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. PosterformerlyknownasElizabeth

    Nooooooooooooooo, it was MertvayaRuka! *hides under the couch with her puppy*

  2. Hey, it wasn’t me. I’m asleep and dreaming all this. It must have been the basenjis.

  3. Anyway, I apologize for all yall’s impending existence-failure, but I’m about to go to bed. Don’t worry, I’ll re-exist you in the morning. Promise.

  4. Watson also talked about the need to not be passive aggressive when talking about these issues.

    Dawkins sat right next to Watson as she talked about being a feminist in the atheist community and all the blatant sexism there is. He waits until she’s gone to write that crap on somebody else’s blog. Talk about being a passive aggressive douche.

  5. 1614 xD We can do it!😀

  6. My favorite was GREEN Kool aid though.

    And green jello.

    I wonder how Dr. Seuss would’ve worked with that one.

  7. I like my green kool-aid
    And green jello too
    I like to eat green things
    When I am with you

  8. I loved Kool-Aid, but my favourite artificial powdered beverage was Tang.

    I don’t know why we had Tang in the house at all, but I thought it was *awesome*. From the amount of artificial colour and flavour I ingested in my childhood, I’m surprised I never turned into the Hulk.

    The last time I had Jello was when I was recovering from having my wisdom teeth out. My sister kept making me diet Jello! I found the box and was like’ “Two calories? Are you trying to starve me to death?”

  9. @Kirbywarp: Stats only matter to NWO when they prove HIS point.

    He likes the ones he makes up best.

    All others, do not count.

    Simple logic (I’ve realized one reason I enjoy hanging out here–it shows me just what depths exist out there in thinking and argument that my students never sink to and gives me a much more optimistic approach to their writing.)

  10. Plymouth: A colleague of mine would never have a tv and used to read Victorian novels to her kids for fun bedtime reading (pre-teen kids that is).

    She was horrified when she learned they were sneaking watching tv in at their friends’ houses.

  11. TANG!

    What the astronauts drink!

    My dad was huge sf dude as well as geologist (one of his grad students went on to work at NASA, and we got to visit and see MOON ROCKS). Mom wouldn’t let us drink Tang during the year (she was more the make your own oj), but we got to have it while camping and loved it, because, ASTRONAUTS!

  12. I liked Ribena as a kid :3

  13. ithiliana – heh. the childrens, they are sneaky🙂

  14. THey are (not ever having had any, probably a good thing since my cats and dogs regularly con me, I can enjoy my memories).

    At one point , my brother and I became obsessed with how we were sent out of rooms when adults socialized, and decided to try to bug the living room with a new set of walkie talkies we got that Christmas. It never worked (technology too primative), and now i realize they probably just wanted peace and quiet. But oh, the desire to learn about that adult world.

  15. Rules, Ami, quote the rules!

  16. “Oh yes Marc, you’re winning because I reply to you! Your power is unimaginable and we’re all just puppets dancing to your tune!

    Of course it could just be that I was just strip-mining the last bits of comedy I could get out of your tired routine before I stop responding entirely. I’ll let you figure out which. Genius that you are, it’ll probably only take you a week or so to come to a conclusion.”

    You don’t always deserve good comedy, my posts about the evo-psych theory were just to great, you can’t have all this all day.

    But WOMAN, why am I still arguing with you, please be quiet!

    Why should I listen to you, anymore?
    You soon gonna be replaced by female sexbots with a living human tissue sheath over a metal endosceleton !

  17. Best rated comment, 48 thumbs ups:

    Talk about brutally honest sexuality. Don’t know what’s sexist about it as some women enjoy BDSM. Damn feminists thumbed it down.

    YOU DAMN FEMINISTS!!! Spoiling everything!

  18. I wish I had a metal endoskeleton. Are you German by the way? Or Portuguese?

  19. “Her only sorrow is for women who live with lies [= feminism]”

    This will gonna be the MRA anthem!!

  20. “I wish I had a metal endoskeleton. Are you German by the way? Or Portuguese?”

    Where are my grammar mistakes? I’m learning English here, please let me know them! Thanks!

  21. You used a different spelling of “endoskeleton”.

  22. You’re right, I didn’t notice that. That was just copy & paste of half of a sentence and removing the quotes, the OP on the mgtow-board already made this mistake.

    I don’t think Germans would make such a mistake, skeleton = Skelett, also with “k”…

  23. I figured you’d go back to that xD Apparently it ended up that you did go to the forum after all and read the rules!😀

    I know you want to get into this big debate over definition, but you know that I was speaking in generalities (there’s this whole bit about not misrepresenting another person’s point or lying about it etc xD ) but since you are concerned about the definition of the rules, you should email or ask David, since he’s the one who I’ll be going to about applying them :3

  24. We’re slowly getting there. xD I hope Marc posts more… hopefully he’s still tweaked by me.. and can keep going :3

  25. Or is that reverse psychology O_O;;;

    Maybe he’ll stop now!

    Or maybe I’ll stop! D:

    I think I’m in the alternate universe of my story again D:

  26. that’s like Schrodingers Rapist…

  27. It could be!

    Hey Marc, do you like sports?😀

  28. Marc, the rules = the comments policy, linked to at the top of every page here.

  29. Omg I want a metal endoskeleton too!! Please? Can I? Made of adamantium?

  30. @Marc, On the Manowar song, I can imagine some might thumb it down just for being a terrible piece of noise.😉 It does not make the song non-sexist simply because some women like subbing in BDSM, it only makes the song non-sexist if it is actually about a nongeneralized BDSM fantasy and people are just mistaking it as being about stereotyping and general expectations for women. If it is actually invoking a rapey cultural ideal and could just be mistaken as being about BDSM, then it is still sexist. Let me give a different example of the same concept

    I would say that this is a song about BDSM and lines like “no escaping when I start” are not meant to evoke rape, but rather a voluntary reliquinshment of control within a specific BDSM scene. It is not sexist, because it is not meant to evoke this as a stereotype or to the idea that all women should or do want this (it might not even be about women at all, considering the song was written to be sung by a woman and the performer is a queer man). If someone is defending “Pleasure Slave”, that should be their defense-that is is not intended to invoke stereotypes about women or to support a generalized expectation of women, but rather that it is about specific people’s desires in a specific type of BDSM scene. (I’m not totally convinced that Pleasure slave is in fact about BDSM, but I am open to that argument)

  31. I love Manowar! My ex was a huge fan of theirs. And he always found that particular song to be more over-the-top-silly tongue-in-cheek than any serious commentary on gender roles. I rather agree.

  32. Off topic but good lord the weather out here in AZ is being weird…supposed to have a high of 99! IN JULY!

  33. Omg I want a metal endoskeleton too!! Please? Can I? Made of adamantium?

    So how are we going to replace your chest, backbone and skull? That’s a bit too complicated.

    Besides that, endoskeletons are intended for sex bots to replace women, we don’t make endoskeletons to make women stronger, that would be absurd.

    Do you know this old shitty 90s anime “Armitage III” (it sucked sooo bad… like all animes…? :-D) ?

    This Armitage girl there is the perfect sex bot, perfect she has not only a perfect human like figure, human tissue on endoskeleton, she has also an artificial womb (she gets pregnant in the movie… how sick is that ? 😀 ), the two best MRA technologies combined in one!

    An Armitage-like android would be the Holy Grail of the Freedom From Women Movement.

    Ok, the creator made one big mistake, one horrible big mistake: Armitage is intelligent and behaves like a real woman… well, now… all this massive effort, this devotion of a genius and in the end we just get what we already have?!?

  34. So how are we going to replace your chest, backbone and skull? That’s a bit too complicated.

    Finding adamantium though, that’s no problem😉

  35. Hey Marc, do you like sports?😀

    Do you want to talk about womens soccer?😀 No Canada, but USA is in the semifinal.

  36. Finding adamantium though, that’s no problem😉

    No, Adamantium must be real!! It’s appears in every Final Fantasy!!!

  37. Beth… Damn… time to break out the long sleeves.

    I’m only half joking. When I got to Landsthul (from Iraq) they were apologising for the heatwave (it was in the mid-80s) and I was asking for sweaters.

  38. This is relevant I swear.
    Oh hi marc:

  39. Hey marc, what’s your opinion of pie?

  40. Pecunium, that happened when I was in San Diego last weekend…they were all “it is hot!” and I was all “no.”

  41. I loved Kool-Aid, but my favourite artificial powdered beverage was Tang.

    My favorite powered beverage is Ovaltive with Quick being a close second, Kool-Aid is the number 3 spot.

  42. Beth: I spent the summer I was sixteen in Phoenix. I was making money by doing roofing, and digging trenches for sprinklers.

    I’d put in about seven hours a day, 6-10, and then about 4-7.

  43. @Nobinayamu

    What demands? No one made any demands.

    Rebecca Watson didn’t make any demands; she provided an anecdote. She offered her opinion. She made and observation.

    You sound completely ridiculous.

    I made demands!>:D

    Also she did make demands.. you need to see her other video xD the one where she demanded men must not use elevators at night. as men they should know their proper place and walk up the stairs! >:O


  44. I generally take the stairs when I can – some staircases can’t be entered without locking you in – for the exercise (and because I don’t like waiting, or being in a cramped space with other people).

    I had no idea I was helping the Gynofacist Overladies all along.

  45. @Beth and @Pecunium Hah, you should both come to Tucson. A high of 92 today! I do so love our mountains.

    Just goes to show, now matter how bad things get, it’s always good to know someone has it worse >.<.

  46. On the Adam Lambert song I found it deeply disturbing.

    NIN etc etc is supposed to write about bdsm, not a pop singer. It’s like kink going mainstream like disco did. Next thing we know grandmothers will be signing up for classes🙂

    I did however enjoy his line that “I’m here for your entertainment”. Just to disturb marc who doesn’t like too much information my wife and I are switches and I’m very aware that it takes a lot more work to take care of her needs then it does mine (as she is as well).

    Mra’s on the other-hand have this Gor induced fantasy that bdsm or d/s involves being catered to on their every whim. I’ve never been in this situation (actually except for enjoying pain during sex she introduced me to the concepts) but shortly before my wife and I meet she live poly with a male and female submissive. She says it was the hardest job in her life, and this is from someone who works an easy 60 hour work week.

  47. Nobby: I live S of San Francisco, most of the world has it worse than I do for weather.

    Having spent my time (and then some) at Ft. Huachuca, I feel your pain.

  48. Meh, if by “worse” you mean “actually has variety” – San Francisco has the most BORING weather ever. Except for San Diego. WHY do I live here again?

    Personally I think the closest thing to perfect weather is Boston. But then I’m from there – it’s in my blood. And even there I generally think it doesn’t rain nearly enough. I think I want to take all the precipitation from Boston, Pittsburgh and Seattle combined and put it in one city and that would be Plymouth’s Paradise🙂

  49. @Spearhafoc did you see the card I made of you?😀

  50. Shorter Plymouth: “I’m only happy when it rains.”

    Also: New Ami card fanfic is up.

  51. There is variety, what there isn’t is massive heat, nor massive cold. I’ve lived in LA (various regions; call it four micro-climates), Phoenix, San Luis Obispo, Ft. Huachuca, Korea, Iraq, Cleveland, upstate Indiana, Eastern Tennessee, Washington, DC, Monterey, Seattle, and the middle of the Mojave Desert.

    Of them all, the Bay (esp. the penninsula) has the most pleasant weather I’ve had chance to experience. I could do with warmer beaches, that’s about it. When I want snow, I can go to it. I have no slush. I get fog, and wind and rain (sometimes gentle, sometimes hard). I don’t get tornadoes.

    On occasion, I get an earthquake.

    No blizzards, no snowpocalypse, no massively muggy, no days above 100; for weeks, no heat category 5, no ice storms, no hurricanes.

    I do miss thunder, and warm rain. Those are (IMO), small prices to pay.

  52. San Diego has the best weather but I never have spent an entire summer there as my mom lived in Phoenix and dad would throw us out during the summer.

    But things are returning to normal here in AZ, a legislator pointed a gun at a reporter, we have a recall of Pearce coming up and the heat is back to way too hot.

  53. Is Pearce as fun as Symington was?

  54. PosterformerlyknownasElizabeth

    He is the guy behind SB1070 and is the defacto King of Arizona. But he was recalled officially today.😀

  55. Jesus Christ. You have to be one of the most pussified men in existence. I bet you sit down to pee don’t you? Honestly, you make me sick.

  56. I’ve figured it out… the elevator guy was Bigfoot! That’s why some people are insisting on photographic evidence of his existence…

    (Yeah, “Elevatorgate” is still going on! Incredible.)

  57. All I’m going to say is that Rebecca Watson knew how this would be taken; how this would play out. Consider: she implicitly accused a man of being a pervert and/or “possible” rapist for making a pass in an elevator. True, her language was non-confrontational, but the implicitation is so ridiculous that there were inevitably going to be those that took offense. And then their offense allows her to doible down more, getting more and more extreme – and indeed – a vicious cycle is born.

    It all gives her an excellent excuse to slip feminism into the atheist airstream, which is something she has been spectacularly successful at thus far.

  58. Really, Steele? Thread necromancy?

  59. Says, this is and remains a hot-button issue; I additionally had forgotten the timestamp when I posted. Regardless, my point is valid.

  60. The fact that you even found a thread this old indicates a level of obsessiveness that can’t possibly be healthy.

  61. I don’t know what you’re implying, Says. I merely had an opinion that this thread was suited toward. I made it known.

  62. thebewilderness

    You are cracking me up, Steele!
    Women know that when they point out that a creepy stalker d00d is acting like a creep stalker d00d a shitstorm of hatred and idiocy will ensue, so obviously when a woman says “Guys, don’t do that” she is asking for it.
    I thought by now you had run out of ways to say that women are responsible for what men do to them, but here you are again.

  63. Sigh. And in comes the perjorative “d00d”, used exclusively by feminists as an anti-male slur. I’d ask those with character to avoid the term.

  64. So you do not know what someone is implying when they say it explicitly but you know what someone is imply when they do not even hint at it?

    What a mind reader you are Steele.

  65. How is d00d an anti-male slur? You really suck at both writing and comprehending do you not Steele?

  66. Inferences can be made, Bon-Bon – we live in a world in which inductive reasoning is an accepted method of analysis. Thank Bacon (not the food, mind you!)

  67. Aren’t manly men supposed to like bacon?

  68. Inferences can be made, Bon-Bon – we live in a world in which inductive reasoning is an accepted method of analysis. Thank Bacon (not the food, mind you!)

    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.

    What Cassandra was stating explicitly is that you have a strange obsession demanding that we accept that you do have the right to make women feel bad or that we should be happy that you like to make women feel bad. And that it is very unhealthy because who the fuck wants to do that?

  69. Hey, Steele, why is it that you think the default for atheist = not feminist? How can a group of atheists somehow dilute atheism by requiring that they be treated with courtesy and respect? Wouldn’t that kind imply that mainstream atheists are by definition discourteous and disrespectful?

  70. Sir Bodsworth Rugglesby III

    Has someone taught Steele the words ‘imply’ and ‘infer’? I look forward to seeing them repeatedly misused.

    Hint: if someone’s saying something explicitly and directly, they’re not implying anything

    If you’re speculating, guessing or (as in this case) applying wishful thinking that’s not the same as inferring.

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