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Jul 23 2012

What Amy said

Amy talks about the haters and the hatred.

Yesterday included the “Would it be immoral to rape a Skepchick?” item. This morning it was a tweet (from “franc hoggle” of course) urging her to set herself on fire.

Just an average day for us. And this has been going on ever since Rebecca said, “…hey guys don’t do that.” For me, it has been getting worse over the past few months. I guess I became a direct target after Rebecca decided to stay home from TAM. I was more in the spotlight so the threats became more about me.

Been there. Am still there. Every day my stats show tens or even hundreds of hits from the hoggle gang, collecting stuff to translate into whatever shit they’re talking about me now. (No don’t tell me; I don’t want to know. I’ve never gone to that little outpost of hell and never will.) Every day I get a bunch from Thunderf00t’s video. Every day I get a bunch from a whole list of ranters.

I firmly believe we need some more leaders in this movement to make a stand and speak out publicly to enforce the message that behavior that encourages violence against women and minorities, be it rape threats or supposed jokes about rape, death or violence should not be tolerated in a rational, humanistic, secular society. We need leaders to stand with us, not sit quietly by, while we are ridiculed and threatened.

That would be good, now you mention it. We get lots of bloggers doing that, but leaders in this movement, not so much. They probably are a lot less aware of it, because not bloggers…But it would be nice if they stood with us.

In answer to a question Amy said more about what TAM was like for her (thus making nonsense of the taunt that she fell apart over a T shirt sneer sneer).

A lot of the online threats and harassment are anonymous, yes. But at TAM I dealt with a lot of real people who, while they never touched me, they did things like make fake  Surly-Ramics necklaces with words on them that mocked things I said online and there were actual people live blogging from the event saying things like I was part of an ‘axis’ that was trying to destroy the event and people celebrating T-shirts that served to make me feel like an outcast and people singing songs that said we ‘should pull the sticks out of our ass’ etc. So sometimes, yes, I have to deal with actual people IRL. None of those in real life trolls at TAM got within 10ft of me though (that I am aware of) and it’s not often that I encounter those types of people as I do my best not to be around that group.

More people expressed shock that the people in charge of TAM allowed this to go on.

One commenter in particular hit the mark.

The things that really dig at me are the people who have been allies or should be allies that no longer are because their widdow feewings were hurt. People like Emery Emery who when the elevator incident occurred backed Rebecca but has somewhere since switched over to misrepresenting Rebecca and the FTBlogger’s position and then writing them off. Organizations like JREF who don’t feel the need to lay out a clear anti-harassment policy yet feel the need to blame anyone who suggests they should have one as hurting the attendance to their fundraiser (which is what TAM really is). People like Paula Kirby who seems to be operating under the delusion that if she can’t see something that it doesn’t exist and feels the need to shut up those who point out where she might be wrong (and her herd of lick-spittle sycophants that seem to be overly represented by philosophy students for some reason).

This is the world we live in at the moment.

Update: I posted before reading all the comments. Pamela Gay commented.

For me, it’s not a matter of getting used to it, but getting numb to it. It’s like a bad odor your nose stops noticing due to overload of chemical receptors.

78 comments

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  1. 1
    Smhlle

    I’m just so happy that Pamela Gay made a kickass speech at TAM, and that she got a standing ovation.

  2. 2
    Ophelia Benson

    Yes, so am I.

    But now, like Amy, I wish more people in leadership positions would do something. I wish we had allies besides fellow bloggers.

  3. 3
    Stacy

    Thanks to Amy, and to you, Ophelia, and to everyone else taking a stand and taking the heat. Don’t lose heart. You are making a difference.

  4. 4
    Justin Vacula

    Ophelia, if all you can muster are trolls making silly comments on the internet, what is the need for “more people in leadership positions” to do something? What do you want them to do…make statements like “We don’t like internet trolling and condemn it?” Do you want people at TAM who happen to wear t-shirts or necklaces another doesn’t like to be rebuked by organizers? Should we institute other policies in addition to anti-harassment policies?

    If a real threat comes (note: not people making silly comments on the internet), please contact me and I’ll honestly be one of those people in leadership positions to do something. Seriously.

    I’ve received threats before from Christians including, most recently, a county employee who, as a bus driver of a bus line I frequently rode on to get to graduate classes, dared me to come on his bus. I filed a police report and the bus driver was addressed by his employer.

    Here’s the deal. You produce a real threat and I’ll sound the claxons. Just send me an e-mail. At the same time, you sound the claxons if I receive a threat. Fair?

    While we obviously haven’t gotten along in the past, I believe you should find my request most reasonable and should consider it.

  5. 5
    Sally

    Ophelia, you highlighted this passage,

    A lot of the online threats and harassment are anonymous, yes. But at TAM I dealt with a lot of real people who, while they never touched me, they did things like make fake Surly-Ramics necklaces with words on them that mocked things I said online and there were actual people live blogging from the event saying things like I was part of an ‘axis’ that was trying to destroy the event and people celebrating T-shirts that served to make me feel like an outcast and people singing songs that said we ‘should pull the sticks out of our ass’ etc. So sometimes, yes, I have to deal with actual people IRL. None of those in real life trolls at TAM got within 10ft of me though (that I am aware of) and it’s not often that I encounter those types of people as I do my best not to be around that group.

    ….and then complained,

    More people expressed shock that the people in charge of TAM allowed this to go on.

    This is insane. What the hell are the TAM organisers supposed to do about it? Let’s take a quick look at the things TAM “allowed to go on” shall we?

    …they did things like make fake Surly-Ramics necklaces with words on them that mocked things I said online

    TAM should’ve been investigating the crime of ‘fake Surly Ramics?

    TAM are supposed to actively follow this latest online dramathon then cross reference amateur pieces of jewellry against things that might hurt Amy’s feelings? C’mon DJ Groethe!! Get to it!

    ….there were actual people live blogging from the event saying things like I was part of an ‘axis’ that was trying to destroy the event

    My God! Where were the TAM Police???! How can they look themselves in the mirror after allowing people to live blog what ever they wanted???

    Come to TAM 2013! Participants will be asked to disclose any transmissions (internet, phone calls, smoke signals) made at the event. Anything that might cause someone to cry will be blocked and the disgusting monster will be ejected from the event.

    ….and people singing songs that said we ‘should pull the sticks out of our ass’ etc.

    The horror, the horror! Why oh why won’t TAM police the songs people sing??! Who’s in charge here……waaahhhhhhhh!!!!!

    Unbelievable.

  6. 6
    Jafafa Hots

    Justin, real threats come over the internet.
    The internet is not some magical playground where you can behave like and ass without actually being one.

    One particular person who made threats on the internet found himself facing many criminal charges.

    Threats on the internet are crimes.

    They put people who make threats on the net in REAL JAILS and other facilities, not online Massively-Multiasshole Dungeons.

  7. 7
    Justin Vacula

    I’m not denying that real threats come over the internet. I am saying, though, that I haven’t seen examples of said real threats from Ophelia but rather only see people trolling and making silly comments that do not constitute real threats.

  8. 8
    Ophelia Benson

    Sally – who are you?

  9. 9
    Jafafa Hots

    Yes, Sally, TAM should have a policy that people subjecting other attendees to harassment and ridicule and name-calling and organized campaigns of ostracization and insulting musical spectacles and insulting t-shirts are NOT WELCOME.

    Other conferences have such policies… the national conventions of the group I co-founded had such policies.

    “Don’t be an ass and create an unwelcoming atmosphere” is really a pretty simple rule. They have that rule in kindergartens. Hard to enforce sometimes with 5-year-olds, but it works better than what I’ve seen come out of these TAM attendees.

    (It’s been educational to see that this is the kind of deliberate cluelessness that you get when you let Libertarians pretend that they’re skeptics)

  10. 10
    Ophelia Benson

    Justin, yes, and I see you’ve been sneering about it on Twitter, too.

    We don’t have “disagreements.”

    I’ve asked you – or, actually, told you – before to leave me alone. I dislike your insistence on minimizing all this. Go away.

  11. 11
  12. 12
    karmakin

    Yeah, intentionally creating a hostile, ostracizing environment seems to me to be extremely high up there on the DO NOT DO list, but that’s just me.

    To be fair however, it’s only fairly recently where people really started talking about that sort of thing, you might have heard of it, if you have heard people discuss social bullying. Some homework might need to be done. (Hint. In high schools social bullying is worse than old-fashioned bullying).

  13. 13
    Jafafa Hots

    I’m not denying that real threats come over the internet. I am saying, though, that I haven’t seen examples of said real threats from Ophelia but rather only see people trolling and making silly comments that do not constitute real threats.

    Why do they have to come from Ophelia? Are you saying that the death and rape threats don’t count unless every person that mentions them was the direct target of them?

    And what makes you the authority that decides that what others are subjected to, contrary to their opinion and that of many others, are not “real” threats? Especially when you appear to be deliberately ignoring them.

    And if we concede that “Would it be immoral to rape a Skepchick?” is NOT what you call a real threat, does that mean that it must be ignored and doesn’t contribute to a real atmosphere of oppression, especially when so many, rather than condemn it, make it their mission to go everwhere telling people including the targets of that speech that it doesn’t matter and that they’re overreacting?

    Look, you can have TAM be a safe-haven for “hipsters” “ironically” making jokes about” rape if you want, but don’t complain when people decide not to go, and don’t complain when people appropriately conclude that TAM is a place where sexist asses and those who apologize for them congregate.

    Stop complaining when people who have seen you in action and want nothing to do with you as a result follow that instinct.

  14. 14
    Julie Gomoll

    Wow, Justin, you sure got fast, satisfying action regarding the “threat” you received from the bus driver, right off the bat!

    No one said “All he did was dare you, and he’s just a bus driver, FFS!” No one asked you what you had done to inspire such a “threat.” No one told you to ignore it. Apparently no one even called you a wuss for being hesitant to get on a damn bus. Amazing!

  15. 15
    'Tis Himself

    Some years ago, at a convention of the American Economic Association, an economist wore a button that was essentially a sneer at another economist. The convention organizers asked this man to remove the pin. He refused. He was shown the door and told not to come back until he learned how to play nice with the other people.

    There was some discussion of this in the letter columns of various professional journals. Most of the letters supported the AEA’s action.

  16. 16
    SallyStrange

    Today I was thinking about how awesome it is to share a first name with Sally Ride.

    Then Sally here had to go and harsh my buzz. Not cool.

  17. 17
    Ophelia Benson

    And what makes you the authority that decides that what others are subjected to, contrary to their opinion and that of many others, are not “real” threats?

    Oh, that’s what he does. He did a podcast partly about the emails that prompted me to drop out of TAM: he read two of the least peculiar sentences from the first email (not the penultimate para of the second email that said it was likely I would be shot at TAM) and then asked the woman who did the podcast with him, scornfully, “Does that sound like a threat to you?” She of course obliged by saying (scornfully) no.

  18. 18
    Ophelia Benson

    Also – when I echoed Amy’s wish that people in leadership positions would come forward – I didn’t mean like Justin Vacula.

  19. 19
    PZ Myers

    I’ll honestly be one of those people in leadership positions to do something.

    Bwahahahahahahahahahaha!

    Hilarious.

    1) That he thinks he’s a leader, and 2) that he thinks we’d believe he’d do anything other than be dismissive.

  20. 20
    Ophelia Benson

    This is what I was talking about just yesterday. I don’t do this. I don’t go to Justin Vacula’s blog and hassle him. I avoid him. I don’t follow him around. I did try to set the record straight on that podcast by posting a couple of comments on his Facebook page (which elicited just a wall of text explaining why he’s right about everything), but that’s it.

    These people are bizarre.

  21. 21
    Simon

    Justin: I see that -at least in this thread- you divide hostile online commentary into two neat little categories: “trolls making silly comments” and “threats”, with anything not in the latter category belonging in the former. Is this a fair summary of what you are saying?

  22. 22
    marismae

    I have to wonder what happened to empathy. Is it really that difficult to imagine how Amy must have felt, seeing people denigrate her creations, her work… her cause? And how can it possibly be difficult to understand how a barrage of insults and rape threats and misogynist name-calling can wear on a person?

    I don’t think I would have even half the tolerance and courage all of the women skeptics/atheists/feminists have shown of late, especially on FtB and Skepchicks. So, massive kudos and love to all of you that are tirelessly fighting the good fight and not backing down. You really are an inspiration to me, and excellent role models for my daughter.

    I’ve also just purchased my very first genuine surlyramics necklace to show my support in whatever small way I’m able to. Again, thank you all. You probably don’t hear it often enough.

  23. 23
    Stacy

    No one said “All he did was dare you, and he’s just a bus driver, FFS!” No one asked you what you had done to inspire such a “threat.” No one told you to ignore it. Apparently no one even called you a wuss for being hesitant to get on a damn bus. Amazing

    And I’m guessing all the bus drivers have not been blogging and tweeting daily about how Justin is a prick who deserves to get beat up, and trolling him on his blog if he has one. But if they did, that would totes be OK, because, just trolls, just the internet, and no question of real threat or real harm there. Oh, no.

    Also I’m guessing Justin doesn’t serve as an iconic example of Uppity Riders to angry bus drivers everywhere in his community.

  24. 24
    Simon

    I’m not denying that real threats come over the internet. I am saying, though, that I haven’t seen examples of said real threats from Ophelia but rather only see people trolling and making silly comments that do not constitute real threats.

    That is very interesting that you would say that Justin. Are you saying you haven’t seen Geoffrey Falk’s blog where he has a category called [I'm editing the last word] ‘Kicking Ophelia Benson in the c*nt’? I find this highly unlikely since just like you, Geoffrey is a regular on the Slyme Pit forum.

    In your opinion is this a threat or “silly comments”? Something else perhaps?

  25. 25
    ambrosia

    OK, there is this:

    What started out as just another happy TAM fundraiser for us has turned into what feels like a literal marathon on my end. I’m exhausted. But I am proud to say that I have stuck it out and raised more money that ever before. A heartfelt thank you goes out to everyone who helped support this project. Together we have raised enough money to allow me to pay the admission for 22 women to attend TAM this year. TWENTY-F-ING-TWO! That is a whole lot of awesome.

    TAM WOMEN GRANTS: THE FINAL FOUR, Amy’s post on Shepchick, June 25, 2012
    Skepchick has apparently sponsored attendees to TAM. And yet, the insults, harassment, misogyny….

    Might I suggest “Marketing 101″? WTFF??

  26. 26
    The twelfth vote

    I’ve been following this drama over the last year, and I have to say, the vitriol and hate being directed at you, PZ, Rebecca, FtB, Skepchicks, et al. has convinced me never to attend TAM. If there were any doubt that these conferences are not the safe spaces that we’d like them to be, one need only look at events of just the last few days–Amy being told to self-immolate, and that so-hilarious rape joke. How could I possibly think that it would be safe, or wise, to associate with people who say these things in an already-charged, divided, and heated atmosphere?

    I can be a skeptic and an atheist without this kind of hateful thought in my life. From now on, I’ll restrict my involvement to having a drink with PZ when he comes to town and invites everyone out. Speaking of which, PZ, come back to Seattle soon, plz…

  27. 27
    Ophelia Benson

    Vacula is a regular at the pit?!

    I did not know that. I was too nice to him.

  28. 28
    HM

    +1 to marismae’s comments. And as The twelfth vote says, this doesn’t make me want to come to an event like TAM. What happened to Surly Amy sounds like the type of bullying I endured as a child in elementary and high school – when I was told, to ignore it and the bullies will stop.

    I’m so sorry this is happening to you, Ophelia, and to Rebecca, and Surly Amy and the rest of the FTB crew. I really appreciate your work and have been reading this blog and others for about a year now.

  29. 29
    Martha

    The internet is not some magical playground where you can behave like and ass without actually being one.

    QFT. When will they ever learn?!

    Some years ago, at a convention of the American Economic Association, an economist wore a button that was essentially a sneer at another economist. The convention organizers asked this man to remove the pin. He refused. He was shown the door and told not to come back until he learned how to play nice with the other people.

    Yes, this is how grown-ups run their meetings. In a relatively male-dominated field, too.

  30. 30
    R Holmes

    Justin,

    Your bus driver. You received a message from someone who didn’t directly threaten you, but hinted that something nasty might happen to you. You couldn’t be sure that you would encounter the author or that he was willing to harm you but, nonetheless, you felt threatened and decided to play it safe, just in case.

    I’d have felt freaked out in those circumstances too. I’m glad it was dealt with.

    But here’s the thing: I can’t see how your experience is materially different from Ophelia’s. She gets a message which doesn’t directly threaten her but suggests she might be in danger if she attends TAM. On top of that, TAM supporters all over the Web have made abusive, vicious comments to/about her, and while she can’t be sure that they’ll be at TAM, it’s hardly unreasonable to suppose that some of them will, and she can’t know whether they (or the person who sent the ‘you might be killed’ message) are willing to attack her in person. So she decides to play it safe.

    From where I’m sitting, the only distinction between your situations is that, in one case, the person receiving the messages was someone you like.

  31. 31
    Jafafa Hots

    Skepchick has apparently sponsored attendees to TAM.

    Exactly. They have viciously attacked people who were doing their work for them.

    And of course made the nonsensical claim that people sponsoring TAM were against it and wanted it to fail, etc.

    It’s one thing to have a jerk or three in a crowd of people – another entirely to have a huge community dedicated to backstabbing those who promoted their event while deliberately denying and distorting the reality of the situation in every single aspect.

    Where have I seen that kind of behavior before? Perhaps the next TAM should be held in a building with a steeple.

  32. 32
    Lisa

    First of all, I’ve never commented on FtB, although I read daily. I’ve been following this situation since “elevator”. That said…

    Good grief! What happened to TAM? I remember TAM1. I was one of the crowd plucking at Randi’s sleeve at every opportunity “have a conference, have a conference, pleeeease”. I honestly think he had TAM1 to shut us up and leave him alone.

    TAM1 had its ups and downs. Since it was in Florida, the loss of Columbia was a huge blow. Everything was suspended for an hour just so everyone could collect and regroup. Lots of red eyes in the audience. On the upside we all got to connect with people we’d only talked to via email and forums. Fantastics talks, presentations, plus a star party! On the +++ side, Randi’s (then) secretary kept making him buy massive amounts of doughnuts for the volunteers. Hi Linda!

    TAM2 had to be moved to Vegas for conference room. We seriously underestimated the interest in TAM1 and didn’t want to have to shoe-horn people in. Yeah, it was bigger, so a little more inpersonal, but everyone still had fun. Penn and Teller were there. Not only did we get seriously cut-rate tickets for their show, they provided 5 lux buses to transport us. During the conference, we were once again entertained with excellent presentations and spirited panels.

    I quit as a forum admin shortly after this. There was a pedophile posting on the forums, waxing about his love for 9 year olds. I banhammered him. Some forum people said I was denying him his right of free speech. Yeah, I was. Have him yell that same stuff on a street corner, see where it gets him.

    Anyway, out of touch from the forum, but still looking forward to TAM3. Wait, how much? I really wanted to attend TAM3, but I just don’t have that much discretionary cash.

    Okay, now these days I might, but why would I? TAM these days isn’t what we envisioned when we were first bugging the crap outta Randi. It was a place where some pretty like-minded people could meet. No one cared whether the speaker had a vagina or a penis. We talked and laughed about religion/belief systems/politics/socio-economics/pseudo-science.

    No, TAM1 and to my knowledge TAM2 have any kind of anti-harassment policy. Were we wrong? Probably. It didn’t occur to us. Evane if it had been brought up, we Probably could of assumed people would behave as responsible adults. Stuck it in as a footnote.

    Now women are getting threats for attending? /clap /clap. Gratz. You are now teh 1331.

  33. 33
    mirax

    Ophelia, I dont comment much but I read pretty much everything related to the nasty campaign against feminist atheists and yes, Justin Vacula is an out and out slimepitter and not to be trusted as someone commenting in good faith. Hallquist and one of the guest bloggers at Justin Griffith’s blog should wise up to Vacula too.

  34. 34
    Anthony K

    Justin Vacula, when I see real examples of Stalinism, I’ll lead the charge to free you and the Hogglites from the tyranny of censorship.

    Until then, you and your compatriots are the lowest of the self-serving slime.

    You’re losing this battle. You people stink of desperation.

  35. 35
    Bernard Hurley

    Justin Vacula says:

    I’m not denying that real threats come over the internet. I am saying, though, that I haven’t seen examples of said real threats from Ophelia but rather only see people trolling and making silly comments that do not constitute real threats.

    I don’t know how it works in the US, but in the UK the courts decide what is and what is not a threat. If you want some idea of how it works here, get hold of copies of the Protection from Harassment Acts (1977 and 1997) and send me a reference to the part that makes special exemptions for silly comments made by internet trolls. It’s a while since I looked at the Acts but I don’t remember seeing any; perhaps I missed that bit.

  36. 36
    Bernard Hurley

    She gets a message which doesn’t directly threaten her but suggests she might be in danger if she attends TAM.

    Sorry to nit-pick but I don’t understand the notions of a direct and an indirect threat. Said in the right circumstances to suggest that someone might be in danger precisely is to threaten them.

  37. 37
    R Holmes

    No need to apologise, Bernard. Perhaps ‘explicit’ is a better word. There’s no “I’m gonna do you in, mate”, but the message is threatening nonetheless.

    I agree with you about the Protection from Harassment Act. From what I’ve read, many of the messages sent to the FT Bloggers and the Skepchicks would constitute actionable harassment.

  38. 38
    F [i'm not here, i'm gone]

    Why the fuck does it have to be a threat?

    Or an investigation?

    Is it because we choose to exclude that 90% in the middle? If the inappropriate shit isn’t actually rape or murder, it’s “just trolling”, and that’s like free speech or some shit, right? Nothing to question or discourage there. In fact, probably a good idea fuck with anyone who does question or discourage it. It’s like they are messing with your way of life.

  39. 39
    Bernard Hurley

    F, in spite of your undoubted eloquence, I’m finding it difficult to decode what your post. Perhaps you could help my out by translating it into something that more nearly resembles normal English.

  40. 40
    Bernard Bumner

    The arbiters of real threats obsessively stalk the internet to tell others what they should and should not be offended by. They have no purpose and nothing to contribute, beyond nay-saying and derision.

    How many people did they help to send to TAM? How did they support the attendees? Did they sponsor the event? Where is their positive contribution?

    They have targets in their sights and will do anything to attack them.

    Attendees of TAM should not see t-shirts and necklaces, or slogans attacking them personally. They shouln’t be singled out for ridicule, mockery, or marginalisation. TAM is not a free-for-all. It is utimately meant to be a fun event. They should be able to expect organisers to take action, from politely asking the person to refrain, right up to warning them or telling them to leave. None of that is the least bit controversial; those are the rules that we follow throughout our daily lives.

    I cannot understand what it is like to spend so much time cultivating hatred and nurturing malice. It seems strange and unhealthy.

  41. 41
    jamesfish

    Have any of the “leaders” of the opposing tendency in this, ahem, disagreement, made a clear, unambiguous public statement – i.e. rather more than just a rhetorical throatclearing- that the crap Rebecca Watson et al have been putting up with just isn’t cool and doesn’t have their support? This needn’t mean they’ve said “I want to see a policy put in place to stop this” because I’m sure given their past form they don’t want that. Have any of them just tried to consciousness raise amongst their minions about what might, among reasonable persons, be considered somewhat mean?

  42. 42
    Wowbagger, Designated Snarker

    Well, Justin Vacula has proved that he’s a leader all right – of malcontents, that is; he’s written a blog post about being laughed at by PZ that’s been peddled by none other than Jeremy Stangroom.

  43. 43
    hyperdeath

    Has “TheOtherAtheist” been confirmed as an alias of Franc Hoggle? It certainly sounds like him, but he’s far from the only vile little weirdo.

  44. 44
    Ophelia Benson

    hoggle/Ivanoff is far from the only vile little weirdo but he does have a distinctive style.

  45. 45
    Ophelia Benson

    Ew. Jeremy retweeted a post by Justin Vacula an hour ago – so, in the full knowledge that Vacula is a dedicated citizen of the slime pit. Ewwwwww.

  46. 46
    Matt Penfold

    Ew. Jeremy retweeted a post by Justin Vacula an hour ago – so, in the full knowledge that Vacula is a dedicated citizen of the slime pit. Ewwwwww.

    I have to ask, given his attitude towards women, how did Stangroom managed to co-author “Does God Hate Women” ?

  47. 47
    Ophelia Benson

    Well to the best of my knowledge he doesn’t share the slime pit attitude towards women. But apparently he loathes me and “FTB” enough to justify even cheering on a slime pitter.

  48. 48
    Matt Penfold

    Well to the best of my knowledge he doesn’t share the slime pit attitude towards women. But apparently he loathes me and “FTB” enough to justify even cheering on a slime pitter.

    It is still a very odd attitude for one of the co-authors of that book to take, given the slimepitters attitude to womem is indistinguishable from attitudes he rightly condemned in that book.

  49. 49
    Ophelia Benson

    I know. Hence “ew”.

  50. 50
    Matt Penfold

    I know. Hence “ew”.

    In the circumstances, “ew” seems rather mild!

  51. 51
    Bernard Bumner

    For some, scoring points has become more important than being consistent or even taking the right side.

  52. 52
    Ophelia Benson

    I’m a very mild, sedate, even-tempered sort of person.

  53. 53
    oolon

    Just read Justin Vaculas blog – he is not happy at being ridiculed by PZ, but I may have to disagree that he is a troll as he actually seems to believe what he is saying. I’m wondering why he is one of my ‘leaders’ in the sceptical community – I’m a sceptic so I must be lorded over by him apparently – when he has so little empathy. Even if he thinks his death threats are better than Ophelias et al (Strange thing to be competitive about but there you go) I don’t understand why he cannot see that even if you are subject to a paltry set of internet (not real world!) threats and general atmosphere of unpleasantness that this would bother Ophelia (And the other recipients at skepchick.org). When someone is subject to attack from people I don’t usually try and help by saying ‘oh it wasn’t that bad, I’ve had far worse and you don’t see me complaining!’. Or probably in this case ‘You’ve had nothing yet when you get a real threat call me and I’ll come to your rescue!’.

    Doing so would make me at best an insensitive arse – can he not see that? Maybe I’m wrong and he is a troll as my empathy is stretched to the limit when trying to sit in his shoes.

    Anyway, nil carborumdum illegitimi, I’ve learnt a lot in the few months of reading Skepchick and Ophelias/ftb blogs and while I don’t like the term ‘leaders’ I consider you all to be leading in a direction I like more than the opposition :-)

  54. 54
    Bernard Bumner

    Ophelia, that has been very admirably evident in your response to some pretty awful treatment. I sometimes wonder whether it is your generally calm and measured response which so gets to them – they seem to be so angry by contrast.

  55. 55
    Lyanna

    Thank you, Ophelia and Amy and Rebecca and the other women who confront this under their real names and in person.

    You’re doing an immense service. If nothing else you’re smoking out the creeps.

  56. 56
    Sea

    “I have to wonder what happened to empathy.”

    This is a very good question? What happened to the empathy of these people in the Slimepit? Why do they say what they say? Why do they think that people’s opinions and feelings don’t matter when they are wrong or illogical? Why do they think that their words have no power but the words of the ‘powerful’ ‘socially dominant’ ‘FTBullies’ are terribly terrible and should be stopped?

    I think it’s just the natural evolution of any group like FTB with a well known out-group (the religious) for whom empathy is denied, who’s opinions and feelings don’t matter because they are wrong and illogical, and who have such social privilege that we can say what we want and yet know our words have no effect on them.

    Regardless of whether the above is fair (I’m sure the religious would object, but who cares, right? Sky fairies, etc) It’s going to lead to a problem, because some people, the Slimepitters, don’t understand what’s going on. They take it to heart as if it were a principle ‘You can say whatever you want and other people are responsible for their own reactions because we’re just spreading the TRUTH’ instead of an ad-hoc ‘These guys aren’t worthy of respect or decent treatment because of their beliefs, but don’t go too far, we shall decide on a case by case basis what that means’ which is all it really is. This causes them to be thrown out when they try to turn our own tactics back on us instead of keeping them reserved for the requisite people who are so wrong that they haven’t “earned” respect.

    Basically, Slimepitters are stupid and don’t realise who deserves to be treated like that, they think the idea is that words aren’t really important and you should rise above insult, when really it’s that insult should be reserved for people who are part of specific out-groups AND wrong. Not one or the other.

  57. 57
    Mike Burns

    @33

    It is interesting that you would discount Vacula’s opinions on various issues [not related to feminism/harassment/etc] because he happens to post in an internet forum. You know that his writing concerning feminism/harassment/etc is only a very small portion of his work, right? If people share his ideas, doesn’t this suggest that the ideas have merit and warrant the sharing rather than saying people who share his stuff should ‘wise up?’

  58. 58
    Sivi

    Re @28 HM,

    Ugh, thanks for pinning down what’s becoming increasingly upsetting about this whole deal with Surly Amy at TAM. It’s exactly the sort of snide, cruel harassment I faced in school with seemingly exactly the same indifferent attitude from the authority figures.

    At least the bullies in high school didn’t have a whole cheering section too.

  59. 59
    Ophelia Benson

    Bernard @ 54 – thanks – but you do realize I was joking @ 52, right? I’m not really all that calm! :D

  60. 60
    interrobang

    I love this idea that somehow vague chatter floating around in a community can’t constitute a threat. Personal anecdote time, to show I know first-hand that it can:

    When I was in high school (9th grade, first year, October), someone started a rumour about me that I couldn’t possibly actually be a real grade 9er, so I must be a narc. That led to some girl taking the rumour seriously enough to confront me in the hallway and pull a pocketknife on me. I believe her stated motive was that she didn’t want her drug-dealer boyfriend to go to juvie hall.

    It only takes one person with a hair across their ass to potentiate a threat.

  61. 61
    Ophelia Benson

    Tell me about it.

    Where do people think “real” threats get started, anyway?! Do they think obsessive brooding hatred is somehow the opposite of threats and violence, as opposed to the first step towards it? Sure, maybe hoggle-Ivanoff and Geoff Falk and the rest of them will stop with mere obsessive name-calling and threats, and then again, maybe they won’t.

  62. 62
    Bernard Bumner

    …but you do realize I was joking @ 52, right? I’m not really all that calm!

    From where I’m sitting, you’re the model of patience in the face of extreme provocation. You’re certainly not passive, but I’m pretty sure my very public meltdown would have been both messy and undignified if I’d received a measure of the treatment you have.

  63. 63
    Improbable Joe, bearer of the Official SpokesGuitar

    TAM is an interesting case, since it was just a couple of years ago that they sort of pushed the idea that theism should be treated with kid gloves at TAM7 because Hal Bidlack felt uncomfortable with the “tone” I guess. Which is fine, but if they can do that, then why couldn’t they have made the clear statement that whatever online arguing was happening that no one should be targeted over it? It doesn’t require taking a side in particular conflicts to take a stand against carrying it over to TAM.

    Yes, actually, TAM organizers could and should have told people to take off clothing and jewelry that was targeting other attendees. Once again, another reason why TAM is losing/has lost its status as the premiere skeptical get-together. They aren’t the only game in town, and the other games aren’t rigged against their own supporters.

  64. 64
    zodee

    Pappa has apologized,

    “To my fellow Rationalians, all Skepchicks and any people of the world who are interested…. I’m genuinely sorry for my lame attempt at humour that trivialised rape. I shall be more mindful of my words and how they can negatively affect others in future.

    “In particular, Gallstones, I’m sorry that my crassness caused you any hurt/anger/distress. I like you a lot and had no intention of being the source of any negativity in your life.”

    Thank you.

  65. 65
    Ophelia Benson

    Well that’s good. A big improvement on not apologizing.

  66. 66
    zodee

    (Just don’t read some of the comments unless you want to lose your lunch…lalala)

  67. 67
    Ophelia Benson

    Well there’s no link, so I haven’t seen it.

  68. 68
    Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle

    I get the impression that the Vaculas and Strangrooms of the world WERE the bullies in school, and therefore can’t have empathy toward those being bullied. Bros before hos, after all.

  69. 69
    Simon

    @68 Illuminata:

    Disclaimer: I am not talking about Stangroom and Vacula.

    You touch on a good point. However in the discussion of online (and indeed offline) misogyny, I do think the following dimension is relevant as well. I posted the below comment at the Surly Amy post on Skepchick:

    According to an FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin on hate groups, the one common denominator is that haters mask a lot of personal insecurities: “Not all insecure people are haters, but all haters are insecure people.”

    Source: http://www.fbi.gov/stats-services/publications/law-enforcement-bulletin/2003-pdfs/mar03leb.pdf/at_download/file

  70. 70
    FelixBC

    Well, here’s a leader now speaking up: David Silverman, President of American Atheists.

    Good on Amy for reaching out and asking actual leaders for support.

    http://skepchick.org/2012/07/speaking-out-against-hate-directed-at-women-david-silverman/

  71. 71
    Ophelia Benson

    Ooh! Well done Amy.

    I figured Dave would if anyone would (but felt shy about asking).

  72. 72
    Ophelia Benson

    Wo. That is fantastic.

  73. 73
    The twelfth vote

    Here is the link to that “Pappa” person apologizing for his rape joke, for what it’s worth:

    http://rationalia.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=75&t=38220&start=750#p1223613

    It’s good that he did finally do so. I find it interesting that part of his motivation for apologizing was because his “joke” triggered a friend, who then became distressed; it underlines how women are routinely dehumanized and objectified in the skeptical movement, only becoming persons worthy of respect when they’re known personally to the jokesters. Triggering a stranger is no problem for them, it only crosses the line when they trigger a friend.

    It’s also interesting how some of those on that forum who defended Pappa are now furious that he has actually taken the decent step and apologized. This is less about trying to make women feel welcome than it is about maintaining power imbalances and inequalities.

    Also, I’m still never going to attend TAM.

  74. 74
    Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle

    The twelfth vote:

    This is less about trying to make women feel welcome than it is about maintaining power imbalances and inequalities.

    I just read recently – and I wish I could remember where – a blog writer described the reaction of the pseudo-skeptical bigots in our midst as trying to defend the jollies they get in treating women like shit and then getting to watch women be forced to put up with it because of power imbalances and inequities.

    So, in other words, you’re right.

    Simon:

    “Not all insecure people are haters, but all haters are insecure people.”

    Which, though it may be erroneous, is what I think bullies are as well. Someone secure in themselves doesn’t go nuclear at being told “don’t do that”, or being told they’re wrong, etc.

  75. 75
    Brian

    Someone secure in themselves doesn’t go nuclear at being told “don’t do that”, or being told they’re wrong, etc.
    But is the insecurity a personality trait, or is it based on the external fact that they don’t want to enfranchise women. They have the privilege and entitlement, and want to keep it, or roll back any enfranchisement. They rightly see that they’re losing something they value, and are kicking up a stink about it.

  76. 76
    SallyStrange

    What Justin Vacula means when he says he’s a leader is that he sits on the board of Northeast PA Freethinkers Society, writes articles for his local paper, and organizes atheist events. Which, good for him. That is indeed leadership. For a narrow slice of people whose TOP priorities are church/state separation and science education in schools.

    However, compare and contrast that with the sort of leadership I witnessed recently at a conference of progressive political activists: a strong commitment to intersectional understanding of race, gender, and economic inequality coupled with passionate drive to make sure ALL people have access to good education, period, plus universal health care, good jobs with good wages, decent housing, healthy food, fair trials, and so forth. There were a lot of Christians at the meeting, some Muslims, and some atheists. Religious pluralism was taken as a given. I would personally feel much more at home at that sort of meeting than any meeting of Freethinkers who only talk about atheist/skeptic issues.

    Under leadership of the sort Justin practices, atheism and skepticism will never become more than a niche hobby for privileged white dudes.

    I get the impression that he’s totally okay with that, which is why I think his “leadership” is worse than useless, it’s actively harmful to this movement, which I think should be allied with the progressives I spoke of before. Indeed, at that conference, there were a lot of conversations that revolved around EVIDENCE and DATA and the fact that progressives have messaging problems because they rely far too much on evidence alone, and that if we want to change opinion, we need to humanize our issues by having individuals tell their stories in the public sphere. Remind you of anyone?? Skeptics???

    There IS a natural crossover here, but folks like Justin don’t want to see it, most likely because they don’t share those progressive political values and would prefer not to have their politics challenged that way.

    Oh well. It’s gonna happen anyway–it’s happening right now. “Reality has a liberal bias,” indeed.

  77. 77
    SallyStrange

    And Jews too! Sorry I left out the other branch of Abrahamic religions. Definitely plenty of Jews in the progressive movement.

  78. 78
    Simon

    @75 Brian:

    As best I can tell MRA’s are convinced that the power imbalance lies the other way and that feminists are the ones wielding too much. They see their role as trying to fix this imbalance.

    Some of their main sites were listed by the SPLC: http://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/intelligence-report/browse-all-issues/2012/spring/misogyny-the-sites

    avoiceformen.com is particularly bad and you will see that they’ve recently started targeting Taslima Nasreen.

  1. 79
    RCimT: Dispatches from the Misogyny Wars | Lousy Canuck

    [...] Ophelia breaks down Amy’s comments on the raping-Skepchicks “question”, and points out some great comments like: The things that really dig at me are the people who have been allies or should be allies that no longer are because their widdow feewings were hurt. People like Emery Emery who when the elevator incident occurred backed Rebecca but has somewhere since switched over to misrepresenting Rebecca and the FTBlogger’s position and then writing them off. Organizations like JREF who don’t feel the need to lay out a clear anti-harassment policy yet feel the need to blame anyone who suggests they should have one as hurting the attendance to their fundraiser (which is what TAM really is). People like Paula Kirby who seems to be operating under the delusion that if she can’t see something that it doesn’t exist and feels the need to shut up those who point out where she might be wrong (and her herd of lick-spittle sycophants that seem to be overly represented by philosophy students for some reason). [...]

  2. 80
    Within the Movement | Almost Diamonds

    [...] an atheist organization’s leader declares publicly that what you received couldn’t have been a real threat and uses that organization’s podcast to grossly misrepresent what you did receive, that [...]

  3. 81
    What happens within the movement | Butterflies and Wheels

    [...] an atheist organization’s leader declares publicly that what you received couldn’t have been a real threat and uses that organization’s podcast to grossly misrepresent what you did receive, that happens [...]

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