So there are various atheist and skeptical conferences, and Rebecca Watson talks at them and says things about sexism, and at the Dublin one she talks to people afterwards until 4 a.m. at which point she says she’s exhausted and going to bed, and she gets in the hotel elevator to do that and a guy joins her in the elevator (just the two of them, how romantic) and says

Don’t take this the wrong way, but I find you very interesting, would you like to come to my room for coffee?

And she says, mildly, “Guys, don’t do that.”

Quite right. Nobody should do that, really. In the afternoon, fine; in the evening, well, it depends, use your judgement; at 4 in the morning, unless you’ve both been making googly-eyes already, it’s just obnoxious, even if it’s not a pass. But maybe that’s just me. I can’t imagine doing something like that, because it would feel so incredibly intrusive and presumptuous – “Hey it’s four a.m. and you said you’re exhausted but hey wouldn’t you rather spend time with me than go to sleep?” I’m frankly not conceited enough for that, and don’t want to be.

There’s been a lot of drama and disagreement about all this over the last whatever, few days or a week or whatever it is, to which I’ve been oblivious. (I’m out of the loop.) But PZ did a post on it this morning, mentioning my eccentric neighbor along with Elevator Guy, and along came lots of men’s rights idiots to say lots of idiot things.

It’s not just about sexism, it is (as some commenters said) also about just plain manners. No, it isn’t manners to accost a stranger in an isolated place and ask for sex. (Ok for men that works, which is why there are cruisey parks. Fine. But for straights and lesbians, it isn’t manners.) (Maybe from men’s point of view it would be manners if only women would oblige. But to us it doesn’t feel like manners [sex workers excepted, obviously] so we mostly don’t oblige. You’ll see women doing that in movies and things, but it’s a male fantasy.)

PZ made a different point about manners: when you disagree with someone, name names. It’s passive-aggressive not to.

As Watson says, she loathes passive-aggressive behavior. So do I, and this is a fine example of it. Name names, always name names, and always do your best to be specific. It is right and proper as good skeptics to confront and provoke and challenge, and you have to be direct about it…

The skeptics movement has a surfeit of that passive aggressive attitude right now. As exhibit #1, I’ll mention the infamous “Don’t be a dick” speech by Phil Plait, which, while representing a good goal of asking for more tolerance, was turned into a flopping issue of disagreement specifically because it was all about tone, not substance, and because Phil could not found any of his arguments in specifics, keeping everything vague, and often cartoonish.

I too loathe passive-aggression. (I don’t know that neighbor’s name though, and I don’t want to.)

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