Wednesday, July 13, 2011

ElevatorGate: Thoughts and Concern for the Future of Feminism

In case you've been living under a feminist/athiest rock for the past week and half or so a major controversy has been ripping the atheist and feminist communities apart with debate. Unfortunately I'm going to subject my readership to this inane subject matter for an entry.

Here's a Re-cap for those of you with a life:

I am going to start off speaking my mind. I think that the focus on this is a huge waste of time. There are real feminist issues going on in the world right now. There are women being stoned to death for being unfaithful, genital mutilations going on in the third world (or on little boys in hospitals in the first world), women being denied the right to drive, vote and engage in a meaningful part of adult life. In the first world we have sex worker's being denied their rights, widespread attempts by the right wing to remove access to abortions, birth control and sexual health education. Media aimed at young girls often emphasizes the value of being attractive and well liked over values like building, constructing and thinking creatively. Female fashion models look almost nothing like the women that they are supposed to represent and magazines that claim they are trying to prop up our self esteem fill us with misinformation about health, sexuality and relationships.

There are real things to combat for feminists if we want truthful, scientific and accurate information to be presented in the place of demonizing female sexuality.

Society cannot legislate comfort or discomfort. I am not implying that Watson has no right to feel discomfort at the situation but I think that addressing the exact situation, in fact addressing the guy who asked her for coffee in the first place, puts an undue amount of emphasis on the guy. She doesn't indicate weather or not the man was inebriated, belligerent or crude, in fact she very vaguely describes the situation, leaving it up to the viewer to fill in the gaps with their biases. This is very intellectually dishonest to me.

I would understand talking about this situation if the man in question were belligerent or crude, but we don't know that. As far as the evidence shows she's demonizing some guy over an invitation to coffee. This seems to be a big to do about her personal hang-up with being asked out more than a feminist issue. As far as the public knows he didn't grab her and try to kiss or, he didn't try to sexually assault her, he didn't even imply that there would be sex.

As far as we understand the stituation. Anon asked Watson if she wanted to have coffee and she felt creeped out and said no. She exercised her right to not be involved in a situation that makes her uncomfortable. We're all perfectly entitled to make value judgements about who we want to spend our time with. But that doesn't mean we're free to impose some guideline on all men that they are never allowed to show sexual interest in any woman at conventions dealing with social activism.

Even if there were sexual undertones to the proposition, she still had the ability to say no, in fact she did. He didn't remove her agency or individual rights . This encounter that Watson had doesn't seem overtly sexual to me at all (and I'm a huge coffee lover). I think that even if he'd asked her to hook up that that wouldn't be a shameful thing.  The encounter described sounds like hundreds of encounters I've had with other advocates. I've spent many nights up with a pot of coffee deep into a conversation that was full of a free exchange of ideas. Those are some of my fondest memories in fact. Were some of those encounters sexual? Of course! People who take their politics that seriously tend to be attracted to others with similar interest.

Some of the most rewarding sexual experiences I had were with people who considered me their intellectual equal. A lot of the guys who I spent time with before I met my husband were glad to have a sexual partner who they could have a conversation with, have a meal with or watch a movie with someone attractive and interesting. They liked having that type of loose relationship not weighted down with an overblown sense of commitment

You cannot mandate to the entire freethinking community that sexual interest can never be acted on because YOU personally don't like it.

We get propositions everyday and some of them are not propositions we're interested in ever saying yes to. Right before I moved to Canada I had the opportunity to do shrooms with a few friends. I made the decision however that although the drugs were available that that was not a time where I needed to be using a consciousness shifting substance. I didn't respond to that proposition by going to youtube and making a video telling all people who do shrooms that it would be wise to never offer me shrooms again, because its not relevant to the larger issue of drug criminalization. I addressed the issue as soon as it came up and made it clear I wasn't interested in doing any hallucinogenic substances at that point in my life. No one scrutinized me or respected me less for asserting that boundary.

I get asked to go drinking at least once a month, I don't drink and find being the only sober person at the party quite awkward at times, that just means I go to fewer parties. I'm not going to demand that other people change their lifestyle to accommodate my lifestyle choices.

To me this whole situation is a step back for feminism. I'm shocked that so many people I like and respect are taking this seriously. We spend so much time on here defending people's rights to their sexuality and then choose to condemn someone for at best an awkward question. I'm not here to advocate against socially awkward situations (I'd be shit out of luck of being socially awkward was suddenly rampantly condemned), I'm here to advocate for real progress on real issues that affect all women, not just protecting one person from discomfort.

I recognize that Watson has legitimate feminist chops, but I think she is seriously misusing her soapbox (her blog and youtube channel) to forward an agenda with vauge ends. I for one will not be marching lock-step in the efforts against invites for coffee dates.

Richard Dawkins made comments on this situation that I thought were out of line. He was very insensitive to her. She has every right to feel uncomfortable, that's not what I'm questioning. What I am questioning is her using her platform online for such an inane cause.

And Need I Remind the Youtube Freethinkers I was essentially called evil incarnate less than a week ago? I think that that is a far more offensive implication against free thinking women than being asked for coffee. Both of these situations happened in the first world. I already asserted that I want nothing to do with this user and have spoken at length about why attitudes like his are harmful for women.

But Hell Judge for Yourself:

So which is worse, being called the devil essentially or being asked for coffee...You decide.

I'll take the coffee.

1 comment:

  1. Well, I'm assuming you're talking about me. Maybe you're not, but I can't figure who else... I dunno, I talked about the reaction, that's what most people are talking about. The reaction is even what you wrote about too...

    From your vid from the other day and this blog post I'm figuring you think I'm doing it wrong and talking about the wrong things. I'm just doing what I can, i don't think i'm cut out for youtube