If you’ve been hanging around the freethought communities lately, you’ve probably heard a lot about sexism. You’ve probably heard plenty of women sharing their experiences: feeling objectified, feeling dismissed, feeling threatened, feeling constantly sexualized.
Does that mean every man in the skeptic and atheist communities is a misogynist douchebag? Absolutely and unquestionably not.
Does the fact that not every man in the skeptic and atheist communities is a misogynist douchebag mean that these women’s experiences are invalid? Absolutely and unquestionably not.
But it seems that Mallorie Nasrallah and her friend Penn Jillette disagree.
Jillette, ever the contrarian, tweeted a link to that article on Monday night, and a horde of angry feminist skeptics started frothing at the mouth. Me included.
Hey, y’all know what a straw man argument looks like, right? Oh, look — here’s one now!
The idea that you have to set time aside to cater to me, because my vagina imbibes [sic] me with some special needs is becoming increasingly insulting. These communities are about our minds, not our genitals and as far as I can tell my mind is just like yours.
Gosh, if only women were asking for special treatment, instead of asking to be treated as equals by communities that have been traditionally male-dominated, that argument might actually make sense.
Ooh, here’s another one!
More recently I have noticed a trend among men in my communities, you seem to have been told that you’re awful and need to change. Again, apparently because your genitals imbibe [sic] you with an inescapable assholism. Please never believe this lie. With all my heart I beg you to not make monsters of your gender. I like your jokes. I like your humor. I like the casualness and ease that no gender distinction has allowed us all over the years.
Yep, because it’s dirty jokes that make the ladies uncomfortable. Oh, my virgin fucking ears. Perhaps, instead, it’s the objectification and trivialization of our concerns that upset people.
With all of my heart I beg you: Do not change. Do not change for me, do not change for someone else. You’re wonderful, just the way you are. If the day comes when you censor your language around me, when dick/fart/vagina jokes are not allowed because of my delicate gender, my heart will break as I wave goodbye in a search for a more open, natural, candid community that does not insist on seeing me first for my gender.
This is the part that really upset me. In one fell swoop, Nasrallah minimized the legitimate concerns of women in the skeptical community, and urged the men of said community to resist a change that no one is trying to make. No one is trying to eliminate dick/fart/vagina jokes. That’d bore me too. In fact, I welcome any good joke that includes all three of those.
But if there’s one thing we can learn from the plethora of female voices speaking out, it’s that there’s a systemic issue in the skeptical community causing lots of women to feel uncomfortable. Nasrallah declaring herself part of the boys’ club and dismissing those who feel marginalized as “delicate” doesn’t help that whole “sexism” thing. Nor does implying that everyone else needs to “man up.”
You know what does help?
Listening to women’s actual concerns, instead of misrepresenting them and then urging people to ignore them.
Taking inventory of your own behavior, in light of what you hear, and modifying it as necessary.
Treating everyone equally, instead of presenting the problem as the “manly dudes just being normal people” versus the “sensitive ladytypes who get oh-so-offended.”
Jillette is already trying to backtrack, saying that Nasrallah is speaking only about her own narrow experiences in one individual group. But considering the way the piece itself is written, I find that pretty disingenuous. You are certainly welcome to judge for yourself.
Me, I’m just disappointed.
***Edit***: You can respond directly to Mallorie Nasrallah (or just follow the conversation) at her Facebook page.