I have been following — at a distance — the dispiriting farrago of abuse and obscenity aimed at feminist atheists and their supporters. All the completely contemptuous remarks and stultifyingly offensive use of scatological and twatological language to try to get women freethinkers and sceptics to shut the fuck up. It’s simply bizarre, and, from what I can tell, quickly becoming an obsession of a small marginal group of rather crude examples of the genus Homo who seem to think they have a right to use whatever insulting language they choose. Michael Nugent has collected a number of examples of such language from the Slymepit, which I gather is, indeed, a slimepit, so far as the decencies go, and which I forbear to link here.
But it is worthwhile linking to Michael Nugent’s collection of the anti-feminist pushback that some feminist sceptics have received from a group of men whose use of language needs a bit of washing up. It’s aimed not only at women but at men who have come to the defence of the (often named) women concerned. The names in the collection have been redacted, but this is abuse directed at specific named individuals, no holds barred. So, here it is, introduced with the appropriate warning that
readers not familiar with the type of material published on The Slymepit website, [should] please be aware that [they] may find the following content to be abusive, shaming and very disturbing.
I am not going to quote any of the offensive statements here. Why do people think, just because you can throw insults at people from a distance, that it is an appropriate thing to do? And why do people think that addressing their often obscene remarks both at women freethinkers and at the men who support them is something that is within the pale of any movement, let alone one that is intended to shine the light of reason onto the human scene? The examples that I read — and I did not read them all — are deeply offensive, and should, it seems to me, be actionable. Perhaps that is the thing that will force “people” to behave with some regard for the dignity of others. Of course, these people are determined to disregard dignity altogether. It’s a matter of civility and good taste. They haven’t any.
One thing that does concern me about all this is that Michael Shermer seems to have lost the plot. He said something stupid. Ophelia Benson called him on it. But instead of simply saying, “Sorry,” and left it at that, he just had to go into a long rigmarole – he couldn’t help it, I guess — a male tic, apparently – that has a tendency to defend what he said, suggest that it was simply said as a matter of routine, because that’s the way it was when, and then pillory Ophelia for calling him on it in the first place. It makes no sense to me. Let’s get this quite straight, shall we? Women play as important a role in the freethought movement as men. Because our society still tends to be pretty misogynist, despite the changes brought about by feminism, women still get treated to a dose of misogynistic presupposition every time they appear at a conference, or every time they write something on a blog. In the wider society sexual harassment and assault are still the norm, so, of course, we expect the odd reactionary yahoo amongst nonbelievers too. To them, women are simply legitimate targets for abuse, be it physical or verbal, and they feel free to use the most barbarically sexist language in response, reducing them – there’s that male tic again – to their sexual parts, and even threatening to go on and use those parts in illegal ways, or suggesting that others do. Why are women subject to this kind of abuse? Because they’re women, I guess, no other reason being obviously on offer, except that women, if they have a thought in their brains, must be ugly, and perhaps can be abused into some state that would be acceptable to these men who did not have the good fortune of being washed away by the Flood. And here they are, living in society, and still behaving like they just came out of caves.