It’s not enough to just passively dislike someone

Gee, I wonder what this could possibly be about. This post at Skepchick: Release The Scotsman: Responsible Use of Fallacies.

There’s a trend when it comes to talking to people about the negative elements of communities they’re involved in. When people don’t double down and simply deny that there are nasty folks in their community, they like to play the “well they’re not a REAL feminist/atheist/kinky person/purple people eater.” This is known as the No True Scotsman fallacy, and it’s annoyingly common.

Understandably, few people like to be called out on using fallacies, so a typical response to getting called out is something like “Well I still don’t like them and I don’t want them around so they don’t count to me.” I often find myself responding to No True Scotsman call outs by saying “I know they’re technically part of feminism/atheism/people on Tumblr, but I really don’t condone what they’re doing and I have no desire to be associated with them. I don’t know why you’re talking to me about what they did, I hate it as much as you do.”


That’s so contorted it’s hard to follow. Olivia (the author) seems to be going to a lot of trouble to avoid saying what she’s talking about; maybe that’s why it’s hard to follow.

I think what she’s saying is: it’s a pain when there is Someone Terrible in our group, so what we do is, we say the Somone Terrible isn’t a real member of our group, aka not a True Scotsman. Olivia seems to be saying that’s a bad thing to do; she frowns on it. We have to bite the bullet and say how Terrible the Someone Terrible is. We have to own it.

But that’s kind of bullshit. All of us have to collect our folks when they’re doing inappropriate shit, and if we want to avoid Scotsman accusations we have to be willing to recognize that even the people we hate can be and often are parts of the movements that we are part of.

I think I’m on the right track. I think she’s saying we have to be honest about the fact that even people we hate – like this Someone Terrible – are part of our movement. We have to “collect” them when they’re doing inappropriate shit.

What are the behaviors someone has to do in order to be responsible towards the shitty members of their groups? Are there times that it isn’t fair to use No True Scotsman just because someone is trying to distance themselves from other members of their movements?

That part is very opaque. It’s about shitty people who somehow are in your groups, and…no, I can’t figure out the second sentence at all. Who is distancing from whom? I think she lost the thread there. Not a very good writer. Is that what she means by being shitty?

No you are not personally responsible for every other person in your movements. But if you want to distance yourself from the shitty elements, you have to do actual work. Meaning you actually have to distance yourself by saying “That is not appropriate stop doing that.” You also have to take actions. If the person is behaving in a shitty manner towards trans people, step up and say “I 100% believe that trans women are women.” Use preferred pronouns, don’t make trans identities the butt of jokes, and call out those who are doing the opposite. Essentially, do your own work and be a good ally or activist by calling out bad behavior when you see it*.

Ohhh, now I think I see where we are. She’s saying everybody has to step up and shit on me, the Notorious Terrible Person of the week month year. Don’t just sit there; don’t look away; don’t talk about something else; don’t ask what the fuck you mean; step up and distance yourself by saying “That is not appropriate stop doing that.”

If you are doing your own work, if you are stepping up to the plate to try to improve your movement and community, if you are denouncing the awful actions of the shitty people in your movement, then and only then do you get to say “I did my best to change that part of feminism/atheism/etc. Those are not my people. I am not associated with them and I have made that clear.”

It’s not enough to stand by and assume everyone knows you disagree. It’s not enough to just passively dislike someone. You need to step up and make your own positions clear.

Right on! Preach it, sister! Denounce those awful actions of shitty people (i.e. me)! Do it! It’s not enough to stand by and assume everyone knows you disagree. It’s not enough to just passively dislike someone. You need to step up and shit on that awful person the way all the other good people are.

It’s best not to say her name though. That way you can…uh…


  1. dogeared, spotted and foxed says

    I do like the Skepchick women. The ones I’ve met in person are wonderful people and the ones I’ve read have often entertained/enlightened me. But I feel the need to step up and call out bad behaviour. This is passive aggressive and horrible.

  2. tonyinbatavia says

    What a heaping pile of crap. She doesn’t actually say what she means to say, she wants others to say what she means to say, she undermines her own message about who should be saying what, and she’s not even close to brave enough to be honest about who she is talking about. What was the actual point of the post?

    And somehow, I bet she thinks she’s better than you.

  3. Jean says

    From the July 25 post The land of ambiguity:

    Do you mean, will I take trans people’s word for it? Will I use their right names and pronouns? Of course I will. Do I want to make them jump through hoops to prove something to me? Of course not.

    (From the July 25 post The land of ambiguity)

    So your sin is to not say it in exactly the format they want? And wanting to discuss what gender identity means?

  4. footface says

    Admittedly, I’m no insider, and I’m not an activist. I’m a lurker (and very occasional commenter) on FTB blogs. But I have found the quickly-forming (instantaneous?) consensus that Ophelia Benson is Public Enemy Number 1 and the head of the anti-trans movement kind of breathtaking. I can’t even imagine what people who are truly opposed to trans freedom and trans rights are in for.

  5. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    Not according to the Morally Correct, footface. They will tell you that there have been hints of O’s transphobia for a long time. Going back years, even. But until now it’s been hard to definitively say. Lots of people have been making the connections for a long time, see. They can show you. They have lists of comments, likes, dislikes, failure-to-dislikes, thank-yous, and sundry text. They can show you it.

  6. says

    I can’t even imagine what people who are truly opposed to trans freedom and trans rights are in for.

    Nothing. They don’t count. They don’t matter. I am worse than all of them put together.

  7. PatrickG says

    [Engage Mode: HYPERSKEPTICISM]

    Hold on, hold on, we don’t know that this is at all related to Ophelia Benson. After all, no names were used! It could be just coincidence that during an extremely fraught, ongoing incident in the atheist/skeptic blogosphere that specific answers to specific questions asked in said incident was brought up! Just because it was really, really specific doesn’t mean anything! I’m just shocked you would all jump to conclusions with such a paucity of data!

    [Disable Mode: HYPERSKEPTICISM]

    In other words, this year’s award for “Most Embarrassing Use of Specifics In A Hypothetical” goes to Olivia. The post makes a very good general point that individuals in community do have a responsibility for calling out other individuals, then runs into the Wall of Hypocrisy at roadrunner speeds.

    The last vestige of my hyperskeptic pose assumed above makes me wonder if just maybe a paragraph got clipped prior to hitting “Submit”. That would explain a lot, right? Right?

    P.S. @ SC: I know we’ve had our major disagreements in the past, but I want to send you a shout-out for some truly excellent comments on recent posts, on this site and elsewhere.

  8. PatrickG says

    I should also note that I have no idea of Olivia’s activities on Twitter, Facebook, etc, due to my general lack of engagement on social media. Quite possible they have condemned OB by name (and are assuming everyone knows!), but that doesn’t make this particular post much better.

  9. ema says

    You need to step up and make your own positions clear.

    Well then, if we must, we must. I find your blog to be thoughtful and informative and I appreciate the work you put into it. [End of Mandatory Purity Pledge]

  10. John Morales says

    “Responsible Use of Fallacies” such as defending the indefensible or justifying the unjustifiable nonetheless means the user is responsible for using a fallacy.

    (Is taking things literally a fallacy?)

  11. Holms says

    So basically “Call people out openly, even if they are ostensibly on your own team! Here are a bunch of hints at who this is aimed at, but I won’t call them out openly!”
    Way to go, Olivia.

  12. Garrett says

    It should be noted that the post has been updated to say

    Edit 8/2: Ophelia Benson has a post up in which she responds to this post. She says that it is about her. This post is a general discussion of a logical fallacy and is not about any particular situation. It is not about Ophelia Benson.

  13. chigau (違う) says

    Garrett #15
    That’s that, then.
    Just a coincidence.
    nothing to it

  14. says

    As a light-hearted comic aside: for some reason, even after having read the article in the OP, when I read #5 I thought that AJ Milne was referring to Ophelia herself due to that french article about a blog post that she had written, in which the writer referred to her as “Olivia Benson”. I have no idea why my brain went there. Brains are funny things.

  15. John Morales says

    Garrett @15, so Olivia explicitly denies that the post is about Ophelia.

    That’s pretty definitive.

  16. says

    …I’m happy to be excluded from whatever community Olivia is representing.

    Oddly enough I warming up myself to a nice, stated shibboleth I’m going to require certain folk to say before they get to join my community (current population: roughly one). It starts, for many, with ‘right, we were kinda asshats to run away with this thing the way we did, and we’re pretty high handed and out of line, and fuck, who the hell do we even think we are sometimes, geez, sorry…’

    … not entirely unseriously. Don’t expect I’ll demand yes or no or set deadlines or drag their names through the mud in absentia on random social media until they do, mind. And I expect it’ll be clear enough: I speak for no one but myself, nor do I presume the authority to require them to give up their internet badges or nothin’ until they answer my charges, nor do I particularly figure I own any other community than that smallish one of mine… But these are becoming the terms, such as it is, as if any are much likely to care…

    Oh, also, re:

    …They will tell you that there have been hints of O’s transphobia for a long time. Going back years, even. But until now it’s been hard to definitively say. Lots of people have been making the connections for a long time, see. They can show you. They have lists of comments, likes, dislikes, failure-to-dislikes, thank-yous, and sundry text. They can show you it.

    … well, remarkably, 1) taking all the text of Ophelia’s posts and comments here and at ur-, over the past many years, 2) running them through ROT-13, 3) Taking the digital roots from the ordinal values of every seven letters added together, and finally 3) XORing the whole thing first with the complete works of Shakespeare, and 4) then with the entire text of all of Wikipedia’s history in all languages, I did find the highly questionable phrase ‘Priscilla Queen of the Desert is overrrated’ in the textual jumble of several terabytes that emerged…

    … so look: ya gotta admit that’s pretty suspicious!

  17. sambarge says

    What amazes me is the willful blindness that people bring to this discussion. How can the deconstruction of societal gender norms be a bad thing for any woman – cis, trans or otherwise? Naturally, some women* might feel threatened and attacked by this process. That makes sense because we live in this world and are affected by the societal gender norms in which we’re raised. For some people, it’s an integral part of their identity.

    Be that as it may, this work is still valuable and necessary to better understand that oppression of women and how that oppression is magnified by intersectional oppressions of race, class, sexual identity and sexual orientation. This work can’t be ignored or abandoned because it makes some women uncomfortable. The oppression of women isn’t something invented to stop trans women from full inclusion. Women have experienced millennia of oppression. The work to end that cannot be stopped because some value the tools of oppression.

    *I’ll just say here that when I say “women” I mean anyone who identifies as a woman.

  18. Garrett says

    Wait a second. Shouldn’t we take Olivia at her word rather than scouring her words for secret double meanings? When someone in our community who we’ve worked with and trusted denies an allegation, shouldn’t we accept that denial? Don’t Inquisitors deny direct statements in favor of uncovering the true beliefs of the questioned?

  19. says

    (Grumbles…) I’m warming up. Pft.

    And honestly, re that addendum… Umm… Seriously? I’ll happily retract mine, given this, but I’m having a hard time figuring anyone here was jumping to any unreasonable conclusions, in the context.

  20. sambarge says

    Well, when I read the post earlier today, I assumed it was referencing Ophelia and the debacle here. It is unlikely that I’ll read the statement “trans women are women” anytime in the future and not assume it’s a thinly-veiled reference to this clusterfuck (I tried to dial it back with debacle but it’s a clusterfuck).

    But, if Olivia says it isn’t a reference to Ophelia, then I believe her. Women are so rarely believed that I don’t want to be someone who minimizes a woman’s voice by denying the truth of what they say.

    That’s great because I quite like Skepchick and I think Rebecca Watson has been knocking her videos out of the part lately.

  21. says

    Hrm… I note also I’ve somehow two step threes, and it actually came out ‘overrrated’ with three Rs…

    (Reviews calculations…)

    Meh. Still good enough. Guilty as charged!

  22. Rob says

    Meta to the discussion over the last few weeks as a whole. I was reading the local web news site this morning. An article about Trans people de-transitioning caught my eye. It’s almost certainly sourced from somewhere overseas, because it’s about 5 times the length of the locally written dreck. I thought the article was generally pretty good. It let the people largely speak for themselves and highlighted that gender was very specific to the person and distinctly non-binary. It talked about the mental and physical pain of both transitioning and de-transitioning and some of the shit Trans people had to face. Bearing in mind that this was a bit of pulp journalism you’d have to say not too bad an attempt on looking at a part of the experience.
    In the comments there were all the usual bigots (down voted!), but also one notable one from a Trans supporter who essentially said “Don’t publish stuff like this. People who de-transition make up less than 6% of all Trans people and these articles always quote the same people as examples. You do Trans people harm when you acknowledge this happens.” They also got down voted and a number of replies took them to task.
    Just goes to show that human nature is to always want the spotlight shone on your own cause/belief/priority/definition, and that people who dilute your message and are not in lockstep come to be regarded as inconvenient or even the enemy.

  23. says

    Garrett @15, so Olivia explicitly denies that the post is about Ophelia.

    That’s pretty definitive.

    Definitively bullshit. What’s it about, then? What in particular prompted it? What prompted “If the person is behaving in a shitty manner towards trans people, step up and say “I 100% believe that trans women are women”? Bull. Shit. (It’s possible that there’s a bizarrely parallel situation going on of which I’m unaware. If that’s the case, it should be easy enough to point to. The notion that it’s purely coincidental – especially given the other clearly related Skepchick posts – strains credulity.)

  24. PatrickG says

    @ sambarge:

    I’m willing to take Olivia’s word for it that the post wasn’t meant to explicitly reference Ophelia Benson. Certainly this debate has spread across multiple platforms. However, to use it as a jumping board for that post definitely reflects a lack of basic knowledge/research re: the current clusterfuck.

  25. sambarge says

    PatrickG – I wish we could “like” or upvote comments here. I just wanted to agree with what you said. I wasn’t pleased with Olivia’s gas-lighting of people who saw Ophelia in the text in follow up comments either.

  26. John Morales says


    What’s it about, then? What in particular prompted it?

    Presumably, this very post and discussion.

    I can’t interpret your comment other than you are believe that Olivia is lying regarding that definitive assertion, though you give good reason for your belief.

    (Which is fine, but why beat around the bush?)

  27. says

    Presumably, this very post and discussion.

    What? Ophelia’s post was a responseto Olivia’s. I’m not asking what prompted the update, but what prompted the original post.

  28. sambarge says

    SC @ #27

    The notion that it’s purely coincidental – especially given the other clearly related Skepchick posts – strains credulity.

    That it does. That. It. Does.

    As for what prompted it, I assume it’s reading and writing in a bubble of support that made the statement seem less offensive or challenging that it was.

  29. sambarge says

    According to Olivia.

    I chose the example because it seemed clear and I hear it come up often.

    And she’s surprised people made the connection to Ophelia, even though she could reference a post on Skepchick on gender that does reference the clusterfuck here.

  30. John Morales says

    SC, I know what the “it” was in your response — and as I noted, I think you have good reason for your belief.

    So, do you believe Olivia lies when she explicitly states that the post was not about Ophelia? I know you have stated she is bullshitting, but that’s not the same thing, is it?

    I personally have no doubt it [the original post] was about the current kerfuffle, if that’s what you are asking, and furthermore that it’s an implicit rebuke on Ophelia’s position. But I don’t think that entails that the post itself is about Ophelia.

    (Why not go over there and ask Olivia?)

  31. says

    That’s great because I quite like Skepchick and I think Rebecca Watson has been knocking her videos out of the part lately.

    In this context, I want to point out that when RW was being targeted, Ophelia was one of the people standing up for her.


    If folks want to see this piece as relevant to Ophelia then sure, it can be applied, but it’s just more general than that. I wrote most of the post before any of Ophelia’s current situation happened.

    I seriously dislike and distrust this person.

    Whatever. No more fuel. I’ll leave it with what I said @ #7.

    (Oh, and the complement to Will’s post there would be good if it weren’t so presumptuously assholish.)

  32. says

    So, do you believe Olivia lies when she explicitly states that the post was not about Ophelia?

    Yes. (And “I sketched out the argument and then this all arose so I made it more specific to Ophelia without the bravery to openly say that’s what I was doing” counts as writing “about Ophelia.”)

    I personally have no doubt it [the original post] was about the current kerfuffle, if that’s what you are asking, and furthermore that it’s an implicit rebuke on Ophelia’s position. But I don’t think that entails that the post itself is about Ophelia.

    FFS, John, stop being so tiresome. Please.

  33. John Morales says

    SC, it’s easier to be a Devil’s Advocate when one has an Olympian viewpoint.

    (And I appreciate your clarification)

  34. says

    I seriously dislike and distrust this person.

    That, actually, on further review. I just gave way too much credit, just now, looks like. Strains credulity? You could say.

    Oh, and also:

    Call people out openly, even if they are ostensibly on your own team! Here are a bunch of hints at who this is aimed at, but I won’t call them out openly!”

    Now that you mention it: quite.

    (/Back to my ‘stop doing that’, it is, then. Stop a few things, even.)

  35. sambarge says

    I’ve been blocked at Skepchick! This is my reply to Will that I can’t post, apparently:

    I never said any of that. I said, saying that no one would see the connection to the current situation with Ophelia unless they wanted to was gas-lighting.

    I know discussions have been going on about gender, trans women and all sorts of things for ages. I also know that in the last little while, Ophelia has been under attack specifically with the question “trans women are women, yes or no?” That she has been so attacked is not news here on Skepchick as two articles on gender have been written here in reply to the clusterfuck (one by you, I think). One of the articles at least references the clusterfuck directly (although they both might).

    To then be surprised that people would see “I 100% believe trans women are women” and think it referenced Ophelia is, well, surprising.

    That she didn’t have Ophelia in mind for the article is something I’m more than willing to believe. Olivia said it and, as a feminist, I make a point of believing women when they say things. But to say people are willfully seeing Ophelia in a post that has nothing to do with her is disingenuous at best and an interesting author just pointed out that we’re sort of obliged to point out activities by our allies that we think is problematic – like gas-lighting women.

    Now, if you want to stamp your feet and swear in my direction again, fill your boots. I’m off to kill a wasp nest in my yard.

    I mean. What the fuck?

    You’re right, SC. No more fuel. Fuck’em. I have a wasp nest to kill.

  36. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    I can’t believe folks who are saying “I believe Olivia.” This isn’t being mean, or petty, or spiteful. She’s obviously lying. Come on. You really think this isn’t about Ophelia. Even with the “trans women are women” tell?

    That’s bizarre, and it’s actually really unfair. Not only is she obviously lying—look, she can write about whatever she wants, it’s the coy double talk that’s the problem!—but people are characterizing Ophelia as paranoid for even noticing it.

    There’s benefit of the doubt and then there’s. . . naivete.

  37. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    Aaaand. . .I should have read the whole thread before commenting. Apologies, fellow discussants.

  38. says


    As one of those who briefly said I’d retract: quite. Agreed. Bad call. Dumb call. Sitting in corner, now, and writing ‘Remember there are people who just fucking lie‘ on the blackboard 100 times. And apologies, Ophelia, as it’s one more stupid thing you just shouldn’t have to put up with.

  39. says

    Wow. Will is awful on that thread. Awful.

    Oh, yes. I’m so disgusted by all of this. Kind of a sick feeling, like witnessing the reaction to strange gods’ objection to being called “dear”…

  40. rorschach says

    There is straining credulity, and then there is Olivia. Who I don’t know. But she’s insulting people’s intelligence by first trying clumsily in this post of hers to stay within the boundaries for plausible deniability, and then by adding this preposterous footnote.
    Who’s Will?

  41. Erica says

    I may just give up on the social justice blogosphere entirely. Apparently a lot of people think being “on the side of justice” entitles you to be an asshole. Shakesville had me thinking the same way, but it’s also what made me eventually stop reading there. Unfortunately it seems the infection has spread.

    Will’s behavior seems like an example of Josh’s guest post. It doesn’t matter that you apologized, it doesn’t matter what you intended, you were wrong so he gets to verbally abuse you.

  42. brucegee1962 says

    I agree with Erica, that this sad slow-motion train wreck is almost enough to make me want to give up there even being such a thing as a social justice “community.”

    It was the sense community that drew me to FtB most strongly in the first place. Disparate people, perhaps disagreeing on a few points, but largely united in the causes they struggled for. It was the community I’d been missing since I gave up on church.

    The core, the absolute bedrock that I thought united Progressives was the idea of inclusivity — the idea that it didn’t matter what your ethnicity was, your gender or gender preferences, your background — liberalism at its best was all about accepting people.

    But now I see that I was wrong. Ideology can be just as divisive as downright bigotry. Ideology

    I’m also sickened by the spectacle of people who seem like native internet denizens, who seem blissfully aware of the well-known risks that written communication carries. Hmm, I’m writing something critical of an old and dear friend — perhaps it would be common courtesy to send her a copy before I post it, to find out if just maybe it would trash our friendship if I do, or even if maybe, just possibly, there might be some nuance to the situation that I missed. Or, no, there’s no such thing as a back channel, apparently — let’s just take our dispute out in the open so it can blow up for all to see. These are the sorts of friendship-maintenance skills that kids learn in middle school, aren’t they?

  43. John Morales says


    It was the sense community that drew me to FtB most strongly in the first place. Disparate people, perhaps disagreeing on a few points, but largely united in the causes they struggled for. It was the community I’d been missing since I gave up on church.

    A succinct summation of the problem.

    (There’s a distinction between communal goals and communal ideology; I have no truck with the latter)

  44. PatrickG says


    So yeah, this comment may have, from sheer irritation, metastasized from its innocent two-paragraph inception. Happens sometimes when you’re editing in between other work.

    First, just going to quote sambarge for truth, from the linked thread:

    That’s gas-lighting. People aren’t willfully seeing a reference to Ophelia in “trans women are women”. That phrase played a huge role in the clusterfuck on FtB and since it has generated at least 2 posts at Skepchick on gender theory, it’s hardly surprising that people made the connection.

    Second @ Josh, 41:

    I said upthread I was willing to acknowledge Olivia’s bona fides, with a huge caveat of “do you actually not know?”. I’m very interested to see how Olivia handles Will’s assertions that this is totally not about Ophelia Benson, specifically this chestnut:

    Are we never again allowed to utter the words “trans women are women” because it might offend Ophelia Benson?

    I still think it’s possible (albeit unlikely) that Olivia did miss some interchanges, and stepped in a minefield unknowingly. Will’s completely correct that the statement “trans women are not women” is something that is said elsewhere, by decidedly less savory characters. However, that question right there is, um, leading, particularly given that Ophelia Benson’s refusal to answer is not actually equal to an outright statement.

    Now for the rant, primarily because Will linked one of the most odious, awful New Yorker articles I’ve ever seen in support of their position, and it kind of irritated me.

    [DISCLAIMER] Y’know? I’m not sure I agree with Ophelia Benson, both on substance and style. I think this is a tremendously complicated area, and I think she could have handled things better, if only in being less defensive and more responsive. That said, the sheer crap she’s had to deal with (possibly as a response to defensiveness) has been overwhelming.[/DISCLAIMER]

    So with that in mind, Jesus Mohammed Buddha Thor, the fuck does Will think he’s accomplishing in that thread? I followed one of Will’s links, and I found myself at a very familiar place.

    Have you been paying no attention to the media discussions about that very topic?

    For fuck’s sake, THAT ARTICLE?? I dare anyone on any side of this argument to read that article without straining eye-rolling muscles. I’ve seen several critiques of that New Yorker article, from all angles. The article makes trans activists AND TERFS look bad. It’s a classic “Both sides do it” article. It makes me feel like Will just picked the first result of a Google search. Also worth noting it’s a year old. Not that the issues aren’t still relevant, but c’mon Will… something slightly fresher?

    But hey, since it’s been introduced, let’s play a game titled “Is Ophelia Benson a TERF, by the standards of the article Will cited”. Btw, feel free to add your own entries to this game!

    Before D.G.R. held its first conference, in 2011, in Wisconsin, the group informed a person in the process of a male-to-female transition that she couldn’t stay in the women’s quarters.

    Check. Ophelia Benson opposes bathroom access by self-identified gender. DENY IT BENSON! /sarcasm

    Russell knew that she was supposed to think of herself as a man with a woman, but, she said, “It didn’t feel right, and I was scared.”

    Check. Ophelia believes that people in sexual encounters must confirm to “supposed” gender norms. DENY IT BENSON! /sarcasm

    Throughout the book, Jeffreys insists on using male pronouns to refer to trans women and female ones to refer to trans men

    Check. Ophelia insists on using birth-assigned gender pronouns. DENY IT BENSON! /sarcasm

    Jeffreys calls detransitioners like Russell “survivors,” and cites them as evidence that transgenderism isn’t immutable and thus doesn’t warrant radical medical intervention.

    Check. Ophelia insists on evidence that people “survive” transition, and that people shouldn’t have access to “radical medical intervention”. DENY IT BENSON! /sarcasm

    Explaining female-to-male transition is fairly easy for her (and for other radical feminists): women seek to become men in order to raise their status in a sexist system

    Check. Ophelia thinks FtM transition is because male privilege. DENY IT BENSON! /sarcasm

    To describe the syndrome, Blanchard coined the term “autogynephilia,” meaning sexual arousal at the thought of oneself as female.

    Jesus Christ, I can’t even try to ascribe this one to Ophelia. Don’t even bother to deny it, Benson.

    Believe me, I could go on. Just from that article that Will linked.

    That shit is the TERF Benson is being compared to. That shit is the TERF that Will apparently feels it necessary to bring up as a point of comparison. Why else quote it as definitive evidence?

    You call OB a TERF? Well, I’ve shown you what a fucking TERF is, on evidence linked by someone who is actively criticizing Benson on the basis of TERFdom. I fucking quote, you fucking decide. Show me Ophelia actually saying that kind of crap, and I’ll call her a TERF myself. Until then, stop with the innuendo and the sly asides.

    Because otherwise, if Ophelia really is a TERF (which I don’t believe), you’ve done nothing but give her a mountain of martyrdom to hide behind. Well, played, assholes.

    Now, you may think OB is wrong, but that’s an entirely different ball game. That’s critique, that’s investigation, that’s learning. I’d like to see that conversation! I think I, as a white mostly-straight mostly-cis man, could learn a great deal, more than I have learned so far from sites like FTB and Skepchick.

    In short, what a wasted opportunity — now we have passive-aggressive, petulant infighting (and yes, from BOTH SIDES), with a side dish of provocateurs stirring the shit. Great job, progressive movement!

    P.S. Thought about crossposting this comment on the Skepchick thread, but I’m out of fucks. Too much work, too many other obligations to get into a substantive debate. If there are responses to this, I won’t be back until tomorrow. Big day, etc.

    P.P.S. Forgive any typos or bad links, this started as a single paragraph comment and then I remembered where I’d seen that fucking article before.

    P.P.P.S. Also forgive the over-use of bold tags.

  45. PatrickG says

    @ Erica:

    I may just give up on the social justice blogosphere entirely

    I’m with you on that. I get a lot more joy and sense of actual worthwhile action working with local* groups. Apparently, the internet really does ruin everything.

    * Well, perhaps non-public would be a better choice. I lived in Kentucky a while, but I can’t really claim the group I’m still working with is local anymore, now that I’m in California. 🙂

  46. teslalivia says

    For your consideration re: The TERFification of Ophelia Benson.
    All of this has happened before and will happen again.
    Hi everyone. By way of introduction (as an indicator of good faith and that I’m not a troll here to weaponize the gender-critical analysis of transwomen against that of radical feminists, or vice versa): I’m a long-time some-time atheist feminist vegan bioscience PhD lurker here at B@W, Pharyngula and other sites on FtB.
    This has been a much-valued space for me. Over several years I’ve intermittently lurked at the above mentioned blogs, and been appreciative of many posts by Ophelia and PZ, as well as the writing of many regular commenters, including but not limited to Salty Current, Josh Spokes and John Morales. Strange Gods Before Me was another whose analysis of posts and commentary I admired, although I haven’t seen them about in my recent FtB forays.
    Often I agree with the arguments made by the above commenters. Sometimes I don’t. But the reason these comments often made me hopeful and feel less despairing about being a human, was that they gave me the impression of a group of people who, while angry about social injustices, were/are more interested in deploying their considerable intellectual prowess to ‘get to the heart’ of what can be difficult, painful and unhelpful in discussion of said social justice issues, rather than primarily to discern traces of Thought Crime in other commenters.
    I rarely or never comment, often because my thoughts on a subject are so well formulated by others. Other times, I don’t write out of a concern that my ideas about issues that affect me in my own life – most particularly those of a gendered nature – will cause other people to feel attacked or triggered.
    I’m only writing here today because I want to express solidarity with Ophelia, and also for the FtB commenters who are supporting her in this latest – clusterfuck, I believe is what people are calling it. It appears to me that you are being bullied and mobbed, slurred and shunned, and it makes me ill – literally I feel sick in my stomach – to see it.
    There are so many recent comments on this blog from Salty Current and Josh Spokes (and many others) that I would like to second, that I can’t possibly name them all.
    But there is one thing I would like to add for your consideration, because I haven’t yet seen it mentioned in this discussion of the TERFification of Ophelia Benson. Possibly because none of you agree with it, or may consider it an offensive idea, although I hope that won’t be the case (if so I apologise).
    Judging by some of your comments on this blog over the last few days, many of you are surprised at the vitriol and large scale, and perhaps, bad faith and intellectual dishonesty, with which – and upon – the aforementioned bullying and shunning is being conducted within the skeptic-atheist-feminist-social-justiceophere.
    You seem surprised that Ophelia Benson, an intelligent and skeptical *atheist* thinker and writer on various subjects including womens’ rights, is being pilloried for daring to think and write about gender in an intelligent and skeptical manner.
    I am not surprised, and in the matter of the critical analysis of gender, have been apprehensive on Ophelia’s account for a while now. Not because my apprehension was helpful for Ophelia (it wasn’t) and not because I claim to be a particularly prescient being, but simply because to my eyes, All Of This Has Happened Before And Will Happen Again.
    It appears to me that listening to women about the oppression occasioned them by the social system of gender is hard to do. Bloody hard. Hard enough for many women who share that oppression, and apparently much harder for many men who stand to benefit from it (#notallmen, of course).
    Of course, you’d be aware that women have been writing about gender as an oppressive system for a while now, including – in more recent years – on the internet. Some of this is writing is insightful, incisive and powerful. But even those who consider themselves feminists and feminist allies have a hard time knowing these analyses even exist to be discussed, because these writings are by women who are primarily identified as feminists, perhaps even as – gasp – radical feminists. Obviously such women – unlike cis het guys – have something to gain from influencing discussions about gender, and therefore can be dismissed or ignored if they ever gain visibility in such discussions.
    More recently, pesky feminist (but not prominently atheist) women (who by appearances command the respect of proportionately many less male people than a writer such as Ophelia, who is more prominently known as an atheist and skeptic) who insist on promulgating their views on gender can be shut up or ostracised from discourse on that subject, by being branded TERFs by people who disagree, including by self-identified cishet guys (who as we know have nothing to gain by influencing discussions about gender within progressive, ostensibly feminist communities. #notallcishetguys, of course).
    My impression is that commenters here who came across Ophelia first on the basis of an interest in atheism, have been inclined to listen to Ophelia when she speaks of gender and indicates that she is not a transphobe, and to analyse her arguments on their merits rather than primarily on the basis of Ophelia being identified as a ‘cis woman white feminist’ or similar. However arguments by other good female writers on the subject *may have* been dismissed – extensively unexamined – as TERF bigotry spewed by TERFs, on the basis that once a woman primarily identified as a feminist – and read by other feminist-not necessarily-skeptic-atheist women – is labelled a TERF, it is bad allyship to transwomen to even read what such women write, let alone bring it up for discussion. (Ophelia has previously featured writing from some of these women here on her blog, leading to my apprehension about her imminent TERFification if such actions were not disavowed).
    It appears to me that commenters here have noted how inaccurate it is to identify Ophelia and her thinking as transphobic, by analysing her writing on its merits. I am making a small plea to others – particularly if you are male – to do the same for the arguments and ideas of other women whom other people insist are TERF bigots.

  47. Olaru says

    Can one ever use a fallacy responsibly? Yes or No?

    I see what you did there. But yes, if you are tempted to deploy a known fallacy in support of your argument, that’s a big red flag that your biases may be at work. Time to stop and think.

  48. Olaru says

    I should have said “one” instead of “you” @ 55. I’m sorry if this seems aimed at sigurd jorsalfar.

  49. says

    This silly title aside, I think what’s often missing in the community is concern about doing criticism, denunciation, and distancing responsibly. It’s like there’s a sense among many people that since their motives are good they don’t have to be introspective about their actions. It’s not even the idea that the end justifies the means – it’s the fact that the means are hardly considered at all, much less critically debated.

    Public denunciation and distancing is sometimes necessary, especially when the person or group being denounced poses a continuing threat to people’s safety, is actively harassing or falsely smearing other people or providing a platform for others to, or is widely recognized as a leader or representative of the community. But there has to be some caution and concern with limits. We have to be careful about checking the accuracy of the information on which we’re acting, including looking for evidence that might contradict what we’ve been led to believe, and evaluating the evidence fairly before we weigh in. We should recognize that there are people dedicated to malicious misrepresentations and encouraging hostilities, and try to avoid as best we can being manipulated by these people. We should be alert to when our own motives might not be as pure as we’d like to think, due to unrelated personal animosities, a desire to be accepted into a community, the wish to be seen as a good advocate, pressure to go along, etc. We should try to avoid letting the dynamic take on a life of its own, extending well beyond any usefulness it might originally have had. We should avoid continuing the dynamic through post hoc rationalizations if we sense that the original reasons for denunciation were inaccurate (“Charlie Hebdo is racist – look at that cover!” “Actually, CH is an anti-racist publication, and that cover targeted racists.” “Well,…intent isn’t magic!”). We should know when to stop. We should take care that the way we go about denouncing and distancing doesn’t contribute to other oppressions. We should consider the situation and vulnerability of the person, and whether our actions could open them up to harassment, especially if they’ve been targeted by harassers in the past. We should keep in mind whether the alleged offense is something for which we would feel ourselves deserving of collective scrutiny and denunciation, especially from our friends and colleagues. And we should realize that in many cases there are other, less scorched-earth approaches that can be better and more productive for all involved. There’s dialogue, private communication, critical debate, a quieter distancing in the form of ceasing to read or promote people’s work, and so on.

    The suggestion that there’s a general duty to publicly denounce all real or perceived “shitty behavior” or “shitty people” has a vaguely Stalinist ring to it and is just unsuited to most situations. Even in those cases in which it genuinely seems the best or only option, which do exist, we still have to try to go about it responsibly. We’re all going to make mistakes, especially in the heat of anger, but we have to at least try.

  50. says

    I see Oolon has stepped up with a load of his trademark sociopathic condescension in that thread. Apparently Olivia and Will only step up to say who that post isn’t about if the commenter disagrees with them.

  51. sacharissa says

    I’ve been staying out of this debate but this post troubled me.

    A Skeptic post is saying that everyone should stand up and say,”I 100% believe…”. Why not go all the way and say, “I believe with perfect faith…”

    Just to be clear, I do agree we should respect trans people’s right to self-determination and use their preferred pronouns. I agree we should not let it pass when people make trans people the butt of jokes or say unpleasant things about them.

    However, this is setting a standard where people are being asked to accept certain positions as articles of faith. This is despite the fact that gender is so nebulous that it’s hard to believe anything about it 100%. It generally requires qualification and is mostly a social construct with no way to determine an objective truth.

    I don’t think I believe many things 100%. I have doubts about the political positions I am passionate about and personally involved in. For example I am a member of the National Secular Society but I can’t say I believe without a doubt that the UK would be better if it was made completely secular. I believe it enough to hand over a membership subscription fee and to get involved in other ways but that doesn’t mean I never doubt. Does that mean I’m actually an anti-secularist?

    It was my capacity for doubt that led me to reject religion no matter how badly I wanted to believe. I can’t shut off the capacity to doubt and that’s part of who I am. I got interested in skepticism because it was for people like me who question things.

    So in summary, I support trans rights but have a problem with demands for absolute ideological purity.

  52. sacharissa says

    Sorry I can see some typos etc. in the above. I’m not well at the moment and don’t have good focus for writing.

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