Whenever you confront, or see confronted, sexism on the internet, there is almost always a chorus of people doing a couple of things in response: 1) excusing the behavior of the people who are sexist, or 2) trying to defend the community in which the sexism is taking place by arguments such as “not all XX people are sexist; most of us are great people except for these few idiots.” or 3) saying things like “if you participate anonymously, you don’t have to deal with the sexism, so hide your identity and you’ll get to participate fully.”
Kate Harding blogs about a specific incident that fits this pattern – a 15 year-old girl who considers herself an atheist and wants to be part of a discussion on atheism posts on reddit in an atheism community about the book her mother got her for Christmas – and the girl gets an enormous number of rape threats and sexist, predatory comments from men who participate in that in the atheist community.
Skeptic blogger Rebecca Watson caught on to what was happened to the young woman on Reddit and wrote about it on her site. Subsequently, the comments on her post were filled with people excusing the behavior of the reddit folks as satire, people suggesting the girl should only post anonymously so she wouldn’t be subject to abusive comments, and people explaining that this is just the way the world works and we can’t change it.
Kate’s response on her site to the excuses in the comments on Rebecca’s blog is phenomenal, and worth saving for the succinct and appropriate answers to a number of common troll-isms, man-splaining and excusing behavior that serves to shelter misogynist abuse online.
I don’t want to seize a massive block-quote of her words because it wouldn’t be fair use, and her writing is also almost too succinct to paraphrase well, so please just go and read her post, and note that I love everything after this paragraph:
“I love that “you are awful, too” bit so much, I’d like to expand on it.”