[TRIGGER WARNING: discussion of rape, abuse and death threats.
misogynist language. weapons-grade mockery.]
The Palace is pleased to be sending a small contingent to the Center for Inquiry’s Women in Secularism 2 conference next weekend in DC. The speakers include many writers and activists we greatly admire, including Ophelia Benson, Greta Christina, Vyckie Garrison, Susan Jacoby, Amanda Marcotte, Maryam Namazie, Katha Pollitt and Rebecca Watson (see more details here). Here is CFI’s blurb for the conference:
We find ourselves at a crossroads.
Around the world, the forces of religion and superstition are reasserting themselves, working to contain and even reverse the progress made in the cause of women’s basic human rights.
And within the freethought movement, nonbelievers and skeptics are passionately debating the role of social justice, particularly in regard to gender equality and incidences of hostility toward women.
Which is the best path forward? How can we best advance both women’s rights and secularism? How do we set priorities? What changes can be made to the secular movement to ensure true gender equality?
A powerful roster of speakers and panelists will tackle these questions and much more at the second Women in Secularism conference, presented by the Center for Inquiry.
I mean, if you were a godless feminist with a Palace, wouldn’t that sound absolutely fucking amazing?
Well, not so fast there, Elizabeth Cady Stanton. See that part up there that says “within the freethought movement, nonbelievers and skeptics are passionately debating the role of social justice, particularly in regard to gender equality and incidences of hostility toward women”? That’s a rather…nice way of saying that atheists and skeptics — both prominent individuals and groups — have been engaged for some time in a virtual war over the equitable and decent treatment of the women in these movements.
For some background, including details of the abuse, harassment, doxxing, violent rape fantasies and death threats to which prominent atheist feminist women and their allies are relentlessly subjected — by other atheists, of every gender — see How I Unwittingly Infiltrated the Boy’s Club & Why It’s Time for a New Wave of Atheism by Jen McCreight, and Atheism Plus, and Some Thoughts on Divisiveness by Greta Christina, in which she says:
A significant stream in the atheist movement — a minority, but not a trivial minority, and a very visible one — is actively devoted to driving feminists out of atheism.
And the reality for me — a reality that makes me sick and sad, a reality that I can hardly bear to talk about — is that, as a public figure, the people I fear the most, the people I am most genuinely concerned about doing me physical harm, are not religious extremists. The people I fear most are other atheists.
See also Melissa McEwan (This Female Atheist, and Where She Is):
I would say I felt exactly as welcome in movement atheism as I did at my Missouri Synod Lutheran Church, but that would be a lie. No one at St. Peter’s ever called me a stupid cunt because I disagreed with them.
Of course skeptics and atheists are a subset of our larger society, so it really should surprise no one that there are vicious misogynists and virulent anti-feminists among us. After all, an estimated 4% of Americans are sociopaths, and the vast majority of them are not in jail. The question from the godless feminist point of view, and a focus of the Women in Secularism conference, is what to do about it.
Over at PZ’s Palace, there has been a heated discussion going on about what would and would not constitute appropriate, ethical and effective tactics to use in response to reprehensible actions by nasty shitheads in our movement. The particular context for the discussion is that some flaming @$$hole named Karla Porter attempted to sic the Westboro Baptist Church on next weekend’s Women in Secularism conference. That would be the military-funeral-protesting, gay-bashing, Jew-hating, Westboro Baptist Church:
Shirley Phelps-Roper tweets
@karla_porter Where do they show themselves? Is there a schedule?
Karla Porter tweets
@wbcshirl schedule not up yet May 17-19 wash DC
Some people are really bad at understanding tongue in cheek. Today I was accused of trying to sic WBC on WISC2 – let’s get real.
Okay. By all means, let’s get real. Karla Porter directly tweeted to Shirley Phelps-Roper, spokesperson of the fucking Westboro Baptist Church, to alert her to the conference. She sent her a link to its web page. And when Phelps-Roper inquired about further details, Porter replied to her with the dates and location. How that can be interpreted in any way other than “trying to sic WBC on WISC2” is clearly beyond the capacity of my inferior ladybrainz to comprehend. Further, as the proprietress of a blog specializing in mockery, I am fairly certain that I understand “tongue in cheek.” I also understand that when typical shitheads do something typically shitty and are rightly called on it, they frequently attempt to evade responsibility by claiming they were, you know, just joking. YOU HUMORLESS FEMINISTS! YOU JUST DON’T GET IT.
If Porter were indeed joking, perhaps she might have tweeted to her own followers “wouldn’t it be funny if WBC protested the uppity feminists at the Women in Secularism 2 conference? hahaha
#iamsofunny.” And if she were any good at joking, someone would think that was funny.
Now at this point, you are probably asking yourself the same thing I did: who the fuck is Karla Porter?
Well, according the online bio on her professional web site, Karla Porter is a self-employed “New Media Strategies,” “Diversity” and “Recruitment Strategy” consultant, with one of the top 1% most viewed LinkedIn profiles of 2012. Among her clients are several veterans groups, including Pennsylvania Women Veterans.
None of PZ’s commenters disagree that Porter is a flaming @$$hole for siccing WBC on the Women in Secularism conference. However, there is fierce disagreement on whether anyone would be justified in contacting her clients to alert them to her shitty behavior. Taste of her own medicine, and all that. I must admit I relish the thought of Porter’s shittiness coming back to bite her. And were I part of a veterans group, and particularly a women veterans group, I think I would very much want to know that the person I’m hiring is perfectly okay with siccing the military-funeral-protesting Westboro Baptists on a gathering of feminists. As I have said before, I believe that striking back against bullies using their own tactics is not in the same moral category as the bullying itself: it is somewhat more akin to self-defense.
Still, something about this course of action troubles me: by contacting her clients, one would be engaging in the same shitty tactic we condemn when done by her — namely, JAQing off to an organization whose actions in response may cause her direct harm — regardless of whether we are on the side of the (metaphorical) angels when we do so. But you know what also troubles me? Doing nothing. That is precisely how bullies get away with shit.
Ultimately, I agree with PZ’s co-blogger Chris Clarke:
Karla Porter is an amoral shithead, and if it becomes impossible to search on her name without finding that out, that’d be a marvelous thing. And I’m not an absolutist here: I think it’s fine to try to get, say, Rush Limbaugh fired — by a coordinated campaign waged on a transparent basis.
But people who set themselves up as vigilante employment enforcers do not speak for me. They’re legitimizing a tactic that has made my life much more stressful for decades.
On the thread I said that maybe I come out in the middle. I think mockery and ridicule fired in Porter’s direction is more than justified, and that perhaps I would spend the day pasting pictures of Porter’s head into pictures of Westboro Baptist protests while I thought about it, just in case I felt like posting them later. So I did. And I do. To paraphrase Chris Clarke, if it becomes impossible to search on her name without seeing these pictures, that’d be a marvelous thing.
Karla Porter and Shirley Phelps-Roper: BFFs 4EVAH!!11!!!
Just joking. You know: tongue in cheek.