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Reddit Makes Me Hate Men

Rebecca Watson exposes some seriously vile behavior in the atheism sub-Reddit, a torrent of misogyny and rape jokes aimed at a 15 year old girl who had committed the terrible crime of being attractive and posting a picture of herself with a Sagan book that her mother gave her for Christmas despite being religious.

You know, I pretty much stayed out of the whole elevatorgate situation. I had, and have, many thoughts on the subject but mainly I’m sad to see all the heat and polarization that it generated obscure the basic message that Rebecca has been trying to get across for the past couple years. When she says that we need to make some changes to help women feel more comfortable in the secular community, she is absolutely right. And this is a perfect example. When this girl tried to involve herself in an online community of atheists, it was made perfectly clear to her that her only use is as a sexual object. And that’s a real problem.

That whole thread is an embarrassment, not just to atheists but to men in general (and no, that doesn’t mean that all atheists or all men engage in such behavior — something I shouldn’t even have to say as a member of both of those groups). Read the whole thing; if it doesn’t sicken you, I don’t know what to tell you. It should be a big wake up call for all of us that we need to have a serious discussion about this and we need to do some real self-policing. That kind of behavior simply should not be tolerated in our community under any circumstances.

The primary group I’m involved with, CFI Michigan, has thankfully had few such problems. I think that’s because of the tone of respect set by the group’s leaders, and I think having women in positions of leadership is a big part of setting those expectations.

And let me make this clear before anyone comments: Any hateful comments aimed at Rebecca will be deleted immediately and you will be banned. I don’t have a problem with reasonable, civil disagreement, but I’ve also seen that the mere mention of her name has often provoked a flood of the same kind of idiocy criticized above. It will not be tolerated here, not for a minute.

Comments

  1. jjgdenisrobert says

    Just one point: there is a rebuttal on /r/atheism that shows that Rebecca, although she has a point, ignored all the people who shouted the idiots down, and focused solely on the a-holes. She made it sound like it was a locker room, where all the guys were congratulating each other on how dumb they could be. There was some of that, sure, but there were even more people telling the frat boyz that they were a bunch of idiots.

    It’s ok to call out idiots when they show their faces. But you can’t be one sided and ignore all those redditors who did what they were supposed to. Rebecca sometimes has a tendency to paint all men with the same brush, which doesn’t help move the discussion along. Just as not all Christians are fundies (but we should call out those who are), not all men are a-holes (but we should call out those who are).

    Her post was called “Reddit makes me hate atheists”. Now that’s what I would call atheist-bashing. I take strong exception, as someone who is often on Reddit, am an Atheist, and calls out the BS when I see it, to being lumped with 16 year old teenage boys trying to show their buddies just how much testosterone is coursing through their veins.

    The tone of Rebecca’s posts has been more and more strident of late. She has the right to her opinions, but I would wish that she could point out the sexism without alienating all the men who actually agree with her on most points. When she acts as if we don’t exist, she’s doing just that.

  2. SmooveBB says

    I have to agree with post-er number 1. Though there are plenty of idiots on /r/Atheism, there majority of people are just looking for a place to connect with others that think in a similar manner.

    The difference with Reddit specifically is that no one is moderating those posts. Although most people are trying to do the right thing, there are plenty of idiots to go around.

    Imagine any forum with no moderation…what do you think the comments would be like? The article above ends with a threat of banning for inappropriate comments. That is fine, but illustrates the need for moderation of any internet forum.

    Rebecca may ‘hate atheists’ because of Reddit, but I think that the r/Atheism thread has probably shown more people ‘the light’ than any individual blog. As a final note – did she notice the money raised for Doctors Without Borders from r/Atheism? Over $200,000 from that thread alone? Doesn’t that do something to mitigate the comments of some traditional internet trolls and weirdos?

  3. mattyarbrough says

    I read Rebecca’s post. I didn’t at all see it as “all [men|atheists|redditors] are assholes” but rather “there is an active and vocal subgroup on reddit that are assholes, and they frequent some of the same subreddits that I do and I find these people to be abhorrent, so I’m venting.” My response to those people is pretty much the same as hers.

    When someone is criticizing a group wherein you share some characteristics of said group (male, atheist, punk rock singer, etc) don’t assume that the criticism is of you personally. Chances are it isn’t. You may be a member of group A, but not group A+B (where A is in this example Atheist and B is asshole). If you aren’t a member of BOTH groups, it’s not about you. If you aren’t sure if you’re a member of both groups, that gives you something to discover about yourself.

    I have been perplexed for years over Rebecca Derangement Syndrome, wherein nominally sane intelligent people (mostly male) become completely irrational when they encounter her name/picture in any way shape or form. It started with her very first appearance on SGU and has continued unabated.

  4. says

    It is absurd to think or believe that Rebecca was really saying that every atheist, on Reddit or otherwise, is an asshole or participated in the behavior she is complaining about (just as it would be absurd to think that I really hate all men — after all, I am a man and she is an atheist). Of course there were people agreeing with her and slamming the assholes. But that does not in any way lessen the problem she is calling attention to. As she noted, the ones she was copying were comments that were upvoted, sometimes hundreds and hundreds of times. There’s a real problem here. And saying “well there are some good ones here too” — something she obviously knows because she is one of them — does not diminish the seriousness of that problem. It’s just a distraction from it.

  5. says

    Thanks, Ed. I keep trying to emphasize how important it is for male skeptics/atheists to point this shit out and condemn it. Not because it’s necessary for us poor little women to have men speak for us, because their voices are more important or truthy, but because advocating to someone who is more like you on behalf of someone who isn’t like you takes a leap of empathy and comes across more significantly to the people who need to hear it. Members of Group X who are dismissive of Group Y are likely to go deaf (or hostile, as we’ve seen toward Rebecca) when members of Group Y complain, but may listen to fellow members of Group X who are saying the exact same thing.

  6. Aquaria says

    Her post was called “Reddit makes me hate atheists”. Now that’s what I would call atheist-bashing.

    How?

    I take strong exception, as someone who is often on Reddit, am an Atheist, and calls out the BS when I see it, to being lumped with 16 year old teenage boys trying to show their buddies just how much testosterone is coursing through their veins.

    You’re not being lumped in with them.

    It’s like when people diss Texas. I’m from Texas, but I don’t get upset about people slagging on the state. Sometimes, it deserves it. Do you think I’m proud of a state that commits the most state-sanctioned murders in America, year-in, year-out? Am I supposed to be proud of it? Am I supposed to pretend it’s not happening? Or that my state is above criticism?

    Being a Texan doesn’t mean that I have to be hunky-dory with everything Texas does, and it doesn’t mean that people are talking about me, personally. I don’t take it personally. I can’t. I had nothing to do with people voting for murderous scumbags like GDub or Goodhair. I did all I could to prevent their election, but it happened anyway. That’s all I can do. Beyond that, I’m not responsible for their behavior, and I damned sure don’t have to think that when people blame Texas for the stupid it does that it’s a reflection on me. Maybe some of the people who live in this state. But not on me.

    Same thing with Rebecca and the sexism in the atheism movement that has been exposed for all to see. You’re making what’s going on more about you, rather than taking a hard look at just how pervasive sexism is if people who pride themselves on their rationality and “free” thinking can’t be rational about the very real issues women face in this world, or about our perspectives.

  7. Johnny Vector says

    there were even more people telling the frat boyz that they were a bunch of idiots.

    O RLY? Every single one of the posts she shows was upvoted by at least 2:1 over the downvotes. Many of them by far greater ratios. Sounds like a locker room to me.

    Now, I don’t read Reddit, so I dunno, maybe the timing was such that most of the guys with their brains in their upper head were asleep, and by now the shit has been downvoted overwhelmingly. But when she posted about it, the misogyny had what would be considered in a presidential race the biggest landslide in the history of the country.

    Now maybe the non-assholes just skip over that stuff, but that’s not what you’re claiming. And it’s not enough. This crap needs to be shouted down, and that was not happening.

  8. The Lorax says

    I agree with #2. Welcome to the Internet, people. It is NOT A NICE PLACE. When the main social force on the Internet is a mix of Facebook and 4chan, what the fuck do you expect?

    … no, seriously. That was not a rhetorical question. What the fuck do you expect when the vast majority of people on the Internet are immature twits smashing their keyboards behind the veil of anonymity? Google “John Gabriel’s Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory”. I’m not defending these people, I’m just genuinely surprised at your surprise. I’m sure you’ve seen some cleaner communities, but that’s because those are the ones you frequent. When you step into those frequented by the usual rabble, this is what you get. It’s sad, but it’s the way things tend to roll.

    I feel bad for this young lady, but I cannot offer much pity or sympathy, because the reaction to her picture and everyone’s reaction to those reactions are completely expected; business as usual for the Internet. I can, however, offer a suggestion. Bring her here. Freethought Blogs is a good community, and she seems like a good girl who’s interested in learning.

    Say what you want about sexism in the skeptical community… honestly, I’d probably agree with you on most of your points, not the least of which is that it does indeed exist… but I would argue that the stronger social force on the Internet is not sexism. It’s anonymity. It’s the Internet.

  9. Alukonis, metal ninja says

    Stop saying that 16 year old boys are the problem. Comments like “I have jeans older than her” are not coming from 16 year olds. Nor are comments about being over 50 but still willing to have sex with her if she were over 18. These are adult men, and some of them have been adults for a long time.

    Also, Rebecca linked to a post rebutting the comic about women taking pictures of stuff with themselves in the picture. The post she linked to had a series of images of men doing the same thing. So yes, Rebecca is aware that there were people criticizing the awful comments. She is aware of this because she can read and is not a fucking idiot. The point that THE HORRIBLE COMMENTS WERE OVERWHELMINGLY UPVOTED, however, still stands.

    Furthermore, as for the point of “but look at all the good stuff that r/atheism does!” Did you know that the Salvation Army does a lot of really good stuff? They feed homeless people and get goods to low-income families! So clearly we should ignore their homophobia because after all, look at all the good they do!

    Just fyi, comments 1 and 2, dismissing or minimizing the problem is a silencing technique. One that is often used against atheists. Try not using it against women, okay? For example, instead of saying “those comments are terrible, but r/atheism does good stuff too” say “those comments are terrible.” Because they ARE terrible. Do you want atheism associated with this shit? I sure fucking don’t. That’s why I just say these reddit comments are awful and horrible and working against the movement by making women excluded, without feeling any need to go “OH BUT THESE OTHER PEOPLE DID SOMETHING GOOD THIS ONE TIME SO JUST LET IT GO”

  10. Michael Heath says

    Dennis N:

    Well, that’s the internet. [http://goo.gl/22TXg]

    That’s a primary reason I post using my full name, to avoid being like that. Especially since I’m very competitive which doesn’t always bring out the best in people. Having to live with what I post is a nice check, at least for me given I don’t regret too many posts I’ve written over the years. Though I was a dick to someone a couple of weeks ago in this very venue and apologized profusely so this method is not defect-free.

  11. regexp says

    Its reddit. The primary user is either in high school or college. Why is this remotely news?

    I finally deleted my account there a few months ago. I used to follow cycling, exercise, netsec, and GLBT subreddits with some regularity for years but just finally got tired of the childishness. For instance – netsec seems to obsess over password complexity and its primary user appears to be pen testers – which we don’t take seriously in the real infosec world. The atheism subreddit was always filled with intense anger at religion and I never followed it with any frequency.

    Someone once told me that they like reddit because its self-correcting. I have never remotely seen that in play. Mention something that contradicts the clique running the subreddit and your comment gets downvoted into oblivion.

    The children of reddit have TONs of time on their hands (remember – they don’t have real jobs). There is simply no “winning” any argument there.

    /rant

  12. The Christian Cynic says

    Coincidentally, an atheist friend of mine on facebook posted Rebecca’s link earlier today, and he and I ended up in a long back-and-forth with a female atheist friend of his. It was kind of sad, actually, since she was essentially using the same victim-blaming logic that is more common of rape apologists. I wouldn’t consider myself a member of either the atheist or skeptic community (I’m more of a marginal observer), but even I recognize that this really is a problem that needs to be addressed, and I’m glad that it is getting some attention.

  13. says

    This is, by the way, a symptom of why people are saying that “atheism has a sexism problem”. Which is goofy to start with– how could a lack of a belief have a problem?– but even more bizarre given that the discussion of sexism amongst atheists has arisen largely because there are so many atheists opposed to it. I’m generally resistant to the idea of talking about an atheist community, but the fact is that this current ongoing argument about sexism online between prominent atheists is taking place is because prominent atheists care about it, and see it as a problem.

    “Welcome to the internet,” while an understandable response, is still a bad one. The evidence does not suggest that the internet is uniformly shitty to people. It suggests that women are treated worse on the internet than men simply because they are women, and it suggests that atheists are perceived as somehow more susceptible to sexism because they are more susceptible to big drawn-out discussions about sexism. Atheists have no central authority– no pope, no chain of command. So they have these discussions online, with suggestions and arguments made rather than decrees issued. And it makes me laugh that because this is the case and these discussions are visible to the public, it’s decided that “atheism has a sexism problem.” No, we all have a sexism problem. What you see is atheists discussing openly how to resolve it.

  14. says

    Reminds me of the peace movement in the sixties, and the shabby treatment of women among those liberal and progressive men. There are other examples, as well, of groups that have advocated for more progressive ideas about equality and have, at the same time, treated women like objects and second class citizens.

  15. dancollins says

    Look. We all know that every single person on reddit isn’t terrible. Rebecca knows that, Ed knows that, and that isn’t why they’re bringing this case up. The “locker room” humiliation doesn’t mean that every single person supports the people doing the harassing, and it certainly doesn’t mean that every single person is directly involved. It’s the implicit support by not calling them out. I’m not all that familiar with reddit, but those orange and blue numbers next to each post look like supporters and opposers. I’m looking at the ones that Rebecca screenshotted, and either those bigoted individuals, or worse, those particular posts, have the support of 70-80% of those involved. These are thinly-veiled ‘jokes’ about rape, pedophilia, and a whole host of other disgusting things.

    70-80% of the people who read the comments section on the atheism-focused part of a rather geek-oriented website who had an opinion on /child rape/ decided that they favored it.

    Don’t defend those idiots. It’s not 100%, we know. There are good people there, sure. You can go on Reddit and comment and contribute and try to admonish this sort of thing when it happens, but you can not possibly defend your online community in which the sane people are outnumbered four to one by rapists and child molesters.

  16. says

    The Lorax wrote:

    I’m not defending these people, I’m just genuinely surprised at your surprise.

    I don’t know where you got the idea that anyone is the least bit surprised by this. Appalled, yes; surprised, no. That hardly makes it any less important to speak out against it.

  17. says

    O RLY? Every single one of the posts she shows was upvoted by at least 2:1 over the downvotes.

    Exactly. One of the problems with saying “Group X is/isn’t hostile to women/gays/whomever” is that there are usually no statistics of any kind to indicate the relative numbers of the good guys and bad guys, and actually counting posts would be an onerous task. “Likes” and Up/Down voting provide such stats, maybe not in a rigorous scientific way, but it would seem to indicate how determined each “side” is to cheer on their POV.

    Note: I am not a Redditor, and never use Likes or Up/Down on any site I frequent. Up until now the whole idea seemed silly, but perhaps I should reconsider.

  18. Dennis N says

    My intent was not to minimize the problem. It was to humorously label the instigators as internet dickwads, emboldened by anonymity.

  19. says

    I agree with Gretchen’s last comment about atheism and sexism. We have a problem with sexism in the country, and the world, and it’s healthy that the secular community — communities, really — are talking about it and that there is so much opposition to it. But there are also a hell of a lot of people in those communities that want to downplay it, pretend it doesn’t exist and even excuse it. And that’s why I say we need to self-police here. We need to all speak out against it when we see it and demand a higher behavioral standard.

  20. Alukonis, metal ninja says

    Gretchen, check this out http://www.quickmeme.com/Scumbag-Privilege-Denying-rAtheism/popular/1/?upcoming

    The “atheism has a sexism problem” is, I think, explained by these images. The issue is that atheism often overlaps with skepticism, and the very things that atheists criticize religions for, they then turn around and do to women atheists. There is sexism in every group in society, because it is a societal problem, but it’s extra irritating when people who are constantly yammering about how rational and skeptical they are instantly deny sexism, despite all the evidence that it exists.

    This one sums it up in a nutshell.

  21. Aquaria says

    I find it encouraging that so many of the “leading” voices of atheism are saying, “let’s talk about this, what’s causing this, what can we do better, etc. etc.”

    That’s a primary reason I post using my full name, to avoid being like that.

    How nice that you don’t have to worry about cyber-stalkers.

    I hope you never have to know the terror of being online and mentioning even the barest facts of yourself until some sicko tracks down where you live, where you work. I hope you never have the sheer terror of having your phone ring, picking it up and hearing, “HI, Aquaria, I bet you never thought you’d hear from me.” I hope you’re not a single mother when it happens to you. I hope you don’t have a name so unique that you’re the only person in the country who could have it–like I do.

    Some of us have had to learn the hard way not to give out information about ourselves. I hope you never have to learn that lesson.

  22. says

    @Alukonis,

    I would humbly submit that, regardless of whatever virtuous claims some atheists would make about themselves (and they’re certainly not alone in that regard), the definition of atheism is simply a lack of belief in gods. There are no other requirements. A person who indicts religion for sexism but is sexist him/herself is definitely guilty of hypocrisy, but that is hardly a problem of atheism.

  23. Dennis N says

    This and the Reddit thread makes me think of the issue women face in online gaming. I’m not a gamer, but this site has a good sampling of what it’s like to be female on the internet in certain subcultures.

  24. Alukonis, metal ninja says

    Gretchen, you are correct about the definition of atheism, of course. I was attempting to illuminate why “atheism has a sexism problem” keeps coming up over and over – that it’s primarily due to overlap with the skeptical community.

    That is, the intense frustration directed at sexist atheists is not because lack of belief in god should make one magically not-sexist, but because so many atheists also claim to be rational skeptics or humanist, which makes them hypocrites when they then perpetuate sexist attitudes by denying evidence of sexism.

    I did like your point that lacking a central dogma or authority means that issues keep getting discussed, and that the discussion hinges on the people who are anti-sexist. But the frustration against sexism is, I think, greater for that – having one’s reasonable argument rejected out-of-hand by someone who pretends to be having a rational discussion is fucking infuriating.

  25. dancollins says

    Aquaria, there’s a huge difference between using anonymity to avoid stalkers and terrible people and using anonymity to /be/ a terrible person. If you feel the need to conceal your identity for your own safety, fine, the internet allows you to do that. But that isn’t why the people on reddit are concealing their identity. They’re doing so because it lets them be whatever kind of person they want, despite the fact that it gives a bad name to our community, and I’m not OK with that, that isn’t what the internet is for.

    And no, I’m not surprised by this one bit. We can say that humanity is progressive and tolerant, and maybe these fools can fake it in real life, but given how many people I see on TV being racist or intolerant, presenting falsehoods about medicine, vaccination, religion, and race, and attaching their names and faces to it, I am not surprised one bit by the fact that anonymity makes it all the worse. I am appalled, and I am concerned for the public opinion of our movement, and I am disappointed that the members of our movement had to meet this disgusting welcome to what could be a polite and intelligent online community.

  26. jazzmac251 says

    “We need to all speak out against it when we see it and demand a higher behavioral standard.”

    And that’s what happened on that Reddit forum, apparently.

    What we’re running up against here is a problem with human nature. That’s why the problem is so widespread. Writing an article isn’t going to do anything about it. What needs to happen is for people on an individual level to shout down the assholes when they see this happening – which is what is going on. I can understand writing an article to draw attention to the problem in hopes that more people would join the verbal beat-down and further the cause of civility on the the internet, but to write an article about how this event tarnishes your view of the Atheist community – like Rebecca – is utterly missing the point. But, IMO, that’s kind of Watson’s M.O. when it comes to activism.

  27. Azkyroth says

    When someone is criticizing a group wherein you share some characteristics of said group (male, atheist, punk rock singer, etc) don’t assume that the criticism is of you personally. Chances are it isn’t. You may be a member of group A, but not group A+B (where A is in this example Atheist and B is asshole). If you aren’t a member of BOTH groups, it’s not about you. If you aren’t sure if you’re a member of both groups, that gives you something to discover about yourself.

    On the other hand, narrowing down the comment so the naive reading applies strictly to the group you’re intending to criticize usually involves adding less than ten words to it. Even if one doesn’t value communicating precisely for its own sake, it’s not that fuckin’ hard.

  28. Johnny Vector says

    “We need to all speak out against it when we see it and demand a higher behavioral standard.”

    And that’s what happened on that Reddit forum, apparently.

    [citation needed]

  29. snowrunner says

    We have a problem with sexism in the country, and the world,

    No, we have a problem with Sex. Simply put: We have no real concept anymore what sex is about, there is a lot of sex in the public domain, as in advertising, talk etc, not to mention the sexual stereotypes that either gender is supposed to follow in order to be “normal”.

    Guys are supposed to be all sexed up and sex is the only thing they are supposed to think about, women meanwhile are not supposed to like or enjoy sex at all.

    Sexism, btw, carries both ways really, it’s just that what is shown by guys tends to be much cruder and director thatn the sexism that women show.

    As I would call it: North America: Oversexed and underserved.

  30. 2-D Man says

    She made it sound like it was a locker room, where all the guys were congratulating each other on how dumb they could be. There was some of that, sure, but there were even more people telling the frat boyz that they were a bunch of idiots.

    If you want to complain about how Rebecca is tarring all Redditors with a broad brush, it would be especially poor form to tar all frat guys with a broad brush.

  31. says

    This confirms why I believe “atheism” is a piss-poor label for one’s personal or group identity. Following along with what Gretchen and others have said, why should lack of belief in gods make an asshole any less of an asshole, or a misogynist, a serial killer for that matter?

    As far as Ed’s statement:

    The primary group I’m involved with, CFI Michigan, has thankfully had few such problems. I think that’s because of the tone of respect set by the group’s leaders, and I think having women in positions of leadership is a big part of setting those expectations.

    I have recently become involved in my local CFI Tampa branch can confirm that all the members I have met so far are kind and tolerant people, as I’m sure the Michigan folks are. I think another explanation for this is because the CFI people here are also committed secular humanists, which in my opinion is a much better (intellectual) foundation for values than atheism.

    Events like this just goes to show that atheism without humanism is like skepticism without science.

  32. dancollins says

    why should lack of belief in gods make an asshole any less of an asshole, or a misogynist, a serial killer for that matter?

    It shouldn’t. However, being a human being should make a person not an asshole, or a misogynist, or a serial killer. Unlike the other places where we gather, such as CFI or here on FTB, and unlike what we as educated people should be aiming for or associating ourselves with, reddit appears to have a majority population of assholes, misogynists, and serial killers, and that is the point that Rebecca is trying to make.

  33. says

    Al Stefanelli started a Reddit thread about all the vile things being said about Rebecca for saying what she said and, of course, now a lot of people are attacking him for it and saying all kinds of obnoxious and stupid things. It’s mind boggling to me that, faced with this perfectly legitimate criticism, the first response of many people is not to agree with it but to freak out that she didn’t put in enough disclaimers to make them feel like it’s not their fault. Just like with elevatorgate, the actual point continues to be lost, the real problem that needs addressing is buried under vile attacks and attempts to make sure we aren’t in the line of fire.

  34. DemetriusOfPharos says

    *sigh*

    I knew there was a reason I didn’t frequent /r/atheism. It reminds me of a Bill Hicks bit about a woman who defends her husband as he’s being arrested for hitting her, meanwhile he (Hicks) hasn’t been laid in three years. I feel the same way.

  35. neurobio says

    (I just posted this in Al Stefaneli’s thread on reddit. I’m reposting here, since the challenge stated in it can be applied to pretty much any open internet forum. If we can convince some of the skeptics to try this experiment, perhaps we can start making some headway.)

    I see that a lot of people here are missing the main point, focusing instead on who blamed whom for whose behavior. Therefore, I challenge all of you who read this to perform one simple experiment.

    Register two new reddit accounts. Give one an obviously male name, and make sure to somehow link it to a photo of a random, unrecognizable, but fairly handsome guy. Posting a photo of “me doing something related to my first comment” is a good way to accomplish this. Give the other an obviously female name, and similarly link it to a photo of a pretty woman.

    For the next ten days, do the following. Write your comment FIRST. When you are done writing it, toss a coin. Heads, post it under your male account. Tails, post it under your female account.

    Watch the reactions, and WRITE THEM DOWN (don’t trust your memory or your impressions). How many answers did you get that actually address your point? How many answers did you get from people who seem not to have even read what you wrote? How many sexual comments?

    Do this, and you’ll get the central issue very, very quickly. Then we can stop beating around the bush, and start addressing the real problem.

  36. matthewfedder says

    How about “Mysogenistic posts on Reddit make me hate people who make and upvote misogynistic posts on Reddit.” No generalizations needed, and the blame is focused on the source.

    Unmoderated internet forums are sewers – it seems like every other post is a troll, a yammering jackal just digging to get under the skin of anyone with a modicum of decency in them.

    I want to write my own forum software. I want to design an upvote/downvote system where those with better reputations have a greater effect than those with lower reputations, and your reputation is derived from the up/down votes you’ve received. It could be similar to a chess ranking system: As higher-reputation individuals upvote you, the post’s reputation and your reputation increase faster; if a known troll upvotes you, it would have little to no effect.

    If your reputation drops low enough, your comments are silently hidden to anyone who is logged in, so your tirades become echoes down empty hallways. Only mature posters deserve a seat at the table.

  37. Johnny Vector says

    Jazzmac:

    This was mentioned in comment #1

    Let’s see, how can I put this delicately? Indeed it was mentioned. Whereupon I my own self did point out that the very screen shots to be found in Ms. Watson’s post did give lie to that very claim, in that the upvotes outnumbered the downvotes by a factor, in all cases, of at least two to one.

    Kindly explain, if you would, in what way said voting shows that “we did all speak out against it”. Perhaps a link to the updated thread showing massive downvoting, or a lovely screen shot of same.

    Failing that, might I recommend a gentle off-fucking?

  38. krisrhodes says

    There is another, more popular thread on /r/athiesm about the situation.

    http://www.reddit.com/r/atheism/comments/nt5x6/a_response_to_reddit_makes_me_hate_atheists/

    Please also keep in mind the /r/athiesm is one of the default subreddits and that anything popular gets seen by many people that have little concern with the athiest community. Blaming the whole comunity for the actions of some of them – and people that probably aren’t really part of the community – is somewhat unfair. Keep in mind that many of these people will upvote anything for shock value.

    I personally don’t know what the solution to something like this is. The internet is full of people who will do anything to get a rise out of you. But what are you going to do, deny them free speech?

  39. RustD says

    To Gretchen @14

    Great comment as usual. Thanks for all your logical comments. I usually abstain from commenting on science blogs or here on certain topics because of the hatred and fighting instead of discussion. Many times you write what I am thinking. Thank you.

  40. says

    jjgdenisrobert, SmooveBB et al:

    Nice of you. I’m glad to see that you will allow Rebecca her opportunity to call out misogyny and sexism in r/Atheism. But yes, she doesn’t do it exactly as you guyz would do it, does she. How unfortunate.

    We can only hope that in time, and this will happen if she pays close attention to your comments and instructions, she starts do do it right.

    Alukonis: Stop saying that 16 year old boys are the problem. Comments like “I have jeans older than her” are not coming from 16 year olds. N

    I think you can assume that when these dweebs are called 16 year olds or middle schoolers, no one is thinking that they are 16 year olds or middle schoolers!

    Did you know that the Salvation Army does a lot of really good stuff? They feed homeless people and get goods to low-income families! So clearly we should ignore their homophobia because after all, look at all the good they do!

    And how would we know it was Christmas without all those damn bells ringing!

    Just fyi, comments 1 and 2, dismissing or minimizing the problem is a silencing technique.

    Here here. As are many of the other things being said here.

    “They are assholes. We knew they were assholes. Therefor it’s OK, just leave them alone” is never a good response to assholes.

    (Well, maybe sometimes, but not this time.)

  41. Jim says

    Hi Ed,

    Great post. A number of years ago, a good friend of mine told me how she just hated the words bitch, pussy (as in, you’re a pussy), and douche bag. I got it. I hate the words fag, sodomite, dirty queer.

    I was born in 62, and profanity is now completely wired into me. I can’t and don’t want to change that. However, I have changed what I say. I no longer use the word bitch. I no longer use the word pussy. Instead of douche bag, I use used rubber, such as, Ron Paul’s extreme homophobia and racism make him a used rubber.

    I’m not sure used rubber will catch on. It would be useful to have a derogatory word contest to come up with disparaging words that are either not based on gender or at least when talking about men are male, hence used rubber for Paul.

  42. spartan says

    Greg,

    Nice of you. I’m glad to see that you will allow Rebecca her opportunity to call out misogyny and sexism in r/Atheism. But yes, she doesn’t do it exactly as you guyz would do it, does she. How unfortunate.

    How chivalrous of you, a manly man riding in to defend Rebecca against, horrors, disagreement and criticism, since you evidently think she, being a woman and all, is not capable of that herself and needs a man to do it for her.

    What’s that, that’s not what you said and the impression I’ve gotten is entirely inaccurate? I agree, so maybe now you can quote anything that talks about ‘allowing Rebecca’ to do anything in the posts you criticized.

  43. eleusis says

    There are over 700 comments to that reddit submission, and most of the sexual ones were in response to the girl’s comment of “bracin mah anus”. Virtually everything Rebecca Watson posted was from those responses, in that one subthread. She conveniently says that she didn’t read the rest of the comments, because they in fact aren’t that nasty. This was way overblown, thanks to Watson’s penchant for melodrama.

  44. says

    ekeusis writes:

    There are over 700 comments to that reddit submission, and most of the sexual ones were in response to the girl’s comment of “bracin mah anus”. Virtually everything Rebecca Watson posted was from those responses, in that one subthread. She conveniently says that she didn’t read the rest of the comments, because they in fact aren’t that nasty. This was way overblown, thanks to Watson’s penchant for melodrama.

    And that makes it okay why, exactly? It was dozens and dozens of comments that were voted up by hundreds of people. That doesn’t strike you as a problem worth pointing out?

  45. says

    I’m not seeing anything excessive or unreasonable here about Rebecca Watson’s response to all this. The comments she’s cited are utterly revolting, they’re likely to deter the 15-year old girl in question from ever posting again, and righteous anger (I think) is exactly what they warrant.

    I do agree with the poster who blamed a good deal of this on the anonymity of the internet; but it was salutary to be reminded by Aquaria that there are legitimate reasons for anonymity.

  46. says

    Spartan, Rebecca does not need me to defend her, and I don’t need you to think up wonderful and smart new ways to tell me to shut up.

    I happen to agree with Rebecca. You seem to think I should keep that to myself. Or at least, you seem to be saying that you don’t want me to overtly do so. There is a way to fix that. It involves you leaving the internet forever. That would be nice.

    And, for those just tuning in, Spartan is following the Franc Hoggle/Abbie Smith playbook here. They say that anyone who agrees with a woman who in turn decries misogyny is a misogynist themselves because agreeing with such a woman implies that she needs to be agreed with, and is a form of infantilizing her. In other words, speaking out against misogyny is unwelcome, those who do so, please shut up.

  47. bobtmarley says

    THE HORRIBLE COMMENTS WERE OVERWHELMINGLY UPVOTED

    Well, we have a problem with sexism. No denying that. However, upvoting is much more common than downvoting on Reddit. Usually the ratio is far greater than 2 to 1 (some current top posts in other thread are 8 to 1). The reason being is that there is a policy AGAINST downvoting posts you simply disagree with. I really don’t care what anyone thinks about the policy. I’m just pointing out that observing the number of upvotes is not a reasonable indicator of people’s opinions. If we did control for average upvote/downvote rate, we would see the posts getting 4x the downvotes of a normal active post.

    So, is there still a problem? Absolutely. The fact those posts even exist is sickening, and I take no issue with Rebecca pointing it out. But, the fact-checker inside of me wishes she would have placed it in context showing that the posts are relatively unpopular and it’s not as bad as 2 Reddit Atheists would rape a 15-year-old for every 1 that wouldn’t.

  48. eleusis says

    Ed,

    1. No, “dozens and dozens” of comments out of 2039 (now, I just checked) don’t seem like the problem that she is making it out to be.

    2. Some of the comments critical of the perverted comments also received hundreds of upvotes.

    Go ahead, read it for yourself:

    http://www.reddit.com/r/atheism/comments/nq7s4/what_my_super_religious_mother_got_me_for

    Virtually all the nasty comments are responses to the “Brace yourself for the complements” top-level comment (which is not nasty in itself), to which she replied “bracin mah anus”. If you simply close that *one* subthread, with *one* mouse click, this would be your reading experience:

    “One of the best books I’ve ever read, has your super religious mom read it yet?”

    “Congratulations on the book, I hope you enjoy reading it, and Merry Christmas to you.”

    “You have a nice mother. I have yet to read the book, but I hope you enjoy it. I’m going to have to check it out sometime.”

    “That is such a good book! He covers UFOs, Astrology, assorted other bullshit. It’s also got the analogy of the invisible dragon in the garage!”

    “Great book. Enjoy the read!”

    “She got you an atheist girfriend? Nice!” (This is a joke about the forever-aloneness of reddit users, not about her)

    “You even look like him!”

    “One of my favorite books of all time. Did your mother not know what that book is about, or did she get it to you because you’re atheist?”

    “It baffles me why half of you still wonder why you’re single.” <–

    "Carl Sagan for Christmas?! That's astronomical"

    It goes on and on like that.

  49. says

    Ed @ 21

    We have a problem with sexism in the country, and the world, and it’s healthy that the secular community — communities, really — are talking about it and that there is so much opposition to it. But there are also a hell of a lot of people in those communities that want to downplay it, pretend it doesn’t exist and even excuse it. And that’s why I say we need to self-police here. We need to all speak out against it when we see it and demand a higher behavioral standard.

    QFT

  50. michaeld says

    I honestly can’t believe this has to be said and sorry if someone has already said it just bugged me and I have to reply.

    If I say reading story X makes me say I hate humanity/people or some specific group there in. That does not necessarilly mean I hate you on a very personal level. Hell I probably don’t hate you personally at all.

    Having read this story it makes me feel bad as a atheist, a man and a human being.

    When a group of Muslim extremists threaten people over a cartoon we want a loud outcry from other Muslims fighting against that. Same idea here some part of our group is behaving badly. We as a group have to speak out against it and work on fixing our own group with the same vigor we put into decrying bad behavior among the religious.

  51. spartan says

    Greg,

    I happen to agree with Rebecca. You seem to think I should keep that to myself. Or at least, you seem to be saying that you don’t want me to overtly do so. There is a way to fix that. It involves you leaving the internet forever. That would be nice.

    Ha, I guess it was too much trouble for you to stick with what I actually typed so instead you’ll pontificate about and react to your delusions about what I ‘seem to think’. You confirm my conclusion that despite being incredibly smart and knowledgable, when it comes to disagreement you are all too often an immature and irrational tool. You’ve done the right thing though by reading Ed’s blog, you have a lot to learn from him when it comes to argumentation and debate, and just plain rationality.

    With that out of the way, where the hell are you getting I said you should keep anything to yourself? Do you react that way every time someone disagrees with or criticizes you? You think disagreement really means ‘shut up’? I know you have a problem with it, probably because it so vividly displays how full of shit you are, but how about quoting what I said in the comment and show how it logically means I told you to shut up? While you’re at it, I repeat the original request to quote what you misinterpreted as ‘allowing Rebecca’ her opinion that you are dutifully and transparently trying to dodge. I mostly agree with Rebecca too, but it has no connection to your idiotic statement about ‘allowing Rebecca’ that I quoted.

    And, for those just tuning in, Spartan is following the Franc Hoggle/Abbie Smith playbook here. They say that anyone who agrees with a woman who in turn decries misogyny is a misogynist themselves because agreeing with such a woman implies that she needs to be agreed with, and is a form of infantilizing her. In other words, speaking out against misogyny is unwelcome, those who do so, please shut up.

    Ah yes, a Laden specialty: the patented “put any ol’ words in someone else’s mouth that in no way follow necessarily from what they said and expect them to defend it” trick. I’m sure it’s futile to ask you to again quote me and explain your chain of reasoning that led you to this outlandish statement that I ‘say’. But just in case it’s not, put up or shut up. Or just admit you’re being an asshole, that’ll do too.

  52. Alukonis, metal ninja says

    @Greg

    nooooo not the bells!

    @bobtmarley

    I’m still disturbed that those comments got upvoted at all, but if what you say is true about not downvoting, then why is there downvoting at all? I mean, what is considered a legitimate reason for a comment to be downvoted?

    I don’t go on reddit so I am unfamiliar with the system and to me, it looks bad. If you’re right about the voting system, though, then I guess it’s not *as* bad as I initially thought. Still, it doesn’t take many hateful comments to ruin the experience for others and discourage them from participation. Hopefully, there are people stubborn enough to keep on fighting harassment over there, uphill battle though it is.

  53. says

    eleusis-

    I fail to see what your point is. Yes, there were lots of good comments too. Of course there were. No one would dispute that, including Rebecca. And now that you’ve pointed that out, how does that change anything said here about the importance of responding to misogyny, both at Reddit and in other secular or atheist communities when it occurs? That is the only point being made and your response does not engage that point in any way.

  54. Chris from Europe says

    @Alukonis
    DailyKos has virtually the same policy. Downvoting is only for narrowly defined reasons (forms of abuse, not disagreement). I don’t know about Reddit, but in this case, downvoting should be reasonable.

  55. Azkyroth says

    I was born in 62, and profanity is now completely wired into me. I can’t and don’t want to change that. However, I have changed what I say. I no longer use the word bitch. I no longer use the word pussy. Instead of douche bag, I use used rubber, such as, Ron Paul’s extreme homophobia and racism make him a used rubber.

    Given that douches are basically a line of products created by sexism and distaste for women’s bodies, “douchebag” as an insult is fitting and if anything, anti-sexist. You’re calling the person something that’s useless, irritating, and rooted in misogyny. Agree on the others.

  56. eleusis says

    Ed, my first point is that the misogynistic comments were a small part of that reddit submission. My second point is that Rebecca selectively presented the worst comments and made it seem worse than it was. Yes, misogyny is a problem everywhere on the Internet, but r/atheism is hardly the place to complain about.

    But I’d like to make a third point. This may come as a surprise to Rebecca Watson and some of you, but some women like flirting and talking about sex and sexual topics on the internet. I’m a heavy reddit user, and I see it all the time. There are calls for people to talk about their “most embarrassing moment while masturbating”, and lots of women participate. Some of them admit to masturbating to the content on reddit!

    http://www.reddit.com/r/WTF/comments/nhjxu/ive_never_been_so_simultaneously_flattered_and/

    Now, when you make a comment about preparing for an assf*cking, which is exactly what her comment meant, you are signaling to other people that sexual comments are ok. That may not be what she intended, but that was the interpretation of her comment. You can call it victim blaming, but it’s just a fact. That’s why the vast majority of the perverted comments were actually in response to her comment. I guarantee you there would not have been as many sexual comments if she had not made that comment. And some women make those kinds of comments because they actually want those kinds of exchanges. Sometimes it’s hard to tell.

  57. says

    eleusis wrote:

    Ed, my first point is that the misogynistic comments were a small part of that reddit submission. My second point is that Rebecca selectively presented the worst comments and made it seem worse than it was.

    No she didn’t. She published a small percentage of the comments that her criticism was aimed at. And those comments were incredibly vile. Your silly excuses are starting to sound like Herman Cain saying “what about all the women I didn’t sexually harass?”

    As for the rest….she’s 15 fucking years old, for crying out loud.

  58. bobtmarley says

    @Alukonis

    Here’s link to Reddiquette. The purpose of downvoting is (supposedly) to remove content that is not germane to the topic at hand, or that does not contribute to the conversation in any way. Generally speaking, (please understand it’s a lightly moderated online community, so the rules are fast and loose and regularly ignored) if the original poster brings a topic up, that means it’s fair game. The OP made the comment “bracin’ mah anus” which (in the minds of many perverted posters) opened the floodgates. The next comment was “Relax your anus, it hurts less that way” and it just went downhill from there.

    Does that excuse the posters? Absolutely not. The posts are horrid, no doubt about it. They should not have been posted no matter the behavior of the OP. However, since what’s on-topic and what’s not is hard to determine, most people err on the side of simply not downvoting. So the average is something like 8 to 1. You can check out other threads to verify if you’d like so you know I didn’t cherry pick them, while that particular line of comments is closer to 2-3 to 1.

    How does that relate to Rebecca’s post? I think she’s right, but she presented her case in a slightly skewed way. People on the atheist forum WERE calling out the terrible remarks at 4x times average rate. Is that enough? No, I don’t believe so. I don’t think those comments should have existed at all. In spite of that, I think the case should show the reality of the situation as closely as possible. It wasn’t 2 to 1 in favor of raping young women. That’s an artifact of the rules and processes of the community.

  59. Azkyroth says

    But I’d like to make a third point. This may come as a surprise to Rebecca Watson and some of you, but some women like flirting and talking about sex and sexual topics on the internet.

    …not this shit again.

  60. Azkyroth says

    some women like flirting and talking about sex and sexual topics on the internet.

    This, while true…

    HAS NO RELEVANCE TO RAPE JOKES

  61. Who Knows? says

    In general Reddit is one big circle jerk, r/atheism it seems is one of the worst. I don’t think you could expect much more from a group of young boys creating short posts in the hopes of getting up-votes.

  62. Azkyroth says

    In general Reddit is one big circle jerk, r/atheism it seems is one of the worst. I don’t think you could expect much more from a group of young boys creating short posts in the hopes of getting up-votes.

    How many fucking times do people have to point out that this isn’t just teenagers posting before it fucking sinks in?

  63. dancollins says

    matthewfedder:

    I want to design an upvote/downvote system where those with better reputations have a greater effect than those with lower reputations, and your reputation is derived from the up/down votes you’ve received.

    That way the immature punks who clearly are a majority share of those who vote manage to get even higher comment scores?

    bobtmarley:

    The reason being is that there is a policy AGAINST downvoting posts you simply disagree with.

    Doesn’t matter. We’re expecting the norm to be far more than simple disagreement. We’re not just wondering why people don’t disagree with raping a 15 year old. We’re wondering why people don’t find it outright revolting. Since reddit downvotes are entirely appropriate for content you find revolting, these 70-80% supports are exactly what was stated – people who are OK with the comments being made upvote and people who think it is inappropriate downvote. I understand that if it was simple disagreement then the downvote counts are quite high.

    Ed Brayton:

    Your silly excuses are starting to sound like Herman Cain saying “what about all the women I didn’t sexually harass?”

    As for the rest….she’s 15 fucking years old, for crying out loud.

    Exactly this.

  64. Michael Heath says

    Aquaria to me:

    I hope you never have to know the terror of being online and mentioning even the barest facts of yourself until some sicko tracks down where you live, where you work. I hope you never have the sheer terror of having your phone ring, picking it up and hearing, “HI, Aquaria, I bet you never thought you’d hear from me.”

    Well first of all, I don’t recall ever advocating others use their full name and certainly didn’t in this thread. I only pointed out one reason out of a handful which motivates me to do it. And I certainly wasn’t sanctimonious about noting why I do it. Which the linked math formula clearly shows how one reduces one of the factors which cause us to act like dicks (by not posting anonymously).

    Also, I have received multiple death threats because of what I’ve written, primarily due to my writing letters to the editor criticizing legislators who don’t support equal rights for gays where they solely depend on religious-based premises, i.e., [paraphrased] “My Bible tells me that gays shouldn’t marry, therefore I support a constitutional amendment prohibiting them from exercising their marriage rights.” I’ve also received death threats for calling out people like George Will when they lie regarding climate change. One guy who phoned me called from a local fundie church, he also happened to sound drunker than shit which I found amusing since that church prohibited its members from drinking (it’s since imploded. figuratively and literally, and is no longer around).

    I also risk a loss of business by attaching my name to causes which are not popular in the area where I live. An area so red our primaries are where the real election races are held for local offices, in fact it’s common to not even have Democrats running in a general election for a local office. One great exception was a local attorney who ran as a Republican on the Fox News platform to be a circuit court judge; he was trounced badly by the Democrat who was also the county chair of the Democratic party.

  65. abb3w says

    Yeah, this is one reason I’ve never gotten into Reddit. Fark is about as sociopathic as I can tolerate, and even that is probably a serious black mark against my character.

    Ed, I trust you’re not entirely unfamiliar with Altemeyer’s research? I’d suggest the notion that while “active” atheists tend to be low-RWA, they may tend high-SDO. (No, I’ve no formal data on the latter, merely anecdata.)

  66. brandonohara says

    Can any reddit users tell me if a person can upvote a comment more than once? If so, that could account for a portion of the upvotes. That being said, I believe the majority of the upvotes probably come from the internet based idea that saying horrible things is a sign of being witty. It’s obviously not, but trolls abound on the internet. I’d bet that most to all of the people who posted the various disgusting things or upvoted them don’t actually think they are appropriate. They probably think they are horrifying and vile. That is the reason they posted them and upvoted them. The relative scarcity of responses that were critical of the posts is probably due to the internet rule of “Don’t feed the trolls!” The people who post this crap want responses, the more horrified the better. So while I agree in principle that comments such as Rebecca discussed need to be condemned, I hope everybody realizes that without moderators to enforce some kind of punishment (as Ed is doing here) it’s not going to actually accomplish anything. We still need to try to promote a culture that responds to everybody equally based on what they say and not who they are, but JUST posting comments or downvoting comments will not accomplish this. I know nobody was exactly claiming it would, so you don’t have to point that out. Personally, I’d love to see people who make these comments (about rape and sex with children) getting banned, having their personal info posted, and having their comments sent to their employers if they are actually employed. I’m willing to bet there would be far fewer of these comments if people faced real world consequences as a result.

    On an unrelated note, Ed your software had to fix my spacing because I learned the double space after a period rule and it’s not even a conscious action now. Sorry.

  67. says

    A lot of comments here and elsewhere focus on how the responses to the 15 year old girl and to Rebecca Watson were unreasonable because neither of them had said or done anything remotely “out of line.”

    Bollocks!

    The responses they got were unreasonable and in fact unconscionable no matter what they had posted online, period! No one deserves the things said in response to those posts, or in response to any online post ever. I don’t care how benign or malignant your online posts are, they can never reasonably merit the sort of vitriol that has been spewed in this instance. Not now, not ever, not even in some sort of ridiculous special hypothetical case.

    And it doesn’t matter that not everyone does it… the fact that ONE PERSON would say those sorts of things is enough to merit comment. The fact that hundreds and even thousands of people seem to approve is relevant but not necessary.

  68. Taz says

    Ed, my first point is that the misogynistic comments were a small part of that reddit submission.

    Nobody ever talks about all the people I didn’t kill.

  69. says

    Thanks Ed, for mentioning this.

    I actually only just discovered that reddit existed like 5 days ago and I was reminded of this after reading about 10 comments:

    “Either the well was very deep, or she fell very slowly…”

    Both. Definitely both.

    Just perusing it, my first impression was that it was a snake pit. Granted first impressions are sometimes wrong so I read some more. My second impression was that it was like the yahoo news comments section, but mostly for atheists.

    Which is to say that place is a fucking trainwreck in a snakepit. For atheists.

  70. Azkyroth says

    Now, when you make a comment about preparing for an assf*cking, which is exactly what her comment meant, you are signaling to other people that sexual comments are ok.

    Couldn’t it just as easily have been about preparing for an ass-kicking, only the idiots in the thread had to make it sexual because she’s female?

  71. Azkyroth says

    Aquaria: given how disconcerting some of my own experiences have been that sounds fucking terrifying. I’m really sorry :(

  72. corkscrew says

    OK, so I think we’re (mostly) agreed that there’s a problem here.

    1) Some male atheists on Reddit are total assholes. Apparently they’re a minority, but that doesn’t make it any better.

    2) They often make deeply scary and/or inappropriate remarks to women. Apparently Reddit is generally a cesspool, so it’s not just atheists, but that doesn’t make it any better.

    3) They have been targeting a 15-year-old girl. Apparently some of this was in response to her follow-up comment, but that doesn’t make it any better since a) she’s 15, for Sagan’s sake and b) she definitely didn’t solicit rape jokes.

    So my question is:

    4) What do we/I do about it?

    I’m a male atheist, so both Rebecca Watson and Ed Brayton hate me because of this incident (apparently this is hyperbole, but that doesn’t etc etc). So what can/should I do about this?

    Do you want to start an organised campaign of joining Reddit to downvote the assholes’ comments? I’ll happily spend an hour or so on reverse trolling.

    Or should we join Reddit to post more positive comments? To me this would seem a bit creepy, but again I’m happy to help out if some of the women here can give me the all-clear.

    Or should we just carry on commenting in the echo chamber of civilised blogs, to create a space where people like this girl can feel secure and valued (assuming she ever finds it)? That’s a viable strategy… as long as it’s deliberate.

    One thing I can say with confidence: Just posting lots of me-too comments on blogs like this because that’s what you feel comfortable doing is not going to help matters much.

  73. FlickingYourSwitch says

    The really bizarre thing is how the whole elevatorthing was blown up beyond normal proportions. Some random woman got hit on by some random guy, and the conclusion is that the sceptic community hates women. Really?

  74. says

    “women meanwhile are not supposed to like or enjoy sex at all.”

    FAIL. I live in a town with a SUNY campus. Possibly because they think I’m deaf or senile, young women–within six feet of my barstool–carry on about sexual matters, they SEEM to enjoy the banter and the act. This is NOT to suggest that making snide, derogatory or nasty sexist comments about women on any subject or for any reason is okay, but they are not unaware of nor unappreciative of the act or talking about it–in my limited experience.

    “If your reputation drops low enough, your comments are silently hidden to anyone who is logged in, so your tirades become echoes down empty hallways. Only mature posters deserve a seat at the table.’.

    There are already sites like that, they are CALLED echo chambers.

    “I’m not sure used rubber will catch on. It would be useful to have a derogatory word contest to come up with disparaging words that are either not based on gender or at least when talking about men are male, hence used rubber for Paul.”

    “scumbag 704 up, 374 down
    A used condom.
    Is an example needed?”

    from here (http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=scumbag)

    I think your comment about Dr. Paul would be a WONDERFUL example.

    A douchebag, btw, is something most men (and a lot of younger women) have no experience with. In the book “Garp”, Garp’s mother received what she presumed was a hot water bottle, from her mother, as a gift on numerous occasions. One day she NEEDED a hot water bottle, that’s when she discovered that they were douchebags. I think I’m safe in saying that Ron Paul will never be confused with a hot water bottle.

    I won’t be going over to Reddit. I don’t need to have my non-belief system buttressed by any other non-believers, be they misogynistic assholes or not.

  75. Who Knows? says

    How many fucking times do people have to point out that this isn’t just teenagers posting before it fucking sinks in?

    It doesn’t really matter if they’re 15 or 45. It’s how they act.

  76. says

    @80: From the POV of the target, no. And the response — to knock it off, pronto — should be the same.

    OTOH, one can hope a 15yo will grow out of it — that within as little as five years, 10 tops, they will look back with embarrassment at all the stupid shit their younger self used to post (and saying “knock it off”, with some forcefulness, is part of educating them out of it). Still doing it at 45, though? That’s scarey.

    BTW: Has Ms. Lunam responded to all this? Do we know how she’s taking it?

  77. carlie says

    It doesn’t really matter if they’re 15 or 45. It’s how they act.

    it absolutely matters if they’re 15 or 45. The “they’re just teenagers” comments are being used to excuse their actions, as if they are too young to know any better, too young to have any effect. But they’re not. They’re middle-aged men who work with women, who might have women working for them, who affect the lives of women they’re around every day. The comments they make anonymously belie their real feelings for women; do you honestly think these guys don’t make life hell in a hundred little ways for the women they encounter on a daily basis? I shudder to think of what any women they have supervisory power over have to deal with. Claiming they’re just like teenagers erases the very real consequences their attitudes have on real women.

  78. Who Knows? says

    Carlie, I didn’t intend the comment as an excuse for their behavior. Being a teenager, whether they are one or not, isn’t an excuse for acting like they do.

    I agree with you.

  79. anat says

    To those asking, Lunam has posted on Rebecca Watson’s thread, which means she has become aware of the friendlier side of the online atheist community. And according to a quote in the same thread, she responded firmly to the unfunny ‘jokers’ (that she finds them disgusting, that abuse victims reading the thread are likely to be upset by it and that they should stop).

  80. corkscrew says

    The really bizarre thing is how the whole elevatorthing was blown up beyond normal proportions. Some random woman got hit on by some random guy, and the conclusion is that the sceptic community hates women. Really?

    I think if the skeptic community had collectively gone “yeah, that was a bit jerk-y, we’ll know for future reference”, the story would have ended there. The problem was that a significant minority of atheist blokes responded with “no, why should we have to tune it down?” without realising that this is an issue with a lot of history.

    It’s like when that ice cream shop banned Skepticon participants. The owner probably thought it wasn’t that big a deal. That’s because he doesn’t have to deal with being a member of possibly the most hated minority in America. The people being banned, having been on the receiving end of a whole lot of crap over the years, saw it as a (relatively mild) example of that crap and were bloody furious.

  81. bobtmarley says

    @dancollins

    It’s true that the mere existence of the posts is sufficient to to prove Rebecca’s point that there is a problem with sexism. I stated several times I agree with her. I take no issue with her point. However, that’s NOT the point I was making (so don’t mix it up with the rape apologists that are posting). Your comment leads me to believe I have not communicated myself very well.

    My issue with her argument is that I think it’s good policy to show reality as accurately as possible and so I have (relatively minor in the larger context) some criticism. Her post was slightly misleading (but not, ultimately, incorrect) because it did not correctly portray the way upvotes worked. Upvotes and downvotes are not symmetrical. The ratios are an artifact of community policy. I’ve posted links to policy, suggested a way to verify my claims independently, and explained why it is the way it is. Downvotes ARE NOT given for things you find revolting. I don’t care what anyone’s opinion of the policy is, I’m just pointing it out.

    Given the comments on this thread (such as the one I quoted in my first post) the way the voting system worked was not understood. The posts WERE NOT overwhelmingly upvoted. In context, they actually received a large number of downvotes. Again, the mere existence of the posts is enough to warrant them being called out, but the ratios of upvotes DO NOT indicate popular opinion. Do you really believe that a large (350,000+) group of secular atheists really favors 2 to 1 the abuse of 15 year old girls? Or even that only 1/3 of them found the posts distasteful? I mean, it may be true (as I said, upvotes/downvotes do not reflect actual opinion), but it definitely sparks a little incredulity in me. Any amount is too much though, so I’m glad Rebecca pointed it out.

    Anyway, I’m done posting. I only meant to post once since I thought the issue was minor (but worth mentioning), but my poor communication has led to two follow-ups. I apologize.

  82. hertta says

    bobtmarley:

    Downvotes ARE NOT given for things you find revolting.

    Could you point to the rule where it says that? I couldn’t find it. And I know that stuff does get voted down into oblivion, so some things get overwhelmingly downvoted. Just not misogynist abuse of a 15-year-old girl. And if that’s not a failure of the community, I don’t know what is.

  83. freemage says

    The problem is we’ve got two varieties of asshole, here.

    Assholicus Aggressorica, of course, is well-known across the Internet, and the real world as well. They are actually not as common as many folks think, they’re just louder than most folks.

    However, there’s also a strong population of Assholicus Apathatica. Now, some folks used to feel that Apathetica was not an actual member of the Assholicus genus, and this is often put forward as being the case by Apathetica members themselves, but time has shown that without a viable breeding population of Apathetica, Aggressorica tends to die out quickly.

    In other words, folks defending the thread by saying that the “culture of Reddit” discourages downvoting are missing a key point–that culture needs to be changed. I don’t use Reddit or frequent it, beyond following the odd link, and have no account there.

    But yes, if I were in that community, I would be hitting the downvote button, on every post like that that was in a community I was part of. And I’d encourage others to do the same, because yes, the culture should be changed. Let them know that no, it’s not okay, it never was okay, and it will never be okay, and some of them might just get the message, and some others might just shut the fuck up and run home, and either of those is an acceptable result.

    Yes, changing a culture is difficult, and often thankless. It can lead to hostility from those whom you regard as your peer group. But so long as Assholicus Apathetica remains in such large numbers, we’ll never be able to do anything about the scourge of Assholicus Aggressorica.

  84. you_monster says

    The clueless derailing of a real problem kicks off at comment #1

    jjgdenisrobert,

    Rebecca sometimes has a tendency to paint all men with the same brush, which doesn’t help move the discussion along.

    Got an example of this? I would like to see where Rebecca excludes the possibility of men being on the right side of these issues. Do you think Rebecca actually thinks/argues this? If you aren’t being disingenuous towards her, I’m sure you have some handy examples to validate your accusations.

    The tone of Rebecca’s posts has been more and more strident of late. She has the right to her opinions, but I would wish that she could point out the sexism without alienating all the men who actually agree with her on most points. When she acts as if we don’t exist, she’s doing just that.

    What is wrong with being passionate when calling out bigotry? The only people alienated by stridently criticizing clear instances of misogyny are fucking misogynists or allies of them.

    Fuck those abolitionists, amirate? They were so strident in their support of the idea that black people are humans as well. And they alienated so many slave-owners and pro-slavery advocates.

  85. hertta says

    I’d also like to see how jjgdenisrobert thinks sexism cam be pointed out without some men getting all butthurt. I’ve never seen an example of that. And they also very often say they’d be on the feminist side if feminists just weren’t such bitches about it.

  86. Who Knows? says

    Sorry, Who Knows. You’re right, I read you incorrectly.

    No worries Carlie, I’m not the best at expressing myself in writing either.

  87. bobtmarley says

    @herreta
    I’ve already linked to Reddit’s rules, and explained why people avoid downvoting due to the ambiguity. Sure, things get downvoted into oblivion, but that’s the exceptional case. Take any random thread and you’ll see that a very small minority of posts get downvoted. The point I was making is that you can’t assume upvotes and downvotes are symmetrical due to the policies in place. I’m not arguing for the policies, I’m just pointing them out. Nor am I saying the community didn’t fail. All I’m saying is that you can’t assume a majority of atheists on Reddit want to rape 15 year olds based on the voting, because the votes are NOT the same. Hell yeah the community has a problem. I agree. Those involved should be ashamed. But saying the community has a problem is not the same as saying “66% of atheists on Reddit approve of raping 15 year olds,” just like saying “66% of atheists in the US want to rape 15 year olds” is not the same as saying “atheists in the US have problems with sexism.”

    @freemage

    In other words, folks defending the thread by saying that the “culture of Reddit” discourages downvoting are missing a key point–that culture needs to be changed.

    If that comment was directed at me: I am in no way defending the culture of Reddit. Period. I specifically said I’m not interested in what people think of the policies. The reason for that is because that’s not the discussion I’m having (and that discussion involves all sorts of things like free-speech vs censorship, internet anonymity, and loads of other things I’m frankly ill-equipped to talk about). I am in no way saying Rebecca was wrong. I’m am simply acknowledging that the culture and policies exist and that Rebecca did not provide sufficient context, which caused some people to come to some erroneous conclusions. I’m sorry if I was not clear enough. I’m think that if you reread my posts, you’d see that’s the intent. I’m NOT arguing the point of Rebecca’s post. I’m not missing the point. I’ve stated at least three times that I agree with her point. I simply pointed out a (minor, all things considered) flaw in Rebecca’s post. You can, for all intents and purposes, consider my posts completely independently of the main thread of discussion because they are NOT related. Basically, they’ve been like this “I agree with Rebecca. However, the lack of context in her post has caused some people to come to some inaccurate conclusions. It would have been better to add more context.” I see now I shouldn’t have brought it up, because I haven’t been able to make myself clear and it’s basically a nitpick.

  88. Hertta says

    Sure, things get downvoted into oblivion, but that’s the exceptional case.

    And because there isn’t anything exceptional in raving misogyny, it doesn’t. I get it!

    And I don’t think anyone is really assuming a majority of atheists on Reddit want to rape 15 year olds based on the voting or saying that 66% of atheists on Reddit approve of raping 15 year olds. That’s just silly and a frankly a bizarre thing to be focusing on.

  89. you_monster says

    bobtmarley,

    But, the fact-checker inside of me wishes she would have placed it in context showing that the posts are relatively unpopular and it’s not as bad as 2 Reddit Atheists would rape a 15-year-old for every 1 that wouldn’t.

    It wasn’t 2 to 1 in favor of raping young women.

    All I’m saying is that you can’t assume a majority of atheists on Reddit want to rape 15 year olds based on the voting, because the votes are NOT the same.

    But saying the community has a problem is not the same as saying “66% of atheists on Reddit approve of raping 15 year olds,”

    Put that strawman down, you have abused him enough already. No one is arguing that most of the r/atheists are in favor of child-rape. There is a problem with misogynistic comments being made in r/atheism. The ratio of likes to dislikes is concerning. Yes, it is less well-liked than some other comments, but it is still fucking terrible. No one is saying that this is proof that half of reddit is pro-rape. Engage the actual issue if you want to.

    Or continue to go on complaining about an unfair argument that no one is putting forward.

  90. Hertta says

    Oh and bobtmarley, I know you linked to the rules. I found:

    […] If you think it shouldn’t be on reddit, or if it is off-topic on a particular community, downvote it.

    and don’t

    Downvote opinions just because you disagree with them. The down arrow is for comments that add nothing to the discussion.

    Downvote opinions just because they are critical of you. The down arrow is for comments that add nothing to the discussion.

    So what is it exactly that makes redditors so shy to vote down abuse?

  91. eleusis says

    Regarding reddit, freedom of speech is a bitch. We like to talk about how we are open minded and support freedom of speech. Of course, the true test of your convictions, in practice, is whether you allow unpopular (even hateful and vile) speech, because popular speech needs no protecting. So it’s interesting how many people in this comment thread and the skeptical community have called for moderator censorship.

    As Jacob Appelbaum and others have said, the best way to counter shitty speech is not to silence it by fiat, but to talk louder and longer with good speech. Drown out the bad speech with your good ideas.

    The reason why reddit isn’t censored by the mods is because they figured out a long time ago that it’s impossible on a truly free speech platform. Delete someone’s comments or ban their account, and they’ll simply create a new one. Reddit doesn’t even require an email address to register, and IP bans are trivial to get around.

    The community relies on the up and downvotes of its members. Sure, shitty comments get hundreds of upvotes, but comments criticizing them also get hundreds of upvotes. All this proves is that people are more likely to up than downvote.

    But reddit isn’t the worst cesspool on the internet.

    Tell me how many nasty comment were posted in response to this (similar) situation:

    http://www.reddit.com/r/videos/comments/nuwi5/odd_skill/

    Yes, you’ll find some, but what’s the percentage? Oh yeah, 5% of the people on the internet are guaranteed to be perverts and assholes. If you’re shocked by that, unplug your router. There’s really no sensible way to control that other than to shout down and drown out the shitty comments, and the reddit community actually does a good job of that, all things considered.

  92. says

    …and the reddit community actually does a good job of that, all things considered.

    Hence the massive amounts of upvoting the shitty comments got?

    Look, if this were true none of us would have seen the comments in the first place. Cause they’d have been downvoted and hidden. And Rebecca wouldn’t have had a chance to pick the most heinous offenders as the most popular comments because they wouldn’t have existed. Instead, those were the most upvoted comments and here we are.

    And I guess I have to be convinced that moderation = censorship. The pigs who write that stuff can make their own pro-rape atheist reddit whenever they want. No one is stopping them.

  93. says

    The notion that a private company is violating freedom of speech by moderating a forum is absurd, any more than I am by banning an occasional commenter here or that you would be if you threw someone out of your house for saying vile things about your family. Websites are privately owned and can set their own rules. Freedom of speech prevents the government from censoring you. And I am fascinated by the fact that so many people want to talk about anything but the substance of Rebecca’s criticism (and mine). Commenter after commenter wants to change the subject to whether or not Rebecca had enough disclaimers in her post, or about free speech when it isn’t even at issue. Anything to avoid dealing with the real issue at hand. Why not focus on the substantive criticism and the issue of how we make atheist and secular communities more welcome — hell, let’s just start with getting rid of the rape jokes, surely we could agree on that — for women?

    It reminds me very much of a good friend of mine, who is a prominent gay activist. And when he makes any kind of internal criticism of unhealthy things going on in the gay community — bias against transgendered people, for example — and says “we have a problem with this and we should work on it,” he gets the same response — “We don’t have a problem with this, only some people do.” Well, duh. Of course that’s true. As a prominent gay leader himself who isn’t biased against transgendered people, he obviously can’t be indicting all gay people for that. But that isn’t the issue at all, it’s a way to distract from the issue, to avoid dealing with it. The same thing is going on here. “But not all redditers are like that!” No shit. Rebecca knows that. I know that. Everyone knows that. But that doesn’t mean we don’t have a problem that we need to address.

  94. brandonohara says

    I’m still not certain that loudly denouncing these people and their comments will accomplish anything. They are trolls. They are making the comments in order to outrage people. Getting outraged and yelling at them encourages them. Of course, ignoring them just lets the other trolls loudly support them unopposed. It seems the best idea is to avoid forums where these idiots congregate. Try to frequent atheist and secular forums that are moderated. That way these comments will be deleted and the people banned and everyone can be made to feel welcome. Avoiding unmoderated free for all forums and sticking to ones that forbid such offensive remarks seems to me to be the only course of action that has any chance of being effective.

  95. falstaff says

    The comments on that girl’s thread were terrible, but there are beating women and raping women sub reddits. Just the titles of the posts made me sick. I didn’t bother with the comments.

    She shouldn’t have to, but that girl seems strong enough to handle it.

  96. abb3w says

    @100, Ed Brayton:

    Websites are privately owned and can set their own rules.

    “Private” tyranny is still some degree of tyranny, barring useful degrees of choice; and libertarians seemingly tend to be distressingly less concerned with insuring the choices remain useful when the power concentration is not a “government”.

    Not that I have particular suggestions. I merely am reacting with a bit of jaundiced cynicism, in light of a fuzzy view on government resulting from not seeing clear demarcations from war, to politics, to rule of law. Or rather, from unseeing, in light of ideas expressed by Clausewitz and Zhou Enlai.

    OK… I lied.
    Particular suggestion: if you are going to censor, please put up a gallery of shame akin to PZ, indicating the basis by which they’re banned. Reddit avoids responsibility to do so primarily because the mechanism is too distributed for such easy codification.

  97. says

    @EdBrayton (100): “Freedom of speech prevents the government from censoring you.” You are 100% WRONG about that. It is a common misconception. That was the ORIGINAL intent of the 1st Amendment (more or less). Since then, it has been greatly expanded and codified by Supreme Court decisions and case law for about two centuries. To the point where it IS possible for both people and non-governmental entities to illegally (and usually more so unethically) violate people’s 1st Amendment freedoms and rights.

    Technically you ARE involved in censorship, and censureship, when you delete people’s posts. You can try to backtrack or talk your way out of it, but it is what it is. You are just not illegally doing so (here). Unethically is a different question. But, as you mention, because this is a privately-owned enterprise, and the type of enterprise it is, you do have the right to censor and censure. But you are ‘possibly’ acting unethically while doing so. And you should also own up to the fact that you are engaging in censorship. (if you are able to do so — rather than try to assuage your own guilty conscience (a guess))

    And are you SERIOUSLY suggesting that NO ONE EVER make a “rape joke”??? Seriously? That’s just absurd, ridiculous, and ludicrous beyond the pale. I suppose you could make a “right time and place” argument, but even that is questionable. You could also make a “civil discourse” argument, which is probably more valid (and maybe what you were implying and suggesting), but that simply falls along the lines of civility, which falls under “one man’s civility is another man’s incivility.”

    Shirley you are not one of those people who thinks and believes we should remove the word “nigger” from Mark Twain’s “Tom Sawyer” in any future reprints? (and the like?)

    Also, what some people (like you) “conveniently” call “distractions” (as a distraction, actually), others call making arguments and finer points on various issues and related issues ancillary to the primary discussion, which itself is rarely so pointed that it only concerns “ONE idea”.

    As for the comments on the Reddit post, and crybaby whining by “skepchick” (and others), people who are surprised, or think they can do something about it that will make it “better”, are basically clueless about what the Internet is and is all about — and the people on it. It does “allow” people to be more “vocal” in their ideas, and comments, and such, especially when they are “anonymous” (which is a fallacy in and of itself most of the time). And I think we all know that if we were actually present in a big room 99% of the things people post on the Internet would not be verbally spoken, but that is also good along with the bad, and ADULTS (and near-adults) know that you always have to take the bad along with the good in life. It’s just the way it is. And has ALWAYS been.

    The Internet is just another form and forum. (pun partially intended) So people need to learn to deal with it. It is, after all, the Internet. (in all its glory and anti-glory)

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