Today on Twitter, Jeff Sharlet (author of great books like The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power
) let loose with some choice words for those who believe that most if not all disagreements can be resolved through dialogue:

Can I get an a-fucking-men?

Sharlet’s points are relevant to the continued harassment of women in the skeptic and atheist communities and the attempts by some to build bridges with harassers. One prime example is Michael Nugent, whose heart was surely in the right place when he began engaging with MRA harassers and then escalated to organizing a formal dialogue between Stephanie Zvan and a few mostly pseudonymous people who have no apparent objection to representing the “side” that harasses women. This dialogue was at the outset insulting to many of the women who are being harassed and almost immediately became arduous and confusing as well: “This is a response by Stephanie Zvan to the response by Skep Sheik to the first response by Stephanie Zvan to the Strand 1 Opening Statement by Jack Smith.”

If it had been someone like Stephanie herself organizing this “dialogue,” it would be bad enough, but the fact that it was organized by Nugent, a person who is completely unaffected by the actions of the harassers, and that he did it over the repeated objections of many of the women being harassed, is, as Sharlet says, the very definition of paternalistic.

While there may be many people who are uneducated about what women are going through in this movement, those people are not the one who are volunteering to debate and debase women. They’re not the ones who rushed from “The Slymepit” (a message board set up as a meeting place for people who hate me and other feminists) to flood Nugent’s posts with the same lies and slurs that had previously been relegated to their own hate forum.

I’m currently packing to go to Women in Secularism, the second annual conference in DC that focuses on the thoughts and contributions of the many talented women in our movement, who otherwise are not often well-represented at other conferences. The people harassing me and other women have taken this as an opportunity to step up their game. They already spent a great deal of time setting up a deceptive website at WomenInSecularism.com (I don’t know if that’s related to the fake Skepchick/FreethoughtBlogs website set up by Ed Clint).

They’ve also already dominated the Women in Secularism Twitter hashtag, #wiscfi. Here’s a screenshot of what it looked like when I started writing this post:

wiscfi

Meanwhile, Jen McCreight continues to be harassed by people like Justicar, aka IntegralMath, despite the fact that she quit blogging for several months and when she returned she only blogged occasionally about science. That particular bit of harassment is all about how those of us who are being harassed shouldn’t fear for our safety, and to prove it Justicar posts details on how one can locate where Jen lives while calling her names.

And yet still, we are expected to dialogue with our “opponents” as though those people are simply uninformed about the fact that we have rights and feelings and personal autonomy. Here’s a Tweet I received yesterday:

And who is the poor, disagreeing soul I should have engaged with rather than ridiculing?

That guy. A guy who is so obsessed with hating me that he can’t put into perspective the fact that two years ago I lightheartedly recommended men not proposition women in elevators at 4am without speaking to said women first and after said women spent an entire day talking about the sexual harassment the get on a regular basis. Men insist that it’s my obligation to engage with that guy, to educate him and him specifically, to reach him using some new method, seeing as the previous 300 methods haven’t worked.

So if dialogue is your fetish, be a thoughtful perv and don’t force it on the rest of us.

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca leads a team of skeptical female activists at Skepchick.org and appears on the weekly Skeptics' Guide to the Universe podcast. She travels around the world delivering entertaining talks on science, atheism, feminism, and skepticism. There is currently an asteroid orbiting the sun with her name on it. You can follow her every fascinating move on Twitter or on Google+.

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56 Comments

  1. Profile photo of Ophelia Benson
    May 13, 2013 at 1:33 pm —

    Hah! I love that last line.
    And yes: afuckingmen. No I don’t want to have a “dialogue” with people who call me a fucking cunt. Dang I’ve had to repeat that a lot over the past few months. There were a couple of guys who had a bright idea of trying to be Peacemakers or some such thing. There was Lee Moore. And then there was Michael Nugent…I told him two or three times that no I don’t want to have a “dialogue” with people who call me a fucking cunt, but I might as well have told my coffee cup that.

  2. Profile photo of Ophelia Benson
    May 13, 2013 at 1:37 pm —

    My favorite source for the shocking notion that dialogue isn’t magic is Amos Oz, on local public radio back in the 90s sometime. He said American liberals are convinced that if only the Israelis and Palestinians could sit down for coffee and have a really good talk they could work it out, and that’s complete nonsense.

    • Profile photo of dxman
      May 14, 2013 at 2:16 am —

      “if only the Israelis and Palestinians could sit down”
      Surely that’s been resolved, because if one side eats pigs..
      >> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T6qA-4PWdsg

    • Profile photo of drken
      May 14, 2013 at 11:42 pm —

      I was one of those “American Liberals” who thought (and still think) that Israelis and Palestinians should sit down and talk. Of course, there’s a difference between saying there needs to be more dialog between those on both sides interested in co-existence and saying that if the settlers in Hebron would just sit down and talk with the Palestinians who live there, everything would be peachy keen. While there are groups on both sides trying to foster dialog, the settlers in Hebron have no interest in talking with Palestinians and think the whole peace movement is an affront to god. Which of course, brings me to the issue at hand. I’d love for there to be dialog between Skepchick and those who take issue with WIS, but dialog with who and about what? This isn’t an issue of different beliefs about what skepticism should be, it’s a conduct problem. The worst part is that some of the worst offenders think the skeptical leadership has their back. Look, if the JREF wants to be a refuge for objectivist jerks who can’t handle any criticism from women about being creepy (i.e. Asking women out is scary, therefore all social situations should be a safe space where men can act without fear of any criticism or else we’ll all remain virgins and die alone), then let them continue the way they are. It’s a shame, because they do good work, but the first step in growing skepticism is cutting loose those who can’t play well with others.

      • Profile photo of drken
        May 14, 2013 at 11:43 pm —

        Oh, and BTW Ophelia, I just started your book “Why Truth Matters”, I’m only on the first chapter but so far so good!

      • Profile photo of Pseudonym
        May 15, 2013 at 1:39 am —

        Yeah, I think that one key part is to recognise that people are not homogeneous. In the case of Israel and Palestine, US mainstream media conveniently forgets the existence of Israeli opposition parties (how much coverage did the Israeli “Occupy” protests get?), the existence of Palestinian non-violent resistance movements, and many other groups besides. There are plenty of subgroups you could get together in dialogue. There are probably enough of them that they could form an absolute majority.

        Dialogue is not a panacea. It’s also usually not a waste of time, except when dealing with extremists like Hamas, Likud, and MRAs.

        Unfortunately, it only takes a small proportion of men to be misogynists to cause a huge amount of grief. If you’re a high-profile, opinionated, intelligent woman, then they seek you out to be a target. So you are very likely to disproportionately see misogyny.

        Even if it’s only a very small proportion of people who do this, it doesn’t matter if it’s all pointing at you. It only takes a very small proportion to make your life hell. And the higher profile you are, the smarter you are, the stronger your opinions, the bigger the target that’s on your back.

        Nobody should have to enter into dialogue with that.

  3. Profile photo of Improbable Joe
    May 13, 2013 at 2:05 pm —

    Calls for “dialogue” in these situations are de facto support for bullies and abusers. In order to have a productive dialogue, you have to bring two more or less equal parties to the table who are willing/able to put aside past grievances and try to work towards some common valid goals. When you are calling to bring together abusive harassers and their victims to have a dialogue, you’re treating both sides as equals, allowing the harassers to erase their entire history and demanding that harassed ignore that history, and pretending that abusive people have valid goals that need to be at least given a fair hearing. Those calling for dialogue rather than working to shut down harassment are lending legitimacy to harassers, and their dismissal of the real issues makes them an active part of the problem no matter how much they claim to want a solution.

    We don’t even accept this level of bullshit with impersonal things like flat earthers or YECs… why should anyone offer bullies and stalkers a seat at the table?

  4. Profile photo of davidacreech
    May 13, 2013 at 2:36 pm —

    Just to be clear, not all the conversation is here. I was not defending any of the horrible things that Jeff was tweeting! And I agreed with him at several points (perhaps most significantly that in the final analysis there are times when dialogue will not solve anything).

    • Profile photo of Rebecca Watson
      May 13, 2013 at 3:11 pm —

      Sorry, I didn’t mean to imply that you were saying anything awful! In fact I forgot that the auto-embed includes the Tweet being replied to…

      • Profile photo of davidacreech
        May 13, 2013 at 3:38 pm —

        No prob. I just cringed when I saw the reply attached to the “kill-the-gays activists.” Wanted to be clear that I was in no way OK with hate like that :) Thanks for the post, and I am happy to have found this blog and website!

  5. Profile photo of oolon
    May 13, 2013 at 2:41 pm —

    In regard to #wiscfi … Follow the @hashspamkiller and look at its feed / favourites rather than the hashtag page. It filters the abusive users and their coterie of supporters so hopefully only retweets and favourites reasonable tweets (Powered by @the_block_bot, which blocks the nasties and annoyances for you). Reason for favouriting as well as retweeting is the darn Twitter limits on tweets, even retweets, the account kept getting Twitter jailed! So if it runs out of retweets just check the favourites page for latest tweets. https://twitter.com/hashspamkiller/favorites

    No one should feel pressure to engage with the haters, but also props to Stephanie for doing a stand out job showing them up. I guess its not a matter of you *should* or *should not* feed the trolls, more a matter of doing whatever you can to cope with the onslaught. One of their favourite ploys is decry blocking on Twitter or not allowing them to shit up comment sections as “unsceptical” and against the atheist-sceptic principles of dialogue. Even that these things are an infringement of their “free speech”, such arrogance and narcissism! Cos we all know that if Skepchicks/FTB’ers X/Y/Z had sat down with ERV, Victor “cunt kick” Ivanoff and the rest of the Slymepitters at the beginning we could have all avoided the nastiness… /sarcasm

  6. Profile photo of Ophelia Benson
    May 13, 2013 at 2:45 pm —

    Urgh.

    This dialogue was at the outset insulting to many of the women who are being harassed and almost immediately became arduous and confusing as well: “This is a response by Stephanie Zvan to the response by Skep Sheik to the first response by Stephanie Zvan to the Strand 1 Opening Statement by Jack Smith.”

    If it had been someone like Stephanie herself organizing this “dialogue,” it would be bad enough, but the fact that it was organized by Nugent, a person who is completely unaffected by the actions of the harassers, and that he did it over the repeated objections of many of the women being harassed, is, as Sharlet says, the very definition of paternalistic.

    I thought the insulting part had at least died away once the arduous part of the “dialogue” got going, but I just took a look and oh hai I was wrong. Thank you so much Michael Nugent.

  7. Profile photo of Felicia
    May 13, 2013 at 3:14 pm —

    It took me about 15 years of hanging out on internet forums to learn to stop trying to “save” people who are being assholes (or criminally stupid) online. It’s really quite a relief to have switched to the tactic of ignoring them for the most part and telling them to fuck off when they get too annoying…

  8. Profile photo of apfergus
    May 13, 2013 at 3:30 pm —

    I hope it doesn’t count as a Godwin to point out how incredibly poorly attempting to compromise worked out for Neville Chamberlain.

    • Profile photo of Infophile
      May 13, 2013 at 7:23 pm —

      It does. It implicitly compares harassers to Hitler.

      • Profile photo of Tom Foss
        May 13, 2013 at 9:33 pm —

        Given that one of their most prominent mouthpieces has an avatar implicitly comparing PZ Myers to Kim Jong Un, I wouldn’t lose too much sleep over it.

  9. Profile photo of Jay Young
    May 13, 2013 at 3:54 pm —

    Legitimate question: In this light, at what point is “dialogue” with creationists futile? I was wondering this as I listened to the interview with Don McElroy in the latest episode of Skeptic’s Guide. And let me pre-emptively say that I’m not trying to equate the problem of harrassment with the problem of creationism, it just made me wonder to what extent the issue of the limits of dialogue can be carried into other areas.

    • Profile photo of Rebecca Watson
      May 13, 2013 at 4:49 pm —

      I think that’s a fine question to ask. I’ve always been mostly against having “the other side” on SGU because it gives them legitimacy, which I do not think is helpful. I set up the McLeroy interview, though, in part because he already has legitimacy. He’s already in the public eye.

      I also find him absolutely fascinating, so I think it was a good idea from a psychological perspective as well. Add to that the fact that none of us were pressuring other skeptics and scientists to engage with him, nor did we engage with him in a way that suggested we may think his ideas have merit.

      • Profile photo of delphi_ote
        May 13, 2013 at 10:37 pm —

        McLeroy and his camp aren’t likely to harass you, stalk you, and generally make your life hell, either. Disagreeing with you is fine. Systematically dehumanizing you is not.

      • Profile photo of Jay Young
        May 13, 2013 at 11:49 pm —

        Fair enough. And I thought that the interview was fascinating.

  10. Profile photo of Mark Thomas
    May 13, 2013 at 4:19 pm —

    As long as “harasser” doesn’t morph into “someone who disagrees with me” then I’m in full agreement.

    Reading through some of those tweets, and the last month or so of blog posts by “uberfeminist”, it appears to be offering criticism, not harassment. Note that I’m not taking a position on the validity of the criticism, just that based on what’s presented here and at that blog, he/she doesn’t appear to be a complete asshole.

    • Profile photo of oolon
      May 13, 2013 at 5:01 pm —

      Hmm might be a little biased given “uberfeminists” last post was a hit piece on A+ ppl thinking I’m “a bit of a dick” to “despising” me in a few short paragraphs… Upside is apparently everyone on the A+ forum hates everyone else so I’m not alone in that, phew!

      If all the “disagreement” was poorly thought out blog posts and a few inane tweets from one or two “uberfeminist”‘s then it probably wouldn’t be more than an irritation. There is a gradation of harassing behaviour with many on Twitter obsessive tweeting, storyfying and blogging about Skepchicks/FTBs/etc. They are nowhere near as “nice” as “uberfeminist”, they are openly racist, homophobic, misogynistic, and proud of it. No facts or truth are required in their aim to smear any feminists they decides they do not like. I’d imagine this gets wearing at the very least…. However even if they were all just plugging away with “criticism” like “uberfeminist” do you not also think that would get wearing too? What other high profile members of the community have to deal with this? Probably PZ is the only male to get anything near the sustained hate, Richard Carrier every now and then spikes but they go back to the female feminists *every* time.

      All of them create an environment where its fine to attack Rebecca or Ophelia etc in much worse ways, anonymously on Twitter or email etc. They all push this daft line that they are “professional victims” who actually want to be harassed, instantly absolving them of even the worst examples which they usually “criticise” as “giving them victim points”. Recently one of them did a video about how Jen McCreight, harassed out of the scene months ago, had “stupidly” tweeted something that could identify her location… Threat much? Of course all the “reasonable” ones like “uberfeminist” et al decried this? No. They blamed PZ for “promoting” the idiots video by him criticising it, not the idiot who made it! So even the most reasonable ones are complicit as they rarely lift a little finger to call out even the worst of the harassment.

      • Profile photo of Mark Thomas
        May 13, 2013 at 6:24 pm —

        This kind of behavior – “openly racist, homophobic, misogynistic, and proud of it” – is, in my opinion, not worthy of dialogue.

        However this behavior – “just plugging away with ‘criticism’ like ‘uberfeminist'” – is.

        Once you stop talking about science and start talking about politics, you invite criticism because politics involve value judgements. The basic facts about an issue like abortion, for example, haven’t changed in 40 years yet people still argue about it because it involves a value judgement and there are valid arguments on both sides (and people at the extreme on both sides of the issue are convinced they are right and think the other side is nuts).

        Finally, there’s this – “All of them create an environment where its fine to attack Rebecca or Ophelia.” If you’re arguing that any criticism of Rebecca or Ophelia is invalid because it creates a harassing environment then this is where we disagree. You’re heading down a real slippery slope if, in fact, you’re making that argument.

        • Profile photo of Stephanie Zvan
          May 13, 2013 at 7:39 pm —

          Hmm. Notice how you ignored oolon talking about how your “not too much of an asshole” just dedicated a whole piece to how much they hate oolon? Notice how you moved from nothing but criticizing a handful of people and spamming a conference hashtag with the results to “any criticism is invalid”? Notice how you have to suggest something oolon isn’t saying in order to have a problem?

          Maybe you’d like to have some opinion on the situation as it is? Why should I have a dialog with someone who claims I’m intellectually bankrupt because no one invited female, anti-woman atheists to speak at WiS? Do I have to respond to every criticism, no matter how inane? Are there particular criticisms you’d like to endorse as being in need of response? Or are you just fretting over nonexistent hypotheticals?

          • Profile photo of Mark Thomas
            May 13, 2013 at 10:02 pm

            “Notice how you ignored oolon talking about how your “not too much of an asshole” just dedicated a whole piece to how much they hate oolon?”

            Oolon had no substantive criticism of that blog post, and appeared to me to enjoy the attention uberfeminist gave him, so yes I decided not to respond to that portion of his comment.

            “Notice how you moved from nothing but criticizing a handful of people and spamming a conference hashtag with the results to “any criticism is invalid”? Notice how you have to suggest something oolon isn’t saying in order to have a problem?”

            I quoted and responded to what oolon wrote – if he wasn’t saying what I understood him to be saying, he’s perfectly free to clarify his remark. If you have a different interpretation, you’re free to offer it.

            “Maybe you’d like to have some opinion on the situation as it is?” I do, since you asked, however I’ll leave that to the end.

            “Why should I have a dialog with someone who claims I’m intellectually bankrupt because no one invited female, anti-woman atheists to speak at WiS?” I’m not suggesting you should and neither, as I understood her, was Rebecca.

            “Do I have to respond to every criticism, no matter how inane?” No. You’re free to respond only to criticism you feel is worthy of a response.

            “Are there particular criticisms you’d like to endorse as being in need of response? Or are you just fretting over nonexistent hypotheticals?” Again, since you asked, I will discuss that now.

            First of all – note that the criticism I offered is exceedingly and purposely bland. I warned simply against “harassment” turning into “someone who disagrees with me” and disagreed with the idea that “any criticism” of Rebecca or Ophelia created an environment of harassment. That’s it. I took no position on the merits of uberfeminist’s criticisms, or any criticism for that matter.

            Since you asked, here is my opinion. Science and politics don’t mix. The instant a science-based skeptical blog dabbles in politics it forces its readers to make politically charged value judgements which defeat the purpose of skepticism. PZ Myers was gracious enough to visit the comments section here today – I respect him (and come from the same part of MN) but he is another blogger guilty of this. I am – as you may have guessed – right of center in most of my political views. I’m also a skeptic who – as you also may have guessed – actively reads skeptical blogs. Love the science, but for the most part Rebecca and PZ’s politics turn me off.

            Now, no rational person can or should implicitly or explicitly support racist, homophobic, or misogynistic behavior. But rational people can do that while simultaneously having honest and valid disagreements with the political goals, methods, and/or tactics Rebecca or PZ espouse.

            If this were a discussion about young earth creationism, and I was arguing that they have valid criticisms, you’d have every right to tell me I’m full of shit. But to be fair we’re not even talking about a specific political point – I’m simply arguing that criticism of a political objective/method/tactic is valid. Do you disagree with this? I was pretty sure no one would have quarrel with this point.

            When/if this political criticism denigrates into misogynistic behavior, then it obviously crosses a line. The problem is I didn’t see a lot of that in the evidence Rebecca cites above (I suspect she likely has other emails/tweets she did not share which constitute better evidence). And that alone is the reason I made my initial comment.

          • Profile photo of oolon
            May 14, 2013 at 4:41 am

            @Mark, “Finally, there’s this – “All of them create an environment where its fine to attack Rebecca or Ophelia.” If you’re arguing that any criticism of Rebecca or Ophelia is invalid because it creates a harassing environment then this is where we disagree. You’re heading down a real slippery slope if, in fact, you’re making that argument.”

            You may have missed I said “criticism” not criticism… Subtle difference there as harassment masquerading as “criticism” is not to be confused with *valid* criticism. The blog post that I had no “substantive criticism” of was basically “uberfeminst” calling me names and saying my online community despises me. Where do you pull “substantive criticism” of that sort of post from? Options are to laugh or cry at that sort of “criticism” as its no sort of rational argument, its bullying. Fortunately I find it amusing, but does that make it right? Is my personal ability to find amusement in people insulting me a requirement for internet activism? Certainly the other side often proclaims you should “fuck off the internet” if you cannot take it. They love it when they do harass someone offline and have proclaimed this is their goal. Criticism that is aimed at hurting someone with or without a bit of substantive “argument” is no sort of criticism, at all. I would think our community of rationalists would call that tactic out. Given the other “side” claims the #FTBullies do this all the time and its the reason they “just disagree” you’d maybe think they’d be even more against it?

            “Now, no rational person can or should implicitly or explicitly support racist, homophobic, or misogynistic behavior. But rational people can do that while simultaneously having honest and valid disagreements with the political goals, methods, and/or tactics Rebecca or PZ espouse.”
            –> What the…? I dunno if this is why you got a “Fuck off” from Josh below, but you deserve it if this is not some sort of grammatical error. If you think we need to listen to what KKK members say because they might have some “valid criticisms” or maybe the WBC make some good points between condemning “fags” to hell? Sorry for the hyperbole but how the hell is it a good idea to give bigots credence by listening to their criticisms? How the hell are bigots even going to have valid criticisms that reasonable people won’t have thought of? Please name me a valid criticism any “Obama is a Muslim” racist has or could come up with that his sane critics have not or could not come up with! I really hope the “but rational people can” is not some sort of shit about “rational” people being able to dance with bigotry and somehow have a super power immunity.

            “The problem is I didn’t see a lot of that in the evidence Rebecca cites”
            Why is it so difficult to believe that someone is being harassed when its on the internet? If this was in real life and Rebecca et al had a group of people who followed them around shouting slogans at them day in day out. Talking to friends behind their backs and spreading lies about what she/he did or said x years ago and how that makes them a terrible person for eternity… It would be pretty fricken obvious! Criticism and dialogue is something you can respond to, vicious attack and bigotry cannot be responded to in anyway that gives the attacker credence. That is the rational position surely?

            Anyway not sure why I bothered as you answered Stephanies Q …”Or are you just fretting over nonexistent hypotheticals?” … With yet more non-existent hypotheticals -> How about some hard examples of “valid criticism” that originated from the “rationalists” who also happen to be bigots, or even their coterie of supporters, that no one else has raised? Otherwise you are minimising real harassment of members of your community with hypothetical games, how rude is that?

          • Profile photo of Stephanie Zvan
            May 14, 2013 at 7:26 am

            Sure, you quoted oolon. Then you complained about something else. Quoting him doesn’t change that. It just makes your statements non sequiturs.

            As for this grand criticism you think I need to address, I’ve been doing it for ages. PZ has also been addressing this for ages, albeit with a different argument than mine. If uberfeminist is still making the criticism, they’re not paying attention to the people they claim to be criticizing, taking their complaints out of the realm of valid criticism. If you like PZ’s work but still–two years after all this blew up–making the same naive criticisms, you’re not paying the attention you need to either. You’re just spouting uninformed opinion, which is crap skepticism, much like those non sequiturs of yours.

          • Profile photo of oolon
            May 14, 2013 at 7:31 am

            Actually I’m talking crap with that last paragraph, even if there were valid examples of criticism its still an example of “yes, but” whenever misogyny is mentioned. Remembered this post..
            http://freethoughtblogs.com/greta/2011/12/29/why-yes-but-is-the-wrong-response-to-misogyny/

            “Yes, but what if one of the people calling her a cunt makes some really good criticism of her position…”, if that doesn’t sound ridiculous then there’s no hope.

          • Profile photo of Will
            May 14, 2013 at 10:32 am

            @Mark Thomas,

            You’re either being disingenuous or you have some unexamined cognitive dissonance going on.

            “Science and politics don’t mix” is your opinion, but then you go on to engage in…politics.

            Really it seems that you think science and politics shouldn’t mix only when its a kind of politics you disagree with. Clearly you’re okay with engaging in political activism to prevent creationism from being taught in schools. And clearly you think that supporting racism, homophobia, and misogyny are bad. These are political positions!

            Science is inherently political, as are all human activities. Do you really think science occurs in a vacuum free of human political motivations or ideology? Look at how science is funded (or not funded). Look at the peer review process. Look at what gets published and ask around about the things that don’t. It is not some utopian free marketplace of ideas. It is a political process driven by many motivations aside from a quest for knowledge–that motivation is often forgotten or ignored.

            Further, if we do not use science to back up public policy, what in the hell should we be using? Are you advocating for public policy to be based in something other than science?

            Your espoused view of science is quite myopic and, frankly, does a disservice to both science and to politics.

            Also, Skepchick is a feminist-based skeptical blog, not a science-based skeptical blog per se (though much of the content is science-based). You’re clearly quite ignorant of the purpose of Skepchick. And if the politics of the site turn you off, no one is forcing you to come here and read the content. Find a blog that suits your views and go there–don’t come up in here and tell us to stop being political because it makes you uncomfortable. Besides, we wouldn’t want you to have to think through your biases–after all, being comfortable and unchallenged in our views is what makes us awesome skeptics, amirite?

          • Profile photo of Mark Thomas
            May 14, 2013 at 1:20 pm

            @Will – since you engaged me on a different subject I’ll respond separately.

            I did not engage anyone on any specific political point, I simply noted that political disagreements exist in issues that science has informed and I used abortion as an example. Of course science informs public policy, it would be lunacy to do otherwise. But – as in the abortion example – public policy often hinges on value judgements which science cannot inform.

            Y (public policy action) does not necessarily follow X (scientific study). There could be a myriad federal, state, local government or general public/private company actions – or no action at all – to address concerns raised in X. This is where value judgements come into play. And this is why writing about politics on an otherwise skeptical blog is dangerous – as I’ve found out simply for suggesting valid criticism exits.

            So I don’t think I have a myopic view of science, just a realistic one that understands its strengths and weaknesses as it pertains to public policy.

            The “find your own blog” line of reasoning is interesting – I was taught to understand skepticism as constantly challenging data, assumptions, conclusions, etc. and yet you seem to object to me doing that here.

            But I laughed when I read this – “Besides, we wouldn’t want you to have to think through your biases–after all, being comfortable and unchallenged in our views is what makes us awesome skeptics, amirite?” If this was meant as satire I apologize for missing the point, as I would respectfully submit that I’m doing exactly that – thinking through my biases – while it is the people telling me to “fuck off” who wish to remain comfortable and unchallenged in their (political) views.

          • Profile photo of Will
            May 14, 2013 at 2:08 pm

            Uh, how in the fuck is “stop talking about politics I don’t agree with” challenging your own biases? You’ve said you disagree with the politics and tactics utilized in this space. So why do you keep coming back other than to tell us to stop doing what we’re doing and do it your way?

            All you’ve done here is try to tell people to keep science/skepticism and politics separate while simultaneously engaging in expressing your own political ideology. You do not see that as hypocritical?

            This is where value judgements come into play. And this is why writing about politics on an otherwise skeptical blog is dangerous – as I’ve found out simply for suggesting valid criticism exits.

            Do you think skepticism is value-free? Why do you get to decide which values are worthy of skeptical inquiry and discussion and which are not? What you are doing is saying you prefer politics-free environments in the skeptical community, and it is my contention that no such thing exists.

            And how is writing about politics on a skeptical blog dangerous? What, exactly, is the “danger” of doing so? Dangerous to whom? Your vague warnings of danger are nothing more than the same old tired bullshit about how minorities who speak up for themselves will damage society in some way or will destroy their chances at equality.

        • Profile photo of spokesgay
          May 14, 2013 at 1:05 am —

          Fuck off. Just fuck right off.

          • Profile photo of Mark Thomas
            May 14, 2013 at 12:34 pm

            Let’s take a step back. Rebecca’s original post was about dialogue with people who harass women. I noted complete agreement up to the point where “harass” turned into “people who disagree with me.” I then noted that much of the evidence she cited appeared to offer criticism, not harassment.

            I’ve written that “no rational person can or should implicitly or explicitly support racist, homophobic, or misogynistic behavior.” But a person can accomplish this while simultaneously having valid political disagreements.

            Later on, I offered the opinion that skepticism and politics don’t mix, and the reactions from oolon, Stephanie and spokesgay do a wonderful job of making my point. “Fuck off. Just fuck right off.” is an impassioned plea for me to exit the discussion for simply arguing that the possibility of valid criticism exists. It’s not the stuff of a rational thought.

            I’ve taken no position on any of the arguments made by Rebecca, uberfeminist, or anyone else for that matter. In my initial comment I stated full agreement up to the point where “harass” turned into “people who disagree with me.” Conflating these two things is authoritarian tactic to stifle dissent – if you don’t agree with me you’re X (insert derogatory phrase here).

            For the record, most of the examples of “nasty pushback” cited by Michael Nugent are abhorrent and have no place in a rational debate. However, and this is not in any way a justification, let those without sin cast the first stone – Rebecca isn’t shy about calling people morons and spokesgay just told me to fuck off, so the dialogue on this end of the spectrum isn’t exactly pristine.

            Oolon linked to an interesting blog post here: http://freethoughtblogs.com/greta/2011/12/29/why-yes-but-is-the-wrong-response-to-misogyny/

            I found myself nodding in agreement with most of what Greta writes here, and I think she makes the same point I’m attempting to make here. Greta writes at the end of the piece “If you want to talk about starving people in Africa, or whether misogyny is worse in (X) community than (Y) community, or male circumcision, or some possibly mean and unfair things that some feminist said at another time…those are worthwhile topics…”

            I’m saying essentially the same thing, but going a half step further – worthwhile criticism exists, and in addition we should refrain from the urge to silence or invalidate that criticism by arbitrarily classifying it as harassment/racist/sexist/homophobic.

            Again, I’m not entirely sure why this is a controversial sentiment…

          • Profile photo of marilove
            May 14, 2013 at 12:54 pm

            “However, and this is not in any way a justification, let those without sin cast the first stone”

            Also, I just have to tell you again how much this bullshit pisses me off. This man is an abhorrent human being — you even seem to agree — and yet you seem to imply that Rebecca must be “pristine” in her response.

            Something tells me you wouldn’t have the same standard for yourself, or a man. Especially since I’m pretty certain the people with whom you spend most of your internet time with.

            But Rebecca.

            She must be pristine, or she has no room to complain. Because that’s what “let those without sin cast the first stone” means. You’re basically telling Rebecca to shut up because she DARED to get angry at the people who threaten her on a daily fucking basis.

            Yeah, spokesgay was right: Fuck off.

          • Profile photo of Will
            May 14, 2013 at 2:16 pm

            Again, I’m not entirely sure why this is a controversial sentiment…

            Because you are not the arbiter of the line between harassment and disagreement for other people. You are unaware of what Rebecca or anyone else has experienced. What may appear to you as a single case of someone disagreeing can be (and often is) actually a case of an unending torrent of bullying and harassment. If you take one specific statement and do not examine it in the context of what’s going on, it’s really easy to think someone is overreacting to a single statement of disagreement when in actually there is a history of harassment behind it.

            So, when you are unaware of the context (as I guarantee you are with Rebecca and would bet you are with most women in general), you do not get to decide when the line between disagreement and harassment has been crossed. It’s not up to you.

            This is why your statement is “controversial”–it’s the same game that the bullies and harassers play to try to get away with the shit they pull. Whether you intended it or not, that’s how your comments come across.

          • Profile photo of Melanie
            May 14, 2013 at 2:58 pm

            Mark, your comments about valid criticism not being “arbitrarily” called harassment are difficult to read in any way that is not insulting and patronizing, and I really am trying. It comes across as a straw man used to state this opinion about Rebecca, that she is authoritarian, silencing dissent by calling it harassment, as though you wanted to make that point and found a way to fit it in rather than drawing that conclusion from what she wrote, which you didn’t because you pointedly did not give an example of a valid criticism in this post that was being referred to as harassment, much less arbitrarily so.

            Sure, you could say that you weren’t saying this was the case about Rebecca, that you were simply saying, hey, watch out for this, but again, since you don’t provide evidence of this happening, then your comment on it implies that you are coming here with that conclusion already formed. Saying that you don’t see the examples as harassment is not pointing to valid criticism or disagreement being arbitrarily called harassment. That is a point very much tied with a common tactic of accusing women who speak out against harassment of manufacturing that claim as a way to silence dissent–a tactic that is ironically used to silence women who speak up when wronged. To underscore this (possibly false) impression of you, you use another silencing tactic with commenters here by provoking them with these insults (possibly unintentionally insulting and provoking) only to elicit an angry response and a well-deserved fuck you so that you can prove your point, as you note below, which is apparently that (justified and provoked) anger and (well-deserved) fuck you’s are somehow on par with slurs and repeated patterns of harassment and threats. It’s not, by the way.

            As I said, you may not be intending to insult and you may not be intending silence and you may not be intending to provoke anger to elicit a response that you believe proves your point, but whether you intend these things or not, it’s what you’re doing. And these passive aggressive (which is aggression) ways of making your point, insulting people, and belittling the harassment Rebecca experiences are what’s controversial, not the point that valid criticism is not the same as harassment (because you are the one who brought that here and proceeded to argue it).

          • Profile photo of Melanie
            May 14, 2013 at 3:09 pm

            Also, just a clarifying side note. The Twitter examples are explicitly examples of the obsessive tweeting to a hashtag these assholes wish to disrupt, which again is one small piece of a repeated pattern. It’s a “They’ve already started and are filling the feed” comment that has a context as something these people do to disrupt the genuine tweets related to the hashtag that might actually be beneficial to people at the con or interested in the con. Acting as though she is displaying this because the individual comments are particularly egregious statements of harassment shows at best that you are misreading and misinterpreting the post. And as Will pointed out, you don’t get to decide if this constitutes harassment or is part of a larger harassing pattern because you aren’t the person being harassed and are clearly pretty clueless about the context (or pretending to be–I really don’t know).

          • Profile photo of marilove
            May 14, 2013 at 3:23 pm

            I’ve taken no position on any of the arguments made by Rebecca, uberfeminist, or anyone else for that matter. In my initial comment I stated full agreement up to the point where “harass” turned into “people who disagree with me.” Conflating these two things is authoritarian tactic to stifle dissent – if you don’t agree with me you’re X (insert derogatory phrase here).

            Great way to stay safe, though, isn’t it? And to act superior?

          • Profile photo of marilove
            May 14, 2013 at 3:28 pm

            Also, just a clarifying side note. The Twitter examples are explicitly examples of the obsessive tweeting to a hashtag these assholes wish to disrupt, which again is one small piece of a repeated pattern.

            And thank you, Malanie! This needs to be highlighted again.

            Yep, because these people aren’t being OBVIOUSLY misogynistic, then it’s not really harassment, although THE ONLY REASON they were using that particular hashtag was to drown out the actual, legitimate use for the hashtag. It’s another way to silence and bully. It’s just a tad more subtle (except not really; to me it’s rather obvious).

            But nope, because they are using “polite” language, it’s not harassment. Of course. And of course, we must listen to them and involve them in “dialogue” although their intent is to drown us out.

            It’s fucking bullshit and it’s a double fucking standard. They can do whatever they want, apparently, but we must always be pristine, and we must always involve ourselves in dialog, even when the other side obviously has no desire to actually have a dialogue.

  11. Profile photo of pzmyers
    May 13, 2013 at 6:15 pm —

    Probably PZ is the only male to get anything near the sustained hate

    And I’m not even close to what the women get.

    • Profile photo of marilove
      May 14, 2013 at 12:49 pm —

      For the record, most of the examples of “nasty pushback” cited by Michael Nugent are abhorrent and have no place in a rational debate. However, and this is not in any way a justification, let those without sin cast the first stone – Rebecca isn’t shy about calling people morons and spokesgay just told me to fuck off, so the dialogue on this end of the spectrum isn’t exactly pristine.

      Not to Godwin again, but even Hitler probably had something insightful to say every now and again. As the saying goes, even a stopped clock is right twice a day! That doesn’t mean the clock should be watched as if it isn’t broken!

      Also, yeah, someone telling you to fuck off, and Rebecca calling bigots and hateful people who threaten her morons, is TOTALLY the same thing as blatant homophobic, misogynist, and racist people.

      We have every right to be angry, and you have no right to compare our legitimate anger to outright hate.

      And PRISTINE!

      Of course.

      We must be nice. Stop being so MEAN to people who call you cunts! To people who stalk you! To people who support your stalkers. Just be nice, man. Stop getting angry. If you show even one ounce of anger, we’ll point out that you little ladies aren’t being “pristine” enough and therefore have no room to talk. So shut up and take it.

  12. Profile photo of dr. dr. professor
    May 13, 2013 at 11:44 pm —

    I don’t think there’s a whole lot of point to the whole skeptic movement. I’ve never considered it very important.

    However if there ever was one thing that is important about it, it’s bringing out that misogyny and racism is rife within non-religious or skeptical people. Non-religious and skeptics tend to think themselves immune to this.

  13. Profile photo of dxman
    May 14, 2013 at 2:04 am —

    Probably PZ is the only male to get anything near the sustained hate

    And I’m not even close to what the women get.

    Eat another cracker. I mean surely TF and others have already proven you only blog for the hits..

    • Profile photo of marilove
      May 14, 2013 at 12:33 pm —

      I’m not really sure if you’re being sarcastic or not, but, doesn’t EVERYONE blog for the hits? I mean, why would one continue to blog if no one is reading? Especially for something like PZ’s blog, or Skepchick. These aren’t “personal” blogs. They are meant to be shared and read by many. The whole point is to write for an audience, and hopefully a large one.

      So this whole “you’re writing for attention” shit just confuses me. I mean, yeah, duh, no shit, man!

      • Profile photo of Bjornar
        May 14, 2013 at 1:18 pm —

        ” I mean, why would one continue to blog if no one is reading?”
        Why do you criticise me like that! It’s not like a blog a _lot_ with no one reading, I just blog a little with no one reading. And don’t come here claiming you weren’t talking about me!

  14. Profile photo of marilove
    May 14, 2013 at 11:29 am —

    No, Mark, I do not have to listen to someone who calls me a cunt or who supports bigotry. I’m with spokesgay: Fuck off.

    • Profile photo of Mark Thomas
      May 14, 2013 at 1:30 pm —

      marilove – At no point did I suggest that you do have to listen to someone who calls you a cunt or supports bigotry.

      Nor should I be forced to listen to someone as hate-filled as yourself telling me to fuck off instead of engaging in a rational debate.

      Works both ways. Thank you for illustrating my point much better than I did above.

      • Profile photo of marilove
        May 14, 2013 at 3:37 pm —

        Ah. I just have to instead listen to someone and have a dialog with people who are intentionally and obviously trying to drown us out? Is that it? And what about you brushing off people like Nuget? “Well, I know he’s awful, BUT!”

        But.

        It’s always but.

        I know they are treating you like shit and don’t give a shit about your view, BUT! You should listen to them anyway.

        I know they only want to drown you out, BUT! Sometimes they have something decent to say, okay? So listen to them!

        Also, be pristine, otherwise you can’t complain about Nuget (who, may I remind you, has something decent to say every now and again between all the harassing, so why not listen to him?), an you’re angry sometimes, so … don’t cast the first stone, man. Just be part of a dialog! With people who are trying to drown you out.

        Hmmm. Mark? How about fuck no.

        • Profile photo of Mark Thomas
          May 14, 2013 at 8:07 pm —

          This will be my last post on this topic as you are – unintentionally or otherwise – misreading my comments.

          While I’m not new to skepticism I am new to this skeptical feminist vs. feminist drama, into the middle of which I appear to have unwittingly waded. Passion obviously runs high, and I apparently chose an inopportune time to suggest that I disagree with the idea of conflating a “harasser” with “someone who doesn’t agree with me.” It’s clear that several people here, including yourself, are completely fine with conflating those two – yet stop short of actually admitting it.

          If this whole discussion represents the state of the feminist debate in the skeptical community today then I think I’m changing my mind on the “formal dialogue” issue Rebecca talks about in this post. There appears to be plenty of intolerance to opposing viewpoints on both sides.

          When this feminist – http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/02/22/defending-ones-position-as-the-token-looks-bad-like-an-unwashed-t-shirt/#.USgO_L2LSCc.twitter – calls what this feminist writes “bizarre” – http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/index.php/gender-differences-and-why-they-dont-matter-so-much/ – which in turn causes this feminist to convulse in vitriol (much like you marilove) – http://roomfullofcrazy.blogspot.com/2013/02/a-moment-of-vitriol.html – it’s clear that the real battle is over end-states and tactics, not broad principles.

          I’m going back to reading about science. Let me know who wins.

          • Profile photo of Will
            May 14, 2013 at 9:19 pm

            Hahahaaaaa! So predictable.

            I figured you’d be flouncing soon. Regardless, I’ll take apart this comment and explain to you one last time why you’ve gotten the reaction you’ve gotten here.

            First, to accuse others of misreading your comments when you clearly lack reading comprehension in this thread yourself is hilarious.
            Second, for someone who believes skepticism and politics should remain separate, you’re sure all over making political statements on a skeptical blog! If you truly believe they should remain separate, why are you engaging??

            While I’m not new to skepticism I am new to this skeptical feminist vs. feminist drama

            Yeah, figured you had no fucking idea what you were talking about. It’s really clear from your posts. I also don’t really get what you mean by “skeptical feminist vs. feminist”–that’s not what is going on. And calling it “drama” is an attempt to belittle the harassment and bullying that many women in the skeptical/atheist communities have faced, so good job there! So un-political of you!

            Passion obviously runs high

            Yes, silly feminists! How dare you have passion! Don’t you know you’re supposed to respond to ignorant mansplaining with a wink and a smile in only the most angelic of tones? Don’t you know that anger has no place on skeptical blogs??

            I apparently chose an inopportune time to suggest that I disagree with the idea of conflating a “harasser” with “someone who doesn’t agree with me.”

            It’s not about the time, it’s about the fact that you came into this thread without any knowledge of what you were talking about (which you admitted) and started lecturing people about not conflating harassment with disagreement. As if you can clearly see that line, and Rebecca cannot. Even though you admittedly and demonstrably have no fucking idea regarding the context in which said comments are happening. Has it occurred to you that perhaps you don’t know better than Rebecca what constitutes harassment vs. disagreement for her because you don’t know who is harassing her as well as she does? As someone who has seen a tiny fraction of the harassment and who has disagreed with Rebecca publicly and privately, I can promise you that she knows the fucking difference.

            It’s clear that several people here, including yourself, are completely fine with conflating those two – yet stop short of actually admitting it.

            No, that’s not the case at all. Nobody here has actually conflated harassment with disagreement. All that’s happened is you’ve given your warning not to do so, which people have found to be a comment based in ignorance and arrogance. People here have disagreed with you, and I’m pretty sure they would all agree that that’s not the same as harassing you. So stop putting words in people’s mouths, step the fuck back, and look at the context in which this discussion is occurring.

            If this whole discussion represents the state of the feminist debate in the skeptical community today then I think I’m changing my mind on the “formal dialogue” issue Rebecca talks about in this post.

            Oh no! Don’t change your mind!! WE WILL CONCEDE EVERYTHING! YOU ARE RIGHT, SIR. PLEASE, EDUCATE US MORE. *eyeroll* What a stupid “threat” to make. It’s also stupid to take one conversation and generalize it to the broader issues in the skeptical community. MARK THOMAS, I MUST WARN YOU NOT TO CONFLATE ONE DISCUSSION THREAD WITH THE ENTIRETY OF FEMINIST DISCOURSE. You sure are good at tossing out stupid warnings against conflation and then turning around and conflating things yourself. TISK TISK!

            When this feminist – http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/02/22/defending-ones-position-as-the-token-looks-bad-like-an-unwashed-t-shirt/#.USgO_L2LSCc.twitter – calls what this feminist writes “bizarre” – http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/index.php/gender-differences-and-why-they-dont-matter-so-much/ – which in turn causes this feminist to convulse in vitriol (much like you marilove) – http://roomfullofcrazy.blogspot.com/2013/02/a-moment-of-vitriol.html – it’s clear that the real battle is over end-states and tactics, not broad principles.

            Actually, what Harriett Hall wrote at SBM (the second link you gave) was bizarre, and I wrote about it on this very site (search for it, I’m too lazy to find it and link it). And my response to her was not vitriolic, nor was it about tactics–it was about her post(s) at SBM being full of crap, heteronormative, and transphobic.

            I’m going back to reading about science. Let me know who wins.

            If people like you will stop posting stupid comments based in ignorance and arrogance, then we win.

            BYE NOW!

          • Profile photo of Improbable Joe
            May 14, 2013 at 10:13 pm

            Whoever wins, you’re still a fucking loser. PLEASE stick the flounce.

          • Profile photo of Melanie
            May 14, 2013 at 11:16 pm

            What the what now? Yes, it was totally the *timing* of suggesting that you disagree with this conflation, not that you pulled that conflation completely out of your ass and never once provided a single example of it happening in this post.

            Throwing out a bunch of links to other bloggers demonstrates what about Rebecca or Skepchick or anyone commenting here? You do realize every single one of us is an actual individual person, right? We’re not some multi-headed monolothic Femzilla. RAAR! I haven’t seen this level of extreme non sequitur since, hmm, actually reading uberfeminist’s posts to see if you were correct that that person wasn’t much of an asshole and seeing a bunch of random tweets from multiple people being treated as though they were tweets from the same person that made no coherent point whatsoever either way.

            So all of this was intentional trolling all along. Thanks for letting us know. I suppose I should feel a bit foolish giving you the benefit of the doubt on that, but I can’t stop giggling at the thought of all your “science” reading, in which no doubt a conclusion about, say, black holes is cited by a study of earthworms because they’re both science, right? It’s all the same.

          • Profile photo of marilove
            May 15, 2013 at 3:46 pm

            Good, go away. I’m bored already, anyway. You’re not challenging in any way.

  15. Profile photo of James Fox
    May 14, 2013 at 1:25 pm —

    Rebecca, I read this post yesterday and at the time there was only one comment by Ophelia and I thought, yes, sometimes asking for dialogue is useless, patronizing or would only be worthwhile when the other party apologized and/or admitted they were wrong. I’ve come back today to see if there were any new comments and now I like your post even more, as well as many of the comments. The unexamined politic is not worth having.

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