Acrimonious divorce

This is what it’s like being me and having blog colleagues right now:

There’s Heina’s nasty, insinuating, having it both ways post about me yesterday. It had 98 likes on Facebook last time I looked.

I haven’t kept up with every specific thing that has gone on with regard to the recent particular matter of my colleague Ophelia Benson. I don’t want to misspeak or misstep; furthermore, others on every side of this have direct evidence of what was said and done by the many involved, whereas I do not.

To make my own stance on the matter at hand clear:

    • Trans women are women. Period.

  • It is antithetical to basic logic to take my last stance to mean that I think that cis women aren’t women, or that cis women’s status as women is at all in question. Where A = trans women, B = women, and C = cis women, “All C are not B” does not necessarily or obligatorily follow “All A are B”.
  • The fact that cis women are women is not disputed by anyone, not trans women nor non-binary trans folk nor men nor trans men. Even on the very fringes of radical non-cis thought, spaces where I often find myself, I’ve yet to see anyone questioning the legitimacy of cis women’s status as women. On the other hand, some people, including some women, think that trans women’s status as women is up for debate.
  • The mere existence of women who think that trans women’s status as women is up for debate is damaging and harmful to trans women. That the illegitimate debate about trans women’s status of women often goes beyond “debate” makes it all the worse and deadly. There is no valid defense for self-described “radical feminists” who are more accurately described as TERFs.
  • Violating anyone’s privacy is wrong, no matter what wrong they have done. Violating a trans woman’s privacy is even worse because they live under the real and brutal dangers associated with transmisogyny in addition to those associated with overall misogyny.

She doesn’t know much about it – “the recent particular matter of my colleague Ophelia Benson” – but that doesn’t stop her insinuating all that above and more.

There’s Jason’s post from last Saturday, with 146 comments so far, most of them packed with falsehoods and wild conclusions derived from nothing.

There’s this piece of garbage from today, by Heather McNamara, someone I don’t know from Adam who is posting on the network I’m on. The post completely misrepresents what I’ve said – flat out gets it backward. Check out the last paragraph:

But because I’m feeling nice, I’m going to help Ophelia out a little. Ophelia, somebody posed the question “is a trans woman a woman? Yes or no.” They weren’t asking you what gender is. They didn’t care what you think gender is. What they were asking was: shouldn’t trans people be allowed the same degree of self-determination as cis people? And in spite of your oblivious insistence otherwise, you answered with a loud and resounding “No.”

No, that’s exactly wrong. What they were asking was NOT: shouldn’t trans people be allowed the same degree of self-determination as cis people? You know how I know that? Because of the “yes or no.” Yes or no means DO NOT RE-WORD. Yet here is Heather McNamara re-wording the post and berating me for not answering the question that way…

But I did answer the question that way a few days later. Heather McNamara doesn’t mention that.

And that’s how this is going. They’ve all decided I’m an Evil Transphobe, regardless of the lack of any real evidence of that, so they’re just going to keep repeating it from now until fucking doomsday.

Friendly working environment, yeh?


With “colleagues” like these, who needs enemies?


  1. says

    I… I don’t know what to say, other than that I’m not insinuating anything. I was directly stating my own stance because people have asked me where I stand thanks to everything that’s been going on. Literally that. I did not say anything about your stances, since part of the problem for you has been people saying inaccurate things about your stances.

  2. Thomas1967 says

    @ Heina #1 I think you know exactly what you did. If you choose not to decide you still have made a choice. PZ chose correctly.

  3. Ian Staines says

    Heina, you may not think you were “insinuating” anything but I (and obviously Ophelia) insinuated a lot from your harmful comments. You are agreeing that Ophelia Benson is a TERF when she demonstrably is not. Her own remarks, amounting to “I am not a TERF”, are evidence of this fact.
    If you think that women are liars (even when the evidence is so strongly against your claim) maybe you need to reconsider your place in feminism.

    -Ian Staines

  4. anteprepro says


    @ Heina #1 I think you know exactly what you did. If you choose not to decide you still have made a choice.

    The irony. (What was that about forcing people to make absolutist “yes/no” stances, again?)

    Ian Staines:

    If you think that women are liars (even when the evidence is so strongly against your claim) maybe you need to reconsider your place in feminism.

    And speaking of nasty insinuations.

  5. sambarge says

    Ah well, intent isn’t magic, right? Regardless of intent, harm done is harm done.

    That said, can someone tell me what Ophelia did or said that resulted in the demand that she flash her trans-ally credentials? I still have no idea what triggered this nonsense or the, if you’ll excuse my judgment, seemingly disproportionate response to it. I see no post on her blog that suggests she doesn’t support the full expression of gender. I understand that she “liked” a comment on a FB page with hateful commentary and follows a couple possible TERFs on Twitter (maybe?). If someone can point to an instance where Ophelia suggested that trans women have no place in female spaces then I’d be much obliged.


  6. Ian Staines says

    Keep your snide insinuations to yourself, please. They have no place in reasoned debate.

  7. anteprepro says

    Reasoned debate where you tell someone they aren’t really feminist, they are calling all women liars, all while putting words in her mouth? And with no sense of irony, accusing everyone else of “insinuation”? Dr. Ian Staines, heal thyself.

  8. A Masked Avenger says

    Heina, it’s clear to me that you weren’t trying to comment on Ophelia, and that that’s what you meant when you said, “To make my own stance on the matter at hand clear…”

    The situation has become charged enough that polarization is inevitable: every comment is seen as either “for” or “against.” You might have been able to avoid that by making a more extensive disclaimer than the bit I just quoted, but quite possibly not. I think the trigger is actually your first bullet. Answering the question that Ophelia took exception to appears to some like a performative commentary on her refusal. “See? She couldn’t answer, but I can answer right up!” That is actually how it struck me the first time I read your post. Only in retrospect, based on your comment here, is it now obvious to me that you were trying to clarify your own position without commenting on what Ophelia’s may or may not be.

    Since I value both of your contributions on FTB, I’d like to see this misunderstanding clear up rather than continue escalating.

  9. Ian Staines says

    “Liking” a comment of Facebook is irrelevant to the matter of actually “liking” what is said.
    Many people ironically “like” Facebook comments. I do so whenever a friend or family memeber posts a racist joke or sexist image. It doesn’t mean I wholeheartedly agree with it.

  10. Ian Staines says

    “Antepropo said-
    “Reasoned debate where you tell someone they aren’t really feminist, they are calling all women liars, all while putting words in her mouth? And with no sense of irony, accusing everyone else of “insinuation”? Dr. Ian Staines, heal thyself.”

    There you go again. Insinuating I’m a doctor this time. A typical TERF tactic.
    Knock it off. It’s getting boring.

  11. A Masked Avenger says

    Last thing I want is to pulled into a debate about what “Liking” on Facebook means, but…

    When people announce the deaths of parents, children, and spouses, on Facebook, I generally click “Like.” I’m not good at expressing condolences, so unless I’m pretty close to the person, that’s all I do.

    When someone announces minor negative news, like “Sunburned all over–in lots of pain,” I’ve been known to click “Like” and then add a meta comment such as, “I like your pain.” See, the joke is that clicking “Like” is an expression of support, but literally it implies that I’m pleased by their suffering. I don’t use that joke on posts about bereavement, though.

  12. anteprepro says

    Ian Staines:

    There you go again. Insinuating I’m a doctor this time. A typical TERF tactic.
    Knock it off. It’s getting boring.

    Are you deliberately trying to shitstir to make Ophelia look bad?

  13. A Masked Avenger says

    There you go again. Insinuating I’m a doctor this time. A typical TERF tactic. Knock it off.

    Uh, what? TERFs like to accuse people of being physicians? To what end? Or are you joking, and I missed it?

    anteprepro was quoting the proverb, “Physician, heal thyself.” They wanted to call you out by name, and it worked better to say “Dr. Ian Staines” than “physician Ian Staines.”

  14. Ian Staines says

    TERFs routinely accuse people of being in professions they don’t belong to. I’ve been labelled a “shit shoveler” a “dick inspector” and now a “doctor”. All by TERF’s and their allies. So don’t tell me about TERFs and their smearing tactics because I’ve seen them all.

  15. A Masked Avenger says

    Ian, I’m a regular here and have been supportive of Ophelia right along. So please take it from me that you need to bring it down a notch.

  16. PatrickG says

    From The Google:

    I’m going to say anteprepro is on the right track with:

    Are you deliberately trying to shitstir to make Ophelia look bad?

    particularly given they don’t have any commenting history until just now:

    Your search – “Ian Staines” – did not match any documents.

    Though really, the sheer stupidity was enough of a tip-off.

  17. anteprepro says

    Well, Ian Staines, the slymepit has also had an interest in this whole rather embarrassing affair. And after a quick googling, I don’t see that you have commented on this blog or other freethought blogs before under that name (though, my methods are very fallible). It would explain comments like your number 16. The obvious hypocrisy. The frequent use of “TERF” in a way that doesn’t even make sense. The inexplicable offense at being jokingly called “doctor”. The fact that all you can seem to do is parrot back what people say to you. The fact that it all reads like a bad joke. It would all add up quite nicely.

    Just sayin’.

  18. =8)-DX says

    Just to say I’m in support of both here. Most of the “argument” seems to be about rhetoric, jumping to conclusions and semantics.

    And most of the shit-stirring has been from trolls like this Ian dude.

  19. sambarge says

    Ok. So, still no link or direction to what Ophelia said or did that started off this clusterfuck? Ok.

  20. Ian Staines says

    That would require proof. They have none so they use lies and nasty hints to destroy Ophelia’s reputation and web-presence.

  21. says

    Except I didn’t say she was a TERF. Holy moley. I’ve done all I can, but I can’t prevent people from taking me in bad faith if they’re convinced I’m acting in bad faith.

  22. elephantasy says

    What constitutes “the matter at hand” is very much in question. It appears Heina took it to be “is a trans woman a woman, yes or no”. To me, it was having that question thrown out in an inquisitorial manner, along with insistence that a “no” answer would confirm that the undesirable TERF label would then be considered appropriate. A much more complicated and combative situation. Followed by a great deal of argument and discussion, and clarifying posts, and apologies. So, at what point are we referring to the situation?

    I can understand Heina thinking perhaps that the simple question was “the situation”, but I surely she was aware that a colleague was under attack, and perhaps she could have seen the necessity of gathering details? At least checking with Ophelia?

    I get the impression there is a lot of poisoning going on, demanding that FTB bloggers all give opinions on an incorrectly summarized version of events designed to make Ophelia look bad. This is very sad.

  23. anteprepro says

    sambarge, I have no clue. Follow Ophelia’s links in the main post and you will get an idea of “both sides” positions of this “debate”. It is one major clusterfuck, come to your own conclusions.

  24. sambarge says

    Except I didn’t say she was a TERF. Holy moley. I’ve done all I can, but I can’t prevent people from taking me in bad faith if they’re convinced I’m acting in bad faith.

    From your lips to the ears of people who see TERFs everywhere.*

    But I believe you. I’ve always liked your posts on FtB and I think you’re a thoughtful, insightful blogger and this issue is a clusterfuck. Offense was taken at something (still not clear what), gauntlets were thrown, a weekend was spent stoking the fire on Pharyngula and, next thing you know, people are devouring their young.

    *I was tempted to go with the original saying (“from your lips to God’s ears”) but given the site and my atheism, it seemed inappropriate, even if used ironically.

  25. sambarge says

    anteprepro @ #28: Which one is the “main” post? Not to be obtuse but I feel like I’ve climbed into a gradual hill and it turned into a mountain without me noticing.

  26. Ian Staines says

    Ophelia has categorically stated that SHE IS NOT A TERF.
    What more do people want?
    You can hum and haw and insinuate to your heart’s content but all you are doing is bullying and confirming your biases against a woman who has done nothing but help our cause. We should NOT be fighting each other. Especially when there is nothing to fight about.
    Apologies need to be made.

  27. elephantasy says

    Sambarge, there is a thread about a week back, closed to comments, about the banning of drag performers at the Glasgow Free Pride event. Following it, there are many posts about yes-or-no questions and about gender issues, spurred by the arguments started in that thread.

  28. Erica says

    I don’t understand. People see this going on with Ophelia, and for some reason turn around and demand for Heina to make a statement? What does she have to do with it?

  29. says

    The fact that cis women are women is not disputed by anyone

    It is! Many understandings of “cis women are women” have been challenged by feminist women for years and years. We haven’t been challenging people’s self-identification, but all of the various oppressive and limiting beliefs associated with saying someone “is” “a woman.” I’m simply perplexed by the failure to recognize this. TERFs do want to deny trans women the “status” of women, which is hateful and exclusionary but also really stupid given that, as should be obvious, women’s status is fucking low. Feminists gain nothing by preserving that status, and have powerful reasons to challenge the categories on which our low status is based. And Ophelia has written a good deal over the past several months about her own ambivalence about the category in her own case, so it’s incorrect especially in this context to claim that no one is disputing that, for example, she “is” “a woman.” It’s not like we just started challenging these categories, binaries, and essentialisms, so as to exclude trans women from our coveted status; the discussions and disputes have been ongoing for a long time and for good reason, and it’s unfair to demand that feminists answer questions which in their very form push those concerns and complexities from view.

  30. Donnie says

    I read that post on Zinnia Jones’ blog, and I my reaction was “who the fuck is Heather McNamara ???”

    – There was no “Guest Post” identification.
    – Was this another nym used by Zinnia

    I, too, was confused. I had heard that name before, but cannot remember the relationship or understand the reason Heather McNamara was given the keys to, or provide a megaphone to put up a post. Zinnia’s blog, of course, and I accept and respect her blog rights. Without any context, iIt through me for a small loop. Context, as of 9am, would have been helpful.

    Besides, Ophelia, on her blog post, responded to Oloon’s demand for a “Yes/No” with a full explanation and unequivocal support for, and defending of every trans-person’s rights to be referred to their preferred name, and their pronoun. At this point, anyone who considers Ophelia a TERF is being a complete asshat.

    Plus #1 : No one has still fucking produced background information so everyone is making up, distorting, twisting and in general being fucking asshats. In otherwords, not the things allies say or do.

    Plus #2 : The fucking asshole who went through Ophelia’s Facebook friends and asked why she is FB following two people (noted as being TERFs) are no fucking better than the harassing shit the slymefuckers do. And, doing this to Ophelia? That’s fucking stalkery-and-creepy

  31. Donnie says

    Sorry for the cursing and the bolding to Opehlia and all readers. This is just pissing me off because no one has written, produced, or presented why this is even an issue. I know it has been hinted at over the last couple of weeks, but this has become more of a “We say / They say / Others say”.

    / rant and rage and bolding

  32. Donnie says

    Ophelia : The writing of Ian Staines reminds me of another Twitter / FTB commenter using an alias. Just an impression that I get.

  33. Erica says

    Heather McNamara is Zinnia’s partner. May be wife, I can’t remember if they’re married.

  34. John Horstman says

    Ian Staines is most definitely an obvious troll.

    Ophelia, I think you’re reading more into Henia’s post than was intended by her, though I also think she’s flatly wrong about one of her bullet points, and further, the point on which she is wrong is the root of this shitstorm, as I discussed in the comment I left on that post. This is not a new battle, it’s been raging for years, possibly decades, though social media has amplified the debate in the last couple of years. The weird recent twist is the conflation of TERFs, who are biological-gender essentialist, with gender constructivists, as the two groups are radically different.

  35. Ian Staines says

    Funny how the people attacking Ophelia are labelling her defenders as “trolls”.
    No agenda here. No. Not at all.

  36. Ian Staines says

    Also, Ophelia. I resepct your decison to delete comments of mine which you may have diagreed with. Your blog, your rules. I’m not one for posting much anyway but these last few days made me come out of the woodwork. Please, don’t let a handful of sociopaths and angry dogpilers make you leave a job that gives pleasure to numerous fans.

  37. Kris Rhodes says

    @John Horstman, I thought I had a handle on the whole TERF thing, but maybe not! A few months ago I read this page which is written by people I take would fall under the TERF label, and they explained that their view is that gender is socially constructed, not biologically essential. I was surprised by this, but it seems like the idea is, gender is socially constructed, the female gender is oppressed, and the only way for the oppressed, socially constructed female gender to fight this oppression is for those socially constructed as females to work together as a group. Trans people aren’t socially constructed as females, hence, they aren’t welcome.

    But you’re saying that TERFS are actually essentialists. Would you say the group who wrote what I just linked to aren’t TERFs, or aren’t accurately describing their own view, or something else I’m not understanding?

    Thanks for your help in this. Right now it’s a confusing issue for me.

  38. Kris Rhodes says

    Ophelia, I really do think (as others have said) that you misread Heina’s post. She reads to me as carefully refraining from saying anything about you or what you think, either directly or by implication.

  39. says

    Ok, Ian. Sorry if I’m being hypervigilant.

    Don’t worry, I’m not going to stop blogging. I wouldn’t dream of it. I’m just not going to be doing it here.

  40. Donnie says

    Also, the issue was Following on Twitter and *NOT* anything related with FB. My fault for adding to confusion.

  41. Kris Rhodes says

    Reply to #45:

    “I’m just not going to be doing it here.”

    Is this new information??

  42. Donnie says

    Erica says
    July 28, 2015 at 2:05 pm

    Heather McNamara is Zinnia’s partner. May be wife, I can’t remember if they’re married.

    Thank you. That is who I thought it was, and they are married as far as I know.

  43. Garrett says

    Donnie (@36), As Erica said (@39), Heather is Zinnia’s partner. You must not be the most observant person in the world since her name is on the banner and in the blog description.

    The banner reads:

    Zinnia Jones – Secular Trans Feminism with Heather McNamara…”

    The description reads:

    Zinnia Jones is a writer and videoblogger, co-blogging with Heather McNamara…”

    I think it would be good for Ophelia to at least update the post to recognize that Heina has updated hers and explicitly said that

    None of the above should be taken as me doing anything but unequivocally stating my own personal stances in light of them being questioned.

    Emphasis in the original.

    This whole thing has gotten out of hand and it would be good to look for ways to de-escalate. Stupid and hurtful things have been said and done, but I think everyone is generally on the same page on the fundamental issues. Is it possible to agree on those fundamental values regarding trans rights and inclusion and begin to move forward?

  44. Kris Rhodes says

    “Really, Kris; does she indeed. It’s odd that she mentioned my name then.”

    Absolutely she does. I basically think this whole affair has become a hugely unfair attack on you. When reading what Heina wrote, I was heartened to see how carefully she was refraining in joining that attack.

    She herself has stated that it’s not an attack on you. “Intent isn’t magic,” as they say, but it’s certainly, as someone else said recently I forget where, “data.”

    You asked why she mentioned your name. She mentioned it (as she says, and later also clarified) because her post is in response to some of the issues surrounding the recent shitstorm that has arisen aroud you, and because her post is in response to requests for her to say something about it all. You’re definitely in the conceptual air around her post, in other words, but you are pointedly (and later, explicitly) not the _target_ of her post.

  45. Jennifer Chavez says

    I believe Heina’s statements about their intentions. I also agree with #8, that upon first read I took Heina’s post to be full of insinuation — because sadly an erosion of trust is one effect this entire larger conversation has had on me. I appreciate Heina’s willingness to clarify.

  46. says

    That Heather McNamara post is appalling.

    Somebody asked a straightforward question about whether a trans person is their gender and suddenly the questioned no longer understands what “gender” is.

    Right, we feminists haven’t questioned gender categories at all. Totally new and sudden.

    There’s a certain kind of bigot who likes to pretend they’re supporting the group they’re oppressing and that they’re simply intellectually curious philosophers in search of the meaning of being human.

    Right again. Cis women have no material interest in challenging gender categories – ignore those millenia of patriarchal oppression. It’s all a fun intellectual exercise for us, having no consequences for the lives of (cis and trans) women anywhere.

    Whatever it is, it’s always the same: culturally established simple, broad concepts suddenly become completely absurd once queer people want a piece.

    Yup. Gender is such a culturally established simple, broad concept, with no problematic effects for women whatsoever. The only reason we could be questioning it is to exclude people who dream of attaining our super high status.

    One thing they are sure of, though, even as concepts like “woman” and “love” flitter away from them like ephemeral butterflies, never to return until all the queers are out of the room:

    It’s true. It’s all a big gender-essentialist bash for us cis women when trans women aren’t around. We drink mimosas and give each other mani-pedis while we watch The Bachelor.

    Ophelia, somebody posed the question “is a trans woman a woman? Yes or no.” They weren’t asking you what gender is. They didn’t care what you think gender is.


  47. doubtthat says

    For what it’s worth, sorry you have to deal with this, Ophelia. I will continue to be a fan and read your blog.

    I’ve dug into this a bit since yesterday…I don’t even know what to say. It’s fucking nuts.

  48. Frank Stanza says

    Ophelia. Ugh, what a band of wagon jumping outrage addicts (not directed to this thread).

    Damning you first for who you follow on social media? As if following equals endorsement, as if you vet every person you follow, sifting through each post then to ever; as if even then it’s utterly beyond belief that an intelligent person could follow someone who they may not sign up with on every issue.

    And as if that wasn’t enough, you went on to say, essentially, that gender is complex. We swim in a whole new world of academese gender jargon, you’d think people would grok that all too well. Nope. We don’t like your kind of complex round here. Yes or no, please.

    The attitude that reduces everything down into sets of yes-no, for-against, good-bad binaries is inherently anti-progressive even when applied in service of worthy progressive causes. Swap a few key words, and some of the stuff I’ve read would fit straight in below the line on the Daily Mail.

    I’ve not been following it too closely, but it’s been quite something to see. Given your two outrageous transgressions have forced at least one person onto medication and caused another serious stress and pain, you’re lucky to be alive.

  49. says

    Kris @ 51 – Ok, you may be right – but then she did a horrendously bad job of making that clear.

    Well “horrendously” is over the top…unless you’re me. Unless you’re me, and the target of an avalanche of lies and abuse, including from people on your own blog network – including people you recruited to that network. That is who I am, so that is how I see Heina’s post.

  50. sambarge says

    M.A. Melby: Thanks. I see that now and I recall it in the thread on the drag performers being banned from the Glasgow Pride.

    It didn’t sit well with me then but the response has been disproportionate and unhelpful. I like the description “clusterfuck” and I’m going to stick with it.

    Demanding that Ophelia answer a question that she sees more nuanced than others, castigating and slandering her on other blogs and social media, and encouraging other bloggers and commenters to join in is pathetic. All of these acts are typical of why I could never feel quite comfortable on FtB. This sort of bullshit happens all the time. Pharyngula is the worst, of course, but it looks like PZ has put an end to the social threads and those folks are making plans to start their own thread of clusterfuck elsewhere.

    And to what end? Has the world been made safer and more welcoming for trans people by this clusterfuck? I submit that the threat to the life and happiness of trans people isn’t feminists having nuanced discussions on what gender means. The sort of people that would hurt, isolate, and condemn trans people aren’t asking themselves: “What does ‘being a woman/man’ even mean? Is it constructed or innate? If it’s innate what aspects are and which are social? What affect does race, class or sexual orientation have on constructions of gender?” That was not the internal dialogue of Michelle Duggar as she recorded a message that warned parents that men would dress as women to get into public restrooms and rape their daughters. That is not the internal dialogue of a man beating a trans sex worker to death because he just got sucked off by a “she-male” and what if his friends find out and call him gay.

    I’ll tell you what the end has been: a whole lot of clusterfucking and no improvement in the understanding of gender or the lives of trans people, with a side of fetishizing the continued, disproportionate victimization of trans people.

  51. Pierce R. Butler says

    Thomas1967 @ # 2: PZ chose correctly.

    He also came up with the best line in this donnybrook so far:

    A blog is a lousy social medium; heck, social media are lousy social media.

    sambarge @ # 5: … can someone tell me what Ophelia did or said that resulted in the demand that she flash her trans-ally credentials?

    Parts of this brawl apparently started on Twitter and Facebook – those infamous miscommunication factories – but it seems to me that the eruption began here (FtB/B&W) with OB’s public reply to one James Billingham* who had demanded a yes/no answer to a complex question.

    As I stated in a comment on the above-linked Jason Thibeault post, imposing a binary framework (y/n) on a spectrum phenomenon (gender identity) just doesn’t work very well. My comment fell exactly between two pissing matches, and was roundly ignored by all (so at least I didn’t endure splash damage…) Not long ago, “progressives” demanded we start looking at gender as a range where hardly anyone lives exactly on the endpoints – so now I have to echo your question:

    When did the memo go out to all the kewl kids (obviously excluding me) that we must go back to the two-pigeonholes epistemology?

    *Is it too late to try dubbing this disaster Billinghamgate?

  52. sambarge says

    Ophelia – For the record, I hope that you don’t go. If you do, I’ll follow your new blog but I hope you don’t feel that you can’t stay.

  53. Ian Staines says

    Ophelia. Please don’t leave. The people against you are a tiny minority of trolls who won’t be happy unless they destroy everything that is good in the world. Please, reconsider. You have friends and fans 🙂

  54. CuriousOnLooker says

    Despite what at least one person has said about me (hi again A Masked Avenger) I am not under any delusion that my opinion matters to any of you, but I do feel compelled to say something here anyway.

    First I want to apologize again to Ophelia. I initially reacted emotionally with anger, and in that way probably “helped” to ratchet up the already rising tension and the drama. That was wrong of me and I’m genuinely sorry for contributing to the atmosphere that has led to where we are today. Rather than, say, trying to deescalate or just disengage. Everyone can probably identify with letting anger or hurt get the better of us now and again, but that is no excuse for damage done and for that I’m sorry.

    I don’t have deep background knowledge of all the players and politics here and I would not and could not try to speak for anyone other than myself. But I personally appreciated Ophelia’s clarification and sympathize with what’s described in that post. To my mind (such as it is) that clears up the TERF narrative.

    My only real concern at this point is that other people are still saying they are troubled (I’m not sure how else to put it) with things Ophelia has done or written, and I don’t want to dismiss their concerns or claim that I know better than they do. So to be clear I’m not dismissing anyone’s concerns or saying I know best.

    What’s really scary is how these kinds of narratives, true or false, tend to emerge and that they are difficult if not impossible to squash once they get out in the wild. It takes on a life of its own and it quickly outpaces anyone’s ability to control or contain it for very long. The narrative plus plain old confirmation bias equals a powerful beast. It makes me think about what other false or questionable narratives I might have unwittingly fallen for, or worse yet which have I started or contributed to myself. I would love to see a wider discussion on this after benefit of space and time.

    In any case Ophelia thank you for allowing a platform to share our thoughts and have some of these discussions. I hope you land on your feet where ever you end up.

  55. arthur says

    I would be more than happy to continue reading B&W at its home site if you decided to move back. I missed the old Butterflies and Wheels blog. which was fine and dandy, and always felt that the swollen Freethoughtblogs brand was a mistake.

    The creation of FTB coincided with the establishment of the Atheist+ forum, another site set up in good faith, but which was hijacked by some of the same people who are making your life miserable, Ophelia.

    Silly, silly people, who feel no responsibility to apply perspective on matters.

  56. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    Obviously wherever you go my eyeballs and subscriptions will, too.

  57. Erica says

    I just hope, wherever you go, it doesn’t have these horrible, intrusive, spammy pop up and redirect ads. I’m almost to the point of quitting FtB because of it.

  58. chigau (違う) says

    When you leave, please make it clear where you are going.
    I’m a bit technically challanged.

  59. PatrickG says

    Well, this is an incredibly sad thing to hear. Add me to the list of people who will follow you to your new/old habitat, despite you being such a horrible person and all.

  60. Enkidum (no really I am) says

    (I’m the commenter known as Enkidum but FTB’s google sign-in appears to be borked and I don’t know how else to log in).

    Ophelia, I’ve been lurking and very occasionally commenting on your stuff since basically the start of FTB, and on PZ’s since prior to that, and though I’m far less careful about reading every post these days I still read your words more than anyone else here. I’m busy as hell these days, but another reason why I read less is what’s happened to the various commenting echo chambers, and this clusterfuck is just another example of that.

    I’ve read through most of the posts and a depressing number of the comments about this clusterfuck both here and on the various other FTB sites that weighed in, and I just wanted to wish you the best wherever you end up.

    You do not deserve this. I don’t agree with everything you’ve said or done on this or other matters, and to the extent that there are meaningful “sides” here, neither one is perfect, but that’s veering dangerously close to false equivalency: you’re not perfect, but many of the others are being toxic as all fuck. You do not deserve this. Fuck ’em.

    You have an Orwellian (in the good sense) gift for clear language and clear thought. Actually, that’s wrong, it’s not a gift, it’s a skill, one that you’ve clearly worked hard at over the decades. I hope you keep doing it, I’ll keep reading, even if I won’t always agree.

  61. says

    I will miss having you at FtB Ophelia, and I’m positive FtB will be worse off without you, but I have been following you for a lot longer than FtB has been around. I think I started reading Butterflies & Wheels back in 2007 or 2008 but it’s hard for me to remember. You’ve been extremely influential on me actually. I was still shedding the mental and social shackles of my fundamentalist upbringing when I started reading your website and you really helped me make sense of the world again. Even if there’s been some missteps and some misunderstandings going on here, I think you’ve done far more good than harm.

  62. John Morales says


    If your reason for leaving FTB is that the commentariat is too toxic, why would leaving solve anything?


    That’s right Lousy Jason, you are a shithead.

    And you are indistinguishable from an agent provocateur.

  63. PatrickG says


    I must say it’s amazing how many ardent supporters of Ophelia Benson have never actually commented at this site before, at least to the knowledge of Google, but are just so suddenly supportive when given an opportunity to badmouth FTB and FTB bloggers. Pro-tip: that’s easily spotted ‘pitter behavior.

    If you’re not actually one, you might want to stop sounding exactly like one.

  64. PatrickG says

    *Refresh before posting*
    *Refresh before posting*
    *Refresh before posting*

    Damn it John!

  65. Badland says


    I initially read your comments with raised eyebrows but your clarification made everything very clear to me. That so many people have tried to splain what the original yes/no question meant tells me it was a shitty question, lacking nuance, and unanswerable with a simple ‘yes’.

    FWIF (cis, white, male) I don’t believe you’re a TERF, I’m sorry you feel you must go, and I’ll follow your blog wherever you take it. You have taught me a lot

  66. says

    If your reason for leaving FTB is that the commentariat is too toxic, why would leaving solve anything? If you go somewhere else, won’t all the hate simply follow you?

    It’s not just the commentariat, the larger issue is that several of the other bloggers here have become openly hostile/spiteful, either on their blogs, or via twitter.

  67. Thomas1967 says

    Great now I’m a slime pitter just because I’m an ardent supporter of Ophelia Benson? I comment at other FtB blogs using this name, though I am new (relatively). Pretty sure I’ve commented here before too, no idea why google didn’t catch it (if you actually googled) Asshole.

    No wonder Ophelia is leaving.

    That wasn’t the mended drum, it was a containment zone for feral animals.

  68. says

    Somewhat offtopic…
    Although you probably realize this, there are people who are NOT “readers” of FTB (perhaps “monitors” is a good word) who are deliberately contributing to the miscommunication and acrimony about this subject. A little bit of looking around will confirm this.

    These people in general are not doing this because they think Ophelia is a TERF (though some may be individually), they aren’t doing it out of hate of Ophelia (again, some individuals might) and they aren’t doing it to defend transgender people (though again some might be).

    There are what you might call third-party antagonists who are doing this because they are rooting for FTB to fail, and have been for a long time. They see this as the chance to put a nail in FTB’s coffin. If you decide to go looking for it, you can read their words for yourself.

    This is not to say that it is ALSO not a controversy among FTB readers… but there are people who are helping drive this simply due to the desire to see FTB shut down – and these people are monitoring non-public communications between FTB writers.

    That having been said, if anyone recognizes me from a long time ago, they would know that I used to be FAR more active on Pharyngula years and years ago… became much less so at least three years ago, with occasions of popping in for a bit. As I’ve said elsewhere, the Pharyngula culture became to toxic for me years ago, and for several years now I’ve not really participated except with occasional drive-by comments. (The articles on Pharyngula themselves were often of interest.)

    I started reading Butterflies and Wheels more as a preference, and commenting here more often.
    I never once visited A+ or whatever it was called…
    This is my preferred blog.
    I’ve thought, and said privately, that Pharyngula passed its sell-by date about three years ago.

    Not to pit one blog against another, but this is a long way of saying not only that I will follow Ophelia wherever she blogs, but I think that Pharyngula, at least in it’s current form, has lost its relevence.
    I know PZ has supported and defended you Ophelia, so I hope saying this doesn’t offend you, but if those who want FTB (really, mostly Pharyngula) to die see their wishes come true, it may not be a bad thing.

    All things have their time.
    If YOU need to leave – if all of this bullshit means that Ophelia Benson needs to leave the blog network that is home to Pharyngula, then maybe it’s not unfair to suggest that maybe Pharyngula as we know it needs to change too… go away also… or refocus, or otherwise get its act together.

    All of this bullshit, frankly, is not an Ophelia Benson problem. It’s not a Butterflies and Wheels problem.
    It’s a Pharyngula problem, even if only inasmuch as unintended consequences of the Pharyngula style and culture have set the tone, or have built the frame of mind within which all FTB writing is perceived by readers.

  69. says

    … already said in a previous thread, but repeating:

    I’ll be reading, and commenting, so long as it’s welcome, wherever it is. Please do whatever you feel you must do, and take care of yourself.

  70. PatrickG says


    If I’ve misjudged you, you’ll have my sincere apologies. But if that’s really the case, think about the fact that by rancorously attacking FTB bloggers, you’re effectively pouring gasoline on a fire.

    Which, you know, some people are currently and actively trying to do. See Jafafa Hots post @84, it quite clearly lays out the issue of malicious antagonists.

    So yeah, maybe my pattern detection is set too high. But I would strongly urge you to avoid acting like one of the dishonest actors currently delighting in this conflict. In other words, if you think Jason Thibeault is a shithead, in what possible world is a good idea to do that here? Go tell him directly! He has a blog, you know. You’re just stirring the shit even further, even if that’s not your intent.

  71. says

    In light of comments that have come up while I was typing my screed, I want to clarify that I was not calling any commenter here a “slymepitter” or whatever. I was referring to what can be found on non-FTB sites if you doa bit of googling.

    There are people delighting in all of this, and they aren’t on any “side” except the side of their own anger or entertainment.
    I have no idea if any of them are posting directly on FTB. There are other ways to stir shit.

  72. says

    Jafafa, Ophelia just said in another thread she’d prefer any discussion of Pharyngula to happen there, not here. (And, for what my opinion is worth, I think that’s probably a just policy.)

  73. John Morales says

    Thomas1967, this is all moot, but nonetheless:

    Great now I’m a slime pitter just because I’m an ardent supporter of Ophelia Benson?

    “The wicked flee when no one pursues”.

    That wasn’t the mended drum, it was a containment zone for feral animals.

    Hardly; way I see it, it was the last relic remnant of the Pharyngula spirit in its heyday — and even before it became “The Mended Drum” it was a particularly etiolated version of the original. One which found me too contentious, BTW.

    More to the point: this is B&W, not Pharyngula.
    That you even mention FtB or Pharyngula in this context is informative.

  74. says

    … it was a particularly etiolated version of the original. One which found me too contentious, BTW.

    Okay. Briefly breaking my own Fight Club rule just once to say:

    Laughing. Hard.

    I suspect I may miss some of the same days you do.

  75. says

    Jafafa, Ophelia just said in another thread she’d prefer any discussion of Pharyngula to happen there, not here. (And, for what my opinion is worth, I think that’s probably a just policy.)

    Thanks, didn’t see that. One has great impact on the other, but not for long hopefully, and as it’s her blog I’ll certainly comply. And on second thought, I think it’s not only just – but best for B&W long-term.

  76. says

    Thanks, Jafafa.

    (It was here, for anyone wondering, in response to a comment I think I can fairly say was in part on Pharyngula culture, directed at PZ, even though her actual wording is more specifically about PZ.)

  77. latsot says

    As someone else who read B&W long before it moved to FtB, I’ll certainly follow it wherever it goes. I’m not by nature a creature of habit, but B&W is usually the first feed I check when I wake up. There are reasons for that.

    Ancient as I am, Ophelia has caused me to change my mind about a lot of things and about several people. She has helped me to become a different – if not necessarily better – person. I don’t know whether anyone else will thank her for that but I sincerely do.

    In recent days, supporting Ophelia has resulted in my being shouted at on Twitter quite a lot and people saying untrue things about me, which they refuse to justify with evidence. This seems to be because I won’t ignore JUST ABOUT EVERYTHING OPHELIA HAS EVER SAID and accept instead some bewildering interpretations of a few sentences she didn’t even write. I haven’t received so much vitriol since I told Ricky Gervais he was wrong about something. But – as usual with we people of enormous privilege – I could walk away from that horribleness at any time. It’s what I care about, but it’s not where I live. I wish I could offer something other than vague support to people who do live there.

    I support without the least caveat Ophelia’s decision to answer or not answer questions in any way she sees fit. Writing things down doesn’t make anyone a captive of other people’s frustrations.

  78. Rich Roberts says


    I just wanted to say how much that I have enjoyed reading your blog posts over the past 10 plus years. I have always found you to be very intelligent, insightful and just a hell of a writer (and editor!). You have helped me to be a better person by opening my eyes to issues and situations that I wouldn’t otherwise have considered.

    I am so sorry that you have been subjected to such crap.

    I’ll continue to read, please continue to share your thoughts…where ever that may be.

  79. says

    Thanks, all.

    Thomas1967 does sound very like one of those third-party provocateurs. I’ll keep an eye on him. Apologies if you’re not, T1967, but that’s how things are here – people eager to do damage.

  80. llewelly says

    Speaking as someone who has admired Ophelia since the days when she was a Dawkins advocate, I find this all deeply unfortunate.

    Now I see that after she spent days raising a stink by both refusing to give a clear answer to a question, and arguing that her refusal shouldn’t be seen as yet another troubling sign, she called Heina’s post “… nasty, insinuating, having it both ways … ” . A post which contained no attacks on her, and yet she is tone trolling it anyway, after having spent years attacking (usually on very good grounds) the tone trolling of others.

    Hypocrisy is far harder to avoid than we like to admit.

    There are times when being suspicious, angry, and defensive serves you well, and there are times when it amounts to renting industrial mining equipment when you need to stop digging.

  81. says

    I’m only an occasional reader, and just caught up with this and other recent dust-ups. I’m sorry about what you’re facing now, and want to express my support. You strike me as a person of great integrity, and I respect that.
    It’s this that I find off-putting on FTB: attacking people rather than critiquing actions or statements, minutely seeking for evidence that someone is “really” the enemy, the mob mentality – and it really only takes a few people to poison the atmosphere. Civility may not be everything, but when you can no longer discuss any difference of opinion without becoming public enemy #1, what’s the point?
    If you do decide to leave, the loss will be FTB’s.

  82. leni says

    I also wish you wouldn’t leave, Ophelia. We’ve certainly had our differences, and there have been many times when I’d wished for more nuanced commentary from you, but I do enjoy reading your blogs and I understand people have only so much time and patience.

    And I’m kind of with you on the not wanting to answer yes or no. I’ve been thinking about how I would have answered this question for the last couple of days because I also don’t think it’s necessarily a yes or no question. And I’m not sure how to answer it without hurting some trans women, which sort of belies the need for nuance.

    For me, either yes or no implies that I know more about what a given person wants than they know themselves and I am not really comfortable with that. I won’t say no unequivocally, and “I don’t know” is, while it may be technically true for any given individual, is unhelpful at best and bigoted at worst.

    I opted for a qualified yes: Yes, if that’s what they prefer (or perhaps even appear to prefer if you can’t ask). For things like pronouns, public restrooms, domestic abuse shelters, jail. Anywhere or anytime we “have to” gender segregate or identify, I unequivocally think trans women should be afforded the respect, privacy and safety that anyone else would get. I don’t know if that’s the same thing as “are trans-women women”. It kind of is, but it kind of isn’t because it depends on the individual. In other words, I am not sure the Venn diagram of women subsumes that of trans women. I’m ok if it does, but I am also sure there are trans women out there who don’t really want to be labeled women. If i say yes unequivocally, then I have to do so at their expense.

    I’m ok with saying yes as a default and generally do, but I also know it isn’t true for every person. There are trans women who may not wish to be identified as women for whatever reason and that isn’t my call. The best I can do is “Yes, if you want to be considered that way, I will respect that.” It does zero harm to me and hopefully helps them, so in that case, definitely an easy yes. But that’s not the only case. I thought you acknowledged something very similar and no, that is not TERFy.

    Anyway, I really do hope you reconsider leaving. Maybe there is also a good opportunity here.

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