Ask an Atheist with Sam Mulvey

A Response to Ophelia Benson

I received a personal email from blogger Ophelia Benson around 5 pm on Tuesday:

Hi again Becky,

I want to ask you a direct question, since you’re the one who named me as one of the too-dogmatic and other bad things feminists on your podcast – can you quote something too-dogmatic etc that I’ve written on this subject? I’ve just looked through my posts on DJ and I don’t see anything that seems very dogmatic.

Could you give a specific example on my post on the podcast or on yours or here but with permission to quote you? I think that’s only fair. You accused me of things so I think you should point to at least one example.

Ophelia

By 8:30 am Wednesday, Ophelia complained about my absent response on Greg Laden’s blog:

Becky’s responses are sometimes so underwhelming as to be absent entirely. She emailed me late Monday to request the rescue of a comment in moderation (because of links)[1]; I replied yesterday to ask her for an example of “dogmatism” from me, since she named me as one of the “dogmatic” feminists in the podcast. No reply. I find that deeply unimpressive.

Underwhelming I’ll take, but absent responses?  After 6 comments prior having addressed Greg? Is 16 hours the time limit for whether I’m responsive on an issue?  In light of my multiple followup responses in multiple arenas?  I am interested in this topic, and dedicated to co-creating positive solutions, but I’ve got a day job!

 

To Ophelia:

You request that I quotemine for something “too-dogmatic”.  Is there a spectrum of dogma? My argument isn’t that a little dogma is ok as long as you’re not a “too-dogmatic and other bad things feminist.” My argument is that feminism applied dogmatically, along with employing shame and zero-sum tactics of approach, work at cross purposes to eliminating misogyny and harassment in the atheist/skeptics community(ies). So I’ll give a few examples of how I see your writing as part of that larger observation. I’m not going to go looking for “too-dogmatic” things because that was never my argument.

In my original editorial I state: “Is our womanhood and feminism so holy that we cannot and will not open ourselves to criticism, discussion, and questions? Because the tone I’ve seen is unforgiving.” I could very well have linked the following comment on your Misogyny?  What Misogyny? post as one example of this:

I don’t want to see [commenter] Justicar as a decent human being in one place despite knowing that he’s not one via what he’s said in other places.

This strikes me as dogmatically rejecting all ideas a person has based on experience/contact with them in another arena. If myself and a pastor got into a spat about evolution, but then the pastor said “I don’t even want to see evidence of you doing charity because I know that in another arena you deny the majesty and wonder of the Almighty Creator!” we’d easily identify that as dogmatic.

In your Both Sides post you criticize my saying that both sides are doubling-down. Your first commenter construes that to mean that I think both sides are equally wrong. You do nothing to dispel that and in fact provide tacit agreement by saying “I thought I’d try understatement for once.” You agree with commenter Deen that I think you’re too feminist, claiming, “Yep. All that misogyny stuff is bad, of course, but the really bad worrying terrible awful people are…the ones Becky named.” This dishonestly supports this narrative of “us” vs. “them” with me clearly on the “them” side. You have contributed to the narrative of 2 sides, “for” and “against”, affirming the very thing that I pointed out! When things are black and white (a characterization embraced by Stephanie ) it’s indicative of dogma.

In Stephanie’s post addressing our episode, you in three words reveal your tacit agreement with one of the most egregious characterizations of atheist men I’ve seen condensed into one paragraph (the 5th, if you’re following the links), bolstering an us-versus-them mentality.

I hope it’s clear that I don’t think feminism  equals dogma, but that its application can be dogmatic. FtB’er Natalie Reed has a fine analysis of this phenomenon, which was only recently brought to my attention, in more general terms (not related to its application in atheist/skeptic circles on the issue of eliminating misogyny).

 

[1] True, I contacted Ophelia about a comment being left in moderation on her blog because I was concerned that the content may have been deemed objectionable (since subsequent comments had appeared sans moderation).  Turned out it the links I’d included dumped me in the queue automatically, and Ophelia dropped me a quick email to say as much with a cordial explanation and apology.  I’m not really sure how telling folks that I had comments awaiting moderation bolsters her assertion that my response is absent.  This was a technical hold-up, just as were her comments on our post. Observe her similar request to Ask An Atheist on Monday just after 10 am (when incidentally all three producers are working at our paying jobs): “I have a couple of comments in moderation. Could you let them out? I’d like to set the record straight before a bunch more comments from the ERV gang come in.”  That Mike Gillis guy, who Ophelia surmised just might have something to do with Ask an Atheist, caught the email and let her know it was held up by the Spambot detector and he’d approved her comments.

 

Update: Some links fixed.

About the Author: Becky Friedman

Becky works on the Ask An Atheist production team, frequently appears on episodes, and lends her voice to commercial announcements. She speaks Spanish, works as an educator in the Seattle-Tacoma area, and sits on the Board of Humanists of Washington.

Sam Mulvey
Admin
4 years 3 months ago

CRISWELL PREDICTS:

The response gets darker from here.

Prove me wrong. Please… prove me wrong.

Manolo Matos
Guest
4 years 3 months ago

If we spend half the time and energy we use for this issue to advance the atheist visibility movement, we would already have a secular society with zero church/state issues in the U.S. Just sayin’. Like they say where I come from: “La mierda mientras más se revuelca, más apesta…”

Tickle Me Melvin
Guest
Tickle Me Melvin
4 years 3 months ago

Becky, my honest advice is to not get sucked in. These people spend their days in front of a screen construing and misconstruing the words and motivations of others, with a horde of agreers to make them feel good about it. There’s just no way anyone can make headway on introducing a different opinion. Blogging is a sociological problem.

Manolo Matos
Guest
4 years 3 months ago

Totally agree Melvin. That was my point above. Let’s use our energy for a better purpose.

Stephanie Zvan
Guest
4 years 3 months ago

For people who don’t follow links: Ophelia’s “in three words” comment was an agreement that she has received threats of sexualized violence. It doesn’t name the parties who did it. It doesn’t say anything about atheist men in general. It just says she’s received these threats.

At least now I understand what “being dogmatic” is supposed to mean. Good to know.

Fabricio
Guest
Fabricio
4 years 3 months ago
My, my, my! Picky picky picky, aren’t we? “You did not answer my points in 24 hours or less, its soooo underwhelming!” What is this, an Atheist Helpdesk or something? Take care, Becky, or you will be reported to the management. That “us vs them” mentality is the first sign you are turning your point into a dogma. Wasn’t there a group of people that used to fight against that kind of mentality in name of reason and fact-based arguments? Sam, I’d like to add another Criswell preditiction: that Ask An Atheist will be deemed a “show-non-grata” in the PZ… Read more »
Tai Fung
Guest
4 years 3 months ago

Tickle Me Melvin just NAILED it. I’m almost annoyed that I’ve never been able to say it like that.

I just use the phrase, “Outrage Prism,” as a shortcut for viewing life, including innocous, innocent, or mundane events as a source of outrage. I don’t think getting groped is mundane, but then, by golly, REPORT IT. Get in the face of the groper. Bring friends if you have to do so. But say something when it happens. And stop decrying every other ACTUAL mundane event, otherwise you become like the kid who cried wolf.

Ophelia Benson
Guest
4 years 3 months ago

I haven’t read the whole post yet, but I will just point out that I didn’t give Becky permission to post my email.

Jason Thibeault
Guest
4 years 3 months ago

It’s strange that you’re condemning Ophelia as dogmatic for recognizing someone who’s called her horrible names at another blog and banning them, but you’re entering into evidence something she said at another blog. Either you have to take a person’s position solely from those direct encounters, or you don’t. Please pick one, Becky.

Becky Friedman
Guest
4 years 3 months ago

We are a program that answers questions. It’s the title of the show. As most listeners realize, we field voicemails, emails, and live calls from people asking questions. Then we answer them on air or on our website.

Ophelia contacted me under the auspices of AaA, not privately. I responded per her request “on my post on the podcast or on yours or here”.

Ophelia Benson
Guest
4 years 3 months ago

I didn’t request that you post the email. You had replied to me via that address, so I took you to be using it as an ordinary email address.

Fabricio
Guest
Fabricio
4 years 3 months ago

Ha, now you are going to Management because of a Term of Confiendiality Breach. Atheism Inc. will NOT tolerate those, Ms. Friedman.

Let the whine BEGIN!

Cheron
Guest
Cheron
4 years 3 months ago

“This strikes me as dogmatically rejecting all ideas a person has based on experience/contact with them in another arena.”

If in that other arena the person has done almost nothing other than call you a cunt for a year+ why wouldn’t you simply dismiss him out of hand?

Also I find it REALLY hard to believe you get the same level of hate mail that feminist bloggers get and even if you did does that somehow make the behaviour ok? Should Rebecca just shut up about it and stoically carry on until it somehow it magically gets better?

Fabricio
Guest
Fabricio
4 years 3 months ago
Cheron, I think that you’ll get hate mail for EVERYTHING on the internet, even for the mundane. Go to a Final Fantasy forum and try to say “I think Sephirot is a overrated villain”. You’ll get death threats in no time. So, yeah, grow a pair (down there or up there, as it may be the case) and take hate mail by what it is. She is not the first person to get hate mail, and is not the one who gets more hate mail, and that’s not the one who gets the most odious hate mail, and certainly is… Read more »
David
Guest
David
4 years 3 months ago

Prove that example, Cheron — show me a commentor who has done “almost nothing” but call someone a cunt, but then posted something substantive on the issue at another site. Or is voicing disagreement the equivalent of calling someone a cunt? Because I think your example is a total strawman, and that you won’t be able to back up your scenario. I don’t think your example is what we have here at all.

Justicar
Guest
4 years 3 months ago
Cheron, it is hardly the case that I’ve not done much of anything else in the past year. Indeed, this isn’t my life. My disposition is mostly one of response, and I select my ‘tone’ quite on purpose. You’ll also note that I don’t whine and complain that people say bad things about me. I insult people. And I take my insults. I don’t have a rule that I’m allowed to say x about y, but y better not say x about me or else I’m going to start crying about fairness or whatever. Ophelia’s statement is problematic because, as… Read more »
Magicthighs
Guest
Magicthighs
4 years 3 months ago

@Fabricio You forgot to start your post with “Dear Muslima”.

Darren
Guest
Darren
4 years 3 months ago

Oh, I get it. Ophelia at 08:49 is giving us an example of one of those “underwhelming” responses which is “absent entirely” she is complaining about.

Although, Becky, in Ophelia’s defence (shudder) you did refer to the email as a “personal email” in the OP. FWIW.

Mike Gillis
Admin
4 years 3 months ago

…as in from the real Ophelia Benson, and which Ophelia Benson *asks her to answer publicly*.

This is such a stupid pedantic distraction from Becky’s actual response.

Magicthighs
Guest
Magicthighs
4 years 3 months ago

@Mike Gillis: Since when does “answer publicly” mean “you can make this email public”?

I find it a bit ironic that people who complain about the way Stephanie Zvan and Ophelia Benson communicate think it’s a good idea to commit these kinds of faux pas, like telling Zvan she can call in like any other listener when they’re talking about her, or make a private email by Benson public without her constent (unless the email Benson replied to contained a statement saying any reply can be made public without notice).

Ophelia Benson
Guest
4 years 3 months ago

A stupid pedantic distraction? Excuse me? Becky posted an entire email of mine in public without my permission. Since when is it stupid and pedantic to object to that? It’s common knowledge that you don’t publish other people’s emails without permission.

trackback

[…] Friedman of Ask an Atheist did a post addressed to me yesterday (but I didn’t see it until today). She started off by saying I received a personal […]

Melody
Guest
Melody
4 years 3 months ago

This is horrible etiquette. I can’t believe you would post a personal email without permission. This is kind of basic stuff. I would never associate with someone that would do this.

Simon
Guest
Simon
4 years 3 months ago

Publishing Ophelia’s email in full. Stay classy AaA.

trackback

[…] some of what Becky Friedman said in her post addressed to me at Ask an Atheist: My argument is that feminism applied dogmatically, along with employing shame […]

julian
Guest
julian
4 years 3 months ago

So Ophelia Benson, Stephanie Zvan, Rebecca Watson and the rest, per AaA’s readership, do nothing for secularism, women or equal rights. They just sit infront of computers all day being bitchy.

What a great lot.

Mike Gillis
Admin
4 years 3 months ago

Ophelia, knock it off. Now you’re just looking for excuses to dismiss Becky’s arguments.

MyaR
Guest
MyaR
4 years 3 months ago

I will pass on someone else’s take on this — “Ophelia, dogmatic? Tenacious, yes. Unrelenting, sure but those are not synonyms for dogmatic.”

Daniel
Guest
Daniel
4 years 3 months ago
“So Ophelia Benson, Stephanie Zvan, Rebecca Watson and the rest, per AaA’s readership, do nothing for secularism, women or equal rights. They just sit infront of computers all day being bitchy. What a great lot.” I think they have done good work for secularism, women and equal rights, and sometimes they don’t. I don’t think we should avoid criticizing them when they mess up because they have also done good things in the past. I also don’t like this portrayal of criticizing them on this issue now being turned into a you think they just sit in front of computers… Read more »
Ophelia Benson
Guest
4 years 3 months ago

Mike Gillis – for the third time, it is impermissible to publish other people’s emails without asking. Do not tell me to knock it off. Do not tell me what I’m doing. You’re a rude and obnoxious guy.

trackback

[…] Gillis of Ask an Atheist decided he hadn’t been rude enough yet, when he called my objection to posting my email without permission “such a stupid pedantic distraction from Becky’s […]

Mike Gillis
Admin
4 years 3 months ago
Ophelia, The facts: You emailed Becky, the producer and host of a radio show, on her official radio show email. You have asked for her to publicly answer a question. A question you also asked on your own blog. In the email that we reposted, you did not include troop positions, private medical information or your address. In it is the exact same material that you share publicly and frequently. Had you been, say, John Boehner and sent an email to a reporter from the Washington Post on their work email, you would be laughed at if you’d acted in… Read more »
Mike Gillis
Admin
4 years 3 months ago

It never ceases to amaze me how much the internet and an audience can make intelligent, educated people act like they’re in high school.

Godless Poutine
Guest
4 years 3 months ago

Just a comment.

I’ve got a toddler sitting next to me that needs food… so I have little time. I definitely haven’t the kind of time or energy to have heated arguments like this. I think perhaps the point of this whole thing is becoming less clear to us folks looking in from the outside.

Greg Laden
Guest
4 years 3 months ago
Mike, if your show, the AAA show that addressed the whole harassment issue, was a high school rhetoric class project it would have gotten a D for being very very poorly researched. Maybe a C- because it was reasonably well presented. However, the extra credit material added on would have cancelled that out. So no, you’re not quite at the high school level, in terms of professional treatment of the very important issues that people have been discussing, and that your team must have been ignoring, for the last year. Also, may I say that your dismissal of Ophelia Benson’s… Read more »
julian
Guest
julian
4 years 3 months ago

“I also don’t like this portrayal of criticizing them on this issue now being turned into a you think they just sit in front of computers all day being bitchy. Daniel”

Except that that’s what was said. That these are a group of people who “spend their days in front of a screen construing and misconstruing the words and motivations of others, with a horde of agreers to make them feel good about it.” So what exactly are you objecting to?

Deepak Shetty
Guest
Deepak Shetty
4 years 3 months ago

It never ceases to amaze me how much the internet and an audience can make intelligent, educated people act like they’re in high school.
It never ceases to amaze how irony escapes people.

John Greg
Guest
John Greg
4 years 3 months ago

Mike Gillis said:

“Becky has already explained this to you, and you continue to try and use public displays of shame and distraction, and appeals to your followers to do the same.”

Yes, and now you are experiencing, first hand, the kind of tactics these FfTB bloggers and commenters thrill to.

Mike Gillis
Admin
4 years 3 months ago

Godless,

I agree. This isn’t our new format and we’re not going to let this debate dominate our show.

David
Guest
David
4 years 3 months ago

But Ophelia, you do think it is permissible to publish other people’s emails without asking. You did it on your blog on March 20th. Of course you gave a reason for doing it, but you definitely DO NOT think it impermissible.

julian
Guest
julian
4 years 3 months ago

“I agree. This isn’t our new format and we’re not going to let this debate dominate our show.”

Yeah, corrections and admitting fault don’t make for good ratings.

Simon
Guest
Simon
4 years 3 months ago

Mike, from what it looks like she responded to an email Becky sent her. Ophelia clearly had good reason to have an expectation of privacy based on how this is being described.

Magicthighs
Guest
Magicthighs
4 years 3 months ago
@Mike Gillis: Maybe you shouldn’t have touched on the subject in this manner to begin with if you didn’t bother to do your research. For instance, it’s a bit silly to make an issue of bloggers banning people that have been trolling threads related to this subject for months. I still don’t get what makes Ophelia dogmatic in her application of feminism, by the way. Is anyone ever going to explain that? Does it just mean that she’s applying feminism to situations you just don’t deem worthy? I kind of get the impression that you guys are just digging your… Read more »
CommanderTuvok
Guest
CommanderTuvok
4 years 3 months ago

“I’d like to set the record straight before a bunch more comments from the ERV gang come in.”

I don’t particulary agree with the use of the term “gang”, coming from a ‘neutral’ perspective. Would you describe people from FfTB as a “gang”?

This is pushing the misleading “FfTB = good, ERV = bad” line that people like Ophelia are desperate to put out – in order to cover their own logic drain, double standards, and hypocrisy.

CommanderTuvok
Guest
CommanderTuvok
4 years 3 months ago

Jason Thibeault

It’s strange that you’re condemning Ophelia as dogmatic for recognizing someone who’s called her horrible names at another blog and banning them, but you’re entering into evidence something she said at another blog.

This is someone talking on about a blogger who uses the vague excuse “x is a known troll from another blog” to ban people from her site. Now JC is moaning about Ophelia’s comments on other blogs being used.

As I said, double standards and hypocrisy.

Magicthighs
Guest
Magicthighs
4 years 3 months ago

“This is someone talking on about a blogger who uses the vague excuse “x is a known troll from another blog” to ban people from her site”

Ah yes, banning a known troll from your very own website is now a “vague excuse”.

Amazing.

Concentratedwater, OM
Guest
Concentratedwater, OM
4 years 3 months ago

CommanderTuvok, 17.33:

Yes, indeed: “double standards and hypocrisy”.

“Here is a list of blogs which are verboten for my readers to comment on, because of those blogs’ policy of barring readers who post on a second list of verboten blogs.”

Or someting.

Greg Laden
Guest
4 years 3 months ago
If you don’t keep the ERVites out of your comment section, you are making your blog an uncomfortable place for all those people that they choose to target with their incessant harassment. It really is up to the blogger to ban/not ban, leave a comment up or not. But allowing one’s blog (or a particular post on one’s blog) to become part of Abbie Smith’s cesspool is not recommended if you want people to take you seriously. It is like the coffee shop down the street from my house. It, in turn, is near a middle school. The middle school… Read more »
rlearn
Guest
rlearn
4 years 3 months ago

Shorter Greg Laden:

“We’re not dogmatic, but if don’t proactively prevent people we disagree with from posting on your blog, we’ll stop taking things you say seriously.”

Daniel
Guest
Daniel
4 years 3 months ago

“Except that that’s what was said. That these are a group of people who “spend their days in front of a screen construing and misconstruing the words and motivations of others, with a horde of agreers to make them feel good about it.” So what exactly are you objecting to?”
You would have to ask the one person who said it. There is no point in making generalizations about the entire AaA readership based on your interpretation of what one poster might be saying. This is getting way off topic

wpDiscuz