ResearchToBeDone connects high school bullying to Atheism+ conflicts. It's time to call out the adult bullies tearing at our community.

The Problem Is Not a Lack of Civility

The skeptic community has a problem with bullies. It has problems with misogyny, racism, trans phobia, all in addition to the usual problems that plague any burgeoning movement. There are people in the skeptic movement who have spent a lot of time talking about ways to heal the “deep rifts” in our community recently.

The reality is that some people ... when dealt with civilly, will reflect that civility back, and engage in productive discussion, and some will not. Some people will not engage civilly with anyone who holds different ideas than they do.

What everyone needs to acknowledge, right now, is that while sometimes civility is an effective way to encourage productive discussion, it will never work against people who are not interested in productive discussion, and there are a lot of people in our community right now who have proven, repeatedly, that they are not interested in productive discussion.

These people’s hearts are not going to grow three sizes because ... we stop calling misogyny misogyny,...

There doesn’t seem to be anyone left in the atheist community who thinks that if we are just polite enough to the conservative religious right, they will start engaging in reasonable ways. How people can see how absurd that idea is with respect to extreme religious conservatives, but fail to see how absurd it is with respect to some of the blatant bullying and misogyny that has been going on in our community recently is, frankly, utterly baffling to me.

Tags: Atheist misogyny, bullying

Views: 84

Replies to This Discussion

Relevant to a lot of sexism being invisible to men: Mark Chu-Carroll's article "A White Boy's Observations of Sexism and the Adria Richards Fiasco"

http://scientopia.org/blogs/goodmath/2013/03/28/a-white-boys-observ...

I agree with Crommunist that this piece is required reading. Some snippets:
(italics in original; bolding is mine)

###

See, I'm a white guy, born as a member of an upper middle class white family. That means that I'm awfully lucky. I'm part of the group that is, effectively, treated as the normal, default person in most settings. [...] our society is deeply sexist and racist. [...] It's so deeply ingrained in us that we don't even notice it. [...]

It's very easy for a member of an empowered majority to just take things for granted. We see the way that we are treated as a default, and assume that everyone is treated the same way. We don't perceive that we are being treated preferentially. We don't notice that the things that offend us are absolutely off limits to everyone, but that things that we do to offend others are accepted as part of normal behavior. Most importantly, we don't notice when our behavior is harmful to people who aren't part of our empowered group. And when we do offend someone who isn't part of the empowered majority, we take offense at the fact that they're offended. Because they're saying that we did something bad, and we know that we aren't bad people!

[...] Many people have looked at what happened at PyCon, and said something like "She shouldn't have tweeted their picture", or "She shouldn't have been offended, they didn't do anything wrong", or "She should have just politely spoken to them".

I don't know whether what she did was right or not. I wasn't there. I didn't hear the joke that the guys in question allegedly told. What I do know is that for a member of the minority out-group, there is frequently no action that will be accepted as "right" if it includes the assertion that the majority did something offensive.

I've seen this phenomena very directly myself, not in the context of sexism, but in terms of antisemitism. There's an expression that I've heard multiple times in the northeast US, to talk about bartering a price for a car: "jewing the salesman down". I absolutely find that extremely offensive. And I've called people out on it. There is no response that's actually acceptable.

If I politely say "You know, that's relying on a stereotype of me and my ancestors that's really hurtful", the response is: "Oh, come on, it's just harmless. I'm not talking about you, it's just a word. You're being oversensitive". If I get angry, the response is "You Jews are so strident". If I go to an authority figure in the setting, "You Jews are so passive aggressive, why couldn't you just talk to me?". No matter what I do, I'm wrong. Women deal with this every day, only they're in a situation where the power dynamic is even less in their favor.

###

(Read the whole thing)

This part is central to why majority groups don't perceive themselves as bullying while they're bullying.

Most importantly, we don't notice when our behavior is harmful to people who aren't part of our empowered group. And when we do offend someone who isn't part of the empowered majority, we take offense at the fact that they're offended. Because they're saying that we did something bad, and we know that we aren't bad people!

... for a member of the minority out-group, there is frequently no action that will be accepted as "right" if it includes the assertion that the majority did something offensive.


I keep seeing it over and over. Thanks for sharing this GrinningCat!

Ruth, I understand those who feel strongly, bully others in expressions of disagreement. I, obviously, am one capable of bullying. If I offend you or anyone on this site, please do challenge me. It is not my intention to bully, but to get people thinking. Bullying isn't a good strategy and is counterproductive, however, even my heroes of the civil rights movement were accused of bullying when they described and defined issues facing  them. Standing firmly on principles, speaking out powerfully, taking action to confront is different than bullying and I do NOT intend to bully.  

Looking a person straight in the eye and expressing disagreement, even in face of accusations of bullying, is not justification for ending the look and statement. Accusations are tactics to stop a confrontation. Don't fall for that ploy. 

Gee, this sounds so strident! I don't mean it that way. I mean to say I want to work at being a better advocate and seek to participate with others to accomplish goals of individual responsibility. 

Something worth sharing: The Microagressions Project

(short reports of the frequent "small" encounters that wear away at, exclude and oppress social "others" of all kinds, including women)

Thank Grinning Cat! This is an effective tool.

Here is one I hear often and it is listed on your Microagressions Project. 

“You won’t achieve equality by not knowing how to take a joke.”

Response: "That’s how you DO achieve equality. By NOT taking it."

I like that. 

This one, currently on the top line of story blocks, ties in with Tony Porter's "A call to men" (to break free of the "man box", and teach boys that they can and should be whole people, partners rather than dominators):

“Stop crying and acting like a little girl!”

My sister to her 4 year old son, who has a twin sister.

(So girls are "less than", or "can't help it"? We somehow don't hear anyone telling a young girl to "stop acting like a little boy!")

Over and over, in online comments sections I've seen people pile on, all saying roughly the same thing. 
Anyone who disagrees will get swamped with negative comments, and where personal comments are allowed, the impact of that is even worse. 

This seems like a consequence of the structure of the internet.  A vast number of people can see something that's posted online.  If you say something in person, you will only get one or two responses.  If you say it in a book, responses are limited by snailmail. 

Also, online discourse seems to favor black-and-white partisan thinking and emotional rhetoric. 

For example, I've been attracted to skeptic blogs on alternative medicine.  While I agree that there's a lot of quackery, I would have been tremendously helped by taking some complementary medicine more seriously - realizing that anecdotal reports and doctors' clinical experience can be accurate - and the skeptic blogs are dominated by people who haven't been seriously affected by problems that mainstream medicine does little for, as I have - so they are completely dismissive of complementary medicine.  

A/N is better that way, which is why I'm here.  But it certainly still has such problems. 

The technological framework of discourse affects the discourse greatly. 

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