Today on Twitter, Jeff Sharlet (author of great books like The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power
) let loose with some choice words for those who believe that most if not all disagreements can be resolved through dialogue:
Can I get an a-fucking-men?
Sharlet’s points are relevant to the continued harassment of women in the skeptic and atheist communities and the attempts by some to build bridges with harassers. One prime example is Michael Nugent, whose heart was surely in the right place when he began engaging with MRA harassers and then escalated to organizing a formal dialogue between Stephanie Zvan and a few mostly pseudonymous people who have no apparent objection to representing the “side” that harasses women. This dialogue was at the outset insulting to many of the women who are being harassed and almost immediately became arduous and confusing as well: “This is a response by Stephanie Zvan to the response by Skep Sheik to the first response by Stephanie Zvan to the Strand 1 Opening Statement by Jack Smith.”
If it had been someone like Stephanie herself organizing this “dialogue,” it would be bad enough, but the fact that it was organized by Nugent, a person who is completely unaffected by the actions of the harassers, and that he did it over the repeated objections of many of the women being harassed, is, as Sharlet says, the very definition of paternalistic.
While there may be many people who are uneducated about what women are going through in this movement, those people are not the one who are volunteering to debate and debase women. They’re not the ones who rushed from “The Slymepit” (a message board set up as a meeting place for people who hate me and other feminists) to flood Nugent’s posts with the same lies and slurs that had previously been relegated to their own hate forum.
I’m currently packing to go to Women in Secularism, the second annual conference in DC that focuses on the thoughts and contributions of the many talented women in our movement, who otherwise are not often well-represented at other conferences. The people harassing me and other women have taken this as an opportunity to step up their game. They already spent a great deal of time setting up a deceptive website at WomenInSecularism.com (I don’t know if that’s related to the fake Skepchick/FreethoughtBlogs website set up by Ed Clint).
They’ve also already dominated the Women in Secularism Twitter hashtag, #wiscfi. Here’s a screenshot of what it looked like when I started writing this post:
Meanwhile, Jen McCreight continues to be harassed by people like Justicar, aka IntegralMath, despite the fact that she quit blogging for several months and when she returned she only blogged occasionally about science. That particular bit of harassment is all about how those of us who are being harassed shouldn’t fear for our safety, and to prove it Justicar posts details on how one can locate where Jen lives while calling her names.
And yet still, we are expected to dialogue with our “opponents” as though those people are simply uninformed about the fact that we have rights and feelings and personal autonomy. Here’s a Tweet I received yesterday:
And who is the poor, disagreeing soul I should have engaged with rather than ridiculing?
— RebeccaWatson (@rebeccawatson) May 12, 2013
That guy. A guy who is so obsessed with hating me that he can’t put into perspective the fact that two years ago I lightheartedly recommended men not proposition women in elevators at 4am without speaking to said women first and after said women spent an entire day talking about the sexual harassment the get on a regular basis. Men insist that it’s my obligation to engage with that guy, to educate him and him specifically, to reach him using some new method, seeing as the previous 300 methods haven’t worked.
So if dialogue is your fetish, be a thoughtful perv and don’t force it on the rest of us.