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08 September, 2012

Feminists Attacking Women

While doing the twittering today, I stumbled upon an incredibly well written blogpost by Sara Mayhew that did a great job of detailing why a person might be turned off by the nasty rhetoric of certain atheist feminists, but also really hit the nail on the head when it comes to my own views about feminist equality in the skeptic community.

She writes:
The message of Dr. Hall’s shirt resonates with me because it addresses the most important thing to me about feminism and equality; that you can’t make assumptions about my thoughts, feelings, and experiences based on my gender. I don’t consider myself part of a subset of skeptics because I’m a woman. What I want is to be viewed as a human individual. My experiences aren’t going to be the same as yours just because we share the same gender.
At the bottom of the blogpost you'll see an update with some screenshots. I invite you to take a good look. Surly Amy herself tweets:
I'd make 1for @saramayhew 2 but she would then have to buy matching shoes&take instagrams and Id hate 2 waste her whole night. @CaraColeen
Buy matching shoes? Waste her whole night? If that's not stereotyping and denigrating to women, then I don't know how Surly Amy can be pissed off about a fucking shirt that expresses a person's desire to be known for their mind and not their vag.

Chiming in shortly after is CFI-DC director Melody Hensley.
@SurlyAmy @CaraColeen @saramayhew "Hey. I can get more attention, speaking gigs, and the bys will like me if I keep ragging on Skepchicks!"
All I have to say is WOW. I decided to tweet Melody Hensley to see if she had any idea that what she was doing is sexual harassment. I got blocked for my efforts. I wrote:
.@MelodyHensley You know what my job calls accusations of using male attn to climb the ladder? Sexual harassment. @saramayew
Well, I've sent a strongly worded letter to info@centerforinquiry.net because (obviously) sending it to the Director of CFI-DC will get nowhere. Feel free to do the same. Here's mine:
To whom it may concern,

I'd just like to let you know that I am shocked and appalled that the Director of CFI-DC would participate in the sexual harassment of a woman on twitter. 

Melody Hensley implied that because Sara Mayhew wrote a blog post defending a prominent skeptic for her views on gender equality, Sara was somehow using the controversy to garner male attention to get speaking gigs. 

Here is the blog post, with updates that include screenshots of Melody Hensley making the damaging accusation: 

I hope you treat this situation with as much seriousness as it deserves. I respect CFI very much and would hate to lose respect for an organization that does so much good, including the Intelligence Squared debates.

Thank you,

Katie Graham


  1. The quote you used is out of context so... way to go! I had plenty to say to Sara, but that was a general comment I made about some anti-feminist women trying to gain favor with misogynist men. I had even direct messaged the comment earlier to Amy before Sara joined the conversation. You should know what you are talking about before trying to discredit someone. I look forward to hearing from you.

    1. Out of context? In what context does accusing someone of using male attention to get ahead make any sense?

      This argument that women speaking out against the hyperbole and vitriol of a certain group of vocal bloggers are just looking for male attention is dismissive and sexist itself. Quite frankly, I expect better from someone representing CFI.

    2. So, Sara took it out of context too? She felt it was an attack on her. Or, are you trying to tell Sara how to feel about a tweet that you included her on?

      Do her feelings not matter? It's her fault that she read your tweet wrong?

    3. so Melody no hint of a "I'm sorry" at all? Period. I mean, even if it was meant "not to you specifically" it still sounds like something that hurt and felt oppressive to Sara. What I'm saying is, your reply would have been better if you had said "I'm sorry if she felt upset by that as it was meant to insult and upset and make fun of a whole group of women, not just you specifically." So now if Dr.Hall gets a speaking engagements, it's because she bashes skepchicks? Could you please point to ONE WOMAN that has MORE speaking engagements and made a personal profit off of insulting skepchicks? ONE. One woman that has given a speech that has been about how horrible the skepchicks are? ONE. One skeptic conference that has hired a woman to talk about how horrible skepchicks are , say by name? Specifically "At 1:00 Sara will talk about how Skepchicks are horrible people, arrive early as we expect the conference room to be packed to overflowing..." Isn't happening. I think the majority of women, even women with matching shoes and bags( and honestly the only skeptic woman I know that fits that is the ever beautiful and lovely Margaret Downey...who is a big supporter of skepchicks if I remember correctly) support A+ and support skepchicks. There are more than one of them. Heck I have yet to meet anyone that doesn't like Bug Girl (she's terrific) and to 100% support the "HUG ME" vaccination program (that is what skepticism is at it's best. I proudly wear my "hug me" shirt, necklace and donate). There is no vast conspiracy of women that are out to get speaking gigs, make a buck, and advance themselves by putting down a very well respected group. You can't bash skepchick without bashing things like vaccination. But you can disagree on some things, and you can use your freedom of speech. If someone has hurt your feelings, do you then turn around and hurt the feelings of someone else, or do you by example show "hey I'm a little bigger than the person that hurt my feelings, I can offer an apology, if only because I did not intend hurt feelings and perhaps could have been more clear." It's a choice, as long as people are clear it's their CHOICE to do so or not...not "well this is how I have to reply" then it's fine. I think creating a conspiracy theory of WOMEN that are out to "get" skepchick is a reach right now. I can be proven wrong. And if so, I will gladly apologize.

    4. I left a comment last night which doesn't appear here, so please excuse this if it's repeated.

      I fail to see how this is taken out of context. Furthermore, whether the comment was made to Sara herself or a group which includes Sara is irrelevant, is it not?

    5. I usually publish comments via email and I don't remember if I got one from you last night or not. I didn't find it in my inbox, but came here to make sure this one got posted. I don't censor, but I do moderate in case of trolls and spam. (And by troll, I mean people coming to my blog to call me names, not people who disagree with me, just so we're clear).

    6. I assume it was a glitch. I've had trouble with the sign-in process when commenting on some platforms.

    7. Melody,

      It's obvious that you are either a complete tool and nitwit beyond redemption or a cynical opportunist, and at this point that isn't a false dichotomy There are many men, women and house pets that are better representatives of skepticism and logical and critical thinking than you, sans the whining, special pleading and general hypocrisy.

      I would ask you to take a good hard look at yourself and what you are doing and try to separate yourself from the pervasive group-think and self-interest above all that seems to define your actions. But I won't as I can only include you are absolutely and pathologically incapable of it.

      Accusing women who disagree with you and your clique of being "chill girls" and men who disagree with you as invariably "misogynists" isn't even a matter of being irrational, it's simply fighting unfair, and treating every exchange as an extrapolation of the dysfunctional relationship you have with other people and reality itself.

      If you can't comprehend that everything isn't about you and therefore can't stop hurting the skeptical movement with your juvenile antics, then please step down and let CFI restore some of its badly flagging credibility.

  2. Melody,

    Can you name these anti-feminist women trying to gain favor with misogynist men?

    And what are the names of these misogynist men?

    1. yeah what women are getting speaking gigs?

  3. Looks like another great blog to add to my blogroll. Yay!

  4. "Feminists" attacking women? I don't really think we can call them "feminists" when they say things like that - things you're more likely to hear from a group of football louts in the pub...

    1. No True Feminist? If one calls oneself a feminist, who am I to judge?

  5. Melody, regardless of the context, Sara clearly had a problem with it, enought to blog about it. Perhaps rather that replying here you should apologize to Sara directly.

  6. I think is an overreach to treat Amy's tweet as "stereotyping and denigrating to women." Assuming she meant it as insulting, then it was an insult to a specific woman who DOES talk about shoes often and who Instagramms a lot. Extrapolating that to an attack on the entire gender is unfair.

    Then again, I can see why the Skepchicks would be offended (or feel attacked) by Harriet Hall's t-shirt, so what do I know?

    1. I also think that, hey... there comes a point where when I wear my tshirts, including my "HUG ME I'M VACCINATED" one in public, that I get comments. I make people uncomfortable. I'm more for freedom of speech being upheld than giving up something we hold dear in the skeptic community for what really did make someone "Uncomfortable" Also I think Dr.Hall should offer an apology! Just as in this case an apology would be nice. No "side" (how sad we have "sides" though I'm not sure most people would have a clue what side they are supposed to be on) get a pass with the need to sometime be aware of the feelings of others and just offer an apology.

    2. Interesting, because presently, Ophelia Benson has a photo on her blog that insults Watson and her fans very specifically, but Benson is claiming it's proof of "misogyny". Will you leave a similar criticism on her post as well?

    3. " it was an insult to a specific woman who DOES talk about shoes often and who Instagramms a lot."

      Chritian, take a look at my online and presence; what I talk about often is science, design, and pop culture. Not shoes. You're accepting Amy's stereotype of me; taking the fact that I have a collection of fashionable shoes and turning it into a defining characteristic of me.

      The result is even intelligent people like you overlooking the reality of my work, talents, and contributions and buying into her caricature of me.


    4. Sara -- I know you don't only write or instagram about shoes. I know you don't even MOSTLY do it. But you said (or at I interpreted what you said) in the post that pointed me to this latest dust-up that you do sometimes take pictures of your shoes. I'm not criticizing you for that -- I'm saying Amy didn't just pull that out of her butt. If I misread what you said, then I apologize.

      Ryan -- no, I am not going to start searching the blogosphere for things I want to correct. I don't read Ophelia's blog. There are others in the movement who will crawl the internet for things like that. I happened upon this one and commented -- I did not pick this as a new hobby.

  7. This is not new.

    Me thinking Watson sucker-punched Stef McGraw was a result of me "wanting attention from the boys" (obviously. not because of the reasons I outlined in my post on the issue).

    It took about 10 months of me pointing out that I am not straight, nor have I ever been, before they dropped this line of 'reasoning'.

    Its not just sexist, its heteronormative.

  8. Btw, Melody/Amy/etc are not the only skeptic leader to take this sexist/hetronormative stance.

    Greta Christina--
    "I'm having some thoughts/ doubts about the "chill girls" concept, and I want to run them by y'all.

    On the one hand: Yes, there is definitely a thing here. There's definitely a phenomenon of women -- whether consciously or un- -- denying sexism/ misogyny, and even perpetuating it in ugly ways, in order to gain male approval. This is a real thing. I get it."

    No, its not a 'real thing'. And this is not a 'new' tactic. Glad others are starting to notice.

  9. They (Hensley/Roth/RW et al) seem to undermine any remaining credibility they had left with each new blog/tweet.

    These women do NOT represent feminists, or atheists, they only represent their own interests.

  10. I've noticed that these sort of feminists never actually do anything productive. They don't really want equal rights, they want to complain in a safe little enclave about minor transgressions. I'm guessing this is the same group of females that was having a hissy fit over the elevator come-on...?

    Seriously, I'm happy to see that I'm not the only woman atheist who doesn't agree with that lot. They're a very forceful group, and had me convinced for a while that there was no place for me in the online atheist community. I hate to think of how many others they've discouraged.