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May 28 2012

One of these things is not like the other

Is a no harassment policy like the Taliban?

Let’s start a little farther back. Is feminism like Nazism?

No, feminism is not like Nazism.

Nazism tried to kill all the Jews in Europe. Feminism does not try to kill all the Jews in Europe.

Nazism killed gays, gypsies, people with disabilities, and political enemies.

Feminism doesn’t kill gays, gypsies, people with disabilities, or political enemies.

Nazism rounded up its enemies and put them in camps.

Feminism does not round up its enemies and put them in camps.

Feminism is not like Nazism. Rush Limbaugh is wrong.

Is a no harassment policy like the Taliban?

No, a no harassment policy is not like the Taliban.

The Taliban forcibly keeps girls out of school.

A no harassment policy does not forcibly keep girls out of school.

The Taliban blows up schools that teach girls.

A no harassment policy does not blow up schools that teach girls.

The Taliban throws acid in the faces of girls going to school. It shoots to death people it suspects of having sex outside marriage. It stones women to death. It beats women for not wearing a burqa, or for showing a little wrist or hair while wearing a burqa. It forbids women to work, get an education, drive, get medical treatment.

A no harassment policy does none of those things.

A no harassment policy is not like the Taliban.

41 comments

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  1. 1
    'Tis Himself

    Rush Limbaugh is wrong.

    That’s a given, regardless of the topic.

  2. 2
    Ophelia Benson

    Well, I kind of think it’s a given that a no harassment policy is not like the Taliban, too, but it turns out that it’s not. You just never know.

  3. 3
    Stacy

    But there’s a B in both.

    (Sorry.)

  4. 4
    julian

    Being serious for a moment (and slightly pissedly, in what I understand to be the English usage) serious for a moment, I wonder if likening objectionable policies to one another underscores what the speaker finds most objectionable in each. Ophelia finds ‘Talibanesque’ wrong primarily because of the hurt and damge it causes the women who live under it.

    Talibaneqsue to her means harming women, denying them their rights and punishing them for expressing (among other things) their rights and personhood outside of the traditional framework religions work under.

    Talibanesque, judging from their usage, to others seems to mean denying sex and imposing rigid guidelines on its expression.

    I don’t think either view is ‘wrong’ but one definitely seems more specific than the other cutting to the core of what makes Talibaneqsue something to truly be repulsed by and avoid.

  5. 5
    Chris Lawson

    Ophelia,

    There will be idiots who don’t much care so long as it’s only women being oppressed, so here are a few other differences with the Taliban, in no particular order:

    A no-harassment policy will not force men to keep their scalp hair short and their beards long.
    A no-harassment policy will not destroy ancient monumental artworks.
    A no-harassment policy will not take a 20% cut on opium shipments and call it a religious requirement.
    A no-harassment policy will not ban music, representational art, or moving images.
    A no-harassment policy will not ban chess or pool tables.
    A no-harassment policy will not ban clapping hands at public events.
    A no-harassment policy will not ban kite-flying.
    A no-harassment policy will not force householders to blacken all external windows.
    A no-harassment policy will not carry out sectarian massacres.
    A no-harassment policy will not create famines for political ends.
    A no-harassment policy will not shelter international terrorists.
    A no-harassment policy will not deforest millions of acres for illegal timber trade.

  6. 6
    Melody

    FFS. Because sexual harassment denies people sex.

  7. 7
    Ophelia Benson

    And after all, if you can’t harass women, how can you have sex? Der!

  8. 8
    Rebecca Watson

    Not that it’s much, but I’ve now started mandating anti-harassment policies (and a decent gender ratio) for any conference I attend.

  9. 9
    Melody

    Julian actually said that sexual harassment policies “imposing rigid guidelines on [sexual] expression. Wow! Dude, you are doing it wrong.

  10. 10
    Josh Slocum

    Rebecca, it most certainly is MUCH. You don’t know me, but I heart you so hard it’s ridiculous. You are —and I say this without melodrama or hyperbole—a heroine for sticking your neck out there on sexism and utterly refusing to back down.

  11. 11
    Rebecca Watson

    Thanks Josh! An audience member in Köln this wknd gave me a similar compliment. I pointed out that it’s not necessarily about being heroic but about doing the most you can with the tools you’ve been given. I’m lucky that I have the platform…I have to use it occasionally to help make shit better.

    Melody: I don’t know who Julian is but that is truly pathetic. “How will I express myself without telling that woman she should suck my dick some time?”

  12. 12
    Chris Lawson

    julian,

    I understand that you’re just trying to look at the way words are used by people and you are not endorsing the way they are used, but…

    The Taliban isn’t anti-sex. Neither, apart from a tiny and non-influential subset, is feminism. The problem is in conflating the Taliban and a no-harassment policy because both have “rigid guidelines” on sexual activities. Obviously “rigid” can be interpreted subjectively, but apart from a few sociopaths, nobody wants *no* guidelines on sexual behaviour. So what counts as behaviour that should be “rigidly” prevented?

    Walking outside without a male relative? Wearing nail polish? Having your face visible in public? Taking contraceptives? Having sex with the person of your choice?

    -vs-

    Rape? Harassment? Groping? Getting someone intoxicated to make them incapable of consent?

    I think it’s perfectly reasonable to oppose mandating the former examples while protecting against the latter. Conflating these two is a shameful tactic used to muddy the waters rather than provide clear arguments against a no-harassment policy.

    The fact that some people are using “Talibanesque” to specifically refer to micromanagement of sexual behaviour is no excuse and they should not be allowed to do so. Rather than accepting “they only mean X”, they should be called out on their choice of words (same goes for “teach the controversy” when there is no controversy, “pro-life” when it means forcing an avoidable death on a pregnant woman, etc.). Not only are the Taliban horrific in many more ways than their sexual oppression, even on the specific topic of sexual regulation the Taliban has nothing in common with a no-harassment policy. In fact, the Taliban has used rape as a terror tactic and has created a quasi-legal situation where a rapist can pretty much guarantee immunity from prosecution because any woman who submits a rape report will be charged with adultery and whipped half to death and then have her testimony rejected because she is a convicted adulterer.

    Likening anything to the Taliban should only be acceptable when the thing being described is actually like the Taliban.

  13. 13
    Chris Lawson

    Sorry about the long post.

  14. 14
    Rebecca Watson

    Oh now I see who Julian is. Apologies. Long travel day.

  15. 15
    BamianBuddhas

    Ophelia has got it wrong again.

    The guidelines call for a strict dress code that removes all “sexualisation”. What the definition of this is, fuck knows, and Ophelia certainly doesn’t know.

    That is why the charge of “Taliban” is 100% accurate. The attitude of Muslim extremists is that women must dress in such a way that no sexual thought can ever enter a man’s mind. That is what you, Jen and the other fascists are calling out for.

    You can’t deny it, Ophelia. You’re acting like the Taliban.

    Ophelia – don’t bother to turn up at conferences any more. You are not welcome, you are not needed, you are a bully, and you won’t be missed.

    Bye.

  16. 16
    Stephanie Zvan

    I’m always entertained to find people who get so upset about things they haven’t read. This is about a clause in the sample harassment policy that would apply to vendors.

    Exhibitors in the expo hall, sponsor or vendor booths, or similar activities are also subject to the anti-harassment policy. In particular, exhibitors should not use sexualized images, activities, or other material. Booth staff (including volunteers) should not use sexualized clothing/uniforms/costumes, or otherwise create a sexualized environment.

    In other words, it’s talking about the “booth babe” phenomenon and the idea that only heterosexual men will want to do business with these vendors. Would one of these “Taliban! Taliban!”-spouting idiots please tell what that would change at which conference? It isn’t a conference I’ve heard much from.

    Also, BamianBuddhas, which conference do you speak for that you’re in any position to disinvite Ophelia?

  17. 17
    Melody

    As a conference organizer that has some pull with other conference organizers, I can assure you that Ophelia will indeed be invited to speak. Keep calling her a bully. You are on the wrong side of this issue. You have no influence.

  18. 18
    Silly The Kid

    Ophelia the Islamophobe now want to introduce a Taliban syle dress code.

    Does wearing skirts come under “sexualised”?

    Because only when a woman wears a niqab and walks several paces behind can I not get any sexual thoughts….

    Piss off to Afghanistan, Ophelia.

  19. 19
    Melody

    Most (if not all) secular organizations have sexual harassment policies. It’s a natural progression that these policies would extend to protect conference attendees. Each organization that implements a policy will be different. As far as I know, Ophelia hasn’t written any sexual harassment policies, she’s only promoting the idea that they are put in place.

  20. 20
    Silly The Kid

    Melody:

    Most (if not all) secular organizations have sexual harassment policies. It’s a natural progression that these policies would extend to protect conference attendees. Each organization that implements a policy will be different. As far as I know, Ophelia hasn’t written any sexual harassment policies, she’s only promoting the idea that they are put in place.

    Nobody has referred to the sexual harassment policies as like the Taliban. That is a straw man. As far as I know, nobody has a problem with a set of anti-harassment guidelines.

    The issue is over the bits about dress code and not dressing in a way that is “sexualised”. Well, what does that mean? That IS what the Taliban say. Forgetting all the other nasty stuff they do (red herrings from Ophelia), they cite their own dress code for the same reasons – it is about removing the “sexualised” nature of the female sex.

    That is why Opehlia can legitimately be accused of suporting “Talibanic” like behaviour. Somebody asked about whether women can wear skirts. Well, that question is not as stupid as ou might think, since there are people who can be “sexualised” when wearing a skirt in the minds of some men. To avoid this “sexualising”, women wuld have to be banned from wearing skirts.

    This is the kind of reductio ad absurdum that your “non-sexualised” dress code invites.

  21. 21
    Melody

    No one is trying to desexualize anyone. The purpose is to prevent people from treating others as sexual objects and being harassed.

  22. 22
    Stephanie Zvan

    Really, Silly? You’re saying that a skirt sexualizes a woman? You might want to go look in a mirror, then, because it’s you who’s got something in common with the Taliban.

  23. 23
    Silly The Kid

    On Planet Reality, Stephanie, all kinds of clothes can “sexualise” a person. Some people DO consider that wearing a skirt “sexualises” a woman.

    Since you have not given an indication of what does and does not constitute a “sexualised” dress code, this point in fact is something that can be hanged on you and Ophelia.

    Your stated desire is that the dress code removes the “sexualisation” of people – that is “Talibanic”. Then you have the problem that “sexualisation” is completely SUBJECTIVE. That is why the Taliban have a blanket rule of “non-sexualisation” of women by covering them in, erm, blankets!

    Now, remember, criticising an aspect of the anti-harassment rules IS NOT comparing the the entire set of guidelines to the Taliban.

    That would be a logical fallacy.

  24. 24
    Josh Slocum

    Don’t you all have enough space to hoggle in the slimepit? Why bother over here? You know full well your trolling comments will be deleted when Ophelia gets back, you know she’s going to be continually invited to speak at conferences, you know that no one outside your odd clique considers her a bully.

    Seriously. . what’s the point? What do you get out of it?

  25. 25
    NateHevens, resident SOOPER-GENIUS... apparently...

    So I’m going to go look up this already-instituted policy that does-all-but-demand that women wear hijabs at secular conferences…

    Hmm… interesting, interesting…

    Wait a minute… I don’t see anything close to what julian and Silly the Kid are talking about. Does it have to do with what has already been quoted by Stephanie Zvan in post #16?

    Because I’m really confused right now… what, exactly, is all the hoopla about?

  26. 26
    julian

    Wasn’t calling anti-sexual harassment policies rigid or anti-sex. I definitely don’t think they are. The line was supposed to represent how they were being perceived by others. Sorry for the miscommunication on my part.

  27. 27
    Chris Lawson

    BamianBuddhas says: “You can’t deny it, Ophelia. You’re acting like the Taliban.”

    3 posts later, Silly the Kid says: “Ophelia the Islamophobe now want to introduce a Taliban syle dress code.”

    2 posts after that, Silly the Kid says: “Nobody has referred to the sexual harassment policies as like the Taliban. That is a straw man.”

    Consistency is not your strong suit, is it, Mr Silly?

  28. 28
    Chris Lawson

    Sorry, for “posts” I meant “comments”. I don’t why why these terms have been cross-wired in my head the last few days.

  29. 29
    Chris Lawson

    julian,

    I get that you were only talking about how people perceive things — but perception is not an entirely passive process. An MRA “perceiving” anti-harassment policies to be Talibanesque is wrong, and needs to be challenged.

  30. 30
    hyperdeath

    BamianBuddhas, whoever the fuck he is, says:

    You can’t deny it, Ophelia. You’re acting like the Taliban.

    Ophelia – don’t bother to turn up at conferences any more. You are not welcome, you are not needed, you are a bully, and you won’t be missed.

    Bye.

    The self-awareness failure is strong with this one. I’m fascinated by what he hoped to achieve with this comment, besides appear like yet another embittered little manchild, tapping impotently from behind his keyboard.

    As for telling Ophelia to give up conferences, it’s a bit like an X-factor reject telling Elton John to give up on his musical career. Who does he think he it? And I mean that in the psychological sense.

  31. 31
    Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle

    Ophelia – don’t bother to turn up at conferences any more. You are not welcome, you are not needed, you are a bully, and you won’t be missed.

    And when she ignores your decree from on high, will you get violent?

  32. 32
    yoav

    Actually a no harassment policy is the exact opposite of the Taliban. The taliban, and other fundies, hold the position that once a woman steps out of her house she’s fair game and it’s her fault if she get harassed or groped or raped, just one more example of how the Rush Limbaughs of the world are exactly like the taliban.

  33. 33
    hyperdeath

    And when she ignores your decree from on high, will you get violent?

    The imagine the worst he could possibly do, would be to stumble up to her, stutter a few misogynistic insults while staring alternately between the floor and her chest, and then stand there awkwardly for a few seconds, before escaping into a cloud of dandruff. The worst Ophelia has to fear is the body odour.

    Perhaps I’m stereotyping slightly, but I doubt I’m far off.

  34. 34
    Stephanie Zvan

    hyperdeath, I understand the impulse behind your comment, but frankly, people who are that far off in their idea of acceptable behavior online are the subset of people we do have to worry about in real life. Are all of them going to be problems? No, but we can’t tell which ones will be ahead of time.

    This person feels entitled to tell Ophelia what to do. There’s no way of knowing whether s/he also feels entitled to enforce that if she doesn’t listen.

  35. 35
    Ophelia Benson

    Uh huh – the stats show a big influx from Abbie Smith’s “they are all fucking cunts” thread. I guess they’ve been making the Taliban comparison – but I didn’t know that, because I don’t read Abbie Smith’s “they are all fucking cunts” thread.

  36. 36
    Ophelia Benson

    And just to belabor the obvious -

    “don’t bother to turn up at conferences any more. You are not welcome, you are not needed, you are a bully, and you won’t be missed.”

    - I don’t “turn up” at conferences; I go when I’m invited. I think that takes care of the “not welcome” worry. If/when/where I’m not welcome, I won’t be invited; problem solved.

  37. 37
    Brianne

    What a great list, Ophelia! Way to call out the Taliban hyperbole!

    To the haters –

    Harassment policies don’t dictate how I choose to dress. They don’t demand that you don’t find me sexy (no matter what I’m wearing or what I look like). They don’t even demand that you don’t approach me to flirt or invite me for sexy times.

    They remind you that you shouldn’t act like a jerk, that you respect me when I say no, that you shouldn’t treat me like a piece of meat. If you think that my dressing sexy = you get to treat me like a sexual object to which you’re entitled, then YOU’RE the one who is behaving badly.

    And of course this all goes in reverse, i.e., it also protects you from me, not just me against you.

  38. 38
    hyperdeath

    Stephanie Zvan says:

    hyperdeath, I understand the impulse behind your comment, but frankly, people who are that far off in their idea of acceptable behavior online are the subset of people we do have to worry about in real life.

    Agreed. I shouldn’t have dismissed the potential risk, and I take that back.

  39. 39
    hyperdeath

    Incidentally, has anyone been archiving Abbie Smith’s blog? It’s only a matter of time before National Geographic kick her off. Some kind of permanent record should be kept.

  40. 40
    badandfierce

    Nothing I can say specifically on topic that hasn’t been said. Useful and clever post. However, a side note I feel I have to make…

    “Gypsy” is kind of a racial slur. For American English speakers it’s almost never recognized as such, and it’s been co-opted by lots of well-meaning people who think of the word as a cute, nonspecific descriptor of a specific and idealized lifestyle, but it’s got an ugly history and questionable connotations. Not to mention it’s not very useful, since it’s used interchangeably in English to refer to both Romani and Travelers.

    I know, I know, not on topic and I’m not blaming you. This one’s culture-wide.

  41. 41
    Skepgineer

    If you don’t link to the offense that inspired the post, expect incredulous replies. Not all of your readers have time to read the entire atheist blogosphere in realtime.

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