Why is Rebecca Watson so damned polarizing?

How is it that when Rebecca Watson says something essentially unobjectionable and otherwise a no-brainer, like that when people make misogynist jokes at a fifteen year old girl, and others reward same with upvotes, they might just be creating a chilling atmosphere for women in general, a total fucking shitstorm ensues?

QuickMeme image: "Don't like being sexually harassed on r/atheism? You should probably make a new account and never come out as being female ever again"
Via QuickMeme, whose right-click scripts cannot defeat me.

Only one point made in r/atheism’s defense is worth considering at this point, in my estimation: terrible people exist everywhere. Those terrible people — and the excuses made to let them keep being terrible in your space — color the perception of the group as a whole. Reddit’s r/atheism subreddit is filled with lots and lots of good people, a bunch of very vocal douchebags, and too little self-policing. So when poisonous elements are allowed to fester such that a fifteen year old girl trying to excitedly join a community of fellow atheists by daring to post a picture of herself with her new Christmas present — a copy of Carl Sagan’s Demon Haunted World — she gets a full-on assault for daring to be a girl on the internet. People are going to get turned off by that kind of behaviour. People like Jen McCreight, John Loftus, Ed Brayton, PZ Myers, and myself.

So if your group is colored by the perception that you’re allowing douchebags to mistreat newcomers to the community, you’re either responsible for doing it, or responsible for letting it happen. Yes, that’s right, you let it happen if you do not register a dissenting voice. I’m talking about moderation the only way it can exist in a place with no moderation powers — by shouting down the assholes. By punishing bad and antisocial behaviour. By punishing if not by silencing the assholes who think rape jokes about a fifteen year old are fine and dandy, by at least telling them that those opinions are not welcome, are not the majority, and are not acceptable.

What’s worse, I think this particular incident only blew up because it was Rebecca Watson who pointed it out. Since her startling and bold claim, of which we should be so very skeptical, that someone might have thought their privilege to cold-proposition strange women overrides a woman’s right to feel relatively safe, she’s somehow managed to gain a magical superpower to make mundane and obvious revelations huge conflagrations.

Every time she points out anything that should be a no-brainer — as one anti-Watson commenter said somewhere (crowdsource a link?), she often sticks to Skepticism 101 topics, which I suspect is an intentional strategy to facilitate newbies to the cause — she’s completely drowned in effluence from anti-Watson posters who are so drenched in privilege they can’t even recognize that there are people out there who might actually suffer from the things she points out. And what’s worse, they have a tendency of doubling down on the horrible things that were pointed out by Rebecca, by posting horrible terrible things about Rebecca for all to see.

And you know what? GOOD.

Maybe not so good for her, but for all of us. These magical superpowers of hers are probably a curse for her own sanity, but they are a boon for our society, for our respective communities. It’s excellent that she can draw so much attention to the problem, and can draw out the people who are, in essence, part of it, where they can make examples of themselves. The “touch of boorishness” that she can draw out of complete strangers just by mentioning this nonsense is exactly the type of attitude we need to cleanse from our systems, to keep from becoming an entrenched part of our culture. We have to draw this venom out of our skeptical communities’ bodies somehow.

I only regret that she has to wade through that effluence in making herself a huge target just by, you know, daring to talk about the problem while being a girl on the internet. She needs all the support she can get if she’s going to keep touching off firestorms just by prodding at that one raw nerve that so many atheist and skeptical men seem to have where even addressing our problem with privilege. Because that raw nerve needs to be prodded until we manage to do something about it. Having girls as part of our movement, with all the attendent concerns that brings, is too important a goal to let the MRAs and the winged monkeys screech at us until we give up on it. We must not cede the privilege of being part of the movement without an uphill struggle toward acceptance to be a male privilege only.

This should be a no-brainer too. But since it was Rebecca Watson who said it, of course we’re seeing so much pushback.

Just remember, she isn’t the only one saying it.

Why is Rebecca Watson so damned polarizing?

222 thoughts on “Why is Rebecca Watson so damned polarizing?

  1. 202

    Meanwhile, aspidoscelis can defend him/herself. If s/he argues against having empathy, it’s possible s/he’s a sociopath, where s/he explicitly said that socio/psychopaths won’t get empathy by being told it’s a good thing. Sociopathy is marked by an inability to empathize — implying strongly that society depends on every member having empathy for “in-groups” at least, as Ophelia says. We’re suggesting widening the “in-groups” to include women. That’s all.

    As Stephanie said, julian was admonished for his assertion.

    To you, this is all about Rebecca Watson. Thus proving my thesis — that she’s polarizing only insofar as drawing out more fuckwits like yourself. It’s not that she’s actually saying anything controversial and thus polarizing, it’s that she somehow causes people like you to hate her. You want dehumanization? You want out of control with anger and trying to destroy the community? Look in the fucking mirror.

  2. 205

    generalreg #198

    If I made this stuff up, no one would believe me.
    People are failing to establish how the uncontrolled hatred and dehumanization of dissenters is making the place more accommodating for anyone, especially given the alleged concern from Watson et al that the atheist groups are not especially women and the only way to change this situation is to feed the trolls or be an apathetic unhuman misogynist…You people are out of control with anger, and you’re destroying the community.

    Misogynists are such a put-upon group. Nobody appreciates the trouble and effort needed to be a proper misogynist. There’s hours of training, the special diets, all the equipment needed to be a true misogynist. Everyone thinks that hating women is enough to be a misogynist. It’s not like that at all. It’s not easy just seeing women as vaginas with legs and tits. It’s even harder to express the sentiment “bitches ain’t shit” without using those words. And nobody laughs at rape jokes any more, at least, nobody who isn’t a rape apologist.

    So you feminazis and you male quislings (yeah, you know who you are, you’re the men who think women should be treated like human beings) need to just STFU about misogynists. It’s bad enough that bitches have opinions, there’s no need for them to actually express those opinions in front of men.


  3. 206

    Your concern has been noted, generalreg, insofar as I had actually been working on a post since two nights ago about being measured in calling people what they are, not what they become if you take a hyperbolic next step. I’ve finished it.

    Now, I will accuse you of having absolutely no reading comprehension skills, a tendency toward sockpuppetry, and an unmitigated hatred of Rebecca Watson to the point where you completely lose the plot. You defend misogynists from being excluded from a group that wants to include women, and that’s just laughable.

  4. 207

    Hi Jason,

    One last post and I will leave you guys to your own devices.
    The title of this thread is “Why is Rebecca Watson so damn polarizing”. I think that you have answered this question yourself.

    I do not know Rebecca Watson and have never troubled to read much of what she has written, she may well be moderate, temperate, kind and level headed, anything is possible. She is however part of a group of feminists in the Freethinking/atheist movement who are immoderate, intemperate and who are a living argument for not giving atheists any political power outside the internet.

    Aspidoscelis said more concisely than I did “Are you willing to have decent people in the world who are not your allies?”. Apparently not. If Aspid disagrees with you it is because he is a sociopath. Anyone who disagrees with you considers women subhuman. YOU BELIEVE THAT BY MAKING ANGRY POSTS IN CAPITAL LETTERS YOU ARE FIGHTING THE PATRIARCHY.

    If this is what you are like on an internet discussion when almost nothing is at stake and toleration costs little, what would you be like the real world where there are consequences to your actions? Does that idea “I disagree with what you say but would defend to the death your right to say it” have any meaning to you ? Living in a tolerant and open society means accepting that decent people can believe foolish and evil things and vice versa.

    The kindest interpretation that I can put on your words is that you mean well but have not fully thought through the logic of your position. Happy New Year.

  5. cmv

    @Giliell, 195 –

    I think we are actually in agreement. What wrote is what I was trying to get across with the line about actual DHBs ostracizing anyone who decided that kicking puppies was acceptable behaviour.
    You can make your own decisions about morality, but those decisions may place you outside of polite company.
    Your breakdown of the Freethinker ™ argument is exactly what I was trying to get at. Forming community based on commonly held ideals is not the same thing as accepting dogma, it is making your own decisions, then finding others who agree with you. The “Freethinker(tm)” doesn’t seem to get this.

  6. 209


    Did not check your last posting on this blog. What I wrote does not apply to you, but I think does to many who post here.

    I am sorry about that.

  7. 211

    Horace: you have taken the label of Freethinker, and anyone who disagrees with you on some point or another, if it happens to align with “leftist” or “progressive” thinking, is de facto coming to their conclusions out of a lack of free thought. When I asked you to defend yourself against charges that nobody called YOU the one who wasn’t a freethinker, I was asking that you defend the idea that the only way to be a freethinker is to think about things, like womens’ rights, the way you do. Because that is, in fact, the corollary to what you said way up at @42. I don’t think that you repeating that you believe we’re not freethinkers because we think differently than you specifically accepted what we believe dogmatically just plain disagree is actually defending that proposition.

    Is your full-throated defense of “freethought” in actuality a way of saying you came to different conclusions than us, therefore yours are de facto better because there are so many of us who agree on matters of feminism? Why are you talking about freethought at all when the question is why when Rebecca Watson says something obvious, your cohorts get all pissy?

  8. 212

    She is however part of a group of feminists in the Freethinking/atheist movement who are immoderate, intemperate and who are a living argument for not giving atheists any political power outside the internet.

    Specific names and quotes, please, or admit you’re full of shit. I’ve heard this sort of thing alleged namy times, and such allegations have never been backed up with any citation of any specific “immoderate” or “intemperate” thing said.

Comments are closed.