Coming Out Atheist — I Need Your Stories and Advice »« Ilk Necklaces by Surly Amy!

This Is Why We Speak Out: Richard Dawkins Apologizes for Statements on Childhood Sexual Abuse

Content alert: chidhood sexual abuse.

This is why we speak out about these things.

Richard Dawkins has apologized for his earlier statements on childhood sexual abuse.

I cannot know for certain that my companions’ experiences with the same teacher were are brief as mine, and theirs may have been recurrent where mine was not. That’s why I said only “I don’t think he did any of us lasting damage”. We discussed it among ourselves on many occasions, especially after his suicide, and there was indeed general agreement that his gassing himself was far more upsetting than his sexual depredations had been. If I am wrong about any particular individual; if any of my companions really was traumatised by the abuse long after it happened; if, perhaps it happened many times and amounted to more than the single disagreeable but brief fondling that I endured, I apologise.

Full statement here.

I still have some issues with this statement. Dawkins still seems somewhat fixated on the idea that the damage done by childhood sexual abuse is contingent on the frequency of the abuse, or the specific kind of sexual contact. But IMO, this apology is an important step. He has acknowledged that it was wrong of him to extrapolate from his own experience with being molested, which he sees as not having done him any lasting damage, and assume that other people’s experiences and responses to those experiences were the same as his.

And this is why we speak out about these things.

We speak out to educate. We speak out to change minds. We speak out to get voices heard that otherwise would not be heard. We speak out to show people that they are passing on misinformation, that they are missing important pieces of information, that their reasoning is flawed, that their words and actions are causing pain. We speak out to give courage to others who may also want to speak. We speak out to give a voice to people who are afraid to speak, or are unable to speak. And we speak out with passion and anger to make it clear that some positions are not acceptable, and should not be acceptable. We speak out with passion and anger to refuse our consent, to set ourselves apart from ideas and actions we consider reprehensible. We speak out with passion and anger to give notice to others that similar ideas and actions will not be accepted. We speak out with passion and anger to make it clear that real harm has been done. We speak out with passion and anger to say, “You are hurting me, you are hurting other people, please stop it now” — and to get that message heard.

All of that has been accomplished in the pushback against Dawkins’ original statements.

It’s not up to me to accept or not accept Dawkins’ apology. That’s up to victims of childhood sexual abuse, and I will wait to hear from more of them. But since I’ve been writing about Dawkins’ earlier statements, I thought it was important to let people know about his subsequent apology. And in the face of a very distressing, very discouraging time in the atheist and skeptical community, I thought it was worth saying: Speaking out works. Let’s keep it up.

Comments

  1. says

    This apology is an important step, and as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse myself a very important one for him to have made. Nevertheless he should refrain from making such asinine comments in the first place: if he felt his own childhood sexual abuse wasn’t important, why then bring it up for everyone to hear about, several times now even? I have to even question how much he too might have internalized the abuse; feeling it was his fault and ‘not so bad’ in the first place, in which case his comments are a form of Stockholm Syndrome and I can extend pity towards him, but I do not find his original comments to be anything but reifying the social relations which allow pedophilia to take place in the first place under the guise to comparing them to teaching the doctrine of hell to a child (which I was also taught as a child) and then doubling down several times after the fact on those comments. That just smacks of internalized hatred for having been on the receiving end of the pedophilia himself and then taking it out on everyone else who was molested by that person, as if they somehow weren’t ‘really molested’ or what have you and should quit complaining, which was the content of his original comments and subsequent followups until this one.

    This whole affair has been nauseatingly sickening, but at least we got an apology, that’s a good thing.

  2. piegasm says

    if any of my companions really was traumatised by the abuse long after it happened; if, perhaps it happened many times and amounted to more than the single disagreeable but brief fondling that I endured, I apologise.

    Maybe I’m just cynical at this point but this reads to me as though Dawkins doubts that any of his companions really was traumatized or that the abuse was more extensive for anyone.

    He’s leaving out students who may have encountered this teacher prior to Dawkins’ time at the school. He can’t possibly have communicated with every single student this guy molested.

    There’s also no reason for him to assume that his classmates would have admitted to being traumatized by it since there was obviously an expectation that you’re expected to simply take it in stride.

    Meh. Color me unimpressed.

  3. R Johnston says

    Color me unimpressed. Dawkins has been saying these things for years and has given every indication of fully believing them. This, however, was the first time as far as I know that he really got widespread publicity for it. Being known as an apologist for pedophilia is not socially acceptable these days and brings the kind of publicity publishers and University administrators really don’t like. Dawkins knows where his bread is buttered. It seems very likely he was told something along the lines of “fix this or we pulp your books;” I’d sure have told him that if I were his publisher. This apology was about the least that might suffice.

    If in the future Dawkins stops saying stupid, sexist, abusive things that are totally dismissive of the real-world experiences of people who aren’t Richard Dawkins then I’ll reevaluate.

  4. scott says

    I really want to like Dawkins, so I do think he understood what the complaints were about, but this broke one of my rules- apologies don’t contain the word ‘if’.

  5. says

    I still have some issues with this statement.

    Honestly, I think it’s terrible.

    The whole section on “How should I have talked about it?” sounds very much to me like he’s suggesting that people who talk about their experiences with childhood sexual abuse and whose abuse isn’t considered sufficiently serious by Dawkins’ standards are “playing the victim,” inflating the damage done, and trivializing much worse cases.

    It’s strange that he would go into so much depth about the various hypothetical ways of talking about it. If it really was just a fleeting episode that had no lasting impact, I don’t know why he feels like he has to bring it up at all, as he has in at least two books now. But if he does, he could write about what happened, talk about how unpleasant it was, and then say something like, “I was (relatively) lucky that it was a single, brief instance, and also lucky that I had friends to talk to about it…” This could have led him perhaps to think about the boys this man might have abused over the years who were isolated, ashamed, and afraid, and for whom this might have added to a pattern of abuse and exploitation – just the ones the man might have been trolling for. It could have led him to think about how important it is to have a culture that openly condemns this and encourages children to tell adults what happened to them and adults/institutions to take action to stop it… Instead, it’s like he’s talking about it solely in order to suggest how trivial it really is.

  6. says

    It is not an apology.
    It’s a rephrasing of his argument for those of us too stupid to get it.

    Right off the bat he says that the disagreement is the result of a misunderstanding, the implication being that we did the misunderstanding. Perhaps also that he needed to elaborate, but not to change his stance – to reassert it.

    Today we read, almost daily, of adults whose childhood was blighted by an uncle perhaps, or even a parent, who would day after day, week after week, year after year, sexually abuse a vulnerable child. The child would often have no escape,

    That “year after year” sentiment crops up again and again.

    Now, given the terrible, persistent and recurrent traumas suffered by other people when abused as children, week after week, year after year, what should I have said about my own thirty seconds of nastiness back in the 1950s?

    More “year after year” which is what apparently is needed for you to feel bad about being sexually assaulted.

    That is why I made light of my own bad experience. To excuse pedophiliac assaults in general, or to make light of the horrific experiences of others, was a thousand miles from my intention. I should have hoped that much was obvious. But I was perhaps presumptuous in the last sentence of the paragraph quoted above.

    It should have been obvious, but he presumed too much of us, so he’s forced to explain it like we’re children.

    As far as the complaint that he was projecting his experiences onto OTHERS, including his classmates?
    First, he talks about how they talked among themselves – as if that somehow eliminates the fact that kids will “buck up” in front of friends, or not recognize the damage until later.
    The concession he gives about his painting his experience onto others is this:

    “I cannot know for certain that my companions’ experiences with the same teacher were are brief as mine, and theirs may have been recurrent,/b> where mine was not.

    if, perhaps it happened many times and amounted to more than the single disagreeable but brief fondling that I endured, I apologize.

    All this “apology” is is a doubling down of his
    mild” versus “real and damaging” pedophilia stance.

    And what if he (and by implication others) HAD claimed he was harmed by a single instance of being molested?

    To have done so would have been to belittle and insult those many people whose lives really were blighted and cursed, perhaps by year-upon-year of abuse by a father or other person who was deeply important in their life. To have done so would have invited the justifiably indignant response: “How dare you make a fuss about the mere half minute of gagging unpleasantness that happened to you only once, and where the perpetrator was not your own father but a teacher who meant nothing special to you in your life. Stop playing the victim. Stop trying to upstage those who really were tragic victims in their own situations. Don’t cry wolf about your own bad experience, because it undermines those whose experience was – and remains – so much worse.”

    Because if he had claimed his teacher putting his hands down his pants was harmful, apparently we all would have jumped on him for claiming that was harmful, and properly so, because that’s his opinion also.

    There is no apology here.
    There is an explanation and reiteration of his “real and damaging versus mild and harmless pedophilia” stance, that he has to rephrase because he apologetically understands that we were too thick to understand him.

    The whole thing is a cowardly BS restatement of his original stance.

    I not only reject it fully, I’m embarrassed that the cult of personality, the “need for leaders” problem we seem to have is helping him make the same offensive statements as an “apology” for his earlier expression of the same damned opinion.

  7. says

    And in case I didn’t stress that part enough, his concession that his friends might have been harmed hinges on the possibility that they, unknown to him, suffered it repeatedly, “many times.”

    Because again, to be harmful sexual abuse, it needs to be REPEATED. Not like the harmless “mild pedophilia” he suffered. His mistake was in presuming that they also may have only suffered the one-off “harmless” sexual molestation.

    THAT is doubling down.
    He has not changed his attitude one bit, and all he has done is to explain to us mere nitwits the true standards our abuse has to meet to be considered harmful, and not “crying wolf.”

    Doubling down because people are too damned stupid to understand you is NOT an apology by any stretch of the imagination.

    I am sickened by the fact that hero worship is so entrenched that he can successfully pull this off and get people to thank him for it.

  8. says

    He leaves out the most appalling assertion he makes over and over – that religious teaching of children is worse than physical molestation or rape.

    Seems many agree.

    Which tells me we have a much bigger problem than Richard Dawkins.

  9. says

    @Salty Current

    If it really was just a fleeting episode that had no lasting impact, I don’t know why he feels like he has to bring it up at all, as he has in at least two books now.

    He’s a writer, it’s his memoir, it seems like an appropriate time to talk about it. I’m in favor of more stories of sexual assault, not fewer, even the trivial stories. What I don’t like about his apology is that he implies that the only notable stories are the ones where assault is repeated many times, and that anything more brief is a story as trivial as his own. The problem isn’t that he’s telling his story, it’s that he’s erasing other people’s stories.

  10. says

    If I took a drink for every time he asserted that “years and years” bit there, I’d be too drunk to type.
    Pounding into our damned thick skulls that for it to be harmful, it has to happen over and over again for a lengthy period of time.

    He’s right, everyone else is wrong… if there was a problem it was because he didn’t talk down well enough, and didn’t restate his thesis enough. So he hammers it in over and over again to “apologize.”

    Sorry for ranting in many comments, but damn if this doesn’t grate.

  11. says

    What strikes me as most troubling is what Dawkins calls a “justifiably indignant response” to someone who says they were traumatized by a teacher’s sexual assault:

    “How dare you make a fuss about the mere half minute of gagging unpleasantness that happened to you only once, and where the perpetrator was not your own father but a teacher who meant nothing special to you in your life. Stop playing the victim. Stop trying to upstage those who really were tragic victims in their own situations. Don’t cry wolf about your own bad experience, because it undermines those whose experience was – and remains – so much worse.”

    That is an unjustifiably ignorant response. That he clearly believes otherwise says a lot about him—none of it good.

  12. says

    Because if he had claimed his teacher putting his hands down his pants was harmful, apparently we all would have jumped on him for claiming that was harmful, and properly so, because that’s his opinion also.

    It’s quite amazing. He must be aware that many of the people criticizing his statements are people who were abused in exactly those ways he himself considers traumatizing. But instead of listening to them, he has to continue to be consistent with, and then project onto them, his own callous and dismissive attitudes* – “Other women deal with mild sexism/harassment/violation of their boundaries/a hostile work environment… all the time and they just persevere. Why can’t you do the same, and shut up about it? Stop acting like a victim!”

    *which he doesn’t seem to hold when it comes to religious indoctrination, for some reason…

  13. says

    Jafafa Hots: FWIW, I appreciate your multi-comment ranting. As Greta wrote in the OP:

    And we speak out with passion and anger to make it clear that some positions are not acceptable, and should not be acceptable. We speak out with passion and anger to refuse our consent, to set ourselves apart from ideas and actions we consider reprehensible. We speak out with passion and anger to give notice to others that similar ideas and actions will not be accepted. We speak out with passion and anger to make it clear that real harm has been done.

    Speaking out works. Let’s keep it up.

  14. says

    I appreciate this on one level, as it’s a clear sign RD has seen and comprehended the considerable and justified negative reactions to his statements. On another level I’m really not a fan of qualified apologies.

    I just don’t quite get why it’s so difficult for, say, older white skpetical atheist males (or their organisations) to just say sorry for the effect their words or actions have had and have that be that. There very often seems to be a laser scope attached to an OWSAM’s mea culpa these days, as if to say “I’m specifically sorry that X people were offended by actions Y; however, here is a highly detailed explanation why nothing I said outside those parameters warrants an apology, clarification, retraction or some recognition of its problematic nature.”

  15. says

    He’s a writer, it’s his memoir, it seems like an appropriate time to talk about it.

    Not if it was really that trivial in his life and story. We all have fleeting unpleasant things that happen in our childhood that we wouldn’t think to include in our memoir (or non-memoir writings).

    I’m in favor of more stories of sexual assault, not fewer, even the trivial stories.

    I think you’re misunderstanding me. I’m not saying it has no place in a memoir, or that it’s at all trivial. I wasn’t criticizing him for telling the story. I’m also in favor of people telling these stories, regardless of their (apparent) relevance. I’m questioning the consistency of his claiming that it was trivial and then including it in several statements precisely to point out how trivial it was, and what might lie behind that. I oppose using these stories – one’s own or others’ – to minimize sexual assault generally. Nevertheless, I support anyone’s telling their story, even if it’s done with a purpose and in a way I oppose. That comment was about questioning his motives as a writer (at least to the extent that he’s conscious of them), but regardless I’m glad he told the story. I hope this is a bit more clear (maybe not…).

  16. says

    Oh please! Such hysteria! And given my history, yes, I can comment. Being the victim of a monster or monsters is horrible. And… It doesn’t have to define you. I refuse to be that label, and maybe Mr Dawkins does too. Or maybe after decades, Mr Dawkins has a long suppressed piece of trouble breaking out inside his head. Regardless, I haven’t seen anything but knee jerk reactions of anger about this assumption that crybaby culture has been insulted. Well, the hell with crybaby culture – I never found it helpful once I found out that being Daddy’s little S&M rape slave wasn’t normal or OK. Nobody can change that awful past, but I can own it and move on. Which Dawkins did. But he’s not allowed to talk about it? I’ll draw ire I’m sure, so STFU ahead of time. I’ve spent decades listening to it in group therapy and psych hospitals and oh the hell with your professional victimhood! Only cowards wallow in that vat of acid instead of climbing up to the sun.

    Why exactly is his reaction to an experience of dick grabbing by a pedo teacher less valid than anyone else’s? Perhaps it’s the whacko prudishness of Americans, but maybe not bearing the burden of isolation and secrecy by talking to ones peers is a great early intervention strategy Americans don’t get. So damn worried about being gay nobody can rely on their classmates about the pervy teacher. Instead of learning from that, its just howling and gnashing of teeth. Therapists encourage self centeredness, self pity, and like to corner humans into being nothing but a big wound called pathology but is that really the best course? I’ve found it isn’t. I’m sure thats true for many more people who moved past this “survivor” marginalization and have lives now.

    You can have a perfect childhood, but adult life is still brutal. You still need to grow a rhino hide to get on with it. If other adults talking about their experiences is too much for you? You can go be a hermit. Talk to a pro about better treatment. Etc. But you don’t get to marginalize other peoples experiences with either tantrums or some fear of stepping on toes.

    Maybe this feeding frenzy energy would be better spent on Muslims raping eight year old girls to death, or youth ministers who rape the gay away. Or hey! Find a decent attorney to pursue why those criminal priests weren’t put in US prisons in contradiction to the secular state? All Mr Dawkins did was offer a different experience that isn’t approved by some small circle of American hysterics, along with people who take their cues from the status quo of Sooo Fragile! Well the British handle things differently. Maybe theres something to be learned.

    This is nothing. Nothing there to cry about. Except the mob mentality of Must Follow Dogma. That’s pathetic. I thought this was an atheist blog.

  17. says

    There is too much ignorance, deliberate misreading, deliberate mischaracterization, attributing the OPPOSITE of arguments made by people to them, victim blaming, rape apologia, other total bullshit and hero worship in the comment by #17 that I’m not even tempted to unravel it.

  18. sugarloaf says

    On first glance I thought this was a good thing. But the more I think about it, the more I agree that it’s a doubling down- that only a certain degree of abuse counts.

    I’m currently coming out of a nervous breakdown that was caused by the buildup of mental health problems stemming from childhood trauma. It damned near destroyed my life. I was traumatised by a long series of events which many, if not most, people would regard as unpleasant, perhaps even just one of the bad things about being a kid, but not a “classic” traumatic event. Trauma is subjective, though- we can’t predict who might be traumatised by what, or say that there are certain things that will traumatise people. Some people will go through many Classic Traumatic Events and be able to shrug them off. Others will go through one minor event which isn’t considered “classically traumatic” and it’ll destroy them. (My experience was of events which can’t be considered classically traumatic, but over a period of four years, so somewhere in the middle)

    The thing that has most allowed me to heal is to know that what happened to me was wrong, it was unfair, it wasn’t my fault- and most importantly, that my pain is justified, that I’m not crazy. People saying “oh everyone goes through X and Y, it’s no big deal, it was so long ago, just buck up and move on” are almost as damaging to me as if my tormentors were to come back and replay what was done to me. It inflicts part of that injury again. I’m more able to sustain it now- I’m very glad I’ve been able to afford intensive therapy- but it’s still damaging. And my pain, the pain of others like me, doesn’t disappear because there are others who have been through far worse. We can work on the smaller pains even if greater calamities exist. We can even work on both at the same time.

    Richard Dawkins is not helping. I can see what he’s done as perhaps a baby step in the right direction, but it’s not enough. He continues to harm us.

  19. says

    17 ultrabunny:

    Oh please! Such hysteria!

    It’s “hysteria” now to be angry about someone projecting his own experience onto other victims. Nice.

    And given my history, yes, I can comment.

    Your history isn’t what allows you to comment here. Greta does.

    Being the victim of a monster or monsters is horrible.

    I am sorry you were a victim. But you were a victim of a human being, not a “monster.”

    And… It doesn’t have to define you. I refuse to be that label, and maybe Mr Dawkins does too.

    I don’t think you’ll find any disagreement with that here.

    …Nobody can change that awful past, but I can own it and move on. Which Dawkins did. But he’s not allowed to talk about it?

    Please point to anyone, anywhere who said or even insinuated that Dawkins isn’t allowed to talk about it.

    I’ll draw ire I’m sure, so STFU ahead of time.

    No.

    …Why exactly is his reaction to an experience of dick grabbing by a pedo teacher less valid than anyone else’s?

    Please point to anyone, anywhere who said or even insinuated that Dawkins’ reaction is “less valid” than anyone else’s.

    …If other adults talking about their experiences is too much for you? You can go be a hermit.

    Please point to anyone, anywhere who said or even insinuated that Dawkins relating his own experience is in any way problematic.

    But you don’t get to marginalize other peoples experiences with either tantrums or some fear of stepping on toes.

    And yet Dawkins’ marginalizing other peoples’ experiences—which is the only thing anyone has objected to—is apparently perfectly fine with you. Huh.

    Maybe this feeding frenzy energy would be better spent on Muslims raping eight year old girls to death, or youth ministers who rape the gay away. Or hey! Find a decent attorney to pursue why those criminal priests weren’t put in US prisons in contradiction to the secular state?

    Rape-ranking is… unhelpful.

    All Mr Dawkins did was offer a different experience that isn’t approved by some small circle of American hysterics, along with people who take their cues from the status quo of Sooo Fragile! Well the British handle things differently. Maybe theres something to be learned.

    No, that is manifestly not “all Mr. Dawkins did.” (And your sneering implication that other rape and abuse survivors on this thread are “Sooo Fragile” is noxious in the extreme.)

    This is nothing. Nothing there to cry about. Except the mob mentality of Must Follow Dogma. That’s pathetic. I thought this was an atheist blog.

    You’re of course free to agree with Dawkins who believes his experience is “nothing” and that there is “nothing there to cry about.” You don’t get to say it is “nothing” or that there is “nothing there to cry about” for anyone else.

    And it is indeed an atheist blog—one which apparently fails to live up to the standards of someone as astute and informed as you are about the matters under discussion here.

    I’m out. No spoons left today.

  20. PatrickG says

    @ Jafafa Hots:

    I am sickened by the fact that hero worship is so entrenched that he can successfully pull this off and get people to thank him for it.

    I felt I needed to speak up here in support — of you. I won’t thank him for it. I consider it the barest modicum of decency that Dawkins has at least acknowledged that something he said was wrong. For me, Dawkins is sort of irrelevant to me in this apology* — it’s the fact that the atheist/skeptical community protested so vehemently to provoke even this half-assed apology that makes me happy.

    Or, as Greta said: Speaking out works!

    * Public figure responding to pressure by walking back horrific comments is progress, in my mind. All too often, it doesn’t happen. Not to say it’s sufficient or rapid enough, but it’s progress.

  21. says

    Rape-ranking is… unhelpful.

    That’s a great post.

    …Sexual violence does not exist as a series of unrelated abuses that act in competition with one another for attention and concern, but as a spectrum of abuse on which exists both women being creeped on in elevators by strangers and rapes so brutal their victims do not survive.

    The implication that there are survivors of sexual violence who have no reason or right to “complain” as long as there are survivors who have experienced something “worse” somewhere in the world not only elides that post-abuse support profoundly affects trauma prognoses, but also creates a justification for ignoring all but only the “worst” manifestations of sexual violence, which necessarily means neglecting survivors in a way that makes them vulnerable to further trauma….

  22. Greta Christina says

    ultrabunny @ #17: I have tremendous compassion for you and what you what you went through. Can you please try to extend some compassion to other abuse victims — and not tell them how they should and should not feel about/ deal with their abuse? If you choose to not let it define you, to own and and move on, to develop a rhino skin — and if that works for you — I 100% support you in that. And if what works for Dawkins is to see his abuse as not being that big a deal and not doing lasting damage, I 100% support him in that. But I will not support Dawkins — or you — in telling other survivors how to deal with their abuse, or how to feel about it.

    The problem here was not with Dawkins diminishing his own experience. The problem was with him diminishing other people’s experiences.

    And yes, I am coming to agree with many commenters here that his apology was insufficient, and didn’t really reflect an understanding of why what he said was so [problematic. I do see it as a baby step in the right direction — but a pretty damn small step.

  23. says

    I just want to reiterate, very specifically, as a survivor of multiple incident childhood sexual abuse, from parent(s), that I think Dawkins is making an apology here, but it’s problematic, as Greta said. How we can get this to be unproblematic is something I would love to see Dawkins do, but I highly doubt he will do this considering he’s invested years in reifying institutionalized childhood pedophilia with his comments.

  24. says

    Regardless, I haven’t seen anything but knee jerk reactions of anger about this assumption that crybaby culture has been insulted. Well, the hell with crybaby culture – I never found it helpful once I found out that being Daddy’s little S&M rape slave wasn’t normal or OK. Nobody can change that awful past, but I can own it and move on. Which Dawkins did. But he’s not allowed to talk about it? I’ll draw ire I’m sure, so STFU ahead of time. I’ve spent decades listening to it in group therapy and psych hospitals and oh the hell with your professional victimhood! Only cowards wallow in that vat of acid instead of climbing up to the sun.

    I’m not interested in owning traumatic abuse perpetrated onto me by other people, I’m interested in them owning it, possibly with their lives. People need to get over abusers and their alleged worth to society, victims don’t need to “own” trauma inflicted on us. Society progresses by abusers being held to account, not by victims “owning” or “getting over” our trauma. I’ll get over my trauma when I know the perpetrators who inflicted it on me (many many forms of trauma even) are no longer going to do that to other people, then and not a day sooner.

    People like you have no sense of taking responsibility for what you say, how could you? It’s the fault of victims, not perpetrators.

  25. says

    You can have a perfect childhood, but adult life is still brutal. You still need to grow a rhino hide to get on with it. If other adults talking about their experiences is too much for you? You can go be a hermit. Talk to a pro about better treatment. Etc. But you don’t get to marginalize other peoples experiences with either tantrums or some fear of stepping on toes.

    So then put your money where your mouth is and go be a hermit (it’s easy right?) and get the fuck off of this website, go throw your tantrums elsewhere you big fucking baby.

  26. says

    Also, I just had to say this: LOL@”You can have a perfect childhood, but adult life is still brutal”. Ok kid, you can tell me all about how your 80 hour work week is so traumatic, and how you’ve been magically diagnosed with Chronic PTSD for it (or worse DESNOS) because it’s just harmed you badly ever since it began. Wow, PTSD rates would be so much higher if society just admitted that ALL ADULT LIFE IS STILL BRUTAL. I feel bad for the Koch brothers, and the Morgans, and the Warburgs, and the Rothschilds of the world, after all if ALL ADULT LIFE IS STILL BRUTAL they surely must be having a really hard time of things as life goes in general?

    Laughable, what a fucking joke.

  27. thinkfree83 says

    I think the issue with Dawkins is that he completely buys into the old school British boarding school culture, including the institutionalized pederasty and physical abuse. In his mind, such things as he experienced were just part of the landscape, like the uniforms or chants for memorizing Latin declensions. The gentry of the British Empire may have been content to send their sons away for institutionalized abuse for hundreds of years, but there is no reason why we who are living in 2013 should do the same. There no reason why a child should have to put up with sexual abuse in any environment, whether it is at a Catholic church, a public school, or a boarding school. If Dawkins isn’t concerned about his own molestation, then fine, but don’t apologize for institutionalized rot just because it comes wrapped up in an Oxbridge accent.

  28. Greta Christina says

    So then put your money where your mouth is and go be a hermit (it’s easy right?) and get the fuck off of this website, go throw your tantrums elsewhere you big fucking baby.

    BrainwashingGoddess—–Mind Control for the Evil IllumiNaughty Agenda @ #29: I understand why you are angry and upset at ultrabunny’s comments. But please remember and respect the comment policy of this blog. Please dorect your criticisms at words, ideas, and behavior, and don’t aim personal insults at other bloggers. And please let me be the one to tell people to leave the blog. Thanks.

  29. says

    BrainwashingGoddess—–Mind Control for the Evil IllumiNaughty Agenda @ #29: I understand why you are angry and upset at ultrabunny’s comments. But please remember and respect the comment policy of this blog. Please dorect your criticisms at words, ideas, and behavior, and don’t aim personal insults at other bloggers. And please let me be the one to tell people to leave the blog. Thanks.

    It’s not a personal insult: I don’t know anything personal about this person. If you could please clarify how this is a personal insult I’d appreciate the clarification. Also, I’m a hermit due to societal marginalization so if this is not a personal insult to me somehow, I’d request you clarify how it’s not too. That said I’ll stand down if that’s what you want, I’m just not going to allow people to personally insult me and nullify trauma i’ve been through and then be accused of personally insulting people who just finished personally insulting me when I’ve done no such thing to them.

  30. Greta Christina says

    If you could please clarify how this is a personal insult I’d appreciate the clarification.

    BrainwashingGoddess—–Mind Control for the Evil IllumiNaughty Agenda @ #34: “you big fucking baby” is a personal insult. Please don’t do that in my blog. I don’t want you to stand down; I just want you to aim your insults at ideas, words, and behavior, not at people. Thanks.

    And I have already told ultrabunny to knock it off. If they don’t, they will be banned.

  31. says

    Oh? “You big fucking baby” was aimed at ultrabunny because that’s the phrase they used at us, so I’m still not sure how it’s a personal insult to throwback an insult at someone who insulted an entire group of people very impersonally. Also “you big fucking baby” was a reference to her coming in here and insulting other survivors by throwing insults like that very one of ‘cry babies'; they’re coming in here to cry and throw a tantrum about other survivors complaining about our trauma. It’s categorically impersonal and a throwback insult referencing something she said earlier. I still don’t see your point as the insult was aimed at behavior; acting like a crying baby coming in here throwing tantrums (to rephrase an exact accusation made by them) at other survivors (us). I take what you mean to not use aggressive language? I can try to do that less, I think that’s what you’re getting at here, it’s just difficult for me to see, because technically nothing I did was a personal insult, in any way actually.

    I’ll definitely use less aggressive language towards them, I just thought their super aggressive language using broad impersonal insults towards everyone here merited similar issue of force. I was mistaken!? I guess I was mistaken /confused. Oh well.

  32. says

    BrainwashingGoddess—–Mind Control for the Evil IllumiNaughty Agenda:

    I just thought their super aggressive language using broad impersonal insults towards everyone here merited similar issue of force. I was mistaken!?

    I have been similarly chastened by Greta before, for much the same thing. I happen to agree with you that ultrabunny merited everything you unleashed (and more), but that’s not how Greta rolls here. From her her policy:

    If someone is being infuriating, please take the high road. Be the bigger person. Find the pleasures of skillfully disemboweling someone with icy politeness. And do not play the “But they said it first!” game. Do not assume that, because someone else was insulting first, therefore it’s okay for you to be insulting back. Do not escalate things. Dial things back.

    It’s her call, and we need to respect that here. Believe me, if ultrabunny had posted that comment at Pharyngula my response would have been, um… very different in tone and content than my 22. I typed that through gritted teeth: icy politeness is not my strong suit, to put it mildly (and I see upon reading it again today that a little snark slipped through). When I find I cannot express myself without violating the comment policy, I just STFU. 9 times out of 10, somebody else comes along and makes the same point anyway in keeping with the standards here.

    Anyway, I hope you’ll take Greta up on the challenge of her commenting policy, and keep commenting here.

  33. jonlynnharvey says

    “Dawkins still seems somewhat fixated on the idea that the damage done by childhood sexual abuse is contingent on the frequency of the abuse, or the specific kind of sexual contact. ”

    Maybe up to a point, but a heck of a lot depends on the resilience, support system, and prior emotional health of the abused. Inflicted upon the emotionally fragile, a small malfeasance can have devastating consequences.

  34. Jont Musiteur says

    I’m conflicted on this.

    It is extremely easy to be misunderstood about childhood sex abuse, as it is an extremely emotional issue for those affected and those not affected alike. It also wasn’t RD’s main topic, which was, as I understood it, judging events of the past according to moral standards of the day. Beyond the Golden Rule, morals change and shift within generations, and are always subject to a broad (though vague) combination of hegemony and consensus – there is no absolute morality. I agree with RD on this, and disagree with many atheists that engage a little too much in judging religious scriptures by today’s moral standards.

    On the other hand:
    I also suspect that RD has more problems with his experience than he is letting on. I wouldn’t go so far as to suspect that he’s internalized it, but identifying as a victim is difficult for anyone, and especially for male victims – it’s more humiliation on top of the humiliation that inevitably comes with abuse. Any time he’s talking with bravado on the issue, he’s fighting against that humliation. That would make it very difficult for him to take any kind of objective view on the matter.

    I am also more familiar with the phenomenon than I’d like to be.

  35. says

    I haven’t seen anything but knee jerk reactions of anger about this assumption that crybaby culture has been insulted.

    That’s probably because you haven’t been looking enough, or were blinded by your reflexive hatred of “crybaby culture” (whatever the fuck that is — are you calling other sexual-abuse victims “crybabies?”).

  36. says

    Miri told me the other day the way to ‘make things right’ was to apologies. Here we have an apology, but its ‘not good enough’ for some. This is a problem I’m increasingly having with this particular niche of the athei-o-sphere, demanding apology then not accepting or tearing apart any apology as ‘not good enough’. The

    Greta, you were one vocal demander of an apology, so yes…that puts you in a position to accept of reject it, not pass it off as you did in the post. I really don’t understand how you feel you have ground to demand an apology (which I agree with it being needed) but then lose that same ground when it comes time to accepting (or rejecting) the same. Don’t weasel out of that responsibility please, I feel it undermines your credibility. You demand action, you got action, so don’t say it’s up to someone else to pass judgement on the action you demanded.

    Beyond that specific complaint, I’m further realizing that the circles around here…no apology, no matter how it’s phrased, suffices. Judgement is passed, and the apology is picked apart line by line looking for cracks or ‘doesn’t go far enough’. It’s not just this one time either. I’d like to think that Miri was right, and the recourse is an apology, but that’s just not it. It’s not an apology that’s sufficient recourse any more. Any bit of disagreement with the apology, and we’re right back to square one.

  37. says

    I think it’s worth pointing out he hasn’t posted this to his twitter and the most recent things on his timeline are retweets of people saying stuff like:

    Stephen Harrison ‏@ironrash 21h
    @christianjbdev @RichardDawkins Outrage Ferrets. They trawl the web desperately looking for new things to be offended by
    Retweeted by Richard Dawkins

    Pete Knight ‏@NaturistAtheist 21h
    People aren’t just grabbing the wrong end of the @RichardDawkins stick, they are maliciously seeking a wrong end that doesn’t exist.
    Retweeted by Richard Dawkins

  38. says

    It also wasn’t RD’s main topic, which was, as I understood it, judging events of the past according to moral standards of the day.

    And even on that score, he’s just historically dead wrong. When we judge the actions of, say, slave-traders in the 1820s or pedophile priests in the 1930s or ’50s, we’re not applying a standard that was totally unknown to either of those eras; we’re applying standards that PREDATE those eras, sometimes by centuries — standards that were applied to those actors by their numerous contemporary critics, not just by future generations. Uncompromising moral opposition to slavery dates back AT LEAST to the Roman Republic (and equality of all humans under the law was enshrined in the US Constitution back in 1787, whether the Southern states admitted it or not); and long-established Christian doctrines do NOT condone grownups having sex with kids. The fact that a certain moral standard was routinely violated in a certain era does not mean that standard was alien or unknown to people in that era; nor does it mean that no one back then “knew better.”

    I suspect that Dawkins’ critique here is based on a widespread form of cultural-temporal snobbery, which simply takes it for granted that people in past centuries (or even past decades) were SOOO much more brutish and less enlightened than us modern folk with our previously-unheard-of knowledge/skills/tools/whatever that those poor little plebes back then could naver be expected to understand. It’s the kind of snobbery that leads some people to think that no one “back then” could possibly have built the Pyramids without someone in a flying saucer showing them how.

  39. says

    Jont Musiteur

    Regarding “judging events of the past according to moral standards of the day,” his teacher’s action was illegal at the time. While I’m aware of the difference between legality and morality, the fact that there was a law against it strongly supports the idea that it was considered immoral at the time. Why else would the be such a law? If the implication is that society in general, or the public-school milieu in particular, knew that it was both illegal and immoral, but turned a blind eye, then yes, I am perfectly prepared to judge that society guilty of hypocrisy, if nothing else.

    I also suspect that RD has more problems with his experience than he is letting on. I wouldn’t go so far as to suspect that he’s internalized it, but identifying as a victim is difficult for anyone, and especially for male victims – it’s more humiliation on top of the humiliation that inevitably comes with abuse. Any time he’s talking with bravado on the issue, he’s fighting against that humliation. That would make it very difficult for him to take any kind of objective view on the matter.

    If Dawkins claims that he suffered no lasting harm, then I am prepared to take him at his word. A major part of what is wrong with his statements on abuse, is that he is apparently deciding on others’ behalf how they should or do feel about their abuse. It would be hypocritical, I think, to do the same to him.

  40. says

    Here we have an apology, but its ‘not good enough’ for some.

    And some of us have painstakingly explained why. If you want to discuss our specific objections, go ahead. But don’t just tell us we have to accept whatever Dawkins chooses to say. That’s not how apologies work.

  41. says

    Jont Musiteur 40:

    It also wasn’t RD’s main topic, which was, as I understood it, judging events of the past according to moral standards of the day…I agree with RD on this, and disagree with many atheists that engage a little too much in judging religious scriptures by today’s moral standards.

    Ima just quote PZ here:

    As for that excuse about not judging behavior of an earlier era by our modern standards…I’ve heard that before. From William Lane Craig, to justify biblical murders. Richard Dawkins had this to say about it then.

    But Craig is not just a figure of fun. He has a dark side, and that is putting it kindly. Most churchmen these days wisely disown the horrific genocides ordered by the God of the Old Testament. Anyone who criticises the divine bloodlust is loudly accused of unfairly ignoring the historical context, and of naive literalism towards what was never more than metaphor or myth. You would search far to find a modern preacher willing to defend God’s commandment, in Deuteronomy 20: 13-15, to kill all the men in a conquered city and to seize the women, children and livestock as plunder.

    We do not excuse harm to others because some prior barbaric age was indifferent to that harm. Furthermore, the excuse doesn’t even work: are we supposed to believe that a child-fondling teacher would have been permissible in the 1950s? Seriously? Was that ever socially acceptable? And even if it was, in some weird version of British history, it does not excuse it. It means British schools were vile nests of child abuse, just like Catholic churches.

    …I’m sure many Catholics are quite gleeful that Richard Dawkins has now embraced the same moral relativism that they use to rationalize crimes against children.

  42. says

    It also wasn’t RD’s main topic, which was, as I understood it, judging events of the past according to moral standards of the day. Beyond the Golden Rule, morals change and shift within generations, and are always subject to a broad (though vague) combination of hegemony and consensus – there is no absolute morality.

    Leaving aside for the moment the question of whether that was his “main topic,” you might find this* work on “history, blame, and moral disappointment” of interest.

    *Scroll down a bit.

  43. says

    The problem I have with Dawkins’ statement (and his apology for that matter) is that he’s addressing the wrong thing. It is not just the characteristics of the abuse itself that determine the level of harm resulting. Sure, Dawkins was, by his own account, quite resilient and did not experience long-term harm (well, except for the lack of compassion for young sexuallly abused children, I suppose). And there are reasons for that lack of long term harm – temperamental factors, intelligence, economic security, receipt of supportive parenting in early childhood, mentoring by supportive adults, good social support from peers, lack of further trauma of either a sexual or non-sexual nature, etc. It’s not like it would be hard for him to investigate the research on resilience and consider WHY he was relatively unharmed, while other victims suffer severe long-term consequences. That he didn’t do so suggests a profound lack of curiosity about his experience – not a good thing in a memoirist..

  44. says

    otocump 42:

    Are you suggesting that people who were hurt by Dawkins’ original comments should accept any sort of “apology”—even a condescending, self-serving one that makes clear he has in no way grokked what he did wrong in the first place? Should we also accept apologies that are transparently insincere? How about not-pologies (“I’m sorry if you were offended, but ___…”)? Because I’m reading you as if you think that anyone who simply pronounces the magic words “I apologize” deserves no further analysis or scrutiny, only immediate forgiveness. But that can’t be right…can it? (I am highly skeptical this is what Miri said or implied either, and I would appreciate a link.)

    As for your demands of Greta, unless she has updated somewhere that I haven’t seen, her last two sentences in this comment indicate her present position.

    That she is open and willing to listen to other points of view and change her mind accordingly is why she has such tremendous credibility with me, fwiw.

  45. Jont Musiteur says

    @Raging Bee, @Daz
    I think you’re conflating two different things. The (blindingly obvious) fact of moral attitudes changing does not mean that people did not act immorally by the standards applicable at that time according to the consensus of the time, as they do today. He was essentially describing the fallacy of presentism, which is uncontroversial (except to those who indulge in it).

    I agree that the acts of RD’s teachers were immoral at that time as well, and I would claim that RD used an extremely poor example to establish the otherwise valid point he was trying to make – he switched gears from a rational, uninvolved position to a defensive position with heaps of personal involvement, derailing his own position. I’ve done it, I think we’ve all done it.

    I still think he has more of a problem than he cares to admit as this is consistent with the above, and with generally raising an issue to claim it isn’t an issue when nobody was asking. That is problematic as he can’t address the issue without the emotional defense mechanisms kicking in. Of course I could be wrong, but I’d need some convincing of that. The Loftus defense finally did it for me, but that’s another matter.

  46. says

    Jont Musiteur

    I think you’re conflating two different things. The (blindingly obvious) fact of moral attitudes changing does not mean that people did not act immorally by the standards applicable at that time according to the consensus of the time, as they do today. He was essentially describing the fallacy of presentism, which is uncontroversial (except to those who indulge in it).

    I’m not sure I understand what point you’re trying to make. If we were talking of, say, carbon dioxide emissions, yes it would be unfair to judge the people of the nineteenth century immoral for emitting huge amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere—they had no idea that it caused harm. But we’re not. We’re talking about actions which were considered immoral at the time they were being performed, and yet were swept under the rug or otherwise ignored. That is the very definition of hypocrisy.

    The fallacy of presentism does not apply to accusations of hypocrisy. I can judge a person or a society hypocritical by testing their actions against their own stated moral standards, regardless of whether they match the standards of my own society.

    I still think he has more of a problem than he cares to admit as this is consistent with the above, and with generally raising an issue to claim it isn’t an issue when nobody was asking.

    Is your internet diagnosis of Dawkins’ possible mental health issues based on something more than “I think”?

  47. Jont Musiteur says

    @Daz

    I’m not sure I understand what point you’re trying to make…

    I don’t know whether you’ve read what Dawkins actually said. It might help:

    I am very conscious that you can’t condemn people of an earlier era by the standards of ours. Just as we don’t look back at the 18th and 19th centuries and condemn people for racism in the same way as we would condemn a modern person for racism… then he went on to “mild pedophilia”.

    You’d need to apply a lot of ill will to see anything prolematic in the first part. It doesn’t defend racism, it also doesn’t defend the excesses that were committed. It compares racists of that time (who were not exposed to the sensitization as we are today) with the current time. Then he goes on to mild pedophilia, and shoots himself in the foot with it.

    Is your internet diagnosis of Dawkins’ possible mental health issues based on something more than “I think”?

    I did not make a diagnosis as to “Dawkins possible mental health issues” – I am saying that he has more of a problem than he’s admitting to himself. Being bothered by something, whether past or current, does not equate to a mental health issue. Still, being bothered by something is, well, bothersome.

    And yes, it is absolutely based on nothing more than “I think”. Is anything you write based on anything other than what “you think”?

  48. says

    Jont Musiteur

    I am very conscious that you can’t condemn people of an earlier era by the standards of ours.

    I didn’t.

    I am saying that he has more of a problem than he’s admitting to himself.

    Please see my second paragraph, in the very first reply I made to you.

    Frankly, if you’re going to accuse me of not having read Dawkins’ words, whilst at the same time showing quite plainly that you have not bothered to read words which have been addressed to you by me on this thread, I see no point in continuing this conversation.

  49. Jont Musiteur says

    @SC:
    That was indeed an interesting, though difficult read. I couldn’t find anything to disagree with.

  50. says

    Thanks to the lens Jafafa provided, I think I can file this under the category of ‘notpology.’ Not encouraging, but I think I can take some comfort in that there was a strong enough backlash for Dawkins to feel it, even if he doesn’t understand it.

    After typing the following paragraph, I thought it might be prudent to give a Trigger Warning, since I mention a lot of emotional and social factors behind how people respond to being abused. I don’t have personal experience beyond being psychologically bullied as a kid, but I try to pay attention and relate as best I can.

    To reiterate a point that can’t be made enough: Yes, we can accept that some people can push through and not feel traumatized by being molested or abused. We’re glad they can handle it. This is non-issue. The real issue is one person extrapolating from that sort of experience how other victims “should” feel. Humans are a diverse lot, and react differently. Abuse also covers a wide range of situations and contexts that can greatly change how a person views their abuse and thus how they feel about it. It’s simply not reducible to overly mechanical terms of number of incidents, duration, regularity, or points of physical contact. Abuse does not produce easily predictable results based on those factors alone. Humans are more complex than toasters. Physical factors do contribute much of the time, but it’s generally more about emotional and social factors like the feeling of violation, breach of trust, perception of helplessness, another’s abuse of hierarchy and power, and being used against one’s will as an instrument for someone else’s gratification. The additional experience of being shamed, blamed, ignored, shunned, vilified, and told to just walk it off like it’s just a physical injury by an unhelpful community certainly makes it worse for many victims.

  51. says

    @irisvanderpluym

    It’s her call, and we need to respect that here. Believe me, if ultrabunny had posted that comment at Pharyngula my response would have been, um… very different in tone and content than my 22. I typed that through gritted teeth: icy politeness is not my strong suit, to put it mildly (and I see upon reading it again today that a little snark slipped through). When I find I cannot express myself without violating the comment policy, I just STFU. 9 times out of 10, somebody else comes along and makes the same point anyway in keeping with the standards here.

    Anyway, I hope you’ll take Greta up on the challenge of her commenting policy, and keep commenting here.

    I read some more of the policy and I think I get that throwback insults, even if they’re impersonal, shouldn’t be used. I did tell Greta twice that I would stand down/use less aggressive force, but honestly, last night, I was seeing red. Today I’m a little more clear on what the policy is and thank Greta (and you) for clarifying it for me when I’ve calmed down and not seeing red. My natural impulse when I’m seeing red and don’t understand policy of any sort is to stand down until I do, so at least that impulse kicked in somewhat.

    Thanks for explaining it again to me, and yes I will definitely be using a less aggressive approach from now on should I comment here further, as I very much DO want to respect Greta in this endeavor; she’s done so much for the community. I guess I just got a little too hasty to run a troll off the forum, for that I apologize, to Greta, and to you and everyone else here, such as it is.

  52. imthegenieicandoanything says

    Thanks for this, as no one else has bothered to feature it.

    Though it’s not enough, it’s a lot, and if Richard is still as thoughtful as he once was (and usually is still), further reasoned argument and evidence will have him understand just where and why he was simply wrong.

    What won’t have any good effect – and, frankly, isn’t intended to – are the unpleasant and gloriously self-righteous “all or nothing, not now but yesterday!” comments and demands, many of which are displayed here.

    I am no mother hen – all may comment as they please. But I will do as I please and keep my own glorying in outrage beneath a heavy heel of what actually leads to positive results. I have less and less respect for those who demand others feel and think as they do: we need not compromise principles while working together.

    As religion shows, someone else sometimes being wrong, especially when it’s simply a stupid, ill-thought opinion, isn’t evidence that we are always right. I certainly am not – not even entirely about this. But I’ll learn by receiving better information presented civilly, not by the usual raging and swearing.

    [How sad I expect almost no one to bother to actually read what I've written here before spitting some insult back! These ARE very bad times for the "community"!]

  53. Eristae says

    I’m tired and cranky, so I’m not going to write much and will try to come back to this later, but in the meantime . . .

    Today we read, almost daily, of adults whose childhood was blighted by an uncle perhaps, or even a parent, who would day after day, week after week, year after year, sexually abuse a vulnerable child. The child would often have no escape,

    Now, given the terrible, persistent and recurrent traumas suffered by other people when abused as children, week after week, year after year, what should I have said about my own thirty seconds of nastiness back in the 1950s?

    To have done so would have been to belittle and insult those many people whose lives really were blighted and cursed, perhaps by year-upon-year of abuse by a father or other person who was deeply important in their life. To have done so would have invited the justifiably indignant response: “How dare you make a fuss about the mere half minute of gagging unpleasantness that happened to you only once, and where the perpetrator was not your own father but a teacher who meant nothing special to you in your life. Stop playing the victim. Stop trying to upstage those who really were tragic victims in their own situations. Don’t cry wolf about your own bad experience, because it undermines those whose experience was – and remains – so much worse.”

    I am an adult whose childhood was blighted by having a parent (my father) sexually abuse me day after day, week after week, year after year. That makes me, in theory, one of the people whom Dawkins doesn’t want to belittle and insult.

    And I am infuriated beyond all measure by the idea that my response to someone’s abuse is or should be something as horribly insensitive, unhelpful, and damaging as this “How dare you make a fuss about the mere half minute of gagging unpleasantness that happened to you only once, and where the perpetrator was not your own father but a teacher who meant nothing special to you in your life. Stop playing the victim. Stop trying to upstage those who really were tragic victims in their own situations. Don’t cry wolf about your own bad experience, because it undermines those whose experience was – and remains – so much worse” bullshit. Just reading it makes me want to breathe fire out of sheer rage. I’m so angry that I cannot process the rest of what he wrote at the moment.

    I don’t care if my experience was better or worse than Dawkins’s. That is not the issue. It isn’t even an issue. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that Dawkins was abused, and as such should receive any and all support that he needs in overcoming the trauma of his abuse. If he was lucky, if his trauma was minimal and he does not in fact need support, then that is wonderful. It is a cause for celebration and joy. The goal for all survivors of abuse is for them to be able recover from their abuse, even though that goal is not always achievable.

    However, Dawkins’s good fortune is not cause to minimize, dismiss, and shame people who were not so fortunate.

    I said it somewhere else and I’ll say it again here: molesting a child is like throwing a child out a window. It isn’t possible to know how badly the child will be hurt beforehand. The child may suffer bruises, broken bones, severed nerves, or even, in some particularly fortunate situations, manage to escape unscathed. Furthermore, while it is true that the danger of injury increases as the height that the child was thrown from increases, a child who is thrown from a third story window may suffer fewer injuries than a child thrown from a second story window.

    Similarly, it is not possible to tell beforehand how a child will react to being abused. I have spoken to individuals who were subjected to abuse that even Dawkins would agree is horrendous and nevertheless walk away unscathed. I have spoken to individuals who were subjected to abuse that Dawkins would dismiss who weren’t able to do anything but lie broken on the floor.

    When a person survives abuse unscathed, I rejoice. When a person is crippled by abuse, I mourn, empathize, and seek to help them. I do not seek to critique the person’s abuse. I do not insist that a person has no right to their (metaphorical or literal) broken bones.

    That is all for now.

  54. Greta Christina says

    What won’t have any good effect – and, frankly, isn’t intended to – are the unpleasant and gloriously self-righteous “all or nothing, not now but yesterday!” comments and demands, many of which are displayed here.

    imthegenieicandoanything @ #59: Do not ever — and I mean EVER — come into my blog again and tell victims of sexual abuse that their anger at having their experiences trivialized and dismissed is “unpleasant,” “self-righteous,” “glorying in outrage,” ” the usual raging and swearing,” or anything else so utterly dismissive. Do it again, and I will ban you so fast it will make your head spin.

  55. Dani Wells says

    I will never like Dawkins after what he did re: Rebecca Watson. He’s just another masculinist dickhead who, even in this new round of white dood privilege, he tells everyone that their abuse must be ‘bad bad bad’ according to him in order not to be a whiny victim. That’s exactly what he did to Rebecca. I was just commenting on an old video by Daniel Fincke, when he was trying to get through to that thickhead Justin Vacula, that I would never join the atheist community b/c of the sexual harassment.

    Don’t get me wrong. I think it’s wonderful that women are standing up to this abuse. I just think that men in this movement are all suspect in the sense that each man’s mileage may vary when it comes to listening and understanding women’s issues. There are some men that seem to get it but I am not holding my breath that in the next year we’ll find out that some males who were thought to be allies turn out to be ignorant privileged asses.

  56. says

    Eristae 60: Seconding BrainwashingGoddess at 61. Thank you so much for writing that. Dawkins’ characterization of his “stop playing the victim” spiel as a “justifiably indignant response” makes my blood boil, to the point that I have trouble writing with the clarity, patience and thoughtfulness you displayed.

    Greta 62: Thank you. It all just gets so…tiresome.

  57. neuroguy says

    @Dani 63:

    You are wrong on so many levels. I’m not interesting in dialoguing with someone who, while bemoaning how others don’t get it, has quite obvious gaps in her own understanding.

    1. Sexual assault/abuse/harassment are not “women’s issues”. To say that they are is to trivialize the experiences of men who have suffered these things. Wrt Dawkins and other victims, it’s quite likely IMO this has severely affected their ability to feel empathy for other victims.

    2. Disparaging a man by referring to him by his genitals is (or should be) frowned upon just as much as when that is done to women.

    3. You know what? Women can be assholes too when it comes to feeling empathy for victims. In fact there are plenty of examples wrt the Watson incident and elsewhere.

    4. You see men primarily as “ignorant privileged asses” and you don’t credit any of us with actually getting it, only seeming to.

  58. Jont Musiteur says

    @neuroguy 65:

    1. That’s not just IYO, that’s an acknowledged phenomenon in male trauma victims.

    2-3 Full agreement. It’s tempting to use the same tactics as the enemy, but utterly counterproductive unless you want to continue the war/drama/feud/whatever it is.

    4. Well… leaving all the privilege rhetoric out of it, men can’t understand women’s issues from the POV of a woman any more than women can understand men’s issues for the same obvious reasons. Empathy will work on a human level, but what’s obvious to one isn’t going to be obvious to another and mistakes will happen. We all make them. It’s how we deal with them when they’re pointed out to us that counts.

    What bothers me is the expectation that one side has to fully and completely understand the other side’s point of view or they’re instantly bad people to be sent into the bad corner with all the other bad people. I don’t see what this blanket acrimony is supposed to achieve apart from more blanket acrimony from the other side.

Trackbacks

Leave a Reply