“Unbelievers you call yourselves? Unbelievable, I call you!”
– Friedrich Nietzsche, Thus Spake Zarathustra, “Of the Land of Education” (my translation and edit)
1. The Watson Saga
I will start my j’accuse’ with a photograph and a story. The photograph shows Rebecca Watson and her friend – I presume it’s her friend – graphically licking a toy beaver. Licking beaver. Laughing yet? Me neither.
The story comes from an “Amazing Meeting” where Watson decided that the right theme for the “skepchicks” party was a Wild West Bordello. One person decided to complain about this as demeaning and was promptly denounced as a “prude”, “feminazi”, etc.
Bear the above in mind, and believe me when I say that I could expand it considerably,going into Watson’s nude calender, her naked profile pictures, her writing ‘Fuck you pussies’ on friends chests etc. The question is not whether Watson is a vulgar exhibitionist, trading on her sex as a substitute for intelligence on a level that makes Sarah Palin seem a model of probity, because she plainly is. The question is: why is she being taken seriously when she comes up with lines like this:
it creeps me out and makes me uncomfortable when men sexualize me in that manner.
Now anyone even vaguely cognizant with “elevatorgate” will recognize the above as part of the uninteresting and self-pitying video that Watson posted after some poor sap offered her coffee. As most will know, this would have vanished without a trace were it not for the fact that Richard Dawkins, viewing the relentless fawning over this nonevent posted the famous “Dear Muslima” comment:
Stop whining, will you. Yes, yes, I know you had your genitals mutilated with a razor blade, and … yawn … don’t tell me yet again, 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 …
And you, Muslima, think you have misogyny to complain about! For goodness sake grow up, or at least grow a thicker skin.
A Danish chum of mine likes the saying that it’s inadvisable to “stir the shit”. With these words Dawkins did that, breaking the crust and releasing a fetid cloud of self-pity that over a year would condense and dribble back down as “Atheism +” During this year, buckets of slime were emptied over far better women, like Abbie Smith and Ayaan Hirsi Ali, there were calls to blacklist and ostracize Dawkins and Penn Jilette, TAM was compared with Nazi Germany by that savant Ophelia Benson, there were calls for the resignation of D.J. Grothe and Justin Vacula.
I should first like to speak to the thuggish calls for resignation. This stuff is quite familiar to me. A few weeks ago, the Harvard economist Niall Ferguson, having written an article titled “Hit the road Barack”, found himself on the end of a similar campaign.
Ferguson and Dawkins are intellectual giants and completely immune to such pettiness (something realized even by this crowd, with Watson quickly writing that her public declaration that she would never buy another book of Dawkins’ was in no way a call for a boycott, perish the thought, and Ophelia Benson referencing his work after joining in the declaration that Atheism Plus needed no Old White Men…). However, note what the Galahads and Lancelots of A+ decided to do to someone less immune, namely Miss Smith. The same group reduced to rent clothes and piteous wailing whenever anything mean is said of any of their ranks with a spare X chromosome (the odious Greta Christina endlessly trawls the web for any reference to her looks as substandard, and faithfully reproduces and preserves such tributes), this same group decided to empty vial upon vial of excrement on Miss Smith, and then blacklisted her, and then one of its members went further, writing to her University and trying to get her fired. The only comment from the errant knights was that this “crossed a line”, somewhat tepid in comparison to their usual discourse.
Why this difference in treatment?
I think I can guess. Miss Smith first fell into disrepute when P.Z. Myers started moaning that there were insufficient women in the skeptic scene. Abbie wrote that she was horrified by the idea that she had been asked to participate in the “scienceblogs” community because of her ovaries rather than her ideas. It will surprise no one that this is the opposite from the stance taken by Watson.
This little incident is the key. A person of accomplishment hates the idea of being judged by physical characteristics; a person of mediocrity craves it. It might wrongly be supposed that there is a contradiction between Watson’s vulgar self-promotion and her hysterical pseudo-feminism; in fact, they are the same. They are two ways of trading on her sex, since she fears above all being judged for her ideas and achievements. People like her crave an automatic acceptance based on physical characteristics, and desperately needs to be assured that any contempt is because of her sex rather than her mediocrity. Conversely, Smith, a fully fledged scientist, revolted at the idea of being reduced to her meat rather than her mind.
Now why is such a person as Watson venerated by the A+? The same principle applies; to a man of chronic insecurity, one living in fear of his own irredeemable pointlessness, a person, and above all a woman, of earned pride and real achievement is someone to be feared and hated, for her existence is a challenge and a threat. Conversely, a nonentity who has nothing to offer beyond the physical can be idolized safely. This is why in the FtB poll of the most important female atheist, Watson receives ten times the votes of Ayaan Hirsi Ali, a statement of stark, staring insanity by all other lights.
This veneration of the physical over the mental could only appear in a movement that was bankrupt on mental terms (no person of self-esteem wants to be praised for bodily structure!). I will explore the antecedents of this in part 2, when I will autopsy what passes for Myers’s mind…