There will be a transcript soon, and then I will resign myself to being thoroughly outraged and disgusted. The Conversation has inevitably led to insane and sometimes vicious pushback against the women who are merely requesting mechanisms to enforce civilized behavior. And then the women and their male allies are excoriated by others for getting upset. They’re sideswiped by people who haven’t paid any damned attention to The Conversation and its long history, but think they know enough to pronounce judgment. I’m sick of this shit. And though I don’t want to do it, I shall take the Smack-o-Matic down from the wall and unleash it upon some deserving bottoms.
I’d rather be talking about rocks, and mystery flora, and UFDs, and all of those things. I’d rather not have to talk about something that should be remarkably fucking obvious to anyone with an ounce of human decency. I’d rather not risk tearing open old scars. And although I haven’t yet been subjected to the volume of abuse my fellow feminists have endured, I’m sure that day is coming. I don’t want to have to clean misogynists and accommodationist fuckwads out of my comments section, then listen to them whine about how oppressed they are because I won’t let them shit on my carpet. I don’t want to spend time forwarding rape and death threats to the police. But I refuse to stay silent.
Women I love and respect, who taught me it’s okay to be a woman, who are working their asses off to make sure that if I overcome my native dislike of crowds long enough to attend a conference, I will be able to choose one with a strong and enforced harassment policy, women who are trying to make things better, are getting attacked for doing the right thing. Men who have been staunch allies in the fight to stop harassment are getting attacked by the same bunch of assclowns.
So, while I’d rather be doing other things, I’ll be reading transcripts to discover the full extent of the shit that’s being flung, and once I have the full context, I will quote some select bits of fuckery, and I will speak. Because I cannot stay silent about this.
Women deserve better.
All of the women who have had their concerns dismissed, their experiences denigrated or denied, their veracity called into question, who have been blamed for being subjected to sexist bullshit and sexual harassment, deserve better.
And I do not want there to be any doubt where I stand.
Before the Smack-o-Matic comes down from the wall, I want to take a moment to thank them, and all of the other women who taught me that “feminist” is not a bad word. I want to thank the women and men who have weathered Category 5 shitstorms in order to make women’s lives better.
I will be honest with you. Before they came along, I didn’t realize just how much misogyny and sexism I’d internalized over the years. Some of it was overt, some covert, but there was a lot. I ran from feminist topics. I sneered at women who spoke out against “boys being boys,” or who “whined about women being invisible.” I thought this was melodrama on their parts. After all, I hadn’t experienced misogyny or sexism! Well, aside from being raped, and having to fend off unwanted advances, and having to avoid girly traits in order to be taken seriously by a substantial subset of men, and sometimes enduring assholes on the street catcalling or worse, and having to calculate my chances of surviving the experience alive and unmolested every time I exit my front door, and considering writing under a gender-neutral pseudonym so that my work would be taken seriously and not dismissed because it was written by a female. But hey, y’know, other than that, being a woman wasn’t any different than being a man, so what were all those harpies howling about? If they weren’t so uptight, men wouldn’t treat them like shit!
But women I respected because they were excellent writers and scientists and thinkers spoke out about crap women endure. Evidence poured in relentlessly. Women are underrepresented in science. Women deal with appalling amounts of sexist bullshit, even from prestigious publications. Women who should be visible, aren’t, and get rape and death threats after making reasonable requests. I could go on. I could spend all night linking to things that show a pervasive problem. Or I could just point you toward Women’s Issues in Los Links, and the Women category, and let you explore for yourself, if you doubt.
I’ll tell you that these women woke me right up. So did the men who had their backs. One of the many wake-up calls was when PZ Myers talked about atheism’s sexism problem, and mentioned an extra-credit question he poses to his students: name a female scientist. My mind, aside from Marie Curie, went blank. And I know a hell of a lot of women scientists. What the fuck is wrong when those names don’t spring up instantly? Time I confronted the fact that I, too, needed my consciousness raised. You’d think a woman wouldn’t need that. But living in a society that relentlessly drums inferiority into our heads, often in such subtle ways that it’s hard to make people notice, I had a job o’ work ahead of me. Still do.
And it’s hard.
It’s hard to admit that I once held women in contempt simply because they were women, concerned about how society treats women.
It’s hard to face the fact I passed over too many smart, funny, intelligent, thought-provoking, talented and amazing women because I had a nearly unconscious bias that caused me to overlook them.
It’s hard to face the fact that I’ve often been accepted as “one of the guys” because I had no problem bashing my fellow females.
It’s hard to root out so much cultural conditioning that led me to accept that all the crap women face is “just the way it is,” and we shouldn’t rock the boat because people will think we’re she-woman-man-haters, and we’ll lose what little respect we’ve got.
It’s hard to confront the reality that it’s not just conservative Christians and Republicans who treat women as less than human.
It’s hard to step up, take the risks, and fight for even a basic level of equality for women, because doing so paints a target for sexists, misogynists, and their apologists on anyone speaking out.
It’s hard to accept that some of the people I’ve admired greatly are among those sexists, misogynists and apologists.
It’s hard to fight battles that shouldn’t have to be fought. There’s so much else I’d rather do. But this is necessary. Greta Christina’s right. We have to talk about this. If we don’t, it will never, ever get better, and could very well get worse.
So this is my side. I’m standing with those women and men who refuse to shut up, refuse to accept the status quo, refuse to let the bastards grind them down. I don’t feel I’ve got the talent it takes to lead this fight, but I’m more than happy to be one of the troops. I want to be a part of the changes. I want to help make this a better world for women. I want to see us all become better human beings. Change is hard. But I’ve changed my mind. So can others. And those who are unwilling to change, unwilling to accept uppity females demanding decency, equality, and policies that will create safer environments for women (and men, and people who don’t identify one way or the other), can fall by the wayside. They won’t be missed.
I may lose the respect of some people because of the side I’ve chosen. I may not be admitted to some of the in-groups, considered one of the cool kids. I may get shut out by people who think “both sides are equally bad,” or that the problems have been exaggerated, and I may have to come down on the side of not attending events I wanted to attend because the organizers refuse to take simple steps to create a safe space for my fellow women.
And you know what? That’s absolutely fine. If abandoning the women and men fighting to make this a better world and silencing my own voice is what it takes, then it’s not worth the price of admission. It never was.
Thank you, all of you who refused to be silent, for helping me realize that.
Today’s essential reading in The Conversation:
Ashley F. Miller: Aren’t you making it up? – Why women don’t report harassment.
Skepchick: Why I Won’t Be At TAM This Year.
Pharyngula: It’s always the coverup.
The X Blog: Ask An Atheist Takes On Dogmatic Feminism.
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