So far, every single day since TAM, I have woken up to hate-filled messages on the internet. I have been called every nasty name in the book. I have been lied about, I have been threatened. I have been the punch-line to jokes where I don’t understand the part that is supposed to be funny. I have been called ‘poison’ dripping into the heart of this movement. I have been written about, repeatedly, on websites that actively encourage people to hate me specifically and women like me. I have been mocked, parodied and relentlessly hassled, by people who are claiming to be part of a movement that I had vowed to support.
This harassment happens to me online. Every. Single. Day. I rarely talk about it because talking about it draws more attention to me from the haters, as will this blog post. I realize that.
I do not retaliate, I rarely respond. I simply soldier onward, because I understand that if I give up, other good people will want to give up too. I deflect some of the hate.
A typical day.
Block hateful messages on twitter or other social media.
Ignore videos and blog posts made about me or people I respect from the day before.
I’m not ever sure how these people find out about me or get the idea to tweet at me or why they think something like that would be funny or relevant or in any way a good thing to type at a complete stranger. I do realize that there are groups of people online who are actively encouraging people like this to lash out at me, and many other prominent women in the atheist and skeptic community. Every single day these messages and much, much worse get sent to the women who have been targeted. I am part of the targeted group. Let that sink in.
I do not for a moment, understand it.
Disagree with us all you want, but hunt people down online with a goal of insulting, mocking or threatening them? That’s not skepticism, rationalism or by any stretch of the imagination, humanism.
It gets exhausting.
I have spent the last three or four months trying to come up with a solution. How can I stop the hate directed at us? How can I stop the hate direct at me?
I tried getting quiet. I posted less. I tweeted only about art and my dog. I still got hate messages.
I released a bunch of my art into the creative commons.
I still got hate messages.
I took time off the internet altogether. People blogged and made videos about things I said or did 6 months ago. I still got daily hate messages.
I got called a “professional victim.” I am not a victim. I am a target. I tried to lay low.
I still got hate messages.
I watched as many of my good friends, friends from skepticism, most of whom were women, quietly walked away. Since TAM, I have seen five women, each of whom I called friend, simply leave. They no longer wish to participate online or at events. They quit, because they saw what was happening to me, to Rebecca, to Melody, to Stephanie, to Greta, to Jen and to Ophelia and to other women who spoke out. They didn’t want to deal with it. It wasn’t fun anymore. I don’t blame them at all for leaving but I do seriously miss them. Their voices have been silenced. All of us lose from their absence.
I still got hate messages.
I thought about quitting too.
But I wasn’t sure what exactly I could quit. I suppose I could quit this blog and quit going to events but I can’t quit being a woman who is an atheist and a skeptic, who also has an internet connection and an online business. Besides, I am just as much a part of this community as anyone else. I have just as much a right to be here as anyone else. I am an artist who is inspired by science, skepticism and rationalism.
I have to hold out hope that that there are WAY more good people in that Venn diagram than assholes.
I still get hate messages.
But I have decided that I am here to continue to show that the two sides in this harassment issue are not equal.
There are harassers and there are targets.
We need to rise above. As humans and as a community.
For my part in this, I will continue to simply do good in the face of this constant abuse. I will not respond with hate. Nor will I walk away. I will do good things. Things that help others. Things that make the world directly around me a tiny bit better. It’s the only thing I know how to do. My goal is to continue to help make skepticism an obtainable method that can help protect people from being scammed or taken advantage of. Skepticism can lead you on the road to intellectual enlightenment and science education. Skepticism should be available, as a tool for everyone.
And atheism, as a movement, can welcome those who have felt oppressed by the confines of religion to be free from that oppression and encouraged to think rationally. As a movement it can help those free from religion, find friends and to know that each of us can be good without god.
I hope that some of the people who have been active in harassing us will realize that it isn’t ok. You can stop this. And if not, we can find more good people to join this movement to stamp out the hatred and move forward.
And I will make art.
Now, to answer the question that was posed in the title of this post, will there be more Surly Grants?
I think it is important that we dispel the myth that any of us here at Skepchick or any of the feminists in this particular group that have been targeted, hate men or in any way want to discourage men. To help do that, I will be offering grants to pay for the admission of MEN to the Women in Secularism event happening in Washington, DC, May 17-19.
I am also offering to pay the admission for WOMEN to go to the American Atheist event in Austin, Texas, March 28th-31st. Because we now, more than ever need to encourage women to participate in the atheist community.
I will be making necklaces to help raise money to do this. I havent finished them yet but I should have a post up about them on Monday.
I promise that I will pay the admission for at least two people to each event. If you can’t afford to go on your own and would like to go to either event, please fill out the application here. Please only apply for me to pay for your admission to American Atheist Con if you identify as a woman and please only apply for the Women in Secularism event if you identify as a man. EDIT 1:37pm: If you identify as both male and female, you may pick either grant.
If you can donate anything to help me do this please go here. You can pick if you want to help me send MEN to WiS or WOMEN to the American Atheist’s Con.
Here is a link to more info on the Surly Grants which is a project run by me alone, I use my own money that I make selling jewelry and through donations to pay admissions to events. I know the website is geared mostly towards helping women get involved, as that was my initial goal, but I feel very strongly that we need more men to join us at Women in Secularism if we are ever going to rise above the hate.
Together we are strong and as a community we can rise above and do better.
I’m going to go delete hate messages and then make the jewelry for the fundraiser…