It is a rather unfortunate habit being picked up more and more by those I describe as the New, New Atheists – the unwashed masses that have ridden into town on the coattails of the New Atheist vanguard and have the newfound bravado of the herd, and consequent shamelessness in declaring their existence to the world. The unfortunate downside, as with any kind of populism, is that the bad usually equals or exceeds the good.
There is no shortage of petty drama and moral panic being whipped up by these newcomers – they are proving they can more than go toe-to-toe with their theist counterparts as far as shrieking, indignant outrage goes. It is almost a daily occurrence – somewhere, some kind of new hysteria is brewing. From TamTamPamela making jokes about Pat Robertson that flew over everyone’s heads, to cretins that still can’t wrap their minds around what Google actually does, the fear-n-loathing never sleeps.
Happiness is a warm scapegoat. Nothing makes a person feel purer than decrying impurity in others. I can’t think of a better root cause for the religious impulse than this dumbness, but it is also a testament to how deeply ingrained into our species’ psyche it is that the godless cling to this same kind of addiction to villifying those that transgress the tribal taboos – the new secular heretics – with the same mindless tenacity. The more things change, the more they stay the same as the saying goes.
The latest moral panic / fart-in-a-bathtub comes, rather depressingly, via Skepchick’s Rebecca Watson, who you could be excused for expecting to be above such trite gamespersonship1. In this case exploiting a perceived atrocity against that most terrifying of socio-theo-politico-morasses: the sacred temple of the divine yoni and all of its sensitivity and delicateness. A blasphemy against the purity of the holy of holies, the supreme goddess-hood, the sublime and perfect eternal feminine, the über-she who’s poop smells like cinnamon buns…
Yeah, perhaps that is stretching the point. But there is no other way to try and get a handle on the way conventional reality simply vaporises and all commonsense ceases to play any role when the deadly combination of pussy, circumstance, insecurity and a readily available male patsy to blame everything on combine in surreal Grand Guignol – especially when the masses rally behind it and give it a good head of indignant steam. This is all grist for the misandrist blog industry, but it is particularly disheartening seeing it become such a staple amongst the godless and allegedly “freethinking” rationalist communities.
The nutshell synopsis, in Watson’s own words, can be viewed in a video she posted to her own site. The pontification commences ~3 minutes in and pads out the bulk of the rest. What’s interesting in itself is that it includes a denunciation of the patriarchal collaborator, gender traitor and heretic Paula Kirby – so any claims that all of this was just an after-the-fact anecdote, and not a contrived spectacle to piggyback on the vulgar “atheist misogyny” meme that’s been rammed down our throats for years now, are moot. It’s the kind of unnecessary detail you add only if are seeking to turn a story into a sermon.
So Watson got propositioned by a drunk… Wow. The sky is falling. Actually, even the “propositioned” part is debatable. A guy sent out a tentative feeler to gauge a response seems to be closer to actuality – and the feeler was demurred, at which point he backed out and offered no further nuisance. Creepy how adults do stuff like this isn’t it? And most adults, being adults, would have left the matter at that and forgotten about it – perhaps at worst, making a mental bookmark about that person for future reference to make sure that there is no subsequent ambiguity about the lack of interest.
But we’re not talking about ordinary adults. We’re talking about folks who’s bread and butter is blog hits, public reaction and speaking engagements. The cynical, upon musing, may start to have some really blasphemous thoughts – such as at the end of the day, who is actually exploiting who here?
Watson did what, in hindsight, is actually predictable, even pragmatic – turned the whole episode into a web circus. A Jerry Springer episode for the sensitive, highbrow end of town. All it needed was the magic secret ingredient – the all purpose “female objectification” shtick – and voila! It’s no longer a drunk in an elevator. It’s the patriarchal conspiracy. It’s no longer just a dumb incident. It’s further evidence of a movement in deep ideological crisis. This is manufacturing dissent. Witchdoctors inventing demons in the shadows to scare children into submission. This is wanton catastrophism as desperate response to a state of existential nihilism. Somebody should tell the drunk – the guy is always the last one to know… After all, he (whoever “he” is) is now forever enshrined in the atheist misogyny hall of fame – and the rest of us with the dangly bits are tarred with the same brush whether we like it or not.
Oh dear. My misogyny is leaking. Fancy that? Let’s leave these considerations here for the moment. This line of inquiry will only end in more pointless, and very righteous, indignation if pursued – the infallible and sin free never like being told they are naked.
But what I would really like to ask Watson is this – can she honestly claim to never in her life, herself, perhaps drunkenly, made a pass at another person that was neither called for nor appreciated? Ever? We can safely assume that Watson will probably claim “no”. We can also all pretend to believe her. But can she confidently assert the same for the army of urgers standing behind her? That really would stretch credulity to breaking point.
Face it – we’ve all (at least the honest amongst us), regardless of gender or sexual orientation, either done it ourselves, had it done to us, or most likely, both. I’ve even been vomited on by an unwelcomely amorous female2. So what? Has anybody died? No. Has society collapsed as a result? No. Does anybody even remotely care? For non-maniacs, again the answer is no. Then what is the point of turning a mosquito bite into a festering wound? And what is the point of throwing stones in glass houses? Ah, but this is different… no it’s fucking not. Just because it involves a celebrity skeptic does not in and of itself build a case for exceptionalism. There are gigabytes of blogorrhea out there claiming different, but it is no fucking different. Get over it.
One of the first of the big name blogs to have waded into this miasma of socio-neurotic angst was Pharyngula (1282 comments and closed) – and if smarmy chic is more your thing, MeFi (1100+ comments and still growing at 20-30 an hour). It all makes for excruciating reading. But it is Pharyngula3 that really poured the petrol on the fire when Richard Dawkins offered his own comment.
What Dawkins said largely echoes my own thoughts when I read about this kind of ritual gender self-mortification. It was barbed, succinct and very, very pertinent. It also flew way over the heads of all who’s first, and only, concern was whipping themselves up into as righteously indignant a lather as possible. It was what I would imagine Voltaire or Diderot would have injected into the argument were they unfortunate enough to be around to witness it. Here it is in its poetic entirety, addressing a hypothetical, probably northern African correspondent –
Stop whining, will you. Yes, yes, I know you had your genitals mutilated with a razor blade, and . . . yawn . . . don’t tell me yet again, I know you aren’t allowed to drive a car, and you can’t leave the house without a male relative, and your husband is allowed to beat you, and you’ll be stoned to death if you commit adultery. But stop whining, will you. Think of the suffering your poor American sisters have to put up with.
Only this week I heard of one, she calls herself Skep”chick”, and do you know what happened to her? A man in a hotel elevator invited her back to his room for coffee. I am not exaggerating. He really did. He invited her back to his room for coffee. Of course she said no, and of course he didn’t lay a finger on her, but even so . . .
And you, Muslima, think you have misogyny to complain about! For goodness sake grow up, or at least grow a thicker skin.
Dawkins is a dinosaur, a point robotically parroted in response. That may be so – he is an old school Freethinker, a subscriber to the principles and philosophies espoused by the Enlightenment forebears who had zero tolerance for nonsense, sophistry and deformed ideological manipulations. Unlike the modern “freethinkers” who are essentially free from thought itself, having been raised by education systems that drill it home that all opinions are equal, and feel neither inhibition nor shame at spouting whatever gibberish makes them feel good and raining hellfire on those that dare to critique from an endless dictionary of -ists and -isms. This is a point not even considered in the dog-pile that has greeted Dawkins’ intrusion without even the slightest skerrick of either respect or reason. Dawkins’ response was as appropriate as it was clever – and this burns, oh yes it burns, because really, there is no come back to it.
I sympathise with Dawkins in the deepest way possible. I can feel his sense of futility and frustration. As one of the Four Horsemen that have brought atheism out of the shadows, it must be so depressing to survey the landscape now and behold a sea of sensitivity awareness madrassa graduates not only dominating the stage, but shouting down and demonising all that cross their path. He would have been quite aware of the futility of speaking up in the face of this kind of fundamentalism, but similarly, he knows full well that silence in the face of idiocy is admission of defeat. For better or worse, he succumbed to temptation. And I applaud him for that. I suspect he now regrets opening his mouth, and I can’t really blame him for that either. If only some of this would rub off on PZ – who simply takes all such sorry tales as unquestionable gospel and promotes them out of rather naive good nature, his patented iron-skepticism shelved for such exceptionalist causes.
We have allowed a culture of social nihilism that believes its own bullshit, and a slave morality, too crippled to raise itself up – instead seeking to drag all around it down, to envelop us and now it is dictating its terms of occupation to us. Dissent of any kind from the newly established dogmas is prohibited and will be mercilessly persecuted – not for the sake of any reasoned sense of justice or common good, but for the law of the mob and public shaming, humiliation and good old fashioned shunning. This is a cultural perversion born of society that has grown so fat, complacent and aimless in its own comfort and sloth, it no longer knows what it is supposed to feel guilty about – so it fabricates sins to punish out of shadows. And the cherry on top is that here we also have sex involved – now there is atheist reactionary neopuritanism to deal with as well. It’s all so like a Victorian melodrama from the 30’s, I can almost see the “I do declare!” followed by a swoon over an outrageous indecency…
No wonder the islamists find it so easy to stir up hatred and resentment of the West.
The worst aspect of all of this derangement by far though is that there isn’t even a shred of credibility or consistency about this moral hairshirt that Watson and her cheer squad want to force on society. The larger reality, when you step back and catch your breath, is a schizoid roulette wheel of inconsistent gibberish. Consider the following item from Jezebel –
– which is quite a devious exercise in sophistry explaining why one kind of poop smells less nasty than another, and is therefore acceptable.
I have no problem with this article and all power to Jezebel for indulging themselves. But what I do have a problem with is that both Skepchick and Watson are Jezebel fans. So the decent thing for Watson to do is to clear the air with her characteristic honesty and candor. Either –
- condemn Jezebel with the same righteous flatus she reserves for the penis enhanced, or
- admit to not objecting to objectification per se, just objectification she doesn’t like (ie. of chicks), and thereby risk accusations of hypocrisy (which is OK, that can be blamed on hormones or the rag or some other chick thing), or
- simply retract all of the crap blurted out this far, admit she doesn’t care about anybodies objectification and that this was all just an attention whoring exercise.
If we’re going to be playing the moral high ground game, slandering 50% of the population and laying the guilt trip squarely at their feet, then setting the record straight is not all that much to ask once someone calls shenanigans.
And then when she’s through fessing up, perhaps she could have a crack at why female journalists insist on filling our media with Where Have All The Real Men Gone? stories with such monotonous regularity. I mean, if we’re going to stay to true histrionic form, isn’t stuff like this tantamount to incitement for rape?
And speaking of “rape”, there’s also one in the “too hard” basket – it’s been there like, forever… What are we guys supposed to do when our she-critters pester us for rough sex, or, gasp, start hinting at surprise, forced sex scenarios that they are too polite to call rape fantasy? This kind of shit really does make me uncomfortable to say the least, but I can’t really say its rare. And the truly bizarre thing here is it tends to be more common amongst the fem-bot activist end of town. I can’t say I’ve ever heard these types of ideas come from any of the harder, independent, self-reliant women that like to make a point of not identifying as feminists (which is a sad aversion reaction to having endured too much of the kind of nonsense Watson is peddling – they are loathe to have anything to do with it).
What are guys supposed to do with such a plethora of seemingly arbitrary, inconsistent mixed messages? It just seems lose/lose/lose all round. But maybe that is the whole point? Create an environment in which no matter what the circumstance, no matter the what or how or where, the goalposts can be moved on the spur of the moment to make the male 100% wrong about absolutely everything 100% of the time. Is this the actual final aim of the kind of games that Watson et al. are indulging in? It makes as much sense as any other theory.
Unfortunately, the real longer term result is going to be much different and far simpler. Males are simply going to stop caring. There are only so many times the little girl can cry wolf before people stop believing her. Sure, there will always be a pool of genuine morons to use and abuse on a whim, but there’s only so much the majority will endure. Even worse, larger and larger numbers of women are expressing similar disgust at these staged theatrics and retrograde neo-puritan stupidities. Seriously Watson, just what in the fuck is it that you want? It’s not genuine equality – that is plain as day. If there was equality, and you felt worthy of it, I could call you a stupid cunt and you would react as an individual and not a collective, and be too self-respecting to play the gender card about it. That will never happen, so neither will the equality – its the last thing you want. A collectivised matriarchal hive seems more on the agenda – not an individual autonomy friendly space by any stretch of the imagination at all.
But failing that, I think Watson is happy in her current little niche cocoon, with a steady audience of the already converted and a good selection dupes like PZ to keep the publicity engine turning over (unfortunately, Dawkins has now bowed out), and the conference circuit with its unspoken policy of demonstrable “inclusivity” to stem at least some of the whining. No I think it’s a pretty good place to be in – and the last thing Watson would ever want is actual change. It would derail the gravy train.
So gents, and actual ladies, I wouldn’t be holding our breaths for this nonsense to be ending any time soon. Get some morphine.
1 – Though apparently not. A female acquaintance accompanied a male presenter to a recent TAM and had the “honour” of sharing the same socialising space with Watson and co. for much of the time. Whilst they were excruciatingly polite, to the point of being fawning, to her partner, as a non-contributor, they “spent the entire time frowning down their noses like I was shit on the sidewalk”. This chick is definitely no dummy that would warrant such attitude, and it really goes to show that those that are most vociferous in demanding respect for themselves tend to be highly selective in how they reciprocate it. No gain, no point is there? Should look up “narcissism” in the cesspit of lies some time. Here is just one snippet of the kind of dismissive contempt shown to other women that dare to speak out of turn and question –
I was pretty frustrated, seeing a young woman who I’m sure is intelligent be so incredibly dismissive of my experience and that of other women in this community, and so uneducated about the fundamentals of feminist thought.
Quite amazing – feminist misogyny for the sake of combating misogyny. Cognitive dissonance shoves its head up its own ass and implodes.
2 – OK, I am guilty of repeating the vomit story, but only for amusement, never with names and never for the sake of bogus moral posturing.
3 – As much as I love PZ Myers, his consistency leaves a lot to be desired. Whilst he may have the spine of a Triceratops when facing down the Catholic Church, it is disturbing to see how easily it turns into credulous jello as soon as gender politics come into the picture.