Monday, January 2, 2012

So on Twitter Penn Jillette linked an article written by his friend Mallorie Nasrallah about her experiences in the skeptical community. And I did like her writing style, but I take some issue with some of the content. Basically saying the skeptic community never hurt or insulted her and to not ever change and to not let people make them change or feel bad. There's no links or explicit references to anything, so it's hard to say exactly what it's responding to. Reddit's Atheist forum making a large amount of sexualized, misogynistic, and often violent jokes and comments to a 15 year old woman is the most recent event of note, but there is also just the general level of misogyny and rape threats directed at any outspoken or active female skeptic or just the sexual harassment and objectification direct towards the women of the community.

This is the first problem. Without any sort of reference the whole thing just sounds really strawmanny. Who is trying to "make you feel bad for being you, for being male, for being funny, don't ever believe the lie that us delicate girls cant take being hit on, cant keep up with the filthy jokes, cant argue you blue in the face, and need special treatment"? The relevant critiques of the skeptic communities tend to revolve around dismissing women entirely, sexually objectifying them (usually as another way to dismiss them), making violent and usually sexual threats against them, not understanding the difference between hitting on or flirting with and cold propositioning in an enclosed space and not understanding why that difference might matter. I think all those things are pretty terrible and shouldn't be a part of any community.

Now I don't want to discount her awesome experiences. When people have awesome experiences that's pretty awesome. Even one person having an awesome experience when most don't can be awesome because it means that it's not all bad. The issue is with the repeated refrain asking them not to change. That right there works to dismiss all the suffering, violence, or even simple discomfort that many people have legitimately suffered. Quite simply, if someone is awesome to me, but terrible to someone else, I'd want them to change. To ask them not to change just seems like a terrible thing to do.