Sunday, June 17, 2012

A note to those who say they oppose sexism and misogyny in the atheist-skeptical movement

If you say

I think sexism, misogyny, and harassment of women, including in this community, are real problems that need to be addressed,

you should stop there and consider what you’re actually doing and could be doing to counter them and how you might be contributing to them. If you then say

BUT feminists really shouldn’t talk publicly about their experiences, shouldn’t write blog posts about the subject, shouldn’t object to slurs, shouldn’t take sexually violent language seriously, shouldn’t be angry, should name names, shouldn’t name names, shouldn’t call out any man who’s ever done anything to support women, shouldn’t call out any man who considers himself their ally, shouldn’t call out prominent men, should only discuss prominent men, shouldn’t call out women who say misogynistic things, shouldn’t call out young people, shouldn’t organize events focusing on women, should mute their criticisms to protect skeptical organizations or events, shouldn’t talk about what’s said on Facebook, shouldn’t talk about what’s said on Twitter, shouldn’t talk about what’s said on YouTube, shouldn’t turn a skeptical eye to sexist “science,” should let their experiences go unexpressed because other women have it worse, should be more polite, should be less polite, should painstakingly qualify their every statement to make it less likely to be misconstrued by those with hostile intent, should calmly describe the entire history of the arguments to everyone who jumps into them ignorant of the context, should give the benefit of the doubt to every guy who’s done or said something sexist, should frame the issues in this or that way, shouldn’t talk about patriarchy, shouldn’t talk about privilege, shouldn’t talk about rape culture, should constantly and patiently explain sociological concepts to their interlocutors, should only discuss problems that affect them personally, shouldn’t work to change official policies, should only work through official organizational channels, should only focus on this or that part of the problem, should never analogize their situation or women’s oppression to anything else, should be more aggressive, should be less aggressive, shouldn’t insult people, shouldn’t ban commenters from their blogs, shouldn’t strenuously object to mischaracterizations of their statements,…,

you should realize that this belies your claim to caring about the problems and wanting to help address them, and recognize that you are contributing to the problem. If you insist on your preconditions for listening to and supporting feminists in their struggles against sexism and misogyny, you’re acting in a way that is harmful to the cause you claim to support.


  1. Well said. It reminds me of Greta Christina's "Yes, But..." post.

  2. (which is Australian for "farken oath", which is slang for, "spot on" :-)

  3. Brilliant. One of the benefits that has come from these $#!+storms is teaching those who genuinely want to be allies (as opposed to those who only say they do) where they may have been unknowingly harmful in the past. Many on the Pharyngula threads have said as much. Posts like this one can be particularly helpful in this regard: comprehensive, clearly stated, with impeccable logic.

  4. This should be obvious, yet it needs to be said over and over again.

    Thank you for this.