How Long Do We Put Up With This? »« The Art of Misogyny

Black and White

I was going to write something nice and reasonable answering a set of those stupid questions that keep coming up about those scary, scary anti-harassment policies, but then I ran into the very last “both sides” skeptic that I could handle right now. So I wrote this instead.

This is not about “divisiveness”. If the movement has to be torn in two to cut out the people who think women have no right to not be harassed, where is the value in sticking together?

And where the hell were you when D.J. was being “divisive” by suggesting the people working to get harassment policies in place were driving women away from TAM? Where was your skepticism when he pinned the decrease in the percentage of female attendees on week-old blog posts?

If you’re already angry at some people, fine, but try to figure out some priorities here.

Then I got this.

Anyone who thinks this issue is black and white, and that one side is morally superior and the other side a bunch of “idiots” should be stripped of the right to call herself a skeptic. And yes, that goes for *everyone* in this ridiculous fucking situation.

So I wrote some more.

I am quite angry that you and a number of other skeptics are apparently more concerned about the history of who said what to whom three years ago or even one year ago than about the fact that I’ve had a woman describe an attempted rape to me and stepped up to make sure it happens to fewer people in the future–only to see a leader of a major skeptical organization blow it off as regretted “sexual exploits”.

I’m angry. I should be angry. You should be angry about that as well, whatever else is going on. It helps no one. It hurts a lot of innocent people.

What is happening instead? A bunch of people all up in arms that Jason called someone a “douchebag”. More are now picking over whether his apology for something else was phrased correctly. None of them are doing jack shit about the fact that women–or at least certain women–are considered disposable in this movement.

That makes me furious. As it should.

If you don’t want to deal with me angry, perhaps you should wait for another topic to deal with me at all. I’m not going to “compromise” on this. I’m not going to step back and be nice to the people with power. I will shame whomever it takes to get this taken care of because this. is. not. acceptable.

Black and white. Deal.

And there’s your blog post for this evening. So, what are you doing about this?

Comments

  1. says

    The idea that one fails to act in one instance (rebuking DJ for comments about women, rebuking people in general saying bad things about women, recommending effective solutions to sexual harassment, etc) has nothing whatsoever to do with the criticisms one levies at ‘Lousy Canuck’ for saying nasty things.

    One of the main tenants of skepticism and reasoned dialogue, I would wager, is that arguments/criticisms. stand on their own merit and do so irrespective of the person putting them forth.

    Pointing the finger back at the person who makes the arguments/criticisms and saying, “Ah ha! You didn’t say x, y, and z about a, b, and c or comment on f, g, or h at time k, l, and m” is ridiculous. What’s even more ridiculous is seemingly trying to diminish arguments or criticism simply because the person making them has not fulfilled some requirements that you arbitrarily set up. Even worse, you and others are dismissing people are trolls (even though their comments are lengthy, thoughtful, free of personal attack, etc) and — by some means — this does not warrant a response or make their criticism legitimate.

    People don’t have all the time in the world. People only care about certain issues. People chime in late. People chime in at certain times for certain reasons. People don’t chime in in some situations because of various concerns. People get busy. People don’t comment on some things because of lack of understanding or confidence.

    Assume, for sake of argument, that DJ said some really nasty terrible things and ‘Lousy Canuck’ said some (let’s call them, at the very least, objectionable) things. What DJ said has no bearing whatsoever on the criticism of what ‘Lousy Canuck’ says or how bad his comments were.

    This sort of logic is very similar to Christians who tell atheists that they are unqualified to comment on Christian beliefs because they haven’t read all of the works of Aquinas, the entire Bible, etc. It sucks.

    – the “vacuous shitbag troll”

  2. says

    Oh, vacuous shitbag troll, you are now banned from this blog so that you can no longer waste time here. Perhaps that will give you time to find a greater purpose in life than spamming FtBers on Twitter over use of the word “douchebag”. Douchebag.

    [ETA: It was suggested to me on Ask an Atheist that my comment above doesn't give enough context to understand that Justin was spamming me on Twitter for the two days before I banned him here. He was.]

  3. Pteryxx says

    (content warning for victim-blaming, graphic descriptions below and at link)

    (really, I mean it)

    And as for DJ’s problematic statement that women complaining of harassment are just recounting “sexual exploits” that they regret after the fact, does this sound familiar to anyone?

    Kindlon [lawyer for accused rapist] continued: “She may never remember why she was with another man instead of her boyfriend, why she said yes to a guy she barely knew. I’m sure she has regrets about the choices she made that got her to that point.

    “Ladies and gentlemen, regrets are not rape.”

    Sound like a reasonable explanation? Nothing to get angry about?

    Here’s the victim’s testimony:

    At the trial in March, the woman testified that the last thing she remembered before the attack was being in a Lark Street bar. The next thing she knew, she was in a strange bathroom covered in blood
    The trial transcript states that Sposito, 28, was demanding she shower, saying, “Get in the tub! Clean up!” She pretended to shower but escaped into the pre-dawn darkness. She emerged from woods on Lynnwood Drive wearing only a sweater and screaming, “Help me! Help me! Help me!”

    http://www.timesunion.com/local/article/Terrified-victim-blasts-rapist-and-lawyer-3614213.php

    The word “regret” had better not sound so bloody reasonable now.

  4. says

    People don’t have all the time in the world. People only care about certain issues. People chime in late. People chime in at certain times for certain reasons. People don’t chime in in some situations because of various concerns. People get busy. People don’t comment on some things because of lack of understanding or confidence.

    People spend weeks internalizing all the arguments and only ever criticizing the critics of the indefensible.

  5. LeftSidePositive says

    You know, I don’t think the vacuous troll ever considers that we might notice a (gasp!) pattern of his insistence on trivialities incredibly conveniently at the time big stuff gets going?

    And, yeah, he’s certainly right that his posts are lengthy, but not at all thoughtful–which ranks very high on my lists of reasons to ban someone. A practically infinitesimal content to words ratio, mixed with a heavy dose of derailing and/or fallacious thinking is just plain insufferable.

    Remember how he deliberately nice-trolled Rebecca on twitter and then whined that she told him off because he insisted he was being “nice” and milking what he thought was plausible deniability for all it’s worth?

    Ugh, such a superficial, tedious, disingenuous hack!

    And Stephanie, your post reminded me of the timeless wisdom of BothSides!

  6. msm16 says

    I have been halfway following the current drama and I just had to voice my disbelief.

    To be honest I don’t understand the furor behind all this hoopla at all. I thought the point of being a modern educated individual was respecting the rights of all people regardless of any of their defining characteristics. If there are claims by women that there is harassment going on then it should be investigated and addressed in an appropriate manner so that it doesn’t happen again. Period. The end.

    Sorry but all this backlash against these complaints is just unfathomable to me.

  7. Feddlefew says

    @ msm16

    There’s actually a social fallacy that explains this. I can’t remember what it’s called right now, but it’s the idea that, since hypothetical person A has been accepted into a social group after being rejected* from what they reprieve as mainstream society, then they ow it to that social group to defend it from anything which might cause disharmony. Any person who causes drama, especially by calling out another member of the group on bad behavior, is then pressured by other members of the group to stop, so eventually denying that anyone in the group does anything bad becomes the norm.

    Then you end up with situations where person A is desperately trying to defend someone from their group who has committed hate crimes which they would have condemned an “outsider” for doing.

    *Or otherwise not fitting in.

  8. says

    Stephanie,

    “And where the hell were you when D.J. was being “divisive” by suggesting the people working to get harassment policies in place were driving women away from TAM?”

    He did not suggest that. TAM already had an anti-harassment policy at TAM9, over a year before he posted at Skepchick.org.

    “Where was your skepticism when he pinned the decrease in the percentage of female attendees on week-old blog posts?”

    He did not do that. The sexual harassment debate has been going on at least since Elevatorgate.

    Be angry and uncompromising, if you have to. But be angry and uncompromising based on the facts.

  9. says

    Personally, I count every disingenous, incomprehensibly verbose troll banned as a tiny notch of progress. Now we can go back to actually discussing the issue. I hope.

  10. Emptyell says

    @ Feddlefew

    I think it’s much simpler than that.

    Cooperation and civility are advantageous within any social class or group. Those that are more internally cooperative become more successful and this tends to promote civility and cooperation within the group. As their fortunes improve there is plenty to go around and much more to be gained by civility and getting along than by aggression and conflict.

    Assuming resources are limited the success of one group comes at the expense of others. As these become more impoverished there is a tendency for increased conflict and competition for dwindling resources. This further weakens the group and worsens their condition leading to more conflict and competition.

    Members of the ruling class then become accustomed to good manners and civility being the way things get done and view conflict and aggression as inherrently destructive. Those who serve the upper classes (I believe these are the ones you were referring to) internalize the values of those they serve and, it seems, often become even more aggressive in asserting their righteousness than their masters.

    This is of course much more to this, but I think it largely explains how the tone trolls are so thoroughly convinced of the rectitude of their position.They really do think that you must first establish a civil and respectful tone before anything constructive can be accomplished. What they don’t see (are protected from seeing) is how overt conflict and aggression have been sublimated into oppression and enforced by “peace officers” and “defense departments” and are thus implicit in any “civil” discourse between classes thus rigging the game in their favor.

    I hope I haven’t done too much violence to the subject. Many, many volumes have been written on this, only a few of which I’ve read, and rather long ago at that.

    . . .

    Or, put even more simply, those who benefit from the status quo want to keep it that way by allowing only “constructive” civil discourse while those who seek to change it must rock the boat.

  11. Mark7300 says

    With regard to communication I think an often made mistake is to think there is only one way to say things. There will be people who are better reached by a calm, understated tone and who are immediately put off by an “aggressive” attitude.

    In other cases an aggressive attitude works better. The art is to figure out what approach works best when and where of course!

    I have the greatest of respect for people like Phil Plait or (obviously) Carl Sagan who in their own way bring/brought a measured, calm approach. I also think PZ Myers or Rebecca Watson are brilliant.

    This whole idea that a particular way of communicating is damaging to “the movement” is not based on anything than subjective opinions.

    When I want to introduce people to skepticism I am more likely to send them to BadAstronomy or Neurologica than Pharyngula. Waking people up or educating them that they are wrong or ignorant in something can be done in different ways.

    After all that though, I have to admit that to shake things up you need some angry people kicking in some doors!

  12. maureen.brian says

    This whole idea that a particular way of communicating is damaging to “the movement” is not based on anything than subjective opinions.

    I agree with you on that one, Mark7300, but I wish you had gone the extra mile and pointed out that such thinking is a direct and unexamined carry-over from religion.

    All organised religion depends, or certainly the monotheistic ones, upon the notion that the higher up in an organisation someone is the more holy, the closer to god, he must be and therefore to keep on the right side of god we obey his instructions even if they are against our conscience.

    The notion that this person might be the Big Cheese because his dad was pope before him or he is a Machiavellian schemer is in itself heresy and punished accordingly. That alone explains why the Vatican is more determined to punish Sister Margaret Farley than the seemingly infinite number of child-rapists who keep coming out of the woodwork. We don’t even need misogyny to explain it though many of us suspect it is there.

    (Male pronouns are used consciously and deliberately. Both Niccolo Machiavelli and the Medici popes being long dead, nothing above is a slur against any living person. Trolls beware of trying to turn it into one.)

  13. karmakin says

    DJ made a REALLY bad argument because he wanted to pin the whole thing on the “other” tribe’s leaders specifically. However, the discussion about sexual harassment at conventions is something that I’ve read about pre-Elevatorgate even, in discussions about how to get more women out to these things, some people mentioned how they felt that these conventions were kind of “meat market-ish” and as such it made them uncomfortable.

    That said, I disagree with basically everything DJ actually said. No, the new talk about it isn’t responsible for the drop in female attendance (Look at the WIS conference), no it’s not irresponsible to talk about it, talking about it isn’t the problem, the harassment itself is the problem. Does making people aware of this possibly cause some people not to come? Sure. But I don’t see this as a bad thing. It’s saving people who probably can’t handle it some pain they really don’t need and don’t deserve.

    One thing I’ll add on to the tone debate is that tone most certainly can matter. I’m as big of a downplayer of tone as anybody, but at a certain degree there are levels of tone that will definitely just turn people off. The thing is, calling someone a douchebag isn’t even close. If you want an example of bad tone, look at PETA, a group that is constantly setting their movement back. They don’t even use bad words! They’re just offensive in almost every other way.

  14. Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle says

    LOL Wow, Larsen. You’re an incredibly bad liar.

  15. fastlane says

    LOL Wow, Larsen. You’re an incredibly bad liar.

    I couldn’t even parse his comment enough to make sense of what he was trying to say, so you’re step ahead of me.

    But then, my brain is operating on a distinct lack of sleep from having two family members in the hospital at the same time for congestive heart failure.

  16. says

    It’s funny, a lot of guys like to harp on how you or Greta or Rebecca or some other ebil feminist is dividing the group and making problems. None of you made me a feminist. Creepy people don’t make me feminists. It’s otherwise reasonably nice rational people who argue that it’s offensive to men to avoid situations where you can be raped, even mentioning that being cornered in an isolated place as “creepy” that make me a feminist. It’s event organizers who accuse women of regretting their hookups or overblowing the situation who make me a feminist. It’s individuals who argue that women are treated even worse somewhere else, therefore, there is no issue, that make me a feminist.

    It isn’t feminist who make the case I should be feminists, it’s the people telling me not to worry my pretty little head that make me a feminist.

  17. says

    I can understand reluctance to accept one side in a single “he said, she said’ situation, especially when all of the facts are not known. However, sexual harassment primarily perpetrated by men on women, has a well documented history. There really is no reason to ignore claims of harassment, and and especially no reason to ignore calls to do something about it.

    From my privileged position, I have very rarely been subject to anything of the nature since I was 15 and the older man at the next urinal put his arm around me. I know that things like thjis happen with great frequency to to women, all I have to do is ask, and almost all women have stories about being groped or propositioned inappropriately, some at work, some conferences.

    A simple tale. My daughter recently graduated with her MSc in a male dominated field. Prior to the first conference she attended, it was recommended she attend a seminar on how to deal with the harassment she would most definitely face at the conference itself. It is not a large field, so it was not considered that the ‘grand old men’ should be ejected.

    Why would anyone disbelieve there is a problem in the skeptical movement.

  18. smhll says

    @8 In fact, DJ did allege (on Facebook, I think)[1] that the regrettable decline in women registering for TAM this year was due to bloggers discussing unpleasant incidents. He did not name names. He did not supply any data analysis to support his conclusion, but did say that he had received some emails from people who weren’t coming. (Arguably not a biased sample since many people toss out their registration forms without emailing a complaint.)

    The fact that he said this was aggravating as it appeared to be just a guess on his part, and that he overlooked the strenous efforts made by Rebecca W. and others to make TAM a doable thing for more women LAST year. (Fundraising for scholarships, etc.)

    Just because you didn’t read something, doesn’t mean it wasn’t said.

    [1] I believe he was quoted on R. Watson’s post on Skepchick 4-5 days ago about her TAM attendance plans.

  19. julian says

    I did not like the Grothe not interested in vaginas bit. It was entirely unnecessary and I honestly can’t read that without thinking of Grothe’s homosexuality. It was a low blow whatever the intention.

    That said

    I’m not going to “compromise” on this. I’m not going to step back and be nice to the people with power. I will shame whomever it takes to get this taken care of because this. is. not. acceptable.

    Is something I honestly hope to live by. There is no reason to be kind to people accusing you of rumor mongering when you report sexual harassment or assault (your own or the stories others have been willing to confide in you). They do not deserve any level of reverence. If that upsets them or their friends whatever. Their discomfort is not so important you should remain quiet.

  20. B-Lar says

    @Emptyell; I wonder if you could recommend a volume on this subject that I could read. A most fascinating comment that I would like to follow up.

    Also:

    “Or, put even more simply, those who benefit from the status quo want to keep it that way by allowing only “constructive” civil discourse while those who seek to change it must rock the boat.”

    Quite so, although it is important that if you are rocking the boat that you do so in a constructive way. A distinction should be made between destructive and constructive agression. I have no idea where that line might be, however.

  21. aussieatheist says

    @Marnie: It’s otherwise reasonably nice rational people who argue that it’s offensive to men to avoid situations where you can be raped, even mentioning that being cornered in an isolated place as “creepy” that make me a feminist.

    Guys don’t intrinsically get this. The nice guys you are talking about don’t get why you would be worried about being in a situation they would be completely relaxed in. Mostly because they don’t have to worry about being raped. For the most part the worst that can happen is that they will get the shit kicked out of them.

  22. says

    @aussieatheist (25):

    Can we let go of the Nice Guy Myth? There are plenty of men, nice or not, who understand the dynamics here well enough to behave correctly. The only purpose of this myth is to defend indefensible behavior, to give actual harassers an out based on the presumption of innocence and the relative lack of evidence.

  23. Emptyell says

    @ Blar 24

    I wonder if you could recommend a volume on this subject that I could read. A most fascinating comment that I would like to follow up.

    Oh boy. It’s been a long time, my old library is in storage on the opposite coast and it covers quite a range. My scholarly interest was long ago and far away. Now I’m just a casual observer.

    The one single volume from the old days that comes to mind is Revolution in the Revolution by Regis Debray. It’s a very good book and a quick read but I don’t recall how apropos it is to issues of tone and civility (it’s an historical analysis of violent revolution).

    There are always the classics, Das Kapital, The Wealth of Nations and the works of John Maynard Keynes, James Kenneth Galbraith and Milton Friedman. And then Locke, Hume, Russel and William James in philosophy (I just never could sink my teeth into Kant). But I’m sure I couldn’t cite appropriate passages at this point. I’d probably have to read them all over again.

    Wait, I just remembered a couple of good ones I read about 3-4 years ago. One is Marx’s Revenge by Meghnad Desai. He presents a very different view of Marx than the popular one (and one I happen to share). The other is Bad Samaritans by Ha-Joon Chang. Which I find a very insightful view of multinational capitalism and free trade.

    For the sociol-cultural perspective you should probably look to feminist writers. This is where I am way behind the curve. The most recent feminist titles I can recall reading were The Female Eunuch shortly after it was a best seller and The Second Sex around the same time. I’m sure there are others here who could steer you to much more current and topical works in this field.

    Wait, I just remembered a couple of good ones I read about 3-4 years ago. One is Marx’s Revenge by Meghnad Desai. He presents a very different view of Marx than the popular one (and one I happen to share). The other is Bad Samaritans by Ha-Joon Chang. Which I find a very insightful view of multinational capitalism and free trade. But again neither of these is particularly about civility an tone.

    Quite so, although it is important that if you are rocking the boat that you do so in a constructive way. A distinction should be made between destructive and constructive agression. I have no idea where that line might be, however.

    The line is not so much a line as a phase space* of viable options which will vary with every situation. As a rule I would say that less violence is better and no violence is best if possible. Violent rebellion and revolution usually just replaces one tyrant with another. On the other hand I don’t know of any cases of a ruling class handing over power because people asked really nicely.

    In a relatively free society (ie where power struggles can be resolved with minimal violence) the most effective approach seems to be a large scale version of good cop/bad cop with the radical folks getting attention and more diplomatic/connected ones making the deals. But this is where I am way out of my depth. There are real experts out there on social justice and the politics of change. I am just a casual observer.

    * Is there a better term for this? I can’t think of one right now.

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