Dec 16 2012

So I commented under the name “James”

It’s not just mouthy atheist feminist women. It’s not just mouthy atheist feminist me. It’s not just mouthy feminist gamers, or programmers, or columnists. It’s everywhere.

Like theology, for instance, I see via Marlowe Filippov. JTB at rudetruth:

I’ve been following with some interest, given my previous interaction with the blog on the limerick thing, the conversation on Theoblogy in response to Tony’s question, “where are the women.” My first reaction to this post was positive–despite what some criticized as a prejudicial phrasing of the question–because, after all, concern about the unintended homogeneity of our communities, particularly our Christian communities, is a commendable concern. Moreover, it seemed clear from the post that Tony felt the absence of women’s voices on his blog commentary to be a lack and that he was asking for feedback to rectify what he considered a problem.

Very quickly, as the comment thread spun itself out, a couple of things became clear. The first was that many women did not feel like the comment threads were a space they could enter and be heard or respected; various reasons were offered for this. The second was that Tony was quick to defend his good intentions against these proffered possible reasons for the lack of women’s voices in the blog comments.

Since I myself had dared to enter the fray on the limerick discussion, and had been hard put to defend my (and Julie’s) critique of the limerick contest in conversation with Tony and others, including having to absorb without retaliation more than a few unconstructive and personal comments, I think the suggestion that the general atmosphere of the blog as hostile to women’s voices is pretty accurate. That’s not to suggest that this is anyone’s intention; on the contrary–it’s clearly unintentional. But it is something that can be intentionally addressed, which is what I took Tony’s post “where are the women”
to be a step toward.

It is something that can be intentionally addressed – or it can be called a “witch hunt” and vigorously shouted down by furious defensive men.

JTB decided to do an experiment.

So I commented under the name “James.” And wrote exactly what I would have written as JTB. That is to say, I was myself. With a pretend penis.

And lo and behold! Not only was I respectfully engaged, I actually won agreement from someone who challenged my original comment.

As JTB, in response to my numerous comments on the limerick contest post, I was told my critique was ludicrous; that to  hold my opinion suggested I lacked even a modicum of common sense; that I labored under various mistaken assumptions; that I was a buzz kill; that I was vaginal retentive (as opposed to anal, that’s for boys only?); I was even limericked about (a particularly sly dig, given the context); I was never acknowledged by name or as a colleague; and genuine follow-up questions went unanswered completely.

As James, I was addressed by name; asked genuinely critical questions; received an affirmation of the importance of my point; and when I defended my original point, received a concession from my respectful challenger.

That’s stereotype in action. It’s obviously poisonous. Yet mention of the problem – if it has the temerity to include an example – is greeted with roars of rage and wild accusations.



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  1. 1

    from the cited blog post:

    Of course, no one really likes to listen to angry people. So maybe it’s no surprise that the only female commenter to get a respectful “thanks, helpful as always” response was Rachel Held Evans, who very carefully modulated her comment in an exaggerated “feminine” tone, complete with parenthetical giggling:


  2. 2
    Ophelia Benson

    I know.

  3. 3
    NateHevens, resident SOOPER-GENIUS... apparently...

    How much more obvious could it get?

    And you know what? She will be yelled at. No one on that side will seriously consider the ramifications of her experiment and conclusions. They’ll just lambast her for trolling.

    It would be funny if it weren’t so damn depressing.

  4. 4
    Hamilton Jacobi

    Mano has another example, from an article in the Independent by Laurie Penny.

    But obviously all of these examples can be dismissed, because their authors were corrupted by the pernicious influence of Rebecca Watson. Or maybe they’re all just Rebecca’s sockpuppets. Yeah, that’s it!

  5. 5
    Ophelia Benson

    That article is from last year.

    It all has been dismissed! I blogged about it, we all blogged about it, other columnists wrote columns about it – but it all gets dismissed by the people who like dismissing such things, just the same.

  6. 6
    Ms. Daisy Cutter

    I’m reading through Jones’ thread, linked by JTB. In short, he gets plenty of responses from women why they’re not reading him, and he defensively deflects any criticism that, if he agreed with it, would oblige him to alter his approach.

    I see allusions to an earlier discussion about “gawd-intended rape” that was dominated by men. Also, he held a limerick contest about vaginas, inspired by an xtian writer whose book was banned from a certain xtian bookstore chain because she used that horrid word therein. His limerick contest was, hard as it is to believe, followed up with a pity party about why feminists don’t like him.

    One of his critics ends up apologizing to him for saying he reminded her of abusive xtian men in her past. This made my hair stand on end:

    A therapist told me yesterday that when you bring the word ‘abuser’ or ‘abusive’ into a conversation with a man, even if you’re not directly calling him either of those words, it is akin to using the word ‘whore’ in a conversation with a woman.

    Ugh. She needs a new therapist. That’s straight-up fucking bullshit.

  7. 7
    Ophelia Benson

    Jeezis. I’ll say.

  8. 8
    Ms. Daisy Cutter

    Jones on being compared to an abuser: “For a man in today’s society, that is akin to being compared to Hitler. There is no lower blow.”

    And this guy wonders why comparatively few women read him.

  9. 9

    The obvious solution is for everyone to use gender-neutral pseudonyms.
    People who hold professional positions and want to make sure their knowledge or skills are recognised as reasons for their opinions, can’t do that, but most of us can. Google gave me my strange moniker unasked and I’ve learned to accept it, even if I can’t remember it.

  10. 10
    Timon for Tea

    So I commented under the name “James.” And wrote exactly what I would have written as JTB. That is to say, I was myself. With a pretend penis.

    Except that nobody commented on that thread with the name ‘James’. Not so far as I can see anyway. What gives, I wonder? There is a comment (respectfully treated) by a ‘JTB’, but that’s all. Is she talking about a different thread? It is a mystery otherwise. I would hate to think she had just made it all up.

    As for this:

    “Of course, no one really likes to listen to angry people. So maybe it’s no surprise that the only female commenter to get a respectful “thanks, helpful as always” response was Rachel Held Evans, who very carefully modulated her comment in an exaggerated “feminine” tone, complete with parenthetical giggling”

    It isn’t true. Many comments by women on there are treated with respect, this one got a special mention because, as is obvious from the context, it was written by a personal friend of the blogger. The comment is not written in an exaggeratedly ‘feminine’ tone (what would that even be?) and the parenthetical ‘giggles’ was a critical reference to the perceived immaturity of the ‘church men’ who wouldn’t leave off their sniggering about vaginas.

    Why all the misrepresentation, I wonder?

  11. 11
    Timon for Tea

    And so everybody doesn’t have to read through a long comment thread to find it, here is the ‘giggles’ quotation, so you can see for yourselves that the writer was misrepresented. Not very sisterly that. I reckon that this sort of thing should make one suspicious of everything that the offender writes.

    Maybe it’s the CONSTANT need to return, (giggling), to the vagina controversy (my goodness! i’m so over it, guys! can we please talk about something else? like, my BOOK maybe?)

  12. 12
    Timon for Tea

    It was a different thread that ‘James’ appeared on – so ignore my complaints on that score (as if you weren’t going to anyway).

  13. 13
    Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle

    Why all the misrepresentation, I wonder?


    Not very sisterly that.

    LOl yeah . . . You’re ignored, huh? That’s just so confusing! i can’t imagine why!

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