If you would have asked me yesterday I would have said no.
I feel like I can judge people pretty well when it comes to issues of sexism. When our skeptic group meets at the bar we talk very openly about many “feminist” issues including pornography, prostitution and female politicians(good and bad) If there were sexists among us I think I would have known. I think the first sign that the men in our group aren’t sexist is that when these issues did up; they are usually brought up by men and are never actually referred to as feminist issues. They are simply topics worth discussing.
Today my answer has changed. Like a lot of people, I base my views on what I see around me. I had seen nothing but the good side of men in the skeptical movement. I had no idea that there would be such outrage at a women who said nothing more than she felt uncomfortable at being asked out for coffee by a guy she didn’t know at four in the morning in an elevator. This says to me there is a problem…. a pretty big problem.
For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about Rebecca Watson was out drinking with a group of people. Around four in the morning she decided to turn in and headed to the elevator to go to her hotel room. A random guy (who was in the hotel bar she just left) followed her into the elevator and said something to the effect of “don’t take this the wrong way, but I find you very interesting. Would you like to go back to my room and have coffee and we can talk more?” Rebecca said that this is the kind of thing that makes her feel uncomfortable and asks guys not to do things like this. Here is the video where she talks about it http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uKHwduG1Frk&feature=player_embedded (It’s closer to the end)
From here controversy ensued.
I heard the response to what she had said before I had actually seen the video. It really bothered me. To me it boils down to Rebecca saying she doesn’t like this kind of behavior and she thinks many women don’t like this kind of behavior, so if you want to “have coffee” with her or other women who are like her… don’t go about approaching her in that manner. I have no idea how this = man hater.
So what’s the problem?
There seems to be an easy common ground to reach. I hope most would agree approaching a women you don’t really know in an elevator is a not a good idea, and most would agree that it would make a woman feel uncomfortable.
Lets start from there. I think that we can all agree that a women, or man, or child should be able to talk about something that makes them feel uncomfortable. I think (hope) that most people can agree with this. I also think that there are many men who fear that by asking a women out for coffee they will be branded as sexual predators. I think that this is where the problem lies.
Earlier this year in Winnipeg there was a case (that in spite a 1988 Supreme Court ruling that said women do not invite sexual assault through their appearance) in which a man got a lighter sentence because the women he raped was drinking and dressed in a tube top with no bra, high heels and makeup, I should also mention that the assault took place in 2006 and the sentence is now being reconsidered again… in 2011. Men who are afraid of being thought of as sexual predators need to keep this in mind when they look at what should and should not make a women feel uncomfortable.
I think we all need to look at the reality of the situation. Things kind of suck if you’re a girl, I think that most men would agree. I also think that women in our attempts to protect ourselves sometimes will view men as sexual predators when in all likelihood they aren’t, and that isn’t fair to that man.
So what’s the solution?
I don’t think that this is a male/female problem. I think this is a “no one want’s to be treated unfairly” problem. I think it’s unfair of women to assume every man is a potential rapist and I think it’s unfair of a man to think it’s unfair for a women to assume a man is a potential rapist when he puts her in a situation that makes her feel uncomfortable. Yea, I know that might have not maken much sense, let me try that again.
So what’s the solution?
Maybe we should focus on the justice system. If we had a supreme court ruling that said women do not invite sexual assault through…. no… wait. I guess we do have that ruling…. lets try one more time….
So what’s the solution?
Maybe it’s the men who need to be the bigger man. If they could talk to their friends and sons and the guys at work about what is appropriate and inappropriate behavior, women wouldn’t have to say it as often and then be accused of “bragging” when we talk about guys hitting on us, and how we don’t like the ways we go about it. A lot of the men I know do this. Men are always going to have boy talk and women will always have girl talk…. if men would start shooting their buddies down for being creepy, I think that would stop a lot of the girl talk. A lot of the men in my life do exactly that.
I have a feeling that a lot of the men in our skeptics group have also had conversations with their buddies that went to that effect. Maybe that’s why we have so many women in our group compared to other groups.
Maybe all women should always wear tube tops with no bra, high heels and make-up. If we all dress the same judges can’t say we invited the situation anymore than any other women… I don’t know how that would go over with my safety rep. who says I need to wear a safety vest and steal toes at all times… I did find one place that sold steal toed high heels, but heels don’t work well with freshly laid sod….. ahhh that won’t work either…..
So what’s the solution?
I don’t know.
I hope there is a solution. I’m pretty sure that whatever the solution is it involves no one over reacting… No one throwing out accusations…
I know it involves better communication.
I know it involves both sides letting things go.
I also know it starts from setting an example.
If anyone has made someone else feel uncomfortable in our skeptics group it would be me. So I will apologize.
At a semi-recent bar night (after a totally innocent comment by a male member of the group that went something to the tune of “What would be the point of X-ray glasses? So you could see some chicks bone structure?”) I am the one who said I would love it if there were glasses that could only see through cloths because my breasts look much better in a push up bra than they do when they are just hanging loose. I am sorry for my comments and I am sorry if I made anyone feel uncomfortable.
I am also the one who went up to two female members of our group and started stroking there hair. Just because one member had gotten a short(er) hair cut and the girl sitting next to her had long curly hair and I wanted to see if there was a different texture in there hair… that was pretty creepy of me; I’m sorry to both of you.
I’m sorry for announcing at a very early meeting that I watch a lot of porn… no one needs to think about me watching porn.
And I’m sorry that at a recent filming I told the gentlemen who seemed nervous about accidentally touching my cleavage when putting on my mic. that the reason I wore that dress was that I was hoping for a cheap grope. I’m sure I made you more uncomfortable and I’m sorry.