There’s this thing guaranteed to jam my rage button in the on position, and it’s when supercilious people whine, “But both sides do it!” in response to whatever outrageous behavior is noticed to be deepening the rifts in atheism at the moment.
Let’s see what both sides are up to. I see we have Rebecca Watson getting sent an image suggesting in the most graphic terms possible that she’s an object that should be sold to violent rapists at bargain prices. Gosh. That’s certainly some cogent criticism right there. Very reasoned. Oh, and here we have a whole sparkling collection of wit and erudition, crowned with some intellectual’s amazing trifecta of sexism, ageism, and violence (see here for the reason why acid isn’t referring to the stuff that takes you on trips. No, this Pitter is referring to the kind that takes you to the hospital with your flesh melting off your body).
And on this side… well, there’s that total witch hunt against Michael Shermer that consisted of a brief criticism of something he said, which is completely beyond the pale judging from his ongoing howls of outrage, and there was that one time that someone once angrily invited an anonymous opponent to go die in a fire. Oh, also, we try to talk people in to seeing women as human beings, deserving of being treated as something more than sex objects, sandwich factories, decorative items, and incubators. We ask people not to use gendered epithets and not to denigrate people by using feminine terms. We’re so meaaaannn.
I will state, for the record, this fact: There is no equivalence between these two sides. A few people believe there must be because the comment threads can get downright rude – rude, I tell you! – when someone says something out of bounds. But that’s not equal to a years-long campaign of rape threats, gendered slurs, abuse, and stalking.
Ah, but perhaps those bleating about “both sides” just haven’t seen the abuse because it happens overwhelmingly to women, and if you’re a woman who raises her head above the parapet, you’ve earned those brickbats upside the noggin – amirite, ladies? Perhaps since this totes doesn’t happen to men who side with teh ladiez, we don’t need to – oh. Whoops.
They don’t. I’ve seen the difference.
I’ve drawn just as much negative attention as those two (I’d argue even more, but let’s just pretend we have parity in the drawing fire department).
A few years ago, I was deluged with email from pissed off Christians. It was often angry, there were death threats, but most of it was pious “I’ll pray for you” and “you’re going to hell” crap. Most of it was from the short attention span crowd: they’d see some accusation from Bill Donohue or Ken Ham, and whip out the angry letter to denounce me.
It was annoying, and it was stupid. But I shrugged it off.
When I started defending feminist thought, though, that all changed. I have never before received the kind of vile shit I get now; Christians might accuse me of being gay and hellbound, but they don’t tend to send me explicit photos with my face photoshopped in for various parts of the anatomy (my face isn’t always pasted onto the porn stars head!)
I now get email accusing me of being a woman.
Think about that. This is the horrible awful insult they want to browbeat me with; that I am a woman. Not even the creationists ever sunk to that; I think it’s part of their mindset that women are lesser beings, but they don’t use “woman” as a dirty word.
Then there are the crude sketches of me with breasts, of being raped anally, of servicing men orally. I thought my opposition was contemptible before, but it never reached the magnitude of abuse that I’m now getting from self-proclaimed atheists in the skeptic and atheist community. And these people are obsessed. It’s not just a burst of hatred from scattered individuals who then go about their business…it’s lunatics who hate with a passion and sneer on blogs and fora and twitter accounts dedicated to expressing their contempt for FtB, for feminists, for me personally.
So yeah, I had no idea what it was like to be hunted and harassed before, either. Now I do. And I also know that what I get now is mild compared to what outspoken women get.
So that’s your “both sides.” One side dishes out endless abuse to women and their allies for daring to talk about how women are treated now and how that treatment could be improved. The other side… receives endless abuse and sometimes says something rude or heated. One side sees accusing someone of being a woman as a terrible insult. The other side sees a problem with this.
There is no equality here.
Back when this first started, I’d hoped people would come to their senses and the rifts would heal. Now it’s become clear that certain of the atheist community are fully entrenched in their spite and hatred and contempt of women and anyone who allies with women, I doubt there’s a rift deep enough.
As our own Jason Thibeault said, there can be no Khitomer Accord. Not with people who treat women and trans folk and anyone they decide must be punished for stepping out of line with such dehumanizing contempt. Not with those who happily go on enabling them. People worried about rifts are welcome to head on over to this side and leave the haters behind on their own private island. But there is no middle to meet in. No equivalence. Nothing to tempt me to build bridges. I’m sure we’ll occasionally bump in to each other when signing petitions regarding secular matters, and that’s fine, but as for presenting a united front because numbers, you can forget it. I’m not interested in standing shoulder-to-shoulder with people who feel comfortable using my sex as an insult and a commodity.
And that’s why I wanted to stick my spade in the rift and lever out another chunk of soil. I’d much rather be talking about geology and birds and plants and all that sort o’ thing, but silence on these matters enables the haters to claim more support than they have got. I don’t want them pointing at this blog when they want to appear fair and say that some blogs on FtB aren’t all bad (meaning those blogs don’t talk about that icky feminist stuff). I don’t want them around here. I don’t want their behavior shrugged off and tolerated and excused. So I’ll take time away from the things I’d rather do and state, for the record, that I will help work toward an atheist movement where people who engage in their tactics cannot be considered members in good standing.
If that earns me a photoshop hit job and endless streams of bile, so be it. I consider it ammunition. It’s quite handy for presenting to fence-sitters and both-sidesers, and seeing if they can continue calls for neutrality and claims that “both sides” do awful things when it’s crystal clear only one side is so very vicious.