Well said, Jen!

How I Unwittingly Infiltrated the Boy’s Club & Why It’s Time for a New Wave of Atheism | Blag Hag, is the latest post by FTB’s ‘Blag Hag’.  It is well-reasoned and clearly articulated.  I would like to write my own thoughts but have no wish to flood her comment thread with a lengthy answer.  I feel that would be rude of me.

Here goes.

Firstly, I am aware that many among us do not believe there to be an atheist movement, as such. That’s fine, but a lot of us do feel that our collective group has become such a movement (me being one of them) for real equality, and that should be acknowledged too.  I don’t pretend to represent anyone, nor do I assume that anyone is trying to represent me.  I use this blog as a place where I can say things as I see them.  If people want to listen or agree with me, that’s great.  If they don’t that’s also fine.  What none of us get to do is prescribe a set way of seeing things and then go about, shunning, ridiculing, harassing, belittling those who disagree with us.  Isn’t that something else ‘we’ claim to be against?

There are many issues requiring attention, none of us have the time, energy or inclination to follow all of them, but ‘we’ are not the only group who cares.  Nor should we by any means polarise ourselves into one-issue-activists, limiting ourselves to single causes, and turning an otherwise noble concern into some sort of bizarre competition.  It’s not productive and, as much as I hate to say this, it makes us all look ridiculous.  ‘We‘ fight hard against the idea that we are all petty, angry, amoral people, with no inclination or reason to think beyond ourselves and the issues that affect us directly as individuals. So why, within our own movement, can we not apply that same attitude?  When we criticise other groups for in-fighting and hypocrisy, can we not just take a non-rose-tinted look at our own collective behaviour?  It’s simply illogical to assume that we are immune to the same group dynamics as every other.

Not being the ‘all men are predators and therefore a threat‘ type of feminist has earned me a certain degree of contempt, as if I am somehow being half-arsed about it.  The sad fact is that the moment that women openly own the term ‘feminist‘ a they get a great deal of grief from both people within the ‘movement’ as well as from without.  My own creepy cyber-stalker (just as a for instance) is just the ‘one-issue only’ anti-feminist type mentioned in the linked post and above. It’s the reason he’s hounding me. He’s the sort that believes in the non-existent level ground, so it’s okay to hound women online, because he believes that’s what gender equality means. Women might well be more equal before the law than they were 30 years ago, but socially that equality is just a veneer hiding something very ugly and it’s not limited to the atheist movement, it’s everywhere.

If we are going to try to claim the moral high-ground in the ‘good behaviour stakes’, over the religious fanatics we stand up to as a ‘movement’, then we really need to clean up our own act (as that same movement) and stop trying to pretend that it’s not happening, stop attacking the people who speak out when it does, stop attacking the deniers because they are lucky enough not to have been through it and are in a privileged position so cannot empathise with those who have,  and actually sit down and have a reasonable discussion about what can be done without having a dig at rival bloggers at every given opportunity over a disagreement. It has been noted by members our ‘group’ that some of the most hateful and spiteful comments have come from bloggers complaining about said abuse, against even the most innocuous reply.

We should have realised by now that Atheism doesn’t automatically lead to humanism.  We keep saying that atheism says nothing about a person other than their lack of belief in god. Ayn Rand was an atheist, and still managed to be a hateful, selfish bitch. Why is it such shock, then when we find out that not everyone in our group is a nice, reasonable person?  It’s because we keep repeating to our selves ‘we’re better than them, we’re not like the (insert religious group)‘ as if that will magically erase what’s happening right under our noses.  Because what’s happening here in our own group, isn’t ‘as bad’ as the worst extremes we hear of in the news, it gets dismissed as somehow irrelevant and those who do complain get dismissed as overreacting whiners.  THAT IS NOT ON!  The ‘ignore it, they’ll go away‘ comments aren’t helpful or productive either, because of what is NOT happening.  What is not happening is bullies and stalkers – as well as the people who go along with them – being called out and exposed.  It puts all the responsibility on the person being targeted to be ‘the bigger person’.  It’s a couched ‘stop whining and go away‘.  It essentially lets bullies off scott-free while those they target are subjected to further dismissal, abuse and ridicule, and it ultimately empowers the bully to continue.

The general atmosphere of nastiness is not called for. And, as I said, yes I have been on the receiving end of it. Some of the deniers though (not all of them men), are in the privileged position of not having been on the receiving end and so, in their view, there is no problem to address. When your home address is published online by a rival blogger (totally disregarding your right to privacy), or you are receiving rape and death threats (nothing merits that) for objecting to a pathetic chat up attempt, a woman has every reason to be furious. If someone impersonates you in fake profiles, continuously emails you to gloat, starts blogs about how ugly you are and uses stolen photos of you, you have every right to be angry.  Blogging does invite comment but it is NOT, under any stretch of the imagination, granting ‘consent’ to harassment or to become a  punch-bag for verbal or other abuse, any more than my walking down the street or waiting for a bus or train ‘invites’ lude gestures, comments and cat calls from strangers.  That sort of thuggish behaviour is not a compliment, its sexual harassment and it’s very intimidating especially if I’m out with my two small children. If that had been something I had been subjected to at a workplace, I would be within my rights to complain and expect to be taken seriously, so why should any women have to ‘put up with it’ in the street or at events?  In an ideal world women wouldn’t have to deal with it at all and wouldn’t  have to keep reminding the world that we are people, regardless of where we happen to be at the time.

The hypocrisy is glaring, that if and when women behave (it does happen and its equally – not more – vulgar and unattractive) in the same appalling way (gestures and shouting across the street etc), social convention means that not only are the women and the behaviour denounced and decried from all quarters – especially in the male dominated tabloid press and popular media – but feminism and feminists automatically get the ‘blame’. Meanwhile, men behaving in such a way is STILL largely accepted (on a social level) ‘as ‘par for the course‘, or ‘just one of those things‘ and that we should just grin and bear it, and pass it off as ‘men being men‘. Or, in even worse cases, it is even cheered on as some applause-worthy display of masculinity.

Not all men are like that. My husband isn’t, nor are the men in my group of friends, family and loved ones. Am I to arrogantly assume that they and my male readers are somehow the exception to a rule? No, but nor are you responsible or accountable for the actions of your entire gender. All ‘we’ can do is call out shitty behaviour where and when it occurs, put the deniers (politely) in their place, because rudeness is not going to make ‘us’ any better than the perpetrators of the abuse we criticise, and try to police ourselves, as individuals, not to allow disagreements, which do happen, to descend into petty, tit-for-tat squabbles.  If the elevator issue of last year had been allowed to simmer down, maybe it would maybe have remained a slight overreaction (but it was no less alarming, considering  what her talk had been about) to an ill-considered chat up attempt.  It hasn’t been allowed to, and given the level of animosity toward women who call harassment out, and as people are STILL having a go at Ms Watson long after it should have gone to rest, yes, she has my sympathy and support.


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