By Sasha - 03 Aug 2012

Ordinary men speaking out against misogyny.

More The Men is not about me, it’s about all men speaking out in favor of diversity. Last week I asked people to comment here, email me, or link me to comments elsewhere where they, as ordinary guys, speak out against the recent campaign of misogynistic abuse directed at women in our communities. Many of you took a stand and told the haters that you are not on their side:

dasregal:

Threats and intimidation are never acceptable. You have a right to disagree. You do not have a right to attempt to scare or bully others into silence.

We don’t need or want people like that as part of our community. Nobody does.

wbrinkman:

There will be disagreements in any community. Sometimes they will be heated.

When those disagreements turn into threats of violence and intimidation, a line is crossed.

Most people in the skeptical and secular communities are decent people, but there are vocal few who are not. When these people call for women to be raped or beaten, they hurt all of us. They silence valuable voices within secularism. They discourage others, men and women, from joining secular groups. They provide powerful statements that enemies of secularism will use against us.

They have a right to speak, but we also have a right to speak out. We have a right to say that if you want to kick someone, we don’t want you around. If you have to ask if raping someone is moral, then do society a favor and lock yourself away.

There is no perfect code of conduct, and we are not perfect individuals, but we can and should try to do better. There may be a fuzzy line, but we should stand up to people who are way past that line.

PatrickG:

There has been an appalling amount of vitriol and hatred towards a number of women (and men) who have advanced the apparently shocking argument that women deserve to be treated as people. I want to speak specifically of my reaction to this, and how that comes across to me.  Mind you, I’m a straight white male, aged 18-35, and the abuse I get from online commenters is peanuts compared to what women deal with, both online and in meatspace.

I cannot discuss issues or work with people who call me a “mangina” or a “feminist-licker just hoping to get laid” simply because I think rape is a very real issue, and “jokes” about it contribute to real harm. I cannot engage with people who tolerate (even encourage!) this behavior in their communities. If you have no problem with the abuse directed at the SkepChicks and others, count me out as a potential ally, because I want nothing to do with you.

Your voice matters. Please add it to our chorus today.

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By Sasha - 01 Aug 2012

Rape Culture and Skepticism

I’m 36 years old and I’ve never raped anyone. I recently spent almost a whole day reading that now infamous Reddit thread [serious trigger warnings for all sorts of awfulness] inviting sexual abusers and rapists to tell their side the story. I didn’t want to read it at first. I read the articles about it. I circled it…and then like probing an open wound I kept worrying at it. I wanted to understand why. I read and was depressed, sickened, angered. And I noticed some unifying themes.

Most of the rapists posting don’t think what they did was actually rape. They seem to acknowledge that it was “technically” rape — otherwise why would they be posting there? They all have some sob story about how they were in “a weird place” or were “socially awkward”, they were virgins, they were drunk and horny. Some of them talk about how their victim got into their beds. How their victim initiated one kind of physical intimacy. Then, always, in every case, they wanted to do something that their partner did not want to do or was not conscious for. Then they raped someone.

Rapists sometimes jump out of bushes in the night, but they usually don’t. Rapists work with you, they go to your school, they are in your family. Recent polling suggests that about 2% of the US population is a gay or lesbian man or woman. How many gay or lesbian people do you know? A study of college students in 1987 had 4.5% of the men self identify as rapists. Think about that. Let that sink in. Let that turn your stomach.

Most men are not rapists, but a staggering number of them are. They don’t see them selves as rapists in most cases, I’m sure, but when you have sex with someone against their will you have raped them. There are no mitigating circumstances. I’ve been a drunk, horny, virgin, who was socially awkward, and in a weird place – but I never raped anyone. Not once.That’s not a super power, folks. That’s just how you’re supposed to behave.

In that 1987 study 4.5% of the men surveyed decided that what they wanted was the most important thing in the world. I see men talking about how to be careful so that they don’t get accused of rape by basically telling men not to be rapists and I’m furious and disgusted. This is what rape culture is. It’s a society where rapists don’t have to admit they’re rapists because so much goddamned rape is tolerated and treated as normal. It’s a society where people talk about punishing rapists by raping them.

And you know what? Skepticism and atheism are a part of rape culture. People ask if raping specific people they disagree with is immoral and no one is really shocked. We’re most of us appalled, but are any of us shocked? That is rape culture.

And now a personal anecdote. I was at a national skeptic event. I met a prominent male skeptic at a party. You’ve heard of him, but no I’m not telling you who. You don’t need to be a woman to have your reputation destroyed by naming names of powerful people. Said famous and powerful skeptic role model commented on my appearance, said that many of his gay friends would like me. He said that I should visit him so that I could be drugged and raped by his gay friends. He meant this as a joke. Many people would especially dismiss it as a joke because I’m a big cis man

And that’s rape culture. And rape culture is in our movement. I want it out.

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By Topher - 30 Jul 2012

It could happen to you

There’s been a lot of talk posted recently about sexual harassment policies, rape jokes, and the like. Somehow people have developed the idea that complaining about harassment is the root problem, and that it’s ok to make jokes about sexual assault. The handful of people who have spoken out against these ideas have been attacked and threatened online. Perhaps this is a general symptom of the internet’s distance and relative anonymity, but I see it as something far worse: a pervasive idea that sexual assault is a women’s problem, and they should deal with it silently and in private.

Sexual assault is not exclusively a woman’s problem. While the vast and unfortunate majority of reported victims are women, at least one estimate states that roughly 10% of sexual assault victims in the US are male. According to the CDC, 6% of men experience sexual coercion at some point in life. Our machismo culture may even be skewing the reports, as some authors suspect that even fewer men are willing to come forward than women.

Today, that ends for me.

I, a straight male Caucasian, am a survivor of sexual harassment/assault.

I was roughly 10 years old and going door to door in my neighborhood to raise sponsorships for a charity walk. At one house, the old man invited me inside and asked for my sales pitch. [I’m shaking as I write this, so I am going to skip the intermediate details. Suffice that he made me kiss him on the lips, then went upstairs to “get his wallet.” At that point I fled the house, returned home, and told my parents. They chose not to make a report. Thankfully, I never saw him again.]

I know that I am very fortunate, in that the nature of the assault was far more limited than most suffer. However it was assault. It was wrong.

Why am I announcing this to the world? I can’t possibly expect justice so long after the fact. I have long ago come to terms with the experience and accepted that I was not at fault, that he was wrong, and that I can continue a normal life. Yet the recent uproar in JREF and other groups clearly shows that sexual assault is stigmatized as a “woman’s problem”, be it rape, harassment, inequitable treatment, or a lack of support for victims. This is wrong, and I believe this is part of why so many men refuse to take a stand against it. Even laying aside the HUGE issue that harassment and assault are simply wrong behaviors, men need to realize that they are potential victims as well. On those grounds alone, ‘enlightented self interest’ should make them stand up and speak out.

Guys, if you won’t stand against harassment for the women’s sake, then stand against it for your own.

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By Sasha - 27 Jul 2012

Speaking out against hate.

On Sunday Surly Amy answered a question from a reader about how to deal with all the vile hate being directed at outspoken women. She provided some examples of the stuff out there being directed at feminist women, and it’s pretty despicable. I’m sure most of you reading this have seen it’s like before and have asked yourself  “What can I do?” The answer is alarmingly simple. You can speak out.

On TuesdayWednesday, and Thursday Amy posted statements from leaders in the secular and skeptic communities speaking out against the disgusting minority that is trying to silence women. She’s asking male leaders in our movements to raise their voices against the horrible people who are trying to steal something important from us and make sure it is a place where their hate and bigotry is welcome.

I have good news for you. You don’t have to be famous or be a “leader” to tell these people that you don’t agree with them. You can raise your voice here or anywhere else online and say that you a man in the secular and/or skeptic community who disavows this hateful minority. You don’t need to be eloquent, just be direct. Tell these jerks you won’t put up with them and tell women that you want their contributions.

Comment here and I will highlight your voice. Email me and I will post it for you. Comment elsewhere and let me know where you spoke out and I will link to it. Share this post far and wide and let men know that their voice matters.

This is not men against women, this is positive people against hate. Join us.

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By Sasha - 25 Jul 2012

There’s no shame in being a male feminist.

And can we talk about why it’s “unmanly” to abstain from meat?

Because of my name and the poor reading comprehension of most misogynists I’ve gotten one rape threat while writing about feminism. That’s nothing compared to what women get. The way society tries to silence women is appalling and well documented. It really turns the stomach of anyone with a trace of humanity. Society has other, gentler, ways of silencing and dismissing feminist men, though. I want to talk about those today, not to climb on a cross or to equate what male feminists like me experience to what women encounter, but to show men that they’re not alone when these things get hurled at them. I want other men to know they’re not alone and that they don’t have to be silent or feign neutrality about equality just because society wants them to.

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By Tesla's Butler - 23 Jul 2012

Nine Months Of Mental Labor

All men look like this while thinking. All. Men.

When Elevatorgate blew up, I didn’t get it.  It wasn’t that I was firmly in the camp of sexism deniers, but I argued a lot of irrelevent, tangential ideas and failed to understand the central objection that was being raised.  I orbited around the issue for a long time before things really started to click into place, and even now I know I have some hard, mental work left to do.

What’s important however, is that my views on priviliege have evolved.  I’ve managed to take concepts that were alien to me, recontextualize them in my own understanding, and accept them as legitimate critiques of the subcultures I belong to.  This took no great genius on my part, I owe my progress to people who were willing to explain things to me and debate the points I disagreed with them on.  I know I’ve sometimes been exhausting to have these discussions with, but I’m incredibly grateful and humbled that people bothered to change my mind.

It wasn’t always easy on my end either.  It can be difficult to sort through the mixed messages that I was receiving and disassemble them to find what people were really intending to say.  The human brain excells at erecting strawmen in defense of cherished notions.  The hardest part of all was remaining open-minded to people who sometimes upset me and learning to let go of ideas that once seemed so right to me.

And although it wasn’t a painless process, I’m happier with where I am today.  When I see opinions that used to make me feel defensive or upset and I can proudly agree with them instead, I feel a deep satisfaction that I cannot commit to words.  It’s the kind of satisfaction that only a true skeptic knows.

I’d like to thank everybody who argues with people like me about these things.  It can seem thankless, pointless, and exhausting, but the kind of progress you’re making is often invisible.

Sometimes it’s harder to let people know that you’re starting to doubt than to actually doubt; pride’s a [non-gendered insult].

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By Sasha - 20 Jul 2012

Dear Secular Skeptic

Since women in the industrialized world have things so good compared to women in countries run by brown religious people and should just STFU already about sexism in their lives, I have prepared a handy list of things you should stop talking about because there are so many worse things happening in the world.

  • Stop writing about or investigating ghosts and cryptozoology at home. Don’t you know there are people being killed as witches in Africa?
  • Stop complaining about what religious conservatives are doing in your own country. Aren’t you aware that atheism and blasphemy carry a death sentence in other countries?
  • Don’t worry your little head about the science curricula in your locals schools. Some countries don’t even have schools.
  • Worrying about herd immunity and vaccine denialism in industrialized nations  is pretty stupid when you consider that in some countries people think that raping a virgin cures AIDS.

I think you see what I’m doing here. My point is that anti-feminists who say “It’s worse for women elsewhere, so STFU” are hypocrites and are seasoning their hypocrisy with some xenophobic racism. Please remind them of that (or direct them here) when you see them dismiss people working toward equality.

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By Sasha - 18 Jul 2012

You call it a controversy, I call it denialism.

Artist’s rendering of many skeptic and atheist discussion boards.

I’m tired of calling the discussion about sexism within the skeptic and atheist movements a “controversy”. As I see it,  what myself and others who talk about the fact that our communities are as subject to sexism (and racism, homophobia, transphobia, etc) as the rest of society are encountering is denialism. Look, we know that skeptics and atheists aren’t perfect. Aspiring to an ideal of rationality and fairness doesn’t make us perfect, it just means we’re trying to be better. As we know, there are prominent skeptics involved in serious legal troubles. There are prominent skeptics with troubling views about climate change. Skeptics and atheists are people, flawed and aspiring to be better — just like everyone in the world.

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By Matt - 16 Jul 2012

Misogyny in the Skeptical Movement: “Don’t Feed the Trolls” Panel from SkepchickCon 2012

 

While at Convergence/SkepchickCon 2012 this past weekend, I did a lot of things, but one of the most fruitful and important was to attend the “Don’t Feed the Trolls” panel on the second day of the Con. The panel consisted of a number of prominent female skeptics (Rebecca Watson, Cristina Rad, Stephanie Zvan, and Heina Dadabhoy) along with a couple of male colleagues (Greg Laden and Jason Thibeault) discussing the issues of gender attitudes, sexism, and misogyny in the skeptical movement. I think having these discussions in an open, public format is important, because there are a number of trolls out there who are not interested in reasoned, calm discussion on these issues; instead they are interested in intimidating those with whom they disagree and are attempting to silence them.

So, in an effort to light candles rather than curse the darkness, I wanted to share with you the discussion I was able to (very roughly – I was not able to get every word down) transcribe. The talk was extremely well-attended (about 300-400 people were present) and the audience Q&A was very useful. If you are at all concerned with these issues, please read my transcription and pass it along…

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By Sasha - 13 Jul 2012

Skeptics and atheists are mostly horrible at comedy.

83% of skeptics think this guy is hilarious.

We all know about this latest Daniel Tosh thing. As Lindy West explains, you can make a rape joke if you’re doing comedy right. This got me thinking of what passes for “comedy” with most skeptics and atheists. It’s shit. Horrible, horrible shit. First you have the “science comedians” or “atheist comedians” who have tepid, hacky jokes pandering the the interests and opinions of skeptics and atheists. Here’s a made up example:

“Well I’ll be a monkey’s uncle! Well, actually more like a monkey’s cousin because while we share a common ancestor it wasn’t recent enough to classify as an avuncular relationship…unlike stupid Christians think we believe!”

I think you have all seen or heard or read gags of this caliber. They’re pretty dreadful, right? Why on earth do we keep booking them at our conferences again?

Then you get the juvenile comedy. Now, I like schoolyard jokes – in moderation. But the thing is I’m a person who likes to think. I like jokes that challenge me and make me think around corners. If your body of work is almost entirely based around “Wouldn’t it be hilarious if [thing or person that irritates skeptics and/or atheists] got kicked in the nuts?!?!” then you’re a hack and you’re not funny. At the very least you can’t keep making the same joke over and over again and expect me to think you’re talented or skilled at comedy. I’m well known for making dick jokes, but I make different dick jokes as often as possible and try to make them clever. Skeptics: stop going for low-hanging fruit. (See what I did there? Ha! Fruit = nuts = testicles for kicking! I hate myself for that.)

Then you have the angry, miserable bullies. Last night Jason Thibeault tipped us to TAM speaker Doug “Show us where babies feed!” Stanhope describing TAM as a gathering for bitter, miserable people who like jokes about rape, and there are the guys (they almost all seem to be guys) who are doing their damnedest to prove Stanhope right. Take a look (if you don’t mind being miserable for a while) at the @AngrySkepchick feed on Twitter as an example. The impotent rage is palpable. It’s just angry bullying with attempts at “comedy” based upon sexist stereotypes of “feminazis” rather than a sarcastic or parodic twist on any of the actual people the person or persons running the account are obviously so upset about. It’s just a stream of unfunny bile that doesn’t ask anyone to think, it just invites you to be equally frustrated and angry. That’s not comedy. That’s a temper tantrum.

A perfect storm of the Dunning-Kruger effect, stunted senses of humor, and flailing rage using humor as a cloak have created what almost looks like a wasteland of unfunniness in our communities. Luckily this Friday I can point you to some actually funny skeptics and atheists. You’re welcome. (Links go to Twitter, if you can’t find their other stuff from there, that’s their fault.)

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