Ave atque vale, Jen McCreight

Ave atque vale, Jen McCreight September 5, 2012

After enduring a coordinated, relentless campaign of harassment, Jen McCreight of Blag Hag is done.  She’s just posted her farewell message at Freethought Blogs.

I love writing, I love sharing my ideas, and I love listening to the ideas of my readers. But I simply no longer love blogging. Instead of feeling gleeful anticipation when writing up a post, I feel nothing but dread. There a group of people out there (google the ironic term FtBullies to find them) devoted to hating me, my friends, and even people I’m just vaguely associated with. I can no longer write anything without my words getting twisted, misrepresented, and quotemined. I wake up every morning to abusive comments, tweets, and emails about how I’m a slut, prude, ugly, fat, feminazi, retard, bitch, and cunt (just to name a few). If I block people who are twisting my words or sending verbal abuse, I receive an even larger wave of nonsensical hate about how I’m a slut, prude, feminazi, retard, bitch, cunt who hates freedom of speech (because the Constitution forces me to listen to people on Twitter). This morning I had to delete dozens of comments of people imitating my identity making graphic, lewd, degrading sexual comments about my personal life. In the past, multiple people have threatened to contact my employer with “evidence” that I’m a bad scientist (because I’m a feminist) to try to destroy my job. I’m constantly worried that the abuse will soon spread to my loved ones.

I was going to call this posts “The Terrorists Win” but I held back, because I think there’s a tendency to associate that phrase with “letting the terrorists win.”  And if anyone tries to shame Jen for not staying on the firing line, I will personally show up at your house and kick your ass with my good foot.

When we’ve gone wrong, we tend to rely on the group we’re oppressing to martyr themselves in front of us until we come to our senses. Sure, there’s plenty of time to talk about tactics and “How can we reach them?  How can we make this easier for them?” etc, but it’s not in an activist’s power to force people to behave better.

Jen is not the guardian of her harassers’ virtue; they can’t plead off their bad behavior by saying Jen or other feminist activists should have persuaded them better.  It’s hard to figure out what arguments you’re supposed to bring to bear against people who think that rape threats (accompanied by your address) are a legitimate part of discourse.

Do all the good you can, but no person has a duty to stand in front of the guns.  Jen’s served her tour and then some.  If she chooses to make her contributions to human advancement exclusively in biology instead of blogging, so be it.

Like a lot of people, I found Jen’s blog in 2010 when someone linked to Boobquake.  Plenty of people were annoyed by an Iranian cleric’s pronouncement that women’s cleavage caused earthquakes, but it was Jen who said, “Hmm, sound like a falsifiable prediction to me!” and recruited women across the world to wear low-cut shirts on one specific day and see what happened.

For me, it  was very much a case of “Come for the clever activism project, stay for the passionate love of science.”  When I met Jen at the Reason Rally, I had a great time discussing Harry Potter genetic theories with her.  And I love the way she’s interspersed layperson-friendly posts about her grad school research, and the structures and tradition of academic research among her activist posts.  Reading Jen’s blog, it’s easy to see how she uses empiricism to delight in the world around her and why she’s so fired up to fight the people who aren’t interested in data.

Jen’s activism has always been good-spirited and creative, so it’s not surprising she’s been such a force for good in the atheist movement.  As she gained prominence and took a position on the Board of Directors of the Secular Student Alliance, it would have been easy to only criticize the people on the other side, but Jen was just as focused at rooting out errors in her own movement.  She was focused on building a worthwhile community, not just taking out the enemy.

Her recent post on sexism and misogyny within the atheist community was galvanizing and was the direct catalyst for Atheism+, a growing sub-movement that is challenging people to fight for what they do believe in and embrace social justice activism.  And it was that idea that really put the crosshairs on Jen, apparently.

This isn’t a Jen-specific problem.  A lot of women writers have been targeted in the same way Jen has, and in a way pretty much no male bloggers are.  It’s disgusting and it’s unacceptable.  Jen may need to step back for a while for her safety, but she’s given atheist women and all feminists a pretty big gift: a framework to continue the fight in her absence and a reminder of why it needs fighting.


UPDATE: I checked to see if there’s anything supporters can do for Jen, but she just requests donations to the SSA.


If any of the titles below look unfamiliar, please take some time today to check them out.  And forward them around once you’ve read them.


How I Unwittingly Infiltrated the Boy’s Club & Why It’s Time for a New Wave of Atheism”  Jen McCreight, BlagHag

A Woman’s Opinion is the Miniskirt of the Internet” Laurie Penny, The Independent

On Blogging, Threats, and Silence” S.E. Smith, TigerBeatdown

Why Are You In Such A Bad Mood? #MenCallMeThings Responds!” Sadie Doyle, TigerBeatdown

On the Difference Between Good Dogs and Dogs that need a Newspaper Smack” Sindeloke

The Question” Anonymous

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  • Mark Shea

    This is pretty much what I was talking about when I said yesterday that the weird thing about the Atheist community is how it Darwinianly selects for the most repellent traits and drives out normal, decent people. http://www.patheos.com/blogs/markshea/2012/09/new-atheists-face-various-problems.html

    • anodognosic

      [Obligatory reference to the pattern of Catholic sexual abuse of children and subsequent institutional coverup]

    • Steve

      Mark… I took a few moments to read your blog post and thought I’d share a few notes.

      1) Yes, in 2007 according to that survery on 1.6% of those surveyed identified themselves as Atheists. However updated information has those numbers around 5% for Atheist/Agnostic and a total of ‘Unaffiliated’ up to around 19%. I suspect that 5% number would be higher if more of the ‘unaffiliated’ were asked differently, but that is of course simply a guess. More importantly, that number is growing and will continue to grow as the trend of unaffiliated & atheists is much higher with Gen X & Millenials.

      My point here is 19% of the population (and growing) who don’t identify with any particular religion will continue to become a louder and louder voice, especially in light of religious groups and individuals continuing to demand their worldviews be implemented public policy. You might get used to that fact.

      2) I don’t really understand complaints about accusations of Christians hating science. Galileo is a good example as he it’s the easiest example to point out. If dragging their feet for a few hundred years to admit obvious facts about the earth orbiting the sun is too dated, perhaps we should stay recent. What about the opposition to the laughably overwhelming evidence of Darwinian evolution or denial of climate change. What about inventing facts like that young girls shouldn’t get an HPV vaccination or that womens bodies can prevent pregnancy that is the result of ‘real rape’. And none of this even touches the countless supernatural claims that are contrary to hundreds of years of knowledge accumulated via scientific work. If you feel these points are ‘mighty thin’ then I suppose we agree to disagree.

      3) The Phelps clan shouldn’t serve as the reflection of who Christians are. They are barbarians not worth mentioning beyond this. However when Pat Robertson suggests the 200,000 people killed in Haiti were the result of a deal made with Satan a few centuries prior or Jerry Fallwell blames 9/11 on homosexuals & feminists you can’t fault people for drawing a connection between a wider Christian community and the Phelps of the world. Perhaps if more Christians came out and criticized these horrendous human beings when they say such things, they’d have more ground to stand on when they complain about being all lumped together.

      4) I disagree with the assertion (made by Atheists or others) labeling the worlds religions as 100% bad systems. Whether their beliefs are real or simply the product of time, tradition & delusion is irrelevant when noting efforts made to feed, clothe & otherwise care for the needy. However when a group does claim moral superiority, they will inevitably be held up to a higher standard of judgement, so when widespread instances of child abuse pop up followed by efforts to sweep it out of the public eye, these institutions are judged and condemned harshly and rightfully so. The fact that the loudest voices condemning these actions isn’t coming from within these communities gives the appearance of complicity. Altruistic efforts through hospitals, charities, etc. shouldn’t be ignored, but they certainly don’t wash away the dirt, nor are such efforts limited to those with faith. If you don’t want to be held up to such high moral scrutiny, simply don’t claim that your groups views are the 1 and only acceptable moral truths.

      5) Were you trying to be ironic in a snarky condescending blog post complaining about snarky condescending atheists??

      • Irenist

        “My point here is 19% of the population (and growing) who don’t identify with any particular religion will continue to become a louder and louder voice[.]”
        Yes, the West is secularizing ever faster; great point. We Christians do best to acknowledge rather than ignore that if we hope to engage with this culture.
        “Galileo is a good example as he it’s the easiest example to point out. If dragging their feet for a few hundred years to admit obvious facts about the earth orbiting the sun is too dated, perhaps we should stay recent.”
        Yeah, but Galileo lived in the 17th century, and stellar parallax observations didn’t provide confirmation of the heliocentric hypothesis until the 19th. Also, his system (with its idealized circular orbits) did a worse job harmonizing with observational data than the existing Ptolemaic model. Oh, and he held himself out as fit to challenge the Church’s interpretation of Old Testament verses seeming to imply geocentrism, which is way outside science’s bailiwick in the ol’ non-overlapping magisteria. So your contention that Galileo is a good example, or that heliocentrism was “obvious for centuries” before the Church formally accepted it, indicates a failure of historical research on your part. Don’t take urban legends in atheist tracts for real history. Don’t take history from Catholic tracts, either, of course. But do read up on the history before swallowing urban legends.
        “What about the opposition to the laughably overwhelming evidence of Darwinian evolution or denial of climate change. What about inventing facts like that young girls shouldn’t get an HPV vaccination or that womens bodies can prevent pregnancy that is the result of ‘real rape’.”
        Every worldview has sects dominated by knuckleheads, and every one of these stances is associated primarily with the minority of Christians who are fundamentalist evangelicals like Congressman Akin (who studied at the fundamentalist Covenant Theological Seminary). These Christians are no more representative of the beliefs of, e.g., Catholics and Episcopalians than Stalinists are of the beliefs of most atheist materialists. Pope Benedict XVI, e.g., has had laudatory words for evolutionary science and has used his pulpit to urge greater environmental stewardship, even installing enough solar panels at the Vatican that the Vatican City state has been lauded by secular environmental groups as the “greenest state in the world.”
        “[R]eligious groups and individuals continuing to demand their worldviews be implemented public policy.”
        Everyone demands this. That’s what politics is: stakeholders negotiating. Being in favor of, e.g., gay marriage, carbon taxation/cap-&-trade, universal health insurance, and more progressive taxation is part of a worldview. Lots of Democrats try to get that worldview implemented. That’s normal politics. People who think, e.g., that abortion, like slavery, is an abomination calling for abolitionism are going to bring their worldviews to politics, too. That’s also normal.
        “Perhaps if more Christians came out and criticized these horrendous human beings when they say such things, they’d have more ground to stand on when they complain about being all lumped together.”
        Plenty of Christians have criticized them, just as plenty of atheists have complained about r/atheism and plenty of Muslims have condemned al Qaeda. People looking to score cheap points will always ignore that.

        • Steve

          My point of mentioning Galileo was a response to his original blog post about him and to segue into modern aspects of the churches animosity to science. It wasn’t to go into the details of what did and didn’t happen. We all have access to Wikipedia and can read for ourselves about Copernicus and Galileo. While I feel you give the church way to much credit here, I don’t see the need to discuss this facet further.

          “Every worldview has sects dominated by knuckleheads…” Yes, and in America we have many of them, often in positions of dictating public policy. Bizarre views of the conservative religious right are now mainstream ideas discussed in public discourse. These are no longer fringe elements who spout these things. 4 in 10 Americans think the world is around 6000 years old. Think about that for a second. 4 in 10. That sort of thinking doesn’t deserve to be argued with and debated. It deserves to be ridiculed & laughed at, pushing it back in the bowels of where ever it came from.

          With regards to my comment “[R]eligious groups and individuals continuing to demand their worldviews be implemented public policy.”… this was brought up in response to the blogger complaining about non-believers demanding a voice in public policy. Issues like abortion involve often well thought out arguments on both sides and deserve a place in the public arena. In this respect, Christians are entitled to a voice (though not to dictate). Efforts to remove Darwinian Evolution from school text books do not deserve to be acknowledged as anything other than a threat to common sense and it’s proponents deserve nothing but the ridicule reserved for the Young Creationists.

          “Perhaps if more Christians came out and criticized these horrendous human beings when they say such things, they’d have more ground to stand on when they complain about being all lumped together.”… this conversation has played out countless times. In the times I’ve witnessed or taken part in the discussion, the faithful response is more often than not ‘it was bad, but…’ or something to that effect. Playing defense when someone is criticizing the home team is understandable, but it’s certainly not a cheap shot to point out that widespread qualifying of condemnations makes matters worse.

      • Ted Seeber

        On #2- I’d like to point out that Galileo died of old age, not the Inquisition. Given that fact, I’d suggest you make another study of his life before proclaiming him poster boy for the science vs faith debate.

        • Irenist

          Well, I don’t think Galileo is a good example, either, for the reasons I mentioned above. But although he wasn’t executed, Galileo was held under house arrest, which–however par for the course back then–is not the ideal Christian response to any speech, no matter how pernicious. The democratic dispensation of recent centuries, in which the Church has no access to the secular arm, has been a boon to the Church in removing, along with the power, the temptation to such ultimately unchristian abuses.

          • Ted Seeber

            His “House Arrest” was in a 47 room mansion with a fully equipped laboratory and all the grant money he needed to continue his research. I’d call it a most charitable solution to the problem.

          • Steve

            Oh for heavens sake… I can’t believe I’m succumbing to this but I’ll be the lazy one and simply copy and paste from Wikipedia:

            “Throughout his trial Galileo steadfastly maintained that since 1616 he had faithfully kept his promise not to hold any of the condemned opinions, and initially he denied even defending them. However, he was eventually persuaded to admit that, contrary to his true intention, a reader of his Dialogue could well have obtained the impression that it was intended to be a defence of Copernicanism. In view of Galileo’s rather implausible denial that he had ever held Copernican ideas after 1616 or ever intended to defend them in the Dialogue, his final interrogation, in July 1633, concluded with his being threatened with torture if he did not tell the truth, but he maintained his denial despite the threat. The sentence of the Inquisition was delivered on June 22. It was in three essential parts:
            Galileo was found “vehemently suspect of heresy”, namely of having held the opinions that the Sun lies motionless at the centre of the universe, that the Earth is not at its centre and moves, and that one may hold and defend an opinion as probable after it has been declared contrary to Holy Scripture. He was required to “abjure, curse and detest” those opinions.
            He was sentenced to formal imprisonment at the pleasure of the Inquisition. On the following day this was commuted to house arrest, which he remained under for the rest of his life.
            His offending Dialogue was banned; and in an action not announced at the trial, publication of any of his works was forbidden, including any he might write in the future.”

            Yes… aside from the constant threats of torture, highly implausible denials of ‘wrongdoings’ and self-condemnations of his own works, having his works banned, and being held unwillfully for the remainder of his life I’d say he did have it very well. Yes. Most charitable indeed.

          • Irenist

            As Steve points out, the Galileo affair (however ill-understood and over-hyped by Whig historians sharing the Oxbridge prejudices of their modern epigones like Dawkins) is still, overall, a shameful episode in the history of our Church. It does the Church no harm, and a fair amount of good, to admit that.

          • Ted Seeber

            Steve, if you believe what Wikipedia says on such a controversial subject, then I’ve got a bridge I’d like to invite you to invest in.

          • JohnH

            Ted Seeber,
            If Wikipedia is wrong on the subject then it is your duty to correct it (either here or preferably on wikipedia) and provide sources for that correction. Saying it is wrong without giving supporting primary evidence of it being wrong does nothing in terms of bringing the truth to light.

      • FWIW, as a former agnostic, I saw a distinct difference between myself and atheism. Not that I imagined I was any closer to traditional Bible believing Christianity. But I was always careful to say I was not an atheist. So when atheists start broadening the definition to include things outside of atheism, I guess it’s not surprising if the numbers start to grow. I just wonder if those non-atheists being included feel that way as well.

        • Ya, I agree, atheists are always trying to extend that definition. In The God Delusion Dawkins jumps in to claim that pantheism is “sexed up atheism.” Now putting my own issues on pantheism, I do actually know many people who openly admit to being pantheists, yet not one of them would claim that they believe any less in a deity than a theist, they just have a different point of view with regard to properties.

          The statements earlier about people who don’t identify with a specific religious group seems to imply that we should bundle deists into the atheist mix as well. Let’s just keep inflating the figures why don’t we.

          I’m not American, so correct me if I’m wrong. Christians seem to make up a majority population group in America (which, last time I checked, is a democracy) & atheists are inflating their numbers by adding agnostics & those who just don’t associate with any particular group, & they still can’t get 20%! Now this minority, wants a political voice, but they also argue for denying the majority a voice on issues such as abortion; gay marriage & so on. How does democracy work?

          I personally think that if people want to marry who ever they please, they should be allowed to, but only because I believe in the freedom to choose being given by God. Of course, if you stand by democracy, you automatically accept that you are subject to the majority voice. Perhaps all the noisey American atheists should bear this in mind.

          • Alan

            We’ll let me correct you because you are wrong. The U.S. is not a Democracy – it is a Constitutional Republic that has established systems to protect minorities from the abuse of majorities.

            Or maybe you think that those noise n* should have stayed in line and not made such a fuss for civil rights.

          • Steve

            Catholics, Lutherans, Anglicans, Presbyterians, Methodists, Baptists, Pentacostals, Mormans, etc…. all different denominations, different belief structures, all made up of subgroups who might each themselves have varying practices and beliefs depending on the congregation and all whose congregations themselves are made up of individuals with varying worldviews. 3 of 4 Americans consider themselves Christian, that’s 230 million (give or take) different belief structures, all walking under the banner of ‘Christian’.

            Perhaps the mass grouping of religious skeptics under the banner of ‘Atheism’ is a bit of a mis-nomer, but agnostic doubters, non-believers and others who don’t affiliate themselves with a particular religious system often walk under the same banner as different denominations of Christians do. Right now that group is around 19% of the US population according to that Pew Survey I cited above. More importantly that group is growing, and especially so amongst younger Americans. Perhaps they should be simply called non-believers or skeptics or some other more appropriate name, however this labeling is simply a semantic point. And bear in mind that the different denominations of Christianity didn’t ‘extend’ the definition of ‘Christian’ to other denominations (and many still don’t). This is a relatively recent phenomenon. A more inclusive and quickly growing group of skeptics is only logical.

            Smidoz… US politics is a far more complex system than simply it being Christians vs. Skeptics. Issues like the granting of legal marital privileges to homosexual couples aren’t necessarily a clear majority rule type issue, though the laws are changing and will continue to change as time goes on and popular support continues to move in that direction. I don’t think there was quite a lot of popular support for efforts to free slaves in either the north or the south, but one of the things most Americans are very proud of, including the civil rights movement a century later is that we didn’t let majority rule dictate our actions on such things. There are many people who identify themselves as christians who don’t have an issue with gay marriage, and even some who identify as pro-choice. I’d say in the US a general rule of thumb is that government shouldn’t dictate right & wrong, people should decide as much as possible themselves, and that all things being equal the policy that grants freedom is superior to one that restricts it. Despite present conservative rhetoric suggesting otherwise, I think most liberals (as in progressive liberal rather than classic liberal if you’re not from the US) feel the same way.

            More importantly about the US though is that it is a secular country. Religious conservatives like to re-write history on this to either delude themselves or perhaps just the people who listen to them. Regardless, claims of the US being a ‘christian nation’ are a lie. An utter falsehood. The fact that the founders, despite many of them being Christian themselves, took great efforts to not mention god (let alone a christian god) in their laws. They mention religion only as specifically a criteria that can NOT limit a persons ability to hold public office and then in the Bill of Rights, the very first line of the very first amendment “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion…”. There couldn’t be any clearer indication that we are NOT a Christian nation, even if a majority identify as Christian.

            I recall Dawkins touching a bit on Pantheism in TGD, but I’m afraid I’m not familiar with the specific belief structure. Does it require faith in a supernatural deity that singlehandedly created the world, tinkers in the lives of the worlds inhabitants, demands worship for all the good of the world but strangely accepts none of the blame for the ills all while leaving no evidence of his/her very existence beyond some ancient pieced together stories of questionable authenticity, and ultimately judges said inhabitants based on a dated set of ground rules whether they gain entry into some sort of abstract paradise or eternal suffering? Whether or not there is a god is irrelevant to your ability to choose things for yourself.

      • Bob Seidensticker

        Steve: Great points. I’ll also mention that gay-loving, atheistic northern Europe eclipses the US on social metrics (homicide, suicide, STDs, teen pregnancy, and lots more). It’s embarrassing.

        I’m not going to argue that religiosity makes those things worse, but the reverse argument (atheism makes those worse) is groundless.

        For more, I have a link to Gregory Paul’s work here.

        • You sure about all those stats? Which countries in Europe?

          • Sgt. Pepper’s Bleeding Hearts Club Band

            The teen pregnancy rate in the US is higher than in every European country, according to the OECD.

            The US homicide rate is higher than every country in northern and western Europe except Estonia and Lithuania–so, none of the Scandinavian countries that Bob snidely referred to. In fact, the US rate is roughly 4 times the average rate for northern Europe, and more than 4 times the rate of Western Europe.

            Comparing suicide rates is notoriously fraught, but the riough stats available put the US in the mid-range of the European spectrum.

            It’s been about a decade since the last good quality international comparison of STD rates, but the last one (published by WHO) shows:
            * Much higher syphilis and gonorrhoea rates in the US than anywhere in Europe except Russia
            * Higher chlamydia rate in the US than anywhere in Europe except Denmark.

            So, if we interpret the statement that “gay-loving, atheistic northern Europe eclipses the US on social metrics” as meaning that these European countries have much better outcomes than the US, then that is correct and yes, it is embarrassing.

            This comment was brought to you by doing the research.

      • Will

        — Judging from my own experience, “If more Christians came out and criticized these horrendous things”, the response would simply be “Well, *I* haven’t heard about it!”… because our criticisms are not featured on the eleven o’clock soundbites. And if “we” do not “hear” that Dog Bites Man”, that “proves” that Man Bites Dog is the norm.

        — What about the assertion, which I regularly see online, that “ALL wars are caused by religion”?

        — Why is it that people who carry on about the awfulness of this monolithic “The Church” or “Christianity” are usually the same ones who sneer at us for being divided?

        • Steve

          Really? Where was the outcry from the christian community when Robertson suggested that the a quarter million impoverished Hatians whose poorly built houses pancaked on their heads had died because they had made a deal with the devil? Where was the outcry from the christian community when Falwell blamed 9/11, not on religious extremists, but on feminists & homosexuals? Perhaps I missed a few news reports of the unqualified condemnation by the Christian community for these utterly repulsive suggestions.

          The assertion that ALL wars are caused by religion is incorrect. That many are the direct result of some sort of religious divide is true. That many others are the direct result of ethnic or tribal conflicts that often have roots in a religious divide is also true.

          Who is sneering at the christian community for being divided? Personally, I don’t care.

          • Kristen inDallas

            The outcry was everywhere dude. You’ve left the house and are looking through a window making a poor attempt at reading lips, and you’re wondering why no one gets how creepy the uncle is. Trust me, we get it. We talk about it. You may not have heard it but try to be a little objective about the fact that you have left the conversation. I’ll go on record, as a member of “the Christian community” (whatever the heck you interpret that to mean): Falwell seems like a nut. Robertson is blowing smoke. The Westboro baptist are excrutiatingly closed minded and hatefult and David Karesh was a full on wackaloo. Guess what, I still believe in God. And I still believe that the majority of Christians are awesome people (just like I believe that the majority of any random group of people, are good people.)

            U2’s album, Pop, is horrendous. But I’m not going to sit here and try to convince you that they’re an awful band without first taking the time to listen to War or Joshua Tree. Becasue, you know, I wouldn’t want to be closed minded like that.

          • Yes, as Kristen says, the outcry was everywhere. I couldn’t find a Christian site that wasn’t slamming him for that. My question is always the same: how can people who invest so much of their lives in railing against something appear to have so little information about the subject they are railing against? I remember getting into an argument on an atheist blog when a commenter said that the Popes were behind the Iraq invasion. I mean, even a person who only got the news by walking past TVs in stores would have known better. Where was the outcry? Certainly you should know the answer.

          • Steve

            I believe you’re exaggerating such outcry from moderates who have offered unqualified condemnation. Falwell has been dead for 4-5 years, but Robertson still has an enormously faithful audience. And blaming the ills of the world on gays & feminists isn’t something thats limited to those two.

            I have difficulty following much of what you’ve said (some bit about a creepy uncle, and not understanding a relatively simple idea of a ‘christian community’) as there is a disconnect between what you’re trying to say and your ability to say it.

            What does any of that have to do with me pointing out that the idiocy of religious fundamentalists aren’t voices that can be ignored or dismissed as cooks? I’ve mentioned it before but 4 in 10 American believe the world is around 6000 years old. 4 in 10. 40 out of 100. 40%. This is a century after we’ve figured out how to fly. This is 3/4 of a century after developing the atom bomb. This is half a century after putting a man on the moon. This is in spite of an astonishingly remarkable amount of scientific data in every field of study tells us that the certain claims of religious folks are simply false. Lies. Fabrications. If the number of people who believed the world was 6000 years old was 1 in 1000, that’d still be shockingly high in a modern society. That it’s 4 in 10 is simply absurd.

            You believe in god. Ok, good for you. So what? I’ve never suggested that most christians aren’t ‘awesome people’ and in fact went out of my way to point out that folks like the Westboro cult aren’t indicative of the christian community as a whole (I’m sorry, I don’t have a different term for ‘christian community’).

    • This is pretty much what I was talking about when I said yesterday that the weird thing about the Atheist community is how it Darwinianly selects for the most repellent traits and drives out normal, decent people.

      Well, that’s a pretty sweeping generalization. A more accurate statement might be, “Any group whose shared currency is a set of thoughts, philosophies and ideas (e.g., yes the GOP but not Granny’s Wednesday quilting club) will eventually spawn aggressively virulent fringe movements that Darwinianly select for the most repellent traits and drive out normal, decent people.” I don’t think “the Atheist community” is any more monolothic than “the conservative community” or “the liberal community” or “the Jewish community.”

      Every “community” has its exaggerated elements (Hi, Grover Norquist!); we just have to learn to keep them tied over in the side yard, with a warning sign saying “Please don’t tease the ideologues, they bite.”

      • leahlibresco
      • deiseach

        But Delphi, I thought only horrid believers did all those horrid things and if we only did away with horrid belief, the world would be a paradise!

        Don’t tell me atheists are also humans (and so share in our fallen nature!) 😉

        See, this is why I practically rolled on the floor laughing at the idealistic atheist notion that without religion, there would be no causes for war. So, if only we all agreed that there were no gods, we wouldn’t fight over land, resources, skin colour, culture, national pride, ‘you are evil and we are good’, ‘you attacked us first’ and ‘we’re making the world safe for…’?

        I’m not surprised some atheists are entitled sexist jackasses. It’s human nature.

  • I’m always sorry to hear about that sort of harassment. Sounds terrible and I can’t blame her for wanting to step back. Prayers offered for Jen’s safety and peace of mind.

  • Ted Seeber

    I’m a troll. Quite often I troll for fun. BUT: I’m a rational troll.

    While I have been known to be against feminism, it is because I truly believe feminism is bad for women. I don’t blame Jen for wanting to step away from the gunfire. But I would point out that with people who believe she’s both a slut and a prude, would be empirical data that she’s actually on the RIGHT track. Only people following the narrow path in the center of the road get hit by trucks going in both directions.

    I’d encourage her to take a break, then when she comes back into the blogging world, only lurk for a while. Then only comment. Wait to have a blog of her own until she has more experience with the flame wars that have existed online since long before there was a web, long before there was a blog, two decades before there was such a thing as a Graphical User Interface.

    • leahlibresco

      She’s been blogging for years; this isn’t an inexperience problem. It’s just not in her power (or anyone else’s) to compel good behavior from people. This isn’t a problem she could have licked with a better strategy, it’s a relentless campaign of harassment that will only be beaten slowly, with our side taking heavy damages.

      • Ted Seeber

        My point is that when you enter the world of online communications and flame wars (and I can’t believe I have to tell you this, let alone a supposedly “experienced blogger” like Jen) you need to check emotionalism at the door. Text is an autistic media- there is no subtext, there is no body language, any emotion you think is being transmitted is all imaginary and in your own head.

        That’s why flame wars get out of control to begin with- because we, as human beings, forget that the anger is all on our side of the screen.

        And I’m as guilty of it as anybody.

        The key is indeed to have a better strategy- that includes taking time out from the war.

        • Bullshit. If somebody dumps a bucket of shit over your head, then it isn’t your “emotionality” that makes the shit stink. You cannot claim that if you get a dozen mails with the vilest words thrown at you, your reaction to it is entirely volunt… ah, screw this, you can’t actually believe this.

          • Ted Seeber

            I can, because I’ve had it happen to me. I know how to use an e-mail filter if I find myself getting too worked up about it, and I don’t use my work e-mail on blogs at all.

          • Ted Seeber

            P. S. It helps if all of the “vile words” you don’t like are in your Bayesian spam filter with a high spam side rating.

        • Iota

          “you need to check emotionalism at the door”

          Why? If Alice patronized a restaurant that had awful food, would you encourage Alice to continue patronizing it? Whould you hold that up as a sign of rationality?

          Granted it might make sense to grow a thick skin if you have some overarching goal on the internet (such as making a name for yourself). But in the end, for most people, it”s a completely voluntary thing and the moment they perceive the trade-off to be not worth it, it makes sense to bail out. You do not continue to patronize a restaurant that sells overpriced, burned food. Why then do we somehow think that the ‘rational’ thing to do is to put up with a THAT level of debate? I mean, it’s not like the people have nothing else productive to do, apparently….

          “Text is an autistic media”
          Hmm, how the heck did we then end up amassing millions of pages of love poetry? How was it possible for tracts and polemics to change – however subtly – politics and history?

          “Any emotion you think is being transmitted is all imaginary and in your own head.” When someone is writing, they are choosing words. They are choosing whether to call the recipient “Dear Sir”, “John” or “****head”. While it’s entirely possible to misinterpret emotional content sometimes, there ARE certain bits of data that signal what emotions are possibly being transmitted. Whether you use them or recognize them (e.g. in consequence of your oft-referred to autism) is another issue, but there are whole fields (such as rhetoric) devoted to their study.

        • deiseach

          Ted, if Jen is telling the truth (and I have no reason to call her a liar), it’s not just a matter of foul language and sexist insults in the comments spam; it’s people threatening her in real life by saying they’ll get her fired from her job and people stealing her identity to make false entries in her name which will get her in trouble.

          I’ve participated in a small flame war myself, and I’ve been called things I won’t repeat on here. But I’m safe, because I’m paranoid and secretive enough to have never revealed anything (or at least, as little as possible) about my real-life identity and where I live. It also helps that I talk to Americans while not living in America 🙂

          But if potential employers are routinely checking up Facebook pages and the likes when they get a CV, and if someone sets up a false account for “Ted Seeber” where ‘he’ lists his admiration for the Final Solution and displays ‘his’ collection of Nazi memorabilia, how will you ever know that that is the reason you got the rejection letter for that job you applied for? Or if the police come around to ask you questions about these hate crimes you have been running an online campaign for, the inconvenience, time, trouble and embarrassment of getting yourself unentangled makes your life more difficult.

          Or if you’re really afraid that the guy who threatens he can find out where you live and he’ll be the one waiting in your house with the rape kit when you get back from work some night… is that being over-emotional?

      • deiseach

        Okay, I’m a socially conservative orthodox Catholic who is not too impressed with the modernisation of Irish culture, and I get the impulse to kick the teeth in of those who like to use the term “feminazi”. Oh, how thigh-slappingly witty, guys (and it is always guys).

        Yes, in the hey-dey of political feminism, there were extremists who advocated crazy separtitist solutions. Yes, anyone who still likes to believe that women are perfect enlightened beings of peace and love who would make this world a very paradise if only they were the ones in power, where were you living when (for one instance) Margaret Thatcher was presiding over the Falklands War? But for the love of St Uncumber, there is a real reason why feminism was and in many respects still is an attractive theory and a necessary practice.

        To quote Rebecca West: “I myself have never been able to find out precisely what feminism is: I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat or a prostitute.”

    • Blog Goliard

      No, Ted. You’re not an Internet troll. You’re an Internet crank. Keep your categories straight, man!

      • Ted Seeber

        The intent behind my “crank” ness is to prompt people to do their own research and think, instead of just accepting other people’s assumptions. In Usenet terminology (which I’ll freely admit most people on the web have never heard of before despite getting a lot of their language from it) that’s a troll.

    • Stump Beefgnaw

      “While I have been known to be against feminism, it is because I truly believe feminism is bad for women.”

      And the MRAs come crawling out from under their rocks.

    • I’m a rational troll. While I have been known to be against feminism, it is because I truly believe feminism is bad for women.

      Interesting. I had no idea that was a rationally defensible position. But perhaps we define “feminism” differently.

  • I am so sorry to hear about this.

    About 15 years ago I met an atheist in Oak Park Illinois, Mark Vuletic (he’s a college professor at Arizona State U now if I’m not mistaken) and we had very friendly, informative, thought provoking, “PRE New Atheist” conversations.

    They were a kind of conversations that have become exceedingly rare in 2012.

    Mark did not dissuade me from my theism, but I certainly respected him as a thoughtful person and provocative conversationalist and friend.

    I am exceedingly disappointed at the grotesque monstrosity that the New Atheist movement has become.

    And I am so, so sorry for the way these guys treat you and Jen. You deserve so much better.

    • What a curious concept… although I may be naive… do atheists really endeavor to dissuade theists from their position of faith? Toward what end? It’s not like they are able to “save” a theist in so much as their pro=offered position has no “prize” or as I recently heard it calledbbb “cookie” to offer. What’s the point? The reverse obviously is quite different… the theist has a belief it an immortal soul and eternal salvation/damnation to deal with… the atheist no such concern. More of a sporting venture than a moral imperative I’d say.

      • Steve

        I don’t think most Atheists intend to dissuade people who are committed to their theistic beliefs, but make it possible for the large growing number of people who can’t reconcile wildly questionable theistic claims about the world with the world they see to have a sense of community of sorts. When you’re surrounded by believers, in the US, typically Christian communities, it’s difficult to find a group of like-minded people who stop and say ‘hey, that doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense’. It’s difficult for people who see religious beliefs, especially stringently dogmatic beliefs, as a clear a falsehood as santa claus. It takes effort and true honest to god soul searching to figure out what the implications are of atheistic beliefs and how you might find value as a being with a definitively finite, inherently pointless existence (not to say your life can’t have a ‘point’, just that it’s up to you to determine what that might be). Belief in a god, especially a Christian one, for me at least, would be a cowardly intellectually lazy un-fullfilling fantasy not worthy of my short time in this world.

        • Brian

          Have you taken a look at Feser yet? He and classical theism have come up on this blog quite often. I have hard time seeing how anyone can seriously contend for atheism after coming to an understanding of realist philosophy and classical theism.

        • SAK7

          Funny…. My opinion of atheists generally is that they are too intellectually lazy to explore the difficult truths upholding Catholic teachings. Guess we found common ground.

          • Steve

            It’s not that skeptical people are too intellectually lazy to explore your supposed difficult truths, it’s that when your supernatural claims don’t begin to hold up to even the slightest bit of scrutiny, you’ve given us no reason to think your worldview is worth exploring further. You might put forth some actual truths, rather that farfetched traditional myths wrapped up in some ambiguous language about a trinity with a side of vague moralizing and stamped as true. Perhaps, were you to ditch the dogma based on a narrow view of mythological stories, then I might have reason to take your worldview more seriously.

    • Steve

      I disagree strongly with the grouping of the New Atheists and internet trolls who hide behind a computer and say awful things. I highly doubt that Sam Harris sits at home on his computer so he can anonymously call someone fat or a slut. That you might find offensive the assertions of New Atheists that belief in a supernatural all knowing all powerful deity is a delusion of sorts, but that is a far different than being cowardly saying pointlessly hurtful things.

  • Kristen inDallas

    In Leah’s required reading section, seriously. Do it. If you have time for comments you have time to click the link “The Question.” It stopped my little world turning for a minute. Anyone wishing to call themselves “a good man” seriously needs to read at least that one article. I can’t beg you enough…
    relinking for your convinience: http://ispinworlds.tumblr.com/post/29142215287/the-question

    • Irenist

      Wow. Thank you for that. Like most men, I missed “The Question” entirely. Thanks for the needed education.

    • My Spidey-sense was tingling but I too didn’t articulate “The Question” as I read through the story. Sometimes I really hate our culture.

    • Ted Seeber

      I used to be Awkward Guy. I’ve more recently learned to respect the female need for safety first.

      I knew the question as soon as Awkward Guy left his own group to harass somebody else’s lab partner. I remember BEING Awkward Guy.

      And I guarantee he was waiting for her in the dark *merely* for the chance to be alone with her. But that is enough to set off the rape signals.

      Which is why I now equate even contraception with rape. *ANY* attempt at sexual relations with a woman you don’t intend to spend the rest of your life with and have children with, is rape.

      • Irenist

        Ted, I know you mean well, but I think equating contraception with rape is very unhelpful. Rape is ghastly for reasons having to do with violence and lack of consent. Contraception typically involves neither of these. While both deviate from the norm of potentially procreative sex inside a lifelong marital union, they deviate in very, very different ways. I think conflating the two is far more likely to horrify contraception advocates and make them think we Catholics are a bunch of insensitive patriarchalists than prompt any conversions to the anti-contraceptive viewpoint. I remonstrate with you as a fellow Christian to retire this comparison now and forever. I know you don’t mean to trivialize rape, but the conflation makes it sound like you do.

        • Ted Seeber

          Contraception signifies a lack of consent to the natural end to sex- children.

          If you wanted children, you wouldn’t use contraception.

          The entire point is lack of consent to what sex really is. Or rather, what it really should be. It has nothing to do with trivializing rape- and everything to do with the horror of what contraception IS.

          There is no way to consent to sex with contraception involved, just as there’s no way to consent to sex with drugs involved, or with alcohol involved, or with a knife or gun involved.

          • Irenist

            “The entire point is lack of consent to what sex really is.”
            Okay, but it is consent to *something* even if not consent to sex in a “Theology of the Body” understanding of what it should be. Rape is different. The victim of sexual assault has not consented to *anything.*

            “There is no way to consent to sex with contraception involved,”
            This idiosyncratic use of words is going to confuse your interlocutors, Ted. What I think you mean is “There is no way to consent to *what sex really is* with contraception involved,” which I agree with. But the modern libertine vision of sex, however debased, is still something to which consent can be given. Rape, OTOH, is the paradigmatic case of a violation of human dignity stemming from the total absence of consent. Conflating them leads to imprecision of thought and, I suspect, revulsion in readers. It is unhelpful.

          • Ted Seeber

            So date rape doesn’t exist because she consented to something?

            So statutory rape doesn’t exist because the 9 year old consented?

            I think you haven’t thought through what you mean by consent. The modern libertine version of sex IS Rape.

          • Alan

            Contraception, when used in a consensual act, is consenting to what sex really is, or at least what it should be, and that is enjoying pleasure between two people.

            Alcohol, drugs, threat of force through knives and guns are all things that impede consent – contraception does not.

          • JohnH

            One of the natural ends of sex is children, however given the way humans are made that is not the only natural end. Humans, in case you weren’t aware of this, are able to have sex throughout the menstrual cycle and even after the cessation of menstruation (menopause). The Catholic church also recognizes that there are other reasons to have sex besides children and in fact recommends that for family planning purposes Catholics practice abstinence during the fertile times of the month (in other words, the rhythm method of contraception).

            Now could you please explain to me why you think that me and my wife both of who were virgins on our wedding night, who had two children while living below the poverty line but not on government assistance and continue to live on a below poverty level income, who are completely faithful to each other are hedonistic rapists because my wife uses contraception?

        • Ted Seeber

          Also, observed truth has nothing to do with “insensitive patriarchalists” that’s just more emotion getting in the way of the data.

          • Irenist

            “that’s just more emotion getting in the way of the data.”
            Ted, if you’re going to have productive conversations with most people (I suspect people with Asperger’s or some other autistic spectrum diagnosis might be less prone to this failure mode) you have to train yourself to accept that emotion will *always* get in the way of data, just like you’ve trained yourself (and your Bayesian spam filter) to deal with trolls. It’s frustrating, but true.
            Applied to this instance, that means that if you tell people who believe in the okayness of contraception that it is equivalent to rape, you are not making them think “wow, maybe I need to rethink my views on contraception,” but instead are making them think “this guy is a nut who thinks rape is as trivial as two consenting adults contracepting.” Regardless of whether “the data” support you, you really should drop this equivalence.

          • Ted Seeber

            So I need to lie because some idiot can’t handle the truth?

          • Skittle

            No, you need to stop saying the thing you think, because you are unable to understand how inappropriate it is. You know that you struggle to know when things are inappropriate, so people are clearly telling you that this is an example of being inappropriate. Now you know, so stop it.

            You are neither in line with Catholic teaching, nor in line with any definition of the word “rape” used by anyone other than you. All speaking this weird thought does is hurt people, and also make people less likely to consider anything you say.

          • Doragoon

            The problem is that “rape” is the only word we have for “bad sex”. Ted, how about we call it “adultery” instead, since that’s what it is. Even if they are married they are not being chaste.

            And everyone else, consent doesn’t make something moral, unless you’re willing to say that no one is ever crazy (legally insane) for consenting to something. Otherwise, sanity becomes another word for moral.

          • Kristen inDallas

            ok, so this may be weird, but I do think Ted has the right to keep saying the thing that he thinks, even if it is a bit awkward. I’m actually pretty pleased that this conversation is happening at all, between men especially. I think most guys, even nice guys, would rather avoid this subject like the plague than tease out all the little nuances of what a rape is and what qualifies something as rape. I am a woman, and I have been in a bad situation, and I have to say that (yes while totally odd, and sort of missing a couple of the big poits) Ted’s question does not make me feel like real rape has been trivialized (I acknowledge it may make some feel that way though). People trivialize rape all the time, when they compare it to paying too much for a car, or being unprepared for a test, or being asked to read information or look at a picture before making a life altering decision like abortion. But here, I don’t know because he did touch on an aspect that a lot of people over look, but has some truth to it. It’s the emotional part. The part that, yeah, if you’re a guy and you know 100% that you have no intention of loving someone, if you get sex through a lie, or manipulation, or a false promise, or even just letting someone think you care about them more than you actually do.. I won’t say it IS rape, but I can say that there is an aspect that can FEEL an awful lot like rape. The day you wake up and realize the person you’ve been having sex with is not at all the person you thought you were having sex with, that you’ve actually been giving yourself to a total stranger without knowing it. It’s a very very wrong feeling. Civilly, legally, practically we can’t really call it rape because we cannot give it the same consequences, and we shouldn’t. So I would urge the words “feels like” or “hurts like” rather than “is”, and I might ponder the appropriateness of blanketly including contraception, because contraception CAN but doesn’t always involve trickery or rejection of mutual levels of love. But Ted acknowledging that attempting sex with someone you don’t intend to love fully (at least someday) is a really really bad thing makes the contraception stuff forgivable, in this girl’s opinion.

          • Irenist

            Kristen inDallas, thanks very much for your comment. I think your read of what Ted was getting at is almost certainly right, and it is indeed noble to remind us men that the “vidi, veni, veni” culture we inflict on young women does violence to their dignity, too. I hope my comment was helpful.

        • Ted Seeber

          What sex really is- PROCREATION. What contraception does- PREVENT PROCREATION. Your version of sex is just rape- because it denies procreation.

          Inappropriate is just more neurotypical censorship in most cases. Why is it inappropriate to tell the truth that sex is for procreation?

          • Skittle

            Look, Ted, you can either use the information that we are giving you (“Using an understanding that you don’t have, we know that you are saying stupid things.”), or you can ignore it on the basis that having access to this extra understanding is oppression.

            Saying that sex is for procreation is not inappropriate, except when it is. (If you stood up in a maths class and shouted it, that would be inappropriate). Saying that using contraception is rape is inappropriate because it not only is untrue, but it also suggests that you don’t understand what either of those are while still thinking that your opinion on them is more valid than the opinion of anyone else. Which feeds into most of Leah’s links, if you’ve read them.

            What word would you prefer me to use, other than “inappropriate”, to let you know when your lack of social understanding is making you look stupid and sinfully uncharitable?

          • Jonas

            Hey elderly people, stop raping each other!

          • Saywaaa

            You play idiotic semantic word games and trivalize the actual act of rape, which involves exerting ones will to have sex on another through force, while at the same time insulting perfectly normal people who wish to be able to make love from time to time without having to live in constant fear of having a child they may not be able to support or are not ready for.

            While that may be your OPINION of what rape is, it is a scumbag opinion and it ignores the primary defining factor of rape which is that at least one of the parties involved in the act is unwilling to participate in it.

      • Alan

        So you go from one awkward extreme to another – doesn’t seem like you learnt much at all.

        • Ted Seeber

          What I’ve learned is that the culture has lied about sex to the point that most people consider rape to be sex.

          • Alan

            Yeah, rape (in the sense that most understand it, not the definition you have manufactured) is unheard of in cultures that view sex as primarily procreative. The only lying being done here is by you to yourself.

            What you’ve learnt is that you can convince yourself of your own ‘truths’ and then pretend that they aren’t actually rooted in emotion whereas everyone else’s ‘truths’ are, covering it all up by blaming autism.

          • Ted Seeber

            “in cultures that view sex as primarily procreative”, all sex that isn’t procreative is rape.

            So how can rape be unheard of in such cultures? If anything, this makes rape *worse*.

            You’re lying, and worse, your lie is obvious because it is so illogical.

          • Alan

            Everyone named Ted is a rapist.

            There, I can abuse words meaning too. Rape is engaging in sex without the consent of one of the parties – it is really that simple. What you are calling ‘rape’ isn’t by any honest definition of the word – you are using a dishonest definition of the word. One could even say you are lying, and worse your lie is illogical.

            That you somehow think your understand of what sex is equates to the only logical understanding speaks to your personal weaknesses, your lack of an understanding of what logic is and a general inability to engage in honest discussion with anyone who doesn’t already see the world through the same prism as you (which you mistakenly think is the only honest prism through which to see it).

      • Steve

        I guess this article was a good read… my creep-sensing factor is going off like crazy reading everything Awkward-Guy over here has to say. It’s nice to get in touch with my feminine side.

      • And I guarantee he was waiting for her in the dark *merely* for the chance to be alone with her.

        Ted, how can you possibly, POSSIBLY know that? And I really hope I’m misunderstanding you here, but it sounds like for you the definition of rape is anything that denies procreation. Is that your belief? Because the obvious corollary is that if you have sex, and the woman gets pregnant, it wasn’t rape. Now where have we heard that recently…

        You can see why I hope I’ve misunderstood you.

      • You used to be a rapist in training? And now you’re a rapist in training who plans on forcing your victim to marry you?

    • Darren

      Wow, thanks for the link. I, too, missed the question, worrying about whether my own past actions would have made me more like Dr. Glass or Awkward Dude.

  • enness

    Nobody deserves to be treated like that, much less to have the guilty party insinuate that it somehow represents some kind of failure on her part. 🙁

  • Kat

    I stopped blogging after some particularly nasty “feminazis” took offense to my posts, raised a hue and cry, and I began to have strange men sitting outside my apartment and following me to work. I haven’t blogged since April, but recieved a death threat just this weekend. I participated in boobquake myself and wish her all the best.

  • math_geek

    While I certainly acknowledge the human capacity for cruelty and I recognize logically and theologically that I am not likely immune to that compulsion, I still feel I cannot in any way understand. I don’t think I’ve ever been tempted to send death and/or rape threats to anyone, let alone someone who’s only “crime” is posting some stuff I disagree with on the interwebs. Where in the world does this come from? I’m not a temperate person, I’ve probably been in more “real” fistfights than anyone who has sent McCreight those hateful messages (possibly more than all of them). Yet this kind of nastiness would not even occur to me.

    Pray for McCreight, but pray also for the people doing these things, who are destroying their souls in the most pathetic way imaginable.

  • Blog Goliard

    Either people are getting worse, or the worst among us have somehow become more enabled by the Internet lately.

    It stinks.

    • Ted Seeber

      Lately? I’ve seen this behavior going on online since the early 1980s. 30 years is not lately.

      • Irenist

        Reporter covering Nixon’s China visit: “What do you think of the French Revolution?”
        Zhou Enlai: “It’s too soon to tell.”

        Although Zhou didn’t actually say it in that context (the question was actually about 1968, not 1789), I think that vignette nicely sums up the Church’s attitude toward what counts as “lately.” As a history major who likes documentaries about geology, it’s my attitude as well. On some scales, anything since life began on Earth is “lately.” We are the early Christians.

      • Blog Goliard

        Being online at all was far more difficult and expensive 30 years ago. That may not have kept all the insane and stupid and vicious away…but it certainly helped keep their numbers down.

        • Ted Seeber

          I agree- it kept the numbers down. But the behavior was very much the same, whether you were dialing into a Usenet server at your local college or dialing into a local BBS that accessed FidoNet (or even a not-so-local one, I was a member of a for pay 1-800 BBS for a while).

  • And it was that idea that really put the crosshairs on Jen, apparently.

    I suspect it had a lot to do with her attracting the attention of the PUA community, many of whose members are, if one can get away with crudeness, POS.

    • I had to look up what PUA was. Blech. POS is a more apt term, I agree.

      • Irenist

        The PUA “community” is a farcical fulfillment of all the warnings from traditional moralists of yore that we were descending into barbarism. They view women in much the instrumentalist way Bacon viewed Mother Nature. Their totalizing, manipulative objectification of their “prey” is one of the uglier little subcultural tics of our time.

      • I did too. I second your “Blech.”

  • I do think that long as we have pervasive internet porn and no real social embarrassment from indulging in it then you are going to have men behaving badly like this. You can’t expect people to go to one site that sexually degrades women and click to the next site and become a perfect gentleman.

    Respect for women flows from sexual morality. It did for me. Getting serious about fighting my personal lust made it possible for me to discover how many other ways a woman can be beautiful. That was 25 years ago and the benefits have been amazing. It is just sad that so few young men are encouraged to be chaste these days. Both men and women lose big time.

    • Ted Seeber

      Seconded! This is a huge part of the mental struggle I’m in now.

    • anodognosic

      I’ll counter your impressive n =1 body of data (2, I suppose, with Ted) with a data point of my own experience: sexually depraved as ever, but having learned how to behave towards women by reading the writings of (mostly secular) women on the subject.

      • Irenist

        How have you learned to behave, and which writings have you found the most helpful?

    • Do you have any evidence for a causal link between porn watching and harassment of women?

    • As much as pornography creeps me out royally, I would like to see some data on this one. I don’t think the pornography therefore patriarchy argument is actually convincing (and I’ll cite the usual thing about lesbian pornography–that being porn for women about women by women). Rather, I would suggest that particular kinds of pornography index and reinforce misogyny, and that most pornography is of that kind, but it doesn’t have to be that way.

  • Doragoon

    When people complain about men mistreating women on the internet, I always think about how men treat each other. Men keep getting told to treat women like they would anyone else, but I don’t think women understand how men treat each other when there aren’t women around. Seriously, go ask a MtF TS if they enjoyed how men treated them, or if it was traumatising. Women are either going to have to learn to take the abuse like a man, or like an MtF decide that it’s not really what they want.

    Not that I’m letting men off completely free. I just wanted to provide another view point I feel might get overlooked.

    • leahlibresco

      Or men could treat each other like human beings?

      • Doragoon

        What’s that mean? Aren’t men within the set “human beings”. I’ve watched men treat each other that horribly, then continue being friends.

        Or, should we pretend that gender doesn’t exist? Gender is an intrinsic part of a human being (check your catechism, 2333 or so). And how should a man know when he’s supposed to treat someone like a man or a woman, or neither, or both? I’m not even sure how to treat someone without gender because I’ve never met one, and according to the Catholic church, I never will.

        • leahlibresco

          Sorry for quipping and causing confusion. It sounded like, from your original comment, that you were arguing that men were not treating women uniquely badly when they threatened to rape them for expressing an opinion, as they’re pretty abusive to each other as well.

          So instead of being happy with shitty-treatment parity I think we should raise the baseline. If ‘human beings’ sounded a little too bland, would it make more sense if I said we should receive everyone, male or female, as Christ?

          • Ted Seeber

            That indeed raises the baseline somewhat; though given what I’ve heard on Men’s Retreats where we were *supposed* to be treating each other like Christ, that bar is still somewhat lower than the way modesty and decency would suggest we need to treat women.

          • Doragoon

            I second that, Ted, having been on those retreats myself. Priests and monks are still men. We should encourage everyone to be more Christlike, just as we strive to be more Christlike ourselves. But even Jesus only took men as his apostles. Which is why we only have male priests.

            Just as we can’t treat each other as Christ because we all fall short against that measure, we can’t treat women as men because they fall short by that measure. Women make very poor men, yet are asking to be treated as if they aren’t. Women can either be treated as poor examples of men with all the abuse that goes along with it. Or they can be treated as women and demand that men treat them in ways that won’t harm their delicate sensibilities.

          • leahlibresco

            I don’t think the ability to endure abuse is a strength particular to men that women lack. I think the willingness to dish out abuse is a weakness that’s not unique to either gender, but tends to be exacerbated by being in a position of privilege (which happens to men more often than women).

          • Ted Seeber

            THAT might be part of my problem. Privilege to me is something only people who earn over $100k/year have, and it costs them to have it.

            I don’t believe anybody in the middle or lower class has any privileges anymore. Men, Women, little green aliens, are all equally poor and equally oppressed.

          • leahlibresco

            Did you read the “Good dogs/dogs that need a newspaper smack” link?

          • Doragoon

            I read it that “good dogs” link and I kept thinking back to a Heinlein quote:
            “Whenever women have insisted on absolute equality with men, they have invariably wound up with the dirty end of the stick. What they are and what they can do makes them superior to men, and their proper tactic is to demand special privileges, all the traffic will bear. They should never settle merely for equality. For women, “equality” is a disaster.”
            And you better believe I make sure my husband gives me all the special privileges my status deserves.

            On the other hand, Heinlein’s story about the hobo describing how a man lives should give everyone pause. There’s nothing more Christlike. Wives vow to obey their husbands, but husbands promise much more when they vow to love their wives.

            But that kinda takes me into Kipling’s “The Female of the Species” which my husband and I tend to quote when one of us thinks the other is being unreasonable.

          • Ted Seeber

            Yes. And I strongly disagree with it. I still don’t see anybody getting any privilege that they don’t pay for in the end. That pay is usually in the form of campaign contributions and bribes.

        • Kristen inDallas

          There is a difference between the “horrible” way men treat each other (cruel jokes, comments about someone’s girlfriend or mother, drunken arguments over Cubs vs. WhiteSox etc) and wishing, in all seriousness (no joke about it) for someone to be raped with a chainsaw or murdered in their sleep. If they made some of these comments in the links above to a man friend or aquatance, they would get their lights punched out and friendship would most certainly not be in the picture. What these women are getting is not typical locker room behavior this is serious stuff. It’s the difference between your buddy in the locker room making a drop-the-soap joke, and a total stranger, fully clothed walking up to you in a bathtowel and graphically explaining, with gleaming maniacal eyes, the manner in which he is going to rape you.
          And it’s not that you should treat women the way you DO treat anyone else, or in a way comparable to how awful people have treated you… you should treat women in the way that you SHOULD treat everyone else (and we should do the same) and that is: The way you would want to be treated. Would you threaten yourself with murder/rape everytime you expressed an odd thought that made you uncomfortable??… My guess is probably not.

          • Exactly. This is not about women not being able to “handle” being treated the way men treat each other. In college I was given an, ahem, “honorary penis” by my male friends because I gave as good as I got with regard to all the joking, trash-talking, etc. And it was NOTHING like what Jen or others get. This is flat-out abuse. Scary, troubling, sick abuse. And it is why on my own blog I stick to non-controversial stuff like books and crafts.

      • Steve

        As men are roughly 50% of the entire set of human beings, were we to treat each other in a particular way (generalizing broadly here btw), I suppose it’s fair to say we are treating each other like human beings… now treating each other humanely is a different story. Get enough of us together and the ratio of humanity:awful (though often funny) gets really skewed.

        • Irenist

          All of Adam’s good sense was in that one rib. Darnit.

      • Ted Seeber

        Yeah, right. Not as long as Testosterone is involved.

    • Irenist

      Cruel banter does play a role in male bonding that it’s hard to figure out how to replace. It’s not to my taste, actually, but many men would be at sea without it. In the old days, the way to handle this was “not to talk that way in front of a lady.” That had many benefits, but even if such chivalrous attitudes could be restored, the problem would still occur for women who want to be part of the many boys’ clubs that dominate so many of our subcultures and professions: “don’t talk that way in front of a lady” doesn’t work when the lady is in the boardroom or the game room with you, instead of up on some pedestal.

      Leah’s suggestion that men could just treat each other better is a fine one, but I don’t know if most men will ever take it up. Nice project to work on, though. After all, Victorian mores didn’t crop up overnight, either.

      • “Leah’s suggestion that men could just treat each other better is a fine one, but I don’t know if most men will ever take it up.”

        Lots of men do, though. I make a point of pretty much only ever being friends with people who do treat each other well. I think (or maybe just hope) that this is something that is currently improving–or wasn’t as uniformly bad as people thought. Then again, I did just admit to avoiding situations which would likely be misogynist, so I can’t honestly claim to be a decent barometer on this issue. The broader point, though, is that this culture shift has begun, is getting traction, and currently has proponents (like me).

        • Irenist

          I hope you’re right. I’m not in a position to make an informed guess: I was raised by a single mom in a house with my sister and my grandma and occasional visits from my aunt, so male-banter-bonding is a script I had to anthropologically analyze in high school before I got the hang of it, so my knowledge of it is still rather that of an outsider.

          • Well, it’s a minority, so let’s not get too optimistic. But women’s suffrage supporters were a minority once, too!

    • Skittle

      That’s blatantly untrue, Doragoon. You see, in my decade and a half online, I spent plenty of time contributing with ambiguous or faked gender. I learnt that if I didn’t pick an overtly feminine name, people would assume I was male. Sometimes, even with an overtly feminine name they would assume I was male, because it was an internet forum. Especially if we were discussing science.

      And often I would choose a username that was a short male name, just because I didn’t want the harassment that I have seen over and over again, both towards myself and towards others. I know that I get treated differently when people online think I’m male, and that it involves people listening to what I actually say and not issuing threats or making inappropriate comments. I know that when people know I am a woman online, I tend to get less pleasant interactions and even campaigns of harassment and stalking.

      These days, I tend to make less of a secret about my gender. The creators of Holy Bibble “coming out” as female and explaining why they had created male personas; an incident on iSketch when a whole room of male or ambiguously-named users slowly realised we were all women; spending more time in areas of the internet like LiveJournal, where the majority of users are women: all of this made me realise that I wasn’t as alone as I’d thought, and that we had reached a tipping point where disguising my gender would only add to the illusion women were rare on the internet, rather than in hiding against the unpleasant behaviour men show to us.

      But I still won’t go by a Wikipedia username that is open about being female. So not worth it.

      • Doragoon

        I’m amused you would assume I haven’t had my own set of personal experiences in my two decades online. Though I’ve kept this same handle since my days on AOL, so make of that what you will. Even when gaming I thought I’d get a lot of grief for being a girl, but it was never a problem. I’ve never noticed a difference in how I was treated based on perceived gender that was greater than the variation from person to person. No one has ever assumed I was incompetent because of my gender or anything like that.

        There were a few jerks over the years who offended my sensibilities online, but it’s actually MUCH less than what I’ve seen in real life. But that’s another story.

    • I am male. I have never been treated in the ways described by Leah and the women in the links. Not even close. If I had been, I would have been horrified; just imagining it makes me ill. I know very few men who have treated this way, in real life and on-line. There is absolutely not parity. (I wish I could cite the study, but I’ve forgotten it. Phah.)

      But even there were parity in how men and women are abused on-line, there would still be a crucial difference: men know that it is statistically unlikely that they will ever be sexually assaulted. Very unlikely Not impossible, no. But still, I do not really think I would take an on-line death threat seriously. (Real life is different, of course.) But women know that it is not so very unlikely that they would be sexually assaulted within their lives. It is not over 50%, but it is still nauseatingly high. So when women receive death threats, it would not be irrational to feel actual fear. That is a key difference.

  • jenesaispas

    Crikey! that was a nice introduction to the way things are for feminist bloggers… :O

  • What a coincidence that you bring up Atheism+, I just heard about it on another blog yesterday: http://squid314.livejournal.com/326267.html

  • Lie down with dogs, get up with fleas.

    How one would usefully categorize the dogs I can’t say in this particularly instance.

  • Jacob

    Dang… it’s so dissapointing how abusive people can be.

  • M–

    The Metatroll Doubleminus movement (no, you can’t join) endorses this post.

  • Joe

    I read “The Question” as an allegory. Luminous Girl (the average woman), Awkward Guy (secular misogynists or MRAs), and Dr. Glass (Catholic Patriarchy)