Quantcast

«

»

Feb 05 2013

Definitely Not Equal

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.

 

pzmyers  /  February 4, 2013, 2:20 pm Log in to Reply

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.

Artist's conception of Noctis Labyrinthus in the Valles Marineris system of canyons. Valles Marineris is as long as the United States and up to four miles (7km) deep. It is also not a large enough rift to place between myself and those who believe women in the secular movement should shut up and take their abuse. Image courtesy NASA

Artist’s conception of Noctis Labyrinthus in the Valles Marineris system of canyons. Valles Marineris is as long as the United States and up to four miles (7km) deep. It is also not a large enough rift to place between myself and those who believe women in the secular movement should shut up and take their abuse. Image courtesy NASA

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.

Important!

First time commenting? Take a moment to acquaint yourself with the cantina comment policy.

16 comments

Skip to comment form

  1. 1
    oolon

    Your comment policy link doesn’t work, so hopefully as a first time commenter pointing that out is not against the policy ;-)

    Anyway feel I need to add something else, so I’d say I agree. Would be interesting to see an explanation from those bystanders who “abhor” the tactics, language, photoshopping etc of the people they interact with on various fora and how they justify that. Looks a whole lot like the kids at school who were not bullies but made damn sure they were friends with those throwing the punches so they were not at the other end of them. Understandable, but not helping solve the problem.

  2. 2
    rq

    *applause*
    Well, I’m on your side of the rift, if that counts for anything. :)

  3. 3
    StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return!

    Well said Dana Hunter, seconded by me.

    PS. Love the illustration – literally and as a metaphor – that you added with the Noctis Labyrinthus.

  4. 4
    StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return!

    @ 1. Oolon :

    Your comment policy link doesn’t work, so hopefully as a first time commenter pointing that out is not against the policy ;-)

    Well it worked for me so maybe its already been fixed? But if not try :

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/entequilaesverdad/comment-policy/

    found via the sidebar on the left under pages. And, no, nothing there about pointing out bad links or first time commenters!

  5. 5
    Scr... Archivist

    …as for presenting a united front because numbers, you can forget it.

    I don’t buy the numbers argument either. There don’t really seem to be that many vocal pro-harassment types out there. They’re just very loud, digitally duplicated, and seem to do nothing else with their time. Look at the two recent petitions, and you’ll see they may make up less than five percent of the active atheosphere.

    Remember that this whole fight is about bringing in new people to the atheist/secular/skeptical field. Our side of the rift wants more participants, and the other side wants fewer. Successfully bringing in thousands (tens of thousands?) of women, trans people, people of color, working-class people, people in the Global South, and others over the years and decades is definitely worth the loss of a few hundred (a few dozen?) bigots today. It’s not even a hard decision.

  6. 6
    A Hermit

    I’ve been saying for some time now that on one side I see people who are upset about the effect of sexism in this community and on the other are people who are upset that anyone would talk about sexism in this community.

    Anyone who sees an equivalence between those two positions is missing the point in a rather spectacular way…

  7. 7
    Trebuchet

    As a guy, I keep trying to tell myself that these morons are simply a small, stupid, loud minority. Unfortunately it keeps getting harder and harder. I don’t even read most of the posts about this stuff because it makes me too angry and upset. I’m ashamed of my sex.

  8. 8
    sardiorruby

    Well said Dana! You know I’m in your camp. I think the other camp may be plagued with mono-theistic tentacles rotting in the corners of their brains. I don’t know what else it could be. Anyone of real reason would know that there is no difference in reasoning power except in the cases where those tentacles have been decaying… well then, I guess that answers that. They are losing reasoning power. ;-)

  9. 9
    Onamission5

    *applause*
    Thank you.

    As for a rift deep enough to put necessary distance, I’d say the vast chasm of space between earth and, say, Alpha Centauri might suffice. No wait, I can still see a glimmer, keep going… a little further… a little further… *blip* that’s good.

  10. 10
    miles

    I suspect it’s a certain mindset that drives these people – the “I’m the smartest person alive and everything I do is right”. When I was a teenager I knew quite a few people like that (was one, for a while). Anything contrary to their existing opinions won’t get in – it just infuriates them or makes them think “you dumb, me smart”. Big cognitive hurdles are jumped to recast the threatening information as wrong or evil. They live in another world – that much is clear. Just another reason for no Khitomer Accord – you unfortunately have to at the very minimum be in the same universe.

  11. 11
    NateHevens, resident SOOPER-GENIUS... apparently...

    miles @ #10:

    you unfortunately have to at the very minimum be in the same universe.

    Do we?

    If the whole idea of the multiverse is true, maybe we could go find a universe where sexism doesn’t exist? I’d like that. I think that kind of distance might be enough, as long as we hide our technology from them so they can’t follow us.

    Back here in reality, however…

    Dana, well said. You are 100% correct and I’m quite glad you wrote this. The both-sidesers can fuck off.

    Maybe somebody needs to take this picture and make one for the whole Deep Rifts thing. It describes the both-sidesers pretty accurately, IMO.

  12. 12
    bad Jim

    It’s not really surprising that people flip out at the very mention of feminism. It’s been going on for thousands of years. A commenter at Phil Plait’s Bad Astronomy said “I can’t believe I’m reading about feminism on a science blog”, as though he had a personal complaint, as though the very subject matter put the reader at risk of cooties.

    The abuse that feminists endure is so well known that it’s lost its ability to shock, that good people can even say that if you haven’t been shot in the head or had acid thrown in your face you don’t have a reason to complain. Matters may not be quite as existential where we live, but the issues tend to be much the same.

    The affair of Sarah Parmenter, mentioned by P.Z. Myers and Ophelia Benson, makes it clear that the problem is much worse. Not only is the very presence of women in fields heretofore reserved to men considered unacceptably offensive, but even there it’s presumed that women are targets for abuse.

    The solution is probably to hire more women, to subvert expectations. Recently a new doctor visited my geriatric mother, and the caregiver who wasn’t there asked “So what did he say?” Umm, as it happens …

  13. 13
    Bjarte Foshaug

    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.[...] 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.

    This may very well be the truest thing I have ever read. In fact, I suspect that “Fourty-two” is the answer to the question: “On a scale from zero to fourty, how strongly do agree with the above quote?”

  14. 14
    peicurmudgeon

    Just for the record, this is another atheist who is hoping the haters end up on a small island and drift away into total irrelevance.

  15. 15
    Emptyell

    You rock Dana! (Pun intended.)

    peicurmudgeon, I suspect the geology of that small island won’t even be very interesting. Probably just the accumulation of so much guano.

  16. 16
    Natasha

    Ah yes the self proclaimed centrists ho are sure that if you just listen to them and be very polite everything will be fine. The problem is that it only works if both sides respect each other. hen one side has nothing but venomous hate for the other the centrists strategy is a non starter.

    There are times that the only compromise your opponents nat is your total surrender on their terms. My reaction to that is fuck’m, I’ll stand for my right to exist and live my life and be very vocal about that. I will not be polite or try to find the non-existent middle ground. I will oppose their attempts to oppress me and mine with ever fiber of my being. There is no equivalence between the side that wants to maintain their unearned privileges by violently suppressing the other.

    All this is my long winded way of saying I totally agree with you Dana, there can be no compromise or accommodation with these misogynist scum.

Comments have been disabled.