Rebecca Watson told her elevator-gate story on Slate. It Stands to Reason, Skeptics Can Be Sexist Too: I spoke out about sexual harassment among atheists and scientists. Then came the rape threats.
The comment thread is exhausting.
I have a few take-away thoughts.
1. I am glad I'm a hermit and very few mean people read my blog. For every one mean people I have several nice people who stand up for me.
2. Is "skeptic" shorthand for people that say "straw man!" all the time? Seeing that phrase over and over makes it feel like skepticism is the same as being argumentative. I don't like arguing. I like learning.
3. Some men understand that feelings are real and some do not accept them as valid data points.
4. A lot of men who aspire to critical thought somehow don't realize that they can apply critical thought to their own misconceptions and update their outlook just like they would update how many moons Jupiter has when a new space telescope spots some new ones.
Whenever this topic comes up again I can't help thinking of this scene in Earth Girls Are Easy. As Geena Davis throws sushi at her fiancee he reveals the real issue with men and women.
You Can't Expect Me to Be More Evolved
There's no way I would do what Rebecca Watson does. I was NOT a communications major. I would feel woefully underqualified to address issues of society and education and to respond to the kind of remarks she gets. I think not enough men are evolved to the point necessary for this to advance the way she wants. (There are a lot of men who are sympathetic to Rebecca and who are painfully aware of making women uncomfortable in elevators. I am calling them the evolved ones.) Now maybe I'm just ignorant about forums where women make violent threats, but to my view there is clearly a difference in men and women in vile YouTube and blog comments.
When I say stuff about science it's usually because I do feel vaguely qualified to rant about somebody less qualified getting it wrong. But it's still just my opinion. I don't ever spend more than a couple of hours writing these things. Everybody knows that right? I'm not claiming to be infallible. The peer review on my blog is whoever is on IM when I post it. If I get anything backwards somebody will pop up and get me to fix it pretty quick. This is not the Journal Nature. If I worked on something that much I would be getting paid for it.
I got a weird comment on an old post about ocean acoustics today that made me wonder. They claimed I was less credible than Wikipedia. (I don't think they understand how Wikipedia works.) And they told me not to write blog posts unless I was a recognized expert. Umm, if everybody followed that rule there would be no content on the internet. I'm not claiming to be the best opinion -- my typical rant is just trying to clarify something another writer clearly understands less than me (a sky diver can't go faster than the speed of light) -- just AN OPINION. It's a private blog. Surely it's obvious? The way I get at the root of a topic is by comparing different people's opinions, find the things they have in common, then try to verify that. "You're a nobody, and you just googled most of the things you mentioned in here." Is that unusual? Doesn't EVERY nobody do that? Since I wasn't a communications major or a journalism major maybe I'm doing something wrong. Only difference in my blog and my term papers in grad school is I don't have access to the peer reviewed journals on the library log-in anymore.
At least I'm trying to improve by making an effort, exercising my writing and researching skills, and getting feedback, unlike these men who won't take a woman's word for what makes her blood pressure jump and her hair stand on end.