Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Oink oink

I felt today like having a good old rant about this, so here are my responses to the Sam-Harris-yet-another-prominent-atheist-man-of-privilege putting his foot in it. Isn't it enough we have Dawkins continually making a twat of himself on Twatter?

 1. I started by claiming that my readership seems more male than female. And when I shifted to speaking about atheists as a group, I was referring to active atheists—that is, the sort of people who go to atheist conferences, read atheist books, watch atheists debate pastors on YouTube, or otherwise rally around atheism as a political identity. I was not talking about everyone on Earth who doesn’t believe in God. 

 2. Although I share the common perception that there is a gender imbalance among active atheists, I don’t actually know whether this is the case. I used to joke that my average “groupie” was a 75-year-old man. Happily, my audiences are now filled with young people, but I still encounter many more men than women. I wouldn’t be surprised if the split were 70/30. I would be very surprised if it were 50/50. Again, I am talking about active atheists. I have no idea whether there are more male unbelievers than female.

I don't go to atheist conferences, no, they tend to be in 'Merica and I am not rich in money or time. But I do buy and read atheist books. I used to be more active in online atheist communities and consider atheist a strong part of my identity, but y'know what, those online communities were hostile to me, full of dudebros who would throw me under the bus for a thought experiment, invalidate my experience and patronise or come on to me. Because I'm a woman.

I'd always identified as a feminist, but it was the atheist communities that drove me to identify more strongly with that and more or less lose interest in the "atheist movement". So you, Sam Harris, looking around seeing a predominance of men - it's not because women aren't interested, it's because the environment you've helped create is antagonistic to women (and minorities).

3. My work is often perceived (I believe unfairly) as unpleasantly critical, angry, divisive, etc. The work of other vocal atheists (male and female) has a similar reputation. I believe that  men are more attracted to this style of communication than women are. Which is not to say there aren’t millions of acerbic women out there, and many for whom Hitchens at his most cutting was a favorite source of entertainment. But just as we can say that men are taller than women, without denying that > women are taller than most men, there are psychological differences between men and women which, considered in the aggregate might explain why “angry atheism” attracts more of the former. Some of these differences are innate; some are surely the product of culture. Nothing in my remarks was meant to suggest that women can’t think as critically as men or that they are more likely to be taken in by bad ideas. Again, I was talking about a fondness for a perceived style of religion bashing with which I and other vocal atheists are often associated.

Ok, have you ever even read any female atheist bloggers? They're not angry? Why oh why, then, do perceived angry feminist atheists get pulled on their tone by tone-trolls all the fucking time? Why oh why, then, do feminists get called on their tone by tone-trolls all the fucking time?

It's good that you acknowledge there's a cultural aspect to women being expected to be 'lady-like', less abrasive and less confrontational, but y'know, the innate and psychological differences parts make me wonder which you're putting most weight on. I have a feeling you like the innate, but y'know, we never have a chance to see that. Let's do some cultural shifting, and see what happens.

4. I believe that a less “angry,” more “nurturing” style of discourse might attract more women to the cause of atheism.

And that's not sexist at all? Fuck you.

5. However, I haven’t spent even five minutes thinking about how or whether to modify my writing or speaking style so as to accomplish this.

You haven't spent 5 minutes actually thinking about sexism or this response either, have you?

I am well aware that sexism and misogyny are problems in our society. However, they are not the only factors that explain differences in social status between men and women. For instance, only 5 percent of Fortune 500 companies are run by women. How much of this is the result of sexism? How much is due to the disproportionate (and heroic) sacrifices women make in their 20’s or 30’s to have families? How much is explained by normally distributed psychological differences between the sexes? I have no idea, but I am confident that each of these factors plays a role. Anyone who thinks disparities of this kind must be entirely a product of sexism hasn’t thought about these issues very deeply.

 #head-desk# So women making disproportionate sacrifices for their families has absolutely nothing to do with sexism? Nothing at all to do with social pressure to be the 'good mother', nothing to do with sexist stereotyping and traditional gender roles? Nothing to do with the woman being the one expected to be at all the school meetings, to find childcare, the fact dads are often referred to as 'babysitting' when they're looking after their own kids, that women are considered to be trying to "have it all" if they want a career & kids when men's decisions in the same respects are never even scrutinised, that a man who works long hours is just trying to be a good provider, but a woman is neglecting her home and family? Again, fuck you.

Violence is different for women than it is for men. Unlike men, they don’t tend to get into fistfights with strangers after an escalating series of insults. It is far more common for a woman to be attacked, physically controlled, and sexually assaulted by a man. Outside the walls of a prison, adult males almost never have to think about getting raped. For most women, rape is a very real, lifelong concern. Women also suffer from domestic violence in ways that men rarely do. Most of these differences can be explained by general disparities in size, strength, and aggressiveness between the sexes.

And not at all by men being socialised to be aggressive, to feel entitled to sex, to be the head of household and considered to be less of a man if he's 'pussy-whipped'. Nothing to do with domestic violence being viewed as a source of amusement "why I oughta!", the norm (that it's just a domestic), or that in our 'civilised' society  Ray Rice can knock his partner cold and only when a video is released of the actual act does he face any sanctions, otherwise it's just brush it under the carpet because sport, that Mike Tyson can be convicted of rape yet be an acceptable choice for a cameo in film comedy, fucking Polanski, etc etc. Clue-by-four, those things are products of a sexist culture that doesn't take violence against women seriously.

Any time a woman comes away from an encounter with a man saying that he gave her the creeps, I trust her. This is not mere chivalry on my part: It is a judgment based on an understanding of human nature. One of the things we are naturally good at is detecting threatening people—indeed, millions of years of evolution have more or less guaranteed this. The silly word “vibe” enjoys its most felicitous application here—when a person must make a split-second judgment about the man at the door. I suspect (but do not know) that women are slightly better at this than men. I’m not denying that honest misunderstandings occasionally arise, or that some men have been falsely accused of sexual harassment and even of rape. But having been raised by a single mother since the age of two, I have always had a very visceral sense that men have a responsibility not to be evil jerks. And when they are, they should be sorted out—physically, if need be—by good men. Call me old-fashioned.

You were doing ok-ish,.. but chivalry? Chivalry to trust a woman when she says she feels creeped out by a man. Shit, it's chivalrous to trust a woman to identify her own feelings? ... We haven't even got to whether it's chivalrous to think a woman might be able to be trusted to judge whether a man's demeanour or behaviour was actually inappropriate or suspect towards her. And you know, you have to cover the bases by noting that there are misunderstandings & false accusations and you're not forgetting that, so are we really trusting women here? Really really? It's important you slip that bit in, isn't it? Really important.

... but women are more instinctive? Yuh-huh. And that's not a sexist stereotype at all either. Maybe it's thought of as a positive thing, therefore it's OK? No. Still sexist. Women can multitask, women are just better at childcare, at seeing dirt. Hurrah. So this is another Upside of being a woman, we get to be all instinctual and woo, while men are rational. Women don't come to conclusions by, I don't know, thinking about things, no no no, we respond to vibes. Creepy vibes. Nothing to do with picking up on voice & tone, actual content of comments, body language, actual infractions on our personal space etc, you know, like actual verifiable reasons for thinking someone is behaving creepily. Nope, VIBES! Creepy creepy vibes.

... and then there's the sorting out by good men. Really? I don't even.

And I'm not touching the part of your post about gun control and so forth. Just no. I'm stopping here.

I'm not saying you're the worst ever sexist pig, Harris, but you are a product of the sexist society you live in. If you're being called-out all over the interwebz, perhaps a bit more reflection and less reaction might be in order.

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