To the “Intersectional” Feminists of Skepchick

Earlier this week, the atheist feminist blog site Skepchick put up a post that was ostensibly to/complaining about the people responsible for a recent DDOS attack, titled “A Love Letter to our DDOS Hackers”. However, they used multiple instances of unnecessary ableist language. When called out on it, they doubled down and insisted that none of the language they used is ableist. So, for the sake of argument, let’s pretend they really don’t get it and make it easy to understand.
The Skepchick post contained a text segment and an image with words. The text on the image on the Skepchick site is as follows:

FUUUUUUUUUCK THOSE GUYS.

I got shit to say

and you’re a fucking idiot if you think I can be shut up.

For real.

You are the stupidest mother fucker on earth.

Like, I’m literally impressed you remember to breathe every day

if you think taking down a few blogs

for a couple of days 

is going to do anything

other than prove us right. 

 This is ableist. “Idiot” has a history mirroring that of the term “retard”. It became so pervasive a slur it could no longer be used as a diagnostic label. The word “stupid” is likewise ableist, though so accepted that most people fail to recognize it. But the truly astonishing phrase is “I’m literally impressed you remember to breathe every day.” I have friends with a variety of conditions that cause difficulty breathing, including difficulty “remembering” to breathe. These are life threatening impairments, not a joke, and they have NOTHING to do with a DDOS attack or anti-feminists or whatever the hell these people did that was actually egregious (a point not actually established amongst all the ableism.)

 Above the image there is a block of text trumpeting the social justice creds of Skepchick, which I have to seriously call into question now. Here is that text:

This time of year, like every time of year, we draw a lot of attention to ourselves at the Skepchick Network for being a fierce and outspoken, lady-run blog. We bring up controversial topics like, vaccine awareness and the need for harassment policies at conventions. We talk about the lack of women in STEM and we organize events like the Science Track at Convergence (a.k.a. SkepchickCon) to encourage more women to get involved in those fields. We have the brazen nerve to discuss things like equality for women and minority groups and the highly controversial topic of simply wanting to be treated like a human both online and away from the keyboard. We say hey, you don’t need a god or even a spirit guide to be a great person and to love this one, precious life you have found yourself in. We think life is worth living and learning about without superstition. We support a science based perspective that helps us make decisions on medicine and social science and economics. We think women are funny and valuable. With hot-button topics like the need for safe abortions (a.k.a. reproductive healthcare for women) and the idea that religion is simply unnecessary, we expect and even welcome vocal criticism from people who disagree with us. It’s one reason why we have a blog with a comment section.

But we have set standards. You have to be able to hold a conversation with us. You have to be able to argue your point rationally. You have to be able stand up to us with intelligence and a quality argument. You have to actually add to the conversations being had instead of derailing or just shouting in SUPERCAPSLOCK teenage angst.

And over the years, what we have noticed is that a few of you simply can not do this. These few resort to harassing us on twitter and other social media, they make fake blogs in an attempt to mock us, they email us death and rape threats or tell us to “kill ourselves” or they produce poorly photoshopped images of us doing things they want us to do. We have become their obsession.

Some of our self-proclaimed “critics” have launched multiple year, ongoing harassment campaigns. These people go so far as to make up complete lies about us and contact our employers and patrons with these lies. We have seen these same people post our home addresses online in an attempt to frighten us and hobble our ability to communicate- or sleep well, or to peacefully exist. And every so often, when the photoshopped photos of us and the rape and death threats don’t get our attention to their liking, this same quality of “critic” takes the route of frustrated-cyber-silencer and we see our blog network start to load slow or in the case of last weekend, it goes offline all together in yet another successful Denial of Service attack.

It happens. We expect it.

The thing is this, we actually have feelings about our relationship with these cyber warriors fighting to maintain the status quo. They have a hard time understanding the issues we bring up and their place in the future seems uncertain. We know they are upset and they disagree with us and they want to be heard. We want them to feel special and acknowledged.

And it’s ok.

Really.

In an effort to put what’s wrong with this in words Skepchick editors can hopefully understand, here are their own words, edited to omit ableist (and ageist!) bigotry and suit the topic. You may notice a striking similarity between the above and below, and that is my point. The silencing tactics used against feminists are used against disability advocates. The threats and violence and abuse are too.

This time of year, like every time of year, we draw a lot of attention to ourselves as disabled self-advocates for being fierce and outspoken, and unapologetically disabled. We bring up controversial topics like, Social Security standards that make it financially impossible for many disabled people to marry the person they love and the need for accommodations at conventions. We talk about the lack of disability representation in media and we organize events like Boycott Autism Speaks to encourage more disabled people to get involved in self advocacy. We have the brazen nerve to discuss things like equality for disabled people and the highly controversial topic of simply wanting to be treated like a human both online and away from the keyboard. We say hey, you don’t need a body or mind that functions in the most typical ways to be a great person and to love this one, precious life you have found yourself in. We think life is worth living and learning about without bigotry and ableism. We support a science based perspective that helps us make decisions on medicine and social science and economics. We think disabled people are funny and valuable. With hot-button topics like the the dangers of adult guardianship (a.k.a. healthcare and other life decisions for disabled people) and the idea that ableist language is simply unnecessary, we expect and dread the inevitable endless vocal criticism from people who disagree with us. It’s one reason why we most of us who have a blog with a comment section heavily moderate it.

But we have set standards. You have to be able to hold a conversation with us. You have to be able to argue your point without resorting to ableist slurs. You have to be able stand up to us with integrity and a quality argument. You have to actually add to the conversations being had instead of derailing or just shouting in SUPERCAPSLOCK ageist angst.

And over the years, what we have noticed is that a few of you simply can not do this. These few resort to harassing us on twitter and other social media, they make fake blogs in an attempt to mock us, they email us death and rape threats or tell us to “kill ourselves” or they produce poorly photoshopped images of us doing things they want us to do. We have become their obsession.

Some of our self-proclaimed “critics” have launched multiple year, ongoing harassment campaigns. These people go so far as to make up complete lies about us and contact our employers and patrons with these lies. We have seen these same people post our home addresses online in an attempt to frighten us and hobble our ability to communicate- or sleep well, or to peacefully exist. And every so often, when the photoshopped photos of us and the rape and death threats don’t get our attention to their liking, this same quality of “critic” take other routes to discredit and silence us.

It happens. We expect it.

The thing is this, we actually have feelings about our relationship with these cyber warriors fighting to maintain the status quo. They have a hard time understanding the issues we bring up and their place in the future seems uncertain. We know they are upset and they disagree with us and they want to be heard. They want to feel special and acknowledged.

And it’s not ok.

Really.

 

Are you listening Elyse, Amy and Rebecca?

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Internalized Misogyny

I could see the two gendered paths laid out before me in childhood. I knew that the world and my faith attributed certain traits to the feminine and others to the masculine. I knew that girls were supposed to follow the feminine path, and that boys were supposed to follow the masculine. I could tell the girls’ path was a trap and I wanted nothing to do with it. Besides, my sister was so much better at being girly than I was. I could only hope to perform as second best in the feminine realm.

I’ve started to realize how much the gender roles still defined what I could and could not do, what I would and would not allow myself to enjoy doing. I was so afraid of being seen as “just a girl” or “only a woman”. I had also internalized the idea that being a girl is why I had been sexually molested – not because the man was sick and violated me, but because I was tempting flesh as a young girl.

I had plenty of examples of strong women in my life. In my family I had a female preacher, graduate professor, worship team leader, ballet dancer, and human resources department head. I knew that women could do anything, but the world told me that wasn’t true. I decided the women in my family were better, were “not like those OTHER women.” I attributed our strengths to our masculinity, to our Otherness from women as a whole.

I didn’t learn how to cook until the past couple of years. Cooking was women’s work, was a gendered chore, and I wasn’t about to sign up for a bunch of thankless effort. It’s only now that I’m in a relationship with a feminist man that I feel like I can explore cooking without trapping myself into a Female-labeled box without air holes.

Thank you Feminism for helping me recognize and confront internal misogyny. Thank you for helping me to love my “feminine” skills and traits. Thank you for giving me opportunities to try new things without losing rights or dignity.

Guest Post: On the Men’s Rights Movement and Feminism

Taking a brief break from my Hattie biography to bring you a guest post from my Facebook friend and fellow blogger Richard Brum. You can find his blog here. On to the post!

So. The Men’s Rights Movement. Look, I know we can’t only focus on women’s issues if we are to create true gender equality in our society. But when you say we need to focus on men’s rights as well, there needs to be some critical thought involved.

Think. The cases where men are disparaged disproportionately more than women: why do they exist? What causes them? Not only are women’s rights issues caused by a patriarchal society, but men’s rights issues are as well:

  • Only men must register for the draft? That was implemented to keep out women, not to unfairly punish men.
  • Men are unfairly treated in family court and assumed to be inferior parents? Thank the men who insisted that that’s a woman’s job, and men shouldn’t have to take care of the kids beyond providing income and discipline.
  • Men don’t get paternity leave? Thank the patriarchal system that insists it’s a woman’s job to stay home with the children while the men do the workin’ and the earnin’.
  • Men seem to have the burden of proof in a divorce that they are fit parents and should have custody? Blame the majority of men who don’t give a crap about their kids after splitting from the kids’ mother and vanish into thin air. Blame the society that says women are the ones who should raise children, not men.
  • Men face greater health concerns, higher suicide rates, etc.? Yeah, it’s not because feminism somehow created a great concern (and therefore more solutions and better outcomes) for women… the poorer health outcomes are the heavy costs paid by men for conformity with the narrow definitions of masculinity that promise to bring them status and privilege. Men’s health would best be improved by tackling destructive notions of manhood, an economic system which values profit and productivity over workers’ health, and the ignorance of service providers, instead of blaming a feminist health movement.

And the list goes on. Think about *why* some issues negatively men more than women. And realize it’s because what you are being denied, is what other men say should be handled by women; it’s their “job” to raise kids, take time off of work to raise them, etc.

Meanwhile, there are other issues have nothing to do with discrimination against men. Don’t have a say in whether the woman you knocked up has an abortion? Well, it’s her body, not yours. All you did was donate sperm. Even if you’re married, it’s her body that will go through the pregnancy, her life that may be endangered by it, her hormones that will change dramatically. Not yours.

Listen, I’m not saying that men’s rights issues aren’t important. They are. All I’m saying is, think carefully about where they come from. It’s hardly the case that there’s some sort of new matriarchy in control of everything that nobody but you is aware of. It’s much more reasonable, and demonstrable, that it’s still the patriarchal nature of our society at play here.

And perhaps the fact that you feel that you are denied things that other men would much rather shirk, means that you’re halfway there… halfway to the front lines in the fight against gender inequality and patriarchal nonsense. If you find it appalling that men are discouraged from public displaying emotions that are otherwise considered “womanly” (fear, sadness, crying, etc.), then you must surely be able to realize that it’s a patriarchy that not only affects women negatively, but men who aren’t part of said patriarchy as well. A patriarchy doesn’t entail all men being complicit in gender inequality and oppression. In fact, it’s quite the opposite: it’s a popular opinion, and you’re part of the few who actually want to fight it. Some of you are just going about it the wrong way.

This is why feminism is for everybody: it fights the patriarchy, which affects all genders. Sure, it focuses on women’s rights primarily, as women’s rights are the primary target of the patriarchy. But being against the patriarchy is exactly what makes the “feminist” moniker a fitting one; everybody not part of patriarchy is affected, so everybody should join in the fight.