“Hope You Get Raped!”

I see a lot of people criticizing these comments that have been made toward the Skepchicks and others engaged in the sexism debacle.  How horrible that people would ever threaten others!  Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not excusing the people who are making these supposed threats, I think it’s extremely bad form and extremely childish to go around and tell people they ought to be raped.  I shouldn’t have to say that it’s horrific if anyone out there actually thinks that any person, regardless of gender, deserves to get sexually or physically assaulted in any way, shape or form and strongly decry that in the most strenuous terms.  No one, no matter how much they piss you off, actually deserves that.   I know it’s foolish, but I’d hope that as atheists, we were better than that.  Of course, we’re not, we all share exactly one thing in common, a lack of belief in god(s), we otherwise cover the gambit of views, intelligences and rationalities.

Have you looked around the Internet these days?  People threaten each other all the time!  If I had a dime for every death threat I’ve ever received, I’d be rich!  I’ve never once felt actually threatened by any of them, I’ve never been in actual fear of my life, in fact, I’ve given a couple of them my address and invited them over.  Go ahead, try something!  Of course none of them ever do because none of the threats were ever serious.  I give them exactly the amount of concern that they deserve, absolutely none.

But the Skepchicks apparently don’t take them all that seriously either.  I certainly haven’t read any stories of them reporting these threats to the FBI or local authorities, something that anyone who receives a credible threat is supposed to do.  I’ve yet to see reports that they’ve locked themselves in their houses or changed their daily routine because they are seriously concerned about rape threats.  In fact, from all appearances, they are going on about their daily routines as if nothing had actually happened.

Because nothing actually did.

Threats are commonplace online.  Hell, like it or not, rape is a meme online.  Nobody said you had to like reality, just that you had to deal with it.  These people act like they’ve never been on the Internet before.  The one thing that I keep pointing out though is that none of these supposed threats ever happened before the whole Elevatorgate nonsense and the subsequent insulting of the atheist community.  When they were posting about science and skepticism and critical thinking, they were riding high.  You tell people they’re a bunch of misogynist cretins and you don’t expect to get an angry response?  While I don’t agree with the tone or the content of the response, you have to remember that the only thing we’re seeing in these blog posts are those responses that have been put through their misogyny filter.  Anything that doesn’t feed their agenda has been conveniently set aside so it looks like there are many, many more misogynistic responses than there actually are.  Where are all the “you’re an idiot” comments?  We just don’t see those and I’m willing to bet they vastly outnumber the “hope you get raped” comments.

So we’ve established that the people involved aren’t taking these threats seriously, what are they doing with them?  They’re using them as emotional blackmail.  It’s a method of getting sympathy for their cause, sympathy for the “horrible things” they have to go through, things they don’t even care about that much.

Sorry, I have no sympathy.  That’s not to say I want to see them, or anyone else, raped.  I would go to extreme lengths if I thought these people were really in any danger of being physically or sexually assaulted.  I just don’t.  Neither do they.

This whole thing is really ridiculous and keeps getting blown entirely out of proportion.

 To be honest, I’m starting to wonder if all of this is just some sort of publicity stunt.  Now please correct me if I’m wrong because I haven’t searched extensively, but has anyone ever identified the person who supposedly propositioned Rebecca Watson in that elevator?  Have we heard from that person?  Have they come out publically to give their side of the story?  Have we ever had the people who supposedly gave a sexually-explicit card to Elyse Anders at the Ohio Skepticamp make a direct comment?  She says she knew them from Facebook before the incident, have they been publically identified anywhere?  The only thing I’ve seen actual evidence of is the shirt, worn by Harriet Hall at this year’s TAM and the utterly ridiculous over-reaction by Surly Amy.  I’m not calling them liars, I’m asking for evidence, but apparently, asking for evidence anywhere around the FtBully crew just gets you banished.  So where is the evidence that any of this is actually taking place?  We’re skeptics here, we demand proof.

I just can’t see where there is anywhere near as big a problem as it’s been blown up to be.  The events that we hear of are so minor as to be laughable and they’re more blog-fodder than anything else.  If there are better examples, if anyone actually broke the law, why didn’t these women go to the police?  Heck, you want to know how to handle these things?  Go to the conference organizers, tell them what happened.  Make sure it’s a legitimate complaint first, not “I just don’t feel comfortable”.  Maybe you’re the one with the problem.  However, if someone does something serious, tell the organizers.  Tell them if they don’t do something about it, you’re going to the hotel staff.  Give them some time, then move up the ladder.  The hotel is not going to want to deal with a conference which potentially opens them to legal liability.  If they won’t do anything, go to the police.  The police will take action, if the event is actionable.

The problem is, nothing ever is.  None of the things that have happened have been remotely actionable.  You can’t arrest someone for inviting you out to coffee.  You can’t arrest someone for politely asking you to have sex.  You sure can’t arrest someone for wearing a shirt you don’t like.

Where does this leave us?  Back at square one, with a group of people with an agenda, who want to impose that agenda upon a burgeoning community that, whether they like it or not, has nothing to do with that agenda.  As I’ve said before, I’ve seen this exact same thing happen in another fandom before and it utterly and totally destroyed the fandom.

I hope we can get back to some semblance of sanity before it does exactly that with atheism.

16 thoughts on ““Hope You Get Raped!”

  1. I think you're right on the money. Some people just don't have all the excitement in life they crave, so they go and manufacture a whole load of drama. I've had the rape threat, and worse, but you just sigh and move on…it's the interwebs, and if you can't seperate the real from the phoney, it could be you need a net-nanny web-filter. Especially if a t-shirt makes you cry for mommy.

    Thanks for being one of the voices of reason.

    1. There's a lot of "voices of reason" out there, I'm starting to find. In fact, the more I look, the more I find that the majority of vocal skeptics are very skeptical of the claims made by the feminists. Maybe I was just ignorant before or maybe things have changed recently, but it's surprising just how little respect these people get today.

      I'll just be happy when these people go away and we can get back to being atheists.

  2. "I’ll just be happy when these people go away and we can get back to being atheists."—I have already done that…

    Sexism exists in this world and is a problem. However, there is not much point, at least in my opinion, of continuing an online discussion that seems to be going nowhere. At this point, I think it sufficient to state that future atheist conferences should have some type of harassment policy in place. From that point, deal with the issues as they come up and move on.

    1. The problem is, every single publicized incident that's come up in the past year or two, the ones that sparked this entire debacle, would have been totally kosher under any harassment policy at any conference in existence. The core of every single policy is "no means no" and in every case, without exception, when the woman said no, the man respected it.

      Ideally, nobody should ever say anything about this ever again. How likely do you think that is?

  3. There are some issues I've had with the current activism at Skepchick and several FTB's, but I am still thinking through them, and I don't usually join the peanut gallery unless I think I have a real point to make. Maybe here would be more of a "safe space" to be skeptical.

    1. It seems to me that any attempt to quantify the problems are seen as being dismissive, or "not listening to what women say", automatically dismissing victims,or trying to apply my experience to that of others. The only accounts I've heard, don't even qualify as harrassment to me, or to many women I know. I think that the urge to create a "safe space" for women has gone beyond, to a kind of more "sacred space" where even legitimate disagreement or casual social interaction is seen as making people too uncomfortable. I can see the validity of this attitude on feminist-only blogs where rape survivors often share experiences, but in policy debates for open-attendance events?

    1. I have no problem with addressing actual problems, I'm just not seeing any actual problems. I'm seeing people complain about things in the atheist community that happen everywhere and are so absurdly minor as to be laughable. They're being dismissed because they are ridiculous issues. Being asked out for coffee is not a basis for victimhood. Seeing a t-shirt you don't like is not a basis for victimhood. Where are any actual victims of anything serious? Apparently, it just doesn't exist! People are being dismissive of these women's claims because the claims themselves are so insignificant they deserve to be dismissed! It just makes these women madder and madder and their actions sillier and sillier.

  4. Pt.2.
    Some of the tactics used seem a bit too political to me. I'm not saying it's even a pre-meditated action on anyone's part, but it still obscures the facts and heightens tensions. The process seems to go something like this: A woman brings up a mild case of feeling uncomfortable because of someone's lack of thoughtfulness, and gives some friendly advice to men.(essentially, Elevatorgate and other incidents). Some people see it as very problematic,some see it as problematic, but not to any huge degree. Many people,including some women, don't see any problem at all, and say as much. A handful of trolls and idiots complain loudly, even to the point of issuing cheap threats and bad wishes.

    1. The problem is, I don't see how anyone has been particularly thoughtless. Clueless maybe, but let's take the original claim from Elevatorgate. Rebecca Watson already relayed the exact words she says the guy used. Without going to find them, I have to say I find nothing whatsoever wrong with anything he said. From what I recall, he was very polite, he asked a question, he got a negative response and he dropped it. Where is this thoughtless? Or is this, as it seems, a vast overreaction to an event that should have had zero significance and should have been immediately forgotten?

      I vote for the latter.

  5. Pt. 3
    No one blogger orchestrates a campaign per se, but between blog posts and comments across a number of blogs, a lot of the people in the "not a problem" camp become unfairly associated with the "screeching monkey rape threat" camp. After a while, any attempt to even truthfully quantify the problem or argue that it's exaggerated, gets one thrown into the "rape threat" camp, or at the very least, the "blinded by privilege" camp. The goalposts are moved, so that any time a woman feels uncomfortable for any reason, it is necessarily perceived as being due to privilege, ingrained misogyny, or outright hostility to women.

  6. 3. It seems to me that emotions have trumped reality- the dangers to women are being exaggerated(or at least, the worst-cases are considered the norm), the dismissiveness of men is being exaggerated or conflated with hostile positions, and there is a large element of sex-negativity and extreme self-consciousness going on underneath. I've seen one or two commenters claim that having an event in a bar where a person may be innocently propositioned, is a huge disincentive to attending. And this position is then defended by many and thought to be reasonable and normal, and everyone else should be ok with not having as many bar events because of it.

  7. The one complaint about a speaker being handed a "swinger's card" and mildly propositioned by a couple was seen as a major example of harrassment. It was put forward that since these conventions are her "workplace", she should be spared such indignities. Frankly, I was flabbergasted. I see such interactions as a simple part of being a public figure, especially in a movement that tends to pride itself on freedom, lack of dogma, and lack of superstition, even in emotional issues like sex. There is an undercurrent of irrational fear that is being encouraged, and used to club dissenters with unearned guilt. I noticed that a lot of people slammed Marty Klein's piece on being a rational adult about sex and propositions…it was widely dismissed, but not once refuted in any meaningful way. Just more "Check your privilege, Doodbro!" Most women I know would agree with Klein's perpective, but most women I know don't argue on atheist/freethinker/feminist blogs.

    1. About the only event that could possibly be a legitimate complaint is this one, but even that's stretching it. The problem is, these people just don't understand convention culture because I don't think that many of them have ever been to many conventions. This kind of thing happens all the time, not just at atheist conferences, but at every conference out there! That doesn't necessarily make it a good thing, just a true thing. You can legitimately complain that you don't want someone handing you pornography and I'll back you up completely. Complaining that receiving something like that makes you a victim though is downright idiotic.

      We're supposed to be adults here, it's not too much to ask that people act that way.

  8. How am I supposed to trust a point of view to be skeptical and rational, if being hit on once is such an emotional event that it changes one's opinion of a whole organization, movement, or event? Or if a slightly political t-shirt makes one cry and go home? If I wanted these kinds of double standards, victorian attitudes, and emotional manipulations, I'd go to church!

    And of course, if you in any way argue that the ideas of "privilege" of any kind, white, male, straight, whatever, aren't always as big a deal as they are made out to be, aren't always very applicable to individual situations, or are simply misapplied at times, you are immediately dismissed as being"blided by your own privilege". Apparently, a social studies course or two, or simply being anything other than a straight white male, allows one to gauge privilege across all the social variables, and make social policy changes without any real debate.

    I am the last person to suggest that ingrained sexism is dead in America…but in my experience these "debates" are miles away from reality or skepticism.

  9. I am really sorry to go on so long, I'm used to SEB where Les just lets people go on and on, and this comment has been six months or so in the forming. I will try to keep it more brief in the future!

    1. Nah, don't worry about it. It's clear that you had a lot of well-thought-out things to say and you did a very good job. Feel free to post as much as you like!

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