Two atheists get in an elevator

So here’s a hilarious atheist joke for you all:

Two atheists at a conference get into an elevator at 4 AM. The dude atheist, apropos of nothing, invites the chick atheist to go to his room with him. The chick atheist, who’s never even spoken to the dude before, is creeped out by this. (She says no.) She mentions the incident in a YouTube video. A shitstorm erupts in the atheist-o-sphere because, like, how could she possibly call an atheist dude a creep and aren’t women treated worse in Islamist Theocracies?

Then Richard Dawkins says,

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.


In a followup comment, Dawkins tops that bit of hilarity with this:

Rebecca’s feeling that the man’s proposition was ‘creepy’ was her own interpretation of his behaviour, presumably not his. She was probably offended to about the same extent as I am offended if a man gets into an elevator with me chewing gum. But he does me no physical damage and I simply grin and bear it until either I or he gets out of the elevator. It would be different if he physically attacked me.

Damn. That joke didn’t turn out to be really very hilarious at all. Maybe I told it wrong?

In any case, as you might already know (or have gathered), this whole thing actually happened over the past weekend. The atheist chick in question is Rebecca Watson, a popular blogger who calls herself Skepchick. The conference in question was the Center for Inquiry’s Student Leadership Conference. The part of Richard Dawkins was played by, well, Richard Dawkins. (You can find both of his comments quoted here.)

The incident has been hashed and rehashed endlessly in the atheist-o-sphere (and even out of it), but I think it deserves a tiny bit more re-rehashing.  Mainly because it illustrates that some really creepy, backwards attitudes can lurk deep in the hearts of dudes who think of themselves as enlightened, rational dudes fighting the evils of superstition and, yes, religious misogyny.

The strangest thing about the whole incident is how supremely mild Watson’s comments on the creepy elevator dude were.  Here is literally all she said about him, in passing, in her video (transcribed here):

So I walk to the elevator, and a man got on the elevator with me and said, ‘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?’

Um, just a word to wise here, guys, uh, don’t do that. You know, I don’t really know how else to explain how this makes me incredibly uncomfortable, but I’ll just sort of lay it out that I was a single woman, you know, in a foreign country, at 4:00 am, in a hotel elevator, with you, just you, and–don’t invite me back to your hotel room right after I finish talking about how it creeps me out and makes me uncomfortable when men sexualize me in that manner.

That’s it. That’s the whole thing. You would think that most guys would be well aware that accosting a woman you’ve never met before in an elevator at 4 AM is, you know, kind of a no-no. But, no, Watson’s comments suddenly became an attack on male sexuality and men in general. One critic put up a video lambasting Watson, ending it with the question:

What effect do you think it has on men to be constantly told how sexist and destructive they are?

Never mind that she didn’t, you know, actually do that at all. Nor did she even remotely suggest, despite Dawkins’ weird screed, that creepy dudes on elevators were somehow equivalent to genital mutilation or the general denial of women’s rights in Islamist theocracies.  She merely suggested that guys might want to think twice before hitting on women who are alone with them in an elevator at four in the morning.  Pointing out the creepy behavior of one particular dude is not the same as calling all men creepy.

Now, the atheist movement tends to be a bit of a sausagefest, pervaded by some fairly backwards notions about women. (Prominent atheist  pontificator Christopher Hitchens, you may recall, seems to sincerely believe that women just aren’t funny. Not that he’s exactly a barrel of monkeys himself.) But some of the most vociferous critics of Watson have been other atheist women – including the one I quoted above.

Watson responded to this in the first of several posts she wrote about the whole weird controversy:

I hear a lot of misogyny from skeptics and atheists, but when ancient anti-woman rhetoric like the above is repeated verbatim by a young woman online, it validates that misogyny in a way that goes above and beyond the validation those men get from one another. It also negatively affects the women who are nervous about being in similar situations. Some of them have been raped or otherwise sexually assaulted, and some just don’t want to be put in that position. And they read these posts and watch these videos and they think, “If something were to happen to me and these women won’t stand up for me, who will?”

In a followup post, she noted:

When I started this site, I didn’t call myself a feminist. I had a hazy idea that feminism was a good thing, but it was something that other people worried about, not me. I was living in a time and culture that had transcended the need for feminism, because in my world we were all rational atheists who had thrown off our religious indoctrination so that I could freely make rape jokes without fear of hurting someone who had been raped.

And then I would make a comment about how there could really be more women in the community, and the responses from my fellow skeptics and atheists ranged from “No, they’re not logical like us,” to “Yes, so we can fuck them!” That seemed weird.

Watson began hearing from other women in the skeptic/atheist community who’d met far too many of that second sort of male atheist.

They told me about how they were hit on constantly and it drove them away. I didn’t fully get it at the time, because I didn’t mind getting hit on. But I acknowledged their right to feel that way and I started suggesting to the men that maybe they relax a little and not try to get in the pants of every woman who walks through the door.

And then, as her blog garnered more attention, she faced a virtual invasion of creepy dudes being creepy:

I’ve had more and more messages from men who tell me what they’d like to do to me, sexually. More and more men touching me without permission at conferences. More and more threats of rape from those who don’t agree with me, even from those who consider themselves skeptics and atheists. More and more people telling me to shut up and go back to talking about Bigfoot and other topics that really matter.

She didn’t shut up.

So here we are today. I am a feminist, because skeptics and atheists made me one. Every time I mention, however delicately, a possible issue of misogyny or objectification in our community, the response I get shows me that the problem is much worse than I thought, and so I grow angrier. I knew that eventually I would reach a sort of feminist singularity where I would explode and in my place would rise some kind of Captain Planet-type superhero but for feminists. I believe that day has nearly arrived.

Go read the rest of her post. Despite the creepy dudes and the misogyny and Richard Fucking Dawkins’ patronizing little screed – which led Watson to a moment of despair much like that of virtually every movie hero(ine) at the end of act two in the story arc — Watson ends it fairly hopeful. It’s kind of inspiring, really.

About David Futrelle

I run the blog We Hunted the Mammoth, which tracks (and mocks) online misogyny. My writing has appeared in a wide variety of places, including Salon,, the Washington Post, the New York Times Book Review and Money magazine. I like cats.

Posted on July 6, 2011, in creepy, feminism, hypocrisy, misogyny, oppressed men, patriarchy, rape, reactionary bullshit, sexual harassment, threats. Bookmark the permalink. 1,701 Comments.

  1. Yes we do-when it warrants it. This is not a situation that warrants it-it is a “guys do not do this. It makes women feel uncomfortable and we will not come to things that make us uncomfortable.” It is not “all men are rapists!!!~!Eleventy!” The only possible way you can even see a miniscule hint in that is if you think that you have the right to make women feel bad and/or like to make women feel bad.

    Absolutely ridiculous; I can hypothesize as I do based on Watson’s actions after the initial imbroglio – that is, after Dawkins’ comments, which I gather were made on PZ Myers’ blog, and which have been quoted excessively ever since. Watson’s actions were those of a businesswoman – she capitalized on the initial, somewhat tepidly negative, reaction and doubled down, goading the atheist apparatchiks into a vicious cycle until she could point at “rampant misogyny”, despite the fact that she had been giving as good as she got. Given all this, I feel safe in making the assumption that it was all planned from the get-go – that is, that even her initial remarks were calculated with the goal of injecting feminist thought into the atheist-stream.

    I have to give her credit – Watson is a shrewd con artist.

  2. @ Sir Bodsworth

    He also seems to think that “excessively” means “a lot”.

  3. Steele/Varpole/Dumbass,
    The reaction was already violent to “guys don’t do that”. Anyone who can read can see that. I’m sorry that you failed English and life because of imaginary misandry.

  4. Sir Bodsworth Rugglesby III

    Now we’ve stopped inferring and started hypothesizing. Well, if you can call a tortured ‘cui bono’ argument based on an ahistorical reading of a thoroughly well documented recent case hypothesizing. How are you planning on testing this “hypothesis”, oh King of Reason?

  5. I have to give her credit – Watson is a shrewd con artist.

    Dear Steele the Necromancer, even if everything you said prior to this were true, that wouldn’t make Watson a con artist: con artists commit crimes, and unless you think being a feminist propagandist defrauds others of their property, Watson is not a con artist.

    So, are you going to do the honorable thing and ask David to delete your vile slander, or are you going to persist, along with the rest of your friends in the slimepit, in defaming others by calling them frauds without evidence or justification?

  6. I am not a member of the Slyme Pit; though as previously stated, I have much respect for Abbie Smith for fostering a productive atheist space.

  7. Well, that’s certainly a unique interpretation of the word “productive”.

  8. Oh my god, it’s been more than a year since the elevator incident, and people are still blaming Watson for it. Jesus wept!

    Guys, don’t take your eyes off the road while driving, you might run into something.

    Guys, don’t chain your dog up without giving it something to hide from the sun under.

    Guys, don’t corner strangers and ask them back to your hotel room at 4 in the morning for moustache rides “coffee.”

    Nothing’s going to happen to me because I said those things (to be honest, because Watson already said that last one) because I’m a guy. If a woman says those things, at the very least she’s nagging.

    If I could take the pressure off Watson for a minute, I would, and that’s not even white-knighting because I’m not expecting her to give it up to me for doing that. Kind-hearted people go out of their way to help those in need without expecting anything in return.

  9. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help

    Hey steelfuckwit, how has Watson benefitted from this ‘con’ when all it’s done is get her rape threats and death threats?

    You really don’t get it, do you? This man in the elevator had been at a conference where Watson’s speech was specifically about how she does not enjoy being sexualised at these events. She was talking about being objectified and made to feel unsafe. “Uncomfortable” isn’t the same as “my foot itches and I can’t scratch it” here, genius. It’s about feeling NOT SAFE, about being made vulnerable to harassment and possible assault.

    And yet in that context, this man, who’d been at the conference, who’d been in the bar, who didn’t say one word to her there (let alone offer “a coffee” on the spot), waited until she’s said she was tired and wanted to go to bed. He followed her. He got into a lift with her, alone, as the doors were closing. And when they were in a space where she could NOT get away, he tried his “come to my room” line, which is, in case you didn’t know, a much-used code for “come to my room for sex”.

    Now I don’t give a damn whether he knew what he was doing or not. But being that oblivious to everything she’d said gives the lie to his “I find you very interesting” claim. He hadn’t listened to her. He ignored her stated desire to go to her own room and sleep. Ignoring those wishes is a warning; it’s a red flag. Maybe he was just a clueless, mannerless twit; it’s still a red flag.

    Her request for men not to do this sort of thing was as mildly stated as could be, and yet she’s been getting rape threats and death threats ever since.

    And you want to blame her for this.

    Eat shit and die, Steele. You’ve put yourself firmly in the rape apologists’ camp. You don’t think women even have the right to ask to be left alone.

  10. All I’m going to say is that Rebecca Watson knew how this would be taken; how this would play out

    Guys, guys, I think I’ve figured it out.

    Think about it: Steele somehow knew that Creepshots was equivalent to TapThatGuy without ever having actually visited Creepshots, he also knew that Slyme Pit is a community of exemplary individuals without having to even be familiar with what they spend a good portion of their energies doing. And now? Now he can read Rebecca Watson’s fucking mind.

    Steele is Uri Geller.


  12. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help

    What do zombie plumbers say?


  13. I feel safe in making the assumption that it was all planned from the get-go

    you forgot to add in “because I am an illogical ass.”

  14. Steele, my Man (you don’t mind if I call you man, I know that Dude offends your wa, even though we all know; and take comfort in the knowledge, that “The Dude Abides):

    You are offended that people mock you, and tried to imply that those who use the word, d00d, are lacking in character.

    So let’s see what you offer up by way of example.

    You have flounced; informing us that you, Varpole were leaving, never to grace us with your presence again, that you would rather share your wit, wisdom and writing with the world in a better forum; where you would set the rules.

    You told me you didn’t think I was properly accepting of your premises; and that if I didn’t kowtow to your demands you wouldn’t let me post; because you are so fond of free speech.

    You got a bee in your bonnet about Rutee, and another one about hellkell.

    Then you sock-puppeted here. You got offended when people here believed Dave when he said you were sock-puppeting. We were vile to trust him, rather than your sterling example of honesty.

    Then you said Dave had shut down your blog, because you were afraid he would out you (is this why you were so upset about Chen linking Brutsch’s public person to his reddit persona? You are afraid there are things your employer might not like were he to know you are Varpole/Butthorn/Steele? One has to wonder).

    Never mind that he didn’t.

    Then you spent some time here, as Steele, before you casually admitted you were Varpole Butthorn,and were shocked that we didn’t know. You were certain you’d mentioned it in passing.

    Then you restarted the blog… giving the lie to your declaration of fear (because Dave still has all the information he had before).

    You disowned Tom Martin. He was, “as dead to you”, and you were going to report him to, “The Movement”, because his horrid, vile, despicable, loathsome, wretched, vile,views were a blot on the fine escutcheon of The Movment.

    That lasted for about three weeks.

    You’ve blown hot and cold about PZM. You’ve expressed strong opinons about disputes; which take place in communities you say you don’t follow.

    When challenged you blow up, the words vile, despicable, and mangina come trippingly to your fingers. Then you stop responding. You use slurs, and epithets, but get all offended when someone takes you task for your pathetic reasoning, puerile insults, and shoddy rhetoric. You accuse them of not addressing the issues, even as you bob and weave your way out the door.

    We are to believe you are an entreprenuer, an up and coming middle-manager, beloved of his female boss; who gave you a great raise. You are a grad student, who drops in on English Dept. lectures for fun, and you are a loving and attentive boyfriend; who doesn’t bother to ask his GF what she thinks about things. Instead you make it up and tell us what you are certain she believes.

    In short, what you are is dishonest as the day is long’ right ’round the 21st of June, at 66°N.

    I’d rather not, actually, hold myself to your standards of character. They are, marginally, better than those of Tom Martin, or Todd Akin, but still not those of someone I’d trust to pour piss out of a boot with the directions on the sole.

    Ciao, Dude.

  15. Wow pecunium, I only just started following Manboobz recently, and I’m impressed at what a long history Steele has of being a dickhead around here. I’m glad you mentioned the bobbing and weaving out the door bit. So irritating. Though understandable considering what an arse-kicking he gets from you all. With his all pretensions to being an intellectual, the cognitive dissonance must be as excruciating.

  16. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help

    With his all pretensions to being an intellectual, the cognitive dissonance must be as excruciating.

    That would take some level of awareness, and as we saw just a coupla days ago, “I am not aware” is Steele’s default setting!😀

  17. Steele. Dude. Settle down.

  18. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help

    Would Steelyboy have any purpose in life if he settled down/grew up? One wonders …

  19. None at all. I do wonder if a combination of melatonin and camomile tea might have a beneficial effect on him, though.

  20. It still just boggles my mind that:

    -A woman was invited to a conference to talk about why not many women attend the conference.
    -She gave the talk, and continued to discuss the topic with other conference goers.
    -One of them followed her and, indicating he paid NO ATTENTION to what she said, made like an awkward or stalkery guy.
    -She blogged about this incident because it was a perfect example, illustrating the point of her talk.
    -And the entire (misogynistic part of the) internet exploded with rage at what a conniving, materialistic, mean girl she is.

  21. This is what happens when you turn down someone who thinks he’s an Alpha Male.

    The is why MGTOW, etc. go on and on about how terrible and slutty women are, while at the same time blatantly whining that no women want them.

    This is why they will never “go their own way”. It’s all a bluff because they think they are so wonderful, women will change to keep them from leaving.

    It’s all about sexual insecurity. All this other stuff about feminism ruining the world this way or that way…is all crap that none of you have even sat down and thought about on your own, without having it spoon-fed to you by some other horny jackass with whom you share blue-ball comradery. No wonder men who don’t share your views and don’t hate women get harassed: their existence must be very threatening. They kind of negate your patchwork theories, and your excuses.

    I’m really glad for this post because it couldn’t be more obvious. Deny a man sex = other men will threaten to rape you, while the first men makes a huge misandrist deal out of it, as if it proves the whole point of his problems with women. Guess what, it does.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 17,152 other followers

%d bloggers like this: