There are, apparently, a bunch of Men’s Rights Activists (TM) who are very, very sad right now because I mentioned to a friend on Twitter that their “activism” consists mostly of shitting on women. Their response was to call my friend and me “dumb cunts” and “oversensitive,” and say that I had a “rape fantasy on an elevator,” referring to that time I gently suggested that men be more cognizant of women’s feelings at atheist conferences.
That Reddit thread has apparently inspired a new wave of men to pester me, none of whom apparently had the time or energy to learn what they should be angry about. Consider this email I received . . . or, I should say, that my male SGU co-hosts received, since the email is not addressed to me (as is often the case):
The following information was submitted via theskepticsguide.org Contact Form:
First Name: Jason
Last Name: [REDACTED] Location: Kansas City, MO
Message: I’m not sure if you have followed some of the feminist statements coming from Rebecca, but they are starting to take a non-skeptical turn.
I hate the types of conversations that typically occur on Twitter and Reddit. They are full of sarcasm (which that tweet I’m sure has some) and vitriol. But that doesn’t excuse someone who has made a business, as well as what I assume to be a personal goal, out of promoting skepticism and rational thinking.
I am a big fan of the SGU and other skeptical organizations. Or maybe it’s more accurate to say I love the goals of spreading skepticism, rational thinking, and scientific exploration. I have enjoyed the SGU podcast for years and plan to continue to enjoy it and share it with my daughter.
One of the fundamental tennets of skeptical inquiry is to never assume a position/belief/etc. to be an absolute truth. That the best you can hope for is something more along the lines of “I have not been presented with evidence contradicting my claim. Yet.” Although I know that’s an oversimplification, the point is that open minded discussion must always be an option.
Sadly, I must now add a caveat to your program when talking with my daughter. I will have to tell her that Rebecca is a bad example of rational thinking and scientific exploration because she refuses to participate in rational discussion on topics she feels too strongly about.
I don’t know the person she had this exchange with on Twitter. I have no idea if he would support a rational discussion himself. But an outright and public refusal to even entertain the idea of a discussion? That’s sad and pathetic.
There are women who suffer oppression. There are men who are victimized by a biased court system. Both women and men have genital mutilations, reproductive right issues, and societal status issues. These issues are often complex and intermingled in larger issues. They all exist, in the same reality, at the same time. One does not exclude another.
As a single father I see this kind of crap every day. I have been lucky ONLY because my ex did not fight me when I went for custody in our divorce. I work hard to support my daughter and I. I make many sacrifices to make sure she has the best chances at doing well in life. There will NEVER be a point in my life where I will not support her as her father.
To have anyone, not just Rebecca, say that my concerns over how society views me as a man, how the courts treat me as a father, aren’t even worth discussing. That the fact that I even express concern over this issue is just another way in which I “shit on women”.
Again. Sad and pathetic.
Like I indicated above, this is a feedback email. I don’t expect you to “do” anything. I was just so insulted and disappointed to see these sorts of comments from one of the hosts in a show I respect and enjoy.
Alas, it’s true. Several men on Twitter demanded that because I am a skeptic, I must discuss men’s rights activism with them. I suppose that’s one of the problems with labels – people always want to twist them to suit their own purposes. So, I suggested to one of them that he stop thinking of me as a skeptic. I’m happy to drop the label if it means angry MRAs no longer feel they have a right to my time. I responded to the emailer above with this:
I am under absolutely no moral or ethical obligation to engage with every person who demands I debate them on Twitter, a social networking site that is specifically built to limit in-depth discussion of topics. You writing in to basically tell on me is what is truly sad and pathetic, as though you hope my co-hosts will lecture me or put me in the corner (please: it’s obvious that you’ve written in for a purpose. Don’t pretend you weren’t wishing they’d “do” something). Well, I’m sorry to tell you it doesn’t work that way. I am an adult who makes my own decisions, and my co-hosts have stood beside me while I’ve been attacked relentlessly by MRAs who are too stupid or angry to realize that I support men’s issues such as ending male circumcision and prison rape. And like most feminists, I believe that ultimate gender equality will result in women achieving equality in the workplace and men being seen as fully capable of caring for children, which will then lead to fair and just decisions in family courts.
But those issues don’t actually matter to the MRAs who hound me day after day, tracking my every step online in hopes of catching a misstep, sending me rape threats and insults about my body, and writing in to my co-hosts as though I’m a child who shouldn’t speak for herself and needs to be reprimanded – they’re much more concerned with stopping uppity women like myself from suggesting that men be a little more compassionate toward the needs of women.
But you know what? I’ve actually changed my mind. MRAs have responded to that Tweet and taught me that they’re not just about shitting on women. See?
I hope that one day your daughter has strong opinions on how she and her sisters should be treated with respect, and I hope when that day comes you do not join your fellow MRAs in calling her a stupid cunt.
I considered posting this just to have something I could link to the next time someone complains that I’m afraid or unwilling to debate them on some topic.
As chance should have it, today I was made aware of a horrific story in NYC involving an infant who died, most likely due to the herpes he contracted from a mohel who performed his circumcision. I Tweeted this:
How awful and pointless to die of herpes due to an unnecessary cultural & religious practice. http://nydn.us/z58uLi
And then, an hour or so later, this:
My previous update was super depressing, so here’s a note to say I’ve started a new Tree Kangaroo pinboard http://bit.ly/xxTke4
Within minutes I got this response from @home_made_man:
@rebeccawatson since you are unwilling to engage anything relating to HUMAN rights all I can say is that you are the worst kind of bigot.
I was stunned. Was he talking about the tree kangaroos? They are an endangered species and I do support their rights as living creatures in need of protection. Was he some kind of fundamentalist humanist who believed in the ultimate superiority of humans over other creatures to the point where any attention paid any other species is considered anti-humanist blasphemy?
While pondering that, I received this Tweet from @deadlyicon:
I am becoming less and less impressed with @rebeccawatson. The skeptical community needs a more mature and respectful female cornerstone.
That sealed it. There is definitely an anti-tree kangaroo faction amongst my audience of nonbelievers, and they are seriously fucking angry. Either that, or suddenly I’ve angered a whole new group of MRAs who are in favor of unneeded infant circumcision. This could blow the MRA community wide open.
Also, apparently the skeptical community has only one “female cornerstone,” and I’m it. Holy shit, are you guys in trouble! And are we talking a square building, here? For the skeptical community’s sake, I hope it’s at least a dodecagon. That’s a lot of pressure to put on three dudes and me. And hell, I’m not even a skeptic anymore.