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Jan 02 2012

Vilifying dissent

A fifteen year old girl posts a picture of herself on Reddit r/atheism holding a copy of Carl Sagan’s Demon Haunted World, which she took to post to Facebook originally. She didn’t know she was evidently transgressing unwritten and sexist-by-design social rules by posting her picture, and thus was being taught the lesson that she should have “worn a burka”, in her words. She ended up on the receiving end of hundreds of comments upvoted by thousands of users involving all manner of hateful and diminishing speech. Rebecca Watson pointed this situation out on Skepchick with the usual inflammatory results, since everything that Rebecca Watson ever points out must be wrong because it was pointed out by Rebecca Watson. Bloggers everywhere leapt on this conflagration, hoping to sway a closely-allied community into fighting back against the atheist and skeptic communities’ problem with sexism.

Then I started to notice a new trend in various blog posts’ comment threads, both here and at Greta’s. It’s a trend I’m not terribly sure I like. It is the conflation of enabling misogyny, and being a misogynist.

Certainly, we are capable of more nuance than this. And in many cases, we do in fact do exactly that — we explain, carefully and calmly, that by making excuses for people who genuinely disdain women in general, a person who might otherwise consider women to be fully human is actually facilitating the environment that is actively preventing women from joining our conversations. By making excuses for misogynists who will make rape jokes at a fifteen year old, a person is not necessarily misogynist themselves, in the sense of hating women. They are, however, certainly no ally to women, and when you conflate the two, their ears close to the possibility that their actions are actively harmful.

Sometimes shocking people with an accusation of misogyny is a good thing, though. Sometimes a person needs to understand that the consequences of their particular action effectively facilitates the misogynists, the anti-women, the anti-feminists, the Men’s Rights Activists and pick-up-artists, the predators that exist and actively troll expressly for the purpose of making the climate that much chillier for women. Since there’s no way to tell the difference between a parody of misogyny and actual misogyny unless you’re really familiar with the person in question, since it’s so easy to Poe in this conversation (despite some assertions that it’s important to distinguish between parody and actual bigotry), each class of comment — actual misogyny, comments facilitating misogyny, and parodies of misogyny — all contributes to the overall effect that makes women feel unwelcome in our movement.

But because each class of comment can be identified as harmful in their own way, using a catch-all to lump all three in as pure unmitigated woman-hate is hyperbolic. For instance, while KvdH in Greta’s thread was most assuredly clueless about sociology, about the idea that social strata exist in our society, that a patriarchy can exist in our society and supported by evidence that most power falls into minority’s hands, that some classes of people have privilege over others, he was not in fact expressly misogynistic in any of his comments. He was grossly ignorant, and even dismissive, of whole aspects of sociology (calling them “social theory”), and kept piling onto his already dismissive attitude the more people gave him emotive arguments. But he did not at any point express an opinion that women are less than men.

Keeping these things clear, accusing people of exactly what they’re doing rather than some hyperbolic next-step of what they’re doing, is important. I’m not saying you can’t insult someone, of course — if someone’s being an asshole, they’re being an asshole. If they’re trolling, they’re trolls. If they’re lying, they’re liars. If they’re enabling misogyny, they’re enabling misogyny. If they’re expressing sociopathic lacks of empathy, they’re not actual sociopaths — unless you know them and have credentials to make that kind of analysis, you shouldn’t use a term of art from science as an epithet. Which is why, while I generally love commenter julian’s dogged and relentless assault on the stupidity you occasionally attract in comment threads on these blogs, I had a hard time swallowing when he accused aspidoscelis of being a sociopath. Because I strongly doubt julian has the credentials or the data to make that kind of analysis, he overreached by not stating that aspidoscelis was providing apologetics for sociopathy and/or antisocial behaviour. If he’d said that instead, I’d have found absolutely nothing objectionable about his comment. aspidoscelis’ comments are objectionable on their own without trying to turn him/her into an “other” that can be easily vilified. We can punish them with social disapproval without any hyperbole, without any overreach.

These kinds of overreach are detrimental to our cause. We can damn the dissent and even the dissenters without exposing ourselves to this kind of criticism. Privilege is a sacred cow to so many privileged folks claiming true skepticism, and making them question their privilege involves getting them to realize they’re treating it as a sacred cow, so when they can latch onto an overreach like these, they will. Because these criticisms are probably the quickest and easiest way for people to derail our conversations about privilege, I’d like to minimize their occurrence and keep things on topic as much as possible. These people are doing real things that are really damaging — and we can prove it without accusing them of things beyond where the evidence takes us.

Please, people. Keep swinging for the fences. Just please don’t throw your bat into the dugout when you’re doing it, though.

157 comments

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  1. 1
    Jason Thibeault

    I want to make an addendum as a comment. This is a bit of a balancing act, because some people will accuse us of this sort of overreach even when we can demonstrate exactly what these people are doing, and why. And sometimes they will argue disingenuously — skirting the edge of their actual beliefs because they know they are socially disapproved. They will present themselves as rational actors when they’re providing apologetics for misogyny because they are actual misogynists and actually fighting for male privilege because they’d really hate it if they lost that privilege.

    We can suspect these people of these sorts of false-flag actions, of pretending to be rationalists and egalitarians and whatnot, but we should be cautious about making the otherwise-hyperbolic statement without specific evidence. Like, for instance, longer-term trends of showing that a specific commenter basically only comes out of the woodwork for a specific kind of post and usually argues in pretty well the same way despite it being territory that everyone’s gone over multiple times.

  2. 2
    Stephanie Zvan

    How pure and unmitigated does misogyny have to be in order to be misogyny?

    Part of the point of Greta’s post is that if you decide your own little concerns are more important than dealing with even a gross display of misogyny, you are, in fact, telling the women on the receiving end of the misogyny to go hang. You are providing de facto evidence that they are less than you.

    That, of course, is not necessarily misogyny in itself. We all think we’re the most important person in the world. On the other hand, when people start allowing the women involved to go hang because they need to be more concerned about another group of people, like the apathetic twits who watch all this happen without saying anything, then, yes, they are making a statement about the value of women. They’re saying the comfort of some other group is more important than the participation of women in our culture.

    So, if you’re going to play arbiter, when do we get to start calling it “misogyny”?

  3. 3
    Jason Thibeault

    I have no interest in playing arbiter. I can’t, really.

    The fact that any derail on a thread about misogyny is in fact showing your concerns to be “more important” to you than the main post is a misogynistic attitude stemming from privilege, and probably far closer to outright misogyny than I gave credit for in the original post, means that KvdH is definitely derailing and enabling misogyny and could in fact be doing it because he expressly denies a patriarchy specifically because he’s a misogynist. Maybe an MRA, probably drenched in privilege.

    Would you classify him as misogynist even though he did not say anything expressly anti-woman? Where would the lines get drawn for you?

    Would I be classified as misogynist for this post and its “quisling apologist” implications?

  4. 4
    Garnetstar

    I agree with what you’ve said, Jason.

    And, as an aside: does anyone know what the 15-year-old thinks? Has she posted any response anywhere to all the misogyny thrown at her?

    I imagine that it was a huge discouragement to her ever posting anything again, or to participating in a skeptical community, or even to her interest in science and skepticism. I’ll bet she was really hurt by it.

  5. 5
    Jason Thibeault

    Garnetstar: first link is to her reply to the whole debacle. She is a boon to our community, and if I had a say, I’d offer her a blog here if she could keep it up for any length of time.

  6. 6
    ginmar

    What in the bleeding fuck is so ambiguous about being unmoved by threats of raping a fifteen-year-old girl—which you didn’t detail was what people were responding to—-that it requires some kind of defense? And assholes who make certain kinds of accusations against Rebecca Watson—in criticizing those who make sarcastic remarks to them, you’re placing yourself on whose side, again?

    You can’t call yourself an ally if you’re an ally only when you’re fluffed with peacock feathers and treated like a newborn kitten. You can’t call yourself an ally when the threat is against a girl, a kid, and your biggest concern is how awful it is that people are being mean to those who don’t find rape threats against fifteen-year-olds anything but a reflection of the girl’s own imprudence.

    YOu spoke of vague things in punishing misogynists but it takes more than good wishes to fight hatred that way. And it seems you’re defining misogyny to a very high standard—a physical or verbal attack of some sort, instead of all the evasive maneuvers used to ignore women or shunt them aside that are common—-while keeping the standards low in finding outrage and offense in the behavior of people who, I must point out, fighting people who are whining about why it’s the girl’s fault she got threatened with rape, or oh dear, things are tough all over.

  7. 7
    Mallorie Nasrallah

    Glad there are bloggers here who are willing to state differing opinions.

  8. 8
    Jason Thibeault

    I ask the same question I just asked Stephanie: am I a misogynist, ginmar?

    Also:

    Can we define misogyny as “hating women”, or does it expand to “doing things that detriment the cause of feminism”?

    Does my asking this question, sidebar as it is to the post where I unequivocally called these asshats on their lack of empathy, give comfort to asshats who actually want to shut down the debate?

  9. 9
    Josh, Official SpokesGay

    I found it outrageous that you would characterize Greta’s post as “vilifying dissent.” You need to think about this some more Jason.

  10. 10
    Jason Thibeault

    Additionally, I by no means am limiting misogyny to physical violence. I would consider each and every sexist comment on Reddit and elsewhere, every “make me a sandwich” comment, every instance of a sexist trope about how men are X while women are Y, every “I can’t take you seriously because you’re a woman” whether stated or implied, to be misogynist.

    Josh: I will amend the post if it gave you the impression that Greta’s post was the problem I had. I was speaking exclusively about the comments on the post, specifically targeted against KvdH toward the end.

  11. 11
    Josh, Official SpokesGay

    Oh, sorry about that Jason.

    I have little sympathy for the argument, though. If we can’t even have a de-rail-free thread on a post that makes the bleeding obvious plea NOT to de-rail condemnation of threats of sexual violence. . .

    That kind of “dissent” should be vilified. The fact that there’s enough space in public conversation for it to be considered normal to distract from brutal misogyny by “complicating” the conversation with all sorts of caveats is extremely disturbing.

  12. 12
    Jason Thibeault

    Right, but can we call them on distracting from brutal misogyny, or are they also misogynists for it?

    I know this opinion that I’ve expressed in the original post is unpopular, but I’m asking because I’d like to know what people think. I’m open to having my mind changed about this. Words mean what they mean because we all agree on those meanings. If misogyny includes people (possibly unintentionally) distracting from it because they can’t see past their own privilege, do they get the label of misogynist too?

  13. 13
    Josh, Official SpokesGay

    Right, but can we call them on distracting from brutal misogyny, or are they also misogynists for it?

    Why is this so bleeding important to you? Serious question. Because it’s pointless. I don’t care whether you or “we” call them misogynists. I care about the fact that their behavior is enabling misogyny. That’s the point. This isn’t hard to grasp.

  14. 14
    Jason Thibeault

    Mostly because it seems to me that the world is made up of allies, enemies, and people who don’t know any better. I’d like to peel that third group off to becoming allies, and if we call them on their behaviour without calling them an enemy, we might do that.

  15. 15
    Josh, Official SpokesGay

    Furthermore—and I don’t mean to offend you or insult you Jason, really and truly, but you’re not going to like this—I think this post is an example of a de-rail. That you are so concerned about how people will react if they’re called misogynists, and that you think that’s a really crucial issue that’s going to affect our collective efforts to stomp out misogyny is troubling.

    Think of it this way. A man makes a sexist comment unintentionally. Folks at the table call him on it. He immediately gets defensive and says but I’m not a sexist! He’s reacting to the idea (not true, but understandable) that someone just said that he is essentially and thoroughly A Sexist. It pisses him off so much that he refuses to acknowledge that he did a sexist thing, because to him that means he’s now in a moral category of person that he can’t accept.

    This seems to me to be what you’re doing. It’s a conflation that acts as a defense mechanism. And it’s really tiresome.

  16. 16
    Josh, Official SpokesGay

    I’ve been around the block long enough on social justice issues, Jason, to tell you that most of us know that third group is out there. And we try to reach them. We also know that folks with less experience (in this case, you, again, NOT an insult, just an observation) have an exaggerated fear of offending the don’t-know-any-betters. You often believe they’re going to become thorough-going enemies if they feel (even if it’s unjustified) personally insulted.

    Bullshit. People who are adversaries will be adversaries. People of good will will be helpers. And it’s OK for members of the third group to feel insulted and get a little pissy from time to time. The world isn’t going to end.

    And don’t confuse stark and frank criticism with “calling someone an enemy.” This is another exaggerated fear.

  17. 17
    Mallorie Nasrallah

    If misogyny includes people (possibly unintentionally) distracting from it because they can’t see past their own privilege, do they get the label of misogynist too?

    This requires the assumption that those who “distract” are “privileged”.

    False dichotomy.

    Maybe they genuinely and with good cause disagree with the issue in question, not due to privilege, and not due to being a dick. There are after all more than two reasons to voice dissent.

  18. 18
    Jason Thibeault

    It really isn’t my intent to derail the conversations elsewhere. That’s why it’s its own fresh new blog post, and not an argument elsewhere.

    I’m well aware that if we say “you’re enabling misogyny” people will hear “You’re A Misogynist” and get butthurt in the same way as your table talk example. I’m not talking about those people. They’re going to rankle regardless. And I even said in the post that maybe sometimes it’s good to shock someone by calling them a misogynist when they don’t consider themselves to be anti-woman in any way, so those people who mishear you when you’ve made a specific case might even benefit from the shock in the long run.

    So should we play into that defense mechanism, avoid it, or just do whichever? People are going to get defensive either way. I just thought it would be better that they’re getting defensive over a misinterpretation of what we said, than what we actually said.

  19. 19
    tarian

    Yep, you’re a misogynist. I’m a misogynist. Everybody on the whole freakin’ planet, up to and including the radfem lesbian separatist born of four lesbian grandmothers has some lingering internalized misogyny. It’s a side effect of living here. The key is to *notice when you’re doing it*, and try to cut that shit out. If somebody is going to engage in a defensive reaction to being called sexist/racist/ableist/whatever, they’re going to hear “that’s a sexist comment” in exactly the same way as “You’re an unrepentant misogynist”. I see no particular need to separate the comments from the content of the speaker’s brain, which I can’t investigate anyway; instead, I wander around adding words here and there describing the system at work. People who are willing to listen and unpack their privilege will get it.

  20. 20
    Jason Thibeault

    Mallorie: in the specific cases involved, aspidoscelis disagreed that someone should be judged by their specific empathy to the cause, and KvdH demanded extraordinary evidence that there’s even a patriarchy to be had. These two disagreed with the premises behind the posts because they don’t recognize the social constructs underpinning them as valid. That’s privilege to me.

  21. 21
    Mallorie Nasrallah

    I’ve been quite active myself in this discussion, his comments are not the only dissenting ones.
    http://freethoughtblogs.com/greta/2011/12/30/mencallmethings-irrational-cunt/

  22. 22
    Josh, Official SpokesGay

    Jason, I don’t think there’s any percentage in caring about this subset of people. I think that you think there’s a lot more progress to be made, and a lot more allies to make, if we pay careful attention to this. In my experience there isn’t and it’s a waste of time to get worked up over it.

    No, I’m not advocating insulting people willy-nilly. But you’re not going to get as much bang for your buck as you hope.

  23. 23
    ginmar

    How about doing things that act to the detriment of actual women, Jason? I asked this before, I’ll ask it again: How hard is it? These guys are whining that being asked to disapprove of rape threats—-or at the very least not get in the way, or not side with the would-be rapists, or just to give a shit—is too goddamned much, but they sure want their shiny little merit badge. They don’t want to do or say shit—-on behalf of women—-but they sure have unlimited time and energy to spew strawfeminists at women, and in the face of this, other men stay silent.

  24. 24
    Patrick

    Why are you surprised that epithets are being used as insults without regard for their strict semantic meaning? That’s what epithets are for. And since that’s the manner in which these terms are being used, you shouldn’t be surprised that when you question whether these terms are being used properly, people interpret you as questioning whether the targets of said epithets deserve to be vilified. You’ve mistaken one form of conversation for a very different one.

  25. 25
    Irène Delse, on dry land among seabirds

    Jason, add me to those who don’t understand what in Greta’s post was akin to “vilifying dissent”. Calling out those who manage to maintain their apathy (or even make excuses) when a woman is deluged with rape jokes? Yes! Of course, it’s only human if those people don’t feel comfortable about being calling out. Nobody likes to have to revise their thinking habits, after all. They may complain of unfairness, try to explain that they were only joking, or to defend the right to be politically incorrect… But do we have to take them at their word? Not necessarily, no, not when such “reasonable” reasons are only used to eschew accountability.

    I do wonder also what kind of “dissent” there could honestly be about what Rebecca or Greta posted, unless one wanted to defend the right to be a misogynistic troll? The right to make rape jokes at a girl for such a terrible faux-pas as posting a picture where her face was included?

    And I’m afraid the same also goes for the kind of trolls who don’t say outright that women are inferior, oh no, but repeatedly deny that there can exist a patriarchy in our society, dismiss any kind of feminist argument or sneak in pseudo-scientific rationalisations of misogyny (evo-psy stuff and the like).

    As for satire… Sorry, I don’t buy it. Not only the post you linked was dicing it awfully fine, attempting to distinguish between two equally Poe-like type of behaviour, but “satire” isn’t even accurate here. It’d be more like sick, frat-boy humour. Because unless the word has changed its meaning, isn’t satire the kind of humour that targets the famous, the privileged and the powerful? What’s satirical or edgy about reacting to a 15-year-old girl posting a picture with jokes taking the form of rape threats (“blood is nature’s lubricant” and the like)?

    Bottom line, there are jokes and jokes, and a time and place for them too. It’s the difference between being funny or raising questions, and being a toxic, bigotry-enabling troll

  26. 26
    ginmar

    When people are so indifferent to the cause of women—or even of horrible cases against girls—what do you think happens if they’re allowed to continue in that fashion? Indifference is the ground that hatred needs to flourish. It’s not innocence, nor ignorance; it’s a complete lack of compassion or interest.

    And I find it just about impossible to believe that people can claim to be ignorant of various sexist implications beyond the age of….twelve. Anybody who whines they didn’t know that such-and-such isn’t sexist isn’t sheltered or ignorant. They’ve rejected it when told it’s sexist.

    If you can be indifferent to adult men making rape threats against girls and the men who make excuses for it—-or go the opposite side and be concerned about the men defending those would-be rapists—-then you have serious problems.

  27. 27
    ginmar

    Quoting somebody else: If misogyny includes people (possibly unintentionally) distracting from it because they can’t see past their own privilege, do they get the label of misogynist too?

    Marjorie: This requires the assumption that those who “distract” are “privileged”.

    False dichotomy.

    Maybe they genuinely and with good cause disagree with the issue in question, not due to privilege, and not due to being a dick. There are after all more than two reasons to voice dissent.

    Yeah. Because there’s so many good reasons to weep bitter tears over the plight of men who can’t be allowed to make a few harmless rape jokes to a fifteen-year-old girl—-or to interrupt discussions with the same practiced phrases that these guys always use.

  28. 28
    Stephanie Zvan

    KvdH is the guy who commented on Skepchick to derail personal observations from Natalie with a long diatribe about how privilege has no scientific standing and the guy whose now-deleted comments at Greg’s were characterized thus:

    I was referring to someone who called themselves ‘Horsa’, who among other things, took my invitation to discuss his actual “relationships with women, and attitudes towards them”, to regale us with an anecdote about a ‘MILF” he met. In a thread about the vicious, sexualized and demeaning treatment of women via the internet. Charming.

    Now, if you’re that same Horsa, well, I call you a misogynist because you show yourself to be one.

    I can get behind that. On Greta’s post, the grand crusade was for some overarching right to derail and post anything anywhere. Again, more important than talking about dealing with misogyny. Also, many, many comments in and I still haven’t found anyone calling him a misogynist.

    As for this post, it doesn’t stand in a vacuum any more than any single comment by the very concerned troll of multiple names does. Why I would classify you based solely on it is beyond me. Unless, of course, you’re going to work very hard to identify with KdhV there, which you’re not unless you put on your stubborn helmet.

    I do think you could have timed the post much better, though.

  29. 29
    Jason Thibeault

    I think you’re probably right that the percentage is smaller than I’m hoping, Josh. I’m pretty irrationally certain about humankind’s better nature, despite all the evidence to the contrary. Even still, for the more defensible position, I’m at least personally going to try to vilify people using wholly evidenced insults. It’s sort of like Jay Smooth’s attitude on how to tell people they sound racist. Not that I’m anywhere near as eloquent as him.

    ginmar: I have definitely not been silent about aspidoscelis spending as much time as he has defending the idea that he can be a feminist without actually expressing any empathy for women. I think the overlap between feminism and humanism is too great for any sort of case to be made that one can think women are equal and allow women to be treated as unequal. I just don’t know that that actually makes him sociopathic, especially where that requires actual psychoanalysis. Likewise with KvdH; he seems to sympathize far more with the idea that men are being vilified for being part of the patriarchy than he does with the actual point of Greta’s post — that it should be possible to discuss rape threats against a fifteen year old girl without spiralling out of control into thread derailment. While his attitude and dismissiveness of the patriarchy is staggeringly misogynistic, I wasn’t willing in the original post to call him a misogynist so much as having misogynistic attitudes.

  30. 30
    Jason Thibeault

    And I am far more sympathetic toward calling KvdH a misogynist troll now.

  31. 31
    Josh, Official SpokesGay

    I think you’re probably right that the percentage is smaller than I’m hoping, Josh. I’m pretty irrationally certain about humankind’s better nature, despite all the evidence to the contrary

    Thank you for recognizing it. I don’t mean to sound bossy, but I wish you’d consider that it actually pisses off real, honest-to-goodness allies when time gets wasted on a Quest for Nice:)

  32. 32
    Josh, Official SpokesGay

    While his attitude and dismissiveness of the patriarchy is staggeringly misogynistic, I wasn’t willing in the original post to call him a misogynist so much as having misogynistic attitudes.

    You know what? This is crap. Shit or get off the pot Jason. You just totally exemplified the kind of thing I was talking about. What a fucking waste of time. Do you get it yet?

  33. 33
    Pteryxx

    So should we play into that defense mechanism, avoid it, or just do whichever? People are going to get defensive either way.

    IMHO, I really don’t see the point in trying to decide the one, universal level of pressure/shock value vs. politeness/benefit of doubt for all cases. It’s going to vary depending on the situation, the context, how extreme the person’s reaction is on being called, the reactions of others in the community… not to mention how blunt or gentle the person calling them on the screw-up happens to be, or how triggered or ticked off they are from dealing with the previous week’s slate of buttheads. Both aspects of approach are just tools in the kit.

    Personally I tend toward both bluntness and good-faith, sometimes too much so. I’m glad that other people willing to speak up are often better-spoken, and less forgiving, than I am. Odds are SOMEBODY will hit the sweet spot.

  34. 34
    Jason Thibeault

    No quest for nice, Josh. Quest for defensible positions is all. I don’t want to be nice to asshats like this guy, seeing as how KvdH is apparently this Horsa troll, but I do want to say things that are true.

    Maybe it is as Patrick says, and I’m mistaking accuracy of labels for pure epithets.

  35. 35
    Chris Hallquist

    @Patrick,

    Interesting thought, but I’m not willing to let “misogynist” become just another synonym for “asshole.” It’s a word that still means something in my head. Just like how I hate it when people call Sam Harris “racist.”

  36. 36
    Stephanie Zvan

    Jason, perhaps you need to figure out how you define “misogyny” before suggesting that people who are applying it differently than you would aren’t using it accurately. You’ve got at least one person upthread saying “Oh, thank you for validating me!” who doesn’t think the original Reddit thread contains any misogyny.

  37. 37
    John-Henry Beck

    I like this post quite a bit. And agree with it.

    I do see the point above about epithets being flung around. Problem with that is, it leads to miscommunication when it’s taken in a more literal definition than as just a vague epithet.

    I am definitely in favor of trying to be accurate and avoid hyperbole. I do often get turned off of reading comment threads because there’s a lot of hyperbole-filled attacks which appear not to be addressing the actual statements of the targeted commenter.

    For example, in Greta’s post, one commenter posted some disagreement about her statement that “Yes, but…” was -always- derailing. He was then attacked for derailing the whole conversation about misogyny.
    That sort of attack does seem to be alienating, and an example of ‘vilifying dissent’. Any dissent. At least it works that way on me.

  38. 38
    Josh, Official SpokesGay

    but I do want to say things that are true.

    Then you should do so. You can start recognizing the absurdity of saying that someone is “staggeringly misogynistic” but that you’re unwilling to call him a misogynist. Really. Try to read this as if someone who wasn’t you wrote it.

    Do you understand why people get so frustrated and angry at things like this? It is a stupid distraction and it is offensive that this kind of parsing is so important to some people.

  39. 39
    Cipher

    If someone does something that carries with it misogynistic implications (including the implication that their Concerns are more important than rape threats against a woman, as KvdH did), I am going to call them a misogynist, and sleep well that night. *shrugs* As I’ve said over and over in these conversations, I truly don’t care about what people doing harm feel in their heart of hearts about the people they’re harming. Intent is not magic. And I want them to know that there’s at least one person out there who doesn’t care one whit about what they think and how much they love women, if they act to marginalize us.

    About the post itself: You shouldn’t conflate the issue of armchair diagnosis of actual psychological disorders and identifying misogyny, even if you think we’re doing both wrongly. I think those are separate conversations. Finally, knowing full well that you’re usually an ally, Jason, I don’t appreciate the title of this piece very much. Enabling of misogyny is not merely “dissent,” for one thing.

  40. 40
    Patrick

    Christ Hallquist- My post was intended to be descriptive of what’s going on, not prescriptive of what should be going on.

  41. 41
    pheenobarbidoll

    Ah yes, the old intent argument.

    If they don’t intend to be misogynists, then they’re just aiding it out of ignorance.

    Bullshit.

    Intent is irrelevant in the face of consequences and the consequence is that women experience it as misogyny. Does that make you a misogynist? yes.

    Just like when a person says some stupid racist thing, it’s experienced as racism and yes, to the target it does make you a racist.

    Don’t like it? Then don’t say/do sexist/racist shit. And if you do (because we all do) APOLOGIZE, learn and stop making it ABOUT YOU. It’s not about how you’re really not a misogynist or racist. It’s about the person you just kicked in the teeth. Throwing a fit about having not meant to kick them in the teeth doesn’t fix one damn thing.

  42. 42
    pheenobarbidoll

    Oh and if people on this so called fence have to be handed evidence of their misogyny in little bite sized pieces of thinky stuff as to avoid hurting their fee fee’s and risking pushing them off the fence into not being allies, then they never were truly on the fence to begin with.

    It’s not all kittens and glitter for the victims of misogyny, and why it MUST be for everyone else complicit in contributing to it is beyond me.

  43. 43
    Josh, Official SpokesGay

    Oh and if people on this so called fence have to be handed evidence of their misogyny in little bite sized pieces of thinky stuff as to avoid hurting their fee fee’s and risking pushing them off the fence into not being allies, then they never were truly on the fence to begin with.

    That. Thank you. Great ‘nym, too.

  44. 44
    Momo Elektra

    Don’t like it? Then don’t say/do sexist/racist shit. And if you do (because we all do) APOLOGIZE, learn and stop making it ABOUT YOU. It’s not about how you’re really not a misogynist or racist. It’s about the person you just kicked in the teeth. Throwing a fit about having not meant to kick them in the teeth doesn’t fix one damn thing.

    It’s not all kittens and glitter for the victims of misogyny, and why it MUST be for everyone else complicit in contributing to it is beyond me.

    This. Thank you very much.

  45. 45
    Jason Thibeault

    As I’ve said over and over in these conversations, I truly don’t care about what people doing harm feel in their heart of hearts about the people they’re harming. Intent is not magic. And I want them to know that there’s at least one person out there who doesn’t care one whit about what they think and how much they love women, if they act to marginalize us.

    I like this a lot. Even if I have the mistaken idea that there’s some percentage to be had in accuracy when calling out the assholes, showing them exactly why their actions are harmful despite their intent is important.

  46. 46
    Josh, Official SpokesGay

    Even if I have the mistaken idea that there’s some percentage to be had in accuracy when calling out the assholes,

    I’d really like to know, then, why you weren’t “comfortable” calling the guy a misogynist when you yourself characterized his views as staggeringly misogynistic. This isn’t about accuracy, Jason. You should really interrogate your motivations a little more.

  47. 47
    Spartan

    I think this post is an example of a de-rail. That you are so concerned about how people will react if they’re called misogynists, and that you think that’s a really crucial issue that’s going to affect our collective efforts to stomp out misogyny is troubling.

    Hardly. I think the internet’s plenty big enough to support multiple conversations simultaneously, and Jason sure as hell blogs and comments enough period that I think we can maybe allow him to do something crazy like talk about what he wishes to on his own blog, without hypothesizing that it is distracting from the points that Josh really wants him to focus on.

    Seriously, does this ‘de-rail’ accusation apply to other topics? I’ve seen a few accusations of threadjack before, but I’ve been on lots of atheism-theism and evolution-creationism threads that support multiple related topics, responses to specific points, etc, without anyone being diminished or derailed. When someone makes an inaccurate and unsupported statement (‘he’s a sociopath’), that shouldn’t be called out? It’s out of bounds, on Free Thought Blogs of all places? Accuracy is really too distracting?

    When someone posts a condemnation of sexual violence, what should the comment section contain, a steady string of ‘Yes!!’ and agreement, no questioning of minor points or side conversations about slight tangents? That’s fine if that’s roughly the rule, I understand, but that’s quite a minefield you’ve set up for other oblivious and clumsy commenters like myself who do not know that rule and are used to the norms that apply to a large majority of other topics and threads on the net.

  48. 48
    Stephanie Zvan

    See now, funny thing is aspidoscelis was presenting a more clearly sociopathological argument with every comment. julian was simply the first one to say anything, and he did it well before anyone else was comfortable adding up the pieces quite that way. There is a difference between being early and being wrong. Same thing with the sock puppet on Greta’s blog.

    What is being characterized in this post as a hyperbolic jump is sometimes early pattern recognition. It doesn’t mean it’s always right (which may be a cause for caution in itself), but it doesn’t make it prima facie inaccurate either.

  49. 49
    Cipher

    When someone posts a condemnation of sexual violence, what should the comment section contain, a steady string of ‘Yes!!’ and agreement, no questioning of minor points or side conversations about slight tangents?
    That’s fine if that’s roughly the rule, I understand, but that’s quite a minefield you’ve set up for other oblivious and clumsy commenters like myself who do not know that rule and are used to the norms that apply to a large majority of other topics and threads on the net.

    Goodness, wouldn’t it be great if someone wrote a post laying out what, roughly, the rule is, and why it’s important? You know, so oblivious and clumsy commenters could get it through their heads?

  50. 50
    Jason Thibeault

    I swear to you, Josh, my motivations are entirely about peeling off those people who are open to being told that their actions were wrong and harmful, and making them allies. Hell, you’re trying to do the same with me, telling me that my actions in advocating this course are wrong and harmful, but trying to tell me that you usually consider me an ally while doing it and trying to win me over. Aren’t you proving my point?

    Maybe you can only win over the people who are sympathetic to begin with. Maybe with some of those people, they need the kick in the ass that giving them the full-blown “misogynist” label will give them. But maybe not. I don’t know. I’m no mind-reader. Hell, I thought I wouldn’t be posting anything particularly objectionable today, just a mild rant about accuracy in vilification. Hell, the original post even said to feel free to damn people for their actions. That’s vilification, and I’m okay with it, even if the things you’re vilifying are dissent from your post. All I wanted was a totally defensible position from which to do it.

    If we’re talking about misogyny as a descriptive indicating that a person hates women, we can’t really tell that from their text unless they say it outright (or something to that effect). But if they have misogynist attitudes, it’s a clue that they might be misogynists outright.

    If we’re going to use misogynist as an epithet meaning they’ve done something objectionable that has harmed women, then yes, KvdH is a misogynist in that sense.

    How are we all defining the word?

  51. 51
    Pteryxx

    This wasn’t aimed at me, nor am I calling it out:

    I’d really like to know, then, why you weren’t “comfortable” calling the guy a misogynist when you yourself characterized his views as staggeringly misogynistic. This isn’t about accuracy, Jason.

    …Is this about the proper application of the term “misogynist”, or about any given person’s comfort level in actually applying the term to another person? It sounds similar to other cognitive difficulty with words… as in, men self-identifying as rapists as long as the word isn’t used; or victims not admitting that what happened to them fit the words “rape” or “abuse”. But as far as I know, there are more specific definitions of what constitutes rape or abuse than misogyny, as it’s sort of a belief system.

  52. 52
    Pteryxx

    Jason:

    I swear to you, Josh, my motivations are entirely about peeling off those people who are open to being told that their actions were wrong and harmful, and making them allies.

    …With all due respect, being open is THEIR decision, not yours. Or ours. Nobody can make another person open-minded.

  53. 53
    Patrick

    The irony is that feminism already has the term “sexist,” but can’t use it in this context because the point is to maximally stigmatize, and the term “misogynist” stigmatizes more strongly than the term “sexist.”

  54. 54
    Momo Elektra

    Maybe you can only win over the people who are sympathetic to begin with.

    If I have to be nice and respecful to people who are not nice and respectful to me to get them to be sympathetic to my hurt which they cause or perpetuate, then I don’t care about getting them at all.

  55. 55
    Josh, Official SpokesGay

    …Is this about the proper application of the term “misogynist”, or about any given person’s comfort level in actually applying the term to another person?

    This is what I was getting at, Pterryx. I think Jason’s doing that but he can’t bring himself to see it. Jason, I really like your writing even though I’m mostly a lurker on your blog. But I think you’ve got this badly wrong and I hope you’ll think about rather than only defend it.

    Shorter me:

    1. It’s offensive to characterize commenters objecting to de-railers as “vilifying dissent.”

    2. That you struggle to avoid calling someone a misogynist when their behavior is misogynistic indicates you have an emotional aversion to it. Don’t hide behind claims of caring about accuracy on that count – that’s not what motivated you to avoid calling him a misogynist.

    3. You place way too much importance on mollifying these “third groupers”, and you don’t see that doing so often costs you genuine allies.

  56. 56
    Cipher

    The irony is that feminism already has the term “sexist,” but can’t use it in this context because the point is to maximally stigmatize, and the term “misogynist” stigmatizes more strongly than the term “sexist.”

    Just anecdotally and based on my reaction to each word, I think I tend to call systemic marginalization and gender-binary-enforcing sexist and individual behavior that marginalizes women misogynistic. “Sexist” is my go-to word when Patriarchy is Hurting Men Too, for instance.

    What is being characterized in this post as a hyperbolic jump is sometimes early pattern recognition.

    I think this is a fantastic general point, Stephanie, and thanks.

    But I’m still objecting to the conflation of the argument about “sociopath” and “misogynist,” because there are whole different facets to the “sociopath” conversation that don’t apply to the “misogynist” one. I’m not one to defend sociopaths in general, having dated one by my own armchair diagnosis, but I think it’s valid to discuss whether we should be using any personality disorder as an insult/Othering tactic/armchair diagnosis, given the history of marginalization of people based on neurology, mental disorder, and disability. (I don’t have a defined position on it yet, but it makes sense to discuss.) This isn’t a question that applies to “misogynist.”

  57. 57
    Jason Thibeault

    Sexism and misogyny are expressly different, Patrick, and not just in the dictionary sense.

  58. 58
    Stephanie Zvan

    Josh, I would have to disagree slightly, though I may just be reading you wrong. I’d say there is value in having some people word things for the easily offended third group. If nothing else, the make-nice posts get passed around a fair amount, which allows the normally silent edge-of-third-groupers out there to signal a position to everyone else.

    However, that’s a bit different from what Jason did here, which is uncharacteristically take a swing at people on his own side for being more aggressive than he is on a particular topic.

  59. 59
    Stephanie Zvan

    Patrick, do you have a link to that section of the Feminist Manifesto, or are you just reading minds again?

  60. 60
    Patrick

    Oh, agreed, Jason. But which one better describes someone who acknowledges that male internet trolls are behaving badly, but doesn’t take that behavior as seriously as you’d like them to?

    The conversation you’re having here is one that’s actually happened already in the context of race. How do you describe someone who doesn’t actively dislike black people, but does carry a lot of general societal attitudes about the unimportance of racial justice issues? Such a person isn’t a racist in one sense of the term, but they are problematic. And if you call them a “racist,” they and their defenders will correctly note that they haven’t got actual racial animus, and your line of attack will be sidelined into a debate about their character in which you won’t be able to win because, on the terms of the debate as its happening, you’re in the wrong.

    Unfortunately, we only have one word for unfortunate attitudes regarding race: “racism.” So its a hard problem to handle.

    But we have several terms for unfortunate attitudes about gender.

    We could consider using them.

  61. 61
    Cipher

    your line of attack will be sidelined into a debate about their character in which you won’t be able to win because, on the terms of the debate as its happening, you’re in the wrong.

    This is why I simply insist that their “character” is irrelevant and move along, and if they don’t keep up and want to keep discussing their irrelevant “character,” that’s their problem and I will make fun of them.

  62. 62
    Stephanie Zvan

    Classical Cipher, I understand and appreciate that concern. There is, however, also something of a movement to enshrine something that is, if not sociopathy itself, then something that is all but indistinguishable from it in our public sphere. Fighting that trend without noting that we consider this a pathological condition for very good reasons (and thus adding somewhat to the stigma) is difficult. If you know someone who addresses that problem well, I’d love to read up.

  63. 63
    Stephanie Zvan

    Patrick, there is a load of difference between “doesn’t take that behavior as seriously as you’d like them to” and “insists that the topic not be discussed because some other group’s concerns are so much more important.”

  64. 64
    Josh, Official SpokesGay

    Stephanie – you’re probably right about the utility of voices for the easily offended. I didn’t mean to say there’s no use in courting them at all. I do, however, think it’s of fairly marginal utility more often than not when it comes to certain issues. What I really objected to was Jason’s mischaracterization of those who called misogynists on the carpet in service of protecting the sensibilities of people who deserved what they got and who were not going to see reason anyway.

    There are so many situations in which otherwise well-meaning people pay more attention to the pearl-clutching of truly reprehensible people at the expense of the victims. When they criticize the victims for it it’s just beyond my ability to tolerate.

  65. 65
    Jason Thibeault

    I need to know — is there no difference between “you’re expressing misogynistic attitudes” and “you’re a misogynist”? I really liked the Jay Smooth video I posted above. I’d really rather us have more Conversation 1′s and fewer Conversation 2′s. That was my entire point. I really need your definitions of “misogyny” and “misogynist” if I’m going to get on board with your use of the words.

  66. 66
    Pteryxx

    Thanks, Josh. For what it’s worth, I generally don’t apply the labels to people I’m arguing with; but that’s because I don’t like labels, not because the label doesn’t fit.

    3. You place way too much importance on mollifying these “third groupers”, and you don’t see that doing so often costs you genuine allies.

    Again, this wasn’t aimed at me, but still…

    Look, people are going to vary in their responses, and that applies to allies as well as whoever’s being called out (and who’s doing the calling). To use myself as an example again, there was a Pharyngula thread where several people called someone out for being an ass (I know, that really narrows it down… it was the bunny thread) while I presumed good-faith and spent several posts trying to explain to this person where he’d gone wrong. But that doesn’t mean I was wrong to assume good-faith on this person’s part, nor that other folks were wrong in assuming otherwise. I just had more willingness to do so, at that time, to that person, for whatever reasons. I’m sure that giving HIM the benefit of the doubt cost me ally points in their eyes. But y’know, that’s always going to happen, because they have different tolerances than I do. They’ve seen comments I haven’t seen, in a different context… heck, they’re different people. As long as I’m erring more towards the solution than the problem, I hope that folks will still consider me an ally even though I didn’t draw the same line that they did.

  67. 67
    Josh, Official SpokesGay

    I need to know — is there no difference between “you’re expressing misogynistic attitudes” and “you’re a misogynist”

    Jesus. You keep missing the point. The very fact that you think this is the big, must-be-answered question is, in my view, the problem! Why are you so convinced this matters so very, very much? More concerned about it, in fact, than you seem to be about the actual bad behavior in question.

  68. 68
    Jason Thibeault

    If you want to convince me that I should use words the way you do, then yes, it is the big, must-be-answered question to do so, Josh.

    And no, I am not more concerned about you convincing me to call people certain words than I am about calling out bad behaviour when I see it.

  69. 69
    Cipher

    As long as I’m erring more towards the solution than the problem, I hope that folks will still consider me an ally even though I didn’t draw the same line that they did.

    It’s kind of like the accommodationist/gnu debate, in my opinion. I acknowledge that there are different styles, and my willingness to consider you an ally doesn’t necessarily depend on which one you use, but as soon as you wheel ’round and criticize other people for using one more confrontational, I’m going to be more inclined to consider you a derailer and enabler.

  70. 70
    Cipher

    Regarding my post above, that was a general “you.” Didn’t mean to sound like I was accusing you of that, pteryxx.

  71. 71
    Stephanie Zvan

    Josh, suggesting Jason cares more about this question than about bad behavior is going rather far. If nothing else, you’re presenting a false choice. As I noted above, this post didn’t happen in a vacuum. Also, as someone (not slowing down to figure out who) commented, it is one post.

    Personally, I’m generally with Jay on this one, because I’m a strategist. I don’t think Jason tied it very well into the rest of the post, but that doesn’t make it wrong.

  72. 72
    Josh, Official SpokesGay

    OK, maybe that was a step too far. Sorry about that, Jason. I suppose I’m just ultra-tired of having to have this conversation over and over and over and over when it’s not even considered non-controversial to note that women are people. That’s probably spilling over unfairly here. But it’s damned wearying.

  73. 73
    Cipher

    Stephanie, thanks :) If I run across anything good, I’ll try and remember to let you know.

  74. 74
    Pteryxx

    @Classical Cypher, no problemo, I took it as general. (good-faith assumed!) ~;>

  75. 75
    Jodi

    Josh

    I’ve been following along and I won’t argue with anything you’ve said up until “More concerned about it, in fact, than you seem to be about the actual bad behavior in question.”

    I’m Jason’s wife and I can tell you with 100% certainty that that is absolutely not the case. I’d like to reserve comment on everything else but that is one thing that I really needed to point out as false. Otherwise, carry on.

  76. 76
    Josh, Official SpokesGay

    Jodi, I believe you, and Steph pointed out the same thing.

  77. 77
    Jodi

    Annnd I’m also slow at this commenting thing so …. ignore.

  78. 78
    Jason Thibeault

    Okay. Let me try to clarify a point. The accomodationism/gnu thing stung a bit, but it sheds light on something that, with interested parties’ help, I’ve realized I failed utterly to do.

    The two cases I’ve described — KvdH and aspidoscelis — are demonstrably trolls. They have derailed and shown themselves irrational actors in the particular threads they basically mangled almost singlehandedly. They are very, very probably not the ones you can peel away. They’re probably not in that third group.

    They should, in fact, be vilified for their argumentation because they’ve committed any number of fallacies, exposed any number of personal cognitive biases, and basically shown themselves to be anything but decent human beings by our collective standard of what makes one so. The entirety of my rebuke — if it was anything but a mild rebuke — in my original post was intended to say that they should be called to the carpet for everything that they are, and not one whit more, because if you treat everyone that way, there’s the slim possibility that if a future troll IS that third-grouper, you’ve been consistent in your handling of past instances.

    I’m even open to calling people like KvdH (looking only at what he said at Greta’s, and not the execrable Horsa nonsense) misogynists if we define misogynist as the same thing as evincing misogynist attitudes.

    It was not my intent to provide apologetics for these specific trolls. But, of course, intent is not magical.

  79. 79
    Josh, Official SpokesGay

    Jason it bothered me that you assumed those trolls were third-groupers. Sorry to be so needling, but why did you default there? Can you understand why that would make people legitimately angry? That you extended the benefit of the doubt not to them, but to these ugly actors?

    And if “evincing misogynist attitudes” isn’t equivalent to being a misogynist, what in the world is? I really think you’re still chafing over using the term because you know it makes people flinch to be called out candidly on it. But I don’t think we need to indulge that, and I don’t think it’s helpful for the side of right and good. One can be a homophobe, a misogynist, and a racist and one can change. These are not immutable character traits for most people.

  80. 80
    Jason Thibeault

    Jason it bothered me that you assumed those trolls were third-groupers. Sorry to be so needling, but why did you default there? Can you understand why that would make people legitimately angry? That you extended the benefit of the doubt not to them, but to these ugly actors?

    I kind of just said I didn’t, but I can understand why that appearance would be maddening.

  81. 81
    Pteryxx

    Commenting on what Jason said (not necessarily a direct reply):

    I’m even open to calling people like KvdH (looking only at what he said at Greta’s, and not the execrable Horsa nonsense) misogynists if we define misogynist as the same thing as evincing misogynist attitudes.

    I keep thinking of how misogynist attitudes often are not conscious. I’m not sure the same can be said of rape, for instance… if someone manipulated, forced, or bullied another person into sex, there’s no way they did it accidentally, even if they don’t think of the act as rape or themselves as a rapist. Besides, sexism and misogyny are so culturally ubiquitous that nobody can reasonably claim they’re not a little bit sexist. I sure can’t, but I’m much more confident that I’ve never raped anybody.

    Josh: And if “evincing misogynist attitudes” isn’t equivalent to being a misogynist, what in the world is?

    I would say, and this is just where I personally would draw the line, that if someone’s misogynist attitudes are so important to their identity that they would rather defend the attitudes themselves – not just their own pride, not their ego, not their peer pressure, not their privilege or ignorance – so that when pushed, the person doubles down because misogyny is so important to them; then I would call that person a bona fide misogynist. Anybody can say something misogynist, or even believe it and have to be convinced otherwise, even if it’s a blow to their worldview.

    But very few dedicated, conscious misogynists are ever going to admit it or let themselves get pinned down. They’re going to cloak it in pride and willful ignorance, religion, tradition, or whatever else they need for credibility (again, much as predatory rapists would do). That means my definition’s almost useless in the wild, at least regarding accuracy. I’m not sure accuracy’s important though when we’re talking about someone’s belief system; not when the whole point is reducing real harm.

    I’m thinking that using the word “misogynist” to someone’s face isn’t about the accuracy so much as it’s a meta-message: “Your cover has been blown. Your credibility’s gone. IF you’re actually a decent person, it’s now YOUR job to prove it.”

  82. 82
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    I need to know — is there no difference between “you’re expressing misogynistic attitudes” and “you’re a misogynist”?

    You know, in teacher-training, they all hammer into your head to always criticize the behaviour, never the person.
    In my actual experience with adults, it doesn’t matter shit unless the person you’re adressing is seriously interested in getting critical feedback for their behaviour.
    You can say “that’s a sexist remark/ that’s a misogynistic remark” and what they hear is “you’re a sexist/misogynist”, and since they don’t think they are they have a perfectly valid excuse now why whatever you said was bullshit.
    That’s why I think that it doesn’t really matter much.
    In the aftermath of the Incident that Shall not be Named we had misogynist trolls a dozen a day who tried to pplay clever by asking naive questions “oh but why is it so bad to …”.
    So they were shouted down quickly without being given the benefit of doubt. And once in a while there would be actually an honestly naive but interested person who’d get the same treatment.
    And they’d come back, and hang around, and listen and learn.

  83. 83
    Jason Thibeault

    Thank you Pteryxx — your idea about the distinction between the two is very close to my own. The question of the utility of calling them a misogynist if the term doesn’t fit in the sense of actually “hating women” is a different one altogether.

    While I might not particularly like an overreach like that, I can and do (and did) acknowledge the potential utility of the kick in the ass that calling someone a misogynist would bring in certain situations. Maybe these two specific trolls are too close to being the types of people who are definitely digging in their heels rather than giving up misogynistic positions that my point was entirely lost in that distinction.

  84. 84
    Josh, Official SpokesGay

    Gilleil also makes a good point, Jason. Most people simply will not make the distinction between “your argument is shit” and “you, as a person, are shit.” They’re going to hear that they’re now a member of a morally suspect class of person, and it colors their reaction. There often isn’t a damned thing you can do to avoid this, which is why I said way upthread that I think it’s not a good use of time to harangue people about being careful and specific on that front.

    You give too much credit to the human race if you think people likely to be offended when their bad behavior is called out will make the same fine distinctions between actions and character that you do. That human race doesn’t exist.

  85. 85
    Jason Thibeault

    But isn’t there some higher ground to be gained, Josh, if the result is going to be the same both ways, by avoiding the unnecessary insult, avoiding that overreach? If a person will hear “your behaviour is misogynistic” as “you are a misogynist”, but to Giliell’s point some people might hang around and listen and learn despite the insult, how much bigger is the group that might hang around and listen and learn if you didn’t go for the overreach? Can we quantify that? Shouldn’t we bother?

    And since you consider that particular distinction unnecessary, shouldn’t we just go around calling everyone the worst possible things all the time, always?

    The fact that I think the overreach is unnecessary should suggest that some subset of the human race does in fact think that overreach is unnecessary. Maybe there are people out there with opinions like mine on this one.

  86. 86
    Josh, Official SpokesGay

    Jason, we haven’t even figured out yet where to draw the line. I’m not sure where to draw it myself, and I think it’s highly context-dependent. But I just don’t think it matters as much as you do. Maybe a lifetime of hearing “I’m not a homophobe, but. . . ” and then getting castigated for saying, “You are an anti-gay bigot” by people who want to parse everything finely and call me unreasonable for not saying, “I know you’re not a Simon Pure Anti-Gay bigot, of course, it’s just that you make bigoted remarks” colors my perception.

    Sigh.

  87. 87
    aspidoscelis

    Jason Thibeault 45:

    Even if I have the mistaken idea that there’s some percentage to be had in accuracy when calling out the assholes, showing them exactly why their actions are harmful despite their intent is important.

    And 78:

    They should, in fact, be vilified for their argumentation because they’ve committed any number of fallacies, exposed any number of personal cognitive biases,

    Here you’re hitting very close to the point I’ve apparently failed utterly in making.

    Similarly, Patrick 53:

    The irony is that feminism already has the term “sexist,” but can’t use it in this context because the point is to maximally stigmatize, and the term “misogynist” stigmatizes more strongly than the term “sexist.”

    Precisely. The point of the exercise is not to demonstrate that one’s own position is more rational, more empirically correct, etc., but to enforce one’s preferred social norms via stigmatization.

    In contrast, ginmar 23:

    These guys are whining that being asked to disapprove of rape threats—-or at the very least not get in the way, or not side with the would-be rapists, or just to give a shit—is too goddamned much, but they sure want their shiny little merit badge.

    If one pursues argument-by-stigmatization, yes, the target is likely to object to the stigma… which, in the binary world of feminists vs. misogynists, means the target must go after the “shiny little merit badge” of being labeled a feminist. And then one may wish to stop and think about whether reducing “feminism” to a “shiny little merit badge” and “misogyny” to a metaphorical frowny face in red ink was really the desired intent…

    And pheenobarbidoll 41:

    Don’t like it? Then don’t say/do sexist/racist shit. And if you do (because we all do) APOLOGIZE, learn and stop making it ABOUT YOU. It’s not about how you’re really not a misogynist or racist.

    Well, which is it? The demand for apology and the demand to “stop making it ABOUT YOU” are mutually incompatible.

    If person A makes some statement, and person B says that A is a misogynist… well, yes, that is very much about person A. Likewise if B demands an apology from A. OTOH, if person B argues that A’s statement is incorrect, well, now it’s about whether the statement is or is not correct. The question is which discussion you’d like to have.

    Josh 84:

    Most people simply will not make the distinction between “your argument is shit” and “you, as a person, are shit.”

    It doesn’t hurt to at least provide them the option, though. Once you start attacking people you’re asking for a defensive and irrational response. Maybe that’s what you’ll get anyways; still better not to encourage it.

    Even better to actually refute the argument rather than just saying it’s shit.

    The gist being:

    Engaging in vilification and rational discourse simultaneously is very difficult for most people (including me). There are a few who can pull it off (the late Christopher Hitchens, for example), but most of us don’t have that as a viable option. Given a choice between the two, which do you want?

  88. 88
    Jason Thibeault

    Nothing I’ve argued here is meant to diminish the experience of having that kind of parsing form the background radiation of your life. Honestly, I’m coming from a position of privilege in that I haven’t had to fight bigotry against me for most of my life with the exception of being an atheist. I get tired of dealing with trolls on hoary old (and well trod) grounds too. Maybe I’m naive enough to think that not every new entity needs to be treated like a troll, when experience informs you otherwise.

  89. 89
    Josh, Official SpokesGay

    Maybe I’m naive enough to think that not every new entity needs to be treated like a troll, when experience informs you otherwise.

    Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. That’s it! Almost. Don’t act as if it’s “Jason knows that not all new people are necessarily trolls” and “Josh indiscriminately damns them all.” It’s not that. It’s the fine-grained parsing, the bend-over-backwards attempts not to offend by calling them bigot/misogynist even when they say bigoted and misogynist things. Their status as good faith interlocutors is not a total mystery, Jason – we have their behavior to go on.

    What you’re doing—and I don’t think you mean to—is putting the onus of forebearance back on the victims of the bullshit. We have to rise above and make granular distinctions. We have to cater to sensitive feelings for the greater good. Fuck that. We’re justifiably sick of it, and justifiably fed up with hearing allies go on about it and micro-manage the fuck out of our responses. Dude, turn your criticism elsewhere!

  90. 90
    Jason Thibeault

    No. Dammit, no, aspidoscelis. This is not about argument by stigmatization or whatever the hell. This is about stigmatization in parallel with argument.

  91. 91
    Stephanie Zvan

    Jason, it’s worth pointing out that “misogyny” is the only one of these terms that people want to get so strict in defining. The same people who are strict etymological-definitionists when it comes to “misogyny” are the people suggesting the phrase “potential rapist” is “misandrist.” And no one acts the same way with regard to “misanthropist.” It’s not overreaching to use the word the way it is used.

    aspidoscelis, if you think an apology is all about you instead of the person you’re apologizing to, kindly go fuck yourself. You’re already just masturbating here.

  92. 92
    aspidoscelis

    Jason Thibeault, 90:

    No. Dammit, no, aspidoscelis. This is not about argument by stigmatization or whatever the hell. This is about stigmatization in parallel with argument.

    Yeah, I get that:

    Engaging in vilification and rational discourse simultaneously is very difficult for most people [..] which do you want?

    I’m OK with both in parallel if you can pull it off. I’m pessimistic about most people’s chances. Moreover, it’s likely your opponent will hear the stigmatization and therefore not hear the argument.

  93. 93
    Jason Thibeault

    And to that point, aspidoscelis, would you accept that you were making arguments to excuse sociopathy (e.g. lack of empathy and lack of drive toward building a social movement, like the one we described but you argued against as being an enforcement of empathy as a litmus test), despite the fact that I described you as doing so, while julian went full bore and called you a sociopath? Did you accept those arguments, or did you ignore them the same way that you ignored julian’s crack?

  94. 94
    Jason Thibeault

    Stephanie: I’m becoming significantly misanthropic the more people attempt to educate me that it’s not worth forebearance and accuracy of words any more, that the fight is already so far gone.

  95. 95
    Josh, Official SpokesGay

    Damn it Jason, maybe some of these people “educating” you have a point. You admitted you come from a place of privilege. How about taking seriously what women or gays or (insert your favorite minority) have to say about your precision project? I’m sure you think I’m a right asshole, but I’m actually the kind of person you’d likely find in your circle of friends if we lived near each other in real life. I’m sure I’ve been irritating, but it’s not because I’m an adversary.

  96. 96
    aspidoscelis

    Stephanie Zvan:

    aspidoscelis, if you think an apology is all about you instead of the person you’re apologizing to, kindly go fuck yourself. You’re already just masturbating here.

    Christ. You know, I waffled about whether or not I needed an additional parenthetical bit in there along these lines:

    Likewise if B demands an apology, it is about A (as well as whoever was wronged).

    But then I figured… “Well, obviously an apology is about two parties; that shouldn’t even need stating.” Oh well. The great thing about finding fault is that it can never be guarded completely against…

  97. 97
    Jason Thibeault

    That’s not it, Josh, I’m sure you would be in my circle of friends. And I’ve probably found you far less irritating than you think. It’s that the tone of this conversation has been to tell me, over and over, that yes, things really are this bad that it doesn’t matter any more. And aspidoscelis comes along to prove it by making it about him.

  98. 98
    Josh, Official SpokesGay

    But things can get better, Jason. I’m (uncharacteristically) filled with hope watching the FtB and some wings of the skeptical community take on misogyny full-throated this past year. It’s bracing, and heartening. :)

  99. 99
    Jason Thibeault

    Christ. You know, I waffled about whether or not I needed an additional parenthetical bit in there along these lines:

    Likewise if B demands an apology, it is about A (as well as whoever was wronged).

    But then I figured… “Well, obviously an apology is about two parties; that shouldn’t even need stating.” Oh well. The great thing about finding fault is that it can never be guarded completely against…

    If B demands an apology of A, it is not about A at all except insofar as A provided the offense. Apologies are never about the offenders. They are about the victims of the offense.

  100. 100
    Stephanie Zvan

    Jason, I’m not saying meaning doesn’t matter. I’m not even saying the meaning of any of those words have changed. I’m saying people are demanding an uneven burden of proof and level of hatred for anyone to call another a “misogynist.”

  101. 101
    Jason Thibeault

    And to my own point, if people use an epithet as a reaction to being made a victim, and my post is construed as telling them that they’re wrong to feel victimized or that they acted too harshly in the face of their victimization, then I can completely get why this post engendered such a strong negative reaction, and I sincerely apologize.

  102. 102
    Jason Thibeault

    Yes, I can definitely see this from the “true skeptics wing” crew, Stephanie @100. Maybe I even internalized that this word carries more stigma than the others, even though it rightly shouldn’t. I think if someone had just pointed me to a definition of “misogynist” that included being an enabler of same, I would have shut right down at comment 1 and flown the white flag. But you’re right, the people demanding that it mean something different have mostly been the people who fit it best.

  103. 103
    aspidoscelis

    Jason Thibeault 99:

    If B demands an apology of A, it is not about A at all except insofar as A provided the offense. Apologies are never about the offenders. They are about the victims of the offense.

    “except insofar as…” That’s kind of a big part of the whole shebang, though. And if A’s role were just to give offense, A wouldn’t be the one apologizing; the point is for A to publicly atone for the offense to B.

    But this is nit-picking. I ought to head back into lurk mode…

  104. 104
    aspidoscelis

    Jason Thibeault 97:

    And aspidoscelis comes along to prove it by making it about him.

    Oh, FFS. I can only hope this was meant in a sense of perverse irony, because if it weren’t about me before, it is now.

    Anyways, like I said… ought to leave, just not very good at it.

  105. 105
    Josh, Official SpokesGay

    even though it rightly shouldn’t

    I think it should. It should be exactly as shocking as “racist,” “anti-semitic bigot,” and “homophobe.” Anyone labeled a misogynist should immediately blanch. That’s the point. Sexism and misogyny is treated as normal or benign even as we put other bigotries away as relics of the past. I’ve been astonished to learn in the past two years how easily it gets a pass compared to the still astonishingly popular anti-gay bigotry.

    It’s time to start calling misogynists misogynists. They need to feel like they’ve been verbally slapped across the face in public.

  106. 106
    WMDKitty -- Survivor

    Jason, if it’s displaying, supporting, defending, or making excuses for misogynist behavior, it’s a misogynist. Full stop. End of. Game over.

    And sometimes, playing nice just lets the other guys win. Like, oh, right now. I’m not concerned for their poor widdle feelings and fragile egos. I’m concerned with stopping disgusting rapey behavior and comments that no-one — let alone a 15 year old girl — should have to put up with.

  107. 107
    Stephanie Zvan

    Part of the problem in defining “misogyny” is that there is very real social pressure to keep that definition as constrained as possible. That’s reflected in most “official” definitions you’ll find. If you use “misanthropy” as your reference point, you get more useful definitions:

    …generalized dislike, distrust, disgust, contempt or hatred of the human species or human nature.

    Substitute “women or femininity” and you have a definition that isn’t so pure it can’t be used. It also results in a definition that encompasses “We should really be talking about something else instead.”

  108. 108
    Josh, Official SpokesGay

    Thank you, Stephanie, for pointing out how misogyny is uniquely contested. We have to meet the highest, most exacting standards before we’re allowed to use it. Bullshit.

  109. 109
    Pteryxx

    Jason, if it’s displaying, supporting, defending, or making excuses for misogynist behavior, it’s a misogynist. Full stop. End of. Game over.

    To Jason: See, I’m inclined to disagree with that sentiment, but that’s solely my take on it. I, personally, am more inclined to think the person might have just royally fucked up. But I could very well be wrong… in fact, so far I’ve given good faith that turned out to be undeserved far more often than it was justified.

    No way in heck am I going to tell off WMDKitty when there’s no way to know, perhaps ever, if either of us is accurate, much less justified. I think we’re both justified.

  110. 110
    Jason Thibeault

    If you use “misanthropy” as your reference point, you get more useful definitions:

    …generalized dislike, distrust, disgust, contempt or hatred of the human species or human nature.

    Now this I get. This I can use in the future.

    I am still inclined to think people are misguided more than intentional trolls, personally. But if someone calls someone else a misogynist given that definition, I’m far less inclined to think they’re overreaching.

  111. 111
    Josh, Official SpokesGay

    I am still inclined to think people are misguided more than intentional trolls, personally.

    How many people have to explain to you (and how many times) that it doesn’t matter before you get it? How many times do we have to repeat that misogynistic behavior has the exact same bad effects whether you consider the person “a misogynist” or ‘merely’ “being misogynistic” before you get it?

    Jesus Christ, Jason.

  112. 112
    Jason Thibeault

    I guess all the times that I’ve said that their behaviour has the same effect regardless of their intent doesn’t count for anything then, Josh?

    Jesus Christ indeed.

  113. 113
    Josh, Official SpokesGay

    Then why do you keep making excuses? Why do you keep saying “they’re more misguided than anything?” Seriously-why? Why is it so all-fired important for you to make that distinction if you recognize it all amounts to the same thing?

    Why do you spend time defending that bullshit—which implicitly indicts those of us who don’t make that distinction. . yeah, we notice it?

  114. 114
    WMDKitty -- Survivor

    @Pteryxx — Adding to that, we have had differing experiences. I survived the full range of domestic abuse. That’s going to color my perception of other people’s actions and attitudes.

    I openly admit that I used to be one of those people who would say “oh, it’s just a joke, get over it!”

    Now? After what I’ve been through? When I can work up the courage, I’m stepping up and saying, “Dude, not cool.”

    It… it occurs to me that, maybe, because OPENLY discussing things like rape and DV are still somewhat taboo, a lot of people only have a, um, a purely theoretical idea of what rape and DV are, the power dynamics, and the often life-long effects on the survivors. It’s only stuff that happens to “someone else”. Until it happens to you or someone you love.

    It makes me sad how often it has to get to a point where, in order for someone to give a shit, it has to be affecting them directly.

  115. 115
    Jason Thibeault

    Not “they’re more misguided than anything” implying that most of them are well-intentioned rather than trolls, Josh. I am more inclined to consider them well-intentioned rather than trolls, which is a personal failing if anything — an admission of naivetee. But I have always given people enough rope to hang themselves with, before calling them such.

    I have walked back quite a bit. How far must I walk back before you stop saying that I’m defending them, as though my choice to try to reason with them is not appeasement or mollycoddling or treating them with kid gloves?

  116. 116
    Josh, Official SpokesGay

    How far must I walk back before you stop saying that I’m defending them, as though my choice to try to reason with them is not appeasement or mollycoddling or treating them with kid gloves?

    Until you recognize that the point you thought you were making wasn’t such a good point after all. That your concern about not offending them was, in fact, helping to excuse misogynistic behavior, even if you didn’t mean to. That you’re wasting a bunch of time and squandering the good will of people who are actually, not just theoretically, on the same side as you are by fussing around and micro-managing the language of people who have every right to call a misogynist a misogynist. Until you recognize that your version of “trying to reason with them”, while well-intentioned, is misdirected and your insistent defense of it is about mollycoddling them at the expense of more ethical people.

    Until you recognize that on this issue, you were wrong. So there.

  117. 117
    Jason Thibeault

    I think that’s what I don’t get, Josh. How is it at your expense if I accept that the word can encompass their actions as well as them, and will not consider that an overreach, but still try to reason with them myself?

  118. 118
    Josh, Official SpokesGay

    Go think on it Jason.

  119. 119
    Spartan

    And to my own point, if people use an epithet as a reaction to being made a victim, and my post is construed as telling them that they’re wrong to feel victimized or that they acted too harshly in the face of their victimization,

    I see your point, but I don’t think that’s specifically what happened here. By my score, and I fully admit I may be ignorant of past history between them, I didn’t see anything that asp had said to that point that justified that sociopath charge. I’ll grant that julian would have been on firmer ground in the span of several more comments, asp lost me when he veered strongly into his empathy angle, but given the circumstances at the time I think you’re justified in calling it out here. What I’m not fully understanding is what is really to be gained by calling people names and labelling them, especially when you can’t really back it up very conclusively? I don’t see any problem with calling out unsupported claims if you have the energy for it.

    This post was beneficial to me, I don’t think it was a waste of time, it echoed some of the exact same questions I had and I enjoy seeing the objections I also had hacked apart. There are a few landmines that seem unique to feminist conversations that don’t usually apply elsewhere, so I don’t think it’s outlandish to think that people will blunder in. I understand Greta’s point about ‘Yes, but..’, but I’m not sure how any ‘Yes. And also…’ can’t be construed in the wrong way, or if it is even allowed in certain situations. I’m not sure how any dispute can avoid a charge of ‘making it all about you’, and I’m not sure where the line is drawn in disputing a specific minor claim where it becomes ‘defending or minimizing misogyny’. I don’t know that these concepts show up much in discussions on other topics, but it’s on me to just watch and learn. Regardless, I can tell you that nothing is as convincing as a devastating rebuttal of his arguments, which to be fair was in part also done, and is a lot more convincing than analyzing whether a particular label fits.

  120. 120
    Pteryxx

    @WMDKitty: *nod to everything* And I’ve been abused by a long-term partner, too, though I still react differently (and matching points doesn’t really count anyway). An awful lot of people have histories. It’s entirely possible that as I’m learning and processing, I’ll become LESS tolerant of misogyny-spouting arseholes than I am now.

    I’m a bit surprised that y’all didn’t hack into me for what I said, though, because I’m essentially expressing the same views as Jason. Honestly, I was expecting it, with a bit of trepidation; and I might deserve to be called out for being too patient with misogynists.

  121. 121
    Josh, Official SpokesGay

    Honestly, I was expecting it, with a bit of trepidation; and I might deserve to be called out for being too patient with misogynists.

    I don’t have a problem with anyone being “too” patient, at least not usually. I do have a problem with people who strut their patience around in the form of talking down other people who call a spade a spade, which is what Jason did. Don’t you dare lecture me publicly about how people like me ought to be more forgiving and understanding and then pretend you don’t understand why we see that as bolstering and comforting bigoted behavior while cutting down friends.

  122. 122
    Jason Thibeault

    I don’t want you to be more forgiving and understanding, Josh.

  123. 123
    Pteryxx

    and further thoughts:

    It’s only stuff that happens to “someone else”. Until it happens to you or someone you love.

    Y’know, I really think societal programming’s in effect there. I don’t have kids but I can sympathize with people who lose a child or suffer a miscarriage. Lots of us have never been in warfare or trafficked or imprisoned (hello white privilege) or had to go to school hungry, but dammit, it’s not difficult to figure out that these are BAD THINGS that HAPPEN.

  124. 124
    Josh, Official SpokesGay

    I don’t want you to be more forgiving and understanding, Josh.

    Then write more clearly. And cut the bullshit.

  125. 125
    Josh, Official SpokesGay

    And here’s your Moment of Irony for the day. I’m so mad at Jason right now I could spit. But I recognize he’s a good guy, and someone I like. . .the more I go off the more damage I’m going to do because I just want to spit nails in his direction right now. So I’m out. Night.

  126. 126
    WMDKitty -- Survivor

    @Pteryxx — Not just that those are Bad Things, and they Happen, but they are Bad Things that are (mostly) preventable!

  127. 127
    Pteryxx

    So I’m out. Night.

    …That… really impressed me. I mean that. There’s few more gracious internet gestures.

  128. 128
    Jason Thibeault

    WMDKitty: I am well and truly gutted that you’ve got that particular set of experiences coloring your reactions to this stuff. While I’ve never been one to say “it’s just a joke”, I can completely empathize with your reaction if you think I’m minimizing what you’re going through.

    Josh: thank you. I need to head to bed as well. I don’t think I could keep up my desperate flailings much longer anyway, so I appreciate the respite.

    Pteryxx: I agree.

  129. 129
    athyco

    I swear to you, Josh, my motivations are entirely about peeling off those people who are open to being told that their actions were wrong and harmful, and making them allies. Hell, you’re trying to do the same with me, telling me that my actions in advocating this course are wrong and harmful, but trying to tell me that you usually consider me an ally while doing it and trying to win me over. Aren’t you proving my point?

    No, I don’t think he’s proving your point because there’s a history between you and Josh. Tenuous, perhaps, but you’ve read his material; he’s read yours through FTB and elsewhere.

    This happens to be the relationship (turned in the opposite direction) that allows “bite the pillow; I’m going in dry” to be upvoted. In the minds of some r/atheism readers, there’s good ol’ whatzisname who’s said some really funny or intelligent or supportive stuff before. From that position, their minds will try to find some way to justify this one. “How edgy! Aw, she’ll see through the crudeness to know we’re just kiddin’.” Something that strengthens the relationship with good ol’ whatzisname while ignoring that it’s diminishing the humanity of the target for no reason other than the target is female.

    Think of the polls that show approval rating for Congress as abysmally low, yet the poll responders rank their individual representatives and senators much more highly. I think, therefore, that we peel away the fence sitters the same way that the misogyny-flingers are attempting to peel away the status of women in “their” arenas–we make them uncomfortable, make them more likely to remember the arguments that had them shifting in their chairs as they read them, even if they didn’t want to hear them at the time. Make them less likely to return, more likely to search out a different forum. If they’re peelable, they’ll come looking for us. Maybe not today; it’s a marathon, not a sprint.

  130. 130
    WMDKitty -- Survivor

    G’night, guys!

    (Teh Sleepeh, iz catching!)

  131. 131
    Stephanie Zvan

    Jason and Josh, I think that at this point, your relative interpretations of “reason with them” are probably pretty different and causing unnecessary pain for you both. Try “keep my arguments against them on a face-value level.”

    It has its good and bad points. It does make it harder for your opponent to mischaracterize the arguments. It can convince outsiders who haven’t dissected the bad arguments themselves. It can also, however, lend credibility to noncredible opponents (like debating creationists), as well as allow them to successfully derail conversations by arguing tangents.

  132. 132
    cmv

    For what it’s worth, after all the good points Josh laid out, I think it is still worthwhile giving the benefit of the doubt and pointing out the behaviour first. While many people, as Giliell pointed out, won’t see the distinction between calling an action/statement racist/misogynist and calling the person same, the thin slice Jason is hoping to reach are those who will see the distinction.
    I recently had a similar discussion with someone on FB who used the term “towel head”. I went after the term first, and gave the benefit of the doubt until the guy argued back and defriended. While it takes an extra exchange of words or 2, it is worth it if it gets people to rethink their actions rather than shutting down because of the label.

  133. 133
    Alukonis, metal ninja

    This is kind of a drive-by comment, but I wanted to try adding another perspective maybe.

    I think there is something to be said for methodical evisceration of arguments without using insults. Not so terribly long ago I had plenty of misogynistic attitudes and I didn’t even realize it, really. These things just seep into your consciousness if you live in western society. I really came to feminism through atheism, actually, via links from atheists interested in gender equality. And I certainly would have gotten my hackles up had anyone called ME a misogynist. What convinced me was rational arguments pointing out “this? this here? this is misogyny.”

    Now, that said? I wasn’t really angry about it (read: was unlikely to do anything about it myself) until I read the comment threads with boneheads that refused to accept the evidence before their eyes, and the people wading in to give those turds a good rhetorical thrashing have certainly influenced me and given me hope. It’s not possible to have rational discussions with some people. When someone keeps saying the earth is flat, at some point, you have to just call them a fucking stupid waste of space. And when someone keeps insisting that rape jokes are harmless, it’s the same thing – only so much rational dissecting of arguments can happen before wanting to tear your own face off in frustration.

    The thing is, on the internet, all we know is what others choose to say. At what point does denying that rape jokes are so bad make a person a misogynist instead of someone with misogynistic attitudes? There isn’t really a way to tell, because we can only judge someone on the behavior they show us. As the saying goes, if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and looks like a duck, it’s probably a duck. Sure, it could be some sort of super-advanced ducklike robot, but it’s far more likely that it is, in fact, a duck. And I think the fence-sitters are more likely to be lurkers, and are more likely to be swayed by reason, and less likely to keep on quacking, if I may mix my metaphors.

    So what I’m trying to say is, it takes all kinds. If you’d rather dispassionately dissect people’s arguments, have at it. But speaking from experience as a former fence-sitter, the vitriolic “shut up you misogynist asshat” method is also effective. There is a place for painstaking accuracy AND hyperbole.

  134. 134
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    Jason

    But isn’t there some higher ground to be gained, Josh, if the result is going to be the same both ways, by avoiding the unnecessary insult, avoiding that overreach?

    Just speaking from experience:
    No.

    If a person will hear “your behaviour is misogynistic” as “you are a misogynist”, but to Giliell’s point some people might hang around and listen and learn despite the insult, how much bigger is the group that might hang around and listen and learn if you didn’t go for the overreach? Can we quantify that? Shouldn’t we bother?

    I think it’s about zero.
    I’m reading and commentig on a number of FtB where the general atmosphere is much different, From the roughhouse of Pharyngula to the much more polite Butterflies and Wheels, and I’ve been chastized on the latter for lashing out quickly, and I’m trying to style my comments accordingly. Not because I think it’s more effectful, or better, or on some higher ground, but because it’s the request of Ophelia, and since I enjoy participating there, I respect her wishes.
    And I don’t see a different outcome to what you get with the blunt Pharyngula hammer.
    Because the person who is actually willing to learn, who minds being called a racist/homophobe/misogynist will stop and think “where did I fuck up that bad?”.
    Believe me, if Josh said “you’re being/a homophobe” to me, it would come as a shock.
    People who actually care about not being X are interested in learning, while those who are only interested in the label will justify why they’re not despite of the shit they just said, because, by definition, whatever they say cannot be homophobic/racist/misogynist.
    It’s not about flinging the worst possible insult at them, that’s why I don’t just call them Nazis (a term that rolls misogynist, racist and homophobe all into one).

    BTW, Josh, you’re the only person I forgive breaking Giliell’s law, which states that the more stupid the argument, the more crude the misspelling of Giliell ;)

  135. 135
    James Sweet

    Disclaimer: Haven’t read this whole thread.

    Disclaimer #2: If this comment starts to enrage you, skip to the sentence in bold face, because I am probably not going where you think I am going with it.

    I must shamefully admit that I’ve started to run the other way any time the topic of misogyny within the skeptic community comes up. The debate has become soooo acrimonious, for one thing. For another, the one side makes me ashamed, and the side I almost always agree with tends to approach the problem in a way that completely lacks nuance and fails to show any degree of empathy for the reasons why the assholes might be acting like assholes — it’s not always because they are born assholes… I have some insight into this, but I am afraid to share it because I’m pretty sure I’d be burned at the stake.

    But before you burn me at the stake already, let me be clear: I’m not so sure that’s really a bad thing. If the above paragraph sounded like the feminist equivalent of an accomodationist to anybody, I don’t think you’re alone. Sometimes, nuance just gives people room to make excuses to keep up with their bad behavior. Sometimes, empathy for people who are being assholes is not useful. And sometimes, crossing the line or making overreaching demands is the only way to make even the most incremental progress.

    I can’t participate fully in this debate, partially because I guess I can identify just a little too much with those whose misogyny stems from loneliness-induced anger. There were a lot of misogynist attitudes I regretfully admit I once displayed, that I didn’t find it in myself to discard until after I was happily married. There was a time in my life when all that “incel” bullshit would have really resonated with me. Like some former theists, I still just identify too much with the people who are in the wrong, and I sometimes get uncomfortable when they are abjectly condemned with little to no attempt to truly understand their point of view.

    Nonetheless, I say to the Watson, the Zvans, etc.: Keep it up! Even if I think you are sometimes wrong, or are failing to make some valid distinctions such as the ones Jason outlines here, you all are rowing the boat in the right direction, and rowing a lot harder than I ever could. What’s more, I recognize that pausing to make some of these distinctions and catch some of this nuance might make your rowing less effective.

    But as for myself, I’m gonna cowardly duck and cover :)

  136. 136
    Michael Brew

    There’s certainly a difference between genuine misogynists and simple enablers, and one’s approach to each may need to take that into account, but you’d have to make a long stretch from someone who excuses a guy for, say, not getting the hint that their flirting is not welcome and excusing actual threats of rape! To a minor, no less! Anyone who isn’t repulsed by that should expect the misogynist label.

  137. 137
    ginmar

    So guys who say the most horrible shit about women—or justify it, or ignore it, or are indifferent to this crap—might not to be total losses. And we should be kind and gentle with them.

    Yeah, hello.What about us? Women? Do we matter at all in this discussion of how to be nice to misogynists, who we can’t call misogynists because it’s a terribly serious business, even though guys can still bash Rebecca Watson without any approval committee meeting?

    And then there’s Aspido, or whatever:

    If one pursues argument-by-stigmatization, yes, the target is likely to object to the stigma… which, in the binary world of feminists vs. misogynists, means the target must go after the “shiny little merit badge” of being labeled a feminist. And then one may wish to stop and think about whether reducing “feminism” to a “shiny little merit badge” and “misogyny” to a metaphorical frowny face in red ink was really the desired intent…

    He’s trying to slam feminists here for having a black and white worldview, when the subject was rape threats against a fifteen-year-old girl. If anything’s black and white, you’d think it would be threatening a fifteen-year-old girl with rape.

    There’s nothing metaphorical about that. You’re arguing that rape is not a black and white matter, that maybe, oh I don’t know, there’s shades of gray.

    This is not a potential ally. This is just a guy who can’t even condemn rape because—why? I can guess why, and that’s because I’ve run into trolls like this before when the subject of rape comes up. If you want to label feminists as having a ‘binary’ world view because you can’t get off your ass to say anything about rape threats against a young girl, then you have nothing that you need to say.

  138. 138
    pheenobarbidoll

    http://www.amptoons.com/blog/2005/12/02/how-not-to-be-insane-when-accused-of-racism/

    This is something that can be applied to this conversation.

    If you hear ” YOU’RE A BIG FAT WOMAN HATER” when someone points out you’ve just done or said some misogynist thing, then the problem lies with YOU, not the person who pointed it out. Even if they pointed it out without (horror of all horrors) giving a damn about your precious feelings. I’m not under any obligation to NICELY point out you’ve just dehumanized me. I’m not under any obligation to put your feelings first when you punch me in the nose (even if it was accidental) and point of fact, giving you the benefit of the doubt could very well put me in danger so if the worst case scenario is that you think I called you a mean old misogynist, well I can live with that.

    Also, keep in mind that being the target of sexism/racism is far fucking worse than being called a misogynist/racist. The world hasn’t ended, grow the fuck up. Maybe you ARE a misogynist. Maybe, just maybe someone who has had to deal with it all their lives knows more about it and what it looks like than you do. And if a person can’t figure that shit out, frankly I don’t want them as an ally because they’re too damn stupid and would require far more hand holding from me than I really care to give. Not worth the effort.

    I’m not your personal 12 steps to enlightenment go to person. Neither is any other woman. Do your own damn footwork. Read a book for hell’s sake and then we can talk.

  139. 139
    Jason Thibeault

    I have replied to Mallorie Nasrallah’s open letter here.

    ginmar and phenobarbidoll, please read comment 122 and substitute your names for Josh.

  140. 140
    Jason Thibeault

    You might also like to read that ginmar thinks I’m not an ally for this post, and especially took issue with the fact that my wife decided to delurk. That’s fine, ginmar, but I really think you missed my point entirely, especially softened as it’s been through the comments.

    I’ve said before — I’m not asking your permission to continue fighting on your behalf. If you don’t like how I’m fighting, don’t tell everyone how horrible a person I am and how I really love those misogynists, please. Because I don’t.

  141. 141
    Pteryxx

    James Sweet:

    Sometimes, nuance just gives people room to make excuses to keep up with their bad behavior. Sometimes, empathy for people who are being assholes is not useful. And sometimes, crossing the line or making overreaching demands is the only way to make even the most incremental progress.

    *thumbsup*

    and I cheer as a person who does err on the side of empathy.

  142. 142
    pheenobarbidoll

    “They are, however, certainly no ally to women, and when you conflate the two, their ears close to the possibility that their actions are actively harmful. ”

    And sorry, but it’s not the women here conflating the two. It’s the idiots who are so wrapped up in their own privilege that any critisism is viewed as a direct accusing insult. Stop making their failure the responsibility of others.

    If you would like to drop everything and hand hold them through the comprehension 101 stage, have at it. But feminists in general have stopped trying because it doesn’t work. And I for one don’t really appreciate you starting the whole conversation off as if you just figured this shit out and are now enlightening us because, yanno, obviously we had NO IDEA and hadn’t wasted untold hours already.

    Your Fresh!Manly!Wisdom! ain’t so fresh. Or wise.

  143. 143
    Jason Thibeault

    In my response to Mallorie, I included this paragraph:

    The flaw I exposed in my thinking yesterday was one of expecting that everyone should have the same patience as me, that everyone CAN have the same patience as me, and that reasonable people might not recognize patterns of behaviour quicker than I could. This is, in effect, a failure of empathy.

  144. 144
    pheenobarbidoll

    “That’s fine, ginmar, but I really think you missed my point entirely, especially softened as it’s been through the comments. ”

    And you’ve missed hers. Instead of insisting you’re really an ally, try doing what allies do and listen.

    3) Don’t make it about you. Usually the thing to do is apologize for what you said and move on. Especially if you’re in a meeting or something, resist your desire to turn the meeting into a seminar on How Against Racism You Are. The subject of the conversation is probably not “your many close Black friends, and your sincere longstanding and deep abhorrence of racism.”

    Think of it as if someone points out that you need to wipe your nose because you’ve got a big glob of snot hanging out. The thing to do is say “oh, excuse me,” wipe your nose, and move on. Insisting that everyone pat you on the back and reassure you that they realize you don’t always have snot hanging from your nose, before the conversation can be allowed to move forward, is not productive.

    What you’ve done throughout your responses is exactly what 3 is addressing.

    *I* think you’re not an ally with this post. Why? Because you haven’t actually heard one damn thing that’s been said.

    In other words, you haven’t behaved as an ally. Instead of shutting up and listening, you’ve simply continued to imply everyone else is just not getting what you’re saying.

    We get it. But we also get ALL the implications and the reality and the fall out because we live it. It’s not just a blog post. It’s not just a discussion.

    We’re neck deep in this shit and this ALWAYS comes up. Always. Without fucking fail. And to assume we don’t see the issue or claim WE are the ones conflating misogyny with misogynists etc. is an ally FAIL.

    Do you hear that?

  145. 145
    Jason Thibeault

    I never wanted this to be about me, and if my actions suggest otherwise, I sincerely apologize for those actions and their effects.

  146. 146
    Stephanie Zvan

    pheenobarbidoll, are you reading the same comment thread I am? There’s been an awful lot of “Thank you for explaining this such that I get it” from Jason. You certainly don’t have to pat him on the back for it, but characterizing his comments as those that didn’t exist is simply inaccurate. You have options between the two, including simply saying that you’re angry and tired of these discusstions without a need to justify those feelings.

  147. 147
    Stephanie Zvan

    Ugh. “…as if those didn’t exist…”

  148. 148
    pheenobarbidoll

    “There’s been an awful lot of “Thank you for explaining this such that I get it” from Jason.”

    And then it’s completely contradicted with ” but I don’t think people (like gin to use as an example) get what I’m saying.”

    Yeah. She does. The problem isn’t that she doesn’t get it, the problem is that feminists have already tried this ” hey have you tried telling people NICELY” and it’s not new. It’s simply the ” be nice or men won’t like you bitches and it’ll be your own fault they don’t help feminism” schtick in different words.

    Which is something that has been explained 7 ways from Sunday on just about every feminist blog in existence, so why a feminist ally has to have it explained again in such a way that he gets it raises my skeptical brow.

    And my posts aren’t simply about Jason, they include other people and that encompassing attitude that minority people everywhere have dealt with for centuries. IE- Be nice about explaining your oppression to your oppressors because their feelings are more important.

    Women deal with it, people of color deal with it and indigenous people’s deal with it ALL THE TIME. If we don’t point out someone’s assiness as nicely as possible, why then it’s our fault they don’t fix their own issues that get us killed.

    This is 101 stuff, yet an entire post was made as if it was something new that feminists just hadn’t considered yet.

    And to quote a LJer who said it best-

    It’s not my job to ask you nicely to take your boot off my neck, it’s your job to pick up your goddamn feet.

  149. 149
    ginmar

    Jason, YOU’RE the one calling it ‘vilifying dissent’ when feminists TELL you that it’s not dissent, it’s trolling, and since when is drawing a line vilifying? Do you get anal when some racist uses the N-word? Justifies lynching? Makes reference to a ‘welfare queen’? What you’re upset about is Greta Christine being too harsh on trolls….not on the trolls themselves. YOu didn’t do a post called, “Why are trolls insist on insulting women?” No, you wrote one titled, “Vilifying dissent.” Vilifying—that’s what the woman’s part in this is. “Dissent”—a polite little tiff over rules of order.

    Well, not to women it’s not. It’s not dissent. It’s misogyny, and as we’ve been telling you repeatedly, there’s a huge difference between dissent and attacks, but you don’t want to listen.

  150. 150
    smhlle

    We could, instead, hairsplit it into “evil misogynists” and “dumb misogynists”, that way the dumb misogynists will know that we don’t think they are actually evil.

    I often want to give the benefit of the doubt to people who haven’t read much about feminism, but I can only do it for short periods of time.

    In the interest of peace, love in understanding, do you think you could get Rush Limbaugh to stop conflating feminists with Nazis?

    /end snark

  151. 151
    Jason Thibeault

    ginmar, I have absolutely zero qualm with vilifying people for what they’ve done and what they’re doing. I’ve said multiple times that we should do it. And I have zero problem with Greta’s post. If you think I’m not listening, then you stopped reading at the end of the post and haven’t read any of the comments.

  152. 152
    Ms. Daisy Cutter, General Manager for the Cleveland Steamers

    Jason, I don’t think Ginmar is the one who hasn’t read the thread.

    Also, “My wife/girlfriend/etc. doesn’t think I’m sexist!” is a common square on anti-feminist bingo cards. One woman declaring you not sexist is not precisely meaningful.

  153. 153
    Stephanie Zvan

    Daisy, if that were even close to what Jodi had said, you’d get your bingo square free and clear. However, you might want to do her the courtesy of paying attention to her words.

  154. 154
    Jadehawk

    late to the game. oh well.

    Can we define misogyny as “hating women”, or does it expand to “doing things that detriment the cause of feminism”?

    “misogyny” is no more “hatred of women” than “homophobia” is fear of gays. Misogyny and homophobia are prejudices which in turn result in (hetero)sexism. I collected my thoughts about this a while back on my blog: http://jadehawks.wordpress.com/2011/07/13/on-sexism-being-a-sexist-and-doing-sexist-things/

    And of course, I like the idea of using the definition of misanthrope (which would be a generally anti-people prejudice) and using it for the specific cases of misogyny, homophobia, racist prejudice, etc.

  155. 155
    ginmar

    Jason, I have read all the comments. Why is it so hard? Do you think these guys have no human contact till they turn on the computer and thus don’t know that rape threats and ‘get me a sammich’ are just innocent fun? None of the guys trying this crap are twelve or below. If they live in the culture, breathe in the culture, and regurgitate that culture online, then they have no excuse at all.

  156. 156
    Friendly

    Just my take:

    If a commenter makes what seems like an ugly but first-time-for-them gender-based assertion, and one feels like being generous, one might state that “That’s a misogynist thing to say, and here’s why: [reasons].” But if [reasons] have already been spelled out in the thread, or if the assertion is utterly heinous and/or has been refuted and they’re repeating it and/or comes on the heels of equally ugly assertions by them, or even if *the shit is rising fast and you just don’t want to take the time to be all that considerate*, “You’re a misogynist” will do.

    Re KdvH and others like him: If an unfamiliar nym pops into a thread about misogyny and derails it, one might start by saying “Don’t derail”. If they keep it up, one might reply, “By continuing to try to steer this thread about misogyny offtopic, you are abetting those who minimize the importance of fighting misogyny in our community, which is itself a misogynist action; is that really what you want to do?”. If they plow right on through that, I feel that “You’re a misogynist” is warranted.

    YMMV, however; if anyone wants to use the epithet earlier in the conversation than I would, I don’t see from past experience with FtB that you’re going to mortally offend and lose a lot of people who are simply ill-informed or confused. The vast majority of commenters I’ve seen (new nym or not) who take an unfortunate tack right away appear to know *exactly* what they’re doing.

  157. 157
    Pteryxx

    Can we define misogyny as “hating women”, or does it expand to “doing things that detriment the cause of feminism”?

    Besides what Jadehawk said above, I’d add the point that “detriment the cause of feminism” is unnecessarily complicating the issue. If rephrased “doing things that harm the full human status of women” then I’d say yes, that’s misogyny.

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    There can be no Khitomer Accord » Lousy Canuck

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