Lies Told By Anti-Feminists

If I had known that this particular malicious lie would hang on for well over a year, I would have gotten screen shots.

A bit of background – as a great deal of you already know, I’m a regular commenter at FreeThoughtBlogs (FTB). And FTB has a dedicated website for FTB haters, they call it the Slymepit. I call the people who post there slimers. Most of their hatred of FTB is grounded in their hatred of the concept of having to do something about social justice, rather than mouthing empty platitudes and feeling smug and superior because “we” don’t throw acid in “our” women’s faces, not like those brown barbarians in far-off lands. They’ve constructed a narrative that sexism is basically over in the Western industrialized world; therefore, since they assume that sexism is done, women in the USA or Britain or wherever who complain about sexism are lying hysterical bitches who are trying to smear some innocent man’s good name. Or something. And, since I’m a vocal feminist, and an active commenter at FTB, I sometimes attract the attention of the slimers. Here is the story of my notoriety among the anti-feminists, and why I’m totally capitalizing on the lies they tell about me to persuade you to donate a small amount to my travel fund for the American Atheists’ conference.

Once upon a time, during, or, actually, just after Thunderfoot’s brief misadventures as a blogger at FreeThoughtBlogs.com, I went over to Thunderfoot’s own website to speak my mind. Okay, so far so good. Thing is, while I was there, some anonymous poster threatened to “track you down and rape you.” All right, that sucks. I pointed it out, and emailed Thunderfoot at the email address listed on his site. No response. And pretty much immediately, some of the other commenters there began to claim that it was actually me. Like, I logged out as SallyStrange and then logged in as anonymous to post a rape threat against myself.

Right. As if dudes who hate feminists are ever shy about issuing rape threats on the internet. A couple of years ago, I helped organize my local SlutWalk, and accidentally let my real name get publicly associated with the SlutWalk Facebook page. For this, I got about a dozen Facebook messages from complete strangers, mostly degrading and sexualized comments, several of which were explicit rape threats. So getting a rape threat from an anti-feminist on Thunderfoot’s site wasn’t overly shocking. What was shocking was the utter lack of response from Thunderfoot on the subject. It’s ironic, since as I recall, part of his objection to anti-harassment policies at conferences stemmed from his claim that actual harassment (“legitimate” harassment?) is against the law, and thus any instances of harassment could be dealt with by law enforcement–no need for conference organizers to step in. Yet, when a blatantly illegal threat was made on his own site, he took zero action to counteract it. Not only that, but he’s the only one who has the information to determine whether it’s me or the slimers who are lying. As far as I know, he’s offered nothing one way or the other.

All I know is that it wasn’t me who posted that illegal threat on Thunderfoot’s website. But the lie that I had faked a rape threat against myself quickly gained traction among the Slimers. But that was a year ago, or maybe longer, and the rumor won’t die! Just yesterday, on a post by Ben Radford of the Center For Inquiry, a slimer showed up with the following comment:

Comment #17 by the Devil’s TowelBoy (link goes to my discussion about it on Pharyngula):

Same old faces as always. So who’s going to be first to post a threat to themselves and then demonise Ben for encouraging this “rape culture”? Sally, if it’s you, at least use another browser and wait half an hour between the posts.

So, the narrative goes, there is no rape culture, and it’s only lying bitches like me who talk about it, and naturally we have to make things up and lie about being harassed, getting rape threats, etc., because there is no rape culture. It’s only logical!

So now you see the kind of bullshit that women in the atheist/skeptic movement have to put up with.

Ben Radford’s self-centered and incoherent rant about how feminists are using numbers wrong and doing activism wrong is here, if you want to read the whole thing. Too bad he didn’t just stick to criticizing Eve Ensler’s use of statistics, then perhaps he wouldn’t have come off as either an anti-feminist or a person who’s so gullible that he thinks that anti-feminists don’t lie through their teeth whenever it suits them (as opposed to using outdated rape statistics, or lumping “homicide, intimate partner abuse, psychological abuse, dating violence, same-sex violence, elder abuse, sexual assault, date rape, acquaintance rape, marital rape, stranger rape and economic abuse” into “raped and beaten” or “raped, beaten, or otherwise abused,” which is pretty much the only salient criticism he offers). Then there was that old chestnut, “Why are you dancing in the streets when you could be working in a battered women’s shelter?” No matter what form of activism we choose to bring our concerns to a wider audience, it will be criticized. Slutwalk was too confrontational; One Billion Rising is too pandering. SlutWalk alienated men with its in-your-face rejection of victim-blaming; One Billion Rising doesn’t do enough to point the finger at patriarchal values and toxic masculinity and what men can be doing to combat those problems. We can literally never win.

The thing is, from my experience of actually being out on the streets for a protest, a LOT of the people you meet there are already doing all kinds of activism behind the scenes, whether it’s organizing ESL classes or cooking for Occupy or tree-sitting (that should date me, and you too, if you know what the heck I’m talking about) or volunteering for a rape crisis hotline, they are the people on the streets. There’s a large contingent of people who only have time for the occasional protest too, and that’s fine–everybody has different time demands and finite amounts of energy. I listened to the critiques of SlutWalk, and the critiques of One Billion Rising, and some of them were spot on. The thing is, the critiques from people who actually supported women’s equality never framed their criticism as, “Well you ought to be doing this other thing instead of this fake activism.” Or “slacktivism,” as Radford cutely calls it. Getting people to come out into the streets IS activism, and it’s really fucking hard to do–I know because I’ve tried to do it, and failed, and also tried and succeeded. Getting people out into the streets is not slacktivism. “Slacktivism” applies much better to what Ben Radford was doing with that dumbass piece of his. Sitting at home, offering inaccurate critiques of activists and telling them that raising awareness isn’t real activism but activities that don’t involve getting media attention are–that’s slacktivism.

The Center For Inquiry need to get their house in order. First, they need to figure out if feminism and women’s equality are issues worth getting right–in which case they need to stop Ben Radford from writing on the subject any further. As I have said elsewhere, when it comes to scientific topics, there’s a healthy respect for expertise and the time it takes to become knowledgeable about a complex subject in the atheist/skeptic movement. But when it comes to topics having to do with sociology and the scientific study of human behavior and biases, suddenly the field is wide open and any schmuck with an opinion can spout off and expect to have his opinion treated seriously. Radford’s most telling moment was when he inveighed against feminists who think that all men are rapists. The genesis of this quote is in a 1977 novel by Marilyn French. The line is voiced by a fictional character. The fact that Radford repeats this false trope uncritically shows that he’s not bothering to do his due diligence as a public communicator and a representative of an organization that is supposed to promote critical thinking.

The only way this is going to change is if more women get involved in the movement. And for whatever fucked-up reason, I’m willing to do that. Despite the fuckheads and misogynists in the community, I’m still passionate about the benefits that skepticism, empiricism, and secular ethics can bring to the world. I’ve been developing my skills as a public communicator and community organizer and I think I have a lot to offer. Misogynists like the Devil’s Towel Boy act like they want to exclude me and people like me entirely from the movement. For a while I gave into the sense of intimidation and fatalism this inspired in me, but not anymore. And this is why you should donate a few bucks to the travel fund to get me to the American Atheist Convention in Austin, TX! Plus, it will really piss off the haters. If I raise more than necessary, I’ll donate the excess to more travel grants for people going to Women in Secularism–or maybe I’ll buy myself a new pair of shoes. ;)

Thanks for all the support I’ve already gotten. This community has some seriously awesome people in it. Which is why I’m still here.

17 Comments

Filed under Anti-bigotry, Atheism, blogging, commenting, Feminism, internet culture, Personal, rants

17 responses to “Lies Told By Anti-Feminists

  1. Devils Towel Boy aka Hoggle cares not a jot about truth or critical thinking. Nearest thing to critical thinking he manages is wondering if a smear is likely to stick or annoy while whining about any misinterpretation of others words he can get away with.

    Did you ever get a reply from WordPress? I also raised a complaint – although not aimed at me – got no response at all… I’m surprised they don’t care more about their platform being used in that way.

    Thunderf00t had plenty of opportunity to set the pitters straight without doxxing anyone as he was also on the pit while they were discussing it. Just needed him to say it was a different IP and not a proxy… I suppose it fits his view that its just trolling and tough luck regardless of the effect.

  2. Arren

    Chipped in a few bucks for your trip, Sally. I’m a poor man, but feel I owe you something for years of consistently excellent Pharyngula comments.

    Don’t let the slimers get you down…..

  3. The longevity of this particular lie reminds me of the well-known quote attributed to Winston Churchill, “A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.” You perhaps should produce a cut down version of this post which you can reuse as an instant copy’n’paste comment every time this lie appears, linking to this blog entry, Sally.

  4. David Marjanović

    Donation sent.

    “Revenge is the best revenge.”
    – Klingon proverb

  5. Good idea, Xanthë, thanks.

  6. “The only way this is going to change is if more women get involved in the movement. And for whatever fucked-up reason, I’m willing to do that. Despite the fuckheads and misogynists in the community, I’m still passionate about the benefits that skepticism, empiricism, and secular ethics can bring to the world. I’ve been developing my skills as a public communicator and community organizer and I think I have a lot to offer.”

    Okay, you convinced me.

  7. I did not know that Devil’s Towel Boy was Franc Hoggle. Blech.

  8. And no, Oolon, I never got a reply from WordPress.

  9. Nick Gotts

    Hi Sally, donation sent. Calling them “slimers” is too kind.

  10. Michael Kingsford Gray

    I regularly post at “the Slymepit”, and thus am a right “Slymepitter” in your terminology.
    I have just sent you Au$50 in order to aid your passage to the convention.
    I consider your attendance to be vital to the input of “both sides”, and thus support said attendance.
    Make of that what you will will, but the good-will behind my funding is quite genuine, despite what your follow-up respondents might imply.

  11. This follow-up respondent says Michael: good onya for supporting Sally.

  12. I’m not what you refer to as a “slimer” and your story is such a true testament to heroism that I can only stand up out of my chair and raise my fist to the sky, and yell Yes! That will show those beasts! I would consider it a honor to give my rent money, for you to stand tall and represent me and all other women in defiant protest against such crimes. Then, I sit back down. Let out a sigh, and bite my lower lip. Then reality walks in and smacks me.. No single person at ftb’s is a poor victim. Not the bloggers, nor their posters. I was a reader, and then when I posted a valid and straight forward question in a respectful way, I was greeted with hostility from both bloggers, and their “bots”.(that’s what I call their mindless followers that just believe anything they’re told not questioning any of it.) Then I banned. Adding insult to injury, the twit witted continued to insult me after I could no longer defend myself. Not buying the sob factor of the story, and instead will spend my rent money on well, rent.

  13. Eshto

    “The only way this is going to change is if more women get involved in the movement.”

    Does your support extend to the women who criticize FTB and Skepchick?

  14. Does your support extend to the women who criticize FTB and Skepchick?

    Well, let’s see. I’m a woman. I have criticized Skepchick–I think they should rely less on the “Quickies” and draw more on the writing talent they have on staff there, and do more full-length investigative articles. I have criticized FTB–I think they should move the toolbar back to the right-hand side instead of the left. Also, I think they should rearrange the main FTB page so that newer contributors are more prominently featured.

    So, yes, I think it’s accurate to say that I support “women who criticize Skepchick and FTB.”

    Oh, was that not what you were looking for, Eshto? Maybe next time you should try a little more explicit clarity and a little less disingenuous baiting.

  15. I trashed a comment from “WowbaggerBitchBagger” or something like that, but just so you can see the depth of silly obsessive hatred the Slimers are comfortable descending to, I’ll include the link they so helpfully included:

    It’s a screenshot of a tweet where I contemplated lying to social services for a bit in order to afford an IUD. Clearly only evil people contemplate, much less do anything so awful as telling social services that, no, they didn’t find a job last month, just so they can get access to health care.

    Of course, them offering to send me their girlfriend’s used IUD is just a gross sort of icing on the cake. See, this is exactly what I’m talking about: don’t be vocal, female, and feminist in the atheist/skeptic movement unless you’re willing to police your every public utterance for the slightest impropriety, and are prepared to have strangers bookmarking screenshots of tweets you made a year ago in order to try to embarrass you.

    That tweet is still up, by the way. No need for jpegs, I see no need to delete it.

  16. Hunt

    The usual accusation against some radical feminists is not that they think all men are rapists but that they are all potential rapists. Under the right opportune circumstances, men will rape. Whether it’s fair to tar all feminism with this characterization…almost certainly not. But this is the problem with extremism in almost every guise. Those who occupy the same spectrum as the extremists are reluctant to chastise them, and those on the other side use the rhetoric of extremists to damn the entire movement.
    I thought Radford’s point about slacktivism was not valid, since I think social awareness is a high value pursuit in almost any form. He had other points that I though had more merit, for instance the fact that male rape, particularly prison rape, has not been the focus of much attention. You remember all those campaigns protesting the safety of male prisoners we’ve had in past years? Neither do I. There are valid points in the men’s rights movement that are buried under a certain mass of crazy, and they’re points that might fall under the rubric of feminism; it’s just that feminists are going to get around to addressing them in the year 2100. There is need for a movement focused on men. So the current one is largely insane. So fine, let’s fix it. Versions of rad feminism is largely insane also. It doesn’t mean we have to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

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