Speaking Out Against Hate Directed at Women: David Silverman

I recently wrote about dealing with hate and harassment and a good point was brought up. How do the leaders in the secular, humanist, skeptic and atheist communities feel about what has been happening to women online and at events? Why haven’t they spoke up about it?

Maybe no one has asked them to.

Until now.

Over the next few weeks I will be asking for and posting statements from the leaders in our community. I will specifically be seeking out the men to comment as I feel that an, ‘us against the men‘ meme has been incorrectly spread. How do our secular leaders, and specifically the men in our movement, really feel about sexism, threats of violence and the misogyny we have been dealing with?

Let’s ask them.

First up: DAVID SILVERMAN President of the American Atheists.

His comment after the jump.

From Mr Silverman:

As a Humanist, I see these threats as base and detestable. They have no redeeming value and will raise no awareness, solve no problems, and hurt those who should be friends. As a long term activist, I see hatred and threats of violence directed at our sisters-in-arms to be reprehensible, serving no purpose other than to hurt and intimidate valuable allies. As a white man, I know that so much of this hate comes from people who look like me — but they’re nothing like me where it counts. As the leader of a national atheist organization, I have implemented harassment policies to minimize such irrational, hateful, and counterproductive behavior wherever my authority allows. We have a war to win, and we won’t win until we can look forward, without watching our own backs. American Atheists stands by all its members, supporters, and allies, and we will not tolerate hate directed at any of us. Period.

~David Silverman

David Silverman is the President of American Atheists.

Thank you for taking the time to comment Mr Silverman and thank you for standing with us. It is much appreciated.


More to come.



Amy Roth

Amy Davis Roth (aka Surly Amy) is a multimedia, science-loving artist who resides in Los Angeles, California. She makes Surly-Ramics and is currently in love with pottery. Daily maker of art and leader of Mad Art Lab. Support her on Patreon. Tip Jar is here.

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  1. Hurrah!

    “much of this hate comes from people who look like me — but they’re nothing like me where it counts.”

  2. In a way I’m glad you’re doing this, but in another I am anxious about it. I hope you will let us know if some refuse to give a statement but am more than a little worried that refusals will come from places that are not expected.

    I know that all sounds a bit cryptic but you really should talk to even those who “have a reputation” and those who you “know” to be allies. I think it may be enlightening, but perhaps in more ways than one.

    I’m glad Mr. Silverman stands by his humanist ideas with no equivocation, something I fear may not be so universal.

    1. I’m reeeally not keen on that suggestion. If people want to speak out, that’s awesome, but starting a witch hunt is an awful idea. Support should come from a positive place, and never be coerced over threats of being ‘outed’.

      There are plenty of reasons why someone may not want to speak out that have nothing to do with them being big ol’ mysogynists, even if they genuinely do support the cause. It’s a bad tactic.

      1. Yeah, you’re right.
        No need to push.
        Let people come along at their own pace.
        I’m just too pushy sometimes.

        The ones who come forward are obvious allies, the ones who don’t… well, I guess we just have to say they are of unknown alliance for what ever reason. We can’t give agency because we don’t know their motives, absolutely.

        The effects are rather muted though.
        Comme ci comme ça I guess, sometimes we can’t ask for more.
        I wish we could.

  3. Great idea Amy, and thank you David for making the point that the behavior of the haters is irrational and should not be tolerated.

  4. Thanks Amy for this initiative, and thanks to Dave for your contribution. We need more prominent people to speak out against this abhorrent trend we are seeing, and the ore people like Dave we can get showing their disapproval the better. Good work, rock on.

  5. Hopefully now it’ll start turning from harassment being encouraged, to harassment being shameful.

    Because as of last year, I think it’s still encouraged to belittle women.

  6. Thank you for doing this. I think it’s a great idea, and I look forward to seeing future posts in this series.

  7. Terrific idea. Now when people ask “Where are the non-sexist allies speaking out against these acts?” we can say “Here”.

  8. you can call me a “long time listener, first time caller.” i like this idea, but i think it has one flaw. the negative static you’ve been getting has not been coming from the leaders of these communities (so far as i can tell). and, if history teaches us anything here, leaders of a community speaking out against something doesn’t stop pockets of thugs inside that very community from acting against the spirit of those positive words. the thugs typically justify the cognitive dissonance by thinking the leader “has to do that because of his position, but deep down he really agrees with us!” in addition to these leaders, i think it would be good to get as many vocal but not leading folks, people who are typically silent on the forums (like myself), and others who can pop the thugs’ bubble of feeling in the majority. no one wakes up in the morning thinking they’re the bad guy. but if you make them see they might be, they may feel the impetus for change welling up from the best place – their own reason.

    for myself i can say this: i’m a well educated man, an only child of a single mom raised by women (in the way story books talk about being raised by wolves). i have 2 daughters and they are both fierce by design. i’ve been lucky in that my geeky inclinations and sports ineptitude excluded me from most of the places i see my fellow men picking up their explicit sexism. i’ve only had to work to see and abate that sexism that floats in the air of our society and the halls of academia. and that has been a struggle at times – mostly to see it since it’s like asking fish to see water. to me, the fact that these men felt their threats would do anything but serve as a rallying cry for those that would oppose them demonstrates their lacking capacity for critical thought. and one would think that if anything serves as a condemnation in skeptic circles, being proven to lack capacity for critical thought would be it. certainly, i condemn the content of what they said. but more than that i condemn them as lacking the ability to truly be skeptical, critical, or thoughtful. and maybe that’s the food for thought they need to seek change.

    1. First: applause! Thank you for understanding.

      But one thing you should probably know is that geek culture is no less affected by rampant misogyny than athletic culture. In fact, I think there’s an argument that sports are far more evolved in dealing with fair and equal treatment than many geek subcultures.

      Last: we’re not going to get rid of the thugs, but the more people understand that the thugs are NOT the voice of reason, the more people will abandon that stance. The Skepchicks are often reminded that we are whiny and unconcerned with skepticism and that the issues we deal with are unimportant to skepticism (or even the world in general). When the leaders of this community speak out on our behalf, it reinforces that what we are saying is important and relevant.

      Thugs gonna thug. But most people don’t want to be on their side.

      1. of course, that’s correct. “geek culture” is rife with it. i guess when i said “geek” i was thinking more about my tendencies to be found alone watching Nova or reading a book rather than the now popularized conception of being involved in some pack of redirected hyper-maleness that looks at high dice rolls in D&D like touchdowns. the term “geek” is too overloaded i guess.

    2. “the negative static you’ve been getting has not been coming from the leaders of these communities (so far as i can tell).”

      By and large, that’s true, and is certainly true for the most reprehensible examples like actual threats of violence.

      However, the stuff that explodes into Internet Drama does, from what I’ve seen, tend to come from leader-types. “Elevatorgate” seemed to become a thing not because of Rebecca’s video, but because of Richard Dawkins’s response. Skepchick had no official TAM presence this year not because of anonymous harassment, but because the president of JREF ignored or denied the very existence of problems with sexism and harassment at events like that, and blamed the victims who speak up about it for the resulting problems.


    I hope this is a long series – more than six parts because I would like very much for the stand up fellas in our community to be more visible. The one’s who have a lot of growing up to do get far too many cycles.

    Gentlemen! I salute you!

  10. Hi! I’m no one special. I’m just a guy. I’ve posted here and at Pharyngula a few times. Nothing really profound to say. Once I was quoted by Jen on Blag Hag. That was neat. What I’m trying to get at is that I’m no blogger or great leader of our community. But I am a man. And I’m an egalitarian now, a feminist. I care about women in our community, and I’m sickened by the hatred and vitriol being pointed at our sisters, and friends, and role models. I stand with women.

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