MRA Gets Around

So I managed to get two posts done before crashing last night. That’s not bad, right? It’s not the full three, sure, but now I’m freed up to talk about the absolutely batshit rant I woke up to find circulating around the blogowebz. I’m a little behind on this compared to my FTB colleagues, on account of time zones and the human physiological need for sleep and other inconveniences, but I’ll take a go anyway.

Last night TJ Kinkaid, known more popularly as The Amazing Atheist, went on some kind of incredibly vicious tirade on reddit, deliberately trying to provoke a trigger response in a redditor who’d expressed once having been a victim of rape. This was apparently all motivated by his disagreement with the use of trigger warnings on the internet (almost as stupid and useless as NSFW, amirite!?) and how incredibly angry he was that the dogmatic, intolerant feminazis were trying to “control sexuality” and ruining atheism and blah blah blah we’ve heard this all before. Though usually without the same horrifically violent, degrading, hateful exploitation of rape and trauma to “make a point”. Various wonderful rebuttals to his arguments are currently scattered all over the FTB today, so I’d mostly just like to direct you there. I don’t much feel like retreading ground that has already thoroughly been covered. And landscaped. And set up with a little garden.

Instead I’m going to tell you about something kind of spooky.

I’m actually pretty amazed it took this long for Kinkaid to tip his hand like this. That must be the “amazing” part! I’d sort of been expecting it for awhile. I first came across him being used as a substitute for argument by a VERY committed MRA who believed that we were literally living in an oppressive matriarchy, during my stay at the SGU forums (which I guess now gets used for points in the “Rebecca Watson did something less than perfect once therefore hypocrisy” game). I felt like I could tell almost everything I needed to know about him right away, just from the frame at which the embedded video was stopped. Kincaid wore an exaggerated, parodic mock-up of a whiny sneer with the words “I’m Offended!” hovering behind him. That face said everything: here was an arrogant, childish man who enjoys mocking and belittling the concerns of others, has little comedic creativity but fancies himself an ‘edgy’ comic who’s ‘challenging’ his audience, rarely questions his own positions, and is far more interested in rushing after the easy, vulnerable targets for the benefit of an audience who’ve already sided with him than actually engaging in serious intellectual work. And lazy, too.

He didn’t disappoint.

Since then I’d made a point of just generally avoiding the guy, and taking instances of his videos being referenced or linked as very bad signs. This wasn’t terribly hard to do because he didn’t exactly have a particularly prominent position in the community or movement. Just sort of orbiting around the fringes, doing his thing, the gravity of his arrogance and poorly disguised hatred pulling in the types who refuse to apply skepticism to their own positions and biases, or towards social matters like sex, gender or race, and instead staying relatively within the comfort zone of those who assure them the opposition are merely dogmatic. I think he honestly spent more time whingeing about Straw Feminism than he actually spent discussing atheism. He should have called himself The Amazing Guy Who Really Really Hates Feminism And Wants To Tell You All About That Over And Over Again. The Amazing Ego. The Amazing Lack Of Self-Awareness. The Amazing Obsessive Misogyny. The Amazing Persecution Complex. Etc.

But here’s where it gets spooky. He started popping up in places I really didn’t expect to find him. One of these was a trans site populated mostly by young women. A site that didn’t officially have any connection to atheism or skepticism whatsoever.

We’d been having some fights there about feminism. There were several of us on that site who were very passionate, committed feminists. And then there were several of us who had sort of once-upon-a-time allowed things like jealousy towards cis women and hatred of being forced to live as male to lead us to the justifications and rationalizations of MRA philsophy: “I don’t want to be a woman because I’m transsexual, I just want to be a woman because they have it so much better than men.” Ridiculous, I know, but as I’ve said a lot of times, the human mind is capable of some amazing things when it’s pressed. Many trans women had clung to those philosophies and carried them through into transition and past, and still held significant resentment and anger towards feminism (fueled in no small part by feminism’s history of transphobia). Many were also still carrying with them significant anger from personal events that had happened to them that they blamed on women: wives and girlfriends who left, mothers who scorned or disowned them, children they weren’t permitted to see, etc.

All of it was intellectually strange, because from my perspective, I can’t even begin to imagine transitioning from living as male to living as female and not notice how much harder things get, not notice the privileges you lose along the way. It’s almost inconceivable to me that a trans woman can possibly not also be feminist. But here we were.

The thing is, as Kinkaid’s rant makes abundantly clear, much of these positions and ideologies aren’t motivated by intellectual argument and feeling the evidence supports it. They’re mostly motivated by emotional needs. Needs to justify ones privilege, one’s anger, one’s discomfort with being asked to adapt behaviours, one’s guilt over the mistreatment of other groups, one’s refusal to admit to having held an incorrect belief, one’s internal biases giving an impression of things for which an alternate interpretation is just too counter-intuitive. That kind of thing. And like I said, can be motivated in trans women by things like jealousy, denial, pain, resentment and personal tragedies.

I wish I could say that the trans community are above these kinds of things. I wish I could say we’ve seen enough of the irrationality surrounding our cultural model of gender, experienced a diverse enough range of gendered experiences, experienced enough ridicule, hatred, dismissal, discrimination and oppression to know these things, and know sexism, when we see it. But sadly, I can’t. Pain and hardship doesn’t always lead to understanding. It can lead to exactly the opposite.

I don’t know if this really adds much to the conversation surrounding Kinkaid’s rant, but I think it’s worth knowing that these beliefs and ideas don’t simply remain cloistered within their own little irrelevant spheres. They spread, and are accepted, in some pretty wide circles. The views can be internalized even by people who would undoubtedly be tossed into the same category of enemy as those being openly attacked should the chance ever arise. These views are dangerous.

In a way, I’m grateful for this having happened. Not grateful for what had to be endured by the people Kinkaid was attacking. But grateful that he’s taken off his masks and exposed the hatred and anger seething underneath. Building one’s beliefs on emotions like that is as far from critical thought as you can get.


  1. Emily says

    I read some of the comments from the reddit thread, and I’m absolutely blown away that anyone could possibly think that any of it is acceptable to say to anyone, and they were said to a rape victim? Absolutely heartless. Then he apparently had the nerve to make a video whining about how unfair it was that people were pointing out how monsterous he was being.

    I just don’t get people like that :/

  2. Chirico says

    I’ve held some petty and bitter feelings towards women before, but at the end of the day I consider myself a feminist because it’s the most rational, human view to take. Even as a less-than-exemplar male, I cannot understand these MRA people. It’s just too bizarre.

  3. says

    What’s even more Amazing Appalling about the Amazing Appalling Atheist is the dishonesty of his critiques: set up a giant monolithic strawwoman of Feminism, which he goes at with vitriolic rage. Oh yeah, you really proved something there by attacking positions and arguments which aren’t necessarily held by all feminists, and are in fact the subject of vigorous debate within feminism. Just the usual MRA-style denigration that feminism is everything that’s wrong with the world, and denials of patriarchal male privilege to rival the denialism of climate change skeptics.

    By the way, I think his surname is spelled Kincaid – the way you’ve got it, it sounds more like liquid refreshment for non-vanilla types of sex-pozzies.

  4. Captaintripps says

    The only thing I liked about this incident is that I think Rebecca Watson’s call to not accept this shit on the Internet is having an effect. That post was downvoted and all of that dude’s comments were heavily in the negative. It’s heartening to think that actually saying “I’m not accepting hateful malarkey from anonymous goons on the Internet” is starting to have an effect.

    Having been a reddit user since the beginning and on the world wide web for 20 years, it’s extremely gladdening to see things starting to change. At least where people have working brains.

  5. julian says

    I tend to get incredibly angry with people who accuse atheists of being atheists just because they want to feel superior to others. Then I see people like TAA…

    Well, I can’t talk too much shit. I was like that at one point I just didn’t call myself an atheist. I called myself an agnostic.

  6. Kazim says

    I really hate it when two of my interests clash online too. I read manboobz a lot for the lols, and unfortunately reddit atheists have been featured there quite a few times. When that happens, blog readers who are feminists but not atheists take that as license to say all the usual dumb stuff about atheism… Oh, you know, those atheists are all hopeless nihilists with no moral compass, etc.

    It’s extra obnoxious because these are people whose comments I typically respect, but here they say the kind of ridiculous misinformed comments that I fight against constantly.

    • says

      I’ve been posting over there for some time, and the first of the current atheism threads was well underway when I woke up this morning – the comments there don’t go quite as quickly as say, a feminism thread on Pharyngula! It’s frustrating to see those responses, but the real problem is the unexamined bigotry and blindness to privilege within atheist circles to begin with. That I find even more frustrating.

  7. Ace of Sevens says

    I wish I could say that the trans community are above these kinds of things.

    Sadly, if I’ve learned one thing growing up, it’s that no group is above anything.

    TJ has been going at this for years (along with various other forms of assholery). It’s okay though. He has a good excuse. He was raped and he sucked it up and dealt with it like a man. Therefore, anyone who is traumatized is just a whiner. What really gets me about this is he is the most popular YouTube atheist with something like 100 million views. Hundreds of thousands of people follow this guy. Every campus atheist group has at least one guy that won’t shut up about how great he is. He isn’t just some asshole. he;s an asshole with a huge constituency. What really irks me is that there’s a strong possibility that he really is a fairly typical American atheist.

    • says

      It’s okay though. He has a good excuse. He was raped and he sucked it up and dealt with it like a man. Therefore, anyone who is traumatized is just a whiner.

      That’s like some horrible combination of toxic masculinity, Internet tough guy routine, and emotional libertarianism – “if you don’t like me being an asshole than fuck you, what are you doing on the Internet? Your triggers are your fucking problem.”

      It is scary that he has 300,000 subscribers, or thereabouts – being an irrational vitriolic vulgarian is appealing to some people. This is apparently his idea of not offering a full public apology:
      (I believe the recipient of this was the redditor called Lorrdernie, who in case we forgot, is also a rape victim.)

      • Ace of Sevens says

        His offense has turned public, so this won’t get him far. Also, his apology was rather vague about what he did wrong. I’m betting it amounts to, “I’m sorry that I tried to use the fact you were raped against you, but you really do need to get over it.”

      • StevoR says

        What really gets me about this is he is the most popular YouTube atheist with something like 100 million views.

        Yikes. Not Richard Dawkins or Rebecca Watson or Carl Sagan+ or Isaac Asimov+ but *that* dropkick? Really?

        That *is* scary. I’ve never even heard of him before – not that I recall anyhow.


        + Not that Youtube was really around when they were alive but there are soem good clips of them recorded on it.

        • Ace of Sevens says

          Asmimov is at the severe disadvantage of dying in 1992, more than a decade before YouTube showed up. For comparison’s sake, Rebecca Watson has about 1.3 million views and Richard Dawkins has a little over 17 million. IIRC, the second most popular YouTube atheist is Pat Condell, with about 39 million views. Laci Green, one of the more popular people I like, has about 19.4 million between her two channels. YouTube isn’t looking good.

          • Ace of Sevens says

            In case you aren’t familiar with Pat Condell, he’s as bad as TJ, only a racist right-winger instead of a sexist.

          • Anders says

            I wouldn’t put too much stock into those figures. Lots of people like watching trainwrecks.

          • mal099 says

            Thunderf00t has more views, but a little less subscribers than Pat Condell. While there’s many things you can criticize about him too, I think he’s better than both Condell and Amazing Atheist.

        • Sas says

          I don’t find it that scary, because the way you become popular on YouTube is make lots and lots of videos, preferably with a lot of yelling. People like Rebecca Watson, Richard Dawkins (and PZ, since TJ’s followers keep wanting to compare their e-peens) don’t get as popular because they direct their efforts out into the real world, go to conferences and give speeches, write books and blogs, they don’t just focus on YouTube. TJ’s fans want to make a big deal of his popularity when it really doesn’t mean anything other than that he has a firm grasp of the lowest common denominator.

  8. Happiestsadist says

    I came across his stuff once while following youtube links, likely while procrastinating. I watched some, and wasn’t sure if he was a bad poe or not. Now we know. Apparently just a really really shitty person.

    I’ve seen (and briefly dabbled in) something of an analogue to the phenomenon you described on that forum among cis women. The “cool chick” thing, where she’s “one of the guys”, and “not like those other girls”. It’s a weird response to patriarchal crap, and an attempt to get oneself out of the worst of it. They both sort of are, whether through explicit attempts to remove oneself from the hated Girl category, or by pretending that it’s just the totes easier option, really it is, it’s not like being a woman is a fine way to be in and of itself.

  9. says

    I stumbled across one of his videos about feminism a couple of weeks ago and thought about writing a takedown. He’s totally arguing against a straw feminism in the video I saw. Something about the way he performs on camera told me that responding would be more trouble than it’s worth. I don’t get a lot of trolling on any of my blogs, and I like it that way. And I didn’t feel that strongly about it at the time. This, though…yeesh.

    I know exactly what you mean about certain trans spaces, by the way. Been there. Got the t-shirt.

    • Ace of Sevens says

      He would have ignored you and found someone who claimed anyone who ever looked at porn was a rapist, and responded to her.

  10. Ace of Sevens says

    In case what he said here seemed a little bit defensible, watch this. Gay kids who commit suicide are pussies and they ought to just give their tormenters a good thrashing, apparently.

  11. says

    I think I’ve seen maybe three videos of his, though never saw any on his views on women or rape. I liked the first video, which was a bit ragey, but the topic was tame and occasionally it’s nice to see a person get a little passionate about hating bull. The other two were pretty stupid, though, and I got the impression pretty fast that he couldn’t do anything other than ragey. I think one of the videos was a rant about being kicked out of a fast food place or something. In any case, I was kind of cool about him for awhile and pretty much ignored his videos, especially on TGWTG as there’s already one angry guy on there who is far more talented, but when I heard about this on the AE blog I lost any vestige of respect I might have had for the guy. I really regret that many theists will take this guy’s beliefs to actually represent every atheist’s, no matter how we vilify him in our communities.

  12. Anders says

    I’ve been avoiding him ever since I heard about him. I felt like vomiting when I read what he had written – it was looking into his soul and seeing nothing but hatred. Not hatred against anything because it was bad – I can understand that. But just pure platonic hate against anything that challenged his preconceptions.

    Natalie, I would be extremely surprised if the trans community could see through irrationality and prejudice. That would be more indicative of transhumanism than transsexualism. (Is there such a thing as a cishumanist?)

    I’d also like to try out an idea that has been percolating for some time. That the squealings we hear from MRAs and the cries of persecution from the Christian Right in the U.S. are really two versions of the same thing – the anger from a group who feels their privilege being eroded. Not eroded very much, but just enough to be noticeable.

    • Anders says

      Also, he tried to instill a panic attack in a rape victim?

      Upon him I will visit famine and fire.
      Till all around him desolation rings
      And all the demons in the outer dark
      Look on amazed and recognise
      That vengeance is the business of a man.’

    • says

      Oh yeah, absolutely. I see no difference whatsoever between the MRAs complaining about “female privilege” (or “tranny privilege”… yeah, they’ve actually said that’s a thing. I know) and Christians talking about being “persecuted” and “oppressed” by the “secular elite”. It’s the EXACT same topsy-turvy, bizarro-world, invert-everything logic, designed to appropriate the language of the “adversary”.

      • says

        the MRAs complaining about… “tranny privilege”…

        What privilege could they possibly complain about? “Ooh, the MtF trans people get to go into the girls’ restrooms! We wanna see women pee!” Pff. Deluded fools. I’ve been in ladies’ rooms, and, contrary to what these guys might want to believe, women do, in fact, have the same disgusting body functions as men (it will make them sad in their pants). And they always seem to install those scent things so instead of just honestly smelling like crap, it smells like crap and roses, which is somehow even worse.

        Or maybe they’re worried that an FtM trans person will get the “privilege” *cough* of seeing their dangly parts? Ohhh, no, can’t let any double-Xers in on that “little” secret.

        No, but seriously, that is incroyable.

      • Anders says

        In a twisted way, it that kind of rhetoric is a sign of encroaching civilization. It’s a sign that you can get sympathy for being the underdog, the one who isn’t mighty. It’s a step away from the raw adulation of power that was prevalent for a long time.

        Now if we could only modulate it with a certain respect for the truth we might actually get somewhere.

    • John Horstman says

      I’d also like to try out an idea that has been percolating for some time. That the squealings we hear from MRAs and the cries of persecution from the Christian Right in the U.S. are really two versions of the same thing – the anger from a group who feels their privilege being eroded. Not eroded very much, but just enough to be noticeable.

      My social-analysis heuristics tell me you’re on to something. Good research project or doctoral thesis for any grant-underwritten sociologists out there…

  13. tangovelocity says

    Hi Natalie. Like you, and even more so, I was kind of late to hearing about this Amazing Atheist guy. After reading through the various FTB discussions about him I found myself rather agitated. Coming into the skeptic community after my flirtation with evangelical Christianity I thought to myself, “Self, ah, relief! We have reached the shores of enlightened humanism. Free from sexism, racism, classism, …” Then shock upon shock as, first with Rebecca Watsons’ mild remarks about the elevator incident erupting into a naked firestorm of offended male privilege; compounded with other recitations of womens’ experiences within the skeptic community and I began to despair.

    Now this event. I don’t want to put out a “no true Scotsman” argument, but I was so angry that someone like that could have a following as an atheist that I began to wonder how atheistic he really could be. I watched a number of his youtube vids (as much as I could stand), and like you, had no comprehension as to how he developed a following.

    My thesis as to why he is not an adherent to any of the Abrahamic religions is simply that of his profound disappointment. If the Big Guy depicted in the Torah/Bible/Quran really did exist then the world would be exactly as he wishes it were; (more)patriarchical and horrible for any one not in the special Boys Club. Rape? Not a problem. Subjugation of non-members? Totally okay! Treatment of anyone not in the club as not really human beings? Yahweh is down with that!
    Also, welcome to FTB. You are a welcome addition.

  14. says

    This was apparently all motivated by his disagreement with the use of trigger warnings on the internet

    that was his issue? The unbearable burden of having to remember to put the words “trigger warning” before certain subject-matters?

    I… I think that’s the single most privilege-y thing I’ve ever seen in my entire life.

  15. Anders says

    Since we’re talking privilege:

    I looked at that list of cis privileges recently. It was a mighty impressive list. I guess I also have privilege from being male, and white, and heterosexual… and with all that privilege going for me, look at where I am? No job. No money. No girl. No nothing. If I can’t accomplish anything with all that going for me, how fucking useless must I be?

    I don’t want to be a whiner, but can someone please tell me where I’m going wrong with this. I don’t want to… I just spent a week in a closed ward for depression. I don’t want to go back again. Please tell me where I’m going wrong.

    • says

      Well, you don’t have the privilege of neurotypicality. Mental health is itself an axis of privilege, and suffering from depression isn’t any more a flaw or failing than is being trans, female, gay, black, physically disabled, etc.

      Please stop being so hard on yourself, Anders. I worry. 🙁

      • Anders says

        My therapist says the same. Apparently my super-ego is too large and my id is not large enough. Or something like that.

        There’s a lot of reasons I feel bad at the moment. My medication is screwed up, I always feel worse during winter-springtime, and I’m frustrated because I’m not getting any better. Also, the Project isn’t going well at the moment and I may have to contact you about it. Which is bad because it’s meant as a surprise.

        Thanks for worrying, it means a lot.

        This is the only site where I didn’t maintain Internet silence during my stay in the hospital. There’s so much to learn here. I just couldn’t stay away. Can you tell me where I can learn more about privilege? If I understand more about it I will be able to deal with it better.

        Incidentally, I think many MRA follow the same route that I take, only they go “If privilege exists I’m useless. I’m not useless. Therefore privilege does not exist.” Whereas I can’t accept that conclusion and go into a meltdown instead.

        • Movius says

          ‘Privilege’ is an abstract concept. It’s not supposed to be a reflection on your (or anyones) individual character.

          Treat people with respect and you’ll likely get the same back. Theres a reason why people (a lot of them, judging by the SGU forums) seem to show concern for someone like you but have less interest in the wellbeing of buffoons like the subject of the article.

          • Anders says

            Ok. Thanks.

            Like I said, I’m feeling poorly at the moment. Worrying about privilege is more of a symptom than a cause of that poorly-ness.

    • says

      a lot of what privilege is is statistical. so if you have male privilege (and aren’t part of the prison population), the chance that someone will try to rape you is very small, unlike for women, where the chance is somewhere between 1 in 4 and 1 in 6; but if you are that tiny minority, this privilege doesn’t mean anything in your individual case. and so on.

      so the statistical privileges of higher employment rates and higher salaries don’t apply. but others still do, because it’s exceedingly unlikely that you will find yourself in the statistical minority in all aspects of the privileges you have. and even with the lack of mental health privilege, you’re still experiencing privilege that other people with mental health issues don’t, but again, many of them are statistical, too. The rates of suicide are much higher for certain minorities precisely because lack of health privilege and lack of other privileges reinforce each other.

      • Anders says

        Ok. Privilege isn’t destiny. Good.

        I feel better now everyone, because it’s afternoon and I feel worse in the morning. And I will endeavor to not have any more nervous breakdowns in the conference room. 🙂

        Regarding MRAs, they’re not quite as dangerous as MRSA but can be nasty anyway. I recommend bedrest, lots of fluid and daily intake of reality-connected blogs.

      • Anders says

        Also, remembered something I need to hit on: According to the statistics I presented in the thread on Lana Wachowski – the prevalence of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is 9-12 times higher in trans people than in veterans from the U.S. military. Even if we assume that the U.S. military and the lives of ordinary citizens are equally stressful, this number points to an enormous over-representation of PTSD in trans people.

        Cis-privilege indeed.

        (And I looked for PTSD precisely because I realised that the lives of trans people would be a perfect breeding ground for that disorder.)

  16. kosk11348 says

    You how Christians always accuse atheists of denying god’s existence because really they just want to sin? In TJ Kinkaid’s case, I suspect it’s actually true.

  17. Brony says

    I noticed the My little pony threads, and then I saw this one. This issue is big even on Ponychan. I have been doing battle on this issue like I never thought I would have to among Bronies! I did not expect that. One can’t give up though, and now I know why the term “Pegasister” has been getting traction.

    The most recent dust-up if anyone is interested.

    “Feminism isn’t sexist”
    (I post as Flutterguy (Possessed by Pinkie Pie))

    My general take on Brony mysogenists is that they are mostly nice people, but have no idea how hurtful their opinions can be to others, have no first hand experience with issues that cause women pain, have a knee-jerk dislike of evidence and data, and are essentially social “fish out of the water” outside of the MRA community.

    It’s too bad because they have some issues that are genuinely good to be concerned with, but who is going to listen to that attitude in the long run? Not me.


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