Sunday, March 31, 2013

PZ asks: Why not more people at secular conventions?


PZ ponders aloud:
I hear that the big American Atheists conference in Austin had an attendance of about 900 [...] 
But…perspective. I’m at a middling-to-good-sized [science fiction] convention, which is one of the larger regional events. 
Attendance, I’m told, was about 3000 people. Costs for the two events were roughly comparable to attendees. There’s absolutely no comparison with the big national events like Comic-con and Dragon*Con. 
I’m sorry, but I think secularism, humanism, and atheism are of greater relevance to people than comic-books. What can we do to grow our audience?
Yes, what can we do to grow the audience? Besides do whatever Adam Lee tells us to...

Why are ComicCons, sci-fi cons so popular?

Why are secular conventions so hopeless in comparison?

  1. There is a particular audience that thinks cosplay is more interesting than panels about 'misogyny' in some online forum they've never heard of. Go figure.
  2. It seems documenting every negative interaction you have at a secular conference on your blog has a negative effect on attendance numbers.
  3. Turns out that "we have a harassment policy" is not a winner of a tag line.
  4. When SkepChicks support DragonCon so much they can't bring themselves to immediately cease supporting a child abuser, we may have a problem.
  5. Skepchick has always embedded its alcohol-fueled love fest in sci-fi convention CONvergence, which is really a terrible statement in regards to the status of typical 'skeptic' conventions.
The terrible reality is that the PZ Myers "FreeThought" bloggers have completed their coup d'etat of the secular community. Everybody not on board with their program is labelled a 'misogynist' or 'harasser'.

What is the result?

The result is conventions that even PZ Myers would skip then to gain the opportunity to meet the cast of Firefly or get a glimpse of some young ladies dressed up as Wonder Woman.

It's a really sad state of affairs.

While Christians now have "ChristianMingle", secularists have Systemic Rape Culture brought to you by the Twitter Evildoers. 

How can PZ even be seen supporting science fiction tropes that are obviously creations of the patriarchy?

Adam Lee thanks the academy

Adam Lee has posted his thoughts about American Atheists' 2013 convention in Austin, Texas.

Under the banner : "Reflections on #AAcon13" (have to use hashtags in blogpost titles... right?) Lee writes:
It was a big convention, with attendance (I’m told) around 900, which made me especially happy to see the evidence that we’re improving the balance of gender and racial diversity. Women were a major presence, and black nonbelievers were well-represented and had at least two separate booths in the tabling area. It’s much too soon to declare this problem fixed, but there are definite signs of progress.
What is missing from this paragraph?

Adam Lee states there are "signs of progress" however he presents no data about the relative standing of minority groups.

Even the Republican party has gay members. What does this prove? You have a large enough club, you're going to eventually have all groups represented to some degree.

The number we received about minority groups was a number of booths. How about a breakdown of attendees?

The strange thing about doing math like this is that it comes out that the worst thing possible for a convention to experience is to have another few hundred white males decide to show up at the party. What an incredibly racist, misogynist disaster that would be!

If one recalls the donglegate stats, one would recall that people were pleased that PyCon was 20% women.

This could mean that the PyCon conference is doing something right in regards to acceptance of women, or it could simply mean that all the misogynist Python developers decided to attend a "Python Pricks" conference that just happened to be the same weekend.
And on that note, it’s worth emphasizing that this progress is only happening because we’re talking about it. 
Translation: "Black people are showing up at conferences because Adam Lee is being nice to them."

This translation is of course an exaggeration, however it is difficult to understate just how pleased Lee is with himself.
Richard Carrier gave a talk explaining Atheism Plus
Richard Carrier explaining Atheism Plus?

That is like the Pope explaining how to wear a condom.

He can conceptually understand why it's a good idea, he can promote it, but ultimately he hasn't actually used what he is advertising in any significant way.

So yes, Richard Carrier can do as much as post in the A+ subreddit and/or forums. Only then may he be taken seriously about his evangelism.
...and Jamila Bey moderated a panel with Greta Christina, Ophelia Benson, Beth Presswood and Amy Davis Roth about women in atheism, with special attention paid to the problem of online harassment and what we can do about it.
The only amazing thing about this is that someone put Benson, Christina and Roth on a panel and thought they might not talk almost exclusively about their online 'harassment'.

And what would they suggest we do about it?

Marginalize critics of "SkepChicks" without question. Anybody PZ Myers labels a "fuckbrained asshole" is blacklisted from conventions. That is the strategy in a nutshell.
Even I wasn’t sure at first how these would go over, but both talks were very well-received and got rousing applause and cheers from the audience. This is, again, a reminder that most atheists are good and decent people, and the outright misogynist trolls are an isolated and impotent minority, which goes to the point of my recent tiff about whether mainstream movement atheism is welcoming to women. (Several of these trolls helped prove the point for us by spamming the conference hashtag with whining petulance.)

There's "impotent" again.  It's important to remember that the "misogynist trolls" are "impotent" and "angry virgins".

Surely this is helping matters.
But I have to give special attention to a wonderful woman named Gayle, who recognized me and told me she keeps a copy of my New Ten Commandments on her refrigerator (!). She did say that she slightly altered one or two of them, and of course I wouldn’t have it any other way – I would never want anyone to treat my writings as sacred dogma.
Adam Lee doesn't want people subscribing to his dogma.

Lee just wants to write petitions that you should sign your name on. Petitions that happen to blast the behavior of other secularists. If you don't comply, then you're probably a 'harasser'.

Is this dogma? Perhaps not. Perhaps what Lee creates is better described as "tabloid drama".

Friday, March 29, 2013

SkepChicks ask: Are atheists assholes?

One can hopefully be forgiven for forgetting a post by Adam Lee.

Amy from SkepChicks has created a series of articles titled "Speaking Out Against Hate Directed at Women".

The latest append to her list of perhaps a dozen authors is the one and only Adam "DaylightAtheism" Lee.

People with normal lives will give it a pass because they've already read Lee's gigantic survey and perhaps think they already know all of Adam Lee's talking points.

Those people have good instincts.

However when Ophelia Benson throws down in support of Adam Lee's arguments, perhaps it's time to open this book again and see just what's up. Maybe, just maybe, the sequel will allow the plot to make sense.

Benson titles her copy & paste of Lee's arguments: "Distinctions, always distinctions"

Benson quotes Lee:
Most of us became atheists for intellectual reasons, because we find the arguments for theism unconvincing, or for moral reasons, because we find its teachings intolerable. But it seems to me that there’s a small number of men (and a smaller number of women) who are atheists purely because they delight in being offensive, because they believe no one has the right to tell them what to do. They think this community is a place where they can indulge those impulses: where they can be as crass and boorish as they want, where they can leer at or hit on women in any way they want, or cheer on those who do. And too often, we’ve seen that when women object to this treatment, however politely, they become the targets of a campaign of violent threats, abusive hate mail and dehumanizing filth.
No contest here - Adam Lee is right!

Some people are atheists because they must be in order to defend their behavior.

When Adam Lee goes on Twitter to call everyone misogynists or when PZ Myers documents his host desecration on his blog it is painfully obvious what these men are thinking - "Hell yeah, atheism! We're going to say and do what we want!"

Ophelia adds her own line of reasoning:
It’s even trickier than that, because there is some merit in being “offensive,” depending on a lot of particulars. But there’s offensive and then there’s offensive. There’s telling the Catholic church it’s an evil institution, and there’s telling a particular nun that she’s ugly and repellent. Or to put it another way, there’s offensive and there’s mean. The people Adam is talking about are blind to that distinction.
 In the reality that Ophelia Benson land, atheists run around convents telling nuns they're hideous. That is when they aren't throwing acid in their face.

It is a wonder of the world how Catholicism exists. Why don't we just tell nuns they're sexy more often?

Perhaps this is a bunch of hyperbole.

Adam Lee continues:
But the sexists are not the future of atheism. No matter how much noise they make, they’ll never be anything but an ignorant, resentful minority. I’m confident that most atheists are good, decent people who don’t condone harassment. But to those good and decent people, especially us atheist men, I want to say this: This isn’t just a women’s fight, it’s your fight too. We all have a stake in the future of this movement, so raise your voice, speak out, make yourself heard! Call out the trolls and the harassers; tell them that their behavior is wrong and unacceptable. Don’t sanction them by your silence. They do what they do because they believe that it’s socially condoned, that people who don’t speak up must approve of their behavior.
What exactly is this atheism thing anyways?

Is atheism some sort of social club that emerged after Adam Lee graduated from college?

Read enough Adam Lee and you'll start believing secularism is some version of the Stonecutters.

Benson adds:
Don’t sanction them by your silence. And you know what else don’t do? Don’t encourage them by your “dialogue.” Don’t say “we have to start somewhere” when the somewhere in question is just more of the same old harassment. Don’t talk about “grievances” on “both sides.” Don’t encourage the harassers.
[Emphasis Benson's]

How is the layman "encouraging" the "harassers"? Also, who are the "harassers" harassing?

Adam Lee continues:
On the surface this fight is about the treatment of women, but ultimately it’s about what kind of community we want atheism to be. Do we want it to be an insular and impotent subculture, where we do nothing but complain that the world doesn’t understand us? Or do we want it to be a mass movement that fills streets, that strikes fear in the hearts of theocrats, that shifts the course of history? If we’re willing to do the work necessary to broaden our appeal as much as possible, to make the atheist community a welcoming and tolerant landing place for all kinds of people, it can be the latter. If we divide ourselves and chase away allies by allowing prejudice and hate to spread unchecked, it can only be the former.
Does nobody else find it ironic that the word "impotent" is used here?

Benson adds:
To put it another way, you gain harassers but you lose people who dislike harassment. Is that really a good bargain?
Yikes.

In "SkepChick" and "FreeThoughtBlog" land, the only reason secularism hasn't claimed victory yet is that secularists keep saying bad things about women.

So let's stop now.

Let's stop saying bad things about Mother Teresa. Burn that book Hitchens wrote!

Let's stop saying bad things about Sarah Palin.

Let's stop saying bad things about Ann Coulter, Shirley Phelps-Roper, and Phyllis Schlafly.

Then all the women in pious countries will endorse secularism wholeheartedly. Even those in Iran!

Now of course Benson and Lee aren't talking about treating women in general with deference and respect. They'll continue blasting anti-contraception, pro-life homophobes regardless of gender.

The tactics for secularism that Benson and Lee are proposing are nuanced than that.

Apparently the biggest tragedy in the history of secularism is that upper class, educated women on Twitter are discouraged by slurs directed at men and women opining about gender relations on their blogs.

Now, one might say, these "SkepChicks" and "FreeThought" bloggers have a wider portfolio than that! They also talk about atheism being underrepresented in minority communities.

Which leads to another point. How would these hard science heads read any discrepancy between races?

If it can be shown that religion is more popular among black and Hispanic communities in the USA, what does this tell us?

It tells us that secularists are racist, right?

We know this scientifically, because:

  1. Other criterion such as economic, educational outcomes can be ignored!
  2. The only country in the world that counts is the Excited States of America!
  3. Angry bloggers said so!
No skepticism needed!


So the 'feminist' secularists have given us our prescription. Of course they'll continue saying whatever they want, yelling at women (even women in their fanclub) and apologizing to no one about it - the important thing to remember is they don't have a problem, you have a problem.

In case some neo-'feminist' white knights happen to have read this far, it is important to point out that the last bit was mostly "sarcasm".

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Sexism in the workplace? Really?

It seems that two of my subjects have met! 

PZ Myers (1 2 3 4 5...) has shared an article from Jill Filipovic. Filipovic is already famous for her work on 'feminist' utopias and fashion weeks.

So, what topic does an associate professor of biology and a Manhattan lawyer want you to learn about?

Sexism. More specifically, sexism in the workplace.

PZ's lead in:
I endorse this message [...] Jill Filipovic points out that sexism in the workplace is alive and well. [...] The line is blurring between the physical and virtual world, and we’re not going to reduce a serious physical problem if we encourage it to flourish in a different domain.
Filipovic's article is titled, "Sexism in the workplace is alive and well: Adria Richards is its latest victim"

Filipovic begins:
The Adria Richards story isn't a new one: Woman publicly says something about sexism. The internet hordes descend. Woman is on the receiving end of rape and death threats. Woman disappears for a while, sometimes forever.
Really?

Here is a corresponding reality: a woman publicly says something about sexism, she is catapulted into the limelight and she stays there. Perhaps that's why we're reading the opinions about the tech sector from lawyer in Manhattan relayed through a biologist in Minnesota.

Filipovic comes out with some direct examples:
Adria Richards. Kathy Sierra. Anita Sarkeesian. Zerlina Maxwell. Wash, rinse, repeat.
Notice anything weird about this set?

Only two were participants in something that could be described as a "workplace".

Only two are members of the "tech" sector specifically.

Adria Richards was participating in a tech conference as part of her job.

Kathy Sierra writes programming books and blogged about technology related topics. She received negative comments and threats on forums.

Anita Sarkeesian is a feminist blogger. She created a Kickstarter campaign to fund a project that would highlight female 'tropes' in video games. She received far more funding than she asked for, and much negative feedback from male gamers.

Zerlina Maxell is a "writer and political analyst" [direct quote from Filipovic's site] that went on FOX and received negative feedback.

Right now, how is this holding up Filipovic's topic, "sexism in the workplace"?

Seems flimsy.

Filipovic continues to recap donglegate, adding:
"Richards was personally bombarded with rape and murder threats."
It seems like the only qualification one needs of a "bombardment" is a single example, which Filipovic provides.

Another example is already present in the previous discussion about online threats.

The key piece to recall however is that these threats do not differ substantially than reality faced from famous people that Filipovic doesn't discuss.

Filipovic states that we can apply focus on whether or not it is right to publicly shame conferencegoers:
Of course it's possible to disagree with Richards' actions while still focusing on the real problem: misogyny online and in tech spaces.
Completely agreed here, but care to define "tech spaces"?
But it's really not possible to pontificate at length on what Richards should have done without obscuring the fact that when women speak out, we're met with rape threats.
Filipovic doesn't want to spend time talking about what is and is not correct behavior at tech conferences. Filipovic would rather us all be informed that Richards received a rape threat.

The context surrounding the situation, the volumes of discussions about the events at PyCon, may be dropped entirely. Filipovic regards this as not important, once Richards receives a credible threat.

At that point, debate over. Stop all the pontificating! Somewhere, males are behaving badly again!

Filipovic suggests that there isn't really anything much at all to discuss at all.

There are only things to report. Tuesday's news is much like Monday's news.

Somewhere, males are behaving badly again!

It's a nice abstraction, since the headline applies to war, theft, politics, and Twitter 'feminist' drama just as well.
Others, most notably Deanna Zandt in Forbes, have explained why the focus on what Richards could have done differently is the wrong question. It's a question routinely lobbed at women who are sexually victimized: Why did you go home with him if you didn't want to have sex? Why did you drink so much? Why did you wear that? Why did you stay at that party? Why were you walking down that street? Why didn't you yell louder or fight back harder? Why did you fight back, knowing it would only make him angry?
Now Filipovic is comparing those that disagree with Richards' tweeting of the picture to someone that would directly berate a victim of rape.

Which is especially interesting, because Richards received criticism before her victimization.

Filipovic, in a certain sense, is asking us "How could you dare say that? Have you been reading what the other people have been saying to her?"

Nobody is waking up this morning and thinking to themselves that Adria Richards deserved every message she received.

The wrong question: "What could Adria Richards have done differently in order to avoid rape threats?"

The right question: "What could Adria Richards have done differently in order to prevent public shaming of the subjects in the photo, prevent dismissal of the subjects of the photo, and preserve the image of PyCon?"

The latter is the question that people have been asking.

Back to Filipovic -
If it sounds like I'm comparing the people who threaten Richards with rape to actual rapists, and the people who tacitly justify those threats with hand-wringing over what Richards could have done differently to rape apologists, it's because I am. Despite attempts to characterize the internet as a space suspended outside of "real" life, cyberspace is real. It is a place where actual human beings connect, communicate, mobilize and work. And online harassment and misogyny very closely parallel harassment, misogyny and sexual violence in the "real" world
Asking yourself "Did the man have to be fired?" doesn't mean you support rape. Where does Filipovic get this idea?

As for the idea that people that issue threats online are more likely to be violent in "real life" - yes. This is plainly obvious. This is a "no shit" moment.

Enter the history lesson:

Long before the internet, the law in England and early America offered little recognition of women as sovereign beings. [...] Even after slavery ended, black women raped by white men almost never saw justice. 
As women gained greater social status and secured a wider array of legal and economic rights, the laws changed, though rarely quickly or thoroughly enough. Rape turned into a crime against an individual woman, but evidence of her past sexual relationships, clothing or unrelated behavior was regularly allowed into evidence. Rape statutes required that a victim respond to an assault with the utmost force, and often required corroborating evidence or eyewitness accounts to secure a conviction. In practice, accused rapists often walked if a jury could be convinced that the victim didn't fight back hard enough or didn't seem like a nice, chaste girl. 
In the much discussed Steubenville, Ohio case, defense attorneys for two young men charged with assaulting an unconscious teenage girl argued that she consented because even though she was drunk, she wasn't so drunk that she couldn't have said no. Her assailants, too, were such nice boys – they received fawning media coverage before, during and after the trial. The local football coach, who allegedly knew about the rape and tried to cover it up, still has a job. Whether the case would have even been brought to trial without the dogged efforts of a blogger (who, for her service, was rewarded with a lawsuit) and eventual New York Times coverage is an open question.
Now we've dove into:

  1. A short history of laws against rape.
  2. Racial prejudices in the enforcement of the law.
  3. Specifics of a recent rape case
  4. Arguments the defense presented in a rape case (Just imagine, a defense lawyer presenting a defense! The nerve of these lawyers!)
  5. Allegations of crimes committed by certain people. (If you fail to report a crime, that is a crime, especially if you're in a position of authority - e.g. football coach)
Where is Filipovic going with this?
The problem here is misogyny, online and off.
 Ok, now everybody just hates women.
It's a cohort of trusted intellectuals – the legal system, big-name writers – positioning themselves as fair and rational by critiquing a victim's actions as much as violence and harassment.
Oh yes, that damn legal system of ours. The one where those accused of rape that cannot prove that sex didn't take place generally make the argument that the female involved had the capacity to consent.

Why does this keep coming up?

Yes, it seems that when a female enters a courtroom the defense team still makes a case - even if the case is based on flimsy reasoning in light of the facts. A lawyer like Filipovic should understand this.
It's the impulse to remove gender and race analysis -- arguing that men get death threats, too, or that Richards is simply "difficult" and not perhaps only perceived that way because she's a black woman pushing back against the norms of a mostly white, mostly male industry.
Now it becomes clear why Filipovic mentioned slavery earlier. It was the run up to an argument about racism.

Do you want to write an article about sexism, but also mention that you dislike racism, homophobia, transphobia, and world hunger?

They have a word for this - "intersectionality".

The theory is basically that every maligned group shares a common underlying issue so all the problems can be addressed at once.

It comes in handy when you want to write an article, but really cannot be bothered to focus on anything.

We shouldn't accept rape and death threats as a woman's price of admission to the internet. We shouldn't accept rape and death threats as a consequence of not playing by the always-shifting rules of the online boys' club. We shouldn't accept rape and death threats as punishment for making trouble, not asking politely or somehow behaving outside of the bounds of geek social culture.
 And we don't accept these things. This is a classic straw man (or straw person?) argument.

Does Filipovic sincerely believe that things that happen on the internet are somehow blessed by the male demigods of the internet?

Filipovic concludes:
We certainly shouldn't punish women on the receiving end of those threats, as SendGrid did when it fired Richards. Change only comes when we stand with those who are wronged – even the loud ones, the imperfect ones and the trouble-makers.
This entirely misconstrues SendGrid's reasons to dismiss Richards and makes absolutely ridiculous assumptions about the situation surrounding her dismissal.

It's easy to see why Filipovic's conclusions ring hollow.

The article does not bother to even describe Richards' role in the company - For example, just what is a developer evangelist?

If Filipovic wanted to continue analysis of sexism in the workplace, she could have addressed this and brought in more data points from women working desk jobs.

If Filipovic wanted to discuss women in tech specifically, she could have started with gender breakdowns in technical schools and then carried that through to how technical office environments can be intimidating or welcoming depending on different choices businesses make.

Discussion of women in the workplace, the tech sector and the boardroom could lead one to think deeply about the careers of Sheryl Sandberg, Julie Larson-Green, Meg Whitman, Carly Fiorina, and even Arianna Huffington. The latter interviewee might even give you a place to publish your work.

What did we get instead?

Instead of a blistering critique of systemic sexism, what the reader is given is a meandering walk through self-employment, slavery and Steubenville. Anything approximating an argument is lost in blind rage.

How could one write an article about sexism in the workplace without a single suggestion about what workplaces ought to change?

Rape threats and DDOS attacks?

When it comes out that one is a skeptic or a critic of the main characters of the "donglegate" and "elevatorgate" dramas, people generally have a very pointed set of questions that follow a general theme.

How could anyone be so callous?

Don't the critics know that Rebecca Watson and Adria Richards received threats and were victims of DDOS attacks?

There are certain things people need to understand about these "threats" and "attacks".

Distributed denial of service attacks - what is the deal here?

When it comes up in the media, a Distributed denial of service (DDOS) attack is marketed as a sign that the internet at large is mad at you. In the case of "donglegate", this internet of hotheads was implied to be mostly male.

Yet the reality is that DDOS attacks are relatively mundane.

Why?

DDOS attacks:
  1. Are not difficult
    • A denial of service attack is neither conceptually difficult nor hard to execute
    • Weapons of DDOS are essentially free
  2. Do not require a massive number of people
    • There is nothing about a DDOS attack that suggests a large scale human intervention
  3. Do not require a massive number of computers
    • All a DDOS attack needs to be successful is enough requests sent to a target.
    • The target node(s) simply need to be less capable than the attacker
    • The DDOS attack need not take out an entire network to be effective. It just needs to focus on a vulnerable point.
  4. Are very time limited in nature
    • Why aren't the websites of entirely unpopular organizations (Scientology, WBC, CIA, etc) down all the time? The reasons coincide with what has been stated - the DDOS attack is fairly easily tracked, the attackers are usually a limited set of people, and anonymity within a larger set of attackers is typically rare.
  5. Are about as impactful as graffiti. 
    • Adria tweets: "I setup @cloudflare last night to address the DDoS attack against my blog. Distributed CDN is working well #iwillbeheard"
  6. From the outside, a DDOS is indistinguishable from mere popularity.
    • Mere mortals on the internet, removed from the operations of a particular hosting organization, have a difficult time knowing the difference between a DDOS attack and simple organic popularity causing a website to implode.
    • Popularity bringing down a website has been called in the past the "Slashdot effect"
What we may conclude: DDOS attacks are not the Spanish inquisition. They can be planned for, don't necessarily represent a mob of vigilantes, and don't actually accomplish their goals with any sustainability.

Corporations, or even individuals, take a few more requests in stride. 

DDOS attacks are definitely a bully move - but it's a bully move that ultimately costs the attackers and is only as effective as it emphasized. The attacker either wants to annoy you, or let the world know they are annoyed with you. 

It is not difficult to annoy somebody on the internet to the extent that they want to return the favor. This is what is happening in a DDOS attack. Yet when spoken about in the Twitterverse, the attack is always assumed to be sourced only from the deepest, darkest hatred one can feel. 

This is a completely baseless assumption.

Now, on to trickier subject matter...

Rape threats? Death threats?

Yes. They happened. And they were awful.

One example is feedback posted to SendGrid's Facebook profile, which ended with a disturbing "Make her pay. Make her obey."

Now a skeptic on the internet has a bunch of responses to this evidence presented - "It's Photoshop", "Poe's law", etc.

However just by running the numbers, it seems almost guaranteed that many of these threats must be real. And very creepy.

Let's say an individual like Rebecca Watson or Adria Richards is the subject of a million comments on the internet. It's not an easy threshold to pass these days.

Assume for a moment that a tiny fraction of those comments - say 0.00001% - made explicit threats.

That's 10 creeps already.

But we should already understand this reality at a very basic level.

Why?

Rebecca Black, Casey Anthony, Nickelback, Jane Fonda, Barack Obama.

Educate yourself just a little bit and just look at what people are saying about these people on Twitter, Tumblr, YouTube, Facebook and random forums...

Obviously this is a scale of infamy - ranging from an amateur pop star in California to a US President.

There is nonetheless a pattern - each receive several threats, wishes of harm, distasteful suggestions.

And it gets even weirder.

There are conspiracies to murder actresses like Joss Stone. This is just the latest variation of psychopath that famous people find themselves subjected to.

Back to the topic at hand - criticism of subjects related to 'feminism'.

Supporters of 'feminist' figures on Twitter, Tumblr, or other social media are addicted to mentioning the threats their protagonists face.

In the face of example threats, a critic of 'feminism' is expected to:

  1. Be surprised
  2. Be remorseful
  3. Be apologetic
  4. Be agreeable
  5. Be conciliatory
There is several problems with this.

There is nothing surprising about the messages themselves because they can be found directed at loads of people that are even moderately well known.

There is nothing to be remorseful of because the statements are those of other people.

There is nothing to be apologetic for because the "creeps" do not necessarily belong to 'feminism's critics.

To be agreeable comes without work - literally no rational person is defending violence or threats of violence.

And finally, there is nothing to reconcile because no debate has happened to occur.
"Can't these anonymous people on the internet be absolutely insane?"
Yes, they definitely can be. 

If you see a plausible threat, report it to the local authorities.

After establishing that people on the internet are creepy, can we agree on some more things?

The internet is a crazy place filled with crazy people. We can make a few conclusions.

Intimidating messages and hate mail do not magically bless the recipient with a shield of superior arguments.

Publicly shaming people on the internet is reckless and endangers all parties involved.

It's just that simple.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

PZ makes Julian walk the plank

One "julian" seems to have picked up on the way EllenBeth Wachs was treated on the Pharyngula thread and voiced his discontent with the situation.

Comment 1284 by Julian:
Just read he first two pages. You guys are a bunch of callous assholes, you know that? How’s about not looking for an excuse to beat on someone for a change?
Comment 1285 by "Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls"


Now, what good would come from listening to abject fuckwittery. For example, folks who can’t grasp the concept that it doesn’t have to be overtly sexist to be considered sexual harassment? Be specific, or shut the fuck up.

Comment 1286 by Julian:
How’s about you contribute something to any thread besides your moronic rages and fits? And how’s about the rest of you stop deliberately misrepresnting people and going so ridiculously over the top when arguing with someone. God but you’re a bunch of hateful fucks.
and 1287:
I mean seriously, going out of your way to label Ellen Beth Wachs an anti-feminist, misogynistic chill girl? Declaring any conference she’s involved with garbage? You’re nothing but a pack of fucking thugs.
For the next several comments, people question Julian's motivations and call him a "worthless tone troll".

Comment 1293 by Julian:

Oh spare me. You know damn well you went over the fucking line. No wonder you guys never leave this place. You pull this shit every fucking time and then use whatever’s done to you all as an excuse to hurt people not even associated with the fight.

The next comment explains that Julian isn't a newbie, Julian has been a long active on Pharyngula...

Comment 1294 by "Caine, Fleur du mal"

If it’s the Julian I’m thinking of, they are a former Pharyngula commenter, or somewhat of one. Mostly stuck to the lounge. Ages ago, they decided we weren’t nice enough, so the routine complaining goes on all over the place.

Comment 1295 by Julian:

In this thread you fucked up. There’ no excuse for the ridiculous level you pushed that too.
Comment 1299 by Julian:
It’s not that you’re not nice, it’s that you go out of your way to be hateful, to be mean, t try and dehumanize people. The only thing you guys don’t do is use sexist or racist language. But that doesn’t make you any less hateful or cruel.
And jesus “EllenBethh is misogynistic chill girl, vying for male approval?” WTF?!

Comment 1301 by Julian:

Yeah and I remember all of you. I remember how none of you said anything to TLC when he was saying he’d smack bluharmony if she didn’t quit seeming so meek. I remember how you turned on Walton when he tried mellowing you all out. I remember how you treat each and every person who gets on the badside of one of you.
You are not a compassionate group of people. You are hateful, bitter and cruel. I came here thinking this was just the slympit exaggerating shit to drum up hate against you guys. I see they’re exactly right. God damn, fucking fix yourselves.


The next comment accuses Julian of supporting "rape culture" by defending EllenBeth Wachs...

Comment 1302 by user "Tony! The Lonely Queer Shoop"


Julian:
You are the one out of line, defending rape culture apologists like you are.
Comment 1306 by Julian:

Hahahahahahaha!
Yes. That’s exactly what I’m doing. Totally lol
You’re all so amazingly insightful. Obviously I can’t hope to hang here.

Now the Pharyngula crowd take his accusation that they "turned on" a person named Walton...

Comment 1311 by Julian:

ROFL
This another thing you all constantly do. If someone says one thing, you guys subsitute something else.
I said ‘turned on.’
You substituted ‘chased away’ in place of it.
You guys don’t do honesty very well do you?

Comment 1313 by Julian:

How many people have to point out the same complaint before you guys take it seriously?


This quip was especially funny, as EllenBeth Wachs was accused for not taking complaints seriously at conferences. Apparently Pharyngula fans believe that EBW couldn't be trusted to act on a complaint, so the real place all one's complaints should go is Twitter.

Comment 1315 by Julian:


I see the usual suspects are back to rewrite history. 
Good bye. Hope you all get over yourselves. 
After this stunt I think you’ve lost even more people willing to assume the best from you guys. :/

Finally now there seems to be a PZ fan that is actually somewhat remorseful and measured.

Comment 1322 by SallyStrange:
Yup, that’s why NOBODY, not me, not Chris Clarke, not Stacy nor Janine nor anybody else tried to get folks to dial back the rhetoric against her. Because we’re ALL horrible people in our hivemind groupthink thingy here.
*rolls eyes*
Translation : "SallyStrange and two of her friends thought calling EllenBeth Wachs a rape apologist was a bit too strong! Ergo, Pharyngula is free-thinking!"

Post 1337 comes from PZ Myers himself:
>I came here thinking this was just the slympit exaggerating shit to drum up hate against you guys. 
Wait, you came here from the slymepit to complain that we are too abusive? Are you stoned out of your mind? Please, tell me, what kinds of things have the ‘pitters said about her? Because I recall long, tedious periods of abuse of “EllenBethWacko” and other such names on the #FtBullies hashtag…which apparently are all forgotten now that some people here were angry with her. 
For the record, I consider EllenBeth Wachs a friend and positive contributor to the cause of atheism and humanism and to feminism. I think she was wrong here — she was thinking too much as a conference organizer, and not enough as a minority fighting for respect — but that the reactions here were far too heated to be useful. 
However, I also knew that this thread would end up a long one, with lots of hot tempers, and an influx of morons, and I made a conscious decision early on to let it burn on. That’s how Matthew Best managed to be left alone for so long. Perhaps you didn’t notice, but ALL sides were allowed to rage on here unchecked. And now, of course, the Brave Heroes of FreezePeach are all squawking. Am I supposed to tell people how to express themselves? Or not? 
However, the confession that you’re a slymepitter breaks one of my absolute rules. Bye. Don’t bother coming back, hypocrite.

Comment 1340 by "hyperdeath" tries to set the record straight:
Julian isn’t a Slymepitter.
Comment 1341 by "Caine, Fleur du mal" is essentially "well he shouldn't have disagreed with us!"
I expect he shouldn’t have brought them up or mentioned how he thought they were right.

UPDATE: New news via Twitter!

Julian claims he's never set foot in the SlymePit, PZ replies:
I quoted you saying you had! RT @JlnFrancisco: I'v never set foot in the slympit.
And PZ then adds:
.@hyperdeath128k @JlnFrancisco If he wants to explain why he was babbling about the contents of the slymepit, I'll reconsider.
So apparently PZ can't even understand an example! Julian compared the comment thread to some absurdity concocted by PZ's critics, but the point just goes in one ear and out the other.

Maybe this explains why PZ isn't more productive on the science front.

Must everyone be reminded that this is "FreeThought" Blogs?

Remember the following things:

  1. Julian never said he was from the slymepit
  2. PZ Myers has a problem with reading comprehension
  3. PZ Myers has his finger on the ban button - in a thread with over a thousand comments, a grand total of perhaps 10 comments ultimately led to a ban
  4. Other users of the site stated Julian wasn't a slymepit member
  5. Somehow it is in no way acceptable on a "freethought" blog to disagree with PZ Myers for any considerable length of time
Keep cannibalizing your fans, PZ!

PZ tries to criticize Ars Technica

Calling Ars' response to donglegate (more info here, here and here) a "lazy editorial", PZ Myers tries to pick it to pieces.

Here is his attempt:
Ars: "mentality is thankfully no longer acceptable in tech, but it’s still common—some people have actually described tech to me as “men’s work.”"
It’s no longer acceptable, but it’s common? Huh. Somebody didn’t think about what they were writing. We’ll just announce that the problem is nonexistent, while sweeping the reality of the situation aside.
Yes, PZ, unacceptable things can be common.

Examples: littering, jaywalking, making sexual jokes in public.

Hell, littering is illegal but still common.
I think we all agree 100% that no one ought to have been fired over this incident.
And we also agree 100% that nobody should receive rape or death threats. But does PZ have enough class to mention that?

No.

Was it something to be ashamed of, or not? Was it a horrible, embarrassing thing to publicize, or was it a “relatively minor issue”? You don’t get to have it both ways. Either it was too damaging to make public, or it was a slight affront that shouldn’t seriously affect any of the participants — it was a minute impropriety that was perfectly reasonable to mention on a casual, conversational medium like Twitter.
 This just in: PZ Myers thinks it's OK to post nip-slips on Twitter.

Cause you know, Twitter is a causal place, nipples aren't a big deal, how could it be damaging?
It’s only hyperbole if you misinterpret it. No, I doubt Richards thought these two guys were going to run up on the stage and slap awards off the podium and denounce the young girl being recognized. Richards was referring to a culture that considers those kinds of off-color remarks reasonable in a professional setting. Remember, “it’s still common”. That is what inhibits women from participating in these opportunities.
Actually it is hyperbole and it is exaggeration to think that tweeting some photo is going to solve the cultural problem.

How crazy out of your mind to you need to be to identify a cultural problem, and insert yourself into a narrative where you are the person to fix it, then and there?

You'd have to be Joan of Arc crazy:
"As an advocate for digital equality, my actions today at #pycon made me feel like Joan of Arc, minus the visions"
This is the feminist equivalent of invading Iraq and believing everybody will just magically be better.
But unwanted sexual innuendo doesn’t? Both men and women make jokes about sex, of course, and there’s a tricky line to be drawn between what’s appropriate and what isn’t
Yes, we know there is a line PZ, and you spend your days "randomly ejaculating" all over it.
But you know, the latter is almost as bad as the former. It’s the privilege of the majority to use politeness to maintain the status quo, while it’s a necessity for the minority to assert the right to offend.
How about the right to libel, PZ?

Next time you desecrate a host wafer, PZ, please do us all a favor and suggest on Twitter that the priest of your local parish abuses children.

Defending the politically powerful?

In the epic Pharyngula thread that EllenBeth Wachs participated in (you might want to read this first), Stephanie Zvan was one of the people trying to talk EllenBeth Wachs down.

What did Stephanie Zvan say?

From Comment 435:
EllenBeth, stop. You’re defending the politically powerful (the conference organization) from the politically powerless (the attendee) here. You’re in the position of demanding something you can only, rightfully, ask for because of the rest of the context of the situation. This is a very bad time and place for that.
So that's Stephanie Zvan's take.

The fact of the matter here is that EllenBeth has at least some experience in law, and was trying to point out that speaking to conference organizers does the following things:

  1. Allows facts from the situation to be collected.
  2. Preserves the presumption of innocence.
  3. Allows the accused to respond.
  4. Prevents mob justice.
Let's extend this situation to be more generic - imagine a scenario in which a woman feels insulted (or even threatened). Could be at a bank. Or a bus stop. Or a shopping mall. 

Should she contact those in charge, or perhaps even call the police?

Or should she call a posse of her guy friends to come down and "sort it out"? Perhaps over Twitter?

Just like the conference organizers are "politically powerful" and desire to protect their own interests, the police are "politically powerful" and desire to protect their own interests.

So why call the cops ever?

The interesting part here is that the "Free Thought" Blogs people generally abhor the feedback they get from the unwashed masses, yet in this situation they have no problem at all summoning vigilantes to "get the job done" so to speak.

More hypocrisy. Who would have guessed?

EllenBeth Wachs, PZ Myers, and the dongle joke

PZ Myers wrote an article about the dongle joke. More on that later.

More interesting for the moment is the conversation that EllenBeth Wachs (semi-famous in US secular circles, longtime fan of PZ, longtime not-really-a-fan of l'uberfeminist) had with some other PZ Myers fans.

Some things to keep in mind when reading this:

  1. The thread can be sometimes hard to follow because EllenBeth Wachs often quoted her detractors
  2. This is not a unique story - many people have enjoyed PZ Myers' blog in the past, before they found out that it is written by douchebags for douchebags. Read and it will all make sense.

It seems her first comment was the 284th of the particular thread:

EllenBeth Wachs writes:
I have not seen one person saying Adria deserved the response she got. As a conference organizer myself, I will just note, taking a picture and tweeting it is not an approved method of reporting an instance of harassment.
Should she have been fired? Of course not. The man shouldn’t have been fired either. There has been major overreaction everywhere. Gee, where have we seen this before?
Let me make a prediction. Donglegate will be going on two years hence and people will be screaming for Adria’s head and photoshopping her.

[Emphasis added] EllenBeth Wachs points out the obvious - absolutely no one is defending all of the responses Adria Richards received.

A rather measured response. Who is going to find much at fault in this?

Immediately, EllenBeth finds herself subject of criticism.

Comment 341 authored by EllenBeth Wachs (EBW from now on):

@307 Beatrice, I am not sure how you get that I have only made it about how the woman needs to behave better.
@289 Thumper most people generally don’t find me “nuanced” I am usually accused of being to blunt. So here it is.
I support Adria for what has occurred in the aftermath of the tweet. I do not agree with her decision to tweet this. I thought that was rather clear. By doing so, she involved many bystanders unnecessarily.
Were the guys out of line? Yes. 
Did they deserve to have a complaint filed? Yes. 
Does Adria get a pass for doing it in an inappropriate manner because she’s a woman in a ragingly sexist environment? No. 
Did she deserve to get fired. No. 
Did the guys deserve to get fired. No. 
Does she deserve rape and death threats? Well of course not.
In Comment 370, EBW finds herself arguing with PZ Myers...
@345 JAL just because you say it is irrelevant doesn’t make it so. Also, I get that you think the way she handled this is acceptable. I disagree. See how that works?
PZ, this isn’t about assigning blame to Adria because she is a woman. She made a misstep in not reporting the men appropriately. Conferences have adopted harassment policies for specifically this reason. It seems we have set ourselves up for a situation in which a woman, therefore, could never be blamed for actually doing wrong. I don’t accept that.
I had a harassment complaint filed against one of my speakers at my last conference. Had she tweeted the complaint rather than bring it to me directly as done, I would have been rather perturbed and my speaker would have been within his right in filing a counter-complaint. After discussing this with her, she chose to withdraw the complaint. Now had she tweeted it, it would have done irrevocable damage.
Then EllenBeth Wachs started receiving a great deal of insults.

Comment 392 [EBW]:

@353 Blitzgal
"Why do you keep focusing on what she did wrong, unless it is to imply that she was asking for it?"
Reading comprehension- get some. Look at what you quoted from me. Not only am I not implying she was asking for it, I stated quite clearly she doesn’t deserve the fucked up response.

Comment 419, EBW becomes more direct with her critics:

@ 413 Blitzgal
"Oh, I understand you just fine. You are officially against the rape and death threats, but it’s vitally important that we all hear again and again and again and again and again and again exactly what Adria Richards did wrong. Your emphasis on how wrong she is makes your intentions crystal clear.."
My intentions? Okay Kreskin, care to tell me what exactly they are?

Comment 426, EBW goes the "let he without sin cast the first stone" route:

Is there anyone in this comment section that hasn’t made an inappropriate remark (joke) at an inappropriate time? Would you like to have it tweeted to thousands instead of having the opportunity to explain or apologize? 
Just sayin’ 
While it may have been Adria’s choice to make the tweet and not the conference organizer’s, ultimately the conference also paid a high price for her choice.
Comment 439 EBW goes to bat for a fellow dissenter under criticism:
Seriously??? Are you reading the same responses from Matthew Best that I am? 
They are quite coherent and rational in the face of blistering vitriol. WTF?? Why are you calling for his banning? Because he disagrees?

Comment 448, she responds to be called a "chill girl" for her defense of Matthew:
@442 JAL lol- at chill girl. No, how about you don’t assume that I think it’s just because he’s a man he’s being calm and rational, m’kay?
Frankly there’s quite a few men here that aren’t being calm and rational so shove that theory.
and @440 Diane, I didn’t just reference conferences, did I? thanks
Comment 455 directly criticizes PZ for presuming guilt:
PZ – You are presuming guilt. In this country we have the presumption of innocence. The conference organizers have the obligation to determine the facts. Thus the need for the harassment policy and the various ways to report violations.
Comment 464 - now profanity is being thrown EBW's way...
FFS, now I’m an apologist for misogynist behavior? Are you fucking kidding? And I’m getting called a “dumbfuck”
Caine- I will need your real name so you can be sure not to be involved with any of my conferences. It’s terrible I treat people fairly.
Comment 494 contains a realization...
Oh FFS, people, it was made snarkily.
and Kate Waters? I suggest you get your facts straight.
I can see what happens with merely disagreeing here. It’s too bad.
Comment 501, EBW responds to being blasted by Kate Walters.
@496 Kate Walters
"My facts? That you’re a victim blaming, misogynistic “chill girl” who lacks basic reading comprehension? The facts you yourself have presented in this very thread?"
Yes, you clearly know me so well. Next you will tell me you are an FBI profiler. Hey kids, this has been fun. Go on to your next target.

And this is quite fitting, for it is glaringly obvious that Kate is a professional 'feminist'.

Comment 544 from EBW tries to clear things up for the especially dumb Pharyngula crowd:
Okay, let’s be very fucking clear. I, at no time, suppressed a harassment complaint. I do not want this lie being spread. I asked the person multiple times if she wanted to file it. She did not.
I have not spent all my time in this thread defending sexism misogyny and victim-blaming. 
I simply gave an observation that I didn’t like her tweeting her complaint FFS.
Comment 588 EBW strikes at the heart of the matter:
Kate Walters writes:"Anyone in her position ought to know you shouldn’t even discuss those matters outside of the complaint process or the administration of the organization unless you have express permission to do so, or until such a point as a formal complaint has been made within a system where it is clearly understood that such actions will be made openly and publicly"
Say, like TWEETING IT??
Comment 592, EllenBeth checks out of Pharyngula:
@Stacy, thanks for the assist. I apparently am the devil today here and can’t do or say anything right in commenters eyes. No worries. This “chill girl” won’t be back. You’ve ensured that.

One thought - is it not strange that to criticize Adria Richards is 'blaming the victim' yet at the same time the "FreeThoughtBlogs" crowd think its perfectly OK to tear into EllenBeth Wachs?

Was EllenBeth Wachs just asking for it, PZ Myers?

Saturday, March 23, 2013

What you should know about the dongle joke

Here is a short list of things that many people completely miss about the entire "dongle gate" situation. (back story here)

Before one hits the world to "support" one party or another in this whole mess, think about the following issues.


  1. Everybody was excited about how well represented women were at PyCon
    • "Dear world, I'm going back to celebrating that fact that #PyCon had 20% female attendees. I hope you will join me. Cheers, LH"
  2. Nobody actually has come forward and described the "dongle" joke in detail
  3. To "fork" a repo is a technical term, and was used in the context of it being a mark of code quality.
    • "I'd fork his repo" for example, was provided as a strange compliment
    • It has been denied that "fork" was meant to be a stand-in for "fuck"
  4. Adria Richards' role was "developer evangelist"
  5. Adria Richards herself tweeted dick jokes prior to the encounter
    • "you should put something in your pants next time...like a bunch of socks inside one...large...sock. TSA agent faint"
  6. Adria Richards tweeted her own bizarre philosophy about racism prior to this event:
    • Black people CANNOT be racist against White people. Racism is a position of the oppressor who has the power
  7. Adria Richards was playing "Cards Against Humanity" at the PyCon conference and posted a picture on Instagram.
    • Hint: The game is played precisely because it's inappropriate!
  8. Adria Richards publicized that her employer supported her without question:
    • "Hey @mundanematt, it's clear from the last 24 hours you're a bully. @SendGrid supports me. Stop trolling."
  9. Well before tweeting pictures of the male developers, Adria Richards made similar mistakes same mistakes at earlier engagements:
    • Danielle Morrill used the word "Money Shot" at a conference session title. Without talking to Danielle about it, Richards told her blog readers that Morrill was "promoting porn"
      • Adria's site, butyoureagirl.com, had article initially titled "Wordcamp Boston’s Ignite session turns to porn pitch for votes"
    • Made a scene of a comic Jane Wells created from an XKCD strip, arguing that the woman stick figure looked silly compared to the male stick figure.
  10. People are saying "Adria didn't want anyone to be fired". Yet she did not apologize to the developers, and even favorited this tweet that was dismissive of the consequences:
    • "@paxdickinson Pretty sure a python developer isn't going to be out of work for long in this market. Unless he makes dick jokes in interviews"
  11. The developers were in no way addressing Adria Richards.
    • They were not talking to Adria
    • The joke did not reference females in any way
    • There has been no evidence put forwards regarding any prior interaction between the parties involved
    • A sexual joke is not necessarily a sexist joke.
  12. The developers did not harass, threaten or intimidate Adria Richards in any way.
    • From the photo, it is obvious several males knew their photo was being taken by a rather attractive woman. From what they knew, she was going to post it on Facebook and caption it "Look at all the ugly neckbeards!" - but they didn't say a single word to her.


Put yourself in the position of her employer, SendGrid. You have an employee that finds themselves in this situation frequently - even in the company of other females. 

You have an employee that tweets using her company persona anything that happens to come to mind about race relations.

Furthermore, her job is developer evangelist. Her ability to do her job rests on a good relationship with the community at large.

The employee has told the masses of developers that the company has her back for all time, and that several of them are "trolls" circling around in an unsafe, anti-woman community.

Her entire identity has morphed into not something that interacts with the community at large in regards to its core goals, but rather one that stands out as critical of it.

The icing on the cake is that her choices harmed the reputation of other companies that attended the event.

A programming conference, at its core, exists not to propel some social justice agenda. It exists to talk about programming. If your ability to primarily engage people on that topic comes into question, you are no longer a developer evangelist.

So step back for a moment and ponder a terrible situation.

But do not, for one second, believe that Adria Richards is somehow a victim of a crime committed by the developers at that conference. 

Finally, the focused suggestion that SendGrid should simply re-hire Adria Richards is actually sexist. If you think sock-joke Adria should be employed while it's somehow OK for the dongle-joke male to be terminated, then you happen to host a sizable amount of gender bias.

The dongle joke feminism forgot

To get up to speed with the entire "donglegate" madness, you may want to start with Ars Technica's article.

And if you want a bit more background on double standards as they apply to jokes in public settings, you can read the previous set of "Jokes you aren't allowed to tell".

For other examples of feminists going crazy about Super Bowl commercials, have a look at the Audi commercial.

Now, back to dongles.



In the commercial, Amy Poehler plays a rather scatterbrained customer of Best Buy.

Not only is she portraying a blonde that is technically ignorant, her character also is preoccupied with her looks.

Holding up two phones beside her face, she asks:
"Which one fits my face?"
This is before she launches into a rather hysterical:
"ARE WE IN THE CLOUD NOW?"
Then the comments become sexual.

She pauses, gazes at Best Buy employee, and says suggestively:
"No, I mean, do you 'deliver'...?"
With half her body in washing machine, she asks:
"Which of these are the most vibraty-est?"
And then the million dollar joke:
"Can I use a dongle with this?"
"Does it make you uncomfortable when I use the word dongle?"
Taking a picture of the staff, she asks in a low voice:
"You wanna unbutton your shirt a little bit?"

And then the commericial wraps with Amy holding an e-reader, asking:
Amy : "Will this read 50 Shades of Grey to me in a sexy voice?
Employee : "No"
Amy : "Will you?"
Nothing about the commercial suggests the sexual advances were actually desired by the male. In fact with some menacing music and a more intimidating customer, the commercial could easily be converted into a "what not to do" human resources training video.

But no one will ever hear "feminists" being overwhelmingly angry about this video.

Nobody cares.

Why?

Well, for starters:

  1. The commercial is funny
  2. Amy Poehler rocks
  3. Sex jokes are not sexist by definition
  4. Sexual advances can be perfectly normal, and even [gasp!] funny.
Furthermore, Amy herself identifies as feminist. (The Slate article goes as far as to call Amy a "feminist superstar" and briskly dismisses Taylor Swift's criticism) 


The commercial and the facts surrounding its reception underline a simple conclusion.

A electronics retail giant and a "feminist superstar" collaborated create a marketing campaign for the Super Bowl and the result was almost entirely based on sexual humor. And it was well received.

It's a simple reality that the endless battle to crucify males making sex related jokes at skeptic/tech conferences is absolutely counterproductive.

Try for a moment to create a fast and simple rule to devise when a sex joke is inappropriate or an advance is creepy. It's difficult, which is why people fuck it up so often. It depends a lot on the situation, yet Twitter vigilantes and the internet hate machine will pass judgment before really understanding the perspective of anyone involved.

How do we end things like donglegate and elevatorgate?

Conferences could simply cut out sex jokes and alcohol. It could all end tomorrow.

Interesting people will go somewhere else or simply stay home.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Why all the bad language?

Two well-meaning people have picked up the baton for feminism and are eager to show how bad the "anti-fems" are.

Michael Nugent attempts to document the "nasty pushback" at the "SlymePit" forum.

The list compiled orbits use of the "c-word" applied to specific "feminist" females.

Additionally Eric MacDonald, a friend of PZ, has added his own two cents about language.

The opening salvo:
I have been following — at a distance — the dispiriting farrago of abuse and obscenity aimed at feminist atheists and their supporters. All the completely contemptuous remarks and stultifyingly offensive use of scatological and twatological language to try to get women freethinkers and sceptics to shut the fuck up.
A pointed question:
Why do people think, just because you can throw insults at people from a distance, that it is an appropriate thing to do?

And then a tangent:
One thing that does concern me about all this is that Michael Shermer seems to have lost the plot. He said something stupid. Ophelia Benson called him on it. But instead of simply saying, “Sorry,” and left it at that, he just had to go into a long rigmarole – he couldn’t help it, I guess — a male tic, apparently – that has a tendency to defend what he said, suggest that it was simply said as a matter of routine, because that’s the way it was when, and then pillory Ophelia for calling him on it in the first place. It makes no sense to me. Let’s get this quite straight, shall we? Women play as important a role in the freethought movement as men. [...] In the wider society sexual harassment and assault are still the norm, so, of course, we expect the odd reactionary yahoo amongst nonbelievers too.

And then a comment on Eric's post from one "makagutu"
Any one who must resort to use of abusive language does not need to engage with the public.
To which Eric responds: 
Precisely! That’s why I have steered clear of this topic, thinking that this kind of idiocy would just fade away.
Now, this crowd is accustomed to thinking, just What Would PZ Myers Do?

The answer - put words in your mouth.

PZ tweets:
Degrade them as cunts & bitches, like your bunch do, instead? RT @16bitheretic: idea: not having #wiscfi women degrade other women as tokens
 Classy as always.


Questions for these "can't we use nicer language?" folks:
  1. How do you feel about Ophelia Benson telling "them all" to "fuck off"?
  2. How do you feel about Atheism+'s profane dismissal of other feminists?
  3. How do you feel about Rebecca Watson calling a man an "angry virgin"?
  4. How do you feel about PZ Myers having a category called "fuckbrained assholes"?
  5. Do you share a favorite word with the Atheism+ forums?
  6. Do you think you can just take it for granted your critics support using the c-word, imply they are racist, or imply they are serial killers?
  7. Is calling someone a "sexist", "misogynist" an insult or do you get to just throw these accusations around?
  8. Do you mean to suggest Michael Shermer actually thinks women are less important than men? Are you suggesting that he is a "reactionary yahoo"?


It seems quite clear that this is the same old "feminist" tribalism we've seen for years now.

If you're hanging with the cool kids, you can troll Twitter. You can call people misogynists on your blog. You can suggest people like Richard Dawkins are sexist. 

You may drop f-bombs left and right. You can even suggest the other team (that you've created in your mind) supports a "rape culture"!

Also you may address critics as "your bunch" even if many of them would not dream to use slurs to describe you.

Then, when someone calls you a c-word, b-word, or calls you fat, suddenly a line is crossed. A decorum that never existed is somehow lost. 

How tiresome.

One final question.

Sylvia Browne. Phyllis Schafly. Shirley Phelps-Roper.

Pick a word that best describes them.