To those of us fighting the good fight

I wrote this, originally, to console someone who was sick to death of her efforts being met with rape threats and death threats and inaccurate accusations.  I debated posting it, knowing it would undoubtedly bring with it some backlash.  I spend my free time volunteering for atheist, humanist, and skeptic causes only to be constantly met with people telling me that I am not a “real” activist.  There are other things I could be doing. It is hard to watch all of the misogyny and sexism go on in this movement.  It’s hard to watch people as wonderful as Pamela Gay be torn down for coming forward with her story.

It’s exhausting to know that there are people who hate you and believe ridiculous, untrue things about you, no matter how clear and unoffensive you have tried to be. I am tired of being accused of being in it for the money when being involved in atheism costs me loads of money every year — travel costs I don’t ever expect to see returned by my blog. I’m tired of every post being a target and rage commenters trying to tear me down for my appearance, education, and family. I have never been targeted by religious people the way I am by atheists. And how much worse is it to be targeted by a group of people you spend your free time working to help.

I am tired of being worried about legal threats and hackers, people who have targeted me as “collateral damage” to others as well as those who’ve directly targeted me. I am tired of getting flooded on Facebook by people I don’t know whenever I post something vaguely in the area of things they label social justice warrioring. I’m tired of everything being a fight. I’m tired of trying to be the bigger person. I’m tired of feeling like all the abuse is pointless because there’s no movement. I’m tired of people with power laughing or shrugging off sexual assault and harassment. I’m tired of people making value judgments about those who’ve been harassed — demanding you have had certain experiences to be able to comment on them and then mocking you if you come forward with those experiences.

I am, in short, very tired. And I don’t have it the worst, by any stretch of the imagination.

But then, sometimes, strangers come up to me or email me and thank me. They thank me specifically for talking about things that get me the most bile. There are people who hear what you say and change their mind, but they’re usually not very loud, because changing your mind is hard and takes a while and is difficult to talk about when you’re in the middle of it. I have many friends who became not very close friends for a little while because I was on the SJW side of things and they weren’t sure which way to go who are now among my strongest allies.

That said, I’ve had a hard time blogging lately because, on top of all the drama of day to day life, it’s so infuriating and upsetting to deal with the internet assholes. It’s hard to find the reward. Every post is a constant decision to put up with attacks.  I have to remind myself that it’s worth it.  And sometimes, it’s just not.  Sometimes, I am just not in a place where I can deal with the abuse.  Ultimately, while changing minds is a lofty and important goal, it’s also not our responsibility. If you’re tapped out, you are, and there’s nothing wrong with that. There’s no reason to subject yourself to this if you don’t find it rewarding. And there are less hostile audiences within the movement as well.  The SSA, for example, has been nothing but wonderful to me.

I don’t know if that helps at all, just know I feel what you’re feeling an awful lot.  You’re not alone.

New Co-Blogger: Kate Donovan

Exciting news!  Kate Donovan, known for her writing at Teen Skepchick, Friendly Atheist, and other places, is going to be joining me here as my co-blogger.  JT Eberhard accidentally announced this early, so I’m going to post it without her official blurb or anything because I AM NOT PATIENT.

I’ve been somewhat slack on keeping this updated the last few weeks thanks to the difficulty of finishing up my summer classes, starting a new semester, a new job, preparing a talk for Dragon*Con, and being really sick.  It then occurred to me that I could get someone else around here to pick up the slack for me since I am doing that whole “getting a PhD despite my better judgement” thing.

I don’t know Kate as well as I know a lot of others in the movement, but her writing is well-loved by others here at FtB, I’ve yet to read a post from her I didn’t enjoy, and, as I’ve befriended her on Facebook and Twitter, I’ve seen a kindred spirit.  She is sarcastic, but upbeat.  She has a sense of humor and a sense of outrage.  She can criticize without being mean.  And, importantly, she is different from me and will be bringing a different focus with her.

Let’s start with she can bake and juggle.  These are things I do not do… maybe some day we can make a video where I play the ukulele and she juggles to the music.  With our powers combined we could be mildly amusing.

She’s also much younger than me, which is weird, because I don’t feel terribly old.  She was apparently raised to think alternative medicine was real, which is difficult for me to imagine.  I was raised by being given all of the medicines that there were to keep me from dying of asthma and allergies, so I can’t imagine the alt med universe as given credence by not crazy people.

She hasn’t even bribed me with cookies to give her this space, so I must think she’s OK, right?  Here’s what JT said:

Still in college (leading the secular group at Northwestern) and already starting to get noticed for her abilities as a writer and for her work exposing the bullshit that remains in the field of mental health.  Her project, the Psychology Program Database, helps steer students toward schools that teach only evidence-based therapy.

SO BE EXCITED Y’ALL CUZ I AM.  I am so busy I don’t even remember researching all this information about her, hopefully it’s accurate.  She can yell if it’s not.

Sometimes the bad guys win

It was very refreshing for me to spend the weekend at the skeptic conference at Dragon*Con this weekend.  When you spend most of your time working in this movement online, it can lose a lot of its appeal.  In real life, most of the people I know who care about atheism and skepticism are really nice and fun to be around.  If there are disagreements, they are generally civil.  Not so on the internet.

Since I joined Freethought Blogs in June, there has been a concerted effort on the part of certain online factions to bully anyone on this blog out of existence.  I don’t know how many readers here have ever been the victim of an extended hate campaign, but it is exhausting.  Anything I post publicly draws attacks — and not just attacks on ideas, but personal attacks, mockery about my looks or my mental health, threats, and complete fabrications and accusations of hurting people.

For some reason, there are people on the internet who think that because I blog on a particular network, I am evil.  They think that all these people who spend their free time engaging in activism are monoliths of power.  I can tell you I do not feel terribly powerful.  I do this on top of getting a PhD full-time, working as a GA, and working a part-time job.  My life has too much going on already — I have yet to make enough money from this website to cover the gas money it took for me to get to Dragon*Con to speak.  Being an activist costs me a lot of money.

Perhaps if I had more money, I’d be able to go to more conferences where the commitment of time and resources seems to be appreciated, but instead I spend most of my time online where I am treated like a monster.

Octopus Solidarity

And people will almost certainly say that Freethought Bloggers are all bullies just as bad as  our attackers, but this is false equivalency.  One, just like at Patheos or Scienceblogs, the people at Freethought Blogs are all different people with different opinions and different blogs.  Two, saying that the movement should have more women and minorities and care about social justice is not the same as calling an individual a lying cunt.  Three, the only people claiming that anyone who disagrees with the opinions of anyone on this network are misogynists are people who disagree with the opinions of the people on this network.

I try to believe what Greta Christina always says, that these fights make the movement stronger.  But it’s so hard to believe that when just scratching your ear seems to start a fight about how horrible you are and how you should be destroyed.

No one is obligated to stay in this fight, just like no one is obligated to try to break the glass ceiling in specific industries.  I felt this horrible guilt when I quit pursuing math as my field of study because there were no women in the field and I didn’t want to be the only woman in the room for the rest of my life.  Life is hard, adding extra obstacles isn’t necessary to make it so.  But these things need to change and if someone doesn’t force them to, they never will.  It’s so fucking hard, though, you can’t force someone to take on that burden.

So I want to say that I love Jen and I will miss her.  I hope she comes back, but I can’t honestly say that she should come back.

I have seen so many wonderful people quit being a part of the movement because of the pointless, cruel bile being thrown around.  The constant fights.  The constant bullying.

I can no longer write anything without my words getting twisted, misrepresented, and quotemined. I wake up every morning to abusive comments, tweets, and emails about how I’m a slut, prude, ugly, fat, feminazi, retard, bitch, and cunt (just to name a few). If I block people who are twisting my words or sending verbal abuse, I receive an even larger wave of nonsensical hate about how I’m a slut, prude, feminazi, retard, bitch, cunt who hates freedom of speech (because the Constitution forces me to listen to people on Twitter).

The people on Freethought Blogs are just people.  We’re just individuals doing what we can for something we care about.  We’re not elected officials, we’re not all-powerful overlords of the movement, we’re not “professionals” — most of us are barely making ends meet with our day jobs, working on activist causes in our daily lives, and trying to maintain a blog where we post our thoughts in whatever extra time we can grab.  We are imperfect, we are human, we are sometimes wrong, we care.  And we’re rewarded with threats of rape, insults, and hate from the people who are supposedly fighting for the same causes.  I’d ask why, but I’m sure I’d only get hate in response.

Mazel tov, Jen.  You deserve better.  So do the rest of us — but I think you’ll have better luck than we will.

Secular Coalition for America Blog

I thought, you know, being a semi-regular contributor to 3 blogs just wasn't enough.  Sean Faircloth, who I have a total atheist political crush on, got in touch with me a few months ago to ask me if I wanted to help with his new project, creating a blog on the SCA site.  The help I ended up giving was just being a contributing blogger, but, you know, it's something.

The blog just launched this weekend, and today my first post went up.  So go be like, hey, there's that blogger I knew back when she wasn't cool enough to write for Secular.org

Oh, and it mentions Columbia and the local AU meeting, if you're interested in that.

NaNoWriMo Begins

I don’t know how much blogging I’ll be doing throughout NaNoWriMo.  Maybe less, since I have other writing to do, maybe more since I’ll already be writing.  I still have write ups of my Cleveland trip to do, I’d like to maybe interview Micah Ranum about winning the Nicholl, so I need to come up with questions, and I am about to finish book 60, so I need to do book reviews as well.

In any event, an hour into NaNoWriMo and I have 2075 words.  Which is pretty good.  I have this crazy idea that it would be possible for me to get to 10k by the end of the first.  If I can continue at this pace and write for four hours this evening, it’s possible.  I just suspect these first couple of days are going to be easier to direct energy towards it because it’ll still be exciting and young, so as far ahead as I can get early on is a good thing.

This program I’m using, Scrivener, is really cool, I highly recommend it to anyone out there who is writing.  They allow you to do a free trial, so very little risk involved there.

20 good posts for a new blog on writing

I have a friend who is thinking about doing a weekly blog about writing for a newspaper.  She started IMing me because she wasn’t super confident about what she should write about or how someone went about doing a blog like for real people, not for like friends.  (Her example being that she couldn’t post things like “I found a picture of poo on the interwebs”)

So I came up with a list based on a few things.  1. People like lists 2. People like hate 3. People like advice.  Copied from the IM window.

1st post has to be who you are and what you write and why
2nd could be a focus on say a particular genre and what makes it unique (she is focusing on a YA Sci Fi story)
3rd post about how to pick a topic or location that you’d be good at writing, so that’d be about research and why it’s set wherever
4th post about the difference between YA, kids and adult fiction
5th post about an author or person who gets YA literature absolutely wrong (I picked YA over SciFi because SciFi authors get torn apart fairly regularly)
6th post about if it’s possible to separate the author from their work (See Orson Scott Card)
7th post about struggling with the second act
8th post what to do when you have several different endings that could work
9th post about creating a world that is different from modern earth
10th post about something full of rage and hate — maybe how online fiction isn’t taken seriously, or you know, something angry
11th post should address different mediums and how to write for them (short story, long fiction, online, print, TV, film etc)
12th post should be about an author you loved and inspired you to get into writing with some heartwrenching bs
13th should be about whether it’s OK to include messages or to write “message fiction”
14th should be a response to reader questions, which you may have to make up
15th should be about how there’s not enough respect for minority of your choice in fiction at large
16th make fun of Mary Sues
17th 10 ways writing is like poo
18th 10 ways author-you-hate’s writing is like poo
19th a controversial opinion piece like how coming out stories are boring or how cancer made my life better stories are bullshit
20th what’s hardest about writing for you coming up with ideas, or plotting or whatever and how you get around it

Finally, a parody post where you just put in different options that another blogger could simply highlight to tell their story “How my minority status/disability/difficult childhood helped/hurt my writing career”

I will now consult her blog, should she start writing, and check things off the list if she uses them.  Maybe I’ll write a couple too…