Rebecca Watson thinks r/atheism reddit full of misogynists
Here’s something I’ve learned in all my years of blogging: if you look for something hard enough, you’ll find it. In my case, it’s examples of religious stupidity that I zero in on. I realize that cheap laughs and easy jokes may not give the complete picture of a particular religion (usually Christianity or Islam), but if I was trying to be fair I wouldn’t be having any fun.
I want you to keep this in mind, as it might help clarify some of the frustration you might be feeling if you read Rebecca Watson’s new tirade on the evils of secular sexism entitled “Reddit makes me hate atheists“. The post focuses on the story of a 15 year old girl who received a barrage of inappropriate comments after posting a picture of herself with a copy of Carl Sagan’s “Demon Haunted World”. I think this opening paragraph will help set the tone of the piece:
…R/atheism is very large, and so it is jam packed with assholes. And yet I continue to read it every day. I read it even though I usually learn nothing new from it and it only serves to create and foster inside me an intense hatred of my fellow atheists.
While there are a variety of explanations as to why some of comments were so disparaging (her post made it to the front page of reddit, which extends far beyond the confines of r/atheism), her obsession with gender issues makes it seem as though the atheist reddit forums are a cesspool of misogyny. I couldn’t disagree more.
I’ve been trolling the site for years now, watching the group grow from humble numbers to over 300,000 strong. While a great number of posts are usually rage comics, occasionally hilarious Facebook threads and funny pictures, a significant portion of them are personal tales of individuals “coming out” to family members (I even remember one post from a redditor claiming to be Michel Behe’s atheist son). The support these people receive from their fellow redditors is almost universally positive. I’m constantly surprised by the patience, understanding and intelligence on display from members. Then again, I’m usually on the lookout for positive examples of human kindness on the site, so I’m not entirely surprised when I find what I’m looking for.
This, in a nutshell, is Rebecca’s problem; she’s actively looking for examples of misogyny in the scene to justify her claim that sexism is rampant in the atheist community. While I don’t believe that our group is guiltless, I think the problem has been severely overstated. Do we have studies to show atheists are more sexist than believers? Is there any proof beyond a couple of anecdotal stories of misogyny? Seems to me like there’s a lot of speculation based on some extremely limited samples, colored by emotion and marred with anecdotal evidence. Sounds like a fucking nightmare to me.
I don’t want to claim to have more “journalistic credibility” than Rebecca, or anything equally silly (I’m more of a curmudgeon than a serious writer). Still, I think it’s important to recognize how much of your own perception is influenced by your pre-existing beliefs. Is the world as sexist as you think, or is there a chance that your preconceptions might be blinding you? I certainly wonder how anyone could visit r/atheism and develop an “intense hatred” of your fellow atheists (unless you hate rage comics, of course). Seems far more likely that this intense hatred might have been there all along…