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Yes, “Hate *Atheists*”

So, Rebecca Watson once again pointed out what should be a no-brainer–only to have her point ignored by people who want to quibble with her wording. “Oh, noes! Rebecca titled her post, ‘Reddit Makes Me Hate Atheists‘! Oh, noes! But this isn’t about atheists!”

Actually, yes, it is. Rebecca already made the connection in her post, in case you need reminding:

Why would she ever want to be a part of any atheist community, if that’s how she’s treated? The next time you look around your atheist events and wonder where all the women are, think of this and know that there are at least some of us who aren’t willing to just accept this culture without trying to change it.

Here’s the thing, boys and girls: I don’t get this crap anywhere else I choose to invest my time. I don’t get it from my friends, because those people don’t get the privilege of remaining my friend. I don’t get it at work, where they’ve gone well beyond the basic legal requirements in order to make it a place where women also have rewarding work and an opportunity for advancement. As a result, I’m surrounded by smart, confident people of various genders who take everybody seriously. There is the very rare sexist idiot, but the conspiracies we create to work around these people are open and supportive.

I don’t even get it in those legendary bastions of “social ineptitude,” fantasy and science fiction fandom and conventions. Don’t get me wrong. There are definitely still problems, but predators and discriminatory publishing practices are considered problems of the community, and the institutions that support the problems are rightly pressured (and aided) to fix themselves. This “we’re so helpless in the face of a few bad actors” nonsense doesn’t fly.

This is very much about atheism. It’s also about the more general skeptical community, of course, but atheism is a big part of that and getting bigger.

No, this is the community in which I get, “We have this female guest we’d like to have on the show. Would you care to interview her?” This is the community in which we get high-profile writers saying, “Piffle. I have no need to condemn the bad behavior of those people I was just joking around with.” This is the community in which a leader of an organization goes around telling people (all women that I’ve seen so far), “Oh, he’s a friend of mine. He’s a nice guy. I’m sure you’re just misinterpreting what he said,” or liking it on Facebook when someone complains that skeptical woman is acting like “thought police” over a scientific issue. This is the community in which Rebecca’s cheerful acknowledging of a mistake is used to suggest her worth as a skeptic is zilch, while Brian Dunning’s stubborn embrace of DDT disinformation costs him nothing.

I write in this community about rape and issues of consent. I get MRAs in my comments, but they’re no big deal. Everyone can see them. I also get commenters who say, “Well, yes, MRA = bad. However, he had a point about this tricky legal question.” They get all butthurt when I say, “It’s nothing like tricky if it never happens. If you’re not sure you have consent, don’t have sex–unless you’re willing to be a rapist.” They’re just there for an intellectual conversation in which potential sexual partners have all the humanity of chess pieces. And people tell me I should be nicer to them.

I get links to those posts from skeptic and atheist forums, where someone is using them to try to counteract the victim blaming and doubting in the latest high-profile rape accusation. That means I get to see them completely ignored as our oh-so-rational friends pull hypotheticals out of their asses and cite the Duke Lacrosse team as though it were a legal precedent in order to make the case that the accuser is probably lying her pathetic little ass off. These are our forums, people. That’s what they look like.

I write about IQ and bad science. I’ve got a university professor, the guy who is best known in atheist circles for having his MySpace atheist group discriminated against, who shows up on every one of these posts to suggest I really shouldn’t be writing about the topic without more expertise. He can’t actually find anything wrong with what I write, but he knows these researchers are nice guys, and he, personally, finds their conclusions reasonable despite lousy methodology. So I need more expertise. Guess how many times he’s done the same thing to a guy–or been called on that bullshit.

Same guy, Bryan Pesta for the record, is the fellow who followed a link from one of my blog posts to someone outside this community. She was complaining about a guy who ignored her repeated insistence that she wasn’t online to get hit on. Bryan’s response? I paraphrase: “Now that you’ve dumped him, how about you and me? Huh?” When I asked him whether he also sexually harassed his students, his response was legalistic. The response of other commenters was to suggest he was joking. No shit, he was joking. He just found it perfectly acceptable to make her the target of his joke, and these other commenters apparently couldn’t figure out why this was a problem.

In addition to writing, I also do this little skeptical convention experience called Skepchickcon. That would be where I was in July, on my way to a panel in a room so full of F&SF geeks hungry for skepticism and science programming that there wasn’t even standing room left, when I heard about Dawkins comments about someone who “calls herself Skep’chick.'” I’d already noted, after another conference in January brought it up, that I can write those science posts or solid atheist reasoning and rabble-rousing posts like yesterday’s response to Massimo Pigliucci. I can do those conventions and reach the audiences we say we want to reach. But I really only get seen when I talk about “women’s issues,” and when I do, I now know the leaders and icons of the movement I’m working for have already decided I’m whining about trivialities.

Many people have also decided that when I’m writing about this bullshit, I’m only in it for the clicks. That reasoning, for the record, is about as sound as that of the people who say atheists aren’t responsible for the sexism Rebecca talked about in her post because the young woman in question made the front page of Reddit–after the pretty girl was voted up that far by atheists. These posts don’t get more clicks. My other posts on more traditionally male subject matter get fewer. If people clicked on those more, where would be the incentive to write about sexism?

Oh, right. I’m still a part of this community. I’m still volunteering my time, energy, and yes, expertise to this movement. And doing that–and making a difference–I still have to put up with all this crap. Rebecca is entirely right. I don’t have to like y’all in order to do it, just think it’s important. And right now, yes, I’m rather hating atheists. However, it’s only because you’re awful.

Comments

  1. Lycanthrope says

    This is the community in which Rebecca’s cheerful acknowledging of a mistake is used to suggest her worth as a skeptic is zilch, while Brian Dunning’s stubborn embrace of DDT disinformation costs him nothing.

    To what mistake are you referring here? I missed that episode.

  2. says

    Since you say, “mistake,” I assume you’re talking about Rebecca. This was something in one of her recent-ish videos. I don’t remember which one, and the topic isn’t really important. What is important is that this became a fixed-point in reality of “Rebecca screws stuff up!!!1!” It is now used repeatedly by the people who want to ensure that no one listens to her.

  3. Alecthar says

    I would never say atheism communities in general don’t have a sexism problem. I think the fact that Rebecca Watson is as polarizing as she is demonstrates that we do, but I’m not sure we have a unique sexism problem that is somehow related more to atheism than it is to the society in which we live. So I’m not sure there’s much reason to specifically “hate atheists,” rather than condemning the practice of misogyny and enabling it in general. It does make for a attention grabbing blog headline, though.

    None of this is to say that what Rebecca wrote was out of line, or that sexism in our community isn’t something worth tackling specifically.

  4. Alecthar says

    Stephanie (#8): I did, but while I’m certain that has been your personal experience, I’m just not convinced that the atheist community is worse relative to communities in general, as opposed to the subset “Communities Stephanie is a part of.” I commend you on doing an excellent job (or at least being lucky) in finding communities, workplaces, and groups that are careful to combat misogyny.

    However, as a frequenter of internet message boards, and a rather nerdy person, I see examples of misogyny much like what reddit has given us with a fair amount of regularity, without any relation to atheism whatsoever. For example, if you play World of Warcraft, and you’re a woman (or sometimes if you just have a female character) some jackass will likely harass you (general “you” here, sorry about my horrific pronoun abuse).

    It’s a pervasive issue, and one worth confronting, I would never disagree with you on that. I wouldn’t disagree that it’s a problem in the atheism community that is worth addressing specifically. My intent here is not to say that we should be waving off this girl’s story as “the internet being the internet.” It’s just been my experience that these attitudes aren’t unique to atheism, or different somehow because they are present in the atheist community. Misogyny, it seems to me, is a reason to “hate” misogynists and those who apologize and enable them, not necessarily any particular group of people who have misogynists among them.

    Though, reddit does make me hate the internet, so I might be a little hypocritical on this.

  5. says

    Hey, you know what, Alecthar? The second of those paragraphs I wrote on why atheism is specifically a problem is the one about F&SF fandom. Did you know it’s not about incidence at all, but about the community response?

    Did you also know that this isn’t just my experience? If you scroll up above your comments–careful, not too far now–you’ll see that a number of people have endorsed my take on it. Correct me if I’m just being a dumb girl, but with a few more of those, we might actually have data!

    Or you can just keep arguing about how it’s all just the same. You know, your choice and all.

  6. kirk says

    I’ve been following this issue since the elevatorgate incident, and I’ve wondered if maybe the problem is more prevalent in the atheist and skeptical communities because those of us who identify ourselves as being in those communities do so because of an intellectual exercise we’ve made. I don’t want to go so far as to say we think we’re smarter than everyone else, but we have made a series of rational, intellectual steps to end up in these communities, so we see ourselves as rational, intellectual people.

    So when we get called out on some blatantly irrational bullshit, maybe there’s some dissonance going on that blinds people from accepting that they’ve engaged in that irrational bullshit. A certain subgroup in any group can probably always be described as simply being jerks, but maybe our groups are also more susceptible to having a larger group of people who can’t fully accept that they’ve done something stupid. And so they double-down on the stupid.

    Just a theory. But I’d be curious what people think.

  7. says

    kirk, I think that’s probably part of it. There’s also the fact that there is a stigma and a risk attached to atheism, which means that people who can afford to be highly visible and outspoken about atheism (and particularly those who have been around long enough to be in positions of de facto leadership) tend to be more privileged in general.

  8. d cwilson says

    So when we get called out on some blatantly irrational bullshit, maybe there’s some dissonance going on that blinds people from accepting that they’ve engaged in that irrational bullshit.

    Well, that would explain Bill Maher’s embrace of anti-vax woo.

  9. karmakin says

    I suspect you’re also looking at people who are privileged enough to attend conferences, economically, and that might make up a portion of it as well.

    The problem is really the community response, the big problem with the whole Reddit thing isn’t so much that people posted it, it’s that it wasn’t downvoted to oblivion (quite the opposite). There’s a social stigma against downvoting..and it’s not just Reddit, or other similar community structures (let’s be honest. Something such as DailyKos can be just as bad). People freak out over a single downvote.

    I don’t even think it’s just the internet. Very few of us I think socially “downvote” people for having such views either in the real world. We tend to not ostracize family members for having such views, we don’t put up signs warning people that a bigot lives next door, to put social pressure on them to change their views, and so on.

    It’s just not something that a majority of people are really comfortable with, in meatspace and that has extended to the virtual world, more or less.

    Now, if other communities have shed this inhibition, that’s great for them. But it’s something that’s pretty much culture-wide..or at least as wide as most people that we would think of as being pretty sensible or whatever. Obviously, people who have extreme misogynistic or other bigoted views often do NOT have this inhibition, or at least they tend to have it much less.

    So the question is how to improve the community response. This is a question that unfortunately I really have no good answer to, unless you think that…sensible (I don’t like that word, but I can’t think of anything else) people should go on an offensive stance in terms of the culture war.

  10. Alecthar says

    I appreciate the distinction you’ve made between incidence and community response. That’s something that wasn’t quite as clear to me before you stated it so concisely there.

    I’m not certain I’ve come around 100% to your point of view on this, but I must allow that, in the case of our community, it’s particularly distressing to see that level of bigotry and sexism. I feel like we should be setting ourselve a higher standard.

    All that said, I would never accuse you of being a “dumb girl” and would like to apologize if I came across that way. My intent was never to be condescending, merely to disagree on your conclusions and how you arrived to them.

  11. kirk says

    Hmm. And so you have a sort of built-in sense of privilege in the background propping up your rejection of having done anything wrong in the first place. Interesting.

    I’m frankly glad that as a man, I don’t have to directly deal with this negatively directed at me, but I do try to acknowledge when it affects women around me. It’s a much tougher task, I think, to realize when it’s benefitting me. There’s that privilege again.

    The hopeful thing is that this discussion might eventually lead to the greater stigmatizing of this behavior. As a gay man, I’m glad to be living in a time when hate speech against gays is getting called out as unacceptable. Look at the grief our crop of Republican presidential candidates keep getting. Sexism might actually be more ingrained in society, though, so I wonder if it might be harder to shake.

  12. Bryan says

    Stephanie:

    I don’t think your gender has anything to do with my comments, but if you feel it does, then I respect that, and apologize.

    I appreciate your willingness to never censor my comments, and to let me post here whenever I want. That’s why I like posting here (and obviously our shared interest in iq).

    If you’d rather I find another hobby / not post here, let me know and I will go away.

    I know cynics will question my sincerity, but how about we let it go one time and accept this as genuine.

  13. runmattrun says

    There are communities out there with worse sexism than the atheists, but that doesn’t really seem relevant.

    If you are a part of this community, and you think that this is an issue worth confronting, then this is where you can make a difference.

    When someone says “I’m just not convinced that the atheist community is worse relative to communities in general”, to me it comes across as an excuse not to do anything at all. Or are you, Alecthar, just arguing semantics at this point?

  14. John Morales says

    Further to what Kirk wrote and Stephanie’s response, I also think there’s another element — that (given the cultural climate) atheists tend to be those who are more ‘uncivil’ and ‘transgressive’.

    (And, hey, ain’t this an atheist community too?)

  15. Alecthar says

    When someone says “I’m just not convinced that the atheist community is worse relative to communities in general”, to me it comes across as an excuse not to do anything at all. Or are you, Alecthar, just arguing semantics at this point?

    I was definitely not saying “let’s not confront this issue here because it’s everywhere,” and I tried to make that clear. I may have done a poor job. Earlier on I was questioning the conclusion that “hat[ing] atheists” was the right one. It looks a lot like a semantic point, I’ll admit, it’s hard for me to articulate my thought process entirely.

    Really though, upon re-reading the post a couple times I feel like I understand Stephanie’s point better, and I’m essentially in agreement. I agree that our community holds itself to a higher standard on issues in general, and this one shouldn’t be any different. Setting higher standards and then lolling about with the lowest common denominator (“Well at least we’re not worse than those other jackasses!”) is a big failure, and it’s one that (through an error of comprehension, or just a lack thereof) I hadn’t really gotten before I posted. I can understand Stephanie’s antipathy (though I tend more toward serious disappointment in reaction myself).

    I hope that clears things up a bit.

  16. JediBear says

    Incidents like this don’t make me hate atheists.

    They exasperate me.
    They enrage me.
    They disappoint me.

    They make me want to do something and at the same time have no idea what to do. How can my small voice make an impact? I can’t fix reddit. I don’t even use reddit, or want to. Actually, I want to less now.

    It’s clear that we as a community need to do something about this. Misogyny is a skeptical issue. Misogyny is a Humanist issue. Misogynistic mind-viruses are even atheist issues — critical ones.

    We as a community pride ourselves on being rational, reasonable, and right. Misogyny is none of these, and atheists need to be called out when they make these errors.

    Here’s the thing though: I already do (rather, I try to.) I know a lot of other people do too. Hang out on Skepchick or Pharyngula for three minutes and you can’t help but see some asshat being raked over the coals.

    So what else do we do? Or is just trying to police our own little corner of Atheism/The Internet enough in the long run?

  17. gsw says

    Arrggh. I am female and I agree with Alecthar.

    We need to attack this as a misogynist problem, not an atheist problem. After all, the F&SF grew out of the SciFi community, where some women wrote under men’s names (James Tiptree, Jr., Andre Norton, etc.) or gender neutral names(Jan Mark, Robin Hobb, etc.).

    Just because people claim rationality and logic in one area does not make it easy for them to shake off prejudices absorbed as babies. Tarzan and Jane live on.

    When a man insults you verbally, insult him back. (Actually, most men think the offer of sex is a compliment). If a man attacks you physically, gut the bastard.
    And remember:

    Any man offering sex on the internet just has to be desperate, otherwise he would be propositioning people he has actually met, so have some pity and, maybe, give him a few hints – like getting out of the house, doing sport, maybe washing and getting some dental?
    Then he wouldn’t need to make such a fool of himself online.

  18. Rick Miller says

    I don’t understand why anyone would post comments implying threats of child abduction and molestation. I would never even think such thoughts.

    I don’t understand why anyone would post comments about a blogger’s “fuckability”. I would never do that.

    I don’t understand why anyone would post comments dismissing a blogger as unintelligent on the basis of gender. I hope I don’t give anyone this impression.

    I’m a man.

    I don’t understand misogyny. I’m horrified by the accusation that *I* am contributing to such a threatening culture.

    What can *I* do to make things better?

  19. gsw says

    Rick Miller says: “What can *I* do to make things better?”

    Register your disgust when something like that happens.

  20. Aquaria says

    I don’t get how men can say they don’t know what to do.

    Here’s what you do, or rather don’t do:

    You don’t sit by silently when you see it happen. Speak up. Say you don’t appreciate people treating women like sex toys. Say you don’t like women being reduced to their fuckability. Remind people that we’re human, with more to us than a goddamned vagina. If you have the guts for it, tell them you think they’re scum for thinking that about women. I know that’s what I tell sexist pigs when they try that crap with me. “You know, we’re quite a few generations removed from the caves. Stop being a sexist pig, you fucking scumbag. Women aren’t idiots, we don’t exist to service your sorry ass domestically or sexually, so treat me like a human being or fuck off, you slimeball piece of shit.”

    It’s amazing how shocking people that way can get them to stop saying stupid shit.

    Anyway, if enough of you challenge sexism when it happens right in front of your face, guess what? People will stop talking about and treating women like we’re mere sex meat.

    So what you do is, Never let a sexist remark pass without challenging it.

    Never ever.

    Sheesh. It’s not like we haven’t been saying this for 40 years now.

  21. says

    Any man offering sex on the internet just has to be desperate, otherwise he would be propositioning people he has actually met

    I would not consider the comments made in response to the got-Sagan-book-for-Xmas photo to be “offers” of sex from desperate basement-dwellers who just want a girlfriend. They are threats of (sexual) violence. Based on my experience, there are plenty of males who are considered intelligent, popular, and attractive who have the same attitudes, and are quite happy to display them in public meatspace (at least when bolstered by sufficiently large groups of buddies, and/or sufficiently large quantities of alcohol).

    When a man insults you verbally, insult him back. (Actually, most men think the offer of sex is a compliment). If a man attacks you physically, gut the bastard.

    Though returning insults and violence in kind are often reasonable responses, the subtext of this advice is to say that there are physical and virtual spaces where people (and most particularly young and attractive women) should be prepared to be insulted and attacked, and if one wishes to avoid this, the choices are to stay away entirely or at the very least hide one’s identity. This *is* a problem for the atheist community.

  22. moralnihilist says

    /r/atheism is featured on Reddit’s front page, which makes it, unfortunately, more exposed to Reddit’s general population than other subreddits. There is no way to determine whether or not most of the people upvoting the sexist comments were from /r/atheism at all or not. The mods have a policy of freedom of speech and choose not to actually moderate the subreddit at all. This might have worked before we were featured on the front page, but it’s obviously not working now in either case.

    If any of you from /r/atheism are reading this, please recognize that we have a problem. Whether the sexism is coming from our community or from the neck-bearded man-children of 4chan, this shit is going down in our house.

  23. Craig says

    @moralnihilist has it right: there are a lot of general commenters that stumble in to make their comments on /r/atheism. HOWEVER, that means that if you are an active member of /r/atheism, you should consider opposing unacceptable comments as strongly as possible. The atheism community should be better than this.

  24. LKL says

    I frequent a forum for people with Asperger’s syndrome (that’s high-functioning autism, for those of you who don’t know), and I have NEVER seen a single post by someone offering to rape another poster, much less someone offering to anally rape a 15 year old girl until she bleeds. Much less doing so and getting upvoted by the hundreds for it.
    It is a forum for people who consider themselves socially inept on a hardwired level, and they’re more civil than r/atheism. Think about that for a moment.

    Thank you, Stephanie. You, PZ, Rebecca, et. all give me hope for this movement.

  25. jalyth says

    @ 25 gsw:

    I am a woman. I am 5’10”, 200#, short hair, lip piercing. I present as very tough… gotten plenty of feedback on this. I have never punched anyone in my life and have no intention of doing so. I do “front” a lot, when I’m not in a safe place. I do not get harassed often. But on the occasion when I do, I do not want to fight back. Verbally or physically. I worry verbal sparring could escalate to physical.

    On the internet I could fight with words, but honestly, I am careful with my words and thus slower to respond than assholes. So I don’t make a good fighter online either.

    Basically, even if I could, I shouldn’t have to fight. I prefer hanging out in safe spaces IRL and online. I rarely go to reddit cause I don’t get it.

    I abhor the argument “it’s the internet, get over it” because I am also the internet and I don’t want to see that shit.

  26. Nmill says

    @kirk, who said “I’m frankly glad that as a man, I don’t have to directly deal with this negatively directed at me”: consider replacing all the sexist angles of this story with anti-atheist behavior and then realize how that feels. The next time you find yourself creeped out by some religious nut threatening to send you to hell before your time, change the words to “some sexist nut threatening to anally penetrate you til you bleed” and maybe you will find yourself more willing to stand up against sexism in your ranks.

    However, I think the really ugly stuff on this young girl’s post isn’t the main reason these bloggers are upset. It’s the failure of some leaders of the atheist community to treat sexism the way they treat other egregious irrational ways of thinking. Think about how great it was to find atheist communities where you could be who you are without fear of disapproval, anger, threats, ostracism etc. Women who become atheists and seek out the community of other atheists are also elated to find a place where they can be accepted. So imagine the pain and dejection they feel when they are treated so badly by the one community they thought they would embrace them, and for the simple fact of their gender, as if nothing else they think or say matters.

    Most members of the skeptic/atheist community claim to reject bullshit and irrationality, and yet we keep running into these cases where some cannot see their own irrational indifference to the oldest -ism of our species. It’s easy to spend time and energy denouncing homeopathy or crystals, but it takes self-awareness to face up to the really damaging irrationalities of our time, and sexism tops the list.

  27. Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle says

    We’re not all assholes.>We’re not all assholes.

    Well, thank god you cleared that up. Cuz it’s right there in the post, right? Wait, I don’t see it. Could you point out where she said “male atheists are all assholes?” I’ll wait.

  28. SallyStrange, Spawn of Cthulhu says

    We’re not all assholes.

    That’s true. Some of you are just apathetic. The thing is, when you’re being targeted for being a woman, there’s ZERO difference between the assholes who are actively harassing you, and the apathetic indifferent ones who are just letting it happen. You’re still getting harassed, and nobody except you is standing up to make it stop.

  29. says

    I’m not a big fan of comments.
    I’m Geek, so “naturally” I hang out at sites like, imgur, redit, slashdot, Hackernews, youtube – but as soon as I start reading comments there I lose all faith in humanity and all hope for its future.

    Ever since first hearing Zed Shaw’s “Utu”, I was fascinating with his idea of “Saving the Internet with Hate” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4O7VSfVxStg – the talk is fairly technical)

    The point is, someone already mentioned that, for some reason down-votes are discouraged. But down-votes — or Hate — adds distance between you and assholes. It should be very actively encouraged!

  30. daenyx says

    That’s true. Some of you are just apathetic. The thing is, when you’re being targeted for being a woman, there’s ZERO difference between the assholes who are actively harassing you, and the apathetic indifferent ones who are just letting it happen. You’re still getting harassed, and nobody except you is standing up to make it stop.

    Yup.

    I’ll add my voice to those agreeing that the atheist community is exceptional in its (terrible) response to its own sexism.

    I am an engineering grad student with ambitions of being a research PI one day. My field is brimming with sexism, but also with institutionalized action against that sexism. My male advisor and most of my peers are my strongest allies.

    I’ve been a gamer since my dad taught me chess when I was three. I’ve played two MMOs, as well as that notorious bastion of white heterosexual male gaming privilege, Magic: The Gathering. I have experienced infuriating sexism in all gaming spaces, but also honest (not always tremendously effective, but honest) dialogue to try to combat it. At sci-fi/fantasy cons, I can wear whatever I like, even cosplay, with the absolute expectation that if I am harassed, there will be literally dozens of people around me willing to support me in dealing with the harasser.

    As an atheist, in nearly all atheist spaces that are not *explicitly* feminist, I have none of this safety. I am an outsider who should count myself grateful that the shining pinnacles of civilized masculinity around me are willing to share their wisdom and their boys’ club with me. If I have a problem with someone being an asshat to me, I am probably just being too sensitive, because the men here are all Rational and Intelligent, and wouldn’t dream of participating in misogyny. (And could we please talk about something more interesting and relevant than women’s issues, now, little girl?)

    I have a problem with this.

  31. Paul Susac says

    You know, I’m coming back to atheist blogging after a several year absence, and playing catch up a bit.

    Frankly I’m a bit alarmed! There has always been an edginess to the atheist community, but it sounds like it’s getting really toxic.

    What’s embarrassing to me is that it makes the X-tians who say “you don’t want to believe in God so that you can get away with anything” sound like they have a point! Blech!

    One of the functions that communities play in our lives is that they provide standards and consequences for moral norms. It seems that this function has broken down for the on-line atheist community, and that misogyny is a result. We need some way to censure this behavior. Human beings need consequences, and people who do this kind of trash-talk are damaging to community.

    I’m not sure what the solution is, but I’m just saying.

  32. subscriber says

    I stumbled here somewhat randomly. I am an atheist and a skeptic, but I am not part of these communities, though I’ve sampled them somewhat, in my internet grazing.

    I rather question what motivates a person to make atheism or skepticism such a focus, and wonder if there are some qualities behind that which correlate pretty strongly with sexism and bigotry. To take a stab at it, one such quality might be a lack of respect for others opinions.

    It seems to me that I see you exhibiting this quality yourself in reply #11 to Alecthar, who, while tentatively offering a differing opinion on one item, was trying very hard to be respectful. Reply #11 is quite clearly not respectful, it’s rather snide and condescending. Now it’s possible I’m misreading the tone of the first two paragraphs (though, I don’t think so), but at the very least the last line is very clearly not respectful disagreement.

  33. Shari says

    Subscriber, you have a Whole. Lot. Of catching-up to do.

    Alecthar questioned the validity of her post, based on wondering if the problem might only be in her experience.

    The post itself clarifies it’s not. just. her.

    If you are only ‘grazing’ writing in the community, you can’t know the backstory. Although, the problems with women being victimized online is getting a mother-ton of airplay right now, so I am surprised if you do Any grazing that you would jump in with your particular comment. I’d think twice about criticizing a response if you are unaware of the backstory. You are commenting on a post from 2011 – read a bit, and then come on back, with understanding of the venom and hatred – which there is no excuse for – that the atheist community has thrown at female atheists who are unapologetic feminists, and then see if Stephanie’s comment seems more reasonable. Alecthar ‘got it’. He understood and accepted her p.o.v. as valid, and had the grace to finish their exchange. Why don’t you see what you can come up with.

  34. subscriber says

    Shari, I find your response a little puzzling, but perhaps I wasn’t as clear as I could have been. I wasn’t disagreeing with anything in her post. (And to be clear, I do not disagree with any of it.) Yes I criticized her comment, as disrespectful (and I stand by that), but big deal. I was actually offering it as evidence of a bigger problem with respect of other opinions and experiences in the atheist and skeptic community which may go some way to explaining why misogyny might be more rife there than other places.

    Alecthar agreed with her points that athiesm comminities have a sexism problem, and that it was worth confronting but expressed that his experience was different from Stephanie’s with regard to atheist communities having any more problem with sexism than others on the web. Now, it’s perfectly valid for her disagree, tell him he’s wrong about that, and point to contrary evidence, which she did. However the manner in which she did it was disrespectful. That’s all I’m saying. And I’m making the point that this is an example of the prevalance of such disrespect in the atheist / skeptic communities. I would add as further evidence that no one (before me) even took note of it.

  35. says

    My response to subscriber is disrespectful because nothing subscriber has said so far has warranted me giving them any respect.

    Who cares? Part of the whole reason I identify as an atheist is that I got tired of feeling obligated to perform respect when I felt none.

  36. subscriber says

    SallyStrange…was there a response I missed? Or are you the same person as Shari? That was the only person who responded to me previously, though I didn’t take it as disrespectful. Or are you the same person as Stephanie Zvan and meant to write “Alecthar” where you wrote “subscriber”?

  37. subscriber says

    So her “my response” refered to the very same comment. Um, ok. I don’t interpret that comment as disrespectful either.

    Respect means a few different things. There is one meaning which is something close to admiration; the meaning that is something akin to admiration, because you judge a person to have met certain standards for qualities you value. Then is another meaning which is a consider given someone rather more automatically….politeness, for example, or in the form of respecting a boundary.

    Disrespect normally refers to the lack of the latter. Personally I don’t consider people to have the right to my respect in the first sense, but I do give the second form of respect to people automatically, even if I have already decided they do not deserive my respect in the first sense.

    SallyStrange, which meaning of respect did you have in mind in your second paragraph? If you meant the second meaning, are you saying that the atheist community generally does not bother with it?

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