Welcome to the seventeenth installment in my series where I ask leaders from the secular community to speak out against hate directed at women.
Today, I bring you the words of Aron Ra. Aron is a YouTube vlogger, atheist activist and science advocate, producer of the Foundational Falsehoods of Creationism, a frequent co-host on the Magic Sandwich Show, and Texas’ State Director of American Atheists.
Aron asks some relevant questions in regards to what sort of behavior should and should not be tolerated and also speaks to the idea that each of us has an important role in stopping the negativity we have, and are continuing to see in our community.
Aron’s words after the jump.
For me, the best part of being involved in the skeptical/atheist community has been working with people who are genuinely sincere. Folks as fair as Matt Dillahunty or as compassionate as Seth Andrews are rare in the general populace. I have a number of associates in this ‘movement’ whom I feel close to and admire quite a bit, but we are not all on the same page, not about everything. Not everyone is all that sincere. Not all of us are completely sensible either. We have libertarians too, a topic for another time. Not all of us are environmentalists either. Some don’t understand the importance of biodiversity. Some of the humanists –and some skeptics too- seem to resent the portion of themselves that are atheist. Likewise I realize what a hypocrite I am that I still eat meat. Then there’s this whole feminism vs misogyny thing. On this point, I feel that I must even address some of my own family and friends.
On one level, we’re talking about anonymous internet nobodies spewing meaningless vitriol in an attempt to demean or belittle anyone not hiding behind the facades of silly secret names. How is that excusable? You may say, “Haters gonna hate; don’t feed the trolls”, and yeah, I get that. But are you telling me this is acceptable? Because it sounds like you’re telling me to accept it. It doesn’t matter what the medium is, does it? Does the excuse that they’re not really serious somehow make that OK? How could it? Is it ever acceptable for anyone to tell someone else that they should be raped? That’s a simple yes-or-no question, and the answer is obvious with no justifiable alternatives. I’m all about tolerance, but it is never permissible to threaten violence for any reason other than self defense –against a violent attack. Nor is it advisable to ignore such threats. Remember Tony48219? Remember Jared Loughner?
Remember that we’re not talking about religizombies either; we’re talking about plainly prejudiced people who consistently identify as, associate with, and participate in the freethinking community –both virtually and personally. Yes or no, are these the sort of people you want to have seen as representative of your position? Or typical of it? Or welcome in it? Because when you minimize the threat they impose, you are enabling them.
If you’re tired of hearing what’s-her-name complain about this all the time, why not solve the problem? Could it help to pretend that isn’t a problem? Or not enough of one to warrant your attention? Should you become part of the problem yourself? Do you think a bit of name-calling would be an appropriate response? If you not only permit it –by ignoring it- but actually contribute to it at all, then you’re aiding and defending those trolls –which is much worse than feeding them. If you’re well-known in this movement, you’ll be seen as a spokesman for despicable behavior. I have seen it happen.
Sure it is possible to go too far the other way, but don’t let that intimidate or confuse you. It’s really very simple. If you would immediately criticize some creationist just for posting logical fallacies, and you would defend the rights of homosexuals or any other minority, then why be silent when it comes to threats against women? If you would gleefully ridicule some noob on an academic error, then why hold your tongue when it comes to something much worse? Especially when it emanates from within your own camp! Could there be any excuse then?
How should we react when a woman is threatened with violence? It drains exactly none of our resources to show a little solidarity on an issue this clear. You might say you’d rather focus on more important matters, but why is this not equal to everything else on your list? And for all the exact same reasons? If you saw it happen in person, with real people right in front of you, what would you do then? Think about that for a moment. Imagine it happening. Now seriously ponder your natural reaction to that for a moment longer.
There was a time when one could get away with telling really offensive jokes, or expressing deep-seated hatred against any other demographic, and it would be nervously tolerated. Why is it not that way anymore? Because the pockets of humanity who permit that are dwindling. That means progressive people are having a positive impact, and there is just no defensible alternate position on this matter.
Thank you for taking the time to speak to us, Aron. I hope your questions inspire more progress in the days to come.
Prior posts in this series can be found here:
More to come.