July 08, 2011

The Comments You Didn't See

A few days ago, I posted a letter to Richard Dawkins from some atheist and skeptic survivors of sexual assault. I noted in the introduction to the letter that people other than Dawkins who wanted to argue should go somewhere else, and I gave them somewhere to go with an open and active comment thread.

To the best of my knowledge, Dawkins has not left a comment on that post. Plenty of other people, however, were unable to follow directions. Or perhaps they were unwilling to acquiesce to the wishes of a sexual assault survivor giving a space to other sexual assault survivors. Those comments have been, as people were warned, moderated.

They're still in place, though, so people can see how much was moderated. They're there because it was inevitable that some idiot would think "There, not here" is silencing of dissent. It's a complaint that's been leveled at the Skepchicks as well.

So, for those of you desperately curious to see what the "other side" looks like or how I've quelled discussion, have some comments. First, all of mine, then a couple to show you what the Skepchicks are keeping from you.

Saucy Lark, 7/5

I am a victim of sexual assault, I was raped by one of my mom's many boyfriends, and I'm siding with Richard on this. Sorry ladies.

Anonymous, 7/6

You guys are pretty ridiculous, I hope you know that. Labeling a man a rapist just for asking a girl out. Dawkins was exactly right on this one, thousands of people are being raped this very moment and you criminalize a guy TALKING to a girl? Pathetic.

Anonymous, 7/6 (This one Blogger sent straight to spam.)

Professor Dawkins did not denigrate victims of actual assault, he denigrated the non event that is now the elevator debacle.

The horrible violations of females human rights, have nothing to do with the event that happened in the elevator, as nothing did happen, that deviated from talking to a person.

If you want to perceive all men as potential rapist, you can do that, but this is not worthy of rational thinkers let alone feminists.

You are deliberately misrepresenting what Dawkins was actually saying and what actually transpired in that elevator. How someone perceives a situation is not the same as what actually happens! What actually happened was an unfortunate flirting attempt that ended as soon as Rebecca declined the offer. No threat, no further attempt.

Things like this happen, those are normal human interactions, not near miss rapes. I can understand that rape victims or victims threats by men, are especially sensible, but this does not justify to distort a non event in such a manner and to misrepresent the comment of someone who points it out.

I have been proposed for sex by a homosexual male once, when i was still very uncertain of my body and very shy and sexually totally inexperience. It was the most awful situation i had ever been in, since all my insecurities went straight to my head. After declined, the other guy left. It was a non event, i felt awful, but those where my feelings and my responsibilities.

I really hope you get some perspective and don't confuse the Event , with your horrible experience you had with some man. Most man are not rapist and there is no gender guilt as there is no female responsibility to prevent rape by not being attractive to man.

Gender equality arises from us all being human, and if you look at the Elevator event through the Rawlsian Veil of Ignorance, you will see that it was not a near miss rape, not even close

Misaki, 7/6

Does having your country raped count?

Misaki, 7/6

I might as well paste this here as well.

"Hi everyone, I found out what the problem is!

This is a conflict between people who think that atheist and skeptic organizations are ways to meet new friends and interesting people, and people who think that the purpose is to improve the world by fixing problems.

The former now dislike Richard Dawkins. The latter think that the former are stupid, and accordingly they should read http://pastebin.com/Q86Zhgs9 on how to address that stupidity in a very roundabout way.

To clarify, the first type of person wants to eliminate poor behavior by males who attend atheist and skeptic conferences. The latter type of person puts priority on problems that affect the entire world, not just the social environment of a particular movement."

Misaki, 7/6

"If you are a survivor and wish to have your name added to this letter, let me know, either in the comments or by email."

Someone I know might have been. But I won't tell you her name.

Anonymous, 7/7

Wow, this is incredible. You´re all over'reacting horribly and this is bullying behaviour! Obviously you don´t realise how offensive, discriminatory and hypocritical you´re all being. You bullies!

Anonymous, 7/7

So did any of you survive politely being offered a cup of coffee and left alone after saying "no"? Pathetic...

Anonymous, 7/7

You delete perfectly reasonable comments. That's pathetic. So Rebecca Watson is a rape survivor now for being offered a cup of coffee... Okay, moonbats, I'm gonna leave you alone now... bye!

Anonymous, 7/7 (Apparently Phyraxus, who complained about being silenced after I identified him because he left the same comment elsewhere.)

Just to let you know, Richard Dawkins is also a victim of sexual assult.


"Happily I was spared the misfortune of a Roman Catholic upbringing (Anglicanism is a significantly less noxious strain of the virus). Being fondled by the Latin master in the Squash Court was a disagreeable sensation for a nine-year-old, a mixture of embarrassment and skin-crawling revulsion, but it was certainly not in the same league as being led to believe that I, or someone I knew, might go to everlasting fire. As soon as I could wriggle off his knee, I ran to tell my friends and we had a good laugh, our fellowship enhanced by the shared experience of the same sad pedophile. I do not believe that I, or they, suffered lasting, or even temporary damage from this disagreeable physical abuse of power. Given the Latin Master's eventual suicide, maybe the damage was all on his side."

And now for a sample of moderated comments from Skepchick:
zumb, 7/8

Dear Rebecca

Please don’t take this wrong. But you’re sick. Really, no kidding.

Please contact a shrink to find out why instead of been flattered you get offended if a man proposes you. That’s really weird.

Unless, of course, you are a lesbian. But even then, all you have to say is NO, I don’t like man. That’s all!

whitehetreosexualman, 7/8

Oh, wow.

“Thanks, wealthy old heterosexual white man!”

This is the ultimate proof that no matter how much you educate a woman. She’ll always be irrational, hence the ad hominem. As G.W.F. Hegel once said, “Women are capable of education, but they are not made for activities which demand a universal faculty such as the more advanced sciences, philosophy and certain forms of artistic production… Women regulate their actions not by the demands of universality, but by arbitrary inclinations and opinions”.

What’s sickening reading this is that you’re complaining about sexism against women, but it’s okay to hate white heterosexual males. I bet in your world for everything that badly happens towards us it’s our fault. Like how we are being killed in Zimbabwe and South Africa.

Also, I’m tired of pseudointellectual feminists who continue to rant about oppression. You’re no longer oppressed in the western world. You can sleep with all the men and be a dirty little slut all you want without being stoned to death. Now most men are accepting that a virgin wife is most likely impossible, unless you want to kidnap a 6 year old girl and marry her in Saudi Arabia. You can go get an education and get a job. You might make a tab bit off as a male would, but other than the last example you’re not oppressed, but you’re indeed stupid.

adammorva, 7/8

Dear Rebecca,

I don’t know how to put this, but.. Are you FUCKING RETARDED?

Somebody invited you to his room for a coffee (or sex or whatever) and you dare call him a male chauvinist, women objectifying dirtbag?
When Richard Dawkins points out that you are whining about ABSOLUTELY NOTHING you dare to say that you are looking forward to see him crash and burn?

I feel sorry for you, kiddo. Something seriously damaging must’ve happened to you to have such a poor mental health.

You are giving women and skeptics a bad name. You are disgusting.

rianmacker, 7/7

In other words: If you have a penis shut up because women are always right (and men sometimes when they agree with women).

Obviously, someone doesn’t get it and that would be you.

notsureifserious, 7/6

First off, you’re a terrible writer. Give up your dreams of ever becoming a journalist.

Second, people like you are the reason men never want to approach women.

miscmanismiscing, 7/6

Good job reinforcing the ‘all feminists are ugly’ stereotype girls.

phyraxus, 7/6

Schrodinger’s rapist argument is very unconvincing.

Just because every male MIGHT be a potential rapist doesn’t mean they are. Just like every female MIGHT be a cum-bucket, money-grubbing, bitch doesn’t mean they are.

In other words, don’t accuse your allies of misogyny unless you want to be accused of misandry (hatred of men [LOL it is such an unknown word, spellchecker doesn't recognize it]).

Anybody still feel they're missing anything important from the discussion? Then maybe you want to head to Twitter, where nobody feels they'll be censored:

Or this little "joke":

Or the YouTube comments about how she needs to be anally raped, which I won't post here.

So, yeah. That's what you're missing, folks. A whole "side" to the argument being woefully repressed because they're not getting the same forum from me or from Skepchick that they are elsewhere. What do you think, should we open the discussion up more?


Jodi said...

I couldn't make it all the way through the comments and I'm not even a survivor. Horrible stuff.

EJ Willingham said...

I guess one thing that the Elevator Incident unequivocally demonstrates is that the concerns Rebecca expressed are fully and completely justified. Just think...these commenters presumably wander freely about the world and even use elevators. Yet...no one can understand that, living in a world where people refer to us using this kind of language, imagery, and hate, we'd be skeeved out by someone hitting on us alone in an elevator at 4 a.m.

Jason Thibeault said...

FFS. You don't even have to cherry-pick to find ridiculous, tonedeaf, offensive, and downright horrible nonsense amongst the Watson detractors.

D. C. said...

I'm perfectly willing to admit that there can be such a thing as "too sensitive" or otherwise overreacting to a situation [1].

However, there sure isn't any sign of it in this "discussion." Or at least, not unless you count the horribly vulnerable sensitivities of the men clutching at their privileges.

[1] Interesting and nontrivial discussion for a much different day.

D. C. said...

Jason, did you have better luck than I did "cherry picking" to find anything that wasn't "ridiculous, tonedeaf, offensive, and downright horrible nonsense?"

Stephanie Zvan said...

Well, as to cherry-picking, I did ask for comments from Skepchick that were clearly on topic.

D. C. said...

Stephanie, that was marvelous. It took me a while to get the zing.

sbh said...

When I read through this post I found myself (as I often do) mentally composing a comment on what I'm seeing. I was a little startled on reaching the comments to find that Emily's first sentence almost exactly matched what I intended to write. The rest of it (other than the words "we" and "us" and the expression "skeeved out") could have been mine as well, though I'm sure I wouldn't have expressed it so concisely.

Anyway, these comments we didn't see--and the fact that Rebecca Watson's original observation is regarded as somehow controversial--do indeed demonstrate unequivocally that her concerns are justified. Hell, Dawkins' "Muslima" comment showed that, as well as being beneath pathetic.

Heather M. Rosa said...

I don't qualify to comment on your first post, but I had a similar experience. It wasn't in the wee hours and it was in a public place and it was someone I knew, so I wasn't freaked out. It did ruin a budding friendship, however.

The setting was a support group, the guy was a facilitator I thought I trusted enough for a one-on-one, since I needed more than just my share of small group time, and he'd just listened to me process a very painful break-up, one where the emotional pain had me literally nauseous. I had repeated several times that I felt I couldn't trust or date a guy again for quite a while.

His comment? "So, you wanna fuck?"

Apparently there are plenty of guys out there that think and hear with only one organ. Yeah, they can take a "no" and are not rapists, or at least not this time. That is not the point. There are also wonderful guys out there. That is not the point either.

There are plenty of rapists out there, and under those circumstances, how could Rebecca tell? Not only was there cause for fear, there was cause for the anger at a guy who clearly did not hear and trust what he heard because it came from a woman. If you don't accept one "no", how on earth can we ever trust that you'll hear another one?

Maria said...

I understand concern about some of those comments, but it seems to me like no-one in the Skepchick community is entertaining the thought that this may have been blown out of proportion. Especially the joke. A guy lost his (volunteer) job over it. People asked that he be banned from TAM! If the reaction to anyone who doesn't take these issues as seriously as Rebecca (and the people who agree with her) is to denigrate them and tie them together with the comments threatening actual rape, then there can be no dialogue, only evangelizing, and that's not going to work.

I don't mean to upset anyone, and I thought (and think) Dawkins was out of line. But there has been an overreaction that has been fueled by something like an echo chamber, where dissenting comments are grouped with the lowest common denominator. It all makes me extremely sad.

D. C. said...

There are plenty of rapists out there, and under those circumstances, how could Rebecca tell? Not only was there cause for fear

Damn I wish we could take, "cause for fear" off the table. It's an absurdly high bar to set and mostly leads to ratholing on irrelevancies.

Just because a woman is accompanied (or whatever) doesn't excuse pushing her buttons.

(Mumble, bullying, mumble, chronic stress, gnarf)

Jason Thibeault said...

Maria: has it occurred to you that you're asking the wrong people to stop talking? Everyone's first reaction when something like this happens, is to take everyone's words totally seriously.

For example, when Joe Anderson on Twitter posted a picture of a turtle biting a dog's genitals with the caption "Possible punishment for dickish behaviour at #TAM9 in an elevator or otherwise?", the JREF actually came down on him saying "no violence will be tolerated, TAM is a safe event", threatening bans of anyone who threatened violence. They did NOT say anything against the guy claiming he was going to assault Rebecca Watson, most likely because they didn't know he'd made that threat prior to Joe's (arguably much less offensive) joke.

The fact that you're arguing for leniency on this guy who claims he'll cop a feel *right after* the conversation about what's creepy behaviour and what isn't, indicates to me that you're playing into the question of privilege. I explain why understanding privilege is important in this conversation at my blog, so you may want to read it before you ask people to stop overreacting.

Gingerbaker said...

Open up the comments. There were some valid points made.

Stephanie Zvan said...

Seriously, Gingerbaker? Which part of "Feel free to argue in the space for arguing and leave the victims of sexual assault to have their say in peace" do you not comprehend?

Jason Thibeault said...

And which of those "valid points" do not exist in this post? Or is it shameful to have them all in one place where you're on display in all your assholish glory?

Silus said...

These comments are horrifying! I don't understand how someone can honestly think this way. What part of "I shouldn't hurt other people" is so hard to understand?

Anonymous said...

No, for goodness sakes, leave the trolls under the bridge where we can't see them. I'm just sorry you have to.

LKL said...

Unfortunately, none of these posts were shocking.

Giliell said...

Since I fortunately don't qualify to be added to your open letter, may I say here that I wholeheartedly support it and am at the same time touched and outraged at all your fates and your stories.
If people who have truely suffered much worse can feel the bad in the situation Rebecca Watson found herself in, it should really give people who've had the privilege or luck to not have been assaulted a clue that it was not "zero bad"