I'm With Greta

The contents of this post are the opinions of JT Eberhard, not the Secular Student Alliance.

I stayed out of elevatorgate.  I thought it was a big clusterfuck that made otherwise brilliant people on both sides of that issue stupid.

But I’m going to wade into this one.  Greta pretty much already said everything that needs to be said about the proper response to the misogyny that plagues reddit and the rest of the atheist movement.  The most recent outbreak has to do with people parading their inhumanity to a fifteen year-old girl.

Including, “Well 15 is legal in many places, including my country, so I’ll only have to deal with abduction charges.” “Relax your anus, it hurts less that way.” “Blood is mother nature’s lubricant.” “Tears, natures lubricant.” “BITE THE PILLOW, IM GOIN’ IN DRY!” And including comments blaming the girl for posting a picture of herself in the first place.

I have nothing more to add to what Greta said, but I do want to at least add my voice to the fray.  This behavior is sick.  It is fucking sick.  If you do anything but repudiate this type of thing, if you say, “Yeah, but…” you are wrong.  Period.  There are some things in life that are unacceptable.  Double parking?  Unacceptable.  Cutting in line at the movies?  Unacceptable.  These people are demented and should have the entire atheist movement crawling up their ass for this.

The people saying those things and all the lesser insinuations of violence, rape, derision of anything with a vagina, etc., are bad people.  The ones saying them to a fifteen year-old girl are sick fucks.  Religious people are usually just wrong.  Those people are malicious, and anybody with a moral compass calibrated within the last century should have nothing but contempt for them.  The people who lift so much as a finger in their defense should get a heaping portion of that contempt directed their way.

I suspect there have been a lot of people like me on the sidelines who didn’t want to get involved in the sexism tangle.  It’s time for that to stop.  More voices need to be jumping in on this one.  On this issue, Greta is right, Jen is right, Ed is right, Ophelia is right, and a veritable army of other bloggers on the side of equality, reason, and basic human decency are right.  Head to their posts and leave a comment in support.  If the sickos can’t hear reason, perhaps they’ll acknowledge numbers.

About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.

  • Kelley

    I totally went out of my way to park next to a yellow Corvette that was double parked.

  • Izzy Leonard

    The sickos can’t hear reason and won’t acknowledge numbers either. I think it is time we realized these miserable excuses for “freethinkers” are beyond convincing. Beyond reforming. Beyond redemption. We shouldn’t rally around the voices of reason in this debate trying to convince the woman hating fucktards they are wrong. Our call to action should be shunning them. Defriending them. Leaving them alone in their hateful little world.

    Because we are a minority there is a strong impetus against taking actions that thin our ranks. We need to fucking get over that. These people are not good enough to be our friends or allies. They must be kicked out; told they are not welcome here. The solution to the underrepresentation of women in atheism isn’t beating our heads against the wall trying to convince bigots they should change their behavior. We need to get rid of them. THEY ARE THE ONES WHO ARE NOT WELCOME!

    • http://justsomeatheistguy.blogspot.com/ Mike Haynes

      I agree 100%, and Izzy hit the nail on the head as far as how to deal with these sick clowns. I would add that if forum admins are either unwilling or unable to police this despicable behavior, then the forum should be avoided altogether and reported widely throughout the online atheist community.

  • http://freethoughtblogs.com/butterfliesandwheels/ Ophelia Benson

    Yes I’m right!

    :- )

  • http://secularal.org Charles Raymond Miller

    J.T. I wholeheartedly agree that we all need to be on the side of basic human rights and decency. Misogynistic behavior is rampant in our globalized culture, so much so that it is hard to single any one segment. It would be easy to find even more egregious examples and point another way This is more than an atheist problem or a freethought problem, it is a human problem.

    I could start sounding like the counselor on South Park and list a lot of thing that are bad, but I think those of us that know what they are do not need to be reminded. It is others that do not who need some edification. That said, it could be the skeptical, rational, freethought, atheist community that points the way and that makes it our problem. Can we start by getting more people on board and freely embrace the sexual and reject the sexist?

  • http://majesty-of-being.blogspot.com/ Serah Blain

    Thank you for speaking out on this, JT.

  • Tony

    I agree with you and Greta completely JT. The responses made by these people is flat out disgusting.

  • http://the-heretics-haven.blogspot.com/ Ben Crockett

    That is sick, indeed. Why would people want to treat another person like this?

  • Ted Forest

    Am I the only one who thinks a bunch of internet asshole’s comments are being given way too much credit? Let me be perfectly clear that I agree these comments are inappropriate and sick. But when respectable bloggers like you, Greta, PZ, and others act like this is a big deal, you’re giving credence to a few douchbags who posted what would otherwise be throwaway comments on the internet. To reiterate, I am not defending these bastards. Anyone posting sexual comments about a 15 year old girl is a son of a bitch. BUT a HUGE deal s being made of random internet comments. Anonymity breeds this, and it doesn’t necessarily represent a greater flaw in society.

    • Paul Durrant

      You are part of the problem.

      • chrisbaile

        Hi Paul,

        I’m conversing with Carlie over at Pharyngula about this issue, but I wanted to ask you specifically: How am I part of the problem? I condemned the people behind these comments, and just said that anonymous internet comments are being given more credit that they deserve.

        • http://freethoughtblogs.com/wwjtd JT Eberhard


          I’m with you here. I think Allie gave you a great response though.

          I can appreciate Paul taking a stand for this, but Paul should explain why you’re a problem in the future. We should condemn things we find to be problematic, but we should also lay out our reasoning in case someone is willing to listen.

          • elronxenu

            I should have thought it was obvious and needs no further explanation. You linked to Greta’s post.

            “Why are you all making such a big fuss out of this?” is a variant of “It’s just a few douchebags on the Internet; we should shut up and they will go away”. Greta laid it out already.

            Shutting up about it hasn’t worked in the past, and that’s why I support making a big deal out of it now.

    • Allie Clark

      Carlie said most of what I wanted to say, but here’s another point:

      Those “random internet comments” are a test balloon for the people who think that way. If they can get away with it online, they’ll try saying it irl. If they get away with that, then it’s confirmation that what they think is ok. So when they’re in a situation where they have an opportunity to rape, they have experience that shows them that their behavior is acceptable. And before you tell me that I’m jumping to conclusions, ask yourself how much experience you have on the issue of rape, and then ask yourself how much experience the average woman has with rape. Hint: 1 in 6 women have been the victim of attempted or completed rape. (http://www.rainn.org/get-information/statistics/sexual-assault-victims). So yes, it is a huge deal.

    • ‘Tis Himself, OM.

      But when respectable bloggers like you, Greta, PZ, and others act like this is a big deal, you’re giving credence to a few douchbags who posted what would otherwise be throwaway comments on the internet.

      It is a big deal. Just because you don’t care about open displays of hateful misogyny doesn’t mean the rest of us should share your blasé attitude towards it.

      To reiterate, I am not defending these bastards.

      Funny, that’s not what it looks like from here. To me it looks like you’re saying something along the lines of “okay, so these guys are a bit out of line, but who cares? Boys will be boys and besides, bitches ain’t shit.” That’s because you say this:

      it doesn’t necessarily represent a greater flaw in society.

      Rape apologetics is a major flaw in society. You’re just unwilling to see or acknowledge it.

    • Stacy

      Sure. If your kid is bullied, will you tell her, “Just ignore it, dear; the bullies just want attention. If you respond you’re just giving them what they want.”

      Instead of complaining that some bloggers are making a “HUGE deal” about it, speak up and condemn this sort of thing when you see it.

      Hint: It isn’t just anonymity that’s in play here. This sort of misogyny gets vented because it is still considered acceptable behavior by too many people. Ignoring it will not help change that.

  • carlie

    Hi Ted! You don’t get it.

    To address your concern, though, you have to address the little things as much as the big things. It’s the little things that give the big things cover to exist, the little things that make us hardened to the existence of them so that the big things have room to grow. For example, it’s how enough people saying “she’s dressed like a slut” turns into “she was asking for it”, which, repeated often enough, gives that guy just enough of a nudge to think yeah, she IS asking for it, and then sways the jury to let him off because yeah, she totally was asking for it by dressing that way.

    Sure, it’s a random comment on the internet. Or, rather, several dozen comments on the internet, that were upvoted by several hundred other people. But try getting several of those comments a day, every day. Try bracing yourself every time you try to comment on anything because you know those sexist, degrading, violent responses are going to come at you no matter what the topic is you’re trying to talk about. Try being young and having this be the first introduction you have to the wider world, and then being told it’s always been like this and it always will be like this. It sucks, and it’s wrong.

    And saying “it’s only random comments, don’t give them attention” is an awful lot like other accommodating arguments. Guess what? Ignoring them doesn’t make them go away, it gives them the ability to thrive and spread. The only way to make them go away is to drag them out in the light and smash them to bits in front of everyone.

  • fredbloggs

    The internet is a medium with little or no accountability. Hence people feel free to be as abusive as they like and lie secure in their anonymity.

    It’s unacceptable, of course it’s unacceptable. No right-thinking person would think otherwise – but it’s also really hard to stop.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/wwjtd JT Eberhard

      That may be true. But we can vocally renounce the sexists and banish them from our movement.

  • Ray

    I’ll have to rethink this. I only started following r/atheism via RSS recently and did not participate I dropped the RSS feed when this shit hit the fan. Maybe I should actually join up and take part in trying to support the good guys against the misogynistic assholes. That kind of attitude is no better than Islam.

  • http://kriswager.blogspot.com Kristjan Wager

    BUT a HUGE deal s being made of random internet comments. Anonymity breeds this, and it doesn’t necessarily represent a greater flaw in society.

    But it represents a barrier for women to participate in the atheist communities. A barrier which should be torn down.

  • Eric Sweeney

    For God’s sake get rid of that stupid picture of yourself JT!!!

    It brings out the insanity in your eyes.

    No need to flaunt it, everyone knows you are a self absorbed jack off but Gawd Damn!

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/wwjtd JT Eberhard

      Not going to lie, I love that I’ve agitated you. :)

    • ‘Tis Himself, OM.


      You got a problem with self-absorbed jack-offs?

    • Allie Clark

      You must be new. Insanity isn’t really much of an insult on this blog.

  • Godless Heathen

    I suspect there have been a lot of people like me on the sidelines who didn’t want to get involved in the sexism tangle. It’s time for that to stop. More voices need to be jumping in on this one.

    I’ve never commented on your blog before (only recently started reading it, in fact), but YES, YES, YES. I know it’s easier to stay out of these types of issues, but it’s much better not to.

  • https://www.facebook.com/theslydog slydog

    Some guys just need to be punched in the fucking throat.
    I have a daughter.
    I wouldn’t tolerate someone talking (posting) some shit like that to her for a minute.

    Yeah… even atheists can be fucking dirtbags.

    It’s a damned shame.

  • evilDoug

    “… but it’s also really hard to stop.”

    And we are foolish people who do nothing
    Because we know how little one person can do

    from One Voice in the Crowd (1985), by the wonderful Judy Small


  • evilDoug

    Sorry! I forgot FTB embeds directly!

  • R. Johnston

    Sadly, libertarians have a tendency to consider themselves to be atheists and skeptics and to take pride in the rejection of christianity and islam. They’re wrong of course–even when they reject the dominant religions of our culture they’re obsessively faith based animals who routinely deify the important historical figures of their movement–but they do frequently try to insinuate themselves into those atheist and skeptical communities that don’t actively keep them out. Admittedly I’m basing this on personal experience and anecdote, but behind the kind of misogynistic asswipe at issue here claiming to be an atheist or skeptic you are highly disproportionately likely to find some variety of libertarian lurking.

    There are, of course, privileged misogynistic assholes everywhere and among every sufficiently large group of people, atheists and skeptics included, but libertarians make a religion of their privilege and take pride in being “politically incorrect” bigots. Those atheist communities that don’t police libertarians are the ones where the misogyny and similar bigotries can run a bit out of control and end up being worse than in random segments of the population.

    • Allie Clark

      Maybe it’s just me, but I’m not sure where the “it’s the libertarians” thing is coming from. I find it hard to believe that people are misogynistic because they’re libertarian. To be honest, your argument smells a lot like derailing to me. There may be a correlation between libertarianism and misogyny, but correlation is not causation, and I hardly think libertarians have a corner on the misogyny market. Libertarianism is not to blame here. Misogyny is. Rape culture is. The people who say misogynistic things, the people who stand idly by, they’re to blame. We shouldn’t let them shirk that burden by blaming their political views.

      • R. Johnston

        There’s a solid correlation–that’s, imo, pretty clearly causal, though the direction of causality may not always be clear–between libertarianism and misanthropy, of which misogyny is just a specific example. The “intellectual” basis of libertarianism lies in belief that the libertarian is entitled to absolute privilege. Libertarianism draws in people addicted to their own privilege and encourages the developing and worsening of the addiction.

        There are, of course, other factors at work in atheist/skeptical communities that exhibit unusual degrees of misogyny. I just bring it up because I think that libertarianism is an overlooked and important factor that is more easily addressed than many others. Libertarians aren’t skeptics and they aren’t atheists, they shouldn’t be treated as though they were, and those skeptical arenas where libertarians are largely excluded as non-skeptics–i.e. Pharyngula and, as far as I can tell, most or all of the rest freethoughblogs–are generally speaking and in my experience better and more welcoming places for women, minorities, and actual skeptics.

        • Allie Clark

          I was almost finished with a reply, and then my computer freaked out and I lost the whole thing. Dislike.

          Anyway, on topic: I thought you were saying that libertarianism was the main reason for the misogyny on r/atheist. My bad. I agree that a system that prizes the privilege of the individual is going to be a breeding ground for misanthropy, and I think it’s definitely a good thing to bring up. However, I don’t think it matters whether the people in question are true athiests/skeptics or libertarians in disguise. They’ve chosen to wear the label of atheist, so they’re an example to people outside the group of how atheists behave. Atheists are already seen as amoral and untrustworthy people, and the fact that we are so outnumbered makes it much harder for non-atheists to personally see good examples of atheists. Bad examples, however, go a long way toward hurting our credibility. Bad news gets a lot more attention than good news. No matter if someone is a true atheist or not, if they’re wearing the label, we need to hold them to the same high standard. We criticize progressive religious people for tolerating the behavior of the fundamentalists and saying that those people “aren’t real Christians” (or whatever religion), but saying “those aren’t real atheists” has the same effect.

          tl;dr: If someone labels themselves an atheist/skeptic, we should treat them as one, which means not allowing sexism, misogyny, bigotry, etc.

          • Allie Clark

            Edit: is going to *tend* to be a breeding ground. Damn computers, how do they work?

  • VeritasKnight

    I wish I knew what to say when these things come up. My general opinion is kinda the same as JT’s…”Greta is right”, or whoever happens to be vocal about the injustice at the time. But I really don’t know that I have anything to say. I’m not active at reddit. So do you leave notes of support here? Generally, I just watch rather than put my foot in my mouth.

    But I will say this: I hate seeing that sort of idiocy stamped with atheism. We always like to portray ourselves as having ‘figured it out’. This is an area we haven’t.

  • Sheila

    @Allie, ITA! Douchenozzles say on the internet what they would LIKE to say in 3D life, and they indeed consider their internet comments to be ‘test balloons’. Cutting their legs out from under them ON THE INTERNET IS IMPORTANT, because it lets them know that their comments will not be tolerated in real life.

    • StevoR

      It fights the continued rape culture we live in.

      Now I’m a bloke and I don’t live in the world women do in some senses. I don’t face the threats and hatreds and fears that they do. Just by circumstances of birth.

      Yet I can see this. I can read and listen and think and feel and flippin’ empathise with other humans for pity’s sake!

      So why the blazes don’t more people?!? I’m not that special or insightful and some of the rape culture drivel – like the incident sparking this post – just has me stunned and horror struck and even more than usually incoherent.

      Really people. A 15 year old girl posts a pic of herself and Sagan’s book and that’s the response it gets?! Talk of abducting her and subjecting her to bloody anal rape?! And lots of people actually vote in favour of that excrement and are willing to try to excuse it?! Yegods!!! W.T. F!

  • Supermental

    I totally dig the disclaimer “The contents of this post are the opinions of JT Eberhard, not the Secular Student Alliance.”

    Having said that, which idiot is putting the squeeze on Secular Student Alliance that is making JT put it up?

    The blog is called WWJTD you morons. Not WWSSAD.

    I despise stupid religious people.

  • Kelley

    Okay, wow. I’m late on the topic, and just got an eyeful. Misogynists and rape apologists equated with libertarians? I must say that I agree wholeheartedly, and with all due rational thought, that blackballing the bad seeds from this or any other community is necessary and appropriate. Just so you know where I stand… rape = inexcusable; rapist = evil person; anyone suggesting that we lazily pave the way for heinous, hateful dialogue/behavior in internet forums, because there is anonymity and it’s hard to police = stupid/bad/lazy/stupid, bad, and lazy person. With that out of the way, I have more than a dozen friends who lay claim to being either atheists/agnostic atheists AND libertarians, and not a single one of these people even tacitly condones rape or misogyny on any level. Do we need to clean house and get rid of some assholes? Yes! Please be careful that no one uses this as an opportunity to throw entire groups of people under the bus along with the rapists and rape apologists. For those who believe libertarians to be inherently evil, let them start their own group just for that nice little bit of hate and leave atheism and rape out of the conversation, or better yet, let’s leave libertarians out of the rape convo, and get rid of those people specifically, one by one, who do and say evil things, without attacking any group in general at all, unless it’s NAMBLA or some group that publicly and formally endorses abuse.

    • SallyStrange, Spawn of Cthulhu

      Libertarians are about as bad as NAMBLA in my opinion. They endorse policies that would lead to widespread poverty and environmental degradation. They are engaged in a philosophical quest to justify selfishness and base all their politics on that. The only thing that distinguishes them from liberals is their lack of compassion.

      I try to make them feel unwelcome whenever I can.

      • Kelley Harvey

        FSM help me if I’ve responded to a troll.

        This (I thought) was a topic about seeking remedy to misogyny in the internet ranks of atheists (by way of ostracism of the culprits).

        Women, atheists, and especially atheists who are women, deserve for this issue to remain center stage. Violence against women, be it overt, tacitly approved, or simply ignored, is the problem, and if it’s atheists doing the harm, we should kick them out of the group, yes?

        Attempting to turn a call to arms against misogyny into some other political debate is actually part of the problem – women and women’s causes are trivialized by topic/thread mis/redirection.

        Thank you Greta and JT for sharing your observations and feelings and for rallying the troops against violence against women. -KH

  • Cal

    Thank you for writing this post, JT.

  • StevoR

    Well said, spot on and seconded by me, JT.

    When an instance of misogyny is being discussed, and it would be obvious to anyone but a sociopathic hyena on meth that it really was misogyny? When — oh, just for example — a freaking 15-year-old girl posts a picture of herself with a book by Carl Sagan to an online atheist community, and gets targeted with a barrage of sexualized, dehumanizing, increasingly violent and brutal comments, including threats of blood-soaked anal rape?

    Please, for the sweet love of Loki and all the gods in Valhalla, when someone points out how terrible and misogynistic that is, do not change the subject.

    Please just say, “That is terrible. That is completely unacceptable. That is not how civilized human beings treat one another. Anyone who did that owes that girl the most groveling apology in their repertoire. If they don’t make an apology in the next six nanoseconds, they ought to be shunned. That sort of behavior is absolutely not to be tolerated.”


    Stop there.

    YES! ^ That. Full stop.

    “That [sort of appalling, vile, putrid, rancid, women-bashing, women hating garbage] is terrible. That is completely unacceptable. That is not how civilized human beings treat one another. Anyone who did that owes that girl the most groveling apology in their repertoire. If they don’t make an apology in the next six nanoseconds, they ought to be shunned. That sort of behavior is absolutely not to be tolerated.”

  • msironen

    “Anyone who did that owes that girl the most groveling apology in their repertoire.”

    Nay, I say. Every male who has ever lived and seen this (aww fuck, even those who haven’t seen this) owe her an apology.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mriana mrianabrinson

    Yeah, she said everything that could be said about. I couldn’t think of anything else to add to it. She’s good. BTW, love your lol cat. :)

  • Mike

    Last night I made a comment on another FTB blog that was in complete agreement; r/atheism’s behaviour was reprehensible and I was disgusted. But then I examined the actual reddit thread and while I’m still disgusted, I feel I want to present a counterpoint that softens my resolve on one tiny point.

    From what I could tell, a large branch of some of the most disgusting comments began in response to Lunam herself saying she’s “bracin’ [her] anus” for comments on her appearance. Now, was the response completely overboard? Absolutely. But that one line reminds me, for one, that 15 year-old girls are not fragile china dolls. They live on the internet just like the rest of us and they make dirty jokes too. It’s a fine, fine line between going easy on someone because they’re young and being patronizing.

    So I’m not on-board with the condemnation of redditors on the grounds that Lunam is a 15 y-o girl. I condemn the redditors because she’s a human fucking being, and the jokes turned almost instantly from “laughing with her” to “laughing at her expense.”

    I also categorically condemn the blatantly misogynist comments against her, about how “women post pictures of things this way,” and how after Lunam said it wasn’t cool she was blamed for having posted. Vile. Not acceptable.

    The people who lift so much as a finger in their defense should get a heaping portion of that contempt directed their way.

    Bracin’ mah anus for contempt.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002214596243 ethanhobart

    I agree with 99% of this post. My one quibble is with the use of the word ‘sick’.

    I was convinced long ago by novelist and anti-child abuse activist Andrew Vachss’s argument that we should stop using the word sick to decribe bad behavior. He argues that the word sick implies disease, which is something that just happens to a person, and therefore carries no moral implications at all.

    His famous quote ‘I will grant that having feelings of sexual attraction to children is sick. Acting on those feelings, however, is evil,’ I think is applicable to these individuals, as well.