You need thick skin to be a blogger – or really, to interact with people on the internet in general. The “Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory” sums up why pretty well. One way I keep my sanity is to not read the comments when people share my posts on sites like reddit, though sometimes I slip up out of curiosity. Let me just say, the Encyclopedia Dramatica article on boobquake is so unflattering, it’s flattering.
Usually I’m okay. But I’ll admit, sometimes the trolls and assholes can get to me, especially if I’m already in a bad mood for some other reason. I have a better time handling douchebaggery here, since my readers tend to eviscerate the comments reeking of stupidity. But it’s not foolproof.
If there’s one thing that will ensure I’ll have a bad day, it’s posting about feminism.
Until now, I couldn’t figure out why sexist comments here upset me so much.
It wasn’t because they were shocking – they’d fill up the antifeminist bingo card almost instantly. They’re so predictable that some of my readers will even preemptively comment with stuff like, “Misogynistic comments and oblivious sexism in 3… 2…1…” And when I see those tired arguments elsewhere, I usually just facepalm and move on.
It wasn’t because they were popular – I deal with a much lower frequency of assholes than “official” feminism themed blogs. And I have many supportive, understanding, and empathetic commenters who help restore my faith in humanity.
It wasn’t because they disagree with me – religious apologetics or conservative viewpoints don’t make me want to tear my hair out anywhere near as much.
It wasn’t because they were rude – in fact, the obviously trollish ad hominem attacks (usually about my appearance) are the easiest to brush off.
So, why? Why do the horrible comments about feminism literally make me want to scream, but equally horrible comments about atheism or science just induce mild frustration? I figured it out when sexist comments were recently aimed my way at an atheist meeting. It wasn’t the first time I’d heard such things in person, but it was the first time I’d heard it in person at a godless gathering. It clicked.
I expect better of atheists.
I’ve put us up on a pedestal.
It makes sense why I would think this way. Based on personal experience, non-theists do tend to be less sexist than the general public. For one thing, we lack the anti-woman rules perpetuated by most major religions. On the contrary, humanism is explicitly supportive of gender equality. It’s also hard to be a sexist skeptic, since there is no evidence to support sexist ideas. Ideologies that support gender equality and skepticism go hand in hand (even if you want to debate the name said ideology should have, because the “f” word gives you hives). And it’s hard to be an unskeptical atheist. Most atheists don’t believe in god precisely because they’re skeptical of religion and the supernatural.
Unfortunately, there are exceptions. Even though we don’t have sexist religious tradition, we can still pick it up from our surrounding culture. And not all atheists are skeptical, nor do all skeptics apply that skepticism to every area of their life.
So when I see some of my predominantly godless readership perpetuating the same fallacies, it’s frankly disappointing. I had deluded myself into thinking we were above that – that I could feel totally comfortable within this group – but I was wrong. If I toe the line and keep criticising religion, I’m fine. But if I dare to mention women’s issues, I’m effectively told to get back in the kitchen. It brings the worst out of people.
Some days it can really bring me down, but ultimately it just motivates me even more. It illustrates why combining my interests in feminism and skepticism is so important. It’s not just about showing women why atheism and skepticism is the better option for women, which I still would assert. It’s about showing skepticism why sexism is not rational, and making the atheist movement more welcoming to women.
I’m critical because I know we can do better. It may take a lifetime to find out, but hopefully I’m right.