Monday, July 11, 2011

On elevator etiquette. Seriously. Just that.

Okay, so it started two weeks ago. That’s not a whole lot in earth time, but in Internet time, where conversations--and accusations, and examinations, and defamations--can fly around at electron speed, it’s like months. It started with a post by well-known skeptic Rebecca Watson about her recent travels and a conference she spoke at in Dublin.

In the course of her eight-minute video (around 4:30), Watson made passing mention of an experience she had in an elevator. She’d been talking with folks in a bar, and around four in the morning, she got onto an elevator, followed by one of the dudes from the bar. Dude said, “Don’t take this the wrong way, but I find you very interesting, and I would like to talk more. Would you like to come to my hotel room for coffee?” and Watson said, “Uhhh, no thanks.” Her point in recounting this was to inform guys that inviting strange women on an empty elevator back to their hotel room at four in the morning can be perceived as creepy, and that they maybe should not do it. What she said was that.

This is good advice, by the way. Even if you sincerely want to talk and not scrog, even if you really are interested in her brain and not her body, propositioning a strange woman on an empty elevator at four in the morning will probably skeeve her out some.

So that’s the end of the story.

Except it isn’t. It was the beginning of another, far lengthier story that involved folks accusing her of being hypersensitive and then something went down at another conference, and then well-known atheist and firestarter Richard Dawkins was all, like, “Blah, he didn’t even touch her, and what’s the big deal, and privilege, and blah, and at least you’ve never had your genitals mutilated, so whatever” (paraphrased), and then he was all, like, “I don’t know when it’s time to just shut up about something” (paraphrased again). And then more discussion and other stuff.

Y’all. Asking a strange chick on an empty elevator back to your hotel room at four in the morning is creepy. That’s the alpha and the omega of the story. It’s not, on its face, all that debatable. This isn’t to say that the current debate isn’t valuable, because the fact that there’s been debate at all would indicate that there’s a breakdown in communication within the community (and a lot of other communities, frankly) on the subject of privilege (and on the subject of creepiness, apparently, which seems rather straightforward to me). That is a much longer post for a much slower day, and while I like to think I’m intellectually up to the challenge, I make no warrants.

But your opinion on that subject aside, don’t ask a strange chick on an empty elevator back to your hotel room at four in the morning. Even if you aren’t personally a creeper, even if you don’t have ulterior motives, know that some men are and do and that some women’s experiences with them are different than ones you’ve had yourself and that the sensitive thing would be to find a different way of soliciting her company. You don’t have to understand--just accept. And should it ever come to a debate, know when to quit while you're only behind a little.

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