Attention whores deserve internet abuse… because reasons

Ophelia points out this excellent coverage of a horrible story. Ophelia summarises:

Lena Chen, as a freshman at Harvard, started a blog called Sex and the Ivy, where she wrote about her hookups, self-medication with alcohol, recovery from an eating disorder and crushing desire to be liked. All standard stuff for a college student. But then an ex-boyfriend posted naked pictures of her on the Internet.

Writes Claire Gordon in Al Jazeera:

“For some, this was righteous comeuppance for the campus harlot. For others it was just great gossip. Classmates and other titillated parties reposted the images around the Web, and comment threads exploded with colorful debate.”

Ophelia comments: “You know the kind of thing. Ugly, whore, disgusting, blah.”

Read the rest at Ophelia’s blog.

What struck me while reading the story on Al-Jazeera’s site was this delightful comment, which appears conjured from the streams of idiocy the article highlights and proves Lewis’ Law.

ughIt says:

“So let me get this straight… some chick posts about her intimate affairs online for everyone to see, takes nude pics of herself, and is then surprised when all of that blows up in her face? Cry more, over privileged dimwit. There is a word for people who behave this way, “attention whore”. Grow up and take responsibility for your own careless actions. If people who read your revealing blog, and view pictures that you took of yourself naked have the opinion that you are a “skank”, or anything else you find offensive, that is their opinion, and you put yourself out there to be judged. Deal with it.”

Victim-blame much?

So women, listen up: According to Lord Davidson, Minister of Internet Manners and Behaviour, you may not post anything about your intimate affairs, take nude pics and expect decent treatment as an adult. Surprisingly, Mr Davidson might discover that plenty of adults do this everyday and are responded to without horrific treatment as if they’re pariahs on society half-a-beat away from eating children. Instead, they’re ignored, respected, or treated in any number of ways that does not undermine their capacity to be part of human society.

What I “expect” is for adults to treat other adults in ways that align to decency and respect, unless they’ve done something worthy of no respect – such as murder or rape. No case is made or has been made to show that naked people, proudly sexual people and so forth deserve such horrific treatment.

As always I don’t understand what’s wrong with “whore” or “slut”: I’m not asking people to adopt these terms, only asking those who use them negatively to explain what’s wrong with behaviour that makes you namecall such people using these terms.

Oh no: A woman really likes having sex consensually with lots of people? Hellfire, brimstone, lakes of blood, dogs marrying cats! A person consensually exchanges money for sexual favours? Bring forth the torches and oil!

The victim-blaming is terrible, as always. No focus is given to the fact that she doesn’t deserve such comments. But what’s always “intrigued” me about such comments is how the victim-blamer expects the victim to control responses: what powers do they think women have to control the entire Internet in its treatment of women? Women have to just exist and make their presence known to be treated this way: adding the sexual element only gives them an added element.

My friend Caroline Criado-Perez fought to create more sex diversity on British bank-notes – and for that, she was treated in the most horrific ways: rape and death threats.

Would Mr Victim Blamer say: “Oh well what did she expect, campaigning for equal treatment and representation?” If he would not, what makes sex get a free moral pass to turn adults into lecherous monsters?

Either women have no power and so must be controlled or they appear to have infinite power in managing the responses of all the world, since they “bring it on themselves”.

I hate knowing that it appears to be mostly men saying and doing these things. It makes me ashamed to have any even vaguely similar characteristic to such people. But, disgustingly, it also makes me glad I’m not a woman on the Internet. I don’t think I’m strong enough to withstand such treatment.

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On leaving the “online atheism” community

My friend from “down under”, Martin Pribble, wrote a short post – that has been reworked for Slate – on why he’s “quitting the online atheism community”. Quoting from the Slate piece:

For the last five years I have considered myself an “activist atheist.” I trolled Facebook and Twitter for theists and told them why they are wrong. I made fun of them for their unreasonable beliefs. I would analyze and nitpick their statements, show examples of just where they went wrong and why, and even at times ridicule them when there seemed to be no option left, all in the vain hope that I might be able to sway them to a more rational way of viewing the world and the universe. This could be extremely satisfying, and sometimes I found I could even come to a level of agreement with a believer about the realities of life. I even have friends among my Twitter following who are priests and strong Christians.

But I’m through with it, and I no longer want to be part of the online atheist “community.” What I was once a proud member of, a group who fought against the evils of deliberate misinformation coming from religious groups and people, has become, at least on the surface, a parade of contradiction and caterwauling against theists who have no clue that there could be an alternate viewpoint or understanding of the universe than their own. The times of satisfaction are outweighed by feelings of frustration and hopelessness.

Through the piece, Martin details his frustrations with “debates with theists who make a ludicrous claim, then base their evidence on the very book from which their ludicrous claim originates.” This is because, says Martin, “Faith overrides knowledge and truth in any situation, so arguing with a theist is akin to banging your head against a brick wall: You will injure yourself and achieve little.”

I don’t dispute that and it’s one reason I stopped doing “it” some time ago, at least on this level. I don’t consider what I do entirely comprised of “atheist activism” or “online atheism” – I am part of a blog network comprised of nonbelievers but almost no one here is devoted solely to Bible criticism or undermining religious claims wherever they may sprout. Indeed, for my part, most of what I write on isn’t premised on whether it’s religious madness but just general immoral actions or thoughts.

Martin seems to take this course, too:

“This will not change an awful lot in what I do online. But I think I’ve come to a point where I am only injuring myself if I were to continue engaging in theistic debating about things like the efficacy of the Noah’s Ark story. If someone is espousing beliefs that are actively harmful—i.e., promoting intolerance based on belief systems—expect me to be the first to stand up and say something. I can’t allow this kind of thinking, and if I can help it, I will move to sway the believer into rethinking their position. But this will be done with reason and rational discourse, not with contradicting the finer points of the religious texts.”

However, I’m struggling to understand Martin’s point: Who says online atheism is about debating or “contradicting finer points of religious texts”? Who says it has to be about knowing religious doctrine and theology and focusing on inconsistencies that even most believers wouldn’t know or care about? As I say, I don’t consider what I do atheist activism, but it makes no sense to say that the whole enterprise is not worth engaging because of what appears to be a small – and frustrating – part of it.

Martin also equates atheist activism with online atheism, which is probably unhelpful, since activism exists in multiple formats including online blogging and “real life” protests. Indeed, speaking only of “online atheism”, it can be comprised of engaging in science, morality, politics, history; about argument and evidence. To shrink it down to the worst elements and claim you’re abandoning the whole project is not only fallacious but untrue: Martin himself is not giving up writing about harmful beliefs and articulating bad ideas. He’s just reasonably giving up the part that appears most pointless. And who would disagree?

Martin is an excellent writer and a generally thoughtful blogger. However, I don’t quite understand the point of this piece, who it is aimed at, or what he was trying to achieve by writing it. No one would dispute the frustrations he’s experienced and that his continued efforts are more important in those areas actually harmful (not boring Bible studies and theology); his declaration itself highlights even the importance of the parts he finds frustrating, despite himself giving them up; and it seems unnecessary and fallacious to dismiss the entire enterprise, when online atheism or atheist activism is compromised of a variety of enterprises and disciplines – each of different levels of interest, successes, frustration, etc.


Reader challenge: Make an argument for banning topless women in public

Can someone offer a good, justified argument for why men can be topless in more public places than women?

For example, all can be topless at home, on nude beaches; women may be “topless” in public when breast-feeding (kind of), and so on. But I’m looking to see if there’s not a double-standard that allows men to be topless but not women in more places. If so, what are good reasons for creating laws around women being topless but not men.

I’ll offer some thoughts after, but I’d really like either links or original arguments. I can’t find any that are satisfactory (or perhaps my Googling abilities are not as high as yours).

Remember: I’m not looking for descriptive reasons (it exists because people will be offended). I’m looking for justified arguments that will make me and anyone else agree (it exists because topless women give people heart attacks).

Misconceptions about gaming by non-gaming people

IGN Africa recently launched and I contributed a thinkery piece about misconceptions about games.

I examine common claims like it’s only for kids, it’s not art, etc. The claims are, of course, largely – if not totally – wrong.

It annoys me to no end that because a work is a video game it’s assumed to be unable to, for example, tell an incredible story, have amazing performances, or allow for moments of the numinous that are essential to all forms of creativity.

Mandela and atheist deathbed conversions

I’m still recovering from (minor) surgery, but I saw some mention of Mandela and atheism being floated around (my limited access to Internet is an additional hindrance to accessing information, along with my limited consciousness). However, thankfully, Jacques Rousseau has done a great job in tackling this subject.

In asserting that Mr Mandela’s “atheism” is another reason to celebrate his life, The Freethinker magazine (and, presumably, those who, like Richard Dawkins, retweeted the story in question) seem to be exploiting… “borrowed interest”, but which you might know better as simple opportunistic exploitation of largely irrelevant details about someone’s life.

I say largely irrelevant, because Mandela’s role involved highlighting what we have in common, rather than our differences and antagonisms. If any of the labels we use to describe religion and related issues could fit, the one that would have the best chance would be humanism, because his relationship to the citizens of the world seemed to transcend the quite limited boundaries offered by religion and its explicit opponent, atheism. The focus in religion vs. atheism is on difference, rather than commonality, and hardly seems either a good fit or a fitting thing to bring up while people are still mourning Mandela’s death. It’s crass, and opportunistic.

Furthermore, it also seems largely a fabrication, or at least a fantasy, that he was an atheist at all. The “evidence” offered in The Freethinker consists solely of a birthday wish to Mandela from a South African atheist, urging Mandela to “come out” as an atheist. In another piece, it’s asserted that “the other [after Andrei Sakharov] great moral atheist leader of the 20th century was Nelson Mandela”, but we’re given no reason to believe this assertion to be true.

Jacques’ final paragraph in the post is also important, concerning double-standards when it comes to nonbelievers claiming great people as “their own”.

Guys in dark alleys shouldn’t get upset if women fear them

I wouldn’t blame a strange woman if she was unnerved by me, a lone guy, if she and I were the only ones walking in a dark alley. I call this the Creepy Default.

This has happened twice, but I was the one unnerved due to doing everything I could not to be creepy (my cane doesn’t help, I suppose). Neither time did the woman walk faster or even appear to notice, but I was flustered.

When I told my friend this, she got upset. She said I wouldn’t hurt anyone and that women have no reason to fear me, alone in an alley.

However, the problem is twofold. [Read more…]

On that fake Paris Hilton Tweet

I scold Twitter. Again. Because apparently me and social media are like mortal enemies – or rather online conduct is.

Over at Big Think, I convey why it’s troublesome – both in terms of our conduct online and another area that is related: how we treat celebrities. I dislike the victim-blaming language of “they asked for it” by virtue of being celebrities, in terms of receiving flak and animosity and stalking and whatnot.

I really, really dislike being nasty to innocent, harmless people – even if they are famous.

I can’t say it, but Nehru can

Friends and Comrades,

The light has gone out of our lives and there is darkness everywhere. I do not know what to tell you and how to say it. Our beloved leader… the Father of the Nation, is no more. Perhaps I am wrong to say that. Nevertheless, we will never see him again as we have seen him for these many years. We will not run to him for advice and seek solace from him, and that is a terrible blow, not to me only, but to millions and millions in this country. And it is a little difficult to soften the blow by any other advice that I or anyone else can give you.

The light has gone out, I said, and yet I was wrong. For the light that shone in this country was no ordinary light. The light that has illumined this country for these many years will illumine this country for many more years, and a thousand years later, that light will be seen in this country and the world will see it and it will give solace to innumerable hearts. For that light represented something more than the immediate past, it represented the living, the eternal truths, reminding us of the right path, drawing us from error, taking this ancient country to freedom.

All this has happened when there was so much more for him to do. We could never think that he was unnecessary or that he had done his task. But now, particularly, when we are faced with so many difficulties, his not being with us is a blow most terrible to bear.

…There has been enough of poison spread in this country during the past years and months, and this poison has had an effect on people’s minds. We must face this poison, we must root out this poison, and we must face all the perils that encompass us, and face them not madly or badly, but rather in the way that our beloved teacher taught us to face them. (source)

Vale Nelson Mandela.