Thoughts on Elevatorgate and Dudes Not Getting It
    By Kim Wombles | July 10th 2011 11:01 AM | 28 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
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    Maybe Nosferatu was a good name for this cat after all. He loves to leap at our legs, clamp on with his front claws and start chomping. Same for our arms.

    Cujo the cat would have been a good name, too. Still, he's a lovely animal; even when his little teeth are trying to break your skin.

    See, he's so sweet.

    I guess we all have our moments, some where we're sweet and others when we are vampire-like, trying to do as much damage as possible to another. Sometimes we inflict damage when we're just playing, or even when we're just making an offer (or an observation).

    Now, you're no more surprised than I am that I'm going to talk about elevatorgate (good summary here), privilege, and a bunch of skeptics engaging in a massive hissy fit. But all this has dominated the skeptic blogs this last week (I'll provide as complete a list as possible), with thousands upon thousands of comments offered on the various blogs.

    Why bring it up in context of a cat who goes from being a sweetheart who sleeps cradled in my arms like a baby to hell on wheels trying to gnaw my flesh? First, because I can. Second, because it's important to point out that one snapshot in time, one badly worded statement in time, does not necessarily reflect the entirety of a person's character, except when it does reveal the important things.

    We don't know the dude who asked Rebecca Watson at 4 in the morning in the elevator back to his hotel room. Was he clueless? Was he creepy? Was he socially awkward (or on the spectrum)? But from Watson mentioning this situation and saying that guys shouldn't do that, all this has exploded onto several blogs, privilege is being discussed, the role of women in the skeptic community is being discussed, and directives on how to behave at TAM this year are being offered.

    Privilege is being thrown around in the comments, and even more charges of privilege being thrown around are being offered. Privilege and the discussion of it is not confined to the feminist world. It is a concept used in all of the minority communities I've had the opportunity to spend time exploring. Sometimes the allegation of privilege is fairly charged, and the opportunity to learn and grow and change is there for those involved. However, there is a dark underbelly to some of the minority communities where individuals charge the other person of privilege in order to push around the other person and it's about anger, bitterness, and some serious gnawing. If the "privileged" person points out that privilege doesn't apply in this instance, then she is usually hit with the charge that everyone wants the unprivileged person to play nice. It's a no-win situation in this case.

    I don't wade into these sorts of things often because it is usually a pointless, messy thing, and let's be real: I have enough areas in my online life that engagement is pointless and messy.

    Rebecca Watson doesn't deserve the vilification she's gotten for pointing out that trying to pick up someone in the elevator can be fear-inducing (and for good cause) for the woman and that decent guys should recognize that and not do it. She doesn't deserve the rape threats she's getting, either. No one does and the people who are making these threats are leaving a snapshot that reflects poorly on their character. Decent people do not do that. Ever. You don't threaten to rape, harm, or kill other people and get to pretend you're an upstanding person. 

    Richard Dawkins was a jerk for his comment at PZ's. There have been a lot of jerks in the comments at the blogs dealing with this. Dogpiling on Dawkins at Skepchicks, well, having women explain why it's wrong when he asked in a later comment for some explaining, maybe that's overkill for some folks? But maybe it's not. After all, Watson's still getting the threatening tweets. 

    Maybe dudes ought to stand up and say that this isn't cool. That women have the right not to walk around afraid someone who disagrees with them will assault or rape them. That's not asking for too much.

    And for guys who think women are overreacting, according to RAINN, "60% of sexual assaults are not reported to the police." In addition, "Every 2 minutes, someone in the U.S. is sexually assaulted." Still not getting it? The US Department of Justice reports that "1 of 6 U.S. women and 1 of 33 U.S. men have been victims of a completed or attempted rape."

    Treat women as something other than f*ck-buddies. Consider their perspective before you decide that you're God's gift to them and they should be all over you wanting a piece of what you have to offer. When one of them offers up the comment that it's not cool, don't show your complete lack of respect for her as a human being by snidely pointing out that Muslim women have it worse, because you've just revealed that you don't think women are equal. Another snapshot where your character's showing.

    And perhaps a larger lesson here is that if one was under the impression that skeptics were better, more decent human beings, reality has shown that skeptics are as prone to being asshats and chauvinists as anyone else. Humanists, on the other hand, one could hope, have higher aspirations. Skepticism and humanism do not go hand in hand, though, and it's a mistake to assume they do.

    Links for anyone who hasn't dipped a toe into these waters and wants to get gnawed on:

    The video that launched it: 

    Follow-up posts by Rebecca Watson:


    Other posts:

    PZ Myers:
    Always name names!

    Jen at Blag hag:

    Greg Laden:

    Melissa McEwan:

    Amanda Marcotte:

    Brian Dunning:

    Alison Smith:

    Others:  There are other posts hyperlinked in the text, as well. If you have links to this mess, please add them in the comments.


    And there I thought for a week or so that we here at Science2.0 are above that SB tabloid level. For saying this, I gladly belong to the elevator rapist category (at least I actually had sex in elevators).
    According to the internet, all that atheist conference was about is elevator fucking? Maybe next time invite me instead. I will give two talks, one about the scientific proof against creator deities and one maybe on how the skeptics community is feeding anti-science and religiousness by incessantly employing "science" that is wrong and backfires, and since my talks would be old-atheists' fire under their in-vogue-agnostic pseudo-progressive "new-atheists" asses, I would not need to draw attention to myself with blown out of proportion claims involving sex.
    BTW - dressing up an inappropriate or uninteresting position in the garments of ill-conceived feminism in order to promote it to and protect it against attack from a crowd of pseudo-progressives is a trick I used a few times about 20 years ago. It works so fucking well that I got absolutely disgusted and refused to ever use it again!
    Firstly, we Europeans are more concerned about DSK, and so I had not even heard of elevatorgate.

    Perhaps I should not enter this fray, because
    He that passeth by, and meddleth with strife belonging not to him, is like one that taketh a dog by the ears.
    Nevertheless, this issue is one I feel strongly about (as for thinking, maybe that’s a different matter ...)

    Even in the 70s (following the “Swinging Sixties”) I observed a certain fear in the eyes of a woman in a lift.  At that time, I wondered if there was a certain conflict going on, between the cultural ‘you should be sexy’ and a personal desire otherwise.  (And that was the 70s – perhaps things are much worse today.)

    I then, in my mathematical way, wondered if there was a increasing pressure from both directions, and maybe, à la catastrophe theory (very much in vogue at that time) speculated that this might lead to a breakdown.

    Even today, I a reluctant to enter a lift with a woman as the only other occupant.  This is frustrating, because I regard women as intelligent beings, and on that basis I often find their conversation more rewarding.

    (While we’re about it, I suspect that the ‘dumb blonde’ stereotype arises because blonde hair is striking, and when associated with dumbness leaves a stronger impression.  In our quondam physics department, there have been individuals who totally give the lie to that cliché.)

    Back to the main topic, I have no personal knowledge of the individuals involved (though ‘elevatorgate’ does suggest that the male is a person who carries some weight in the world of that conference.)  But by default, my sympathies would be with the lady.

    Robert H. Olley / Quondam Physics Department / University of Reading / England
    Gerhard Adam
    I don't understand what any of this is about, since it seems that it is simply serving as a launching point for everyone's pet issues surrounding feminism and/or perceptions between the sexes. 

    According to the video, the man on the elevator said:  "Don't take this the wrong way, but I find you extremely interesting and was wondering if you would like to come to my room for some coffee."  I may have gotten the quote slightly wrong, but the gist of it is to continue the conversation or discussions that were taking place.  It is totally inappropriate to presume that this was a sexual advance, as just as it is totally inappropriate to escalate the meaning of these comments within the context of rape. 

    I find it interesting that no one seems to have a problem with the idea that these comments are sexually objectifying Rebecca Watson, despite nothing within their content or tone suggesting that they actually are.  In fact, that is precisely why the male started his comment with "don't take this the wrong way".  Just as a consideration, would this take on a different meaning if the male turned out to be gay? 

    Mundus vult decipi
    Interesting points, Gerhard. I think, for me, the incident itself is not as relevant as the reactions that have been playing out across the skeptic blogs, especially those comments that directly threaten Watson with rape. Dawkins was crass at best. And instead of furthering an agenda of helping to foster critical thinking skills and rationality, the whole thing has demonstrated that skepticism is not tied to humanism or to a commitment to equality between the sexes. One can be a humanist and a skeptic and committed to equality between the sexes, certainly. But one can also be skeptic and and ass who threatens to rape women because he doesn't like what one has said.
    If these conventions (see Dunning's post) are as much about hooking up as advancing a skeptical perspective, then there will be instances like this. The point, perhaps, is that Watson should have been free to say what she said without being threatened with rape and worse.

    As to the incident itself, she didn't really know this man, it was 4 in the morning, it was in an elevator, she'd already indicated she was tired, she'd already addressed at the conference that she didn't like sexual advances. It was, at the very least, inappropriate of the male to ask what he did where he did when he did.
    You don't ask women to your hotel room at 4 in the morning for coffee. And no cautious woman would go to a stranger's room at 4 in the morning for coffee. For sex, but not for coffee. Asking a woman in the elevator, even prefacing it with "Don't take this the wrong way" isn't going to make her feel at ease or that he really wants coffee. Otherwise, he could have asked for her to sit and have coffee at the bar they just left.
    “Nothing in the world is more dangerous than a sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.” --MLK, Jr.
    Gerhard Adam
    I understand your point, but it raises an interesting question.  If this had been a man and another man had said, want to come to down my room and continue this discussion over a coffee ... would  that have been considered problematic?  If not, then how do we achieve "equality" between the sexes, and also require that they be handled differently?
    Asking a woman in the elevator, even prefacing it with "Don't take this the wrong way" isn't going to make her feel at ease or that he really wants coffee.
    See the problem I have with this, is that if the roles were reversed and the woman was asking a man, then the man would be chastised for assuming she was hitting on him (and he responded accordingly).  In other words, if she had extended the invitation, should the man have interpreted this as a sexual advance?  If not, then why can she make that assessment?

    If you recall, the Kobe Bryant case was litigated on precisely this kind of situation, where a woman went to his room and then charged him with sexual assault while he claimed it was consensual.  So why was it assumed that when she went to his room that it wasn't for the purposes of a sexual encounter?  This sounds like an explicit double standard, so that the man inviting Rebecca to his room is presumed to imply sex, whereas when a woman actually goes, it doesn't imply sex. 

    If she would've accepted his invitation, I don't imagine that anyone would have interpreted that as a gesture agreeing to sex and if he came on to her, she would've been justifiably offended by it.  So, doesn't that suggest that we're reading far too sinister a meaning into an elevator conversation? 
    Mundus vult decipi
    Gerhard Adam
    BTW, it goes without saying that any threatening comments, regardless of the context are simply unacceptable.  Unfortunately it seems that some people just can't contain themselves.
    Mundus vult decipi
    edited the above comment to say but *not* for coffee. Kinda important to have the not there.

    I'd submit that anyone asking anyone else to their hotel room at 4 in the morning for "coffee" isn't asking for coffee or they'd go to a coffee house. :)

    The more important take away here is not this incident itself but the comments, the threats, and the general unraveling of the skeptical community into arbitrary sides. Watson should have been able to say what she did without it turning into elevatorgate. That it did turn into that says a great deal about the individuals who are identifying themselves as part of the skeptical community. In other words, perhaps some women (or many, who knows?) believed that men in the skeptical community got it. The elevator guy isn't the problem: the reaction Watson's getting is.

    Now, if we really want to look deeper at this, what's more interesting is that before this all blew up there was an earlier blow up over Watson's taking on two young women who disagreed with her and doing so at a conference they were attending where she was the keynote speaker and they were in the audience.

    Had I realized this earlier story, I would have covered it, as well. It appears, as I said in the piece, that there are a fair number of people who should have known how to behave better not doing so and then not knowing when to say oops my bad.

    Does this advance equality one bit? No. 

    Are the bloggers and commenters really the movers and shakers of the larger skeptical movement and science and evidence-based movement? I don't know. I don't know that this will trickle out to the wider world engaged in real-world activities. I know it won't impact my students because I won't broach it. This isn't about skepticism. This is drama, or as Sasha noted, tabloid stuff.

    I do know that I'd rather be here, as Hank commented, at Science 2.0, than at those sites (sites I do not comment at except very rarely). Much nicer atmosphere, insightful posts from a diverse body of science-based writers, and plenty of chances for thoughtful exchanges and lively debates. :)
    “Nothing in the world is more dangerous than a sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.” --MLK, Jr.
    Gerhard Adam
    I'd submit that anyone asking anyone else to their hotel room at 4 in the morning for "coffee" isn't asking for coffee or they'd go to a coffee house. :)
    See, I have a problem with that assumption.  I would willingly bet that if she had accepted his offer and gone to his room, she would've been even more outraged that he presumed that acceptance of his offer was an agreement to have sex.

    What's interesting, is that if you took an informal poll among men, you would NOT find that to be an implicit assumption.  Probably due to the fact that most men have long since been conditioned that there is NOTHING that can ever be construed as an agreement to have sex, even if the woman is laying in your bed.  It is for that reason, that I'm a bit put off, by this faux "fear" that is being expressed as if men are somehow presumed to be lurking rapists.

    In addition, the conflict you mentioned with the other two women is also telling, because it suggests that this sentiment isn't uniform among women.  While I can certainly appreciate that no every individual is going to feel the same way in every circumstance, I think we do have to recognize that some people may also be more sensitive to some situations, but that doesn't necessarily equate to a real issue that requires action.  I guess I'm also a bit put off that it seems she felt justified in calling out these other two women and create a kind of "for us or against us" impression.
    Mundus vult decipi
    And perhaps that's the point, that an informal poll among men wouldn't generate that. The fact that the young women in question disagreed with her isn't relevant. Why would we assume that there would be a uniform agreement among women? Or among anyone.
    This is the point: she had a right to express that this made her uncomfortable. She had a right to point out that some (many) women would find this uncomfortable and that guys shouldn't, if they wanted to put women at ease, wait until they were in a confined space at an inappropriate time and ask a relative stranger back to their hotel room for coffee. Reasonable people would have said, hey, that makes sense that someone I don't know might not be comfortable with me striking up a conversation with them at 4 in the morning in an elevator at a hotel. The rape threats and so on that followed her doing this is the problem.

    The incident itself IS NOT the problem. Everything that followed is. Watson's behavior is as problematic as many other skeptics' behaviors regarding the incident. That's the point of this: a woman couldn't express her discomfort after the fact with a situation that may or may not have had sexual overtones without receiving multiple rape threats and other personal attacks. 

    For the anecdotal record, I asked my 71 year old father, who has no knowledge of this mess, what he would think, regardless of the sex of the two people, if a stranger asked another stranger up to his/her hotel room at 4 in the morning for coffee, especially when they'd just come from a bar. His answer: sex.

    “Nothing in the world is more dangerous than a sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.” --MLK, Jr.
    "my 71 year old father ... stranger asked another stranger up to his/her hotel room at 4 in the morning for coffee, especially when they'd just come from a bar"
    I asked my 90 year old grandma her opinion of a young female leaving a bar alone at 4 am in a foreign land. And since you distorted the situation so completely ("stranger" etc), I added a tight black one and heels. So now we know who is a total slut that asked for it.
    About the effect of going down to this level: As far as I can read from comments on reddit, people who are new to the skeptics and atheism sections are leaving. Good thing, it is after all the community already present who votes for the smut.
    No, I did not distort the situation. Gerhard shifted the discussion to whether two guys in an elevator with one of them asking the question had the same connotation. If my 71 year old father can see that it does (without any reference to the situation), the thought that no males would get that doesn't hold true. We may all have differing interpretations of the situation, but again: missing the point. And big time. It's not about the incident, it's about the reactions to her saying it made her uncomfortable.
    And at least I actually walked across to my parents and asked my dad. And I've been polite, Sascha, while your rhetoric has been kinda dickish. 

    Let's try this again: a woman has the right to express that something made her uncomfortable without getting dozens of rape threats from strangers. Got it? 

    A skeptic convention ought to be more about the skepticism than the hooking up. 

    And women shouldn't be held as objects...gee, talk about empathy erosion.
    “Nothing in the world is more dangerous than a sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.” --MLK, Jr.
    missing the point. And big time. It's not about the incident, it's about the reactions
    That is what everybody pretends now because it sounds so good, but nobody can hide what they feel:
    A skeptic convention ought to be more about the skepticism than the hooking up.
    There you revealed yourself again. That is what all we apes are really drawn to, the alleged elevator fucking that never happened anywhere but in the minds of pseudo-progressives because they constantly have to suppress their sexuality. I am getting it 100%, so does RD.
    We serious people will keep our right to ask anybody anywhere at any time to have a coffee and discuss a few points further. Some of the best ideas have sprung from such sessions, sleepless geeks are known to wake up in the night. I doubt that the attention seeker would have said no in case PZM had asked her. Attention seekers whose behavior brought bad light onto the conference should not be invited again. Serious people must be able to freely discuss without fearing accusations. To suppress progress with sexual accusations (see J. Assange and many more) is the new trend and weapon of choice for mediocre women to get rid of males in their career path. We need to stop it.
    Have you actually read the pieces about this?

    Dunning wrote that he almost quit going to TAM because of all the offers of hookups to both him and his wife who attended with him.  It's entirely reasonable to say that skepticism conferences ought to be about the skepticism. Not the hookups. And I'm certain I "reveal" myself with every piece I write since I (a) don't mince words and (b) say what I mean.

    My post was not about the incident. My point was on what followed the incident. You've successfully ignored the content of my post in every comment you've made. Pretend all you like, but this isn't about the incident in the elevator. It's about actual rape threats after the fact because she expressed her discomfort. Why do you ignore that in favor of sympathy with an unnamed man whose good name has not been besmirched? 

    Pretty sure most conferences are not by invite but by who chooses to register and pay to attend. Gonna be mighty hard to keep people you don't like out of them. Well, unless you're Autism One. 

    As to your last paragraph, really? What evidence do you have of that? And how would "we" stop it? Watson didn't make a charge of rape against the elevator guy. He wasn't in her career path.  
    “Nothing in the world is more dangerous than a sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.” --MLK, Jr.
    My post was not about the incident. My point was on what followed the incident. ... It's about actual rape threats
    That is what everybody pretends, but there are threats of rape and murder on the internet every day, and they often actually involve stuff that really happened and people who are actually in a bad situation. Science bloggers do not usually give a moist rats ass, as they are happily belonging to the fat white establishment, especially many of the women bloggers who blog mostly about their smelly shoes, barbie dolls, cheer leaders, and of course about how terribly suppressed they are.
    As to your last paragraph, really? What evidence do you have of that?
    Can you follow links? It is the mouse thingy, you click it, it makes a clicking noise, kind of neat. ;-)
    He wasn't in her career path.
    Being the center of attention while having nothing of substance to say is the desired career path in this case.
    I feel so warm reading comments like that.   In the beginning, 2006 or so, and 2007, it was so disheartening because bloggers wanted to have that pseudo-success - write about politics, drum up fake controversies - because they saw it as a successful model.   I think we were the only ones who showed you can get traffic without being hysterical politicos.  Nature tried and failed, and SciAm tried and failed - though they are now owned by Nature so so they are trying again.  The others were small and stayed there.  

    Writing good stuff without inventing rape worries can mean success.   It just takes people who actually know what they are talking about.
    I think we can blame romantic comedies - and generally romantic novels.   The vast majority of women want to watch and read stories about bold men who take chances and defy odds.   How is a man to know when he should 'take a chance' and when he should not?

    Now, I've never solicited a woman at 4 AM in an elevator, much less a stranger, so I think that should obviously be over the line - so I have little to add of any value but I am generally glad we are not staffed by the militants on the sites you referenced in the article (I didn't go to all the ones in the links at the bottom) because I think they are all just waiting for drama to rant about.
    Chris Mooney will be talking to Rebecca Watson: Mooney writes, "We’ll be discussing this and the lessons to be taken from it–as well as Watson’s important work to spread skepticism and, especially, to make the skeptic movement a more welcoming place for women."

    After this last week plus and the fact that she singled out two women who disagreed with her one could reasonably ask is she making the movement a more welcoming place for women? And the larger question, is the movement, at least the representatives commenting online at her site and PZ's, welcoming to anyone, really?

    “Nothing in the world is more dangerous than a sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.” --MLK, Jr.
    Josh Witten wrote about that a while ago in The Skeptical Boys Club.    It isn't a new phenomenon and they have always given lip service to being more welcoming.   Formal skepticism seems to exist only to ridicule religious people and Bigfoot - actual skepticism, like the founder of TAM, James Randi, questioning climate science, gets reviled and is revealed as nothing but progressive, atheist groupthink - so a culture founded on derision and scorn isn't going to be welcoming to a subset of its own members.

    While skepticism covers more than atheism, Skepticism is composed 100% of atheists in America - any group whose foundation is a negative (religious people are stupid) is not going to be a positive place to hang out.

    The comments over there say it all, so kudos to Mooney for leaving them up (and I like how he does a blog piece to announce he will talk to someone about a future blog piece - it's like he is announcing he got invited to the White House or something but doubles his pageviews for a topic only about 3 sites in the world care about);

    "As always, a pathetic and transparent move, Chris. Only you could find a way to make a ridiculous internet argument into a topic for a podcast show with the sole intention of slandering Richard Dawkins and the atheist movement proper.    I hope that templeton prize was worth it."

    "In Chris and Rebecca’s mind, this incident was a near-rape. Hawkins mocked Rebecca for thinking she was in a near-rape situation. Rebecca and Chris are making the case that the man’s actions were hostile and outrageous."

    ha ha Well, of course.   One can't ooze wistfully about how awful it is we have two different genders in humanity if there are no stories to tell.    An anecdote about a guy in an elevator is...well, whatever.   There is a reason I don't write at SkepChick, obviously, so to them my thoughts on society are invalidated by my penis.
    Good points. That's unfortunate and disappointing. 
    So where does that leave evidence-based people advocating critical thinking but who are not interested in pushing an atheist agenda (even if they are not religious people)? I have no desire to attack or engage people of faith in an argument concerning their faith. I'd rather understand how it provides meaning to them, what function it serves, how it is either acting as an adaptive coping mechanism or where it's not, why it's not. 

    If we're hard-wired to believe in agenticity, as Shermer contends, then what's the point in trying to argue people out of their belief in a creator? Why not focus on how to make sure this works to one's personal benefit (the believer's benefit) instead? Make sure that their conception is one of a creator who arms them with the tools to adapt and survive whatever comes their way (engaged their own self-fulfilling prophecies for the good rather than the maladaptive)? 

    I know this moves beyond the post, but if what I've followed the last week and a half is representative of the real-world skepticism movement, it's deeply disappointing, and I think I'll keep my humanistic designation instead. It seems gentler, kinder, and more accepting. :)
    “Nothing in the world is more dangerous than a sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.” --MLK, Jr.
    It means you would go to a skeptic meeting and eventually ask, 'does anyone here go beyond ridiculing Bigfoot and religion?'  Randi was vilified on the climate stuff because the science was settled - no need for skepticism if it agreed with any Republicans.   He changed his stance since, presumably at his age, skepticism is his legacy and his income and he needs people showing up at TAM.

    Any time there is an insular movement it is going to be primarily peopled by thinking they have no place in the larger world and resent non-believers; your head might spin in a gender studies grad department at a university, for example, and mine might spin in an evolutionary psychology grad department.  Generally, if you are wearing sexism sunglasses, you will see a lot of sexism but skeptics ironically do not see how much they share with scientology in their treatment of their own who deviate from the mantra.
    Gerhard Adam
    So where does that leave evidence-based people advocating critical thinking but who are not interested in pushing an atheist agenda (even if they are not religious people)?
    I think that's the crux of the issue, after all, what does it mean to be a skeptic?  As you indicated, if the purpose is simply a group that is "evidence-based", then I always assumed that meant, "scientific".  Is there really a need for a group to recognize this?

    Here I was naive enough to think that meant that you were a scientist (even if not professionally). 

    I agree that there isn't much point in engaging people regarding their religion, except within the context of where they want to impose it on the science and even then the argument should be evidence-based to support the science rather than simply to promote atheism.

    I'm sorry if I derailed some of the commentary about the incident, and while I certainly agree that the threats are way out of line, I can't help but be struck by the blatant contradictions presented by the event.  In the first place, Rebecca's attitude towards the guy is clearly sexist, because she simply responded to the stereotypical notion of being propositioned.  The concept of feeling "creepy" or even frightened are all sexist responses by vilifying males because of the default position that they sexually objectify women.  Instead of examining that reaction and the motivation behind it (like a skeptic presumably would), she instead used it as a platform to support a dogmatic view of the genders.  On this basis alone, it leads me to question the motivation of all those people that call themselves "skeptics".
    Mundus vult decipi
    Not everyone who is science-based is a working scientist, though. So, I don't know. I guess I'll go with humanistic critical thinker. :)
    I don't think you derailed it; there's plenty of meat to this and lots to discuss. The incident itself wasn't particularly my main focus of interest, though.

    I'm not sure where Watson really stands in the skeptical community, but it seems to me that despite her skepchick designation (which some have rightly argued is rather problematic if she's pushing gender equality from a feminist perspective), her primary interest is in feminist issues, not issues of promoting critical thinking and evidence-based decision-making.

    Again, is her treatment of the anonymous dude in the elevator sexist? Well, I don't know. Not really. Are there definite contradictions going on throughout all of this? Yes. Elevator dude gets to remain anonymous, but she called the young women who disagreed with her out by name, claiming she dislikes passive-aggressive behavior. That's a contradiction, isn't it? 

    There is a larger picture here, though, of the reality that 1 in 6 American women has been raped. That doesn't take into account near-misses. It doesn't take into account overt sexual discrimination. It doesn't take into account the number of times in a given week a woman feels devalued because she's been heckled, cat-called, or otherwise targeted in  demeaning, sexual objectification. So given a conservative estimate of women who have been subjected to any combination of those situations, we're probably looking at least half the female population having legitimate reasons for feeling insecure in a confined setting with a strange male. 

    All I can say is that from personal experiences in the past, I would, given those same circumstances, be abundantly cautious regarding my whereabouts and who I was with. Experience can be a cold, heartless teacher of some fundamentally crappy truths. Does that mean that I think most men aren't decent men? No, it does not. My experience shows me most men are decent. Doesn't mean I'm going to feel secure in an elevator alone at 4 in the morning with one I don't really know who asks me to his room for coffee. 

    And I don't think that's sexist. That's the reality of the situation. But here's another truth: I wouldn't be in that elevator at 4 in the morning. I wouldn't stay out by myself at a bar drinking to 4 in the morning as I'd deem that not the smartest course of action. And maybe that is sexist, but you don't get to put yourself in potentially risky situations and then act surprised if something happens. Yes, all people ought to be able to walk around where ever they want whenever they want however they want and be perfectly safe, but this isn't utopia; it's the real world. 

    You'd referred in another comment to the young woman going to the basketball player's hotel room with him and then charging he'd raped her, and that women argued she should have been safe there, that it didn't imply she was going to have sex with him. She should have been safe in an ideal world, but you don't go to strange men's bedrooms or hotel rooms. Not if you're thinking clearly. 

    Yes, there are plenty of mixed messages between the sexes, and it doesn't help that we use euphemisms  when we could simply speak plainly. But I still wouldn't go to a man's room for coffee even if it was just about coffee. I'm old enough that appearances matter. :)
    “Nothing in the world is more dangerous than a sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.” --MLK, Jr.
    Gerhard Adam
    Thank you, that's a very well reasoned response.  I do understand that there is a difference between ideological positions (i.e. sexism) and real world encounters.  I also wholly agree with you that we must first take responsibility that our own actions don't put us in danger or at risk before we begin leveling accusations about how the rest of the world behaves.

    Part of the reason why I'm intrigued by these questions is that it is nothing short of profiling.  While this hasn't normally been the perspective when it comes to gender, it definitely fits into the category.  It's something that no one likes to discuss, but we have to consider whether it is real and legitimate or whether it represents a deeper problem.

    In short, I don't see that gender profiling is substantively different from racial profiling.  The argument seems virtually identical and yet, one we consider to be unacceptable (whether from political correctness or not), and the other is considered mainstream.

    Having said that, I also agree completely that real-world caution and prudence are requirements regardless of whether a particular perspective is politically correct or not.  It's no different than if I'm looking for a radical fundamentalist terrorist training camp, I will not likely begin my search in Greenland.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Alas, in Dear Old Blighty, some people object to racial profiling, even at airport security.

    So my Inuit costume will not help me, even if I’m travelling to Kalaallit Nunaat.

    Even so, it was amusing to see, when travelling in a group to a synchrotron on the Continent, one of our group – very much of native ethnicity – was carefully searched by a Desi lady in sober black Muslim dress.
    Robert H. Olley / Quondam Physics Department / University of Reading / England
    Simply focussing on the incident itself,

    How is a lady to distinguish those that sting from those that don’t?

    Robert H. Olley / Quondam Physics Department / University of Reading / England
    I absolutely adore thistles. Ours have bloomed and gone to seed already. And what an excellent way to make your point. :-)
    “Nothing in the world is more dangerous than a sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.” --MLK, Jr.
    I disagree with the notion here. Rebecca could have felt upset for her own behalf, but saying her generalisations of it being bad in all cases, and if we disagree with her a misogynist.

    From what I understand, he asked her back for coffee, she said no, they went away. What, exactly, was the harm? Now, that's not to to say Rebecca may have felt uncomfortable, but there is no conceivable harm here. It reminds me very much of a person getting scared when a black single man is near them because they think they will get mugged.

    It says more about Rebecca and her views of males than anything else.

    Also, whilst we're quoting RAINN approx 2/3rds of rape victims know their rapists. Further, would a rapist have asked her back for coffee in the first place, or just raped her where she was?

    This is what I (and most people I've spoken with about it) are having problems with. Rebecca took what could have been a personal discomfort for herself and due to her postings, blown it into an argument of etiquette and behaviour, of which some people disagree with her.

    I know next time I watch Harold And Kumar go to White Castle, I'm going to think of the tender loving scene at the end in the elevator as some form of date rape.

    Gerhard Adam
    The fact remains, that no one would think anything of it, if this conversation took place between two men (or two women) in the elevator.  Therefore, we cannot have gender equality if one gender requires special treatment because of their own perceptions and/or comfort levels.

    The notion that you may be "creeped out", or feel uncomfortable simply isn't a condition nor criteria for claiming sexism, nor is it a legitimate complaint about etiquette. 

    Ironically in this particular encounter, the interpretation seems to be that the man's proposal was tantamount to a proposal for sex (i.e. being invited to his room).  However, the exact opposite interpretation occurs when the woman goes to a man's room voluntarily (Kobe Bryant case). 

    We should be clear that even if the man's invitation was an invitation to sex, there is no harm if it isn't threatening, coercive, or persistent.  In this case, the man apparently responded properly when she declined, so there is no basis for claiming anything more or that something improper occurred. 
    Mundus vult decipi