Welcome to the eighteenth installment on my series where I ask men in the secular community to speak out against the hate we have seen directed primarily at the women in out movement.
Today, I bring you the words of Eran Segev. Eran is Contributor to the Skeptic Zone podcast and to the Skeptic magazine (in Australia), and former President of Australian Skeptics. Eran reminds us that this hate that seems to be focused online, affects men too. No one is immune and no one should be subjected to these vicious organized attacks of hate.
But I will let Eran explain.
Eran’s words after the jump.
Speaking out against hate directed at women
Two people walk in the street, in opposite directions. At some point, they are about one metre away, facing each other, still moving forward. If neither moves aside, they’ll collide. This happens countless times every day, yet one of the following little miracles almost always happens:
• One or both of them move aside, and they miss each other by a few centimetres, not remembering this seconds later;
• Both move, but they move in the same direction, and a little dance ensues, at the end of which they stop and smile at each other, and work out with their eyes the direction each should move. They forget this within minutes.
On the road, things often get nastier: drivers try to push in, other drivers don’t let them through, sometimes using their horns in anger or opening the window and opining about the other driver’s parents.
Why the difference? Well, I am not sure, but I suspect that much of it has to do with anonymity and lack of personal contact. The drivers behind the closed windows do not form a “relationship” with the other driver so they do not feel a need to act as they would act toward another human, like the person dancing in front of them in an attempt to go past them without a clash of noses.
Enter the internet; the biggest anonymiser in the universe; the place where you can say almost anything, so long as you have a cute avatar. Suddenly, you can be a rude driver even if you don’t have a driver’s license. You can be nasty without taking off your pyjamas (or without putting them on, for that matter). And most importantly, you can do it without creating eye contact. So even if people know who you are, it doesn’t matter.
And, oh, the vitriol that pours out. A level of nastiness that by volume alone surely exceeds anything ever written before Tim Berners-Lee had a good idea. And I have some personal experience. As a very active Skeptic, I have had my share of nasty comments from the likes of anti-vaxxers. But that’s par for the course, and it’s not where it ends.
When organising TAM Australia, my fellow organisers and I were the subject of some astonishingly rude and unfriendly tweets and blogs over some decisions we made. Not one of the authors had contacted us to ask for the reasons behind the decisions. All were skeptics; people who wanted to attend the conference, and most eventually did. And over the past year or so, I have had a cruel and nasty campaign of vicious defamation directed at me. Obviously I will not be repeating what was said, but I’ll say that it was directly related to my being a man, and I can assure you it was so nasty that it could easily ruin my life. No exaggeration. Let’s just say, that because of a few cruel individuals I have had a pretty tough year. These people got to me.
One of the perpetrators was a woman.
I mention this, because what I’ll do next is put things in perspective, regarding what happens online to women. Let’s start with Rebecca Watson.
I have met Rebecca a few times, and exchange emails with her occasionally, but we are not close friends by any stretch, and until fairly recently I had no idea of the composition of her mailbox. However, some mutual friends gave me some of the details of the emails and other messages she has been receiving, for years. I was horrified. I was at the local police station for less than Rebecca receives in an average week.
When I found that out, I started asking around, and discovered that not only is Rebecca not alone, it is practically the norm for women who are active online. And if they dare to be active feminists, then the level of hate becomes immense. And these are not just some gamers or kids. There are good reasons to believe that at least some of the messages come from adult members of the skeptical community; from people you might meet at Skeptics in the Pub or at TAM.
I have no idea how Rebecca and women like her tolerate it. I don’t completely understand how they don’t crack under the pressure. Perhaps they sometimes do.
I also don’t understand, and surely never will, what goes through the minds of the perpetrators. I try to reason: OK, so you think Skepchicks are sometimes unreasonable about sex relations, or you disagree with what Rebecca wrote about TAM. Fine. SO DO I. So what? Why does it mean that she deserves to be insulted, humiliated and threatened with physical violence? If you want to say something, say “I disagree with you and you’re being unreasonable. Here’s why.” And if that gets shot down, argue some more; or leave. But hatred and violence?
Do you threaten a colleague you argue with that you’ll kill them? Do you wish the shop assistant that hasn’t helped you that she’ll be raped on the way home? What gives you, what gives ANYONE, the right to subject another person to such hate? And where does this hate come from? And why women? Do you not have a mother; a sister; a girlfriend? Do you hate them too? Do you insult and threaten them, too?
I was shocked that someone could hate me enough to want to ruin my life; imagine having dozens, maybe even hundreds of people personally wishing you raped. I can’t imagine what it’s like. I hope I never find out.
I’m not a sensitive soul and I don’t think I (or anyone else, including women) have an inherent right to have my feelings protected or to always feel comfortable. People have a right to voice their opinion, even if others don’t like their opinion, or find it offensive. However, the emphasis must be on OPINION, and some lines should never be crossed. Hate, violence and defamation are not opinions.
If you’re reading this and you think it’s just harmless banter, think again. If you know someone who does this, tell them how horrible what they do is. Tell them to STOP.
If you’re reading this and you are one of the offenders, STOP IT RIGHT NOW. No one deserves to be treated like this. Not even you.
Thank you for taking the time to speak with us Eran. I’m sorry you have been subjected to some of the same things we have experienced and I hope that in the future we can all foster safe spaces on the internet and within our community.
Prior posts in this series can be found here:
More to come.