By Sasha - 10 Aug 2012

“Surly” Amy Davis Roth does more than her share.

Image copyright Amy Davis Roth.

As if creating the beloved and beautiful Surly-Ramics jewelry that has become one of the main social signifiers of the skeptic, atheist, nerd, and smartypants sets weren’t enough, Amy Davis Roth keeps bringing the awesome with her writing on Skepchick and at Mad Art Lab, plus her frequent appearances as a speaker and panelist. Then she goes and raises money to send women to the largest skeptic event on the planet as well as helping cure cancer. You’d think that would be enough to be fully qualified as a badass, but then she goes and does even more.

As I wrote about before Amy’s gone and contacted male leaders within the skeptic and atheist communities to ask if they would like to speak out against the hate being directed at women by the cadre of angry, bitter sexists within our communities. The response she’s gotten has been overwhelming, and I wanted to collect links to all of the statements she has so far to make sure people can see them.

And if that’s not enough, did you know that while bibles have been rumored to do so, her jewelry actually survives house fires.

 

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By Sasha - 06 Aug 2012

A lesson on shitlords from my local news.

Here in San Francisco domestic violence has been in the news for all of 2012. The abuser just happens to be our sheriff. I’m bringing it up because it’s a public case that documents many of the strategies employed by misogynist shitlords when they’re confronted by distaste from decent people.

Ross Mirkarimi was elected sheriff of the city and county of San Francisco in November of 2011. Over New Year’s Mirkarimi and his wife Eliana Lopez got into an argument that became physical. Lopez went to a neighbor who was a fundraiser for Mirkarimi’s election campaign. Lopez showed the neighbor bruises and made a video to document the abuse. Lopez told the neighbor that she wanted to document the abuse because of fears that Mirkarimi would take their children away from her. Lopez indicated that she had been telling Mirkarimi that they “need help.” The next day Lopez contacted the neighbor and implored her not to contact the police about the abuse. Two days after that, on January 4th the neighbor did call the police. The investigation became public on Friday the 6th — two days before Mirkarimi was due to assume his duties as sheriff. Under a cloud of controversy – but with no charges formally pressed — Mirkarimi was sworn in as sheriff on January 8th.

On January 12th the police contacted another neighbor who reported that Lopez had told them about the New Years abuse, displayed her bruise, and said that this was the second time in a year that Mirkarimi had assaulted her. Lopez ended this conversation with the second neighbor by saying that she didn’t know what to do because Mirkarimi had warned her that he was “a very powerful man.” At the end of this conversation Mirkarimi arrived with their son who told the neighbor that Mirkarimi had caused the bruise on his mother’s arm. The next day Mirkarimi was arrested and charges with domestic battery, child endangerment, and dissuading a witness.

Mirkarimi plead not guilty to the crimes, but over the course of the preparation for the trial and his attempts to discount the evidence against him failed he ended up copping a guilty plea to a charge of false imprisonment in exchange for the more damning charges being dropped. He was sentenced to three years of probation, 100 hours of community service, 52 weeks of domestic violence classes, a $400 domestic violence fine, as well as parenting and family counseling.

SF mayor Ed Lee gave Mirkarimi a chance to quit or be fired. When Mirkarimi refused to quit Lee began proceedings for a misconduct trial to have Mirkarimi removed, saying bluntly:

“I think that as one of the top law enforcement officials for the city, he ought not to have engaged in the beating of his wife…. I just think that the violence against a spouse was not appropriate for occupying that office.”

The misconduct trial is ongoing at the time of this writing, but here are some interesting thing I want to touch on. The details surrounding this that may right familiar when you deal with shitlords in your life.

  1. Mirkarimi had an established history as “a tyrant”.” In other words people knew he was a jerk, just didn’t know how big a jerk he was capable of being. You see this time and time again. Those people who keep sticking their foot in their mouths and getting pridehurt about being accused of sexism? They are often (though not always) the ones who have shocking and dismaying behind-the-scenes behaviors.
  2. Mirkarimi initially tried to say that him abusing his wife was “a family matter” and therefore weren’t appropriate for anyone to even be discussing. Compare this to the tendency of anti-feminists who say that talking about harassment, abuse, and sexism have nothing at all to do with skepticism so STFU already.
  3. When domestic violence activists staged a protest outside Mirkarimi’s office he sent the following text: “Unbelievable! Beverly knows that I’ve always been a fervent supporter of the dv community. am I really guilty until proven innocent … we know of the political forces at work here and yet, I’m advised to say nothing” Compare this to the frequent claims from sexists, homophobes, racists, etc that “I’m an ally, how dare you point out my bad behavior!”
  4. Mirkarimi’s few supporters have taken to painting him as the victim of a smear campaign by bullies. Compare this to the ridiculous #FTBullies tag on twitter and the frequent claims that Rebecca Watson and the Skepchicks are callously abusing people rather than themselves being subject to a campaign of bullying and angry threats.
  5. Mirkarimi has most recently taken to using the “Ed Lee is a liar and he lied and I’m still a victim” strategy to derail the campaign for San Francisco to not have a domestic abuser as sheriff. Compare, again, the the frequent ridiculous claims that feminist skeptics and atheists make shit up that happen when the antis in our community run out of logical fallacies to hurl at us.

Now to be clear in case any of the antis are reading this, I am not saying that the people who are so amazingly hurt by feminists talking about feminism in their sandbox are actually domestic abusers. What I am saying is that the bigoted shitlord mentality is one shared by abusers like Mirkarimi and the antis trying to tear apart our movements. Not only do they share a mentality, but they share many of the same tactics when under pressure and out of options. Food for thought.

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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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