This might not be timely, but it’s a subject that just keeps coming back.
To recap: A few months ago, Rebecca Watson talked about an uncomfortable interaction she had with a guy she didn’t know in an elevator.
The complicated and diverse discussion about gender politics which ensued has been fascinating, and I mean that in a “massive car accident” sense only about 90% of the time. Part of this ensuing discussion has included a fair bit of abuse heading Rebecca’s way, some predictable, some surreal, some pretty batshit crazy. I think I’ve written about elevatorgate itself as much as I want to, but if you want to develop your own opinion further, here’s an idea for some research you could try.
Look up some blog articles and videos by people criticising Rebecca’s attitudes and actions regarding elevatorgate. Then calculate the percentage of those blogs and videos which have been made by terrible, terrible people.
This is what I find most frustrating about it all. There doesn’t have to be the preponderance of awfulness which there seems to be among people taking issue with things Rebecca has said or done. There’s room to disagree with her or object to her in a number of legitimate ways. But, for instance, Abbie Smith – who presumably wouldn’t have been blogging on ScienceBlogs for as long as she has if she hadn’t clearly demonstrated the capacity to concisely express thoughtful and intelligent views on things – doesn’t seem so interested in those.
She mostly seems interested in using the word “Twatson”. Like, a lot.
It comes up repeatedly in her blogs and comment threads, and here’s one particular instance where she explains her reasoning behind it:
Its a trip-wire, alerting me to the presence of stupid people. See, Ive found that all you have to do is lay down a funny alliteration, and stupid people fall over themselves on that point, ignoring everything else. They literally lose the ability to read and write, not to mention make cognizant points. Its not an effective teaching tool, its just funny. I do it to Creationists. I do it to HIV Deniers. I do it to anti-vaxers. And I did it here. You fell for it. *enthusiastic-clapping*
Like calling them rude names, being really patronising toward someone can be a lot of fun, but it probably won’t make them like you or think you’re worth listening to.
Personally, I do find it a bit of a struggle to keep reading through a whole blog post of what someone has to say when they throw out childish taunts at people I respect with no apparent reason. Maybe that means I’m stupid and have just fallen over. But it’s a shame, because some of Abbie’s points are worth making. The Richard Dawkins Foundation’s sponsorship of childcare for TAM attendees, for instance, is a cool thing that deserves to be noted. Her blog’s name is ERV, after its intended focus on endogenous retroviruses, and I don’t doubt I could learn all sorts of fascinating stuff if I read some of her posts on that subject more thoroughly.
But I’ve had to fight a natural inclination not to just say “Yeah, I’m done with you now” ever since she decided to be obnoxious and unkind.
She recently went on a weird tirade against Jen McCreight as well, which has been suitably picked apart over at Jen’s blog.
There’s just nothing about this approach which is a good thing, in any way. It goes beyond dissent, disagreement, dispute, disrespect. It’s a lashing-out which makes some people feel good, and allows them to dismiss any objections, by deciding ahead of time that anyone espousing civility or politeness is being obsessive and over-sensitive. It’s already been determined, beyond any inclination to question further, that indiscriminately calling Rebecca Watson a twat is fine and totally justified, and anyone who suggests otherwise is just obsequiously sucking up to her.
Let’s not keep doing that.