Rebecca Watson wrote a great post about a heartbreaking episode of sexist abuse on the atheism channel on reddit that you should read, but this post from Kate Harding hammers the point home precisely:
Finally, if your solution to sexist abuse on the internet is, “Just don’t let anyone know your gender, or see a picture of you, or ever mention where you live” (as one of the first commenters on Watson’s post suggested), you are so fucking awful, I can’t even. It’s not just that you’re putting all the onus on the targets of hatred to change so that bullies won’t have to, or that you’re conveniently ignoring situations, in almost 20fucking12, where a woman might want to have her picture and contact info on the internet for, I dunno, business reasons? For example? And it’s not even that you’re representing yourself as someone who’s clearly more internet-savvy than the lady blogger in question, but you apparently don’t realize that a highly motivated person can pretty easily discover the identity behind a pseudonym. No, it’s that you’re arguing that abuse of women online would solve itself if only women disappeared from the internet.
Oh, of course that’s not what you’re saying! I know, I know. In the scenario you describe, sexist shitheads would know that there were still women out there–it wouldn’t be as though around half the human race had just vanished!–but they wouldn’t know which specific screen names deserved to have their hotness assessed, their gender mocked, their ideas dismissed, and their bodies threatened. So they wouldn’t even need to bother with all that! PROBLEM SOLVED YOU’RE WELCOME.
Know what, dude who thinks this? You’re probably the awfulest. That’s all.
Categories: ethics & philosophy, gender & feminism
Also, Skepchick is compiling a piece on sexism in the community, please contribute your experiences of sexism in the atheist/secular/skeptic community for a write-up by her. You can do this either by comment on her site, email directly to her or on twitter with the hashtag #SexismInSkepticism.
I laugh when atheists claim that they are somehow morally superior just because they’re atheist. Like somehow their being atheist either (1) makes it impossible to be misogynistic, racist, etc; or (2) that it doesn’t matter if they’re misogynistic, racist, etc because BOW DOWN TO MAH ATHEIST AWSUMZNESS!
I have to laugh, because otherwise I’d tear my hair out.
I feel awful for Ms. Lunam and for every woman that’s dealt with this crap (and I’ve had my share). Those atheist men have no excuse. None whatsoever.
In my experience that’s mostly a newbie atheist attitude, that they are so much more logical about everything than anybody else could possible be. Sadly, quite a few men in the movement don’t appear to move past it, whereas most female atheists, precisely because of this sort of reaction in its various degrees, quickly realise that atheism alone does not mean that a rational egalitarianism will prevail at all.
New Meme: Scumbag Privilege Denying rAtheism
From my time online with a relatively genderless ‘nym, I have to say that, while I agree with Kate Harding overall, I strongly disagree with
The sexist shitheads carry on as though everyone else online is a straight white cismale like themselves and they are shocked when they discover this person they were having a normal conversation with is someone they have no respect for. And this does not cause them to reassess whether perhaps they are bigots, but rather causes them to break into righteous fury that you have deceived them, I say deceived them, and they want to know who’s the straight white cismale who’s been telling you what to say.
That seems more like furiously agreeing with her to me, AotQ, since I agree furiously with both of you!
Anyhoo, just added this to the post:
ADDENDUM: responses from within the online atheist community –
Greta Christina: Why “Yes, But” Is the Wrong Response to Misogyny
Ed Brayton: Reddit Makes Me Hate Men
Jason Thibeault: Why is Rebecca Watson so damned polarizing?
Sadly, quite a few men in the movement don’t appear to move past it
It’s a very strong meme in British movement atheism – too much so to be a newbie thing here – although of course men make up the celebrity voices, so women may still be more likely to get past it.
And it takes eight comments for the first “yes, but” to appear.
Perhaps the ‘I’m so morally superior because of my rationality’ attitude remains loud and proud because the (I suspect) majority of male atheists who don’t actually think that way do the usual homosocial thing of staying silent when other guys are being jerks to outgroups, so the newbies never get challenged/squelched on that while they are still newbies, and after the newbie stage it’s too late, they’re ‘one of us’ now and therefore even less likely to be challenged/squelched on being hateful to outgroups?
Marginalised groups, no matter how much they object to being marginalised, cannot get bigots to STFU without action from allies within the privileged groups, because the bigots feel safely surround by others whom they are sure think just the same as they do. While they feel safe they can always dismiss the complaints of the marginalised as “emotional”, “thin-skinned”, “shrill” etc etc.
Marginalised groups know, to their chagrin, that they can’t shift the behaviour/opinions of the bulk of the privileged groups by relying on the justice of their cause alone. Natural justice can and does change bigoted laws via the pure exercise of logic, but it takes committed allies to change the social attitudes of their peers. The marginalised need to build alliances with privileged folks who’ve learned to check their own privilege and listen, and the marginalised have to keep on with the consciousness-raising until they have found enough of those privileged allies to build social momentum.
This is how blatant racism and blatant homophobia and most forms of blatant *ism are being eroded over time – the marginalised articulate the natural justice of their case over and over and over, and slowly more and more non-marginalised people accept its justice and start to articulate the case as allies separately from the marginalised group activists, they start to be listened to by their peers, and slowly the bigots start to be challenged and ostracised by their own peer groups, and slowly the culture progresses in inclusivity. Committed allies actively challenging their friends/families/colleagues/acquaintances from the non-marginalised group has been crucial in the progress of every social justice campaign I’ve ever heard of, because otherwise the marginalised people remain invisible and unheard except for continuing to be denigrated, harassed and excluded.
I wish humans weren’t this way. I wish that the prima facie natural justice of marginalised groups seeking genuinely egalitarian treatment as full human beings were forceful enough to just transform bigots by the sheer power of logic. But we all know that it isn’t enough unless validated by peer pressure from those whom they consider to be their peers. Allies need to step up.
Ugh, the victim-blaming of a 15 yo girl is bad enough, but the amount of ‘that’s just the way it is, suck it up’ apologist fail in the comments on Rebecca’s post is truly depressing.
@tigtog, I suspect you are right. I think it also has something to do with the fact that Britain has (or seems to have) more celebrity atheists, like Dawkins or the late Hitchens. Celebrity culture has close ties to misogyny – and the homosociality you describe – of course, but I think it’s also a factor in its own right.