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“The Problem of Dogmatic Feminism”

I was an unannounced guest on yesterday’s Ask an Atheist. The topic was “The Problem of Dogmatic Feminism“. From the notes posted before the show:

I am a woman. I have attended and spoken at conferences. I have diligently and thoughtfully explored and studied issues of sexism, privilege, social constructs, diversity, and equity. I was steeped in a college culture that, despite being single-sex, eschews gender binaries and celebrates women as integral components in all levels of society. I am a product of a college whose founder intended her institution to serve as “a perennial blessing to the country and the world” for educating women, a college whose tradition “educates women of promise for lives of distinction.” I continue to explore and study these issues as an educator dedicated to equitable opportunity and the ideals of egalitarian responsibility, and atheism/Humanism is a natural home for many seeking to be free of religion’s tendency to reinforce negative gender stereotypes and rigid gender roles through dogma.

That said, I am struck by the dogma that characterizes the discourse surrounding the issue of sexual harassment at atheist conferences. When prominent religious voices espouse dogma, we spot it and denigrate the thinking behind it with ease. I can’t help but listen in disbelief (ha!) as my female peers—gulp—dogmatically insist that any gathering worth its spit adopt and publicize a strict policy, indignantly assign sexual predation to entire categories of people (men), unflinchingly insist that speakers who make romantic advances are inherently abusive, and reactively denigrate and dismiss those who question the tone or content of these cries. Is our womanhood and feminism so holy that we cannot and will not open ourselves to criticism, discussion, and questions? Because the tone I’ve seen is unforgiving:

I sent the show an email.

Hi, Becky and Sam.

I’m one of the bloggers heavily linked to (at Almost Diamonds) in the materials for today’s show. I’d love to call in today to talk a bit about why this discussion comes across as dogmatic or non-skeptical. For example, I was fascinated by Becky’s calling out my “This is completely noncontroversial” statement while later following it up by saying she believes there is a problem based on statistics.

Please let me know if there’s a time that would be best for you.

The response I received wasn’t particularly inviting.

Any listener is welcome to call between 3 and 4 pm Pacific time.  We stream live at our website. Our call screener is named Darren.

I called in anyway. The conversation wasn’t comfortable, and I’m not sure how productive it was. It was largely about whether I should change my tone when talking about sexual harassment. Feel free to listen to the show itself, but there are a few general points I’d like to address.

Shame
One of the points raised by Becky before I joined the conversation was that many people who are formerly religious have a problem with shame. She suggested that it shouldn’t, therefore, ever be used. So what I said in this post was bad.

To evaluate this claim, you have to understand what shame is and does. Shame is “a painful emotion caused by consciousness of guilt, shortcoming, or impropriety.” In other words, it is, in itself, a highly useful emotion for a social species.

Can it be misused? Of course it can. That’s why people who were religious have such unpleasant associations with it. Shame that is invoked for behaviors that don’t hurt anyone is incredibly harmful.

Shame that is invoked for behaviors that actually hurt people, however, such as D.J.’s comment saying women who were talking about having been harassed were just engaged in “locker room banter” after regretting their “sexual exploits”, serves a very useful purpose. It is the impetus to stop the harmful behavior. It’s not comfortable to watch, like much of the process of dealing with harassment in our movements, but it is sometimes what is called for.

Dogmatism
The dogmatism in the show’s title wasn’t actually about dogma. It was about my stating things in strong terms. We never managed to come up with any of those things that I feel or write strongly about that were wrong, but apparently I still shouldn’t assert them as though they are the outcome of months of arguments full of citations on one side and–ironically–accusations that these closely argued points constitute feminist dogma on the other.

Toward the end of the conversation, this seemed to boil down to the idea that there have to be places to ask the “dumb” conversations. I agree. I’ve said as much before on the topic of skepticism.

Of course, I’ve also, in the same discussion, that there’s a place for forceful argumentation. And there’s a need for conversation that doesn’t stop at the basics over and over again.

The question is who does which and when. Becky mentioned that it bothered her that women weren’t the ones doing the 101-level posts in this discussion. Now, aside from the fact that I’ve done some of those too, though not all aimed at a general audience, the idea that women or particular women have to host 101-level discussions this far into our year-plus-long discussion is problematic. Why?

History
The Ask an Atheist crew may have been avoiding these discussions for the last year. I haven’t. None of the bloggers singled out by the show have been anything but involved in these arguments that entire time. That means they’ve been targeted for abuse that entire time. As I put it to someone who claimed to be unaware of the situation earlier today:

What I’m talking about is things like the campaign to get Rebecca Watson removed from Skeptic’s Guide. I’m talking about the posting of my employment information on a thread dedicated to hating those who said what happened in an elevator was not, in fact, zero bad. I’m talking about the ongoing participation in such a thread. I’m talking about getting a comment that said, for every person who commented about having been sexually assaulted, the commenter was going to go sexually harass a woman. I’m talking about Russell Blackford telling people I was like the Taliban because I suggested implementing anti-harassment policies that prohibited vendor use of “booth babes”. I’m talking about the people I talk with on Twitter being targeted with anti-feminist spam.

I’m talking about things like this: http://www.geoffreyfalk.com/wp_blog/?p=18504
I’m talking about things like this: http://freethoughtblogs.com/blaghag/2012/05/oh-yeah-well-youre-ugly/
I’m talking about things like this: http://freethoughtblogs.com/ashleymiller/2012/06/06/arent-you-making-it-up-why-women-dont-report-harassment/
I’m talking about things like this: http://freethoughtblogs.com/greta/2012/05/23/mencallmethings-ugly-mental-illness/

That’s the kind of crap I’m talking about, and it’s a very tiny sample.

If you want someone to have a lot of tolerance for privileged cluelessness, you probably don’t want to insist it should be someone who has been through all that. And you probably don’t want to blame the people who have been through all that for being changed by it. There’s a much better target for that blame.

So the people who are holding 101-level discussion mostly aren’t the people who have been fighting. They’re not the people who have been abused over and over again. Right now, that means mostly men.

Going Forward
Want to change how this is going? Want more women to hold those conversations? Want more women to demonstrate that kind of patience?

Then more women are probably going to have to step up. Where will they come from? I have no idea.

Hopefully they’ll meet the standards third parties want to impose on them. Maybe someone will even want to step in and shield them from all the abuse.

Comments

  1. ContainsCaffeine says

    Having anti harassment policies at conventions is feminist dogma? Yeah, because those policies didn’t come from identifying a problem and proposing a solution that seems to have been effective at other gatherings and have been carefully iterated on over years. Harassment policies were handed down on stone tablets by the great Feminoid for all the femisheep to recite, and all those who do not follow them will be castrated. You’d think a fucking show about atheism would know what the word dogma means.

  2. says

    I don’t like that the topic was broached this way. I don’t like that the only dissenting voice had to practically sneak into the show when two of the targeted women live locally to where it aired. I don’t like that the argument against you is essentially that you’re too feisty, that you’re rocking the boat too much, that you’re trying to change things and “we’re not comfortable with that”. So they stick the shiv in where they think it’ll hurt the most — that you’re “dogmatic”.

    When really, they mean to say you, and we, have been talking about this stuff and squelching dissent not because the evidence is in and it’s time to move on to solving these problems instead of arguing if they even exist, but because we have some sort of dogmatic adherence to a fundamentalist strain of feminism.

    Fuck that. Women are worth having in this conversation. Diversity is its own good. If we’re moving too fast for some people, let us men-folk who get it try to play support. We certainly can’t take point and take the brunt of the abuse, but we can damn well point that abuse out and say “no, that’s fucked up, stop it.”

  3. Daniel Schealler says

    With the 101-level discussions… Did they give you any reasons as to why they thought women in particular should be answering those questions?

    Because the only things I can think of go the other way. I can think of good reasons why men should be particularly involved in answering 101-level questions about feminism. But other than ‘because it matters to them’ I can’t really think of why women should be expected to be particularly focused on the 101-level stuff. I don’t get it.

    Also: Is it actually true? Are men doing more of the answering of 101-level questions about feminism? I’d be surprised and pleased if that were true. By gut tells me it isn’t so, but what the hell does my stomach know about anything?

  4. F says

    WRT ContainsCaffeine’s comment at #1:

    And the thing is, where’s all the original drama and energy spent coming from? Instead of, “Oh, OK, good plan. We’ll adopt this revision of rules and publish it,” you get this insane shriek of the damned and these “reasonable” types who act as though it’s feminists who are being extreme. What are they so resistant about? Just doing it would be the easy way. Or are there some potentially catastrophic unintended consequences to things like, “Guys, don’t do that,” and the mere suggestion that men consider and treat women as human beings equal in agency?

    It also feels like there’s an attitude, every time this sort of discussion goes through a refresh, that treats the conversation as if it were about an unusual, isolated, incident because the conversation was simply incited by someone publicly mentioning a specific incident. But there are lots of “incidents”, and they are just one presenting symptom of the whole damned climate, which they demonstrate copiously and with fervor, while arguing against the fact that there is a problem. And then the accomodationists call the feminists extreme and unreasonable. Erected are the straw women. Meanwhile, others will give you straight-up old fashioned forthright sexism, which is treated as some behaviorally distant outlier, not worth mentioning, and if you do mention it, it’s cherry-picking.

    /end dump

  5. says

    Jason:

    I don’t like that the only dissenting voice had to practically sneak into the show when two of the targeted women live locally to where it aired.

    .

    Hi Jason. I’m an assistant producer of the locally and independently produced commercial radio show. I and my third chair are featured regularly on our weekly programming. This week’s show was a broadcast editorial of my voice dissenting to the current discourse surrounding misogyny and feminism in the atheist and skeptics movement(s). I’m not sure how you see Stephanie as the only dissenting voice. While Stephanie may not have felt welcomed–and true, we did extend an invitation because this was an editorial episode–we always invite listeners to call. I just don’t see how that qualifies as making Stephanie sneak in.

    I don’t like that the argument against you is essentially that you’re too feisty, that you’re rocking the boat too much, that you’re trying to change things and “we’re not comfortable with that”.

    .

    I hope that you see that’s not my argument. Feisty is hardly a bad characteristic! I’m talking about changing the current framework of the discussion with the hope of engaging in solutions from an additive model that appeals and makes sense to all (reasonable) parties involved who want to see an end to harassment and a safe and inviting space for participants of all genders.

    We’ll be releasing some recorded follow-up to the post shortly, and I’ll be addressing some of Stephanie’s concerns directly. Stay tuned on askanatheist.tv.

  6. says

    Yikes, important Correction:
    We did *not* extend an invitation because this was an editorial episode–we always invite listeners to call.


    editorial episode =/= interview episode.

    And really, anyone is welcome to call. Our call screener and host may determine who airs and for how long, but we accept live calls during the show (253) 584-1480 and voicemails that we air 206-420-0997.

  7. says

    I’m talking about changing the current framework of the discussion with the hope of engaging in solutions from an additive model that appeals and makes sense to all (reasonable) parties involved who want to see an end to harassment and a safe and inviting space for participants of all genders.

    I’m not sure what half of that means, but it did make me wonder: which parties of those involved do you consider “reasonable” here? Well, other than yourself and your friends and supporters, of course.

  8. says

    Hi Dean,
    I’m not sure which half’s meaning is confusing but I hope I can clarify.

    “Reasonable party”: someone with the goal of eliminating sexism and harassment. Not all people who support me are reasonable (some folks are applauding my alleged anti-feminism, and some are mistaking my criticism of things Stephanie and others have said as blanket approval of sexist behavior; it is not), and not all my friends agree with my position.

    “Framework of discussion”: the lens through which we see; the way in which we converse/engage.

    “Additive model”: solution based on adding benefits to members of underprivileged class of people. Contrast to subtractive model where privileged must lose out on something, or zero-sum model where we just trade inequalities and grievable positions

    “All genders”: male, female, and those who associate outside the gender binary (trans, cis, androgynous, etc.)

  9. Kathy says

    Ahh, I see your problem, Becky – you fail to realise that the people who have been raising objections to all the very sensible measures proposed by Stephanie et al. are not ‘reasonable parties’. They don’t want to eliminate sexism and sexual harrassment, they want to pretend it doesn’t exist so they don’t have to change the way they behave.

    Seriously, this discussion has been ongoing for a long time – all the possible arguments, explanations, research, statistics and personal experiences have been hashed out at least three times, at length. There has been ample evidence of the problem. At this stage, the people who are still insisting on going over that ground are effectively sticking their hands in their ears and singing ‘lalalalalala!’. They’re not reasonable parties.

  10. MyaR says

    This strikes me as more of a communications fail than anything else. Depressing, but not uncommon in people of good will. Too much time was spent hammering out the exact personal position being taken, and too little in constructing a coherent frame for an additive approach.

    It comes across as a lack of professionalism to me — poor judgment on presentation of a position (if your goal is constructive/additive, it’s probably not a good idea to salt your presentation of pre-show material with ‘I’m not on board with THESE people’ links, because that’s how it’ll come across if you’re presenting your position in response to someone else’s), and poor judgment of what space was available to take a certain position.

  11. A nym too says

    Becky – first. what do poor, maligned, sexual predators lose by not being able to prey on conference attendees?

    Second, your apparent attempt at inclusivity is hilarious.

    ” “All genders”: male, female, and those who associate outside the gender binary (trans, cis, androgynous, etc”

    Trans =/= non-binary. That’s seriously just erased the majority of trans people.

    Cis just means “not trans”. It’s like heterosexual/homosexual, or abled/disabled.

    This is seriously 101 stuff. It illustrates a desire to appear inclusive by using terms rooted in trans advocacy, but reveals the ignorance involved in chucking words about without even caring to check their meaning.

  12. says

    @Becky in #12: That does clarify matters a bit, thanks. Here’s the part where I’m going to disagree with you:

    some are mistaking my criticism of things Stephanie and others have said as blanket approval of sexist behavior; it is not

    Indeed, it is not. What it also isn’t, however, is advancing towards your stated goal of improving the quality of the conversation. Since we’re talking about tone and strategy, and all, you may want to not start by accusing others of “dogmatism” if you want to move the conversation forward. And that’s not even going into the topic of whether that criticism was fair and justified to begin with. (This is an unsafe space for males? Really? Then what am I still doing here?)

    “Additive model”: solution based on adding benefits to members of underprivileged class of people. Contrast to subtractive model where privileged must lose out on something, or zero-sum model where we just trade inequalities and grievable positions.

    Yeah, “additive model” sounds nice. Small problem: how do you propose to end harassment without taking away the privilege to harass women and get away with it from the harassers?

  13. MyaR says

    what do poor, maligned, sexual predators lose by not being able to prey on conference attendees?

    I do think this is an unfair accusation. Becky’s been pretty clear that she doesn’t support the misogynist position. What I read it boiling down to is an issue with tone — you’re being mean to the misogynists (by banning them from hoggling all over your own place), which makes our side look bad. You’re also being mean by shaming people who are behaving shamefully, and there are religious associations with shame for some people, so you shouldn’t ever, ever shame anyone for any behavior.

    It really is the framing wars all over again, with a similar fail in framing to kick it off.

  14. MyaR says

    Small problem: how do you propose to end harassment without taking away the privilege to harass women and get away with it from the harassers?

    Thanks, Deen. I meant to say something along those lines earlier, but was on my iPhone. I do think it’s great to work within an additive framework, although I’m curious as to how this would work when the specific problem (which you have acknowledged) is that some people feel there should be no barriers to harassing other people.

  15. says

    Stephanie Zvan,

    As an occasional, somewhat-clueless-but-trying-to-be-sympathetic commenter here and at Butterflies and Wheels, I just want to say you and Ophelia Benson work is making a difference, at least with me, and helping me to open my eyes a bit. Thank you for your hard work.

  16. says

    MyaR, I think the framing wars do provide a good parallel for the arguments being made here. However, there is one difference I think is relevant. The people raising criticisms in the framing wars were themselves actively engaged in the culture wars. Ask an Atheist is being very clear that this show is to be the extent of their involvement in the topic of sexism in our movements.

  17. says

    Thank you, Kate. Coming from you, that means a lot.

    One Brow, thank you too. I’ve seen and I appreciate all the work you’ve put in on this too.

  18. says

    The people raising criticisms in the framing wars were themselves actively engaged in the culture wars. Ask an Atheist is being very clear that this show is to be the extent of their involvement in the topic of sexism in our movements.

    HI! Still here! Still participating! Releasing more recorded content shortly!

    Our show won’t be dominated by this topic, just as this isn’t the only thing you’ll be blogging about. (I assume at some point I’ll get to hear you continue with the ongoing discussion with James on TotF, which I’ve been enjoying. )

    Now…here’s me asking for some homework help. Culture wars and Framing wars…Specific to the atheist context? Pat Buchanan 90’s? FtB’er Dispatches? Otto von Bismarck and the Catholics? a compass is appreciated.

  19. says

    Becky, it was Mike’s (I think) comments on what the show was and wasn’t getting involved in that I’m referring to. Your participation is certainly welcome, as is Ask an Atheist as a whole if Mike’s comment doesn’t turn out to be representative or if that decision changes. I would love to see more people involved in this work.

    The framing wars is a reference to debates about how to publicly advocate for good science, particularly on the topic of evolution. Matt Nisbet and Chris Mooney were the point people for those who felt a confrontational approach hurt the cause, and PZ Myers and (at least locally in one memorable debate) Greg Laden were the point people for the idea that confrontation is a valuable tool as part of a spectrum of approaches. It wasn’t dissimilar to the discussions around Phil Plait’s “Don’t Be a Dick” speech that I talk about in the links in this post. I don’t know that there’s any one good link to give you the background on it, but someone else commenting here might have one.

  20. John says

    I’ve been following a lot of these threads lately on the various feminist leaning blogs, and a whole hell of a lot of it (feminism) is brand new to me and I’ve had a lot of eye-opening the past few weeks.

    But after hearing the episode, reading some forums that were pretty harsh on Rebecca Watson and the FTBers, I started doing some digging on all the background posts that I could find.

    I’m also a really big fan of “Ask an Atheist”, so to see the topic come up on the latest show was really an impetus for me to do the background reading that was necessary to form an opinion worth sharing.

    The biggest thing I’ve seen that should come “as a result of these conversations” is the recommendation for a harassment policy, and I read the linked one from the Geek Feminism Wiki. What gets me is that doesn’t seem like it’s anything unreasonable. If there is a problem with that specific policy, I’d really like to see any specifics discussed.

    The only thing I see that’s “strict” is that it bans “booth babes”, which I have a hard time finding as problematic at an Atheist/Skeptic conference. It bans harassment by a presenter (or anyone), which is fine. I don’t see anything that equates “harassment” with “flirting”, let alone anything that bans it.

    There are a few things that Becky did bring up that I agree with her on – the issue about speakers/flirting, but that wasn’t an issue brought up by a blogger, it was a commenter.

    From a “tone” perspective, reading the blogs as the token “straight white dude who has little to no clue about current feminist thought”, it feels off putting. Not sure how that could be avoided given the topic matter, and the shit the female bloggers deal with constantly (the #mencallmethings crap).

    I really don’t want to give a detailed opinion on the whole DJ thing, if what he said was wrong based on what he knew where, because I feel like there’s a whole lot I’ve not read or don’t know, and frankly I don’t want to do digging on that type of thing.

    At the end, it does seem that he’s an organizer that wants a good representation of female speakers, a good proportion of female attendees, and a safe environment for everyone. Problems with his apology not withstanding, isn’t the real test of all this whether or not TAM ends up with a solid harassment AND reporting policy?

  21. says

    You know how women often talk about how, when a man is being pushy, not taking “no” for an answer, or otherwise acting like a jerk, we often feel we need to smile and placate and let the guy down easily even though he is clearly in the wrong? We do this because we are frightened that if we put our foot down, the situation might escalate. Women who are forward about being uninterested are often called bitches or worse.

    Well, this whole idea that women can be emphatic and pull no punches about creationism or anti-vaxers or psychics, but that we need to be soft and accommodating about topics that fall under the “feminism” umbrella, feels like more of the above.

    Let me be clear, we shame anti-vaxers, we shame psychics, we shame conspiracy theorist and global warming deniers. Our tone would fit that same definition of “dogma” applied above. We shame them because what they do harms other people. This idea that we have to be careful of people’s feelings when discussing harassment is pure tone-trolling, no matter how you slice it.

    This attitude diminishes the feelings of the people who are directly hurt by this behavior. Saying that the feelings of people who refuse to acknowledge a problem and who may be complicit in the behavior in question, take precedent over anyone who is directly impacted is sending a clear message that harassment should be swept under the rug and ignored.

  22. says

    John, I think that will indeed be a very important test for many people who are watching to see what the JREF does with all the information and advice D.J. has received. He’s been made aware of a couple of important shortcomings in the parts of the policy that have to do with reporting. I know at least a couple of people have sent him sample language. He hasn’t said anything other than “We will look at it” to date, as far as I know. So there’s a lot of uncertainty about how it will go. We’ll see.

  23. Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle says

    Marnie @ 25: bang on. exactly. These absurd accuations of “dogmatism” is just the accomodationist argument all over again.

  24. says

    By the way, Becky mentioned over the the AaA thread that she’s finishing up her school year and a bit short on time. Don’t expect her to catch up on the background on these arguments all at once.

  25. Little Ms. Entitled says

    The response I received wasn’t particularly inviting.

    “Any listener is welcome to call between 3 and 4 pm Pacific time. We stream live at our website. Our call screener is named Darren.”

    Oh dear. Your privilege is showing. You got a taste of actual equality – having to be in a line, just like the common folks, to call in – and you don’t like it one bit. Were you expecting a red carpet? Face it, outside of this sheltered workshop / positive reinforcement echo chamber, you have no more status than anyone else. How awful.

  26. Pteryxx says

    Little Ms: Well yeah, it’s not unreasonable for the person WHOSE WRITING IS UNDER DISCUSSION to think that their input might be valued in said discussion. In an open-minded discussion, anyway.

  27. MichaelD says

    Ok People want likes to framing wars stuff…. Here’s what I’ve been able to pull up.

    http://scienceblogs.com/gregladen/2008/03/24/the-framing-critique-dawkinsmy/

    There’s a round up post of sorts by greg not all the links still work since people have closed blogs in the years since this happend but if you want some of the original posts there they are.

    http://www.pointofinquiry.org/pz_myers_jennifer_michael_hecht_chris_mooney_new_atheism_or_accommodation/

    Here’s a moderated discussion between pz and mooney on the subject.

    If you want more dredge google some helpful terms: Laden, myers, Nisbit, Mooney, Framing, Science

  28. says

    Ms. Entitled @29: Wow. So I’m free to talk about you as being “dogmatic” and having uncivil tone and essentially responsible for driving a wedge in our community, but you’d better wait in line for a lottery-ticket chance to respond.

  29. says

    Stephanie@28: That’s fair. I appreciate people trying to catch up and find their way on their own time. I don’t expect anyone to have read all the source materials instantaneously. It just rubs me the wrong way when someone has to make a value judgement like “you’re being dogmatic” when they themselves admit that they’re behind on that material.

  30. says

    @34: It’s also a good example of exactly the sort of thing we’ve been dealing with. There’s a good chance the vast majority of the personal attacks like this — the ones we’re summarily banning, and the ones making entirely one-sided argumentation that we’re accused of being “dogmatic” about — are a tiny handful of posters rather than a vast sweeping undercurrent of freethought. Many of the frequent summary bannings I’ve had to implement were from the same person, sockpuppet accounts built and proxies used explicitly to circumvent the ban and say the same bullshit as though anyone needs to know that X person thinks I’m a mangina in order to make a rational assessment of my arguments.

    And I’m a guy. The girls in this argument get it a hundred times worse.

  31. karmakin says

    As much as it’s ragged upon, I’m still in agreement with the theory that actual conscious sexism and misogyny is fairly rare in most circles and much of the misogynistic language that we see is people poking at vulnerable points. Which of course, is still wrong, and in my mind it’s a BIGGER problem. It means that as a society we see being a female as being a point of weakness.

    Just to add on to the pile-on, it’s pretty clear that an “additive” policy is basically going to do nothing at all to stop harassment, and that’s where the core mistake is. Yes. Some people are going to lose privilege over this. This is a GOOD thing. Yes. Those people might stop coming to events. This is a GOOD thing. I don’t think this is unique to this issue, I think in a lot of privilege cases we want to “freeroll” solutions. For example, a good first step to get more women and minority speakers is for white male speakers to stand down and open up the slots, but this is something that by and large we think is unreasonable and unrealistic.

  32. says

    “Additive model”: solution based on adding benefits to members of underprivileged class of people. Contrast to subtractive model where privileged must lose out on something, or zero-sum model where we just trade inequalities and grievable positions.

    If one group is “underprivileged” then surely the other is “overprivileged” and equality must perforce mean a loss of privilege to the latter group. This idea that we can make equality happen without making the people who benefit (knowingly and willingly or not) somewhat uncomfortable is a seductive fiction.

  33. Pteryxx says

    Loss of privilege to a group doesn’t even make sense when discussing harassment policies. As it stands, MEN can get sexually harassed (or assaulted, or raped) too, and generally nobody will believe or support them either for the same sort of reasons that women victims aren’t believed. A well-implemented harassment policy will protect these men along with the women.

    The only people who lose privilege from this are a) harassers and b) those who don’t want to believe harassment exists. Those aren’t views deserving of protection.

  34. says

    @Pteryxx #40

    Exactly, that’s what’s so galling about this whole thing. The message seems to come down to: “We know harassment happens, everyone has seen it, it happens everywhere, men have experienced harassment, but please, don’t even talk about it because it hurts the feelings of people who do the harassing or who might be inclined to harass.” I don’t even understand how this is an issue. If we were talking about overt racism, like people walking up to individuals of color and using racial slurs, whether in private or in public, I just can’t believe that people would be talking about how it really limits individual’s rights to have a no tolerance policy for slurs. I just can’t imagine that people would be worried that we are taking away white people’s privilege and that’s just not really fair because it might hurt their feelings.

  35. karmakin says

    @Pteryxx:That’s why it’s NOT about gender, at least at the root level. It’s about social privilege. It’s about people who prefer an environment where they can hit and get hit on and about people who don’t.

    It’s pretty simple. The people who are really upset about this stuff simply don’t think hitting on someone should be counted as harassment. They think that as the other person has the ability to say No, that it’s all good. They’re wrong, for a lot of reasons that you mentioned, but by and large outside of the RRRRRAAAAGGGGEEEE that’s the charitable take on the argument that they’re making.

  36. says

    I agree with karmakin that at least some of the objections stem from that worry. The question is, with a clear sample policy proposed and linked multiple times, when does it become acceptable to say simply, “This? Again? RTFM.”

  37. karmakin says

    @Marnie:Social privilege is far less examined and talked about than other forms of privilege. So even though the actual effects are not as life-affecting (although, to be honest, they really can be) it may be just as prevalent as other forms of privilege.

    People even rage when you bring up the concept of social privilege sometimes. People don’t even want to talk about it.

  38. says

    @Pteryxx in #40:

    The only people who lose privilege from this are a) harassers and b) those who don’t want to believe harassment exists. Those aren’t views deserving of protection.

    It seems a lot of the concern is about those poor men who harass without knowing it. We’re going to have to pop their bubble too.

    Personally, though, I would have thought that a well-meaning person who is harassing without knowing it would appreciate it if someone would give them a fair warning.
    @Marnie in #41:

    I just can’t believe that people would be talking about how it really limits individual’s rights to have a no tolerance policy for slurs.

    I’m afraid I have to disappoint you, but there are actually people who make arguments of that sort about racism and racial slurs too.

  39. karmakin says

    As I’ve said, the other side is so far-gone into tribal warfare mode that they don’t know which way is up. I do think that we tend to step into that territory ourselves sometimes (which to be fair doesn’t help things), but generally speaking we tend to calm down eventually.

    But yes, the reality is that ALL of this started with with different definitions of the word “That”. I don’t know what to say about this.

  40. John says

    Steph@43

    Is there an actual Manual for the RTFM, especially for those of us who are new, and the whole thing of privilege or unintentional misogyny can still illicit immediate negative responses, even though eventually we can come around to understand the problem exists, and isn’t personal.

    Having a “hey, you read any of this and get all pissed – read this before commenting” or something that just gave the basics.

  41. says

    @Dean #45

    I’m afraid I have to disappoint you, but there are actually people who make arguments of that sort about racism and racial slurs too.

    I suppose that’s not so much of a surprise though I’d like to think that group would be far less represented in the skeptic community and would be laughed out of existence instead of having a well known event organizer backing up their assertions and blaming people of color for blowing the concerns out of proportion or damaging the movement by talking about it.

  42. Pteryxx says

    John:

    Is there an actual Manual for the RTFM…

    I’m not trying to be snarky about this, seriously. I just want to demonstrate how straightforward this actually is.

    http://lmgtfy.com/?q=sexual+harassment

    Click on that, and it will provide resources including the US legal definition, workplace harassment, harassment in schools, links to victim resources, a feminist resource site, a college resource site, all in the first page. Any of those will say that harassment is common, that it’s underreported, and give examples of what sort of behavior can constitute harassment. That’s baseline knowledge for even having this discussion.

    So why do so many people have to be *convinced* of that background before they will even engage the problem?

    Now, the concepts of privilege and unintentional or unconscious bigotry aren’t so simple (if that’s what you meant to ask about, John. Stephanie’s response addressed harassment policies specifically). They’re covered in a blog and other places called Feminism 101:

    http://lmgtfy.com/?q=feminism+101

    In fact, the Geek Feminism Wikia whose sample harassment policy is being adopted by secular conferences has a Feminism 101 page.

    Again, if the people putting up a fight were actually interested in educating themselves on a topic, by and large most of them would have.

  43. says

    This is 2012. “Don’t sexually harass/assault people at public gatherings” isn’t just Feminism 101, it is basic civilized behavior that shouldn’t even be up for discussion. It is amazing that the people advocating for basic civilized behavior aren’t more aggressive and irate at this point, when at least once a month some supposedly well-meaning nitwit shows up and says “I’m new to the discussion, what’s the big deal and why are you being so rude?”

    Only for sexism though. I doubt you’d have to explain to someone why using racial slurs and burning crosses and hanging up nooses is a bad thing, even if they haven’t been following the latest discussion. Somehow, even in 2012, even after decades of anti-harassment policies in the workplace and other large organizations having become commonplace, this is still something that people can pretend is controversial or needs to be taken even more slowly when applied to skeptical groups? And people aren’t supposed to blow up and call names and get pissed off when people pretend that they just stepped out of 1962 and the whole thing is new and novel and scary to them?

  44. says

    Joe, sadly, no. You still have to explain that stuff, though not always to as large a group of people. Probably only because the violence behind those symbols can’t as easily be hidden in “interpersonal relations”. There are symbols that are much more equivalent, however. They generally have to do with incarceration and poverty, which we hide in “public safety” and “the American dream”.

  45. says

    God, I feel like a nitwit myself for even typing that. We’re still explaining to white people that NO you can’t say “n*gger” and YES black people can say it to each other, and NO it isn’t ruining your life or stripping you of your freedoms that you can’t use racial slurs.

  46. John says

    For reference, I’m well aware of the basics like “don’t sexually harass people” that comes with the territory of “being a decent human being”. I was aware of the linked policy (I linked to it in my first post on this thread).

    It was more about other topics like I mentioned: privilege or unintentional misogyny.

    Before I started reading the blogs here the main “feminist issues” I thought that existed in the US was:

    Getting rid of any “glass ceilings” at organizations.
    Getting equal pay for women for doing the same work as men.
    Stomping out harassment at places where it’s already against the law/policy, but goes on anyway.

    Those are things I fully supported, before reading. But coming here there appears to be a lot more being discussed, and that’s what I was/am looking for more info on.

  47. says

    John, I’m afraid I don’t understand what you’re looking for more information on. You asked about “RTFM”. That comment was talking about harassment policies. Was there something else specific where you don’t understand the reference?

  48. John says

    Sorry, my request was probably not done in the best context, I just referenced that post since you had made a RTFM joke.

    Coming into reading your blog, and other feminist blogs, there seemed like a lot that I needed to catch up on. The two examples I can give are things like unintentional misogyny and the concept of privilege. I was wondering if there was more topics that say the average male who’s only got a basic understanding of feminism would probably want to understand coming in to reading your blog.

    I guess those are just the two broad topics where I’ve had a lot of “consciousness raising” the past few weeks, and I was wondering if there was more.

  49. John says

    @Amphigorey #56

    That helps a ton and is pretty much what I’m looking for. Topics like “slut shaming” was another good example of something that I’d recently kind of had my view changed on.

    Being told that using the word “slut” is bad, even in a joking context (only time I’d ever really use it) was something that shouldn’t be done. I’d immediately counter argue against someone telling me that by saying “I’ve heard people called ‘man-sluts’ so it’s not gendered” which is directly countered in that.

    At the end, I come around to the POV that “wow, yes, I really shouldn’t use that word, even when joking”, but it’s ground well tread.

  50. says

    Becky your episode was frankly profoundly insulting and callous. it definitely cost you a donation I was considering making for your challenge and may have cost a listener. I hope you will address the issue more fairly and less ignorantly in the future.

  51. Dan says

    I think there is truth in what becky said. This is the first time I have posted on this blog, but I have posted on other blogs where I have seen people demonized for polite disagreement on this subject. I think a lot of people are emotionally invested on both sides of this issue and a disagreement can easily get interpreted as a personal attack.

  52. says

    Dan, without knowing specifics, it’s very difficult to determine whether I would consider the disagreement polite or the response demonizing.

  53. Alfonso says

    Joe (#53) said:

    We’re still explaining to white people that NO you can’t say “n*gger” and YES black people can say it to each other, and NO it isn’t ruining your life or stripping you of your freedoms that you can’t use racial slurs.

    As a matter of fact, white people can say nigger, just as they can call me a spic. It may not be socially acceptable, and individual property owners —such as the owner of this blog, for instance— may ban such language within their own property, but that doesn’t mean “white people can’t say it”. And while I’ve yet to meet, personally, a white person (or any person, for that matter) who claims that such a restriction “ruins their life”, it seems obvious to me —and to the United States Supreme Court— that such a prohibition in a public —read: not privately owned— forum would result in an infringement of our freedom of speech. I say our freedom of speech because I don’t make the mistake of distinguishing between their freedom of speech and my freedom of speech. That would be self-serving.

    The first amendment isn’t there to protect popular speech, you know. It’s there to protect unpopular speech, because that’s the one in danger of being suppressed by a majority. Whether the particular piece of unpopular speech in question is productive or not, its usefulness or propriety are irrelevant to the law. That often means protecting the right of people I don’t much care for to say shit I find repulsive, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.

  54. says

    Alfonso, I really don’t think Joe was saying that you could not LEGALLY say the n-word or that anyone’s first amendment had been infringed upon (or should be infringed upon). I think you might be arguing a point that no one is making.

  55. says

    Yes, Alfonso, the First Amendment still applies. If you look at the original post, however, we’re talking about what makes communities welcoming or not.

  56. Alfonso says

    Marnie: He painted with a broad brush. My clarification is in response to that. Wouldn’t be the first time I see someone talking about limiting speech in the context of a discussion concerning private events who later turned out to actually be under the impression that hate speech is illegal in and of itself. Not that I can’t be wrong about that.

  57. Sethra says

    Stephanie, thank you for this post. I’d also like to thank the “Ask an Athiest” people for showing up. Now I know better than to waste my time listening to their material.

    Alfonso: not all atheists live in the United States. Hate speech IS illegal in Canada – and in other countries as well.

    And ditto on posts 25 and 51. Well said!

  58. says

    Sorry you’re going through all this, Stephanie. Just wanted to offer my support. As someone who’s been harassed, touched, groped, and otherwise messed with at plenty of conferences (though no Skeptic ones, as I’ve never been to a skeptic conference), I really appreciate what you’re doing.

  59. John Horstman says

    FFS, more of this, still? By “this” I mean people going into denial about harassment as a problem or constructing and tearing down the same straw feminism (the only dogmatic point of feminism is that women are people, which really should not be controversial). You shouldn’t have to keep re-hashing the same points over and over; kudos to you all for enlightening the unenlightened once again.

    @43: I think we’re well past that point

    Also, I agree with those calling the idea of an “additive model” with respect to addressing privilege either hopelessly naive or intentional trolling. Seriously, one cannot universalize privilege – it ceases to become privilege if it applies to everyone, by definition. Combating privilege NECESSARILY entails taking something from the privileged group: privilege. That’s the whole fucking point.

    @51: Excellent point. If we were challenging an epidemic of White people walking up to random Black people and insisting they do menial tasks for them like fetch them drinks (I think it’s a better analogy, as the assumption that Black people are valuable primarily for their ability to serve and perhaps secondarily for their ideas parallels the idea that women are valuable primarily for sex and perhaps secondarily for their ideas, which is the demeanor broadcast by hitting-on-that-is-harassment), then calling them by racial epithets if they refused (parallel to gendered epithets), I doubt we’d be seeing the same push-back. Then again, there are still plenty of latent (and even overt), unrepentant racist bigots out there too (like the Libertarians blind to how racial privilege functions), so maybe we WOULD be seeing something similar.

  60. karmakin says

    @69 If asking strangers, no, demanding that strangers get up and get you a drink were something that were normalized in our society, I do think you’d see people defending just that. But it’s not so we won’t.

    Trying to get rid of the use of slurs, is a bit of going after low-hanging fruit. Definitely needed, of course, but our bar is a bit higher than that, and we should acknowledge it. As I’ve said before, this debate is between people who want an environment where they can hit on and be hit on and between people who think that environment keeps people away. Full stop.

    Re:Alfonso. One of the big problems we’re butting in to, I think is the concept of positive vs. negative freedom. Generally speaking, as progressives, more or less, we like the idea of positive freedom. We think that people can be free as they should be. The problem is that some people value freedom of speech..and they think that it goes beyond government not abridging it, that it’s something we should respect as well, trumping emotional and physical security. Where we think that emotional security trumps freedom of speech, or at least they should come to some sort of balance.

    Where it kind of goes wrong in these circles, is that we violate the emotional security of the religious by basically existing. As such, this is an argument that may be a harder sell in our circle than in others, although I think there’s no hypocrisy at all, and that we’re comparing apples to oranges. But I do think that’s an obvious knee-jerk reaction and that’s what we see a lot.

  61. Sethra says

    “As I’ve said before, this debate is between people who want an environment where they can hit on and be hit on and between people who think that environment keeps people away. Full stop.

    No, the debate is between people who think they have a right not to experience harassment and people who are providing cover to those who harass others – although it also includes those who harass others, who don’t want anything to get in the way of their enjoyment of harassing others, and who get to kick back and enjoy watching their ‘allies’ tear down their intended victims for them.

    “We think that people can be free as they should be.”

    Er, yes. Within the law. The law that states harassment is an actual crime, even when it’s done to women.

    I think one of my eyes just rolled so hard that I now look like Mad-Eye Moody.

  62. Laura-Ray says

    Hey Stephanie, I would just like to say that I sense you are becoming tired of this bullshit. I just wanted to say the popularity of these posts has put you in my radar, and thus you are in my must read column. Which is good because Blaghag and Greta Christina have been not posting a lot :( In any case, your writing is fantastic and incredibly accessible. Thanks for being awesome and not giving up.

    My judgment on Ask an Atheist, simply from having seen Stephanie’s critique and Becky’s responses, is that AaA made a very foolish mistake, due to being unaware of the situation. I feel that it will be telling to see if they re-hash this with some actual commentary from the people they are editorializing, in the same way I feel it will be telling if JREF updates their harassment policies. Since there’s still doubt, I’m giving her the benefit of mine. Being stupid shouldn’t immediately eject you from the community. Refusing to correct a persistent habit of being stupid should.

    However, and I think this actually came up in the comments of another one of Stephanie’s posts, it is the responsibility of the ignorant to become educated. When someone says RTFM, and perhaps even links you to TFM, you should read it. You should probably look it up on Wikipedia, or even read more of the author’s blog posts. I’m assuming since you’re able to comment, your goddamn hands aren’t broken, and you seem to have some sort of internet connection. Blog authors are not paid to hold your hand. Unfortunately, some have equated their laziness and our refusal to spoon feed them information with our wrongness and unwillingness to support our position (even though we’ve supported it again, and again, and again, and again). When you constantly ask questions without being willing to do some of your own legwork, you are exhibiting some serious entitlement. (PS this is not critiquing a specific person, just something I’ve begun to notice)

  63. karmakin says

    Sethra:Don’t get me wrong. I think that the freedom from being harassed trumps the freedom to harass any day of the week. It’s a no-brainer to me. With that I was more talking about freedom in general. For example most of us think it’s a bad thing if employers are allowed to violate our privacy, as such we look at rights and freedoms not as things that restrict government intervention but goals to be strived towards.

    Unfortunately, doing it that way is a messy situation and you are going to come up with situations in where different freedoms collide. Personally, I always side against the aggressor, and it’s a good rule for myself to follow.

  64. says

    I should have been more clear @#53:

    We’re still explaining to white people that NO you can’t call people “n*gger” without being racist and YES black people can say it to each other without being racist, and NO it isn’t ruining your life or stripping you of your freedoms that you can’t use racial slurs and not be seen as a giant racist POS and living with the consequences of that.

    Better? Clearer?

    Something else that I wonder though… how much of the lack of (especially obvious)racism in skepticism is a function of there being fewer people of color and it being easier to avoid interacting with them in the ways that would lead to a situation similar to the sexism we see?

  65. Daniel Schealler says

    Something else that I wonder though… how much of the lack of (especially obvious)racism in skepticism is a function of there being fewer people of color and it being easier to avoid interacting with them in the ways that would lead to a situation similar to the sexism we see?

    Yep, I’d say that has a lot to do with it.

    It’s self-perpetuating. An alienating environment for non-males and non-whites discourages the participation of non-males and non-whites, which creates an environment that is dominated by white male issues and perspectives, which is an alien environment for non-males and non-whites, etc.

  66. Sethra says

    Karmakin @ 73:

    Sethra:Don’t get me wrong. I think that the freedom from being harassed trumps the freedom to harass any day of the week. It’s a no-brainer to me. With that I was more talking about freedom in general. For example most of us think it’s a bad thing if employers are allowed to violate our privacy, as such we look at rights and freedoms not as things that restrict government intervention but goals to be strived towards.

    I’m not getting you wrong, I read what you wrote. You aren’t even addressing the actual issue that was raised – you’re bringing up the shiny distraction and comparing actual harassment to people hitting on each other.

    NOTE: This is a general “you”, not a specific you.

    It’s not hitting on someone if you purposefully corner them and won’t let them walk away when they express the radical notion that they’re not interested in you.

    It’s not hitting on someone to grope them without their consent.

    It’s not hitting on someone to take a few steps closer and just stand there staring down their shirt and making rude comments about what you’d like to do with their breasts while ignoring everything that person might be saying or doing.

    It’s not hitting on someone to ignore what they’ve been saying and say “Tits or GTFO!” or “Why don’t you just STFU and make me a sammich?”

    These actions are deliberately antagonistic. These actions are a small sampling of what’s actually being discussed, and not what you seem to assume is being discussed.

    It’s mind-boggling that people continue to defend asshattery by claiming this shit is comparable to hitting on a willing person.

  67. Sethra says

    My apologies. I meant to address this statement too:

    For example most of us think it’s a bad thing if employers are allowed to violate our privacy, as such we look at rights and freedoms not as things that restrict government intervention but goals to be strived towards.

    How is it a violation of a person’s privacy to insist that person not harass someone else?

    Again, we’re not talking about willing people hitting on each other. We are talking about deliberately antagonistic actions. How is that covered by a right to privacy when it directly affects another human being?

  68. Daniel Schealler says

    Sethra

    Spot on in every example.

    It’s very hard for me to see the professed confusion many people have on the issue of flirtation vs. harassment to be either willful, negligent or (if feeling charitable) misplaced.

    Misplaced because: I think I’m pretty good at not harassing women around me (of course, I would). So if I take the criticism of feminists in the atheist/skeptic movement personally by assuming it applies to me, then I might be legitimately clueless about what I am doing wrong, and then come into threads like these and ask silly questions.

    Willful/negligent because: The really big violations are obvious and ignorance of them is inexcusably negligent.

    The more subtle case-by-case basis are the only legitimate place for possible confusion – but even here, if you do accidentally cross a line with a woman it’s generally not that hard to tell. You’ve just got to be paying attention and striving for some rudimentary empathy: If you say something offhanded about a woman’s appearance and she stiffens, moves her shoulders back, points her feet away from you, and gives a fake brittle laugh… It’s probably time to either apologize or (probably better) to just excuse yourself and walk away, because at that point it’s not really about your ego any more.

    But even here, that level of empathy is – again – setting the bar so low that while failure to meet it may be the result of ignorance, it is willful or negligent ignorance and therefore not an excuse either.

    None of this is to suggest that we don’t fuck up from time to time, because we’re all only human. The trick is to not get defensive about it and actually work to resolve the issue in the future.

    This is of course discounting the class of guys that think it actually is appropriate to walk up to a stranger and start grabbing at her. I just… Don’t even know how to understand that. In that particular case, my empathy fails. I just can’t think my way into a mindset that would consider that to be acceptable or defensible behavior.

  69. Pteryxx says

    Really, the genuinely clueless but well-meaning people aren’t the problem here, and they’re not at risk past getting corrected or a talking-to. The much greater problem is the harassers and worse who don’t give a damn about other people, but use the excuse of being innocently clueless as cover.

  70. says

    A note on politeness: part of the problem with the default assumption that feminists must try not to alienate anyone with tone is that it is a part of a series of gendered assumptions about women. The following are assumptions made about the ‘proper’ behavior of women:

    We should be polite and conciliatory on demand (and all the damn time.)

    We owe endless explanations which may be rejected at any time based on women being women.

    We should be obliged to be happy with any amount of effort put out by men because being interested in feminist issues is something men ‘don’t have to do.’

    These things are often used by trolls and shitheads to insist that we make the same explanations over and over, that we drop everything else to provide any sort of tutoring necessary or our ideas can (and should) be rejected, that our ideas may be rejected at default because we can’t be objective enough and that any effort, even the smallest bit, by men ought to be greeted with enthusiasm (and/or sex, depending on the guy.)

    With those sorts of stakes, it should not be assumed (especially since arguing in bad faith is rampant in these discussions) that feminists or anyone else who knows these things ‘owes’ members of the general public to explain.

    As far as learning more, type the words you don’t understand into google scholar. That’s what I did to learn more, and there’s really no Cliff’s Notes for complicated social science concepts.

    Would you expect to understand all of mathematics without bothering to practice and seek out information on it?

  71. karmakin says

    Sethra:What I’m saying is that all that stuff is OBVIOUSLY wrong. I’m also saying that quite frankly, a lot of stuff that’s not universally seen as harassment ALSO has the effect of keeping people away from events. Quite frankly, a policy that only deals with the worst of the worst doesn’t fix the problem.

    The reason why, quite frankly, these people feel like the ability to harass people (while it’s mostly women, it’s not entirely gender based, of course) is an ingrained right is because generally speaking in the rest of society it’s something we actually value. We value socially aggressive behavior. I am NOT saying that this is right. (Exactly the opposite).

    What I’m saying is that these people are not upset because they’re women-hating monkeys (although they are certainly acting like that). I’m saying that they’re upset because social privilege is being threatened. I’m saying that they’re upset because they feel that “social norms” in similar contexts to them are not being “respected” (they deserve ZERO respect). They go to an event to “let their hair down” and they want that atmosphere, and they feel like we’re taking it away from them.

    And you know something we are. And good. Quite frankly we might as well fight this fight on the ground where it’s going to do some good rather than on the ground where quite frankly, at least if the goal is to get more women at these events, it’s not going to do very much in my opinion.

    @Daniel: The problem with this is that people need to understand that at the point where the person has to say no, they are already harassed. The line has been crossed. They have been violated. People need to learn to act accordingly.

  72. Sethra says

    {watches in morbid fascination as Karmakin attempts to weasel away from saying:}

    As I’ve said before, this debate is between people who want an environment where they can hit on and be hit on and between people who think that environment keeps people away. Full stop.

    You began your argument from the wrong place. That’s not my fault, nor is it the fault of anyone else. It is your responsibility to understand the topic under discussion and to educate yourself if you do not.

    If you fail to do these things, expect to get called on your obtuseness.

  73. says

    Sethra, as much as I admire the fighting abilities of the Lavodes, I’m going to step in here. karmakin has been pretty up front about social anxiety clouding his/her views on this. Some kinds of irrationalities need to be corrected, but there isn’t any kindness in trying for more.

    karmakin, that said, you’ve been fretting at this for a couple of weeks. I don’t think you’re getting anywhere productive with it. It may well be time to recognize that your concerns have been heard and decide whether you trust that the people involved in this understand social dynamics well enough to take it from here. Then you can spend your energy on something that creates less anxiety.

  74. Sethra says

    Backing off, and yes, they’re great books. :-)

    I wish I could go toe-to-toe with a Jenoine, I’d be less anxious about riding public transit.

  75. Sethra says

    True enough, that’s more Vlad and Lady Teldra’s style. :)

    I apologise to Karmakin for not showing more consideration for social anxiety issues. My social anxiety stems from the fact that I’ve been on the receiving end of far too much unwanted, manipulative, and abusive behavior. It’s very upsetting to me when people compare this crap to getting hit on.

  76. karmakin says

    Sorry Stephanie, you’re probably right and I’m too personally involved in this, and it’s probably a lost cause. I do think that in the end that I don’t think anything resembling an effective anti-harassment policy/procedure will come from this, due to wanting to maintain social privilege to some degree.

    So I’ll step back as well.

  77. John Morales says

    Any listener is welcome to call between 3 and 4 pm Pacific time.

    I know rude, and that was definitely rude, since clearly you weren’t merely “any listener”.

    (At least they didn’t expel you, eh? ;))

  78. karmakin says

    One more thing, I apologize (now that I get why you’re upset) that it seemed like I’m being dismissive of more direct forms of harassment. That was not my intention at all, although I SHOULD be more wary of that, considering that when it comes to religious morality I generally have the same reaction that you had. (That “religious morality” actually lowers moral standards in our society instead of raising them)

    I just think that the low, base level of harassment (being hit on) is a very real concern, keeps women away from conventions, and normalizes and leads to more severe form of harassment. That’s all that I’m saying.

  79. says

    I have been an atheist since I was 8. But the atheist community (in which I had hoped to connect with other atheists), which is dominated by upper-middle class and rich white guys with misogyny issues that it vehemently denies, has really put me off. What did it for me was the rampant jokes about rape on atheist social media sites like Atheist Nexus, so I voted with my feet and that was about 3 years ago.

    When the whole Elevatorgate thing erupted, what really bothered me the most was not the initial incident (although that was uncool), but the vicious misogyny and the threats of sexualized violence aimed at Rebecca Watson in response to her very reasonable request that guys not corner women in elevators. This same kind of vitriol was also hurled at Greta Christina. The contempt for women and our bodies manifested by misogynist males reveals a pattern (and for those here who are fellow mathletes, you know where I’m going with this!).

    The hatred of female sexuality, women’s equality and agency enacted through FGM is not far removed from the hatred spewed at Greta Christina and Rebecca Watson laces with explicit threats to “kick Greta and her followers in the cunt” and threats of rape aimed at Rebecca Watson. Their “crimes?” Living While Female and daring to voice an opinion about why they deserve the same human and civil rights and respect for their personal dignity that is automatically conferred upon males.

    The misogyny, followed by the gaslighting of the recipients of it, left a foul taste in my mouth leaving me with the impression that the atheist community is really more like the virulently misogynistic MRA/PUA community than a community of rational people that supposedly eschew sexism and misogyny because of its relevance to religion.

    Yet, it never ceases to amaze me how many “rational” men who are “reasonable” resort to evo psych — the last refuge of scoundrels, a load of bullshit cooked up by professional bullshit chefs — in order to justify oppressing women and keeping the atheist community a privileged white ol’ boys’ club, where the only women that are welcome are women who don’t challenge men’s use of their unearned male privilege as a cudgel to beat women down and silence us.

    Now don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with being male. There is nothing wrong with wanting to ask someone you find attractive out for coffee. There is, however, a hell of a lot wrong with feeling entitled to any woman’s vagina you want and treating women as inferior creatures with no value except as male ornaments or as disposable, interchangeable reproductive “livestock” (a couple of Christian lawmakers referred to women as “cows and pigs” in their argument against abortion, even in the event of in-utero fetal death where the fetus doesn’t expel and the woman will get sepsis and die).

    Telling women that sexual harassment, rape, sexual assault, and reproductive rights is not of concern to the male-dominated atheist community and its organizations is telling women that we are not important enough to matter. And if we’re not important enough to matter (except on male-centric terms only) — outside of being an ornament or a potential sexual conquest in the atheist movement — then our money, time, work, research, efforts and resources and contributions are better spent elsewhere.

  80. says

    Joe

    Something else that I wonder though… how much of the lack of (especially obvious)racism in skepticism is a function of there being fewer people of color and it being easier to avoid interacting with them in the ways that would lead to a situation similar to the sexism we see?

    Seeing that people have been mailing white atheist male leaders with demands that they control Sikivu Hutchinson, I’d say a lot.

    Marnie and mouthyb
    Spot on!
    But I’ll add that it gets us coming and going:
    If we follow the rules and are nice and polite we are, of course, to blame if the poor awkward menz don’t get us and go on.
    And we’Re obviously too weak to fight for our own interests

    Stephanie
    You kick ass.

  81. says

    I don’t want to change the subject, but I’m pretty uncomfortable with the “hitting on” framing. I don’t think people should hit on each other, I feel like it creates an “intent imbalance” that ignores the other person’s agency.

  82. says

    I don’t have any real problem with people flirting in general, but I think it’s incumbent on all of us to be aware of how others are responding to us. I mean, the line between “friendly banter” and “hitting on” is not always clearly defined, but the line between welcome attention and unwelcome attention can often be sussed out by the other person’s verbal and non-verbal communication.

    The same is true of, say, hugging fellow attendees. There are people who are huggers and people who are hand shakers and people who are not terribly interested in touching other people and if you are the hug/shake type, you should be aware of the sorts of signals that would indicate the other person may feel that’s a bit too much. I wouldn’t want the policy to be “no hugs as any skeptic events” but I would want a policy of “please be aware that not everyone wants to be touched”.

  83. says

    When the whole Elevatorgate thing erupted, what really bothered me the most was not the initial incident (although that was uncool), but the vicious misogyny and the threats of sexualized violence aimed at Rebecca Watson in response to her very reasonable request that guys not corner women in elevators. This same kind of vitriol was also hurled at Greta Christina.

    And at me.

  84. Pteryxx says

    Marnie: FYI, very touchy conventions such as furry cons often have an explicit “Never touch anyone without asking first” rule in their code of conduct.

    Joe: yeah, IMHO the term “hitting on” is worse than useless, since it implies one person acting upon a passive recipient. “Flirting” implies flirting WITH someone.

  85. gwen says

    Wow I was going to weigh in. But I see everything has be just about covered. Rock on, Stephanie!

  86. says

    Deen@45: “Personally, though, I would have thought that a well-meaning person who is harassing without knowing it would appreciate it if someone would give them a fair warning.”

    Yeah! One of my biggest worries as a teacher has been that a student would feel uncomfortable because of something that I did without even realizing it, and wouldn’t tell anyone. A good reporting process should make it possible for people to get those messages across with the help of the organizers (or school administrators) in a firm but gentle way, without having to be at the extremes of ignoring it or filing a sexual harassment lawsuit. I would love to know if I’m unintentionally making someone feel harassed or objectified. I hope any harassment policy works well to make those reports get communicated more often and more comfortably.

  87. says

    @Pteryxx:

    yeah, IMHO the term “hitting on” is worse than useless, since it implies one person acting upon a passive recipient. “Flirting” implies flirting WITH someone.

    I don’t know, the way you describe it here, it could be useful to refer to a certain form of unwanted behavior. In addition, it shows exactly what differentiates “hitting on” from more acceptable behavior like flirting, and even why one is generally not acceptable and the other is.

  88. Esteleth, Raging Dyke of Fuck Mountain says

    Hmpth. I read the OP, and all I could think of while reading the quoted content was that if the writer is in fact a Smithie, she should pay attention in class more.

    Seriously, I haven’t so much flagrant abuse of straw in a long time.

  89. TwoPiDeltaIJ says

    This post is largely a response to #91 from Jacqueline S. Homan.

    But the atheist community (in which I had hoped to connect with other atheists), which is dominated by upper-middle class and rich white guys with misogyny issues that it vehemently denies, has really put me off. What did it for me was the rampant jokes about rape on atheist social media sites like Atheist Nexus, so I voted with my feet and that was about 3 years ago.

    This is an atheist community that is (at least apparently) not dominated by upper-middle class and rich white guys. If the behavior of some group of the atheists bothers you, just do not associate with them (as you demonstrated you are willing to do). I think Rebecca Watson has the right idea here (in simple terms): some things related to TAM are upsetting to her, so she is not going. I think that the post at the Atheist Experience blog maybe a week ago about not wanting to attend conferences when you know or suspect you will not like being there is another good example of this. The conferences are not entitled to your appearance, and you are free to not associate with people you do not want to be around. There are new conferences forming, there are lots of sub-groups to the atheist community now. If you do not like the one you are in, you can stick around and try and change it or you can just pick a different one with very little opportunity cost to you.

    Your next points are, I think, part of the problem that the AaA show was trying to address.

    The hatred of female sexuality, women’s equality and agency enacted through FGM is not far removed from the hatred spewed at Greta Christina and Rebecca Watson laces with explicit threats to “kick Greta and her followers in the cunt” and threats of rape aimed at Rebecca Watson. Their “crimes?” Living While Female and daring to voice an opinion about why they deserve the same human and civil rights and respect for their personal dignity that is automatically conferred upon males.
    The misogyny, followed by the gaslighting of the recipients of it, left a foul taste in my mouth leaving me with the impression that the atheist community is really more like the virulently misogynistic MRA/PUA community than a community of rational people that supposedly eschew sexism and misogyny because of its relevance to religion.

    The irreparable harm done in FGM to a women (or women) is not the same as school-yard insults hurled over the internet (no matter how vile they are). I am not sure it is reasonable (or correct) to compare the atheist community to one of MRAs or PUAs (and I am not sure those two overlap entirely in the same community either). Atheists (in general) might, I suppose, try and eschew sexism due to its ties to religions but I think the point is that rationally there is no way to justify the position that women are somehow less human than men (and given equality each are thus deserving of the same rights and responsibilities in our society). I think some of the argument here goes back to something that karamakin said in #70. There are atheists who agree with the idea that freedom of speech supersedes the desire of people to have emotional security (or to be comfortable or feel welcomed), and there are atheists who do not agree with that idea. I think the argument being had when it is not dealing with the few sexist trolls that pop up could maybe be explained as a schism along that line.

    … (a couple of Christian lawmakers referred to women as “cows and pigs” in their argument against abortion … Telling women that sexual harassment, rape, sexual assault, and reproductive rights is not of concern to the male-dominated atheist community and its organizations is telling women that we are not important enough to matter.

    I am not sure who you are fighting against here. If the Christian lawmakers make you mad, yell at them. I doubt you will find a lot of atheists on their side. However there are atheists who do not think abortion is OK (I am not one of them, but they exist and I know some). I am not sure that anyone is (except for the few sexist trolls) saying that sexual harassment, rape, sexual assault, and reproductive rights are not concerns or that they are not topics open to discussion within the community. I would not however expect “the atheist community” as a whole to adopt a specific position on reproductive rights for example.

    In short, if you believe your last few lines as you appear to, just do not go to conferences you do not want to go to.

  90. says

    Just don’t go to conferences you don’t want to go to, so you can be attacked for not going to those conferences and messing with their gender ratios. What fun.

  91. TwoPiDeltaIJ says

    Stephanie, I have not attacked you for “messing with their gender ratios” and I am not happy that you have been by others. I think I made it clear I believe that the conference is not owed your (or any) attendance. These conferences are essentially service businesses. If the customer base picks a competitor for a clearly discernable reason the others will change to compete (if they want to stick around).

  92. says

    To be clear, it’s looking more and more like that may be what happens here, but it’s important to note that there are consequences to the “consumers” that don’t usually apply.

  93. TwoPiDeltaIJ says

    I disagree with your interpretation. You (and others) were attacked for something else (unless you were already not going to TAM though I think that is not the case for Rebecca Watson who I used as an example). Choosing to not go to TAM (or any other conference) after being told that talking about harm to women (and being made to feel unwelcome) at conferences was its self harming conferences is completely rational (in my estimation). If this leads to someone publicly denouncing you for not going, simply eviscerate them (again) as they are obviously in the wrong.

  94. says

    Yes, there are people going around saying that the women who are declining to go to TAM, beyond Rebecca, are making the problem worse. But it’s so nice to see that they can simply eviscerate someone for saying something idiotic about them without having to worry that anyone will call it “dogmatic feminism”.

  95. TwoPiDeltaIJ says

    I do not think that this is the “dogmatic feminism” that AaA was referring to, but maybe I am wrong.

  96. says

    TwoPiDeltaIJ: Yes, several of the instances of “dogmatic feminism” that Becky pointed out (the only ones she pointed out anyway) were these women “eviscerating” people who have definitely been engaging with them trollishly. For instance, Stephanie blocking someone who had spent the better part of two days spamming her and a bunch of other people about how I’m obviously a homophobe misogynist something something.

  97. TwoPiDeltaIJ says

    Again, perhaps I am not understanding something, but the way I read Stephanie’s reply to me is that it is the people who are “people going around saying that the women who are declining to go to TAM, beyond Rebecca, are making the problem worse” that are being told off and that this telling off is what is being called “dogmatic feminism” in her view. However, I think at AaA they have sated that it is thinking of these issues as “us versus them” and in “black and white” terms is the problem they have with the conversation (being perceived as dogmatic).

  98. says

    TwoPiDeltaIJ, there’s not a lot of room in what they’ve said for any consideration of whether “them” = people who have been attacking us. Becky’s generalizations aren’t so bad. Her specifics….

  99. TwoPiDeltaIJ says

    That is a fair criticism. As to the specifics of the arguments on AaA I am going to take them at their word that they are about as deep into this as they intend to wade.

  100. Sethra says

    @TwoPiDeltaIJ:

    I think some of the argument here goes back to something that karamakin said in #70. There are atheists who agree with the idea that freedom of speech supersedes the desire of people to have emotional security (or to be comfortable or feel welcomed), and there are atheists who do not agree with that idea.

    Harassment != free speech
    Bullying != free speech
    Hate speech != free speech

    Especially in Canada and other portions of the civilised world where hate speech is considered a crime.

  101. TwoPiDeltaIJ says

    Harassment != free speech
    Bullying != free speech
    Hate speech != free speech

    Especially in Canada and other portions of the civilised world where hate speech is considered a crime.

    I am not sure where I said any of those things were always equivalent to free speech. I specifically took issue with the question of if the right of free speech always supersedes the right to feel welcomed/comfortable/or in a more extreme case not harassed. I did not claim to speak for the atheists of “Canada and other portions of the civilized world” since I was pointing out that there is disagreement within the community over the issue (without pointing out geographically linked notions of where the disagreements might occur).

  102. Sethra says

    @TwoPiDeltaIJ:

    The reason I posted that is because this isn’t a discussion about free speech.

    This is a discussion about men (and some women) claiming that bullying, harassment, and hate speech are protected forms of free speech. And they are wrong.

    Yes, everyone should have the right to freely express themselves. When that devolves into verbally attacking someone for absolutely no reason other than because they can, that’s pathetic and deserves to be called so. That is not free speech. That is spiteful, hateful, antagonistic, and total bullshit. And that’s why I pointed out that hate speech is illegal here in Canada – it may be ‘legal’ to spout off rape and death threats down in the US, but people could be prosecuted for that crap up here AND RIGHTLY SO. No one has the right to harass and verbally abuse another human being and call it ‘free speech’. We recognise verbal abuse as actual trauma for domestic violence victims, so why aren’t we willing to extend that same concept toward other victims of harassment?

    You have rights. I have rights. Your right to swing your fist in the air ends if it hits my nose and vice versa. Why should it be any different with words?

  103. says

    it may be ‘legal’ to spout off rape and death threats down in the US

    It’s not actually legal to threaten people in the US. That’s not protected under free speech, but free speech is a straw man. Free speech only refers to what the government can prosecute you for saying and has no baring on how private organizations run their events.

    Just as a restaurant can legally post a sign that says “no shirt, no shoes, no service” without denying you your right to walk around shirt and shoe-less elsewhere, TAM and other organizations can have policies about what sorts of behavior is allowed at their events and it has no impact on anyone’s rights.

    Whether or not something inhibits open discourse is another matter, but the term “free speech” refers specifically to what the government can do to you when you say something which means that no private event has the ability to infringe it.

  104. Sethra says

    Thanks Marnie, I’ll have a look. I should have read the details on that before writing my post, I apologise for creating a false comparison.

  105. TwoPiDeltaIJ says

    Sethra, I was under the impression this was a discussion about a discussion on AaA and Stephanie’s response to it (aside from where the discussion is going on in other places). I pointed out what I think is a fundamental difference in the thinking of some people within what is ostensibly the same group (the atheist community). I did not discuss legality or even my thoughts on which view was moral (or ethical), just that I think that this is really where the problem lies in discussing these things (aside from the problem of having sexist trolls pop up).

    Marnie, I gladly take the correction that I am not referring to the idea of free political speech. I did intend it to mean the question about where to draw the line to balance a basic right to speak ones mind (regardless of the content that then spews forth) balanced by the idea that people have the right to not be made uncomfortable (or be harassed). The placement of that line is different for different people who consider themselves to be part of the atheist community (I think). This difference may not be great amongst many of the people who make up the FTB community but it is likely wider at TAM for instance. This will lead to disagreement about what one should do (or in the extreme case, if one should do anything) to stop what I think nearly everyone agrees is a problem relating to sexual harassment.

  106. says

    Seeing as how Becky has consistently avoided defining “dogma” or “dogmatic”, I think it’s fair to say that she’s not sure what she means by it either. Every time she’s asked to provide examples of feminism being applied dogmatically it ends up being an example of bad framing. Bad “tactics of approach,” as she would put it.

    I think the truth is that she didn’t think it out too well, just put dogmatic in there because it sounded good, and is now dug in too deep to be able to admit that over 90% of her problem is related to framing, and that’s not the same thing as dogmatism.

  107. says

    @TwoPiDeltaIJ

    Yes, I believe it’s the basic libertarian versus progressive view. The libertarian says that the rights of the individual supersede all other rights, even if it hurts the individual doing the behavior. My right to not pay insurance even if that insurance will protect me in an accident, takes precedent over the right of others who may be harmed if I cannot pay for the damage I’ve done as an uninsured motorist. My right to not pay into the education system, even if having educated children helps my community, takes precedent over the value brought to a community when the children receive a good education.

    The progressive believes that the good of the community benefits all, even if at the moment, a given individual sometimes feels put out. Paying taxes isn’t enjoyable or easy but the social programs it funds may help me some day if I’m down on my luck. I am young and healthy but I want universal health care so I can get care when I need it even if it raises my taxes a bit now.

    The libertarian sees the progressive view as paternalistic. They think that they are most suited to make decisions about what is right and wrong, best and worst. The progressive sees the libertarian as selfish.

    I fall squarely into the progressive group. Yes, a couple of dolts might feel horribly put out by not being allowed to harass a woman at an event, but as that, little by little, chips away at the community, fewer people (men and women) want to attend, fewer people remain active in the community, prices go up, events are offered less often and everyone loses out. I really don’t care if someone considers it harmful to “open discourse” or “free exchange” if we alienate members of the community with overtly racist or sexist or some other “ist” behavior because that behavior only serves to do lasting damage to the group in favor of what? Comments that don’t represent the vast majority of the group? Doesn’t fly for me as a good reason to support that sort of discourse.

  108. TwoPiDeltaIJ says

    Marnie,OK, let us assume everything you have said to be completely true. Are you then saying that atheist community groups or conventions (TAM in particular) do not contain any libertarians? Should the events not be open or welcoming to them also? This divide exists. Both groups (and probably many other factions) exist within the atheist community. I understand that the libertarian view of things is not well respected (or in some cases tolerated) here (in the very general sense of here), but it does exist in the community.
    On a side note, I think you have misunderstood the reasoning behind the libertarian view, but I do not think that is the topic at hand and I am not sure if it even matters since you disagree with the outcome from some libertarian ideas anyway.

  109. says

    TwoPiDeltaIJ, the JREF can certainly make the decision that TAM will cater to the libertarians on this topic. That will then, as Marnie points out, have an effect on how it engages with the rest of the community. If that’s what they want, fine. They should, however, have the decency to make those decisions transparent and own up to the conseqences. Instead, D.J. weighed in, without prompting, to blame other factors. That part is not cool.

  110. says

    Are you then saying that atheist community groups or conventions (TAM in particular) do not contain any libertarians? Should the events not be open or welcoming to them also?

    Yup, that’s EXACTLY what I’m saying, I’ve never ever met a skeptic who was a librarian and I think they should all be banned.

    I’m not saying that at all, of course. Just as a libertarian may not like paying taxes but does because there are consequences to not doing so, a libertarian doesn’t have to like every policy but if the policy is inclusive instead of exclusive (I don’t count being inclusive of exclusive behavior as something worth arguing for) then there is a net gain.

    The question still goes back to my original point. Is it better to favor the policy that can alienate a large portion of the community (women, LGBT, people of color, etc) or is it better to find ways to ensure that more people feel welcomed and the community grows over time? Do you genuinely feel that the while straight male contingent needs to feel insulated from change and diversity? Is that actually better for the community and longevity of these organizations?

    As Stephanie points out, TAM is welcome to that attitude but I’d like to know so I can be sure not to give my financial (or other) support to them, moving forward. But they can’t have it both ways. They can’t pretend to want diversity and then favor pampering the majority group.

  111. TwoPiDeltaIJ says

    Stephanie, I do not know the political leanings of the JREF (if it has any). This division in the community already exists however, and in most times and places I do not think it causes too many problems. I think you can understand though why it might cause resistance to some of the solutions that have been proposed to a problem both groups acknowledge exists in this instance simply because it does restrict free expression (again, regardless of how vile the expression is acknowledged to be) which libertarians (and others outside the group we have been calling progressives) have a hard time justifying. As to the decision making process its self, I think the JREF is a private organization, and if you or I do not like how it operates (for instance behind closed doors) we are not forced to donate to it.
    As to what D.J. Grothe has or has not done, I have not followed all of it so I do not want to go down that rabbit hole, but I would say that I doubt it was unprompted (if the opinions about him expressed by the people at the Atheist Experience are accurate) though his comments might not have been prompted by anyone here.

  112. TwoPiDeltaIJ says

    I repeated myself due to not being sure I was understood. I think we agree on the larger point that JREF can do what it wants, but not necessarily on the details. For instance I am not sure how transparent they need to be or if this is not some kind of ‘buyer beware’ situation regarding wanting to promote (or to attend events from) an organization whose motives we (in a general sense) are not clear about. To be frank, I have no real problems with the JREF, but I have never attended TAM (and I am unlikely to for reasons unrelated to this). I am not all together happy with the things I have read attributed to D.J. Grothe, but then I have not liked most of the response to his comments either (not that they are on equal levels of bad, but in a binary sense I have not liked either side). I have in fact read the post you linked to (and others here and at other blogs) but I make no claim to being fully aware of what is going on as a) I am not working in a timezone conducive to following US events well and b) I do not have infinite time or interest in the subject. I do not think I have claimed to agree with his statement or sentiment. What I am arguing for (on the whole) is some understanding of why there is some push-back that is not related to being a sexist troll. I am not asking you, or anyone else (for instance Marnie) to agree with the push-back. I would like to point out that it is not due to a problem of sexism, or a lack of understanding of privilege, but a fundamental disagrement over the prioritization of rights and responsibilities.

  113. =8)-DX says

    I listened to that show and I’m not exactly sure I agreed with their take – you’re absolutely right that there’s plenty of stuff to get angry about concerning harrassment and the current feminism debate. But I definitely know I’ve felt the “shame-hammer” described in AAA: on blogs and elsewhere and seen others smashed by it. I’m used to the foul language and trolling that goes on on the internet, but on several blogs including FTB I’ve been essentially called an MRA and felt that there is often a strong “no-tolerance of anyone who doesn’t agree or doesn’t understand” policy in force on feminist issues. That’s really put me off from taking part in these discussions.

    For instance I have no problem discussing what could be “dogma” in any worldview, and personally dislike and disagree with some of the ideas of women I would call radical feminists (“all men are rapists”). And I feel that just writing these two sentences down makes me feel the shame-hammer looming.

    That said I have been learning and reading about feminism, harrassment, gender inequality, stereotypes, etc. – and discussing with friends and online – and feel I agree with a lot of what has been written and said on the feminist side (well it’s really the “human” side, “all-inclusive” side I hope).

  114. TwoPiDeltaIJ says

    Marnie:

    The question still goes back to my original point. Is it better to favor the policy that can alienate a large portion of the community (women, LGBT, people of color, etc) or is it better to find ways to ensure that more people feel welcomed and the community grows over time? Do you genuinely feel that the while straight male contingent needs to feel insulated from change and diversity? Is that actually better for the community and longevity of these organizations?

    I would not favor a policy that advantages one group at the expense of another. So long as the rules are fair for everyone involved (by which I mean equally applied) I do not really care what the rules are. We all agree to play by the rules when we go to these events and people who do not end up doing so should be tossed out (I think that is already happening to an extent). It would be nice if the rules were explicit, I agree with you and many others at FTB about that. I am not really in disagreement about the rulesets that have been proposed (aside from the details about speaker behavior, where I actually agree with the people from AaA’s “Dogmatic Feminism pt.2, and Some Other Things” podcast).

  115. says

    TwoPiDeltaIJ, I’ve been very up front that this is a matter of choices to be made: http://freethoughtblogs.com/almostdiamonds/2012/06/10/doing-away-with-drama/ However, not recognizing that some of those choices are themselves sexist in their implications and implementations is a problem.

    =8)-DX, no one in this is saying all men are rapists. If you’re reading that, you’re not reading very clearly. What you’re being told is that women can’t tell who is a rapist and who is not. The same goes for men in vulnerable populations, by the way. And what you’re feeling is the frustation of people who have explained the distinction dozens to hundreds of times and are still being misrepresented on that score. You don’t have to step up to be one of the people who explains the difference, but you can at least stop spreading the misrepresentation. If you don’t, you may very well not be an MRA, but you’re helping their cause.

  116. says

    @TwoPiDeltaIJ

    I would not favor a policy that advantages one group at the expense of another.

    I wouldn’t either and I think that’s one of the things that gets lost in these conversation. A lot of times, the people who rage against the requests for reform, talk about how they’ve been harassed and made to feel uncomfortable and they took it and so everyone else should have to. I think policies should protect everyone. I don’t care if you are a straight white man, you have every right to feel safe and unmolested at events, just as I do. I, as a straight white woman have no right to make you feel sexually or physically imposed upon. It doesn’t matter if someone else would have appreciated that sort of attention. This is not about finding the most indifferent and self assured person and using them as the litmus test for all other’s responses, it’s about setting policy that strives to address the comfort and safety of the largest number of people.

    The problem with your statement though, is a limit of the language. What is perceived as “advantaging one group at the expense of another.” There are some who argue that it disadvantages them to asked not to behave certain ways even as someone else says it disadvantages them when that person acts in that way. It just becomes this semantic black hole.

  117. TwoPiDeltaIJ says

    Stephanie, I do not understand the link you put in your last response to me…

  118. Pteryxx says

    =8)-DX : There’s a reason to feel the shadow of the shame-hammer for even bringing up a phrase like “all men are rapists”. It’s a strawperson argument with a long history as a tool to silence discussion. It’s about as inflammatory and worthless as “women always lie” or “men never get raped”. Don’t use it.

  119. xol says

    Anti-harassment policy in the conference. No policy regarding outside conference behavior (you can flirt with women or tell dick jokes at a bar that night). And then you weird as radical feminists have to agree to shut the fuck up.

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