This video is really well done and worth a watch. I have experienced almost everything shown in this film, except I didn't go to the police. I found it quite moving. People will probably not appreciate this on Valentine's day but perhaps it is one of the better days to promote awareness of how we treat each other.
In a 15 minute speech this week, Julia Gillard, the Australian Prime Minister, made a series of pointed remarks about misogyny and sexism, issues that have obviously affected her personally. I don't get much exposure to Australian politics so cannot comment on any political stance. But I did enjoy this speech and as a female who has experienced both and also felt the desire to push back at those who dismiss and insult women on the basis of their gender, I wanted to share this video with others. Enjoy.
Sexism seem to be the topic of the week again then, hmm? You can see this post from Blag Hag to get the relevant details and links, although essentially the whole blow up is about how different people get different experiences from the same community. Some women have a thoroughly positive experience in skeptical organisations/events etc. while others are put off by the rampant sexism that they perceive.
I am not part of skeptical organisations and certainly this type of heated discussion puts me off from even considering joining. Not because of the sexism. While it is not right and does annoy me when I encounter it, it is also not something that I am going to be particularly put off by, just as I am not put off by the fact most of my family are Christians and I happen to disagree with them. Individuals are individuals and there are plenty of people who demonstrate what I enjoy about skepticism, those will be the ones I associate with, not the people who annoy or insult me. What really bugs me about the whole thing is that each side seems to think they represent the opinions of all women and that they have the right to tell others how they should be behaving. Um, well no, you don't. Neither side has that right and neither side should be speaking for anyone but themselves as individuals.
Why is there such a lack of tolerance for different experiences and perspectives? It is something I have observed numerous times in various situations where there is a polarisation of opinion and subsequent demonisation of those who disagree. It really is not necessary to tear others apart to make your point. I don't know if intolerance in general has increased or decreased. I know it is something I need to work on more in my own life, and after all, as I am the only person I can control acceptance starts at home.
There has recently been an explosion in the blog-sphere about a particular incident that was subsequently highlighted by Rebecca Watson and has featured numerous blogs and posts from a variety of sites and bloggers, and the underlying theme revolves around white male privilege (more links to the discussions are on the following pages).
Link with you tube video
The situation has been described at length in the above links and from my perspective, I am trying to get my head around why this particular incident has been focused on and my thoughts lead me to some wider issues that have been addressed on blogs recently.
Essentially, a guy propositions Rebecca Watson in an elevator at 4am by asking her back to his room. To be fair, all that was said originally is that guys really souldn't do that. However, from my perspective (bearing in mind no harm was done) it seems a case of A felt X therefore A's feelings get to dictate B's actions. This has now expanded into discussions of male behaviour.
I think in this case, the guys behaviour was certainly poorly chosen and open to misinterpretation. But was it misogyny and sexism? Does someone expressing an interest in an individual they are attracted to become sexism if the recipient does not like it? Do the circumstances dictate whether it is sexism or not, for example, location? I think all reasonable people acknowledge that the answer is probably no, and yet here we have this type of situation being used as an example of (white) male privilege.
Do we regulate people's behaviour simply because we do not agree with them? The outcry revolving around the elevator incident stems from a perception, quite possibly a correct assumption, of sexual intent. A guy propositioning a woman is not sexism, it is not repression of her rights, it is not an attack, it is not harmful. Where those things are a problem they should be addressed, but this is not one of those examples. A proposition may be complimentary, flattering, reciprocated or uncomfortable, awkward and coercive depending on the individuals and circumstances in question. It was quite clearly not a rape or anything that will cause lasting (if any) effects to Rebecca Watson. If we chose, as feminists, to go down a route of dictating to others what each of us wants personally (and this will be very confusing as not everyone thinks the same way) then why should we protest at things like the bans on gay marriage that are based on the same type of argument, that the concepts and ideas resulting from a certain action will upset people who disagree with it?
What some the recent feminism posts (http://skepchick.org/2011/06/ai-tell-me-how-i-should-feel/) white male privilege (blinded-by-the-white and why-blindness-is-not-equality) posts seem to revolve around are vast generalizations and forcing a group of people to be accountable for the actions of individuals, and it is this that I have a real issue with, whether the topic is sexism or racism or the perception of privilege.
Individuals have a variety of different challenges in life, some are good at social interaction and some are really bad at it, others will be born into a wealthy family and others into a poor one, and we are all born with a range of abilities, disabilities, strengths and weaknesses etc. etc. Not all white men benefit from the perception of white male privilege, and not all individuals in minorities are at a disadvantage. There ARE societal ills that cause trends in populations, such as lack of educational opportunities etc. There ARE prevalent perceptions in society that makes being a member of the "in" groups problematic. There IS misogyny, sexism, racism, discrimination against people with disabilities etc in society, in organizations, from individuals. Yes, THESE issues should be addressed and I am not arguing that these things do not exist, they do. Should not these issues and the factors causing them be what is addressed? Are not education and information the best weapons against this type of thing, rather than cowing those who fit into whatever generalization is topic of the day? White male privilege is sexist and racist in itself, using gender and race to select people and make judgments about them , regardless of whether it is positive or negative, is still racist and sexist. A work colleague of mine claimed that he hired someone specifically because she was a woman and women are better at doing certain tasks, according to him. A prime example of sexism and one I made a point of illustrating to him. These things are in place. That said, sexual attraction to another and expressing it, no matter how poorly done and how badly the circumstances chosen to make the move in, is not sexist and it is not accessing a gender privilege. here is some news, women do it to men as well. Women do it to other women, men to other men, humans do it to humans regardless of their gender and orientation.
Suggestions stemming from the generalizations of male behaviour and intent are the forcible modification of that behaviour. Society already forces behaviour modification with regard to passing certain laws and punishing those who transgress. There is a role for this in keeping innocent people safe. But that role is correctly limited and governing non harmful human interactions seems a futile effort and bordering on immoral (and yes, I think the elevator incident has been inflated out of all proportion). Why is your perception the correct one? What makes it correct? Why do you have the right to dictate how other people behave when looking for a partner or in communicating with you or in living their own lives (providing no harm is done to others)?
While there is pressure in some skeptic circles to actively address some of these issues by employing positive selection procedures and by castigating anyone who might disagree, no matter how slightly, I for one will decline. I am not going to use racism and sexism in order to defeat it. I am not going to ask others to do something that I will not do myself. At the end of the day, there is only one person we can actually control, and that is ourselves. How much we allow the opinion of others to influence us is our choice and it is always good to keep in mind that another may well be perceiving the situation in a very different manner from our own.
Skeptical kinkster musing on whatever takes my fancy!