Misogyny and Activism

Tuesday, September 11, 2012
I consider myself a feminist. I've worked in a male dominated field my entire adult life, and have tried to "fight the good fight" in terms of trying to be a good role model for other women who want to serve in the military or work in engineering. I've not always been successful but I try, and if I get tired sometimes, I can fall back, regroup and live to fight another day.

Which is why I find the current trend of violent threats towards feminist women in Atheism really, really disturbing. The behavior is so egregious, so beyond the pale, that women are choosing not to regroup and live to fight another day.

Over the last year, feminist women who are active in the Atheist/Skeptical movement have attempted to speak out about a couple of things that concern them - primarily the inclusion of more women in the movement, and a drive to change the culture of Atheist/Skeptical get-togethers so that sexual harassment isn't tolerated. These sound like reasonable things to be concerned about, if you're a woman who cares about Atheism and/or Skepticism, and I applaud them for attempting to make a positive change in their community.

But I have been appalled by the backlash. And I mean truly appalled, not appalled in a hyperbolic sense like when someone wears a baseball hat to a live theater event.

Women who have chosen to speak up, who have asked that Atheist and Skeptical men treat them with respect and dignity, who have asked Conferences to put harassment policies in place for everyone's protection, have been repeatedly, unmercifully harassed with threats of rape, violent retaliation, and death.

No, I'm not making that up.

I'm not particularly active in the feminist/Atheist blogosphere. Because I consider religious belief (or a lack thereof) to be a private matter, I'm not inclined to be an activist of any kind as it relates to Atheism. I don't particularly care for "Atheist Assholes," (*cough*Richard Dawkins*cough*) and I don't want to be one or hang out with them. So I avoid Atheism as a movement, because movements don't really get to pick and choose who comes along for the ride.

But at this point, I bet they wish they could.

There are plenty of Atheist and Skeptical men out there who find this behavior abhorrent. SkepChick ran a whole series of guest posts entitled "Speaking Out Against Hate Directed at Women," and the men who wrote them appear to be decent men and strong allies of women. But those who feel that it's okay to talk about raping women in order to silence their activism? Wow.

Even in my years of military service where sexual harassment and other forms of Military Sexual Trauma (MST) were the norm rather than the exception, I never had a male shipmate explicitly threaten me with rape, torture or death because I insisted on being treated with dignity and respect. It's true that oftentimes they would fail to change their behavior, but no one ever went this far in my personal experience.

So congratulations, male online Atheist community - your culture is now officially more misogynist than the U.S. Navy's in the pre-tailhook era. Awesome. Your mom must be so proud.
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ETA: This is an excellent article by io9 on sexism in in Geekdom where the Skeptics/Atheists come out looking pretty crappy compared to other communities. The money quote: "One of the main differences between the Readercon and TAM communities is the public positions their most famous members have taken. In the science fiction community, prominent authors have spoken out against sexism and harassment. In the atheism community, prominent thinkers like Dawkins have effectively spoken out in favor of belittling people who believe there is sexism among skeptics." Just so. As my buddy Rachael notes, WorldCon holds far more interest for me now than TAM ever will.

4 comments:

The Mechanicky Gal said...

More and more I ask myself "What is WRONG with people?"

Rachael Acks said...

After seeing what Jen McCreight posted this morning, I'm just done. I have hate fatigue.

Janiece said...

Oh...that's klassy. Remind me again why I'd want to be a member of this community, again?

vince said...

I'm seeing this in a lot of communities out there, including the Christian community. The hatred is worded differently, but it's there.

This shit makes me sick. And pisses me the hell off.