Ask an Atheist with Sam Mulvey

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The Problem of Dogmatic Feminism

Join Becky, Eileen, and Sam discuss the firestorm of discussion surrounding sexism, harassment, and safety in the freethought community.

There are show notes, and there will be more show notes as this goes on, please check back in for updates.

The blog posts Stephanie Zvan points out as educational, on her blog:

UPDATE 6/128:25 PDT:
As you might imagine, there’s been a lot of discussion, and perhaps even controversy over our take on this subject.   Since we jettisoned a lot of our actual content in favor of a discussion with Stephanie Zvan and our lack of discussion on those points has been mentioned, we’ve taken the time to produce another podcast to explain more of our position and respond to some of the criticism.  It was recorded early this morning and will be released in at least two parts:

“Dogmatic Feminism” Discussion Podcast (part 1)

Further updates will include links to the other parts, and these sessions will be in the podcast feed.
Also, discussion:
Unsurprisingly, the FreeThoughtBlog community is less than happy with our commentary, and has some criticism.  We discuss it in the podcast feed, but here are the direct links to that criticism:

 

Update 06/14: 

There’s some more discussion on this episode and the first part of our extended coverage, but it appears as trackbacks now, so feel free to check them out.   The final part of our Tuesday morning discussion is now also available:

“Dogmatic Feminism” Discussion Podcast (part 2)

About the Author: Sam Mulvey

Sam Mulvey is a producer and the technical brain behind Ask an Atheist. He is a collector of vinegar varieties, vintage computers, antique radios, and propaganda.

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156 Comments on "The Problem of Dogmatic Feminism"

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Anne C. Hanna
Guest
Having read the previous post on this issue (http://askanatheist.tv/2012/06/07/sexism-it-exists-amongst-and-between-atheists), I’d like to point out that people like Michael Kingsford Gray are *precisely* the reason that the folks over at FTB and the like have adopted a rather aggressive approach to this issue. They’ve been dealing with a nonstop barrage of bullshit like his (and far worse) for the past year, and their current attitudes are a carefully developed response to that clusterfuck. I get that it can look like “both sides are equally wrong” if one is just coming into the discussion now, but from the perspective of people who… Read more »
Becky
Guest
but from the perspective of people who have been involved in it since the beginning[…] Is the community only open to those who’ve been involved since “the beginning”? Is there space for my perspective? That said, I haven’t listened to this episode yet, so perhaps you’ve already looked into all of this and taken it into account since the end of the previous thread. If not, I hope you’ll take a closer look at what exactly the “dogmatic” feminists are fighting against and fighting for and modify your stance accordingly. Please feel free to call me offensive *after* you’ve listened.… Read more »
mary
Guest

Thanks for spending most of the episode sticking up for those poor demonized men. Maybe next week you can defend the poor demonized white race. Damn, privilege is so fucking hard to have.

Becky
Guest

Mary,

I contend that dealing with the negative outcomes of a system in which certain classes of people are privileged over others requires the elimination of disadvantages experienced by the underprivileged class. It does not require demonizing the privileged class. I contend that this is the very thing that is occurring and that it is a destructive, very unegalitarian way to address the issue.

The Devil's Towelboy
Guest

Anne C. Hanna: as well as taking a look at Greylining

Great advice Anne. That’s some dangerous and hateful stuff. Here is a good place to start –

http://greylining.com/2011/07/09/atheist-flagellants-and-puritans/

astrokid.nj
Guest

My favorite take on this feminism/victimization business comes from GirlWritesWhat. Readers might want to explore her well-informed blogposts.
“I am a sexy woman, so stop objectifying me”
http://owningyourshit.blogspot.com/2012/03/transcript-of-i-am-sexy-woman-so-stop.html

Anne C. Hanna
Guest
Becky, I apologize if it wasn’t clear, but I was primarily commenting on what I saw in the previous thread on this topic. That thread was closed in favor of this one, so I put my comment here instead. As I stated, I haven’t had a chance to listen to the actual episode yet, but I will do so and update my opinion accordingly. Also, I am not in any way trying to imply that those who haven’t been in the conversation from the beginning don’t have a right to have or express opinions on this subject. I am also… Read more »
Nick
Guest

Thanks for spending most of the episode sticking up for those poor demonized men. Maybe next week you can defend the poor demonized white race. Damn, privilege is so fucking hard to have.

Mary, that’s a pretty black-and-white way to see a pretty gray issue.

Becky
Guest
Anne, What I *am* trying to do is defend the participants on one side of the discussion from the suggestion that has been made by some that they are just as bad as the participants on the other side. Did I make that suggestion in my post? I really don’t know where you’re getting this, and that alarms me. You seem to assign that perspective to me. I’m talking about the discourse as it’s playing out. Yes, that takes at least two interlocutors, and I believe there’s a destructive tit-for-tat dynamic that’s going on in several instances, but I’m not… Read more »
RB760
Guest
To the hosts of AAA, try creating a login for FfTB and don’t give any hint as to who you are, this way the bloggers and their fans won’t show you any special treatment. Pretend to be a man. Then, start asking questions against their group-think and see what happens to you. Eventually you’ll be called a misogynist troll, MRA, rapist, rape-supporter, rape-apologist or other crazy stuff, even if you have a valid point. There have been a lot of atheists besides D.J. Grothe who were attacked by FfTB bloggers [Stephanie Zvan, Greta Christina, Jen McCreight, Ophelia Benson, PZ Myers,… Read more »
Anne C. Hanna
Guest
Geez, this has turned “fun” really fast. :/ Becky, I think this thread is already becoming an excellent example of the way in which the “tone” problem you’re complaining of at these feminist blogs is more of a universal problem of text-based internet discourse than something that’s specific to those bloggers. I, a somewhat newish listener to AAA who’s been enjoying the show for a few months now, read through your first post on this subject, as well as the comments, and felt that you were being far harsher on the feminist bloggers than their actions warranted (just as you… Read more »
Fabricio
Guest
Are the FTB people so stupid that they must close themselves to “defend” against the likes Michael “Who is this anonymous Sam?” Kingsford Gray? I mean, really. I took only 2 or 3 posts here on AAA to see through his bullshit. No, I think that’s not the problem. The problem is, PZ and his pals really became the monsters they were fighting. Years of being smug, arrogant, and usually right against the Christian fundies made them lazy and incapable of doing wrong. Everyone who doesn’t agree with His Holyness PZ The First is sexist, troll and in dire need… Read more »
CommanderTuvok
Guest
Yet another biased narrative in support of FfTB, ignoring the numerous straw men, dishonesty and bullying from the “Baboons”, as folk at ERV justly call them. The FfTB tactic, as outlined above by RB760, is to label anybody who challenges the FfTB narrative (however slight, no matter if it is backed up with evidence!) with a whole variety of pre-arranged insults designed to shut them up. Hence, we get silly name-calling such as “MRA”, “mansplaining”, “sister-punisher”, “gender traitor”, “misogynist” et al, issued with no justification. In fact, many of the people targetted by those insults, are the opposite of those… Read more »
The Devil's Towelboy
Guest

Anne C. Hanna: It may even be worth your while to try to email directly with some of the FTBers, in particular Ophelia Benson, to get a more concise and cogent discussion of the context for inclusion in future discussions on your show

Another excellent idea – Ophelia is a paragon of reason –

http://phawrongula.wikia.com/wiki/Ophelia_Benson:_TAM_is_like_Nazi_Germany

I believe prior to that, she made an even more cogent observation that anyone that criticised Rebecca Watson was the same as a car bomber. She has an extensive list of wisdom to offer.

Ophelia Benson
Guest
A couple of points. One – now that you’ve read a few recent comments at ERV, you may have a better understanding of why some of the feminist atheist bloggers you named sometimes ban a commenter who has “only asked some questions.” It’s because of people who comment regularly at ERV (calling us every name in the book) and also sock puppet on our blogs. Sometimes we can spot them, so we ban them. Why? Well, speaking for myself, it’s because of the nature of the discussion at ERV, which involves calling various women cunts, fucking bitches, smelly snatch (that… Read more »
Ophelia Benson
Guest

That claim in the comment just above mine is a (typical) falsehood. I didn’t say “TAM is like Nazi Germany.” I said something a good deal more complicated, in response to an argument about the specific issue of blaming people who describe persecution for describing the persecution. I also later agreed that Germany in 1936 was the wrong analogy, and retracted it. “Phawrongula” is a creation of the ERV people.

Munkhaus
Guest

I’ll bet that if you count up the times any single commenter at ERV has used those naughty words in Ophelia’s post above, and compare that to Ophelia’s usage… Benson will win. She delights in the righteous outrage to a worrying degree.
And of course, the more righteous one is, the more one can rationalise the banning, the editing of comments, the revisionism and the dishonesty. Because she be righteous!
Go tell it on the mountain.

trackback

[…] A weekly podcast called Ask an Atheist devoted the episode recorded yesterday to what it calls “The Problem of Dogmatic Feminism”. […]

Hertta
Guest

Munkhaus, I’m sure you understand that there’s a relevant difference between calling someone a cunt and talking about it.

Mark B
Guest

Wow, this sounds like divorce court!

JDF25
Guest
If speakers are behaving disrespectfully to their audience then why is everyone pussy footing around them? I’m pretty sure most Athesists didn’t abandon hierarchical and corrupt religious organizations that protect powerful perverts just to join a secular group that does the same. I don’t care how important someone is in a movement, they’re just another bag of meat that needs to answer for their behavior. Writing a book or talking in front of audiences doesn’t impart a holy untouchability any more than handing out Jesus crackers does for religious leaders. It sounds to me like Atheist women need to grow… Read more »
Bruce McGlory
Guest
Well, Becky, Eileen, and Sam, if it was your goal to come off sounding like Fox ‘News’ style “libruls are out to eat your young!” journalism, well done. This was the most ridiculous strawmaning and some pretty blatant falsehoods. This was pathetically, comically bad. No, in fact, both sides are not just as bad. Unless, in your estimation, the KKK is just as bad as MLK. You know, cuz they were on opposite sides of an issue. When one side’s big argument is “But I want to use insulting language and treat women like my personal petting zoo!”, and is… Read more »
MyMelody
Guest
I really liked this. I especially think “The hammer of shame” thing is very insightful. I grew up Catholic, and leaving the church was very liberating, but I still struggle with shame feelings. I can understand how it can be counterproductive to be shamed again in a free thought context. 😛 I feel like I should share something I’ve noticed because I need to get this off my chest. Trend I’ve noticed Person A: Says something that can be interpreted as bigoted. Person B: Calls Person A out by suggesting they said something bigoted and/or is a bigoted person. Person… Read more »
Parge
Guest
A couple of concerns: That “500 people” hyperbole was a little off. I counted 3. I don’t think anyone was asking you to be nice to Michael. I think we were there to fix what we saw as an unnecessary rift being widened by one of our own. To say that MKG is “further along the Asperger’s spectrum” is not an excuse for his behaviour and does not connote that he has a psychological disorder. That was what you would call a “joke”. Some people use these “jokes” to heal rifts we see being widened. Sometimes, they don’t work, like… Read more »
Quintin
Guest
My dear, what has happened to AaA? Seriously, all these ad hominems and insults and more. Can’t we just get rid of them? I can’t distinguish much between either side, and I’m sitting here in the middle of a pointless fight between two groups who accuse eachother of all the same things and that have, as far as I can see, abandoned all reasoned discussion. If anyone wants newcomers to think the two sides are not equally bad, or at least not both absolutely horrible, you’ve both got a lot ahead of you. Meanwhile, some listeners of AaA would just… Read more »
CommanderTuvok
Guest
Ophelia thinks that by pointing out the usage of some “bad werdz”, it means nobody will take any notice of her logical fallacies, her straw men, her hypocrisy, her double standards, her endorsement of labels to silence women (“gender traitor”/”sister punisher”). She thinks that because she imposes strict rules over the usage of bad werdz (werdz that used to pop up at FfTB all the time, before their crackdown), that the posters at FfTB are of a superior class to other sites. You still get nasty comments at FfTB, especially when they have a young woman as their target, who… Read more »
Mike Gillis
Admin
Quintin, I can only speak for myself, but the reason we addressed this topic on the show was that it was spilling out into our spheres and it was becoming something we could no longer avoid. I don’t like feeling like I’m attacking people in my own community, some of whom I have a great deal of respect for, but it was becoming impossible to NOT address this topic. The people who produce this radio show are not only radio broadcasters, but we’re community organizers as well, and in recent months, this argument has been spilling out from the internet… Read more »
nejtysk
Guest
This is really kind of outrageous. What they called Free Thought Blogs has rather become Group-Think-Blogs now as they have developed into a dogmatic group with a strong sense of in-group vs. out-group morals. It’s hypocrisy and infact the very thing you are, often rightfully, critisizing. I used to love the blog of PZ but his, and his followers, behaviour did put me off a lot. I first did not understand the issue much. I really hate people who don’t see a no as a no. I understood that Watson was really pissed off and in anger about it wrote… Read more »
MyMelody
Guest

That should be “empathy, respect and listening” not listing, in my last paragraph 😛
Sorry .

RB760
Guest
Rather than simply hurling insults back and forth between “sides”, I’ll provide a few of many examples, because I think this “sides” debate is taking away from the points about dogmatic feminism. What we actually have is many sides; a few different positions which seems to be wrongfully lumped into one, and then the FTB position. Here’s James Onen 2nd well written blog on the elevator issue… http://freethoughtkampala.wordpress.com/2011/09/15/elevatorgate-part-2-the-failure-of-skepticism/ Ophelia disagreed and wrote her own in response. Do a control+F for “MRA” and see the dismissive attitude they have towards James. Also, do a control+F for “wallet” to see how they… Read more »
dThought/dT
Guest

Becky and Sam, thanks for doing this show! It is good to hear from someone with a similar opinion to mine in the atheist community. I agree that we need to stomp out sexism in the atheist community. But…

I’m an introverted slightly social awkward guy. And sometimes I feel that if I were strike up a conversation with someone at a meetup or convention, I could be labeled as next elevator guy.

deen
Guest

@ Mike Gillis: so let me get this straight – on one side we have what you admit is raging misogyny, and on the other you have people like Stephanie Zvan, whose biggest offence seems to be banning someone from her own blog, but whom you won’t give the benefit of the doubt when you can’t be arsed to read up on the history? And you still wonder why people get upset that you don’t know which side to choose?

Parge
Guest
Just look at this thread. We had a number of gen-u-ine misogynists pop onto the thread and try to hoist Becky up as a standard bearer. The minute she refused their laurels, they turned on her and began referring to her in diminuitive and patronizing ways on their own site. Hi Mike. Can you support the assertion that “gen-u-ine misogynists” popped on to the thread. I couldn’t see any evidence of it myself. Just kidding. I really doubt you’ll be able to produce any. It’s rather ironic that in the very comment you give an example of an ad hominiem… Read more »
Mike Gillis
Admin
I really wish people wouldn’t project on me. This is going to be my last involvement in this thread, because I hate talking about this. I’m in the words of a CGI talking tree,I am on neither side of this debate, because no one is altogether on my side. However, the producers of Ask an Atheist have been attacked and denounced by both in this thread. And both again, don’t seem to notice it. And also, we’re not saying “both sides are equally wrong.” We’re just saying that both sides are making the problem worse, regardless of their intent. Here… Read more »
John Greg
Guest
Anne C Hanna said: “I’d like to point out that people like Michael Kingsford Gray are *precisely* the reason that the folks over at FTB and the like have adopted a rather aggressive approach to this issue.” That is patently false. The hateful tone and hate-promotion of most of the commenters at many of the FfTB blogs, and some of the blog hosts such as LousyCanuck, Greg Laden, Steph Zvan, PZ, and Ophelia was inherited, so to speak, from PZ Myers’s original Science Blogs Pharyngula, where such base incivility was the norm for long, long before the endless thread at… Read more »
Anne C. Hanna
Guest
I just remembered one more positive comment about the episode that I forgot to make above. I think y’all made an excellent suggestion in proposing that there ought to be some kind of introductory summary and/or FAQ about this issue (updated as things evolve) posted somewhere to which confused people can be referred to help them get up to speed and understand why this issue is important and why the feminist bloggers are taking the stances they’re taking. The lack of such an intro makes it very easy for people who haven’t been following matters closely to fall into the… Read more »
The Devil's Towelboy
Guest
Ophelia Benson: “Phawrongula” is a creation of the ERV people. And? What? Is the implication here that it is automatically false? Here we see FTB style “evidence” in play. Slur by association without any corroborating evidence. It’s just “false”, the discussion is over. You claim to be a skeptic don’t you Ophelia? That’s pretty funny. Phawrongula may have been created by some folks who have posted at ERV. But, unlike FTB or Skepchick, the wiki is entirely open – there is no editorial control beyond what is in their README. And that is basically all information must be independently verifiable… Read more »
Attila the Hen
Guest

Munkhaus (#9942) June 11th, 2012 at 11:06 – “I’ll bet that if you count up the times any single commenter at ERV has used those naughty words in Ophelia’s post above, and compare that to Ophelia’s usage… Benson will win.”

In fact, that has already been done by several folks, here’s one –

http://oi48.tinypic.com/34zyl1h.jpg

CommanderTuvok
Guest
Deen so let me get this straight – on one side we have what you admit is raging misogyny, and on the other you have people like Stephanie Zvan, whose biggest offence seems to be banning someone from her own blog, but whom you won’t give the benefit of the doubt when you can’t be arsed to read up on the history? And you still wonder why people get upset that you don’t know which side to choose? No you don’t have it straight. First of all you present a false dichotomy. There is not “one side” that is “raging… Read more »
franc hoggle
Guest
Anne C. Hanna (#9925) June 11th, 2012 at 03:12 – And the problem isn’t just that it’s “vulgar”, either. I’ve got no problem with swearing my fucking head off should the situation call for it. No, the problem is that it’s a goddamn cesspit of hate… they referred me to Greylining as evidence of how awful she was. So I went and looked and every single post on the front page was about hating on someone or other in the most vicious terms possible, mostly but not entirely relating to the “Elevatorgate” incident. *That’s* what’s wrong with Greylining, and with… Read more »
Anne C. Hanna
Guest
As I’ve noted before, I believe that Greylining speaks quite eloquently for itself, without any need for assistance from me. Everyone who wants to understand what’s been going on in regard to this issue over the course of the past year should absolutely read that blog, along with the “Kyle’s mom”, “Periodic Table of Swearing”, “Monument”, and other such threads over at ERV. Please note that John Greg, Franc Hoggle, and their ilk are specifically encouraging you to ignore their opponents, while, I, on the contrary, am strongly encouraging you to attend very carefully to both sides and make up… Read more »
Anne C. Hanna
Guest

Oh, and in the vein of encouraging y’all to judge matters for yourself, I offer a link to the aforementioned Skepticblog thread on SGU’s 24 hour episode.

http://www.skepticblog.org/2011/09/12/24-hours-of-skeptical-activism/

Please do have a look if you want to know the truth of what went on there.

franc hoggle
Guest
Anne C. Hanna (#9979) June 11th, 2012 at 21:52: Please note that John Greg, Franc Hoggle, and their ilk are specifically encouraging you to ignore their opponents, while, I, on the contrary, am strongly encouraging you to attend very carefully to both sides and make up your own minds about what’s going on Anne, now you are just plain telling fibs. At every step of the way, I link back to primary sources – I do not quote mine, strip context and put words into the mouths of those I write about. I link directly back to the original material… Read more »
Steve Schuler
Guest

Thank you so much for this cool-headed discussion of this on-going issue and controversy. I think that your assessment of the situation as it now stands within the atheist blogosphere is spot-on. It is refreshing to hear such well considered and civilly presented perspectives as you have done so well in this podcast. Unfortunately I find myself in agreement with you that some feminist voices within the atheist community, male and female alike, have become so strident that they can fairly be characterized as dogmatic in nature. Hopefully, in the end, cooler heads will prevail.

Thaumas Themelios
Guest
I’m about half-way through the episode now. Excellent examination of the issue so far, and thank you Becky for bravely stepping up to the mic and talking about this forthrightly. There is one point which you make at 25:38-ish, regarding the question of ‘tone’, which I would like to disagree with somewhat. When you say that your are observing that their tone has resulted in alienation of people and pushback, I would suggest that this is not a legitimate criticism. Hear me out: Mere tone is something that is, to a quite large extent, perceived by the listener, and —… Read more »
franc hoggle
Guest

Anne, you’re making my head spin on re-reading:

(#9925) So I went and looked and every single post on the front page was about hating on someone or other in the most vicious terms possible

(#9977) As I’ve noted before, I believe that Greylining speaks quite eloquently for itself, without any need for assistance from me.

You need to make up your mind missy. I can’t be both.

Also, I can’t seem to find where you’ve “noted before” that “Greylining speaks quite eloquently for itself”.

Am I missing something, or do you just stream-of-consciousness type whatever you please on whatever whim takes you?

Justicar
Guest
Anne C. Hanna writes “Please note that John Greg, Franc Hoggle, and their ilk are specifically encouraging you to ignore their opponents, while, I, on the contrary, am strongly encouraging you to attend . . .” Nonsense I say. As the second in command (aka, the slime Pitboss) as routinely implied by PZ Myers, I must correct your inapposite chicanery here. My blog is similar to Franc’s with respect to its sourcing and lack of moderation. Moreover, contra-your unwillingness to speak honestly, my blog positively insists that others follow the links to the sources and read them. What is more… Read more »
Becky Friedman
Admin

Thanks, Kylie, for the links. I’ve seen some of them and will check out more. It’s a very large corpus of material to mine!

Anne, thank you for your continued insightful and thoughtful posts, both here and at FtB. You’ve given me some food for thought, and I’ll respond in kind when I can more thoroughly. It’s the end of my school year and as it stands I’m already up at 4 am! I don’t know how bloggers stay abreast of everything–I pause for 10 hours to breath, teach, or sleep and I’ve missed so much!

Tai Fung
Guest

Hi all — FWIW about you all “losing friends” (or listeners?) over this episode, perhaps I’m the opposite. I saw an admittedly humorous, parody account highlight your podcast, but have listened to it, and found myself cheering for much of it. Well done. I’ll be sure to listen more (and to check out the archives!).

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