So, Jen’s out:
But I simply no longer love blogging. Instead of feeling gleeful anticipation when writing up a post, I feel nothing but dread. There’s a group of people out there (google the ironic term FtBullies to find them) devoted to hating me, my friends, and even people I’m just vaguely associated with. I can no longer write anything without my words getting twisted, misrepresented, and quotemined. I wake up every morning to abusive comments, tweets, and emails about how I’m a slut, prude, ugly, fat, feminazi, retard, bitch, and cunt (just to name a few). If I block people who are twisting my words or sending verbal abuse, I receive an even larger wave of nonsensical hate about how I’m a slut, prude, feminazi, retard, bitch, cunt who hates freedom of speech (because the Constitution forces me to listen to people on Twitter). This morning I had to delete dozens of comments of people imitating my identity making graphic, lewd, degrading sexual comments about my personal life. In the past, multiple people have threatened to contact my employer with “evidence” that I’m a bad scientist (because I’m a feminist) to try to destroy my job. I’m constantly worried that the abuse will soon spread to my loved ones.
I just can’t take it anymore.
For the unanointed, a year and a bit ago Rebecca Watson, a blogger, atheist and skeptic, posted a video about moving house in which she spoke for about 30 seconds about the fact that she attended a panel at an atheist conference that dealt with sexual harassment of women in the movement, and despite talking about nothing else all day and making her intentions or lack thereof very clear, was accosted by some socially awkward jerk in the lift at 4am on the way to her hotel room. Before this video was posted on Skepchick and here, we all thought we had a fairly tight-knit community of people who not only lacked belief in gods, but also shared other common goals and values. Boy, were we ever wrong.
Ever since that video, the hate has not stopped for a day. As it is today, we have progressive voices like Jen McCreight, PZ Myers, Greta Christina and I guess me, Jadehawk and countless others who don’t blog but comment promoting and supporting the Atheism+ movement, while at the same time former greats of the atheist community like Russell Blackford or Paula Kirby have for some reason decided to side with the misogynist basement warriors who chose to disagree with Rebecca Watson last year, and have ever since led a relentless campaign of intimidation and smearing on blogs and social media, not only against Watson, but also against the Freethoughtblogs network and some of its bloggers.
Richard Dawkins got caught up in this kerkuffle last year with his “Dear Muslima” comments on Pharyngula, and my impression from his increasingly partisan and cringeworthy tweets is that he has chosen sides and allegiances, just like Paula Kirby. This is not how a rationalist and skeptic should act. We’re not in the trenches in 1915 France here.
What I would rather expect from Dawkins, and not only him, but everyone else who has so far chosen sides in the great Rebeccalypse debate of whether propositioning women in confined spaces at 4am is fine and dandy or not, is that they look at the evidence rationally and with an open mind. They may not agree with Jen McCreight on her views on feminism or Atheism+, or with Rebecca’s take on elevatorgate, but I do expect from these champions of science and rationality that they look at the amount of harassment, hate and pressure that Jennifer has received from people in the atheist community, and I want them to tell me whether they think that this to them is reasonable discourse or not.
We hear a lot about how Freethoughtblogs are bullying people, how its bloggers(and Watson)are Feminazi and Femistasi. But there is a great amount of silence from our champions of reason when it comes to young enthusiastic female bloggers being harassed and threatened to the point of quitting.
Do the leading voices of the atheism movement condone what happened to Jen McCreight? Did she have it coming and do they not care because they disagree with her views?
Richard, you tweet a lot these days, how about a comment now? This is important to me, because I consider it my movement as well. I can not be part of an atheism movement that will not speak out against harassment, online or real life, where pathetic basement bullies use the internet to intimidate those they aim to silence. If the leaders of the atheism movement are indeed such champions of reason, they will consider it an important and worthy goal to support those who are threatened and turned away by such people.
The one thing we can safely conclude here in the meantime however, is that it is not the bloggers or commenters at Freethoughtblogs who are doing the harassing, intimidating or bullying.
I wish Jen McCreight all the best, there is a life beyond the internet. We’ll keep going mate, you just come back when you’re ready.