Saturday, February 23, 2013

Harriet Hall wins the day

Harriet Hall wrote a piece called Gender Differences and Why They Don’t Matter So Much

As expected, it received a lot of criticism from the Atheism+ / Skepchick crowd.

Hall responds: I Am Not Your Enemy: An Open Letter to My Feminist Critics

A quote of note:

He wants to dictate how I use language, yet he uses the word queer, a term most people in the LGBT community consider offensive. He insults me by saying I am ignorant of what gender means. He condescendingly explains androgen insensitivity syndrome to me, as if I hadn’t learned about it in medical school 45 years ago.

Ah. What is truly queer (as in weird) is how strange the language police can be. But more on that later.

Hall shows that she's in the major leagues by eliciting a response from Rebecca Watson.

Watson comments:

Hi Harriet,
I won’t bother commenting on the sex/gender argument, as Will is more than capable of handling that. I will echo a few other commenters and point out that your “queer” statement doesn’t do you any favors in convincing anyone that your knowledge of these topics is anything close to approaching Will’s.
You didn’t mention me as a person included amongst your feminist critics, but I suspect many people reading this will assume I’m in there somewhere, possible because your t-shirt at TAM did directly call out my website and you’ve mentioned that incident specifically in your post. So, I figured I’d respond briefly because I’ve never really discussed it publicly and never talked with you about it at all.
When you made your “I am not a Skepchick” shirt, I did consider writing a blog post about it. Then I changed my mind and I composed an email to you in which I explained my feelings on the subject, since you seemed confused by the reaction you received. I pointed out that no one to my knowledge had ever called you a Skepchick, and I had never asked you to become a contributor to the network. I then used an analogy in which I pointed out that if a physician like Steve Novella went to the effort to create a CafePress shirt that read something like “I am not a SkepDoc. I am a skeptic,” you would be confused, a little hurt, and, when he wore it three days in a row, concerned for his personal hygiene. Your hurt feelings would be completely understandable, especially if he did this following a year in which you received a nonstop avalanche of insults, slurs, rape threats, and death threats from skeptics.
So I wrote the email, tinkered with it for a few days, and eventually I deleted it without sending. The reason was that after reflecting on it for so long, I came to the realization that while a week prior I held an immense amount of respect for you, I suddenly had lost that respect so completely that I had no interest in getting it back. I realized I was stressing out over someone who was so proud of an immature t-shirt she made that she wore it for an entire weekend. I realized that anyone who needs an explanation of why that was silly and hurtful doesn’t actually deserve an explanation, and they certainly don’t deserve real estate in my head. So I let others argue over it while I moved on to more interesting things.
I’m writing all this to you now because I want to be sure that you know that I do not think of you as my enemy. In fact, I don’t really think of you at all. The most one could say is that when you are occasionally brought to my attention, as happened with Will’s recent posts, I simply think of you as ill-informed on social issues.
So, having now spent ten precious minutes on the subject, it’s once again time for me to move on to more interesting things.

A few takeaways:

Watson claims the high ground for those that refrain from comment

For the first time in recorded history, Watson has ceased to share her feelings on the internet and thinks that this is now the respectable way to go about one's affairs.

While Watson is above sending a private email about her concerns about Hall, she's not above publicly writing her off ("lost that respect so completely") and calling her literally unclean.

It is a reminder of Watson's "I'm going to wind down this debate by stating I'm not buying any Dawkins books ever again" speech which is now claimed to not have been a call for boycott. Watson calms fires by dumping napalm on everybody.

Here we have a group of people that will go to a comic-con dressed as Ewoks criticizing Hall for an "immature" t-shirt.

However passive aggressive Hall's t-shirt could have seemed, it would pale in comparison to the vomit of text Watson has supplied here.

Watson admits Skepchick's "activism" is uninteresting and pointless

The entire maelstrom here is a furnace stoked by Skepchick and those that hold it in high regard, but she cannot devote more than ten minutes to the endeavor of defending the content that appears there.

Skepchick/Atheism+ would claim feminism with their familiarity with the word "chick"

Watson cannot even comprehend a reality where "chick" is a gendered term that Hall is offended by.

In Watson's world, Hall never had any room to object to the word "chick" or criticize gendered conferences.

Hall, in their eyes, wasn't acting against an organization she found offensive, she was being mean to her female comrades. In Melody Hensley terms, she's a "chill girl" or "sister punisher" instead of someone that can share her own feelings.

Skepchick/Atheism+ would claim LGBT activism with their familiarity with the word "queer"

Presumably Will R and those on the Atheism+ forums are fine with the "queer" label.

It is understandable that people that don't understand Hall's argument against "chick" also think that "queer" is an acceptable term.

It boggles the mind to discover that "Queereka" exists and is a site for... queer skeptics.

Now, explaining why the terms "chick", "queer" or "cisgender" are like fingernails on a chalkboard  to some people would take far too long.

The bottom line - people like Watson and Will R:
  • Respond to dissent with open hostility, condescension, ad-hominem arguments, and putting words in your mouth
  • Use words many people don't like ("chick", "queer")
  • Cannot understand why people don't find their facile branding appealing (it's "queer" and "eureka", get it?)
  • Claim other organizations are not inclusive

Simply disconnected from reality.

1 comment:

  1. Not to mention the fact that despite no mention of RW in Hall's response, she quickly jumped to conclusion that the whole thing was bout her.
    The narcissism is almost painful to observe.