January 18, 2012

Rebecca Watson vs. Richard Dawkins

I think 90 percent of males will side with Dawkins in this. And 90 percent females will agree with Rebecca. That seems to be just the nature of this particular debate.

This incident has sort of exposed some sort of a seismic fault-line in how males and females look at certain events.

To summarize the events as far as I know:

1) Rebecca had an awkward experience in an elevator and shared it with the world. She advised men that this is not how one should go about this.

I am wondering if Rebecca is a relationship expert or does she proffer relationship advice on her blog?

But since it's her blog, she is free to share her personal experiences.

2) Now Dawkins picks up Rebbeca's anecdote and belittles it. Clearly, he burnt his finger in doing so.

Dawkins' take on Rebecca's experience is interpreted by males and females. This is where all sorts of complexities enter into the picture.

When females talk about Rebecca's experience, they are also speaking from some personal experience of a similar nature. In the Western countries, well, I won't know too much about the problems faced by women growing up in those nations.

Indian women tend to have experience of some sort of unwelcome advances ... someone making comments or someone trying to take advantage of the situation in a crowded bus or something.


When females are commenting on this issue, their perspective is inevitably colored by their life experience.

Males bring their own life experience while looking at this issue. I don't know much about the struggles that Western men have to go through.

As far as Indian males, I could think of my own minor struggles. Some illiterate driver on the road honking the horn needlessly or someone playing the bully in a queue. While these events rankle us, we tend to try and forget them and move on.

I think males will look upon Rebecca's experience from that experience and find it essentially trivial.

Essentially, females are consciously or unconsciously extrapolating Rebecca's experience and saying that IT COULD HAVE BEEN MUCH WORSE.

And males are not making that extrapolation.

3) Then Dawkins gives his reaction and compares the incident to someone chewing gum in his vicinity. Women find this to be belittling and insulting.

May be, Dawkins could have made more of an effort and browsed him memory and thought of some incident where religious hecklers heckled him or some similar experience.

I think there's very little that Dawkins could have done that would mollify those who find it offensive in the first place that Dawkins compared her experience to that of others.

I am struck by how Rebecca has thought it fit to make an issue of a personal event. As Dawkins says, the incident itself was 'zero-bad.' It may have had the potential to be bad, for sure, but as it happened, the potential was not actually realized.

And now Rebecca finds herself as the latest lightning rod or fulcrum or a new Salman Rushdie with a fatwa on the head.

Over many years and decades, Dawkins has contributed to science, biology, and the debate about religion and god. I do not recall many instances where he made his own personal experiences the center of these discussions.

I do not think that he has not been at the receiving end over all these years of various unpalatable things: perhaps a hate mail or a thousand of them, threats of physical violence against him, etc.

The same applies to Hitchens or Harris or PZ Myers.

Greta Christina contributes to the debate with her writings and incisive criticisms. I am sure she must have faced personal attacks as well.

Will Rebecca contribute to the debate with great writing or by recounting personal anecdotes.

Personally, I am perhaps not so much a misogynist as a misanthropist. I have been accurately described as such by friends who know me.

:)

My experience has been of helping females and then getting my own fingers burnt. My experience has been of female colleagues who complain that the AC was not working in the cab and a bunch of similar complaints. My experience has been of a female driver who turns the car left without looking thereby hitting my bike and ... I joke about it. I see horrible male drivers and realize that there is need for more traffic sense. I see males making jokes about their female colleagues behind their backs and I realize that there is lack of civilization.


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