Please note that at Mallorie’s request, as Google indexes are returning potential business contacts to this page when searching for her name, I have retitled the post. The URL can’t change for indexing purposes, but the title itself has been changed from ‘Mallorie Nasrallah says “I like it when #mencallmethings”‘ — playing off a Twitter hashtag that was popular when the post was written.
That’s the only takeaway message I can get from this open letter to the skeptic community, which apparently came as a direct response to her active participation in this discussion at Greta’s.
In the comments on my ill-received but well-intentioned (but as Classical Cipher is fond of saying, intent is not magical) post regarding whether we should differentiate between a person being “a misogynist” and “exhibiting misogynist behaviour” yesterday, Mallorie Nasrallah chimed in. She claimed that the people involved in dissenting from the idea that there is a patriarchy, or that certain actions are misogynistic or enforcing of that patriarchy, might not dissent out of privilege, or out of misogyny in the sense of hating women, but just because they came to different logical conclusions.
She then went on to pen this open letter, which she sent to me via Twitter apparently hoping that I would amplify it. I didn’t. She is apparently friendly with some far bigger movers and shakers in the skeptic community though — Penn Jilette tweeted a link to it a few hours later, lending a very large audience to her letter in a hurry, most probably because he likes the idea she expresses.
Jen McCreight has already torn this letter to shreds for what it is, as has Megan Wells. It is a gigantic strawman argument about what women are actually complaining about with regard to the sexism in the community, and how awful it must be to men who hear that the way they treat women is wrong and needs to change. Sure, it certainly must be awful for a person to find out that those jokes they make about anally raping a fifteen year old girl are unacceptable. It must be so horrible to discover that that time you told Greta Christina to fuck herself with a knife, that it might have been slightly impolitic. But that’s not what this is about.
There is evidently a misapprehension of the problem in Mallorie Nasrallah’s experience. The problem in her estimation is not that there are honest-to-goodness misogynists and misogynist-enablers in the community, who in aggregate make a substrate that new members of the community would find to be unwelcoming. The problem in her estimation is, rather, that pushback against this endemic sexist behaviour is too scattershot and too willing to lump all men together; that too many otherwise good men who just want to joke and cajole with people and embrace the gender roles that say males should be dominant, sex-seeking cavemen, will be caught in the crossfire if an all-out war between feminists and misogynists breaks out.
Of course, I think such a “war” is already happening, and while the feminists are fighting by consciousness-raising, by showing people instances of misogyny and sexism and disturbing epithets hurled as a matter of status quo, the folks on the other side of the fence are complaining primarily about how politically correct we have to be if we’re to avoid ticking off those histrionic wimminz and because of it we risk a slippery-slope toward a dystopian future of fascism and thought police.
I have said that I have a lot of sympathy for people who have had differing experiences and that I believe we should be wholly accurate in defining what people do, damning them for exactly what they are and not what they might be. Others find calling people what they might be to be fully acceptable given their personal experiences of just how much of this nonsense they’ve had to fight. The flaw I exposed in my thinking yesterday was one of expecting that everyone should have the same patience as me, that everyone CAN have the same patience as me, and that reasonable people might not recognize patterns of behaviour quicker than I could. This is, in effect, a failure of empathy. Despite that flaw of over-patience, of giving the individual trolls too much rope, I am extremely comfortable in saying the following.
The hashtag #mencallmethings is effective because women on the internet have been systemically attacked for being women for a very long time, and the offenders are primarily men. Some men have joined the field to say that yes, this is a real phenomenon, and yes, the offenders are primarily male. I am one of them. I have also been called a number of things by many of the same men, who just want to continue shaming women for being women and don’t like that I’d dare agree with these women that they’re out of line. Some women have joined in on the fight as well, for the other side, having decided that they like the gender roles and the crude sex-based humor and the various nasty horrible things that people sometimes say. The stuff that they try to pass off as “just a joke”, that regardless makes a knot in the stomach of most of us who happen upon it while reading casually.
I suspect that the women like Mallorie aren’t this type of woman. I suspect she is the type of woman who just doesn’t see these instances of the more horrible types of sexism and misogyny we point out all the time. And by that, I do not mean that she has not seen them pointed out to her. She sees these instances of egregious trolling and it evidently does not register for her. She apparently read the Reddit thread that I’ve covered in context of Rebecca Watson’s role as whistleblower, where Lunam was told to “bite the pillow, I’m going in dry”, and “blood is nature’s lubricant”, and they evidently did not impress upon her psychology as sexist. They did not impress upon her psychology as rape jokes, but rather as “just a joke”. They did not suggest anything but collegiality with a girl whose post was “about her asshole” (rather than about her Christmas gift), and attempts to tell them otherwise are entirely because the offenders are men.
If your jokes or teasing manner offend some people, so the fuck what? Someone will always be offended by jokes, never let them make you believe that you are guilty of something worse simply because of your gender. If you want to make boob jokes thats fine by me, you have after all been making dick jokes since you were old enough to make jokes. Plus they are funny as hell.
To you, Mallorie, maybe being told that you’re a shrivelled old cunt is just fine, probably because it hasn’t happened to you. Maybe being told that you should stop complaining about people calling you names because “it’s just going to antagonize us” leads you to side with the people who are causing the offense. Maybe you’ve got some sort of Stockholm syndrome going on and you think if you just make nice with all the nasty fucks out there who can’t see a woman on the internet without calling her a cunt, maybe you’ll be exempted from that kind of thing. I don’t know what your experience is, but you’re denying that other women have had other experiences, and you’re denying that any of these things that women have been called, primarily by men, are damaging.
And then there’s this gem, which is beautiful in its multifaceted nature, exhibiting both right-headedness and simulaneous strawmannery. It is this gem that the howler monkeys will find particularly useful and heartening and comforting, and this gem which, while ultimately correct, is a significant point of outrage among feminists.
If you want to go free and uncensored among a group of like minded people, if you want to try to acquire sex from a like minded person, awesome, do it, sex and friendship are amazing. You are not a monster for wanting these things. You are not a monster for attempting to acquire them.
It is a point of outrage among feminists because nobody ever said you can’t try to hook up with like-minded individuals. Not even during Elevatorgate, where the whole point of the conflagration was that you should break the ice in some way other than by using shameless predatory tactics on a person (who, incidentally, just got done saying she would not be receptive to them). Get to know them first. Find out if they’re like-minded in matters of hooking up. Realize that your attempt at hooking up has consequences for the person that is your target as well as yourself.
Attempting to hook up with members of a group of like-minded individuals is perfectly fine. It’s good. It’s beyond okay — it’s laudable. If you can only hook up with people by first telling them to fuck themselves with a knife, though, I’d really rather you stay out of the general public and hole yourselves away with like-minded individuals.
If Mallorie Nasrallah is okay with this kind of person, if she would want to hook up with someone who would call her a twat for expressing an opinion that doesn’t match his, or who ignores what she wrote altogether so he can call her ugly instead, she’s welcome to do so. Telling all skeptic men that there is, in fact, no problem with sexism because she, one woman, is okay with the sexism she sees — that’s something else entirely.