Women who tweet »« I’m out

Maureen Brian sets a few people straight

In a comment at Pharyngula responding to people saying things like

I find it sad that, for want of a better analogy, the terrorists seem to be winning… let’s not kid ourselves, this is a fight for our movement, and we have to be prepared to get your hands dirty if we don’t want this kind of dick head behavior to be associated with it.  Yet all I see is declarations of “oh, I’m not going, because poo-poo heads”… it should be more like “They what!?  Let’s take it to ‘em, troops”

Maureen said:

How dare you come here with so poor a grasp of what has been happening, such a complete blank in your brains?  How dare you suggest that we are failing to change the culture because we are too passive?  Some of us do have enough grasp of what is happening to know that sometimes in this fight the opposite of “passive” is “dead”  –  dead in a ditch like Emmett Till in an earlier struggle because he wasn’t quite passive enough, dead under the King’s horse at Epsom like Emily Davidson, dead like Brandy Martell just last month in Oakland CA but then you probably never heard of her.

Besides, guys, we are not on a martyrdom kick.  We are trying to persuade a bunch of entitled buffoons that the culture is changing, it is going to keep changing and, no, they can’t halt the change.  They can only drag it out a little, make it a little more messy.  To achieve that we have to be focussed and rational.  The delayers and disparagers can afford to be emotional and self-indulgent  –  as they have been of late.

What exactly is it that you want us to do?  All sell our houses and fly to Vegas so that we can wrap James Randi and his beard in Scotch tape?  Yes, that would be assault and you can be sure that by the time we finished the first roll every cop within 20 miles would be on hand to protect him.

People are getting away with behaviour on the ill-mannered to criminal scale because they are getting cover from both the arrogant and the dim.  They are getting encouragement.  They are being cheered on as they heap verbal abuse on those who have already been abused.  They are putting on stunts like the Great Penis Debate in the midst of all this and still claiming that it’s all a big joke.

There are two sets of people here  –  the ones who suggest that with some effort we could improve this, that or the other and the other set who say, “Naw, my grandpappy used to get away with groping all the women in his workplace and I want my share, too.”  Not difficult to see which set you lot jumped into bed with!

Now listen up, children.  I was 70 last week and I have been on to this since I was 12.  In my lifetime and in just one country I have seen changes to the teaching of maths and science, the professions opened to women, the banking system woken up so that it no longer demands a male countersignature, individual taxation for couples, women’s refuges and rape crisis centres, clarification of what rape is and stalking on the books as a criminal offence plus other changes to the law.  And so on and so forth.  And marched and wrote and spoke and supported comrades in the fight.

In the course of that I have met an amazing number of totally impressive people, people I have been so proud to know.  Not a few of them on this very blog where I come for the very clarity of thought, effective communication, depth of commitment and experience which has always proved to be far more effective than any amount of mealy-mouthed wanking.

We are not there yet and sometimes that get a bit frustrating.  Some of us, though, know exactly what we are aiming for and it is still eyes on the prize.

You don’t like that?  Tough!

Comments

  1. Momo Elektra says

    I’m only 32, but when I grow up I want to be like Maureen Brian.

    And I wish I had been like her a lot earlier.

  2. says

    Another yay for Maureen. “How it’s done” doesn’t need to involve some sort of crappy Clint Eastwood stereotype squinting into the sun – different situations merit different responses, and prescribing a (type of) response to another person is offensively presumptive.

  3. Sethra says

    I’m in my 40s and hope to be like Maureen when I grow up. She’s an amazing person!

  4. Peter says

    Making a meeting irrelevant (because most of the interesting people don’t show up) sends, IMHO, a clearer and more forceful message than showing up and demanding change. Not attending certainly sends a stronger message to the conference organizers than attending and asking for a change in policy; the registrations not sold and the empty seats speak volumes about the viability of the conference.
    I would add that freedom of expression is worth protecting, but freedom from government restriction is not remotely the same as freedom from consequences when the expression is offensive. One freedom we all have is to avoid events that welcome people who attack, bully and threaten us, physically or verbally. Refusing to invest time and money in something that makes us uncomfortable is a policy that even the strongest libertarian should appreciate.

  5. John the Drunkard says

    Showing up loaded for bear=good
    Not showing up with public explanation=good

    Showing up and keeping quiet=not good
    Not showing up and keeping quiet=not good.

    Not to nitpick, but if you scotchtape Randi, SOMEONE WILL ACTUALLY CALL THE COPS. This demonstrates the core problem that gets lost under everyone’s feeelings.

    When violence and intimidation of women is involved, everyone is ‘mysteriously’ paralyzed, too distracted by the motes of their own sexual/political hobby-horses to deal with the beams of outrageous behaviour and cheezy rationalization smack in front of them.

    Thanks Maureen

  6. says

    I wish I had a “Like” or “+1″ button for something that awesome. I too want to be like Maureen when I grow up.

  7. says

    [struts] I actually got to meet Maureen at QED.

    She was funny about it, she started a conversation with me but didn’t say I might know her from comments – but then I spotted her name badge. “Oh, I know you, you’re Maureen!!”

    God I miss QED right now.

  8. RowanVT says

    I’m 29, and I want to be like Maureen when I grow up! And I fourth that she should have a blog.

  9. Sili says

    I hope I won’t need to be as vehement as Maureen when I reach her age, but I fear 35 years is too little to fix the world.

    So I hope until then I’ll have even half her wits and way with words.

    Thank you.

  10. Dorothy says

    I am 70 and I also have seen it all – and burned the bra to go with it. Go Maureen!
    Incidentally, ladies (and gentlemen) no age is too young to start fixing this. Or too old.

  11. 'Tis Himself says

    I’ve known Maureen at Pharyngula for several years now. She’s always impressed me as an intelligent, witty, insightful person who knows her own mind. She knows what’s important and strives to achieve it. She deserves nothing but the highest respect.

  12. aweraw says

    OK, so I was the first quoted person that Maureen was responding to.

    I acknowledge the fact she’s got a lot more experience in activism than I do, that she makes some good points, and schooled me pretty good, however…

    I find it pretty wrong that she insinuated that I was part of the “set” of people that seeks to molest as many woman as I can, on the basis of offering a disenting opion on how best to combat harrassment at confrences. Not a sinlge person has called her on it.

    If I, or any other male, cast a similar aspersion against a female we’d be branded as mysoginist devils… and rightly so. In this case though, everyone is just fawning over how fantastic her rebuttal was, without acknowledging that she made a pretty terrible slur against me that if the genders of the involved parties were reversed, most people would be beying for blood.

    Just something to reflect upon…

  13. dogeared, spotted and foxed says

    aweraw, I have reflected. And couldn’t help but notice that your pitchfork was leaning against the desk and your torch was unlit. Supposedly Ophelia et al are supposed to be “doing something” other than not go to TAM but you haven’t explained what that might be. You also neglected to state how you, specifically, were going to get your hands dirty.

    If some other action is needed, take it. Don’t sit there and tell other people to take risks so that you can get some voyeuristic rush.

    Personally, I will be focusing on other cons and I’ll be cancelling my yearly donation to JREF. What I won’t be doing is plunking down a bunch of money so that I can show JREF how miffed I am by lining their pockets.

    Oh and btw, you just showed your hand.

  14. says

    aweraw #31:

    I find it pretty wrong that she insinuated that I was part of the “set” of people that seeks to molest as many woman as I can, on the basis of offering a disenting opion on how best to combat harrassment at confrences.

    Without a quote of the part where Maureen made this insinuation, and an explanation as to how, this is nothing. Provide the quote and explanation or retract the argument =/

  15. aweraw says

    #32

    Huh? Showed my hand? I have no idea what that’s supposed to mean in this context… are you implying I have some adgenda other than the topics I’m discussing?

    I’m not telling people to take risks; I’m (play that music one more time, dj) offering my opinion, and trying to back it with reasoning. That the majority of commenters on a blog would take the opportunity to dog pile on me is not surprising. What is surprising is the lack of candor with respect to the implication that my goal in life is to get handsy with as many women as I can foist myself upon.

    Look, I can’t attend TAM due to geopraphic constraints. Disregard everything I’ve said in relation to it, that’s your choice. Thats doesn’t mean I can’t have an opinion on how people deal with the problem of harrassment there. I feel it’s certainly up to Ophelia whether she attend or not, and I can’t make the decision for her; I never suggested otherwise. I don’t think it’s completely unreasonable to assert that the organizers of TAM have no control over the people sending death threats to their booked speakers, yet she’s punishing them for it by pulling out. Yes, there’ more to it than that obviously, but personally I just wish that people would stop paying credence to these idiots, and handing them the power they seek over us.

  16. aweraw says

    #33

    it’s quoted, right there in the posted text:

    There are two sets of people here – the ones who suggest that with some effort we could improve this, that or the other and the other set who say, “Naw, my grandpappy used to get away with groping all the women in his workplace and I want my share, too.” Not difficult to see which set you lot jumped into bed with!

  17. aweraw says

    #36

    Defended them? Are you serious, or just trolling?

    Please provide the quote where I defended those who perpetrate the harrassment, or tretract the argument =/

  18. dogeared, spotted and foxed says

    aweraw, you still haven’t made any suggestions as to what should be “done.” Other than sending Ophelia someplace where she does not feel safe. An option that will have zero impact on your life.

  19. aweraw says

    #39

    Primarily, attend confrerences and project a culture of intolerance for sexual harrassment. Really project it. What that means to you individually is a matter of implementation. Backing down from their threats ultimately has a chilling effect on the atheist movement, I feel. It emboldens the detractors, and sends a message that we can be harrassed/threatened into capitulation.

  20. dirigible says

    “I find it pretty wrong that she insinuated that I was part of the “set” of people that seeks to molest as many woman as I can”

    She didn’t. Assuming you wish what she wrote to refer to you, she wrote that you have “jumped into bed with” them. Assuming you can parse metaphors, that’s pretty clear and certainly doesn’t insinuate that you are part of that set.

    “Primarily, attend confrerences and project a culture of intolerance for sexual harrassment. Really project it.”

    You want confrontation? That’s nice, but do read the other thread discussing this (over 400 comments as I type this). The implementation details aren’t the only thing that varies.

  21. maureen.brian says

    Logic is not your strong point, is it, aweraw?

    You recommend that we all go off to conferences and – what was it? – project a culture of intolerance for sexual harassment. Is there an evidence base for this advice you are giving to half the population of the planet? Does it apply, for instance, in Northern Pakistan or in Alabama?

    So, suppose by some miracle the JREF has a secular Road to Damascus moment and puts on a panel to eviscerate the junk science behind the How to Get Laid Theory of human social organisation. Suppose a second miracle by which they put me on the panel. All these things are technically possible: just keep stretching your imagination.

    So, I walk to the podium and I begin my 10 minutes by saying our loud exactly what I said above. Not impossible but suddenly that is heroic, noble and a whole load of other male-slanted epithets whereas putting it in print while I sit here in Yorkshire is somehow ignoble. I need you to explain that.

    I know my strengths and weaknesses. I am wittier ad-libbing from the podium but I construct a better case in print. Then I get time to check the structure of the argument, the structure of each sentence and to hold both ego and verbosity in check.

    Besides, what made you think this was a mean jibe at you? You are by no means the only person we have watched in horror as they slide down the arse-end of history these past few weeks.

  22. canonical says

    Speaking solely for myself, not attending TAM and withdrawing my financial support of JREF seems to me the only way to get D.J.’s attention. It’s not like others haven’t tried impassioned debate, reasoned discorse, explanation; none of that seems to get through. The only concern I’ve seen D.J. express is that numbers are down. If butts-in-the-seats are his sole focus, fine, my butt will stay home. Perhaps a swift kick to the bottom-line will get his and TAM’s attention when reason didn’t. Or to put it another way:

    1. Go and put up with bullshit: D.J. gets my money. D.J. Is happy and also gets to say, “Look! Women still love TAM! We have no problems here!”
    2. Go to call out every instance of whatever -ism strikes your fancy: D.J. gets my money. D.J. Is happy and also gets to say, “Look! Women still love TAM! (handwaves) We have no problems here!”
    3. Not go. D.J. Doesn’t get my money. Numbers are down. D.J. Is sad and says, “It’s those bloggers! Or climate-change! Or something, because we have no problems here!” But maybe, just maybe, a loss in revenue might make the penny drop for the board (or even D.J.–I’m not totally wothout hope) and cluefullness will finally kick in. In any case, I will have not wasted my time and money which are now able to support a group that, while not perfect, at least gets it. YMMV.

  23. Emrysmyrddin says

    Try telling the participants in the recent Egyptian protest against sexual harassment and assault that they need to:

    project a culture of intolerance for sexual harrassment. Really project it. What that means to you individually is a matter of implementation. Backing down from their threats ultimately has a chilling effect on the atheist movement, I feel. It emboldens the detractors, and sends a message that we can be harrassed/threatened into capitulation.

    Link here, triggering.
    You don’t get to tell people what The Right Course Of Action is when confrontation can so easily escalate into violence. If someone is getting death threats and decides to withdraw because of it, you don’t get to slyly accuse that action of being cowardly (your quote above).
    Boycotting, consciousness-raising and refusal to financially support organisations that do not protect their members are just as effective in the long run. No one is ‘backing down’ from anything.

  24. says

    Also, awerawe or whatever your boringly cryptic and difficult to remember or spell nym is, I do go to places and project my opposition to sexism. I was even going to go to TAM, despite dreading every single aspect of it except hanging out with the few friends I knew to be going – until those emails came in and were just one thing too many.

    And maureen didn’t do anything to you. There is no you, there’s just a boringly cryptic and difficult to remember or spell nym. Your nym is not under any kind of threat, especially physical threat. Your opinion of what I should do with my real name and person and body is of no interest.

    Think about it. Seriously. You’re safe behind your nym, and you’re telling me to go project myself.

  25. Cara says

    Primarily, attend confrerences and project a culture of intolerance for sexual harrassment. Really project it. What that means to you individually is a matter of implementation.

    You first, cupcake.

  26. MK says

    ” Assuming you can parse metaphors, that’s pretty clear and certainly doesn’t insinuate that you are part of that set.”

    It does when she says that “there are two sets of people here” — aside from the fact that he did not, in any way, shape or fashion, “jump into bed” with them — what he did was urge even more aggression toward them. The intellectual dishonesty here is appalling. aweraw said some stupid things at Pharyngula and was appropriately criticized, there and here, for them. But his point about what Maureen Brian wrote is spot on. An honest person would simply acknowledge her hyperbole and false charge against him and move on.

  27. maureen.brian says

    Another deep breath, MK, or perhaps a Patent Sherlock Holmes Kit would have allowed you to discern that my original comment over at PZ’s was not addressed to aweraw but to someone else entirely and by name.

    Later on, at comment 148, aweraw began reacting as though what I said was addressed to her/him. That’s aweraw’s problem and not mine.

    Want to go and check?

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