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A Love Letter to Our DDoS Hackers

Valentine’s day is just around the corner and love is in the air. Can you feel it? The air smells sweet, like a hollow, two dollar, white-chocolate heart. I look forward to biting into it with my pointy little teeth.

This time of year, like every time of year, we draw a lot of attention to ourselves at the Skepchick Network for being a fierce and outspoken, lady-run blog. We bring up controversial topics like, vaccine awareness and the need for harassment policies at conventions. We talk about the lack of women in STEM and we organize events like the Science Track at Convergence (a.k.a. SkepchickCon) to encourage more women to get involved in those fields. We have the brazen nerve to discuss things like equality for women and minority groups and the highly controversial topic of simply wanting to be treated like a human both online and away from the keyboard. We say hey, you don’t need a god or even a spirit guide to be a great person and to love this one, precious life you have found yourself in. We think life is worth living and learning about without superstition. We support a science based perspective that helps us make decisions on medicine and social science and economics. We think women are funny and valuable. With hot-button topics like the need for safe abortions (a.k.a. reproductive healthcare for women) and the idea that religion is simply unnecessary, we expect and even welcome vocal criticism from people who disagree with us. It’s one reason why we have a blog with a comment section.

But we have set standards. You have to be able to hold a conversation with us. You have to be able to argue your point rationally. You have to be able stand up to us with intelligence and a quality argument. You have to actually add to the conversations being had instead of derailing or just shouting in SUPERCAPSLOCK teenage angst.

And over the years, what we have noticed is that a few of you simply can not do this. These few resort to harassing us on twitter and other social media, they make fake blogs in an attempt to mock us, they email us death and rape threats or tell us to “kill ourselves” or they produce poorly photoshopped images of us doing things they want us to do. We have become their obsession.

Some of our self-proclaimed “critics” have launched multiple year, ongoing harassment campaigns. These people go so far as to make up complete lies about us and contact our employers and patrons with these lies. We have seen these same people post our home addresses online in an attempt to frighten us and hobble our ability to communicate- or sleep well, or to peacefully exist. And every so often, when the photoshopped photos of us and the rape and death threats don’t get our attention to their liking, this same quality of “critic” takes the route of frustrated-cyber-silencer and we see our blog network start to load slow or in the case of last weekend, it goes offline all together in yet another successful Denial of Service attack.

It happens. We expect it.

The thing is this, we actually have feelings about our relationship with these cyber warriors fighting to maintain the status quo. They have a hard time understanding the issues we bring up and their place in the future seems uncertain. We know they are upset and they disagree with us and they want to be heard. We want them to feel special and acknowledged.

And it’s ok.


So in the spirit of love and understanding in this holiday season we have made a Valentine’s card for our DoS attackers in words that are easy to understand, that will hopefully make our message clear and easy to swallow like that cheap, hollow, white-chocolate heart of yours.

Happy Valentine’s day! Written by Elyse Anders. Layout by me.

Love letter to DoS hacker sm

This Valentine is also a limited edition print available for pre-order at Skeptical Robot. Proceeds will be used to buy a chalice to drink the blood of our enemies from. Oh and to help us cover server costs so we can indeed stay online.

The official back story:

On February 9, 2014, Skepchick.org was one of three feminist-focused sites hit with a DDoS attack. The network went down for most of the day before getting back online.

When Secular Woman asked Skepchick writers for a comment, Elyse Anders replied:

FUUUUUUUUUCK THOSE GUYS. I got shit to say and you’re a fucking idiot if you think I can be shut up. For real. You are the stupidest mother fucker on earth. Like I’m literally impressed you remember to breathe everyday if you think taking down a few blogs for a couple of days is going to do anything other than prove us right.

“Surly” Amy Davis Roth (lead researcher at the Mad Art Lab) turned her quotation into art. We’ve printed it on 11 x 17 posters for you to hang on your wall as inspiration the next time someone tries to keep you down.

Click here to purchase one for only ten bucks!

One final note. This is a reminder that Skepchick is a network that is run by women but also has a lot of men who are contributors. We are extremely proud of all the content created by everyone here at the Skepchick Network. Last count, we have ~100 contributors producing work on 10 blogs. Even if you somehow manage to silence one of us, more will rise up in our place because social change isn’t one person’s fight. It’s a goal of many, to make a better world.

Originally posted on Mad Art Lab.

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. I played this in the background while reading this. I think it’s appropriate: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2UrA9zBSY8c

    “I eat boys up, breakfast and lunch
    Then when I’m thirsty, I drink their blood
    Carnivore animal, I am a cannibal
    I eat boys up, you better run”

    I love you, Amy, and all the other amazing women (and dudes) on this network. <3

  2. <3 <3 <3 brilliant and iron clad.

    (p.s.I love that this gets to be the first post I comment on.)

  3. By the way, I always quote my favorite Rebecca Watson quote whenever MRAs infest a forum I’m on:

    “I am someone who would gladly join them in the fight against issues like male domestic abuse victims or male circumcision, if only they weren’t such horrific people.”

    So perfectly summarizing the difference between feminism and MRAs right there.

    (One slight correction to the Daily Beast article, though. The side effect that led to discontinuing studies of the ‘male pill’ was permanent sterility. Obviously temporary sterility is the whole point of hormonal contraception.)

      1. I was referring to the The Daily Beast article, “The Masculine Mystique”. Our own Rebecca did a pretty good job explaining why MRAs are doing it wrong. But one MRA complaint was because a male Pill was discontinued, due to permanent (rather than temporary) sterility.

  4. “Even if you somehow manage to silence one of us, more will rise up in our place because social change isn’t one person’s fight. It’s a goal of many, to make a better world.”
    We’re like HYDRA that way.

  5. TW: examples of ableist slurs below
    Late to the party, but this is so not cool. There are actual, concrete ways to insult these people for what they did. The ways to do that are not by using insults that attack intellect and are identical to the harassment thrown at people with intellectual disabilities.

    What these people did was poorly thought out and hateful. It wasn’t “Stupid” just like it wasn’t “Retarded”*. If the latter had been used I would honestly hope that there would have been a shitstorm over it. But instead, y’all went for the more socially acceptable kinds of ableism… and are currently getting away with it. Which is so. Not. Cool.

    And for the record, just because idiot and stupid and shit like “impressed you remember to breathe” aren’t as loaded as “Retarded”, doesn’t mean you aren’t triggering the fuck out of people with intellectual disabilities.

    Attack them for what they did. Attack them for the actions THEY CHOSE, for y’know, not thinking things through, not for “being stupid.” Attack them for being censoring assholes, and hypocrites at that. But don’t trigger people with disabilities in a lame attempt at a gotcha.

    And seriously. If you don’t want to be example #543 of feminism being hostile to those with disabilties (And I for one am tired it of being the Privileged Woman’s movement) , admit you did wrong and apologize. To everyone, not just those who had the courage to say something. Because I know you’ve already been called out for this on twitter and I don’t see any public mention of it.

    1. First of all, as a woman who is constantly attacked and harassed for having the nerve to stand up to the people who threaten me online, I find THIS response extremely triggering. And for the record and obviously as you know, if you are aware that this was brought up on twitter you also know that I apologized to the people who were angry even though they were very rude to me and said things like they were going to throw my art away. I was very polite when I responded to the verbal attack and I said I would try harder to do better in the future. EVEN THOUGH, those words that seem to be an issue, were not even written by me.

      Second of all, YOU just used the word LAME to insult me. Go ahead. Take a moment to process that.

      You can tell me to do better when you are doing better yourself. Until then, your tone policing has been noted.

      1. First off, I apologize for using lame. That was an oversite on my part. Because I’m human. And you know what? You’re human too. The problem isn’t *using* certain words in themselves. It’s doubling down when people call you on it.

        And… it’s triggering to be told you’re triggering people? And, I’m tone policing you for this (because asking you to NOT REPRODUCE SLURS is about tone?), but you get to mention how other people were “Rude” to you in calling out something that hurt them, and that discredits them? And apologizing in private to just people who called you out doesn’t solve the problem.

        Seriously if this was a discussion on how someone made art using sexist slurs written by someone else, you’d be arguing my part.

        1. Just to weigh in, I have no issue with the word “stupid” being used on this site as I don’t think it’s any more a slur than “poorly thought out” (and as Amy noted, it’s way, way less a slur than “lame”). In fact, I’m fairly certain the idea that words like “stupid” are off-limits just started as 4-chan means to discredit online social justice warriors.

          While I have enjoyed interesting discussions with people over the use of certain words to talk about people who are ignorant, this kind of frothing rhetoric doesn’t really do anything but make literally everyone on all sides roll their eyes.

          1. “In fact, I’m fairly certain the idea that words like “stupid” are off-limits just started as 4-chan means to discredit online social justice warriors.”

            I’d heard that too, but then, as someone with a developmental disability, I did get called “stupid” as a kid a lot by peers when they didn’t understand my behavior. So did the other people who objected. Some of them also got it from parents and teachers.

            The word “stupid” doesn’t bother me, but if it is, indeed, a triggering word for a number of disabled people, especially when aimed at people, not ideas…well, I dunno.

            Certainly, Amy did apologize and did promise to do better, so yelling at her about it here isn’t constructive.

          2. See, if you said, “Hey, can you not use the word stupid around me? It brings back bad memories”, I would do that. But I don’t think it’s a word that needs to be generally erased from conversation.

        2. “I was very polite when I responded to the verbal attack and I said I would try harder to do better in the future. EVEN THOUGH, those words that seem to be an issue, were not even written by me.”

          HOW is that doubling down??

          1. On that note, how is responding on twitter, “private?”

            And art with loaded words, or what the commenter is referring to as “slurs” used to reference sexism can be very meaningful, poignant and an agitator for change or action. I recommend the work of Barbara Kruger as example. She has done walkable exhibitions where the walls shout insults and slurs at you. Great stuff. Here is a link but I’m sure you can find more with goggle: http://www.barbarakruger.com/art.shtml

          2. This isn’t the first time that PUBLIC conversations on Twitter have been called “private”, I’ve noticed.

            Thank you for the link! Wonderful stuff!

          3. “Seem” to be an issue? They clearly are an issue, because someone has taken issue with them. Whether you’re aware of it or not, you are minimizing.

          4. It just shows you have an extreme lack of self-awareness. “I am going to sit here and lecture you for using the word “stupid” and call you the far more ableist word “lame” while doing it.”

            My ability to find you credible was shot right when I read that.

          5. I forget the principle of logic where someone being wrong about one thing means they are wrong about everything automatically. What is it again?

        3. Yep. We’re all human. But if you’re going to lecture someone, perhaps make sure you’re not doing the same shit you’re lecturing against? I’m sorry, but that’s just ridiculous.

          1. Actually, I’m not sorry. It’s just ridiculous.

            It’s like parent’s saying: “STOP FUCKING CURSING!”

          2. I’ve already apologized. I’ve already admit I fucked up. What more do you want me to do, never make an ill-timed mistake? These aren’t even the same thing. Nobody is asking to never accidentally use ableist language. We’re asking for people to just apologize.

      2. I am quite troubled by your response Amy. In response to criticism, you decide to act like a privileged person. I get that you and the other skepchick writers have been harassed extensively. You have all the sympathy for that.

        But when you’re criticized in other areas, I don’t see you responding the same way. I would ask you to compare and contrast your responses to different sets of well-meaning criticism. Some things like racism, trans* stuff, etc, you’re great about and you and the skepchick writers have been great about incorporating and listening to criticism… except when it comes to ableism.

        1. Me responding to someone on twitter who said they were going to “throw my art away” because they were upset about words that I did not write, was to politely say I would try to do better in the future. I have not changed my stance. I do disagree with some points being made here and I’m seeing a lot of contradictions. But me acknowledging that people are upset and saying I would try harder in the future is problematic to you? Ok. Also, noted.

  6. Yeah, no, people actually are triggered by the word Stupid.

    And twitter convos may not be “private” entirely, but apologizing there where only the people who followed that twitter conversation will see is not the same as… actually acknowledging the problem in the relevant post.

    Also, regarding doubling down… there’s the misdirection of “but I didn’t write those words!” and calling people being angry that you’re on their foot a “verbal attack.” Don’t know what else to call that.

    And I’m not at all convinced that this was meant to be an example of “Art with loaded words” that was meant to be some kind of catalyst for change against ableism. And if you weren’t saying that… why even bring that up?

    But for fucks sake, all anyone wanted was for you to rectify the problem without having to make excuses and to not be the umpteenth example of Feminism digging its heels in whenever non privileged women tried to get in.

    And shit. If we were talking about gender or sexuality or race or anything else, NOBODY would be doubting the validity people being hurt by this, or likening their anger to frothing, or… discrediting their anger at all.

    Y’all are ALWAYS in favor of righteous anger. Why the fuck can’t disabled people be righteously angry? Because it hurts your feelings and makes you broaden your perspectives to consider that there are more people out there who are hurt by more things?

    And y’know? I get feeling dog piled on, and I get feeling triggered by being told you’re wrong. I’ve got depression, I know how it feels. For me, getting called out triggers the “Everyone secretly hates me” feelings and makes me want to hide in a goddamned corner and never confront anyone. But I don’t use that as an excuse for why everyone has to *nicely* ask me to get off their feet, and I don’t shame people over it. Because when I’ve done something bigoted, it doesn’t matter how I feel.

    1. I think there needs to be room to talk about words, and how they’re used to hurt people.
      I think that there are writers here who are capable of having a real, meaningful conversation about how words are used as weapons and slurs and insults and how abuse and oppression colors our perceptions of anger.

      Grimalkin, I don’t, personally, think words like ‘stupid’ or ‘creep’ are intrinsically ableist, but I do think they can be used that way. And I think it’s a conversation worth having.

      1. The difference is that “creep” describes a person because of their actions, “stupid” is all about who and what a person is. There is a long and recorded history on how stupid has been used to marginalise and harm various groups of people. This isn’t advanced linguistics. This is a discussion about privilege.

        1. ‘Creep’ is used against autistic people in much the same way that ‘stupid’ is used against people with intellectual impairments. Both are used against people with developmental disabilities.

          1. Then neither word should be used, and when someone from a marginalised group says a word is harmful I would think the appropriate response for those in the social justice community is to listen and take it seriously. This feels like a false equivalency argument here anyway. Replace “stupid” with any gendered term of insult of your choice in many of the responses here and the conversation doesn’t look very good for us social justice advocates, does it.

          2. Yeah I’ve literally never heard an autistic person say they’re triggered by creep unless RIGHT NOW you’re speaking as an autistic person, but I’ve heard a good ol’ fuckton of DD people say they’re hurt by stupid. And if you’re not autistic, then thanks for using us as a gotcha? (If you are, apologies)

            Also if there was a problem with “creep” triggering autistic people, then that’s an argument to… not use creep. Not to declare “Oh, that’s TOO MANY words we have to stop using! Now we’ll just use them all!”

          3. I’m autistic, and so is my son.
            People without disabilities an illnesses can be stupid or creepy. They can’t be retarded or off their meds. It’s not the same.
            Using an illness or disability as an insult is ableist. Insulting someone because of their status is ableist. ‘Stupid’ and ‘creep’ are always insults, and sometimes ableist. The words are the tools that bigots and abusers use to enact oppression. Striking those words doesn’t end the oppression.

          4. The way the word is used in the poster/poem is that someone IS stupid, not that someone is doing stupid things. There are people who fall lower on the IQ scale and are called stupid. Are they at fault for this? Should they be lumped in with MRAs because they learn more slowly or can’t grasp some concepts easily? Are they deserving of scorn because of how their brain happens to work? Stupid is an incredibly loaded term and your -opinion- that it is harmless here does not trump the -reality- that people have been harmed. Unintentionally yes, but the harm is real not imagined or mistaken.

          5. You’re right that the harm is quite real. And I think that should be taken seriously.

  7. If someone tells you they have been triggered, it seems to me that “yes, but I don’t see the problem” is a pretty shitty response.

    I agree with Grimalkin, if this was a member of any other group saying they were triggered it wouldn’t be questioned. If we want to be compassionate humans we can’t discount the feeling of fellow humans without giving up a bit of our own.

    Think about this, recently Olivia pointed out how she can be triggered by things that most of us wouldn’t even dream could cause triggering and yet we believed her without question. Yet here we have a word that we know is used to denigrate and we are questioning whether it can trigger. I don’t get it.

  8. Stupid is an ableist slur. Choosing not to recognise that is a sign of privilege. There are actual real people who for whatever reason have been called stupid who are equally deserving of dignity and respect and do not need to be lumped in with MRAs. Whether Grim could have been nicer in bringing it up is beside the point for tjose harmed by splash damage. It would be nice if skepchick network could acknowledge this, apologize, and then feel free to address tone or whatever elsewhere.

    1. Yeah honestly I don’t even see how I could be nicer beyond… not mentioning this? And if that’s what makes me “mean” about this, and what makes other people’s anger OUT OF BEING HURT “mean” on twitter, then… fuck being nice.

      Love how while we need to be naice and are “verbally attacking” if we’re triggered, it’s totes cool to dogpile on someone for slipping up and using one word long after they’v e fully apologized… because that’s TOTALLY equivalent to not only using a word, but then looking at it enough to put it into art, and then seeing it pointed out and sorta apologizing while doing nothing to actually rectify it. (Because… we don’t care about superficial “I”m sorry”s when there’s still a huge post up unapologetically using ableist slurs and still a print up using ableist slurs to fund the site. Y’all should not want to fund this network off the backs of marginalized people, for real)

        1. Uh, I haven’t even attempted to argue *if* stupid is ableist, for the same reasons you wouldn’t be making an argument for why “bitch” or similar is sexist if someone came here defending it because a) It’s ALREADY been shown that people are hurt, and that should be enough, and b) the information on stupid’s ableism is readily available if you do any research at all.

          But beyond that, see chemgeek’s response, which should not even be necessary if you’re genuinely trying to include disabled people, because if you are you could just… believe them about their experiences already.

          Seriously. Stop holding anti-ableism people to a higher standard than everyone else.

  9. I’m surprised nobody has commented on ‘idiot’ also being an ableist slur, ’cause that word appears in the graphic above too. And I’m shocked that people on Skepchick do not get that using a word–any word–in such a manner as to suggest that someone (whose disability status is unknown and who did something the speaker considers unwise) must have a learning or developmental disability might just possibly be derogatory towards people who actually do have learning or developmental disabilities.

  10. A person– or, in this case, a group of people– inform that they are harmed by usage of a common and not very well considered term, and not just that one term but an overall attitude of othering along the spectrum of perceived intelligence that is a frequent occurrence in the skeptical community. Those people explain that disparaging someone’s intelligence rather than their actions causes splash damage to people who’ve been abused and bullied for their LD’s. I don’t see the problem with trying to understand where those people are coming from and being more considerate in the future. Engaging in conscientious rather than reflexive criticism harms whom, exactly?

  11. I wrote a blog post to better explain my stance on it, as I admit fully I did not adequately express myself on Twitter. I can link it, if you’re interested, but I don’t want to get spamjailed. Here’s a summary in any event.

    Stupid has only ever been used against me as a euphemism for an ableist slur. Stupid itself has been an ableist word since at least the 1540s, given that its inherent meaning questions someone’s mental capabilities. If that’s not ableist as all get-out against people with cognitive and developmental disabilities, I don’t know what is. Stupid is to certain ableist slurs as hysterical is to gendered slurs. No, it’s not the same word, but it’s a way of saying the same thing when you know your company won’t give you a pass on the slur, or when you are enlightened enough to admit that the slur is a slur. If you don’t believe me, open up a thesaurus and go to synonyms for that slur – stupid is one of the first ones that’s listed. I remind you that thesauruses exist to document current language usage – so even if you don’t mean it that way, if everyone else means it that way, intent isn’t bloody well magic, and you’re running into something exactly analogous to the “Well, when I say something is gay, I don’t mean it as an insult to gay people!” issue.

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