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22 April, 2012

Another Watson Fail (With a Better Solution at the End)

So it looks like on top of speaking for all women as the Last Word on Feminism, Rebecca Watson is now crusading against racism. There is nothing wrong with these endeavors, but she picks out the most trivial symptoms of these issues and blows them up into "us vs them" flame wars and mocks and blocks people who bring up rational points against her arguments, no matter how calmly and inquisitive they might be. She's just a jerk.

Racism in this country is a huge deal. Most people don't know it's a big deal because the last thirty years, old white men have been trying to convince us we're all victims of "reverse racism," which is bullshit. Exhibit A, a black kid gets shot while walking home in his father's gated community and the blogosphere explodes over how he "sold drugs" and was "a thug."

Exhibit B, our television and film media have a hugely disproportionate amount of white people represented than other minorities. Granted, much of pop music is driven by Hip-Hop, a genre originating from Black culture, and young people embrace that culture and reject racism in far larger numbers than any other generation, but the work is not done. 

I noticed on the twittersphere the other day that people were abuzz over a show called "Girls" brushing off the charge that they don't have any minority characters. I traced the buzz back to (you guessed it), Rebecca Watson, whose intentions are always good, but whose approach is usually tactless, borderline abusive and a bit rabid. 

Watson had gotten ahold of the producer of the HBO show "Girls, and had asked why there were no black characters on the show and was dismissed by the producer. Watson posted her reaction to the twittersphere and her facebook and people started chiming in with their own opinions.

Some people pointed out that telling a creator how to run their show is not a helpful way of combating racism, that perhaps there might be something else Watson could do to get minorities better represented on television. These people were automatically shut down and banned with the regular Rebecca Watson send-off, which is usually the internet equivalent of rolling her eyes and putting a "W" on her forehead with her thumb and forefingers. 

The thing is, people have a point. Picking one show and making a big deal out of a lack of minorities is doing nothing but getting Watson pageviews. If she had organized a petition or a letter-writing drive to ask network execs to start producing more shows with minorities, we might actually get somewhere. As it stands, all we have is bickering and fighting and divisiveness on the facebook page of a known attention-seeking sensationalist.

The second thing wrong with her approach is that demanding shows include minorities simply to include minorities is not really a solution. Our media should include other cultures from the gate, not add them as an afterthought because someone complained. The ones already on the air were written, cast and produced primarily by white people and we need the execs to know that we don't want the artists to change their work, we want the work that is accepted to change. Stop dumping the scripts that include different cultures and that address diversity. It's not "Girls" we should be after, but HBO itself. 

Watson was close on this, but no cigar, as she began her typical insult-and-block routine to people pointing these things out to her. 

So, blogosphere, I have a solution. This is my first time creating a Change.org petition, so if you have ideas on how you can improve it, please let me know. You can check it out here. If you truly feel that our media should better represent you, your neighbors, your friends, and your culture, please sign.

Women, Speak Up.

I've been thinking about this for awhile, ever since Watson's insulting brush-off on twitter and my subsequent reddit post calling her a bitch (dear god no, not the Holy One, Almighty Skeptchick). It's time for women to stand up to this bully and not let her silence us for having our own opinions.

I want to be very clear on my position, so I'm going to bring it back almost a year to her treatment of Stef McGraw after Elevatorgate. Calling her a misogynist without even addressing the original points made by Stef was absolutely uncalled for and nothing more than a vindictive attack on someone that dared disagree with her. What did Stef say that was so misogynist (a term Watson uses as a buzzword without even really knowing what it means)? Let's see:

 Let’s review, it’s not as if he touched her or made an unsolicited sexual comment; he merely asked if she’d like to come back to his room. She easily could have said (and I’m assuming did say), “No thanks, I’m tired and would like to go to my room to sleep.”

And the infamous:

 Since when are respecting women as equals and showing sexual interest mutually exclusive? 
Now, I will make the point that in sexual harassment training, it doesn't matter what the intentions of the harasser are, only how the victim perceives the action.  Watson's feelings of discomfort with a man inviting her for coffee whether his intentions were to seduce her or just have coffee are not the issue. She felt uncomfortable and declined the invitation. So what's the problem? Well, the man accepted her refusal and they went their separate ways.

The man actually did exactly what a man should do in cases where a woman rebuffs his approach. He accepted it and moved on. Some women won't want to be approached at all (Watson) and some women don't find these approaches to be threatening (Stef). Is there a right and a wrong? Only if you place on person's value system on the other. Stef made this point in her blog and Watson slammed her in a talk a few days later as being an example of "misogyny 101."

When I approached Watson on twitter, I asked her why she retweeted a violent joke, but condemned an entire subreddit (r/atheism) for the jokes on post about a book. I understood some of the jokes to be totally sexist and despicable, but some of them she posted were clearly satire or just in poor taste, like the Insanity Wolf with the caption, "You call it kidnapping, I call it surprise adoption." (She either misses the point of the Insanity Wolf meme or she just added it for extra fodder).

When she answered me, she did so very curtly, but I still got her point and realized that she saw the sex jokes (begun after the OP, a girl, commented "I'm bracing my anus"), as threatening. Okay, I can see where you're coming from, I told her, but before I knew it, she was tweeting about me (not to me) about her New Year's Resolution not to argue with idiots on twitter or something. I had been a really big fan of her until that moment. I had taken what she said about elevatorgate as legitimate. I hadn't really looked into the Stef McGraw issue, but, like I said above, her feelings in the elevator were hers and if she was scared, she has a right to ask men not to approach her in that manner. After reading that tweet, however, I realized she was nothing more than an "us or them," hive-minded, attention-seeker.

Afterward, her, her followers and PZ Meyers all decided to lead the attack on my reddit post, telling me to go do some plumbing work like a man is supposed to do and constantly referring to me as an MRA male. Oh, the surprise that someone with a vag could disagree with her.

Is it okay to send her hate male wishing she was raped? No. Is there a problem with sexism in this country? Absolutely. Does she have the right to attack everyone who politely disagrees with her? Absolutely not. And that, my friends is what makes her a bad person. Most of the people that don't like her feel that way because she is rude, divisive and dismissive, not because she's a woman. If she were a man, she'd still get the same disdain from many of us (and there are many of us).  It's time that women speak up and get the word out that she doesn't get to speak for all feminists in the atheism community, especially when her goal is to alienate women who disagree with her and shame them into being quiet. We need to get the word out there before she silences us all.

04 April, 2012


Via reddit and r/atheism, I've found a number of different twitter atheists to follow. I've browsed YouTube, gotten in comment wars, and even managed to get an unwarranted attack from Rebecca Watson, (which left me not only with a loss of respect for her, but now some very hard questions about feminism within the Atheist movement and how women should treat each other). But this twittering is great! It started with just three or four tweeps and through their retweets, I've found even more awesome people to follow.

The best thing about being in touch with all these different freethinkers is that we don't even have to agree with each other on things and can explore those disagreements with civility and learn from each other. There's liberals and libertarians, provocative and mild atheists, cat people, dog people-all kinds of people. I nearly let my twitter die over a year ago; none of my friends were really using it anymore. I'm glad I found it again!

If you care to, join the conversation. My username is tkmlac.