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Apparently, I need to clarify myself

Melissa McEwan has written two more posts on misogyny in atheism. They’re both good and highly recommended, but I have to clarify something.

McEwan takes exception to something I wrote.

And then there were the atheist men, in most cases ostensibly sympathetic to my position, who piped up to let me know that I wasn’t talking about them, that they were one of the Good Ones. Even Myers linked to my list with the curious line: “Melissa McEwan has some Advice to Atheist Men. The long list sounds very good, but I do have one reservation: none of it is exclusive to atheists or men. I think it’s more Advice for Decent Human Beings.”

I’m not sure why my “long list” (of 18 suggestions) would engender reservations simply because it is not “exclusive to atheists or men,” unless one is keen to deflect accountability for being part of the group being urged to decency.

And one commenter interpreted that to a remarkably vicious degree.

Where the HELL does Meyers get off asking for advice and then saying “oh, well that doesn’t apply to me.” Uh yeah. It does.

So let me clarify. I was not saying I disagreed with the list in any way. I was not saying that McEwan was not talking about us ‘good atheists’. I was not trying to deflect accountability away from atheists. Most importantly, I was not saying it doesn’t apply to me — a bizarre charge, since I most certainly aspire to belong to the category of decent human beings, and I would hope that being decent human beings would be one of the goals of all atheists.

It was a reservation that wasn’t really a reservation — it was an appreciation of the universality of the suggestions, and a comment that the title of McEwan’s post was not adequate to describe the usefulness of the content.

I would definitely hope that more atheists would pay attention to her work.

Comments

  1. yazikus says

    I know I’ve enjoyed the recent “cross pollination” (I’m stealing that phrase from another commenter- it is perfect!) resulting from your exchange with Melissa. A lot of really thought provoking and helpful dialogue has come up in both comment sections, and I enjoy and appreciate the work you and Melissa do.

  2. smhll says

    Thank you for taking the time to clarify. I appreciate that most tips for decent human behavior are potentially useful to all humans. But maintaining a narrow focus can make discussion constructive.

  3. says

    I’m not sure why my “long list” (of 18 suggestions) would engender reservations simply because it is not “exclusive to atheists or men,” unless one is keen to deflect accountability for being part of the group being urged to decency.

    That’s a remarkably uncharitable reading given your history. I rolled my eyes at it, but your clarification is good in any case.

  4. says

    Well, yes. I’m also taking the blame for the miscommunication — she apparently thought my use of the word “reservation” meant I was taking exception to the focus of her reply.

  5. octopod says

    Thanks for this clarification. It really did look like a simple misunderstanding of a possibly poor word choice (“reservation”), but I didn’t want to put words in your mouth, and you know how quickly comment threads spin out in a busy blog like Shakesville.

    I did think Ana Mardoll’s point (I think? On phone, hard to check) was good though: “decent people” is easy for people to take as dismissive, rather than, as you use it here, aspirational.

  6. says

    I’m also taking the blame for the miscommunication — she apparently thought my use of the word “reservation” meant I was taking exception to the focus of her reply.

    Ah, OK. Yes, that was an ill-chosen word. I don’t think it should quite have led to that interpretation given the immediate context of the rest of your post and the larger context of your past behavior, but whatever. Gave you the opportunity to clarify so the miscommunication wouldn’t carry forward, which is for the best.

  7. says

    And also it’s clear from her other comments that while I’m a fan of her work, she’s wary and doesn’t really like me very much…which should warn me to be especially careful of what I say, because she’s not going to read me in a generous way.

    Which is OK. I really don’t need cookies.

  8. Gregory Greenwood says

    I’m not sure why my “long list” (of 18 suggestions) would engender reservations simply because it is not “exclusive to atheists or men,” unless one is keen to deflect accountability for being part of the group being urged to decen

    This does seem a shade harsh – I read PZ’s comment as simply pointing out the universal value of the points raised, and that they have application beyond atheists who are also men. At no point did PZ declare that the list didn’t apply to him, and it is worth remembering that, while most of the disgusting misogynists within atheism are men, we also have to deal with ‘FeMRAs’ like Woolly Bumblebee along with not insignificant numbers of ‘chill girl’ enablers of misogyny.

    PZ’s word choice of ‘reservation’ was clearly unfortunate and lead to miscommunication, but I think it is reaching to use that as basis to impugn his motives.

    This seems like a case of unintentional friendly fire to me.

    Still, this clarification sould help clear the air, and the more people who read Melissa McEwan’s posts the better. The atheist community certainly needs to address the issue of misogyny urgently.

  9. Pteryxx says

    Not to pick on you, Gregory, just responding to this:

    This does seem a shade harsh – I read PZ’s comment as simply pointing out the universal value of the points raised, and that they have application beyond atheists who are also men. At no point did PZ declare that the list didn’t apply to him […]

    I read it the same way you did, but I and most of us here are coming from the same background: we’re used to PZ, we find this blog environment more hospitable than hostile, and we’re the ones who chose to stay.

    and it is worth remembering that, while most of the disgusting misogynists within atheism are men, we also have to deal with ‘FeMRAs’ like Woolly Bumblebee along with not insignificant numbers of ‘chill girl’ enablers of misogyny.

    And women who have been burned by atheists and atheist communities have to deal with them too, or else stay the hell away. Again, this isn’t a critique. McEwan doesn’t read PZ the same way that we do, but she isn’t wrong either, and those of us that stick around atheism in spite of the assholes should consider her viewpoint carefully. This is the viewpoint of someone driven away. This is who we’re addressing when we try and improve the community. Shuffling feet, etc.

  10. Beatrice (looking for a happy thought) says

    Rereading that sentence, I realize something that could be (part of) what’s rubbing readers of Shakesville the wrong way. You know when you talk about how atheist community could be more welcoming to women, and then someone in the comments says “We should all try to be better to each other, why are you singling out atheists?” And you know how that raises people’s hackles, because atheist community and acceptance of women are the topic? Yeah. There was a little whiff of that there.

  11. Beatrice (looking for a happy thought) says

    correction to my #10:

    “We should all try to be better to each other,why are you singling out atheist men?

  12. markd555 says

    This is why I read very few blogs. I have no interest in blog vs blog wars over a trivial misunderstanding. Glad it was clarified and ended early. (At least I hope it has…)

    Many bloggers are keen to go on the defensive, they hardly ever read anything twice and immediately fire off a scathing rebuttal instead of stopping and thinking “Did I read that correctly?”

    “Advice for decent human beings” is a good thing. If someone is only focusing on one word, “reservation” they didn’t really read what they are responding to.

    Yes, some MRAs try and use false relevancy in saying “Oh that applies for everyone!, Men are too, but women…” ect. But as frustrating and disgusting as they are, we can’t let it create a atmosphere of continual aggressive defense even against people that agree with you. Offense is better ;)

    Still, it’s an understandable misunderstanding considering what McEwan has to put up with. The original article was a good read.

  13. says

    And also it’s clear from her other comments that while I’m a fan of her work, she’s wary and doesn’t really like me very much…which should warn me to be especially careful of what I say, because she’s not going to read me in a generous way.

    Which is OK. I really don’t need cookies.

    I don’t think it’s about cookies. Believe me, I understand the general wariness, and hate the tendency people have to expect women to respond generously, patiently, and privately to men’s public statements but not for men to do the same. But I don’t think a pattern of ungenerous readings in the absence of solid justification is something anyone should support or cater to (not that I’m saying that’s the case here – I mean as a general principle). Intellectual honesty isn’t a cookie.

    I really don’t think this is any big deal and didn’t intend to start anything. Just thought that was a strikingly negative reading of your meaning.

  14. Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :) says

    That’s a remarkably uncharitable reading given your history.

    Frankly, I think “uncharitable” is a pretty charitable way of describing it.

  15. Jackie, Ms. Paper if ya nasty says

    I get what you were saying. I get exactly what she saw that could easily be misinterpreted in it and all I can say is: Yes and yes.
    Petryxx nails it. So did Beatrice.

    Well done, y’all.

    Please continue cross pollinating.

    *shifty eyes*
    Slides everyone cookies* under the table anyway. Cuz…cookies.

    *Carrot cake cookies dipped in white chocolate. Happy spring!

  16. Gregory Greenwood says

    Pteryxx @ 9;

    Not to pick on you, Gregory

    Don’t worry, I don’t feel singled out or picked on.

    I read it the same way you did, but I and most of us here are coming from the same background: we’re used to PZ, we find this blog environment more hospitable than hostile, and we’re the ones who chose to stay.

    A fair point – we can’t assume in other people the level of familiarity with PZ’s style that we have.

    And women who have been burned by atheists and atheist communities have to deal with them too, or else stay the hell away. Again, this isn’t a critique. McEwan doesn’t read PZ the same way that we do, but she isn’t wrong either, and those of us that stick around atheism in spite of the assholes should consider her viewpoint carefully. This is the viewpoint of someone driven away. This is who we’re addressing when we try and improve the community. Shuffling feet, etc.

    Again, a fair point – we need to understand why Melissa feels the way she does, and to respect her stance. At the same time, we need to be careful to avoid a situation where MRAs succeed in ‘poisoning the well’ by creating such suspicion that a single poorly chosen word can lead to a level of accusation and mistrust that could potentially make constructive discourse difficult between people who actually share similar viewpoints and would under other circumstances be natural allies.

  17. says

    English, in which inflammable means both able to burst into flames and the inability to do so.

    But the sniping… This is why I don’t follow Melissa religiously anymore. How many arguments could I stand? Well, I like a good argument, but just sniping about language all day gets tiring.

  18. Beatrice (looking for a happy thought) says

    At the same time, we need to be careful to avoid a situation where MRAs succeed in ‘poisoning the well’ by creating such suspicion that a single poorly chosen word can lead to a level of accusation and mistrust that could potentially make constructive discourse difficult between people who actually share similar viewpoints and would under other circumstances be natural allies.

    Noooo! No, not a good path.
    People we usually start referring to as concern trolls after a couple of comment say things like this, they just draw the line at a different place. Don’t go there.

    PZ’s was a sentiment that could have been expressed better and Melissa’s a reading of the same which could have been more charitable. Could have would have should have. In the end, we’re solving it, calmly and friendly. I see no use in making it a Big Thing that could possibly lead to Horrible Things Happening.


    Addendum: Not calling you a troll, Gregory. I just think that you took the road often taken by “concerned” trolls. So… don’t go there.

  19. Asher Kay says

    McEwan’s recent posts have been really valuable to me.

    If someone says X and my first response is Y, my response often says a lot more than Y. It also says, “this is what I think is most important about what you just said”. If my response makes it about me, then in a way, I’m saying that defending myself is the important thing, rather than the actual content of X.

    I like the idea that we choose our first response, and that we can choose better.

  20. Beatrice (looking for a happy thought) says

    Sorry, it seems I’m in lectury mood today.
    Am I now reading Melissa too charitably? I don’t think so, but then again, I’m not a Shakesville reader and don’t know much about Melissa or her ways.

  21. Jackie, Ms. Paper if ya nasty says

    Mark,
    You can still have imaginary cookies, but…

    A. This is not a blog war by any means. That hyperbole isn’t helping.
    B. Her exception is not a trivial one. Misinterpreted? Sure. But had she been correct (and her mistake was an easy one to make and had alot to do with PZ’s wording.) she’d be making a point that we often make here. What she saw (and again most of us can see she why she did) was a variation on “Give me cookies, I’m exceptional just for thinking you’re human!” and “What about teh menz?”

    Take a min. Realize that PZ is not deflecting blame. He’s concurring with her sentiment, clarifying his position and ready to grow from here. Are you familiar with the responses feminist writers are accustom to? Because I don’t think she was being defensive so much as seeing implications of the same ‘ol, same ‘ol responses in what PZ wrote. No problem. She isn’t as accustom to his stances and writing as we are. She read something differently than intended. She pointed out what she saw. PZ clarified. That’s not a war. That’s the nature of online correspondence.

  22. Gregory Greenwood says

    Beatrice (looking for a happy thought) @ 18;

    Fair enough. I’ll leave it there then.

  23. beardymcviking says

    I’m a little confused, at the time, I’d read PZ’s ‘reservation’ as only being a reservation in a sarcastic or ironic sense. Given that, I’d taken the ‘reservation’ as more of an affirmation or amplification – a joking way of saying just how much he agreed (something I echo).

    Maybe that’s because I’d read before PZ’s concept of the ‘decent human being’, and already consider that an aspiration.

  24. Susan says

    I have been reading P.Z. for years. I now have no inclination to read Shakesville, though I did agree with some of the posts P.Z. quoted here. I can grasp the misunderstanding, but I don’t understand the sniping. I had no trouble understanding P.Z.’s meaning. There’s too much painful stuff going on in atheism circles these days for me (personally) to deal with something like this as well.

    Susan (with a capital S, not the one with the lower-case s. )

  25. miles says

    I’m reading through this post here – http://www.shakesville.com/2013/03/and-then-this-happened.html – the part where she’s talking about how it really is probably a small minority, but that the large majority sit back and are silent.

    Listening and learning is quieter than arguing. Just like any service-oriented business, happy customers aren’t as loud as the angry complaining ones, which is why so many businesses push so hard to get feedback from their customers (not that I am comparing blogs to the service industry beyond from a feedback perspective).

    Perhaps assholes like me who lurk on blogs and rarely comment should make an effort to provide more positive feedback, or simply agreement to those you agree with. I’m usually quiet as when I comment I feel like a fart in a hurricane but perhaps my views, while not unique and don’t generally add anything that hasn’t already been said, are not as irrelevant as I thought.

  26. carlie says

    McEwan doesn’t read PZ the same way that we do, but she isn’t wrong either, and those of us that stick around atheism in spite of the assholes should consider her viewpoint carefully. This is the viewpoint of someone driven away. This is who we’re addressing when we try and improve the community. Shuffling feet, etc.

    This. And this:

    You know when you talk about how atheist community could be more welcoming to women, and then someone in the comments says “We should all try to be better to each other, why are you singling out atheists?” And you know how that raises people’s hackles, because atheist community and acceptance of women are the topic? Yeah. There was a little whiff of that there.

    It was especially this.

    we need to be careful to avoid a situation where MRAs succeed in ‘poisoning the well’ by creating such suspicion that

    They do not need to “suceed in creating” that kind of situation. They did that years and years ago. This is why we can’t have nice things. You can’t assume that the most charitable reading ought to be given to you by members of a group that have been shat upon by members of your group for all of recorded memory. They don’t owe you that.

  27. Rob Grigjanis says

    Where the HELL does Meyers get off…

    But I guess the commenter doesn’t disapprove of you enough to spell your name correctly.

  28. Annah Green says

    @SC: ” But I don’t think a pattern of ungenerous readings in the absence of solid justification is something anyone should support or cater to (not that I’m saying that’s the case here – I mean as a general principle).”

    With McEwan, it is the case – in the post PZ connects to, she demonstrates she’s reached the ‘flouncing away’ part of her usual cycle of behavior

    “Message received. I’ll show myself out, etc.”

    Now, watch for the rush to reassure her and stroke her ego in the comments to that post.

    Predictable and tedious.

  29. carlie says

    Again, just because it bears repeating:

    When you ask someone why they don’t hang out with you, and then they tell you, if you then try to tell them why they’re wrong about what they just told you, guess what? That doesn’t make them want to hang out with you. In fact, it makes them want to hang out with you even less than they did to start with.

    So what PZ wrote was interpreted by Melissa as being of the “this is why you’re not right about that” variety. He clarified that’s not what he meant, but she was not wrong in taking what he said in the same way lots of other people have meant the kinds of thing he said, and calling it a “blog war” or saying she’s “sniping” won’t help with the goal of getting more women into movement atheism who are already turned off. This is why he’s basically apologizing here, because he gets that, so let’s please not let anyone turn this into a Shakesville bashing thread that will just do more to alienate a section of feminists?

  30. kate_waters says

    I used to read Shakesville, but stopped doing so about a year ago. While I do appreciate many of the incredibly well written and thought provoking posts there I can’t abide the tone policing, the nitpicking, or the current moderation policies because they don’t work for*me*. I don’t feel as though my voice is represented there, and I don’t feel that it’s a “safe space” for my voice, experiences, or way of dealing with misogyny or speaking about feminist issues.

    This incident serves to highlight, I think, how we all need to have spaces that work for each of us, that we are no “hivemind” and that feminism is not some totalitarian monolith.

    …and that’s a very, very, very good thing. There’s no single correct way to “feminist” and this is a perfect example of that.

  31. yazikus says

    @carlie: I know it was mentioned in another thread, but you do have an elegant way of putting things! your comment at 30 is so right. That is the point. The pushback, the tone trolling, etc. do not create a welcoming environment.

  32. says

    Carlie:

    so let’s please not let anyone turn this into a Shakesville bashing thread that will just do more to alienate a section of feminists?

    I’m afraid it’s too late. “Annah Green” has a massive axe to grind in regard to Melissa and can’t seem to shut up about it.

  33. Millicent says

    I agree with carlie. I have just delurked here, but I have read both Pharyngula and Shakesville for years. They are very different types of spaces, but they both have value, and I think we want measured conversation here, not angry sniping.

  34. kate_waters says

    @Caine:

    But do you feel we all need to agree with Melissa’s point of view? Is there room to disagree with her, or her way of going about things where it’s okay to say: “It’s just not the way I want to go about this”?

    (This is not an endorsement of Annah Green’s characterization of Melissa. I don’t agree with Annah. I just don’t feel Melissa is representative of my personal views on how to promote feminism or deal with misogyny.)

  35. Anthony K says

    Basically, what Carlie is saying.

    Without familiarity with PZ’s writing style and sense of humour, it’s not at all a stretch to read ‘reservation’ as, well, reservation. Do we really need to get into whether or not people are being too sensitive or uncharitable?—actually, I’ll just answer that: no we fucking don’t, given how often the ‘pitters already pull that card.

  36. pixelfish says

    I think PZed is right to clarify his stance there. Honestly, I can look at both folks in this discussion and see how they both came to their conclusions and reactions, why PZed slipped rhetorically with “reservations” and why Melissa might react with what some assume to be tetchiness but which I personally see as the result of dealing with one straw after another when your camel is already overburdened with a haystack. Microaggressions don’t have to be intentional for them to still affect you.

    You know when you talk about how atheist community could be more welcoming to women, and then someone in the comments says “We should all try to be better to each other, why are you singling out atheists?” And you know how that raises people’s hackles, because atheist community and acceptance of women are the topic? Yeah. There was a little whiff of that there.”

    Yep. That, right there.

    PS. I think it was me that first used “cross-pollination” in the earlier thread. :) It’s a favourite metaphor.

  37. roro80 says

    carlie #26: “You can’t assume that the most charitable reading ought to be given to you by members of a group that have been shat upon by members of your group for all of recorded memory.”

    YES.

    I’d also like to note that she wrote that post on her own blog. It’s a blog where there is in fact a regular series on how to be a decent human being (so to speak) for men who are really interested in being good allies, and it is *not* specific to atheists. It contains a lot of different suggestions that are not tailored to atheists the way this list was. She did, in fact, sit down and take a look at the specific issues she has had with atheist men and what specifically about movement atheism turned her away from it. I personally thought it was pretty spot-on for the specific problems I’ve had with atheists, which are different than problems I’ve had with generic human beings. She did this because she was asked, and it’s my belief that she did it in good faith. For PZ and the readers here specifically — not for human beings in general.

  38. Gregory Greenwood says

    carlie @ 26;

    They do not need to “suceed in creating” that kind of situation. They did that years and years ago. This is why we can’t have nice things. You can’t assume that the most charitable reading ought to be given to you by members of a group that have been shat upon by members of your group for all of recorded memory. They don’t owe you that.

    And that is one of the many, many reasons why I despise MRAs – they are like a corrosive poison that erodes and corrupts everything it touches. It is not just their own immediate, hateful bigotry that is the problem, but the damage they can do to the broader communities (atheist or otherwise) they infest. I know that, after witnessing the depth of poisonous misogyny within atheism/skepticism that came to light with ‘Elevatorgate’ (something of a ‘red pill’ moment for me), I have never looked at the (for want of a better term) ‘atheist community’ in the same way again, and I have been lucky enough/had enough male privilege to never have been the personal target of that vitriol. And as you say, the MRAs aren’t really a new phenomenon – merely the most recent expression of age old prejudice.

  39. says

    Kate:

    But do you feel we all need to agree with Melissa’s point of view?

    No, I don’t. However, “Annah Green” went on a serious ranting spree about Melissa in another thread, and accused anyone who disagreed with her as emotionally upset over their idol being dissed, yada, yada, yada.

    I think there’s plenty of room for both styles and spaces and I think they’re both good.

  40. John Morales says

    Anthony K:

    Basically, what Carlie is saying.

    What Carlie is saying reads like excuses.

    Without familiarity with PZ’s writing style and sense of humour, it’s not at all a stretch to read ‘reservation’ as, well, reservation.

    Wasn’t much of one, if so — whence the offence and imputed motive as a response?

    carlie:

    You can’t assume that the most charitable reading ought to be given to you by members of a group that have been shat upon by members of your group for all of recorded memory. They don’t owe you that.

    I find your phrasing interesting; that was closer to the most uncharitable than to the most charitable end of the scale.

    He clarified that’s not what he meant, but she was not wrong in taking what he said in the same way lots of other people have meant the kinds of thing he said …

    Unlike you, I think she was.

  41. Pearson says

    I stopped reading Shakesville for the same reasons that kate_waters so clearly expressed @31. I take in articles here and there and recognize its value to feminism and to its community. I can see where there could be a misinterpretation based on the wording.

    I really appreciate seeing that PZ could take what Melissa stated, stop, think about it, and clarify what he felt was a misunderstanding without attributing malice or intention. That is what makes this a safe space for me. Consistency in stopping and listening and a willingness to change gears without being mean, taking it personally, or attributing intentions to others.

  42. roro80 says

    John #41
    “What Carlie is saying reads like excuses.”

    For…what exactly?

    “I find your phrasing interesting; that was closer to the most uncharitable than to the most charitable end of the scale.”

    Sorry, so somehow you and other male atheists are “members of a group that have been shat upon by members of your group for all of recorded memory”? No? Then whatever irony or hypocrisy you were implying is pathetically misplaced.

    “Unlike you, I think she was.”

    Well, fuck, then it’s settled then! John says so.

  43. says

    I liked this comment at Shakesville by SKM:

    I want to add a general thread note that is not part of my reply to the now-banned PZ Myers “hater”: please, do not come here and trash-talk other blogs and bloggers. That is not a constructive response and it’s not OK here. It is not OK for any blog, but taking these atheist threads as an example, I’ll point out two things: 1) PZ Myers outright asked a question, which Melissa answered. To come to Melissa’s thread and trash Myers is unacceptable. 2) The readerships of Pharyngula and Shakesville overlap; I do not want to see sweeping generalizations about Pharyngula’s writers and/or commentariat here, as it makes the space unsafe for readers. It’s also downright rude, and unproductive to boot.

    I’ll just let my editorializing stay implicit. Oh, wait.

  44. Jackie, Ms. Paper if ya nasty says

    when I comment I feel like a fart in a hurricane

    Oh, Miles…aren’t we all?
    I know that feel bro.

  45. carlie says

    I really appreciate seeing that PZ could take what Melissa stated, stop, think about it, and clarify what he felt was a misunderstanding without attributing malice

    I do too. I don’t understand why people who are total bystanders in it feel that they need to attribute malice etc. to it when the people directly involved don’t, except that they already have an ax to grind and want to use this as an excuse to trash somebody. Really, if anybody who has been following the pit/FTB saga for the last few years can say the equivalent of “that woman is being too sensitive and needs to chill out and trust us more” with a straight face, then I don’t know what else there is to say to that.

  46. says

    Yeah… Annah needs to let it go. I know what happened in the past, but Melissa’s recent posts about what’s going on in the atheist community have been wonderful. I’ve been enjoying reading them and I honestly think she’s right. Let Annah be Annah. We don’t have to be dragged into her war.

    I’m glad you cleared this up PZ.

  47. kittylady says

    To Pteryxx @ 9, Beatrice @ 10, and especially Carlie @ 26, I created this account to delurk and say thank you.

    Thank you. I want to send you all the hugs in the world.

  48. kate_waters says

    @Caine:

    Yeah, I saw that thread and was put off by Annah’s posts.

    Thanks for replying, I just wanted to make sure I wasn’t *way* off base with my criticism and thought I’d ask you. I trust your opinion and feel you’re a very rational, open and honest person here. Again, thanks!

  49. cotton says

    And this is maybe where I morally fail. I’m not going to advocate or support someone if, after I’ve repeatedly tried to have their back, listen to what they want me to hear, and tried to use my privileged position to communicate to my fellow privileged citizens, they attack me, demonize me, and question my intentions. I don’t want cookies but I don’t want to catch hell from both sides either.

    PZ’s response is to this is to…apologize for miscommunicating. Normally, when someone twists PZ’s words, his response is (delightfully) ruthless. This strikes me as either exceptionally big-hearted, or very masochistic. I don’t know if I’m wrong, but I do know, as of now, I’m neither of those things :\

  50. says

    Re: 31 kate_waters 20 March 2013 at 5:48 pm (UTC -5)

    This is how I feel. I read Shakes for several years until 2008 and I couldn’t take the sniping. They do get involved in sniping and they do (to my mind) focus excessively on tone. No I never, ever really though anyone she was wagging her finger at didn’t deserve it, but… Ugh. I just couldn’t take it anymore.

    Her articles on broader topics of rights and feminism are much better and important. I just think the blog itself gets bogged down in the day to day scrum, even more than PZ ever has.

    The same toxic tit for tat environment exists here, as well, with long-time commenters bringing up arguments for posts long past. People are never going to get better if you always treat them like trolls just because you didn’t like how they phrased or believed a point in the past. And it’s meaningless pecking-order crap that gets us nowhere.

  51. Rob Grigjanis says

    John @41: If you haven’t already, I recommend you follow roro80’s link @42. Excellent stuff. It may supply some much-needed context.

  52. kate_waters says

    @cotton #51:

    I think in this case it’s a matter of PZ knowing Melissa’s “style” (for lack of a better word) and understanding that framing is a very important part of Melissa’s worldview. So he clarified, because he did not feel that Melissa understood his message as he meant to convey it.

    I don’t think your view of the situation is a correct interpretation, but is perhaps one coloured by your own experiences and past hurts. Is that possible?

  53. says

    Cotton:

    PZ’s response is to this is to…apologize for miscommunicating. Normally, when someone twists PZ’s words, his response is (delightfully) ruthless. This strikes me as either exceptionally big-hearted, or very masochistic. I don’t know if I’m wrong, but I do know, as of now, I’m neither of those things :\

    That was PZ’s response because that’s all it was, a miscommunication and misunderstanding. Nothing more.

  54. Wowbagger, Designated Snarker says

    The self-confessed PZ Hater, ‘Eu’ over there at Shakesville, is also ‘Eu’ and ‘Eucliwood’ elsewhere, and has had a few dustups around the place, including B&W and Lousy Canuck – I’m not sure if she’s a Slymepitter (I won’t go there to check), but she’s certainly been doing a lot of the kind of FTB/Skepchick/A+ bashing that they engage in and approve of at Michael Nugents numerous posts on the pipe-dream of reconciliation with the harassers.

    So, not a fence-sitter or a moderate by any stretch of the imagination.

  55. says

    On the other hand, I think this conversation has gone the right way. PZ did the right thing: Defuse it as quickly as possible. When someone is upset, apologize, no ifs ands or buts.

  56. carlie says

    Just in case anyone isn’t reading along at both places, here is a comment by Melissa, taking the commenter quoted in the OP above to task and clarifying that no, she is not after PZ in a mean way.

    this “where the hell does he get off” thing

    Excuse me? At what point did I say anything close to “where the hell does he get off”?

    isn’t even vaguely focusing on what he said

    I quoted the entirety of what he said. How that can be turned into an accusation that I did not focus on what he said is incredible.

    ETA. I also never asserted that Myers is an “apologist for privilege, or for any sort of bigotry.” And the fact I engaged him in good faith should be clear evidence of my belief that he was inclined to listen. I don’t make a habit of engaging with people who I imagine to be impenetrably resistant to my overtures.

  57. Anthony K says

    Hey, John, ask somebody else your pedantic questions. As I’ve told you multiple times, I don’t care for your fucking hoop-jumping games. I’m terribly sorry that communication as humans generally undertake it baffles you, but I’m not getting paid to teach you remedial emotion-reading. So find some other way to rub one out; I’m not your gym sock.

  58. harvardmba says

    “I most certainly aspire to belong to the category of decent human beings, and I would hope that being decent human beings would be one of the goals of all atheists.”

    Thanks P Zed. Best laugh I’ve had all day.

  59. roro80 says

    cotton #51 “PZ’s response is to this is to…apologize for miscommunicating. Normally, when someone twists PZ’s words, his response is (delightfully) ruthless. This strikes me as either exceptionally big-hearted, or very masochistic.”

    Considering PZ has shown no inclination to be “big-hearted” to those who “twist his words”, and since he doesn’t seem particularly masochistic, there must be another possibility. If your possible explanations don’t match the evidence etc etc. Considering PZ pretty explicitly states why he is responding the way he is, I’m not sure why this is such a mystery to you…

  60. says

    I can’t be the only person to scroll past John Morales’s posts because they seem disjointed, hard to pin down the meaning of, and inflammatory, am I?

  61. cotton says

    @54 quite possibly. I’ve had a long LONG road out of privilege-ville and I’m still on it. Along the way, I’ve met some truly great people who helped me out and some people who were right, but, IMO, a bit jerky about it. There seems to be a lot of people who feel the privileged (me) have an obligation to a.) fight against the Kyriarchy (hope I’m using that right) on behalf of those oppressed by it and b.) put up with a lot from those people b/c they don’t have privilege and can’t trust anybody. I honestly can’t tell if I’m evading responsibility or needless masochism.

    The message I get is best summed up by Crommunist in one of his comments on his Idealogical Purity post: “Meh. I would say that part of the job description of ally means that you’re going to get smacked around by your “own team” a bit. It’s going to happen. You’ve got to be in the game because it’s the right thing to do, not because people are nicer to you as a result.”

    My knee jerk is: I don’t owe you or anyone this. Am I wrong?

    It now occurs to me I probably derailed this thread. I have an old email if anyone has something interesting to say about this w/o further deralin’ : tekman_38668 at hotmail dot com. Also, up for any suggestions on where (forum / site) to go about this. This entire post is weeks built up pressure of not being able to figure it out. >.<

  62. kate_waters says

    @Anthony K # 60:

    That’s why I killfiled him. His attitude and his pedantic asshattery just rubbed me the wrong way too many times so I completely get where you’re coming from, here. Get Greasemonkey. Use it. It helps filter out the crap. (You’ll still see what others quote, though.)

  63. says

    Cotton:

    It now occurs to me I probably derailed this thread. I have an old email if anyone has something interesting to say about this w/o further deralin’ : tekman_38668 at hotmail dot com. Also, up for any suggestions on where (forum / site) to go about this. This entire post is weeks built up pressure of not being able to figure it out. >.<

    You can talk about this on Thunderdome, it’s an open thread. http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2013/03/13/thunderdome-22/comment-page-1/ and when responding to people, please use their nym rather than a number.

  64. kate_waters says

    @cotton # 65:

    I get it. I do. That’s why I didn’t react with RAAAAAAAGE and,instead, responded how I did. Yeah, you’re gonna have to “take one for the team” now and then. Yeah, it’s gonna hurt and kinda make you feel like you’re being picked on. I go through it, myself. Internalized misogyny is a toughie, because you’re left feeling as though no matter what you do it’s not good enough.

    A very hard part of being a decent human being is the constant reminder that you don’t get rewarded for it and you don’t get “points” you can cash in later. So when you’re out of line or not quite “there yet” on an issue it can be tough to remember that you can’t use the “but I did *this* or *that*” as a “get out of jail free” card.

    But you know what? That’s the price we all pay for making this world a better place: Letting go of our egos, no matter how much it hurts, and remembering “It’s not about you.”

    We all do it and we’ve all have had moments where we feel the same way you do now. You’re not alone in this. :)

  65. yazikus says

    The first time I read this:

    Roro, to quote someone,

    I read it as “As someone else has said, you should totally be doing this.” Not “Here are some helpful instructions on how to do this”. Hah. End of day brain.

  66. says

    Crissa:

    The same toxic tit for tat environment exists here, as well, with long-time commenters bringing up arguments for posts long past. People are never going to get better if you always treat them like trolls just because you didn’t like how they phrased or believed a point in the past. And it’s meaningless pecking-order crap that gets us nowhere.

    I can’t be the only person to scroll past John Morales’s posts because they seem disjointed, hard to pin down the meaning of, and inflammatory, am I?

  67. says

    PZ’s response is to this is to…apologize for miscommunicating. Normally, when someone twists PZ’s words, his response is (delightfully) ruthless. This strikes me as either exceptionally big-hearted, or very masochistic.

    Neither. If someone is intentionally distorting my words to make a dishonest point, then I’ll gladly slip the knife in. I have no impression that McEwan was trying to do that.

  68. Doug Hudson says

    Several people have made this comment above, but I just wanted to chime in: I read both sites, and when I first read PZ’s comment about decency (here), I kinda chuckled, because I knew PZ was making a comment at the expense of the misogynists, who don’t even meet the standards of basic human decency.

    Then I went to Shakesville, and read Melissa’s response, and I realized that “reservations” could be taken in a totally different way to someone not familiar with the style, and I thought, “whoops, unfortunate choice of words under the circumstances.”

    Melissa’s response (especially under the circumstances) seems reasonable to me, and PZ’s clarification is (I think) helpful.

    An enlightening conversation all around. And frankly, I think Melissa is correct in that “mainstream” atheism isn’t interested in having her–“mainstream” atheism is currently fragmenting over the very issue of misogyny. Hopefully a new variety of atheism or humanism will emerge that will be friendlier to women. Perhaps that will be Atheism+, perhaps something else, its too early to tell, I think.

  69. yazikus says

    Caine:

    Oh my. Sorry I wasn’t more clear.

    Not at all- I should be reading more carefully =) And my end of day is somewhat wishful, there is still a bit more to go.

  70. roro80 says

    I don’t owe you or anyone this. Am I wrong?

    Nope, but you also don’t get to proudly proclaim you’re an ally. One of the suggestions given to PZ’s inital request for what he could do better is

    And if you’re not willing to make the effort to make movement atheism more inclusive, don’t pretend that you are. Be a real ally, or don’t

  71. roro80 says

    yazikus — I’m new at regular commenting here and suck at html, and Caine has been ever so patient in getting me up to speed. (Thanks Caine!)

  72. cfieldb says

    McEwan has written some good things, but I also find a lot of Shakesville to be a mixed bag.

    I’m not sure why my “long list” (of 18 suggestions) would engender reservations simply because it is not “exclusive to atheists or men,” unless one is keen to deflect accountability for being part of the group being urged to decency.

    Um, what? I mean, I guess if you’re bound and determined to interpret things in the most negative light possible. Actually, I’m going to go ahead and say I think that’s borderline bad faith given the context, especially for anyone even passingly familiar with PZ’s work.

    McEwan is entitled to her opinion, of course- but so is everyone else, and I’m not really on board with this sort of insinuation that any kind of “reservation” to anything she says is tantamount to movement atheism “not wanting anything to do with [her]” and “shouting [her] down”.

  73. jedibear says

    This series has not left a good taste in my mouth. I will admit to being unfamiliar with her broader body of work, but here she simply seems hypercritical and irrationally hostile. Kudos to PZ for hanging in there and taking the friendly fire, but I’m not sure anything useful can actually come out of this discussion.

  74. yazikus says

    roro – I’m going to have to keep an eye out for when you two are commenting then, because I totally suck at html.

  75. says

    Jedibear:

    This series has not left a good taste in my mouth. I will admit to being unfamiliar with her broader body of work, but here she simply seems hypercritical and irrationally hostile. Kudos to PZ for hanging in there and taking the friendly fire, but I’m not sure anything useful can actually come out of this discussion.

    Let’s see. PZ uses both a word and a phrasing which could easily be misinterpreted, so that makes Melissa hypercritical, irrational and hostile, and PZ oughta get a medal for being such a patient guy, eh? Golly, your privilege and bias are showing again, and they are as ugly as ever.

  76. roro80 says

    Doug #73

    I knew PZ was making a comment at the expense of the misogynists

    I think it’s at least worth mentioning that this is, to my understanding, how Liss read it too. Chuckling at those misogynists over there for not following these basic rules of human decency. Rules which were written in response to the very specific question of what privileged white atheist men (and even more specifically PZ) can do better than what they are right now. See the problem?

  77. yazikus says

    Jedibear,

    but I’m not sure anything useful can actually come out of this discussion.

    this discussion has already yeilded useful things. Things like people talking about how to make movememt atheism more welcoming to women. People deciding to do those things. Women talking how they have felt in the atheist movement. These are all useful things.

  78. moarscienceplz says

    I was kind of taken aback that Melissa put PZ’s phrase *long list* inside quotation marks. It seemed that she was taking even that little thing as a dig at her. But then, I went and looked at her actual post:

    I’m not sure why my “long list” (of 18 suggestions)

    The “18” is bolded. So I think she’s saying that a list of 18 items is not a long list to her. Now, I can’t speak for PZ, but I can easily imagine this:

    Someone: You can have a FREE steak and lobster dinner, with all the beer you want to drink!
    Me: Great! bring it on!
    Someone: Just complete the 18 simple tasks on this list and it yours.
    Me: Uh,… maybe I’ll just have a salad and go to bed.

    If we don’t even agree on whether 18 items is a lot or a little, just getting to where all parties are speaking the same language is gonna take a lot of patience from all sides.

  79. says

    You can’t assume that the most charitable reading ought to be given to you by members of a group that have been shat upon by members of your group for all of recorded memory. They don’t owe you that.

    Of course I agree with this. To clarify: I think it’s valid to be wary. I think it’s valid to respond sharply and with suspicion to people making what appear to be the standard arguments, especially when they appear out of nowhere. (This has been my behavior, and the irony of the fact that this post is addressed to carlie of all people isn’t lost on me.) What I don’t think is valid is the idea that I’m not obliged to consider the immediate or larger contexts, including someone’s history of behavior that’s known or easily accessible to me,* in interpreting their words. To me, that comes a little too close to the notion that women get a pass for intellectual honesty in discussions about sexism/misogyny and feminism. I’m not saying or implying that McEwan’s been intellectually dishonest here,** and couldn’t since I have very little knowledge of her history with PZ. I’m speaking more generally, mostly in response to PZ’s cookie comment. I don’t love the idea that we’re giving out – or refusing to give out – cookies rather than participating in political debates.

    Connotations and all that… :)

    *including sometimes asking for clarification

    **So you can stop using my posts in your axe-grinding, Green.

  80. says

    Yazikus:

    I’m going to have to keep an eye out for when you two are commenting then, because I totally suck at html.

    You know how to quote now, and emphasis is easy:

    Italics: <i>Text</i>
    Bold: <b>Text</b>

  81. consciousness razor says

    Cotton,
    If this is more about your treatment in the gun control threads from a while ago, less about PZ or the topic here, it would be better to be open about that and take it somewhere else. The thunderdome would work.

    The message I get is best summed up by Crommunist in one of his comments on his Idealogical Purity post: “Meh. I would say that part of the job description of ally means that you’re going to get smacked around by your “own team” a bit. It’s going to happen. You’ve got to be in the game because it’s the right thing to do, not because people are nicer to you as a result.”

    My knee jerk is: I don’t owe you or anyone this. Am I wrong?

    I’m trying to understand what this means…. Are you saying you disagree with Crommunist that you have moral obligations to do the right thing? That’s what you don’t “owe” people, because you may not be treated nicely when you make a mistake, by trying and failing to do the right thing?

  82. yazikus says

    Caine: I am most grateful for your help! I’ve been too lazy to go through my ancient box of books and pull out the html for dummies.

  83. consciousness razor says

    Never mind. I’m slow. Didn’t notice it had already moved to thunderdome.

  84. atomicgeek says

    I’ve never commented but I’ve been reading this blog for years. My initial reading of PZ’s posts had been that he was saying “Melissa’s list is great! Awesome! Thank you! I will take them to heart and try to live by them! By the way, Readers, if you see these things and think they don’t apply to you somehow because you are not male-identified, atheist-identified, or both, think again, for they are good things to keep in mind if you want to be a Decent Human Being! Also, please keep reading her stuff because she is righteous.” I filter everything through Midwestern Wry Humor and Self-Deprecation Speak, so I assumed that was the intent despite words like “reservations” in the response.

    Oh, sweet assumptions, you never, ever lead us astray. I’m dismayed to see that my pet reading was not how this discussion was read elsewhere, but at the same time I do recognize where the Shakesville commentariat is coming from. It absolutely is valid to be wary of the supposed good intentions of feminist allies when they solicit your opinions and then comment upon them when offered. As a feminist, I wonder a lot about whether it’s better to continue trying to engage with people in spaces where you’re more likely than not to encounter hostility (like, say, Movement Atheism, whatever that is), or to try to build spaces for yourself that reject the dominant culture and preserve your own sanity at the same time. I’m glad this conversation is happening because I don’t have an answer yet.

  85. carlie says

    McEwan has written some good things, but I also find a lot of Shakesville to be a mixed bag.

    I will admit to being unfamiliar with her broader body of work, but here she simply seems hypercritical and irrationally hostile.

    Thanks ever so much for not making this into “let’s talk shit about a feminist blogger just because we seem to have the opening here to do that even though the OP wasn’t critical of her at all”.

    Oh wait

  86. says

    Annah Green/phoenicianromans:

    Curiously, you two seem to have very similar obsessions, very similar posting habits, and remarkably identical IP addresses. Would you mind explaining yourself/selves? Sockpuppetry is a bannable offense here, and I’m about to activate the wondrous banhammer on you.

  87. says

    Re: 70 Caine, Fleur du mal 20 March 2013 at 6:56 pm (UTC -5)
    …And I’m referring to a comment in this very thread, not a past one:
    http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2013/03/20/apparently-i-need-to-clarify-myself/comment-page-1/#comment-583715

    I don’t know what position or questions are even being posed by this comment. There’s more quote than content, and the content is short statements which I find unclear.

    Of course, instead of answering that question…

  88. says

    Re: 80 Caine, Fleur du mal 20 March 2013 at 7:13 pm (UTC -5)
    …Or maybe Melissa is just hypocritical. That is an option.

  89. see_the_galaxy says

    Do I understand that all males need to be “urged to decency”, and objecting to that is an attempt to “deflect accountability”?

  90. Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :) says

    Depends. Do you understand it in a context where men who claim that OF COURSE they’re good guys but don’t actually follow through and won’t listen when told that there’s more to being “a good guy” than they think and why, are legion?

  91. Gregory Greenwood says

    see_the_galaxy @ 97;

    Do I understand that all males need to be “urged to decency”, and objecting to that is an attempt to “deflect accountability”?

    From my understanding of events drawn from reading the threads here and over on Shakesville, Melissa’s original post was specifically addressing issues of harmful, privileged attitudes among (predominantly White and middle class) male atheists, and included a list of suggestions about how they could work to counter the toxic effects of privilege and make atheism a less hostile environment to women. When PZ first discussed this article on Pharyngula, his unfortunate use of the term ‘reservation’ lead to an incident of miscommunication, and it was when Melissa went on to discuss PZ’s post that she suggested that such reservation might be motivated by a desire on PZ’s part to deflect accountability from himself with regard to membership of the specific group (privileged atheist men) that Melissa was exhorting to adopt better habits in her original post. PZ went on to clarify his position in the OP of this thread.

    Melissa did not apply generalisations to ‘all males’, nor did she characterise all possible objections to her position as automatically amounting to an attempt to ‘deflect accountability’.

  92. says

    From McEwen’s blog, last paragraph:

    Where are all the atheist women? Well, maybe they’re just fucking tired of fighting. The best thing sympathetic atheist men can do is get involved—is get louder than the “small but vocal group.”

    Of course, that would mean rendering to the dustbin of rhetorical comforts the convenient, alluring self-reassurance of “Well, at least I’m not that guy.”

    Yeah ummm…. PZ is that loud pro-feminist voice in the atheist movement, he’s the fucking loudest. No single atheist male speaks more loudly about feminism than PZ. Period, end of story.

    I would think that PZ and the Horde™ should be exactly the kind of allies she wants to have in atheism, so the only explanation I can fathom for her reaction is that she’s been swamped by the “small but vocal group” to the point that she was blinded to the also very vocal and larger group of feminists.

    That makes me wonder if it’s not time for all of the horde to delurk and start being seen and heard. If we’re being drowned out, then we aren’t doing something right.

  93. says

    I don’t know about that, but one thing I know for sure: no atheist male, including me, speaks as loudly about feminism as McEwan, or Marcotte, or Watson, or Zvan, or Christina, or…you can name your own long list. So no, I’m not going to be the privileged white dude who complains, and I’m not asking to be defended.

  94. says

    It is hard to pay attention to her, when these sort of “miscommunications” seem to be more of a feature than a bug… but I get that. Her responsibility is to herself, and to her loyal readers. She’s got a real siege situation going on there, but seemingly without the sort of support that people in other places have going for them. She doesn’t have a network like FtB or Skepchick, where the work she’s trying to do can go on even when she needs to take a break.

    So even when she’s wrong from my perspective, I’m willing to assume she’s got a better perspective on her situation than I ever will.

  95. says

    Point being PZ, she wants feminist men to speak up and be counted. I don’t think she can accuse you of not doing at least that if she knows anything about you at all.

  96. says

    Erik:

    I would think that PZ and the Horde™ should be exactly the kind of allies she wants to have in atheism, so the only explanation I can fathom for her reaction is that she’s been swamped by the “small but vocal group” to the point that she was blinded to the also very vocal and larger group of feminists.

    I think you seriously missed the point this time, Erik. I’ve been very active here, at Pharyngula, lately, in trying to get more men to speak up in threads about sexism, feminism, harassment, rape, etc., because it seems the majority of men feel those kinds of discussions are better left to women.* It’s vitally important for men to speak up and speak out, consistently. The quietness of men on these subjects may not be that noticeable to you, but it’s very noticeable to me and other women.

    *Not for bad reasons, mind. It’s that much of the time, men are afraid of saying the wrong thing, or think it’s better to listen, or they don’t want to end up mansplaining, etc. However, it’s crucial that men start to speak up much more often than they do now.

  97. Pteryxx says

    Also keep in mind, McEwan’s been dealing with this shit a long, LONG time. Egate and 3D5K only happened in June 2011… a lot of atheists and skeptics were shocked by the shitsplosion, and it hasn’t even been two full years of pitter harassment yet. PZ’s “Woman Problem” thread was in June 2010, and that discussion didn’t go very smoothly. I gather McEwan had already given up on movement atheism before any of this larger conversation had ever gotten started, and honestly who can blame her? Misogyny in the movement’s been driving women away as long as there’s been a movement, and it’s still going on to this day. There hasn’t been any much larger group of vocal feminists until very recently. We’re making amazing progress in my opinion, but seriously, how welcoming was the atheist community to outspoken feminist women in say 2007?

    http://www.shakesville.com/2007/03/on-christian-as-adjective.html (emphasis mine)

    I was targeted by a man calling himself a Christian, wantonly smeared nationally by people calling themselves Christians, sent rape and death threats by people calling themselves Christians, leaving me with no job and no income. I regularly have to watch people who call themselves Christians argue that my body should not be my own, that my marriage isn’t “real” because it wasn’t formed in a church, that my LGBT loved ones are not deserving of equality, that I and my fellow progressives are traitors to our nation, that I couldn’t possibly be moral because I am an atheist, that my liberal Christian friends aren’t real Christians, and on and on and on.

    That kind of stuff is tough to ignore after awhile. It’s easy to say “they’re not real Christians,” but that refrain quickly loses its strength as a consolation to someone constantly barraged by hatred from people calling themselves Christians. Even the liberal Christians I know had a hard time choking out that line after watching Donohue et. al. exact their “not real” Christian vengeance upon me in droves, because it sounds so hollow when you’re telling someone with an inbox full of prayers they’ll burn in hell.

    It should have been really bloody easy for someone with those sentiments to feel welcome among atheists. It wasn’t.

  98. says

    erikthebassist

    If McEwan and other feminists don’t feel like they hear enough men speaking out about sexism and misogyny, whether you agree with it or not, should we use our voices to complain to feminists about not being heard, or should we try to speak a little louder about sexism and misogyny?

    And I’ll go ahead and apologize right now for wasting time criticizing McEwan and her website, because they’ll be a problem worth addressing once we’ve made a real dent in rape culture. Until then, me and anyone else focusing any energy on the imperfections of feminism are a bunch of giant assholes. It is like complaining about the neatness of the work paramedics are doing, or saying that some crew of firefighters are wasting water by not being 100% efficient while putting out a blaze. There’s a HUGE problem we’re facing, and nitpicking the people trying to fix it is worse than doing nothing.

  99. theoreticalgrrrl says

    Jesus, she was talking specifically about men in the atheist movement, and she gets this shit in return. She gets accused of hypocrisy, being uncharitable, told “it’s hard to pay attention to her” or that she’s too sensitive or that her list of 18 things is as silly as making someone do 18 things for a free lobster and steak dinner.

    6. I wrote a follow-up that outlined why it is, exactly, that telling me it’s just—just!—a “small but vocal group” is not useful, why “Hey, the rest of us aren’t like those knuckleheads!” is not a comfort, why silence is not good enough, and why people who are keen to make movement atheism more inclusive have to get louder than the “small but vocal group.”

    7. I got the usual pushback—I’m a big meanie poopyhead for wondering why PZ would have “reservations” about my advice because it isn’t tailored specifically to atheist men; I’m “uncharitable”; my tone is THE WORST and I am terrible; Shakesville is totes garbage; and the always-popular Hey, I think you’re totally wrong, but feel free to explain basic feminism to me and try to change my mind.

    I started out writing about why I didn’t want to have anything to do with mainstream movement atheism, but, in the end, this entire endeavor has revealed that whether I want anything to do with mainstream movement atheism is irrelevant, because mainstream movement atheism doesn’t want to have anything to do with me.

    Message received. I’ll show myself out, etc.

    Of course I don’t actually mean me, per se. What I mean is people from various marginalized populations, who challenge the kyriarchal structures at work in mainstream movement atheism, despite its claims to aspire to better.

    Some people here are doing a good job proving her point. A woman gets accusations of hypocrisy because she had the gall to criticize someone missing her point. Because she said something sharp to popular atheist man.
    Unfucking believable.

  100. theoreticalgrrrl says

    First and last paragraph are me, messed up the blockquote thing. McEwan’s is the rest in between.

  101. says

    The quietness of men on these subjects may not be that noticeable to you, but it’s very noticeable to me and other women.

    I know, and I wish there was something I could do about that other than stop being quiet myself.

    Some people here are doing a good job proving her point.

    I understand your grievance and agree with it.

  102. John Morales says

    [meta]

    theoreticalgrrrl:

    Some people here are doing a good job proving her point. A woman gets accusations of hypocrisy because she had the gall to criticize someone missing her point. Because she said something sharp to popular atheist man.
    Unfucking believable.

    To what accusation of hypocrisy do you refer?

    She misread PZ, who was sloppy in his expression and therefore clarified; her point was “I’m not sure why my “long list” (of 18 suggestions) would engender reservations simply because it is not “exclusive to atheists or men,” unless one is keen to deflect accountability for being part of the group being urged to decency.” which I’d classify as obtuse, not sharp; and I certainly have not missed that the imputation was way off-base; or, as Carlie phrased it above, not “the most charitable reading”.

    That’s pretty much it.

  103. theoreticalgrrrl says

    I was asking for people to be a bit more charitable towards Melissa.

    Her take away from this? “This entire endeavor has revealed that whether I want anything to do with mainstream movement atheism is irrelevant, because mainstream movement atheism doesn’t want to have anything to do with me.”

    Great job.

    My side? What you said about Melissa was quite a bit uncharitable, but I can’t criticize you because you’re not as bad as the ‘Slimepit’ side? Why does this sound like the typical “better be nice to me or else.” (Yes, men have said to me ‘if you don’t want allies you’ll get enemies’ or other words to that effect, many, many times).

  104. see_the_galaxy says

    QFT

    once we’ve made a real dent in rape culture. Until then, me and anyone else focusing any energy on the imperfections of feminism are a bunch of giant assholes. It is like complaining about the neatness of the work paramedics are doing

  105. theoreticalgrrrl says

    @John Morales

    By sharp I meant harsh or curt.
    I don’t think she was being obtuse. She had every right to get annoyed. Her post was directly addressing atheist men and her experience dealing with sexism in movement atheism.

    #96
    Crissa
    “…Or maybe Melissa is just hypocritical. That is an option.”

  106. Gen, Uppity Ingrate. says

    I would just like to QFMFT everything theoreticalgrrrl said in 108.

    And I would like to also bring up a related point: being asked for “advice”when the asker only ever intended to use the adive to gaslight the askee with, is something most women have had to deal with multiple times. It’s a familiar pattern, and one most women I know have learned to be on the lookout for.

    Although I personally didn’t find my ‘lookout alarms’ tripped by PZ’s post, another woman did and I can certainly see why. Then, she even wrote about it, (KNOWING that she’ll face more gaslighting, more “hypocritcal!!@ hysterical !!! BITCH!!!” accusations than anyone should ever have to face). It’s a decision she made knowing the response she’d likely face, and let me tell you something:

    Sometimes, being right is the most fucked up bitter there is.

  107. says

    theoreticalgrrrl,

    I’m going to be as charitable as I can to you, and instead of insisting that you change your mind, I’d only ask that you spend a week here, especially in the Lounge, and see how we treat each other. I don’t think your criticism is entirely unfair, but I also don’t think it is the whole story.

    I think you’ll see that we’re not only good to each other, but we’re also good to new people. More importantly, we call out EVERYONE who uses sexist or otherwise bigoted language, including the regulars… and if you dig through the archives, you’ll see that PZ has even been called out a whole lot of times for using problematic language and defending less-worthwhile positions.

    You might find that you don’t have to be nice to PZ, because no one else is nice when he’s in the wrong. You don’t have to be nice to anyone if they’ve stepped over a line that shouldn’t be crossed. And trust me, we don’t need you to point us out when we’re wrong, but I’d like to see you stick around and see when we point it out for each other. We kick each other’s asses around here when we screw up… but the regulars are happy to be shown where we’re wrong, so we can be better to and for each other.

  108. says

    In the spirit of the the OP and clarifying:

    I concluded my post at 100 by putting the onus on other atheist feminist males to speak up, or at least meant to. If I wasn’t entirely clear about that I apologize.

    I think PZ caught friendly fire here but the point stands, stop saying you’re an ally and be one. I grok that.

  109. says

    You might find that you don’t have to be nice to PZ, because no one else is nice when he’s in the wrong. You don’t have to be nice to anyone if they’ve stepped over a line that shouldn’t be crossed. And trust me, we don’t need you to point us out when we’re wrong, but I’d like to see you stick around and see when we point it out for each other. We kick each other’s asses around here when we screw up… but the regulars are happy to be shown where we’re wrong, so we can be better to and for each other.

    I have been here long enough to know that this is true.

    I am also new enough here to recall clearly that this is not immediately apparent to the newcomer. It’s almost impossible to tell without an investment of significant time which of the people here are transient assheads here for five comments, which are regulars having a really bad day, which are regulars who usually stand up for justice but are temporarily absent due to triggering or workload or unpaid Internet bills, which are people who might have been promising regulars but end up flaming out spectacularly with the rest of the horde saying “I did not see that coming,” and so forth.

    You want to know what this site’s commenters look like to people who aren’t entirely sold on whether they want to be part of the atheist movement? Give up the idea that they stick around long enough to write their own dramatis personae. Assume that your comments and Caine’s and Carlie’s and Morales’ and NoelPlum’s and googlemess’s will all be given equal weight prorated by frequency of appearance.

    I know this because I’m still learning who is who. And I’m a fucking coblogger here. If I’m still learning after being a co-blogger since September, how can you expect Random Feminist Visitor to give you slack just because the unidentified regulars are mainly not scum?

    Most people aren’t going to offer detailed constructive criticism. They’re just going to walk away. Melissa gave you a gift. theoreticalgrrrl gave you a gift. If you insist the people who just gave you that gift stick around and give you more, you’re missing the point and an opportunity.

  110. Gen, Uppity Ingrate. says

    IJoe, why are you assuming that theoreticalgrrrrl is unfamiliar with Pharyngula? I am sure I’ve seen her post before today or even this week.

  111. Beatrice (looking for a happy thought) says

    I’m baffled by the defensiveness and the fact that this conversation is still about who gave an uncharitable reading to whose text instead of a continued discussion about atheist communities being more inclusive to women.

    This thread actually is proving some of Melissa’s points.

    People, let it go. We all like PZ, but he’s not under a vicious attack. He’s fine. He says so himself.

  112. says

    You’re right… no one owes us the benefit of the doubt. Of course, we don’t owe them anything either and none of us are required to extend Melissa McEwan or theoreticalgrrrl a single thing. We’ve worked hard to make this a good place, and it IS a good place… Chris, don’t you think this is a good place? Gen, don’t you think this is a good place?

    Because I think this is an awesome goddamned place. I’m not going to insult anyone who doesn’t like it, but I’m not going to respect comments from anyone who doesn’t give this place a fair shot. We’re not perfect, but we’re not shit. I’m not going to pretend that we’re shit to placate someone who I don’t know and who doesn’t know us.

  113. Gen, Uppity Ingrate. says

    Of course I think this is a good place! That’s why I hang out here. And I think you personally, IJoe, you are a great guy.

    That doesn’t mean the place perfect, or that honest criticism of it is always wrong/hypocrytical/overreactive/uncharitable/too harsh. That doesn’t mean I cut Pharyngula more slack on issues like women’s inclusion in secularism.

    On the contrary, because this is genuinely a good place, my a priori assumption is that it’s filled with good people who want to make it even better, I expect even more.

  114. Gen, Uppity Ingrate. says

    And McEwan and/or Theoricalgrrrl and/or me nowhere said that Pharyngula was shit or anything like that.

  115. Rob Grigjanis says

    I’m not going to pretend that we’re shit to placate someone who I don’t know and who doesn’t know us.

    Well as long as you’re not being defensive…

    I don’t think anyone wants to be placated. Maybe just listened to.

  116. Gen, Uppity Ingrate. says

    Re the “I expect even more” in my 125.

    Like Melissa McEwan herself put it:

    I’m not ironically detached, I’m not apathetic, I’m not resigned, and I’m not contemptuous of bleeding hearts. I am a greedy bitch with voracious expectations, and I dream long and lustfully of a better world that is both my muse and objective. I want it like the cracked earth of the desert wants rain, and I will neither apologize for nor amend my desire because of its remove from the here and now; its distance encourages my reach.

    So yes. Pharyngula is doing good but I’m a greedy bitch with voracious expectations too, and I expect more.

  117. says

    Listened to… and then disagreed with. I can listen to someone and reject some or all of what they are saying. I don’t have to do more than that. I’ve listened. I hear. I agree with most of what I’ve heard. I don’t have to pretend that 100% of it is fair.

    This place is better than they give it credit for. Not me, I’m not defensive on my behalf, I’m barely a pimple on the ass of this place. But the folks here are better than McEwan gives credit for, and it is ridiculous to bend over backwards for someone who treats us with contempt.

  118. jijoya says

    Apologies in advance for any blockquote fiascos I may be about to cause.

    But the folks here are better than McEwan gives credit for, and it is ridiculous to bend over backwards for someone who treats us with contempt.

    But it’s not contempt, Joe. Neither McEwan nor theoreticalgrrrl have shown any. In McEwan’s case it’s suspicion which then gave way to this:

    Excuse me? At what point did I say anything close to “where the hell does he get off”?

    ETA. I also never asserted that Myers is an “apologist for privilege, or for any sort of bigotry.” And the fact I engaged him in good faith should be clear evidence of my belief that he was inclined to listen. I don’t make a habit of engaging with people who I imagine to be impenetrably resistant to my overtures.

    And in theoreticalgrrrl’s case all I can see is disappointment. Yes, that can hurt when you’re among the people someone’s disappointed in, but contempt it isn’t.

  119. Rob Grigjanis says

    “I’m not defensive on my behalf”

    So you’re speaking for people who haven’t asked you to speak for them?

    Sorry Joe, I’m not seeing contempt. I’m seeing a desire to engage and inform.

    Anyway, I’ve got to get to bed. Sorry to post and run.

  120. theoreticalgrrrl says

    “theoreticalgrrrl,

    I’m going to be as charitable as I can to you,”
    Yay! Lucky me!! (claps)

    I’ve been reading this blog since 2009. I comment on occasion. I’m no newbie who needs to be educated on the awesomeness of this place.

    “But the folks here are better than McEwan gives credit for, and it is ridiculous to bend over backwards for someone who treats us with contempt.”

    People seem to be bending over backwards hyper-analyzing Melissa’s words. Why is there a whole thread debating whether Melissa was contemptuous or uncharitable or unfair to PZ’s reservations? Unlike what’s been portrayed here, she never said “doesn’t like” PZ very much. And since when did ‘reservations’ have an alternate meaning that only Pharyngula readers can decipher?

    “It was a reservation that wasn’t really a reservation.” Um, okay. We’re not all mind-readers, when you use a word most of us guess you are using a word for its actual meaning. I know, silly.

    I’ll quote Melissa from her thread on this topic:
    “I have been reading Myers’ posts in good faith, irrespective of accusations to the contrary. I read Pharyngula for years, and I did not get the impression, in any of that time, that “reservation” has an alternate meaning in that space I should have been expected to know or discern.

    “I am aware that each blog has its own culture and its own shorthand. I did use my experience as a long-time lurker at Pharyngula to contextualize, and it was certainly not a hostility to that space, or an unfamiliarity with that space, which led me to interpret Myers’ post as I did, nor was it personal distaste, which has been reported in spite of the fact that I have never, in any of my posts, made this personal.”

    Yes, you are all wonderful, good people. You too, Joe. But why is all this energy focused on deciding whether or not Melissa read ‘reservations’ the right or wrong way? It’s ridiculous.
    How about getting over bruised egos and talking about her actual list, instead of alienating people further?

  121. John Morales says

    theoreticalgrrrl:

    [1] Yes, you are all wonderful, good people. You too, Joe. [2] But why is all this energy focused on deciding whether or not Melissa read ‘reservations’ the right or wrong way? It’s ridiculous.

    1. Thanks!

    2. Well, I think it was pretty ridiculous to imagine that PZ must have meant he was keen to deflect accountability for being part of the group being urged to decency as the only likely explanation; I also think it’s ridiculous to claim she was right to do so.

  122. carlie says

    But why is all this energy focused on deciding whether or not Melissa read ‘reservations’ the right or wrong way? It’s ridiculous. How about getting over bruised egos and talking about her actual list, instead of alienating people further?

    Yeah. I have to say, this thread has disappointed me more than any of the feminist argument threads that have ever happened here, ever. Seriously, people are willing to say that women should be listened to up until they… criticize PZ? What? When PZ himself even just said “no big deal, I can see where that happened, let me explain”? Why are so many people invested in trying to prove she is wrong, wrong, WRONG about using the standard definition of a word to define that word? Why is this such a horrible offense that you feel the need to write all about how awful she is for doing so? I get that some of you have problems with her in other areas, but you’re letting that cloud your judgment here too, and that’s a profoundly irrational and unskeptical way to behave. And what is the point, really? All you’re doing is proving over and over again why she and other feminists like her ought to stay far, far away from movement atheism. Even I don’t see any point to these kinds of comments other than to think that your goal here is to make sure she understands she’s not welcome, and that makes me really sad.

  123. carlie says

    Well, I think it was pretty ridiculous to imagine that PZ must have meant he was keen to deflect accountability for being part of the group being urged to decency as the only likely explanation; I also think it’s ridiculous to claim she was right to do so.

    Here is more about the issue of deflection, which she wrote in the comments to that post:

    But when a conversation is about movement atheism and its specific failures, to then broaden the conversation is a deflection, even if it is not intended as one.

    When feminists/womanists of color talk about the need for white feminists to be more inclusive, for me to respond: “Yes, well, that’s a great idea for every movement embedded with white privilege, isn’t it?” would be to deflect accountability by diffusing focus away from the area in which I have privilege and thus attendant responsibility.

    [ETA. That it’s true doesn’t mean it’s also not distancing language. There are times to talk about broad systemic challenges to kyriarchy when it is helpful, and in response to an accounting of kyriarchal oppressions within a specific movement is not one of them.]

    I’m not pointing out how this dynamic functions because of personal animus: I’m pointing it out because it speaks to the precise problems I was addressing in the first place.

    Ownership of failure is a crucial element in dismantling privilege.

  124. brucegorton says

    I must admit I am amongst those who do not speak up enough – I am worried about becoming something of a bad AI video game NPC – supposedly there to help but mostly just getting in the way.

    I mean McEwan misread Myers in a way which was perfectly rational and understandable. She wasn’t even really being uncharitable, she was just approaching it with her own background and it read that way to her.

    Myers clarified what he meant, and that should have been the end of it, with a bit of a note to try and be more careful in future.

    Instead there seems to be people who want to defend Myers original phrasing whether he wants it or not. It is the sort of thing which has to build up a large amount of frustration.

  125. carlie says

    Instead there seems to be people who want to defend Myers original phrasing whether he wants it or not. It is the sort of thing which has to build up a large amount of frustration.

    I know I’m frustrated.

    “How can we be more inviting to you?”

    “Well, things like X put me off, so if you didn’t do that I’d feel more welcome.”

    “No, you’re wrong! X isn’t what you think it is! And even if it is, it shouldn’t bother you!”

    I’m pretty sure I heard that exact exchange before, but that time it went something like “How dare you say being hit on in an elevator upsets you! And maybe it wasn’t even a proposition to begin with!'”

    It’s the same thing. “When you say things like X, this is why it makes me feel unwelcome.” If you want that person to feel welcome, then you stop saying things like X. If you don’t want that person to feel welcome, then fine, but you can’t say “No, you’re wrong in saying things like X affect you that way, so you have to both let me say things like X and you have to also feel welcome, because I say so!”

    What I’m so flummoxed by is how people who so clearly understood that was the exchange in the one situation are doing the exact same thing in this one without (I hope) realizing it.

  126. Pteryxx says

    Instead there seems to be people who want to defend Myers original phrasing whether he wants it or not. It is the sort of thing which has to build up a large amount of frustration.

    Srsly. I’m half expecting PZ to tell all of US to STFU and let his own words stand. It’s like, uh… squid-knighting.

  127. says

    I didn’t remotely read PZ’s words as problematic, but I understand why someone would and it’s not unreasonable. From a certain angle, it does sound a bit like a Yes, but… kind of argument (If you haven’t, or if you haven’t lately, go read that post).

    I’m not that familiar with Melissa, but I can hazard a guess that she might well have had to deal with that kind of thing a few times before and may be slightly sensitive to having her words dismissed in such a way.

  128. Beatrice (looking for a happy thought) says

    carlie,

    Oh thank you! I wanted to make a comparison to “Guys, don’t do that”, but didn’t want to be the one to introduce that sensitive topic.

  129. Emrysmyrddin says

    I agree with Carlie #135; I’ve been catching up with this thread and scrolling down further and further with a sinking feeling. Some people are so close, and yet still so far. It does hurt. But it doesn’t mean that there are ‘sides’ or anyone’s ‘criticising the culture of Pharyngula’. I see a ghost of ‘just a bunny’ and I shudder.

  130. Emrysmyrddin says

    Caught up; I found it interesting how I, too, hesitated to bring up an Elevatorgate analogy, and dared (myself) instead to mention the bunny thread as a substitute; upon brief examination I realised that it’s the same mental stop that I experience when I want to avoid being labelled ‘hypersensitive’ within a group of friends that I admire and don’t want to offend; the same stop that in meatspace I experience when deciding whether or not to bring up feminism/point out sexism at all. It’s the ‘do I want to show how much that personally hurt, sow discord and spark an attack upon myself, OR shut up and be depressed for the rest of the night’ sort of stop. Anyway /ramble carry on

  131. Pteryxx says

    the same stop that in meatspace I experience when deciding whether or not to bring up feminism/point out sexism at all. It’s the ‘do I want to show how much that personally hurt, sow discord and spark an attack upon myself, OR shut up and be depressed for the rest of the night’ sort of stop.

    *cough*

    http://www.shakesville.com/2009/08/terrible-bargain-we-have-regretfully.html

    There is the unwillingness to listen, a ferociously stubborn not getting it on so many things, so many important things. And the obdurate refusal to believe, to internalize, that my outrage is not manufactured and my injure not make-believe—an inflexible rejection of the possibility that my pain is authentic, in favor of the consolatory belief that I am angry because I’m a feminist (rather than the truth: that I’m a feminist because I’m angry).

    And there is the denial about engaging in misogyny, even when it’s evident, even when it’s pointed out gently, softly, indulgently, carefully, with goodwill and the presumption that it was not intentional. There is the firm, fixed, unyielding denial—because it is better and easier to imply that I’m stupid or crazy, that I have imagined being insulted by someone about whom I care (just for the fun of it!), than it is to just admit a bloody mistake. Rather I am implied to be a hysteric than to say, simply, I’m sorry.

  132. Emrysmyrddin says

    Sorry, just trying to add my own throught process. No toe-stepping intended.

  133. carlie says

    Oh, man. I read “just a bunny” and thought huh, I have no idea what that’s about…

    and then about two minutes later, I went “oh shit THAT bunny”. Yeah. That too.

    I tried specifically to avoid bringing up E*gate for most of this, but I just didn’t know what other analogy to make any more. I just don’t see how it’s not completely obviously the same type of complaint and dismissal. Ok, for the sake of argument, let’s say that yes, you’re all right, Melissa was totally in the wrong in her read of the statement, full stop (which I don’t believe, but let’s go with it for a minute). Now what? What do you want? Do you want her to ignore it, when it was specifically written as a question to her to begin with? Do you want her to apologize for seeing things through the lens of her own life? Do you want to somehow force her to like you? Do you want to change the discourse to the understanding that intent is, in fact, magic? I just don’t understand the motivation.

    And I’m not a complete fangirl of the whole Shakesville system applied to all blogs. I disagree with the idea that heavy moderation should be enforced everywhere, and I’ve made quite a few comments about that. I actually do take it as an unfortunate, but necessary loss that, in this subset of movement atheism, people who prefer heavy moderation will choose to stay away from it. But that doesn’t mean that all of her points should be dismissed, and most importantly, that doesn’t mean that I get to say her point is wrong that such a culture will drive some people away. It’s true for the people it’s true for, and trying to badger them into coming along with something they don’t agree with isn’t ever going to work. I just don’t know what the benefit is in trying to do that to them.

  134. Emrysmyrddin says

    And I stated only very recently in another thread that Pharyngula is the only online community that I really respect. I’m really honestly not doing or seeing ‘attacking the community’ here.

  135. Pteryxx says

    Emyrismyrddin: Uh, if that was to me, no apologies needed. I’m trying to point out this exact silencing phenomenon, women who are part of a community not wanting to speak up because they have to measure whether it’s worth the risk of blowback from people they care about, has been described before. It’s nicknamed “Swallow shit, or ruin the whole day?” from the well-known essay I quoted, and the author happens to be the person whose motivations are getting picked apart in this thread. Like the Onion article (*shudder*) it’s accurate even though it was written in 2009, because this pattern of behavior happens all the time.

  136. Pteryxx says

    *Emrysmyrddin. Sorry, I shouldn’t have expected my spelling skills alone to get me through that one. *blush*

  137. ChasCPeterson says

    Chris, thanks for the perspective. That comment ought to be required reading for reg’lars.

    (It also implies, I think, that ‘outsider’ critics of the pharyngulariat can’t possibly know what they’re talking about, which explains a lot.)

  138. Jessie says

    This is really uncomfortable. The last two years have made it clear that I don’t have as much in common with my fellow atheists and skeptics as I had thought. This thread makes me wonder if the same could be true of the Pharyngula community. There seems to be a tendency by a number of people to assume malice and to become defensive when any criticism is made, even when that criticism was invited as part of an attempt to be truly inclusive.

    If your reaction to Melissa’s comment is negative, please pull back and think about the reason you are reacting the way you are.

  139. says

    7. I got the usual pushback—I’m a big meanie poopyhead for wondering why PZ would have “reservations” about my advice because it isn’t tailored specifically to atheist men; I’m “uncharitable”; my tone is THE WORST and I am terrible; Shakesville is totes garbage; and the always-popular Hey, I think you’re totally wrong, but feel free to explain basic feminism to me and try to change my mind.

    I started out writing about why I didn’t want to have anything to do with mainstream movement atheism, but, in the end, this entire endeavor has revealed that whether I want anything to do with mainstream movement atheism is irrelevant, because mainstream movement atheism doesn’t want to have anything to do with me.

    Message received. I’ll show myself out, etc.

    Of course I don’t actually mean me, per se. What I mean is people from various marginalized populations, who challenge the kyriarchal structures at work in mainstream movement atheism, despite its claims to aspire to better.

    OK, what the hell? I’m trying to think of the appropriate adjective to describe this sort of reaction. My calling her reading uncharitable (gasp!) is an example of “pushback” and evidence that the movement doesn’t want anything to do with her or people from marginalized populations generally? Having been fighting this fight here alone since at least 2008, I’m rather surprised to learn that I’m part of the problem.

    I’m sure I’ll continue to read and link to her posts, since I’ve read many that were excellent, but it’s hard to take this sort of response seriously.

  140. sharkjack says

    Allright, if I’m going to start being more vocal about this, it might as well start here.

    First off, it doesn’t take that much of an uncharitable reading to get to the conclusion that some deflection was going on. I’m happy PZ clarified his intent in this post without feeling the need to strike back. FTBullying in action indeed.

    Second off, the principle of charity is something you apply to arguments in order to best find the strength of arguments and effective ways to beat them. It cuts time otherwise spent on clarifying when both parties know what was meant. In this case, the intent might have been clear to regulars, but to outsiders the ‘reservation’ tell would obscure that and it fell into a predictable pattern that many have already identified above.

  141. Gregory Greenwood says

    For whatever it is worth, this thread has helped me understand ths source of the miscommunication and why Melissa interpreted what PZ said the way she did. I have gone from considering her response a ‘shade harsh’ in my first post to grasping that her reading was perfectly valid, and indeed is a likely reading for anyone not intimately familiar with PZ’s style. PZ has clarified his position and pointed out that he doesn’t want or need anyone over zeolously rushing to his defence.

    The thread has been worrying a times, and some of the entrenched, reactionary attitudes on display do seem to carry worrying resonaces of ‘Elevatorgate’ as some other posters have observed. While it is disturbing to see such attitudes replicated here in Pharyngula – a place I for one had hoped was a safe space – and even more worrying for me to realise that I was beginning to wonder into that mire myself in the early thread, we need to be able to have this kind of discussion if we are ever to succeed in rendering atheism into a more welcoming space for women.

    I would like to thank posters like Pteryxx, Beatrice and Carlie would guided me back to the path of reason with a minimum use of cattle prods (and probably rather more gently than I deserved). Now I’ll go back to reading the thread and hopefully learning something.

  142. says

    Ok, for the sake of argument, let’s say that yes, you’re all right, Melissa was totally in the wrong in her read of the statement, full stop (which I don’t believe, but let’s go with it for a minute). Now what? What do you want? Do you want her to ignore it, when it was specifically written as a question to her to begin with? Do you want her to apologize for seeing things through the lens of her own life? Do you want to somehow force her to like you? Do you want to change the discourse to the understanding that intent is, in fact, magic? I just don’t understand the motivation.

    I think I’m coming to the realization that part of my problem with it was a fact that several people have mentioned: that she is, as far as “mainstream movement atheism” is concerned, something of an outsider. To the best of my knowledge, she hasn’t been active in the movement, including at the intersection of feminism and atheism. (I could well be wrong about this, but if I am then the explanation that she’s an outsider doesn’t really work.) So I’m not thrilled about her lack of interest in who she’s actually responding to when she makes these broad claims about responses representing pushback and deflection and so on. I’m not saying someone has to investigate the history of every blogger and commenter, but a little more effort in this direction – including possibly asking for clarification from people who’ve shown good faith – before blanket claims about “mainstream movement atheism” or characterizing critical responses as “pushback” would be appreciated. I think it would also save her a lot of emotional energy.

    (Incidentally, I think 18 items is a pretty long list for a post, and I’m not sure why saying that should be an issue.)

  143. Beatrice (looking for a happy thought) says

    Gregory,

    Thanks for the thanks. I could have probably phrased some things better last evening, but I’m glad you got something from my comments anyway.

  144. vaiyt says

    Holy shit what’s wrong with you people. It’s not the first time I’ve felt uncomfortable with the way some commenters get defensive about criticism of PZ, but this crosses the line. Melissa is precisely the kind of person you ostensibly want the atheist community to be more welcoming of – and then you turn around and tell her how she should feel about you? Good fucking job. I’m sure you’re all proud of yourselves.

  145. Rob Grigjanis says

    I’d also like to add my thanks to Pteryxx, Beatrice, carlie, theoreticalgrrrl and others for putting this in its proper perspective.

  146. says

    Melissa is precisely the kind of person you ostensibly want the atheist community to be more welcoming of – and then you turn around and tell her how she should feel about you? Good fucking job. I’m sure you’re all proud of yourselves.

    If someone is going to be confirmed in her determination not to have anything to do with the atheist movement in part because she’s decided to interpret my observation that their reading of a comment in context was uncharitable as pushback and another indication that the movement is hostile to her specifically and feminists generally, I suppose I’ll have to try to carry on bearing that burden. And I’d like people to stop informing me about the “kind of people” I want the movement to be more welcoming of.

  147. theoreticalgrrrl says

    Oh dear, 18 things. The humanity!

    @Carlie, you beat me to it. The comparison with womanists/feminists of color asking white feminists to be more inclusive is a great comparison. I wouldn’t break in and say, well I have some reservations about you saying it’s a feminist or white problem because we all should strive to be more decent to each other.
    Not the point.

    And Melissa did say:
    “…when a conversation is about movement atheism and its specific failures, to then broaden the conversation is a deflection, even if it is not intended as one.”

    “Even if it’s not an intended one.” Read that part a couple of times if you have to. She’s not accusing anyone of malice.

    “I’m not pointing out how this dynamic functions because of personal animus: I’m pointing it out because it speaks to the precise problems I was addressing in the first place.”

    Not because of personal animus. Read that one a few times too.
    When stuff like this gets ignored and people just keep harping on her lack of ‘charity’ and the nerve of making long lists, yes, I completely understand why she feels dismissed and unwelcome.

  148. Helen Huntingdon says

    A few years back PZ posted asking where are the women are in atheist and skeptic movement activities? I weighed in on that thread. I pointed out that the behavior of the commenters on that very thread showed how badly the movement(s) he’s concerned with need to clean house if they want people like me bother ourselves with them.

    Reading this thread, I wind up at the exact same place. A whole hell of a lot of yahoos demanding to be treated as super-special because they say they are and getting lathered up because some woman, somewhere, doesn’t concede their centrality to the universe, but treats them like the strangers of an oppressor class that they are.

    Which as others have pointed out, is chapter and verse the dogma that was proclaimed endlessly in Elevatorgate.

    Might check back in another few years to see if you’ve made any progress.

  149. says

    Oh dear, 18 things. The humanity!

    Um, that was my point. “Long list” wasn’t a criticism. There was no cause for her to read and respond to it as it it had been. This is so ridiculous.

  150. Jackie, Ms. Paper if ya nasty says

    Salty,

    I don’t even know where to start. You response is baffling. WTF?

  151. says

    A whole hell of a lot of yahoos demanding to be treated as super-special because they say they are and getting lathered up because some woman, somewhere, doesn’t concede their centrality to the universe, but treats them like the strangers of an oppressor class that they are.

    That also seems to be a rather uncharitable interpretation of what has so far been said in this thread.

  152. Esteleth, stupid fucking starchild Tolkien worshiping douche says

    …wow.

    So PZ puts up an OP, and reiterates in the comments, that he phrased some things in a sub-optimal way, which led to a miscommunication. He says that this bad phrasing was his fault, and rephrases what he wanted to say.

    And people’s response is to harp about how the reading of his original phrasing is wrong?

    Seriously?

    If your goal was to prove McEwan’s point, this thread is doing it in spades.

  153. Jackie, Ms. Paper if ya nasty says

    Salty,

    Please continue framing these women’s concerns and mild criticisms as ridiculous while you tout what an amazing ally you are.
    We’re just so damn lucky to have friends like you.

  154. says

    OK, people, this is getting ridiculous.

    I asked McEwan what we could do better.

    She delivered.

    I was appreciative, but used wording that was easily misinterpreted. That’s now been cleared up.

    Now go back and read the list of 18 suggestions. Start there. Don’t get hung up on who is the baddie.

  155. Gen, Uppity Ingrate. says

    but treats them like the strangers of an oppressor class that they are.

    I wonder if some of the regulars (and regular readers) here haven’t become a tad complacent, haven’t taken on a shade of
    “whelp, I’m helping, go me Fuck yeah. WAIT WHY ARE YOU ANGRY AT ME? Can’t you see I’m HELPING? WTF is WRONG with you?!”

    Perhaps it is necessary to keep the above quoted in mind as well.

  156. says

    Salty,

    I don’t even know where to start. You response is baffling. WTF?

    I can’t imagine why. But I’m finding this thread strange and a bit concerning, so I think I’ll take my leave.

  157. says

    Salty,

    Please continue framing these women’s concerns and mild criticisms as ridiculous while you tout what an amazing ally you are.
    We’re just so damn lucky to have friends like you.

    Oh, for the love of…

  158. roro80 says

    @Joe #124

    I’m not going to pretend that we’re shit to placate someone who I don’t know and who doesn’t know us.

    Um, Joe? PZ asked Melissa what he could do better. Specifically. She did not ask to be “placated”. You say you’re not being defensive on your own behalf (coulda fooled me, but hey), but PZ isn’t being defensive at all about this.

  159. Helen Huntingdon says

    PZ, this happened on that last thread I weigh in on years ago — you asked commenters to address the topic of how to involve more women. Then, as now, the comment thread got derailed by those preferring instead to argue various points of the “bitches be wrong” variety.

  160. Esteleth, stupid fucking starchild Tolkien worshiping douche says

    Also, one doesn’t have to be McEwan’s biggest fan to recognize that when she’s right she’s right.

    Atheism DOES have a problem with the inclusion of women. She pointed out a few.

  161. says

    Reading through the list of Melissa’s suggestions, I couldn’t help noting this one:

    Don’t accuse women of overreacting when we are merely reacting. Don’t accuse us of being oversensitive; maybe you are not sensitive enough.

    For some reasons, I felt like posting it here. Can’t imagine why.

  162. says

    Actually, that bit of sarcasm strikes me as unhelpful, so I’ll tell you why: Because some people here desperately needs to read that. Before you tell me that she was being “uncharitable” and should have given PZ the benefit of the doubt, read that again.

  163. Anthony K says

    which are regulars having a really bad day

    And on that note, I jumped on John Morales much more harshly than he deserves, knowing him as I think I do. So I’m sorry for that, John. That wasn’t fair of me, and it was seriously unkind of me. I am sorry.

    Other than that, I’m still pretty much on board with Carlie’s comments, and the others that echo a similar sentiment.

  164. Gen, Uppity Ingrate. says

    That also seems to be a rather uncharitable interpretation of what has so far been said in this thread.

    Am I the only one starting to feel positively stabby when I see the word “uncharitable”? Has there been an instance yet where it hasn’t been used to silence someone?

  165. Anthony K says

    Am I the only one starting to feel positively stabby when I see the word “uncharitable”? Has there been an instance yet where it hasn’t been used to silence someone?

    Yep. I fucking hate it.

  166. Helen Huntingdon says

    Am I the only one starting to feel positively stabby when I see the word “uncharitable”? Has there been an instance yet where it hasn’t been used to silence someone?

    Nah, it’s being used pretty much exactly how I said above:

    yahoos demanding to be treated as super-special because they say they are and getting lathered up because some woman, somewhere, doesn’t concede their centrality to the universe, but treats them like the strangers of an oppressor class that they are.

  167. mythbri says

    Melissa is right.

    What PZ originally said could indeed be interpreted as a deflection, even if it wasn’t intentional.

    I can’t count the number of times I’ve been asked by various male-dominated communities what they could do to be more welcoming to women.

    I give them my feedback.

    They say, “Yeah, but that’s not just applicable to men – women should do that stuff, too!”

    DUH.

    But the subject of the original question was “What can we (meaning the male majority) do to be more welcoming to women?”

    I don’t see this as critical of PZ or Pharyngula as a whole.

  168. roro80 says

    I’m still having trouble figuring out why so many here seems to think that there was a misreading of the post, or that the word “reservations” was the whole of the issue. I mean, I’ve read all the comments here on this and the other threads on the topic.

    As one other commenter pointed out, blowing up a list meant explicitly for atheist men who care about getting more women to participate in atheist spaces (which it was) to all of humanity is a deflection (even if unintentional) and a diffusion of blame from those it was aimed at.

    And please note: if it’s so obvious to the regulars here that this list is necessary for all decent human beings, and that PZ was 100% correct in this if given a “charitable” reading, then why are so many people on this thread so deeply committed to not following it? How many times have Melissa and other women been accused on this and other threads of their overemotional response, or their overreaction? There are many many comments trying to deny her and others’ lived experiences by saying that no, that’s not the right reaction to xyz., no that’s not how it happened. My guess is that not everyone here read the 2-3 links among the tweets to particular articles explaining particular phenomena that commonly drive women away from spaces like this. Has there been a no-tolerance policy on comments that deny women’s agency implemented in the past 3 days? Not my blog (or hers), but if the question is “why are women reluctant to participate?”, one answer is most certainly that many women are just sick and tired of having to defend their agency every damn day, over and over again.

    In any case, these were all on the list of suggestions that PZ pointed out as suggestions for Decent Human Beings. Do those pushing back here think that
    (a) no, they are not suggestions for Decent Human Beings,
    (b) you somehow are living by these suggestions already, or
    (c) you explicitly are not decent human beings?

    So honestly, where is this misreading or miscommunication that I keep hearing about?

  169. roro80 says

    Furthermore, I think that maybe part of the problem with *this thread* began with expanding from “suggestions to atheist men who want more women in movement atheism and this space in particular” to “suggestions for decent human beings” in the first place. We’ve got a number of male commenters here who have said that this space is awesome as it is, shouldn’t need any improvement, and nobody making suggestions is owed anything. Men who don’t want the space to be more inclusive of women are quite clearly excluded from people the original suggestion tweets were aimed at. Saying it is a list for all of decent humanity means that those who don’t care about having a women-inclusive space and are unwilling to do the things to make it so are not decent people. It certainly goes toward putting those unwilling to do the work into a reflexively defensive place, which is certainly born out here.

  170. Gregory Greenwood says

    Beatrice (looking for a happy thought) @ 156;

    Thanks for the thanks. I could have probably phrased some things better last evening,

    Not at all – it was something I needed to hear. I have a most distressing tendency to make a complete fool of myself on a semi-regular basis, and when I do I am most appreciative of the people who care enough to stop me before I get myself into too much trouble or, far worse, contribute to the alienation of others or the marginalisation of less privileged groups. So again – thanks.

    … but I’m glad you got something from my comments anyway.

    I always get something out of your comments. One of the reasosns I love coming to Pharyngula so much is that I always seem to learn something, and am often presented with opportunities to advance a little further my work in progress project of becoming a better human being. Once I have been rhetorically smacked hard enough about the head with a clue-by-4 to bring me back to my senses, I remember that, when dealing with issues of male privilege and the underlying misogyny (among many other topics) within the atheist community, rule #1 is always listen to the women. And more than just passively listen – hear what they have to say and act accordingly.

  171. says

    Chas @ 150:

    It also implies, I think, that ‘outsider’ critics of the pharyngulariat can’t possibly know what they’re talking about, which explains a lot.

    Only in the sense that it also implies that regulars can’t possibly know how this place looks unless they put in an equivalent amount of mental effort.

  172. noastronomer says

    To be honest I have to admit that I haven’t read Shakesville in quite some time. I always found the topics she writes about engaging and extremely eye-opening. However she, and her commenters, are very quick to pour vitriol on anyone not toeing the party line 100%. In the end I really couldn’t take it any more.

    Mike.

  173. Anthony K says

    To be honest I have to admit that I haven’t read Shakesville in quite some time. I always found the topics she writes about engaging and extremely eye-opening. However she, and her commenters, are very quick to pour vitriol on anyone not toeing the party line 100%. In the end I really couldn’t take it any more.

    But why is this relevant?

  174. The Mellow Monkey says

    I was really glad to see PZ’s response to this. When I saw how many comments were on this thread, I wondered if there had been some particularly virulent trolls or something.

    To see what we have instead is very disheartening.

    You don’t have to be Melissa’s biggest fan to accept that the literal meaning of what PZ said was a deflection. He literally said he had reservations and deflected specific, asked for suggestions for atheist men off towards everybody else instead. That wasn’t what his intent was, but intent isn’t magic and it was a good thing to have pointed out and a good thing to have clarified.

    These are all Good Things.

  175. la tricoteuse says

    Um. This is long. Sorry.

    I am kind of…unsure whether I’m making a huge mistake chiming in on this. I sort of feel like I’ve got one foot on each side of what’s going on in this thread and there’s no one home to bounce off of, and even if there was, it would be my manpartnerguything, who, despite identifying as a feminist, is still in possession of certain bits of privilege (of course, as we all are, etc). So he’d probably just agree with me, and that’s not helpful.

    I guess what I’m wondering is…those of you who are in full agreement with what Melissa (whose work I am 100% unfamiliar with, apart from recent goings-on here) is saying…it seems like you’re framing this as PZ Fanclub vs Feminism. I may be oversimplifying, there, but I guess I read her reaction the same way SC did, and…while it’s true that “overreacting” is a loaded term when applied to women in a way that it isn’t when applied to men, and that IS a problem (understatement)…does this mean that it isn’t possible to think someone has overreacted without that being a sexist assumption, if that person is a woman?

    Because I know I overreact. I’m a particularly emotional sort of person, I simmer just under the surface and I cry at the drop of a hat. Not because I’m a woman (though cultural norms being what they are, that’s probably why I’m sort of ALLOWED to, though it doesn’t stop me being accused of doing it on purpose sometimes, but that’s another issue), but because I’m me. So when I’m in a heated situation I often have to take extra care with my reactions, because (and I speak only for myself here) I want to make sure I’m not overreacting, because I know I’m prone to doing so. I feel like my being completely shielded at all times from accusations of overreaction (even when warranted) because such accusations often come from a sexist place (and are therefore often not warranted) is…problematic, I guess.

    So I guess my question, if I have one, is: Is it possible for it to be true that someone overreacted, even though it would be problematic to suggest that she did, or must we deny that possibility because of how loaded such an accusation can be and often is? Must we assume that it’s impossible to overreact in order to avoid that?

    I guess the same goes for “uncharitable.” Does the fact that it is often used to silence women mean that it’s never true, or that it’s never fair to point out? Is even asking this problematic?

    I don’t really know. I feel like I’m inviting accusations of concern trolling or JAQing, that I haven’t been commenting here long/regularly enough to um, receive a more “charitable” reading, whatever.

    But I don’t actually have anyone in meatspace to ask these questions. And I felt like I was the only person reading this and agreeing with SC.

    It’s not about the list. The list is good. It’s not about whether PZ misspoke. He did. His word choice wasn’t great. No argument.

    But about the reaction a lot of people seem to be having to the mildest suggestion that Melissa’s reaction was not 100% justified. As if any criticism of it could be due to nothing but internalised sexism. That there could not possibly be a valid criticism there.

    The only way I can read that and have it make sense in my head is as part of an “all authentic reactions are valid and there is no such thing as a wrong/over-reaction to a serious issue like misogyny/racism/homophobia/ableism/etc” which is a perfectly valid philosophy to espouse (you don’t need me to tell you that), and is good for marginalised people (be they women, trans* people, racial minorities, non-neurotypical, whatever) to feel like their validity is not ever ever going to be called into question in a particular community/environment. So…maybe that’s the piece that was missing for me initially?

    I sort of feel like I need to put on a flak jacket. I’m a lot better at conflict when it’s not with people I respect. It’s easy to tear into people like Andy Mansfield on the Glasgow thread, or that Lee guy on the women in the military thread, the name of which escapes me, because things are so clear cut there. This kind of thing is harder for me, but I’m trying not to shy away from it like I normally do.

    Which is not your problem, of course. I’m still learning, though, and not bringing this up isn’t going to help me as much as bringing it up is. So… sorry again for the really incredibly long post full of hedging. I have to work at not being aggressive and confrontational in my phrasing (which is why the hedging, pendulum swings and all that) almost as much as I have to work at not being emotional, weirdly enough. Maybe it’s the Italian.

  176. roro80 says

    #192:

    But about the reaction a lot of people seem to be having to the mildest suggestion that Melissa’s reaction was not 100% justified. As if any criticism of it could be due to nothing but internalised sexism.

    First, I’d like to point out that, looking objectively, SC’s reaction was much less “mild” than Melissa’s was. He did not make a “mild” suggestion about Melissa’s reaction, and certainly could be said to be pretty dramatically over-reacting himself. So besides the fact that you are more familiar with PZ’s work than Melissa’s, why is your reaction to downplace the near tantrum SC had about PZ being criticized (when PZ wasn’t even himself offended or tantrum-y about it at all), while playing up a pretty simple statement by Melissa saying “this is what happened, and this is an illustration of why I don’t feel comfortable in movement atheism”? So who, really, is being “uncharitable” here?

  177. Gen, Uppity Ingrate. says

    @192, I also have a problem with people deciding that other people’s feelings are valid or invalid.

    Melissa McEwan reacted the way she did and she explained why she did. Even if you don’t agree with the explanation, why is it necessary to invalidate her feelings?

  178. says

    noastronomer:

    However she, and her commenters, are very quick to pour vitriol on anyone not toeing the party line 100%. In the end I really couldn’t take it any more.

    In what universe would this be relevant at all? I have a major problem with this type of comment – the post was not “What do you think of Shakesville?” The post was clarifying an exchange about what atheist men can do to be good allies, how they can help clean out all the shit layering the floor of the atheoskeptisphere and be more inclusive of women. Interesting how you have nothing at all to say about any of that.

  179. says

    SC’s reaction was much less “mild” than Melissa’s was. He did not make a “mild” suggestion about Melissa’s reaction, and certainly could be said to be pretty dramatically over-reacting himself.

    There’s your problem right there. You presupposed SC’s gender and went with it to feed your presuppositions. I’m just not surprised.

  180. Esteleth, stupid fucking starchild Tolkien worshiping douche says

    WTF.

    PZ said, in the OP, and in the comments, that his phrasing was sub-optimal, and that he gets how Melissa could read him the way she did.

    Melissa, in the comments of her post, stomped on people who hopped on the “PZ sucks” truck and said that if she didn’t think PZ was willing to listen and act accordingly, that she wouldn’t have responded to him in the first place.

    And yeah, commenters at Shakesville do stomp on people who expose their asses. Rather, I’ll point out, like how commenters here stomp on people who expose their asses. The readership of the two blogs overlap a good deal. How the fuck did this turn into a “Shakesville v. Pharyngula Go To War”?!

    I find myself labeling this a “not my Nigel” reaction. Because that’s what I think it is.

  181. roro80 says

    Apologies to SC for the assumption.

    I suppose, rorschash, that my mistake means that what I said is entirely without validity? And you presume to be the arbiter of “unchartitable”? Huh.

  182. UnknownEric: A Man, A Plan, A Canal, Panama? says

    In what universe would this be relevant at all? I have a major problem with this type of comment – the post was not “What do you think of Shakesville?” The post was clarifying an exchange about what atheist men can do to be good allies, how they can help clean out all the shit layering the floor of the atheoskeptisphere and be more inclusive of women.

    Exactly. Whether or not one personally likes moderation policies or whatever at Shakesville is completely and totally irrelevant to what Melissa is saying. Let’s talk about her suggestions and how we can implement them (or not, depending on your p.o.v.) and leave the “Ooh, I don’t like that place” elsewhere.

    (Did that come off jerky? I really wasn’t trying to be.)

  183. Pteryxx says

    I guess the same goes for “uncharitable.” Does the fact that it is often used to silence women mean that it’s never true, or that it’s never fair to point out? Is even asking this problematic?

    I’m not speaking to any one person with this.

    … I see this a lot, when someone goes to “but then nobody can EVER say x” or “does that mean ALL women…” and I wish there were a handy essay I could point to about how people receive certain kinds of privilege checks as meaning THE WORLD HAS CHANGED OMG. For instance, compare “then guys can NEVER hit on women” or “she calls herself a ‘bitch’ therefore it’s ALWAYS okay” just to name a couple of really well known arguments.

    There are also examples where ‘uncharitable’ has been used completely with justification. Caine and I were in the middle of one just a few days ago, y’all may recall. It comes up a lot when commenters counter the pitters’ accusations about Ophelia. Seems like folks here can use the concept of ‘uncharitable’ just fine except when it comes to a feminist reading of our own unconscious biases. Which, again, is more evidence proving McEwan’s point: when a prominent man says something that subtly deflects criticism of his privilege, a woman points it out as part of a pattern, and our response as a group (on average) is to fumble our reading as if she’d said “YOU LIE!” seriously? We can do better than that. We HAVE done better than that, when it involved pitters or regulars or random trolls. Self-examination is fuckin’ hard.

  184. UnknownEric: A Man, A Plan, A Canal, Panama? says

    Self-examination is fuckin’ hard.

    If I can invoke that old Peace Corps slogan, it’s the toughest job you’ll ever love (the results of).

  185. says

    Pteryxx:

    Seems like folks here can use the concept of ‘uncharitable’ just fine except when it comes to a feminist reading of our own unconscious biases. Which, again, is more evidence proving McEwan’s point: when a prominent man says something that subtly deflects criticism of his privilege, a woman points it out as part of a pattern, and our response as a group (on average) is to fumble our reading as if she’d said “YOU LIE!” seriously? We can do better than that. We HAVE done better than that, when it involved pitters or regulars or random trolls. Self-examination is fuckin’ hard.

    Wordy McWord Word. I’m going to repeat post 169, too, which happened to be posted by PZ and it seems to me lots of people are happily ignoring it:

    OK, people, this is getting ridiculous.

    I asked McEwan what we could do better.

    She delivered.

    I was appreciative, but used wording that was easily misinterpreted. That’s now been cleared up.

    Now go back and read the list of 18 suggestions. Start there. Don’t get hung up on who is the baddie.

  186. says

    Oddly enough, there’s a metric fuckton of uncharitability being engaged in here that’s not being described as such. Unless I’ve somehow missed a memo about uncharitability flowing only towards men.

  187. Emrysmyrddin says

    The only real-life comparison I can make is probably not sufficient, but I’ll give it a go.
    .
    My partner and I are talking about having a kid in a few year’ time, and he admitted a small-but-there preference for a boy (not a problem in itself), as, he said, he could ‘do boy things, boys’ club stuff’ with a boy.
    .
    This led to a conversation where I said that I didn’t mind him having a small-but-there preference, but that I’d like him to be mindful of what he saw as ‘boy things’ and ‘girl things’, that he knew that I have very ‘untraditionally female’ interests, that my dad used to blow stuff up in the garden with me, make electrical circuits, and taught me how to sew and bake; that I hoped that he’d be aware that kids are like sponges, and can absorb positive/negative ideas as to ‘appropriate’ interests for their gender, and take into account that if it turns out to be a girl, she may want to camp and climb and shoot air rifles just as much as a boy might want to cook and act and play with dolls. That I’d like him to just bear in mind that he might want to think about how his language and behaviour might set an example one way or the other, and we should, before even trying to conceive, realise what a responsibility it is to try and bring a decent human being into the world.
    .
    Two hours later, through frustrated tears, after points nitpicked over and over and over again, I finally got past his assumption that I was trying to raise a ‘genderless’ child, the extreme position that he immediately flew to in thinking that because I’d pointed something out, it meant that I wanted some kind of militarily-enforced gender neutrality…
    .
    …and my partner I consider ‘one of the good guys’. He’s a lot better than many people I know – which to be honest sometimes frightens me.
    .
    It’s hard to encounter, to find, the extreme reaction again and again, when you’ve gone out of your way to be as mild as possible, to explain your position with careful words, to look for a discussion, and then be flung into the Realm of Extreme Possibilities. The whole ‘feminists want to castrate men!!’ is a jump-to straw feminist for a reason – it’s a common reaction to the mildest of comments. I want that to not be the case any more, I’m tired of it in meatspace let alone online.

  188. Cyranothe2nd, ladyporn afficianado says

    Emrysmyrddin–I’m so sorry that you had to have that frustration. It’s a great example of McEwan’s Regretful Bargain, though.

    To Caine, Carlie, Gen, theoreticalggrl, Lyke, Jackie, mythbri, AnthonyK (I’m sure I’m missing people here)–THANK YOU!!! Thank you for continuing to point out how privilege acts and reacts when called out in even the mildest way.

    To those who are using this as an opportunity to rag on Shakesville’s comment policy or call Melissa “hysterical” or whatever–FUCK YOU. Seriously, fuck you.

  189. says

    Thanks PZ, so glad you set the record straight. I read Melissas post with a sinking feeling of “oh, no, here we go again”.
    I think this is the takeaway: people who have been hurt – and that automatically includes the people without the privilege, who get hurt over and over again – may be more sensitive certain nuances, and may not read things the way we mean them*. We can get upset about why are good intentions are mistrusted (aka RiftTM), or we can do what PZ did: say, I need to clarify…
    I wish this were more common in atheist circles.
    (* I don’t mean to imply others do…)

  190. PatrickG says

    @ Caine:

    It’s vitally important for men to speak up and speak out, consistently.

    I’m trying to do that more, even if I don’t have anything particularly profound to say, and even if I am afraid of not having much to say, appearing to mansplain, or feeling really uncomfortable speaking about areas outside my personal bailiwick.

    So, others have said this, but I won’t let that stop me: I’ve been really, really startled by the complete lack of empathy displayed by a few people in this discussion (over multiple threads) towards McEwan’s situation under siege. It’s not all that different from what happens to bloggers at FTB. The vitriol directed towards Shakesville has been startling, to say the least.

    And I regret my comment in one of the other threads (can’t seem to dredge it up quickly)… Whether or not I read Shakesville regularly is irrelevant. Whether or not I like the community standards there is irrelevant. I’m not sure if my comment there was taken as part of the Shakesville-bashing (or hell, even noticed!), but I’d like to apologize for contributing to that. My intent was certainly not to fuel that fire, but we all know what intent isn’t.

  191. says

    Patrick:

    I’ve been really, really startled by the complete lack of empathy displayed by a few people in this discussion (over multiple threads) towards McEwan’s situation under siege. It’s not all that different from what happens to bloggers at FTB. The vitriol directed towards Shakesville has been startling, to say the least.

    I can’t say I was startled, but I can say I’ve been really disappointed by the lack of empathy and the failure to recognize the similarity in what is often said about FTB. There’s more than enough room and need for both Pharyngula and Shakesville. I don’t care if one or the other isn’t someone’s cuppa – that’s fine, you don’t need to read or comment in a place you don’t like.

  192. PatrickG says

    @ Caine: Yeah, I probably meant more “disappointed” than “startled”.

    To the rest: word. I’m still feeling a little shitty for contributing to the situation, but hopefully I’ll get better at previewing my comments for content, intended or not. And of course, I look forward to the metaphorical shivs opportunities for self-reflection and education I’ll receive when I (inevitably) screw up again.

  193. Emrysmyrddin says

    Thanks, Cyrano, I hope it was coherent enough to be understandable. And I don’t mean the anecdote as a complaint, or call it a Massive Life Event, or anything, it was just a blip in my everyday that I tagged under ‘ugh, not again’. I don’t think that comes across very well to people who don’t routinely experience microaggression – most of the time, you’re(general) not angry, you’re just tired of having to use that brain tag, again. And it’s worse when it originated from someone you trusted to know/respect you enough to not suddenly leap to the [straw]extreme.

  194. says

    Damn!

    You know, it’s certainly possible that Melissa McEwan COULD have read PZ’s post more charitably… but I am really glad she didn’t, because apparently some folks around here needed to hear what she had to say. I agree with her that the deflection was indeed a deflection, even if it occurred without intent, and that it weakened PZ’s message.

    That is really ALL that needed to be said here.

  195. francesc says

    First, the cautions: I don’t live in the US and I’m not part of your atheist community. I only know the outlines about the misogynistic slymepitters.
    Once said that, I have read in the comments “[…] won’t help with the goal of getting more women into movement atheism who are already turned off”. This was a particular comment, but there are other comments in the thread wich have the same idea implicit.
    I don’t think that should be the goal: in my opinion -hey, it is YOUR community- the goal should be that atheism community will become a place where women can get listen to and they were comfortable speaking and participating in. As a nice consequence you may get more women into it, but that may not be the goal per se.

  196. noastronomer says

    @caine & anthony k

    (with utmost respect)

    hmm… I took another look at my comment, and it is just a comment, last night and compared it to the orginal post. I still feel it has at least some relevance to the original post. Though obviously not to the larger discussion. PZ quoted a Shakesville commenter who attacked him for taking a position that was in fact the complete opposite of the worst possible interpretation of his comment*. My comment agrees with that sentiment noting that I had observed similar reactions in the past.

    Is it a magically deep comment? Nope. Does it contribute to the discussion of who said what and who was or was not charitable? Nope, that discussion was thrashed to death by comment #188. Was it an expression of my reaction to the article? Yes. Was it the reaction you think I should have had? Probably not.

    Finally, as far as my opinion on the list and the comment goes: it’s a good list, when I’m not standing in front of the pearly gates I would like to be able to say I lived by it’s principles, and I feel PZ’s word selection was … unfortunate (pot meet keetle). On the bright side Melissa has gained at least one more reader out of this.

    Mike.