Answers to the Wrong Reponses

Rebecca Watson is at it again… terrorizing the Internetz with her whole “being right” thing… When will she learn?

Anyways, yesterday she linked to a Reddit thread in which a 15 year old girl (screen name Lunam) posted a picture of herself holding a copy of Carl Sagan’s The Demon Haunted World. The tactic that many chose to take with her was to then post comment after comment about raping her (mostly via sodomy). Rebecca Watson pointed out (I’m paraphrasing here) that this is bad.

Today Greta Christina posted a similar blog (both about this particular event as well as the larger context of sexism that exists) which begins with a list of “Yes but…” comments which try to trivialize the horrible things that get said against women in situations like this.

Both of those posts say everything much better that I possibly could, but I wanted to take a few minutes and respond individually to the “Yes but…” comments that Greta began her article with. I don’t know if they were meant to be rhetorical or if they were direct quotes taken from idiots on the web (I’m really hoping the former) but either way I’ve definitely seen and heard similar statements by people and would like to clarify (for any confused) why they are stupid.

“Yes, but… not all men are like that. And if you’re going to talk about misogyny, you have to be extra-clear about that.”

Why? If you’re reading this post (or, more likely, Rebecca’s or Greta’s) odds are you’re an atheist. I also think it would be fair to bet that you’ve had your complaints about religion in the past. So do you phrase these as “As nice as most priests are, it sure would be swell if those extra-bad priests would stop raping little kids.” or do you get angry and yell from the rooftops that we need to stop the child-raping motherfuckers from ever touching another kid? For a rationally-minded community, you’d think a little thought could go into the idea that yes, we all know not all men are evil, just as not all women are good. Nobody should have to spell this out every time someone wants to make a point about an offence that’s been committed.

“Yes, but… misogyny doesn’t just happen in (X) community (atheist, black, gay, etc.). In fact, it’s worse in some other communities. So it’s not fair to talk about misogyny when it does happen in (X) community, as if it’s something special that we’re doing wrong.”

I’m going to go back to the pedophile analogy from above because hopefully we can all agree that raping children is wrong, and adding to it the recent Penn State scandal: “Child rape doesn’t just happen at Penn State. In fact, many more children are raped by Catholic priests. So it’s not fair to talk about the Penn State incident as if it’s something special that they were doing wrong.” I’m really hoping that sounds as stupid to you as it does to me. Just because worse things are out there doesn’t mean we should be any less vocal about other injustices that exist.

“Yes, but… (X) community where misogyny happens has some great things about it, too. It’s not fair to paint everyone in it with the same brush.”

Your community has some great things going for it? Awesome! Let’s get rid of the shitty parts (in this case, the stuff that makes women not want to join you) and then we can all be awesome together!

“Yes, but… the woman/ women in question could have done something to avoid the misogyny she got targeted with. She/ they could have stayed anonymous/ concealed her gender/ dressed differently/etc. I’m not saying it’s her fault, but…”

You’re partly right here. To take the example of Lunam from Reddit, she could easily have posted just a picture of the book and (possibly) avoided the deluge of sexual comments that followed. The point is why should she have to? Most any guy could post the exact same photo (with himself instead of her) and presumably wouldn’t have been subjected to the barrage that followed for her. But this girl (and anyone like her) needs to hide her face to be taken seriously? There are already places in the world where women aren’t allowed to show their faces, and I suspect that very few of you would actually want to go and live there. If you want to be anonymous on the Internet, you have that option. But you should also be given the option of being allowed to be yourself and taken seriously by those around you.

“Yes, but… the woman/ women in question didn’t behave absolutely perfectly in all respects. Why aren’t we talking about that?”

For two reasons. Because A) not everybody shares the same interpretation of her actions as you, and B) even if we did, it doesn’t necessarily excuse what was done to her by others. Context matters, but there’s very little context that could excuse telling a 15 year old girl that her blood will form a natural lubricant as you sodomize her.

“Yes, but… the person writing about this incident didn’t behave absolutely perfectly in all respects. Why aren’t we talking about that?”

Because the coverage of an incident has absolutely nothing to do with the incident itself. If you doubt someone’s journalistic integrity then that’s one issue, but when you can see the original story free from any potential bias, it shouldn’t affect the actual facts regarding the incident itself.

“Yes, but… there are worse problems in the world. Starving people in Africa, and so on. Why are you complaining about this?”

If you try to pull this excuse then I hope that everyone in your life resolves to repeat this back to you the next time you mention having a headache or stubbing your toe. Bad things are bad. Worse things are bad. Let’s fix both of them.

“Yes, but… gender expectations hurt men, too. Why aren’t we talking about that?”

Because that’s not typically the topic at hand when this gets brought up. Its a non-sequitur. There are articles about this. In 10 seconds of googling I found these two. I’m sure there are more. Why not try posting there? Failing that, why not start your own blog about how gender expectations hurt everyone?

“Yes, but… people are entitled to freedom of speech. How dare you suggest that speech be censored by requesting that online forums be moderated?”

People are entitled to freedom of speech, but not freedom from the effects of your speech. If I come into your home and start ranting about how Hitler was an okay guy, or the ways in which I would like to bang your wife; odds are you would not find me at all endearing and would kick me out of your house. This is your right. Even if you do, I still have the right to keep saying these things, just not from within your private home. That’s freedom of speech. Similarly, online forums are privately established. Your freedom of speech doesn’t apply. But! even if you don’t kick me out of your home, you may still want to talk to me about how my ideas are stupid or insensitive. We can do this too. And from what I can tell, this is the approach most feminists are taking in calling out the misogynists  in the atheist and skeptical communities. I, for one, prefer that this is the approach they take because it’s more entertaining for me to read when they call you all a bunch of assholes.

“Yes, but… calling attention to misogyny just makes it worse. Don’t feed the trolls. You should just ignore it.”

By allowing the trolls to shut me up and change who I am, they’ve won anyways. This isn’t about them. This is about otherwise well-meaning men (and women) who have had these attitudes about women ingrained into them from a very early age, and trying to effect social change by pointing out that their outlooks are outdated and illogical. We’re not about to let a couple of trolls stop us from getting our message out there. Besides, trolls can’t regenerate from fire or acid wounds.

“Yes, but… do you have to be so angry and emotional and over-sensitive about it? That doesn’t help your argument or your cause.”

Yes. Yes we do. Anger is a powerful tool that is directly responsible for every successful social movement in history. Here’s a video explaining how it works. Yeah, it’s 48 minutes long. Suck it up.

“Yes, but… what about male circumcision?”

It’s bad. What’s your point? Again, this is typically used as a non-sequitur. There are valid points to be made about how horrible male circumcision is, but they need not be made at the expense or the trivialization of other problems in society. You care so much about this issue? Start doing something about it. Spamming the comment sections for unrelated issues just comes across as lazy.

“Yes, but… Rebecca Watson or some other feminist said something mean or unfair in another conversation weeks/ months/ years ago. Why aren’t we talking about that?”

Wait, people aren’t talking about Rebecca Watson? I’m so confused… Did I wake up in the mirror universe again? That could explain the goatee… But seriously, we’re not talking about it because it was weeks/months/years ago and it isn’t related to the topic at hand. Additionally, feminists are not all one huge group. Just because one of them hurt your feelings however long ago doesn’t mean that it invalidates something you’re reading now. Newsflash: you can disagree with someone about one thing and agree with them about another. That’s part of what skepticism is: objective analysis.

“Yes, but… why is it so terrible to ask a woman for coffee in a hotel elevator at four in the morning?”

Because it makes her uncomfortable, she just spend several hours talking about how it makes her uncomfortable, and if your goal is sincere in actually wanting to get to know her over coffee then you should be doing everything in your power not to be making her uncomfortable.

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