After watching certain atheists say hurtful, hateful, idiotic, misogynistic things directed at Rebecca Watson, the whole Skepchick crew (especially Surly Amy recently), other women in skepticism who dared to speak out, and the men who understand that there is a problem and want to do something to fix it, it is refreshing to see this quote from President of the American Atheists, Dave Silverman:
As a Humanist, I see these threats as base and detestable. They have no redeeming value and will raise no awareness, solve no problems, and hurt those who should be friends. As a long term activist, I see hatred and threats of violence directed at our sisters-in-arms to be reprehensible, serving no purpose other than to hurt and intimidate valuable allies. As a white man, I know that so much of this hate comes from people who look like me — but they’re nothing like me where it counts. As the leader of a national atheist organization, I have implemented harassment policies to minimize such irrational, hateful, and counterproductive behavior wherever my authority allows. We have a war to win, and we won’t win until we can look forward, without watching our own backs. American Atheists stands by all its members, supporters, and allies, and we will not tolerate hate directed at any of us. Period.
The minute I saw this quote at Butterflies and Wheels I decided to join American Atheists. I’ll be proud to be a member of an organization that gets it, and that stands by its members even in the face of the inevitable backlash they are sure to receive.
Surly Amy asked for and got this statement from American Atheists, and they aren’t the only ones.
I recently wrote about dealing with hate and harassment and a good point was brought up. How do the leaders in the secular, humanist, skeptic and atheist communities feel about what has been happening to women online and at events? Why haven’t they spoke up about it?
Maybe no one has asked them to.
Over the next few weeks I will be asking for and posting statements from the leaders in our community. I will specifically be seeking out the men to comment as I feel that an, ‘us against the men‘ meme has been incorrectly spread. How do our secular leaders, and specifically the men in our movement, really feel about sexism, threats of violence and the misogyny we have been dealing with?
Hopefully over the next few weeks I will be gaining new respect for many in the community, and posting their responses as well. It is far too easy for us men in the atheist community to shut our eyes and deny that there is a problem, just as it is easy for Caucasians to pretend racism is over. It’s the concept of privilege. As men, we don’t face the harassment, the threat of rape or sexual assault, the glass ceiling, the dehumanization into nothing but sexual fantasy, or any of the other misogyny and sexism women face. I’d be lying if I said I know what they go through, because I don’t. I can say that I understand, but honestly, I never really could. Same as no white person will never truly know what it is like to be a person of color.
That’s the whole idea of privilege; I am privileged to be a man and never have to face that shit. Since I never have to face it, I can deny its severity, if not its very existence. If I go to TAM, no one is going to grab my tits. If I speak at a Skeptic’s in the Pub, the audience is not going to be ignoring my talk to undress me in their mind. If someone hits on me in an deserted hotel elevator at 3 am, I don’t have to worry that they won’t take “no” for an answer. No one is asking if it is morally acceptable to rape me because I’m annoying.
As a man, I can see the effects of privilege. I can think to myself; “if someone hit on me at a conference in the elevator, I’d take it as a compliment. Hell, it would probably make my day!”, or “I wish the audience was undressing me in their mind. If only!” But I can think that because those things would be aberrations. I don’t have people asking to fuck me at every meeting. I don’t have people ignoring my words to fantasize about fucking me every time I talk. My intellect is not ignored because I have tits.
So it is easy to pretend the problem doesn’t exist.
But it does.
And I may never be able to truly understand what women in skepticism go through from my place of male privilege, but I can definitely see that there is a problem, and that we need to admit it and work together to fix it.
I’m glad Surly Amy asked, and I’m overjoyed at the first response. I can only hope the others are similar.