It started with a kiss… I mean a Tumblr account which posted “Anonymous” claims about sexual harassment within atheism and skepticism. But the problem here was that anyone could make a claim.
“Avicenna Groped me at CONvergence!”
See it’s that easy. Yes, I can point out that to all intents and purposes I am a purely Internet Entity and have never been to CONvergence. If necessary I can put up my passport stamps pages to show that I have been in India all this while and so this person was either groped by someone claiming to be me or is not telling the truth. But that’s the thing. There are always going to be trolls who will abuse the system and steal the voice of this idea. A voice for the abused will become a voice of abuse.
So why are personal accounts important? Many atheists have said “What good will this do”. We have seen similar “personal accounts” being used to indict the Catholic Church.
Repeated, collaborative personal stories can help build a picture about an individual’s actions and indeed can be used to at least try and avoid bringing them into events and realising how much of a problem we have.
I am not saying that 99% of Atheists are evil men with leering eyes slapping bottoms without consent.
If you eat a 100 M&Ms and one’s a dog turd you will always associate M&Ms with dog turd. Think of atheists like that. It’s why we lose the few women that we do have in our movement. And then we just get insulted because we are the 99% of M&Ms. Why are we being tarred with the dog turd moniker? It’s not our fault after all!
This isn’t “Avicenna touched me up at TAM” (I use it as an example as I have never been to TAM and/or any other skeptic/atheist conference) but all these different people seem to think “x” is harassive. And “x” needs to be told to either knock it off and mend his ways (maybe) or fuck off and don’t darken our doorstep again (more likely).
And from what I read while trying not to hurl my own pancreas into a bucket, this sort of thing is common mainly because there are so few women within atheism.
You cannot please everyone, and no one is saying that you should. Some of my “best” articles (ho ho ho!) were ones that actually had people hop up and down and get mad at me. However this is not about pleasing women no matter what they say, this is about not sexually harassing them. There are always going to be women who don’t like my “No really, homebirth quackery is crazy deadly” attitude. I get that and I can sit and argue with statistics and point out the batshit crazy things homebirth midwives say under the guise of feminism.
But we kind of have to wake up from the fantasy that these women are making things up and that these are women just looking for a quick 15 minutes of fame and have thin skins. Many of these women fear coming out because let’s face it… the atheist and skeptic community has been rather averse to dealing with this chosing instead to often stay silent or worse… aid the accused and portray it as a witch hunt.
But let’s be clear here. Most people wouldn’t subject themselves to the kind of harassment we see for “15 minutes of fame”. These are painful experiences. No lasting harm may have occurred and laws may not have broken but these women certainly ate dog turds rather than M&Ms and now are feeling a little nauseous whenever they see some.
And rather than trying to make the M&Ms better we are more prone to questioning their taste and claiming that their ravaged tastebuds are incapable of telling the difference. We ask for evidence but they have eaten the damn thing and so we don’t believe them. We would rather there be a conspiracy theory of anti-M&Mers who spread vicious lies about the incidence of dog turd M&Ms than accepting the reality.
Sex happens. You know what? All the women who we atheists sit and hate on like sex. Greta? Jen? Rebecca? I bet they like having sex just as much as we blokes do. Are guys really going to conventions SIMPLY to hit on atheist women? We do hear about people meeting up at conventions and falling in love.
Think about why they fell in love and why you got burned. It’s not because who you chose to hit on but why you chose to hit on them in the first place. Using their achievements to trick them into sleeping with you?
Really? Do you think that would work on a guy? Oh no? Then why the fuck would you think it would work on a woman? Because they just love having their achievements recognised? Because no one else will? Because they are desperate for attention?
Then realise what sort of vibe you give. And here is the thing.
There are women out there who have this sort of self esteem issues. I have had women sleep on my couch and be amazed that I didn’t sleep with them. That was their method of “hitting” on me. Why didn’t it work? Because fucking hell! That’s rape! And if she wanted to sleep with me she should have been explicit. I don’t speak mime. Mime is one of the languages not accepted as legal responses to consent questioning. You cannot give permission for me to take your pulse through interpretive dance and so falling asleep on my couch is also insufficient reason for me to guess that you want to sleep with me.
But think of the person I mentioned above. How fucked up do you have to be to think that this constitutes acceptable ideas of consent? Then think of why this person is like this? Then think of the sort of people who encouraged her to be like this. THEN think of the sort off people who keep encouraging her.
Now this isn’t to say that there are women who’s response to “I would like to bend you over and fuck your brains out” is “Allo Sailor!” but every time I have said the first phrase and gotten the second as a response has been in places and in conditions that are NOT public grade conventions and in circumstances that are couched by familiarity and knowledge about what we both want.
And much as we love portraying women as some unassailable tower of madness, crying, hormones and cycles of the moon, they are understandable.
And part of that understanding is to listen to them. There are real stories in there. Real problems and issues. And you may not think it is important but it is to people who want to be part of the mainstream and active within it. You may not think racism in football is that important but I want to go down to the terraces and cheer for my team. Likewise I may not be part of the active atheist movement. I may not give massive speeches. Hell, half the time I am surprised that people want to even read my work… But I think we should listen because simply ignoring these problems won’t make them go away. They just empower the abusers. It lets them say “nothing will happen to me”. It makes the abused think “my opinions are not valued and I cannot rock the boat”.
You may not believe one of these stories. Anonymous says “X did this to me”. But how many stories do you need before you start questioning “X” and looking into his actions? How many accounts? How many wiitnesses?
And yes, some woman may abuse it. Maybe you think there is a mad feminist conspiracy. I know, let’s all accuse Avicenna of sniffing our hair at conventions! If we all do it he cannot escape. To which I have to say….
If you think feminists are really that organised and powerful to label me as a hair sniffer at the drop of a fedora with a peacock feather in it, then do you think Texas would have effectively banned proper abortion and birth control so easily? Or that these feminists would ignore that to use their vast and nebulous powers to stop a bunch of male atheists from seducing ladies with their sweet sweet lines?
That is simply not the case. I am sure that should the vast feminist warmachine exist it would have better things to do than remove and replace all usages of “man” and ruin your game. If Veronica Mars has taught me anything it will involve shaving their heads and trying to set all blokes on fire…
In the words of my favourite jedi knight (Samuel Jackson), “Wake the fuck up”.