So I managed to get two posts done before crashing last night. That’s not bad, right? It’s not the full three, sure, but now I’m freed up to talk about the absolutely batshit rant I woke up to find circulating around the blogowebz. I’m a little behind on this compared to my FTB colleagues, on account of time zones and the human physiological need for sleep and other inconveniences, but I’ll take a go anyway.
Last night TJ Kinkaid, known more popularly as The Amazing Atheist, went on some kind of incredibly vicious tirade on reddit, deliberately trying to provoke a trigger response in a redditor who’d expressed once having been a victim of rape. This was apparently all motivated by his disagreement with the use of trigger warnings on the internet (almost as stupid and useless as NSFW, amirite!?) and how incredibly angry he was that the dogmatic, intolerant feminazis were trying to “control sexuality” and ruining atheism and blah blah blah we’ve heard this all before. Though usually without the same horrifically violent, degrading, hateful exploitation of rape and trauma to “make a point”. Various wonderful rebuttals to his arguments are currently scattered all over the FTB today, so I’d mostly just like to direct you there. I don’t much feel like retreading ground that has already thoroughly been covered. And landscaped. And set up with a little garden.
Instead I’m going to tell you about something kind of spooky.
I’m actually pretty amazed it took this long for Kinkaid to tip his hand like this. That must be the “amazing” part! I’d sort of been expecting it for awhile. I first came across him being used as a substitute for argument by a VERY committed MRA who believed that we were literally living in an oppressive matriarchy, during my stay at the SGU forums (which I guess now gets used for points in the “Rebecca Watson did something less than perfect once therefore hypocrisy” game). I felt like I could tell almost everything I needed to know about him right away, just from the frame at which the embedded video was stopped. Kincaid wore an exaggerated, parodic mock-up of a whiny sneer with the words “I’m Offended!” hovering behind him. That face said everything: here was an arrogant, childish man who enjoys mocking and belittling the concerns of others, has little comedic creativity but fancies himself an ‘edgy’ comic who’s ‘challenging’ his audience, rarely questions his own positions, and is far more interested in rushing after the easy, vulnerable targets for the benefit of an audience who’ve already sided with him than actually engaging in serious intellectual work. And lazy, too.
He didn’t disappoint.
Since then I’d made a point of just generally avoiding the guy, and taking instances of his videos being referenced or linked as very bad signs. This wasn’t terribly hard to do because he didn’t exactly have a particularly prominent position in the community or movement. Just sort of orbiting around the fringes, doing his thing, the gravity of his arrogance and poorly disguised hatred pulling in the types who refuse to apply skepticism to their own positions and biases, or towards social matters like sex, gender or race, and instead staying relatively within the comfort zone of those who assure them the opposition are merely dogmatic. I think he honestly spent more time whingeing about Straw Feminism than he actually spent discussing atheism. He should have called himself The Amazing Guy Who Really Really Hates Feminism And Wants To Tell You All About That Over And Over Again. The Amazing Ego. The Amazing Lack Of Self-Awareness. The Amazing Obsessive Misogyny. The Amazing Persecution Complex. Etc.
But here’s where it gets spooky. He started popping up in places I really didn’t expect to find him. One of these was a trans site populated mostly by young women. A site that didn’t officially have any connection to atheism or skepticism whatsoever.
We’d been having some fights there about feminism. There were several of us on that site who were very passionate, committed feminists. And then there were several of us who had sort of once-upon-a-time allowed things like jealousy towards cis women and hatred of being forced to live as male to lead us to the justifications and rationalizations of MRA philsophy: “I don’t want to be a woman because I’m transsexual, I just want to be a woman because they have it so much better than men.” Ridiculous, I know, but as I’ve said a lot of times, the human mind is capable of some amazing things when it’s pressed. Many trans women had clung to those philosophies and carried them through into transition and past, and still held significant resentment and anger towards feminism (fueled in no small part by feminism’s history of transphobia). Many were also still carrying with them significant anger from personal events that had happened to them that they blamed on women: wives and girlfriends who left, mothers who scorned or disowned them, children they weren’t permitted to see, etc.
All of it was intellectually strange, because from my perspective, I can’t even begin to imagine transitioning from living as male to living as female and not notice how much harder things get, not notice the privileges you lose along the way. It’s almost inconceivable to me that a trans woman can possibly not also be feminist. But here we were.
The thing is, as Kinkaid’s rant makes abundantly clear, much of these positions and ideologies aren’t motivated by intellectual argument and feeling the evidence supports it. They’re mostly motivated by emotional needs. Needs to justify ones privilege, one’s anger, one’s discomfort with being asked to adapt behaviours, one’s guilt over the mistreatment of other groups, one’s refusal to admit to having held an incorrect belief, one’s internal biases giving an impression of things for which an alternate interpretation is just too counter-intuitive. That kind of thing. And like I said, can be motivated in trans women by things like jealousy, denial, pain, resentment and personal tragedies.
I wish I could say that the trans community are above these kinds of things. I wish I could say we’ve seen enough of the irrationality surrounding our cultural model of gender, experienced a diverse enough range of gendered experiences, experienced enough ridicule, hatred, dismissal, discrimination and oppression to know these things, and know sexism, when we see it. But sadly, I can’t. Pain and hardship doesn’t always lead to understanding. It can lead to exactly the opposite.
I don’t know if this really adds much to the conversation surrounding Kinkaid’s rant, but I think it’s worth knowing that these beliefs and ideas don’t simply remain cloistered within their own little irrelevant spheres. They spread, and are accepted, in some pretty wide circles. The views can be internalized even by people who would undoubtedly be tossed into the same category of enemy as those being openly attacked should the chance ever arise. These views are dangerous.
In a way, I’m grateful for this having happened. Not grateful for what had to be endured by the people Kinkaid was attacking. But grateful that he’s taken off his masks and exposed the hatred and anger seething underneath. Building one’s beliefs on emotions like that is as far from critical thought as you can get.