The scope of the problem, and the availability heuristic

One of the big complaints we’ve seen recently regarding the anti-harassment-policy campaign, the question of feminism intersecting with our communities, and the question of whether the assholes in our movement represent the movement, is whether the feminists and anti-bigots are blowing things out of proportion. How often have you seen someone say “the whole community doesn’t have a problem with [X-brand bigotry], only a very small subset“? Often enough, I bet, that I hardly feel the need to repeat these arguments or point to any specific ones, though I’m certain I could give you a dozen or so with a quick search of my own blog’s comments. Never mind big names like Thunderf00t and Paula Kirby making it the entire premise to their opposition to harassment policies and to “feminazis” and “FTBullies”!

So the question, then, is why does this argument gain so much traction? No matter how measured we are with describing the scope and scale of the problem, people will always say we’re making mountains out of mole hills. I posit this is because of the availability heuristic — a cognitive bias wherein, when you’re presented with specific examples of a problem, it is easier to remember those examples, and you assign improper levels of importance to them.
[Read more…]

It’s happening everywhere

No, not “to everyone”. Everywhere. io9 talks about three of our communities – skepticism/atheism, sci-fi fandom, and computer hacker culture.

But it’s also happening in comics, in video games, in the movie industry. In every area where a woman tries to improve their lot, or to break those rigid gender roles by entering areas that are otherwise traditionally populated by men, she faces exponentially more abuse and vitriol than men in those areas.

In every aspect of our society, there is a hidden war on women.
[Read more…]

Comparing movement atheism and Catholicism on matters of misogyny

Silentbob posted an excellent comment on one of the last threads that I think really cuts through a lot of the pushback with regard to cleaning up our own houses. It’s not about who’s “good enough” to be part of our “exclusive club”, it’s about acknowledging problems when there’s overwhelming evidence that those problems exist, and fixing them. Given that we’ve attacked the Catholic church so often for their issues with child molestation, even though MOST PRIESTS AREN’T CHILD MOLESTERS, one would think that we would recognize the need to acknowledge the problem of antifeminism and outright misogyny even though MOST ATHEISTS AREN’T MISOGYNISTS.

The comparison my be odious, but I suggest an analogy with the paedophilia problem in the catholic church.

Atheists, of course, strongly condemn this behaviour, but are we not almost as appalled by the church’s response, which is typically to trivialise, dismiss or conceal the problem? How do we react when the church says, “Oh, but this is just a few isolated incidents! You shouldn’t condemn the whole church. Most priests aren’t paedophiles. Why make such a fuss? Focus on the good, not on the bad!”. Aren’t we especially disgusted when they resort to blaming the victim? When someone within speaks out and acknowledges the problem, don’t we praise them?

There is a misogyny problem within the atheist movement. It is well documented. Let us not trivialise, or dismiss, or sweep the problem under the carpet. Nor complain that is it isn’t representative of the atheist movement as a whole. And most of all, let us not blame the victim. We must do just what we would expect of the church – focus on the problem, highlight the problem, condemn the problem in the strongest possible terms, and set about fixing it. The people who have been doing this should not be attacked for exaggerating the problem, or for calling the movement into disrepute. They should be thanked for the courage to take a stand.

We must hold ourselves to a higher standard than we would hold those we oppose.

I’ve also elsewhere likened it to people being told they have cancer, but instead of treating it, they demand that doctors stop talking about your body being “full of cancer” when it’s really just one tumor, and really the tumor is teeny-tiny, no bigger than 0.01% of your body mass!

Can we just deal with the tumor please? Is that so hard?

Transcript for Google+ hangout on Atheism Plus

Some kind folks at A+ Scribe have transcribed the hangout we had recently on the topic of Atheism Plus, labeling, divisiveness, and looking forward.

It was a great discussion, and while I honestly thought I was talking everyone’s ears off, looking at this transcript makes me feel better about how much mic time each of us got. However, I need to clarify something here.
[Read more…]

Gamers Against Bigotry hacked repeatedly by computer-savvy bigots

Example #645,257,329 of why one must always sanitize every piece of user input that your code has to process. Doesn’t matter how foolproof or dead simple you think the action will be, or how safe or sane your users — someone will try to buffer overrun, break out of the current SQL statement and inject their own code, or just generally find any way imaginable to deface or destroy your work. Especially if your work is a direct confrontation of a particularly entrenched bit of misogyny amongst a terribly entitled and relatively tech-savvy audience, and that audience is inclined toward trollishness to begin with.

A group of social justice advocates in the video gaming community put together a pledge website called Gamers Against Bigotry (WARNING: Chrome reports malware!), asking people to sign onto the following statement:

As a gamer, I realize I contribute to an incredibly diverse social network of gamers around the world, and that my actions have the ability to impact others. In effort to make a positive impact, and to create a community that is welcoming to all, I pledge to not use bigoted language while gaming, online and otherwise.

Bigoted language includes, but is not limited to, slurs based on race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and disability.

Read more about the pledge, including what is and isn’t included, and the overall purpose here.

Read why you shouldn’t use the word “rape” casually here.

All in all, it’s a simple statement, and a rather unobjectionable one at that. The only way one can end bigotry within a community is to “be the change you want to see” — to never engage in bigoted behaviour, and to challenge it when one is able.

The response, however, was in no way proportionate to the pledge, especially given its entirely voluntary nature.
[Read more…]

RCimT: Dispatches from the Misogyny Wars

I’ve had quite a week, and the well’s pretty close to dry as far as spare resources with which to blog. Thankfully, it’s not like the rest of the blogosphere runs on my specific contributions! Therefore, have a link roundup of things that people have written that are worth reading. The theme for this Random Crap in my Tabs round-up should be relatively obvious, given the current all-encompassing conflagration surrounding our attempt to evolve the atheist and skeptical movements into some sense of pluralism and humanitarianism.
[Read more…]

A song by Josh about the skeptical sexism wars

Josh of the Many Spokesgay-Related Titles has written us all a song that I think merits re-blogging. Because reasons! Also, because it is way better than those other songs featured at prominent skeptical conventions that have to elide half of Elevatorgate, and all the fallout and trolling thereafter, just to get a laugh.

Josh’s song is a ballad to the poor oppressed Dood, who’s really getting short shrift as we fight across the blogosphere about the degree to which bitches are shit. Sing it to the tune of Total Eclipse of the Heart. If I could sing, I’d totally do a Youtube video of this.
[Read more…]

Digital archaeology of Elevatorgate – a timeline

Oh, the huge manatee! Suirauqa has taken it upon xirself to chronicle the origin of the DEEEEP RIIIIIIFT that the community has found itself in, between people who think Rebecca Watson magically ruins everything by her mere presence, and people who think she’s just another human being. Xir googling efforts are chronicled here, and the proceedings of the event now known as “elevatorgate” make a sort of prequel to the harassment policies campaign in how major forces in the skeptical and atheist movements decided to align for and against female bodily autonomy.

A friend of mine was curious about the ‘Deep Rift’ that has been cooking in the atheist-skeptic blogosphere for about a year now, culminating in the Twitter storm over the FTBullies hashtag. I offered to make a timeline with bullet points. Little did I know that chronicling those cataclysmic events was going to be such a monumental task, requiring the last drop of my Google-Fu and reading/listening comprehension. Anyhoo, I must admit it was eeriely fun revisiting those events, and consequently, wondering anew how, atheist-skeptic or not, we all are subject to the very human foibles and frailties of ego, prejudice, presumptions, and sadly, blind irrationality. Vraiment, the humanity of it all!

Well worth the read, if you’re unsure why people deluge Watson with hate for otherwise completely unobjectionable statements.

In case you missed the link the first time through, click here.

Coles Notes and alt audio for Don’t Feed the Trolls

Matt Lowry was so kind as to post his notes on the Don’t Feed the Trolls panel, which while it’s not a full transcript, certainly pulls out a lot of the relevant details.

In Canada, you call that a “Coles Notes”, after the Coles bookstore from whence these synopsis books come. I hear in America, the same idea is called CliffsNotes. I like Coles Notes way better, not the least reason being the unpretentious space included between the two words.

I’ve also done an alternate audio recording from the panel, so if you’re interested in the original take by Cristina Rad’s friend which is uploaded to Youtube presently, but don’t have the tech to hit Youtube at the moment, or just want to grab the mp3 for posterity, you can use this podcast doodlybopper like what I done used for the other two panels.

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Also, here’s the mp3 link (20 megs) if you’d like to download it for later listening. Again, lose the -lr if you want a 128kbps version that doesn’t add much in the way of lost audio.

Don’t forget to visit Cristina’s original at her blog in case the ridiculousness in the Youtube comments didn’t do it for you with regard to rampant trolling and misogyny.