A Greek blogger goes to see Corpus Christi »« How dare you suffer!

Carlin isn’t the issue

No, just saying “I can use any words I want to” doesn’t deal with the problem. No, it really doesn’t. Not even if you say it really loudly, or over and over again, or really loudly over and over again.

Another day, another Internet radio show, another transcript, another attempt to make the problem just a matter of swearing.

…there is nothing that is placed outside of purpose, especially words, and what words I use depend on what message I am trying to convey. This is why I have such a problem with censorship. I would just as soon see Vincent Van Gogh censored as I would any artist, and the same goes for any wordsmith.

It’s one of the reasons I admired George Carlin so much. Do you remember his shtick back in the 1970’s, the one where he listed seven words that you would never, ever hear on television? Well, here we are, thirty years later, and you still won’t hear the words “shit, piss, fuck, cunt, cocksucker, motherfucker or tits” on NBC, CBS or ABC.

One, we need to define what kind of censorship we’re talking about. But more important, two, notice what words are not in Carlin’s list. Nigger, kike, faggot, spic, wop, yid, wetback, greaser, chink, slope, gook, Polack – you get the idea.

Except for “tits” the words were and are all swear-words. Three of them are also epithets. That seems to confuse people. Swearing is one thing and epithets are another. The problem I mentioned is not a problem about swearing, it’s a problem about epithets.

What saddens me is that there is a movement within the freethought community to censor words, just for the sake of their existence – giving no thought to context. There are words that have been deemed simply too offensive to even utter, and that, as a wordsmith, I have a huge problem with, because it reminds me of a certain religion that has a prophet that depicting an image of is too offensive to even draw.

No, that’s wrong. We utter them all the time. The problem is not uttering them, the problem is using them as epithets to revile and degrade certain women. The problem is using them as epithets to whip up hatred of certain women. The problem is using them in that context. It’s not true that we give no thought to context! It’s the opposite of the truth. A man furiously screaming that a particular woman is “a fucking bitch” is one context, and we do think about it.

Don’t even get me started on phrases like, ‘the n-word’ or whatever word people want to describe in similar fashion. If I mean to say something, I am going to use the word, not a rendition of the word. It reminds of the Christian who says, “Well, Sally is such a b.” For fuck’s sake, if you think Sally is a bitch, then just call Sally a bitch, and move on. We know what you mean, and using a letter in place of a word does NOT make you a better person.

And yet and yet and yet! Notice that he still doesn’t say – despite having set himself up to say exactly that – “For fuck’s sake, if you think Sally is a nigger, then just call Sally a nigger, and move on.” It’s still just bitch. Bitch is ok; bitch is fine; just say it, and move on. But what about “nigger”? Is that fine?

I haven’t seen him say it’s fine. I think the fact that he hasn’t said that indicates that he wouldn’t say that. Good. But then why does he say it when it’s about women as opposed to non-white people? And why, to be blunt, is he so obtuse about it?

I am a wordsmith. An architect. I will use whatever words I choose to build with, and it is your choice to drive by and bitch about how ugly the building is, or drive around town to find other things I’ve built. Either way, your choice. Just know, in any given room you’ll likely find an old record player, with a scratchy recording of a familiar voice, saying, “shit piss fuck cunt cocksucker motherfucker tits,” and sometimes even “fart, turd or twat.

But not, I take it, nigger, kike, faggot, spic, wop, yid, wetback, greaser, chink, slope, gook, Polack. Why is that, Al (for it is he)?

 

 

Comments

  1. says

    He’s also wrong about “tits.” Jimmy Carter said it on Leno years ago. George Carlin himself said it was in there because of the rhythm of the routine and didn’t think it was accurate even when he wrote the bit.

  2. Aratina Cage says

    notice what words are not in Carlin’s list. Nigger, kike, faggot, spic, wop, yid, wetback, greaser, chink, slope, gook, Polack – you get the idea.

    The word faggot has got to be the worst on that list for most recent times. It was deemed acceptable to call someone that throughout the 80s and most of the 90s, and is only now on its way to its deathbed as an acceptable word to use. But just think about all the people it harmed when it was said degradingly about gay men in popular songs and on popular TV and in popular movies where we (gay men–including boys) were the worst thing in the world that a man could be.

  3. hotshoe says

    Ferchrissake, Al. You pretentious ass, you’re not a “wordsmith” or a goddamn “architect”. You’re a silly little blogger with a handful of deluded fans. Your choice to use the word “bitch” on your blog doesn’t magically elevate you to the rank of “wordsmith”, much less to the rank of valiant “hero” fighting against the would-be censors.

  4. callistacat says

    I have a vague memory of Courtney Love telling an audience to yell out “bitch!” which they did rather enthusiastically, then said “now say nigger!” which was met with stunned silence. She was trying to make a point but got called a racist by the press instead.

  5. callistacat says

    There are “dirty” words that we think are dirty because they are related to sex or the excretory system and there are words that are meant to dehumanize. Some men might confuse the two because women = sex to them.

    Dehumanizing leads to the justification of hate and violence and oppression. Saying “shit” doesn’t do that.

  6. Rodney Nelson says

    Okay, ‘fess up. Which one of you spit in Al’s milk and got him all upset about FTB?

  7. says

    Hmm its a difficult one as it seems pretty obvious to me that calling a woman a cunt, especially in a critical context is obviously wrong. Exactly as you equate to racist and homophobic terms…

    Al wouldn’t do that I’m sure. But then is his acceptance/ ignoring of others doing that wrong? By that I mean him posting on the Slymepit where they are referring to Ophelia with lots of slurs for example. Does he say anything? Does he have to say anything? What are the implications of being friendly with people who do that?

    All are questions in my mind as I asked him what he would do in that situation. Unfortunately he dodged the question a bit saying.

    I don’t support racists or misogynists. I do not advocate places that advocate for the pathological hatred of women, nor do I advocate places that discriminate against individuals because of the color of their skin.

    What I’m not sure about is if you are posting at the Slymepit and being pally are you supporting a place that advocates the pathological hatred of a subset of female atheists? Are you supporting their use of misogynist slurs and therefore misogyny? If you say nothing… Can you even post there, be pally and criticise and be ok? I’m waiting to see what Al does say to the pitters, could be interesting.

    Although given this statement of his in reply to me I dunno what to think.

    Ironically, it seems that there are more than a few comments within the hundreds that have been posted here and at FtB over the last few days that appear to support the pathological hatred for men, as well as hateful and bigoted comments written about people only because of being born Caucasian.

    Wut!? Who are these people and where on FtBs do they comment?

  8. julian says

    There re contexts where certain words become appropriate. For example, when discussing the oppression of Blcks in the US, nigger can and should be expected to be seen. “John is a filthy nigger” in that context is ok. But calling John a filthy nigger because nigger is the strongest slur you can think of that specifies his race is NOT appropriate whatever Stefanelli might contend.

  9. callistacat says

    (Bitch is OK, right? I didn’t tell him to stop being a kike or a nigger or a faggot or something serious like that)

  10. callistacat says

    And dyke? Like when Christopher Hitchens called Wanda Sykes that black dyke without bothering to find out her actual name? Because no one told her the rules?

  11. Dana Hunter says

    Wow. When Al throws a tantrum about the straw feminists in his head, he doesn’t do it by halves, does he? I still have no idea why he went from zero to frothing at the mouth with no discernible provocation.

    And if he’s a wordsmith, I’ll never call myself one again. In addition to his self-important posturing and faulty reasoning, his spelling and grammar errors, not to mention clunky sentence structure, were a large part of the reason I rarely read him. Perhaps he’s angry at feminists because we somehow made him insecure with our superior language skills?

    I can only quote Bugs Bunny: Wot a maroon.

  12. emily isalwaysright says

    “Al wouldn’t do that I’m sure. But then is his acceptance/ ignoring of others doing that wrong?”

    Why is that even posed as a question? Of course it’s wrong! It’s bystanding. But given the current debate over misogyny in the atheist community, it’s even worse than garden variety bystanding, it’s side-picking and side-reinforcing.

    I think maybe Al just reckons the kids in the other sandbox are cooler.

  13. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    Oolon, cut the crap. Your tortured fence sitting is starting to abrade everyone else’s ass, too. There isn’t any question about it. Al and lots of others are hanging out in a sewer and giving tacit (and effective) support to bigots. You’ve been told this over and over. It’s hard not to believe you know this and are simply on an extended concern troll bender.

  14. Bjarte Foshaug says

    …giving no thought to context…

    I see… So, in the context of everything that has happened since a woman’s ridiculously reasonable request to “not do that”, speaking of the very same women who have been targeted for non-stop harassment for more than a year as “bitches” and “cunts” carries no special “baggage” what so ever, right? Don’t these clowns ever run out of feet to put in their mouths?

  15. says

    Well at least Al has provided one piece of information, at…the slyme pit, today. (He’s up to 14 posts there already. Making up for lost time.) Time stamp 9:44 a.m.

    Yes, I did leave FtB of my own accord, for my own reasons. However, what anyone on the network wrote about Reap had nothing at all to do with it.

    Mkay. I thought it did, but if he says so, ok.

  16. LeftSidePositive says

    You know, I’ve had a creepy feeling about Al Stefanelli ever since this, as inconsequential as it was… I told myself I was just reading too much into things, that people with good intentions can make jokes and they might not have the same ironclad “rules” as someone more schooled in online feminist discourse, that of course he didn’t *mean* to be trivializing alcohol-facilitated rape and give outs to others who were muddying the waters of consent on purpose, etc., etc.,… But dammit it still nagged. Maybe it’s just confirmation bias, and I don’t know a good way of systematically assessing when those “tells” come true… but there does seem to be something a little “off” about people who take some delight in being inappropriate in kind of a punch-down sort of way.

    Kind of like how I told myself Emery Emory just comes from a different background of values and it doesn’t mean anything when he gleefully yells “CUNTent!” at the beginning of every show, and anyway his politics and attitudes toward women seem overall good…then I finally just got too skeeved out by the chronic, low-level ableism and sexism and I gave up. Part of me wasn’t surprised when, months later, he blew a gasket about harassment policies.

  17. A Hermit says

    Al doesn’t get it…

    Carlin never argued for the gratuitous use of language; on the contrary his intent was to make use of language in a way that gets a message across; that it’s not the words which are offensive, its the way in which the words are used that can be offensive.

    If your message is “women who stand up for their rights are bitches” that’s no different than”black people who stand up for their rights are niggers”. Too often these days that does seem to be the message being sent to feminists in the atheist community…

  18. screechymonkey says

    By the way, in one of Carlin’s later routines (I think one of his 90s albums; I’ll see if I can track it down later), he does talk about slurs. And he makes pretty much the same point that I understand Ophelia to be making: that it’s not that the words themselves are inherently bad, it’s the context in which they are used that makes them good or bad.

    Which is why it’s silly for Slymepitters to rant about how supposedly Ophelia uses the words “bitch” and “cunt” more often than they do: there’s a world of difference between saying “‘[slur]‘ is a [racist, sexist, homophobic, etc.] slur” and saying “you’re a [slur].” The word itself isn’t magic.

  19. says

    I am glad to hear that this is all just a matter of free speech.

    So, when Rebecca Watson said “Don’t do that, guys” it was simply free speech, and nobody took offense or reacted. I must have heard a corrupted version of that.

    </sarcasm>

  20. says

    @ 23 – yeh – as Benjamin Nelson pointed out some time ago, it’s the difference between use and attribution. The slyme pitters use them, I attribute them.

  21. raymoscow says

    Didn’t Al recently post about some Baptist kid calling him a ‘faggot’ because he had a bag which looked like a ‘purse’? It seemed to be a hurtful use of language then. What’s changed?

  22. LeftSidePositive says

    Raymoscow, why do we have to explain everything to you? Clearly, the Baptist kid wasn’t a “wordsmith.” I doubt he could even stomp his foot and yell “free speech!” Sheesh.

  23. says

    Oh…yes he did, Ray. Very good point.

    Mind you, he has an answer. People are born gay. Nobody is born a bitch.

    That’s a terrible argument, but even if you accept it as an argument, it’s factually wrong – because we women are all born people-subject-to-being-called-bitch-whenever-someone-gets-pissed-at-us. So that’s a crock of shit, Al; we fucking well are born bitches in just the way black people are born niggers and all the rest of the litany. We don’t want to be and we are. We don’t get the “choice.”

  24. says

    Also at the slyme pit – there’s a later comment by Al saying he left a comment here but it’s still in moderation. (I’m confused about that, because I haven’t seen it in moderation, and it wouldn’t go into moderation anyway. I hope he didn’t just make that up. Maybe he wrote a comment and then forgot to hit submit, and thinks it disappeared, perhaps into moderation.) He left one on the post, so I’ll add it here.

    Al’s comment:

    Al Stefanelli Says:
    October 14, 2012 at 3:24 pm

    Ophelia Benson, on her blog “Butterflies & Wheels” over at Freethought Blogs, has written an entire post in response to this post. Fine, we appreciate the hits.

    However, (and I stated this in a comment that at this time is in ‘moderation’), her insistence that the word ‘bitch’ is on par with racial or ethnic slurs is ridiculous.

    She proceeds to list a litany of racial and ethnic slurs, but seems to fail to understand that these words are used as pejoratives toward someone who is born that way.

    Nobody is born a bitch, unless you’re referring to a female dog. By the way, I find it amusing that she is more than willing to use those words.

    Oh, wait. That would be ‘context.’ Nevermind.

  25. A. Noyd says

    It’s the people who want to go around bleating slurs without getting criticized who object to placing the words in context. Call a woman a cunt? It’s “just words.” The only time they bring up anything resembling context is in their attempts to deny it’s a slur to call a man a bitch.

    ~*~*~*~*~*~*~

    emily isalwaysright (#16)

    Why is that even posed as a question? Of course it’s wrong!

    It’s posed as a question because oolon is a dedicated fence-sitter in the matter of FtB/Skepchick vs. the slimepit (and the ‘pit-pals). He thinks maintaining perpetual credulity towards the motives and culpability of the pitizens makes him somehow “objective” and “neutral.” (He got himself banned at Pharyngula a few days ago after he was told not to comment in a thread about the ‘pit and couldn’t resist the chance to martyr himself.)

  26. says

    What’s wrong with Al’s retort that “racial and ethnic slurs…are used as pejoratives toward someone who is born that way”?

    One, see above. Women are born that way: born people who are subject to being called bitches whenever somone wants to punch them down.

    Two, just as Al said, the slurs are used as pejoratives toward someone who is born that way. Well quite so: and women are born that way: women. “Bitch” is a pejorative for women just as “kike” is a pejorative for Jews, and so on for the whole list.

  27. Aratina Cage says

    People are born gay.

    It is wrong to compare gay with faggot. Our community made gay into what it is today; faggot is something of a dagger used by bigots to stab us with, and we’ve had to shield ourselves from it since it became the dagger that it is. We’ve even managed to partially reclaim faggot, but only in the sense that women have reclaimed bitch and cunt, which is to say that Perez Hilton’s use of faggot to attack another man’s very being is not the sense in which it is OK to use it.

  28. A. Noyd says

    Try looking up “not all blacks are niggers” on Google (in quotes) and you’ll find out that plenty of people have the same mentality towards the word nigger that Stefanelli has towards the word bitch. (I didn’t look that up on a whim, either. It’s a sentiment I’ve come across more than once.)

  29. julian says

    She proceeds to list a litany of racial and ethnic slurs, but seems to fail to understand that these words are used as pejoratives toward someone who is born that way.

    Nobody is born a bitch, unless you’re referring to a female dog. By the way, I find it amusing that she is more than willing to use those words.

    This argument is ridiculous. Nigger, kyke, dyke, these words are often used to designate bad X from good X. My introduction to the word kyke was someone differentiated kykes from the general Jewish population. Hell, if you know anything about demotivational posters there’s a string of racist ones that juxtapose niggers from “black persons.”

    On top of it all he completely ignores Ophelia’s main point. This man is behaving like an idiot.

    Oh, and it’s factually wrong too. People do choose to become Jewish. It isn’t that uncommon. I’m sure he must have heard of it.

  30. Aratina Cage says

    I mean, would Al really write that “people are born faggots” and not see the cruelty in that statement? It’s not our identities that are the problem. It’s not our behavior that is the problem. The problem is the slurs being lobbed at us.

  31. musubk says

    What saddens me is that there is a movement within the freethought community to censor words, just for the sake of their existence – giving no thought to context. There are words that have been deemed simply too offensive to even utter

    This is madness… What planet is this guy from? Those words are used all the time here, the difference is context – it’s all about context. The context of ‘X called Y a cunt’ is such that the person who said it isn’t being misogynistic just for using the magic word, they’re pointing out where someone else is being misogynistic by using the word to denigrate someone by calling them a gendered insult

    I’ve never even heard of Al before yesterday, but I wonder how anyone can take him seriously when he’s so clearly willing to just make shit up if he thinks it will support his argument.

    Well, that and the narcissistic streak (e.g. “I am a wordsmith. An architect.”), but he’s not unique in that regard (see:Reap ‘Making Real Change’ Paden). It’s not surprising that people who get upset when you discuss something that’s not about them tend to have a bit of an ego.

  32. Acolyte of Sagan says

    Oh dear, I appear to have been inadvertantly using offensive terms for years. You see, here in Britain a ‘greaser’ is a biker / heavy metal fan; a faggot is something I have enjoyed all my life (so far), it is a spicy meatball made with offal and has been a traditional dish over here since the year Dot; a faggot is also a glowing coal or iron bar which was inserted into the early irons and bedpans to provide the heat.
    The shorter ‘fag’ was a 1st-year student at university (when they were all-male affairs) used as a personal servant by one of the older students (a practice no longer allowed – in theory, at least); it is also a slang term for a cigarette.
    A chink is a gap, as in ‘a chink in your armour is your weak-spot’; it is also the light that escapes a gap in the curtains as in ‘a chink of light fell across the lawn’.
    A slope is an incline – or decline, depending on which direction you’re travelling.
    Slag; the waste by-product of coal mining, usually piled into gigantic mounds next to the pit. It was a slag-heap that gave way and poured down the valley to cover the school in Aberfan with the loss of many young lives. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aberfan_disaster .
    A bitch? Well, my late mother bred German Shepherd Dogs,I grew up hearing the word, alongside ‘stud’, ‘dam’ and ‘sire’, more words with a plethora of meanings.
    All of which pretty much confirms that it is indeed the context in which a word is use that gives it its power to offend and insult.

  33. musubk says

    A. Noyd

    Try looking up “not all blacks are niggers” on Google (in quotes) and you’ll find out that plenty of people have the same mentality towards the word nigger that Stefanelli has towards the word bitch. (I didn’t look that up on a whim, either. It’s a sentiment I’ve come across more than once.)

    Indeed. I’m from rural Arkansas, and it’s an extremely common argument people make so they can continue using their favorite racist word. ‘Not all black people are niggers, and white people can be niggers too. It just means someone who’s lazy or steals or freeloads.’ So… why don’t you just call that person lazy, or a thief, or a freeloader?

    That’s what I don’t get about it, and the same goes for those so intent on using bitch or cunt to mean something that has nothing to do with sex. So why the fuck don’t you just say what you mean? Why is it so important to use a loaded word, one with a meaning you don’t intend, and you know people will misinterpret (being generous and assuming that they’re not actually racist/misogynist), when you can just say what you actually mean? What kind of wordsmith is so limited they just have to use that particular word?

  34. mandrellian says

    Personally, I don’t use the word “wordsmith” to self-describe because to do so would out me as a pretentious wanker (and I’d like my prentensions and wankery to remain covert).

    Back on point, yes, it is curious how many who subscribe to “Free speech, therefore you’re a fucking bitch” don’t also subscribe to “Free speech, therefore you’re a lazy fucking beaner.” Why indeed are gendered insults ok but racist ones not for some people?

  35. Ysidro says

    Al wrote: “Nobody is born a bitch, unless you’re referring to a female dog. By the way, I find it amusing that she is more than willing to use those words.”

    That’s funny, I’ve heard racists use that exact same reason. Not all blacks/jews/mexicans were whatever word they used, just the BAD ones. Of course, there were few “good” ones in their lives.

  36. emily isalwaysright says

    I think the argument over whether someone is “born” a certain way or not is irrelevant. Social forces can be just as powerful in constructing identities as genetic ones. People identify as Muslim just as intensely as others identify as gay. I’m not even sure “identity” is something real, necessary or useful.

    The important point is that discriminatory epithets are wrong because they are attacks on a PERSON or a group qua collection of PERSONS. It’s not just abusive to call people “bitches”: it’s also abusive to call them “towel-heads.” I’m sure Al and his ilk stick to criticising “Islam” as opposed to “towel-heads.” Not calling people “bitch” is akin to not calling them “towel-head.” Criticise women all you like, criticise feminist thought all you like, but when you call a woman a bitch you are being abusive, not critical.

    I think we should ignore the locus of identity side of things and concentrate on the content of speech and the difference between criticism and abuse.

  37. emily isalwaysright says

    Also, when I said “criticise women all you like” I meant individual women, not women qua women. That would be discriminatory and prejudicial (but not abusive).

  38. mandrellian says

    Again on the use of “wordsmith”: pretension aside, it’s hard to reconcile Al’s self-description as one with his petulant/obtuse/unaware ignorance of context.

  39. emily isalwaysright says

    A. Noyd:

    Yes, I read lots of oolon’s comments at Pharyngula. I suspect he/she is well-intentioned but confused, not trolling. But I’m not sure.

  40. julian says

    Also, when I said “criticise women all you like” I meant individual women, not women qua women. That would be discriminatory and prejudicial (but not abusive).

    Depends. Think of it as criticizing Muslims for the prevalence of homophobia in their communities. There are times when it is legitimate to criticize and signal out a group.

  41. says

    Yeah, I’m a bit flabbergasted that anyone in this day and age would pull out the “not all women are bitches, just the ones who act like bitches” defense, IN CONTRAST to nigger, as if the “not all black people are niggers, just the ones who act like niggers,” hasn’t been deployed thousands of times before. Hell, Chris Rock did it.

    For fuck’s sake. It’s pathetic.

  42. says

    Why is that even posed as a question? Of course it’s wrong! It’s bystanding. But given the current debate over misogyny in the atheist community, it’s even worse than garden variety bystanding, it’s side-picking and side-reinforcing.

    I think maybe Al just reckons the kids in the other sandbox are cooler.

    Maybe phrased badly – was actually wondering if he is going to criticise them at all. As I think just hanging out there and being all pally is weird when he says he does not support misogynist forums… Is the Slymepit not misogynist in his opinion now.

  43. emily isalwaysright says

    Mandrellian, perhaps Al IS a wordsmith: just not a very insightful or technically skilled one. Maybe he’s analogous to the sort of artist who sells work at the local craft market rather than hangs it in a gallery.

  44. says

    Sally, it is pretty pathetic. And can he now look around at the slyme pit and not see what he’s agreeing with?

    [scratches head]

    Ah well. I didn’t know him well while he was here, so…[shrug]

  45. julian says

    And of course, the standards by which to judge women who are bitches vs. non-bitches are endlessly changing and self-contradictory.

    Like slut and whore. The word is absolutely useless unless you absolutely must malign a woman for being a woman you don’t approve of.

  46. emily isalwaysright says

    Oolon, I read his posts at the slymepit. He is clearly supportive of their stance, judging by a) his actual comments; b) his bylines in the context of the current debate; and c) the fact he has not criticised a number of abusive comments since he started commenting there.

    He may SAY he doesn’t support misogyny, but that doesn’t mean he can RECOGNISE misogyny. Just like someone who doesn’t believe in climate change can SAY they support science.

  47. says

    @emily, you are living up to the rest of your nym so I have to agree. I think Al doesn’t see it as a big issue. Disappointing… I believe when Justin got roasted for going over ‘there’ he did tackle them on their behaviour.

  48. emily isalwaysright says

    “Depends. Think of it as criticizing Muslims for the prevalence of homophobia in their communities. There are times when it is legitimate to criticize and signal out a group.”

    Hmmm. But there is a difference between saying “there is more violent crime in African-American communities than in Chinese-American communities” and “blacks are more violent than Chinese.”

    You wouldn’t say “Muslims are more homophobic than atheists” would you?

  49. julian says

    @emily isalwaysright

    I might but I hope someone would call me out on it. I don’t think we disagree.

  50. Pteryxx says

    He may SAY he doesn’t support misogyny, but that doesn’t mean he can RECOGNISE misogyny.

    It’s just not misogyny-misogyny. He’d be totally on board with denouncing misogyny-misogyny, if anyone found some.

  51. emily isalwaysright says

    @Oolon:

    Well, like OB, I’m not really disappointed, I had no emotional investment in Al. It’s more that he has revealed himself to me as rather spectacularly missing the point, and therefore perhaps not the deepest of thinkers. I also get the feeling there are other cultural differences between ftbloggers and the pitizens that make him feel more comfortable there.

    Re other people getting shunned for commenting at the slymepit in spite of being critical: I don’t know if that’s true, as I did not see those conversations. Can anyone else deny or corroborate whether the consensus around here was that even going to the slymepit to argue against misogynistic language is wrong?

  52. emily isalwaysright says

    Pteryxx, perhaps for Al, only religious-misogyny is misogyny-misogyny, and atheist-misogyny is a delusion.

  53. Aratina Cage says

    Can anyone else deny or corroborate whether the consensus around here was that even going to the slymepit to argue against misogynistic language is wrong?

    Numerous people I know did that back when it was still hosted by Abbie Smith on Scienceblogs; so, no, that isn’t the case at all.

  54. says

    LeftSidePositive #21

    You know, I’ve had a creepy feeling about Al Stefanelli ever since this, as inconsequential as it was…

    And then he goes on and on now, about how he doesn’t have a “rape switch”; that he couldn’t possibly rape anyone, never, ever. He’s vastly offended that anyone could consider him a potential rapist. (Misunderstanding the whole Schrodinger’s Rapist analogy as if that is what it implies.)

    I had missed the earlier comment, but the recent rant still sounded to me a bit like protesting too much.

  55. Nepenthe says

    Pteryxx, when I asked him about his “true misogynists” (used in a paragraph where he bravely denounced white supremacists and “true misogynists”), Al replied:

    The whole thing about the white supremacists and true misogynists is more of a ‘light fuse and get away’ thing. It never fails that someone comes along and says, ‘You’re like those White Supremacists.’… the ‘true misogynist’ references to those who are labeled misogynists, but don’t actually hate women. They’re just your run of the mill bigots, assholes and products of really bad parenting.

    Unfortunately this is written in trademark Stefanelli wordsmithing, but I think he’s trying to pull out the dictionary definition where if you don’t emphatically proclaim your hatred of women and, I dunno, burn phalluses on their lawn, you’re just a “run of the mill bigot”.

  56. emily isalwaysright says

    Aratina, OB: well that’s a relief.

    Oolon, given Aratina’s and OB’s statement above, do you think there is more to the suspicion of Vacula than simply “going over there”?

    I don’t know much about Vacula, other than people were upset when he was promoted to some sort of CFI(?) leadership position.

  57. emily isalwaysright says

    “They’re just your run of the mill bigots, assholes and products of really bad parenting.”

    He could be trying to make a class distinction. It seems to me he’s talking about what we call “bogans” in Australia but what I think you call “rednecks” in America.

    (I’m not in support of class distinctions btw, especially when using them to say that bigotry is ok for some classes but not others.)

  58. Aratina Cage says

    So I went back and found the post about Al being called a faggot for carrying a purse. The question is, does the word faggot as used simply communicate that the boy thought Al was gay, or was it something more than that? I’m on the side of it communicating a great deal more, none of it pleasant. It would also help to remember that gay men, as well as women, aren’t born with purses.

    Al also had a post on homophobia in which he wrote:

    I am all in favor of free speech, but rhetoric that advocates the murder or physical assault of anyone should always be met with extreme protest and those who engage in it need to be consistently and vehemently exposed. This includes boycott actions when a corporation or the head of a corporation makes hateful comments, such as the whole Chick-Fil-A debacle. Chick-Fil-A and other consumer-driven businesses that have a long history of supporting anti-gay causes do not deserve our patronage, no matter how delicious, convenient or seemingly necessary their products are.

    So why not apply that logic to the slimepit, Al? And to Reap Paden’s radio show? Etc.

  59. Stacy says

    I don’t know much about Vacula, other than people were upset when he was promoted to some sort of CFI(?) leadership position

    It was the Secular Coalition for America.

  60. Stacy says

    I can’t imagine a decent writer going on and on about what a wordsmith he is. Picture Ophelia doing it, or PZ or Chris Clarke.

  61. TheVirginian says

    For context, I’m a professional wordsmith in that I have made my living either as a writer or editor on daily newspapers in the Deep South since the mid-1970s. I HAVE to know what words mean, both in general and in contexts. As an editor, I have often revised reporters’ stories to eliminate problematic words (ex., “arrested in rape” and “booked with rape” have two very, very different meanings; the first can be libelous).
    I don’t think Al, however well-intentioned (I’m reluctantly giving him the benefit of the doubt), understands the problem. Lenny Bruce, George Carlin and some other comedians who came out of the 1960s and early ’70s were dealing with a culture in which vicious language was acceptable, even customary in many places in describing people of color, women, gays and others. These comedians tried to either raise consciousness about why these words were wrong or they tried to defuse them.
    Defusing derogatory words has been successful in some cases, for varying reasons. Cajuns in La. have essentially demolished a derogatory term, partly by using it among themselves in a self-mocking way. The same goes for some other ethnic insults. I had a friend of Polish ancestry who once (almost) got in trouble for telling a “Polack” joke on his Navy ship. When an officer started to write him up for violating a rule against ethnic insults, my friend said that as soon as he began spelling out his Polish name, the officer laughed and walked away. The same has occurred for some other ethnic groups.
    But some words just can’t be saved. Even though some blacks use the N-word in a joking fashion, nothing can cleanse its vicious history as a term of deep contempt and hatred by whites. It was often the last word heard by black people being burned alive or strangled to death in Deep South lynchings.
    Likewise, some traditional derogatory terms about women might be usable in some contexts. But the MRAs too often have used such language in the context of insults, dismissive slurs against feminists, and in connection with threats of rape or other physical assaults. As long as MRAs use misogynistic language in vile contexts, as long as racists use the N-word and the many other racist symbols and words in vicious contexts, some words simply require deep skepticism toward the speaker’s intent unless it is obvious or can be put into a clear context that they were not meant as the traditionally-vicious insults that they historically, and currently, have/are being used. Context happens. If MRAs and racists can’t understand that, then they don’t deserve any respect or wiggle room to evade responsibility for using and meaning insulting language. The burden of proof falls on any who use the N-word about blacks or the C-, S- and B- words about women to show they’re not being racist or misogynistic. As far as I can tell, most will fail.

  62. johnwalker says

    @Aratina Cage (3)

    Unfortunately, the word “faggot” is not on it’s way out. Online in particular, it’s used commonly. Generally when called out for it, the poster refers to some 300 year old definition and ignores recent history. Apparently context /does/ matter, when you can retroactively pick the meaning with no regard for history and with no empathy.

    I listened to the previous whole podcast for some reason (not this one but the last one that was posted here). It’s really frustrating. If you were to pick a random time to seek to, you might say “hey this guy really gets it!” followed by an “I take that back” a minute later.

    He seems to have empathy in many cases. He even brings up foot-shuffling when walking behind someone. But as soon as something crosses into the territory of taking more effort than that (such as using a thesaurus), that empathy turns into “tough shit, I’m talking here”. He returns to the word “bitch” again and again, but instead of all this back and forth, all that was needed in the beginning is a “gee, I didn’t realize that there are implications for an entire gender to use that word. You wouldn’t think it would take much, considering that it’s really similar to the time he was called a “faggot”. The kid who called him that probably didn’t literally think he was gay, but the implication is that an entire group of people is put down at the same time.

    Another thought, how is he being censored anyway? He has his own blog, is on podcasts, and and has many fans. I only see criticism, not censorship.

  63. Aratina Cage says

    @johnwalker

    Unfortunately, the word “faggot” is not on it’s way out. Online in particular, it’s used commonly.

    I agree, yes of course that is true and I did kind of mentally skip past that, but I wasn’t really talking about that aspect of it either. What I was speaking of is its usage in corporate-produced media where it is finally becoming something that gets bad publicity and isn’t used casually. It is now something that only a villian or a foul antagonist would say, and it is now an adult’s word instead of a kid’s word.

    Thinking about it, people calling other people faggots in online comments or in user-created content is little different from the kid calling Al a faggot, and that kid himself is the kind of child that the character of Eric Cartman on South Park represents–the kind of nasty, hypocritical person you wouldn’t want to be like (unless you are a Baptist, of course, *wink*).

    Generally when called out for it, the poster refers to some 300 year old definition and ignores recent history. Apparently context /does/ matter, when you can retroactively pick the meaning with no regard for history and with no empathy.

    I think you meant “/doesn’t/ matter”, right? Anyway, yes, that is a very common response–thanks in no small part to South Park–and is akin to those arguing that nigger is not a racist term.

  64. says

    @johnwalker in #72

    Another thought, how is he being censored anyway?

    I was wondering about that too. What does he think will happen if he continue to use “bitch”? He won’t be arrested. He won’t be fined. The worse that can happen is that people will stop reading him, or even stop respecting him. But if he thinks that he has the right to be read or respected no matter what he says, he’s terribly mistaken.

    I also get annoyed at the argument that we shouldn’t give in to the demands of Muslim (or Christians) to not be offended either. The thing is, there is a difference: We actually do oppose Muslims and Christians (or at least their beliefs), and we don’t want them in our movement (at least not until they are ex-Muslims and ex-Christians). Presumably, though, we don’t oppose women, and we do want them in our movement. Therefore we might want to listen to them.

  65. johnwalker says

    @Aratina Cage (73): I meant does matter, in the sense that when it suits someone using such terms, context can either matter or not, or come from some magical place. As in “you’re being offended for no reason, I was obviously using the 1645 definition of a bundle of sticks even though I really wasn’t because then it would’t make sense.” But really that’s an offtopic rant that only came to mind because of the specific word and I regret muddying Ophelia’s argument about context.

    The situation might be different for Al’s experience, but who knows? We don’t know the intention behind the words, nor can we. And that’s part of the point. Words can carry a heavy weight even without intention. Combine that with the privilege to ignore the weight that bears on other people, and you end up with Al’s arguments.

    And honestly, with the prevalence of the word “bitch”, I’ve rarely seen a very strong reaction to someone using it. What I do see (often), is a “hey think about the origin of that word”. And that can either be followed by a “oh, I see that now” or a persecution complex. In the comments, Al even discusses the word “bitch” as a “female dog” without realizing that that is what makes the term bad. I can’t think of any examples where the male term for an animal is specifically used. Not to mention two seconds of thought about what it generally means to call a man a “bitch” leads to a quick understanding of the problems with the word.

  66. says

    @emily isalwaysright

    Oolon, given Aratina’s and OB’s statement above, do you think there is more to the suspicion of Vacula than simply “going over there”?

    The Slymepitters called Justin out on posting Surly Amys address etc on the Slymepit… Although some now say it was *wrong* only in the sense it gave people this side something to attack them with. So if he had just gone over there and just posted all his self-promotion material it would be harder to say he had done anything wrong (IMO). But yes his ‘behaviour’ over there given he posted that address was clearly one of his ‘mistakes’ he referred to – and something he should apologise directly for.

    But seriously context and cultural mores are irrelevant in the Slymepit when they say clearly and unequivocally things like … (Sorry Ophelia)

    … you sneaky b****, O*****. What a terribly unethical c*** you are

    With no *’s… I would hope that *any* person not just *any* leader like Al or JV would say something when seeing that. It is clearly misogyny and should not be tolerated by a rational sceptic-atheist community (I would hope)

    Yeah you can say it (free speech!), but why would you say it? If you are a decent human being that is… Even if I was one of the non-slur using Slymepitters and I hated FtBs, Ophelia etc. I hope I’d say that is terrible as you lose any credibility to your argument if you use language like that, if nothing else! I’ve often said to them when they say why don’t I ‘see’ the problems with FtBs – maybe I would be able to see if they had any points to make if there was not a mile thick layer of misogyny and hatred to work through before seeing any actual rational arguments they might try and make.

  67. Nepenthe says

    I can’t think of any examples where the male term for an animal is specifically used.

    “Buck”. “Stud” (not a specific type of animal, but certainly a role that only a male animal can fill). “Stallion”. Can be negative or positive depending on context, especially racial context. Can’t think of any others off the top of my head.

  68. Aratina Cage says

    @johnwalker,

    Thanks for explaining that. I think I understand you now. The person who speaks or writes the slur will deny the problematic meaning by choosing a specific definition that wouldn’t be problematic in a different context. They twist the context into one that appeases their choice definition of the word.

    And honestly, with the prevalence of the word “bitch”, I’ve rarely seen a very strong reaction to someone using it.

    Oh, you should see some of the battles we’ve had over it on Pharyngula. It’s the weirdest thing how some people will launch into a tirade of “You bitch!” against a random woman who has committed whatever offense and then act like it was perfectly OK because, as Al’s friend has noted, “She was being a bitch.”

    Richard Dawkins nearly did the same thing some time ago when he referred to a woman who had been rude to one of his fans as “the bitch”, but he later apologized and explained that he meant it unmaliciously as “that person who had been bitching” or “the bitcher” which was the complaint the fan had made about her. That is, he was distinguishing his usage as a mention under the use-mention distinction. This was before the slimepit dissolved all such congenialities, mind you. His Dear Muslima letter never got the same amount of attention from him as that, having his toes dipped in the slimepit as he does. (Comparitively, it seems that poor Al dove right in.)

  69. eric says

    Carlin also did Thomas the Tank Engine and Shining Time Station. And a voice for the Pixar movie Cars. Without swearing, of course. So he seemed to be fine with the idea of sticking to clean language when it was appropriate to the context.

    I doubt very much the author of seven words… would’ve supported any state-sponsored, top-down censorship. But he himself made voluntary contracts/agreements between private citizens not to use profanity in certain contexts. So its hard to imagine he’d be ethically against them.

  70. callistacat says

    @Deen &
    @johnwalker

    When they criticize you or call you a bitch or a witch, they are brave dissenters, defenders of sacred freedom of speech.

    When you criticize them you’re Big Brother, a Nazi, an evil censor/witch hunter.

  71. carlie says

    In the comments, Al even discusses the word “bitch” as a “female dog” without realizing that that is what makes the term bad.

    The person who speaks or writes the slur will deny the problematic meaning by choosing a specific definition that wouldn’t be problematic in a different context. They twist the context.

    Exactly. This is what I try to point out every time someone tries to do that dance – you were using it as a slur. It is nonsensical to call someone a faggot and then try to say it means a bundle of kindling, because there is no fucking reason in the world that makes sense for why you were trying to call someone a bundle of kindling. If you’re using the term in a bad way (e.g. bitch), you are using it to mean that same bad thing it has always meant. You aren’t reclaiming it. You aren’t going by some alternate neutral definition. You are using the pejorative meaning, right there, crystal-clear.

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