Yesterday, I mentioned as an aside the harassment campaign against feminist atheists conducted by a very small but very dedicated group of sexists whose two main complaints appear to be: 1) Sexual harassment is a holy right and conferences shouldn’t have policies banning it and 2) It should be verboten for feminists to discuss the overlap between secularism and feminism, and how to best use this overlap to achieve our mutual goals. By and large, I just block these assholes on Twitter, and frankly, they are so small in number that it only took about a dozen blockings until they went away completely.* I find them irritating, but absolutely not relevant people. They might as well be mad that I don’t believe their “abducted by aliens” story. Denying patriarchy and sexism is like other kinds of denialism, such as claiming that the Confederacy was about “states rights” and not slavery: Obviously irrational horseshit that should be studied from afar, but there’s no value in engaging with people who are so delusional.
That’s why I have mixed feelings about the Houston Chronicle covering the “controversy” over the existence of Women in Secularism. My concern is that the inevitable process of quoting people from “both sides” creates a false equivalence, much like having climate scientists “debate” global warming denialists creates the illusion that there’s a controversy, when in fact it’s more akin to a struggle between reasonable people and irrationalists with an agenda. You see that problem in this piece. The feminist voices are, by and large, mainstream voices of actual experts who are supported by the mainstream secularist community. The anti-feminists are fringe characters who run hate sites and have had the Southern Poverty Law Center look into them. There’s not an authentic conflict here, but more a story about how normal people going about important business are being harassed by fringe characters with nothing of value to say.
On the flip side, the reporter gives the haters enough rope to hang themselves.
As Justin Vacula of Skeptic Ink Network said in response to another piece from conference speaker Amanda Marcotte, “I fail to see how refusing to believe in God leads to the ‘logical conclusion’ of abandoning the belief that women exist to serve men.”
Well, at least we know where he stands. I, for one, appreciate an anti-feminist who comes right out and says it. I do grow weary of those whose cowardice in the face of people’s repulsion towards them argue for female inferiority ellipitically.
Since you guys were batting around a troll who was absolutely rock solid sure that “fake geek girls” were out to get him, I thought I’d share with you this interesting piece from a guy who admits he used to think this way, but has gotten over it. A quote:
See how early the toxicity enters the equation? Without knowing it, geeky activity became my excuse, a shield from potential failures. It’s not my fault that I’m not meeting more people and learning social skills, it’s their fault for liking football instead of cool stuff like Star Trek. The only reason I can’t get a girlfriend is because none of them like what I do….
And so, when a boy sees a girl who’s just trying to share her love of geek stuff, he lashes out at her. She’s an indication that this wall of excuses he’s built up is total bullshit. Rather than sit back and untangle the web of flawed convictions he has, he’d rather attack the reminder of his own cowardice. You see this all the time when people’s belief structures are threatened by reality. Rather than incorporate new information, they attack and try to discredit it.
To an insecure geek guy, a genuine geek woman’s existence is saying “you have no excuse.” And boy are we invested in those excuses.
By no means is this writer trying to explain all misogyny this way, of course. It’s just one way that it develops. He’s certainly not trying to excuse it, either. His entire point is that men grab onto misogyny as a life raft to avoid looking at their own flaws and failures. It comes in various forms, but at the end of the day, it always comes back to trying to feel bigger and more powerful by telling yourself that not only are you superior to half the human race by birth, but that they exist, to quote Vacula, to “serve men”. And that you are free, therefore, to judge them strictly by their willingness to please you, and to treat them like garbage. And, if they fight back, then you are justified in your hatred of them. The writer, Lawrence Sonntag, is quite clear that this dynamic hurts women more than men, saying, “And for the women who have the courage to stand up to this garbage on a daily basis? Please, never think for one second that you deserve a fraction of it.” But he does make a good point that this kind of toxicity also infects its host, making their lives smaller and meaner and less joyous every day they dwell in this misogynist space. Certainly, my interactions with misogynists have done nothing to dispel that notion.
*In contrast, I have to block a couple of anti-choicers screeching lies and invective at me on a slow day, and dozens when they have some bug up their ass about something that they inevitably don’t even understand. Seriously, blocking people on Twitter who refuse to engage in good faith is awesome, and I can’t recommend it enough. It turns a platform that can seem like a bunch of hateful noise into a space where interesting information and opinions are being exchanged. Social media works if you’re willing to do the work of pruning.