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Reap Responds

While I think this conversation has already gone on long enough, I guess I should mention that Reap Paden has left a comment on my post from last weekend about him, which consists mostly of wounded self-justification. I can only assume that being called a misogynist has stung his ego, which I consider to be a good sign! A person who genuinely didn’t care what others thought about him would have shrugged it off, but Reap clearly isn’t such a person. Here are some responses to his more important points:

Adam you have never even taken a moment too try and talk to me. You don’t know a thing about me.

Correct. I don’t know you personally. I formed my judgment of you based on your public behavior.

You suddenly had a problem with me calling Stephanie Zvan a bitch. Ok, well where I come from we talk like that.

I’m astonished that you would say this as if you think it constituted a defense. It doesn’t excuse any kind of morally unacceptable behavior to say that’s the way we’ve always done it. Do you think this same argument would offer even a shred of justification if it was being used to defend a position you disagreed with? How would you react if someone said: “You have a problem with me being a Christian? Well, where I come from, everyone is a Christian”?

I don’t reserve the term bitch for any particular gender or social class it is a relatively generic term

Ah, this old fallback: “I didn’t mean it to be sexist in my own head, so therefore it wasn’t sexist! It’s not my fault if other people interpret it that way!”

Here’s a phrase you might’ve heard before, Reap: Intent isn’t magic. If you didn’t know before, consider yourself informed now: “Bitch” is absolutely and unequivocally a sexist insult. It’s actually the perfect example of a sexist insult, because it’s one of the few words that changes its meaning depending on the gender of the person you’re addressing.

What does it mean to call a woman a bitch? In ordinary usage, it means she’s being too bossy, too aggressive, too forceful. Since those are stereotypically masculine qualities, it means she’s not acting the way a woman “should” act. What does it mean to call a man a bitch? In ordinary usage, it means he’s being too weak, too obedient, too submissive. Since those are stereotypically feminine qualities, it means he’s not acting the way a man “should” act. (You know this perfectly well: here’s an example of you using it in the latter sense.)

So, no, this isn’t a “generic” insult. It implies that there are roles and behaviors appropriate for each gender, and that the person you want to insult is violating those boundaries. It’s sexist in the same way as saying that men shouldn’t raise children, or that women shouldn’t work outside the home, is sexist.

Misogyny is not defined by a male having a disagreement with a female.

No, misogyny is defined as a man hurling invective and sexist abuse at a woman because he disagrees with something she said or did. Like when you wonder if a woman “[has] been eating too much cat food or something“, or when you think it’s just hilarious to joke about having a sex tape of a woman you dislike, or when you invite people onto your podcast so they can call a woman a “dumb cunt” while laughing heartily.

Never once has any of my guests ever claimed I was anything less than respectful and pleasant. I helped the women who founded Secular Woman do a podcast that would help launch their project.

If you’re as enlightened a person as you claim, then you should be all in favor of banishing sexist invective and ad hominem abuse from our community, since that behavior is clearly incompatible with both being respectful and with the the rationalist ideal of debate. A cynical feminist, reading your comment, would think: “He was all in favor of women’s rights and women’s participation until someone asked him to change something about his behavior.” It certainly wouldn’t be the first time that’s happened.

I also don’t allow some one I’ve never heard of trash me in a public forum.

You don’t allow that, do you? And yet you’re perfectly fine with trashing fellow skeptics in all the ways I’ve described? Do you think that’s consistent?

For Reap and anyone else who might care, let me repeat this: Misogyny isn’t an indelible stain. It’s a pattern of behavior that can be fixed. I have no desire to kick anyone out of the secular movement, even if I had that power. But the gendered slurs and abuse directed at fellow skeptics aren’t acceptable. This isn’t an appropriate way to talk to anyone, much less to one’s fellow rationalists who want the same things when it comes to making our stance more influential in society. Language like that divides and weakens us and makes us spend time on this kind of infighting. If you put a stop to it, we can move on from this. If, on the other hand, you insist that free speech gives you the absolute right to be as rude, nasty and prejudiced as you like, then you can expect these fights to continue for a very long time.


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