On Rifts, and the Deepening Thereof

Whilst I was distracted with attending to meatspace matters, Michael Nugent’s Atheist Ireland dramatically ostracized PZ, and the Secular Policy Institute (or whatever they’re calling themselves these days) tittered behind their hands and pretended to seriously solicit advice. I’ve been catching up on the nonsense, and shall now weigh in.

1. I understand that what pushed Mr. Nugent to apoplexy was being called “The Irish Wanker.” According to some folks over the pond, calling someone Irish-something is a racial slur. In America, of course, it’s no more a slur than if Mr. Nugent chose to call me “The American Wanker,” as I do indeed reside in America. However, as we’re endeavoring to be intersectional, inclusive, and avoid racial and gendered slurs on this side of the Deep Rifts™, I shall myself never call Mr. Nugent “The I-word Wanker.” I shall, when wishing to clarify wanker in question, call him “The Wanker from Ireland.”

2. I cordially invite The Wanker from Ireland, the ludicrous SPI, and their assorted lickspittles and lackeys to take their bullshit and fuck off. The rifts between us are not yet deep nor wide enough: I can still hear them whining. There are plenty of other people and groups advancing my atheist interests. I have no need of deplorable allies when there are ever so much better ones around. Good day, sirs and madams.

Image is an old sepia-tones photo of a woman pointing across the Grand Canyon. Caption says, "The rifts need a bit more widening. Start over there."

Now, it’s vaguely possible one or more people associated with these entities are wondering why dear old Dana would choose to stay on this side of the rift with PZ, who has been painted in so much terrible detail by the Wanker from Ireland. SPI might babble something about their power and riches and all they can do for me if I let them bless me with their acknowledgement. “Dana!” some of you might cry across the rift, “you just published a book! Surely you should be soliciting goodwill and celebrity endorsements from our illustrious atheist luminaries! Why are you flashing your (metaphorical, alas) Spider Jerusalem butt tattoo at them?”


I won’t deny, it would be nice for sales if, say, Richard Dawkins gave my modest little tome an approving shout. I’d make a good $5 at least. But the reason I have not made a fortune selling snake oil, or riding the Christian evangelical church circuit describing my journey from atheist to Jesus Freak for $5000 a pop, is because I have these pesky principles. I’d rather be right than have might. The high and mighty thinky-thought leaders on the other side of the rift are welcome to tell the world my little book is the bees knees if the fancy strikes them. But I won’t shut up about their problematic behavior and disown my allies in order to potentially earn their condescending praise. It’s not just that their foundations are shady and of questionable value, and that they employ crooked assholes to shout at people who don’t express their fawning gratitude for a few crumbs of attention, it’s that they include both an incompetent (and possibly criminal) neocon politico and a reputed serial sexual harasser and rapist among them.

If my fame and fortune can only be won by kissing up to that lot, I don’t want them. I’ll toil in poverty and obscurity, thanks. May not like it, but at least my conscience is clean.

Yes, PZ is a flame-tongued firebrand whose rhetoric is quite often harsh – you know, like Richard Dawkins, except without the British uppercrust polish and tendency to snipe at feminists. Thing is this, folks: polite and cultured language mean absolutely nothing to me. The folks who claim they want civility and unity don’t have women’s backs. Some of them claim to, but their actions belie it. They aren’t willing to get down in the trenches and get dirty fighting for equality with us. They say they’d have my back, but I know that’s only until they’re done stabbing me in it, what with the whole employing serial sexual harassers as fellows, cozying up to the cons who want to take my bodily autonomy away, and disowning people who are willing to give sexual assault victims a voice. Yep, PZ’s not a mellow fellow. But he’s not hiding behind a shield of supposed civility while his mates attack me and mine with vicious abandon.

On this side of the rift, I know everyone sees me as an equal human being. I don’t have to worry about being treated as a lesser human because I was born a woman. I can get upset about all the ways this world fucks with my gender, and I won’t be shushed because the menfolk think I’ve become too shrill. I feel I have inherent value, not limited worth granted to me by some oh-so-enlightened gentleman who is only interested in my problems in as far as they advance his own causes, or allow him to put on a show of paternal benevolence.

On this side of the rift, I’ve watched PZ and men like him take damage for helping my fellow women, and keep fighting for us regardless.

On this side of the rift, I know that no one would make excuses for my rapist, or believe me only because I was naive enough to prosecute the asshole. I know that if I’m ever sexually assaulted or raped again, I won’t have to face hyper-skepticism and rape apologia from my allies. I won’t be forced to stay silent and let my abuser move freely in my circles, even if I can’t prosecute. I know that I will be fully supported, no matter what I must do in order to heal.

On this side of the rift, I know people will help me confront and eradicate the everyday sexism my female-identifying friends and I still face. No one will tell us we can’t address our very real problems because far-away women have worse problems.

On this side of the rift, I know my trans friends are welcome. My cis friends and I have a lot of ignorance within ourselves to confront, but we’re willing to be called on it and improve, rather than waving our ally cards and claiming immunity when we fuck up. I know we’ll try to solve the issues they face, and allow them to be themselves.

On this side of the rift, I know the men in my life are free to explore different ways of being male, without being harassed back into a toxic masculine mold. I know we’ll work to fix those bits of society that shove men into damaging roles.

On this side of the rift, I know people care about systemic racism, and work hard to improve both society and themselves. I know my POC friends can bring their issues to our table, and we will work on them, together.

On this side of the rift, I know my disabled friends are welcome, and that we’ll listen when they tell us what they need. I know that we’ll work together to lessen stigma and fix the abelist things that make their lives harder.

On this side of the rift, I know people care about income inequality, and work for a more equitable system for all.

On this side of the rift, I know people will not consider the fight for social justice and reproductive rights to be “mission drift.”

On this side of the rift, I know we can do better. And on this side, I know that we will never stop trying.

What’s there for me on the other side? Some token attention paid to my concerns when it isn’t too inconvenient, and… nothing else. I watch them support and protect abusers, minimize the harms too many of us have suffered, and court the people who’d love to control my body. I’ve watched them attack good people for having the audacity to demand atheists do better. I’ve watched them give platforms to those who would take my right to choose away. I’ve seen the contempt they have for me and mine. I’ve watched privileged men condescend to women, minorities, and other disadvantaged folk, and double or triple down when called on it. I’ve watched them scorn and ridicule and try to destroy us for having the audacity to demand a better world.

And… I’ve watched PZ use harsh language while calling out the people who make my world worse.

Any org that would throw a fit over his tone while enabling, if not actively supporting, the people who cause women, POCs, and other marginalized groups within atheism so much harm deserves nothing more from me than this.

Image is comic book character Spider Jerusalem, a bald man wearing a black suit with no shirt, grinning widely as he extends two middle fingers.
Warren Ellis’s Spider Jerusalem speaks for me. Well, gestures.

Fuck you, and your Wanker from Ireland, too.


P.S. If you really wanted to empower women through secularism, you could get on with throwing out the sexual predators and serial harassers, and addressing your own unthinking sexism. You could start listening to what women on this side of the rift are telling you, and do more than throw a conference or two. You could pay attention when we tell you it’s not just religion that harms us. You want to fill in the rifts? Get cracking on the above and get back to me when you’re done.

On Rifts, and the Deepening Thereof
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21 thoughts on “On Rifts, and the Deepening Thereof

  1. 2

    Every time I read something you have written I enjoy it and I’m impressed by your writing. This time your combination of passion and clarity is stunning. I can’t imagine a clearer or more forceful way of expressing what you said. Thank you!

  2. 6

    That’s shaping up to be a mighty nice rift!!! Don’t you think it could use a bit of shrubbery over there, and maybe a little path? With a sort of a two-level effect.

  3. 9

    Ohhhhh, now you have done it! The Wanker from Ireland is really go to wrote 20,000 words on your very, very aggressive tone! I am sure that he will tell you that is not very ladylike, and such…..I know, you are reeeeaaaaaally worried about the thougthy-thoughts (but not thinky-thoughts worthy of inclusion into the SPI clubhouse).

    @6 Marcus Ranum:

    Don’t you think it could use a bit of shrubbery over there, and maybe a little path? With a sort of a two-level effect.

    Can we also get a Japanese screen to two? Maybe with the outside facing screens complete with Dana’s moniker of a Spider Jerusalem print. Hope that is not asking too much….

  4. rq

    I have some roses I can donate to this good cause – a Wall of Thorns between us and the sleeping beauties over there, why not?

  5. rq

    Actually, because she’s a lady he’ll probably ignore her quite soundly. Plus, she’s one of PZ’s many underlings sockpuppets here at FtB (who knew PZ was a geology nut, hey?), so any attack on PZ and His Tone is like an attack on Dana too, but she’s a woman so there’s no need to spend any extra energy writing about her directly.

  6. rq

    I laughed through the first half, and nodded appreciatively through the second (more serious) half.
    I also approve of ‘the Wanker from Ireland’ as a label, I know it’s important to put the person first and then the qualifier.

    And I’m glad to stand on this side with you and PZ and all the rest. We are not few, though we’re not nearly as loud as thems that are across that wee ways a bit.

  7. 14

    Love it, Dana!
    Also, I think The Wanker from Ireland has a much more lyrical quality to it.

    A toast to the emerald island!
    Home of Yeats, Sam Beckett, Oscar Wilde, and
    Joyce, Stoker, and others.
    So no need to bother
    reading that Wanker from Ireland!

  8. 15

    Dear Dana,

    Very nicely written. I, too, am happy over here on this side of the Rift. We have better cookies.

    I like the idea of roses, but as a huge succulent fan, I recommend cacti. We have a native cactus here called tasajillo, or pencil cactus for the Anglos. It is very thin and has very fine hair-like spines that burn like hell when applied to human skin and are the very devil to get out. It makes lovely little flowers and its tunas are tiny but great bird food. Then there are the chollos. Taller, thicker, almost as mean. Planted close together with the occasional prickly pear for contrast, it makes a fence that goats can’t get through.

    I mean in case there are any goats around you want to keep out.

  9. 18

    Clap, clap, hear, hear! Also great to see such a clear explanation of the problems on this side: yes we often get things wrong re:equality, but we’re willing to be corrected, willing to listen.
    Also, the multidudinity of wankers was most wonderfully addressed in Joycean words in that original “hero” post:

    How am I possibly meant to know who you mean when wankers are general all over Ireland? When we have them on every part of the dark central plain, on the treeless hills, wanking their way softly upon the Bog of Allen and, farther westward, softly wanking into the dark mutinous Shannon waves?!

    I therefore propose “One who wanks softly upon the Bog of Allen” as an appropriate moniker.

  10. 20

    This might be one of the top 10, if not the best, FtB posts in 2015.

    I showed it to a libertarian/atheist coworker and he was speechless. Later he told me he was clicking through the links in the post and was thinking a lot about all of this. it all made sense to him , even from his libertarian point of view. Looks like you made another ally out there.

    Keep up the good work!

  11. 21

    Not only do we have the cookies on this side of the rift, we understand the difference between “tone” and “substance.” If I must choose a place to stand I stand with feminists, with those who don’t make up stupid names and make fun of my friends’ weight or looks and then defend themselves with arguments for “Freeze Peach.” I would rather stand with those who would rather listen to explanations on what ableism entails instead of defending a stupid joke and demanding that people who are correcting them “get a sense of humor.”

    I would rather be on the side with one very good geology explainer, too.

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