men following unknown women into an elevator and then attacking them, not just offering a friendly invitation. If he had an invitation for her company he should have offered it before the elevator door opened to let them in. 

As to the label, "misogyny" -- it is a bit strong and it is appropriate. Dawkins can be rough at times and in this case he was unwise. 

First, this is not the Salem witch trials. We are at least nominally a rationalist community. Leaping to summary judgements without considering the context, relevant facts, etc. is not what we do. Let cooler heads prevail. Ad hominem attacks do not bear on the truth or falsity of an argument. Have we established beyond reasonable doubt that Dawkins made the comment in question? Second, if he did make this one comment, is this sufficient grounds to demonize the man? In light of his extensive history of campaigning for a universal standard of human rights and considering his fight against the abuse and debasement of women, shall we now disregard all the good he has done and cast stones at this man? Shall we now reduce him to a caricature, a villain, on the basis of one ill-chosen comment? He is only human after all, and human idols make human errors. He is a public figure and is bound to slip up somewhere with the media constantly surveilling his every pen stroke and utterance. Ask yourself, is he now suddenly a woman-hating monster worthy of the Hague? Does that make logical sense? Consider the context. Dawkins has been fighting some truly nasty people for years now as a voice of reason in the cause of women's liberation in Islamic states. Think of him as a battle-hardened veteran soldier who has seen too much tragedy, too much blood. It might be hard for him to see the complaints Ms. Watson put forth as anything close to the horror he has been desperately fighting against. Does that mean that he should be dismissive? No, but it's a very human mistake. And have we bothered to ask what happened to the man in the elevator? Did he ever get a chance to present his account? How does he feel about all of the negative media attention he has received? Will he ever have the confidence to approach a woman again? It could well be that all of this has had a much more damaging impact on that man. Who knows? Only Ms. Watson and that man really know what happened in that elevator. As for Dawkins, he is a brilliant person, a good person. It shows through in his writing, lectures, and interviews. Ask Ayan Hrsi Ali. One comment, if he did indeed make it, is not sufficient to erase all the good he has done.

Maybe he was drunk.  I make my worst decisions when I'm drunk, it's why I tried to get circumsized...again.

Chris, does circumcision cause one to make wiser decisions?

I'm still trying to figure this whole thing out.  A part of me has always considered sexism as an explicitly religious attribute so the fact that there are atheist misogenists surprises me.  Here's what the gist of what seems to have happened: Rebecca Watson was apparently hit on in an elevator at a conference after talking about how she hated being sexualized at these conferences and she asked guys not to do that.  Dawkins then left this blog post on a friend's blog and that seemed to give the seal of approval for a bunch of atheist men to make jokes about Watson being raped and call her a "slut".  Maybe it's just my young age that prevents me from figuring this whole thing out.  I still respect Dawkins when it comes to the field of biology, he is after all a professor of biology at Oxford.  But now it seems that I can't respect him when it comes to civil rights and equality.  The irony of course is that while many of the comments suggest that the people who left them no longer have any respect for Dawkins, but look where this discussion is posted.  If you don't have any respect for Dawkins anymore, then stop bitching about how he disappointed all of you and leave the group!

I like him just fine - I am sure it was just human error or an oversight - and don't tell us what to do.

WE can discuss whatever we want.

No - I am staying here. So there!!


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