Disgusting Little Cowards

So the #gamergate fuckwads have taken to threatening universities with massacres for allowing women to give talks. If I didn’t already know they were pure scum, this would have informed me that their opinions need to be treated the same way I deal with nasty shit adhering to the bottom of my shoe.

I know quite a few of these shrieking shits think they are big-time heroes for managing to throw tantrums and threaten people for so long. They’re not. They’re the kind of people that every society has disavowed and discarded as it became more civilized. They have the same social value as contagious disease. They mistake small-minded spite for courage. They think that threats make them big, important men. They have to think that, because they’re shallow little personalities with nasty, small-minded ideas. They’re too terrified to fight fair in the court of public opinion, because deep down, they know they’re losers and will fail. So they have to send out death and rape threats, and rely on other cowards to give them cover.

unacceptable

Guess what? They’re still losers, and they will fail.

They managed to get this talk canceled only because their fellow cowards in the NRA have convinced Utah politicians that carrying guns around campus is what strong, independent people do, rather than the act of pathetic little assholes whose delusions of heroism allow them to ignore their innate cowardice.They don’t know what real courage is. They don’t know what everyday heroism is. They can’t know, because they’ve withdrawn into the fearful little bunkers of their minds, where they can pretend they’re important, rather than doing the hard and scary work of being out there in the world actually doing something important, without relying on the false security of a weapon to make them feel strong.

I’m ashamed to be sharing a planet with them.

They’re probably celebrating what they believe is a victory right now. That’s what people like them do: throw feces and howl in triumph when they hit something. Their fellow shit-throwers tell them they’ve accomplished something.

Meanwhile, the creative and innovative people keep creating and innovating, even if sometimes they have to dodge the shit, or pause to clean it up. The shit-flinging cowards who have to resort to death and rape threats to feel special may deceive a few folks into believing they’re important, but as time goes on, the stench gives them away, and they’ll find themselves pushed further and further away, walled off from the rest. The more shit they throw, the faster they make everyone else realize what disgusting little cowards they actually are.

Those of you who don’t have to hurl rape and death threats to make it sound like you’ve got a point, those of you who aren’t so terrified of women and minorities getting a seat at the table that you feel like you have to burn the house down, those of you who are tired of the stench and just want all of these violent little cowards to go fucking Galt already, you may feel helpless. You may be looking at the piles of shit and wondering how the fuck this is ever going to stop.

It stops when we keep rubbing noses in it. A lot of people – especially law enforcement and politicians, it seems – have just held their breath and stepped around the mess while other people quietly clean it up. Don’t let them. Enough of us writing to universities and legislatures and law enforcement, ensuring they have no choice but to smell the shit we’re dealing with, will eventually get through to them.

Don’t clean up these messes quietly with some misguided idea that we shouldn’t feed trolls or give them the time of day. Point to the piles they’re crapping out and complain about the smell. Show it to people who otherwise would’ve walked quietly around, saying “Can you believe this shit?” Make it impossible to avoid.

When you see people flinging shit, or making excuses for the cowards who fling shit, call them out. Pile on with the condemnation. Make people own their shit. Shame them for it. Demand better behavior of them.

Support the people like Anita Sarkeesian who get shit flung at them constantly. Watch their videos. Listen to their talks. Read their work. Donate to them, buy their work, speak up about how awesome they are.

And never, ever accept this shit as just the way things are. It’s bad, it’s disgusting, and it’s hard to clean up, but we don’t have to live with it forever.

We won’t.

Image shows a very determined My Little Pony with the caption, "Let's Do This."

Why I Won’t Be Sporting a Scarlet A Any Longer

The Out Campaign’s scarlet A no longer graces my blog or my social media feeds. I’m still an out and proud atheist, mind you. I still think atheism is important and can do the world some good. But the scarlet A, that doesn’t do enough. And I could put up the A+ logo derived from it, but while I support the idea of Atheism Plus, I want a different and better symbol, one that suitably reflects the fact that no one on the other side of the rift is interested in bridging any divides, and so those of us who want a heaping helping of social justice to go with their atheism are going it alone. Perhaps one of you here will design it, or point me to it.

Image shows me leaning against an a-shaped sea stack at Ruby Beach, WA. The Scarlet A has been superposed over the rock. A red X is drawn through the whole picture.

My former Facebook profile pic. Fuggedaboutit. Time to replace this sucka.

Hank_Says has a succinct summary of the fuckery of the past few years, when we went from superficially-cohesive movement to Deep Rifts™. It’s what made me decide it was time to retire that particular atheist symbol:

The transition was relatively rapid, too: one minute everyone’s apparently (I’ll get to that) on the same page and looking in the same direction, the next – as soon as women identify problematic behaviour and request that we guys not do that then start talking about harassment policies – there’s an instant rift dug by people who for some reason viciously resent being told that some behaviour makes others uncomfortable. Then a few visible “leaders” say some thoughtless or petulant things, one blogger wonders if atheism can be about a little more than debunking myths and is vilified at length for the mere suggestion, a blogger or ‘tuber or two reveal themselves to be unapologetic misogynists, a parallel atheist community is born for the sole purpose of harassing and obsessively monitoring two blog networks and before you know it, women are being threatened with rape and death. With rape and death. And others are laughing at it. Including other women.

[snip]

Finally, I find it highly ironic that the leadership/s that brought us the scarlet letter “A” logo, a repurposing or “taking back” of the old tactic of publicly humiliating women who dared step out of the social boundaries prescribed by the men who essentially owned them, would be so solidly behind enabling and defending a sexist status quo, and in some cases being openly hostile to all women who challenge them, whether they’re accusing accuse “leaders” of assault or inappropriate sexual behaviour or of simply saying things that are mildly (but no less thoughtlessly) sexist. In light of the last three years of harassment, obsessive monitoring, threats, both mild casual sexism and unapologetic misogyny, all with nary a disapproving look from the leaders over the tops of their spectacles, followed by wagon-circling and dismissive responses to allegations of assault and rape (some going back years), that scarlet letter is more appropriate than ever.

Yes, it is – for them. They can have their narrow-minded dictionary atheism with its old-boys club mentality, its libertarian bullshit, and its sexual assaulter protection program. I’ve got different ideas for atheism. And there are other ways to go. Let them cling to scarlet letters and smug senses of (false) superiority. We have better things to do.

Their brand of atheism is too limited to be of much use to anyone outside the newly deconverted. For those of us ready to move on, it’s useless.

To paraphrase very wise and angry feminist Flavia Dzodan: My atheism will be intersectional or it will be bullshit. Those atheists who don’t think working on social justice issues is important for atheism can fuck right off. A world without gods won’t be any less of a shithole if we don’t confront the oppressions that obviously remain when gods are swept into the dust bin. And yes, as much as I happen to hate religion, I’ll take a world with religion and true equality over a world simply without religion. Because, as our scarlet-A atheist douches have demonstrated, giving up god is only the first step in becoming a better human being.

Those who aren’t willing to take the next step can bugger off to the other side of the Deep Rift™ and stay there.

Image is a late 19th century photograph of a woman sitting on the edge of the Grand Canyon, getting ready to hurl a rock over. Caption says, "Taking a sounding to see if the deep rifts are deep enough yet."

“Paths Out of a Childhood Misogyny”

Ludicrous asked an excellent set of questions on a post here a bit ago, and I thought I’d take it out of comment-section obscurity and upgrade it to a post of its own:

How is it that some boys growing up in a culture that turns females into ‘the other’ are able to overcome the estrangement and others not? How did the these guys and especially the mra’s get boxed in?

I think there are many men, talented writers, who could describe their paths out of a childhood misogyny. There are many inspiring stories of folks escaping religion. What are the experiences that help men get over whatever blocks their ability to apprehend the experience of women. Women describe over and over and over what misogyny is and does and yet to these men it is somehow not real, a minor inconvenience at worst.

Several commenters answered in that thread, which tells me this is striking a chord, and more stories are out there. I’m throwing this open to everyone who found a path out of childhood misogyny, keeping in mind that any gender growing up surrounded by misogyny and sexism in their cultures can internalize this crap, even if it harms them directly. I know I did. I know I still do, and have to fight that internalized misogyny on a daily basis. So tell me your stories, and don’t worry if you’re still a work in progress: if you’ve managed to make your way to this side of the Deep Rifts™, you’ve made a good start on that journey.

I’ll include the responses from the previous thread to get the conversation started:

Patrick G:

Can’t speak for others, but for me it took repeated (figurative) smacks to the head. Eventually I realized that ‘wait, maybe there’s something I’m missing’.

After that, I was perfect, of course. *cough*

raymoscow:

My path away from the misogyny I grew up with was mostly about listening to women, trying to understand some of their concerns, and exercising some basic empathy. It’s not rocket surgery.

I won’t say that I’ve completely escaped it yet, because some of the worst stuff lingers unconsciously, but I’m working on it.

(Same for racism and other forms of bigotry)

John Horstman:

In my own case, while I identified as a strong feminist in high school, looking back I can see a lot of sexist attitudes that I held (and I’m sure there are others I haven’t yet recognized nor begun to dismantle). Some of the things I see e.g. MRAs say have come out of my mouth. Despite being reasonably smart and definitely feminist-oriented, my own experience in a society that treated me in a particular way because people read me as White and male and heterosexual led me to a certain set of conclusions about how people interact, how social systems work, what “fair” is, etc. And while I had any number of friends who are not White and plenty who are female, that alone isn’t enough to give one a good knowledge base of the experiences of people unlike oneself – friends don’t often relate the totalities of their experiences to each other, one’s personal group of friends is still going to be a small sample, and one’s group of friends is also going to be biased to particular kinds of experiences, as one is unlikely to wind up with friends who travel in very different social environments (becasue if you’re traveling in entirely different circles, you’re unlikely to ever meet or have enough in common to be friends in the first place). Hence non-White friends or female friends not actually being any sort of defense against charges of sexism or racism (and actually attempting to use them as such is a rather insidious appropriation of their identities).

So, to given an answer to your question, those guys who get boxed in are those who never have anyone or any event push them to expand their perspectives. They stay locked in their narrow worldviews and never see any reason to look for information outside their own experiences. That’s one of the things that social privilege allows one to do, because one’s perspective is treated as the normative default, so one is unlikely to encounter any push-back about the validity (or, at least, generalizability) of one’s own perspective and experiences (as one does when one’s experiences or perspectives are contra-normative). This also explains the intense defensive reactions to challenges to privilege (it may be the first time the person has ever had that perspective or interpretation of experiences challenged), and it’s one of the ways privilege self-perpetuates, by being invisible to the people who benefit most. Even with e.g. many women loudly and publicly sharing their experiences of street harassment and denouncing it, it is shockingly easy to remain unaware of phenomena like that unless one is actively seeking out perspectives and experiences of dissimilar people. Scientists ought to know better, but even they (like most people) are prone to universalizing/projecting our own perspectives and experiences – this is, of course, why the scientific method requires repeated testing by different researchers (and ideally researchers in very different cultural contexts) to verify results. While the preceding may not accurately describe everyone in the group we’re discussing, I have noted it as a common pattern. The default state is tribalist ignorance, and it takes active effort to start to overcome that, so even in cases where pushing past that is the normative (or simply preferred) course, people will wind up in the default state by default.

I could add that perhaps a willingness to question oneself and one’s experiences (or interpretations of them) is a necessary precursor to a broader worldview. In my case, my history of mental illness led me to recognize that my perceptions were not necessarily the only possible ones or even those most reflective of reality. A depressed brain lies to itself, so successfully coping with a depressed brain can mean learning methods of self-questioning and external validation of one’s interpretations of events, which are valuable skills for questioning normative assumptions.

Uncle Ebeneezer:

On the topic of escaping misogyny: I’m a white. male, upper-middle class and I played sports and music, so I was privilaged to the Nth degree and spent most of my life in environments where casual misogyny was the norm. Until only a few years ago I was pretty damn misogynistic in my attitude and approach to dating. And I would have probably gotten defensive if I was ever really called out on it or was confronted by one of those Feminazis I had heard tales about. Nowadays I find myself spending more time reading feminist articles and nodding along as new light bulbs continue to flash on. My turn-about has been so marked that a FB friend (who moved away about 7 years ago) saw one of my posts recently about Anita Sarkesian, I believe, and remarked that she almost didn’t recognize me from the wanna-be-womanizer who loved to defend the C-word, that she used to know. She asked what prompted the change and I told her that witnessing the fights in the atheist movement, listening to/reading/absorbing the concepts of actual feminism (rather than the stereotypes) and just questioning my own assumptions was all it took to see how clueless and wrong I was. Maturing, getting married and losing my Mom probably also played a role, but it was mainly just shutting up and listening. Anyways, I’m not looking for a cookie here, just wanted to illustrate that as others have noted above it really comes down to a simple flick of the switch and willingness to examine oneself that can get the ball rolling. And a little effort going forward to try and be better. IE- it doesn’t really take much. And for people like me who had all the privilege to comfortably keep our heads in the misogynist sand, just witnessing the Freethoughtblogs Wars of 2009-? can be all that is needed to wake us up.

Image shows a chipmunk with a walnut shell on its head, looking out a window. Caption says, "I start my journey today and I walnut fail."

A Rant Against the Dual Nature of Marketing Towards Men and Women

In which our own RQ riffs off my Fifty Shades of Fucking Abuse post. (say something about the gender binary) The floor is hers:

I got to thinking about your post during the day, and on what it means regarding who is reading what, and what kind of reading is marketed to whom. Especially romance and/or sex-related stuff, or, hell, just books that might have sex in them somewhere.

Because all those tired housewives? What’s marketed to them? Insipid romance where the man saves the day (or is horribly abusively ‘romantic,’ right, because what woman doesn’t love a good stalker?), magazines on housewifery and how-to-keep-your-man-interested… What else? Not much – I read a pretty decent science magazine (GEO, not to be confused with NatGeo) that explicitly states in its subscription description that it is geared towards middle-income, successful men. And what is in this magazine? Well, it’s not women in any state of undress – it’s very interesting science and geography articles, with nary a nod towards ‘typical’ male interests (except in advertising, and even that – alcohol, watches, suits…). Why can this kind of stuff not be geared towards women, too? Those bored housewives who are so uninteresting to their husbands – wouldn’t this kind of thing be perfect for them? Educate themselves while gaining a broader perspective on the world (they’ve had some neat articles on transgender children and non-traditional relationships, plus a very feminist one on the role of fathers from a scientific perspective), while acquiring information useful in ordinary, daily conversation with their far more worldly husbands. Sounds great to me, so why not market it as such?

Then there are the women’s magazines, which are… well, cooking, interior design, and, on occasion, nicely dressed and fully clothed men (there was that one comparison of Hugh Jackman on the cover of men’s and women’s magazines a while back). And that’s all fine, until it’s the only thing ‘appropriate’ for married women with children, and the thought of showing a bare-chested man in a housewife magazine (YUMM) is considered racy and borderline non-permissible… Where’s the women’s equivalent to FHM and Playboy? And I don’t mean just erotic shots, I mean the intelligent interviews with the interviewee posing in his underwear as eye-candy. I can think of a few local candidate athletes who would be perfect for this.

But no.

Women, especially women in long-term, childed relationships, don’t have sexuality. Not one worth talking about, at least, except as a ‘haha I bet you never have sex’ joke. This is something that needs to die a very, very painful and quick death (I’d say slow, but I’ve had enough of slow).

And that leaves me to wonder, from whence do women get their ideas about their own sexuality, in a fairly puritanical society that deems them worthy only of having children and being satisfied only under the wing of a man?

And that is what leaves them wide open for books like 50 Shades – because, unfortunately, with all the abusive aspects of it, and the childish language (they can’t even talk dirty enough because it will hurt the sensitivities of women? what?), it does speak plainly and openly about sexual love within the bounds of a relationship. I mean, I read a lot when I was young, and my first awakenings into sexuality came through SF/Fantasy novels (Hel-lo, Lions of Al-Rassan). And then for a while I made sure that all the books I read had at least one sex scene in them, because that shit was awesome! Masturbation material! (Sorry if it’s TMI.) And it was in all kinds of books!

Which leaves me to wonder, are people really so limited in their reading choices (and more specifically, are housewives really so limited in their reading material) that they have to resort to such ridiculous trash as 50 Shades to re-awaken those feelings? To allow them to feel like sexual beings again, to let them know that it’s perfectly normal to want sex and love your body and have someone do wonderful, touchy-feely, hot things to it? Is it just the marketing this time around? Is it a lack of resources to know that, hey, having kids doesn’t automatically turn the pleasure-centres in your vagina and environs off? Because there’s so much literature out there that can get people hot and bothered – if they bothered to look at it that way. But I think I’m slowly discovering that, indeed, there’s a very narrow lane you have to walk when you’re set in a certain role, a very narrow set of interests you’re supposed to cultivate in order to be the right kind of wife/mother/girlfriend. Because the gods forbid you start having fantasies about imaginary characters or unattainable athletes or actors on-screen… Because Hugh Jackman would set a bad precedent by taking his shirt off in a women’s magazine, while being all bare-chested and manily aggressive is perfectly fine for the men to see (because that’s how they should be, too!), but there’s no reciprocating audience to accept him as such, from a sexual point of view (I feel like there’s some underlying homophobia here, too, because sexy pictures of men might be looked at by gay men, and ew, right???).

I suppose this is a rant against the dual nature of marketing towards men and women (and never mind those who aren’t straight and cis, because… well, because, right?), how men are allowed to be sexual, women are too nurturing to understand, and women who want sex for the sake of sex and pleasure are sluts and shouldn’t be treated with respect… Yes, that’s rape culture. But is it really so ingrained that it subtly limits everyone’s reading choices? That it denies such self-examination and acceptance of all of one’s self?

I’m sad to think that the answer is yes – that the only way to awaken women’s ‘lost’ sexuality is through aggressive marketing piggy-backing on the coattails of an already-terrible romance. That there’s so much beautiful, sexy stuff written out there, that would appeal to both men and women without resorting to silly cliches and harmful stereotypes of romance that doesn’t get a single note of attention because… because it doesn’t fall neatly into a box. Because it doesn’t fall under the definition of ‘housewife’ or ‘husband’ or ‘sex after marriage’ (I’m pretty sure there isn’t even a box for that last one). And this is only in the context of plain, vanilla relationships (which can be pretty hot too).

The Lions of Al-Rassan isn’t marketed or ever described as a romance novel – even though, in essence, that’s what it is. No? And it’s not the only book that avoids the ‘romance’ label even though it is chock-full of romance.

Anyway. I’m not sure how to end this in a good way, because it’s saddening and slightly angering that this is what women have to resort to – that this is what is pushed at men as a model – because society is too afraid to acknowledge sex and sexuality as a real, living aspect of all adults, whether single, married, with or without kids, of any orientation or sexual proclivity. Sex is too awesome to be demeaned and swept under the rug like that – why does it happen?

(And yes, I have some idea… I just wish there was a better way to stand against it and make a change.)

*sigh*

Sigh indeed.

This “Anti-Rape” App Horrifies Me

Amanda Marcotte brought this horrific bit of fuckery to my attention: an app called Good2Go, which ostensibly is there to ensure both parties are enthusiastically consenting to sex, but really isn’t doing that job. Observe:

Worse, I feel this app could be seized upon by rapists as a way to rape women and get away with it.

In fact, Good2Go could contribute a dangerous new element to those he-said she-said rape cases. What Good2Go doesn’t tell users is that it keeps a private record of every “I’m Good2Go” agreement logged in its system, tied to both users’ personal phone numbers and Good2Go accounts. (Records of interactions where users say “No” or just want to talk are not logged in this way.) Allman says that regular users aren’t permitted access to those records, but a government official with a subpoena could. “It wouldn’t be released except under legal circumstances,” Allman told me. “But it does create a data point that there was an occasion where one party asked the other for affirmative consent, that could be useful in the future … there are cases, of course, as we know, where the accused is an innocent party, so in that case, it could be beneficial to him.”

So, in other words, if you’re a rapist, all you need to do is convince your victim that you’re having a legitimate hook-up. Get her to log in her “consent” on this app. Once the record of her saying she wants sex is created, you then rape her, by say, forcing her to do a bunch of stuff she didn’t want to do. If she says no, who cares? You created a record of her saying yes. It’s basically a way for rapists to give themselves blanket permission to rape someone by creating a point in time she said “yes”, and then saying everything that happened after that was covered by it. Sure, the app says that you can withdraw consent at any time, but if you’re going to court with this and she says, “Well, yes, I said yes to sex on the app, but I didn’t think he meant he would hold me down and anally rape me,” odds are that little disclaimer will not offer much protection to the victim. It’s already hard enough for victims of rape who were tricked into thinking they were on a real date only to have rape sprung on them to convince juries they weren’t consenting. This would make it a nightmare.

I have bolded the bits that screamed, “We don’t give a shit about consent, we just want to shelter rapists!” to me.

I’ll tell you right now, anybody trying to get me to use this app with them is getting nothing. I will not touch the app or them. They will be required to exit my presence immediately.

And if I end up on a jury, and some dumbshit wants to claim xe didn’t rape this person because look! the app recorded they consented! – well, let’s just say that fucker’s going down hard, because I will end them. I’ll know they’re playing silly buggers. I’ll know all they cared about was covering their ass, not making sure their partner was having safe, consensual fun with them.

Image is a drawing of a young woman talking to a young man. Both are holding books and look as if they're students. The caption reads, "Your box of condoms says you're in to safe sex. Your Tap-Out shirt says you don't care if it's consensual."

If you’re having trouble seeing the problem, imagine an app called Good2Tattoo, which your tattoo artist made you use, and which only recorded you saying yes to getting a tattoo – but didn’t record if you said “no” or “yes, but not that Boy Bands Rule! tattoo you’re offering.” Imagine the tattoo artist stamped you permanently with the boy bands ink anyway, over your objections, and used your initial yes, recorded by the app, to argue in court that you agreed to the whole thing – and increased their chances of getting away with violating you because of it. That’s basically what this app is doing. And rapists will see it as a spiffy new tool in their getting-away-with-rape arsenal, whether they admit what they’re doing is rape or not.

As for those who genuinely think this app is a great idea and they should use it to protect themselves from false accusations of rape: I think you should probably not have sex with other people. Sex toys have gotten very good over the years. Please avail yourself of them instead, at least until you are educated enough to have consensual, safe sex with an enthusiastically consenting partner, sans awful app.

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

Some Helpful Tips for Those Institutions Wishing to Avoid Sexism and/or Racism

My dear friend and fellow science blogger Anne Jefferson has an excellent post up about sexism and racism in the scientific community. It deserves to be read in its entirety. However, I know many of you movers and shakers are quite busy, so here are her helpful tips, which you might wish to put somewhere easy to find for those times when you might be close to injecting more sexist and/or racist dreck into the community.

So here’s a few simple tips for publishers, funders, and other institutions that have megaphones and amplifiers in the scientific community. If you are part of an organization that’s been caught out on issues of sexism and racism in the past, or you think there’s a possibility it could happen in the future, you might consider printing these tips out and pinning them to your colleague’s cubicles.

1) If you receive racist or sexist material for publication, DON’T PUBLISH IT. Throw it out. Shake your head, laugh about the backwardness of the writer with your colleagues, but DON’T PUBLISH IT. It doesn’t deserve your printed or virtual space, and it’s not “contributing to the conversation.”

2) If you woman and/or person of color is describing problems with racism, sexism, or harassment, assume that what they are saying is true and do not attempt to silence or gaslight them. This is a general rule, but because apparently it needs to be said. Even if, especially if, the women and/or people of color are part of your organization or are accusing your organization of racism, sexism, or harassment, you should let their voices be heard.

3) If your organization is responsible in any way for selecting which voices get heard in science (you know, like publishers, funders, and think tanks do), make sure that women and people of color get representation, and that when you do, that you don’t do with a side helping of victim blaming or condescension.

There you go. All you need to begin the process of keeping sexist and racist dreck out of our spaces. This is how you make the community better.

And now, you have absolutely no excuse for getting it wrong.

Originally published at Rosetta Stones.

STEM’s Harassment Problem Goes Well Beyond Field Work

D.N. Lee has a post up at Scientific American that needs to be read right now. Here’s a pull quote, but read the entire thing. Now. No excuses.

I know the SAFE research focused on field research experiences – mostly abroad, away from home institution – but many women are getting harassed out of science before field research opportunities become available to them. You don’t have to go far away to experience this pain, and too many divert their research interests to lab spaces to avoid it. You don’t need a New York Times Op-Ed or Huffington Post published piece to hear these stories. Just listen to your students/academic advisees, especially the ones who may suddenly stop coming/going  to class or students who refuse to go to office hours to see certain instructors or those that flake out on attending after hours social events or if you notice several students en masse avoid a certain instructor or adviser or section of a class/lab offering.  These scholarly environments that indeed do exist, that the royal we have not proactively and deliberately made safe — this is not fair to them or science, either. I wager we are losing some great minds.

The SAFE study was the very first of its kind to document and comment on abuse within field research sciences. When news of this research first hit I remember many critics claiming it wasn’t comprehensive enough, more detailed questions should have been asked, *exact* details of unwanted encounters should have been parsed. Like any ‘first of its kind study’ those comprehensive details are not included. Moreover, I say demanding this amount of detail from subjects is unethical and unnecessary. I have a problem with how easily and quickly fellow scientists can be to harm human subjects because of  ‘for the good of science notion’. No, what more detail do you need? I’m mad that we needed data in the first place in order to have a conversation about doing something. If you or our institutions demand this much research, detail and investment before half-way committing to doing something to establishing safe places and spaces for people, then it means they aren’t really, really interested in creating these safe places/spaces. It shouldn’t matter how often or intense the abuse is or when a ‘not who we expected’ victim speaks up that people in power finally create safe places and spaces. Period.

That second paragraph should be horribly familiar to those of us who have been combating sexual assault and harassment in skeptic and atheist circles. That second paragraph needs to be thrust under the noses of every single person in any community who has been hand-waving away reports of problems. And the ones who continue to hand-wave are the ones we’ll know we need to cull from our spaces.

unacceptable

I have no tolerance left. I’m tired of waiting for people to clue in. Either you recognize there’s a problem with the way women and minorities are treated, or you don’t. If you recognize the problem, help us fix it. If you don’t, get the fuck out of our way.

And go read D.N. Lee’s piece until it finally sinks in: you should be doing something to end this shit right now. You should have started doing it long ago.

No more silence.

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)

“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)