Guest post: But who is the one actually taking “offense”?

Originally a comment by iknklast on He’s just another dude on the planet.

Oh, yes, it’s all just offense. But who is the one actually taking “offense”, if we look at it from the big picture? Dawkins took offense that Rebecca Watson didn’t want guys hitting on her in the elevator. He took offense that people thought a young boy should not have been arrested for bringing a clock to school, because “he didn’t really make a clock”. Language purity. He took offense because feminists protested an inappropriate shirt. Dawkins seems to be just one big ball of quivering offense right now, and we’re being told by everyone to lay off being offended because it’s so not freethinking, etc.

I used to try to figure out whether Dawkins was oblivious or malevolent. Now I figure it doesn’t matter. The effect is the same. Over a million fans that think he can do no wrong, and so they rush in a horde to protect him from that feminist blogger who just called him a bad name. Rape threats, death threats – it’s all just being a contrarian, a provocateur. Don’t over react. Just because they posted your address with the subtle statement that someone ought to rape you? Hypersensitive! Thought police!

I’m so tired. I thought I have finally found a home when I joined the freethought community, a place where I could finally have something in common. Now I find myself going through the same terrible experiences day in and day out that I had in the patriarchal religious community I was raised in. Patriarchy doesn’t look too good no matter which clothes it wears.

I think Dalton is right not to expect to agree with anyone 100%. I never expect that (not even you, Ophelia; not even Katha Pollitt). But he’s being a bit disingenuous here, because there are always some things that are more important than others. We are allowed to dismiss Neo-Nazis as role models, even though there may have been some decent things they did. We are allowed to dismiss the KKK as role models, even though many of them are model citizens in other aspects of life. We can just totally refuse to be friends with them, to associate with them, to read their books. We can criticize them online and off. But when the topic is sexism or misogyny, that is just trivial stuff, and merely disagreement. Sorry, don’t buy that.

Dawkins’s statement about inappropriate touching around the water cooler was sort of the last straw for me. This is recognition that sexual harassment happens, but basically he writes it off as not important. Sexual harassment is not important, it’s just “inappropriate touching”. Yes. And inappropriate leering is just inappropriate leering. And inappropriate shirts are just inappropriate shirts. But they all contribute to a pattern that affects one particular group of people disproportionately…a group of people that neither Richard Dawkins or Brian Dalton is part of, which makes their lecturing look just a bit self-serving. It’s very easy to dismiss someone else’s problems as inappropriate. What would happen if we dismissed it as unimportant when someone violated them? (And I hope no one here would ever do that…we can be bigger than that, and show them how it’s done).


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