(This is a tweet posted some time ago by a woman now complaining bitterly that her attempt to make atheism more inclusive has been poorly received. I wonder at what age she loses the right to an opinion - or does the age qualifier only apply to (white) men?) I was amused to learn that apparently the way to deal with a woman who disagrees with you is to pat her on the head and explain to her very gently why she might be just a little bit silly to think she doesn't need defending from all the big nasty men out there. But I digress.
The other day Rebecca Watson posted a Tweet saying... ah. Oh. Well, I was going to quote it exactly but I appear to have been blocked by the "fearless" leader of SkepChic (a fact I submit without comment). If anyone can find the tweet itself please let me know and I'll edit, but essentially it was words to the effect of "Don't feel too smug, misogynists, you may have forced one woman blogger off the internet but I'm going to be twice as gobby now to make up for it!". Anyway, last night after another tweet (which, of course, I also now can't quote directly) along the lines of "Idiots are having a go at me about A+ but it's nothing to do with me. Must have been a new feature in the Harass Rebecca Daily" I must confess I momentarily lost patience and replied telling her to get over herself. Within a couple of hours - and again, I report events as they happened without speculation on causal links - I received a tweet from a follower telling me that I've now been screencapped on Watson's blog, too, which you can see here. (If you haven't come here from Twitter, I'm @Whoozley so I'm the one who said "I'm a woman & an atheist blogger, & never experienced sexist abuse from fellow atheists. Maybe because I don't assume they're misogynists?".)
Now, that tweet that Richard Dawkins RT'd the other week has got me a fair bit of shit, which is a little ridiculous when you bear in mind that all I actually did was effectively to say that I hadn't experienced the problem they were all talking about (still haven't, incidentally) and suggest a possible reason for this perceived disparity in experience. I wouldn't call the tweets I've been getting "abusive" because that would be pretty demeaning to people who actually are being or have been abused - but some of it's been fairly hysterical and distinctly disproportionate to what I actually said. (N.B.: Please don't read any of this as an attack of the "poor me"s. I said what I said, I stand by it, and if people wish to disagree with it whether rationally or frothingly they have every right to do so. If you don't like taking shit for what you say in a public forum, don't fucking say it.)
On Watson's post, now, I find myself screencapped along with a number of individuals I would be inclined to describe as significantly nastier than I have been. There's a bit of a contrast between me saying what I said - to the world at large, by the way, it wasn't addressed to anyone in particular - and a person who instructs Watson to kill herself, or expresses hope that she will be raped.
What conclusion can I draw from this? Well, let's see; I haven't used language anyone might consider objectionable, I haven't called anyone names, I didn't even aim that comment at an individual. So how have I been elevated to the ranks of those who call Watson a cunt and suggest it would do her good to be raped?
As far as I can see, all I have done wrong in the eyes of the feminist bloggers behind Atheism Plus (and Watson's post is itself evidence that she is not uninvolved in it, by the way) has been to disagree with them. Does that truly warrant stacking me up with the genuinely nasty commentators? I can't stop it happening and wouldn't have the right even if I could, but certainly I think her doing so belies the claim the A+ers have been making ever since Richard Carrier's hilariously jingoistic post (outlined and linked here) that they don't have a "with us or against us" mentality.
There are some points I would like to make to Atheism Plusers, should any happen to read this:
1: A person who objects to the solution you propose is not automatically part of the problem.
2: It is possible do be described as a whiny twat, a brainless cunt or whatever else without having been the victim of misogyny. Possibly the person saying it is just a dick (oops - is that misandrist?), or possibly - just possibly - you should consider the possibility that you are actually speaking or acting like a whiny twat/brainless cunt. Ownership of a vagina doesn't confer immunity against being a wassock, and it doesn't mean you can't be a twat any more than ownership of a penis means you can't be a dick.
3: All over the world, right now, millions of women are directly experiencing abuse, oppression, rape, mutilation, even murder. An email telling you to kill yourself is not cool, but it doesn't put you on the same level of victimhood as someone who's been raped or a woman who's had her clitoris hacked off with a stone, either. I'm sort of revolted to find I actually feel an impulse to apologise to you for pointing that out.
4: I don't need protecting, thank you. Nor do lots of other women. I don't feel even slightly threatened by the atheist community, and I'm not going to lie about that just to avoid upsetting you.
5: Our feminist ancestors didn't spend centuries fighting against the constraints of a male-dominated society so that we, their daughters and granddaughters, could be free to conform to the expectations of a group of feminists instead of to those of men. That is not how this works. Furthermore, if you expected me to join your club because I'm a woman too, that doesn't make me the sexist when I refuse.
6: You might be oversensitive. No, really. It is entirely possible for someone to think you're an idiot - or even a twat or a dick - without that opinion being in any way related to your sex. It is entirely possibly for someone to think you're wrong without it automatically being the case that they think you're wrong because you're a woman. On the plus side, though, this also means it is possible to defend yourself when someone tells you you're wrong by means more sophisticated than calling them a misogynist. You could actually, you know, explain how their reasoning is at fault instead of making an unfair assumption and making them feel wronged. As you are now experiencing first-hand, causing someone to feel unjustly maligned does not make them inclined to value your opinion.
7: You can't market yourself as an inclusive movement if you're going to deliberately exclude people, whether that's by directly attacking "old, white men" or more duplicitously by holding yourselves apart from "humanists" (and importantly, if you're going to try to be sneaky about it in that way, don't be dumb enough to actually point out that the two groups have a significant overlap). You also can't claim to speak for gay people, black people, disabled people, transgendered people, Latino people or any other group you describe (rightly or wrongly) as "marginalised" if all the world's going to hear from you is endless bitching because you're a woman and you got called a nasty name.
8: Yes, there are sexist twats out there, both male and female. We know that, they're everywhere, and any person who says they've never experienced sexism hasn't been paying attention. But just as "nasty email" =/= "rape", so "inadvertently sexist statement" =/= "woman hater". Intentions matter, and believe me - at this stage, Atheism Plus cannot afford to be disputing that point.
Edit: Snowrunner has very kindly provided me with a link to the Watson tweet I couldn't get for myself - I had the gist right but not the exact words, so if you want to see for yourself it's here. Thanks, Snowrunner!