No Excuses.

Up until now, this lady has stayed completely out of any discussion of the atheist/skeptical community and misogyny/sexism.

I didn’t want to get involved. I felt that people wrote enough words, discussing sexism to the point of overwhelming inanity. I stayed out of elevatorgate, convinced that other people had better, more eloquent, more convincing things to say than I ever could, and that my voice would disappear in a cacophony of diatribes and rationalizations.

I was wrong.  Greta and JT (and everybody else) convinced me. Even if I have nothing new or groundbreaking to say, I still must say something, if only to stand in solidarity with everyone else who has already made their voice heard.

We have a problem with misogyny in the atheist/skeptic community. Rebecca Watson exposed one particular problem in one particular Reddit board.

The people who posted rape and kidnapping comments about the 15 year old young woman should have their feet held figuratively to the fire. Their behavior is completely unacceptable. If nothing less than complete condemnation of such behavior resulted from Rebecca’s exposure of the /r/Atheism board occurred, the community would move on, back to our regularly scheduled promotion of science and criticism of nonscience.

The problem: That didn’t happen. Instead, we got a deluge of excuses, backlashes against people pointing out that this kind of misogyny occurs, victim-blaming, minimizing, and subject-changing.

If you want women to feel comfortable in the atheist community, have the decency to treat (and expect others to treat) us like godamned fucking human beings. Even on the internet.

Otherwise, you’re no better than the Christians who convince women that being a producer of children is their only value as a human being.

Otherwise, you’re no better than the ACLJ when it claims preventing people from bullying gays infringes on their religious freedom.

Otherwise, you’re no better than Catholics who blame gays or atheists or the secular world or anybody but themselves when their leaders systematically cover up the abuse of boys.

Otherwise, you’re no better than the Muslims who blame a woman when men rape her because the woman revealed too much skin by wearing only a hijab.

Otherwise, you’re no better than the conservatives who want to take away a woman’s choice and control over her own body.

If you want people to move on, to stop making a big deal out of this, stop “whining” – then acknowledge that elevatorgate and redditgate are examples of blatant, horrific, intolerable misogyny that should stop, and make no excuses for such behavior.

We don’t let a family’s religion excuse them from allowing their child to die because they believed prayer helps more than doctors. We shouldn’t excuse jokes about raping a 15 year old young woman, either.

 

Christina holding a banner reading, "No Excuses!"

Excuses: Have none of those.

 

 

Reach Christina at Zizturiswrong {at} gmail [dotcom] or on Twitter @Ziztur

About christinastephens
  • Gordon

    Thank you!

  • RW Ahrens

    Wonderful post! You’ve said it as well as even PZ could have!

    • http://www.facebook.com/ziztur Christina

      *blush*

  • TeamBonoboA-Go-Go

    Feminists don’t need to be made comfortable in the atheist community- you’ve got a huge community that has become an echo chamber. So that, many/most only find comfort in those who agree with them which is contrary to progress in scientific endeavors.

    Hoping you can break away from the filter bubble of feminism for a moment: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XnpvDpVF2kc

    • http://www.facebook.com/ziztur Christina

      You mean in the same way that atheists need to just shut up about Christian privilege in America, because we’ve got a huge echo chamber?

      • http://arvindsays.blogspot.com arvind

        Zing! Great reply! (And great post too, Christina!)

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

      Feminists don’t need to be made comfortable in the atheist community

      Women need to be made comfortable if we want a diverse and effective movement (which I do).

      The misogynistic shit that’s going on right now? Not getting the job done on that front.

    • interrobang

      Oh boy, it’s the same MRA troll who’s been infesting all the other threads, and then talking about how feminism is an echo chamber. Unlike, say, all those self-reinforcing mutually masturbatory MRA hangouts, I’m sure…

      Piss off, idiot. You have nothing useful to contribute, apparently to any civilised grouping of people anywhere.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/almostdiamonds/ Stephanie Zvan

      It is, in fact, the same sockpuppetting troll who tried to call sex with pubescent children a “reproductive right.”

    • msironen

      It’s funny how around these parts “MRA” is a shorthand for rapist/misogynist/whateverdemon that can be dismissed out of hand, but similar claims made by a self-proclaimed feminist can instigate a witch hunt on massive scale (on “freethoughtblogs”, in case you didn’t get the irony).
      Well, as long as Hitchen’s corpse has cooled down, we can be taught what’s RIGHT.

  • supermental

    Wait is this WWJTD or WWCD??

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

      WWJTD.

      And JT would bring on Christina as a contributor because she’s brilliant and writes great stuff.

      • Wes

        Like!

      • supermental

        JT I can’t believe out of all my comments you actually responded to this one.
        I was joking mate!
        Keep up the good work. Reading your stuff keeps me sane.

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

          Doh! So hard to tell in text. :P Will do, mate!

          • evandrofisico

            Talking about that, I think it’s about time to include Christina in the sidebar, as one of the authors.

  • http://andythenerd.tumblr.com The Nerd

    I’m busting at the seams with pride at everyone on FTB this week. I’ve always had this hope that atheists/skeptics/humanists/freethinkers/science-lovers everywhere would think to themselves “hmm… I’m free from restricting myself to ancient morality based on outdated knowledge of the world, this means I have the chance to go above and beyond everyone else!” So many people have been not giving a fuck that I had started to think human progress is a hippie dream instead of a possibility. But yay! People do give a fuck! All of my favorite people, in fact, which is probably why you all got to be my favorite people in the first place.

  • Kevin

    Yep. That pretty much nails it.

  • Tony B

    “If nothing less than complete condemnation of such behavior resulted…”

    Well that’s an exceedingly idealistic expectation that was never going to happen. Are you suggesting that dogmatic 100% lockstep agreement with Rebecca’s opinion is required? Is there any conversation to be had about where the line is with regard to sexual humor or is it one of those “I know it when I see it” things?

    • http://andythenerd.tumblr.com The Nerd

      I think this response falls partially under several categories of derailment, but is probably best represented by “but you have an agenda!” http://www.derailingfordummies.com/#agenda

    • Wes

      I think there’s room for that discussion, but if you’re going to take the position that the anal rape of a 15yo is anywhere near the “line” in regards to sexual humor, you’re part of the problem.

      “Rebecca’s opinion” is that these “jokes” were not funny, harmful, atrocious, wrong, and emblematic of a larger problem in the atheist/skeptic community. I don’t see how any reasonable person could disagree.

      If you have a rational argument for why that’s not the case, go ahead and make it, but I seriously doubt you’ll be able to construct one.

      • Tony B

        I am almost completely in agreement with Rebecca’s original post but pointing to examples and saying “this here is bad” while sufficient for raising awareness does not spell out what the problem is. Not her fault, the point of the piece was to be consciousness raising and to vent about something that pissed her off. Others all over FTB are echoing her ire and, again raising awareness that there is a problem. I’m not seeing a lot of discussion beyond that due to the usual unproductive escalation of defensiveness between the dudes that don’t get feminism and the feminists who are too annoyed (for good reason) to bother explaining without a heavy dose of condescension.

        Agreeing that such things are in poor taste, I’d like to go deeper and consider the minutiae of what should be acceptable and what should not. Because that, unlike hearing yet another argument over the definition of feminism, privilege, etc would actually be interesting. If there’s no interest in that sort of thing it’s not a problem. I just knew I couldn’t have that conversation on a huge place like Pharyngula without being completely drowned out by the groupthink that goes on there.

        • Wes

          Sounds like you should start a blog. I don’t think this is the post on which to have that type of discussion.

          • Tony B

            Perhaps. I wouldn’t know where to start. I’ve never done anything online more complicated than posting on various fora.

        • http://www.facebook.com/ziztur Christina

          I like your point. I have therefore blogged your comment here: http://freethoughtblogs.com/wwjtd/2011/12/30/further-reflections-of-acceptable-behavior/

  • NotAProphet

    Everybody needs to be made welcome and comfortable by any community that wants to be more than an exclusive club for those lucky enough to already be members. Does anyone think this young lady is gonna be in a rush to interact with the community again any time soon!?

    Whether you consider this example misogyny or simply griefing, it is unquestionably bullying, and should be neither tolerated nor excused.

    Moreover, the girl is a minor, sexual overtures made towards her by online perverts should be investigated by the police.

  • http://thishadtobesaid.blogspot.com/ Cluisanna

    I agree with everything you said, Christina. I have a long time ago given up on reddit, it is a MRA-infested place (example: someone wrote “I am a proud misogynist!”, I asked “Seriously, you hate half of the population just because of their gender?” and received several responses saying stuff like “oh he has just been called misogynist so often that he now *has* to adopt that label” – say what?!)

    Still, why are people still calling things -gate? Watergate had nothing to do with water, if I recall correctly m(

    • http://www.facebook.com/ziztur Christina

      Even more interesting things happen when I get called a feminist basically because I am a woman. I don’t really feel as though I am a feminist – I am a humanist, and all of the ideals of feminism pretty much fall into that category already.

      Re: calling things -gate. Feels good man =p

  • Malimar

    I’m not going to make any excuses for the comments in the original thread. What went on in that thread was inexcusable. I am, however, going to criticize some of the criticism of the comments. And I might go so far as to do something that could potentially be interpreted as making an excuse for the excuse-makers. Bear with me.

    The narrative, in most of the articles I’ve seen condemning that thread, goes like this: “15-year-old girl posts photo of herself, so Reddit swamps her with anal rape jokes.” To which the proper response is: “What? That behavior is reprehensible, and doesn’t even make sense. I’m with you all the way.”

    I wasn’t paying all that much attention to the furore, so only after encountering several such articles did I actually bother to trace it back to read the original and notice that the OP had touched it off with her “bracin’ mah anus” comment. Which is to say: a more accurate narrative would be “15-year-old girl makes an anal rape joke, so Reddit swamps her with more anal rape jokes”. And the natural reaction to that, in comparison to the other narrative, is “Oh, well, that’s not so bad; at least that makes sense in context.”

    And that’s a bad reaction. It naturally leads to “Hey, bloggers, you missed the part where she brought it upon herself by making an anal rape joke.” Which is, yes, absolutely wrong.

    But by leaving Lunam’s “bracin’ mah anus” comment out of the narrative, or at least giving it a much less prominent place in the narrative than the “she posted a photo of herself” bit, bloggers are leaving themselves wide open to that very reaction. Unnecessarily so; there’s still plenty to decry without pretending the comments were completely context-free.

    Which is to say: you’re painting an exaggerated picture, and then you’re surprised when people point out that the picture is exaggerated. The actions of the Redditors in question are reprehensible enough on their own; embellishing them only reduces your credibility, distracts from the very real misogyny, and leaves you open to exactly the kind of excuses that Christina’s post decries.

    (P.S. I’m also very bothered by the rampant ageism that’s a constant in all of these threads and posts, including the original. But that’s a different comment entirely.)

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/almostdiamonds/ Stephanie Zvan

      Actually, the young woman in question has said that was not an anal rape joke. Several other people have pointed out that’s not an anal rape joke. So this particular criticism is based on your idea that everyone should understand that statement the same way you did.

      • Malimar

        What Lunam meant by her comment is barely relevant to the excusers, and even less relevant to my point. I’m not sure why you even bring it up.

      • http://freethoughtblogs.com/almostdiamonds/ Stephanie Zvan

        You can’t understand why I would bring up that your “exaggerated picture” is nothing of the sort? The difference between “They didn’t mention she started the anal rape jokes” and “I read her comment as an anal rape joke even though they didn’t” is rather important. Particularly when you’re placing blame.

        • Malimar

          Ah, you’re under the misapprehension that this comment had something to do with placing blame for the comments. That explains why you thought it was relevant.

        • http://freethoughtblogs.com/almostdiamonds/ Stephanie Zvan

          Wrong again. Your comment was placing blame for people’s excuse-making on those who condemned the rape jokes and threats because “Oh, well, you see, those people didn’t talk about” something that never happened in the first place.

          Lunam did not make a rape joke. She said something about her anus, and a whole bunch of people, you included, apparently weren’t able to associate an anus with anything other than anal rape. Then a whole bunch of those people (you included?) decided that a joke about anal rape was not a reason to say, “Hey, rape joke = not funny,” but to pile on and make more.

          Then, when people wrote to condemn that response, you showed up all butthurt [also not an anal rape reference, as an FYI to the obsessed] to complain that they didn’t mention your interpretation of Lunam’s words. And you did it because, well, you know, not that it’s victim-blaming or anything, but somehow the story of how people other than Lunam behaved isn’t really fair or complete without it. Also, that absence totally explains why anyone jumped on the people bitching [used advisedly] about rape jokes and threats instead of on the people making them.

          Got a clue yet why I brought it up?

          • Malimar

            Yeah, you’re still missing the point. Nice straw man, though.

    • John-Henry Beck

      I think the trouble with that “bracin’ mah anus” thing is that it’s not necessarily or even primarily an anal rape reference. I know I’ve seen it point out in a thread or two elsewhere. It has a context also of simply bracing oneself, tensing up, in expectation of something.
      So that bunch running with it as a rape joke, when talking about a 15 yr old girl, shows remarkably poor taste at best.

    • NotAProphet

      Sorry man, that doesn’t fly. Whether you think it’s ‘ageism’ or not, when a minor is subjected to egregious sexualisation it is wrong, whether you think they’ve provoked it or not.

      Moreover, I’m not sure how what she said becomes about RAPE by any logical steps. I suppose pre-teens who wear make-up are ‘just asking for it’ huh?

      Bottom line; even if you think they are trying to sexualise themselves, it is NOT OK to sexualise minors, and I suspect the big guys in the prison showers would make the same point to anyone convicted of doing so.

      • Malimar

        That’s not really the ageism I was talking about. Nice straw man, though. And it did make me chuckle that you apparently use the opinions of convicted criminals as a moral compass, so that was entertaining.

        • http://thishadtobesaid.blogspot.com/ Cluisanna

          I know it is sometimes hard to hide one’s anger, but most of the time snappy comments just serve to alieniete the person you are trying to convince. So instead of saying “That’s not what I meant, why are you so stupid?” you could write “Actually, I meant this: …” I, for instance, would like to hear which ageism you meant.

    • Wes

      I think this only matters if the goal is to be convincing. If you’re trying to be persuasive, then yes, it’s a good idea to point out possible counterarguments (such as “she started the sexual comments”) and address them in the original post. However, none of the posts I’ve seen on FTB seem particularly persuasive to me. Most are just raising awareness that this happened, and expressing that it’s unacceptable. I haven’t yet seen any that are an attempt to convince someone who thought that this behavior was acceptable that it is not.

      That said, I think the culpability of someone who makes a crude sexual remark out of the blue to a 15yo is somewhat higher than someone who makes a crude sexual remark in response to a somewhat crude sexual remark that the 15yo in question made (which is still high!, so it may be worth pointing out, in regard to some of the comments. However, what, to me, is the most upsetting, are the RAPE jokes. Her comment had nothing to do with rape. Sexualization and rape are completely different things. Her comment was somewhat sexual, so it may have reasonably been interpreted as a green light for sexual humor. But it could not be interpreted as a green light for rape jokes. Leaving aside that NOTHING should EVER be seen as a green light for rape jokes, this is akin to saying that rape is somehow less rape if the victim gave consent to be kissed.

      Here is the young lady’s response:
      http://www.reddit.com/r/atheism/comments/nuf7i/regarding_my_post_and_the_shitstorm_that_ensued/

      She seems mostly upset that everyone took this as an opportunity to hit on her, which, again, her comment had NOTHING to do with. There is no reasonable interpretation of her comment that results in her inviting sexual advances.

      tl;dr – her “bracin mah anus” comment in no way invited the rape jokes & sexual advances that followed, but one might want to address it in a persuasive piece, in order to point that out.

      • Malimar

        Your first paragraph cuts right to the subconscious core of what I was trying to get at. I suppose my sense is that every article should be persuasive, so when articles are written unpersuasively I instinctively see it as an error rather than a choice.

        This is a supposedly rationalist movement. Shaming and ostracizing people who engage in bad behavior might sometimes work, but it shouldn’t work, especially not on people within the movement. We’re atheists: we get plenty of shame and ostracization from theists already. We’re used to it, we deal with it every day, we’re probably more resistant to it than most. It shouldn’t ever be among our first responses to any problem within the movement.

        The first reaction should always be to explain why the behavior is wrong and use reason to convince the perpetrators to change their ways. That’s the core principle of the movement’s interactions with theists, so why abandon it when it comes to internal interactions?

        (I would speculate that the emphasis on shame over persuasion from most of the big names may be part of why the feminist message hasn’t been getting through to very the people it most needs to get through to. Except I admit the possibility that persuasion has been tried and has proven less effective than one would hope, and the shaming response is then resorted to out of frustration.)

        • Wes

          “I suppose my sense is that every article should be persuasive, so when articles are written unpersuasively I instinctively see it as an error rather than a choice.”

          Well not everyone agrees with you. And as this isn’t your blog, not every article is going to be written persuasively. I would not assume that’s a failure.

          In this case, I think the need to express solidarity is greater than the need to persuade. The comments speak for themselves. If someone needs to be told why they are out of line, I think that’s a larger issue that can be dealt with in one blog post.

    • Anonymous

      What does ““bracin mah anus” actually mean?

      I feel extremely old for having to ask that but if it means you’re bracing your anus then I don’t think I’m crazy for thinking that’s surely got to be because it’s about to be penetrated by something.

  • http://www.saintgasoline.com Saint Gasoline

    I won’t make excuses for misogyny, but personally I don’t think the examples you cite are particularly indicative of any problem with misogyny. I recognize that misogyny exists, that women are subject to various biases to which men are not, and so on. But it is important to realize that some of those who are dismissing these “controversies” are not necessarily making excuses for misogyny. Rather, most of them probably just don’t see these circumstances as particularly misogynistic. In regards to both of these controversies, I think some of the comments generated by the stories were much more appalling than the original stories, in terms of misogyny. I am in no way saying there wasn’t any misogyny involved at all, as SOME of the comments are clearly misogynistic and horrid. But the original events, leaving aside the aftershocks, aren’t so bad.

    With elevatorgate, a man propositioned a woman on an elevator. I don’t think that event is best described as misogynistic, nor do I think it is fair to say that the event was dehumanizing or anything of the sort. This seems to just be a mild social faux pas that was magnified into insanity. Is it misogynistic to proposition someone? Or to just proposition someone in certain contexts (like on elevators)? I think most would argue the latter, but then it becomes quite difficult to say with any certainty which contexts are appropriate or not; in general I’d say a proposition is only misogynistic if the woman feels forced or coerced into sex. In this circumstance, there wasn’t any attempt at force or coercion, so I don’t think it quite rises to the level of misogyny. I think it’s best to say that this man may have made a slight social error, but nothing more. To call it misogyny, to me, would seem to trivialize misogyny. In Greta Christina’s excellent blog post on this subject, she argues that certain “excuses” are terrible justifications for sexism, and that making these excuses trivializes misogyny. Or, in her words: “When the topic of misogyny comes up, and men change the subject, it trivializes misogyny.” I agree. I think that misogyny should not be trivialized. And that’s partly why I think calling something like a man flirting with a woman on an elevator without any hint of coercion or force should probably not be labeled sexist or misogynistic, as that trivializes clear acts of misogyny (like rape, unequal treatment, etc.).

    As for the controversy on Reddit, another commenter has already pointed out that the 15-year-old girl who was lambasted with anal rape jokes seemed to have initiated the topic by writing “bracin’ mah anus” after another person told her to expect compliments. This use of a jocular remark, seemingly about anal rape, naturally led to other people making anal rape jokes. I think anyone with a healthy understanding of humor would know that humor often centers on taboo subjects, and usually these subjects are only “appropriately” brought up when others indicate some sort of willingness to engage in such humor…and I think it makes sense to see her remark as inviting such humor.

    With that said, I know someone could comment that these remarks parallel justifications of rape along the lines of “She was asking for it by wearing revealing clothing.” Here’s the thing, though: I DO think that, in a sense, women who choose to wear certain types of clothing are “asking for” much different things than women wearing, say, a pantsuit. People frequently express social desires and status through attire, be it rings to indicate availability to revealing clothing to indicate sexual interest. This is just a simple fact of our culture. There’s a reason that venues like clubs and bars are seen as places to “meet people” and “hook up” and that the typical attire at these places is more revealing clothing or clothing that indicates availability. These cues are subtle and not always perfect (i.e., not everyone who wears revealing clothing and attends a singles bar is necessarily seeking a partner), but nevertheless they serve as valid social cues in our culture that work well as an imperfect heuristic and function a lot better than approaching any random woman (like one in a loose sweater, with a wedding ring, outside her home in her garden) and asking “Are you available for intercourse?”

    So, yes, the clothes people wear and the things people say serve as imperfect social cues. This does NOT mean, however, that a woman wearing revealing clothes deserves to be raped! Or that she was “asking” to be raped! Rape is a crime. Something is a crime regardless of the social cues someone is sending. However, telling off-color anally themed jokes is not a crime, and it is a reasonable assumption that someone who appears to making an anally themed joke herself is probably open to hearing similarly themed comments. If the person reacts negatively to such jokes, it is polite to then discontinue them, of course. So the difference here is that a woman wearing revealing clothing MAY be signaling sexual readiness to some degree, and while that DOES give you more social leeway to flirt with her and proposition her (as opposed to the sweater-wearing woman in her garden with a wedding ring), it does not give you the social leeway to commit a crime, and there is no circumstance in which a crime is socially acceptable. Jokes are similar to flirtation, and thus there is some social leeway to telling off-color jokes in certain contexts (like on the Internet, or when someone tells a similar joke first, etc.), and it isn’t unreasonable to assume someone making an off-color joke would invite more.

    Misogyny certainly exists and it is not a trivial problem, and thus I don’t think it should be trivialized by equating what amount to mild social errors to sexism. Sexism is a powerful charge, like racism, and naturally when mild social errors are labeled as such it will cause backlash, bickering, and defensive arguments that are best avoided for such mild circumstances. Part of the problem is that people don’t recognize degrees of sexism. If you’re called a sexist, it’s a bit like being called a murderer—you can’t specify that one’s act only makes them “slightly a murderer” without having them get upset and defend themselves from such a socially-charged word.

    I do hope I’m not seen as some men’s rights troll who hates women. For the most part, I’m pretty progressive on most social issues, but I have my problems with some trends in feminist thought (i.e., the post-modernist ones, as well as dogmatism—although this is hardly a trait seen only in feminists). I tend to have more of a tolerance for off-color humor and what is generally seen as crudity, and to me the person who ignores the intentions behind a jocular or non-serious remark to become self-righteous and overly offended is much more annoying than the person whose comments could perhaps be interpreted unfairly as signifying an intended slight to some special interest group. I suspect a lot of these disagreements break down along these lines of tolerance for jocularity and emphasis on intent versus those more likely to see certain remarks as intrinsically wrong regardless of intent and objectively never to be made light of.

    I’d like to end on a positive note, though, and say: Nice article, Christina, and it’s awesome to see you blogging more!

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/almostdiamonds/ Stephanie Zvan

      Actually, Gasoline, what you’re coming across as is someone who minimizes incidents by leaving out details so he doesn’t have to deal with the idea that misogyny is as widespread as it is. Rebecca had just spent several hours telling people she didn’t appreciate getting hit on at conferences–after announcing at a panel that she didn’t find those kinds of “compliments” flattering. The jokes aimed at Lunam were tear- and blood-themed, not anal-themed. The differences are non-trivial.

    • http://www.facebook.com/ziztur Christina

      “I won’t make excuses for misogyny, but personally I don’t think the examples you cite are particularly indicative of any problem with misogyny… In regards to both of these controversies, I think some of the comments generated by the stories were much more appalling than the original stories, in terms of misogyny”

      This is EXACTLY what I have a problem with. Flirting with someone in a creepy way on an elevator – not something to flip out over. My problem is with the response – Rebecca points out that she was creeped out by this, and a shitstorm of misogyny follows. Perhaps I should have clarified exactly what I meant by “elevatgorgate”.

      So, in clarification: my main problem are the comments generated by the stories.

      • http://www.saintgasoline.com Saint Gasoline

        In that case, Christina, I agree with you that some of the comments were indeed misogynistic and assholish. I do remember, though, that Dawkins was widely criticized for making a comment basically saying that flirtation on an elevator is trivial compared to the hardships Muslim women may face, and I don’t think that was such a terrible comment. I think the elevator thing was pretty trivial, and I don’t think it is a clear case of misogyny at all, unlike what a muslim woman may experience in many countries. I remember that comment blew up big time, and while it may not have been the best argued point, I don’t think it’s as terrible as people made it out to be.

        • http://andythenerd.tumblr.com The Nerd

          But we could also say that the hardship Muslim women face is trivial compared to the plight of child soldiers. And we could also say that the plight of child soldiers is trivial compared to… yeah, you get it.
          The problem with “something worse is happening to someone somewhere” is that it doesn’t actually have a damn thing to do with the issue at hand.
          See also: http://www.smbc-comics.com/index.php?db=comics&id=2314#comic

          • http://www.saintgasoline.com Saint Gasoline

            How I read Dawkin’s comment, though, isn’t that people shouldn’t complain about particular instances of misogyny because there are worse cases of misogyny in the world. Rather, I think what he meant to convey was that the incident on the elevator was nothing to get upset over because it was trivial, ended with no one hurt, and is not misogyny…and now here’s a clear case of actual misogyny in the Muslim world.

            So the idea isn’t that something isn’t wrong because things that are more wrong exist. That is clearly an illogical argument that makes no sense. The idea is that a man flirting in an elevator isn’t clearly misogynistic or even wrong, but that the treatment of women in Muslim countries IS clearly wrong, and when feminists focus on cases that are only vaguely bordering on misogynistic or are not even seen as such by most people, they are in effect trivializing feminism as an overconcern for social niceties on elevators moreso than, say, clear wrongs like female genital mutilation.

            I can see how you can read his comment as saying what you think it said, but I also think the way I read it is much more charitable and much more likely embodying his intent there. I also don’t think it is as easily criticized.

        • http://thishadtobesaid.blogspot.com/ Cluisanna

          I can’t reply to your latest comment, so I’m replying to this one.
          The problem is that although the situation in for instance islamic countries might be objectively worse for women, subjectively Watson might at some points have felt just as bad as Muslim women, if not worse, since she was brought up expecting that people respect her personal boundaries *and not fucking threaten to rape her*, and not internalizing the ideology that oppresses her.
          Also, if people say “this is worse, why aren’t you doing something about that?” they are doing two things: First, they are erasing all of the work that feminists *do* at this moment to change the situation for muslim women. And they are saying that, why ever, they are better suited in chosing how, in this case Watson, should spend her time.
          Also, come on, he *could* have written “I don’t think this is misogyny because of ‘…’”, but instead he wrote an extremely patronising comment saying other people have it worse. Why? She never said “I think we should concentrate on me and not on muslim women, they don’t have it as bad”. Why did he bring them up? And why is he the one who gets to decide what is “bad” and misogyny and what is not?
          You wrote “I think what he meant to convey was that the incident on the elevator was nothing to get upset over because it was trivial, ended with no one hurt, and is not misogyny” – well how do you know? How does he know?
          The whole thing is at best disrespectful and badly worded and at worst flat out sexist, and something feminists have struggled with for a long time – an old, white, intellectual man who thinks he knows “what is best” and how women are supposed to spend their time. If he didn’t want to sound like that, he could have spend five minutes actually thinking of something meaningful to say, because the “others have it worse” (even if he didn’t mean to say that) has been said so often before.

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