Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Chris Port Blog #305. Have Skepchicks Sowed The Wind?

© Chris Port, 19th July 2011

Item: “Some sceptical men are starting to have profound doubts over the judgment of so-called ‘Skepchicks’. Perhaps some lipstick feminists need to drop their ‘skep’ prefix? The Skepchicks may find that they have sowed the wind…” (Marty Gull)

Background: On 9th July I came across the following article - Richard Dawkins Torn Limb From Limb - By Atheists. Before reading any further, I would ask you to read the article at http://gawker.com/5818993/richard-dawkins-torn-limb-from-limbby-atheists for an overview of the controversy.

That same day I posted the following observations, on a comment thread on The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science (Official) Facebook wall at https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=171982449536272&id=8798180154 (and on my own Facebook wall):

‘I think that Dawkins has been wilfully and cynically misinterpreted by the Skepchicks here. For me, they’ve completely vindicated his sarcastic point (that, to abused women in repressive countries, some Western ‘feminist’ complaints must appear as absurd histrionics). He was probably unwise to pick on Watson for this very reason...

I know that Dawkins often lays himself open to accusations of arrogance (with some justification) but for these women to accuse him of belittling sexism and sexual assault is completely missing the point of what he was saying here.

For Watson to claim that Dawkins has dismissed “the concerns of other women who have survived rape and sexual assault” is, from the text quoted, and from my general knowledge of Dawkins’ views, utterly preposterous and morally outrageous.

Some of the issues raised by this piece connect with some research I did back in 1999 (while at the Central School of Speech and Drama). I was particularly impressed by some of the revisionist arguments raised by (pro-feminist) Warren Farrell in his ‘heretical’ re-evaluation of sexual politics (The Myth Of Male Power: Why Men Are The Disposable Sex, 1994). I used some of his ideas to explore the problems of sexist hypocrisy from an embittered male perspective for a provocative piece of theatre entitled G.S.O.H. (Good Sense Of Humour).


Edited Script Extract from GSOH (Good Sense Of Humour)

Evaluation of GSOH (Good Sense Of Humour).

Since then, the controversy has raged on.

I recently came across the following video reply to Rebecca Watson and Skepchicks in general. I thoroughly enjoyed the dripping sarcasm and mostly agreed with it. I would ask you to check out your own responses before reading on.

The Atheist Asshole
‘Dear Rebecca “Stepchick” Watson’

Controversy has since been inflamed by different schools of thought…

Some argue that the scientific and atheist communities may be dominated by the perspectives of patronizing patriarchs - worse than DWEMs (Dead White European Males) because they are still alive. WEMSAs perhaps (White European Males Still Alive)?

Others argue that the whole affair has been blown out of all proportion - that people need to cool off and see things from the other side. The debate is in danger of becoming internecine and playing into the hands of fundamentalist opponents.

I agree (with the peace-makers). People need to cool off on both sides. But I also think that this debate may be revealing a schism rather than causing one. Precisely because the atheist community is drawn from such diverse groups (with many different agendas), the unifying quality must be one of rational scepticism (and, I would argue, a good sense of humour - whatever that may be!).

If members of the atheist community attack figureheads on the grounds that they are ‘out of touch’ with the common aesthetic, then they are effectively mounting a leadership challenge. This should be examined more closely. I posted the following observations on a comment thread today:

‘I don’t think it’s Watson’s ‘Elevatorgate’ that’s the real issue. It’s Dawkins’ sarcastic use of it (merely in passing) to make a far wider point. It’s the opprobrium heaped on his head from people who appear (to me) like bandwagoners jumping out of the pages of The Bonfire of the Vanities.

The nuances of etiquette between men and women in the West are risible and trivial compared to the genuine oppression of women in some religious fundamentalist countries.

Dawkins’ real point is that the elevator incident was trivial - whereas other incidents are not. He is correct (although occasionally tactless). It is criticism of Dawkins rather than criticism of Watson that needs to be debated since Dawkins is by far the most important and authoritative figure in this case.

What criticisms are being levelled against Dawkins? Are these criticisms fair and accurate and balanced? Do the critics share any particular underlying agenda? If so, what is it? These ARE matters for closer examination.

I appreciate that many people in different communities (scientific, atheist, humanitarian, feminist) would like to draw a line under this casus belli. To many, it appears to be a ‘storm in a teacup’ that is spilling over into dissent between ostensible allies. However, the real problem may go much deeper. Are some of these allies inherently incompatible?

Some sceptical men are starting to have profound doubts over the judgment of so-called ‘Skepchicks’. Perhaps some lipstick feminists need to drop their ‘skep’ prefix? The Skepchicks may find that they have sowed the wind…



    Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the elevator…

    Not much science or atheism (or thought) going on here, but an interesting case study for sociology lessons debating ‘third-wave’ [lipstick] feminism vs WEMSAs (White European Males Still Alive).

    As a teacher, I’d give a fair hearing to both sides. As an intelligent man, I wouldn’t even share an elevator with a skepchick, let alone a platform.

    ‘My Time With Richard Dawkins (Or, Why You Should Never Meet Your Idols)’
    Sarah, Skepchick, 5 September 2013

    For those unfamiliar with ‘Elevatorgate’…

    ‘Richard Dawkins Torn Limb From Limb - By Atheists’
    Remy Stern, Gawker, 7 July 2011

    ‘Dear Rebecca “Stepchick” Watson’
    Anton Hill, aka ‘The Atheist Asshole’

    ‘Elevatorgate’, Conservapedia

    ‘Have Skepchicks Sowed The Wind?’

    Edited Script Extract from GSOH (Good Sense Of Humour)

    Evaluation of GSOH (Good Sense Of Humour).

    Superman Versus The Uberbabes

    The Myth of Male Power


    Fascinating documentary: the birth of theatre in Ancient Athens - and its vital role in politics.

    Ancient Greece: The Greatest Show On Earth

    Apart from inventing theatre (and democracy) what did the Ancient Greeks ever do for us? Well, take just one of them - Aristotle. Here’s what he invented:

    Biological Taxonomy*
    Home Economics
    Philosophy of Science
    Political Philosophy
    Theory of Mathematics
    Theory of Rhetoric

    * N.B. As an archetypal DWEM, Aristotle was occasionally guilty of what modern philosophers term ‘excessive teleology’ (getting things back to front).


    ‘Snakes have no penis, because they have no legs; and they have no testicles, because they are so long.’ [De Generatione Animalium]

    See also:

    On Directing

    Manifesto For Drama Education in the Twenty-First Century

    Is all art inherently political?

    “Art & Politics Now”

  3. SYNTHESIS FOR THE DAY. (Don’t believe a word of it)

    The Socrates Song (The Threepenny Opera)

    It’s always swings and roundabouts
    There’s always highs and lows
    Example please, take Socrates
    As wise as he was
    His heart was forlorn
    He rued the day that he was born

    Each human heart
    Knows what it knows
    That is why he had to die
    His mind was honeycombed with doubts
    His wisdom didn’t get him very far
    He saw how lost we really are

    Take Daedalus and Icarus
    A most ingenious pair
    They both decided they could fly
    And soared like a seagull high in the sky
    When no-one else would even dare

    But as we know
    This was not so
    That is why they had to die
    ‘Cause men were never meant to fly
    And ingenuity’s no use at all
    If you can fly then you can fall

    It’s always swings and roundabouts
    It’s always black and white
    Macheath is now a sorry sight
    His lust was so great
    But try as he might
    He could not beat his appetite

    This was his fate
    Lust laid him low
    A tragedy he has to die
    But that’s the way it seems to go
    His passion didn’t do him any good
    Perhaps he never thought it would

    See also:

    Woody Allen Dreams of being Socrates...

    On the Need to Relearn the Socratic Method