Right. I went to the Women in Secularism Conference, and it was awesome, then I went back to work on Monday and found that my co-workers decided to punish me for taking Friday off. I’m reading “punishment” into the pile of work that I found on my desk on Monday, and anything that takes more than 5 minutes online at a stretch has to wait for the evenings at home.
One of the things that happened at the conference was that Jen McCreight mentioned during a panel discussion that she had been warned via email, by several separate, mutually unaware women, to steer clear of certain male speakers who often appeared at atheist conventions. These are men who are rather prominent in the secular community and have a history of harassing women at conventions, so Jen was warned not to be alone in a room with them. This was just a small part of a panel which was one of several presentations over the weekend, but, as tends to happen whenever someone brings up sexual harassment within a community, it has lit up the Internet.
Stephanie Zvan on social pressures and incentives.
Jen McCreight weighs in on the coming shitstorm.
Stephanie Zvan on policies.
JT Eberhard offers advice on flirting without harassing.
Greta Christina responds to the idea of women playing hard to get.
Greta Christina calls out some idiot who played the Ugly Card like it’s a new invention.
And finally, this shit happened, which has prompted Jen to suggest a new Internet law.
Proof women can be sexist assholes too! I really feel like we should have a law for this, like Godwin’s law. “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a woman’s appearance being mentioned grows larger.” The type of remark can vary. I’ve been called both pretty and ugly as insults (hurrrr, or pretty ugly!). Women just can’t win.
When a woman complains of sexual harassment/abuse, her appearance will be made an issue in either (or both!) of two ways. 1. She’s too pretty, so the guy who mistreated her just couldn’t help it, and what does she expect, anyway, looking the way she does? Or, 2. She’s too ugly, so it couldn’t possibly have happened and she’s just lying to get attention.
Sometimes both of these tactics will be used on the same woman in the same incident. Or, sometimes it doesn’t start with a discussion of sexist behavior, per se, but there’s an argument going on, and when a woman has the gall to express a less-than-popular opinion, some people find it easier to tell her she’s ugly than to respond to her argument. The implication isn’t really that being ugly means she’s wrong so much as that being ugly means she can’t have an opinion.
Alternatively, a discussion could begin with a woman posting something interesting, and instead of engaging with her point, some dudes show up and talk about how much they’d like to bang her. (And when she’s having none of that bullshit, they turn around and call her an ugly bitch.)
This happens a lot in Internet arguments. This is why Greta has a tag of #mencallmethings. It doesn’t actually matter how the woman in question looks. She could look like a toadstool, or she could rival the Greek goddesses, or anything in between. Somehow, her appearance will be used to silence her.
So, I’m with Jen. I think there should be an official Internet Law similar to Godwin’s. If, every time some idiot brought out the “Well, you’re ugly, durr durr durr” card rather than actually responding on ideas, we responded with, “Hah! I call Blag Hag’s Law, and you lose!” eventually the idiots would start thinking twice about saying shit like that.
(Finally, I’d like to point something out to women like Abbie Smith and Scented Nectar, who keep turning up on the wrong side of these encounters: the longer the debate goes on, the more women are willing to speak up, and the more men listen to us and stand on our side. The more that happens, the more the anti-feminist side selects for increasingly obnoxious and repugnant men. I know, you want to be the ladies who show the menfolk how cool you are, you want to win the dudes’ approval by showing them you’re not with those hairy feminazis, but that position only becomes more maladaptive every time we go through this debate. I will paraphrase Amanda Marcotte: guys like that don’t go down. The benefits of standing up to the Evil Feminist Machine aren’t so beneficial anymore.)