Elliot Rodger and Misogyny Denialism: The Call Is Coming From Inside The House

How much more clear does it have to get?

When men in Islamist theocracies assault, rape, and kill women, we have no problem calling it misogynist hatred. When they explicitly state that their motivation is to enforce God’s gender roles and put women in their place, we have no problem calling it misogynist hatred. And we have no problem laying the blame, in large part, on the culture that teaches this hatred, and on the thousands of ways both large and small that Islamist theocratic culture teaches this despicable concept of women.

So why is it so hard to see the Isla Vista shootings as motivated by misogyny?

Elliot RodgerA man participated regularly, and for some time, in online forums devoted to the hatred of women, part of a “men’s rights” (MRA) subculture devoted to the hatred of women. He made multiple YouTube videos devoted to the hatred of women. (The last one of which included the words, “I don’t know why you girls aren’t attracted to me, but I will punish you all for it”; “I’ve wanted a girlfriend, I’ve wanted sex, I’ve wanted love, affection, adoration, but you think I’m unworthy of it. That’s a crime that can never be forgiven”; and “If I can’t have you, girls, I will destroy you.”) He wrote a 140-page manifesto clearly outlining his vicious hatred of women, and his dehumanizing view of them, as his motivation for the crime he was about to commit. (A manifesto that said, among many other things, that “Women should not have the right to choose who to mate and breed with”; that “The ultimate evil behind sexuality is the human female”; that “Women are like a plague. They don’t deserve to have any rights. Their wickedness must be contained in order to prevent future generations from falling to degeneracy. Women are vicious, evil, barbaric animals, and they need to be treated as such”; and that ” I cannot kill every single female on earth, but I can deliver a devastating blow that will shake all of them to the core of their wicked hearts.”) As Lindsay Beyerstein wrote on Facebook: “I read Rodger’s manifesto twice. I wish all English comp students could formulate a thesis and support it as clearly as he did. Rodger told the world exactly why he went on this killing spree. He spelled it out in excruciating detail and sent his narrative of the killings to the media. In case that wasn’t enough, he made a series of YouTube videos to cement his narrative of his own crime in the public mind.”

Yet so many people are contorting themselves into pretzels to deny the connection between the Isla Vista shootings and misogyny. So many people are contorting themselves into pretzels to find any motivation at all other than misogyny. What the fuck is going on here?

Is it likely that many different factors played a role in these shootings? Of course. That doesn’t mean misogyny was not one of those factors, and a major one. Were men killed in the shooting spree as well as women? Yes. That doesn’t mean misogyny was not a major motivating factor: misogyny has splash damage that spatters blood onto men as well as women. Is it possible that some sort of mental or emotional disturbance played a role in the Isla Vista shootings? Sure. A case could be made that misogynist hatred on this level is, in and of itself, a clear symptom of being disturbed. A case could be made that misogynist hatred on this level is, in and of itself, by definition, deeply disturbed. That doesn’t make it not misogyny.

Birmingham church bombingWhat’s more, many people are falling all over themselves to chide feminists for bringing up misogyny, for “politicizing” the Isla Vista shootings and “using” it to advance our agenda. It’s weird. When we talk about the Boko Haram schoolgirl kidnappings and connect it with misogynist Islamist theocracy, it’s not “politicizing”; when activists around the world screamed in agony over four little black girls blown up in a church by hateful racists, it wasn’t “politicizing.” But somehow, connecting the dots between (a) a man who explicitly and repeatedly named misogyny and the dehumanization of women as the motivation for his mass murder, and (b) misogynist elements of our culture that treat the dehumanization of women as normal and acceptable — somehow, that’s “politicizing.”

What the actual fucking fuck is going on here? [Read more…]

“Who cares, Granny? Pipe down.” “are u a dude or a gurl?”

A couple more pieces of joy from Twitter, in response to my #YesAllWomen tear.

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Me: @AUseaotter So you know who random attention seekers are, vs. “real” sexists? As if seeking attention by trolling #YesAllWomen isn’t sexist?

Asshole on Twitter: @GretaChristina @AUseaotter are u a dude or a gurl?

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Me: @AUseaotter So you know who random attention seekers are, vs. “real” sexists? As if seeking attention by trolling #YesAllWomen isn’t sexist?

Second Asshole on Twitter: @GretaChristina @AUseaotter Who cares, Granny? Pipe down.

It’s really striking when Lewis’ Law — “Comments on any article about feminism justify feminism” — get demonstrated so blatantly. Sometimes sexism, gender policing, and misogyny are subtle and unconscious — but sometimes, they’re really, really not. Sometimes, they get spelled out as explicitly as is humanly possible. Literally telling a feminist woman, in words, that she doesn’t fit prescribed gender roles? Literally telling a feminist woman, in words, that she’s old and should stop talking? It would make me laugh, if it weren’t so sad. Or, alternately: It would make me cry, if it weren’t so funny.

For the record: I don’t find “you don’t fit prescribed gender roles, and I find your gender presentation confusing!” to be an insult. Quite the contrary. Gender normativity is boring and stupid. And to the degree that “I find your gender presentation confusing!” is supposedly an insult because saying someone is trans or appears to be trans is supposedly an insult: Fuck that noise. As it happens, I’m cisgender, but fuck that noise.

And for the record: Who cares? I’ll tell you who cares. The thousands of people who have bought my books; the thousands of people who regularly read my writing in AlterNet, Salon, The Humanist, and Free Inquiry; the roughly 2,000 – 6,000 people who read my blog every day (more when I have a spike); my close to 10,000 Facebook readers; my over 10,000 Twitter followers; the “I’ve lost track of how many but certainly in the thousands by now” people who have come to hear me speak, not even counting conferences and the Reason Rally; the 199,127 people who have watched my “Why Are You Atheists So Angry?” talk on YouTube (okay, that’s almost certainly not 199,127 unique people, but still). That’s who cares. Bugs you, doesn’t it? The fact that I — a woman, a feminist woman, and a middle-aged feminist woman at that — am successfully making a full-time living by writing and speaking words that people want to read… that really gets under your skin, doesn’t it?

Some More Really Good Posts on Elliot Rodger, Misogyny, and Misogyny Denialism

Content note: misogyny, violence against women, misogyny denialism.

I’m working on my own post about Elliot Rodger, misogyny, and misogyny denialism. In the meantime, here is a roundup of some more of the best stuff I’ve read about it. I’m finding it really helpful to read what other people are writing about this: it’s clarifying my own thoughts, and it’s making me feel less alone. (My previous roundup is here.)

Arthur Chu, The Daily Beast, Your Princess Is in Another Castle: Misogyny, Entitlement, and Nerds (total genius, an absolute must-read):

I’ve heard Elliot Rodger’s voice before. I was expecting his manifesto to be incomprehensible madness—hoping for it to be—but it wasn’t. It’s a standard frustrated angry geeky guy manifesto, except for the part about mass murder.

I’ve heard it from acquaintances, I’ve heard it from friends. I’ve heard it come out of my own mouth, in moments of anger and weakness.

Lindsay Beyerstein, Duly Noted, Elliot Rodger’s War on Women:

By any meaningful standard, Rodger planned and executed a terrorist attack. He orchestrated the violence for maximum symbolic impact and took steps to disseminate his message through the mass media. In many ways, he’s a classic example of what terrorism experts call a lone wolf or self-radicalized terrorist.

Rodger’s beliefs were extreme even relative to the most fevered corners of the Men’s Rights Movement. However, his views did not emerge from an ideological vacuum. Rodger’s views were a logical extension of misogynist philosophy that says that women need to be dominated and controlled for the good of society.

Attempting to shoot up a sorority house because you want to control women is just as political and just as terroristic as attempting to shoot up an abortion clinic.

Soraya Chemaly, XOJane, When Do We Talk About “Unpleasant” Truths In the Wake of Elliot Rodger’s Destruction?:

I wanted to yell, this is a man who said he wanted to put women in concentration camps and starve them. Why is the news media not saying that? He was sick, yes, but there are men who are effectively doing this to children and women in their homes, here and elsewhere, as we go about our lives. They exist on a continuum not separate from us, but alongside us.

Amanda Marcotte, AlterNet, 4 Myths About Sex and Women That Prop Up the New Misogyny:

Unsurprisingly, then, there’s a great deal of misinformation upholding the troubling trend of new misogyny that festers in everything from “men’s rights” forums to “pick-up artist” communities to the various rape apologists and two-bit woman haters that litter the right wing media landscape. The tragic shooting in Isla Vista, which was committed by a young but hardened misogynist named Elliot Rodger, has shown a spotlight on this weird but influential world where ugly myths about gender and sexuality flourish.

Amanda Marcotte again, The New Prospect, How ‘Pick-Up Artist’ Philosophy and Its More Misogynist Backlash Shaped Mind of Alleged Killer Elliot Rodger:

Obviously, the discourse of male entitlement to female attention has long been a problem in our society. Young men angry at women for supposedly overlooking their charms for less worthy and more brutish sexual rivals existed long before The Game was published or PUA/MRA forums proliferated online. But the internet and the PUA community have created a self-haven for young men engaged in this self-pitying discourse, encouraging them to cultivate that chip on their shoulders, wallowing in misogynist accusations that women en masse are failing them by not giving up the sex these ostensibly unappreciated men believe they deserve. With so many men spending so much time egging each other on, and trying to top each other when it comes to blaming women for their own pitiful lives—to the point of advocating for the denial of basic rights to women—it’s little surprise that one of them would finally work up the nerve to get his “revenge” for all these imagined slights.

David Futrelle, We Hunted the Mammoth (formerly Manboobz), Men’s Rights Activists respond to the Elliot Rodger murders with a hearty “Nothing to see here! Move along!”:

It’s not that they’re not talking about the tragedy. A look through the top 100 posts in the Men’s Rights subreddit, the largest Men’s Rights forum online, reveals that roughly a third of them, including the top stickied post, relate in some way to Elliot Rodger’s rampage and the discussions that have come up online and in the media in its aftermath.

But the message of virtually all of these posts is: “Nothing to see here! Move along!” There are numerous posts expressing outrage that anyone would see any connection between Rodger’s toxic misogyny to the Men’s Rights movement; there are others mocking and attacking the #YesAllWomen hashtag; there’s even one suggesting that Rodger, who wrote about how he longed to watch all the women of the world starve to death in concentration camps, wasn’t actually a misogynist at all.

vampmissedith, cry laugh feel love peace panic, When I was a freshman:

When he was arrested, some of my sister’s friends (some female, even) told her that she was selfish for saying no so many times. That because of her, the entire school was in jeopardy. That it wouldn’t have killed her to say yes and give it a try, but because she was so mean to him, he lost his temper. Many of her male friends said it was “girls like her” that made all women seem like cockteases.

Wouldn’t have killed her to say yes? If a man is willing to shoot someone for saying no, what happens to the poor soul who says yes? What happens the first time they disagree? What happens the first time she says she doesn’t want to have sex? That she isn’t in the mood? When they break up?

“I just want to rape you,” “you dirty piece of property”

Content note: rape threat, violence against women, misogyny.

Still more joy from Twitter, in response to my #YesAllWomen tear.

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Asshole on Twitter: @GretaChristina I don’t hate you. I just want to rape you. #deservedit #yesallmen

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@BinkyToes: @GretaChristina That user is suspended. YAY!

Asshole on Twitter: @BinkyToes @GretaChristina No I’m not you dirty piece of property.

FYI, it does seem that this user has been suspended. For now.

#YesAllWomen — My Stuff

Content note: Misogyny, violence against women and girls, trivialization of same.

Just posted these to Twitter.

#YesAllWomen The two boys in third grade who pinned me down and pulled down my pants so they could get a look…

#YesAllWomen … and the fact that I didn’t tell anyone, because *I* felt ashamed.

#YesAllWomen The college boyfriend who hit me twice and choked me once…

#YesAllWomen … the friends who saw one of the times he hit me, and still tried to help me work things out with him..

#YesAllWomen … & the fact that I didn’t tell anyone, because *I* felt ashamed.

#YesAllWomen Man who said when we were breaking up “You don’t have to stay w/ friends, stay here,” then spent the night screaming at me…

#YesAllWomen … and the fact that again, I didn’t tell anyone, because *I* felt ashamed.

#YesAllWomen Man who followed me for a block & a half leering and “Hey baby”ing, didn’t stop when I ignored him & said “No” & “Fuck off”…

#YesAllWomen … who didn’t stop til I ripped chain off my leather jacket & shook it in his face & screamed. And who then called me a bitch.

#YesAllWomen The man who responded to a Facebook argument by saying he wanted to “slap the bitch” and kick my blog readers in the cunt.

#YesAllWomen Organization leader who I emailed about this, who said “Nothing excuses threats of violence” then excused it for 3 paragraphs.

#YesAllWomen The man who commented on a blog post about Internet misogyny, “You’re a CUNT… a whining, annoying, cunt.”

#YesAllWomen The man who commented on a blog post about Internet misogyny, “Go fuck yourself with a knife you irrational cunt.”

#YesAllWomen Men who insist that their free speech right to call women cunts is violated by women saying it’s sexist & asking them not to.

#YesAllWomen The man who commented on a blog post about my depression, “goddamn you are fucking ugly. Kill yourself.”

#YesAllWomen The Internet harassers I never blogged about, b/c I was told they’d been unusually scary & persistent towards other women.

#YesAllWomen The anti-feminist man who hacked into the private email backchannel of my blogging network, and publicly posted emails from it.

#YesAllWomen The fact that at conferences, I never, ever, EVER say my hotel room number out loud.

#YesAllWomen The fact that I don’t post my location on Facebook unless it’s a big public event with lots of people.

#YesAllWomen The fact that I ask friends not to Facebook about where we are unless it’s a big public event with lots of people.

#YesAllWomen The fact that I get 10x more threats from men who hate me b/c I’m a feminist than believers who hate me b/c I’m an atheist.

#YesAllWomen The fact that all of this is only what I remember offhand.

#YesAllWomen The fact that all this is only the worst of it, there are hundreds of little gropes & threats & invasions I didn’t bother with.

#YesAllWomen The fact that I’m not even mentioning assaults on reproductive rights, the glass ceiling, slut shaming, body policing…

#YesAllWomen … inappopriate sexualization, enforcement of rigid gender roles, rigid & impossible beauty standards, Madonna/whore trope…

#YesAllWomen … under-representation of women in media, sexist representations of women in media, Hollywood boys’ club, the Bechdel test…

#YesAllWomen … or a thousand other forms of sexism that aren’t misogynist violence, or support/ tolerance of misogynist violence.

#YesAllWomen The fact that despite all this,I tend not to think of myself as victim of violence against women,b/c other women have it worse.

#YesAllWomen The fact that I tend not to think of myself as a victim of violence against women, b/c it was only physically bad a few times.

#YesAllWomen The fact that despite all this, I tend not to think of myself as a victim of violence against women, b/c it just seems normal.

Misogynist Killer Post Compilation

Content note: misogyny, violence against women, murder

I have a deadline coming up, and won’t be able to write about the Elliot Rodger mass murder for a couple/ few days. Many people have been writing excellent things about it. Here are links to just a few, with brief excerpts from each.

Laurie Penny, New Statesman, Let’s call the Isla Vista killings what they were: misogynist extremism (this one is an absolute must-read):

Why can we not speak about misogynist extremism – why can we not speak about misogyny at all – even when the language used by Elliot Rodger is everywhere online?

We are told, repeatedly, to ignore it. It’s not real. It’s just “crazy”, lonely guys who we should feel sorry for. But as a mental health activist, I have no time for the language of emotional distress being used to excuse an atrocity, and as a compassionate person I am sick of being told to empathise with the perpetrators of violence any time I try to talk about the victims and survivors. That’s what women are supposed to do. We’re supposed to be infinitely compassionate. We’re supposed to feel sorry for these poor, confused, vengeful individuals. Sometimes we’re allowed to talk about our fear, as long as we don’t get angry. Most of all, we mustn’t get angry.

We have allowed ourselves to believe, for a long time, that the misogynist subcultures flourishing on- and offline in the past half-decade, the vengeful sexism seeding in resentment in a time of rage and austerity, is best ignored. We have allowed ourselves to believe that those fetid currents aren’t really real, that they don’t matter, that they have no relation to “real-world” violence. But if the Isla Vista massacre is the first confirmed incident of an incident of gross and bloody violence directly linked to the culture of ‘Men’s Rights’ activism and Pickup Artist (PUA) ideology, an ideology that preys on lost, angry men, then it cannot be ignored or dismissed any more.

Miri, Brute Reason, Masculinity, Violence, and Bandaid Solutions:

Before you call Rodger “crazy”: it is not actually “crazy” to believe stuff that’s been shoved down your throat from birth.

David Futrelle, We Hunted the Mammoth (formerly Manboobz), Why Elliot Rodger’s misogyny matters:

When a white supremacist murders blacks or Jews, no one doubts that his murders are driven by his hateful, bigoted ideology. When homophobes attack a gay youth, we rightly label this a hate crime.

But when a man filled to overflowing with hatred of women acts upon this hatred and launches a killing spree targeting women, many people find it hard to accept that his violence has anything to do with his misogyny.

(Futrelle also has a transcript of Rodger’s final video, for those (like me) who can’t bear to watch it.)

Ophelia Benson, Butterflies and Wheels, Grandstanding?:

Am I “grandstanding” for instance when I pay a lot of attention – public, blog post and social media attention – to the kidnapping and enslavement of schoolgirls in Nigeria by a violently misogynist group of Islamists? Is that “grandstanding”? Is it grandstanding to make a connection between Boko Haram’s misogynist theocratic views and its actions?

And what is “extremely selfish” about making a connection between misogyny and violence? What is even a little bit selfish about that? I don’t see it; I can’t see it.

Martin Robbins, guest blogging on Butterflies and Wheels, What elephant in what room?:

A man who was part of a community of extremists who hate women, wrote a manifesto about his hate for women, then went to a female sorority house to kill women.

But it definitely wasn’t about his hatred of women. Oh no sir, it was because of his Asperger’s, or some undefined mental illness. It clearly had nothing to do with his hatred of women because he killed men too, on his way to the female sorority house. More men than women in fact if you count them up. And even if it was related to misogyny, we probably shouldn’t talk about it because hey, if we air these sort of views publicly the terrorists win.

The Belle Jar, Elliot Rodger And Men Who Hate Women:

This is what the Men’s Rights Movement teaches its members. Especially vulnerable, lonely young men who have a hard time relating to women. It teaches them that women, and especially feminist women, are to blame for their unhappiness. It teaches them that women lie, and that women are naturally predisposed to cheat, trick and manipulate. It teaches them that men as a social class are dominant over women and that they are entitled to women’s bodies. It teaches them that women who won’t give them what they want deserve some kind of punishment.

We need to talk about this. The media, especially, needs to address this. We live in a culture that constantly devalues women in a million little different ways, and that culture has evolved to include a vast online community of men who take that devaluation to its natural conclusion: brutal, violent hatred of women. And I don’t mean that all these men have been physically violent towards women, but rather that they use violent, degrading, dehumanizing language when discussing women. Whose bodies, just as a reminder, they feel completely entitled to.

PZ Myers, Pharyngula, Well, that explains everything:

The real culprit in all of this is a culture of thriving misogyny, in which women are dehumanized and regarded as grudging dispensers of sex candy, who must be punished if they don’t do their job of servicing men. Elliot Rodger was a spoiled, entitled kid who had his brain poisoned with this attitude. First he learned that women are disposable, then he learned that they were evil for not having sex with him, and then he rationally put together two delusions and acted on them.

And it’s not just MRAs and PUAs that spread that poison. Every politician and media blowhard who bargains away women’s rights, who dismisses efforts to correct economic inequities, or patronizingly decides that they must manage women’s lives for them, is polluting the atmosphere further.

Courtney Caldwell, Skepchick, “Alpha Male” Elliot Rodgers’ Retribution:

Society tells men that if they’re “Nice Guys,” they are entitled to women’s bodies and time. So you can’t be surprised when some men take that as an edict to take what is theirs by violence. You certainly can’t be surprised that men like Elliot Rodger think violence is justified, when Men’s Rights leaders like Paul Elam tell their readers to beat up women:

“I don’t mean subdue them, or deliver an open handed pop on the face to get them to settle down. I mean literally to grab them by the hair and smack their face against the wall till the smugness of beating on someone because you know they won’t fight back drains from their nose with a few million red corpuscles. And then make them clean up the mess.”

Emma Cueto, Bustle, After Elliot Rodger, #YesAllWomen Trends on Twitter as a Response to the “Not All Men” Fools:

It seems lately that no one can have a conversation about misogyny and the problems women (#YesAllWomen) face without someone interrupting with “Not all men!” This is apparently even true on a day when a young man with a long and painfully well-documented history of misogyny predictably turns violent and kills at least six people.

Josh Glasstetter, Southern Poverty Law Center’s Hatewatch blog, Shooting Suspect Elliot Rodger’s Misogynistic Posts Point to Motive:

A review of Rodger’s online writing suggests an ideology behind his lust for revenge.

A Martyr of Modern Skepticism: The Assassination of Prominent Atheist Narendra Dabholkar

A great skeptical leader has been assassinated.

This didn’t happen in a tyrannical theocracy. This happened in a modern, supposedly secular nation, with no state religion, and with first-class programs of science and medicine. And still, for the crime of criticizing religious beliefs, questioning them, and subjecting them to scientific scrutiny, a great skeptical leader was gunned down on the street in broad daylight.

narendra_dabholkarFor over two decades, Dr. Narendra Dabholkar dedicated his life to overcoming superstition in India. Originally a medical doctor, Dabholkar spent years exposing religious charlatans, quacks, frauds, purveyors of “miracle cures,” and other con artists preying on gullibility, desperation, and trust. An activist against caste discrimination in India, and an advocate for women’s rights and environmentalism, Dr. Dabholkar’s commitment to social justice was expansive and enduring. But it was his work against superstition that earned him his fame.

India is a huge, hugely diverse country, and much of it — particularly the South — is thoroughly modern, urban, and largely secular. But much of the country — particularly the North — is saturated with self-proclaimed sorcerers, faith healers, fortune tellers, psychics, gurus, godmen, and other spiritual profiteers. In parts of the country, people are beaten, mutilated, or murdered for being suspected of witchcraft, and there are even rare cases of human sacrifice — including the sacrifice of children — in rituals meant to appease the gods.

Throughout this country, Dr. Dabholkar traveled to towns and villages, investigating claims of miracles and magic, revealing the physical reality behind the tricks — and organizing travelling troops of activists to do the same. He didn’t try to persuade people out of the very idea of religious belief, but he was an open atheist, proud and unapologetic. He was the Founder of the Committee for Eradication of Superstition in Maharashtra (Maharashtra Andhashraddha Nirmoolan Samiti). He fought for years for the passage of a controversial anti-black-magic bill in India.

And it was his work against superstition that almost certainly cost him his life.

*****

Thus begins my latest piece for AlterNet, A Martyr of Modern Skepticism: The Assassination of Prominent Atheist Narendra Dabholkar. To find out more about Dr. Dabholkar’s life, work, and murder — and the context it all took place in — read the rest of the piece. And please share it, retweet it, etc. – this story needs to be heard, outside the atheist/skeptical community as well as within it.

On Trayvon Martin and the George Zimmerman Verdict — and What “Freethought” Does Not Fracking Well Mean

Please note: This blog post has a different comment policy from my usual one. It appears at the end of the post.

Other people have written about the details of the George Zimmerman case, and the verdict, more clearly and eloquently than I can. This piece does a pretty good job, as does this, as does this, as does this, as does this, as does this. But I feel that I need to get on the record about this. I may be disjointed, I may not be my usual eloquent self, but I can’t let this pass in silence.

Sometimes, I am deeply ashamed of my country. This is one of those times. The George Zimmerman verdict is making me physically ill.

I didn’t blog about the George Zimmerman verdict the day that it happened, or the day after, because I was out of town at my father’s memorial and the scattering of his ashes (and was then flying back home). And I can’t stop thinking about how I feel about my father’s death… and then thinking about how Trayvon Martin’s parents must feel. There have been moments when my grief over my father has felt nearly unbearable — and my father died at age 79, quietly in his sleep, after a long decline and years of very low quality of life from which death was a respite, of natural causes that nobody in this world could consider unjust. I cannot begin to imagine what it must feel like to be grieving the death of your teenaged child, who was hunted down and shot, whose death came from a systemic hatred and contempt of your race that you and yours have to live with every second of every minute of every day of every year of your entire life… and whose killer, in a grotesque travesty of justice, was acquitted.

I cannot begin to imagine. But it is my moral obligation to try.

It is also my moral obligation to do whatever I can to change the world, to do what I can to move this world towards one in which this would never happen, could never happen. It’s a tiny tiny start, not anywhere near enough, but it’s a start: I’ve signed the NAACP petition to the U. S. Department of Justice, asking them to file civil rights violation charges against George Zimmerman. You can sign it, too. If you know of other action that people can take, please make suggestions in the comments.

And in response to some (not all, not even most, but some) of what I’ve been seeing in the online discussions about this — largely among atheists/ skeptics/ etc., since that’s the Internet world I largely inhabit — I also want to say this:

I am sick to fucking death of the idea that “freethought” means “we have to treat all ideas as worthy of consideration, and debate them calmly and without anger, and treat people we disagree with respectfully.” Some ideas are morally repugnant. It is not antithetical to freethought to respond to morally repugnant ideas with rage. It is not antithetical to freethought to tell people with morally repugnant ideas that their ideas are morally repugnant, and that you will have nothing to do with them.

There are some issues that are worthy of calm, considered debate, issues on which people can reasonably disagree and still be friends. The question of whether a young black man should be able to buy candy at a convenience store without being hunted and killed is not one of them.

And I am sick to death of people looking at the national conversation about the George Zimmerman verdict, and acting as if “oh no, people are being mean to people who expressed views they find morally repugnant, they’re swearing at them and unfriending them and blocking them!” was the real issue here, the most important issue, the issue we should all be discussing. A young black man was hunted and killed for the crime of being a young black man, and his killer was acquitted. This is not an isolated case: it reflects the reality of millions of African Americans. And what some people really, really want to talk about is, “People are cussing people out and banning them on Facebook!” If those are your priorities, then please get the fuck out of my life. Do not comment in my blog. Do not read my blog. Do not follow me on Facebook or Twitter. Do not attend my talks. Do not buy my books. Go away, now.

And I am sick to fucking death of the idea that I am somehow morally obligated to host these debates — and these derailing meta-debates — in my own space.

I am not willing to host a debate about this on my blog. I am willing to host many debates on my blog, about many issues. I am willing to make my blog into a place for people to express many ideas and opinions with which I passionately disagree. This is not one of those issues, and this is not one of those times. If you have anything at all to say about this that even remotely hints at implying that what George Zimmerman did was remotely defensible, or that this verdict was anything short of grotesque… do not comment in my blog. Now, or ever. Do not read my blog. Do not follow me on Facebook or Twitter. Do not attend my talks. Do not buy my books. Get the fuck out of my life, now. Thank you.

“A distraction”

So, this happened.

On my Facebook page, there’s a conversation about how female inmates in California prisons have been getting sterilized, without the proper approval process, and with the women being subjected to pressure and coercion.

A commenter on my page (remaining nameless here, as people have a somewhat higher expectation of privacy on Facebook than elsewhere on the Internet), had this to say:

There are worse things to be worrying about, like where people are actually dying or losing their freedoms.

When I pointed out to him that this was, in fact, a story about freedoms being lost, and asked if he wanted his Facebook readers to troll him every time he posted about something when they thought something else was more important, he replied:

Thorny topics like sterilization and the requirement of consent for it seems like a distraction from the things that can actually improve our quality of life in the here and now or in the future.

A distraction.

From the things that can actually improve our quality of life.

The requirement of consent for sterilization is, according to this person, a distraction from things that can actually improve our quality of life. Things like the right to basic bodily autonomy, or the right to decide for ourselves whether we are or are not to reproduce… apparently, these aren’t things that can actually improve anyone’s life.

Or maybe the issue here is that the “our” in “our quality of life” doesn’t include female prisoners?

And while we’re at it: A “thorny” topic? Sterilization and the requirement of consent for it is a “thorny” topic? It seems pretty freaking straightforward to me. You don’t sterilize people without their absolutely clear, completely informed, entirely non-pressured consent. Period. What, precisely, is “thorny” about that?

Sigh.