It’s happening everywhere

No, not “to everyone”. Everywhere. io9 talks about three of our communities – skepticism/atheism, sci-fi fandom, and computer hacker culture.

But it’s also happening in comics, in video games, in the movie industry. In every area where a woman tries to improve their lot, or to break those rigid gender roles by entering areas that are otherwise traditionally populated by men, she faces exponentially more abuse and vitriol than men in those areas.

In every aspect of our society, there is a hidden war on women.

Everywhere that “man” is “default person”, men are actively fighting the merest possibility of changing that presumption. If you’re a woman in a man-dominated area, you face tens and hundreds of times more pushback. Why? Because these specific men don’t like people encroaching on their privilege.

You might not think you’re seeing that kind of pushback, personally. You might NOT see that pushback — and if so, lucky you! But you might also think that it’s part and parcel with being a woman. You might even think that it’s just a tell that this field is rough-and-tumble, and that you need to toughen up if you expect to make it — and that any failure to toughen up and take the abuse is damning of women in general, that if you can’t “man up” and swallow the abuse then you’re failing your gender by showing exactly why the men saying women don’t belong there are right. You might think that by demanding people stop treating women with so much disrespect that we’re infantilizing women.

And worse, you might even think that those damn uppity feminists yelling about the jackasses are tarring the whole community with what some tiny subset of that community is doing, and that means that the community as a whole doesn’t have a misogyny problem, just that tiny subset. Just like how the whole body doesn’t have a cancer problem, just the tiny subset that has cancer. So instead of fighting that tiny subset, you’re fighting against the “encroaching invaders” that feminists represent, who are attempting to change the status quo. Who are attempting to fight the problem.

But this is happening everywhere. We atheists and skeptics seem to think we’ve got some kind of moral high ground, that we’re immune to motivated reasoning, to unskeptical and uncritical cognitive biases, to racism and sexism and other bigotries because they’re just so irrational. And even while we believe ourselves to be immune, we provide apologetics for the bigots instead of challenging them. We talk about the burden of proof and presumption of innocence, even while we see all the evidence before us that there’s a problem. We talk about the damage of mislabelling people as misogynists, instead of the damage of hurling rape and death threats at women for being women.

The thing is, if you’re getting involved in this debate by attacking those folks who point out that these things are happening, then you are, in fact, no better than the bigots because you’re giving them cover, and you’re doing their jobs for them. You’re attacking the solution to the problem instead of the problem. So when people start taking a “with us or against us” siege mentality, it’s not a surprise to me. And it’s not something I can really take to task.

If people get unfairly tarred as being a misogynist just because they’re helping and granting succour to the misogynists in the community, I can’t bring myself to be upset about that. Sure, it’s rather sad that some good people who are simply unaware of the scope of the problem are being tarred as villains when they’re merely unintentionally helping the villains. But at that point, it’s incumbent upon us to get informed before pontificating on a subject like whether or not the skeptical community has a misogyny problem.

If you don’t know if it has a problem, and you declare that it doesn’t, then you’re assuming that the evidence everyone else was looking at is wrong. Or you’re unaware of that evidence. Or you’re assuming that you have to prove each case beyond a shadow of a doubt before you’re allowed to build trending data.

If you look at the vast sweep of interactions in our community, it’s plainly obvious that by being a girl, you statistically risk higher incidences of harassment, trolling, derision and vitriol. Unless, that is, you’re one of those girls who has managed to take the abuse you’ve gotten, and you say “okay, it’s okay, I’ve got a thick skin, I can take the abuse. I’m not like those uppity feminists, I’m a chill girl, it’s all good.” Then you get less villainy. Or the villainy you get, you’re expected to be able to take it in stride, because you’ve already proven you’re “one of the guys”.

You know why you’re getting less evil thrown at you for this? Because you’re expected to be the example that’s trotted out every time someone points out just how much abuse you face by being a woman on the internet. You’re expected to step up and say “look at those feminazis, demanding that all men be subjugated to their whims, what bullies they are!” every time someone says “hey, we shouldn’t put up with trollishness directed at women in our community.”

By you sticking your head up to fight the people fighting the problem, you’re part of the problem. If that gets you “mislabeled”, boo fucking hoo.

It’s happening everywhere

18 thoughts on “It’s happening everywhere

  1. 4

    This, ladies and gentlemen, is the best the “opposition” has to offer: pretending to be RMS and Jesus. (Wait, did they repeat? Aren’t they the same person?) I’ll have you know, Stallman doesn’t live in Saint Lucia, Australia, and he has a personal page that’s more appropriate to use than the Gentoo homepage. And Jesus certainly doesn’t live in West Chester, Ohio, because he’s a fictional character.

  2. 7

    I think you’re making false comparisons. People who ‘oppose’ you aren’t the same as opposing a fight against misogyny. Also throwing incorrect accusations around doesn’t help anybody so if someone calls you out on it, and they in turn are called misogynists, and this is fine with you ‘boo fucking hoo’ then I question your sense of justice.

    Stopping innocent people being accused of misogyny is not giving shelter to actual misogynists.

  3. 9

    Stopping innocent people being accused of misogyny is not giving shelter to actual misogynists.

    As a female engineer, I can tell you right from the start that seeing women as somehow less able is entrenched in society so deeply that most people don’t have any idea they are doing it. Women breaking out of their assigned roles gets pushback like you wouldn’t believe, because this is what happens any time there is societal change.

    Following normal society expectations gives shelter to “actual” misogynists, even if the intentions are innocent.

  4. PG

    Wow, the Amy Roth thing? They brought up Amy Roth as an example of harassment at TAM?

    You’re still clinging to this, aren’t you, Jason? That Amy Roth actually suffered harassment at TAM? She cried at a t-shirt not directed at her, a woman said she was not “A Watsonista” not directed at her, a song that said feminists had a stick up their arse not directed at her (specifically) and the fake jewelry. Wow, is all I can say. Lying and obfuscation is the name of the game in the sceptic community these days, apparently.

    Oh, and the Readercon thing? It was a clear-cut case of sexual harassment, but it appears you didn’t read past the first paragraphs. Members of the Readercon commitee quit in protest when the board did not ban the harasser at once, indicating solidarity of women at Readercon, and later the Readercon board resigned and apologised. That’s a good thing, Jason. For you to trump this up as some sort of inherent trait within the community is pathetic. Lousy, even.

  5. 11

    Elisions, mischaracterizations and outright character assassination are yours, PG, so evidently you’ll fit in nicely in that same skeptics community that’s trying so hard to eliminate me and others like me.

  6. 12

    I was at Black Hat and Defcon this year and I simply must agree that it’s completely evident it’s a boy’s club.

    From the behavior addressed in the post, to the fact they hired freakin’ booth babes to two of their major sponsors’ booths, to the fact they had semi-official after parties at strip clubs – the professional IT people they were looking for were heterosexual, cisgendered men.

  7. 13

    Thank you, PG, for being a perfect example of what Jason was talking about:

    If you don’t know if it has a problem, and you declare that it doesn’t, then you’re assuming that the evidence everyone else was looking at is wrong. Or you’re unaware of that evidence. Or you’re assuming that you have to prove each case beyond a shadow of a doubt before you’re allowed to build trending data.

    Pretty well every corporation in Western society has a sexual harassment policy. These policies are so similar they’re almost identical. If someone says they’re harassed then the policies say they’re harassed. This is because legal precedent dictates this outlook towards harassment both in North America and in Europe.

    Since JREF has decided, for whatever reason, not to have a harassment policy for TAM, then they can say with a perfectly straight face that Amy Roth wasn’t harassed. You, PG, have bought into this travesty. In actuality, Amy has harassed and JREF supported the harassers.

  8. 15

    and the fake jewelry

    This is rather blatantly directed harassment against Surly Amy. That you’d bring up obvious harassment as an example of not harassment shows a fair bit of either mind boggling ignorance (not likely, considering the tone of the comment) or deliberate dishonesty.

    I’m going with the latter.

  9. 16

    Strictly speaking, the policy of most companies is “if a reasonable person would be offended/intimidated by this, it’s harassment.” If a woman shakes a man’s hand, for example, and they get offended because they have a religious proscription against being touched by members of the opposite gender, that is not religion-based harassment because a reasonable person would find it customary and non-harassing.

    That said, there’s no question in my mind that what happened to Amy Roth meets that definition of harassment, and that the people defending TAM’s lack of policy and the events that happened to her are being anything but reasonable. After seeing the way CONvergence handled things in 2012, I think that they’ve set a model for future conventions and TAM, in turn, has set a very good example of what not to do.

  10. 17

    As always, group that have an ill-gotten advantage in a society want to keep it and not treat others as equals (e.g. sexist pigs, racists in the southern US, apartheid in South Africa, apartheid in Israel, religion, etc.). And the more ill-gotten, criminal and unethical the advantage, the harder they fight (read: become violent) to keep it.

    It’s only when the oppressed hold an insurmountable moral position (e.g. India’s fight for independence, US civil rights marchers of the ’60s) or insurmountable military position (e.g. the Boxer Rebellion) that the oppressor finally gives up. But even when they do, they still try to keep some of that control (e.g. England keeping Hong Kong for a while).

  11. 18

    […] I think he’s drawn a number of lines in the sand that he’ll take people to task over that are misguided at best, and outright hateful at worst — look at the abuse he’s heaped on Surly Amy, look at his blatant mischaracterization of the scary notes that did the last bit of chipping damage that led to Ophelia ditching TAM. Look even at his blatant self-promotion, to the point where he’ll ally with anyone he thinks (and knows) will increase his stock with the big names in the community, the names who are fed up with feminism, names like Richard Dawkins and Jeremy Stangroom and Russell Blackford and Paula Kirby and Sarah Mayhew. His ideas about the law are questionable at best, and he’s shown that he’s willing to gamble on legal matters on the advice of hateful and spiteful jerks to cut someone down without himself consulting a lawyer — he’s a ticking legal timebomb for any organization to take on, in other words. Not to mention the posting of home address information and a photo of Surly Amy’s apartment building to the same Slyme Pit that I mentioned earlier. He’s dismissed the active harassment people like Stephanie have received, claiming they can’t be harassed because they’re public figures — never mind that they’re getting this harassment only because they’re women on the internet. […]

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