Rachel Johnson

Atheist Blogger- the godlessvagina / Podcaster the pink atheist

Sexual Harassment: On Behalf Of The Atheist Men.


I find it profound and startling that within the Atheist community a war is raging. I am a feminist, first off. I believe all women should hold the same standing in our nations. I don’t believe it is okay to beat, stone, abuse and subjugate women because of their predetermined sex. I am all for women having all say over their reproductive rights. I am also for women walking down the street and feeling safe. So now that you know where I stand, let me tell you where I don’t stand.

I don’t believe that women should be above men. After all we are not out to vilify them to the point of disgrace. I am not for, and don’t believe in making men feel bad that they were born the opposite sex. I don’t believe it is okay for women to make them out to be sex crazed monsters waiting to rape us every second. That is as irrational as the Muslim point of view. I don’t believe that sexual harassment is being asked out on a date, for a drink, of coffee, or is telling you that you are pretty.

Look I can understand Ms. Watson might have been afraid. She is a small woman, and being alone with a guy she feels may have some advantage over her, could be scary, but lets get real. This poor guy is now being treated as some huge, looming monster, and a sex offender who plotted to sexually harass a woman in an elevator. That is the drama teenagers deal with. We are beyond being teenagers, right? Being in an elevator and being asked for drinks equates, in my personal thinking, to just being asked. I am sure this person would have been uncomfortable having their ego crushed in front of everyone. I would not want my rejection made public, and I can’t imagine a guy who would. On another note personal safety  can be an issue for public personalities.

This could have been handled better, and more discretely. The proper way would have been to address these issues with the people in charge of managing the convention. This would have left the atheist public in general out of the mix, and been resolved in an adult manner with  all involved parties understanding where they stand. I can accept that sexual harassment happens everywhere. But I will not address this particular situation as that. If she had been twice his size, if it had been a woman, if many factors were different then I am sure this would not be treated the same way. This places a hard unwarranted burden on each gender.

Are we so irrational as feminists that now men must approach us under our designated environment, in a way that is feminist approved to ask in a gender neutral way for us to possibly, maybe bless them with the opportunity of being within the same building and perhaps drinking a beverage with us, and at some point approaching us to, perhaps see it we like them.  The rules being violated here is the leverage of woman power. Feminism was supposed to bring us out of being seen as the weaker sex. It was supposed to take us from kitchen staff, and cleaning crew to leaders of our community, and strong independent women. What this sounds like is a small scared woman, who is powerless, and defenseless being abused by some big perp. On his behalf I find that offensive, and on her behalf I find it offensive to be seen as female/victim.

I have seen the comments made by some members of the community. It seems that while we should be trying to repair the rift it has caused, it is only getting wider. Now it may have seemed a bit insensitive the way Dr. Dawkins approached it, but in reality this man sees the kind of tragedies we can take for granted. He deals with the kind of thinking that gets people killed for being atheists and dealing with extremists. So perhaps he finds other issues more important, and this a bit on the level of juvenile. It is also offensive to see women calling other women feminazi’s. Well, I must be a bit jaded because I have been called a man hater, and such but didn’t go out of my way to start a blog war. Being called a feminazi to me equates to not living by someones gender bias, and “knowing my role in the kitchen.” Other than that, it does not hurt me. People are free to believe what they want, and becoming overly sensitive and dismissing more important topics in our community over such a ridiculous word is an absurdity.

I guess I stand by PZ Meyers, and Dawkins here, but I don’t dismiss the ladies parts. We knew coming into a community which had been male dominated it would be a fight to climb, unite and bring women in. However; by dividing them and scaring them that we are a community of overly sensitive, man bashing, female warriors looking to overthrow men will not aid in our goals. The women have been making good progress forward, and we need to continue. Our focus should not be on how we can force men to be submissive to us but stand beside them. What we need it so be stronger. I have dealt with many men in the atheist community, and they have feelings too. It is not okay to tell them that they are not allowed to express themselves, or force them to hide their emotions, or dismiss them based on gender. Equally we don’t have to accept abuse.

I give much respect to the men and women out there doing the hard work of changing minds and reaching people. It is a struggle I also know, but I refuse to be seen as a weak member of my community. I refuse to be valued less than men, or be treated as needing protection from them. I want to see us unite on common ground and set the rules for what suits us all. We do not need this battle in our community and if all parties involved are as mature as they ought to be then there should be a consensus of minds as to what we expect for all of us. Men can be harassed as well as ladies, and we should approach the reality of harassment as dignified adults. Anything less than that is just unacceptable.

Author: Rachel Johnson

I am a writer about atheist issues. Separation of the church and state. Women and their right to choose, and sex. I talk about all of the "taboos" of modern life as well as evolution and science.

22 thoughts on “Sexual Harassment: On Behalf Of The Atheist Men.

  1. Very good article, I totally agree with you. Man exaggerate this, women too!

  2. “I don’t believe it is okay for women to make them out to be sex crazed monsters waiting to rape us every second. ”

    Damn right.

    But did any woman say or do that?

    If they did, then spill the beans, Rachel! Who did that?

    • Well in the drama that has been produced all around this whole event, it has been blown from uncomfortable situation to sexual harassment, and has anyone ever heard the other side of the story, because there must be one. So before it goes into some tragedy, I am saying it needs to stop because it is being way overblown, by everyone.

  3. Thank you so much for introducing a bit of -dare I say it- reason in this highly-emotional, socially charged, über-politically-correct mess that has definitely been blown out of proportion and is a bit ridiculous seen from a distance (say, from Spain, where violence against women and old-fashioned real machismo and harassment are still so prevalent we all have to fight against them).

    Rationalism and feminism go hand in hand, there is no way out of that. I’m acutely aware of it as a male and a parent of two adult, independent daughters who know how to get respect. But if you take reason out of feminism, you end up with a sad caricature, the kind that makes the lunatic right and the religious nuts oh, so happy, since it gives them a chance to fight against equal rights, equal respect, equal salaries, equal freedom and equal opportunities for women.

    We repeat once and again that “not being offended” is not a right. This is true for religionists as well as for each and every one of us. People will offend us, and confusing offense with attack is just the kind of thing we should try to avoid just as we expect religionists will do in the face of Muhammad cartoons or atheist ads on buses.

  4. Have you actually seen Rebecca’s video which started all this? Even if you have,, so I recommend watching it again: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uKHwduG1Frk&t=260 and then ask yourself who is overreacting here.

    Also, PZ came down firmly on Rebecca’s side, expressing disappointment in Dawkins’ really stupid “Muslima” comment. In fact the reason I read this post was because PZ tweeted a link mocking you for characterizing Rebecca as “afraid”

    THe only people characterizing the elevator guy as a sex predator are the ones stuffing words into Rebecca Watson’s mouth.

    • My point of this was to say that enough is enough. There is a lot of drama around this like it was the end of the world as we know it. I really don’t find my self invested as to all the drama. I just know that it is taking away from more important issues. Which is in essence not what we need to take care of. So all the videos in the world will not change that this could have been dealt with privately and kept out of the public arena, so that everyone could be content to deal with more important things. Instead we have blogs with people defining their ideas of sexual harassment which include elevator invitations for drinks. So to wrap up, this could have been dealt with better, it did not have to be the business of all of us, it is getting childish. Adults need to handle their business as adults, and most of all I just don’t want people to waste all of our time telling us what they think is sexual harassment when the law clearly states what it is. Thanks for your comment.

      • Rachel Johnson: “Instead we have blogs with people defining their ideas of sexual harassment which include elevator invitations for drinks. ”

        Listen, Rachel, I’m a skeptic so I like to see evidence before making up my mind.

        Are we going to get any evidence for any of this or what? Who said their idea of sexual harassment included an elevator invitations for drinks? Which blog are you quoting from?

      • What important issues do you think are not being addressed? If you think some topic is being under reported, it looks like you have perfectly fine blog here, feel free to tackle them.

        Elevator guy has never been identified, so you don’t really need to worry on his behalf.

        Also, why do you think bloggers shouldn’t blog about issues that they think are important to them. Would you like someone to tell you to stop blogging about the topics you choose? Should people in the community not be allowed to comment on the issues they choose?

        There is harassment in our community. There are people who do not participate because of it. There is more public pressure on organizations to think of ways to be more welcoming to more people, and it’s working. There would be no progress in these areas if everything was hushed up.

        • Ya I hope to always keep certain parts of my life out of the public eye. Some things need to be handled with dignity for all parties involved. The fact he has never gotten to speak about his version is what is the most scary. I would not want to be accused of an action and never get to defend my self or have anyone do so. Lets be realistic, and fair to all involved. We don’t know his thinking and we can’t abuse that fact.

  5. At this point the elevator story is barely relevant. What has become relevant is the storm of hate that erupted at Rebecca and then other women who speak up about harassment in the community. Rebecca has endured a constant stream of rape threats and vile name calling for nearly a year from people in this community.

    What was revealed about the underbelly of this community cannot be ignored. Especially since the abuse continues to this day. So you’ll forgive me if I don’t shed a tear for elevator guy. Or the guys who’ve threatened my friends. Or the men and women who’ve told my friends to shut up about it.

    Lucky you, the worst you’ve endured is boredom with the topic, while people I know and respect have been threatened and harassed. This topic will continue until that behavior ends. You are free to talk about anything else that interests you, but you can’t make us shut up about this.

    • So you are under the impression that fighting fire with fire works? I find that fighting fire with sense and dignity works best. Those ladies do not have to tolerate abuse, but they also don’t have to feed into it. Seriously, it should be dealt with in the context of what is best for the persons involved, and not as some drama situation, which has done nothing to help anyone. If you are shocked this exists in our community then I am shocked at you. The fact is atheist only means lack of belief in gods, not superior to theists, it is biological nature, and you can’t change a lifetime of thinking, but you can set standards which do not tolerate the behavior and never have to have all of this around it. I am not saying they should be abused am I? That was not part of this, nor did I call for her to be publicly humiliated. I said this need to stop causing a rift, and that it should have been dealt with by the organizers of the convention.

  6. What fire? Seriously, what fire? All anyone is asking in this situation is for organizers to adopt sensible harassment policies so that people have recourse when something happens. The rift has been caused by people saying they are not necessary. Your idea of taking harassment claims to organizers only works if there are policies in place for them to follow about how to handle these situations.

    You’re shocked that I’m shocked that women are threatened with rape because some people don’t like what they say? You are saying that it is biological nature for people to threaten rape and call other people all manner of vile things? You have that low of an opinion of men? And it is bothering you so much that some people, men and women, think this is wrong and needs to be dealt with?

    Listen, I seriously hope you never, ever have to see some of the stuff I’ve seen about what some people think of women who speak up in this community. But I know what’s out there and I’m not content to let it fester in our community and drive away good people. Super sorry if that’s not dignified enough for you.

    • No I don’t have that low of an opinion on anyone, and take a breath before you actually burst into flames. I am saying to you, directly to you, that I have seen what happens when circumstances are not good in the development of children, and when they grow up not all of them turn out to be model citizens. I am not saying it is biological, and I am not defending it. I am saying to you it exists, and there are laws which exist for cases of sexual harassment, which include public functions. One thing that does not need to happen is a just putting this out there like somehow our distress is a resolve, but dealing with it is of course the job of the people holding the convention. Regardless if you think they will or not, that is not for us to say. It is their job. And discretion is always best in this situation. I would hope, and I seriously swear I hope this never happens, that if she had been assaulted we would only hear about it after it had been dealt with, not just set out for public opinion. Do you get me? It does not make her more safe to blog it out, it does give people the idea that we can’t handle events in our community or the safety of the people who are presenting. You keep thinking I only care about one side, but tell me since this event has she been more secure and happy? Or has this done her no good. Also I like full details before I convict someone of something they may or may not have done. As for the men abusing her and her friends, disgusting.

    • Yes you are right. What we should do is over react, act like bullies, get into fights, and behave like tyrants over this. Well I am sorry if you don’t approve of what I wrote or my opinions, but I like to handle important matters with dignity and sensibility. Not just throwing people under the bus and hoping that I can have fun while doing it. Like I said in the article some of these behaviors are not okay on either side. I am not getting into a side here. I am saying this, it could have been handled like adults in an adult fashion. Thank you very much and I am done here.

  7. I’m not sure if I understand the video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uKHwduG1Frk&t=260) correctly

    1. “A man got into the elevator with me” Did she talk to this guy before?
    2. If it is not suitable for him to invite her to come to his room, should he suggest to go to her room instead?
    3. Since she just left the bar at 4am, maybe that guy thought it was okay to start a new conversation at that time without any evil intention. (Shouldn’t a “single woman in a foreign country” go to sleep early?)

    • Eric, you are okay right up to the point of questioning her sleeping early. No matter what or how something happens it is not okay to make a statement that eludes to her behavior factoring into it. Just like he may have been in a foreign country..so all things being equal. What we have is a situation blown out of proportions, with one side told, and perhaps needed dealt with in a better manner. Really a better manner.

  8. Great blog post. I love how you are actually trying to calm the waters and bring both camps to the adult table. Unfortunately, anything, and I do mean ANYTHING you say that is not positive about RW will be ridiculed, and you’ll be mocked, laughed at, ostracized, maybe even called a misogynist and clueless (these last two seem to be PZ’s favorite). In my opinion, we can have the conversation of harassment. REAL harassment. If asking a woman out means that I am harassing her, then, I don’t think I want to even take part in the conversation. Good luck trying to get your point across. On a side note, PZ and RW have managed to create a cult following mob that will attack you if you ever so slightly disagree with everything they say–so much for “freethought” blogs. Just look at the latest Thunderf00t debacle. Now, you can say or think anything you want about TF, but as soon as he had a dissenting opinion he was expelled from FTB, and PZ commanded his minions to go and attack him, for simply having a different opinion. Looks like he has done the same to you, so expect a lot of drones coming over to tell you just what a “traitor”, and how “clueless” you are. Especially because you are a woman.

    In conclusion. Thank you for bridging this gap. Or at least, attempting to bring everyone together. I agree with most of what you said, but don’t expect a positive response to your blog post. These people are as crazy as scientologists. And their leader is even worse than L.R. Hubbard.

  9. One of the best posts I’ve read on this issue and sadly Johnny’s comment above is spot on about the predictable response… response that completely ignores the point you’ve made very well.

    At this point the behaviour on both “sides” has become utterly ridiculous (and detrimental to the community) and I’m sorry to say I’ve lost a lot of respect for a lot of people over the last week or two since this whole thing blew up again.

    Bravo to you for being prepared to stand up and call a spade a spade. As you said, there’s a whole bunch of people who need to take a deep breath and really think about what they are doing, what they are saying and why.

  10. Excellent post.
    As a man, who has been wrongly accused (by R Watson) of certain insults, and therefore received abuse from her minions who think I’m a misogynist, it’s nice to read something sensible on the subject!

  11. Pingback: The War on Women Is Not Just For Republicans Anymore « Pilgrim Outskirts

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