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Not Worth the Price of Admission

There will be a transcript soon, and then I will resign myself to being thoroughly outraged and disgusted. The Conversation has inevitably led to insane and sometimes vicious pushback against the women who are merely requesting mechanisms to enforce civilized behavior. And then the women and their male allies are excoriated by others for getting upset. They’re sideswiped by people who haven’t paid any damned attention to The Conversation and its long history, but think they know enough to pronounce judgment. I’m sick of this shit. And though I don’t want to do it, I shall take the Smack-o-Matic down from the wall and unleash it upon some deserving bottoms.

I’d rather be talking about rocks, and mystery flora, and UFDs, and all of those things. I’d rather not have to talk about something that should be remarkably fucking obvious to anyone with an ounce of human decency. I’d rather not risk tearing open old scars. And although I haven’t yet been subjected to the volume of abuse my fellow feminists have endured, I’m sure that day is coming. I don’t want to have to clean misogynists and accommodationist fuckwads out of my comments section, then listen to them whine about how oppressed they are because I won’t let them shit on my carpet. I don’t want to spend time forwarding rape and death threats to the police. But I refuse to stay silent.

Women I love and respect, who taught me it’s okay to be a woman, who are working their asses off to make sure that if I overcome my native dislike of crowds long enough to attend a conference, I will be able to choose one with a strong and enforced harassment policy, women who are trying to make things better, are getting attacked for doing the right thing. Men who have been staunch allies in the fight to stop harassment are getting attacked by the same bunch of assclowns.

So, while I’d rather be doing other things, I’ll be reading transcripts to discover the full extent of the shit that’s being flung, and once I have the full context, I will quote some select bits of fuckery, and I will speak. Because I cannot stay silent about this.

Women deserve better.

Stephanie Zvan, Ophelia Benson, Greta Christina, Rebecca Watson, Jen McCreight, and Ashley Miller, along with many other brave women, deserve better.

All of the women who have had their concerns dismissed, their experiences denigrated or denied, their veracity called into question, who have been blamed for being subjected to sexist bullshit and sexual harassment, deserve better.

And I do not want there to be any doubt where I stand.

Before the Smack-o-Matic comes down from the wall, I want to take a moment to thank them, and all of the other women who taught me that “feminist” is not a bad word. I want to thank the women and men who have weathered Category 5 shitstorms in order to make women’s lives better.

I will be honest with you. Before they came along, I didn’t realize just how much misogyny and sexism I’d internalized over the years. Some of it was overt, some covert, but there was a lot. I ran from feminist topics. I sneered at women who spoke out against “boys being boys,” or who “whined about women being invisible.” I thought this was melodrama on their parts. After all, I hadn’t experienced misogyny or sexism! Well, aside from being raped, and having to fend off unwanted advances, and having to avoid girly traits in order to be taken seriously by a substantial subset of men, and sometimes enduring assholes on the street catcalling or worse, and having to calculate my chances of surviving the experience alive and unmolested every time I exit my front door, and considering writing under a gender-neutral pseudonym so that my work would be taken seriously and not dismissed because it was written by a female. But hey, y’know, other than that, being a woman wasn’t any different than being a man, so what were all those harpies howling about? If they weren’t so uptight, men wouldn’t treat them like shit!

But women I respected because they were excellent writers and scientists and thinkers spoke out about crap women endure. Evidence poured in relentlessly. Women are underrepresented in science. Women deal with appalling amounts of sexist bullshit, even from prestigious publications. Women who should be visible, aren’t, and  get rape and death threats after making reasonable requests. I could go on. I could spend all night linking to things that show a pervasive problem. Or I could just point you toward Women’s Issues in Los Links, and the Women category, and let you explore for yourself, if you doubt.

I’ll tell you that these women woke me right up. So did the men who had their backs. One of the many wake-up calls was when PZ Myers talked about atheism’s sexism problem, and mentioned an extra-credit question he poses to his students: name a female scientist. My mind, aside from Marie Curie, went blank. And I know a hell of a lot of women scientists. What the fuck is wrong when those names don’t spring up instantly? Time I confronted the fact that I, too, needed my consciousness raised. You’d think a woman wouldn’t need that. But living in a society that relentlessly drums inferiority into our heads, often in such subtle ways that it’s hard to make people notice, I had a job o’ work ahead of me. Still do.

And it’s hard.

It’s hard to admit that I once held women in contempt simply because they were women, concerned about how society treats women.

It’s hard to face the fact I passed over too many smart, funny, intelligent, thought-provoking, talented and amazing women because I had a nearly unconscious bias that caused me to overlook them.

It’s hard to face the fact that I’ve often been accepted as “one of the guys” because I had no problem bashing my fellow females.

It’s hard to root out so much cultural conditioning that led me to accept that all the crap women face is “just the way it is,” and we shouldn’t rock the boat because people will think we’re she-woman-man-haters, and we’ll lose what little respect we’ve got.

It’s hard to confront the reality that it’s not just conservative Christians and Republicans who treat women as less than human.

It’s hard to step up, take the risks, and fight for even a basic level of equality for women, because doing so paints a target for sexists, misogynists, and their apologists on anyone speaking out.

It’s hard to accept that some of the people I’ve admired greatly are among those sexists, misogynists and apologists.

It’s hard to fight battles that shouldn’t have to be fought. There’s so much else I’d rather do. But this is necessary. Greta Christina’s right. We have to talk about this. If we don’t, it will never, ever get better, and could very well get worse.

So this is my side. I’m standing with those women and men who refuse to shut up, refuse to accept the status quo, refuse to let the bastards grind them down. I don’t feel I’ve got the talent it takes to lead this fight, but I’m more than happy to be one of the troops. I want to be a part of the changes. I want to help make this a better world for women. I want to see us all become better human beings. Change is hard. But I’ve changed my mind. So can others. And those who are unwilling to change, unwilling to accept uppity females demanding decency, equality, and policies that will create safer environments for women (and men, and people who don’t identify one way or the other), can fall by the wayside. They won’t be missed.

I may lose the respect of some people because of the side I’ve chosen. I may not be admitted to some of the in-groups, considered one of the cool kids. I may get shut out by people who think “both sides are equally bad,” or that the problems have been exaggerated, and I may have to come down on the side of not attending events I wanted to attend because the organizers refuse to take simple steps to create a safe space for my fellow women.

And you know what? That’s absolutely fine. If abandoning the women and men fighting to make this a better world and silencing my own voice is what it takes, then it’s not worth the price of admission. It never was.

Thank you, all of you who refused to be silent, for helping me realize that.

Today’s essential reading in The Conversation:

Almost Diamonds: Those Oversensitive, Lying Women; “The Great Penis Debate (do read the comments thread);” and Those Meddling Kids.

Ashley F. Miller: Aren’t you making it up? – Why women don’t report harassment.

Butterflies and Wheels: Both sides; Don’t give it to them, give it to us; Bad analogies are bad and Why is she going there?

Greta Christina’s Blog: Sexual Harassment, and What “Not Naming Names” Does And Does Not MeanSexual Harassment, and the OpenSF Conference Code of Conduct and Holy. Fucking. Shit.

Lousy Canuck: A little perspective on the troll cry of “witch-hunts;” In Medias Res: how to find the plot if you’re just tuning in and Harassment policies campaign – timeline of major events.

Skepchick: Why I Won’t Be At TAM This Year.

Pharyngula: It’s always the coverup.

The X Blog: Ask An Atheist Takes On Dogmatic Feminism.

 

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Comments

  1. StevoR says

    From that headline I thought you were talking about Prometheus for a second there. ;-)

  2. StevoR says

    Women deserve better.

    Stephanie Szvan, Ophelia Benson, Greta Christina, Rebecca Watson, Jen McCreight, and Ashley Miller, along with many other brave women, deserve better.

    All of the women who have had their concerns dismissed, their experiences denigrated or denied, their veracity called into question, who have been blamed for being subjected to sexist bullshit and sexual harassment, deserve better.

    This. Very well said & seconded by me.

  3. says

    UFOs? Oh, no UFDs… right.

    Thanks for writing this, this is respectful and respect-demanding. Screw the people who won’t like to hear what, as you say, is so blindingly obvious we shouldn’t need to be having this conversation.

    One thing we’ve been talking about here, regarding harassment policy, is basic HR policy. In the past I’ve asked if some of the the broader blogosphere’s problems could be addressed if we simply recognized that these issues have always been around and have been addressed before. ( http://scienceblogs.com/gregladen/2012/05/13/does-the-internet-need-an-hr-d/ )

    DJ Grothe deals in indulgences. He gets money from various funding sources (and the foundation) and spends it on anointing people (as TAM guests) or funding various organizations. Loyalty is cheap, most of the time. TAM is what it is because that is how it was designed to be by those who created it. (It is of course a lot of things, many good, I’m sure.) But it was created, bought, and paid for by this system. There is no talking sense into an ingrained system, and that may be why what is so blindingly obvious is utterly absent. It seems enigmatic until one realizes that the harassment is supposed to be there.

    Or at least, that’s my current attempt to explain what I’m seeing. Damn patriarchy.

  4. CT says

    Or at least, that’s my current attempt to explain what I’m seeing.

    I’m new to the party but that’s what I’m seeing too. Lots of what seems to be corporate bullshit.

    Damn patriarchy.

    This.

  5. says

    This is really starting to piss me off. It’s getting out of hand. If it isn’t alleged “skeptics” who act like their toys are being taken away when someone tells them to at least simulate adulthood, it’s Lisa Brown banned from Congress for saying vagina.

    I once thought racism was pretty much on the out, until Barack Obama was elected and the reality became all too clear. Elevatorgate had a similar effect on my understanding of the prevalence of misogyny. I looked at the comments that were said in response to “Guys, don’t do that, it’s creepy” and a little light went on.

    OK, so we’ll spell it out at events, and as individuals we’ll stop letting misogynistic behavior pass by. The kindest thing I can say is that it’s a real struggle to see clearly through the distortion of a cultural lens we’ve worn all our lives. But think about it, guys; put yourself in the other person’s place. This crap has got to stop.

  6. Timid Atheist says

    Thank you for standing with the rest on this, Dana. I’ve enjoyed your writing since I found you via FTB and I’m glad to see that I can continue to enjoy your writing knowing that you support other people whom I’ve grown to enjoy reading and can respect as skeptics, atheists and activists.

    I’ve been watching this unfold with a sick twist in my stomach. For an atheist woman who is in the closet because of bullshit laws that require judges to look at spiritual fitness to ensure children are being well taken care of by their parents, this is just another rock being thrown at my bruised ego.

    It hurts to see that a community I’d like to be a part of has a portion of voices that are trying to shout down treating others with respect and decency.

    • Onamission5 says

      “bullshit laws that require judges to look at spiritual fitness to ensure children are being well taken care of by their parents”

      WTFingF? I am livid on your behalf.

  7. says

    And this long, arduous battle is why I’ve largely resigned from the atheist/skeptic movement.
    It’s not fun, and I’m tired of fighting.
    I, too, have been met with disbelief, derision, and/or people making excuses for the other people (misogynists, etc.) when I tried to fight against it.

    Thank you for keeping up the fight.

    I just don’t have the energy anymore.

    But, I am cheering you on from the sidelines.

    • says

      One of my favorite bloggers and Podcasters, BlueGal of the Professional Left Podcast, reminds her listeners every other week or so that it is OK to take a break every once and awhile. Fighting the good fight is tiring and stressful and oftimes thankless. If you have been on the front for awhile, no one blames you for needing a breather. ;)

  8. Onamission5 says

    You said, “I don’t feel I’ve got the talent it takes to lead this fight, but I’m more than happy to be one of the troops.”

    Me, too. I’d add that I don’t think I have the internal constitution to shoulder the metric shit-ton of vitriol dished out against those who do step into leadership roles. I’ve had a mere micro fraction of that aimed in my direction both in meatspace and on line, and I can’t take it, it fucks me up for days if not weeks, I’m too squishy on the outside and get too angry to make clearly worded or reasoned responses. That said, I also just cannot sit back and keep quiet. So, I am trying to thicken my skin, shore up my resources of knowledge, and remind myself that even if I’m the only one who speaks up in a given situation, I’m still not alone.

    It’s hard. Emotionally brutal sometimes. Letting business as usual continue though is harder. Thanks for taking a stand.

  9. rq says

    The ‘cool’ kids are overrated.
    If I wore a hat, I would take it off and bow before thee in respect.

  10. Bjarte Foshaug says

    If nothing else, the next idiot who asks why more women aren’t attending skeptical conferences can get a very clear answer. As Tracie from The Atheist Experience puts it:

    As long as their behavior isn’t outside legal boundaries, it’s up to the hosts what they will endorse and ask the rest of their audience to endure. However, I expect you won’t mind me laughing at you if you should be so foolish as to ask me why I’m not attending the latest skeptic/atheist convention. You’ve got to be kidding—sincerely kidding—if you’re asking me that. I’d loathe to attend it. And I find the more compelling question “Why would anyone subject himself/herself to a group that contains a fair number of publicly outspoken members who consider their right to be rude to the other guests at a social event, to be more compelling than the overall comfort of the group of guests as a whole?”

  11. says

    I just, I don’t get it.

    I mean, I do, but I’m upset to see it coming from the Athiest crew. Confused, really.

    I could understand it from folks with “God Said So” as their reason for insisting women are inferior (not condone, not agree, not apologize for but at least understand), but from people who proclaim themselves as skeptics and Athiest, I just don’t get it. What science does this belief come from? What imperical evidence does one bring to the table for “girls shouldn’t make me feel icky for making them feel icky cause they’re just girls”?

    I just don’t get it.

    • GBJames says

      I find it rather depressing, too. But sadly, just because you don’t believe in deities doesn’t mean you have a well-tuned sense of ethics. I watched part of “The Great Penis Debate” linked to at the beginning of this post and came away dismayed at the cluelessness of some people.

      I am impressed by the (mostly) women who are speaking out against this crap. This kind of nonsense has gone on too long.

  12. movablebooklady says

    Very impressive post. Thanks. Inspired me to make a (very small) donation. Would have been more but the timing is off for that — senior on soc.sec.

    Maybe that would be a good topic sometime — those of us who are old but longtime feminists/atheists and the historical perspective we have on how sexual harassment has changed over time. Hint: we’re pretty invisible to men now but we weren’t always.

  13. Radi says

    With you 150% on this, Dana. We met very briefly at the Dawkins speech at the high school in the Factoria/Bellevue area back on April 1st 2012 – I was the volunteer who fan-gushed over you when I realized I was actually in the presence of one my blogging icons, while marking off people who’d already paid their entrance fee to that talk.

    Anyway, just wanted to say hello, and I agree and please keep up the good work. If the leader or foot soldier in this battle needs a flunky, I’m right here :)