QOTD: Neutrality is not neutral. Neutrality supports the status quo.

A woman in early twentieth century dress, gazing into a yawning chasm 5000 feet deep, Moran's Point. (c1902-1903) rift[Content Note: discussion of graphic rape threats and links to posts that quote them]

From a post by Greta Christina about the Deep Rifts™ in the atheist community/movement, but it applies to just about every other community/movement too.

I’m sure that you, personally, don’t like rape threats, or approve of them. But the way you personally feel about rape threats is irrelevant. What’s relevant is how you behave when they happen. When you support and promote the work of someone who makes rape threats, you are tolerating rape threats. I agree that with some words and actions, we can agree on some things and disagree on others, and set aside disagreements to work together. Someone who says and does what The Amazing Atheist did does not fall into that category.

I understand that when it comes to the divisions and hostilities in the atheist movement about feminism and sexism, many people want to remain neutral. But there is no way to remain neutral. You cannot welcome people of color into our community, and also welcome racists. You cannot welcome LGBT people, and also welcome homophobes. And you cannot welcome women, and also welcome hateful misogynists who want to rape us.

Neutrality is not neutral. Neutrality supports the status quo. And the status quo, apparently, is one in which people who publicly make brutal graphic rape threats, and who express joy over the fact that someone was raped, still get to be respected members of the community with thousands hundreds of thousands of followers — because they sometimes say clever things about creationists.

Is that the community standard you want to support?

To relate back to an earlier post, the person who made the rape threats that Greta quotes in her post was TJ Kincaid aka TheAmazingAtheist. That these quotes (and other documentation of deplorable attitudes) are unequivocally Kincaid’s words is why that earlier post still stands.

As Australia’s Chief of Army, Lieutenant General David Morrison, said last year, “the standard you walk by is the standard you accept”.

There are points of disagreement I can have with some people over goals/strategies etc and still work with them or manage to socialise happily with them. There are some people whose social behaviours I find intensely irritating but I can still work with them or manage to socialise civilly with them. There are other people I will not work with and actively avoid socially, because their behaviour has crossed too many lines and I simply don’t trust them to remain within acceptable bounds of behaviour either with me or with other people around me. I am not going to apologise for that, and I’m not going to stop pointing out that some chasms are simply not worth building bridges across.

ETA: Greta paraphrases her post in comments in response to an obtuse interlocutor:

If we are never willing to shun anyone, for any reason, it means we are literally willing to tolerate anything.

Image credit for Deep Rifts™ macro: Dana Hunter



Categories: ethics & philosophy, gender & feminism, social justice

Tags: , , ,

3 replies

  1. A quote attributed to Winston Churchill said at the time of the 1926 General Strike:
    “I cannot undertake to be impartial as between the Fire Brigade and the fire.”
    To me, the bigots and misogynists are the cause of the fire. They actively make the trouble.
    To them of course, the ones they fulminate against are, just by being there.
    Have to pick a side, can’t be neutral.

  2. An encouraging development: a joint statement from Ophelia Benson and Richard Dawkins on threats, bullying, bigotry, and harassment, published simultaneously on both their websites.
    http://richarddawkins.net/2014/07/joint-statement-by-ophelia-benson-and-richard-dawkins/
    http://freethoughtblogs.com/butterfliesandwheels/2014/07/joint-statement-by-ophelia-benson-and-richard-dawkins/

  3. What I feel keeps getting left out, is that if we are never willing to shun anyone, we will by default shun a whole heap of people.
    E.g. If you aren’t willing to ban James Frenkel from your convention, other people will refuse to attend that convention. (I am lost in Wiscon comments, and this probably belongs on the other thread, but I’m pretty sure someone has said they have never attended Wiscon because they knew Frenkel was an annual attendee, and it was a female writer who otherwise would thus seem an excellent “fit” for Wiscon.)
    Somebody has to be left out. Do you want it to be the victims, or the victimiser?

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