The Elevator Incident

July 4, 2011

I need to write an article about The Elevator Incident because everyone else is wrong about it. Even Richard Dawkins.

PZ Myers, a Minnesota biology professor who writes a smug blog largely dealing with atheism, posted about an incident in which a woman, Rebecca Watson, got propositioned in an elevator at 4 a.m. during an atheism conference in Dublin.

Atheism has reached a tipping point in Western culture. It’s no longer a risk to life, or even reputation in many cases, to come out as someone who doesn’t believe in the supernatural. And I’m happy about that. I think God is a bigger mind virus than feminism and I love to see people get smarter and wiser. It disappoints me when good MRA writers such as Gucci Little Piggy turn out to be infected with the God delusion, and it disappoints me when atheists such as PZ Myers fall prey to the guilt- and shame-driven male-castrating feminist propaganda. But I suppose it’s too much to ask of people to demolish two cornerstones of their belief systems simultaneously.

PZ, who I believe has very little experience dating since he’s been happily married since his youth, parrots the feminist party line:

Maybe we should also recognize that applying unwanted pressure, no matter how politely phrased, is inappropriate behavior. Maybe we should recognize that when we interact with equals there are different, expected patterns of behavior that many men casually disregard when meeting with women, and it is those subtle signs that let them know what you think of them that really righteously pisses feminist women off.

The problem, of course, is that it’s the very demonstration of higher status in front of a woman that generates sexual attraction in her. And frankly, an invitation is not “pressure.” You can’t have it both ways, PZ: either women need protection from men because they are weaker, or they are equals and must bear equal responsibility for interactions with males. Feminism, and PZ, seek to have it both ways.

The irony is that even after having it pointed out, PZ still didn’t see the equivalence of The Elevator Incident with his own Cracker Incident, in which he deliberately desecrated a communion wafer and told all the Catholics who were offended to go stuff it.

PZ’s post generated an epic comment thread highlighted by a comment from Richard Dawkins:

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.

While Dawkins’ point is amusing, it doesn’t get to the point. It isn’t that the offense committed in The Elevator Incident is minor compared to the oppression women of other cultures endure; it’s that the offense committed in The Elevator Incident isn’t an offense at all. The fact that Mrs. Watson felt unsafe, that she felt offended, is simply her own problem. That’s how equals feel sometimes when they go out in the world and interact with people. You can’t assert your right to walk around by yourself at 4 a.m. and then tell someone else he has no right to hit on you. Man up, Rebecca.

Gucci closes his post with a flippant assertion that atheists aren’t all that bright and ought to be making logical arguments. Aside from the baffling thought that somehow it’s smarter to believe in invisible beings than to believe in reality, Mr. Piggy should realize that logical arguments don’t tend to change anyone’s mind. That’s why the illogic of the God and the Feminist mind viruses have spread and why we must use rhetoric and narrative, not logic, to combat them.


9 Responses to “The Elevator Incident”

  1. G.L. Piggy said


    I’m an atheist too. I’m not beating up on these particular atheists because they are atheists but because they aren’t applying the same logic and philosophical standards that they use in metaphysical discussion as they do to discussions of real-world interactions.

    But being an atheist myself, I think most other atheists are quite off-putting and beholden to their own dogma. And I find that people who shout about their atheism the loudest are often deficient in other intellectual realms.

    But thanks for saying that I’m “good” – although I’d also quibble with your calling me an MRA. I’m sympathetic but I’m not an activist, and I think a lot of the things MRAs get bent about are stupid.

    • betasattva said

      Thank you for gracing my new blog with your presence, Mr. Piggy. I’m glad to hear I was wrong about you being a believer.

      I agree with your assessment of most of the commenters in that thread. But every popular blogger has a cadre of commentards. The fact that an annoying atheist has atheist commentards shouldn’t either be surprising or reflect the general intelligence of atheists, which is higher on average than theists.

  2. Gorbachev said

    This is the real point, sure.

    “man up”.

    Propositioning someone isn’t offensive. She said no; the issue was closed.

    When women start to get so sensitive they’re afraid of being propositioned, then either 1) they’re little babies that shouldn’t play in the real world (ie, grow up); or 2) Men are basically forbidden to approach women. How are we supposed to hook up/breed,then?

    If this all seems hopelessly pathetic to me, am I missing something?

  3. betasattva said

    I don’t think you’re missing anything, Mr. Gorbachev, other than to step back and see the interaction as a power play using the feminist shaming device rather than anything real. Many men get themselves in trouble by trying to sincerely address female complaints rather than see them as shit tests to be passed.

  4. […] been a minor kerfuffle lately about an incident at an atheist conference in which a woman expressed great insult that a drunk man asked her out in an […]

  5. Excellent point re the nonsense of calling this incident offensive.

    I’m a Christian who started out a Christian then became an agnostic then dabbled with atheism, made the migration back to agnostic and finally am once again a Christian.

    So I understand your stance on the “God virus”. I think and can argue rather successfully that you’re wrong–need I say?–but I sympathize.

    Nice blog, becoming a regular reader.



  6. Opus said

    Very nicely put, if I may so. It seems to be (and I have noticed this with many Athiests before) that having disposed of one belief system they fall prey to others (e.g. feminism) and with the rapacious gullibility of which they accuse Xtians etc.

    Propositioning women, is I have to say normal male behaviour, whether in Dublin or elsewhere. That Dawkins and P.Z. do not quite understand this is rather worrying considering that they they are evolutionary Biologists. Personally (given the threat of false-rape allegations) I think I would avoid being alone in an elevator at four a.m. with a sole woman, but if I were, all the woman has to do is say ‘No’ and in the appropriate tone of voice and appropriate body-language. Just what, exactly, is so difficult about that for a modern, empowered – doubtless highly paid – woman, who insists that she is the equal, as she is always being told, if not superior, of men?

  7. lifts said

    I’m surprised having watched the woman’s youtube video that she felt threatened. To be honest I feel she was more offended by the fact that she could have felt threatened, but if she really wasn’t then I don’t understand what the problem is. It sounds like the man in question probably just isn’t understand why his actions might make her feel uncomfortable, so why not just tell him, then he might learn something from this incident

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