TW for sexist slurs and threats of gender violence.
Recently, the online discussion over the harassment of women has become a hot topic. We’ve dealt with our share of harassment here at Skepchick and we’ve stood up for others who we have seen being harassed . Sarah wrote a great piece last week about how so much of the so called “criticism” directed at women actually seems to be misogyny in disguise and used examples like Kim Kardashian and Kristen Stewart, along with Anita Sarkeesian and Zoe Quinn. I shared her post on facebook and a commenter asked me if I feel the same way about criticism of people like Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachman, or Anne Coulter, though they are people who I vehemently disagree with in almost every way, and my answer was “absolutely, yes.”
Let’s step back for a second though to go into all the drama that’s been happening with the Food Babe. By now, you probably know about Vani Hari, the Food Babe, the woman who has been using the internet to spread fear, misinformation and pseudoscience about food. We have written about her many times here at Skepchick and on our sister blog Grounded Parents. NPR posted a great article in the Salt this week implying that Food Babe is a fearmonger, in which they quoted our own Kavin Senapathy from Grounded Parents. Food Babe has now responded to that article with the ridiculous claim that Kavin and others who were quoted in the article are part of “hate groups” among other things.
I don’t need to respond to each of her points and explain why they are so very misguided because David Gorski already did that over at Science-Based Medicine and I have it on good authority that Kavin has a response in the works (UPDATE: Kavin’s response is now up!). Instead of focusing on all the things she has gotten wrong, and trust me there is so, so much, I want to talk about the part of her response where she mentions the harassment she has received. Vani posted the following examples of some of the harassing messages she has had directed at her.
Ferd Blerb is attacking Subway, again, for their Frito’s chicken enchilada melt…the usual toxins, chemicals, GMO’s and other inane remarks. I just posted this on the secondary part of the site. “Vani, you ignorant slut, you just make things up as you go along. You are stressing out your “followers”, er I mean butt kissers. You need to stop it.” She is starting to really tick me off. BTW, I posted as “Webb.”
Food babe get some real dick in your boney ass diet!
“This is just for you food babe your a ugly twat”
[Attached photo with the following caption] “What organ stays warm inside of a dead girl’s body? My Dick”
Person 1: “She looks like a clown. too bad she can’t be both smart and pretty.”
Person 2: “She got shot with the whore makeup gun?”
In fact, even Kavin, one of the Food Babe’s harshest critics, wrote a post a couple weeks ago about how the sexist language used by other critics of Vani Hari needs to stop.
I’ve seen Food Babe called names like, “slut,” “bitch,” and “stupid bitch.” These slurs undermine the valuable and credible arguments against Food Babe’s pseudo-scientific agenda. One’s sexual behavior has nothing to do with credibility. Firstly, I don’t think any of us are privy to Food Babe’s sexual behavior, nor is one’s proclivity for sex or lack thereof ever relevant nor shame-worthy. And while the word “bitch” is controversial, it adds or detracts nothing from the content of Food Babe’s character or message.
On facebook Kavin also mentioned racist language used by some of the people attacking Vani Hari.
Alright, I have to say it: Yes, Food Babe is a huge hypocrite. She calls out “toxins” and carcinogens selectively while happily using nail polish and drinking wine. But I’ve seen a few folks on social media berate her for “tanning” or even “fake spray tan.” Newsflash, folks – She’s INDIAN-AMERICAN. Like me, she has Indian parents, and that pretty much makes us tan. Blessing? Curse? I don’t know, maybe a bit of both.
Also, I’ve seen comments like “dots or feathers?” or questioning who would name their child something like Vani Hari. Vani Hari is an Indian name. I have to call out ignorance and bigotry when I see it. Like I’ve said in the past, let’s criticize her for her harmful messages, fear-mongering, and cowardice. Not for irrelevant superficial matters. Thanks.
Here’s the thing you guys, this stuff makes me so, so angry. I really do not like Vani Hari. I believe she spreads fabrications that misinform the public about the food they eat. If anything, I consider myself a critic or even opponent of the food babe, actively trying to fight her misinformation with facts. However, none of these things have anything to do with the fact that it is not ok to slut shame her. It is not ok to make disparaging comments about her appearance. It is not ok to call her a “whore” or a “bitch” or a “cunt” or any other gendered slur. Sure, maybe you believe as I do that she is wrong about GMO’s, but guess what? That still doesn’t make it ok to threaten to rape her. There is literally nothing that she could do that would make saying any of these things to or about her ok.
We talk a lot about feminists that deal with harassment on an almost daily basis, but it’s not just feminists; It’s every opinionated woman. It doesn’t actually matter what her opinion is, as long as there is someone who disagrees there is someone who will call her a cunt for daring to hold that opinion.
I have spent years speaking out against the anti-vaccine movement and Jenny McCarthy in particular. Oh, but here is a famous Victoria Secret model calling Jenny McCarthy a whore and a cunt for being anti-vaccine.
Sarah Palin is an all around awful person. Here’s a radio personality calling her a bitch and hoping for her death by bear.
Anne Coulter is just …oh god, Anne Coulter is just a horrible, horrible person in so many ways. Here’s actor David Anders calling her a cunt and saying he hopes someone commits a violent act against her.
None of this is ok. None. Are all of these people women who have done and said horrible things? Yes. Can you criticize them for the terrible things they have done and said? Yes. But at no point is it ok to attack them with gendered slurs or implied violence. I know I already said this, but let me repeat, there is literally nothing any of these women could say or do that would justify gendered harassment against them.
This may seem like an obvious statement, but the comments over on David Gorski’s response to Vani Hari at Science Based Medicine show it is anything but obvious. David used part of his post to strongly condemn the harassment Vani Hari has received, something which should seem uncontroversial, and yet commenters have continued to argue that she deserved her harassment or brought it on herself. Many, many people have mentioned that because Vani Hari calls herself the “Food Babe” and passes herself off as sexy, she was asking for gendered and sexualized harassment. Did you hear that women? If you are trying to be sexy then you are automatically consenting to having men say they want to rape you.
Also, the idea that the Food Babe only gets this type of harassment because she passes herself off as sexy is just patently false. Women get harassment focused on their appearance and gender because they are women, not because they are women with a certain type of body. It may take different forms when a woman doesn’t fit the stereotypical western ideals of what a woman’s body is supposed to look like, but they get it all the same.
Another example of someone skeptics love to hate on because she is an awful person is the recently deceased Sylvia Browne. Sylvia Browne is not what most people in our culture would consider beautiful and she certainly never tried to pass her image off as sexy. Here’s someone criticizing her by calling her a fat pig.
Yep, it turns out that women still get harassment based on their appearance even when they aren’t stereotypically sexy. It just tends to take on a different form.
Look, it’s ok to criticize all these women for the terrible things they have done and said. You should criticize them and do so harshly but without using gendered slurs or threats of violence or comments on their appearance. That type of language is not ok to be used on any woman anywhere. It doesn’t matter how much you dislike her. It doesn’t matter if she is a horrible person herself. There is nothing she could do that would suddenly make it ok to threaten to rape her.
I don’t like most of the women I have mentioned in this piece either but I will stand up for every single one of them when I see them being harassed. If you’re saying something to someone like Vani Hari or Sara Palin that is so horrible that you end up making me be on her side, you’re doing it wrong. You are not helping. Please stop.
Featured image is from Experience Magazine‘s Oct 2014 cover.