I don’t want to let them win, but I’m human. The stress is getting to me. I’ve dealt with chronic depression since elementary school, and receiving a daily flood of hatred triggers it. I’ve been miserable. And this toxic behavior is affecting all parts of my life. With this cloud of hate hanging over my head, I can’t focus or enjoy my hobbies or work. It has me constantly on edge with frayed nerves, which causes me to take it out on the ones I love. I spend most of my precious free time angry, on the verge of tears, or sobbing as I have to moderate comments or read what new terrible things people have said about me. And the only solution I see is to unplug.
Jen’s reaction is entirely understandable. She’s not the first woman to decide barriers to public participation are too high, and she won’t be the last.
“But why?” I hear some people asking out there. Let me start the answer to that by saying you should probably know this already if you have any real interest in the topic. She hasn’t been quiet about the fact that this is happening. If you haven’t seen what she’s been putting up with, why not? Did you refuse to look?
If you did, it’s time to stop hiding. The rest of the answer to why Jen is quitting can be found just as easily in the reactions to her announcement as in what came before it. We’ll start with a lie, just for fun:
Then there’s the pointless nastiness. Notice that some of them are copying Jen on their hate. The majority of these have several “favorites” and retweets. Sneering at Jen is the social part of this social media.
The author of that last tweet even made a video for Jen.
(If you’re visually impaired and really want to know what’s in there, ask. I can transcribe in the comments, but I don’t want to spring it on anyone who doesn’t feel up to it. Otherwise, suffice it to say it’s about half a minute of pictorial name-calling, combined with the same sentiment from the tweet.)
The creator of that video, by the way, is the same person who wrote that “Anatomy of a Bully” post a few months ago. That would be the post where she uses her “expertise” to describe how bullies behave in terms that are supposed to evoke FtB. Apparently she’s irony-deficient.
One rarity in this is the person who has been criticizing Atheism+ who also took this opportunity to criticize the harassers.
A number of the Atheism+ “critics”, however, have all hit on a single theme.
That last one completely missed the clue train, I think, but perhaps not as badly as the person who had to leave this in the comments of the post in which Jen explained that being harassed is aggravating her depression.
As a mere observer of this tasteless phenomenon…
Well, you know what they say: “If you can’t stand the heat…”
You’ll be back.
About that…this isn’t “heat”. It isn’t scrutiny applied to determine how one deals with pressure. It isn’t the necessary hassle of getting a difficult job done. It isn’t even hazing, meant to provide an artificial barrier so only those who want something badly reach it.
This is harassment. And it’s a very small sample of it, taken from after the harassers claimed a victory. It was far worse before.
It’s not a test. It’s not an incidental effect. It’s not a short-term barrier. It’s been going on for months, and people like WoolyBumblebee up there are very clear on its purpose.
It’s meant to drive us out of the conversation. It’s meant to shut down people without the time and energy, people without enough social support, people without the most resilient mental health and exclude them from the discussions of what sort of political space(s) atheism can occupy or how the movement will conduct itself. It’s meant to keep us from experiencing any peace until we pack up and leave.
Like Jen did. The harassment did exactly what it’s supposed to do in Jen’s case, although the harassers will discover that one person is not Atheism+.
So if you have to ask why Jen quit blogging, it’s time to look around you. It’s time to stop refusing to look at unpleasantness. It’s time to label it for what it is.
Then it’s time to declare, no matter where you stand on people simultaneously working toward social justice and claiming the atheist mantle, that it needs to stop. Now, before it kicks anyone else out.
*For now, that is. Jen has clarified that this is an indefinite vacation, during which we may just get a book out of her.
Update: Lest you think this shows any sign of slowing down, comments:
- Goodbye. Don’t let the door hit your ass on the way out. (here)
- I’ll try to say this without hurting your feelings+: Jen, I completely support you in this move, and I for one joyfully welcome your decision. This is wonderful news. Best of luck to you in whatever endeavors+ you pursue in the future. Oh, and as you’re going is there any chance you can talk any of those other apostles you hang with to join you? You go, girl. Really… just go. (here)
- You know, at the start of this circus some of us warned that those reduced to tears and self-pity by these non-issues would not be worth diddly squat in a real fight.Thank you for proving us right. (here)