So, Rebecca Watson once again pointed out what should be a no-brainerâ€“only to have her point ignored by people who want to quibble with her wording. â€œOh, noes! Rebecca titled her post, â€˜Reddit Makes Me Hate Atheistsâ€˜! Oh, noes! But this isnâ€™t about atheists!â€
Actually, yes, it is. Rebecca already made the connection in her post, in case you need reminding:
Why would she ever want to be a part of any atheist community, if thatâ€™s how sheâ€™s treated? The next time you look around your atheist events and wonder where all the women are, think of this and know that there are at least some of us who arenâ€™t willing to just accept this culture without trying to change it.
Hereâ€™s the thing, boys and girls: I donâ€™t get this crap anywhere else I choose to invest my time. I donâ€™t get it from my friends, because those people donâ€™t get the privilege of remaining my friend. I donâ€™t get it at work, where theyâ€™ve gone well beyond the basic legal requirements in order to make it a place where women also have rewarding work and an opportunity for advancement. As a result, Iâ€™m surrounded by smart, confident people of various genders who take everybody seriously. There is the very rare sexist idiot, but the conspiracies we create to work around these people are open and supportive.
I donâ€™t even get it in those legendary bastions of â€œsocial ineptitude,â€ fantasy and science fiction fandom and conventions. Donâ€™t get me wrong. There are definitely still problems, but predators and discriminatory publishing practices are considered problems of the community, and the institutions that support the problems are rightly pressured (and aided) to fix themselves. This â€œweâ€™re so helpless in the face of a few bad actorsâ€ nonsense doesnâ€™t fly.
This is very much about atheism. Itâ€™s also about the more general skeptical community, of course, but atheism is a big part of that and getting bigger.
No, this is the community in which I get, â€œWe have this female guest weâ€™d like to have on the show. Would you care to interview her?â€ This is the community in which we get high-profile writers saying, â€œPiffle. I have no need to condemn the bad behavior of those people I was just joking around with.â€ This is the community in which a leader of an organization goes around telling people (all women that Iâ€™ve seen so far), â€œOh, heâ€™s a friend of mine. Heâ€™s a nice guy. Iâ€™m sure youâ€™re just misinterpreting what he said,â€ or liking it on Facebook when someone complains that skeptical woman is being all emotional over a scientific issue. This is the community in which Rebeccaâ€™s cheerful acknowledging of a mistake is used to suggest her worth as a skeptic is zilch, while Brian Dunningâ€™s stubborn embrace of DDT disinformation costs him nothing.
I write in this community about rape and issues of consent. I get MRAs in my comments, but theyâ€™re no big deal. Everyone can see them. I also get commenters who say, â€œWell, yes, MRA = bad. However, he had a point about this tricky legal question.â€ They get all butthurt when I say, â€œItâ€™s nothing like tricky if it never happens. If youâ€™re not sure you have consent, donâ€™t have sexâ€“unless youâ€™re willing to be a rapist.â€ Theyâ€™re just there for an intellectual conversation in which potential sexual partners have all the humanity of chess pieces. And people tell me I should be nicer to them.
I get links to those posts from skeptic and atheist forums, where someone is using them to try to counteract the victim blaming and doubting in the latest high-profile rape accusation. That means I get to see them completely ignored as our oh-so-rational friends pull hypotheticals out of their asses and cite the Duke Lacrosse team as though it were a legal precedent in order to make the case that the accuser is probably lying her pathetic little ass off. These are our forums, people. Thatâ€™s what they look like.
I write about IQ and bad science. Iâ€™ve got a university professor, the guy who is best known in atheist circles for having his MySpace atheist group discriminated against, who shows up on every one of these posts to suggest I really shouldnâ€™t be writing about the topic without more expertise. He canâ€™t actually find anything wrong with what I write, but he knows these researchers are nice guys, and he, personally, finds their conclusions reasonable despite lousy methodology. So I need more expertise. Guess how many times heâ€™s done the same thing to a guyâ€“or been called on that bullshit.
Same guy, Bryan Pesta for the record, is the fellow who followed a link from one of my blog posts to someone outside this community. She was complaining about a guy who ignored her repeated insistence that she wasnâ€™t online to get hit on. Bryanâ€™s response? I paraphrase: â€œNow that youâ€™ve dumped him, how about you and me? Huh?â€ When I asked him whether he also sexually harassed his students, his response was legalistic. The response of other commenters was to suggest he was joking. No shit, he was joking. He just found it perfectly acceptable to make her the target of his joke, and these other commenters apparently couldnâ€™t figure out why this was a problem.
In addition to writing, I also do this little skeptical convention experience called Skepchickcon. That would be where I was in July, on my way to a panel in a room so full of F&SF geeks hungry for skepticism and science programming that there wasnâ€™t even standing room left, when I heard about Dawkins comments about someone who â€œcalls herself Skepâ€™chick.â€™â€ Iâ€™d already noted, after another conference in January brought it up, that I can write those science posts or solid atheist reasoning and rabble-rousing posts like yesterdayâ€™s response to Massimo Pigliucci. I can do those conventions and reach the audiences we say we want to reach. But I really only get seen when I talk about â€œwomenâ€™s issues,â€ and when I do, I now know the leaders and icons of the movement Iâ€™m working for have already decided Iâ€™m whining about trivialities.
Many people have also decided that when Iâ€™m writing about this bullshit, Iâ€™m only in it for the clicks. That reasoning, for the record, is about as sound as that of the people who say atheists arenâ€™t responsible for the sexism Rebecca talked about in her post because the young woman in question made the front page of Redditâ€“after the pretty girl was voted up that far by atheists. These posts donâ€™t get more clicks. My other posts on more traditionally male subject matter get fewer. If people clicked on those more, where would be the incentive to write about sexism?
Oh, right. Iâ€™m still a part of this community. Iâ€™m still volunteering my time, energy, and yes, expertise to this movement. And doing thatâ€“and making a differenceâ€“I still have to put up with all this crap. Rebecca is entirely right. I donâ€™t have to like yâ€™all in order to do it, just think itâ€™s important. And right now, yes, Iâ€™m rather hating atheists. However, itâ€™s only because youâ€™re awful.