Saturday, August 18, 2012

Your genitalia is your uniform!

Two words sum up the intellectual and ethical bankruptcy of radical feminism: "gender traitor". This term is increasingly being thrown at women who dare to depart from the ideologically pure party line. Stef McGraw is a gender traitor for pointing out the obvious fact that a man can be sexually attracted to a woman and still consider her an equal. Harriet Hall is a gender traitor for wearing a T-shirt that someone disagrees with.

It seems the radfem extremists have no problem making intellectual and linguistic common cause with neo-Nazi skinhead white supremacists who constantly use the term "race traitor" against white people who oppose racism. The skinheads long for an apocalyptic race war in which "you skin is your uniform." I'm sure it's only a matter of time before we start hearing: "Your genitalia is your uniform!"

Feminist vs. Feminist

Dr. Harriet Hall is a woman of impeccable feminist credentials. She was one of the very first female physicians in the US Air Force, long before the days of gender quotas and gender norming. Throughout her career she has gone toe to toe with men as an equal in brains and knowledge, and beaten the brightest and best of them without having to have the playing field tilted in her favor.

Unfortunately, the kind of feminism and empowerment that Dr. Hall embodies in her life and achievements makes her a "gender traitor" to today's victim feminists. Ophelia Benson, among others, is baffled as to why a women would NOT demand special favors and brownie points just for being a woman. And Surly Amy was so "dehumanized" on seeing a T-shirt that she didn't agree with, she went on a crying jag and left TAM a day early.

In this blog I am careful to distinguish between feminism in general, and the toxic subset known as radical feminism. Let's recall Wikipedia's definition: a movement which holds that male oppression of women is a "transhistorical phenomenon prior to or deeper than other sources of oppression, not only the oldest and most universal form of domination but the primary form and the model for all others." Oh, poor me! I'm such a victim! I have a monopoly on suffering and persecution, and no-one else has any right to consider themselves oppressed! Doesn't this sound incredibly narcissistic and self-obsessed?

For many decades there has been a schism in feminism, with different writers at various times using different labels to refer to the two opposing camps. There's second-wave feminism (led by the incredibly ugly and hateful Andrea Dworkin) vs. third-wave feminism, gender feminism vs. equity feminism, radical feminism vs. sex-positive feminism. These are all valid ways of capturing some of the aspects of the division, but I think what it all comes down to is victim feminism vs. empowerment feminism.

An empowerment feminist says, "I'm a woman, I'm proud, I'm strong. I'm powerful, I challenge any man to meet me on a level playing field and I'm confident that I'll prove to be at least his equal."

A victim feminist says, "I'm a woman, I'm weak, I'm pathetic, I'm an eternal helpless victim totally lacking in agency, I need Big Brother to step in and not only tilt the playing field in my favor, but fix the final outcome."

I have a great deal of respect for empowerment feminists, and more than a little contempt for victim feminists.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

An alternative to SlavethoughtBlogs

Skeptic Blogs is a new site that will feature skeptical and atheist bloggers. It's led by John Loftus, and hopefully it will provide a truly diverse set of viewpoints and favor good, solid writing over diversity hires. Let's face it, the vast majority of the bloggers at FTB are narcissistic, self-obsessed and often incredibly long-winded - and they get all butt-hurt when someone says he doesn't enjoy reading them.

The site is new but there is already some pretty interesting content up there. Check it out!

Dawkins vs. the dworkins

Dear Muslima,
Stop whining, will you. Yes, yes, I know you had your genitals mutilated with a razor blade, and … yawn … don’t tell me yet again, I know you aren’t allowed to drive a car, and you can’t leave the house without a male relative, and your husband is allowed to beat you, and you’ll be stoned to death if you commit adultery. But stop whining, will you. Think of the suffering your poor American sisters have to put up with.
Only this week I heard of one, she calls herself Skep "chick", and do you know what happened to her? A man in a hotel elevator invited her back to his room for coffee. I am not exaggerating. He really did. He invited her back to his room for coffee. Of course she said no, and of course he didn’t lay a finger on her, but even so …
And you, Muslima, think you have misogyny to complain about! For goodness sake grow up, or at least grow a thicker skin.
This was the comment Richard Dawkins left on Pharyngula on the "Always name names!" post. The comment that was met with an orgy of screaming and ranting about misogyny, racism, Islamophobia and what not, sneers about Dawkins being a privileged rich white heterosexual male, and a two-minute hate led by Rebecca Watson, complete with a "Dear Dick" harassment and boycott campaign. (That's funny, I thought gendered insults were bad?)

Now, Dawkins is of course an Englishman, and he has a very English sense of humor. He understands advanced concepts like "irony", "sarcasm" etc. that are lost on most Merkins (who think irony is a black fly in your Chardonnay). But once you see his point, you realize that he is brilliantly skewering the vapidity and narcissism of the Watsonistas, who are creating such a deafening and never-ending shitstorm over a relatively trivial incident.

One very common and telling reaction was that Dawkins was trying to "silence" women. First of all, it isn't possible to silence anyone as long as they have access to the internet. Even if you ban someone from one forum, they can just pop up on another. But Dawkins wasn't even doing that - he was simply making one comment in a 10,000-comment thread. (If anything, the radfems were the ones trying to silence dissenting opinion by their massive piling-on, with some commenters writing hundreds of comments on the same thread.)

Why is it that when a man has a difference of opinion with a radfem, he is automatically accused of trying to silence her? What does that say about her level of security? Look, sis, if you are going to state your opinion in a public forum, you have to be prepared for other people disagreeing with it. If you can't handle that, then stay out of the kitchen. And if you suggest that "persons of gender" need special protection against having to hear dissenting opinions, then you are infantilizing and insulting women. True equality would mean that women can get in the thick of it and share their opinion with men on an equal footing - wouldn't it?

The Gathering Shitstorm

Apart from Rebecca Watson, the individual most responsible for constantly stirring the shit and keeping the radfem jihad boiling over in the atheist and skeptic movements is the odious more-feminist-than-thou PZ Myers. As I've mentioned before, Elevatorgate would have fizzled out in a matter of days had not Watson attacked a fellow female (and less privileged) blogger in an unconscionable way, been called out on it, and needed a distraction from her asshole behavior. That's when Elevatorgate suddenly and conveniently became a massive shitstorm that is still raging over a year later, thanks in large part to Professor Zerobrains.

The opening salvo was a post entitled "Always name names!", defending Watson's behavior by grossly misrepresenting the Stef McGraw incident. Stef had made it clear that what she took exception to was not being named, but being put in a position where she was attacked with no ability to defend herself. Myers knew this but chose to join the radfem chorus attacking Stef as a mindless parrot of "standard misogynist thought." (Myers' post is still on the old Scienceblogs site, though only part of it, and without the comments. Anyway my policy is not to link to SlavethoughtBlogs because they make buttloads of money in ad displays, especially Myers who appears to be gaming the system so that he benefits from hundreds of ad displays from every visit, especially if you use Google Reader. If you must go to SlavethoughtBlogs, be sure to use software such as AdBlock or Do Not Track to avoid the ads.)

Anyway, what I really found stunning was the comments on this thread. There were something like 10,000 comments, the vast majority of them screaming about what evil pigs and rapists men are. It was a real red-pill moment for me to see such seething, mindless hatred being expressed against men - all men. The few brave souls who dared to question Watson's behavior towards Stef McGraw were screamed down with accusations of being a rape apologist if not an outright rapist. Because apparently in what passes for a brain among radfems, being on the receiving end of a clumsy but polite pass is exactly the same thing as being raped. And because of course it's very convenient to be able to confuse two totally separate incidents in order to distract attention from your goddess's feet of clay.

Again and again I saw the same pattern: "Fuck you, rapist. You are a man, therefore I can dismiss out of hand anything you say without reading it, but I demand that you drop whatever else you were doing today and read through the 27 lengthy treatises I (along with 4,567 other womyn) have cut and pasted links to."

There were even some pathetic grovelers who whined, "Please forgive me for being male, I am a recovering misogynist who only recently became aware of the awesome overwhelming privilege he possesses, please educate me and help me to understand why what happened to Rebecca was rape. I'm sure you're correct, but I just don't understand how." (Response: "Fuck you, rapist," etc. etc.)

When I looked at some of the links, I only got even more depressed. There was that godawful "Schrödinger’s Rapist" screed (funny, I never knew Schrödinger had been raped - but men do get raped too, you know), there was the stupid story about the husky and the iguana, which is supposed to make some point about "male privilege" - apparently all men are dogs, or something. And there was a whole shitload of privileged upper-class educated (and probably mostly white) Western women moaning about how tough they have it.

And then Richard Dawkins entered the fray, which led to the shit really hitting the fan. More on this later.

Saturday, August 11, 2012


Just a quick thought - in the midst of all the shrieking and fainting about Thunderf00t's behavior, how come no-one remembers much more egregious action by Rebecca Twatson on the JREF forum not so long ago?

Thunderf00t and Listservgate

My general goal in this blog is to work through the radfem witch-hunt in the skeptical/freethought community from Elevatorgate up to the present day, but of course events are moving rapidly and I will occasionally break from chronological order to comment on breaking news.

Now you are aware that Thunderf00t has been declared an unperson for deviating from the radfem ideology that is mandatory at SlavethoughtBlogs. But now the hive mind feels the need to double down and declare him a super double-plus ungood unperson and demand that he be a pariah lo until the end of time, verily verily. The allegation is that he hacked into some ultra-secure "listserv" (has anyone called it a listserv since the late 80's?), obtained people's private information, and maliciously scattered it to the four winds.

The truth, as you find out if you make the most cursory effort to ascertain it, is much more prosaic. When Thunderf00t was booted out of SlavethoughtBlogs, they forgot to remove him from the list of people eligible to subscribe to their internal mailing list. (Apparently the software they were using was never intended for private lists.) Thunderf00t resubscribed, presumably to know what people were saying about him - they were saying some pretty vicious and ignorant things about him when he joined but before he had even published his first post.

It turned out that Thunderf00t wasn't the only person on their hit list - they were also conspiring to destroy the livelihood of Michael Peyton, a Canadian skeptic who had committed the unforgivable sin of tweeting that he didn't enjoy reading SlavethoughtBlogs. The sort of behavior Greg Laden regularly engaged in and talked about on the list - the other FTBullies only took exception to it when he turned on a fellow FTB'er, Justin Griffith.

So in other words Thunderf00t isn't some mysterious Ninja hacker with mad pwning skillz - it's more a case of stupidity and bad security on the part of SlavethoughtBlogs. Despite their frenzied shrieks and accusations, there's no evidence that Thunderf00t actually leaked anyone's private information. If there is such evidence, the FTBullies should pass it on to the police - otherwise they should shut the hell up and withdraw their accusations. In any case, people should be angry at SlavethoughtBlogs for leaving the door wide open and putting their private information at risk.

I'm not carrying a torch for Thunderf00t here, he does not come out of this smelling of roses. But all the screeching and pearl-clutching is deeply hypocritical. Obviously, the bullies are angry that their slash-and-burn tactics against people like Michael Peyton and anyone else who disagrees with them have been exposed.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

How Elevatorgate could have been handled...

A quick thought before we plunge into the cesspit of dishonesty and shit-stirring that is PZ Myer's exploitation of Elevatorgate. How could the incident have been handled better? Could it have been used as a valuable teaching moment instead of the radfems declaring feminist jihad on everyone else and dehumanizing them as "rabid misogynists"? You bet your ass.

First of all, there is ZERO EVIDENCE that Elevator Guy used, or would have used, any kind of violence or undue pressure against Rebecca Watson. It would appear that he did not do anything illegal, or even immoral. He spoke some words to Watson, words which were polite on their surface and even tried to reassure her that he found her "interesting" and wanted to "talk more". As feminists love to remind us, words are not fists.

Now, you could fault the guy for hitting on Watson in an enclosed space. (You could question his taste, or his eyesight, for hitting on her at all.) But did he do it with malice aforethought? More likely he was simply clueless and socially awkward. Perhaps he had been sitting in the bar for hours, pining away for Watson, but too shy to approach her with other people around. Perhaps when he saw her heading for the elevator, he thought it was his last chance. He threw a Hail Mary, and struck out - and I've totally mixed my sports metaphors, but who gives a crap.

Of course it's also conceivable that he was as slimy and scheming as the radfems assume in knee-jerk fashion that he was, based only on their hatred of all men as a group, but in the absence of any evidence for this, we have to give him the benefit of the doubt.

Personally, having been pretty awkward around girls when I was younger, I can sympathize with EG. Imagine having a brief, embarrassing interaction with someone, going to bed alone and thinking it was all over, and waking up the next morning to find almost the entire internet screaming that you are a rapist and a danger to persons of gender everywhere.

Imagine if a woman, preferably a prominent figure in the atheist/skeptical community, had written an open message to EG along the following lines:
Hey dude, I'm sure you didn't mean any harm, and it's kind of sweet how you did your best to be polite and respectful. But there are a couple of things you should be aware of. 
First, an elevator is an enclosed space, and some women - not all, but some - feel nervous when a strange guy propositions them in an enclosed space. Maybe they've had bad experiences in similar situations in the past. Maybe they've even been raped, or know someone who has. So don't take it personally.
Secondly, when you try to go from zero to sex in one sentence, it comes across as desperate, disrespectful, even sleazy. I'm sure you didn't mean it that way, but try to put yourself in the woman's shoes. She doesn't know you from Adam, but she's less physically strong than you and she doesn't know how you will conduct yourself. You've just made a bad first impression, sweetie, and that's kind of hard to recover from.
How could you have handled this better? Unlike some people, I'm not saying you should never share an elevator with a woman, much less that you should cross the street to avoid them. This is not Saudi Arabia. You have a perfect right to be in the elevator. But be sensitive to the woman's demeanor. If she seems nervous and won't make eye contact, don't give her any reason to be frightened. She is not going to be receptive to your advances. Just try again later with someone else.
If she does seem open to eye contact, try a simple "hi". If she says "hi" back, again try to gauge her demeanor. Does she smile, and seem open to conversation? Or is it a perfunctory "hi"? If the former, feel free to engage her in conversation, but don't immediately make it about going to your room.
Do you see the pattern here? Take things one step at a time. If you get pushback at any stage, wish her a polite "good day" or "goodnight" and move on. Only if you get positive feedback should you take it to the next level. And always remember that no woman owes you sex. If she says "no", you have to respect that and not take it personally. Be polite and move on. What have you lost? Nothing - you had a brief but pleasant interaction with another human being, and she is less likely to blog to the world about what a monster you are.
This may seem like a long drawn out process, which is another reason why elevators are not usually good places to pick up a chick. But keep these guidelines in mind, and I'm sure you will get lucky more often in the future.
All the best,
Some Hypothetical Woman
Schrödinger's Therapist speaking again - this is the approach I use with women, and it works very well most of the time. Plus, I'm more selective than EG apparently was. I wouldn't hit on a woman it it was 4AM and I had heard her say that she really needed to get some sleep. Hell, even I'm usually not horny at that time of the night. And let's be honest, Watson doesn't turn me on in the slightest.

Anyway, imagine if a woman with clout in the community had responded in this way, instead of going to Defcon 1 immediately. There might still have been a few Neanderthals - there always are - whining, "How come we're not allowed to hit on chicks in the elevator? How are we supposed to get laid?" But I'm sure most guys would have distanced themselves from the Neanderthals, and said, "You know, what Some Hypothetical Woman says makes a lot of sense." It would have been a valuable learning moment, not only for EG but a lot of guys who might have been inclined to approach a woman in a way that would inadvertently make her feel uncomfortable, but who had no bad intentions in them.

What happened instead? Well, as I mentioned previously, Watson's initial response was at the right level: "Guys, don't do that." But then she got called on her assholistic treatment of Stef McGraw, she needed a distraction, and that's when (with the help of Professor Zerobrains) Elevatorgate conveniently became a Category 5 shitstorm that continues to generate bad feelings and divide the community to this day. We got the insulting "Schrödinger's Rapist", we got that stupid story about the Siberian Husky and the iguana, we got Phil Plait running around like a headless chicken and calling a trivial incident a potential sexual assault (see also this terrific response), and we got a two-minute hate against Richard Dawkins (more on this later).

Okay, this post has gotten way longer than I intended - perhaps I'm putting off the moment when I hold my nose and wade into the "all men are rapists" slimepit formerly known as Pharyngula. But my point is that if Elevatorgate had been responded to with good will and a genuine desire to educate instead of eviscerate, the subsequent history of the freethought movement would have been very different.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Atheist idols

For me, one of the most depressing aspects of the never-ending shitstorm that began life as Elevatorgate and has been mutating and metastasizing ever since, is realizing how flawed one's idols are. Pharyngula was my introduction to the atheist blog world, and from there I discovered Greta Christina, Phil Plait, and other bloggers. I thought it was great to see such articulate, passionate people laying into religious stupidity and hypocrisy, and destroying god-sophistry with reason, logic and wit.

But after Elevatorgate, PZ and his fellow radfems very quickly showed their true colors.

I have to say, Rebecca Watson's initial response to Elevator Guy's overture was on target. "Guys, don't do that..." End of story, move on. Fine. Now you might argue that it was unfair for Watson to be so creeped out  by a guy merely (and politely) expressing interest in her, but the way someone feels is the way they feel. Nobody owes an explanation or apology to anyone else for how they feel - you are only responsible for your own words and actions. As long as Elevator Guy was not violent or threatening - and on Watson's account, there's no indication that he was - Watson could feel whatever way she liked, as long as she treated him - and he treated her - with at least the minimum level of courtesy and respect that any human being is due.

Anyway, there's no record of what happened after EG spoke to Watson. Presumably she said no, he took no for an answer, and there was an awkward moment of silence for both of them until the elevator doors opened and they went their separate ways. EG presumably thought it was all over, and consoled himself with the thought, "better luck next time." Meanwhile, Watson presumably thought "what a loser." But there is no evidence that she felt herself to be in any particular danger at the time.

The whole thing would have quickly died the natural death it deserved had Watson not decided at a conference shortly after - she seems to make a living going from conference to conference and giving speeches - to abuse her position as keynote speaker and launch into a personal attack on Stef McGraw, a fellow female blogger who had dared to deviate from the radfem party line by pointing out the obvious fact that just because a guy is attracted to a women doesn't prove he thinks of her as nothing but a piece of meat.

Watson knew very well that Stef was in the audience, and choose to put her in a very uncomfortable situation, lumping her in with violent christian extremists and basically calling her a mindless parrot who repeated "standard misogynist thought." It was rather cowardly, seeing that Stef was not in a position to defend herself, given the format of the event. Watson later made some mealy-mouthed noises about "proper attribution" to justify her vendetta, but the damage was done. It was a remarkable display of crassness and unprofessionalism, and in effect Stef became the woman in the elevator. It was also thoroughly disrespectful to both the audience and the organizers of the event.

And that was where PZ Myers entered the picture, and showed himself to be a colossal ass. But this post is getting too long, so I will continue later.

A radical notion

We are constantly being hit over the head with the soundbite, "feminism is the radical notion that women are actually human beings." But what ordinary, fair-minded human being - i.e. not a republican or christian theocrat - says that they aren't? This is such a dishonest strawman.

On the other hand, I find it very telling that the worst insult radfems can hurl at a man is to call him an MRA - "Men's Rights Activist". I guess it's a radical notion in today's world (as opposed to the 19th century when the above soundbite originated) to say that men have rights.

I'm not involved in the MRM (another TLA - this one means "Men's Rights Movement".) I've checked it out online and find some of its members just as scary as any Rebecca Watson or Andrea Dworkin. On the other hand, they make a very good case that society, the workplace and the legal system are increasingly stacking the deck against men, and criminalizing maleness. And forget what you've heard about the pay gap - when you compare apples to apples, women often earn more than men for the same work. In so far is there is a pay gap, it almost always arises from women exercising options that men don't have - putting in fewer hours at work and being less productive so that they can spend more time with their children, have a shorter commute, etc.

Unfortunately, although radical feminism is a small and extreme fringe, it is a very vocal one that dominates academia and has a disproportionate influence in government policy and the legal system. The root impulse of radfem is to control both men and women by preaching ad nauseum that the latter are helpless victims, unable to do anything for themselves to better their situation, and their only hope is for Big Brother to step in and not only tilt the playing field in their favor, but fix the final score.

In a nutshell, radfem criminalizes men, infantilizes women, and hurts both.

Is radical feminism compatible with skepticism?

There’s something that’s been bugging me a lot recently, especially in the wake of Elevatorgate/Bunnygate/T-shirt-Gate/Camera-on-a-stick-Gate... I keep seeing the trope "if you are a skeptic then you have to reject Teh Patriarchy and become a radical feminist."

This is stupid. First of all, skepticism is about questions of fact. Does Bigfoot exist? Do UFO’s exist? But if you take some random ideology, you are no longer dealing with questions of "is" but "ought" – how ought society be ordered? Should this ideology be implemented in sociery? It’s a totally different category of question, so it has nothing to do with skepticism.

But it’s even worse when you consider radfem specifically. Radfem is the ideology that male oppression of women is a "transhistorical phenomenon prior to or deeper than other sources of oppression, not only the oldest and most universal form of domination but the primary form and the model for all others." (Wikipedia) Everything in nature and society must be viewed through the lens of patriarchy theory, privilege theory, rape culture theory etc. etc. And every idea on any subject must be filtered through this agenda.

Of course there is not a shred of evidence that there is some vast international Y-chromosome conspiracy and that every man on earth is privileged over (and the oppressor of) every women on earth, but that means nothing to the "Sisterz in Skepticism". In a nutshell, it is not possible to pick an ideology that is more the antithesis of everything skepticism stands for.

Who is Schrödinger's Therapist?

First of all, I intend to remain anonymous and have no intention of revealing any details about myself that might lead to someone being able to track me down in real life. Call it cowardly if you like. The reality is that there is currently a poisonous, witch-hunting atmosphere in the atheist/skeptical community. I have heard from several independent sources about prominent bloggers including PZ Myers, Greg (bin) Laden and others contacting the employers of someone they disagree with and trying to get that person fired. In today's economy, I am not willing to take that risk.

However, I cannot stay silent in the face of the increasingly hysterical and toxic witch-hunt already mentioned. The Myers's and Twatsons of this world are growing ever more extreme and fanatical. They have nothing but contempt for the broader freethought movement, because it is insufficiently ideologically pure for their liking, and they care only about advancing the most extremist, man-hating, mouth-foaming radical feminist agenda which smears all men as rapists and intentionally poisons relations between the sexes. And they would rather burn the whole freethought movement to the ground than not have control over it.

In case you are wondering, the name "Schrödinger's Therapist" is a reaction to the very ugly, bigoted and demeaning trope of "Schrödinger's Rapist" which is being pushed by many radical feminists. Basically the idea is that there is no such thing as a man who is purely and simply a non-rapist. At best, a man is a sort of quantum superposition of a rapist and non-rapist, until - being male - he inevitably commits rape. At that point, presumably the quantum wavefunction collapses and he becomes a full-fledged rapist. Fuck that shit!

I shouldn't have to say this, but I think real rape is a horrible crime which should be punished severely. But, COME ON! Is being on the receiving end of a clumsy pass the equivalent of rape? Or seeing a T-shirt that you don't agree with?

This whole shitstorm has nothing to do with rape, or coffee, or hurt feelings - it's all about an extremist fringe trying to control everyone's behavior and police their thoughts. In other words, the very antithesis of free thought.

I will have much more to say on this topic in future posts.