Almost over

I was going to move briskly on, but…well there’s just this one last thing, or this one last pair of things.

One is that I think I may have figured out what Richard was trying to get at, or at least what he was irritated about. My friend Maryam Namazie was at the Dublin conference, and as always gave a stem-winder of a talk. Maryam works right at the coal face of women’s rights issues. I think Richard may have thought (or felt) there should have been more of that kind of thing and less of the kind of thing Rebecca talked about. That’s not crazy, it seems to me. One doesn’t have to agree with it, but it’s not crazy.

The trouble is, he didn’t say that. He said

I know you aren’t allowed to drive a car, and you can’t leave the house without a male relative, and your husband is allowed to beat you, and you’ll be stoned to death if you commit adultery. But stop whining, will you. Think of the suffering your poor American sisters have to put up with.Only this week I heard of one, she calls herself Skep”chick”, and do you know what happened to her? A man in a hotel elevator invited her back to his room for coffee. I am not exaggerating. He really did. He invited her back to his room for coffee. Of course she said no, and of course he didn’t lay a finger on her, but even so . . .

The problem is obvious. He’s implying that that’s what Rebecca thinks – that an invitation for coffee (as Richard mischaracterizes it) is worse than a total absence of rights. That’s a rude thing to imply.

And his later explanation was also flawed:

The man in the elevator didn’t physically touch her, didn’t attempt to bar her way out of the elevator, didn’t even use foul language at her. He spoke some words to her. Just words. She no doubt replied with words. That was that. Words. Only words, and apparently quite polite words at that.If she felt his behaviour was creepy, that was her privilege, just as it was the Catholics’ privilege to feel offended and hurt when PZ nailed the cracker. PZ didn’t physically strike any Catholics. All he did was nail a wafer…

Bad analogy. Different kinds of being “offended.” Elevator guy did what he did (however you characterize it) to a particular person; to Rebecca. PZ did what he did to no person at all – he did it to a cracker. People really do get to be “offended” about things done to them personally, though there is still always plenty of room to disagree over how offended and all the rest of it.

And given that…well I think it’s pretty understandable that Rebecca is pissed. I hope she’ll reconsider the permanence of the being pissed, but I certainly see how she got there.

I really don’t share the widely-expressed view that Richard is totally clueless about feminism. That hasn’t been my experience – he backed me up once when I was infuriated about people calling women “bitch” at RDF and then when I objected going into shouty bully mode for about ten pages. He did the Marshall McLuhan thing: the shouty boyz had been saying he totally agreed with them and he came out from behind the sign and said the hell I do. But I think he put his case badly this time.


Now I’ll move briskly on.

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