We will judge you by the company you keep

If a major plank of your platform is that misogyny is a lie propagated by Sarkeesian and other “social justice warriors,” it might help to not constantly prove it wrong.

via Trolls drive Anita Sarkeesian out of her house to prove misogyny doesn’t exist | The Verge.

I used to believe that every belief system has its extremists, and that it’s unfair to judge any group by its worst nutcases. This began to change when I publicly stood up for a woman who had called out some loutish, sexist behavior at a conference.

It was as somewhat complicated situation. I wasn’t sure if entirely I agreed with the course of action she had taken. But I understood how she might have come to choose that course, and I felt that taking issue with her tactics was a distraction from the much bigger issue of sexism in tech.

I have never in my life experienced such hateful, vicious online responses as I did when I supported this woman. I had at least one nazi pop up and spout anti-semitic bile at me for my impertinence. And the thing is, what I experienced were just the barest ripples at the very edge of the storm. For the woman at the center of it all, it was a tornado of hate and threats and terrorism that frankly shocked my internet-jaded mind. I still shudder to think of some of the (literally) graphic threats that were sent to this person.

If I had been inwardly ambivalent about the case beforehand, the response to my  support changed my whole way of thinking about the issue.

I realized then and there there are some issues where there aren’t two reasonable “sides”, each with legitimate points, and each with a few radical crazies. The world isn’t perfectly balanced like that. There are some issues where the position you take qualitatively changes kind of company you are in.

Are there radicals on the feminist side? Sure. The other day I read a blog post that set out to show that all penis-in-vagina sex constitutes rape, without exception. It should come as no surprise that I do not agree with this assessment.

But that’s about the most extreme statement I’ve ever heard on the feminist end of things. And it pales in comparison to the kind of violent threats that Anita Sarkeesian and every woman like her receive when they dare to speak up and point out that, say, video games are full of eye-candy women getting shot in the face.

I used to think it was unfair to be judged by the people who happen to share your beliefs or your cause. I’m not so sure any more. Different causes do not all attract nutjobs and sociopaths to the same degree. I think if your message reliably brings the human cockroaches of the earth crawling out of the woodwork, that isn’t mere coincidence or bad luck. In that case, it’s time to think long and hard about who your platform attracts… and why.

It’s not just feminism and their detractors, of course. Libertarians, who I still strongly sympathize with: your movement is riddled with contempt for the poor, and outright racism. You can’t just say “Ron Paul didn’t write those newsletters” and be done with it; there is something about the libertarian message that attracts racists, implicit and and explicit. It’s not a coincidence.

Marxism, no matter how intellectual, still attracts violent revolutionary ends-justify-the-means types. It’s not a coincidence.

Fundamentalist Christianity and Islam, Orthodox Judaism: do I even need to spell out the kind of radicals these creeds attract? It’s not a coincidence.

Is it possible to hold to stand for one of these ideologies and not be a nutjob? Sure. But it’s no longer enough, in my eyes, for you to say “well, every movement has its crazies”. If I’m going to take you seriously, you need to acknowledge your movement’s particular attraction to assholes and explicitly, categorically denounce them.

And even then… I’m wary. Ideas have power. If an idea continually brings forth poison fruit, maybe the best thing for it is to cut it off at the root.

EDIT: along the same lines, see this post.

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  1. It’s Joshua K–And I couldn’t agree more with you here.

    Nice work.

  2. Jai Ingersoll-Kundert August 29, 2014 at 12:07

    My families fundamental conservative christian ideology cost me my first marriage and every single relationship I had ever built over my entire life, because they ALL believed the same thing. Sexist, biggots and some of the most close minded people I’ve ever known. I like your last statement. It hits very close to why I made the decision to leave it all!

  3. Thank you.

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