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» Hatrack River Forum » Active Forums » Books, Films, Food and Culture » The Rebbeca Watson/Richard Dawkins drama (Page 1)

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Author Topic: The Rebbeca Watson/Richard Dawkins drama
Sa'eed
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Via Gawker:

http://gawker.com/5818993/richard-dawkins-torn-limb-from-limbby-atheists


Even Salon doesn't like Dawkins anymore:

http://www.salon.com/life/feature/2011/07/08/atheist_flirting/

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Raymond Arnold
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Hmm. Disappointing.

I don't know that I'd feel motivated to boycott Dawkins over this (OSC says things that upset me on a regular basis and I haven't stopped buying his books). But I haven't actually paid money to read Dawkin's stuff anyway.

What makes me most upset is the comments on the first article.

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Dogbreath
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I might be missing something here, but, I think I'm with Richard Dawkins on this one.

A man very politely asked her to have coffee with him, and then promptly leaves her alone when she says no.

What's the problem exactly?

Why does she need to ridicule the poor nervous guy who asked her if she wanted to talk? He wasn't being sexually forward or aggressive or pushy. He didn't call her any names or leer at her or touch her. He asked her if she wanted to have coffee and talk. And she tears him apart for it.

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Shanna
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Not that I'm defending her, but there's a difference between being approached during the day and invited for a coffee date in a public place versus being invited to someone's hotel room at 4am while in an enclosed space. Its the sort of situation that can make a girl nervous.

Still, I think her posting about the story online is in poor taste (and I say that having done something similar and feeling bad about it now.) However, Dawkin's response seems to be in even poorer taste. Personally, I wasn't a fan of the man beforehand as I find militant atheists as stupid as militant Christians.

I do find it kind of sad that even after her talk, this man seemed oblivious to the uncomfortable situation he was putting her in.

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Samprimary
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Dawkins, being insufferable? Why I never!
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Raymond Arnold
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I didn't see her comments as ridiculing. She wasn't saying the guy was a horrible person. She said he did something that came across as awkward and creepy, and people in general should try not to come across as awkward and creepy. I think this is perfectly good advice. She didn't use his name or anything that I've seen.

Some additional comments she made on her blog (in response to someone stating he might not have meant anything sexual)

quote:
There is a small chance that this man meant nothing sexual in his comment, despite the fact that I had clearly indicated my wish to go to bed (alone) and the fact that the bar had coffee and therefore there was absolutely zero reason to go to anyone’s hotel room to have it. Sure. There’s a chance.

But regardless, the point I was making was that people need to be aware of how their comments might make someone feel extraordinarily uncomfortable and even feel as though they are in danger. This person failed to recognize that even though I had been speaking about little else all day long.



[ July 17, 2011, 04:17 AM: Message edited by: Raymond Arnold ]

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Rakeesh
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Dogbreath, have you read what she actually said herself about the encounter? Not what others say to describe it, but her own telling? I ask because it doesn't sound like you did, judging by the words you're using such as 'tear him apart'.
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Sa'eed
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It's possible the man was creepy.

It's also possible that Rebecca Watson has an unhealthy anxiety about and fear of males.

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Raymond Arnold
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quote:
It's possible the man was creepy.

It's also possible that Rebecca Watson has an unhealthy anxiety about and fear of males.

At this point, I'm less annoyed and more amused that you can say this with a straight face.

When Rebecca Watson just spent the day explaining in detail why she finds men doing that sort of thing creepy, going ahead and doing it anyway makes you creepy, period. At best in an incompetent, pathetic sort of way and at worst in a genuinely creepy way.

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Dogbreath
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Rakeesh: Yes. I also read some through the comments, where she, at different points, calls him creepy and pathetic, talks about how he totally doesn't get her and obviously sees her as a a sexual object, and is otherwise uncharitable toward him.

I think she'd be totally justified and I'd support her bashing if the guy in question had been pushy or sexually explicit in his comments, especially if he kept on pursuing her after she said no. That is a very serious problem that needs to be addressed - guys assuming girls want to be pursued and not taking no for an answer. But she's taking a guy who, by her own account, was polite and friendly and merely asked her if she wanted to talk, and saying "don't act like this." That's just stupid.

From Raymond's quote of her: "people need to be aware of how their comments might make someone feel extraordinarily uncomfortable and even feel as though they are in danger."

You can't get much tamer than "I find you very interesting, and I would like to talk more." That's not a comment that makes me feel extraordinarily uncomfortable or in danger whatsoever. It's just about the opposite.

That being said, I wouldn't have gone back to his room either, but I would've replied "no thanks, I need to get to sleep" or something and been done with it. I figure he'd probably feel embarrassed enough by himself without going online and telling 75000 people about how stupid and pathetic he was.

If the guy wanted a better chance at talking with her alone, he could've gone up to her in the bar and asked her if she wanted to meet for coffee the next morning. I certainly don't think he was very smooth or socially gifted. But it's obvious from the story he's a well meaning dweeb, not a ravenous sex starved predator.

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Sa'eed
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It's presumptuous on her part to assume that she was being hit on rather than merely being invited back to the dude's apartment for a pleasant conversation, which was why airing the incident is fairly tacky -- as if she's advertising that someone might have possibly found her sexually attractive and she rejected him.

Indeed, to take her at word is ridiculous. For if the guy was in fact hitting on her, his only crime is making her feel "uncomfortable." If he was suave and not the nerd beta male he most certainly was, there might not have been discomfort on her part and might have had herself a pleasant early morning in his arms, and we not have heard of the incident. But no, the dude was an awkward geek.

Plus I would think the guy might have felt comfortable enough to do what he did considering that they had been hanging (in a group) for hours before the incident.

Again, the man might have been guilty of creepiness but the chick in question might be guilty of militant feminism and of envy/hatred of male desire.

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Sa'eed
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And it is also in fact very rational for the dude in question to have made that overture in that way (when they were secluded). Why would he risk the embarrassment of getting rejected in front of so many others?

Miss Watson simply lacks empathy for men. Militant feminism will do that to you.

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Dogbreath
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Since I know from first hand experience how easily one can conflate different users with similar (but at the core, very different) arguments, I want to stress I'm not of the same mind as Sa'eed on this. I have no issue with feminism, or Rebecca Watson, and I think her actions were for the most part appropriate. I do have a problem with how discourteous she's being towards the gentleman who asked her to talk: I feel like she's set her figurative sites on the wrong target. The man did her no harm.
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Bella Bee
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Whenever I have been made to feel uncomfortable by male attention - because it was late, or I was alone, or it was inappropriate, or it was overly aggressive - I have been told that I should feel flattered. And then told that I shouldn't even mention it, because it's just showing off, or because it's mean to the unnamed man.

It's not that the people concerned necessarily knew that they were doing something creepy. They probably had no clue. That is the problem.

For me, there are times and places where coming on to women (even a stranger) is okay. In social settings, where she's not alone. In safe, unthreatening places, where she feels secure.

When someone does something stupid or disturbing, I think it's good, for everyone, to be made aware that this is not something that you have to just put up with, or be grateful for. And women should be told, in exactly the same way, if something they have done is simply not alright or appropriate.

As for Dawkins, my opinion of him as a scientist is through the roof but the view of him in the media as some sort of atheist Pope makes my blood boil. As an atheist, he does not speak for me, and to me a lot of the things he says about religion are awful and completely unjustified.

So the fact that he's said something else that is hurtful, badly thought out and out-of-proportion to the problem at hand, doesn't exactly surprise me.

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Samprimary
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quote:
Again, the man might have been guilty of creepiness but the chick in question might be guilty of militant feminism and of envy/hatred of male desire.
quote:
Miss Watson simply lacks empathy for men. Militant feminism will do that to you.
Sa'eed branching off from a thinly veiled starting point to start making presumptuous and creepy denigrations against a woman?

Why

I

Never

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Dogbreath
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Inconceivable!
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Raymond Arnold
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quote:
Since I know from first hand experience how easily one can conflate different users with similar (but at the core, very different) arguments, I want to stress I'm not of the same mind as Sa'eed on this.
I actually caught myself starting to conflate you. I realized it on my own, but it was a good reminder. I wanted to ignore him completely, but he made one point that's a little interesting that ties in with everything else.

Bella Bee touched upon the most important part. Rebecca wrote an essay that goes into more detail as to why this is particularly relevant at skeptic conventions:

quote:
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 **** them!” That seemed weird.

So I started speaking more about women. About how they’re not idiots. About how they can think logically but maybe there are other social pressures keeping them away from our message, like how we tell women they should be quiet and polite and not question what is told to them. I spoke about how people need role models, and there were so few women on stage at these events.

And I got messages from women who told me about how they had trouble attending pub gatherings and other events because they felt uncomfortable in a room full of men. 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. Maybe they could wait for her to make the first move, just in case.

And then, for the past few years as the audience for Skepchick and SGU grew, 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.

And I said no. I learned more about modern feminism and about how their goals so clearly overlapped those of the humanists and skeptics and secularists, and I wrote and spoke more about the issues within that overlap because so few other skeptics were doing it.

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,


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Dogbreath
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quote:
Originally posted by Bella Bee:
Whenever I have been made to feel uncomfortable by male attention - because it was late, or I was alone, or it was inappropriate, or it was overly aggressive - I have been told that I should feel flattered. And then told that I shouldn't even mention it, because it's just showing off, or because it's mean to the unnamed man.

I suppose the key word there is male attention. What qualifies exactly? A smile and a "hello"? An introduction? More than that, what should a male reasonably expect to be inappropriate? By her account, this guy had been at the convention and had been hanging out in her group at the bar for a few hours, I don't think asking her if she wanted to get coffee and talk is inappropriate, or something that should make her uncomfortable.

I wouldn't even mind that it is something that makes her uncomfortable, or even her asking her fans not to come up and talk to her like that, it's the fact she accuses this guy of sexualising her and disrespecting her wishes and so forth, and calls him pathetic and threatening. (Her panel, btw, was about people sending her crude e-mails. She said nothing about guys hanging out with her or meeting her for coffee)


There are obvious things you *shouldn't* do when you're alone with a girl you don't really know: any form of touching, making sexual comments, being aggressive or pushy. Casual conversation, on the other hand, seems appropriate. I met one of my girlfriends sitting outside my building smoking, just the two of us, and at night even! Not all women are nervous around men. I've met several random girls who've talked my ears off in elevators.

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Bella Bee
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quote:
Casual conversation, on the other hand, seems appropriate.
Oh, I'm obviously not against casual conversations between men and women in random places. I have those all the time!

I just feel that there is a big difference between having a nice chat, or, out of the blue, being pressed to go home with a random stranger, or to get into his car and go with him to a 'party', or being invited back to his hotel room.

And sometimes, this then leads to you being followed. Or shouted at. Or chased. Or grabbed.

And each time one of these things happens, it makes you more wary the next time some random stranger in an uncomfortable situation gives you one of these unwanted invitations. It's not being nervous around men. It's being worried about your well-being in inappropriate situations.

As I see it, nice casual conversations at night, just chatting and having a smoke outside where you live or work is not the same situation at all.

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Dogbreath
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Raymond Arnold: I suppose I can understand her point of view better reading that, but it still doesn't explain her going off on a guy who by all appearances isn't sexually harassing her.

I'm very well acquainted with heavily male dominated communities. I'm part of an organization that's 97% male. On the other hand, our females are some of the most dangerous, strong, brutal women on Earth. They're used to being alone with men, are very used to getting hit on (and very openly and crudely at that), and can dish it out just as well as they take. I'm not sure if the cause is sexism or just the expected result of putting lots of extremely physically fit sexually frustrated young people together. If it's worth anything, male Marines hit on each other (jokingly) with far more frequency and intensity than they hit on females.

...But when I imagine an awkward young man asking a female Marine if she wanted to get coffee and talk, I imagine her response would be to hug him and say "aww, you're so adorable." It's difficult for me to imagine this as a threatening situation. If these atheist conventions are anything like my workplace, why did she choose the respectful coffee guy to gripe about instead of one of the assholes who come up and touch her or proposition her?

Bella Bee:

I think what's going on is how I see the situation in my mind (I've never in my life felt sexually threatened) and how you and Rebecca Watson see is very, very different. I'm only looking at how he actually acted - was polite, left her alone after she said no, etc., whereas you're seeing how him placing himself in a position where other men might act inappropriately is in itself inappropriate, because of past encounters Rebecca might have had.

You can only take that so far, though. I was always taught "ask politely, the worst that can happen is she says no," whereas now it's "even if you ask politely, it still might make her think you're a rapist?" I'd be more worried about the guys who are being physically forward with you.

[ July 17, 2011, 12:08 PM: Message edited by: Dogbreath ]

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Rakeesh
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It didn't take Sa'eed long at all to show his true colors. Initially I thought this might be one of his threads not designed to troll his agenda, too. More fool me!

-------

Dogbreath,

quote:
Yes. I also read some through the comments, where she, at different points, calls him creepy and pathetic, talks about how he totally doesn't get her and obviously sees her as a a sexual object, and is otherwise uncharitable toward him.

I think she'd be totally justified and I'd support her bashing if the guy in question had been pushy or sexually explicit in his comments, especially if he kept on pursuing her after she said no. That is a very serious problem that needs to be addressed - guys assuming girls want to be pursued and not taking no for an answer. But she's taking a guy who, by her own account, was polite and friendly and merely asked her if she wanted to talk, and saying "don't act like this." That's just stupid.

Well, let's be clear. She wasn't just criticizing him because he asked her to talk. When you describe it like that, you're stripping the event of its context. And I don't mean that by asking her for coffee in his hotel room at 4am, he wasn't really asking her for coffee and conversation (though frankly-and none of us can know, really-I think it's pretty unlikely 'coffee and talk' was really just coffee and talk. Knowing dudes, I expect it was something like 'coffee and talk and if something else happens great!'

No, she was critical of him because after a day of talks and detailed discussions-to which he was a listener-about how she didn't like being approached in a sexual way at these meetings, how uncomfortable it made her and many women, how she didn't appreciate the way women at such gatherings are treated as 'hey let's date!' rather than 'hey let's talk about rationalism!', etc., this guy then went ahead and behaved in a way that (by appearances, and she cannot be faulted for thinking this, btw*) that specifically contradicted all of it. And he knew what she thought about that, and why, and did so anyway.

So that's why she wasn't criticizing him just for asking to talk.

quote:
You can't get much tamer than "I find you very interesting, and I would like to talk more." That's not a comment that makes me feel extraordinarily uncomfortable or in danger whatsoever. It's just about the opposite.

What if that was coupled with an invitation to spend time alone with someone in their hotel room at 4am, after a day of talking about why you didn't want that kind of thing right now?

quote:
That being said, I wouldn't have gone back to his room either, but I would've replied "no thanks, I need to get to sleep" or something and been done with it. I figure he'd probably feel embarrassed enough by himself without going online and telling 75000 people about how stupid and pathetic he was.

Embarrassed how? I mean, did she name him? Describe him? Give out his email address?

quote:
If the guy wanted a better chance at talking with her alone, he could've gone up to her in the bar and asked her if she wanted to meet for coffee the next morning. I certainly don't think he was very smooth or socially gifted. But it's obvious from the story he's a well meaning dweeb, not a ravenous sex starved predator.
It's really not obvious at all, given the context. Well, it's obvious he wasn't a ravenous sex-starved predator (some of those terms are contradictory, btw, in that sexual predators are not necessarily sex-starved). If he was, the story would've had a much more awful ending.

But by making the either/or those two extremes, you're actually doing the same kind of thing Dawkins himself did: "It wasn't the most awful kind of male-female interaction, therefore it was unobjectionable." He may very well have been a well-meaning dweeb, but how is she to know? What signs did he give to show that aspect? Asking her for coffee alone in his hotel room at 4am, after listening to her talk about at great length why that sort of thing was objectionable to her? Is that why he's a well-meaning dweeb?

quote:
I'm very well acquainted with heavily male dominated communities. I'm part of an organization that's 97% male. On the other hand, our females are some of the most dangerous, strong, brutal women on Earth. They're used to being alone with men, are very used to getting hit on (and very openly and crudely at that), and can dish it out just as well as they take. I'm not sure if the cause is sexism or just the expected result of putting lots of extremely physically fit sexually frustrated young people together. If it's worth anything, male Marines hit on each other (jokingly) with far more frequency and intensity than they hit on females.

Errrr...Just because they're (eventually) trained to be skilled at violence...

And that's really just a starter. Do you really want to suggest that the military handles rape well? Though to be honest, in a grim and realistic kind of way, I'm not surprised-people being people, the shift from male-only to gender-integrated was never going to be (in terms of what would actually happen) anything but dreadfully messy.

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Dogbreath
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Heck no. I know for a fact that it's handled terribly. I would like to say that the article is discussing soldiers, i.e, the Army - which actually has an appreciable number of females. Females are very rare around here, and are legitimately much, much tougher. We're also much more close knit. I'm rather tired (it's 1:13 am here) so maybe I'm not writing as clearly as I could, but my point was "I know how much it sucks for females in a male dominated field."

I was comparing some of the really monstrous sex offenders we've seen, and the sort of flak females have to take daily from guys who aren't rapists but still make their lives a lot harder, to the polite coffee guy. It's not a lesser evil comparison, it's a "I can't really perceive this as threatening at all, he's awkward, not predatory" comparison. apples and orangutangs, not sticks and trees.

(FWIW, there are more male-on-male rapes yearly in the Marines than there are male-on-female. A statistic I heard from the UVA)

[ July 17, 2011, 12:40 PM: Message edited by: Dogbreath ]

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CT
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Regarding the gentleman's intentions:

If my husband were at a conference and a woman in an elevator at 4am asked him up to her room for coffee and chat, I'd expect him to decline. Because the most likely interpretation is that he is being hit on, and our understanding as a married couple precludes acceptance of such invitations.

Now, maybe this person just wanted to chat. Maybe this person is a time-travelling Russian spy trying to defect and needs a contact, or maybe this person is socially awkward in spades and really just wants to pin someone down to sign them up on Amway. Who knows? I still expect my husband to decline, and he and I would still refer to it as "that time he got hit on in the elevator at that conference." I'm fine with that.

I'm also fine with RW describing the event in general terms and reminding men who attend such conferences of how it may be taken. As Bella Bee said:

quote:
Whenever I have been made to feel uncomfortable by male attention - because it was late, or I was alone, or it was inappropriate, or it was overly aggressive - I have been told that I should feel flattered. And then told that I shouldn't even mention it, because it's just showing off, or because it's mean to the unnamed man.

It's not that the people concerned necessarily knew that they were doing something creepy. They probably had no clue. That is the problem.

She didn't call him out by name, she didn't compare herself to a woman at risk of FGM, she didn't call to castrate the guy. Essentially, she said: "Look, if I have just spent the day talking about why it is a bad idea to hit on me and how uncomfortable it makes these conventions -- and you were there listening to me -- then don't follow it up by hitting on me*** when I'm alone in an elevator with you at 4am later on."

I'm fine with that. If women never mention it, then [some] guys won't know, so now she has said it. The More You Know!

---
***(see above)

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Dogbreath
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It's not "she should've accepted his offer" it's "his offer and behavior aren't actually in any way threatening."

*sigh*

Screw it. I know when I've been beat. Unless we get more information about the motives and devices of this coffee dealing ne'er do well (like maybe he posts his side of the story), I'm done defending him. Maybe someone else will take up the cause.

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CT
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So ... (and I'm not setting you up, just really, honestly trying to get a feel for where you are coming from) ... Dogbreath, if your girlfriend were at a conference and leaving a bar which served coffee, and a guy ducked into the elevator with her at 4am and asked her up to his room for coffee and chat, and she asked you what his likeliest intentions were --

-- would you really say, "Oh, he probably just wanted to chat and have a cup of coffee before sending you off to your own room alone," regardless of whether you exected her to accept or decline? I mean, if she were to ask for your honest appraisal of the intent behind the invitation (in order to better understand how to deal with guys, say), what would you tell her?

--

Added: I ask because in my playbook, that falls under "hitting on." Whether one sees it as threatening or not, it is in fact just what RW had been talking about all day as unwelcome behavior.

Behavior does not have to be threatening to be unwelcomed. It may be; it may not. Regardless, if it is a purely social interaction and you know it will be unwelcome, then don't do that, eh? [Smile]

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Samprimary
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It is actually pretty phenomenally easy to imagine that the situation could have been pretty creepy. And you could put the odds that he just wanted to have coffee in the hotel room at somewhere around, oh, I don't know, one percent?
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CT
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quote:
Originally posted by CT:
Regardless, if it is a purely social interaction and you know it will be unwelcome, then don't do that, eh? [Smile]

DISCLAIMER:

That was a purely generic "you" and "eh." I am certain Dogbreath would not pursue unwelcome behavior; far from it.

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Dogbreath
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From reviews of the panel, she had actually been talking about getting crude e-mails and guys who disagreed with her sending rape threats and the perception that females were inherently less capable of logical thought than males. The point of being hit on by (presumably kind, respectful) men didn't come up, though obviously she thought it was implied. The reason I keep on bringing up "threatening" is because it's the word RW herself used on her blog, and many of the posters there are making the guy out to be a would be rapist, which strikes a raw nerve with me for some reason.

In the girlfriend scenario, TBH my first reaction would be "he's probably hitting on you." My second would be "maybe he has Asperger's Syndrome." As far as advice for how to handle the situation, I'd tell her to tell him "sorry, I need to get to sleep. Maybe you'd like to get coffee tomorrow afternoon... I'll invite my big, beautiful, hunkish boyfriend who I love very very much to join us. Did I mention I have a boyfriend?" If his intentions are just to get laid, he'll beg off. If he's legitimately interested in conversation, well, so much the better, right?

For some reason I can't shake the feeling the dude really did want to talk to her. I mean, he starts off by saying "don't take this the wrong way." Perhaps he's sitting somewhere in Dublin totally baffled by all of this.

I want to somewhat distance myself from this, though... I'm fairly ept, socially. I can understand exactly where this guy went wrong and don't think he went about things the best way. But I think because I've been defending him as a being a non-rapist, and friendly and polite, people have assumed I share his rather unorthodox methods.

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Dogbreath
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quote:
Originally posted by CT:
That was a purely generic "you" and "eh." I am certain Dogbreath would not pursue unwelcome behavior; far from it.

Worry not, I eschew uncouth behavior. And also don't believe in fornicating with strangers. Or hitting on minor atheist celebrities, for that matter. Though I do have the tendency to smile at and greet and hold the door for young ladies, and occasionally tell my female friends "you look lovely today", it's merely preparation for my future career as a dirty old man. I derive no enjoyment from it.
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CT
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quote:
Originally posted by Dogbreath:
I want to somewhat distance myself from this, though... I'm fairly ept, socially. I can understand exactly where this guy went wrong and don't think he went about things the best way. But I think because I've been defending him as a being a non-rapist, and friendly and polite, people have assumed I share his rather unorthodox methods.

Understood.

For what it's worth, I will leave this part of the conversation thinking of you as a kindly and more sophisticated older brother trying to smooth out a little social awkwardness on behalf of his less-ept sib. [Smile]

I'm glad we have all been talking about this, though, including in the broader 'net context. I know many guys find women hard to understand. I think talking about situations like this may help the understanding. It isn't necessary that we agree on interpretations presented by one another, but it may well be helpful to know what the other's likely interpretations are.

Presumably most all of us don't want to make other people uncomfortable for no good reason, even if we wouldn't ourselves be uncomfortable in the same situation. This is why my sweet husband has a wee discussion about "appropriate dinner conversation" with me before we have dinner with his family -- I am used to hanging out with providers of care for young children in diapers, and they are relatively elderly and reserved. So we talk about politics and religion! [ROFL]

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Wingracer
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I probably should not wade into this one at all but I guess I just have to make a couple comments.

1. Had I been this guy and just wanted to talk to her (not angling for sex at all) I would have asked her out for coffee at the bar or a nearby shop. Asking her to my room seems like a bad idea to me.

2. If I was hoping for sex, yeah then I would ask her to come to my room. Well actually, I think I still would have asked her to join me someplace public first. Women generally don't respond well to "in my room" propositions when they are a complete stranger. A public place is more comfortable and gives a chance to talk and get to know each other first. Then if things are going well, I might ask for something private.

3. Maybe I am having some reading comprehension problems but I can't quite figure out what point Dawkins was trying to make in his original comment. Especially since he was not talking to Watson, merely referencing her comments in his comments to someone else. I have no idea of the rest of the context of that discussion. Never the less, his comments definitely seem to be in very poor taste.

[ July 17, 2011, 03:23 PM: Message edited by: Wingracer ]

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Mucus
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quote:
Originally posted by Rakeesh:
It didn't take Sa'eed long at all to show his true colors. Initially I thought this might be one of his threads not designed to troll his agenda, too.

On the other hand, it took him a whole post.
Imagine the kind of self-restraint that might have taken him, the sheer strain of internalizing his thoughts for that long.

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Rakeesh
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Standards for social interactions are at least slightly different for just about everyone, of course. But I'm curious, at least about the subset of `rackers who might answer this question:

What would your interpretation be of the question, "Don't take this the wrong way, but would you like to come to my hotel room for coffee and discussion?" be? For the sake of the question, let's say it's not taking place in an elevator at 4am-it can be asked at anytime. The only context is that the pair don't know each other.

To me, there would be a definite sexual angle to it, whether a male or female asked it (for that matter, if they asked it of a male or a female too). At the very least, I would interpret it to mean, "I want to see if I can get in your pants." That is, 'setting up' for sexy times. It's not an explicit invitation to sex, but it is an invitation to decide whether you'd like to have sex. That's how I interpret it anyway.

Personally, I wouldn't interpret it as just an invitation to conversation. If that's what the questioner was after, in my opinion, the location of the hotel room wouldn't be necessary. Coffee shops, bookstores, bars, restaurants, even empty hallways or just standing outside the elevator offer chances at strictly conversation if that's what someone is after. This being the 21st century, there's a whole lot of avenues available for conversation, exchanged in just a few words.

To me, the addition of 'my hotel room' turns the question from something just towards conversation, to conversation+possible sex, of some degree. I base that both on what I would mean if I were to say that (though it'd be extremely unlikely, if I did ask someone to my hotel room for conversation, I'd be expressly hoping for the chance at more), and on what I know of other dudes-I don't know a guy that I can think of, nor have I heard of one, who would ask that question and only be after conversation.

Anyway, this is a rambling explanation of why I don't think it's at all unreasonable of Watson to read some sexualization into the invitation. In fact I think it's so clear, so likely, that to criticize her for doing so is pretty strange-to me it seems like a given.

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Stone_Wolf_
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I think it's entirely possible that the guy in the elevator was asking for a conversation, but that if that is indeed the case he did it very poorly by doing it in an enclosed private place, and suggesting his room.

I think RW did jump to a bit of a conclusion and was a bit harsh in how she described the situation and the guy involved.

I think RD opened his mouth very wide and then tried very hard to swallow his foot up to his knee cap.

I think that everyone involved here could have been kinder and more courteous to the other person's position, and if they had that there would not have been any kind of hubbub.

I also think that I specifically appreciate having Dogbreath and CT on this board for showing that discussion can happen in a thoughtful and courteous way even when people are starting off from a position of disagreement. Sa'eed's second and third comments make me wonder if past comments aimed it him which seemed unwarranted really were.

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Destineer
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Sounds like given what she said in her talks, it was definitely a stupid and creepy thing to do to hit on her. Outside that context, I don't think it would have been.

Additionally, I do wonder how anyone would ever get laid in Watson's ideal world, where (apparently) you're not allowed to hit on people who obviously share your interests.

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Destineer
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It would also be different if this were a professional setting, rather than a conference of like-minded people who are presumably there in their spare time for a sort of intellectual recreation.
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Raymond Arnold
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I absolutely don't buy the "he only wanted conversation" angle. Invitation-to-room pretty explicitly angles the question in a sexual direction, at least opening up the possibility. If that's what he meant, he needs to be called out, simply so he knows not to phrase it that way again.

BUT, to be honest, I can totally see myself being in Elevator Guy's position. (What follows is a little personal, possibly over-projecting my own issues)

I know what it's like to be a nerdy guy (without Asperger's or anything similar) who just has a hard time talking to girls. And the only way you can get better is with practice, and in the process of practicing you're going to say some things that make people uncomfortable from time to time.

I can imagine myself ending up in his position. I can imagine remembering the hundred times I got myself friend-zoned because I wasn't forward enough, knowing that I have to make SOME kind of change or I'm going to be single forever, trying to work up the nerve to say something to her when she was getting up from the bar, failing, and then screwing up the courage to jump into the elevator at the last second and making the awkward pass and then telling myself "well, at least you tried" after the fact.

And then being shocked when I watched her video. And while she didn't call him out by name, I'm sure his friends have figured out that it was him, and I can imagine being humiliated by that.

And that all sucks.

But what sucks more is that whenever there's a nerdy convention (skeptics, sci-fi, whatever), there's a lopsided male/female ratio, the females get hit on ridiculously. And a lot of the guys are clueless about how to effectively hit on girls, so it's not just repetitive but annoying at best and creepy at worst. So the girls continue to not come as often, and they continue to be a minority, and because they're a minority the guys continue to make jokes to emphasize the girls' other-ness, which reinforces the problem. And the guys continue to live in subcultures where they don't get as much exposure to women, so they continue to make awkward passes. Which also reinforces the problem.

Not to mention, sexism just plain still exists, and guys in general tend to be unaware of how they subconsciously use their size and environment (blocking doors, elevators, or even just positioning themselves) to steer the conversation in a way that can come across as more intimidating than they realize.

Right now the subculture is male-dominated, and if guys want it to change, the change needs to start with them. And that change begins with realizing that if you see a cute girl at the nerd convention... seriously, she probably either has a boyfriend, or deliberately has chosen not to have a boyfriend. She probably did not come here to meet guys.

The "rational" decision may not be to hit on every girl you see who shares your interests. It may be to ease off in some places so you can have a future where more girls overall share your interests.

Edit to clarify my actual position: I do not think it's wrong to hit on girls at nerd-conventions, per se. But I do think that nerd-conventions are not the place to try things that you're not already confident about.

[ July 17, 2011, 06:49 PM: Message edited by: Raymond Arnold ]

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Stone_Wolf_
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I'm an only child and it was very painful and difficult to learn how to talk to girls for me...I'm very pleased my son will be raised up with his sister and not have the same problem!
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scifibum
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Tangential request for opinions: is it OK for a lone man to get on an elevator with a lone woman he doesn't know? I can imagine some women would be nervous about being in an enclosed, basically soundproof space with a strange man. Comments above indicate in that situation a pass is probably unwelcome, but how about just standing in the elevator without doing anything but basic elevator waiting?

Are there time of day considerations? Location of elevator considerations?

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Bella Bee
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quote:
is it OK for a lone man to get on an elevator with a lone woman he doesn't know?
Completely okay, in my book. Just as saying 'hi', or even trying to strike up a polite conversation, is also fine. As long as he doesn't do or say anything uncalled for, I don't see any problem with this situation.

Guys have to get to their floor, just like everyone else.

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Stone_Wolf_
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When in this situation, I do one of two things, depending on small ques from the woman...

1. Ignore her completely.

2. Say "hi" or nod my head with a slight smile.

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Destineer
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It's good to know about this no-scamming-on-girls-in-the-elevator rule. I wasn't at all aware of it, and the reasons for it seem pretty reasonable.

quote:
But what sucks more is that whenever there's a nerdy convention (skeptics, sci-fi, whatever), there's a lopsided male/female ratio, the females get hit on ridiculously. And a lot of the guys are clueless about how to effectively hit on girls, so it's not just repetitive but annoying at best and creepy at worst. So the girls continue to not come as often, and they continue to be a minority, and because they're a minority the guys continue to make jokes to emphasize the girls' other-ness, which reinforces the problem. And the guys continue to live in subcultures where they don't get as much exposure to women, so they continue to make awkward passes. Which also reinforces the problem.
I'm afraid there's no good solution to this problem, short of changing our general social mores so that women are as free to approach men as men are to approach women. It's not realistic to suppose that guys will back off much, especially since the worst creepiness offenders are probably the ones who are least likely to get the message. And it wouldn't be in their rational self-interest to back off, either. If the climate does change to make cons and such more attractive to women, that's a process that will take years -- and the guys want to get some now! Besides which, every adult geek has a couple friends who met their wives at cons. As long as it remains a possibility, people will try to capitalize on it.

If it were socially more acceptable for women to approach men, the problem could be dealt with much more easily. Whenever there's a gender imbalance in a particular social situation, going either way, it could be up to the members of the less-numerous gender to do the hitting-on. That would lead to much less annoyance and difficulty all around.

quote:
Edit to clarify my actual position: I do not think it's wrong to hit on girls at nerd-conventions, per se.
In that case, it sounds like you disagree with Watson on that point.
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Dogbreath
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Depends on her body language, really. I've said before, different women have different attitudes towards men - some very nervous and uncomfortable in any situation that could possibly be dangerous, others are more cavalier and totally at ease. I'm 6'2 and, thanks to job, pretty muscular. On the other hand I usually wear glasses and have a ridiculous poop eating grin and very disarming demeanor. Women are usually comfortable around me.

In all situations I'll give a warm smile and say "good morning!" or whatever time of day.

If she has her arms crossed and is tapping her foot or her eyes are wide and she looks plainly scared, I'll greet her in the most disarming manner possible, but otherwise avoid talking to her and stand on the far side of the elevator/bus stop/whatever. I do what I can to avoid making people uncomfortable, within limits. The same applies to guys - you'd be surprised by how many guys act very uncomfortable around other men. I'd say I probably have more men act uncomfortable around me than women.

If she has her arms at her sides or just looks relaxed in general, I might strike up a conversation if I feel so inclined. I really enjoy talking to and flirting with pretty young women, and they typically enjoy it as well. Again, that's just the dirty old man in me waiting to break free in 40 years.

I think that our society as a whole suffers from unnecessary anxiety, I've known a lot of women who fear men so much it has a very negative impact on their life and relationships. It's why I dislike the Schrödinger's Rapists types. I go through about 2 rape prevention classes a month (the DoD has been trying very, very hard for the past 2 years to put an end to rape in the military), and one of the things always stressed is that very few rapes are committed by strangers. Almost all rapes are committed by someone who already knows the victim, and as often as not, is a family member.

I view it as being similar to vehicles. Vehicles are inherently dangerous, and it's always good to take some precautions - drive the speed limit, wear a seat belt, make sure your car is in good condition. Likewise women should take some precautions with men: don't go down dark alleys by yourself, don't go home with a man on the first date, learn how to protect yourself or carry mace. But I think women should act with the expectation that a man is a kind and decent human being until proven otherwise. And a man shouldn't have to go to great lengths just to avoid making a woman feel uncomfortable - the woman should learn to deal with her discomfort.

The people on RW's blog or the author of Schrödinger's Rapist who claim every man should be viewed as a potential rapist until proven otherwise are sexist, much in the same way that a man who claims women should always be flattered by his attempts to hit on them are sexist. It's a viewpoint that ultimately demeans and dehumanizes the man in question.

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Amanecer
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This is off topic, but this link in the first article of the OP is fantastic. http://vimeo.com/13704095
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Dogbreath
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quote:
Originally posted by Amanecer:
This is off topic, but this link in the first article of the OP is fantastic. http://vimeo.com/13704095

Amen.

I think that's probably the best argument for civility in debate I've seen. I think every Hatracker should watch that video.

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Raymond Arnold
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quote:
The people on RW's blog or the author of Schrödinger's Rapist who claim every man should be viewed as a potential rapist until proven otherwise...
I don't think that's the point at all (at least not on Skepchick). The point is that a lot of women have personal experience getting harassed, and the more experiences they have, the more it nags at them and keeps them wary. You can say it's unfair all you want, and they may agree with you, but the more bad experiences you have the harder it is to greet guys making awkward advances with a smile. (Was it actually stated on Skepchick somewhere that all men should be treated as rapists? I thought the overwhelming point was just that men should be more aware of how they come across, and when they are making
other people uncomfortable, which is perfectly fine)

quote:
In that case, it sounds like you disagree with Watson on that point.
For practical purposes, I don't think so. The guy in the elevator was clearly out of his comfort zone. I think people in their comfort zone will generally have a decent idea of the social rules governing zone. (Maybe I'm being naive here)
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Dogbreath
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quote:
Originally posted by Raymond Arnold:
quote:
The people on RW's blog or the author of Schrödinger's Rapist who claim every man should be viewed as a potential rapist until proven otherwise...
I don't think that's the point at all (at least not on Skepchick.
It seems to me that it *is* the point being made on Skepchick. This post in particular, by GeekGirlsRule. (I apologize for the large quote)

quote:
As women in this society (not a theoretical one, but THIS ACTUAL SOCIETY RIGHT HERE) we are raised to be on guard against sexual assault ALL the time. As women we walk with our car keys through our fingers so we can use them as weapons, try to avoid being alone with strange men, go places in pairs, check the backseats of our cars before we get in, only park in well lit places, try to pee while balancing a drink and our purse in the bathroom so no one can say we “asked to be drugged” by leaving our drink unattended, etc… etc… ad nauseum…

If we do not do any of these things and more, and even if we do and get assaulted anyway, then the victim-blaming starts (of which you have already had a small sampling with the guy who wanted to know why Rebecca was alone in the elevator with the guy in the first place). Every thing a woman does, says, wears and EVER DID BEFORE EVER IN HER LIFE will come under examination.

This is not hypothetical, this is what happens every stinking time a woman is sexually assaulted. If you’re so very logical and rational look at the evidence that surrounds you every day. Follow the media coverage of rape cases, read trial transcripts, even though defense lawyers aren’t supposed to use a victim’s sexual history against her in trials, they find ways to sneak it in and even if the judge instructs the jury to ignore it, you can’t unhear that.

ALL of that baggage and evidence is what Rebecca was operating with the night some guy who hadn’t spoken to her the entire time they and other people were hanging out, cornered her alone in an elevator and asked her back to his room.

Does this mean he WOULD have assaulted her? No.

But it also doesn’t mean that he wouldn’t have either. Sadly, rapists do not all wear handy nametags stating, “Hi, I’m Ted! I’ll be your rapist this evening!” They look just like everyone else. So, in the interest of not being assaulted and in NOT having to go through the ordeal of reporting a rape, Rebecca very rationally and logically opted to get away from that guy as soon as she could, and to TELL YOU that this behavior is not OK. So that those of you who are constantly demanding women tell you what to do to approach them can know that this is not how you do it.

I’d recommend looking up the Schroedinger’s Rapist article on KateHarding.net (http://kateharding.net/2009/10/08/guest-blogger-starling-schrodinger%E2%80%99s-rapist-or-a-guy%E2%80%99s-guide-to-approaching-strange-women-without-being-maced/).

I don't know if the Skepchick herself ever comes out and calls him an actual rapist, but she does call him "threatening." The Schrodinger's Rapist article, while useful as a guide for "how not to be creepy", is flawed in making the statement that women have the right to treat every man as a potential rapist. I believe (up to a certain reasonable point) that you should treat every person as if they were a decent individual until proven otherwise, regardless of race, sex, age, or religion.
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Icarus
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My problem with the Schrodinger's Rapist concept is this: Is it then okay for me, as a white man, to view every black man as Schrodinger's Mugger? Or perhaps more to the point, does it behoove black men to be considerate of me and not offended if I seem especially on guard when they're nearby and I have little other protection?
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Stone_Wolf_
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There is a big difference between preparing yourself to be able to handle assault and to be aware of dangerous situations and treating all men as rapists who have not struck yet. The difference between preparedness and paranoia.
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Raymond Arnold
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I'm not sure how to answer Icarus' question. It's an interesting point. But in general I agree with Stone Wolf here - there's a difference between preparedness and paranoia.

I've recently moved to the Bronx and have been pondering the line between being legitimately prepared and offensively paranoid. I have absolutely no experience living in an inner city, but I know there are definitely things you need to be aware of (which people of all colors take into account).

I do essentially profile people, but it's not based on skin color so much as age, muscle mass, stance and other cues (some of which, say, tattoos, might not actually be significant, but for some reason scare me. Am I being racist against tattoos? Yeah, probably)

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