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Why is Rebecca Watson so damned polarizing?

How is it that when Rebecca Watson says something essentially unobjectionable and otherwise a no-brainer, like that when people make misogynist jokes at a fifteen year old girl, and others reward same with upvotes, they might just be creating a chilling atmosphere for women in general, a total fucking shitstorm ensues?

QuickMeme image: "Don't like being sexually harassed on r/atheism? You should probably make a new account and never come out as being female ever again"

Via QuickMeme, whose right-click scripts cannot defeat me.

Only one point made in r/atheism’s defense is worth considering at this point, in my estimation: terrible people exist everywhere. Those terrible people — and the excuses made to let them keep being terrible in your space — color the perception of the group as a whole. Reddit’s r/atheism subreddit is filled with lots and lots of good people, a bunch of very vocal douchebags, and too little self-policing. So when poisonous elements are allowed to fester such that a fifteen year old girl trying to excitedly join a community of fellow atheists by daring to post a picture of herself with her new Christmas present — a copy of Carl Sagan’s Demon Haunted World — she gets a full-on assault for daring to be a girl on the internet. People are going to get turned off by that kind of behaviour. People like Jen McCreight, John Loftus, Ed Brayton, PZ Myers, and myself.

So if your group is colored by the perception that you’re allowing douchebags to mistreat newcomers to the community, you’re either responsible for doing it, or responsible for letting it happen. Yes, that’s right, you let it happen if you do not register a dissenting voice. I’m talking about moderation the only way it can exist in a place with no moderation powers — by shouting down the assholes. By punishing bad and antisocial behaviour. By punishing if not by silencing the assholes who think rape jokes about a fifteen year old are fine and dandy, by at least telling them that those opinions are not welcome, are not the majority, and are not acceptable.

What’s worse, I think this particular incident only blew up because it was Rebecca Watson who pointed it out. Since her startling and bold claim, of which we should be so very skeptical, that someone might have thought their privilege to cold-proposition strange women overrides a woman’s right to feel relatively safe, she’s somehow managed to gain a magical superpower to make mundane and obvious revelations huge conflagrations.

Every time she points out anything that should be a no-brainer — as one anti-Watson commenter said somewhere (crowdsource a link?), she often sticks to Skepticism 101 topics, which I suspect is an intentional strategy to facilitate newbies to the cause — she’s completely drowned in effluence from anti-Watson posters who are so drenched in privilege they can’t even recognize that there are people out there who might actually suffer from the things she points out. And what’s worse, they have a tendency of doubling down on the horrible things that were pointed out by Rebecca, by posting horrible terrible things about Rebecca for all to see.

And you know what? GOOD.

Maybe not so good for her, but for all of us. These magical superpowers of hers are probably a curse for her own sanity, but they are a boon for our society, for our respective communities. It’s excellent that she can draw so much attention to the problem, and can draw out the people who are, in essence, part of it, where they can make examples of themselves. The “touch of boorishness” that she can draw out of complete strangers just by mentioning this nonsense is exactly the type of attitude we need to cleanse from our systems, to keep from becoming an entrenched part of our culture. We have to draw this venom out of our skeptical communities’ bodies somehow.

I only regret that she has to wade through that effluence in making herself a huge target just by, you know, daring to talk about the problem while being a girl on the internet. She needs all the support she can get if she’s going to keep touching off firestorms just by prodding at that one raw nerve that so many atheist and skeptical men seem to have where even addressing our problem with privilege. Because that raw nerve needs to be prodded until we manage to do something about it. Having girls as part of our movement, with all the attendent concerns that brings, is too important a goal to let the MRAs and the winged monkeys screech at us until we give up on it. We must not cede the privilege of being part of the movement without an uphill struggle toward acceptance to be a male privilege only.

This should be a no-brainer too. But since it was Rebecca Watson who said it, of course we’re seeing so much pushback.

Just remember, she isn’t the only one saying it.

Comments

  1. Chris says

    I read the original thread when it was posted and remembered sighing at what was a predictable sequence of events, and then also being angered in a kneejerk fashion at Rebecca’s article for many of the reasons that others have cited, either correctly or not — the article cherrypicked the worst and left out the positive, the persecution specifically of /r/atheism when the attitude is rampant across Reddit and almost all other social communities online of a certain size, the first visible response by the submission under the top rated comment being seen as a level of comfort with what was about to transpire, and the fact that much of what was pointed out in the article was moderated down or possibly out of context in a thread attempting to be humorous.

    This does not excuse any of it, obviously. Some responses to Rebecca’s article on Reddit have been full throated anger, some have been a call to reflect on the entire situation and understand what Reddit can do (and specifically r/athiesm) in order to treat each other better without having to make ten thousand rules about what you can and cannot post, which defeats the purpose of the self-moderation system.

    I personally think that there are several real issues with how Reddit is built that allows situations like these to happen: First, wit and humor is valued over insight or meaningful participation, on average. The top upvoted comment was not a discussion about the book or why her mom would buy her the book, it was a reference to a popular Game of Thrones meme on how it was inevitable that this girl was about to be deluged with comments on her appearance. This set the tone right from the start, and the thread never escaped.

    Additionally, part of the issue is that the Tragedy of the Commons has become an undeniable issue when it comes to the size of Reddit and that the minority of those that would mistreat others or find it allowable is simply too large to be policed by the majority by a simple upvote/downvote system. As you say, it is the job of everyone to stand up and shout down objectionable content, but far too large of a percentage of people simply do not upvote or downvote unless the comment or submission is an extreme in either direction, despite the ease at which a user can do so. Generally speaking, good comments rise and bad comments fall, but usually not at the speed that is necessary from a vulgar comment veering the discussion in an undesired direciton.

    Finally, a pure self-moderation system like Reddit simply isn’t effective at the beginning of a discussion when there isn’t a body of content in which to bury unworthy statements into. Downvoted comments are hid, but as said before, usually not quick enough.

    Finally, a note on something Rebecca cited which I think is a miscommunication at the hands of several elements: Rebecca cited images that people posted comparing how guys post photos of things and girls post photos of things, the difference being that the girl is seen in the photo, and thus is interpreted as ‘karma-whoring’. I think the frustration from a lot of people, myself included, is not that a girl dare show her face or that it is only true of girls that they bother to appear in their own submitted photo. It’s more the frustration at the reaction of the Reddit population: it’s a definite trend that because there is an attractive female in the photo, it will accumulate upvotes at a much faster rate. The image Rebecca pointed at is observing a true phenomenon, but misunderstands the source of it and blames the wrong elements, and gives Rebecca more fuel to her point.

    Personally, I value Reddit as a community, warts and all. I have become very accustomed to simply tuning out the noise in the pursuit of enjoying the good that results from the site, but I understand that to expect everyone to do so isn’t realistic, and certainly doesn’t help make it a better place, since my inaction can many times become tacit approval. I’ve seen multiple misguided attempts by moderators to clean up certain subreddits, and in the process, destroy what was valuable about them in the first place. It will be interesting to see how much of the community sees this as a realization that more should be done, and if it results in anything.

    Anyways, those are my thoughts: probably enough for a full blog post of my own, but it was your post that drove me to respond, so it shall exist here as a very long comment. Definitely interested to hear your thoughts.

  2. says

    Rebecca’s “mistake” was telling MEN that women had a right to have their personal space respected. You’ll hear some gibberish about her calling out some other woman inappropriately, but that seems, at best, post hoc. Bottom line, Rebecca doesn’t Know Her Place(tm), doesn’t care, and that makes her a target for raving shitbags. (It’s a good thing Rebecca is thick-skinned enough to weather it, but that doesn’t excuse us from calling out said raving shitbags for being raving shitbags.)

    Most women who aren’t the right kind of subservient get this — for example, Amanda Marcotte. I’m a regular commenter on Pandagon, and when I see Marcotte called a manhater, etc. I wonder what blog they’re reading. But the facts don’t really matter.

  3. CincinnatiDavid says

    Maybe it’s Rebecca Watson’s title, “Reddit Makes Me Hate Atheists”, that’s arousing. Isn’t this a deliberate generalization to spark interest?

  4. Celeste says

    Since I refuse to join reddit due to the disgusting displays I’ve all-too-frequently witnessed there, I’ve been following the Twitter comments about this. I’ve tried offering my support to Rebecca there. Ophelia is so right. The types of personal attacks Rebecca is seeing due to this post won’t just roll off her, and kind words and support will probably go a long way to help.

  5. says

    Ophelia:

    Fair enough. Such is the nature of the heckler’s veto.

    CincinnatiDavid:

    As if these things come out of a vacuum. Watson didn’t say that for the mere purpose of picking a fight; she’s talking about an ongoing problem that affects not only the skeptical community but the geek community at large.

    Bad troll. You don’t get to ignore context and then claim a grievance.

  6. says

    I’m a female feminist, atheist and skeptic. The situation isn’t improved for me personally by the fact that because of my profile, people often assume I agree completely with Rebecca at all times. As an observer, I also dislike the way *reasoned* (important qualification there) criticism of her ideas or tactics automatically attracts commentary putting the author on par with those reddit wastes of space.

    From my perspective, there’s a very “you’re with us or you’re against us” mentality — on both sides — in all this back-and-forthing, and once it’s gotten to that point the likelihood of productive discussion is essentially nil.

  7. says

    It’s really strange how this happens. Like… she’s really not saying anything all that controversial, that other feminists and female skeptics and so on haven’t all said a million times before. Maybe it’s because she doesn’t treat the “basics” as basic… that she finds specific examples of the stuff about which most of us feminist/social justice types probably think “yeah, OF COURSE that’s fucked up” and then explains exactly WHY it’s fucked up and refuses to accept is as a matter of course.

    The backlash then illustrates the fact that for a LOT of people, the basics of feminism, human rights, privilege, social justice… even just plain courtesy, respect and ethics… are apparently not so obvious and basic. That we HAVEN’T put the fundamental problem of treating women as sexual objects first / human beings second behind us.

    And somehow… that sort of thing, along with her willingness to not mince words, and perhaps just that she embodies a certain kind of image- a powerful, intelligent, influential woman who won’t shut up- just ends up being absolutely everything the privileged, misogynist part of our community, and often of our selves, simply MUST not accept or take seriously lest that privilege be threatened. There ends up being an imperative to attack, demonize, dismiss and silence her however possible, because otherwise… yep, we’d have to take a look in the mirror.

    If she can make it through this, after making it through July, I can’t imagine her ever being defeated or silenced by anything.

  8. says

    Chris @2: I appreciate the comment, and I’ll try to give it a fair reading. It’s mostly level-headed, but I daresay far more apologetic of what amounts to a set of systemic biases than I particularly care for. I’m not saying you necessarily agree with the underlying biases, but I do see a little too much of mistaking the individual movements in this chess game for the chess game’s results as a whole.

    My main problem is that I’ve seen a very similar scenario play out in so many other communities often enough that I see trends here where you see individual actions on an individual thread. We have, as I’ve noted and you’ve agreed, a problem where there’s a creeping element that happens to be particularly vocal, and too many of the folks that might put that vocal and evil set of memes down standing by and “letting evil win by doing nothing”, as it were.

    The self-moderation could work if more of the people who are put off by this kind of thing were willing to actually click the downvote button when they see something objectionable, but they don’t, because “boys will be boys”. (Even if they’re girls.) Being a jerk on the internet comes at too low a karma cost and the line between being witty and being a jerk is fine enough that not enough people are actually downvoting those people who are on the wrong side of that line. It’s rather shameful, especially given how much good r/atheism has to offer.

    The individual memetics — “bracing mah anus” and “dat feel” — that she was using, was probably in my estimation trying to signal that despite what she expected was coming, she was in fact a member of your “ingroup” by having tried to participate in the community in the past, or having at least lurked. That signal was completely drowned out by the fact that by posting her picture with the book, she showed herself to be relatively conventionally attractive, which equates in some people’s heads with karma whoring — a practice that’s only objectionable because some people feel they’re unfairly disadvantaged by it. What’s interesting is, it’s also going to be men (mostly) upvoting the pretty girls and rewarding karma whoring, so the problem is not on the poster’s side, the problem is again one of an unfair system. So some men upvote her so she’s encouraged to post more pictures of herself, and other men threaten her with rape and whatnot (or just make plain, not-rapey misogynistic comments, which is frankly still really bad) to try to discourage the practice. Either way, just by posting her face with it, exactly the same way that some men do, she’s proving that she’s a girl, and she gets that treatment wholly undeservedly.

    If you’re a reasonably conventionally attractive male, try it. Post your picture. See if you get told you’re karma whoring or get upvoted unfairly. If you don’t, then the problem is that there’s a chilling climate for women inculcated by the privileged men that are actually motivated to upvote or downvote pretty girls but not upvote or downvote the misogynistic nonsense that those pretty girls get.

    Just look at the vilification of defending girls on the internet from this kind of nonsense — they’re called white knights. And some of them only do it to “get a cookie” from the girls — as though they could be enticed to have virtual sex with them or something. It’s so ridiculous and all-around male-centric that we need to recognize that privilege that males have if we’re to change anything. So your comment, level-headed as it is, is unfortunately every bit as steeped in the privilege that we as men enjoy being on the internet as that of those assholes who are actually part of the problem.

    Consider my post, Rebecca’s post, and hell, even the original 15-year-old’s post, consciousness-raising. Being in a position of privilege does not make you a bad person, it’s only if you don’t work to counteract it after it’s pointed out that that privilege is demonstrably hurting someone else that it becomes an issue.

  9. Chris says

    Jason: I guess I’m confused, because I thought I was coming to the same conclusion you were. My points at the beginning about my reaction to Rebecca’s article and why I and others had issues with it were indeed real, but I did say that when it came to myself, that reaction was kneejerk. I should have specified better that I realized that I was mistaken in a lot of those feelings, and that they came from the natural inclination to want to take a defensive platform when something you count as your own is attacked.

    I don’t see myself or my comment as being apologist, rather my intent was to understand how the website’s architecture might possibly enable behavior like this, especially when the same system would have been more effective given a smaller population. I may not agree 100% with all of Rebecca’s analysis, but I would definitely count myself as being someone who says that what happened was indeed wrong, and that it wasn’t an isolated incident, and that different attitudes need to be taken, including by myself as an active Redditor. It’s just not enough to ignore trolls being trolls and chalk it up as being “part of the internet experience”.

  10. says

    My apologies Chris, I think the part where you were exasperated by Rebecca’s post overshadowed the part where you realized it was a knee-jerk reaction. Where so many people have been saying “women should just toughen up”, my first reaction was “so you were upset by what Rebecca had to say? Really?”

    So your knee-jerk reaction was steeped in that privilege. Your further analysis of Reddit’s flaws, we largely agree on. The analysis of some of the point-by-points did still miss the larger issues behind them, I think, in the ways I pointed out (e.g. regarding the “karma whoring”), but the fact that you appear to be consciousness-raised at this point is decidedly a good thing.

    Joey: as I’ve said in private, yes, there is a lot of unnecessary vitriol. I don’t think it’s anything like equivocal, but I also don’t like that anyone disagreeing with Rebecca on any point (and I certainly don’t agree on every point she ever makes preemptively myself) is somehow a traitor or otherwise “against us” as opposed to “with us”. But like I said, she’s somehow got this magical polarization power. Seems like she’s going to get quite a bit of that without meriting it.

  11. says

    I don’t know… I think this idea of a bunch of completely non-critical, dogmatic “minions” of Rebecca is a total myth. There really isn’t a “with us” / “against us” polarization. The statements she’s made in both instances were VERY minor. “Guys, please don’t approach us in enclosed spaces at 4 in the morning to ask us out after we’re just given a long lecture on how we’d prefer not to be sexualized at these events” and “Guys, please don’t make a bunch of demeaning, horrifically sexist remarks to a 15 y/o girl who wants to join the community just because she made the ‘mistake’ of being female on the internet”.

    Is agreeing with that really in any way an extreme, radical or polar position?

    Suggesting that those who are supportive of Rebecca’s critique are just as extremist and uncompromising as those who have been attacking her is to engage in the same kind of Goldilocks Fallacy as what commonly gets trotted out along the lines of “Frankly, I think atheists are just as extreme and arrogant and intolerant as fundamentalist Christians”.

    Those who are supportive of Rebecca didn’t pick the fight. And I resent those positioning themselves in an imagined middle-ground implying that that position is in any way as unreasonable as that of the “someone should stuff a dick in that c–t’s mouth to shut her up” crowd. Doing so allows THEM to control the terms of the discourse and both justifies and apologizes for their vitriol.

  12. julian says

    From my perspective, there’s a very “you’re with us or you’re against us” mentality — on both sides

    Well aren’t you just sooooo much better than everyone else. Pfft. What a joke.

    Only one point made in r/atheism’s defense is worth considering at this point, in my estimation: terrible people exist everywhere. -Jason Thibeault

    From what I understand that particular post would have been viewed by the entire reddit community (not just the atheist side) which may have skewed the numbers one way or another.

    Don’t use reddit (spent enough time on /b/) so I have no idea how it works but if the post was viewed by the larger community a case could easily be made you really can’t determine who bears the responsibility for the upvoting and commenting.

    That said, I fully agree this kind of crap should be shouted down the moment it pops up. Sans moderators and staff supervising, that’s the only way to maintain any level of decency. And fuck all you “FREE SPEECH!!ELEVENTY!!1″ idiots. Given the choice between restricting some speech and allowing minors to be harassed with abusive and hateful language you should not be choosing the latter.

    I do like the memes. “Atheists. Laugh at fundamentalists who insist their daughters dress modestly because of fears strange men will treat them like trash. Proceed to treat women who dress ‘provocatively’ like trash.”

  13. says

    I don’t think that it is correct to say that Rebecca is polarizing. Rebecca is a victim of the ire and hate of a very small group of people led by Franc Hoggle, Abbie Smith and a handful of others who have decided to take a last stand on behalf of ol’ time misogyny. Rebecca is a suitable target for them, because she is feminist, female, and happen to speak out against a range of behaviors they would prefer not be criticized. At the same time, Rebecca (eventually) seemed to find herself on the opposite side from Richard Dawkins and that emboldened Smith, who is a fan girl, and the others, who are fanboys, of anybody with a bit of fame, to go after Rebecca.

    Meanwhile, and this is the most important part, you can’t really be polarizing unless some stuff goes to each of the poles. A dozen, maybe twenty, winged monkeys hover around the Wicked Witch of the ERV and a larger number of amorphous undifferentiated fourteen year old under and/or oversexed boys make up a vague and insignificant substrate. This is not Rebecca polarizing people. This is Rebecca and others (at Skepchick, here, elsewhere) talking about important issues of sexism, bias, racism, misogyny, etc. etc. and a small number of people who were enjoying the world they lived in and don’t want it to change, but who are in fact wrong in almost everything they say and think and do, trying to hold on to that world.

    Polarization is when people go to opposite sides of an issue. Here, what we have is almost everybody swimming around doing their own thing, and a small amount of shit settling to the bottom underneath all of us.

    Thank you Rebecca for calling those asshats on their commentary on r/redit. Personally, I think that /r/redit should be shut down immediately, or be moderated. The simple truth is that atheism as a movement and skepticism as a movement have the unfortunate side effect of attracting the interest and involvement of a small number of (repeat, small number of) very vocal pieces of shit who don’t deserve to breath the air the rest of us breath. Some of them are just young and stupid and will grow out of it. The others go over to Abbie’s place to jerk off with each other. This should not be tolerated.

  14. says

    I don’t know that Abbie is actually involved in this disgusting behaviour any more–I sincerely hope not, I used to respect her until she started posting toxic personal rants on the ERV blog.

    Otherwise I tend to agree with Greg that this is not a matter of polarization. We’re grown-ups and obviously we don’t any of us think Rebecca is doing anything objectionable in bringing attention to these problems.

  15. Pen says

    Wow, I never heard of ‘karma whoring’ before. Is this supposed to encourage some kind of an internet burqua? Does it just apply on the internet, or should women leave their faces at home on other professional and public engagements? And are the rape jokes and so on what (some) men really feel entitled to think instead of paying attention to us on those occasions? I know, I know, don’t answer that.

  16. Chris says

    One other thing that needs to be clarified: Recently, Reddit changed the set of subreddits that are seen by all users when they’re not logged in, or when they first create an account that they haven’t customized yet. /r/atheism was added to that list. Many people have complained about the quality of the subreddit since this turn of events, to the point of unsubscribing. When this post hit and got upvoted quickly, it was on the front page of the vast majority of reddit, and being commented on by that full body, not just those who specifically are a part of that community. I unsubscribed this morning. To point at this incident and directly blame the atheist/skeptic community is to not understand how Reddit works as a website.

    Pen@17: “karma whoring” is a 100% gender neutral term on Reddit, and applies to users who game the system to earn more of it, either by posting a picture when a text post would make more sense (text posts don’t earn karma, images do), submitting material more centered around memes or easy jokes, or responding to highly upvoted comments in the hopes that you can ride its coattails to upvotes of its own. It is definitely *not* the meaning you think it is.

    Greg@15: “I think that /r/redit should be shut down immediately, or be moderated”

    The calm and rational minds of today, ladies and gentlemen.

  17. says

    There really isn’t a “with us” / “against us” polarization.

    First of all:
    There clearly is. It is not along the “agree with whatever Rebecca Watson says” line, but somewhat more along the “disagree with whatever RW says” line.
    People who spew vile hatred to whatever mild statement she makes are engaging in the ultimate ad hominem: It is wrong because RW agrees with it.
    As you said, Natalie, both positions were actually mild, really pretty non-controversial.
    I still have problems wrapping my mind around the fact that “please, don’t proposition to me at 4 am in an elevator especially after I just repeated all evening that I don’t want people to do that” blew up the internet.
    It should be a no brainer like “please don’t step on my toes, please don’t walk over the very young newly grown lawn especially after I just informed you about it”
    I also don’t take fence-sitters on the actual point of feminism:
    I don’t accept people who agree that it is bad to treat me like 2/3 of a human being, but who also think that I should accept 95%.

  18. Sven DiMilo says

    I don’t know that Abbie is actually involved in this disgusting behaviour any more–I sincerely hope not

    disappointment:

    Heh. Remember a couple months ago, when they got all bitchy about me calling Watson a loser for spending her life bitching on the internet? And now Watson is… still just bitching on the internet.
    Jesus Christ she is a loser.
    Posted by: ERV | December 28, 2011 9:37 PM

  19. says

    On “karma whoring” — clearly the term “whore” indicates someone who sells their body for money (a useful service based on appropriate pay for skilled labor, in my estimation). The denigration comes from people doing something to provide a “service” to the crowd in the same sense as “fan-service”, for tips (karma). Sure, men can be karma whores, but the origin is frankly about making sex for money a shameful act.

    If one can only get karma on posts with images, that policy is to encourage images. If a girl puts an image of herself holding a book perfectly identical to another thread where a boy puts up an image of himself holding a book, and the girl gets slammed for “karma whoring” but the boy does not incur any such nonsense, then it is a purely sexist problem. It means that to be an acceptable community member, there are unwritten rules where if you’re a girl, you’re not allowed to act the same as if you’re a boy. The problem in both cases is the community members’ reactions, not the girl’s actions.

  20. says

    On whether there’s a problem of “dogmatic minions of Rebecca”, I don’t think that’s how she polarizes people, and I don’t think that’s the problem JoeyH was addressing. If I understood correctly, it’s on people trying to argue about the border cases where they disagree with Rebecca on some point despite largely agreeing otherwise, but they are called to the carpet as being as bad as the real assholes who disagree just because Rebecca’s the messenger. And it’s on people being called “gender traitor” for same (granted, by only one individual, who later apologized, but the apology never gets as much airtime as the original offense, does it?).

  21. karmakin says

    To add on to what Chris says, I actually did a bit of research into the top comments on that thread. To be honest, there were very few that were from really active members of r/atheism. There was the occasional other post in that subreddit, however to be honest I can’t really tell the nature of said posts. There were actually some that were quite accomodationalist to be honest.

    This didn’t actually surprise me, as r/atheism seems like a fairly tame place most of the time in terms of sexism and misogyny. It’s there, of course. But generally speaking it’s more in the form of passive privilege and less of the form of outright aggression (as what happened in this thread)

    The bigger issue, and the more important one IMO, is the unwillingness of good people to socially punish others for bad behavior. This is the problem, that such comments get upvoted by the misogynists and don’t get downvoted by the people who are against it. However, this is more than just a Reddit problem or even an Internet problem. How many people had Christmas or holiday dinners with people who have these, or other problematic views? How many people are still social with neighbors with problematic views? Like it or not, there’s a lot of people on our side who are quite uncomfortable with the idea of social punishment.

    So the question is…how can we change that?

  22. says

    Jason, I’ve frankly honestly never seen anything of the sort. It seems to be that the overwhelming majority of people on “Rebecca’s side” are completely open to the possibility that people may occasionally disagree with certain things she says, or certain aspects of her rhetoric. Granted, my having not seen something doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened, but it would be fairly safe for me to assume that any such individuals are FAR less in number than those who chew people out as misandrist PC thought police just for thinking she may have had a point, or having any association at all with Rebecca.

  23. says

    Greg @15: while I agree with much of what you say here, there’s no indicator that the slimepit’s denizens has anything to do with the Reddit dustup except to sit back and laugh and be their usual charming, sexism-diminishing selves.

  24. says

    Natalie@24: I absolutely agree that it’s been rare, but the only examples I recall personally are people who disagreed that she should have gone after Stef McGraw publically. But that’s a difference of tactics, not of opinion, between them — and while those people still agreed that what Stef did was douchebaggy and wrong, they got vilified for questioning Rebecca’s tactics.

    For the record, I believe her reaction to McGraw was measured and appropriate, and there could have been no better forum for her rebuttal. I’ve argued so in my Problem with Privilege posts.

  25. says

    Jason, I have no clue, and not one molecule in my body cares either.

    At the moment, however, they are clearly linked. The Slimepitoids have allied themselves with the r/atheist misogynists, or so it would seem. They have also expanded their discussion to cover Rebecca’s death.

    Of course, I suppose it is possible that the linkup occurred because I made a comment on the topic on your blog, and we are being watched very closely by the winged monkeys over there so that they can have something to talk about!

  26. says

    I can’t disagree more that Rebecca doesn’t have dogmatic followers. All you have to do is read the comments on Skepchick. I used to enjoy the discussion there immensely before almost any critiquing comment began to be met with scorn and derision. (Again, I don’t mean the asshole trolls who deserve it.) There is no longer healthy debate over there. It’s truly naive to state that Rebecca doesn’t have overly devoted followers dedicated to squashing dissenting opinions. (“Minions” is a misnomer because I don’t for a moment believe Rebecca is telling them what to do.)

  27. says

    Joey, given that the “dissent” in question is usually a bunch of sexist, apologetic, heavily privileged nonsense, it’s entirely reasonable to treat such people with scorn and derision. In my experience, reasonable arguments receive reasonable discussion. Silly ones get deservedly chewed out. Saying that sexism is an issue in our community isn’t “dogma”, it’s the justified position.

  28. says

    Natalie, as I’ve mentioned, I’m not talking about those people who certainly do deserve scorn and derision, as you correctly point out. My point is that those aren’t the only people who disagree with Rebecca — and I don’t mean as in “Oh Reddit’s just fine,” I mean with her tactics and decisions. Legitimate criticism get lumped in along with the assholes, and this isn’t fair or skeptical. I promise I’m not the only reddit-hating atheist woman who doesn’t always agree with how Rebecca approaches things, and there’s a definite reason why you don’t see commentary from more of us.

  29. Smhlle says

    I think the nub at the bottom of elevatorgate (and dickwolves) is that being tactful, considerate of someone else’s wishes or aware of someone else’s feelings is something that (white) men are often only willing to do for their “superiors”, like their boss. Being asked to consider the feelings of someone from a group that has historically been deemed inferior provokes cries of outrage. Some of the elevator ettiquette blowback to RWatson took the form “How dare you tell me how to behave.” The underlying belief seems to be that his preference should trump her preference all the time.

  30. Ezekiel Buchheit says

    In response to the idea that Skepchick has some dogmatic commenters.

    I started listening to the SGU podcast, shoot, in 2006? I don’t know. Somewhere around episode 10. When Skepchick started up, I registered. I think I have around three or four posts there. Because the commenters scare me.

    Here’s a winner: “Just stop posting. And the next time you feel the need to say something stupid, don’t. Your opinions, those of the Straight White Male, are not as important as you think”

    That’s out of context, but even out of context, you can see how this isn’t inviting. Clearly the posters is frustrated with someone, but rather than attack the value of their argument, they attacked the uncontrollable variables of the person. I am a straight white male and apparently my lifetime of experience is valueless from the get go. My brother-in-law is a straight white male. I suppose he doesn’t have any legitimate opinions worth considering on, say, gay marriage because of his inherent SWMness, despite being raised by lesbian parents.

    Or take smhlle’s comment above: “being tactful, considerate of someone else’s wishes or aware of someone else’s feelings is something that (white) men are often only willing to do for their “superiors”, like their boss.”

    Can you see how a culture of such thoughts and stated opinions could be perceived as uninviting? There are some fascinating articles on Skepchick (Natalie, I have recently been really enjoying yours) and I’d love to participate in a discussion with people, but too often an unspoken decision appears to have been made about what opinions are to be entertained as intelligent and those that are to be hate without regard to the veracity of their content. This is restricted to the Straight White Males. I just used it as an example.

  31. says

    I feel that people take such comments as being far more antagonistic than they really are.

    When someone addresses a Straight White Cis Male, (I don’t remember the context, but I’m willing to bet this person was speaking from a position of privilege and naivete), and states that their position, experiences and needs don’t trump those of everyone else, that is a reasonable statement. It’s NOT saying that the experiences and perspectives of privileged classes are unimportant or unworthy of consideration, it’s simply saying that they don’t deserve special protection or special consideration. Suggesting that we’re supposed to never say such identities should be treated equally to un-privileged identities is to engage in the same kind of “special deference” that Xtians and accomodationists demand. Calling privilege into question is NOT oppression or discrimination. The fact that people often get extremely defensive when their privilege is pointed out, and sometimes they get hurt by it, is not a good reason to suggest it’s wrong for us to do so.

  32. says

    Greg, I think there’s an important distinction to be made in the numbers game here. There are a fairly large number of people calling Rebecca names and whining that she’s off base or making a big deal out of nothing–at the moment. There were at the beginning of “Elevatorgate” as well.

    Over time, as more and more people explained why this tiny problem was part of a bigger problem, the issue clicked for even most of those who were on the “big deal out of nothing” bandwagon. Only the tiny lot priding themselves on standing up in defiance for the powerful remained. They are indeed small, as well as pathetic and disgusting in about equal parts.

    However, we haven’t reached that point on this issue yet. So when you talk about who is doing the dividing in this particular situation, you’ve got Hoggle and Friends (worst kids’ show ever!), and you’ve also got the masses who are pulling back and hanging onto their privilege in not having to confront the bad behavior. Those masses will generally come around as they realize people are serious, though they could end up winning if Rebecca were left on her own in this. The others are the impotent lost causes you’re talking about.

  33. says

    I also believe that the amount of derision that tends to be directed towards certain comments IS in regard to the veracity and substance of their comments (and the lack thereof). Not simply because someone disagrees. There have been several disagreements and clarifications to my posts I’ve considered very well justified, and whenever I’ve made it a point to try to remind commenters in my thread not to be unduly hostile towards disagreeing commenters that don’t deserve the hostility. Or even being unduly hostile when they do (like someone who responded to a very mansplainty jerk who eventually got banned with just “oh fuck off”… the jerk in question was being HORRIBLE, but it still wasn’t cool to respond to him with “oh fuck off”)

    Of course sometimes people are jerks. We’re all human. Including Skepchick writers and commenters. We make mistakes. We have biases. But that doesn’t put us in anywhere near the same category as the people who have been trolling us.

  34. says

    Tony: Abbie’s involved enough in it to have lashed out at Jen McCreight as well. I’ve been considering adding her to RationalWiki’s net.kooks list, but there isn’t really a category for “with friends like these” like there is on the vlogroll page.

  35. Ezekiel Buchheit says

    “The fact that people often get extremely defensive when their privilege is pointed out, and sometimes they get hurt by it, is not a good reason to suggest it’s wrong for us to do so.”

    That’s not what I am saying.

    Note the difference in tone:

    “Just stop posting. And the next time you feel the need to say something stupid, don’t. Your opinions, those of the Straight White Male, are not as important as you think”

    vs.

    “You appear to be speaking from a position that ignores a fundamental reality that you have not experienced whether personally or vicariously.”

    One allows further discussion. One shuts discussion down. The culture of the comments at Skepchick – at least on enough of the articles I read to give me the impression – is less than inviting. It’s not twisted sociopathic nonsense like the reddit forum in question – not by any stretch of the most illogical mind. But it is not inviting.

    And again, I picked the SWM because it is relevant to me as a member of that set. It made for an example. But it is far from the only example.

    and smhlle’s comment above: “being tactful, considerate of someone else’s wishes or aware of someone else’s feelings is something that (white) men are often only willing to do for their “superiors”, like their boss.” is not a reasonable statement unless backed up by some facts.

    We are in agreement that “that the experiences and perspectives of privileged classes… …don’t deserve special protection or special consideration.” I am simply pointing out how an observer would maybe not want to participate in a discussion when the loudest, most voracious posters can appear antagonistic. If we want discussion, then that discussion should be couched in a language of intelligence and respect. Just like with reddit, a solution would be to moderate out those that are clearly not participating in reasoned, sober dialogue.

  36. aspidoscelis says

    Well, I just stumbled upon this particular Watson-related pile of nonsense and, since everyone else is doing so, I will provide an opinion.

    “So if your group is colored by the perception that you’re allowing douchebags to mistreat newcomers to the community, you’re either responsible for doing it, or responsible for letting it happen. Yes, that’s right, you let it happen if you do not register a dissenting voice.”

    That’s the part of this that, personally, makes the whole feminist atheism schtick tiring and irritating to me. These dipshits are not my responsibility. You (and RW, etc.) are trying to dump some heavy feminist baggage on me, and I don’t want it.

    This kind of BS is where atheism starts to look uncomfortably religious to me. If atheism (or at least the feminist sect within it) is run as just another social group with the One Truth, a refusal to accept dissent, and a moral duty to proselytize on behalf of that One Truth, then whether that One Truth happens to actually be true or not ceases to be relevant. Southern Baptists, for instance, are odious not because their beliefs happen not to be true, but because of the mind-numbingly awful little culture they’ve created around those beliefs. They could be dead right in every respect and I’d never join them, because I don’t want to spend my life with a bunch of self-righteous assholes telling me what to do and what a bad person I am if I do not.

    If you want to jump into the r/atheism slimepit and fight the good fight, knock yourself out. But fer chrissake don’t try to shame and guilt me into following you; if that’s what being a good upstanding atheist is about, I don’t want a damn thing to do with it. I’m already an apostate from every religion on the planet, what’s one more to the list?

  37. says

    aspidocelis:

    Shut up and check your privilege. If you are part of this community, it is your problem as much as it’s ours.

    Considering the fact that you are to all intents and purposes condoning raging hate as groupthink, you’ve got a lot of nerve complaining that feminist atheists are being dogmatic. I’m assuming you’re a man, as I am. We don’t have to deal with the shit that women in our community have to put up with, so it’s up to us to be aware of it to make sure we aren’t allowing our allies to be ostracized just because someone wants to sexualize them. We’re supposed to be the side of reason, not the Ubermensch Fairy-Squashing Club, and in case you haven’t noticed, there are enough people in our culture that hate us that we should be supporting each other AND making sure our errors are fixed (peer review — you’ve heard of it, right?) regardless of gender, race, sexual preference, culture, or age. If you’re going to take such a selfish approach to this movement, we don’t want you, because you’re a liability to us.

  38. says

    The thing is, it is your responsibility. If you shirk that responsibility, then you are justifiably complicit in the consequences, such as what that girl was put through.

    Anyway, I should probably not engage in any further discussion of the tone of Skepchick comment threads. I love our readers and commenters, and for the most part do not agree that they have ever been acting with intent to “suppress dissent”. They have simply been presenting counter-arguments… often very good ones. But yeah… conflict of interest, etc.

  39. Horace says

    Greetings from the slimepit everyone,

    @39 aspido

    I am pretty much with you, also I do not think that Rebecca Watson herself. is worth obsessing over either for good or bad.

    There is a problem with the freethinking movement. If we are freethinkers everything should be up for criticism: gender, race, capitalism, sex roles, the environment. Instead of this many in the freethinking movement are trying to make it an auxilary of the left/progressive side of politics. This means that our positions on a range of subjects: abortion, affirmative action, gun control, climate change, the value of the free market are predetermined.

    What is the point of being a freethinker if you decide your opinions like this. We should treat each issue seperatly.

    @15 Laden, you say “The others go over to Abbie’s place to jerk off with each other. This should not be tolerated.”

    We should tolerate each other, that does not mean that we have to like each other though.

    Happy New Year.

  40. aspidoscelis says

    BrianX:

    Shut up and check your privilege. If you are part of this community, it is your problem as much as it’s ours.

    I am not a part of the r/atheism community. Given the comments posted by RW, I have no desire to become a member of that community.

    Considering the fact that you are to all intents and purposes condoning raging hate as groupthink

    “Why is Rebecca Watson so damned polarizing?” This is why. Apparently anyone who isn’t a vocal feminist is “condoning raging hate”. Well now, that’s a very polarized worldview.

    We’re supposed to be the side of reason, not the Ubermensch Fairy-Squashing Club,

    What about the Uberfeminist MRA-Squashing Club? Ah, but I guess that -is- the side of reason, so it’s OK. Right? Well, it’s the side of self-righteous tribalism, one way or the other.

    If you’re going to take such a selfish approach to this movement, we don’t want you, because you’re a liability to us.

    If that means I don’t have to accept the pile of shit you (and RW, Jason Thibeault, etc.) want to hand me–thank you.

    Now I just need to find a handy label for “not religious, but not atheist (nor agnostic), either”. But then, alas, other people might also take up the label and we’d be back to tribal bullshit. Ah well.

  41. julian says

    Also, julian, thank you for illustrating my point so clearly.-Joey ‘Both Sides’ H

    Ha!

    I’ve read maybe 3 of Ms. Watson’s posts in the last year and visit skepchick maybe once every couple weeks to check for any posts on transgenderism (which do tend to be very good).

    Please, do not mistake my disdain for people who’ve decided they want to play the ‘both sides’ game for fanboyism. ‘Both sides’ is middle of the road gibberish in its purest most condescending holier than thou form.

    Note the difference in tone: – Ezekiel Buchheit

    shrugs

    One holds nothing back while the other gives you plenty of room to pretend you were and are right?

    Not saying that SkepChick is as welcoming as it could be but who’s supposed to be accommodated. Are we talking white hetero cis men? Korean lesbian trans women? Adoptive gay parents? Who?

    You can’t realistically say “everyone” because “everyone” has the nasty tendency of becoming about the majority group (who, only knowing the majority, often miss when they are being clearly dismissive and rude). A site that specifically looks to defend underprivileged groups and give them a voice is not going to be as accommodating for whites hetero men.

    And what’s objectionable about that? It isn’t as if the most powerful voices need more places to make their views and opinions known.

    Side Note: I don’t think either really shuts down conversation or have any better an impact on arguments. Or, to be more accurate, I haven’t seen either lead anywhere productive reliably. If you’re interested in finding resolution, hearing the other side out and figuring out what the ‘right’ position is you’ll walk away with a decent discussion. If you’re angry and can’t see past a slight (and being told you’re speaking from privilege is very much an insult to many) you’re not getting very far.

  42. Night Witch says

    @Horace:

    How exactly do you meaningfully criticize the political position that woman are fully human? Really. Tell me.

    Idiot.

  43. julian says

    What about the Uberfeminist MRA-Squashing Club?

    What’s wrong with uberfeminism and MRA-squashing? Sounds like a grand time!

    Given the comments posted by RW, I have no desire to become a member of that community.

    Really? They seem like your kind of people.

    Apparently anyone who isn’t a vocal feminist is “condoning raging hate”.

    Nice bait and switch there, mate.

    But then, alas, other people might also take up the label and we’d be back to tribal bullshit. Ah well.

    Ah the nothing-ist. Quiet possibly the most self-righteous creature known to man. Observe how it gracefully glides over any point made, insults everyone involved in a conversation and then pretends to have been the single voice of reason. Truly a wonder to behold.

  44. julian says

    How exactly do you meaningfully criticize the political position that woman are fully human? – Night Witch

    Not Horace but, feminism does have its issues. There was (and is) a fairly strong anti-sex wing to it and there’s a great deal of transphobia (although it doesn’t seem to have hit the atheist ‘movement.’) That’s the two that bug me the most although I’m told (by women who’ve been feminist for some time) that there are others.

    Anyway meaningful criticism doesn’t mean finding a fatal flaw. (Or at least it shouldn’t.) To me it’s always meant just fleshing out an idea and finding what it can and cannot do for us.

  45. Horace says

    @46 Julian, you say

    >>Apparently anyone who isn’t a vocal feminist is “condoning >>raging hate”.

    >Nice bait and switch there, mate.

    It isn’t a bait and switch, see

    @45 Nightwitch

    >How exactly do you meaningfully criticize the political >position that woman are fully human? Really. Tell me.

    This is a good example of this. I think that feminism is up for discussion, so I think that women are subhuman ?. Even fundamentalist christians think that women are human, what are you talking about ?

    Nightwitch

    You may be an atheist, you are not a freethinker.

  46. Horace says

    @47 Julian, we posted at the same time. Reading your reply I realize I might have been unfair.

    Meaningful criticism can mean finding a fatal flaw, it does not have to though.

    Back tomorrow.

  47. Night Witch says

    You know, this is what I always think, when people are telling me that we need to be skeptical and critical of feminism:

    I can be critical and skeptical about string theory, too, but it sure as hell behooves me to understand it backwards and forwards if I want to make that criticism meaningful.

    Why is it the people who want us all to be “critical” of feminism are always the people who know the least it?

  48. Tim Groc says

    julian:

    “How exactly do you meaningfully criticize the political position that woman are fully human?”

    Can you cite where horace challenged that “political position”.

  49. Night Witch says

    @Horace

    Feminism is a word used to define a movement and political positions that have various individual beliefs and characteristics. I agree with the beliefs held my some feminists, and disagree with the beliefs held my others, myself – obviously criticism of the “details” is reasonable. However, what bind all of these together, and how feminism is most commonly IMO defined, is “the political position that women are fully human.”

    Sure, fundamentalist xtians will tell you women are fully human – but they are *fundamentally opposed to treating them this way.* Thus they do not have any meaningful “political position that women are fully human.” If they do recognize women as fully human, their denial of the respect and equality of treatment that entails is a moral indictment.

    Look, I may have read into your post, and I was admittedly abrupt, and I am sorry for those two things. I have, however, seen threads where time after time women’s experiences and frankly their recognition, political or personal, have been repeatedly dismissed under the guise of “criticism.” When you are asking someone, “are you sure you are REALLY feeling that pain?” or, “how do you know your intellect isn’t inferior,” there is no way for that not to be a dispute of the basic equality of women.

  50. Night Witch says

    @Tim Groc:

    “If we are freethinkers everything should be up for criticism: gender, race, capitalism, sex roles, the environment.”

    Like I said above, may have read into that something that wasn’t there, as I have read a lot of threads today. Apologies if I was off the cusp, I could have asked for clarification without snapping.

  51. Night Witch says

    @julian

    Oh, I’m well aware feminism has its issues. Transwomen, WOC, sex-workers, all should be treated much better within feminism. Its a problem, and although people are working to address it could certainly use some critical thinking. I just responded like I did because “we really need to be critical of this” can be, and often is, used to be dismissive to a very basic application of women (i.e., that they aren’t inferior to men). I should perhaps think before posting! Apologies for being snappy.

    Also sorry if this double posts under the last, just wanted to respond to everyone.

  52. aspidoscelis says

    julian:

    Ah the nothing-ist. Quiet possibly the most self-righteous creature known to man. Observe how it gracefully glides over any point made, insults everyone involved in a conversation and then pretends to have been the single voice of reason. Truly a wonder to behold.

    Very cute. I disparage self-righteousness and the “single voice of reason” BS, so you attribute them to me.

    Well, I guess I’m not a “nothing-ist”, either.

  53. says

    Poor aspidoscelis. Can’t tell the difference between being effectively social and being religious.

    Yes, if it’s “your” community, you have some responsibility for what happens in it. If you don’t take responsibility for what is happening in “your” community, you’re freeloading. Or you should acknowledge that it’s not “your” community, as you claim to be happy to do.

    But boy, is that an awful lot of words wasted on a community you don’t even want to be part of.

  54. says

    Horace, as Night Witch gracefully alludes to, “freethinking” (although it is technically a term about religion specifically) isn’t only about being free. It’s also about actually thinking, which requires dealing with the evidence on those topics instead of just whining about being oppressed. Do try it sometime.

  55. BrianX says

    Aspidocelis:

    I’m referring to the skeptical-atheist community at large. As for bashimg MRAs, it’s a fine thing to do and one needn’t be particularly feminist to do so. MRAs, overall, are whiny, self-indulgent, petty little assholes, and the ones that aren’t have no visibility at all, if they even exist. MRA-bashing isn’t tribalism; it’s chemotherapy.

  56. says

    “That’s out of context, but even out of context, you can see how this isn’t inviting.”

    Even out of context? WTF does that mean? Perhaps it’s BECAUSE it’s out of context?

    I’m not trying to be rude here, but even if you buy this ridiculous reasoning please don’t insult the rest of us by presuming that we do.

    Let me make myself clear: you are arguing that a sentence becomes MORE clear when removed from any context. That’s an astonishingly silly idea.

    Information without context is useless.

    If you can’t or won’t provide a link or a full quote so that the context is clear, then all this is is an assertion pulled out of your ass with only a context implied by you.

    That’s why, ya know, people don’t complain about being taken in context, and why we need bloggers and other journalists and various organizations to show us when something is being taken OUT of context.

    The above quote you provide would be an entirely appropriate thing to say if for example the person being told that was someone who kept trying to explain to women how they were supposed to feel about or respond to things, as a woman.

    That is something that happens very frequently and that is the kind of situation where I have seen statements like that made, justifiably – sometimes by other white males, not just by women.

    And before I’m accused of being some sort of acolyte, I had as far as I remember never read Rebecca Watson’s blog before the elevatorgate thing happened, and I still don;t apart from those times when there are links to such things as this on other blogs that I read. Why? Just because there are a lot of blogs in the world, most of which I don’t happen to read.

  57. Tim Groc says

    Stephanie Zvan:

    Can’t tell the difference between being effectively social and being religious.

    Ah, but people have different opinions on what is “effectively social”. It is very easy to claim to be “effectively social” when you are part of the driving force for an agenda and a narrow-minded mode of thinking.

  58. Horace says

    @54 Night Witch,

    Thanks, you sound more reasonable than I anticipated.

    @58 Zvan,

    have I complained about being oppressed ? What I am complaining about is the automatic assumption that free thinkers should take the progressive/leftist position on every issue. This does not make sense as there is no common link between them.

    How do
    -state control of the oil industry.
    -abortion
    -the death penalty
    -affirmative action for recent immigrants.
    -carbon taxes.
    -the monarchy
    -gun control
    -preserving first nation languages
    -pornography

    fit together ?

    You could be for all of them or against all of them, or go either way on each. Most people simply decide that they are left or right wing and then figure out the party line. As freethinkers we should consider each issue on it’s own merits.

    Watson has become the figurehead for those who feel that there is only one correct postion on feminism for freethinkers.

  59. says

    Horace: how many positions must a person hold that are identical to yours before you’re willing to consider them a freethinker? Is it not merely an abstension from dogma that makes a person a freethinker, even if people disagree with you on politics, abortion, gun control, or whether or not women are people?

    Tim Groc: what is narrow-minded about drawing a line in the sand about what counts for inclusion in a community, exactly? As atheists, we want to include only those who don’t believe in gods. As humanists, we want to include only those who believe that all humans are worthwhile. As feminists, we want to include only those who will not, literally, go out of their way to make women uncomfortable and piss and moan when someone tells them to stop doing what they’re doing (e.g. threatening a fifteen year old girl with rape) because it makes women, in general, uncomfortable.

    These lines in the sand help community cohesion. They help signal to newbies, to outsiders wanting in, to the oppressed classes whom we hope to represent, that this is a safe place. Drawing the line in the sand so that you either protect your allies or you’re considered part of the problem — that’s not “narrow-minded mode of thinking”.

    Now, certainly, an argument can be made that protecting one another from verbal assaults is necessary to be part of OUR community, but since there is no single, unified “atheist community”, you can go find your own little slimepit to play in where giving offense to women for its own sake is valued and lauded. Go ahead, splinter the community between people who like screaming “cunt” at random women, and those who consider that a pretty shitty and inhumane thing to do. If that’s YOUR line in the sand, if that’s YOUR “narrow-minded mode of thinking”, you’re free to do so. Just, elsewhere.

  60. Supermental says

    That’s the obvious point: “terrible people exist everywhere” or perhaps “terrible people appear everywhere”.
    Watson simply mentions a specific instance and exposes how terrible people really can be. No one likes that. Especially terrible people.
    Unfortunately, Watson will continue to take shit for it, despite the fact that she has done nothing wrong at all.
    There are too many assholes and bullies out there and we don’t do much about it in the adult world. And not much in the adolescent world either. How many poor kids commit suicide because some prick(s) fuck with them for no reason whatsoever??

  61. BrianX says

    Horace:

    Sincere and nondogmatic consideration of evidence is the essence of being a freethinker. I don’t see a whole lot of that among antifeminists. Or, for that matter, libertarians, global warming deniers, alties, white supremacists, or gibbering idiots. On the other hand, for the most part the left encourages that sort of thing, because left-wing positions come about when evidence contradicts dogma. (I ignore alties, Stalinists, and green extremists because they’re obvious exceptions — the left is hardly intellectually uniform.)

    I see far too many people who claim to be freethinkers who have some rather ghastly beliefs, and it seems like they inevitably derive their reactionary positions from either missing or ignoring data that contradicts their position. MRAs are among the most obviously guilty of this; where other denialists (and they are denialists) go for things like ignoring systemic effects, projection, and confusing ideology with science, MRAs just go straight for the.naked hasty generalization. Frankly, the men’s rights movement is a train wreck of hate and bad logic and has absolutely nothing of value.

  62. Smhlle says

    @38

    My comments about a willingness to be considerate make a lot more sense if you’ve read the Elevatorgate threads (in July). In that situation Rebecca described feeling very uncomfortable receiving a come-to-my-room invitation in an elevator, late at night, from a man who had not previously spoken to her. She specifically requested that people consider her POV. A shitstorm of people told her that it was completely wrong for her to have this POV or to ask atheist men at conferences to respect it. While there were men on both sides of the argument, the raging misogyny aimed at Rebecca appeared to mostly be written by men. This is my nub of the divisiveness of the Elevatorgate flamewar. Dozens of men flatout refused, on behalf of their gender, to be at all wiiling to be considerate about cornering strange women before suggesting sex. Some of them claimed the human race would die out if they did so.

  63. aspidoscelis says

    Stephanie Zvan wrote:

    Poor aspidoscelis. Can’t tell the difference between being effectively social and being religious.

    If this is an example of “being effectively social”… no, I can’t tell the difference.

    But boy, is that an awful lot of words wasted on a community you don’t even want to be part of.

    Seriously? And on FTB, no less?

    BrianX:

    As for bashimg MRAs, it’s a fine thing to do and one needn’t be particularly feminist to do so. MRAs, overall, are whiny, self-indulgent, petty little assholes, and the ones that aren’t have no visibility at all, if they even exist.

    I don’t particularly disagree with your assessment, it just doesn’t have anything to do with atheism. There’s no moral imperative to bash MRAs that can be derived from the fact that you and I both don’t believe in god. However, that’s very much what the Watsons, Zvans, and Thibeaults of the atheist blogosphere seem to want on this issue–for all atheists to be morally obligated to join them on their little crusades.

  64. BrianX says

    Aspidocelis:

    Perhaps I misspoke. Not only do you not need to be a feminist to bash MRAs, you don’t need to have any ideology at all to realize that MRAs are hateful idiots. My apologies.

  65. SallyStrange, Spawn of Cthulhu says

    That’s the part of this that, personally, makes the whole feminist atheism schtick tiring and irritating to me. These dipshits are not my responsibility. You (and RW, etc.) are trying to dump some heavy feminist baggage on me, and I don’t want it.

    Actually, it is your responsibility.

    If you want to shirk it, fine. But don’t get upset when I call you a misogynist, because your actions are indistinguishable from those of a man who sincerely hates women.

  66. Alukonis, metal ninja says

    However, that’s very much what the Watsons, Zvans, and Thibeaults of the atheist blogosphere seem to want on this issue–for all atheists to be morally obligated to join them on their little crusades. decent human beings

    Fixed that for you

  67. says

    @Aspie:

    It’s not your responsibility as an atheist to not be a misogynist asshole (apologist for misogynist assholes), nor does it really have much of anything to do with not believing in God. It’s your responsibility as a human fucking being.

    And also, if what you want is for the atheist community to be a space consisting of the intelligent free exchange of ideas, and to have the power and numbers to be able to counteract all the silly religious nonsense and their disregard for human rights, then it’s a really, really stupid idea to completely alienate everyone who isn’t part of the Straight Cis White Guy Middle-Class Privilege Club. You know what that gives you? A stagnant set of intensely limited ideas and perspectives. And tiny numbers. And no credibility. And all the intelligent, passionate activists and people who want to make the world a better place, who have actual empathy and understanding of human rights and the value of diversity, are going to go elsewhere, leaving you and your Boys’ Club to wither away in obscurity and end up consigned to history’s dustbin.

  68. SallyStrange, Spawn of Cthulhu says

    In other words, you can be an atheist and not be a humanist.* It can be done. Mostly it’s bigoted assholes who do it, but it can be done.

    *You can’t be a humanist without being a feminist.

  69. says

    @Horace:

    There IS only one “correct” (reasonable) position regarding feminism, amongst freethinkers or not: women are human beings and deserve to be treated with the same degree of respect and consideration as any other human being.

    If you do not agree with that, yeah, you’re not a good or reasonable person at all. And no, I don’t want you in any community I belong to, especially one that models itself on being rational, critical thinkers… typically with goals of building a better world.

  70. says

    Really, Horace? You’re not feeling all personally put out and oppressed? Well, so be it. You’re full of shit either way. The only people telling anyone who is or is not a freethinker based on whether those people agree with their positions are you and your buddies.

    Go find me a single person opposing your stance on feminism (whatever it may actually be if you were able to articulate it) who has told you you’re not a freethinker because you disagree with them. “Not someone I want anywhere near me”? Yes. “Lousy human being”? Damn straight. “Bad freethinker”? I’m waiting….

    aspidoscelis, no, I didn’t think you could tell the difference, on FtB or anywhere else.

  71. SallyStrange, Spawn of Cthulhu says

    Well, Natalie, how bad does one have to be at being a humanist before the label is revoked? I’m sure there are some people in the atheist community who will help us find out. ;)

  72. aspidoscelis says

    SallyStrange, 69:

    If you want to shirk it, fine. But don’t get upset when I call you a misogynist, because your actions are indistinguishable from those of a man who sincerely hates women.

    nataliebaldwin, 71:

    It’s not your responsibility as an atheist to not be a misogynist asshole (apologist for misogynist assholes), nor does it really have much of anything to do with not believing in God. It’s your responsibility as a human fucking being.

    Yes, that is the attitude to which I object. Thank you both for illustrating it so clearly.

    As it would happen I am not a misogynist, but I am also not much interested in engaging in whatever sort of pledge of ideological purity would be required to convince you of this.

  73. says

    It’s your actual actions and the substance of your statements that would convince us of it, not your hollow claims. And right now, your actions and statements demonstrate that at the very least, you make a shit ton of excuses for misogyny and say that feminism (that’s only universal, over-arching tenet is that women are human beings who deserve equal rights) needs to be critiqued. i.e. that you think women may not be human beings and/or may be undeserving of equal rights. I don’t give a shit about your ideological purity, but right now, you sure do look like a person with some pretty misogynistic (or at least incredibly ignorant and naive) beliefs.

  74. BrianX says

    Aspidocelis:

    You mean the pledge that says “I will treat people with the respect I wish to receive, and assume good faith and baseline competence until proven otherwise”? Yeah, that’s some really overboard dogma. Next thing you know you might start holding the door for whoever’s behind you regardless of gender, just because it’s the helpful thing to do, and that won’t fly, now, will it?

  75. SallyStrange, Spawn of Cthulhu says

    As it would happen I am not a misogynist, but I am also not much interested in engaging in whatever sort of pledge of ideological purity would be required to convince you of this.

    See, the thing is, there are LOTS of men who are really, sincerely misogynist. And I am tired of giving every man the benefit of the doubt, only to have it blow up in my face. If you want me to believe that you are not a misogynist, then it is incumbent on you to:

    1. Observe misogynists’ patterns of behavior

    2. Adopt patterns of behavior that are unmistakably different than theirs

    If you can’t be bothered, then I can’t be bothered to assume that you’re not a misogynist, because honestly, they are really fucking common.

  76. says

    If you saw someone getting mugged, and you knew you had a chance at stopping it without any injury to yourself (or even just help them up afterward), would you walk on by aspidoscelis, or would you be a decent human being capable of empathy for that person’s injuries? If you want to be a complete cad and ignore people insulting one another while you pretend to be a community member, and you don’t do anything to protect “your own”, then what value do you offer to the community as a whole?

  77. says

    I’ve decided that I’m against this single-minded obsession with gravity. I mean, who says gravity has to pull things down? You people call yourselves “freethinkers” but I almost never see anyone arguing against the ultra-orthodox views of gravity that most atheists hold on to.

    “As it would happen I am not a misogynist.”

    aspidoscelis, you would be AMAZED at how many actual misogynists do not recognise that they are actually misogynists.

  78. aspidoscelis says

    nataliebaldwin 79:

    you make a shit ton of excuses for misogyny and say that feminism (that’s only universal, over-arching tenet is that women are human beings who deserve equal rights) needs to be critiqued. i.e. that you think women may not be human beings and/or may be undeserving of equal rights

    I’ve offered precisely 0 criticism of the basic tenet you mention. I have no criticism of it in me. So, if that’s all feminism is… well, the vitriol you direct towards me is a bit baffling.

    Instead, I’ve indicated that I don’t like communities with narrow and rigid guidelines for appropriate thought and behavior and a lot of fire & brimstone for those who transgress. And, apparently, that is enough to make me a misogynist.

  79. 24fps says

    You know the thing that bothers me about this discussion? Theres an important point that is getting lost. This isn’t just about the Internet abuse of a female person, it’s the Internet abuse of a female CHILD.

    Misogyny is a big part of this, but these guys creeped on a little girl. Misogynist or not, feminist or not, how in the holy fuck was that even remotely okay? How could this be even remotely open to any kind of debate?

    There are sick fucks in our midst, people. Maybe we should pony up and do something about it. Silence is collusion.

    This is why my gung-ho atheist daughter (she’s 14) is not allowed on unmoderated sites of any kind.

  80. Spartan says

    natalie,

    And right now, your actions and statements demonstrate that at the very least, you make a shit ton of excuses for misogyny and say that feminism (that’s only universal, over-arching tenet is that women are human beings who deserve equal rights) needs to be critiqued. i.e. that you think women may not be human beings and/or may be undeserving of equal rights.

    That doesn’t seem like an entirely accurate charge. Libertarianism’s only universal over-arching tenet is that individual liberty should not unnecessarily be restricted; who but the most rabid authoritarians could object to that? I agree with your definition of the main tenet of feminism, but ‘feminism’ means a lot more than that and does have some variability, so it does seem kinda like a bait-and-switch here when you’re plugging in a very general term for ‘feminism’ and implying that that’s what asp is objecting to.

    but right now, you sure do look like a person with some pretty misogynistic (or at least incredibly ignorant and naive) beliefs.

    Can you quote something that he said here that you deem misogynistic just as an example? Maybe you are referring to other things he’s said on other threads. I personally don’t care what people ‘look like’, especially when they flat out deny it and when the communication medium is blog comments, it would seem the ball would now be in your court to provide a quote from him that you see as misogynistic. I understand you are tired of giving men the benefit of the doubt, but it does seem like the logical thing to do. Arguing with the idiocy of young-earth creationists is tedious and frustrating, but I don’t assume that every Christian I encounter is one despite there being a significant number of YECs.

  81. Horace says

    @63 Thibault
    >Horace: how many positions must a
    >person hold that are identical to yours
    >before you’re willing to
    >consider them a freethinker? Is it not merely an
    >abstension from dogma that makes a person a
    >freethinker, even if people disagree with you on
    >politics, abortion, gun control, or whether or not
    >women are people?

    Thibault, I think we agree on this anyway. A freethinker is not defined by what they believe, but by their willingness to examine each issue on it’s own merits rather than taking a party line. Many free thinkers would disagree with me on all of the issues that I listed above, I would still enjoy debating them . I would find this more interesting than talking to someone who has made up their mind on everything because they are a left winger or libertarian.

    @65 Brian
    >On the other hand, for the most part the left
    >encourages that sort of thing (freethinking), because left-
    >wing positions come about when evidence contradicts dogma

    Both the left and the right have made some pretty stupid errors over the past hundred years. Go back and look at the coverage that Mao’s China got in the 1970s. Many non Stalinist left wingers in the west described it as a paradise. There was evidence that suggested that they were wrong but it came from right wing sources and so was ignored.

    Not only this but what “progressives” believe has changed a lot with time. Many early 20th century left wingers strongly believed in Eugenics, try selling that now to progressives. We can congratulate ourselves on how enlightened we are these days, or we can consider that our own opinions will seem as out of step with reality in 50 years.

    @76 Zvan
    >Go find me a single person opposing your stance on
    >feminism (whatever it may actually be if you were
    >able to articulate it) who has told you you’re not a freethinker
    >because you disagree with them.

    Actually I never got around to saying anything about feminism, I just suggested that Watson was making too much fuss about what may or may not have been an attempt to pick her up in an elevator and I was told that I did not consider women human being. Women who held this view were told that they were not feminists. What is the point of calling yourself a “freethinker” if you completely loose it over a minor point of etiquette.

    @83 Thibault, you are comparing people reading points of view that they don’t agree with to getting mugged ? A bit dramatic don’t you think ? or have I misunderstood you ?

  82. SallyStrange, Spawn of Cthulhu says

    @Spartan

    Was anyone discussing libertarianism in this thread? If so, I missed it.

    @ aspidoscelis

    I’ve offered precisely 0 criticism of the basic tenet you mention.

    Well then, why are you so reluctant to be a feminist? Why are you so resentful of feminists asking you to be an ally instead of an enemy? Keep in mind that there really isn’t any neutral ground. In a society that’s steeped in sexism, that teaches constricting gender roles to children from infancy on, you’re either going with the (misogynist) flow, or you’re resisting it. Guys who like to think they don’t have any skin in the game are ignorant and/or deluded, and are at risk of giving aid and comfort to the sizable portion of men (and women) out there who sincerely believe that women are inferior to men.

    I have no criticism of it in me.

    Then you have no reason not to be a feminist.

    So, if that’s all feminism is… well, the vitriol you direct towards me is a bit baffling.

    You apparently had some sort of straw feminism in mind that you thought was a Bad Thing, that you resented being asked to get on board with. You offered skepticism of feminism based on your flawed misunderstanding of it. You were saying that the idea that women are human beings with all the rights and responsibilities attendant thereto is rigid ideology that you don’t want to get on board with. Is it really THAT hard to understand how that would raise some hackles?

    Making excuses for misogyny and criticizing straw feminism is something misogynists do. If you would like to be seen as a non-misogynist, then stop doing the things that misogynists do.

  83. Spartan says

    Sally, do you not know what an analogy is? I would think the fact that I used many of the exact same words as what I was quoting would be an indication.

    Why would anyone have any criticism of feminism when we define it as the idea that women are human and deserve equal rights? Nobody should. Why would anyone have any criticism of libertarianism when we define it as the idea that liberty should not be unnecessarily restricted? Nobody should. Yet there is no dearth of critiques of libertarianism, and rightly so. Because just as the general definition of libertarianism above is mostly accurate, like the general tenet provided of feminism, these words have more meanings than just those overarching definitions, so it is not valid nor particularly honest to just go plugging one particular definition into other people’s mouths and acting like that’s what they were referring to.

  84. says

    Funny, Horace. That wasn’t an answer. Where are the people telling you all freethinkers need to believe anything on any of the subjects you listed?

    aspidoscelis:

    Instead, I’ve indicated that I don’t like communities with narrow and rigid guidelines for appropriate thought and behavior and a lot of fire & brimstone for those who transgress. And, apparently, that is enough to make me a misogynist.

    Actually, complaining about “narrow and rigid guidelines” over decrying rape threats and jokes aimed at a young woman makes you a misogynist.

  85. says

    Spartan @90: At least part of the problem is that there are many waves of feminism, and they don’t all act monolithically. Feminism is no more “one thing” than saying “the atheist community”, considering all the various overlapping Venn diagrams each word makes up. As I said in this new linking post, it’s well possible to be an atheist and not give a shit about women in general, just like it’s possible to be an atheist and not believe in the germ theory of disease. Likewise, it’s possible to be a feminist and think that men are evil or transsexuals are abomination (though you lose the mantle of “humanist” at that point, despite those circles overlapping heavily), just like it’s possible to be a feminist and be sex-positive.

  86. SallyStrange, Spawn of Cthulhu says

    There are two veins of criticism of feminism. One is from a humanist perspective. For example:

    Feminism is too focused on the concerns of white middle class cis women, to the exclusion of women of color, transgender women, sex workers, women living in poverty, and so on.

    Then there are the “criticisms” of feminism which aren’t really criticisms at all, but are merely expressions of threatened privilege and sometimes outright hostility (which usually comes from misogynists). For example:

    Feminism is an unscientific dogma that encourages hatred of men.

    So far I’m not seeing much of the former type of criticisms in this thread, and lots of the latter. Which tells me that mostly we’re seeing guys trying to work around the fact that their male privilege would be threatened if they acknowledged the reality of the situation and took responsibility for changing it.

    And yes, getting defensive and changing the subject to how not ALL men or not ALL atheists are like that when the conversation is about a teenage girl receiving rape threats from atheist men IS misogyny. It shows that your first concern is for the welfare of atheist men. Sure, you think it’s a bad thing that atheist teenage girls get rape threats just for being a girl online, but changing the subject immediately shows that that is secondary to you.

  87. Spartan says

    Jason,

    I agree whole-heartedly! That is why I don’t like this formulation, specifically what comes after ‘i.e.’:

    you make a shit ton of excuses for misogyny and say that feminism (that’s only universal, over-arching tenet is that women are human beings who deserve equal rights) needs to be critiqued. i.e. that you think women may not be human beings and/or may be undeserving of equal rights.

    This quote seems to assume that the statement ‘feminism needs to be critiqued’ is equal to ‘the idea that women are human beings who deserve equal rights needs to critiqued’, which you seem to also not agree with. This seems to ignore the fact, unless a specific quote from asp can be provided, that the definition of feminism is not monolithic which I would think is obvious. (Actually looking through the thread, I don’t see asp saying the word ‘criticize’ although others did, so maybe natalie has mixed up commenters.)

  88. aspidoscelis says

    SallyStrange, 89:

    Well then, why are you so reluctant to be a feminist?

    Whether I am reluctant depends entirely on how we define feminism. This is apparently a very slippery subject. What’s happening, so far as I can tell, is this:

    We have specific statements about feminist subjects made by specific feminists (let’s call these various values of “X”), and we have the central tenet of feminism (let’s call that a constant “Y”). If I criticize an X, I am taken to be criticizing Y. (Further, if X is not, in fact, Y, I am interpreted to have constructed a “straw Y”–I meant to be attacking Y, but did not understand what Y is.) Given that Y is immune from reasonable criticism, no X can be criticized. Any criticism of an X is transferred to Y, where it fails.

    As for whether or not I am a feminist, that depends on whether we mean “agreeing with the particular X under discussion” (no) or “agreeing with Y” (yes). If the dynamic mentioned in the previous paragraph is in effect, however, I will be taken to be a misogynist whether I agree with Y or not, simply because I disagree with some X.

    Taking the rest of your post as an example, I disagree with this:

    Keep in mind that there really isn’t any neutral ground. In a society that’s steeped in sexism, that teaches constricting gender roles to children from infancy on, you’re either going with the (misogynist) flow, or you’re resisting it.

    And this:

    You were saying that the idea that women are human beings with all the rights and responsibilities attendant thereto is rigid ideology that you don’t want to get on board with.

    But I agree with a subset of that last quote:

    women are human beings with all the rights and responsibilities attendant thereto

    Is agreeing here enough to make me a feminist? Or do I also have to agree with all the other stuff as well?

    Making excuses for misogyny and criticizing straw feminism is something misogynists do. If you would like to be seen as a non-misogynist, then stop doing the things that misogynists do.

    I take this to mean: “agreeing with Y is not enough; you must also accept X” (for, presumably, all values of X with which you happen to agree).

    And that’s the viewpoint I find stifling, rigid, and highly objectionable. Feminism certainly has one good and unobjectionable central idea, but that doesn’t make everything else sacred by association.

  89. aspidoscelis says

    Stephanie Zvan:

    Actually, complaining about “narrow and rigid guidelines” over decrying rape threats and jokes aimed at a young woman makes you a misogynist.

    This is a really slimy tactic. An incautious reader might think that the guideline to which I objected was “don’t make rape threats and jokes aimed at a young woman”, and I can’t help but believe that this is precisely your intent.

  90. SallyStrange, Spawn of Cthulhu says

    What is the fucking criticism again? I’ve lost track. That feminism is too dogmatic? That it encourages hatred of men? Remind me.

  91. SallyStrange, Spawn of Cthulhu says

    Is agreeing here enough to make me a feminist? Or do I also have to agree with all the other stuff as well?

    Do you WANT to be a feminist? Because I’m not getting the feeling that you do. I get the feeling that you want to avoid being called a misogynist. There’s a difference.

  92. Horace says

    @98 100, Sally,

    The problem with you and “Watson feminists” is that you pretend that anyone who disagrees with you in the slightest is completely misogenist.

    This is not the case for all feminists or all women, this is the case for you and Watson. Stop pretending that you are defending feminism when you are only defending your own inability to respond to criticism. This is dishonest.

  93. SallyStrange, Spawn of Cthulhu says

    Comment by Horace blocked. [unkill]​[show comment]

    There is a killfile program for Freethought blogs available on the Pharyngula wiki, in case anyone’s interested. I’ve had Horace killfiled for months. He’s a horrible person, all around. I only mention it because the killfile takes a split second to take effect, and I was able to see Horace mentioning my name.

    The link: http://pharyngula.wikia.com/wiki/Greasemonkey

  94. says

    Horace, still waiting for someone who said you weren’t a freethinker for your political beliefs. Now we can add: Where is a feminist with whom you disagreed slightly telling you you’re not a feminist? I’d really like to see what these tiny disagreements consist of.

  95. Horace says

    @102,

    Sally, I still sense a reluctance to respond maturely to criticism. Sticking your fingers in your ears is preferable to insulting people though.

  96. Horace says

    Zvan,

    I may not have expressed myself clearly and/or you may have misinterpreted me.

    -No one has said that I am not a free thinker, I don’t see where I have claimed this.

    -I have accused others of not being free thinkers as they are doctrinarly left wing or libertarian on every issue.

    -the result has some times but not always that I am accused of being right wing or left totalitarian.

    -In the example above you (Sally’s post at @73, Scumbag priviledge denying Atheism), it appears to me that Sally does not think that I am a feminist.

  97. SallyStrange, Spawn of Cthulhu says

    Seriously though, what was the criticism of feminism again? Guys? Anyone? Beuller? Beuller?

  98. aspidoscelis says

    Horace, 101:

    That basically summarizes my opinion as well, although I would have probably used more and longer words.

    SallyStrange, 99 (& 106):

    Who’s criticizing feminism? You keep trying to stuff whatever I say into that box, and it doesn’t fit.

    If you want a label for what I’m objecting to, let’s call it “moral and intellectual authoritarianism”. Or, for greater simplicty, “sacredness” might do.

    What’s that have to do with feminism? Well, that’s what I’m trying to get at in post 95. The very short version, I suppose, is: Potentially nothing, but that’s up to you.

  99. SallyStrange, Spawn of Cthulhu says

    If you want a label for what I’m objecting to, let’s call it “moral and intellectual authoritarianism”

    Uh huh. And this has something to do with calling for atheist men to speak out against misogynists who make rape threats against 15 year olds.

    Yes, it’s all so clear.

  100. SallyStrange, Spawn of Cthulhu says

    By the way, this

    Keep in mind that there really isn’t any neutral ground. In a society that’s steeped in sexism, that teaches constricting gender roles to children from infancy on, you’re either going with the (misogynist) flow, or you’re resisting it.

    is quite supportable with evidence, if you’re interested. But I don’t think you are. Like I said, my impression is that your primary interest is in protecting your ego, which for some reason is damaged if someone points out that your actions are congruent with those of misogynists. It seems you’ve internalized the message that misogyny = bad, but it’s not clear that you understand exactly what misogyny really consists of.

    But then, it’s mostly feminists who pay attention to questions like that.

  101. says

    All it takes to be a feminist is to believe in the central tenet. That women are human beings and deserve equal rights. Everything besides that is up for debate within feminism (and gets debated quite a bit, especially amongst feminists themselves).

    So yeah, if you think women are human beings and deserve equal rights, and have taken the responsibility of working towards ensuring that, then yes, that’s all it takes to be a feminist.

    It’s completely fine to criticize any given sub-set belief within feminism. I criticize lots of them. I DESPISE transphobic radical-feminism (and they despise me right back). Likewise do I have absolutely no sympathy for misandrist and hetero-bashing Red Stocking feminism, gender essentialist Second Wave and Cultural feminism, etc.

    But I am still a feminist.

    So when you say “feminism is a dogmatic ideology”, you’re just plain wrong. When you say “feminism thinks X” (other than the aforementioned central privilege) you’re making the mistake of misunderstanding a part for the whole. And when you say “we need to be skeptical of feminism” you’re saying “we need to be skeptical of the idea that women ought to be treated like equal human beings”.

    So yeah, pardon us if that comes across as indicative of some degree of underling misogyny, or as at least making excuses for misogyny, or looking at things through a highly myopic, male-privileged lens. As said, it is your actual actions and beliefs that are going to lead us to regard you as either misogynist, supportive or apologetic of or complacent in misogyny, or an ally. Have you said anything in this thread to demonstrate that you are the third rather than either the first or second? Other than “I’m not a misogynist, but…” Which means NOTHING.

    “I’m not a homophobe, but do gay guys really need to act so fey all the time? It’s annoying. Why can’t they just act normal?”

    “I’m not a racist, but IQ tests show that black people are fundamentally less cognitively developed than whites. Perhaps this has something to do with nutrition?”

    “I’m not a transphobe, but c’mon, you have to admit, you’re not really a woman, you just cosmetically resemble a woman.”

    “I’m not a sexist, but you really should stop pointing out sexism and misogyny like this. It makes the rest of us look bad. At the very least, be sure to include positive examples of men, and include male issues, every time you ever want to talk about any gender-related subject at all”

  102. aspidoscelis says

    SallyStrange:

    Uh huh. And this has something to do with calling for atheist men to speak out against misogynists who make rape threats against 15 year olds.

    Logic 101: An argument is not judged on the truth of its conclusion, but by the validity of the reasoning and the truth of its premisses.

    In context: “Saying ‘Agree, or else’ is not a valid argument, it’s authoritarian bullying.” “But I’m right!”

  103. SallyStrange, Spawn of Cthulhu says

    “Saying ‘Agree, or else’ is not a valid argument, it’s authoritarian bullying.”

    MMMhmmm.

    And is that how you characterize my suggestions to you? To reiterate:

    If you wish to avoid being perceived as a misogynist, here’s how to do it.

    1. Pay attention to how misogynists behave

    2. Adopt behavior patterns that are noticeably different from those of misogynists

    Like I said, if this is too much work for you, then you’ve forfeited the right to complain if someone accuses you of saying or doing something sexist.

    There’s nothing there about agreeing.

  104. aspidoscelis says

    nataliebaldwin:

    All it takes to be a feminist is to believe in the central tenet.

    Well, then I’m a feminist.

    So yeah, if you think women are human beings and deserve equal rights, and have taken the responsibility of working towards ensuring that, then yes, that’s all it takes to be a feminist.

    Oh, wait. Now we’ve got an undefined 300 lb gorilla hiding in there.

    It’s completely fine to criticize any given sub-set belief within feminism. I criticize lots of them.

    Well, then, we should be just fine. I have not now and do not intend in the future to criticize the Central Tenet; so, if that really is the only thing off-limits, no problem.

    Except… I’m pretty sure it isn’t.

  105. SallyStrange, Spawn of Cthulhu says

    So yeah, if you think women are human beings and deserve equal rights, and have taken the responsibility of working towards ensuring that, then yes, that’s all it takes to be a feminist.

    Oh, wait. Now we’ve got an undefined 300 lb gorilla hiding in there.

    What exactly is problematic about that?

    I think we can all agree that a feminism that consists only of professing feminism is worthless. You have to also have actions to follow up on the words. Which actions in particular are debateable, as demonstrated by feminism’s many factions, but I don’t see what’s controversial about stating that words simply aren’t enough.

  106. says

    Yeah, exactly.

    If we talk about feminist beliefs, that’s the belief in the equal human being thing.

    If we talk about being a feminist, that’s acting in accordance with those beliefs.

    I don’t see why that’s so difficult to deal with, or how it in any way undermines my point that it’s silly to sit around and harrumph about “feminist dogma” and how we need to be “skeptical of feminism”. Evaluating, debating and often criticizing particular specific ideas within feminism is part of feminism.

    Analogy:

    The only overarching belief of skepticism is in the value of critical thinking, doubt, and working to avoid or bypass or overcome the various biases and cognitive distortions of the human mind.

    Being a skeptic means acting in accordance with those values and combating cognitive distortions, superstition, woo, etc. where you find it, and making it a point to examine things critically and question perceptions and assumptions.

    Part of skepticism involves debating and discussing exactly what that means, what it entails, and how best to go about doing that.

    Calling feminism a dogma or ideology makes about as much sense as calling skepticism the same. It’s a very basic value assumption (“women deserve equality”, “doubt and critical thinking are good”) and then a wide variety of possible extensions of that value assumption.

  107. aspidoscelis says

    Oh, that one worked. Interesting.

    SallyStrange 116:

    Right, sorry:

    “Saying ‘Do what I want, or else’ is not a valid argument, it’s authoritarian bullying.” “But I’m right!”

    and 118:

    What exactly is problematic about that?

    Well…

    Which actions in particular are debateable,

    Bingo.

    It’s a “no true Scotsman” fallacy just waiting to happen.

  108. says

    Akismet put the first two tries in spam. I’ve marked them not-spam then deleted them. Dunno why, but your adding the first sentence cleared Akismet the third time.

    The problem with that reasoning, aspidoscelis, is that if you say you believe something, but don’t act in accordance with that belief, you signal to the onlookers that you’re not really committed. If you believe someone shouldn’t be kicked in the genitals the first time they try to enter a clubhouse’s doors, when you see someone do that, you should both stop them and attend to the injured party. If people gang up on a fifteen year old girl excitedly trying to join our “atheism club”, and you let them metaphorically kick her in the metaphorical genitals by talking about raping them, then it’s either incumbent on you to make even some tiny token effort to keep people from doing that, or admit that you really DON’T care if people do that.

    Acting on your beliefs makes you honest about those beliefs. Avoiding acting on them because you don’t want to be seen as succumbing to dogma, well, that’s just inviting people to question that you ever had those beliefs at all.

  109. SallyStrange, Spawn of Cthulhu says

    Well, the actions that have been suggested here so far are:

    1. Speak up against misogyny when you see it happening (like in a Reddit thread)

    and the other two I suggested, about differentiating yourself from misogynists.

    Do you have some problem with those actions in specific, or are you just being paranoid. What do you think is going to happen, feminists are going to start demanding you chop your balls off or something? I might go so far as to say that you MUST vote pro-choice. But that’s just my opinion.

    I dunno, you seem terribly unclear about what the problem is here.

  110. SallyStrange, Spawn of Cthulhu says

    Which actions in particular are debateable,

    Bingo.

    It’s a “no true Scotsman” fallacy just waiting to happen.

    It’s not even a question of fallacies. I mean really, this is silly. You haven’t even taken any action yet, all we have from you is an insistence that you can claim the label “feminist” for yourself. And you’re already worrying about taking the wrong action which might somehow get the label revoked? Maybe I’ve misunderstood entirely, but that seems like the main reason for your concern. Look, Sarah Palin calls herself a feminist. I disagree. I have specific reasons for disagreeing and will be happy to lay them out. And feminists debate all the time how to be a better feminist, i.e., which actions best support the ideals of feminism. Really, it’s up to you to decide what those actions are. But if you decide no action is the best action, well, I’m afraid I may not believe you.

    Just like when you say, “I’m not a misogynist” but then proceed to make a degrading joke about rape, I’m not going to believe you.

  111. aspidoscelis says

    Jason Thibeault, 122:

    Akismet put the first two tries in spam. I’ve marked them not-spam then deleted them. Dunno why, but your adding the first sentence cleared Akismet the third time.

    Thanks, I suspect the problem is that the first two tries included smart quotes (copied from an earlier post), while in the third I replaced these with normal quotes.

    The problem with that reasoning, aspidoscelis, is that if you say you believe something, but don’t act in accordance with that belief, you signal to the onlookers that you’re not really committed. If you believe someone shouldn’t be kicked in the genitals the first time they try to enter a clubhouse’s doors, when you see someone do that, you should both stop them and attend to the injured party. If people gang up on a fifteen year old girl excitedly trying to join our “atheism club”, and you let them metaphorically kick her in the metaphorical genitals by talking about raping them, then it’s either incumbent on you to make even some tiny token effort to keep people from doing that, or admit that you really DON’T care if people do that.

    r/atheism is not my club. Yes, they’re atheists, and I’m an atheist. However, it is not my club and I’m not your posse. Sharing a few beliefs with a bunch of assholes I’ve never met across town is not enough to make me their social police.

    Basically, you’re advocating a particular model of group identity with which I do not agree.

  112. says

    Here’s the thing. If you’re not interested in r/atheism, then you can cede that area, let the trolls win. There are enough people within this community that feel that this type of behaviour is not good. There are people here who would like that community, being allies as they are, to take the more humanist path, as it seems evident the “good guys” need backup if they’re to achieve the kind of social change they would need to make r/atheism a safe place for women. I’m not saying we need to pony up for every social change, but if you don’t want to get in on this fight, you’ve spent a lot of words here on this blog trying to get us to convince you that your ideals are aligned with ours, only to say “not my fight”, proving that your ideals aren’t.

    At this stage in the game, this feels a lot like the privilege conversation we had what, last month? Two months ago? Why join this conversation only to say that we’re not closely allied enough already with r/atheism to join this fight?

    Especially since that’s not actually the topic at hand? Especially when this actual conversation, the one that’s now all about whether or not you’re a feminist, started out being about how somehow every time Rebecca Watson posts about some piece of entrenched misogyny all the trolls come out to get a piece of the action?

    Interestingly, the action they want is usually about border concerns that have nothing to do with the thing that she pointed out. In this case, again, a fifteen year old girl was treated like shit. I advocated coming to her defense, to put down the misogynist trolls whom you apparently agree are terrible and worth confronting, and made the perception of you as a humanist with empathy — where you claim to align strongly with my ideals — contingent on whether or not you’d stop this kind of thing when it happens.

    Nobody here said that you would need to ride into r/atheism and join this fight, either. What WAS said, though, is that if this kind of thing happens in the future, you either do something about it, or you forfeit any vestige of appearing to be the humanist with empathy and a distaste for misogyny that you claim here to be.

  113. Horace says

    @126 Jason,

    I read your post and was left with the impression that it was about Rebecca Watson, not what happened to the 15 year old girl. The title was

    >why is Rebecca Watson
    >so damned polarizing ?

    and you say yourself

    >What’s worse, I think this
    >particular incident only blew
    >up because it was Rebecca
    >Watson who pointed it out.

    I think what happened to the 15 year old girl was aweful, and more people should have spoken up for her. This may be misogeny, it may also be the way people act on internet forums. Would it have been alright if she had been treated this way by other women ? or (more likely) a 15 year old boy had gotten the same treatment for doing something geeky ?

    The question of Watson though is what attitude the atheist community should have towards feminism, so it is legitimate to talk about that. As I spend a lot of time at the slimepit (ERV blog) I know that many of those who oppose her feel that she is intolerant of anything less than 110% agrement with her, particularly from men.

    You might think that I am wrong, but you did ask the question.

    Back tomorrow.

  114. julian says

    Well, then I’m a feminist.

    No, you’re a sociopath. You’ve already made it clear you feel nothing for others being mistreated or that you feel any need to stop or put an end to the mistreatment.

    Please leave the human population. At your leisure of course but sooner would be preferred.

  115. SallyStrange, Spawn of Cthulhu says

    Basically, you’re advocating a particular model of group identity with which I do not agree.

    Fine then. Why bother pretending to be a feminist? I really think this is just about the fact that it’s mildly socially unacceptable to be openly sexist. The problem is, the only way to be reliably not-sexist is to act in accordance with feminist ideals, and that’s just too much work for you. So what? Be who you are. Embrace your identity as a man who’s too apathetic to do anything outside of your normal routine to support women’s struggle for equal rights. Don’t be ashamed of who you are! Be sexist and be proud of it.

  116. aspidoscelis says

    SallyStrange, 124:

    It’s not even a question of fallacies.

    If that’s what I’m talking about… maybe it is what I’m interested in.

    We’re getting a bit far afield and I’m feeling lazy, so I’ll quote wikipedia:

    “No true Scotsman is an informal logical fallacy, an ad hoc attempt to retain an unreasoned assertion. When faced with a counterexample to a universal claim, rather than denying the counterexample or rejecting the original universal claim, this fallacy modifies the subject of the assertion to exclude the specific case or others like it by rhetoric, without reference to any specific objective rule.”

    An undefined clause provides a built-in escape hatch to use the “no true Scotsman” fallacy. The original statement no longer needs any modification whatsoever to allow specific cases to be excluded at whim.

    Just like when you say, “I’m not a misogynist” but then proceed to make a degrading joke about rape, I’m not going to believe you.

    You’re using “you” in a nonspecific sense (“If a person were to say…”), right?

  117. SallyStrange, Spawn of Cthulhu says

    I doubt he’s a true sociopath though. That’s the thing about misogyny, it enables non-sociopaths to act in sociopathic ways. Towards women, and towards men who don’t conform to gender stereotypes.

  118. aspidoscelis says

    Jason Thibeault:

    At this stage in the game, this feels a lot like the privilege conversation we had what, last month? Two months ago?

    Yeah, I agree. I’m not sure why I tend to get myself into this particular kind of rut.

    From my point of view, “freethought”, “skepticism”, “atheism”, etc., are only worthwhile things if they mean we’re paying strong attention to rationality and clear thinking–and not if, instead, we focus on whether or not people arrive at the “right” conclusions through whatever means seem handy.* So, I see something on a blog, say to myself, “Well, that bit of reasoning is bunk and it’s like the 10th time this week that I’ve seen it; time to jump in!” …and instead find myself tied up in some long discussion about whether the damned conclusion is or is not correct.

    Apparently, the reasoning used to arrive at some preferred conclusion is inherently and inalienably tied to that conclusion. I can’t question one without attacking the other. The response seems to be either strongly negative, or complete bafflement. If I then question how that response came about (which I seem invariably to do) I just dig myself in deeper. Oh well.

    I have some vague belief that if I do this enough times I’ll figure it out. Probably not.

    *It’s worth mentioning that both you & Horace have made stabs in the same direction in this thread.

  119. aspidoscelis says

    julian:

    Thanks for the laugh, I needed it.

    SallyStrange:

    Maybe it’s just time to give your worldview a third category. Perhaps even a fourth.

  120. julian says

    Thanks for the laugh, I needed it.

    Please don’t pretend you have feelings. You don’t. You’re a thing.

    From my point of view, “freethought”, “skepticism”, “atheism”, etc., are only worthwhile things if they mean we’re paying strong attention to rationality and clear thinking

    While in academia that may be all that’s relevant, that doesn’t hold true everywhere. To pick an extreme example obtaining votes for an equal rights measure. While ideally (and ultimately) you have to switch people’s thinking and values so that they support the more humane position, if in the here and now you need their vote it makes no sense to hold back.

    Or a current example, contraception (condoms mostly) usage in Africa. A rational calm argument that thoroughly refutes the existing biases against and suspicion of condoms may be the only ‘valid’ approach but it is far from the most effective. And it’s one that’s going to save the least lives.

    I understand there’s a fine line you need to be very aware of but that doesn’t mean the ‘right’ decision reached through less than ideal ways is ‘wrong.’

    Apparently, the reasoning used to arrive at some preferred conclusion is inherently and inalienably tied to that conclusion. I can’t question one without attacking the other.

    Why would you be able to?

    A conclusions follows from the reasoning that came before. If the reasoning that lead to it is invalid, the conclusion is invalid (because it has no support.)

    Why are you shocked people defend their reasoning?

    Maybe it’s just time to give your worldview a third category. Perhaps even a fourth.

    And the nothing-ist continues to regal the world with its unparalleled wisdom. However has the specious survived without its guidance? Pfft.

  121. aspidoscelis says

    julian:

    Please don’t pretend you have feelings. You don’t. You’re a thing.

    Yes, I’m a thing. So’re you. Nonetheless, I’m a thing that enjoys a good joke. Since you seem to be filling that particular void at the moment, thanks again.

    Or a current example, contraception (condoms mostly) usage in Africa. A rational calm argument that thoroughly refutes the existing biases against and suspicion of condoms may be the only ‘valid’ approach but it is far from the most effective. And it’s one that’s going to save the least lives.

    Expedience has its place. So does reason.

    The two may be opposed at times, but neither can be neglected entirely.

    Why would you be able to?

    A conclusions follows from the reasoning that came before. If the reasoning that lead to it is invalid, the conclusion is invalid (because it has no support.)

    Why are you shocked people defend their reasoning?

    No destination can be arrived at by only a single route.

    Even supposing one has a destination in mind instead of following reason wherever it leads, we can still evaluate the reasoning used along the way; only if there is no line of reasoning that leads there must the desired conclusion be abandoned, not simply because a particular obvious route happens not to work.

    But, yes, we must be willing to abandon the desired conclusion if there is no route. Otherwise any exercise in rationality is a sham.

    Hence my earlier statement: I am opposed to sacredness.

  122. SallyStrange, Spawn of Cthulhu says

    Dude, I would LOVE to believe you, but you have yet to demonstrate any “sacredness” at play here.

    From my point of view, “freethought”, “skepticism”, “atheism”, etc., are only worthwhile things if they mean we’re paying strong attention to rationality and clear thinking–and not if, instead, we focus on whether or not people arrive at the “right” conclusions through whatever means seem handy.

    You have a concrete demonstrate of how feminist values, and the action plan I proposed for you, are inconsistent with rationality etc.?

    So far you haven’t fucking mentioned anything like that, just whined incessantly about how it makes you uncomfortable that this MIGHT be reflective of this “sacredness” thing that bothers your delicate brain ever so much.

    Offer a concrete example of this or stop fucking whining.

  123. SallyStrange, Spawn of Cthulhu says

    Also, I think my categories are sufficient. In terms of public interaction, I don’t need any more. I know, it sounds dogmatic, but it’s true: you can’t be neutral on a moving train. This is a fight that’s ongoing RIGHT NOW. If you have complicated rational reasons for abstaining from the fight, fine. Whatever. But you are still NOT JOINING IN THE FIGHT, despite protesting that you care about it.

    Sorry, you still fall into the category of people who don’t care enough to join in.

    And, logically speaking, that leaves you at risk of being seen as someone who doesn’t care enough to join in.

    Why is that a problem? You still want to be seen as a Good Guy, despite not being willing to take the actions necessary to being a Good Guy. How the fuck is THAT logical? Irrationally selfish, more like.

  124. SallyStrange, Spawn of Cthulhu says

    Correction:

    You have a concrete demonstrate demonstration of how feminist values, and the action plan I proposed for you, are inconsistent with rationality etc.?

    FIFM

  125. says

    aspidoscelis, a lot of what we’re talking about is emotive. It depends heavily on empathy — on not wanting someone else to go through what this young girl is going through. I can’t make a logical argument, per se, that someone absolutely needs to pay attention to everyone else’s emotions and feelings, but I can make a case that if you take a lack of empathy to its extreme, you have a society predicated on everyone only and ever doing what’s right for them.

    If feminism is predicated on the idea that women are fully human, it stands to reason that it will protect women from dehumanizing aspects of society — the way society at large priviliges men, or disinherits women, of certain abilities. The example in this case is that a girl putting up a picture is both upvoted by people encouraging girls to show their faces (e.g. systematic “karma whoring”), and abused for being a girl who showed her face. She tried to signal that she was a member of the ingroup but the ingroup would have none of it and she got those execrable rape threats and what have you anyway.

    If you claim to be a feminist, it stands to reason that you would not only find this abhorrent, but since the bar is so low that efforts toward ameliorating this particular situation — e.g. downvoting the comments, going out of your way to post your disapproval — are accessible even to the laziest of people. If you’re questioning whether or not you should, as a feminist, register your disapproval or downvote the comment, then you are in fact questioning whether or not it’s worth doing anything about these sorts of lamentable ill treatments of fellow human beings.

    If people question that you’re actually a feminist in this case, it’s because the bar for action is so low that it is rather ridiculous that you’re questioning it. Yes, that’s an emotive term again, but really, what does it take but a few seconds of your time to register disapproval? You’ve spent how many hours in aggregate just here on this thread reading and writing arguments? And yet you’re more concerned that being a feminist is intertwined somehow with acting like one?

  126. Spartan says

    Nobody here said that you would need to ride into r/atheism and join this fight, either. What WAS said, though, is that if this kind of thing happens in the future, you either do something about it, or you forfeit any vestige of appearing to be the humanist with empathy and a distaste for misogyny that you claim here to be.

    I think that’s way too simplistic. You can be a humanist and have a distaste for misogyny but not think that you are obligated to participate in shouting down misogynistic internet comments whenever you are notified that that has occurred, or lose your cred. I personally will spend my energy and money and time doing what I can to reduce the vast number of puppies and kitties trying to avoid being euthanized; that and many other things are a higher priority to me than policing internet comments. And if you don’t also help shelter animals, you forfeit any vestige of appearing to be empathic and have no right to say you care about animals; that’s not really the logic you’re using here, are you? Faced with an immense sea of injustices and wrongs, don’t you pick your battles also? Can we likewise say that you don’t have a distaste for the various battlegrounds you don’t personally take on?

  127. says

    Actually, Spartan, if you’re already participating in comment threads, then, yes, I think you do have an obligation to register your disapproval when this sort of thing is sitting right in front of you. This is particularly true when the arguing starts (as it generally does) that the people doing the disapproving are some small minority that don’t represent the group.

    To say it requires “shouting [them] down” is a bit disingenuous. The bar to “Dude, not cool” or “I’m with Sally on this one” is absurdly, non-comparably low relative to leaving your house to put in volunteer labor or spending your money.

  128. SallyStrange, Spawn of Cthulhu says

    And if you don’t also help shelter animals, you forfeit any vestige of appearing to be empathic and have no right to say you care about animals; that’s not really the logic you’re using here, are you?

    I personally am setting the bar far lower than that. If you don’t SPEAK OUT against cruelty to animals, when someone is right in front of you gleefully cackling about how amusing it is to torture kittens, then no, I don’t believe that you really care much about protecting animals from unnecessary cruelty.

  129. Natalie says

    “RAHH! Feminism is just a big dogma that encourages groupthink and says we have to bow down to sacred ideals!!! RAHHH!”

    “Which sacred ideals? The thing about women being human?”

    “YES!!! THAT ONE!!! RAHH! I SHOULD BE FREE TO THINK WOMEN AREN’T HUMAN IN A FREETHOUGHT COMMUNITY! BLARGHLE! You get mad at us for the slightest disagreement!?”

    “Which slightest disagreement? The one where you make excuses for threatening to rape a 15 y/o girl?”

    “YES! THAT ONE! RAHHH! We should totally get to make excuses for that because we’re free thinkers which means we get to do whatever the fuck we want! Stop groupthinking me with your groupiness and your sacred cows of “decency”, “empathy” and “reason”!!! RAWR!!!”

    “Which dogma, by the way?”

    “THE ONE ABOUT WOMEN BEING HUMANS!!!! I SHOULDN’T HAVE TO BELIEVE THAT AND ACT IN ACCORDANCE WITH THOSE BELIEFS!!!”

  130. Natalie says

    btw, I understand the distrust of groupthink and mob mentality. I do. For example, I utterly refuse to participate in chants, even when I agree with the message, like “this is what democracy looks like!” or whatever.

    But this just isn’t an example of groupthink and mob mentality. It’s simply the most well-reasoned position.

    Most people in this community believe in evolution, that 9/11 was not an inside job, and that our world leaders aren’t secretly shape-shifting reptile people. And you will get chewed out and greeted with a ton of very good arguements why you’re wrong if you decide to make claims to the contrary. But that doesn’t mean it’s a dogma or a sacred cow. It just means that these positions are so reasonable and supportable that almost everyone agrees.

    And so it is with feminism, here and even more so on Skepchick. Can you blame people on a feminist blog for having feminist views? That’s absurd. And in particular, people on Skepchick tend to have a certain kind of Third Wave, sex-positive, non-essentialist, non-misandrist, LGBT-inclusive kind of feminism. And again, that’s just because that seems to be the most sensible position, not because it’s a “dogma”.

    The fact that lots of people agree on something doesn’t mean that agreement has been arrived at uncritically. The fact that they defend that something doesn’t mean they’re trying to sqaush dissent, it’s just that the contrary position isn’t particularly well-respected and doesn’t seem like a good argument.

  131. aspidoscelis says

    Jason Thibeault:

    aspidoscelis, a lot of what we’re talking about is emotive. It depends heavily on empathy — on not wanting someone else to go through what this young girl is going through. I can’t make a logical argument, per se, that someone absolutely needs to pay attention to everyone else’s emotions and feelings, but I can make a case that if you take a lack of empathy to its extreme, you have a society predicated on everyone only and ever doing what’s right for them.

    Empathy is involved, certainly, and there’s a straightforwardly empathetic bit of the dynamic here that makes perfect sense. Someone out there’s being treated like shit, and you don’t want that to happen–perfectly understandable.

    However, there’s a funny little jump from “I feel empathy for this person” to “you ought to feel the same empathy”. I am deeply suspicious of that little jump. It immediately twists empathy from an emotion one has for others into a prescriptive social norm and a tool for judgment. There’s nothing empathetic about it any more.

    If you claim to be a feminist,

    If people question that you’re actually a feminist in this case,

    That’s one of the conclusions I’m not too much interested in. I’m more interested in how we get there.

    Why am I interested in that? Because it’s one of the first challenges faced by anyone who questions any part of feminism: Is the critic a feminist or a misogynist? Is this someone who, due to shared group identity, might have something worthwhile to say, or someone who we have a duty to ridicule?

    So I wonder–how exactly does that decision get made, and does this approach make any sense in the first place?

    (Obviously this phenomenon is by no means limited to feminism; but this is, for whatever reason, where I tend to see it in its strongest form.)

  132. says

    However, there’s a funny little jump from “I feel empathy for this person” to “you ought to feel the same empathy”. I am deeply suspicious of that little jump.

    Except that we’re talking about a primary factor in determining whether you are, or are not, a certain class of person. If we said “in order to be a living human being, you ought to breathe oxygen”, and you were deeply suspicious that this was a prescriptive, you’re welcome to try to breathe some other gas, but you’re going to be reclassified in a hurry.

    If we were talking about “in order to be an atheist, you ought not to believe in gods”, and you were deeply suspicious that this was a prescriptive and decided to believe in a god, you’ll get reclassified.

    Since we are talking about feminism, and the belief that women are fully human beings is an accurate description of you, then perhaps the problem here is the prescriptive that you have to have empathy for them. Perhaps the problem is that you’re a feminist without being a humanist — without caring about another human being’s grief. If you’re deeply suspicious about having to accept as some kind of central dogma that you should feel empathy for other human beings and work to better their lot whenever the bar’s low enough to allow you to do so, and the bar toward helping stamp out misogyny is certainly low enough, then perhaps the problem here is that you lack that empathy and are simply arguing for the sake of arguing to win the label of feminist but misdirect from the fact that you’re not a humanist at all.

    I didn’t think it was possible to be a feminist without being a humanist, but you’re putting on a damn good show of it.

    I’m putting this conversation down for the time being. It’s New Year’s Eve, and I have far better things to do than argue with someone whether or not we should measure who we consider allies by how empathetic they are to others’ plights.

  133. aspidoscelis says

    Natalie, 145:

    But this just isn’t an example of groupthink and mob mentality. It’s simply the most well-reasoned position.

    Of course you think your position is the most well-reasoned one. So does everyone else.

    If a Catholic walked up to you and said: “I don’t believe the Nicene Creed because it’s dogma–I believe it because it’s the truth!” …well, exactly how convinced would you be by that assertion?

  134. aspidoscelis says

    Jason Thibeault, 147:

    I think you’re still in the land of “Is the conclusion true?” rather than “Is the reasoning valid?”

    For instance, take the idea that a certain emotional state is the right one that any reasonable, caring human being ought to have–is this something that you believe universally, or only in this particular instance? If the latter, where exactly are the bounds, and why?

    Do you really think that there are moral facts about appropriate emotional states in the same way that there are empirical facts about under what circumstances a person is alive? Or was that just kind of an idea near to hand that looked like it fit into the appropriate slot in your argument?

    I’m putting this conversation down for the time being.

    Yeah, I guess I’ll do likewise.

  135. says

    I’ve just spent what feels like 2 hours reading the whole thread – and that thing aspido said in 147 gets to the nub of the issue nicely.

    However, there’s a funny little jump from “I feel empathy for this person” to “you ought to feel the same empathy”. I am deeply suspicious of that little jump. It immediately twists empathy from an emotion one has for others into a prescriptive social norm and a tool for judgment.

    Yes it does, and a good thing too. That jump is the last thing on earth you should be suspicious of, let alone deeply suspicious. (This is why Sam Harris’s book on morality is such a mess, too.) Without it people do the most fuckawful things you can think of, and don’t turn a hair. They pour acid on people and don’t mind the screams.

    You can still argue “in this particular case there is no need for empathy because there is no preventable source of suffering.” But argue that, as opposed to arguing against universalized empathy as such.

  136. says

    Do you really think that there are moral facts about appropriate emotional states in the same way that there are empirical facts about under what circumstances a person is alive?

    Not in the same way, no. (Cf my Sam Harris remark above.) But in a way, all the same. People who can’t do empathy at all are psychopaths, and thus dangerous.

    You weren’t asking me, but I’m here at the moment.

  137. Natalie says

    aspidocelis:

    So, in your view, there is absolutely no difference between believing in a substantiated, reasoned position like feminism, evolution, physics, the world isn’t run by shapeshifting lizardmen, etc. and things like the Nicene creed? It’s all just dogma, all the same?

    Clearly, you have a VERY different definition of freethought than the rest of us.

  138. Natalie says

    …and if you think feminism ISN’T a substantiated, reasonable position, THEN MAKE A FUCKING ARGUMENT. Engage in discussion. If your position (that everything should stay status quo in regards to gender and sex or whatever) is the better position, than it will win out. If it’s idiotic, then you will be chewed out. That’s what’s happening… the process of debate, discussion and thought…NOT dogmatically clinging to a concept held to be above discussion, like religious belief.

  139. aspidoscelis says

    Ophelia, why do you have to wander in and say interesting things right after I’ve decided I ought to just leave it alone?

    Ah well.

    Yes it does, and a good thing too. That jump is the last thing on earth you should be suspicious of, let alone deeply suspicious. (This is why Sam Harris’s book on morality is such a mess, too.) Without it people do the most fuckawful things you can think of, and don’t turn a hair. They pour acid on people and don’t mind the screams.

    But does anyone have empathy because they are told to?

    Do you cure psychopathy by informing psychopaths that empathy is a lovely virtuous thing that they really ought to engage in more often? I don’t think that’s how it works.

    My understanding (which is certainly too simplistic and possibly just plain wrong) is that moral exhortations to feel virtuous emotions like empathy can have a few effects: 1) they may cause the person to feign the desirable emotional state to gain social acceptance; 2) they may cause the person to feel guilty for not being virtuous, or not being virtuous enough; 3) they may have no effect at all if the person just doesn’t give a damn how you think they ought to feel (and probably some “4″ or “5″ that I’m not thinking of at the moment). I don’t think inducing the desired emotional state is one of the possible, or at least not one of the likely, outcomes.

    As for why I’m suspicious, I suppose the pop-psych answer is that I was raised Catholic and I know a few people who’ve been deeply damaged by reaction “2″ above. I know it happens; I know it causes harm.

  140. says

    Do you cure psychopathy by informing psychopaths that empathy is a lovely virtuous thing that they really ought to engage in more often? I don’t think that’s how it works.

    That becomes clearer by the comment.

  141. SallyStrange, Spawn of Cthulhu says

    No. People who don’t have empathy don’t suddenly get it because they’re told to. Sociopaths and psychopaths remain thus even if they learn to fake it.

    That’s not what we’re talking about here.

    Regular people, non-sociopaths, generally experience empathy, even if they limit it an in-group.

    Feminism encourages men to stop viewing women as de facto out-group members and start treating them as human beings deserving of the same empathy they’d automatically accord to a man.

    Bigotry doesn’t work by erasing the capacity for empathy, and anti-bigotry doesn’t work be creating the capacity for empathy. What’s actually happening is that people are learning to regard women (or people of color, or atheists, or whatever) as human beings rather than something else that closely resembles a human being but doesn’t warrant extending one’s empathy to.

    So sorry you missed that when I already said it, but I guess you were too busy complaining about the possible groupthink aspect of feminism with ever FUCKING SUBSTANTIATING YOUR COMPLAINT.

  142. ginmar says

    So kneejerk attacking Watson over everything—-and acting like one of the original misogynist trolls from Elevatorgate—-is okay but responding to that kind of crap is not. And a fifteen-year-old girl getting threatened with rape is something to be brushed aside in favor of strawmanning about feminism.

    I can’t read anything Horace and Acido yell about wihthout hearing the original shrieks of outraged from Elevatorgate: “How dare she ask us to give a shit about her!”

  143. says

    What Sally said. Exactly. No, of course I don’t think you can get empathy-free people to have empathy by telling them to; I think you can tell people who do have empathy to expand the circle. I know you can do that.

    It’s sad that anyone has to be told that women are people too and should be as empathizable as any other people, but there it is.

  144. says

    I just want to repeat this, because it sums it up in a nutshell:

    Feminism encourages men to stop viewing women as de facto out-group members and start treating them as human beings deserving of the same empathy they’d automatically accord to a man.

    It’s perfectly consistent with free inquiry and critical thinking to insist on that core of feminism.

  145. Horace says

    Benson,

    there are a lot of mind sets that treat women as human. Feminism is distinct in that it minimizes the difference in roles between woman and men. This may be a good think, but you should not pretend that non-feminists think women are sub-human.

    An example, the Titanic went down in prefeminist days and being female was a good predictor of survival (at least among the 1st class passengers). You may dislike the attitides of this era, but women were not considered subhuman. Not fully adult perhaps: but not subhuman.

    @158 Ginmar

    criticise me for what I have said, not for whatever memories my posting trigger for you.

  146. cmv says

    Feminism encourages men to stop viewing women as de facto out-group members and start treating them as human beings deserving of the same empathy they’d automatically accord to a man.

    aspidoscelis at least, and possible Horace as well, seem to need this statement to be justified. If you cannot identify a self-evident truth when you see it, I am afraid there is no hope for you. There is no valid reason to demand skeptical rigour here. To ask for supporting evidence is to ask for evidence that women are human beings, in which case – fuck off, you are not a “skeptic” you are a “misogynistic asshat”.

    The Reddit thread at the start of this was filled with threats of rape and kidnap against a young woman. (As an aside, the only date I saw was in the screencap provided by RW and was 1997 – that would make the young woman 14 until at least tomorrow, just saying.) If you need justification for why this is wrong, you are simply a horrible human being.

    There are times when threats of violence may be justified. As the one threatening violence, it is on you to provide that justification, not on your interlocutor to justify NOT threatening violence. It is the same when you make a claim; justify the claim, or accept that it will be dismissed.

    There is NO time when threatening rape is justified. Ever. If you are involved in a situation where someone is threatened with rape, you should, as a decent human being, say something.

    If a woman tells you that threats of rape in an online forum about atheism is likely to drive women away from organised atheism, shut up and listen. If you were unable to figure this out on your own, then you are a horrible human being.

    And finally, on that other debacle; if a woman tells you that men hitting on women in small isolated spaces tend to creep them out, shut up and listen. As a decent human being, you should be interested in at least avoiding making the people around you uncomfortable. At the bare minimum, as a man interested in spending time with women, take this at the same level as a suggestion that showering regularly is likely to help you in your social interactions. You have the right not to shower, but others have the right to tell you that you smell bad and avoid you.

  147. says

    An example, the Titanic went down in prefeminist days and being female was a good predictor of survival (at least among the 1st class passengers).

    While on the Lusitania it was a good predictor of drowning.
    Cherry-picking, I call it.

    I think what aspidoscelis wants is responsibility-free armchair humanism and feminism.

    Something that makes me quite suspicious is why people who say that it’s asking too much to say that if you want to keep your Decent Human Beings Card*, and all you have to do is to invest 3 seconds in clicking a “vote down” button after you just invested considerably more time in reading rape threats against a teenage girl on the other hand think it’s absolutely worthwhile and necessary to spend hours defending those three seconds of inaction.
    That’s at least fucked up priorities.

    *I’m not even talking about the Feminist Card.

  148. says

    That would be another example of what it is not part of free inquiry or free thinking to dispute: that women are fully adult. Disputing that is not part of free inquiry, it’s political.

  149. Spartan says

    Giliell,

    Something that makes me quite suspicious is why people who say that it’s asking too much to say that if you want to keep your Decent Human Beings Card*, and all you have to do is to invest 3 seconds in clicking a “vote down” button after you just invested considerably more time in reading rape threats against a teenage girl on the other hand think it’s absolutely worthwhile and necessary to spend hours defending those three seconds of inaction.
    That’s at least fucked up priorities.

    Maybe. I think it’s kinda fucked up that you’ve set up this rather petty arbitrary hoop to jump through to be a ‘Decent Human Being’ (not to mention the more serious conceited fuckupedness of appointing yourself arbiter of ‘decent human being’). Is it really so much for me ask you to stop the next person you see walking their dog and spread the word how important it is to get your pets neutered? Don’t you care about the suffering of animals? Apparently not since you’re taking the time to comment here. Instead of registering on a site I never go to (uh-oh, now I’m part of the reddit community and am ‘responsible’ for all the comments that are left there) and leaving a me-too comment, may I please instead drive down to 8 Mile and give a little money to the homeless people hanging out/living under the overpass? How many required down-votes does that get me in exchange, or do those humans just deserve less empathy?

    While you’re typing away here, you could have taken a minute instead and donated $10 to help alleviate hunger. Oh and if you don’t, then you’re not decent and not a humanist since your priorities are fucked and you obviously don’t care about hunger. What, you only have so much money to donate? That’s a sensible excuse. So why do you think time is any less finite? Why is it clearly bogue for me to presume you have $10 to donate to what I want you to, but it’s not when you presume to tell me how best to spend my limited time instead of letting me use it in a way that I think does the most good for the humanist and feminist causes that are important to me?

    Yes the bar here is very low, as it is for a vast number of things that you could be ‘helping stamp out’. How long does it take to donate some clothes or canned goods? Does that do more or less good than what you’re asking to be done here, even if you were to spend the same amount of time downvoting the pretty much endless misogynistic comments.

    Jason’s main post is spot-on and I think Rebecca and especially Stephanie have made good cases that indeed there is a problem in the ‘atheist community’ with sexism. I just find the ‘reasoning’ above, that he seems to be somewhat supporting, to be hypocritical and just pompous. You’re seriously comfortable questioning the humanism and decency of people based on whether they take the time to downvote on a comment thread you want them to, that’s the position you are defending? From a position of total ignorance of what I may instead be doing with my time. That’s a little, ya know, polarizing.

  150. says

    No, I think the argument goes that in the time aspidoscelis has spent here rules-lawyering about why he deserves the feminist monicker even if he’s unwilling to go downvote misogynist comments, he could have gone through every single post in the first three pages of the r/atheism subreddit and downvoted every misogynist comment and still had enough time to come back here, read this thread, and say “yup, did my part”.

    If you’ve got limited time on the internet, why do you think arguing that you shouldn’t have to spend a very tiny chunk of it beating up on misogynists is a good way to further the feminist and humanist causes?

  151. Horace says

    @169 Jason,

    I replied at @105.

    To repeat, no one has said that I am not a freethinker for my opinions on feminism.

    I am saying that you are not freethinkers because you treat self proclaimed feminists as above criticism or debate and automatically assume that they speak for all women. This is why Rebecca Watson is so polarizing, she and many others of the feminists on these threads take anything less than 110% agreement with them as evidence of mysogeny.

  152. says

    Is it really so much for me ask you to stop the next person you see walking their dog and spread the word how important it is to get your pets neutered?….yadda, yadda, yadda

    Complete utter bullshit.
    None of the examples you give resembles the scenario even closely.
    A similar example would be to tell somebody who brags about letting their non-neutered dog running wild that this is absolute irresponsible behaviour. Be assured that I do so.

    . I think it’s kinda fucked up that you’ve set up this rather petty arbitrary hoop to jump through to be a ‘Decent Human Being’

    Wow. Just Wow.
    So, you find “condemming rape threats against a 15 yo”
    -arbitrary
    -obviously too high a standard to reach.
    Says a lot about you, much less about me.

  153. aspidoscelis says

    Jason Thibeault 168:

    No, I think the argument goes that in the time aspidoscelis has spent here rules-lawyering about why he deserves the feminist monicker even if he’s unwilling to go downvote misogynist comments, he could have gone through every single post in the first three pages of the r/atheism subreddit and downvoted every misogynist comment and still had enough time to come back here, read this thread, and say “yup, did my part”.

    If you’ve got limited time on the internet, why do you think arguing that you shouldn’t have to spend a very tiny chunk of it beating up on misogynists is a good way to further the feminist and humanist causes?

    If my goal were to gain social approval with the least amount of effort, yes, my actions would be poorly chosen.

  154. aspidoscelis says

    Spartan, 167:

    the conceited fuckupedness of appointing yourself arbiter of ‘decent human being’

    Yup, that is the basic underlying issue here.

  155. Spartan says

    Jason,

    If you’ve got limited time on the internet, why do you think arguing that you shouldn’t have to spend a very tiny chunk of it beating up on misogynists is a good way to further the feminist and humanist causes?

    You are being a little presumptious about how others parse their time. I don’t parse mine by on and off the internet; I parse it more along the lines of doing things I enjoy, work, and things that help other people (or animals) or further the causes I’m interested in, which yes includes feminist causes. If I have a 3 hour block of time and $100 to put toward a feminist/humanist cause, is your recommendation that I spend that time expressing my disagreement at misogynistic comments, that’s the best use of my time? Because I could probably spend 3 straight hours doing that on reddit alone. If maybe you can think of something else that can do more good (I prefer to put my efforts towards pro-choice causes), then how about you let me make that evaluation and choice. You know, the same latitude you I assume demand for yourself. Or explain why my saying, ‘you’ve done nothing to help shelter animals yet you spent time watching a movie; and you want me to think you have empathy…’, because I personally think trying to give a handful of pets homes does more good than me spending a month leaving comments, isn’t equally applicable and damning to you.

    None of the examples you give resembles the scenario even closely.
    A similar example would be to tell somebody who brags about letting their non-neutered dog running wild that this is absolute irresponsible behaviour. Be assured that I do so.

    Well my examples do resemble this scenario insofar as they are trying to further an empathic cause; for you, it’s combatting internet comments so that women are treated equally and respectfully, for me it’s urging people to get their animals neutered so there are not so many suffering and dying alone in shelters. Both our ends may not technically be ‘humanistic’ since I’m talking about pets, but they are both good and I don’t think you have any way of arguing that your preferred cause/tactic is a ‘better’ use of my time, just as I wouldn’t in converse. But I’m not saying that you don’t care about animals because you won’t do this one specific thing that takes almost no time; what’s the difference in these scenarios that justifies your judgments on who is decent and a feminist, based on what you well know is a gigantic lack of information.

    But fine, your analogy is closer to this scenario, but still not close enough. A better analogy is I notify you that I found a forum on the web where several people are bragging about letting their dogs run around un-neutered, and demand that you spend a few seconds registering your disapproval or deem you uncaring. But I wouldn’t do that for many reasons, not the least of which is for all I know Giliell, you spend most your week volunteering at a shelter.

    The arbitrary hoops that are set up is not, ‘condemning rape threats against 15yo’s’, it’s ‘you are obligated to condemn rape threats against 15yo’s whenever you are notified they exist’ or lose your feminist/humanist cred. If that’s the bar, then I can provide lots of links to equally vile racist comments, I’m sure some directed at minors, that you should likewise feel obligated to counter.

  156. cmv says

    @spartan 176 and aspid @174

    Spartan, 167:

    the conceited fuckupedness of appointing yourself arbiter of ‘decent human being’

    Yup, that is the basic underlying issue here.

    Well ok, then. Maybe this can clear it up for you. Everyone is free to determine his or her definition of what makes a Decent Human Being. The vast majority here seem to agree that part (and only part) of that definition includes a willingness to argue against threats of rape. Most seem to agree tha another part (and again, ony a part) is to consider women to be wholly human and equal to men.

    Now, you say that that sets the bar pretty low, and you would be right. It is a pretty low standard to meet. Then again, being a Decent Human Being isn’t that hard. My question is, why are you fighting so vociferously to avoid meeting even that standard?

    As “freethinkers”, we are free to define the characteristics of decent human beings for ourselves, but that does not mean that we cannot find community with like-minded individuals who have come to similar conclusions for fear of losing our “freethinker” cards.

  157. cmv says

    @spartan – read RW’s original post. She didn’t ask anyone to go Pharyngulate Reddit. She said that it is horrible behaviour, that the members of that forum should be ashamed, and that people who justify the behaviour are likewise horrible.

    That does set a low bar. How exactly is it that you disagree with this assessment?

  158. says

    he arbitrary hoops that are set up is not, ‘condemning rape threats against 15yo’s’, it’s ‘you are obligated to condemn rape threats against 15yo’s whenever you are notified they exist’ or lose your feminist/humanist cred.

    I’ll give you the benefit of doubt that you might not notice that you’re moving the goalpost, but nobody said you should go and run over to every case of SIWOTI.
    The argument is that when you notice that shit, just like when somebody in my company mentions that they let the dog fuck/be fucked without preventing offspring, and you are there, then you have the somewhat moral obligation to say something or just click the “down” button.
    Nothing else.
    And that, if you don’t do, but go on arguing why you still absolutely care about feminism, people are not going to believe you.
    You don’t have register at reddit (neither have/do I), or skepchick, or be an activist.
    You know, it’s like saying you’re an environmentalist and not even closing your own fridge door. Or caring about animals and not having your own dog neutered.

    As “freethinkers”, we are free to define the characteristics of decent human beings for ourselves,

    I find that stupid.
    Sure, you can defind “decent human being” as somebody who kicks puppies and steals lollipops from children, but that’s not a definition that has any value. That’s like the Palin definition of feminism and Sally has dealt with that already.

  159. Spartan says

    Well ok, then. Maybe this can clear it up for you. Everyone is free to determine his or her definition of what makes a Decent Human Being. The vast majority here seem to agree that part (and only part) of that definition includes a willingness to argue against threats of rape. Most seem to agree tha another part (and again, ony a part) is to consider women to be wholly human and equal to men.

    My question is, why are you fighting so vociferously to avoid meeting even that standard?

    I’m willing to argue against threats of rape, and I see none on this thread. I already know that there are rape threats and an almost endless number of comments all over the web that deserve to be disputed and disapproved of; why are you being so selective of the things you know exist that you want everyone to take a minute to combat? I would think a Decent Human Being would be a feminist, care about hunger, care about animals, about helping find cures for diseases, kids in hospitals, poverty, respect the liberties of others, and be willing to argue against racism, anti-gay bigotry, sexism, anti-religious/anti-atheist bigotry, and so on. What I would never do is call into question whether you were decent if you failed to meet my personally chosen battle, care of animals let’s say, out of this large number of things DHB’s do and care about, especially when it’s largely based on that great wealth of information about a person that can be gleaned from a handful of freaking internet comments. Let alone criticize you for failing to participate in one specific chosen tactic (combatting shitty internet comments) within my preferred DHB cause (feminism). Maybe you put you efforts toward feminist causes for example which would be great, but just don’t have much time to alleviate hunger. Even though there are some very simple things you could do to that end that take less time than it takes to read this thread. That doesn’t mean you don’t care about hunger, and it doesn’t mean you are not a DHB.

    As “freethinkers”, we are free to define the characteristics of decent human beings for ourselves, but that does not mean that we cannot find community with like-minded individuals who have come to similar conclusions for fear of losing our “freethinker” cards.

    I agree, I haven’t said anyone should lose any ‘card’, that’s exactly what I object to. I have, probably poorly, tried to make counter-analogies directed back at people who are questioning other’s decency, using their same logic to show that they likewise aren’t doing enough to keep their ‘cards’ if that’s the standard that is being set.

  160. Spartan says

    The argument is that when you notice that shit, just like when somebody in my company mentions that they let the dog fuck/be fucked without preventing offspring, and you are there, then you have the somewhat moral obligation to say something or just click the “down” button.

    Fair enough, I may have misunderstood what is being requested; I’m not on reddit, so I’m not ‘there’ and have no obligation to vote them down.

    You know, it’s like saying you’re an environmentalist and not even closing your own fridge door.

    I disagree, it’s like saying you can’t be an environmentalist if you don’t tell your neighbor to close his fridge door.

  161. cmv says

    @Giliell – Forgive me, but isn’t making up your own mind about morality and how to be a DHB the whole thing in thinking freely? Absolutely, you can decide that kicking puppies is a decent action. Actual Decent Human Beings would ostracize you for such conduct, but you could decide that it is the case. Much like actual feminists take issue with Palin’s definition, in fact.

    @Spartan – there was an implication upthread that if you associate yourself with like-minded individuals and exclude people who do not meet your expectations of DHBs you are no longer a Freethinker. It may not have been you, so I apologize for painting you with the same brush.
    I did say that it was only part of the definition of being a DHB. The point is that no one really asked for much action except for those who are on the threads already. Inaction was not the original issue so much as actual negative actions, such as making the comments or actively justifying the comments.

  162. ginmar says

    It’s funny how the only thing that gets certain dudes enraged is the idea that they have to acknowledge that women are human. Oh, noes, oppression! Tolitarianism! They have so little regard for women that months later they’re still carrying a grudge—-and telling immense whoppers about and against Rebecca Watson, for simply saying, “Guys, don’t do that.” Ergo, any guy who has a problem with simply being asked to give a shit about womens’ feelings—-as Watson asked—-is not a freethinker. Telling lies about a woman making a very simple case in order to make her look like a screeching, false-rape-accusation-making (a very popular accusation with anti-Watson trolls) or referring approvingly to those lies, or attacking Watson in the same way that the trolls did indicates that one shares a mindset with them, in that just giving a shit about womens’ feelings or thoughts is just too fucking much to ask.

    Not feminist, in other words.

    As for Horace, once he conveniently self-selected out the first class women, he was able to ignore the fact that the only ways to get onboard a ship like Titanic were: to be rich, to be employed, or to have saved up enough money to buy the cheapest berths possibly. He did not mention that men outnumbered women four or five to one, and that women in steerage and second class suffered incredible casualties, which meant that ‘women and children first’ didn’t apply. And frankly, giving up rights to be fully human all your life in case there was a shipwreck on a ship that most womens’ jobs didn’t enable them to so much as dream of, was not a good bargain.

    Horace’s arrogant dismissal of the importance of womens’ human rights gives the lie to any protestations he might make.

  163. Spartan says

    Yea, after rereading I apologize, and am relieved, if I misunderstood. I think I missed a key point that it’s not being asked that we combat internet misogyny whenever Rebecca or Jason for example bring it to our attention (although actually the occasional organized comment bombing to make a statement might not be a bad idea). Just in case you didn’t hear it the first thirty times, I don’t think failure to do that calls any cred into question. If you’re on and participating in a thread already, although there are some exceptions (I’m not going to tell the head of Amnesty Intl that they are obligated to combat misogynistic comments if they encounter them, or hell even Jason or Greta or other feminist bloggers here, you’ve done your part), you have a point that if you can’t take a few seconds to register your disapproval it does raise questions. Don’t know if it rises to the level that I at least would feel justified calling any ‘cards’ into question, but it’s certainly a different animal than what I’ve been ranting against. Sorry about taking your time, but thanks for the comments.

  164. says

    Chris (18) … “calm”? Excuse me, but your admonition that I have a certain tone or mode of reaction is utter bullshit, feel free to kiss my ass. “rational”? Is this your usual reaction to things you don’t understand or agree with? How 2011 …

    The comment thread in question was unmoderated. It should have been moderated. If this happens with any frequency with this subreddit, what I suggested is true. Post hoc babbling about how reddt works do not impress. Reddit needs to get its house in order.

  165. says

    Stephanie (35) yes, exactly, and I can see how my earlier comment may have suggested otherwise.

    The larger group of (mostly) men, w/ their unexamined priv, is the larger issue, and the main issue. The others are of little consequence even if their incessant screeching is, well, incessant. And screechy.

  166. says

    Spartan: yes, I tried to explicitly say that nobody was asking everyone to hit this Reddit thread on the penalty of losing their feminist card. It’s somewhere upthread, though I’m on my phone now so it’s a little difficult to search for it now. What was said, and what both aspidoscelis and Horace were arguing against, was that if you consider yourself a feminist, and you happen upon such misogyny (systemic anti-woman trolling or otherwise making a chilly climate for women), and you have the ability to do so, you should register your disapproval since the bar to doimg so is so low. This has been called an enforcement of groupthink (the opposite of freethought), and dogma, and judgmentalism, and all manner of fucked up — that someone should be judged as an ally for whether or not they actually do something when they’re present and able to do something about it.

  167. SallyStrange, Spawn of Cthulhu says

    You know, it’s like saying you’re an environmentalist and not even closing your own fridge door.

    I disagree, it’s like saying you can’t be an environmentalist if you don’t tell your neighbor to close his fridge door.

    A better analogy would be if you personally witnessed your neighbor pouring motor oil into the storm drain that leads directly to the river, and were within speaking distance when it happened. Or if you’re on the internet and you see some commenter repeating the lie that AGW is a hoax. Do you take steps to counteract actively anti-environmental actions or what? If not, why not? Is it inconsistent with freethought values to assume that if you’re a DHB and an environmentalist, these are things we can expect you to do?

  168. Spartan says

    Jason, you definitely did say that, but I got thrown by the sentence immediately after:

    Nobody here said that you would need to ride into r/atheism and join this fight, either. What WAS said, though, is that if this kind of thing happens in the future, you either do something about it, or you forfeit any vestige of appearing to be the humanist with empathy and a distaste for misogyny that you claim here to be.

    ‘This kind of thing’ threw me and I failed to define that in context of your first sentence. That phrase was vague, but my bad for assuming it still meant something like what you explicitly said it didn’t.

  169. Spartan says

    Sally,

    Is it inconsistent with freethought values to assume that if you’re a DHB and an environmentalist, these are things we can expect you to do?

    If you’re an environmentalist I think you have a responsibility to counteract actively anti-environmental actions, you’re just not obligated to counteract every such occurrence or any individual specific one, unless the case can be made that countering that particular specific one will be more beneficial than others. I think decent environmentalists justifiably can ignore claims that AGW is a hoax on the internet and still be environmentalists; there are many ways to work for that cause and many anti-environmental actions that need combatting, and absolutely no one can do them all. But in general, yes, ‘these are’ the types of ‘things’ you should expect them to do.

  170. aspidoscelis says

    Jason Thibeault, 186:

    Part of what gets my ire is that it goes beyond “You ought to do this if you’re my ally.” Instead it’s, “If you don’t do this, you’re responsible for these bad things that happen in the world,” (stated in your original post); “If you don’t do this, you’re not a decent person; you’re a misogynist; you’re an asshole; you’re a psychopath [etc.],” (stated pretty plainly in various of the ensuing comments).

    Whether you (and Natalie, Ophelia, SallyStrange, etc.) consider me an ally, that’s up to you. And if that’s as far as you all want to go, well, leave it there and don’t go further. Maybe I’m not your ally; that’s OK with me. Is it OK with you? Are you willing to have decent people in the world who are not your allies?

  171. ginmar says

    Why would anybody want an ally who can’t agree on the lowest of bars and the tiniest of requests? And what’s wrong with having a definition? How hard can it be? Lost in this sea of whining is the fact that some of these guys are so angry over Rebecca Watson saying, “Guys don’t do that”—meaning, could you give just the tiniest shit for women?—–that mouths later they’re still attacking her for their own paranoid fears. And it’s not shit they’d attack a guy for. How hard is this? And how come it’s only women that causes this difficulty?

  172. Natalie says

    Just want to take a moment to point out the misdirection that’s happening here… the conversation has suddenly been tilted in regards to “what, I’m not a feminist and am a misogynist and a horrible human being just because I don’t directly fight against the rape-jokers?”

    That’s a sneaky tactic.

    Although inaction and complacency are definitely big problems, and not something I’m keen on, the bigger deal here, and what pisses a lot of us off about Horace, Aspidocelis, that new person CBH or whatever, etc. is not inaction.

    It’s not what you’re not doing.

    It’s what you ARE doing.

    Which is making excuses. Redirecting the focus. Distracting from the issue. Shirking responsibility. Blaming the victim. Focusing on the rhetoric instead of the message. Ad hominen misdirections about the character of Rebecca, Skepchick, Skepchick commenters, feminism in general, etc. Suggesting that “being skeptical of feminism” is a more important issue than dealing with the horrific misogyny that has taken place (the rape jokes). Pulling EVERY tactic in the book to do ANYTHING but acknowledge the legitimacy of the complain.

    That is not simply a failure to take feminist actions. That is to TAKE actions that are counter-feminist, undermining of the discourse, and supportive of misogyny.

  173. cmv says

    @Natalie – I think I am the “CBH” to whom you are referring. Could you please point out where I have said anything that would have you lump me in with the others just now? I’m pretty sure I said just about the exact opposite of what you have accused me off saying.

  174. says

    cmv

    @Giliell – Forgive me, but isn’t making up your own mind about morality and how to be a DHB the whole thing in thinking freely? Absolutely, you can decide that kicking puppies is a decent action. Actual Decent Human Beings would ostracize you for such conduct, but you could decide that it is the case. Much like actual feminists take issue with Palin’s definition, in fact.

    Sure it is, it just doesn’t mean that your result is going to have any value.
    I’m not saying that you do this, but the usual way the “I’m a freethinker(TM)” strategy goes is as follows:
    -I’m a freethinker, I’m against all dogma, I question everything
    -Feminism has a central dogma which therefore must be questioned
    -Feminists being upset about this proves that it’s just dogma therefore wrong and must be fought.

    There’s a difference between a dogma in the religious sense and the tennet of feminism.
    Sure, one could argue that “women are people who deserve equal rights and value” is basically based on not much, and sure people question that, but that is true for the observation that people of colour are people.
    And there’s a fundamental difference between saying “rape jokes are not jokes and actually cause harm” (because we can point to scientific studies to support that claim) and “women must not speak in the church because god gets mad”.

    You also don’t have to invent the wheel anew in what a DHB is, and make up shit as you go along, there’s nothing wrong in subscribing to well thought out ideas of other people if you’ve checked them and found to be OK.

  175. generalreg (posting as "Sam") says

    This was a poorly written article. It doesn’t honestly attempt to answer the question, but just pretends to in order to get people to read and find out it’s more blah blah blah defense of Rebecca’s behavior. You actually say that Rebecca has superpowers. This is what’s wrong with the SkepChick crowd. Skepticism and critical thinking end where the Cult of Rebecca Watson begins. The shitstorms occur because Rebecca starts them. She makes a mockery of real affronts to women. Nobody has been assaulted. There are real issues that women face today. SkepChick would rather create shitstorms for page hits and announce her believed successes of doing takedowns of Richard Dawkins and announcing in a histrionic way that she hates all atheists. She said right there that she lurks the Reddit boards angrily just to find something to be upset about and then finds it.
    Second shitfest of the year thanks to Rebecca. People aren’t looking at atheism from outside and judging that Reddit thread. They’re seeing these shitstorms Rebecca instigates. Those are what made the magazines this past summer. Thanks, SkepChick. Did they find the Elevator Guy yet?

  176. says

    So you folks know, the Sam at 196 is evidently the same fuckwit who tried to false-flag things he thinks Rebecca Watson believes over at Cuttlefish’s. Never mind that he’s missed the point spectacularly, he’s also got such a huge rage boner for Watson that he can’t actually consider that she might have a point about things like “don’t make rape jokes at 15 year olds” or “don’t cold-proposition girls in confined spaces or it might be viewed as predatory”. It’s all about Watson to him.

    Natalie: cmv is definitely on our side in this fight. Everything else you say at 192 is, well, perfect. It’s exactly right. And it’s what I’ve had so much trouble expressing in all this.

    It’s never been about whether or not certain individuals rush out and act as “our personal army” on penalty of losing their ally status. It has, however, been about each individual’s actions — what they actually do — reflecting on them. Making excuses, chiseling out border cases and loopholes, demanding that one must be skeptical of any test for who might be considered a decent human being by others in a particular group, all of that is distraction and derailing.

    The real point is that if you are able to stamp out a piece of misogyny so damn easily, and you do nothing, and people know that you did nothing (primarily because you spend a ton of time making excuses for your inaction instead of just silently watching), then you’ll be judged as an unworthy ally by the people who consider social cohesion to be important when building a community. It’s not about “do what we say or be shunned”. It’s about “walk the walk if you’re going to talk the talk, or people will point out your hypocrisy.”

  177. generalreg (posting as "Rebecca Watson") says

    “So you folks know, the Sam at 196 is evidently the same fuckwit who tried to false-flag things he thinks Rebecca Watson believes over at Cuttlefish’s. Never mind that he’s missed the point spectacularly, he’s also got such a huge rage boner for Watson that he can’t actually consider that she might have a point about things like “don’t make rape jokes at 15 year olds” or “don’t cold-proposition girls in confined spaces or it might be viewed as predatory”. It’s all about Watson to him.”

    Let’s recall the name of your post: “Why is Rebecca Watson so damned polarizing?”

    So, I’m a “fuckwit” with a “huge rage [sic] boner” while another dissenter is a “sociopath’ with “no feelings” who should kill himself who is also treated to f-bombs, various other epithets and all caps tirades, ironically alongside declarations that others who dissent don’t have “empathy” and aren’t actually feminists or humanists. If I made this stuff up, no one would believe me.
    People are failing to establish how the uncontrolled hatred and dehumanization of dissenters is making the place more accommodating for anyone, especially given the alleged concern from Watson et al that the atheist groups are not especially women and the only way to change this situation is to feed the trolls or be an apathetic unhuman misogynist.
    Assuming though that Watson et al really are concerned about the “chilling effect’, why are none of the egregious remarks here made by followers of SkepChick being called out? One can only assume that it that julien character were to say that he wished aspidoscelis were raped and this system had a rating system, that it would be uprated. It’s obvious. You people are out of control with anger, and you’re destroying the community.

  178. generalreg (posting as "Rebecca Watson") says

    *” given the alleged concern from Watson et al that the atheist groups are accommodating and scare people off, especially not accommodating t towards women

  179. says

    Meanwhile, aspidoscelis can defend him/herself. If s/he argues against having empathy, it’s possible s/he’s a sociopath, where s/he explicitly said that socio/psychopaths won’t get empathy by being told it’s a good thing. Sociopathy is marked by an inability to empathize — implying strongly that society depends on every member having empathy for “in-groups” at least, as Ophelia says. We’re suggesting widening the “in-groups” to include women. That’s all.

    As Stephanie said, julian was admonished for his assertion.

    To you, this is all about Rebecca Watson. Thus proving my thesis — that she’s polarizing only insofar as drawing out more fuckwits like yourself. It’s not that she’s actually saying anything controversial and thus polarizing, it’s that she somehow causes people like you to hate her. You want dehumanization? You want out of control with anger and trying to destroy the community? Look in the fucking mirror.

  180. 'Tis Himself, OM. says

    generalreg #198

    If I made this stuff up, no one would believe me.
    People are failing to establish how the uncontrolled hatred and dehumanization of dissenters is making the place more accommodating for anyone, especially given the alleged concern from Watson et al that the atheist groups are not especially women and the only way to change this situation is to feed the trolls or be an apathetic unhuman misogynist…You people are out of control with anger, and you’re destroying the community.

    Misogynists are such a put-upon group. Nobody appreciates the trouble and effort needed to be a proper misogynist. There’s hours of training, the special diets, all the equipment needed to be a true misogynist. Everyone thinks that hating women is enough to be a misogynist. It’s not like that at all. It’s not easy just seeing women as vaginas with legs and tits. It’s even harder to express the sentiment “bitches ain’t shit” without using those words. And nobody laughs at rape jokes any more, at least, nobody who isn’t a rape apologist.

    So you feminazis and you male quislings (yeah, you know who you are, you’re the men who think women should be treated like human beings) need to just STFU about misogynists. It’s bad enough that bitches have opinions, there’s no need for them to actually express those opinions in front of men.

    </sarcasm>

  181. says

    Your concern has been noted, generalreg, insofar as I had actually been working on a post since two nights ago about being measured in calling people what they are, not what they become if you take a hyperbolic next step. I’ve finished it.

    Now, I will accuse you of having absolutely no reading comprehension skills, a tendency toward sockpuppetry, and an unmitigated hatred of Rebecca Watson to the point where you completely lose the plot. You defend misogynists from being excluded from a group that wants to include women, and that’s just laughable.

  182. Horace says

    Hi Jason,

    One last post and I will leave you guys to your own devices.
    The title of this thread is “Why is Rebecca Watson so damn polarizing”. I think that you have answered this question yourself.

    I do not know Rebecca Watson and have never troubled to read much of what she has written, she may well be moderate, temperate, kind and level headed, anything is possible. She is however part of a group of feminists in the Freethinking/atheist movement who are immoderate, intemperate and who are a living argument for not giving atheists any political power outside the internet.

    Aspidoscelis said more concisely than I did “Are you willing to have decent people in the world who are not your allies?”. Apparently not. If Aspid disagrees with you it is because he is a sociopath. Anyone who disagrees with you considers women subhuman. YOU BELIEVE THAT BY MAKING ANGRY POSTS IN CAPITAL LETTERS YOU ARE FIGHTING THE PATRIARCHY.

    If this is what you are like on an internet discussion when almost nothing is at stake and toleration costs little, what would you be like the real world where there are consequences to your actions? Does that idea “I disagree with what you say but would defend to the death your right to say it” have any meaning to you ? Living in a tolerant and open society means accepting that decent people can believe foolish and evil things and vice versa.

    The kindest interpretation that I can put on your words is that you mean well but have not fully thought through the logic of your position. Happy New Year.

  183. cmv says

    @Giliell, 195 –

    I think we are actually in agreement. What wrote is what I was trying to get across with the line about actual DHBs ostracizing anyone who decided that kicking puppies was acceptable behaviour.
    You can make your own decisions about morality, but those decisions may place you outside of polite company.
    Your breakdown of the Freethinker ™ argument is exactly what I was trying to get at. Forming community based on commonly held ideals is not the same thing as accepting dogma, it is making your own decisions, then finding others who agree with you. The “Freethinker(tm)” doesn’t seem to get this.

  184. Horace says

    Jason,

    Did not check your last posting on this blog. What I wrote does not apply to you, but I think does to many who post here.

    I am sorry about that.

  185. says

    Horace: you have taken the label of Freethinker, and anyone who disagrees with you on some point or another, if it happens to align with “leftist” or “progressive” thinking, is de facto coming to their conclusions out of a lack of free thought. When I asked you to defend yourself against charges that nobody called YOU the one who wasn’t a freethinker, I was asking that you defend the idea that the only way to be a freethinker is to think about things, like womens’ rights, the way you do. Because that is, in fact, the corollary to what you said way up at @42. I don’t think that you repeating that you believe we’re not freethinkers because we think differently than you specifically accepted what we believe dogmatically just plain disagree is actually defending that proposition.

    Is your full-throated defense of “freethought” in actuality a way of saying you came to different conclusions than us, therefore yours are de facto better because there are so many of us who agree on matters of feminism? Why are you talking about freethought at all when the question is why when Rebecca Watson says something obvious, your cohorts get all pissy?

  186. says

    She is however part of a group of feminists in the Freethinking/atheist movement who are immoderate, intemperate and who are a living argument for not giving atheists any political power outside the internet.

    Specific names and quotes, please, or admit you’re full of shit. I’ve heard this sort of thing alleged namy times, and such allegations have never been backed up with any citation of any specific “immoderate” or “intemperate” thing said.

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