July 04, 2011

Rebecca Watson Sucks at Reading Minds

Oh, dear. Rebecca Watson dared to tell guys who claimed to want a movement more welcoming of women that being hit on after giving a talk about being tired of being hit on isn't very welcoming. She dared to say that a guy asking her back to his room for coffee after she just announced her desire to get some sleep--while she's trapped in an elevator with the guy--is creepy. Then she dared to point out--at a leadership conference--how one student leader's remarks help contribute to an atmosphere that is more welcoming to this behavior than it is to women.

Oh, Rebecca, how could you?

No, really, I'd like your formula, so we can get more people to do the same thing. Or to do what Surly Amy did, or Jen, or Rorschach, or Ophelia, or Barbara, or Kylie, or PZ, or Greg, or PZ again, and again, or Jen again, or Greg again, or Ophelia again, or Greg again, or Matt [ETA: or Amanda, or Phil, or CJ, or more from Rebecca, or Greg again]. We need more of that. Really, truly. That list of links is not enough.

Why? Because we've really only begun in the comments to explore the real problem here, which is that Rebecca just isn't as good at reading minds as everyone else. We know this because it only took three comments on her video for someone to point it out.

Not sure the guy in the elevator thing was an instance of sexualizing you, just an example of a bad way to approach someone.

He explained more in further comments, but just in case she didn't understand how bad at it she was, there were more people willing to point it out.

But we, as non-participant watchers of the tale can never be sure either way unless we want to assume that all men who ask women to their hotel rooms for coffee, whatever the hour, are always predatorially sexalising all women to whom they ask the question. I can’t buy that. Change either Rebeccas gender, or the guy’s gender, and we have a very different set of assumptions.
Now of course it is probable that even being tired, and feeling threatened, Rebecca’s observations of body language, eye contact, etc., provided her with evidence to support her claims and assumptions about the guy’s intent. But we don’t know that do we. We weren’t there.

Fortunately for the rest of us, they didn't confine themselves to Skepchick.

I, however, think that she is following the stereotype that every man that talks to a women at early light is A. hitting on her, B. soliciting sex, and C. a sleazebag. There is a double standard at play here that I think is as unfortunate. Next time, It may be prudent not to jump to conclusions based off of absolutist “observations” and decline the offer like a rational thinker. Maybe even suggest a better time to meet, in a better place than someone’s sleeping quarters. All parties were to blame in this little mishap.

Luckily for Rebecca, there are some real mind readers out there to show her how it's done.

What Watson did was extremely dickish, and contained a large dose of spite. She went for public humiliation over what was, by any reasonable assessment, a pretty minor faux pas in a private situation.

The issue is not that Watson brought up a brought up a posting she thought illustrated a damaging attitude. The issue is that Watson, knowing that McGraw was at the conference, decided to attempt to publicly shame her from her privileged position at the podium.

And one more, from Jerry Coyne:

The concentration on the word “bullying” here, and the assertion that it didn’t happen, simply distracts from the real issue: the obvious fact that Ms. Watson used the occasion of a talk that was supposed to be about something else to air a personal animus against a student, and to lump that student together, implicitly, with other people who had abused Ms. Watson and threatened her with rape. That whole digression was irresponsible and unprofessional, a solipsistic interlude that did not belong in the talk.

Clearly, as all these comments show, Rebecca needs to beef up her skills. Maybe if she just listened more to these guys, she'd figure out how it works. Oh, wait...guys. All these people reading her mind are guys. So are the ones telling her she's doing it wrong. Shit.

I'm sorry, Rebecca. Your sex may have doomed you on this one. You might just have to stick to daring instead.

Which, really, I'm totally okay with.


Jodi said...

There's so much going on here that I can't possibly comment on all of it. I think that the people who are saying she overreacted are missing one of many points: that she was at the kind of conference that is trying to make itself more appealing to/safe for women. And by 'safe' I mean safe for women to speak their opinions. So even if we assumed (which I don't) that Rebecca overreacted ... is this really the response? Of all places you think that would have been an environment in which she could have been free to overreact without getting tackled. If women are taught (through experiences like these either direct or indirect) that they will get jumped if they are ever so unfortunate as to overreact then guess what? They're going to be afraid. Isn't that what we're trying to avoid?

Monado said...

Not only are they reading her mind, they are writing their own fanfic: "Maybe they'd been talking and joking for hours, maybe she winked at him when she said 'sleep,'" etc. Sheesh.