So Katha’s article is online now, so I can point to it. She talked to me when she was working on it.
Here’s a great way to make a movement: have your most famous and powerful public figures obsess over Henry Higgins’s famous question, “Why can’t a woman be more like a man?” Why aren’t they more into critical thinking, argument, logic? more rational? Why do they accuse a man of sexual harassment when he’s just trying to chat them up in an elevator at 4 in the morning? Why do they get drunk and then accuse men of rape? Then, having alienated a huge number of actual and potential members, to whom you sound arrogant, vain, sexist and clueless, look around and wonder, Gee, where are the women? They must be even less rational than we thought!
Well quite. People can bluster and fume all they like, but that is what has been happening. It’s no good pretending that Dawkins has not alienated a huge number of women and feminist men (among others).
At the grassroots level, women who speak up against harassment or sexism in the movement have been the target of disgusting attacks online, the sort of vicious obscenity and violent threats notoriously visited upon Anita Sarkeesian and other women in the gaming and tech worlds. If a recipient becomes angry or upset, that just proves she was weak and crazy to begin with. Let me tell you, I’ve seen a tiny sample of the missives directed at Melody Hensley, executive director of the Center for Inquiry–DC, and I can see why she suffers from PTSD. “I receive harassment all day long every day on social media. I also receive threats daily. I have had dozens of videos made about me, harassing me,” she says. “Everything I write online is compiled by my harassers. Even though I know the Internet is public, it’s eerie being watched every moment. I have had people call my home and tell me that they were going to kill me.”
Again – it’s no good pretending all that is just make-believe.
I don’t think it’s healthy for the secular movements to be so focused on a handful of male stars, but here is where some firm leadership might be useful. Instead, Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris talk as if their obnoxious fanboys were all that stood between the values of the Enlightenment and the barbarous darkness of feminist fascism. And they’re happy to make common cause against feminists with whoever’s available. As Dawkins tweeted on September 7, “The ‘Big Sister is Watching You’ Thought Police hate @CHSommers’ Factual Feminism, and you can see why.” That’s the same Christina Hoff Sommers who has a mutual admiration society with noted Enlightenment philosopher Rush Limbaugh. If she’s spoken up against the misogyny and willful ignorance of the Christian right, I’ve missed it.
Then she moves on to the joint statement and its almost immediate aftermath, and Sam Harris’s “it’s more of a guy thing” moment. Then she says that at this rate she’d rather be a Catholic than be part of the atheist movement.