Yesterday, I posted an article called Atheist Misogyny. There was a surprising amount of interest in the article, and a large amount of feedback both here and at Reddit. Much of this was criticism, some of it absolutely well deserved. I want to respond to criticisms and comments, and offer an apology to those whom I have offended by not being clear in the first place. I’m sorry, folks. It was not my intention to imply that all redittors, all atheists, or even the majority of either of those are misogynists.
For starters, I want to clarify my point. It is frustrating that I have to do this because it means I wasn’t clear enough in my writing in the first place. Misogyny is a problem with all people. It is in no way unique to atheism or reddit or the internet. I was focusing on the misogyny in the atheist community for a variety of reasons, but primarily because that is generally who reads this blog. And it’s a very small number of atheists, mostly friends of mine. Change begins at home, as they say, and I was hoping to raise the issue within my small but loyal group of readers.
But that’s not who read this. I rarely post on reddit and would not portray myself as an expert on reddit culture. I have posted a handful of articles there, mostly things directly tied to atheism, and I have never received a significant amount of traffic from the site. I did not really believe that this post would in any way be different, a few readers might catch it and hopefully (had I written it well) think about their own experiences in the atheist community.
One of the complaints I have had was that I was trying to build my karma and generate those massive numbers of hits that come from reddit. I can honestly say, that was in no way my motivation. I neither expected the attention, nor was I really prepared for it. In one day, we got about a third of the traffic that this site has ever seen, and all for an article that was in several ways poorly written. That’s not how I would want to promote the blog, and consider it a fall-down on my behalf.
The article in a lot of ways was intellectually lazy. At first I was surprised at the reactions of those who were angry about it, but then it was pointed out to me how it could be read, and I was embarrassed. I did not put in the time to frame the article in a way that would make my point clearly. I did not provide examples aside from the reddit posting, and that meant that people could only assume that I was speaking about reddit. I was not.
Yes, I have a reddit account, but I am anything but an expert. I was, for example, unaware that the atheism subreddit had made its way to the main page for all users. Obviously, that ignorance on my behalf changes that particular story, because it means that the original story about the girl was viewed by every redditor, and not just those in the atheism subreddit. This will grossly skew the viewing audience. I knew the post had made the front page of reddit, but wrongly assumed that it got there first and foremost by upvotes from the atheism subreddit. Assumptions are always a mistake.
But again, I was not trying to point the finger at reddit or the atheism subreddit. I wasn’t actually trying to point the finger at anyone, I just meant to say that I was tired of misogyny and would be shouting it down when I saw it. I focused on the atheist community because in my various atheist groups, I have seen it (though not often) and wish nothing more than for us to recognize and combat it.
As I wrote this, a comment came in which calls me to task on the naming of the article. I called the article Atheist Misogyny, and it rightly says that it’s ridiculous that I called it that and then went on to claim I wasn’t talking about misogyny in the atheist community. Again, this is a sign of bad writing on my behalf. I should have more clearly expressed that I was talking about my atheist community, and that I wasn’t saying that we were awful, just that we needed to be ever vigilant.
My community isn’t worse than the general public either, but I sincerely hope that we hold ourselves to a higher standard on matters like this not because these are issues all atheists share, but because they are issues that my atheist community does a generally good job with. I do not lump all atheists in here. I know atheists who are homophobic, but that does not mean the atheist community (or even my atheist community) are homophobic. And homophobia is a good example in another sense, because my atheist community is quick to stand up to homophobia in the same way that I am asking it to stand up to misogyny.
I made a variety of mistakes with that post. First and foremost, I never expected the level of traffic, and by not clarifying who I was talking to specifically, the message was lost. The point of the writing is the message, so clearly this was a big fail for me, and one that took place to a huge audience. I’m not proud of that. And I apologize both to my regular readers whom I assume expect better of me and to the people who read what I wrote and took it in a context I had not intended. That was not your fault, it was mine.
And yes, the tone of the article made me sound like the White Knight coming to save the world. That’s a prickish tone to take. I explained in the beginning of the article why it’s a particular button for me, but that doesn’t excuse the holier-than-thou attitude. I did not take that tone because I wanted to have women faun over me, contrary to many of the comments I received. I am lucky enough to have found the most amazing woman for me, and I would not trade her in for the world. Nor was I looking for the ego boost of having women congratulate me on taking a stand. To write an article about standing up for women with the intent on hooking up with them would be manipulative and misogynistic in its own right.
One of the common comments made was to point at the girl in question. I have heard that she started it. I don’t know if that is true or not. Certainly, she was warned in a comment to brace herself for the comments and replied with “bracin’ mah anus”. That was unfortunate, but I don’t really see that as inviting the creepier comments that came after.
Misogyny is wrong, and I plan on calling it out when I see it. However, my article didn’t communicate that. Because of lazy writing, I wound up unintentionally pointing the finger where it does not belong. I am very glad for those who read the article and got what I was saying, but I am far more frustrated at myself for not being clear enough or thorough enough in my post. I was called to task because of that, and rightly so. I’m sorry to all who were offended by my lack of clarity and laziness.
I will not comment on the overall reddit community or the atheism subreddit because I cannot. I’m not familiar enough with them to do them justice. I will say that my atheist community is an excellent one, but there is always room to improve, and I would like for us to lead by example.