Speaking Out Against Hate Directed at Women: Eran Segev

Speaking Out Against Hate Directed at Women: Eran Segev

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.

From Eran:

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.

Eran Segev is Contributor to the Skeptic Zone podcast and to the Skeptic magazine (in Australia), and former President of the Australian Skeptics.

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:

Speaking out against hate directed at women: David Silverman

Speaking out against hate directed at women: Dale McGowan

Speaking out against hate directed at women: Ronald A Lindsay

Speaking out against hate directed at women: Nick Lee

Speaking out against hate directed at women: Barry Karr

Speaking out against hate directed at women: David Niose

Speaking out against hate directed at women: Matt Dillahunty

Speaking out against hate directed at women: Jim Underdown

Speaking out against hate directed at women: Michael Payton

Speaking out against hate directed at women: Michael Nugent

Speaking out against hate directed at women: Dan Barker

Speaking out against hate directed at women: Carlos Alfredo Diaz

Speaking out against hate directed at women: Todd Stiefel

Speaking out against hate directed at women: Michael De Dora

Speaking out against hate directed at women: Paul Fidalgo

Speaking out against hate directed at women: Phil Plait

Speaking out against hate directed at women: Aron Ra

More to come.

Amy Davis Roth (aka Surly Amy) is a multimedia artist who resides in Los Angeles, California. She makes Surly-Ramics and kicks ass on a daily basis. Follow her on twitter: @SurlyAmy or on Google+.

52 Comments

  1. Well it is nice to see someone at TAM acknowledge the part of problem and speak out against it. It has to be asked if it would have been so hard to make a policy that formalizes these expectations and makes repercussions clear in meatspace?

  2. What a great comparison to running into someone on the street. I’ve actually confronted rude drivers in parking lots (one of them yelled the B word at me); he changed his tune awfully fast when I walked up to his window and asked him to repeat his words to my face.

    On the other hand – are we 100 percent sure these people wouldn’t be the same in person? I have 4 or so former coworkers who would scream in your face (one of them, a veterinarian, hit me in the face with a towel).

    Look at the number of people online.If you count the lurkers, tens of thousands of people could be reading these blogs. It’s possible at least some are psychopaths.

  3. I do however suspect a bit of the road rage phenomenon is also attributable to higher adrenaline and/or stress of operating a moving vehicle as opposed to being a pedestrian-incidentally one of the reasons why commuting by public transport is often perceived as less of a burden than driving.

  4. Amy, this series started while I was away and there has been a lot of catchup reading to do so I have not commented before.

    This whole series is a brilliant idea and seems very effective!

    Always positive, always logical, never abrasive and a philanthropist as well – that’s Amy.

    The only downside is that a few trolls seem to follow the leaders over here!

    I want to express my sadness and anger that you personally have been mistreated online and IRL in the way you have. Shameful!

    • Para 4 should go before para 3, damn, it’s too early!

      • Awww, nice to see you round these parts again, Jack!

  5. Another humdinger. (Is that even still a word? I picked it up in the 17th century and you youngsters probably don’t even recognize it.)

    But still: another humdinger.

  6. One of the things I discovered as I started talking about harassment and became one of the public faces of the move toward anti-harassment policies is that men might need these even more than women do. I can’t count the number of guys who have come up to me, thanked me for this work, and then told their own harassment story.

    Anyone who thinks this is all about one gender is sadly mistaken.

  7. Frankly, I’m not a big fan of this “Well-people-are-nicer-in-person” stuff. Even if they don’t scream threats to people’s faces, the IDEAS behind those threats are still there, leading to tons of microaggressions and othering, biasing assessments of competence and intentions, and leading to lots of real-world discrimination and violence (and, since ~1/6 women are raped in their lifetimes, I would say that some people actually DO act on these hateful attitudes in a lot of awful ways). The main issue is that this hate exists in people’s minds, not just the means they use to express it.

    Which brings me to my next pet peeve: what, EXACTLY, does Eran think is unreasonable about what the Skepchicks have said about sexual harassment? I would think that the rampant misogyny on display from certain members of the community would be enough to show their concerns are VERY reasonable–yes, you do have to treat women like human beings, no a convention is not your personal meat market, and yes if you want to get flirty or frisky with someone you’d better give a damn if they want to, too! Again, I think this feeds into an attitude that “it’s-okay-and-natural-to-view-women-as-objects-just-don’t-be-so-crude-about-it!” and that apparently misogyny isn’t an issue if it’s not overtly expressed.

    Problematic.

    • The second paragraph is disturbing to me, for two reasons:
      1. It puts words in my mouth that were neither said nor implied. You are free to come up with any ideas you wish, but to misinterpret what I said is not cool.
      2. You missed the most important point of what I wrote: even when we disagree we should be civil. (And in my opinion writing under one’s own name is part of civility.)

      • 1) Here is what you said: 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, I ask you: how, EXACTLY, do you think the Skepchicks are sometimes unreasonable about sex relations? Because all I’ve read from them are statements about how women should be treated as human beings, how it’s not okay to insist on “flirting” with someone who doesn’t want to flirt, it’s not okay to treat a convention like a meat market and give non-consenting people your naked photo on your sex card. These are the things for which the Skepchicks are most famous for saying. Do you disagree with them? Because people are going to assume, if you do not offer further qualifiers, that you disagree with the most prominent statements, and the statements for which they are getting the bulk of their criticism. If you disagree with something in particular, SAY WHAT YOU MEAN so that people don’t get the impression that you’re disagreeing with the Skepchicks in the same way those harassing them are (which any reasonable person would conclude from the statement “SO DO I”).

        And, again, what EXACTLY do you disagree with Rebecca with regard to what she wrote about TAM? Do you disagree that she has been “groped, grabbed, touched in nonconsensual ways, and told she can expect to be raped?” (And I can’t even fathom how you would have the factual knowledge about someone else’s life to “disagree” about what they have experienced?!) Do you disagree that after a year of rape and death threats she has legitimate reason not to feel welcome or safe? Do you disagree that it is reasonable to feel unwelcome when the head of an organization blames you for speaking out about your experiences and calls it “irresponsible messaging”? Because these are what Rebecca wrote about TAM, for which she is getting the vast majority of the criticism. If you didn’t disagree with that–what DID you disagree with?! Why is it wrong of me to assume the most common interpretation when you failed to qualify it any further?

        2) No, YOU missed the point about what I wrote. The point is that it’s not okay to “disagree” as to whether or not women deserve to move freely through convention spaces without being harassed or touched non-consensually–because holding the opposite position, no matter how politely phrased, makes one a pro-harassment asshole, even if said asshole resists the temptation to issue rape threats. It is not okay to think that outspoken women are “sluts” and “whores” and “cunts,” even if one doesn’t use those exact terms in one’s writing or to the women’s faces, because this sex-negativity and marginalization of women leads to discrimination, “chilly climates,” sweeping instances of violence against/harassment of women under the rug, victim-blaming, concern-trolling, etc. It is simply not enough to slap a facade of “civility” over centuries’ worth of implicit misogyny and pretend that everything is okay. My point is that we need to stop making this about “civil disagreement” and instead look at the root causes of what causes people to hold such odious views about their fellow human beings, and in this case the female ones.

        3) Thank you for bragging about how you have the luxury to write under your own name. It may interest you to know that this is not an option for everyone. Apart from the fact that members of the atheist community have leveled massive harassment campaigns against women speaking out about sexism in the movement and even published home addresses, etc., in my case I would be severely limited in my ability to do my job if current or potential clients and some colleagues knew that I am an atheist, or indeed a feminist, or pro-choice. So, in response to this your idea of “civility” is to take my entirely reasonable defensive actions for the sake of my safety, my identity, and my professional obligations, and rub my vulnerability in my face to make you seem morally superior? I’m sorry, but I just have to ask: WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU?!?!

        • You had me with some of your arguments but lets try to keep it friendly for the sake of the conversation. The “WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU?!?!” was not necessary.

          • Really? After his extraordinary insensitivity to the many valid reasons people may need to protect their privacy? Is it wrong for me to convey exactly how shocked I am at his statement? Is it wrong that I communicate that what he said was condescending, hurtful, and–frankly–outrageous? Is civility achieved when people who are treated so callously just don’t admit when they’re shocked, or when we stand up and say that we will not tolerate shockingly callous behavior in the first place?

        • No, it is not OK to assume that what I mean in a short sentence is a whole paragraph of your own perception of what is the most common criticism.

          In case you haven’t noticed, what I disagree with was NOT what this article is about. It just so happens that I have some disagreements with the JREF on these same topics, and they were not (and will not) be aired here.

          Clause 2 of this tome of intolerance puts some more words in my mouth that I never said and suggests that unless I agree with everything you say I am pro-harassment. I will not even bother to answer that.

          Perhaps you are right about the need to hide your identity. I have never hidden my identity and I paid a heavy price, yet my choice is to continue not to hide. Perhaps this is a luxury you cannot afford, but in that case I think you have to be extremely cautious in what you say. Sending a nasty message such as this under a pseudonym is exactly what I was referring to in my article, so let me clarify this:
          In addition to the message that even if we disagree we should be civil, I am equally adamant that we can agree and I’d still refuse to engage with you if you’re not willing to be civil.

          • No, it is not OK to assume that what I mean in a short sentence is a whole paragraph of your own perception of what is the most common criticism.

            Yes, actually, it is. People make shorthand references to commonly understood and widely discussed controversies all the time, and people do not delve into the backstories with everything they write, but others are conversant in these topics and everyone carries their past perceptions of events into how others describe them. I did you the favor of writing out exactly what I thought the Skepchick’s statements about sex relations were, and what Rebecca wrote about TAM, and why these are what people have in mind when you obliquely refer to these things. This way, if there were an error in my interpretation, you could actually correct it, if you so chose, with a similar degree of specificity and the discussion could actually move forward, rather than talking past each other with different implicit assumptions that never get addressed.

            In case you haven’t noticed, what I disagree with was NOT what this article is about.

            Then why did you include it? I think you can be at least sensitive to the fact that, as written, your statements seem to lend credence to the harasser’s underlying positions, especially as you refuse to elaborate?

            It just so happens that I have some disagreements with the JREF on these same topics, and they were not (and will not) be aired here.

            You chose to bring this up, and if you are not able to communicate clearly you might want to consider the splash damage that your statements will cause by being vague.

            Or, you know, you could just apologize for bringing it up in such a way, express regret that you cannot clarify further, instead of talking down to people who point out that they are uncomfortable with the most evident interpretation. Such defensiveness does not convey that you actually do have something reasonable to object to, if only you could say it.

            <blockquote>Clause 2 of this tome of intolerance

            Because the position that women who go to a convention should expect to be harassed is one for which I should have “tolerance”?! Really?! Sorry, speaking up against harmful attitudes–and harmful attitudes which, I might add, are rampant in this community–is not “intolerance”; it is basic social engagement.

            puts some more words in my mouth that I never said

            No–I very carefully framed this whole statement in the third person to make it clear that I was not attributing these to you specifically. I even very carefully made sure it nowhere lapsed into the common English generic-third-person-”you” to avoid confusion.

            and suggests that unless I agree with everything you say I am pro-harassment. I will not even bother to answer that.

            For one thing, again, I most specifically did not address that at you in particular. For another, I did not expect blanket agreement on “everything”: I repeated a very specific belief with which I expected agreement, namely that women deserve to go to conferences without being harassed or touched non-consensually. It is disagreed with explicitly and in many sub-forms: “what do you expect if you go to a bar?” “you should grow a thicker skin,” “you’re oppressing my free speech,” etc. This is a common position that has been expressed by members of this community, and most especially by those who are harassing the Skepchicks.

            This is NOT “I don’t like the wording of clause IV.iii.b on your harassment policy;” this is disagreeing with the very values of freedom from harassment, which, by definition, is pro-harassment. Now, I am not saying that YOU specifically are pro-harassment, but I am saying that those you hope would disagree “civilly” are in fact pro-harassment (tautologically so, since they are engaging in harassment!), and the problem is not that they are “uncivil,” the problem is that they’re pro-harassment. Being pro-harassment will almost inevitably lead to incivility, but that is a symptom of a larger problem.

            Perhaps you are right about the need to hide your identity. I have never hidden my identity and I paid a heavy price, yet my choice is to continue not to hide.

            Well, good for you. I hereby formally acknowledge your moral superiority. Happy now? Or would you like to brag some more about it? To put it mildly, your above-quoted text is not “civil,” nor is it constructive, nor is it even RELEVANT to my objections to your piece or your framing or to how women are treated.

            Perhaps this is a luxury you cannot afford, but in that case I think you have to be extremely cautious in what you say.

            Perhaps you might want to clarify what you mean by this, because the only interpretation I can get from this is that because my circumstances prevent me from being as open as I’d like, you are justified in silencing me too. From whence, exactly, comes your entitlement to tell me to be extremely cautious in what I say? From whence comes your justification to police my expression of my concerns and my perception of harmful attitudes?

            Sending a nasty message such as this under a pseudonym is exactly what I was referring to in my article, so let me clarify this:

            “Nasty”? Really? Well, isn’t that just precious! I thought your article was referring to rape and death threats. Please illuminate for me where you think I’ve made a rape or death threat. What is “nasty” about asking you exactly what you mean? What is “nasty” about saying that you are giving implicit accommodation to problematic views? What exactly is “nasty” about criticism of your position? What exactly is “nasty” about being very clear about how you were hurtful, and expressing that I was hurt by your statements?

            Pro-tip: the word “fuck” is all-purpose invective. It is not a slur. It does not marginalize people based on who they are, it does not single out a particular group for lesser status, and it does not imply imminent violence–it just expresses frustration. People are allowed to be frustrated, even with you. If you care more about stopping people from expressing that they’re frustrated/offended/etc. than you do about having some introspection about actually treating them thoughtfully in the first place, you might want to reconsider what civility means to you.

            In addition to the message that even if we disagree we should be civil,

            YOU ARE NOT BEING CIVIL. Lording it over me about using your real name is not civil behavior–in fact, it reinforces different statuses and different levels of risk we assume, and promotes you at my expense. THIS IS NOT CIVILITY, and I am not going to pretend it is. You can be just as uncivil–more so, even!–while never uttering the word “fuck.”

            It is not civil to ignore requests to clarify and then talk down to people who state precisely why they find that vagueness problematic and potentially harmful.

            It is not civil to pretend that issues that directly affect others’ well-being and safety are just a matter of “disagreement,” as though that disagreement has no content nor power differential.

            It is not civil to call people setting bare-minimum boundaries for being treated with decency “intolerant.”

            It is not civil to equate rape and death threats with having your position criticized or hearing the word “fuck” in response to your saying something extraordinarily insensitive.

            I’d still refuse to engage with you if you’re not willing to be civil.

            I strongly encourage you to get a less superficial definition of civility.

  8. @LeftSidePositive It’s not wrong to call people out and to ask for clarification, that is totally justified. I’m just asking that you keep the language civil.

    • Frankly I think if ideas are not civil, pretty language will not change the ugliness underneath, and putting incivility in its proper prose is often necessary to confront the polite fictions we use to obscure harmful attitudes. But, it is your space, so you certainly have my permission to edit my comment to say “WHAT THE INTERCOURSE IS WRONG WITH YOU?!?!”

      • Ok, I will admit that made me giggle but still, do try to keep the conversation as friendly as possible.

  9. No, it is not OK to assume that what I mean in a short sentence is a whole paragraph of your own perception of what is the most common criticism.

    1. Eran, I liked your essay.

    2. I have the same questions Left does.

    3. What, specifically, did you mean when you said,

    OK, so you think Skepchicks are sometimes unreasonable about sex relations, or you disagree with what Rebecca wrote about TAM. Fine. SO DO I.

    ?

    4. This isn’t a trick question. It’s not complicated. It’s not unreasonable.

    5. What, specifically, do you disagree with?

    Please spare us the complaining about clauses, voices, and tenses. I don’t care. I do care to understand exactly what you’re saying. Were I in your shoes, I’d want to be sure my readers understood me that clearly.

    • I refuse to make the fact that I don’t agree with everything Skepchick or Rebecca do the centre of attention. I felt it was important to make that point to make it clear that disagreement about content or tactics is not a reason for hateful behaviour. Is that message not clear?

      I may voice my opinion on these issues at a later time but, yes, it is unreasonable to ask me to explain EXACTLY what that sentence meant if you consider the context.

      One thing I will make clear to ensure there is no misunderstanding: there are no circumstances under which the type of things Rebecca wrote about are acceptable, and I’m quite sure in most cases they are illegal. I was not suggesting otherwise, and having looked again at what she wrote and what I wrote I don’t believe there was any reason to suspect that I was.

      • I refuse to make the fact that I don’t agree with everything Skepchick or Rebecca do the centre of attention.

        It wouldn’t be if you’d just say what you mean–perhaps I’d even agree with you, but nothing that would be a source for legitimate disagreement comes to my mind on these issues, which is why I asked you what you meant. I can’t imagine why someone would even bring something up if one didn’t feel comfortable elaborating on it–doesn’t that rather defy the purpose of communicating?

        I felt it was important to make that point to make it clear that disagreement about content or tactics is not a reason for hateful behaviour. Is that message not clear?

        Well, it certainly isn’t clear if you won’t say what you mean by disagreement, because a big part of the problem is that Rebecca and the Skepchick’s activism to end harassment is being painted as a great deal more controversial than it needs to be, and this lets people who like harassment culture treat them as The Other, and to cast themselves as the bold dissidents against the SkechickFTBorg. Also, “don’t engage in hateful behavior” is just a platitude if you are not going to back it up with some understanding of what is leading to hateful behavior. Moreover, what I have been trying to tell you is that some disagreements are in fact hateful IN THEIR CONTENT. If someone disagrees with the notion that women never deserve harassment for speaking up, any disagreement they voice, on whatever medium and in whatever tone, will be hateful.

        I may voice my opinion on these issues at a later time but, yes, it is unreasonable to ask me to explain EXACTLY what that sentence meant if you consider the context.

        No, actually, it is entirely reasonable to expect you to back up your position if you take it upon yourself to speak in public, and from a position of authority at that. This is actually a pretty basic foundation for productive communication and is an important part of showing respect for the audience who takes time to read your work and engage in discussion.

        Your refusal to communicate what you disagree with is made even more problematic by the fact that Rebecca and the Skepchicks have been vilified repeatedly over the last year with strawmen like “They are so intolerant and they expect us to agree with them about everything!” (which you repeated to me, incidentally…) and “They’re calling DJ a misogynist just for disagreeing with Rebecca!” and saying that people (especially men like PZ) who unequivocally support harassment policies and the like are being tarred as sycophants (or nursing infants, in one particularly horrible photoshop). So, in this context of people laundering their hostility for women’s rights not to be harassed or assaulted at cons through a guise of “I’m just disagreeing with Rebecca!” it is particularly irresponsible of you to endorse vague disagreement and not say what you mean.

        One thing I will make clear to ensure there is no misunderstanding: there are no circumstances under which the type of things Rebecca wrote about are acceptable, and I’m quite sure in most cases they are illegal. I was not suggesting otherwise, and having looked again at what she wrote and what I wrote I don’t believe there was any reason to suspect that I was.

        No one is saying you’re consciously pro-harassment; we’re saying you’re being very superficial in your understanding of the problem, your minimizing the problems that we’re having with harassment and the culture that leads to harassment, and that you’re contributing to providing social legitimacy to harassers in ways of which you don’t seem to be aware, and which you seem to be remarkably resistant to addressing.

  10. This was a great essay, but I’m a little skeeved out by this part:
    “OK, so you think Skepchicks are sometimes unreasonable about sex relations, or you disagree with what Rebecca wrote about TAM. Fine. SO DO I.”
    What, exactly, do you disagree with when it comes to Skepchick thoughts on sex relations? What specifically do you disagree with in terms of what Rebecca wrote about TAM?

    I get that you’re trying to say that while you may disagree with some things, you can maintain a civil tone and not fall into internet bully mode. I get it. But I’m really bothered by that quote, because I want to know what you disagree with. And if, say, you disagree that there should be harassment policies in place at TAM, it makes me question the genuineness of what you wrote here.

    I ASSUME you support harassment policies, since you’ve experienced harassment yourself. I just can’t really tell what you’re saying you disagree with because the statement is so vague.

    • Ooooooooookay. Just read the comments.

      I guess you’re regretting wording that quote in that way (specific enough to raise questions about WHAT you disagree with, specifically, while vague enough not to answer the questions raised) BUT, you wrote it, it’s out there, and I’m obviously not the only person who wants to know what you meant by that (besides “we can disagree and still be nice”).

      Because if you disagree with Skepchicks on, say, “don’t hit on women in an elevator when she has said she wants to go to bed” or “Don’t make me part of your sex life by handing me naked pics of you without my consent” or “don’t touch women (or anyone) unless you have permission to do so because body boundaries matter”, then your piece here will read as “Don’t say super mean things to women, but it’s still cool to sexually harass them.”

      If, on the other hand, you simply disagree with small details, like “Oh, that behavior is harassment to you? Well, it wouldn’t bother ME, but I can see how it could bother someone else.” then your piece will continue to read as a genuine call for good behavior, despite disagreeing on some small issues.

      • First off, Otoki, it was downright creepy how much you mirrored my sentiments without reading through the comments! I was, like, Woooaaahhhhh, maaan!!!

        If, on the other hand, you simply disagree with small details, like “Oh, that behavior is harassment to you? Well, it wouldn’t bother ME, but I can see how it could bother someone else.”

        But the thing is, I wouldn’t even feel the need to SAY publicly that I disagreed with someone about a personal preference like that–I would roll it all up under “this is why you have to respect personal boundaries and be mindful of people’s reactions to you because people are different…” Why would I feel the need to publicly disagree, unless it were to say that such a position was unreasonable, and isn’t that rather presumptuous to judge someone’s personal feelings like that?

        I mean, I guess we can disagree about really arcane stuff, like “is it ethical to have sex with a consenting person when you’re a prominent speaker and they’re star-struck?” But I know the Skepchicks, and Rebecca in particular, are explicitly opposed to that being a matter of policy anyway…and getting into the details of whether or not it’s different for the liability and goals of the SSA (the only organization, to my knowledge, that has such a policy), or whether we should communicate this as a social norm but not consider it appropriate to include it in a formal policy is all WAY too obscure for anyone to deduce from “SO DO I.” (Not to mention these latter points are so obscure I don’t even know what the Skepchick’s position IS on all of them, or indeed if they even have a unified position, so I have no idea with what he disagrees if he doesn’t say so!)

  11. I also think the “tone is the problem” argument is weak. The underlying beliefs about feminism, harassment, personhood of women, etc. are more important that the tone of the discussion, especially when civility is used to cloak those beliefs. I found this piece problematic and I think some clarification on where you stand on these very major issues is necessary before you can claim to be an ally to anyone here.

    Yes, threats of rape and violence should stop, but legitimizing the underlying causes of those threats does little to actually help, even if you somehow manage to change the tone.

  12. but I also find people with completely uncivil (and often vile) agendas/ideologies who INSIST on civil tone above all else to be some of the most obnoxious and dishonest folks to debate with. I hope that doesn’t describe you, but your evasiveness is not making a great case.

  13. Hey y’all! Just a reminder: as Amy has said, let’s keep it civil in here. Save your harsh words for our harsh opponents. Eran is one of the good guys, even if he sometimes disagrees with me! I’ll convince him of whatever it is over a beer when I’m in Australia in December, promise.

    • As I’m not at all familiar with Eran, I really hope he is someone who is anti-sexism beyond just “don’t make rape threats”. I just don’t feel good about the quote I mentioned (I’m not the only one) and the skeptic in me isn’t willing to just accept an assurance that he’s a good guy.

      I don’t think I or anyone else is out of line for asking for clarification (although I agree that a polite tone is much more appropriate for this request) and I, personally, would feel much better about this piece if Eran was willing to explain what his issues actually ARE.

      It’s his right not to, of course. I just think that quote is skeezy, and I would hope he’d want to clear things up because I really want to take the rest of his message as genuine words of solidarity, rather than lip-service.

      • “I don’t think I or anyone else is out of line for asking for clarification”
        And, to be extra clear, I don’t think you are saying or implying that at all, Rebecca:)

    • Apart from one (frankly, very well-deserved) “fuck”, we have been very civil, and we have clearly and uncompromisingly explained what is wrong with what Eran is saying. This is an important part of rational discourse, and it is important if Eran wants to be an ally that he listen thoughtfully about why people have problems with his views.

      I don’t think it is appropriate or wise to use harsh words only on those who have been labeled “opponents,” rather I think harsh words need to be used for bad actions, no matter who is doing them. I also don’t think one can establish oneself as one of “the good guys” as a simple declaration (intent is not magic, after all!)–rather, being a “good guy” is a process and involves taking responsibility when one screws up, and Eran has screwed up very badly here, in several different ways. Now, the ethical thing to do when one screws up (like, for instance, when someone tries to shut down criticism of his writing by chiding a critic about not using her real name), is to be thoughtful of how condescending and privilege-flaunting one is being, and to take criticisms thoughtfully and apologize. The ethical thing to do is most certainly NOT to double-down on the privilege-flaunting, much less lecture one’s critic about what she is allowed to say. Similarly, his conflation of some criticisms of the shortcomings of his attitudes and of his understanding of the problem with the “nastiness” of rape and death threats, indeed calling it “exactly what I was referring to in my article,” is an outrageous false equivalence and is completely and in all possible ways unacceptable. So, he screwed up, and he should expect harsh criticism until he actually SHOWS that he is a good guy and makes an attempt to learn from his error. That’s what being a good person means.

      Furthermore, the fact that he is refusing to say what he disagrees with is still hugely problematic in all the ways I have mentioned in my previous comments. This is completely unrelated to whether or not you think the disagreement he has with you is probably minor–the problem is that he is publicly modeling behavior that trolls will see as legitimizing their views. Moreover, what he said about the Skepchicks being “unreasonable about sex relations” and about disagreeing with what you wrote about TAM are not just problems in that they are disagreements with the Skepchicks or with you, Rebecca, but they actually go much further than that. Strawfeministing women opposed to sexual harassment as being “unreasonable” (and its close cousins “oversensitive” and “frigid”) about sex relations, which carries the strong implication that said strawfeminists are interfering with consensual sexual activity, is a well-entrenched tactic to discredit those who are sick of dealing with harassment, and has been used for decades. Similarly, “don’t make a fuss about it” and “just keep these things private” and “don’t draw so much attention to yourself” and “you’re making a big deal out of nothing” are memes used to silence women who speak up about harassment that go WAY beyond the atheist movement and whatever he objected to in your writing about TAM, and the way he phrased his comments tapped into these very harmful cultural tropes (whether he meant to or not, because intent is not magic), so he has a clear moral obligation to be specific and to make sure that it does not appear to be reinforcing these tropes. Being a good person means being mindful of the consequences of one’s actions and statements, and striving to be better if problems are brought to one’s attention. Again, this has nothing to do with whether or not you feel he has any personal animosity or disregard for you, because these tropes are harmful in the broader social context of systemic sexism and would still be harmful even if the Skepchick network had never been founded, or indeed if you had never been born. As such, it’s not enough that you and he get along together, and it’s not enough that you convince him privately of whatever you think is important (although of course it is likely in your best interest to ALSO do that), but the fact of the matter is that he made a public statement with public ramifications that go way beyond the specifics of this situation means that to be a “good guy” he would need to learn from our concerns, take them seriously, and address them publicly, openly, and in a timely manner.

      • Thanks, LSP (and Otoki) for asking those questions and defending them. I read that “SO DO I” part in the OP three times, to be sure that I was really reading what I was reading, so I was relieved to see someone call out the problem with it. I would have commented sooner but couldn’t figure out how to log in on my mobile device.

        I also thought the entire statement kind of missed the point. I read it as “We shouldn’t be uncivil to people even if we disagree with them.” And sure enough it would be lovely if the threats and vitriol could stop. But they are only part of the problem. The other part is civilly-expressed “disagreement” with perfectly reasonable requests for respectful treatment.

        That Eran doesn’t understand this point seems apparent from his mention of his own disagreement with Rebecca and the Skechicks. I’d be willing to believe that said disagreement is about something entirely different, except why bring it up at all in a discussion about the bad kind? Why double down when it’s clearly explained how that looks bad? Combined with the blatant display of Real-Name-or-STFU privilege does not fill me with confidence.

        It’s one thing to pay lip-service to equality – few people will argue that rape threats are awesome. But when people display their ignorance of the actual issues and obstinately refuse to listen, I have trouble feeling them as allies.

  14. Eran says “I DO TOO” and is called out for it.

    Aron Ra says “Sure it is possible to go too far the other way” and nobody calls him out on that.

    I wonder why, because I thought the two statements were roughly equivalent.

    On the other hand, recently, on a blog comment linked to from here, maybe it was Blaghag but I am vague, I have seen a suggestion that the Australian Sceptic Front, or maybe it was the Sceptic Front of Australia, was basically a hotbed of misogyny. I would be unsurprised.

    So if for the sake of argument I was to rock up to Aussie TAM wearing the new Rebecca T shirt (which I SO want to do), I wonder what to expect?

    For that reason I am intensely interested in Evan’s answer to the question as posed succinctly by Spokesgay in a perfectly reasonable fashion.

    • “Eran says “I DO TOO” and is called out for it.

      Aron Ra says “Sure it is possible to go too far the other way” and nobody calls him out on that.”

      Because the former is claiming specific things have been said by Skepchicks/Watson that he disagrees with, while Aron Ra’s statement is a general hypothetical.

      • I agree, it might mean something.
        Fuck it, I ordered the T shirt, I’ll just do the experiment!

  15. Note that we’ve yet to hear any loud calls for Eran to “name names”. Why? Because the claim that he was harassed by a woman is uncontroversial among sensible people. Even when he is a prominent individual. Sensible people aren’t out to demonize people that talk about harassment. Nor do they obsess with marginal complaints about exaggerating the scope of the problem. You don’t see women all up in arms being afraid that men might treat them as harassers now that Eran has exposed a woman as a harasser. I could go on but you get the point.

    Contrast this to the reaction what Jen McCreight and Stephanie Zvan said the same thing in the reverse situation ie that there a are prominent men in the movement that have harassed several women. This fact in itself should be equally uncontroversial to all sensible people.

  16. I know, right? One of the basics factoids that shapes my thinking in all this is that AFAIK rape and sex offences of all types transcends all demographics.

    Please correct me if I am wrong there.

    So, why are we surprised that the skepic and atheist communities have their fair share of these problems?

  17. I’m late catching up with this, but dang – I wish it hadn’t turned into such a fight with Eran, especially over his saying he doesn’t agree with Skepchicks on all the things. People are allowed to disagree! And the principle that it’s possible to disagree on substance without raiding the Box o’ Epithets is one we desperately need.

    • Agreed.

    • Of course people are allowed to disagree in most things–heck, I disagreed pretty strongly with Rebecca above! But the point is that it’s also important to disagree responsibly, which Eran is most definitely not doing–his vagueness is lending credence and legitimacy to people who disagree with things that are actually NOT okay to disagree with–like the fact that women should be able to exist in public and not get harassed, and several other examples I’ve listed above. Now, he may or may not actually disagree with these things, but his vagueness is giving cover to trolls who are OUTRAGED that feminists stand firm on certain basic principles, and who claim that we’re “authoritarian” or “bullies” or “silencing dissent” for doing so. We have already explained this to him, and he has been defensive and dismissive and blatantly refused to communicate clearly, has strawmanned our arguments, and called us intolerant. This is not okay, and we are perfectly right–I would even go so far as to say obligated–to criticize it.

    • Oh, and one more thing:

      And the principle that it’s possible to disagree on substance…

      But the problem is that he hasn’t provided any substance!! He has, in fact, rebuffed the requests of no fewer than five people to provide some substance!

  18. Yes but LSP he’s allowed to say, in passing, that he disagrees on some things, without getting into the substance since that’s not the subject. It’s almost a standard disclaimer, that kind of thing.

    Rebecca said she’ll set him straight next time they meet. That’s good enough. :D

    • No, it’s not, for all the reasons I have outlined here

      • LSP, I think that “OK, so you think Skepchicks are sometimes unreasonable about sex relations, or you disagree with what Rebecca wrote about TAM. Fine. SO DO I.” was meant to be “OK, so you think Skepchicks are sometimes unreasonable about sex relations, or you disagree with what Rebecca wrote about TAM. Fine. SO DO I. IOW he’s not intending to refer to her remarks on TAM but rather unspecified past instances.

        • sigh, html tags hiccuped, the bracketed bits should have a strikeout line through them:
          LSP, I think that “OK, so you think Skepchicks are sometimes unreasonable about sex relations, or you disagree with what Rebecca wrote about TAM. Fine. SO DO I.” was meant to be “OK, so you think Skepchicks are sometimes unreasonable about sex relations, or you disagree with [what] Rebecca [wrote about TAM]. Fine. SO DO I. IOW he’s not intending to refer to her remarks on TAM but rather unspecified past instances.

        • Then why on earth would he SAY “what Rebecca wrote about TAM” if he wasn’t referring to what Rebecca wrote about TAM? What would even cause those words to spring forth from his keyboard?! You’re straining basic English grammar to give someone a pass with absolutely nothing but your word that we should throw out commonly-understood words with no other plausible explanation for what he could have meant.

          And anyway, my bigger objection is to the “sometimes unreasonable about sex relations,” which is frequently used as a massive strawfeminist silencing tactic against those objecting to sexual harassment to pretend they’re interfering with consensual activities. Now, he might not have meant it that way, but the fact is that it reads that way and it gives cover to those who feel that way, so he has an obligation to clarify or retract it, and the same goes for his reference to Rebecca’s piece on TAM, as I have described above. Again, we can’t be sure that he actually means anything as horrid as these oblique references would imply (largely because he has repeatedly refused to clarify), but the fact of the matter is that regardless of his intent, he has been grossly irresponsible in his communication, superficial in his analysis, defensive, and belittling toward commenters here and that’s not acceptable.

          • You have made your point. Enough already.

          • Is it all of a sudden wrong to answer a comment explicitly directed to me?!

  19. @LSP No, you are right. You should be able to answer. My bad. I just think you have clearly made your point.

  20. simonsays
    09.13.2012
    REPLY

    Note that we’ve yet to hear any loud calls for Eran to “name names”. Why? Because the claim that he was harassed by a woman is uncontroversial among sensible people. Even when he is a prominent individual.

    He has named names, he named them to the police and presumably it was taken care of through legal means, rather than attempting to use an online blog as a first measure, and giving “yes buts” any time the suggestion that reporting harassment to the police might be a good idea.

  21. Maybe if LeftSidePositive could just provide Eran a check-list of all things that Rebecca believes he could go through and rank whether he agrees or disagrees with each. I’m anxious to find out specifically what he disagrees with because if it’s that “Han shot first” thing, this s#!t’s going to get real.

  22. We need consciousness raising on more subtile sexist ploys. I would also like people to critique the arguments as to formal logic and scientific ideals.

  23. Anonynymity doesn’t make people bad. It’s the belief that the conflict is a good thing that is bad.

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