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.