Comparing movement atheism and Catholicism on matters of misogyny

Silentbob posted an excellent comment on one of the last threads that I think really cuts through a lot of the pushback with regard to cleaning up our own houses. It’s not about who’s “good enough” to be part of our “exclusive club”, it’s about acknowledging problems when there’s overwhelming evidence that those problems exist, and fixing them. Given that we’ve attacked the Catholic church so often for their issues with child molestation, even though MOST PRIESTS AREN’T CHILD MOLESTERS, one would think that we would recognize the need to acknowledge the problem of antifeminism and outright misogyny even though MOST ATHEISTS AREN’T MISOGYNISTS.

The comparison my be odious, but I suggest an analogy with the paedophilia problem in the catholic church.

Atheists, of course, strongly condemn this behaviour, but are we not almost as appalled by the church’s response, which is typically to trivialise, dismiss or conceal the problem? How do we react when the church says, “Oh, but this is just a few isolated incidents! You shouldn’t condemn the whole church. Most priests aren’t paedophiles. Why make such a fuss? Focus on the good, not on the bad!”. Aren’t we especially disgusted when they resort to blaming the victim? When someone within speaks out and acknowledges the problem, don’t we praise them?

There is a misogyny problem within the atheist movement. It is well documented. Let us not trivialise, or dismiss, or sweep the problem under the carpet. Nor complain that is it isn’t representative of the atheist movement as a whole. And most of all, let us not blame the victim. We must do just what we would expect of the church – focus on the problem, highlight the problem, condemn the problem in the strongest possible terms, and set about fixing it. The people who have been doing this should not be attacked for exaggerating the problem, or for calling the movement into disrepute. They should be thanked for the courage to take a stand.

We must hold ourselves to a higher standard than we would hold those we oppose.

I’ve also elsewhere likened it to people being told they have cancer, but instead of treating it, they demand that doctors stop talking about your body being “full of cancer” when it’s really just one tumor, and really the tumor is teeny-tiny, no bigger than 0.01% of your body mass!

Can we just deal with the tumor please? Is that so hard?

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Comparing movement atheism and Catholicism on matters of misogyny
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180 thoughts on “Comparing movement atheism and Catholicism on matters of misogyny

  1. 102

    Context, br0kenmech. If it’s a workplace where people of all religions need to be put on equal footing, then all religious talk would be frowned upon and anyone complaining about anyone else’s religious speech should be taken seriously and those religious folks told to keep it out of the workplace.

    If we’re talking about religious people complaining about being dehumanized (!) by being told that their religions are ridiculous (which has nothing to do with their humanity), and they’re complaining about it in the atheist community (!!!), where they have no expectation that their ideas are “safe”, then they will get largely and roundly ignored and/or mocked further.

    But they might have a point if someone went around saying “Muslims are all monsters / terrorists”. That’s the kind of moral judgment and unevidenced prejudice we can’t actually support in this community.

    So why are you trying to make gotchas out of situations without any context given, br0kenmech? What’s your motivation for this intractability?

  2. 104

    The accuser must prove their case.

    “So unless all women in the workplace invest in personal security monitoring with audio and 360 degree video coverage, then guys can grab her ass and there isn’t jack shit you can do about it, huh?”

    “PROVE I just called you a slut in the hallway when we were alone! PROVE I keep asking you out in the parking lot even though you keep saying no.
    PROVE I grabbed your ass.”

    “PROVE it, bitch!”

    Even someone so clearly addled and deliberately blinkered as yourself has to admit that the vast majority of sexual harassment incidents leave NO EVIDENCE.

    So effectively you throw away the concerns and experiences of millions of women because some guy somewhere might hypothetically get called into the HR office for a talk he didn’t deserve.

    Yes, you are defending the status quo.
    Yes, your position provides cover for misogynists.
    Yes, your position penalizes women by trivilializing their experiences and their lives as less important than some mythical falsely-accused and unnecessarily-reminded-to-behave man.

    Welcome to being part of the problem.

  3. 105

    she had been devastated by an innocent good natured comment that no reasonable person could ever have predicted would cause any distress.

    I notice that you don’t mention what you said. Perhaps it was so inconsequential to you that you don’t even remember.

    She was devastated? So she is not a reasonable person?
    Who judged that?

    The guy who said the thing that made her cry.

    I guess your opinion is that we the arbiter of what is or is not harassment depends on how the harasser feels about it.

    Maybe your friend misunderstood what you said but nonetheless the way you report this incident still reveals that you;re a shitty friend that she is well rid of.

  4. 107

    But they might have a point if someone went around saying “Muslims are all monsters / terrorists”.

    If this statement were on a t-shirt, I want to make the point that the t-shirt doesn’t make a statement once, it makes the statement over and over and over each time a person who can read it walks past it. The relentless nature of the message amplifies the level of aggression. A t-shirt is a bit like a broken record that never shuts up.

  5. 108

    @ Jason Thibeault

    Sorry, I meant what would happen in the context of an atheist/skeptic convention where the harassment policy was such that if someone felt they were being harassed then they were being harassed? Other people have said that they would like to see policies that would’ve required Harriet Hall to change her shirt, so I was trying to illustrate how that type of policy could be abused.

    I also feel that many people are underplaying the negative effect that being accused of sexual harassment could have on someone’s reputation.

    @106 Jafafa
    What I said was that I would have to kill her when the revolution came. I said it in jest and without malice. I did not think twice about the comment and she gave no indication that it had distressed her. We were all in a safe space surrounded by mutual friends and family. It was only the next day that I leaned that she had been crying all night because of what I had said.

    Of course I felt bad for her, and I realized that her feelings were genuine, but I also recognize that the problem… the cause of her distress was internal.

    I have quite a bit of personal experience with depression and anxiety disorders in my family, and I know for a fact that the distress, anxiety, paranoia, and fear that people can experience is not always an indication of a problem with the outside world.

  6. 109

    Of course I felt bad for her, and I realized that her feelings were genuine, but I also recognize that the problem… the cause of her distress was internal.

    No, it wasn’t.

    The cause of her distress was the comment you made. External to both of you, once you voiced it. Inside her head is an interpretation that the comment was hurtful and distressing to her. Inside YOUR head is an interpretation that the comment was harmless — TO HER.

    The excuse inside your head doesn’t outweigh the reason inside hers. You assume that your internal judgement call reflects absolute reality while the woman’s doesn’t – and you cannot make that claim.

  7. 110

    @Pteryxx

    Of course I would agree that the reasoning in my head cannot outweigh the reasoning in her head, but what I have been trying to stress throughout this discussion is that there are other measures of reason at play. You seem quite emphatic that the only measure of what is reasonable is in the mind of the individual claiming psychic injury. I am trying to point out that sometimes that persons feelings are not indicative of a problem in the outside world, but rather they are indicative of a psychological problem internal to the person experiencing the psychic injury.

    Yes the injury may be triggered by an external event, but that does not mean ipso facto there is anything wrong with the event that triggered the injury.

    If I trip and fall down the stairs, while ten thousand other people use the stairs without injury daily, then it is unlikely that the fault is with the staircase, in spite of the fact that my injuries are real.

  8. 111

    And the ‘reasonableness’ standard is demonstrably biased against both victims in general, and women in general. Hence the term ‘victim-blaming’ to point out when this bias is in play. Also why harassment laws and training specifically include the word of the complainant as evidence and instruct that the complaint be taken seriously. Because otherwise, bias against the complainant’s credibility, such as you display, is the status quo.

    Credibility is a basic survival tool. When I was very young and just beginning to get what feminism was about and why it was necessary, I had a boyfriend whose uncle was a nuclear physicist. One Christmas, he was telling — as though it were a light and amusing subject — how a neighbor’s wife in his suburban bomb-making community had come running out of her house naked in the middle of the night screaming that her husband was trying to kill her. How, I asked, did you know that he wasn’t trying to kill her? He explained, patiently, that they were respectable middle-class people. Therefore, her-husband-trying-to-kill-her was simply not a credible explanation for her fleeing the house yelling that her husband was trying to kill her. That she was crazy, on the other hand….

    quoting Rebecca Solnit: http://www.motherjones.com/media/2012/08/problem-men-explaining-things-rebecca-solnit

    You can always say an incident doesn’t meet YOUR standards of harm as applied to YOU. You’re not entitled to supersede another person’s judgement of their own feelings. You’re also responsible for the harm your actions cause whether or not you intended harm or agree with the hurt person’s judgement – you’re not a staircase with no moral responsibility.

  9. 112

    If I trip and fall down the stairs, while ten thousand other people use the stairs without injury daily, then it is unlikely that the fault is with the staircase, in spite of the fact that my injuries are real.

    Way to minimize the scope of harassment and the frequency with which it happens. I highly recommend reading the links so many people have provided you, in order to realize that this problem isn’t in the range of 100 ppm.

  10. 113

    brOkenmech:

    I am trying to point out that sometimes that persons feelings are not indicative of a problem in the outside world, but rather they are indicative of a psychological problem internal to the person experiencing the psychic injury.

    I’ll ask again, how are you supposed to distinguish between ‘feelings’ of being harassed, and that person actually ‘being’ harassed?
    You haven’t offered up any support for your assertion. All you’re doing is dismissing victims.
    You also have yet to counter the points made by Pteryxx and Jafafa Hots WRT the standards of harm as applied to the individual.

    You completely dismiss the harassment other people feel because *you* don’t agree that they’ve been harassed. Have you ever read a policy on sexual harassment in a workplace environment?
    Here is a sample policy:

    Sexual harassment includes unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors,
    and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexually harassing nature, when: (1)
    submission to the harassment is made either explicitly or implicitly a term or condition of
    employment; (2) submission to or rejection of the harassment is used as the basis for
    employment decisions affecting the individual; or (3) the harassment has the purpose or
    effect of unreasonably interfering with an individual’s work performance or creating an
    intimidating, hostile, or offensive working environment.
    Any employee who has a complaint of sexual harassment at work by anyone, including
    supervisors, co-workers or visitors, should first clearly inform the harasser that his/her
    behavior is offensive or unwelcome and request that the behavior stop.
    http://dlr.sd.gov/humanrights/samplesexualharassmentpolicy.pdf

    The actions of one person can have an affect on another.
    You might not think asking someone to mess around in the broom closet is sexual harassment, but you’re not the recipient of the harassment. You don’t get to determine what constitutes sexual harassment for someone else.

    You’re trying to frame this discussion in the context of yourself. It’s not about you.

  11. 114

    PatrickG:

    Way to minimize the scope of harassment and the frequency with which it happens. I highly recommend reading the links so many people have provided you, in order to realize that this problem isn’t in the range of 100 ppm.

    Not only that, but he made a ridiculous analogy.
    Last time I checked, stairs are not living entities capable of causing people to fall down stairs.
    People, however, are quite capable of causing harassment to other people. They can also choose *not* to do so.

    It seems more like he’s br0kenrecord who refuses to follow links or listen to the arguments of others, choosing instead to live in his own world where he gets to be final arbiter of what constitutes intimidation/harassment/threats for others.

  12. 115

    @Tony •King of the Hellmouth•

    I have already said that I am not at all opposed to the concept of sexual harassment policies. The example policy you have quoted sounds very reasonable to me. perhaps, rather than consistently trying to mischaracterize my position, you could try to respond to what I have actually said. For a group of self described skeptics, there sure is a lot of mind reading going on in this thread.

  13. 116

    @Tony •King of the Hellmouth•

    Not only that, but he made a ridiculous analogy.
    Last time I checked, stairs are not living entities capable of causing people to fall down stairs.

    Seriously? You need me to explain the analogy to you?

    If the staircase was investigated and found to be poorly constructed, or in disrepair, then we as a society would agree that those stairs were substandard and that this indeed was the likely cause of injury.

    Simply falling down on the stairs is not enough to determine that the stairs are substandard.

  14. 117

    and if someone tells you they fell down the stairs, would you believe them or assume it’s all in their head unless they produce evidence or witnesses?

  15. 118

    @Pteryxx

    and if someone tells you they fell down the stairs, would you believe them or assume it’s all in their head unless they produce evidence or witnesses?

    Are you stupid? How much more clear could I be? Of course I believe them.

  16. 119

    If the staircase was investigated and found to be poorly constructed, or in disrepair, then we as a society would agree that those stairs were substandard and that this indeed was the likely cause of injury.

    Simply falling down on the stairs is not enough to determine that the stairs are substandard.

    Your presumption is of a universal reasonable, able-bodied person.

    Perhaps the stairs are perfectly well-constructed for the first 200 people who used it. However, the 201st person to use it had a broken foot and there was no elevator. She tripped and fell. The fault is not hers, but the fault is not in the stairs either, it’s in the designers of the building who failed to take into account the fact that humans are individuals with individual needs and not everyone can negotiate stairs.

    Here’s another analogy for you: some people are really scared of dogs. It’s unreasonable of them to be scared of my boss’ friendly golden retriever, yet they are. What’s the “reasonable” response? To beat them about the head with the irrationality of their fear, or to put the dog outside for the duration of their visit?

    You say you’re not against harassment policies, but then you go and parrot every bogus argument put forth by those who are opposed to harassment policies, like the debunked idea that men’s reputations are ruined–RUINED!–by the onerous burden of having to go in for sensitivity training, or having a talk with the boss in which they are told to avoid making certain remarks. Or the idea that it’s inherently unreasonable to feel harassed by something that was not INTENDED as harassment.

    So what are we to make of you? Are you going to resolve this dissonance?

  17. 120

    And the stair builders’ reputations are not ruined because someone differently-abled were unable to negotiate it. The building designers / managers are tarred with the fact that they were unable to accomodate all walks of life.

    JUST LIKE WITH HARASSMENT POLICIES.

  18. 121

    and if someone tells you they fell down the stairs, would you believe them or assume it’s all in their head unless they produce evidence or witnesses?

    Are you stupid? How much more clear could I be? Of course I believe them.

    She’s got a point, you know. How do you know they’re not lying? They could be angling to sue the owner of the building. Shouldn’t you check to see their bruises first before you accept their version of events? Wouldn’t want to needlessly damage the reputation of the architect, after all.

  19. 124

    @119 SallyStrange says:

    The fault is not hers, but the fault is not in the stairs either, it’s in the designers of the building who failed to take into account the fact that humans are individuals with individual needs and not everyone can negotiate stairs.

    Yes, you are completely correct.

    Here’s another analogy for you: some people are really scared of dogs. It’s unreasonable of them to be scared of my boss’ friendly golden retriever, yet they are. What’s the “reasonable” response? To beat them about the head with the irrationality of their fear, or to put the dog outside for the duration of their visit?

    As a parent and a dog owner I fully support restrictions on where dogs are permitted as well as when and where they are required to be on a leash.

    …but the rights of dogs, are not analogous to the equal rights of human beings.

    …Or the idea that it’s inherently unreasonable to feel harassed by something that was not INTENDED as harassment.

    Again I will repeat that this is not my position. There is nothing inherently unreasonable in feeling harassed, intimidated, or threatened, but these feelings, while reasonable, do not in and of themselves demonstrate the presence of harassing, intimidating, or threatening behaviour.

  20. 126

    @121 SallyStrange says:

    She’s got a point, you know. How do you know they’re not lying? They could be angling to sue the owner of the building. Shouldn’t you check to see their bruises first before you accept their version of events? Wouldn’t want to needlessly damage the reputation of the architect, after all.

    Really? This is just getting silly. Fine. Yes I would apply reasonable skepticism to the claim that they had fallen down the stairs. Are their injuries? Are there financial motivations? Does the person making the claim have a history of false allegations, etc… but assuming that there was reason to believe that they did indeed fall down the stairs, and that the person who fell was not differently-abled… I would not jump immediately to the conclusion the the stairs must be substandard.

    @120 Jason Thibeault says:

    And the stair builders’ reputations are not ruined because someone differently-abled were unable to negotiate it. The building designers / managers are tarred with the fact that they were unable to accomodate all walks of life.

    If the building was substandard according to societal norms with regards to providing services to the differently-abled, then their reputations are not being unjustly impacted.

    If the building owners were forced to go to unreasonable lengths to accommodate the unreasonable expectations of an unreasonable individual, then that would be unreasonable.

  21. 127

    It seems to me that you folks are making the absurd claim that under no circumstance, ever, could anyone ever be wrongly accused of harassing, intimidating, or threatening someone.

    That whenever a person falls it is always the fault of the substandard environment, rather than the fact that their shoes were untied.

    In refusing to concede to even the most benign, inconsequential and obviously correct positions, you make yourselves sound like raving lunatics.

  22. 128

    @Jafafa Hots says:

    I’m sorry, I just can’t get past the
    “I told her I’d kill her as a joke and it’s her fault that that upset her” bullshit.

    I’m quite certain that I read PZ saying the someone should be “fucked into the ground” the other day. Not a single person raised any issue with his statement. Why? Could it be that adults with average reading comprehension levels can tell that he is using hyperbole to illustrate his point. Could it be that you are being belligerently obtuse in your inability to get past the fact that people do use these types of language without malice or callous disregard for the feelings of others?

  23. 129

    It seems to me that you folks are making the absurd claim that under no circumstance, ever, could anyone ever be wrongly accused of harassing, intimidating, or threatening someone.

    Yes, it clearly does seem that way to you.
    Since the words on the screen clearly don’t make that assertion, then by your rules…

    Your problem is internal.

  24. 132

    Could it be that you are being belligerently obtuse in your inability to get past the fact that people do use these types of language without malice or callous disregard for the feelings of others?

    Again, you read the words you want to see and not the words I typed.

    I SAID that people do in fact make that kind of joke. I said that EVERYONE has done that.

    The point is that you do not talk AT someone. You talk WITH someone. And if that someone is upset by something you said, even if misinterpreted… even if they are by your standards “overly sensitive” then you, as a person in the conversation, as a friend, bear responsibility to COMMUNICATE with that friend until the matter is fully understood and resolved to some degree.

    You do not talk AT someone, declare their reaction to be their problem and wash your hands of it.

    You VALUE that friend, you value their point of view and experience and even if you still disagree you take their feelings into consideration.

    I can say “fuck” and “shit” in front of my mother. I won’t in front of my dad because I know it makes him feel uncomfortable.

    Is that HIS fault? Is it “internal?” Is he unreasonable, and should I write his opinion off?

    I guess so, if I’m a self-centered ass.

  25. 133

    If I claimed that I felt harassed and intimidated by the manner in which several of you have addressed me during the course of this discussion, would you seriously consider me a victim of harassment and intimidation? And yet that is precisely what you want me to believe.

  26. 134

    …Or the idea that it’s inherently unreasonable to feel harassed by something that was not INTENDED as harassment.

    Again I will repeat that this is not my position. There is nothing inherently unreasonable in feeling harassed, intimidated, or threatened, but these feelings, while reasonable, do not in and of themselves demonstrate the presence of harassing, intimidating, or threatening behaviour.

    If someone feels harassed, then harassment has, by definition, occurred.

    This is always true. Sometimes the harassment is because of miscommunication, but that’s still harassment.

    Sometimes the person is lying about feeling harassed, but then there’s nobody who feels harassed.

    QED, you are wrong.

    And still a great example of how the OP’s analogy between atheists passively enabling sexism and Catholics passively enabling child rape.

  27. 135

    If I claimed that I felt harassed and intimidated by the manner in which several of you have addressed me during the course of this discussion, would you seriously consider me a victim of harassment and intimidation? And yet that is precisely what you want me to believe.

    At THIS point in the conversation, it’d be bloody obvious that you were lying in order to score points.

    Context is everything.

  28. 136

    It seems to me that you folks are making the absurd claim that under no circumstance, ever, could anyone ever be wrongly accused of harassing, intimidating, or threatening someone.

    We are making the claim that, excluding the possibility that the person who says they were harassed is lying, there are two possibilities: the other person harassed them intentionally, or the other person harassed them unintentionally.

    Why is this so difficult to understand? Oh right, empathy deficient.

  29. 137

    Not a single person raised any issue with his statement.

    That’s a lie.

    I won’t speculate as to whether it was intentional or unintentional.

    But, given that PZ made that statement at least six months ago, maybe more, it makes me suspect you have a perma-hate-boner for PZ.

    That’s kinda sad.

  30. 138

    @134 Sally Strange says:

    If someone feels harassed, then harassment has, by definition, occurred.

    This is always true.

    I completely disagree. This is irrational and dogmatic for reasons I have already pointed out repeatedly.

    Sometimes the harassment is because of miscommunication, but that’s still harassment.

    Sometimes the person is lying about feeling harassed, but then there’s nobody who feels harassed.

    @135

    At THIS point in the conversation, it’d be bloody obvious that you were lying in order to score points.

    Context is everything.

    So it is sometimes acceptable to doubt the sincerity of the person claiming they feel harassed? You acknowledge that it is possible that a person may claim to feel harassed when in fact they could be lying. Interesting.

  31. 139

    If someone who had just spent two days arguing with me that it’s unreasonable to believe that “harassment has occurred” (note the passive voice there) just because someone claims to have been harassed, suddenly started claiming that I had harassed them?

    Then HELL YES I would suspect them of lying. As a general rule.

  32. 140

    You are ignoring the fact that I was excluding cases where the claimant is lying.

    In cases where you have no reason to suspect the claimant of lying, then yes, a claim of harassment is evidence that harassment has occurred. Some person behaved in a way that made the other person feel harassed. Whether they were behaving that way with the intention of harassing someone is immaterial to the fact that they did, in fact, harass someone.

    Just like if you accidentally drop a rock on my head, or hurl it at my head, it is still a fact that there was a collision between my head and the rock.

    I’d say you were a lackwit but I think you’re perfectly intelligent, just callous and selfish.

  33. 142

    Actually, br0kenmech, as the blog host, I would take your claim seriously. I would look into the matter and, if I found that your claims of being harassed via your voluntary participation in this thread because these commenters have called you names is valid, I would recommend that people tone it down. If, however, I agree that your claims have no merit, or that you’ve done every bit as much to damage discourse as others; if I find your contributions to this conversation to be contributing to and not working against the problem, I would warn YOU to cut out your damaging behaviours.

    As it stands, people saying your reasoning is obviously motivated and your argumentation disingenuous and repetitive, your ability to reason flawed and your logic figure-eighted around itself, are all correct, demonstrably. The evidence is here on display. And since you believe the things you’ve done are not harassment, and all the things in the community that we’re fighting against are not harassment, you saying people calling you names is harassment is laughable at best.

  34. 144

    I just explained the full thought process I went through examining your claim in detail, exactly how it happened. As an exercise, I ran through exactly what you said. Since you’re mind-reading again, perhaps you could also tell me what I’m thinking right now?

  35. 145

    @Jason Thibeault

    I just explained the full thought process I went through examining your claim in detail, exactly how it happened. As an exercise, I ran through exactly what you said. Since you’re mind-reading again, perhaps you could also tell me what I’m thinking right now?

    Calm down.

  36. 146

    Calm down.

    That made me laugh out loud. I’m quite sure Jason is calm (though of course he can inform us as to his state of mind).

    But damn, you’re running out of material.

  37. 148

    br0kenmech, I don’t believe that was a compliment. I believe that was the sort of laughter that is torn from a person when they can’t believe someone has just done something that stupid.

  38. 149

    Ha! Yes, Stephanie. That was just a sheer “Wow” on my part. br0kenmech clearly had nothing to say, and didn’t even say ‘nothing’ very well.

    Two gut laughs in one thread. Achievement unlocked!

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