Yay for "Support"

I’m tired today, so maybe this will be crabbier than usual, but I’m tired of being “supported” as someone who gets harassed. I’m tired of vague “Naughty, naughty”s from people who do jack shit when the people engaging in harassment are doing it right in front of them. And I’m really fucking sick and tired of people using their vague, toothless “support” to tell the world they’re good people.

Today’s example. Take a blog post that contains this statement:

Here I’ve been giving the impression that I empathize with harassment and inequality, not just because I give a damn about justice and fairness in general, but also because I have friends in the movement like Stephanie Zvan who have been harassed by a cabal of very malicious people and that pisses me off.

Drop this comment on it almost immediately:

If you’re really about supporting Stephanie, why didn’t she tell her “husband,” Greg, that in the first place, since she wears the pants in that “family.”

Then watch the comment be ignored for two hours in the middle of an active comment thread in which the post author is participating and people are up- and down-voting comments. Watch all the comments about how someone shouldn’t have said something stupid to the post author get up-voted many times before anyone down-votes that comment even once.

Then, two hours later, see someone finally interrogate the comment:

Seriously? You’re going there on a blog post about sexism. Curious what JT’s thoughts are on this.

Then see the person who is “pissed off” that you’ve been harassed react:

My thoughts are that I have no idea what Gadfly’s talking about. Stephanie and Greg aren’t married, so I assume he’s making some kind of in-the-know dig to which I’m no privy. If so, I think that’s pretty weak.

In other words, see someone who’s been at you with the same basic sexist meme for two and a half years (because you disagreed with him about whether rape allegations should be taken seriously) get shrugged off for doing it again. Because–you know–what? On a post where someone says this sort of thing pisses them off.

Yay for people getting “pissed off” about harassment. Yay for “support”.

Did I mention how fucking tired I am?

Yay for "Support"
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31 thoughts on “Yay for "Support"

  1. 2

    Ahh I wondered where I’d seen the name before, I did read that comment and was thinking of replying… But I couldn’t parse it, didn’t seem to make any sense at all. I downvoted because it certainly seemed to be trying to be nasty but any reply I could think of would necessarily require questions about WTF it was supposed to mean.

  2. 3

    At most a small percentage of comments on all blogs are remotely worthwhile. These discussions consist almost entirely of name-calling, posturing, intemperate alarmism, unproven allegations, unprovable allegations, mindless snark, and so on. It would be an enormous improvement if all comment sections were closed. For that matter, I think the various personalities in the so-called ‘movement’ have different perspectives and different priorities, and that is NEVER going to change. We had BETTER find a way to work together, and internet flame wars have never helped a thing.

  3. 4

    Thank you, see_the_galaxy, for using the excuse of someone throwing sexist abuse my way for two and a half years as an opportunity to share your opinion of everyone on the internet, including me.

  4. STH

    What the hell does harassment have to do with “different perspectives”? And really, “both sides do it,” that’s your argument?

  5. 9

    I mean, as oolon pointed out in that comment thread, there were all sorts of interesting replies to JT’s original post–Ian Cromwell’s was brilliant.

    But JT ignores those, deciding instead to post a swat at Greg Laden (for the record, I agree that Greg’s comment was inane.)

    Then a pitter leaves a nasty turd on the carpet addressed to Stephanie, and JT steps around it for two hours.


    Stephanie, hugs if you want ’em.

  6. 10

    I saw the name “Gadfly” and immediately wondered whether it was “Socratic Gadfly”, an (appropriately) obnoxiously full-of-hirself little twit whom I tangled with on one of Ronald Lindsay’s blog posts once, and who just *could* not get over how terribly mean Gnu Atheists are. I am so totally not surprised that someone with hir deficient critical thinking skills and penchant for inept attempts at shit-stirring has now started in on the usual Slymepit routine. I had assumed when I encountered hir originally that ze was at least sincere, albeit a bit Dunning-Krugery, but now I’m beginning to wonder if ze isn’t just a deliberate troll.

    It’s not the same, I know, but this post reminds me that I feel bad for not immediately calling out an asshole who made a gross comment as the first response to one of Taslima’s posts the other day, which I saw almost immediately after the post went up and which, in part as a result of my own inaction, sat for five hours unanswered instead. I didn’t want to get into it with that person, but I should have, because Taslima deserves better.

    The standard you walk past is the standard you accept. I’m sorry you all have to deal with this crap.

  7. 11

    This is the second time the way JT has disappointed me is how he ignores real criticism, focuses on slightly unreasonable criticism aimed at him, and then ignores real shit-stirring aimed at others.

  8. 12

    I’ve been thinking a lot in the last few days about how tired you and Greta and Ophelia and Rebecca must get, and what a huge price you’ve all paid for the progress we’ve seen. All I can say is that I’m amazed at both your endurance and your effectiveness. As a woman in a field in which women are underrepresented, I’ve seen these conversation about feminism come and go. I’ve seen women take these lessons to heart, which is encouraging. After all, to my knowledge, all the research shows that men and women unconsciously discriminate against women to the same degree. If half the population stops doing that, it can only help.

    On the other hand, I haven’t seen very many men take these studies seriously. Part of the reason for that is that it’s hard to get across the concept of accumulation of disadvantage. Because small issues do matter in the long run, we have to talk about them, and it gets utterly draining to continue to respond to the same dismissive comments over and over again. It helps a lot to have other guys say, “hey, it took me a while to understand this, but now I get it. Man, I don’t want my daughter to have to put up with this in the workplace.” So, as I said the other day, I’m really encouraged by the number of men who are doing that in this movement. Thank you for the hard work you’ve done both publicly and behind the scenes to make that happen.

    The current fight has some perhaps unusual features that may well tip the fight in our favor. First, it’s online, which means that people are much more likely to say what they think than in person. The clear disadvantage of this is that assholes risk very little when they harass. The hidden silver lining is that non-feminists of good will have to face the level of misogyny in our midst. Many of them react by burying their heads in the sand, but a far from insignificant minority have seen this as a wake-up call.

    Second, we are, as Greta reminded us yesterday, a community that values rationality. I do think there’s a disadvantage in that quite a few people in our community pride themselves on their Rationality more than they seek to understand the cognitive biases that get in our way. The rest of us understand that everyone has cognitive biases, and if we’re going to understand the world, we have to correct for them. I do hope the community will eventually accept the important role the social sciences have to play in teaching us about the cognitive biases that lead to a less just society.* Being willing to correct for one set of cognitive biases by no means makes it automatic that we’ll do so for another, but it does indicate an openness to re-evaluating our ideas as new data are available or brought to our attention.

    Finally, even if the atheist community has been mostly white, male, and affluent, it’s fairly diverse politically. That drives me crazy at times, but it also means that people with different ideas about how the world works have come together, at least on-line, in a way that rarely happens any more. That means that the impact of this discussion is much wider than it would be in, say, an undergraduate women’s studies class, where the audience is largely already open to these ideas.

    Taken together, these factors lead to a lot of shit for the people in the front lines, as you well know. Still, I think they also give those of us committed to equitable treatment of women an unusual opportunity. Thanks so much to those of you leading the fight so well, and don’t hesitate to call on those of us who support you to help in any way we can.

    *I’d hate to have to send David Brooks to a meeting of the Richard Dawkins Foundation to set them all straight on this…

  9. 13

    JT, fail to actually stand up for the beliefs that he is busy proclaiming that he honestly really does have, no seriously, stop questioning him about it?

    Why, that’s unprecedented. I am shocked!

  10. 14

    What, you mean it isn’t enough just to stomp your feet and shout “I AM SO A FEMINIST ALLY!” until you’re blue in the face? No! Long disclaimers don’t disappear the words and actions that come(or don’t come, depending) after. And sure it isn’t fair to create someone else’s motives from whole cloth, which is the current complaint, but it IS fair for people to notice that the claimed intent and the actual words and actions don’t match.

  11. 16

    There are a couple of reasons that I am focused most of the time on things other than the freethought, skeptical, atheist, and secular communities. The nature of “support” one sees in this community is number one. The other is the large number of people who spend a lot of energy moving their fingers up and down on keyboards without any apparent longer term activist goals and wouldn’t know progress if it bit them in their collective self-righteous ass.

    Notice how the use of the word “collective” there gets me out of having to revise that sentence.

  12. 18

    At #8:
    Am in severe flamewar burnout, just from reading it all.

    At #12:

    I’ve been thinking a lot in the last few days about how tired you and Greta and Ophelia and Rebecca must get, and what a huge price you’ve all paid for the progress we’ve seen.

    1000 x this.

  13. 19

    The other is the large number of people who spend a lot of energy moving their fingers up and down on keyboards without any apparent longer term activist goals and wouldn’t know progress if it bit them in their collective self-righteous ass.

    You mean, blogging isn’t activism?

    Yay for “support” indeed.

  14. 21

    Blogging is not activism. It is blogging. There are all sorts of reasons to blog.

    Activism can involve blogging. Stephanie’s blog is a high percentage of activism. Sadly, though, there are not too many examples of coordinated thoughtful well done activism focused on blogging in the secular-freethought-etc. etc. community, in my view. There are some good examples, but they exist amid a wider range of activity that might seem like activism, and probably is, but isn’t particularly effective.

    A good example apropos this venue is the amazingly rapid and deep penetration of harassment policy implementation that was centered on this very blog but involved a lot of voices reasonably well coordinated. Another (which is less bloggy) is the induration of a number of sci-fi and fantasy venues with science based thinking about numerous issues by Skepchick and allies, including their vaccine program. So there’s lot of good stuff.

    But I really think way too much ink is spilled (and I’ve done my share of this myself) running around in circles. A lot of this has to do with the fact that a lot of people woke up one day and discovered that the community they’d been a member of includes feminists, and a large number of feminists. For them it was like waking up in the morning and realizing that your bed is full of spiders, snakes, and scorpions. I’m not sure there is a form of activism that can (or has) addressed that problem from the feminist side of it.

    There is a great analogy here. In the evolution-creationism debate, no matter how hard we’ve worked over the last few decades, we have gained almost no ground among the general public. The same number of people have this all wrong now as thirty years ago. But, at the same time, the case law (which resulted from well coordinated and intelligent activism by such as NCSE) is now firm on the issue. Even though it seems that a lot of people somehow do not realize this, the fact is, you can’t teach creationism in public school science class, and if you do, you it and are found out you are easily stopped.

    That is analogous to what has happened here. There’s been no real movement in changing people’s minds on the anti-feminist vs. feminist side of things (over just a couple of years time, of course) and the MRA’s and date rape apologists, etc. are still just as out there and numerous and even more vociferous, possibly. There are just as many people who don’t get elevatorgate today as the day it happened. But there are anti-harassment policies at all the cons and conferences now, where before there were only a few.

    Of course, Anthony, I may be missing the point of your comment because you were kind of vague and the link you included at the moment produces an error.

  15. 22

    Huh. I just commented on that post, and then saw this…

    What is it with the atheists on Patheos? Seems every time an atheist I like goes to Patheos, they suddenly become fence-sitters and bridge-builders and just generally fucking annoying. One even converted to Catholicism! Is there some kind of brainwashing going on over there or something?

  16. 24

    I read that thread and the Gadfly post did not leap out at me at all. In fact, it is only in the last couple of days that I have even noticed hir hit-trawling.

    It seems a bit petty to devote a chunk of criticism to someone who took more than 3 hours to respond to a vague, pointless ad hominim with a (paraphrased) “WTF, your argument doesn’t exist.”… especially if that someone isn’t necessarily aware that vague-pointless-adhominist has been doing it for years.

    Maybe tiredness is the best explanation after all. It still gave me a sad.

    Maybe I shouldn’t post when sad.

    I’m gonna do it anyway.

  17. 25

    B-Lar, you’ve never said that really pisses you off that I get harassed, much less tried to make that a point of virtue on your part. There are a whole bunch of people again getting high and mighty about proper behavior in that thread who couldn’t be bothered to find out what was going on with that comment–even after someone pointed out that it was a problem.

    What happens to a guy who doesn’t bother to get involved except to once say, “Hey, feminists, don’t be all, like, excitable and shit”? That’s of critical importance. What’s been happening to me for years? Meh.

    You’re sad. Nifty. I’m fucking furious.

  18. 26

    Hugs if you need them, Zvan.

    To me, this highlights how important us wee commenters are. You can’t watch over every blog, looking for bullshit like this, so your harassers use their numeric advantage to spread this shit far and wide, hoping that some of it will go unchallenged and stick.

    We the commetariat, while no less time constrained than you are, are numerous enough to equal their reach through sheer accident. All we have to do is call out that crap when we see it.

    So to everyone else: if you see things like this, speak up! That simple act helps Zvan, Benson, Thibeault, and others stay sane in the face of the maelstrom directed their way.

  19. 27

    I do not understand why Stephanie did not respond her self as soon as she saw the comment instead of
    just sitting in front of her computer for two hours waiting for someone else to do so = Was she expecting
    a response given that there were others there who could or should have replied = Two hours is a rather
    long time to deny herself the right to reply especially when it is towards some one that made a personal
    comment about her = Even then it was some one else and not Stephanie herself that responded = Was
    she consciously testing them to see how loyal they were by how quick they would be to defend her now
    From what she has stated it appears not so much to be the comment itself but the accumulation of them
    over the previous two years that is the real source of her anger = The straw that broke the camels back
    so to speak = Given that it is relatively inoffensive that may be why some did not reply especially if they
    not aware of the on going history between the two protagonists = And this is some thing that those who
    are not on the receiving end need to understand = That it builds up over time rather than just disappear
    This is or has affected two bloggers here and two at the sister site = And needless to say it should stop
    as it is not right to do this to anyone = No one has the right to be harassed just because they happen to
    have a difference of opinion and that applies to everyone too no matter where they are on the spectrum

    Everyone in the online atheist community should be able to sit down in front of their computers and just
    engage as rational human beings without any of the mega drama that seems to be standard = And so if
    everyone agreed to that and were prepared to start afresh it would be a fantastic achievement for every
    one concerned = But it would have to be meant so not just paying lip service to it = Otherwise it will just
    carry on and on till the current generation is no more and a new one may decide to have a truce instead
    The choice is up to everyone [ and that does mean what it states ] on the spectrum that is a player that
    engages tribalistically = It has long a go become tired so needs to stop = I find it rather tiresome and am
    not even involved in it so God knows what those that are feel like = And so really hope the day will come
    when atheists work together instead of against each other

  20. 29

    Stephanie, I wish that I hadn’t called your behaviour petty. I can see your position properly now and I would like to apologise. I’m sorry about that.

    I am particularly sorry for assuming the best of someone I like as a knee jerk reaction instead of considering that they might sometimes act in a sub-optimal way, and I am sorry that you were on the receiving end of that.

  21. 30

    @26 surreptitious – you may want to review the point that JT has identified as a feminist. Steph’s op is about the fact that he allowed a pile-on in his own space, on one of his friends he claims he supports. Stephanie.

    It isn’t that Steph can’t respond on her own, it’s not that she tested him. Harassers are the ones testing him and he didn’t respond. Didn’t try to stop it. Stood by and watched.

    Stephanie is more than capable of responding herself. She’d get nothing else done if she chose to champion herself against every slur, insult, disgusting post, tweet, or blog. Because it happens all the freaking time. My tone isn’t intended to be abrupt, by the way, I am doing several things at once and upon re-read i am sounding pretty bitchy. Your comment sounded like you were trying to boil down the situation and commenting on your take of it. I felt like offering my point, because trying to trick a friend into a ‘test of loyalty’ is not what I know of as her…..style.

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