Reading the comments under Dan Cardamon's video on Elevatorgate it's pretty clear that three (or possibly two) years on, some guys still have trouble grasping what a certain Rebecca Watson was trying to say in her original vlog. The blame for that obviously lies with Watson, as she is only a woman and therefore useless at communication, so let me - a bloke; one with testicles and a penis - attempt an explanation.
When she said "Guys, don't do that" - with "that" being "Follow a woman into an elevator at four in the morning right after she's said she's tired and is going to bed and invite her to your room" - it wasn't a Legal Commandment. Rebecca Watson has no legislative power; she cannot enact laws, and she cannot actually prevent you from approaching women in confined spaces if you choose do so.
So what was she playing at, when she "burned her bra and waved the Nazi flag", as one commenter unironically put it under a video satirising exactly that kind of rhetoric? Let's see if we can work it out.
The words "Guys, don't do that" were advice. And usually, when advice is given, a condition is implied. If, for example I said "Guys, don't put your hand in a fire" the implied condition is "...unless you want to get burned." If you don't mind getting burned, you are still free to put your hand in the fire. I cannot physically stop you, because I don't know where you are or why there's a fire. And I don't explicitly state the condition, because I assume you already understand the reason why you should avoid putting your hand in the fire.
This is where Watson failed. As a feminist, a woman, and as a human being. She expected you to know that when she said "Guys, don't do that", the implied condition was "unless you want to make women feel uncomfortable". She simply assumed that you would understand that following a woman into an elevator at four in the morning and inviting her to your room had the potential to make her feel cornered.
And she shouldn't have assumed that. Expecting you to understand what that might be like from a woman's perspective is beyond your remit. It's not your job. You don't have the training. You've never been told.
Which is why I'm telling you now. And I'm not telling you not to continue to approach women whenever and wherever you choose. Like Watson, I have no legislative power. All I can advise is that IF YOU DON'T WANT TO MAKE WOMEN FEEL UNCOMFORTABLE, you should consider the potential effects of your actions and adjust those actions accordingly.
If, on the other hand, you don't care about making women feel uncomfortable, you should ignore this advice. If you honestly don't give a shit, or actively want to make women feel uncomfortable, by all means carry on doing what you do. But with one caveat - another implied condition: if that's the choice you make, people are going to call you a misogynistic douchebag and you will be in no position to complain.
You can't have it both ways, as much as you'd really really like to.
1) "But I saw a woman say that she doesn't mind being hit on in elevators!"
That's fine. But being aware that there are women out there who *do* mind, maybe your default should be not doing it just in case you've picked one of those women.
2) "But how am I supposed to know where and when and how it *is* okay to approach women?"
You could try asking a representative sample of women. I heard they have them online now, and that some of them have written articles and things dealing with those questions.
3) "But why should I adjust my actions to take other peoples' feelings into consideration? That's not fair to me! I want to do whatever I want and I deeply resent being told that some of the things I want to do affect other people negatively! Why should I even CARE what you think?"
I have no answer to that, but you might want to go here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sociopathy
Old Town, San Diego
13 hours ago