The Problem Is Not a Lack of Civility

The Ferrett wrote a blog post  a while back that, among other things, talked about his experiences being bullied in high school.

Witness my hunched teenage back, creeping through the hallways like a thief from door to door, spine flexed in submission from one too many vicious slaps on the back of the neck. Watch my eyes; no, scratch that – you CAN’T watch them, because my eyes slide away from yours the instant you make eye contact, darting off like startled goldfish, terrified of human reaction. Watch my arms instead; note the way they clutch my books in eternal paranoia, knowing that someone might slap them out of my grasp at any moment.

Witness the books. They’re hidden in my arms like refugees.

In the tight social net of high school, any individual thought is perceived as a threat. And must be crushed. Books and games that lie unapproved must be destroyed…

…That, or the spirit which flaunts them.

This boy has been successfully stamped down.

This is the story of a boy who, as the target of bullying, has decided to do what seems to be the only option: be as invisible as possible; don’t stand out, don’t say anything weird, don’t appear to think anything weird, etc. etc. This is a boy who has decided that the solution to being bullied for being different is to dedicate himself to being as inconspicuous and not-obviously-different as possible to avoid the slings and arrows. The story continues…

Knowing that I’m in for humiliation, I go to my first class. People are snickering. Josh, the jock who really has it in for me, immediately starts in before the entire class in the three minutes before the teacher shows up. Oh, he’s been humiliating me all along, but this is the best material he’s had in weeks – an obviously embarrassed nerd, coming in with splotches all over his neck. He leaps up out of his chair, prancing before me in sheer mockery:

“Hey, look at STEINMETZ!” he says, pointing at me with glee. “Guessa guy got LUCKY! Musta been a real dog, she’s goin’ with him. So didja get any last night, Steinmetz? Didja? Did our little boy get some nice little thang lass night, huh?”

The girls around me tried to shush Josh, so shamed were they for me.

And that’s when I realized that this was it. My life was being chosen… and it was gonna be chosen BY me or FOR me. I had finally done something cool, and I was STILL being humiliated for it. I could hunch down, endure his vicious jocularity, and take it in stride…

But I was not going to take it any more.

“Didja get any? Huh? Didja GET any?”

“No,” I said clearly, rising out of my chair. I faced him directly and placed my fingers a quarter of an inch apart from each other. “But I came THAT close.”

Josh slumped back in his chair, stunned. The class fell silent.

“You weren’t supposed to answer me,” he said quietly, his face pale.

It’s an absolutely wonderful blog post for a lot of reasons, and I highly recommend everyone read the entire thing, but I’ve picked out what I think is the most important part to illustrate the point I want to make to the skeptic community.

“I had finally done something cool, and I was STILL being humiliated for it.”

To me, one of the most significant realizations expressed in this post is in that line. The realization that this bully was going to be a bully no matter what. They would bully him for anything, whether it be something stereotypically uncool or not, whether it be this interest or that interest, this team, that accomplishment, etc. The point wasn’t what he was doing, it was how what he was doing could be made into a tool to bully him.

The skeptic community has a problem with bullies. It has problems with misogyny, racism, trans phobia, all in addition to the usual problems that plague any burgeoning movement. There are people in the skeptic movement who have spent a lot of time talking about ways to heal the “deep rifts” in our community recently. There has been a lot of talk about civility, restraint, politeness, giving people benefit of the doubt, etc. While I’m all for everyone developing the skills to step up and debate ideas in a productive manner, I’m also for everyone recognizing the reality of the situation in which we find ourselves. The reality is that some people deserve civility, and some don’t. Some people, when dealt with civilly, will reflect that civility back, and engage in productive discussion, and some will not.

Some people will not engage civilly with anyone who holds different ideas than they do. These people are not just waiting for someone to be polite, they are not uncivil as a result of being treated uncivilly, they are uncivil because that is how they have decided to engage, end of story. They are uncivil because they are assholes. We could be as magnificently civil as humanly possible, and they would not engage in a manner any more respectful than before.

In the same way that no pattern of “appropriate” action, no matter how perfectly, magnificently conformist, was going to stop the bully from the above post from bullying Ferrett, no amount of civility, no matter how perfectly executed, is going to stop people who have decided to be assholes from being assholes. What everyone needs to acknowledge, right now, is that while sometimes civility is an effective way to encourage productive discussion, it will never work against people who are not interested in productive discussion, and there are a lot of people in our community right now who have proven, repeatedly, that they are not interested in productive discussion. These people’s hearts are not going to grow three sizes because we start giving them undeserved benefit of the doubt, because we stop calling misogyny misogyny, or because we add some pleases and thank you’s to the discussion. They are bullies, and they should be treated like it, and they should not be tolerated, and we should not blame ourselves or our allies for refusing to tolerate people who have done nothing to earn that tolerance.

The problem with the bully in Ferrett’s story was not that Ferrett had failed to find the perfectly correct way to act, and the problem with the bullies in the skeptic community is not that we have failed to find the perfectly correct way to be civil that will magically cause assholes to be civil as well. There doesn’t seem to be anyone left in the atheist community who thinks that if we are just polite enough to the conservative religious right, they will start engaging in reasonable ways. How people can see how absurd that idea is with respect to extreme religious conservatives, but fail to see how absurd it is with respect to some of the blatant bullying and misogyny that has been going on in our community recently is, frankly, utterly baffling to me.

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17 comments on “The Problem Is Not a Lack of Civility

  1. “The skeptic community has a problem with bullies. It has problems with misogyny, racism, trans phobia. . . .”

    Is this really true? I was not aware of this. Do you mean leaders, public figures, organizers, etc., in the community? Or are you talking about people interested in skeptical issues?

    • It varies, but for some good examples of related controversies, you can Google the stuff that’s happened between Justin Vacula and much of the rest of the atheist movement. I would link you to more, but actually at the moment, searching for links is more intense on my RSI issues than just writing out comment responses, since I can do this by dictation.

      • Thanks for the reply. I was vaguely familiar with the Vacula affair, but I hadn’t seen the petition against him by Stephanie Zvan. It appears the main complaints are that he published on an anti-feminist website and minimized the seriousness of some online harassment against some feminist bloggers. So it appears Vacula is at least partly supportive of the so called Men’s Rights Movement and the conflict is between him and some secular/atheist feminists.

        While one might disagree with Vacula positions on feminism, these are not examples of bullying. But I’m sure it meets your definition of misogyny and I respect that. However, I would need more information before coming to the conclusion that he hates women. Feminism is not equal to women, so in my mind, while Vacula might hate or dislike feminism, this does not mean he hates women. Or at least feminists would have to make the case as to why the ideological framework of feminism is the same thing as the biological classification of women.

        Online harassment is a problem all over the internet. It’s part of the medium unfortunately. I guess the only way of stopping it is forcing all internet users to register some form of identification/ tracking (as some countries do). Then the government would have to make certain kinds of speech illegal, because rude, harassing, and vulgar language are not at the moment. I think that’s too much to ask.

        I have no doubt 3rd wave feminists understand they will get harassed. All it takes is a handful of people (who might even come from outside the movement looking only to cause trouble) to poison the well of civil discourse. I think the most unfortunate part of the harassment is that it becomes THE issue (because we let it), drowning out legitimate critiques of feminist ideology.

        • I agree that it would be difficult to make a solid case that Vacula hates women, But I don’t think that that is the case that needs to be made — I think that the case that needs to be made is that whatever his personal reasons, his actions harm the movement, ultimately make many women feel unwelcome participating in it, and he has demonstrated that he either does not understand or does not intend to alter the actions he takes that have that effect.

          I agree that online harassment is a problem on the Internet as a whole, but I do not think that that means we have no control over where or how it happens. Take, for example, a comparison of the types of comments you get somewhere like PZ Myers’ blog versus Greta Christina’s blog. The kinds of tone that you get from commenters are, on average, very, very different, even though both of their blogs are, of course, on the Internet. PZ Myers’s blogs more snarky tone isn’t just a result of it being on the Internet, where snarkiness is common — it’s also a product of the decisions he makes about how to run and moderate his blog. We don’t have absolute control over where harassment takes place, but I strongly disagree with the idea that we have none. I think we have rather a lot of influence over that based on how we construct and administer the spaces we control, and I think having spaces where everyone feels welcome is a cause important enough that it’s worth putting it front and center.

          • I understand your position. But we have to recognize all ideas and claims, particularly politically charged ones, must be subjected to criticism and even ridicule. If someone, as I do, sees third wave feminism as a predominantly damaging and divisive force, those ideas should not be allowed to stand unchallenged for fear of making some sensitive, mostly educated, privileged westerners uncomfortable.

            These insults and slights are only as powerful as we allow them. Fundamentalist ideologies such as third wave feminism are all-encompassing worldviews, and as such irrationally reject any and all opposition as hate, morally suspect, evil. No explanation exists outside the accepted framework, which in the case of third wave feminism neatly divides all into victim and victimizer.

            I fear this quasi-religious ideology sows seeds of paranoia, distrust, and groupthink, permeating our culture and damaging the relationships of a generation of young people. It plays on our basest of tendencies and stifles positive social change. Rather than encouraging cooperation, it stresses brutal competition and an unjustified sense of self-importance.

        • “These insults and slights are only as powerful as we allow them.”

          Spoken like someone who’s never had to deal with a sustained campaign of them.

          “Fundamentalist ideologies such as third wave feminism are all-encompassing worldviews, and as such irrationally reject any and all opposition as hate, morally suspect, evil. No explanation exists outside the accepted framework, which in the case of third wave feminism neatly divides all into victim and victimizer.”

          Actually, no, there is plenty of criticism of feminism that does end up causing active discussion among feminists (example from my own recent reading: http://freethoughtblogs.com/nataliereed/2012/11/16/five-ways-cis-feminists-can-help-build-trans-inclusivity-and-intersectionality/ ). The reason there is more than one wave of feminism is that newer generations of feminists decided that there were problems with the movement, and new waves were born out of the discussions that followed from that realization. Accusations of being fundamentalist don’t tend to be among the criticisms that are taken seriously because they’re not new, because they’re consistently atrociously reasoned, and because they’re almost never trotted out by people who demonstrate any understanding of what feminists actually think. They are a lot like the accusations of fundamentalism that creationists throw at scientists when they’re trying to disprove evolution. They are “Just a theory”-type criticisms: https://researchtobedone.wordpress.com/2012/08/28/just-a-theory-plus-the-requisite-atheism-plus-post/

          “I understand your position. But we have to recognize all ideas and claims, particularly politically charged ones, must be subjected to criticism and even ridicule. If someone, as I do, sees third wave feminism as a predominantly damaging and divisive force, those ideas should not be allowed to stand unchallenged for fear of making some sensitive, mostly educated, privileged westerners uncomfortable.”

          I have not, at any point, disagreed with anything in this paragraph. If you want to express that opinion, that’s perfectly fine with me. Whether you’re classified as a discussion participant or a bully or anything in between depends on how you express it. If you are generally thoughtful in your expression of your criticisms, then you are not one of the people I was talking about in this post.

          • “Spoken like someone who’s never had to deal with a sustained campaign of them.”

            This is true. I don’t know your story. If you’ve had to suffer online abuse and bullying, the best I can do is attempt to empathize with your sensitivity concerning this issue. I don’t want to minimize the harmful impact such actions have on individuals. Unfortunately, attacks on our egos can cause harm. I was merely expressing the well-known Buddhist insight that suffering is intrinsically tied to our sense of self. And as such how we experience harm can be minimized by how we perceive the harm being done.

            “Accusations of being fundamentalist don’t tend to be among the criticisms that are taken seriously because they’re not new, because they’re consistently atrociously reasoned, and because they’re almost never trotted out by people who demonstrate any understanding of what feminists actually think. They are a lot like the accusations of fundamentalism that creationists throw at scientists when they’re trying to disprove evolution. They are “Just a theory”-type criticisms:”

            I completely understand how you might see my use of the term fundamentalism this way. It’s certainly possible I’m wrong in my analysis and I’m open to change. But allow me to further explain my reasoning.

            I see third wave feminism as a form of political fundamentalism. In that typical feminists begin from a conclusion, through which their understanding of social reality is filtered. For example, certainly patriarchy exists, but feminist Patriarchy theory is far too encompassing to be an accurate mode of analyzing reality. Because their conclusion comes first, a typical feminist can interpret any aspect of human behavior as emanating from the Patriarchy. Any idea that explains everything explain nothing.

            There’s also the issue of moral righteousness. Because typical third wave feminists completely internalize the ethical correctness of their cause, that they are right without question in their fundamental assumptions, an ends-justifying-the-means mindset can easily manifest. Couple this with the lack of humility concerning the limits of human knowledge, and there are real-world consequences which negatively affect society.

            At the very moment violence is at historical lows, opening up a vast potential for greater cooperation, healing, and human flourishing, third wave feminists are telling an entire generation of young men and boys that they are guilty of perpetuating a rape culture. It makes no sense to condemn half the population as violent or potentially violent (aren’t we all?) offenders when in reality the vast majority of all people rarely act on their violent tendencies. I have to reject such conclusions on humanist grounds.

            We truly need to seek the best way forward, but simplifying the world into victim and victimizer is not it.

        • I think you may be misunderstanding what feminists mean when they say men contribute to rape culture. Women contribute to rape culture, too. The same way pretty much all of us will occasionally say things that contribute to cultures of racism, homophobia, etc., we all occasionally contribute to rape culture by saying or doing things that reinforce the stereotypes surrounding it. I wrote this post about one aspect of this common misunderstanding: https://researchtobedone.wordpress.com/2013/03/19/pollution-and-rape-culture/

          With respect to your characterizations of feminists viewing the world through the lens of patriarchy, I’m not sure I can really address your claims without being provided with specific examples of the phenomena that you’re talking about. I certainly haven’t seen evidence of the characterizations are talking about amongst most of the feminist writers that I follow, but without specific examples, there’s not much I can say in terms of specifics.

          • “Saying things like that is a little bit like the owner of a coal power plant saying something like, “Well, obviously I’m not pro-carbon emissions!” when people point out the pollution the plant is producing. In a situation like that, it’s trivially obvious that no one is for pollution, in the same way that it’s generally trivially obvious that people on either side of a discussion about rape culture aren’t intentionally cheerleading for rapists.”

            I would say you’re missing something very important with your analogy. Namely, the reality of pollution and carbon emissions is backed by falsifiable, empirical evidence. It can be measured, tested, predictions can be made. It is up to those making the claims to prove the existence of a rape culture. The theory has to make predictions which can then be tested. Frankly, I’m not seeing it.

            Instead I’m seeing social theorists drawing connections, shifting definitions (i.e., what is rape culture, Patriarchy, etc.), and making extraordinary claims. I’m seeing conclusions made with little clarity as to how such conclusions were arrived at.

            In many ways, feminism is one of the dominant critical voices in our society today. This is not necessarily a bad thing. I don’t think it’s an accident that decreasing levels of violence in a society correspond with greater human freedom and opportunity, of which women’s rights is a central part. No, the problem is with bad ideas, based on faulty or over-simplified premises.

            One’s intentions matters less than the outcome of one’s actions. Rape culture as a concept, as it manifests in actuality, regardless of what the proponents of the theory intend, is used in far-too-broad a way throughout our media. Feminists ideas rightfully have a greater force in society, but with this comes increased responsibility.

        • Without having specifics to respond to, there’s not a lot I can do to respond to this other than offer some of the studies that have to do with various different aspects of rape culture that I have been made aware of: https://researchtobedone.wordpress.com/2012/10/18/for-those-who-dont-understand-schrodingers-rapist/#comment-245

          Regardless of whether or not you agree with the whole of feminist theory, however, do you understand the distinction I was trying to make between blaming men for rape culture and saying men contribute to rape culture in a way that is not necessarily intentional? None of the feminists that I have read have ever accused half the population of being violent or potentially violent in the way that you describe. That is a common misunderstanding that I address in the post above the comment that I just linked you to, which it sounds like might also be useful reading.

          • “Regardless of whether or not you agree with the whole of feminist theory, however, do you understand the distinction I was trying to make between blaming men for rape culture and saying men contribute to rape culture in a way that is not necessarily intentional?”

            I believe I understand your distinction here. But my point is that, in practice, it’s largely a distinction without a difference. Whether one’s intentions are to directly blame or indirectly ascribe unconscious contribution matters not. Either way you’re saying entire categories of humanity — whether the people making up the group know it or not, regardless of innocence or guilt before the law — cause rape to happen. Judging each as an individual, a basic humanist principle, is lost here. Instead of a presumption of innocence as the rational starting point, rape culture theory is far too quick to sweep us all up in a cloud of guilt.

            All of this is not to say feminist theory (in addition to any number of analytical perspectives) has nothing of value to tell us about violence

            I can sooner accept the idea of specific cultures of rape before the more general “rape culture” I’m arguing against. But we should always be precise when describing these cultures, at least taking into account the contexts in which each case takes place. But I still maintain I high degree of skepticism and because of the serious nature of issues like violence I think it best to strive for objectivity, or at least recognize our own tendencies to bias.

        • “Whether one’s intentions are to directly blame or indirectly ascribe unconscious contribution matters not. Either way you’re saying entire categories of humanity — whether the people making up the group know it or not, regardless of innocence or guilt before the law — cause rape to happen. Judging each as an individual, a basic humanist principle, is lost here. Instead of a presumption of innocence as the rational starting point, rape culture theory is far too quick to sweep us all up in a cloud of guilt.”

          I don’t see it as a question of guilt or innocence. I am a man, but whether I were a man or not, I would still make the assumption that I was occasionally responsible for contributing to rape culture. I don’t think it makes me a bad person, I think it makes me a product of the culture in which I was raised. By the same token, I’m sure I occasionally contribute to racism, having been brought up in a culture that is still largely inundated with racist ideas. The point of this awareness is not for me to go around feeling guilty all the time, the awareness is a tool that I use to try to make myself better at not perpetuating sexism, racism, etc.

          I don’t think that contributing to rape culture unconsciously makes someone a bad person, I think it makes them a product of the environment they grew up in. It’s a different story if someone realizes that they are contributing to rape culture and still actively decides to do things that contribute to it, but I honestly don’t think there are that many people who fall into that category.

          This is not saying who’s right or who’s wrong or who’s guilty or is not. As Tim Wise once said, it’s about cleaning up the gumbo (you don’t need to watch the whole video, it’s just an anecdote in the beginning): http://youtu.be/z2ghdirLe7w?t=6m44s

          Hope you don’t mind the linking, some of the things you’re asking about I know other people who explain them a lot better than I could.

          • I understand your points about rape culture theory. I question the theory’s assumptions, its non-specificity, invisible all-encompasing nature.

            Here are some questions to ponder before we take the notion of rape culture too far. Assuming rape culture (in the broad sense you propose) exists, how does it work? Are all rapes the result of it? If not, how does one determine which rapes are and which are not? Why do the vast majority of people never rape and even react in disgust and anger toward it, even though they live within and contribute to rape culture? Is rape merely a byproduct of culture? Why do so many people see the idea of rape culture as foreign to their social experience? How much does culture contribute to rape, and how are we to determine that? Why would a society that recoils at rape create a culture which causes it?

            I bring these questions up to point to the difficulty before moving confidently forward as third wave feminism does on this issue. Viewing humanity through the lens of victim/victimizer, in terms of systems of power and resistance only, clouds reality. It feeds our irrational, paranoid tendencies.

            Personally, I reject the concept of an evil human nature (regardless of whether its cause is cultural). It doesn’t fit the reality I know. Sure there are bad people capable of doing deplorable things to others (what would one expect from a highly evolved animal?). But is the Will to Power really that great? Or does the long arc of history bend to justice? (http://goo.gl/INRAu)

            No doubt you will agree, ideas have consequences, and our own ideas are not immune to fault. Ideas also provide the framework through which we view the world. Therefore, again, I reject rape culture theory on grounds of my humanist stance.

        • “Here are some questions to ponder before we take the notion of rape culture too far. Assuming rape culture (in the broad sense you propose) exists, how does it work?”

          The same way things like racism work. It’s essentially a collection of cultural memes that, collectively, enable rape. Victim blaming, thinking that it’s the victim’s responsibility to wear clothing that isn’t provocative, focusing on the consequences to the lives of rapists when they’re caught instead of the lives of the victims (see the Steubenville rape case), disproportionate focus on the consequences of being falsely accused in scenarios where there is no evidence of false accusation and in spite of the fact that the ratio of false accusations to legitimate accusations is so powerfully skewed in favor of legitimate ones, and, more generally, the general culture of objective application of women. That’s all off to the top of my head. If you don’t think those attitudes have affected, you should look up the stats on what happens when people run advertisements that challenge some of them.

          “Are all rapes the result of it? If not, how does one determine which rapes are and which are not? Why do the vast majority of people never rape and even react in disgust and anger toward it, even though they live within and contribute to rape culture? Is rape merely a byproduct of culture? Why do so many people see the idea of rape culture as foreign to their social experience? How much does culture contribute to rape, and how are we to determine that? Why would a society that recoils at rape create a culture which causes it?”

          Is it racism every single time a person of color isn’t hired for a job? No, but does not mean racism doesn’t exist? If one can’t determine which instances of a person of color not getting hired are a result of racism, does that mean racism doesn’t exist? Why do the vast majority of people say they are against racism, and yet still demonstrate that it affects them when they take those Word Association tests that check for racist biases? Why do so many white people think that racism is over, in spite of what is said by those who are the subject of racism? If we can’t determine precisely how culture influences racism, does that mean racism doesn’t exist? Why does a society that reacts so negatively to the idea of racism still exhibit so much of it?

          “I bring these questions up to point to the difficulty before moving confidently forward as third wave feminism does on this issue. Viewing humanity through the lens of victim/victimizer, in terms of systems of power and resistance only, clouds reality. It feeds our irrational, paranoid tendencies.”

          Thinking that rape culture exists only clouds our judgment if it’s incorrect, and, as I have been trying to say, it’s not nearly as simple as victim and victimizer.

          “Personally, I reject the concept of an evil human nature (regardless of whether its cause is cultural).”

          So do I. And neither I nor any of the feminists I read have ever said that there is one.

          ” It doesn’t fit the reality I know. Sure there are bad people capable of doing deplorable things to others (what would one expect from a highly evolved animal?). But is the Will to Power really that great? Or does the long arc of history bend to justice? (http://goo.gl/INRAu)”

          You’re going to have to say specifically what point of mine or other feminists you’re addressing with this. This doesn’t sound like it’s addressing anything that I have ever said.

          “No doubt you will agree, ideas have consequences, and our own ideas are not immune to fault. Ideas also provide the framework through which we view the world. Therefore, again, I reject rape culture theory on grounds of my humanist stance.”

          If we agree that ideas have consequences, why is it so hard to believe that ideas like, “it matters what the woman was wearing on the night she was raped” might lead to a culture where it’s easier to get away with rape? The “what she was wearing” assumption is, in my understanding, demonstrably false, and yet it isn’t exactly uncommon, and it has the consequence of turning the focus of inquiry toward the victim with respect to something that has no effect on the actual frequency of rape, and moving the focus of inquiry away from the rapists themselves.

          I appreciate your continuing to engage on this, but you are addressing a lot of things in this comment that no feminist I know has ever said, and therefore which I have no way of addressing. It would help if you could try to stick the points that I have clearly agreed with, or if you could specifically cite a feminist point of origin for.

          • “If we can’t determine precisely how culture influences racism, does that mean racism doesn’t exist? Why does a society that reacts so negatively to the idea of racism still exhibit so much of it?”

            No, it points to the difficulties in proposing solutions. There are consequences to proposing laws (real world) based on unscientific theories. We should be quite certain of these things before denying others of their rights (presumption of innocence). http://goo.gl/WjW1Y

            “You’re going to have to say specifically what point of mine or other feminists you’re addressing with this. This doesn’t sound like it’s addressing anything that I have ever said.”

            Schrödinger’s Rapist.

            “If we agree that ideas have consequences, why is it so hard to believe that ideas like, “it matters what the woman was wearing on the night she was raped” might lead to a culture where it’s easier to get away with rape?”

            Because, again, your ideas promote an anti-humanist, oppressed vs. oppressor, paranoid mentality when addressing the very real problem of violence

            “It would help if you could try to stick the points that I have clearly agreed with, or if you could specifically cite a feminist point of origin for.”

            I’ve rejected your ideas based on humanist principles. I don’t think women need special protections against a culture of rape.

          • Also, remember that when you’re requesting examples from me, YOU are the one making extraordinary claims (rape culture). Therefore, the burden of proof is on you.

        • “Because, again, your ideas promote an anti-humanist, oppressed vs. oppressor, paranoid mentality when addressing the very real problem of violence”

          you have characterized my position in this adversarial fashion repeatedly, and each time I have told you that the point is different and more complicated than that, and each time you have restated this same claim. Schrödinger’s rapist is in no way claiming that all men are rapists or that all men may end up raping someone.

          Put another way: if I meet a child who really likes dogs, and I have an awesome dog that I think this child would like, is it okay for me to invite them back to my house? Would it be understandable for a parent to be concerned if I did so? Does the fact that a parent probably would be reasonably concerned mean that they are dividing the world into victims and victimizers? Does it mean that they are unfairly painting me as a violent or dangerous person? Does it mean that they are failing to grant me my rights to presumption of innocence?

          I would say that, no, it means that they are exercising a reasonable degree of caution considering the situation. Caution and accusation are very different things, and Schrödinger’s rapist is about the former, not the latter.

          Is the specific claim that you are asking me to prove Schrodinger’s rapist or rape culture? Because they are not the same thing, and you mentioned both. Schrödinger’s rapist is an analogy designed to illustrate what one aspect of the experience of rape culture is like. In terms of rape culture itself, read some of the papers I linked you to. They discuss and analyze phenomena that fall under the umbrella of rape culture. Also, I don’t have the link handy at the moment, but if you can Google around for the article that talks about the anti-rape posters that were put up recently (just found it: http://freethoughtblogs.com/greta/2013/01/08/rape-prevention-aimed-at-rapists-does-work/ ), and how they correlated with a reduction in incidences of rape, that does seem to be decent supporting evidence that by changing the ideas that our culture has about rape, we can actually influence how often it happens.

          “Also, remember that when you’re requesting examples from me, YOU are the one making extraordinary claims (rape culture). Therefore, the burden of proof is on you.”

          And you are the one claiming that you don’t accept my claims without being willing to characterize the specific claims that you are saying you don’t accept. You can see how I might find this frustrating, I hope. I’m not requesting that you prove your side, I’m requesting that you coherently explain what your side is, or what the specific ideas you’re trying to refute are. In this comment, you mentioned Schrodinger’s rapist, which is an analogy, not a factual claim, and rape culture, which is an umbrella term encompassing a number of different phenomena that need to be addressed individually if were talking about specific fact claims. So let’s get to specifics. Do you dispute that victim blaming happens? Do you dispute that it happens incredibly often in our culture? If you do, please see some of the papers I cited. If you don’t, do you dispute that a culture which makes a habit of blaming victims of rape for rape is, correspondingly, less likely to deal appropriately with rapists?

          You apparently acknowledge that ideas have consequences. Do you dispute, then, that ideas like “she was asking for it if she was wearing a short skirt” have consequences? If you do dispute that, then do you have an alternate explanation for the success of the poster campaign that involved posters that address similarly destructive memes?

          This is what I mean by being specific. Pick a specific fact claim that can be addressed, and let’s address it. If you think particular ideas of mine are inherently accusatory or divide all of humanity into groups of victims and victimizers, then either tell me, specifically, which of my ideas you think that about, and why you think that about them, so that we can actually have a conversation, or let’s talk about something you’re willing to be specific enough about that we can actually have a useful conversation.

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