Well said Al!
Lest my comment get lost in the sheer dross of strawmen,deliberate misunderstandings and fallacies attempting to shout him down for daring to express his own views on his own blog (heaven forbid!), I will answer his post on my own blog.
Al was absolutely right.
On being white and male...
He is white and male but that has absolutely no bearing on the overall conduct of his gender: he is not responsible for the actions of others. Shouting ‘privilege’ as a means to silence him, or otherwise dismiss his views, says far more about the people shouting him down than it does about him. The comments on this blog post have exemplified precisely what Al had to say, and frankly I’m embarrassed for people.
Guilt by Association
I don’t believe that one of his critics actually sat back and thought about what he had to say before shouting their mouths off about how out of line he was to express his right to associate with whomsoever he pleases. Haven’t you realised by now that Al doesn’t use doublespeak. When he writes, he writes exactly what he means. He doesn’t couch insults and no interpretation is required. Al is perfectly capable of deciding who he associates with, when, and how. That is his decision, nobody else’s. I’ve had my-own falling outs with people but that is my business, because to expect others to disassociate themselves from is people because I personally don’t like their stance on issues is crass and childish. Al is his own person, my friend, and real friends do not put people they respect in that position of having to choose. My general response to being put in that position is to go the other way entirely, as I have a natural aversion to being controlled, especially in that manner.
On the Schrodinger’s Rapist issue…
It is not Al’s responsibility how others perceive him. Nor is it anyone’s responsibility how others perceive us. Al behaves in public, and online, like the reasonable adult human being he is; he does not stalk women, he doesn’t travel websites looking to exert emotional responses, or issue threats of violence. More to the point, he doesn’t fish for confirmation that of course he’s absolutely correct in feeling the way he feels about potential strangers he fears are out to attack him, and anybody who doesn’t feel the same or openly disagrees with him are not accused of ‘trivialising’ his experiences.
He gets on with his life and tries to impinge on the lives of others as little as possible. What is to change? We already know he is socially aware, as some of us have been reading his blog or following him on his podcasts for years. We have no control over the reactions of other people and it is beyond ridiculous to expect other people to interpret our reactions, based on a possibility of what horrible things might have happened to us in the past, let alone to expect them to adjust their behaviour accordingly. All we can do is police our own behaviour and perceptions. It seems that some in the skeptic and free thought communities both online and off-line have conveniently forgotten this little snippet of information. I will make my stance on this perfectly clear now. No reading between the lines is needed. I say how I see it. Do not interpret my words with strawmen as I will just ignore you. Here goes: it is nobody’s responsibility to make us ‘feel better’ or, more comfortable about ourselves or our surroundings. We are protected under law to life, liberty, justice, etc but the rest is up to us. This may upset several people, but that is how it is: we have no right to demand, yes demand, that others -least of all strangers- go out of their way to make us feel more comfortable.
No, I don’t feel threatened by random strangers while I am out in public. Do you know why? Because life is too short to worry endlessly about what might possibly happen. Nor will I assume that every man I come across in public is a rapist out to get me. If I did I would never leave the house. If I’m walking down the road or in a shop, whether it’s dark or light, other people (male or female) in the shop, or on the pavement, have every bit as much right to be there using that space as I do. It is not for me to police their actions or expect that they coddle any possible, however irrational and unfounded, fear I hold of what might happen. There is no point worrying about what might happen. Call me irresponsible if you will but I tend to make a habit of judging people on what their actual actions are, not by their potential to do something horrific to me.
This is the point: I can -and will- only speak for myself. I’ve been through some horrible stuff myself but I choose not to publicise it out of the wish to put it behind me and move on with my life. I refuse to be a prisoner of my past and nobody who was not involved in my experience is responsible for how I feel about what I went through. It is not fault of random male strangers, it is not the fault male colleagues, it is not the fault of other male bloggers or podcasters, it is not the fault of other male family members, or male friends, nor are they accountable for the actions of others. They should therefore not be expected to adjust their behaviour. There was one person to blame for what I went through and I’m delighted to say that I will never be seeing him again. However, I will not expect other people to coddle my feelings over something they have no possible reason to know anything about. What rational purpose would I have to expect them to imagine what horrible things happened to me and instantly put me in the ‘victim’ slot? I don’t want sympathy and I don’t need to strangers to be ‘aware’ that something might have happened to me in the past, and so treat me with kid gloves by pandering to all manner of possible whims and fears. In fact, I find the very idea patronising in the extreme and I would make a concerted point of disassociating myself if someone should treat me in such a way.
To those shouting the praises of the ‘Schrödinger’s rapist argument’, please stop and think. You sound like you’re trying to speak for all women and it’s starting to wear very thin. At least try to accept that not all women are hypersensitive and suspicious of all men. the ‘Schrödinger’s rapist’ is a thought experiment, nothing more and it is not only impractical, but highly unreasonable, to attempt to apply it to real life. Before the shouting down starts, I’m not trying to downplay anyone who has been raped, or trivialise any body else’s experiences. If crossing the road at night makes people feel better then it is up to them but they have no right to demand that others do so so that they feel more comfortable. If you’re in a lift and a man gets into it, feel free to get out of the lift yourself and catch another one if you so wish but -unless it is your private lift to your private flat- you have no right to expect someone to get out or wait for another, just so that you feel better: he has every much right to use the lift as you do. It’s not a first-come-first-served-and-everybody-gets-to-use-their-own situation: it’s a lift and designed to carry several people at once, regardless of age, gender, race or ability.
On Free Thought Blogs…
There are plenty of other bloggers on Free Thought Blogs. If you don’t like what one blogger is writing then don’t read their blog and don’t comment on the comment feeds: nobody is forcing you. To declare that because a handful of writers seem to be taking over the site, shouting down dissenters, and trying to run the show, then all it must be doing the same is as crass as the people advocating practical application of the ‘Schrodinger’s rapist argument’, and all that disagree with them must be rape enabling misogynists. You might as well say a cat has a tail, therefore all animals with tails are cats. Yes, it really does sound that stupid, so stop it.
Not everybody who writes on free thought blogs is a bully, though sadly there are a handful of both bloggers and commenters who seem to use this platform as a means of public humiliation and ridicule. It is sad to see that some bloggers who’ve worked hard to make their blogs credible, interesting, welcoming and thought provoking, have turned them into a platform to sling mud and slam people down for merely disagreeing with them. Where comment feeds were once somewhere you could learn something, I dare not post now in case the question I ask is immediately flooded by threats of being banned, or accusations of trolling etc. I don’t demand they stop writing what they do, I’ve just stopped reading them. They have every right to express what they want on their blogs, but I have no obligation to read it and no longer have any interest in what they have to say. I wonder if they realise how many readers they have lost that way. I doubt that once the drama is over, those other readers will go back either.
Some of the behaviour that has been exhibited within the atheist online community (particularly within A+) in recent months has been appalling. It ranges from refusal to apply the same level of critical thinking we as the atheist movement demand from others, to outright harassment against dissenters or critics. To say that I’m disappointed in my fellow atheists would be a gross understatement. I, like Al, will make my own decisions as to who I speak to and how/where, & I prefer an arena where everybody is entitled to give their views, whether I agree with them or not, and dissent is a conversation starter rather than a trigger for derision. Merely shoving out non-compliance is not going to achieve anything, but as the A+ groups (it seems to have splintered already) are determined to adopt such a policy, I think I just leave them to it. People can try to shout me down as much as they like. Insist that I’m wrong or foolish if you will, but I’m not going to retire off the scene or allow myself to be driven off -I’m far too bloody-minded to allow that.
This is not me choosing sides, this is me distancing myself from the drama that I have neither the time, interest or the energy to take part in. I proudly call myself a feminist, but I will not defend misandry any more than I would defend misogyny, or any other form of bigotry. My decision to separate myself from the A+ movement does not automatically make me the polar opposite of what they claim to stand for and what they claim to stand for something completely different from what they are: at least at present.