Lest We Forget: Dawkins Wanted to Silence People On Shermer

Ophelia mentioned this before in one of her comments. Now she has a post up on the wall of silence that’s gone up round Shermer, and has included this jaw-dropping bit of fuckery:

Another datum on that: before all this, before the Oppenheimer article, even before the “let’s rank kinds of rape and if you don’t like it go away and learn how to think” tweets – at the end of our email conversation that resulted in the joint statement, Dawkins asked me to dissuade people from spreading the “libellous allegation that Michael Shermer is a rapist or a sexual predator.”

I must say, I stared at the screen in shocked disbelief for quite awhile when that came in. What was I supposed to do, tell people who reported their own experiences to stop doing that? On what authority? On the basis of what knowledge? I don’t know that they are not telling the truth, do I.

I so badly wanted to reply with something along the lines of “How would that be different from what the bishops have been doing for decades?” But that would have been a bad beginning to the post-joint-statement situation, so I didn’t…quite. I pointed out that these were first-person accounts and that I didn’t know they weren’t true, so I couldn’t dismiss them. I did conclude with “It’s too reminiscent of the Catholic church and the rapey priests.” I haven’t heard from him since.

Keep in mind, this was about a year after various unconnected sources came forward and said that Shermer had harassed and/or assaulted them. And he’s still busy covering Shermer’s ass. Even after so many women have come forward under their own names, he still won’t admit there may be something to this. And the little hyperskeptic lickspittles he’s got crowded round his feet are happy to help out, demanding evidence well beyond what they’d require to denounce a homeopath.

I used to get rather upset with smarmy religious assholes calling Dawkins our pope, but that’s exactly what he’s acting like – right down to covering for sexual abusers.

no-game-no-life-anime

“There Is the Great Disappointment”

You know, I never thought I’d see the day when PZ Myers, the fire-breathing atheist whose passion for science and reason launched me full-tilt at science blogging, would despair of the atheist movement. But here that day is:

There is the great disappointment. The movement, whose whole premise demands a sweeping change of the culture, has discovered that it is far easier to defend the status quo than to change it. We’re willing to ask other people to think long and hard about their beliefs, to question and change, but all that other stuff that our culture planted in our heads, like beliefs about the sexes and races, like the rigid gender binary, like the suitability of women to thinking critically, like the automatic conferral of status by wealth, like the dehumanization of people who look like they might have had different great-grandparents than us, like the utility of simply killing people who disagree with us…oh, no, don’t ask us to change. We’re just here to promote atheism! One thing at a time! Once we’ve cleared away the deadwood of religion, then maybe we can think about encouraging a rational world that will have those nice things you’re talking about. Atheism is only about separation of church and state issues, or only about science and naturalism, or only about scholarly discussion of the accuracy of ancient texts, or only about fighting the barbarous customs of non-Western peoples…it’s only about the non-existence of gods, we can’t possibly consider side issues, like the harassment of women or the oppression of black communities or the diminishing educational opportunities of the poor, to be part of our brief!

Well, I’ve got news for the atheist movement: it all matters.

[snip]

I will make a prediction, right here and now. The number of people identifying as “nones” will grow in this country in coming years, because we’re on the right side of history, and because organized religion is happily in the process of destroying itself with regressive social attitudes, scandals, and their bizarre focus on other-worldly issues that don’t help people. The number of people identifying as atheists will stagnate or even shrink, because organized atheism is happily in the process of destroying itself with regressive social attitudes, scandals, and their bizarre focus on irrelevant metaphysical differences that don’t help people.

I can’t say that’s a bad thing. The name of atheism has been burdened with unfair and inaccurate stigma for a great many years, and we’re now drifting into an era in which atheism will be burdened with a totally fair and accurate stigma.

Unless we change.

I don’t know that we can.

Image is a grayscale photo of a cat with its head in its paws. Caption says, "I has a sad."

And it’s not just PZ, or the people he mentions within his post, who are disillusioned. I’ve seen comments from a goodly number of people who are either walking away or walked a long time ago. These are people who could be contributing to the movement: volunteers, donors, activists that we’ve lost because the leaders of our orgs can’t extract their heads from their asses. (Perhaps they would understand what right shits they’ve been if they read this excellent poem by our own Digital Cuttlefish. I value my continued existence too much to hold my breath, thought.)

I think the current incarnation of movement atheism is going to perish. It’s too self-satisfied, too unrepentantly sexist, too hostile to people of color, too ignorant of the poor, too opposed to social justice, to survive to the next generation. The churches are losing people who are needlessly cruel to others, dogmatically refuse to change, and then wonder where all the young people went. The atheist orgs will find themselves facing the same problem. They’ll be wondering where the women, the people of color, the majority of the LGBTQ folk have gone. They’ll sneer and say “Good riddance!” when they realize we’ve ended up over here, on the opposite side of the rift. They’ll retreat to their own enclaves, and they will think they’re important, but they won’t be the ones making a difference.

We will.

Because, despite disillusionment, we know that what we’re doing is necessary. It’s important. It matters.

Listen to RQ, answering PZ’s despairing “I don’t know that we can” with a firm yes, we can:

I can’t afford to believe that we can’t. None of us can (in my opinion). That being said, it’s awfully difficult sometimes. But I refuse to give up all hope, even if I have to force myself to do so with a conscious, bull-headed effort. I can’t afford to.

Maybe I’m not old or tired or worn out enough yet, but the day I give up all hope will be a day I die a death far more meaningful than the physical one. And I don’t think I will like myself after that day.

We won’t give up. We’ll just take our activism and our dollars and our passion elsewhere.

Listen to George Wiman, who lays out some options:

I’m sure not going to start believing in gods because a bunch of atheists are sexist yobs. I’m stuck as an atheist whatever the “movement” does. So I could disavow atheism and embrace “humanism” (which is too kind to religion for my taste)

Keep my head down and still my voice.

Identify as a humanist atheist or an A+ or something else which says “Keep your gods and your oppressive culture too.”

There’s the third option. We’ll be over here, taking our atheism and building something of value. We’ll be working on a better moral foundation. We’ll be applying our critical thinking skills to our society and culture. We’ll be going beyond realizing there’s no gods, and asking what comes next.

Listen to consciousness razor, who knows that atheism is a beginning, not a finish line:

We should* all realize, as atheists, that we have to take it upon ourselves to make the world a better place. No benevolent magic being is going to do it for us, and there also aren’t demons or some such which we can blame the bad stuff on. And there are no other (not god-like) mysterious, purposeful forces at work, which guides things toward a certain end. And we don’t get second chances, because death is a real thing that happens, not only a transition to some other kind of reality. So there really is no other good option. That’s our job as good rational human beings, because we cannot consistently come up with a good excuse for not doing it. If you’re not buying into that, yet call yourself an “atheist” anyway, what legitimate reason do you actually have to justify any of it?

*But obviously, we don’t all in fact do what we should. That’s not surprising in the least, or any reason to be “disillusioned.”

I’m disappointed, but not disillusioned. I expected better of our leaders, but I’m not surprised they didn’t deliver. And there will definitely be disappointments going forward, but they won’t stop me. It’s like Jon Scalzi says:

I think internalizing the fact that no opinion/belief/enthusiasm inoculates either you or anyone else from the baser aspects of the human condition, or the larger social milieu in which we all exist, is probably a very smart thing to do. It helps manage the disappointment when the cool new group you find yourself with is eventually revealed to be full of flawed and fallible human beings, and it helps to free you from the initial desire to rationalize shitty behavior within a group merely for the sake of identity politics. And on the rare occasions when everyone in the group is actually good and decent, it allows you to appreciate just how nice that really is.

All this bullshit? It’s been a booster shot. If the people who are supposedly leading movement atheism are terrible failures, so be it. There have been terrible people in every social movement. We can brush them aside and continue the necessary work. They don’t define us, and they won’t end our good work.

PZ’s the one who inspired me all those years ago. He lit the fire. He turned me into an unapologetic atheist. He rekindled my passion for science and gave me the conviction and the courage to blog it. He showed me that we could forge a better world without gods. He gave me hope. And I’ll be damned if I let a few assholes in the movement take that away. I don’t care if we have to tear the entire movement down and rebuild it from the foundation up. I don’t care how much that makes smug assholes like Dawkins and Harris howl, I don’t care how much it makes reported serial sexual harassers like Shermer shriek. I don’t care how many fuckwads scream and whine and try to flood our channels with death and rape threats. This isn’t their movement. They don’t get to define it.

Over the next several weeks, I won’t let up on the supposed leaders who are failing so spectacularly. But I’m not here to only tear down, but to build up. I’ll be bringing people and organizations to your attention who are doing excellent work. I’ll be finding work that deserves our support. In the coming months, I’ll be tracking down books and podcasts to replace those the ones we found invaluable before their creators turned out to be such spectacular failures as human beings. I’ll be giving you some humor boosts, and hopefully helpful memes with which to illustrate your own posts about the Deep Rifts™.

We don’t need the leaders who have failed us. We have each other. And we have it within us to change the world.

Let’s do this thing.

Image is a grayscale cat with round dark steampunk sunglasses. Caption says, "Let's do this!"

Sponsor Jamila Bey, And She’ll Talk About All the Verboten Topics!

Let’s do something positive for public atheism: sponsor Jamila Bey! This sounds awesome:

“The Sex Politics And Religon Hour: SPAR with Jamila Show” considers all the topics one was never supposed to raise in polite company. It’s coming back as a podcast. You can be part of its glorious relaunch!”

Says it all, doesn’t it? If you want more information on the project, or want to pledge your support, visit her Beacon page. But do it fast – the fundraiser ends tomorrow!

Image shows Jamila Bey looking over her shoulder and grinning.

Photo of Jamila Bey from her G+ page.

This is the kind of thing we can throw our support to, with so many of the atheist orgs treating us like they can have their sexist bullshit and our dollars, too. Let’s support independent atheists who can put together the kind of media that will inspire whole new batches of freethinkers while feeding our own need for change:

We’ll discuss the more interesting things in our world and our lives. These shows and blog posts will investigate the role of race, gender, political affiliation and other alleged private beliefs and assumptions that bear upon the news and newsmakers.

If you can, please do go throw some funds Jamila’s way. Search for her videos on YouTube. And if you want to learn how to pronounce her name and get a taste of her merciless humor, watch this all the way through. (Just don’t come crying to me about how meaaan she is if you’re a Republican, cuz you earned every damn word.)

“We Are Not Holding Sam Harris or Richard Dawkins to Some Impossible Standard”

Continuing the theme of expecting better, here’s Tony on standards and the possibility thereof:

As I started to compose this comment, I thought: we’re not asking much of people like Dawkins and Harris. That all people are asking is that they listen to what we’re saying. That they open themselves up to criticism and accept that they can be wrong. That they peel back their layers of privilege and recognize the signs of the internalized sexism they’ve carried with them their entire lives.

But then I thought:

Framing it that way appears as if this is an easy task.
I remember when I started confronting my biases. It *wasn’t* easy. I remember when I started seeing how women were treated. When I started listening to what women were saying. When I started recognizing the signs of sexism.
I was horrified.
It was everywhere.
I couldn’t escape it.
I couldn’t go to work and escape it.
I couldn’t go to a gay bar and escape it.
I couldn’t go to the movies or turn on the tv and escape it.
I saw it in the way people dressed.
I saw it in the way people acted.
I saw it in the way people spoke.
I saw it in the way people interacted.

One of the most striking moments for me came when I was sitting at a local gay bar and having a conversation with a friend. We were talking about effeminate gay men and drag queens and dating sites and more. This was maybe 2 years ago. I’d accepted that feminism was a worthy cause and was becoming comfortable calling myself one. But I was still in the process of understanding the sexist views I had.

Well one of those sexist views up and slapped me across the head right then and there.

I realized as my friend and I spoke, that all those people talking about how they won’t date a “girly gay man”…
•or those times when I said that phrase, followed by “I want to date a man bc he’s a man. I don’t want a date a man who acts like a girl”…
•or those people who put at the top of the Adam4Adam, Manhunt, or Grindr profile “not interested in nellie men, only want masculine men”
…I realized then and there that we…I…was trapped in thinking about gender in very rigid terms. I realized that I thought “men are supposed to be this way, and women are supposed to be this way”. I thought that any deviation from that was wrong. I thought that there was something wrong with a man acting like a woman, or having traits or characteristics typically associated with women. I realized how deep sexism ran. It runs so deep it affects how we view ourselves, as well as the people around us. It shapes our opinions of our friends, our family, our coworkers, even strangers.
It.
Runs.
Deep.

Reflecting on that, I realize now, that we *are* asking for a lot from Dawkins and Harris.

But you know what?
We’re not asking the impossible.

[snip]

I…We are not holding Sam Harris or Richard Dawkins to some impossible standard. We’re holding them to same standard we hold ourselves and others to. They continue to fail to measure up to that standard.

One day I hope they’ll recognize what they’re doing and dig deep…deep into their core and realize that they have some shit to come to terms with. I hope they do this because not believing in gods is NOT. FUCKING. ENOUGH.

Read the whole thing.

Image shows a black kitten poking its head up over a fence with big, eager eyes. Caption reads, "K, I not beweive in any gawds. Nao wut?"

Adorable kitten photo by Tony Alter via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

And for those who haven’t done the hard work yet: yes, it sucks. What Tony said up there about confronting biases, and recognizing sexism, and being horrified because it’s bloody everywhere? That’s truth. It is horrible, especially when you realize you’re not exempt. I’ve been there and go through that daily: finding new pockets of sexism left by a lifetime living in this sexist culture, and having to scrape them out of myself. It’s like having an infection in your jawbone, and every time you think it’s gone, it comes back, or your hygienist finds yet another bit of it that has to be tediously and painfully scraped out. It’s not fun. It’s not pleasant. But ignoring it doesn’t make the problem go away: it makes it worse.

Getting over gods is a great start, but it’s only a beginning. Once the gods are gone, we’re left with people, and civilization, and all of the imperfections that plague both. I’m sorry, but losing religion doesn’t mean all problems are solved. Religion amplifies some of our worst qualities, but those are still human qualities, and they remain once religion is gone.

I used to think it would be easier to fix things like sexism and homophobia and racism once religion was gone. But looking at how so many of our atheist celebrities and their fans have reacted to even the most mild requests to please not make sexist assumptions or do sexist things, I’ve realized it can actually be harder. The men (and some women) who have let go of gods seem so assured of their own rightness that they refuse to listen to the people affected by their words and actions. They sneer at the evidence presented, although they pretend that evidence is important to them. They don’t question their assumptions. They don’t do the hard work, but worse, don’t believe they need to. They got what they feel is the most important question right. They coast on that. And when people don’t go along for the ride, they get pissed.

Having gone from oblivious asshole to painfully aware, I’m not willing to cut them any slack. If a headstrong peon like myself can do the hard work, the lofty intellects at the top are certainly capable of the same. Let’s demand they do it.

Image shows a puma with its paws crossed and its ears flattened, gazing at the camera as if disappointed and annoyed. Caption says, "We expect better of you than this."

Puma photo by Beatrice Murch via Flickr. (CC BY 2.0)

Why It Matters

I shall now shamelessly filch a bit of Ophelia’s pointed post, and Quote it For Truth. I ask that all the people who, now or in the future, wish to whine about how we’re so mean and if we don’t like it just ignore it, please pay attention. We can’t ignore big-name atheists when they indulge in this shit.

Ok wait a second, a partisan of the Dawkins-Coyne faction might say here. Hold on. Why have people been documenting the things Dawkins types? It’s just because you’re looking for fodder for click-bait, right? Right?

No. It’s because Dawkins matters. It’s because he’s not just some random atheist; he’s the most un-random atheist we’ve got. He is by far the most famous recognizable celebrity-like person in the Anglophone atheist movement. (Anglophone, please note. Michael Nugent keeps complaining that global atheism isn’t American atheism, as if we obnoxious Yanks had been pretending otherwise. No, of course it’s not. I’m talking about Anglophone atheism here.) Now an atheist celebrity isn’t a real celebrity by the usual standards; Dawkins isn’t a movie star or rock star or basketball star; but he is a celeb in this particular niche. He’s the celeb.

As such, he does a lot to set the tone of said atheist movement.

That tone sucks.

We – we naughty critics, we bad people who keep documenting what Dawkins says on Twitter – we would like to have a better atheist movement with a less sucky tone. We would like to have an atheist movement that’s not sometimes absent-mindedly and sometimes determinedly contemptuous of women. We think it would help if Dawkins set a better tone.

Or at least I do. I think the others do too; I think that’s basically why any of us do this; but I haven’t polled them and I don’t know that they would word it this way.
But I’m pretty sure that’s the gist of it. The atheist movement is way too riddled with casual sexism, and Dawkins has done a lot to make it that way, and we would like him to stop doing that and do the opposite instead.

I’m one of those others. That’s my motivation in a nutshell. So that’s at least two of us. I’ll eventually have a longer post up explaining why I take off after atheist leaders doing sexist (and other awful) things, but that’s the basics. We expect better, and we need them to do better, and they’re never going to if lots of people don’t demand better.

Image shows a puma with its paws crossed and its ears flattened, gazing at the camera as if disappointed and annoyed. Caption says, "We expect better of you than this."

Puma photo by Beatrice Murch via Flickr. (CC BY 2.0)

Attention Coyne, Dawkins, and Harris: You Are Part of the Problem

I’d like to ask a favor of anyone who can manage to get a critical viewpoint through the defenses of atheist celebrities like Harris and Dawkins: please get them to read Libby Anne’s infuriating and heartbreaking post, Do They Care about Women, or Simply Bashing Religion? Because it’s a question they need to address. They’re driving people like Libby Anne away from movement atheism. That is very much to the detriment of the movement.

Libby is one of the best atheist bloggers out there. I don’t always agree with her, but I have to put careful thought into why when that happens, because she’s a lot smarter and more thoughtful than I am. She emerged from the Christian patriarchy/Quiverfull culture, so she has insights into the extremes of fundamentalist Christianity that are invaluable. I’d not be blogging about Christianist textbooks or aware of the plight of kids trapped in that awful bubble if it wasn’t for her. She’s also my go-to person for showing that there are better ways to parent than hitting your children. She’s made me aware of just how relentlessly even mainstream culture genders kids, well before they’re old enough to even have a concept of themselves as boy or girl or something else. She’s worth a thousand Richard Dawkinses or Sam Harrises to me. She could be a tremendous asset to any atheist organization.

She could, but movement atheism is too busy patronizing women and making sure we all get the impression that we’re only of use to our Fearless Leaders™ when we’re being used as a cudgel against religion, and she wants none of that.

It is men like these who confirm my decision not to engage in movement atheism. Despite their claims, I don’t see them displaying a greater willingness to question their biases or engage in critical thinking. Frankly, I have felt for some time that atheist activists are frequently only willing to call out sexism when they see it in religion. It’s one more way they can point to how thoroughly horrible religion is as they call for its demise. But the moment an atheist woman says she has encountered sexism at atheist conventions or at atheist gatherings, she is lampooned and derided, called all manner of names and even threatened with rape or death. But isn’t this the kind of thing these same atheists criticize religion for?

Frankly, I feel used. These atheist activists are the sort of people who want to use my story as proof that religion is horrible to women but aren’t willing to listen to what I have to say about sexism in our culture at large. They are the sort of people who are eager to use the shooting of young education activist Malala Yousafzai by the Taliban to prove how horrible religion is for women but somehow fail to mention that Malala is a Muslim who speaks of drawing her inspiration to fight for gender equality from the Koran. This is not standing up for women. This is exploiting women as merely a tool in a fight against religion.

You know what, atheist dudes? Women are smart enough to see what you’re doing there, even if you’re not willing to remove your own blinders.

Image shows two cats in a box with their chins on the edge, looking toward the camera. Caption says, "We see what you did there."

We can tell when you don’t genuinely give a shit about us, and are only using us as a weapon against someone or something else. You think you’re amazing allies, because wow are you so brainy, and you say such wonderful things about how wrong those religious practices that fuck over women are, but when it comes to treating the women within your own movement better? You shriek and whine and shit all over us. You use the plight of those religious women against us, as if this is either/or, as if we cannot address sexism within western secular spaces until we’ve destroyed all the religion.

Bullshit.

You need to start paying attention to the women who are telling you they are not yours to use. People like Hiba. Her comment on Libby Anne’s post needs to be etched onto atheist leader dude’s mirrors, where they’re forced to read the words every day, until they get it:

Ex-Muslim woman of color here. I blog about this stuff over at the Freethought Blogs. Your words are affirming. I too, feel used. Especially when the plights of women like me–women raised in Muslim-majority countries, forced to cover, controlled and abused by militant Islamist organizations and individuals–are appropriated and used to bolster anti-feminism in the West, to minimize battles against harassment and unequal representation. I refuse to have my story used to attack and demean other women. I refuse to have my story used as a talking point for hypocritical anti-theists.

I seem to recall men looking round the atheist movement a few years ago and wondering where the women are. We’re right here, either outside the movement or heading for the doors, because we tried to come in, but you made the place so hostile many of us said fuck all y’all and walked out.

You, white male atheists who spend so much time screaming you’re not sexist that you can’t acknowledge when you’ve done sexist things and bloody well stop, are causing women to stomp out in disgust. Then you’re blaming us for not wanting to put up with your shit. It’s well past time you cut your pride down to size, swallowed some of it, and listened to what women are saying to you. Women like Hiba, and Libby Anne, and so very many others who’ve had it.

You want a strong, united movement? Then fix the problems you’ve caused. Until you do, I’ll just be hanging out here on this side of the Deep Rifts with the people who give an actual shit about women. I’d rather spend my time with those who are working their asses off to make themselves and our spaces better, not just for women, but people of color, LGBTQ folk, and a lot of other people you’ve trampled all over.

You can either join us over here, or enjoy your rabble of merry misogynists and your increasing irrelevance. It’s completely up to you.

Image is a black and white photo of two women at the rim of the Grand Canyon early in the 20th century. One is holding the back of the other's dress as she looks into the chasm. Caption says, "Yes, it's a very Deep Rift, but it definitely could get deeper."

Dear Richard Dawkins: Your “Hypothetical” Is Still Rape

What a sick, sad man you are, Richard. First, you run a Twitter tutorial in getting away with rape:

Image shows Dawkins lecturing with a screen behind him. Across the top of the screen is, "Moral: Make sure she stays unconscious, fellas." Below is a screenshot of two tweets from Richard Dawkins. First tweet says, "Raping a drunk woman is appalling. So is jailing a man when the sole prosecution evidence is 'I was too drunk to remember what happened.'" Second tweet says, "Don't EVER rape anyone, drunk or sober. But also, don't accuse anyone of a crime if you can't remember what happened (& no other evidence)." Below, on either side of his head, is the slogan, "It's only rape if she remembers."

My interpretation of Dawkins’s noxious opinions. The tweets are his own words.

Then a woman who was raped at the age of 14 comes forward to tell you how your “how to get away with rape” tweets harmed her, and all you can say is:

Image shows Dawkins lecturing with a screen behind him. Across the top of the screen is, "Moral: Make sure she stays unconscious, fellas." Below is a screenshot of two tweets from Richard Dawkins. First tweet says, "Yes, I believe you. Why would I not? Unlike the hypothetical case of my tweets, you have clear & convincing memories.'" There is a link to the New Statesman article. Second tweet says, "In my tweets I explicitly stated that I was considering the hypothetical case of a woman who testified that she COULDN'T REMEMBER." Below, on either side of his head, is the slogan, "It's only rape if she remembers."

Dawkins responds to a rape victim with all of his classic tact and care – I mean, defensive and arrogant whining. The tweets are his, the image is mine.

Image shows Dawkins lecturing with a screen behind him. Across the top of the screen is, "Moral: Make sure she stays unconscious, fellas." Below is a screenshot of two tweets from Richard Dawkins. First tweet says, "Obviously some drunk people remember well what happened. I was talking about a limited case where a witness admits she can't remember.'" Second tweet says, "Obviously some drunk people remember well what happened. I was talking about a limited case where a witness admits she can't remember." Below, on either side of his head, is the slogan, "It's only rape if she remembers."

And the arrogant, defensive whining continues, ending with a “Why didn’t you come to meeee in private?!!!” flourish.

I’m avoiding expletives here, because your poor brain shuts (further) down when you hear them directed at you. But I do have to say, you’re being such a reprehensible little… man. Instead of doing the right thing, saying “I’m sorry, rape is rape. I’m so sorry for the pain my sordid little not-hypothetical-until-I’m-called-out tweets have caused, I shall stop tweeting and go educate myself on these matters forthwith,” you just keep digging and digging. And you lied to her. Really, you did. You lied to her, and to us, when you said of course you believe, because really, you only believe because she’s making you look like the… quite awful person you are being, and additionally, hasn’t named one of your friends as her rapist. You’re pretending some memory is all the evidence you need to believe, but this is what you really believe:

Image shows Dawkins lecturing with a screen behind him. Across the top of the screen is, "Moral: Make sure she stays unconscious, fellas." Below is a screenshot of two tweets. First tweet is from Oolon and says, "Lucky this 14yr old had "clear and convincing memories" or @RichardDawkins wouldn't believe it was rape'" Second tweet says, "@oolon Well, would you believe it if she had unclear, unconvincing or non-existent memories? (Except that there was another witness)." Below, on either side of his head, is the slogan, "It's only rape if she remembers."

The rape-culture apologist emerges in full.

It’s not having no memory at all, is it, Richard? You’ve moved the goal posts. We must have “clear and convincing” memories, not mere memories. We must have a witness. Or we cannot say that the sex that happened without our consent is rape, much less report it to authorities. No, you want us to shut our mouths, because how terrible is it that a poor man who simply takes advantage of women (or anyone) while they’re too drunk to know what’s happening could be accused of rape? *delicate upperclass shudder* Why, if men were only allowed to have sex with people sober enough to enthusiastically consent, there would be fewer opportunities for men to get their jollies, and that’s just terrible!

As for those women who might enjoy getting drunk, or are perhaps too young and inexperienced to know our limits? He has advice for us, ladies:

Image shows Dawkins lecturing with a screen behind him. Across the top of the screen is, "Moral: Make sure she stays unconscious, fellas." Below is a screenshot of a tweet that says, ".@mrgregariously Exactly. If you want to drive, don't get drunk. If you want to be in a position to testify & jail a man, don't get drunk." Below, on either side of his head, is the slogan, "It's only rape if she remembers."

Shark. Jumped. Not that he hasn’t had plenty of practice in jumping cartilaginous fish lately.

That’s it, girls (and boys, and other genders who might like to have a few): in Dawkins’s world, we are not to get drunk if we wish to avoid sexual assault. And if we do get drunk, and someone decides to rape us, we are not to go crying to the courts about it. He may have done a no-no to you, but really, you shouldn’t ruin his life just because you were a wasted little slut he took advantage of.

Richard Dawkins, you love to pretend you’re one of the smartest men going. So tell me: how is it that you’re so profoundly, so willfully, so determinedly ignorant that you cannot understand that when a person is too intoxicated to consent to sex, sex should not happen at all? How can you fail to understand that if a person has sex with someone too intoxicated to consent, it is rape?

Let me repeat that: having sex with someone who is too intoxicated to consent is rape.

In your hypothetical*, where the woman can’t remember a thing and there is no evidence (of what? sexual intercourse?), she was too drunk to consent and if sex occurred, it was rape.

In the real world, when a person decides to take advantage of someone too impaired to understand what’s happening, and engages in any form of intercourse with them, that person has raped, and is now a rapist.

We can talk about courts and evidence and hypotheticals until we are brick red and lose our voices from screaming at each other, but at the end of all that, if someone is too intoxicated to consent, and one or more people decided to have sex with them in that state, that person was still raped.

Listen to the people who are trying to talk sense to you:

Image is a black rectangle. Across the top and bottom, it says, "Sex with a person too intoxicated to consent IS RAPE." In the center is a red square, with tweets pasted in on left side. Beth Lakin says, @RichardDawkins If you can't remember, you can't consent. So how do we handle the fact someone had sex with you without your consent?" Jeff the Kopite says, "@RichardDawkins @DefuseSec if one party is aware that the other is intoxicated and unable to give consent and still engages in sex, its rape." Danostrowski says, "yup @erasmuslijn @RichardDawkins "Fact: When intoxicated, an individual cannot legally consent to sexual activity." http://goo.gl/qplbYJ." Emma says, "@RichardDawkins if a woman is too drunk to even remember, she's too drunk to consent. Men take advantage of that situation. #ibelieveher." On the right is a silhoutte of a person who is falling over backwards with a bottle dropping from their hand.

People attempt to talk sense into Dawkins. I wish them the best.

And we don’t need the courts to find the evidence is beyond all reasonable legal doubt to decide whether or not to believe the victim who says they have been raped. We do not need a conviction in a court of law to decide whether or not we believe the victim who says they were raped by a specific someone. Tell you what, if you’re so worried about men getting accused of raping people who are too intoxicated to consent to sex, how about tweeting this remarkably simple solution:

IF YOU WANT TO AVOID BEING ACCUSED OF RAPING SOMEONE, DON’T HAVE SEX WITH A PERSON WHO’S BEEN DRINKING.

Easy, amirite?

How about this tweeting this one, too, Richard:

IF YOU WANT TO BE IN A POSITION TO AVOID BECOMING A RAPIST, DON’T RAPE.

And don’t forget to tweet what we’ve discussed here today:

SEX WITH A PERSON TOO INTOXICATED TO CONSENT IS RAPE.

It’s really that simple. Remarkable, isn’t it, how much clarity is achieved when we sweep aside all these byzantine and ever-changing rules for victims like, “Don’t ever get drunk under any circumstances,” and just tell potential rapists not to rape. No, not even if xir clothes are sexy. No, not even if xe’s passed-out dunk. No, not even you can screw xir without leaving a single bit evidence. No, not even if xe consented to kissing and then decided xe didn’t want to continue. No, not even if xe signals mere reluctance rather than screaming “NO!!!” and beating you to death with the nearest implement. If you don’t have crystal-clear consent, don’t have sex. Then you won’t ever have to worry about being a rapist.

And you can bloody well stop covering for them.

 

*Your hypothetical is bloody useless, because if she can’t remember a damned thing and there is no evidence of anything happening, that means we have a situation that will never ever happen anywhere on earth and we can bloody well ignore it.

Done with Dawkins

Blaming other people for their own rapes is a bright line for me. You don’t cross it. Back when Dawkins was being a complete asshole to women who wanted people in the movement to treat them with a modicum of respect, I didn’t write him off. I tried to explain why his statements were a problem. He didn’t listen to any of us who wrote to him, but several years later, he did help call for an end to threats and harassment, and I thought for a few seconds he’d seen a glimmer of light, before he went back to being a fuckwad again. But he hadn’t crossed the bright line just yet: he hadn’t explicitly blamed women for their own attacks.

Then he did.

Image shows two tweets from Richard Dawkins. First tweet says, "Officer, it's not my fault I was drunk driving. You see, somebody got me drunk." Second tweet says, "The REAL Rape Culture: 'All occurences of sexual intercourse are rape unless there is certified evidence to the contrary.'"

Tweets by Richard Dawkins, blaming the victims and dismissing rape. We are done here. Screenshots from Stephanie Zvan’s blog.

Some folks, like PZ, still tried to talk some sense into him. And failed.

I won’t even try.

It’s not a too-old-to-know-better issue. I can’t excuse him on that count.

Some folks, like Courtney Caldwell, are able to respond with mocking contempt. I’m too angry for that just yet.

Dawkins’s frantic back-peddling, pretending he thinks raping a drunk woman is abhorrent (but so is accusing someone of raping you while you’re drunk!), only sinks my opinion of him further. He’s trying to blow enough smoke to screen Shermer, and I have nothing but utter contempt for people who do that shit.

Image shows Dawkins lecturing with a screen behind him.  Across the top of the screen is, "Moral: Make sure she stays unconscious, fellas." Below is a screenshot of two tweets from Richard Dawkins. First tweet says, "Raping a drunk woman is appalling. So is jailing a man when the sole prosecution evidence is 'I was too drunk to remember what happened.'" Second tweet says, "Don't EVER rape anyone, drunk or sober. But also, don't accuse anyone of a crime if you can't remember what happened (& no other evidence)." Below, on either side of his head, is the slogan, "It's only rape if she remembers."

My interpretation of Dawkins’s noxious opinions. The tweets are his own words. The slogans are what potential rapists are hearing in his words.

Even if he hadn’t already been pressing Ophelia Benson to help him shut people up about Michael Shermer before Oppenheimer’s article, and continued his determination to defend an alleged rapist by spitting on the victims, those original statements mean we are done here. There is nothing he can say, nothing he can do, that will make amends for them – aside from a full and unqualified apology, followed by strong, sustained action on behalf of rape victims, which we will never get from him.

Dawkins is on the side of the rapists. I am finished with him. Why shouldn’t I be? He’s made his position crystal clear.

This tweet referencing the deleted tweet above is still visible:

Image shows two tweets. First tweet is from Zee Mhaskar and says, "OMG @RichardDawkins might fall in trouble again with feminists." Second tweet is from Dawkins, and says, ".@MhaskarChief With a certain kind of feminist, of course. Not with feminists who truly respect women instead of patronising them as victims."

Yes, that’s what he said. Listening to and believing women who report their experiences of sexism and misogyny and harassment and assault and offering them support in seeking social change to the attitudes that perpetuate sexism and misogyny and harassment and assault? That’s disrespecting women, and acknowledging the truth of anybody’s victimisation by anyone else is patronising them. But pretending that sexism and misogyny and harassment and assault is not really happening is truly respecting women!

That attitude is beyond reprehensible. But it is Dawkins’s attitude. Rape survivors such as myself can expect nothing but patronizing contempt from him, and a dismissal of our experiences. The people who supported me and helped me survive the aftermath, who got me back up and out in the world, who taught me that violence against women is the fault of the rapist only and that our culture can be changed to give people like my rapist condemnation rather than support, the folks who turned me into a feminist and gave me back my voice, all those people aren’t real feminists to Dawkins.

I know who the real feminists are. They are not Dawkins and his lackeys. No one on that side of the rift has anything to say to me, ever, unless it is, “I’m so sorry. I was wrong. What can I do to fix this?”

Dawkins is beyond hope at this point, and needs to be excised like a cancer if movement atheism wants to be more than an old boys club with a few chill girls and a reputation for being full of rapists and the men and women who love to let them get away with it.

I’m not speaking to him right here. I’m speaking to the few fans of his who may have a trace of decency left within them, and yet think his idea that being too drunk to consent means a woman is responsible for her own rape have some merit. I have a simple message I hope you’re still humane enough to hear: It doesn’t.

As FossilFishy said at Pharyngula:

For those playing along at home, it’s simple:

Sex without consent is rape.

Impairment due to alcohol removes the ability to consent.

Therefor sex with the impaired is rape.

It doesn’t matter how she got drunk, once she was impaired enough to be unable to give meaningful consent having sex with her is rape. To say she was responsible is victim blaming.

In case you’re still confused, Pteryxx at Pharyngula is here to help you further:

For background to those poor confused souls who just can’t understand how drinking too much alcohol could be anything less than a fully conscious and deliberate action on the part of the wanton woman rape victim. We had several long discussions last summer on just that. How an over-eager host topping off one’s wineglass can make you lose track of how many glassfuls you’ve had, with reference to the refilling-soup-bowl experiment. How bartenders or party hosts sometimes deliberately over-pour women’s drinks so that they’ll be softer targets for predatory bros. How traditional “girly” drinks contain a lot of fruit juice that covers the taste so the drink doesn’t seem as strong as it actually is.

From one such discussion: (link to comment)

I was responding to statements that the women involved should have known better than to get drunk. Having been in exactly the same situation (@ 194) — my glass never being empty– that one of the women described, I know it’s not that simple.

I love wine, but I’m a pretty careful drinker. When I order in a bar, I also order water and I stop at three glasses. But the night I got so drunk I didn’t finish even one glass. So the usual rule, a three-drink limit, didn’t ever get into play.

That “just know your limit and quit,” or “just make sure you also drink some water” can be deliberately subverted by sexual predators, even without spiking drinks. Putting all the onus on potential victims to keep total control of the situation, when the victims are dealing with someone who has studied and practiced ways to undercut that control, is a clear cut example, in my mind, of exactly how rape culture operates.

The potential rapist is allowed to use any trick in the book to get the victim drunk. It’s up to the victim to see through every trick and remain sober– but of course, all the while not even *suspecting* that the person manipulating her is a rapist until that’s been proven in a court of law.

Tilted playing field, much?

See also Almost Diamonds and some research…

Furthermore: if you don’t want to be called a rape apologist? Then don’t be one.

As for myself, I’m going to remove Dawkins’s books from my shelves. We’re done here.

So Much Wrong: James Randi’s Rape Culture Remarks

Interesting factoid: James Randi doesn’t think women are worth as much as men. Oh, I’m sure if I got hold of him on the phone, he’d deny that. Probably would have some wonderful words about how amazing women are and how much he respects them and equality and achievement and such. Problem is, if he spoke those words, I wouldn’t believe him. Neither does he, deep down.

Let’s look at the evidence, shall we? Here is what he told Mark Oppenheimer, who blew the lid off Shermer’s (alleged) career as a serial sexual harasser and assaulter.

But Shermer’s reputation really does precede him, and it predates the recent wave of attention given to sex crimes and sexual harassment. I reached the movement’s grand old man, 86-year-old James Randi, by telephone, at his house in Florida. Randi is no longer involved in his foundation’s daily operations, but he remains its chair, and he is a legend of the movement, famously not fooled by anybody. He seems not to be naïve about Shermer — although he’s not so troubled by him, either.

“Shermer has been a bad boy on occasion — I do know that,” Randi told me. “I have told him that if I get many more complaints from people I have reason to believe, that I am going to have to limit his attendance at the conference.

Oh, my. Let’s stop right here a moment. James Randi knew Shermer was, in his words, being “a bad boy on occasion.” Generally, when men talk about other men being “bad boys” in the context of a discussion on sexual harassment and assault, they mean that those “bad boys” were harassing women. Hitting on them. Making them uncomfortable by pressing unwanted advances, or molesting them, or making unwelcome sexual comments, or possibly getting them too drunk to consent or protest and then raping them. Men say other men are being “bad boys” when they don’t think it’s a very big deal, except that those wimminz are sooo sensitive, amirite fellas? And Shermer’s behavior was bad enough for Randi to threaten to “limit his attendance at the conference,” so the behavior Randi was aware of was probably not limited to unwanted flirting.

Randi didn’t give a shit about those women. If he had, he would have limited Shermer’s attendance at the first credible report. But the complaints of however many women – and it seems that there must have been more than one, considering the “on occasion” and “many more complaints” wording – weren’t enough for Randi to throw out his golden boy. No, a few, or a handful, of women being victimized just weren’t enough. He needed more. And those had to be “from people I have reason to believe,” because apparently a woman’s word is kind of hard to swallow, so they had to be reallyreally believable.

How much would you like to bet Randi would put more weight on a man’s word than a woman’s, and not even necessarily realize he was doing it?

And I’ll bet you further that if the believable complaints hit the magic number, he wouldn’t ban Shermer from speaking and eject him permanently from TAM. Nonono, that would be too extreme. He would just have to limit his attendance, is all.

Right, let’s move on to why even this small bit of discipline was never administered.

“His reply,” Randi continued, “is he had a bit too much to drink and he doesn’t remember. I don’t know — I’ve never been drunk in my life. It’s an unfortunate thing … I haven’t seen him doing that. But I get the word from people in the organization that he has to be under better control. If he had gotten violent, I’d have him out of there immediately. I’ve just heard that he misbehaved himself with the women, which I guess is what men do when they are drunk.”

I may have given Randi the benefit of the doubt, without that statement. I may have been all understanding, and generous, and allowed that yes, it can be hard to believe strangers telling you bad things about your friend, and sure, it’s hard to comprehend just how serious sexual harassment is when you’re not the one constantly subjected to it, and he’s an old white dude (see here for a magnificent rant by RQ on that), and excuses excuses, but that bit ruins him. Let’s look at it closely, shall we?

“His reply,” Randi continued, “is he had a bit too much to drink and he doesn’t remember.

Oh, well, it was all Demon Rum’s fault, the poor man! Allowances must be made! He doesn’t remember assaulting people, so as long as he doesn’t do it too much while he’s blacked-out drunk, no problem, right?

“I haven’t seen him doing that.

And, of course, if a man has not personally witnessed another man doing horrible shit while drunk, there’s no reason to take complaints so damned seriously. Probably didn’t happen. Cuz I didn’t see it personally. Could not possibly be because a) Shermer wasn’t that drunk and b) was smart enough not to assault people right under the eyes of the man who could have him ejected from TAM for life.

“But I get the word from people in the organization that he has to be under better control.

People in your organization are telling you this giant jackass is not under control. And what’s everybody’s brilliant solution? Tell him he has to be under better control! Whee, problem solved, no harm no foul except to the women already victimized, but it’s not like they’re as important as this man who makes lots of money, and it’s definitely not like I, James Randi, am the head of this ship and can decide that Shermer needs to be under better control somewhere else.

Only, it is.

“If he had gotten violent, I’d have him out of there immediately.

ORLY? He allegedly raped a woman in 2008 – that’s not violent enough for ya? Oh, right, unless he’s jumping from the bushes with a knife and beating her unconscious rather than merely drugging her into unconsciousness and then raping her, that’s totes not violent in your world. Riiight. I wonder how non-violent you’d think it was if you were the one waking up after being drugged (yes, alcohol’s a drug) with someone shoving their dick where you didn’t want it?

Limber your shouting voices, folks, it’s about to get far worse.

“I’ve just heard that he misbehaved himself with the women, which I guess is what men do when they are drunk.”

Image on top is a My Little Pony looking upward in shock. Caption says, "WTF is that?" Bottom image shows her looking in a different direction, seeming angry. Caption says, "Srsly, WTF is that?"

I’ve just heard that he misbehaved himself with the women, which I guess is what men do when they are drunk.”

Image shows Puss in-Boots from Shrek holding something in his paw, with his mouth open in an angry O. Caption says, "You see this? You see this shit!"

“I’ve just heard that he misbehaved himself with the women, which I guess is what men do when they are drunk.

Image shows an anime woman with pink hair screaming so hard she's spitting and her eyes look like they're exploding. Caption says, "What is this I don't even"

“I’ve just heard that he misbehaved himself with the women, which I guess is what men do when they are drunk.”

Image is an angry troll face with red eyes. Background has the letters FFFFFUUUU repeated in red.

If he had gotten violent, I’d have him out of there immediately. I’ve just heard that he misbehaved himself with the women, which I guess is what men do when they are drunk.”

Image shows a man in a very tacky wizard's outfit, holding out his hand. Caption says, "Stand back. Shit's about to get real."

Image shows a nuclear bomb explosion.

Operation Castle – Bravo shot explosion. Image via Wikipedia Commons.

Excuse me. I seem to have exploded all over my part of the planet and must gather my remains. BRB.

Image shows an orange kitten hugging a broom handle. Caption says, "Yah, itz a big job, but somebudyz gotta do it."

How do these words come out of your mouth if you believe women are actual people with genuine autonomy, and not just objects for men, i.e. real people, to play with? How do you speak these words about a man who you have been told harasses women, causing them enough distress that you have actually confronted the harasser and advised him he is risking your limiting his presence at your conference, and think they are reasonable words, if you believe that women have the same value as men? HOW THE ACTUAL FUCK do you speak these words and believe they absolve you of your part in this, excuse your inaction, if you actually believe that sexual harassment and sexual assault are serious problems?

He doesn’t. I’m sure he’d say he does, but his own words and actions prove he doesn’t. Look at what he’s saying: guys will just “misbehave” around women when they are drunk. So it’s perfectly fine that all he did was sexually harass women. Grabbing their tits without consent isn’t violent. Getting them drunk and raping them when they are too incapacitated to refuse sex or give any sort of meaningful consent isn’t violent. To James Randi, anything short of Michael Shermer actually beating a woman right there on the convention floor is not worth fussing over. It’s boys-will-be-boys. It’s oh-well-that’s-what-dude’s-do-when-they’re-drunk. Whatevs. What are all you harridans on about? It’s not like he grabbed a man’s junk, or hit anybody, amirite?

This is rape culture. This is James Randi fully and enthusiastically participating in it, and seeing no real harm.

James Randi couldn’t take women’s complaints seriously. Now we have at least one woman saying she was sexually assaulted by Michael Shermer. And James fucking Randi doesn’t consider that violence. No, she was drunk, and he was drunk, and that’s what dudes do, force themselves on women while they’re drunk. It’s not like that’s real violence that warrants ejecting Michael Shermer from TAM. Not in James Randi’s world.

Hopefully, he’s going to read those words over to himself a few times, and do some hard thinking, and realize exactly what it is that he’s saying. And he’ll realize that what he is saying reduces women to third-rate beings rather than human beings with the right to not be molested, and he’ll apologize, and we’ll see him take a thorough look at the evidence again and maybe, just possibly, decide that the way Shermer “misbehaved” warrants expulsion.

But I will not hold my breath, any more than I am breathlessly anticipating Michael Shermer will become my bestie (newsflash: he never will). Too many male skeptics have proven they’re unable to examine their own sexist behavior and thought patterns, much less correct them.

I just hope that the people who nodded along with Randi’s odious statement are now doing a double-take, and will realize it’s time to confront and eradicate those attitudes, both within themselves and in the broader movement. I hope a lot of people have now realized that treating men’s “misbehavior” towards women, including trans women, as “boys will be boys” gets us nothing but a movement where women and LGBTQ folk aren’t safe, while rapists and harassers are allowed to prey on them with impunity.

If you love skepticism, you’re going to have to clean house. And you’re going to have to admit your heroes have some horrifically bad behaviors and attitudes, and change the culture so that it is made manifestly clear that this shit must and will stop.

You want skepticism to survive as a viable movement? Stop making it a safe haven for predators. Stop making excuses like Randi’s. Start holding everyone accountable for the damage they do. And start making it clear that this sort of shit will no longer be tolerated. At. All.

The Shermer Allegations: Some Considerations for Those to Whom This Is a Nasty Shock

I have to admit, it’s something of a relief to have Mark Oppenheimer’s article on Michael Shermer published. Shame about Buzzfeed dumping it on a Friday, but I have a feeling it’s not going to generate a bit of quiet chatter and then fade away. No, I hear the crackling hiss of a fuse burning, and I don’t think we’ll see the explosion for a few days, at least. The skeptic, science journalism, and atheist communities are all going to get rocked pretty solidly. And I doubt Shermer will be the only big name facing named accusers. Things are going to get mighty uncomfortable. But they couldn’t go on the way they were.

unacceptable

Now. This is going to be quite the nasty shock to some people who didn’t have any idea one of their heroes was an alleged sexual predator. And it’s going to be a nasty shock to people who heard the initial accusations, but figured it was all some big mistake, or hysterical Michael Shermer haters, and would all blow over. It must be horrible for them to realize it’s not blowing over, but blowing up. Well, that’s what happens when you don’t pay attention, and don’t listen to the people telling you there’s a problem, for years.

You’re going to want to duck and hide from the blast. But you need to steel yourself and face this squarely. Michael Shermer has had not one, not two, but three named women accuse him of inappropriate sexual behavior. Three women willing to face a shitstorm of abuse and possible legal threats in order to tell a reporter that Shermer did not-right things to them is not a minor matter. If you’re having that knee-jerk “this can’t be happening and Michael would never” reaction, you need to bite your tongue as hard as is necessary to stop it, and read that article thoroughly. Read it multiple times. Let it sink in.*

Don’t say anything yet.

Read the timeline, wherein now-named people shared their stories, and still-anonymous people also have said Shermer victimized them, and named people not in the article have said Shermer harassed or assaulted them. Granted, these are not allegations that have been proved in a court of law. Shermer is still legally innocent, and will remain so unless he is convicted in a courtroom. But there comes a time when you need to take into account the fact that multiple people are saying similar things, and recognize that this is information you need to take into account before you spring to his defense. We do not need evidence beyond reasonable doubt when we’re considering whether to keep extending our respect to a person, and when we’re deciding whether to continue inviting him to speak, and whether he’s still welcome in our spaces.+

No, don’t say anything yet.

Next, read Stephanie Zvan’s excellent piece on this matter. Read it before you take your teeth from your tongue. Read it, and consider it, quite carefully. Here, I’ll helpfully point out a few bits:

If you’re one of the people or work for one of the organizations that has continued to employ Shermer, are you willing to be a party to future incidents like those reported? His name will continue to sell tickets. He will continue to bring donations for your organization, because enough people don’t care or still won’t have heard about this, so you have to make this decision for yourself. If now is not the point when you put your foot down and say you won’t put your staff or attendees at risk of being the next story, how many more people have to come forward?

If you’re a member or volunteer for one of these organizations or attendee at these events, are you ready to ask those leaders for change? These events are put on for you. These organizations are supposed to be doing work you think is important. At best, the behavior described is a distraction from that work. At worst, continuing to support people with “bad boy” reputations puts you and others with whom you work and socialize at risk. If this much attested history isn’t enough for you to identify this behavior as something you don’t want leaders to expose you to, what would be?

Think about this honestly. Yes, I know Shermer is someone you may respect. He may have been the one who turned you into a skeptic. He may be a friend. He may be the kind of person you’ve always wanted to be, and this is killing you now, because you thought you wanted to be like him, but you didn’t think that included being accused of serial sexual harassment and assault. You may want to believe him when he gives you his various stories and excuses and gaslights you by saying that only icky horrible people do things like that, so of course he hasn’t, because he isn’t icky and horrible.

You’ll have to do something very difficult, and set aside all of that, and inspect the evidence just as you would if it were, say, someone promising a miracle cure for cancer. Perhaps it is. Perhaps you want to believe it. But you must face the evidence with as unbiased an eye as you are able to manage.

There’s one more thing I want you to consider:

My rapist, who was in fact convicted and sentenced for sexually attacking me, told our friends much the same things as Shermer is telling you. And you know what? Even though I was the person he held and raped at knifepoint, I wanted to believe him. He was super-fun to be around, smart and funny and charming, and we were a pretty tight-knit group. Even with all of the evidence I had, including a confession from him, it was a horrific struggle to get him into court and get him convicted, because he was a clean-cut, intelligent guy who knew who to gaslight, and how. I loved his mom, and hated hurting her. I lost friends I didn’t feel I could stand to lose, because they sided with him, not me. It would have been far easier to let the subject quietly die. The only reason I pressed charges and testified and endured all that the criminal justice system puts a victim through in order to get a conviction was because I didn’t want him to ever do this to another woman.

And I was one of the lucky ones. If my rapist been famous, I doubt I would’ve gotten even as far as a police station with him. I would have faced far more victim-blaming, would have been turned on and threatened and dismissed, because everybody wants to side with the bigwig against the nobody. All I would have been able to do is tell my story publicly, and endured the shitstorm, and hoped that all the abuse I was taking meant that at least one potential victim would be forewarned and manage to prevent him from violating them.

So before you take your teeth from your tongue and speak, ask yourself: what do all of these women (and at least one man) gain by lying? Why do these people who admired Michael Shermer, who bought his books and enjoyed his talks, feel compelled to tell the community that this man did awful things to them? Why do you think they’re willing to face down the doubt and abuse and threats and legal repercussions and emotional anguish of accusing a Big Name of doing terrible things? What have they to gain by pulling one of their heroes down? Why would someone feel compelled to do that?

Then ask yourself why there are so damned many of them, for so long, if all these stories are false.

Consider that the statistics on false rape reports are between 2-8%, meaning there’s a greater than 90% chance at least most of these accusers are telling the truth.

Ask yourself why James Randi told Shermer “that if I get many more complaints from people I have reason to believe, that I am going to have to limit his attendance at the conference,” if Shermer was doing nothing wrong and all of these victims are lying or mistaken.

Think these things through carefully before you speak.

You’re skeptics. Act accordingly.

 

Full disclosure: I am a freelance blogger for the Scientific American Blog Network, which means I have a rather attenuated connection to Michael Shermer, who writes a column for the print magazine. Be assured I am discussing Oppenheimer’s article with my editor on Monday, and will have a statement out after that discussion is finished.

ATTENTION FIRST-TIME COMMENTERS: Read the comment policy. Consider the fact that I have no patience for sexism, misogyny, or other bad behavior. Also consider I am out of patience with apologists for same. Should you wish to submit a comment that violates the policy, excuses sexism and sexual abuse, or otherwise runs afoul of my non-existent patience – remember that time is a finite commodity, and don’t waste yours. I certainly won’t be allowing you to waste mine.

I will be away from the computer for most of this weekend, but I will be intermittently monitoring the thread to prevent flame wars and other abuse. Victim-blaming and other rape apologia will be deleted. Don’t even think about posting it.

 

* I want you to pay particular attention to the bit where James Randi is saying that he knew Michael Shermer was victimizing people, but didn’t put a stop to it because he didn’t think Shermer had been violent enough. No, all he was doing was allegedly preying on women, and he said he was drunk (even though he later claimed he was totes sober), and isn’t that what drunk men do, prey on women? I will have plenty to say on this soon, but right now, I’m too close to exploding.

+. No, no, no. You do not get to play the “Everything’s okay until he’s in jail!” card. Not when you’ve built your reputations on taking down psychics and Bigfoot enthusiasts not by dragging them into court and having them convicted of fraud, but proving by a preponderance of evidence that they’re full of shit. We’re not a courtroom convicting and sentencing Michael Shermer to time behind bars, but a group of people deciding, based upon the evidence and patterns we have, whether he is a safe person to have around us, and whether he’s a person we wish to support. We do not need a legal verdict to make these decisions. Don’t pretend we do, it makes you look ignorant and foolish.