January 11, 2013

In Defense of Greta Christina

No shoes
No shoes (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I am going to keep this brief because I am attempting to minimize the time I spend on the Freethought Blogs/Skepchick/Atheism+ stuff. It has come to my attention that a handful of people opposed to this group are upset because Greta Christina spent some of the money donated to her on a pair of shoes. Some have even taken to calling this "Shoegate."

Greta Christina, a talented atheist blogger at Freethought Blogs, was recently diagnosed with endometrial cancer. She asked for financial help via online donations and raised more than enough money to cover her mortgage and other expenses while recovering. She spent some of the money on a pair of shoes, and this somehow became the latest controversy to sweep across the atheist community.

 Here's my take:
  1. Greta Christina has every right to ask for money on her blog. It does not matter if you or I wouldn't have done so; there is nothing wrong with her doing so. Several of those upset about "Shoegate" thought that asking for financial help was inappropriate in the first place. This is silly. She has every right to do so. Based on her success fundraising, one could even argue that she would have been dumb not to do so. I'd be curious to know how many of those complaining about this run ads on their blogs or have PayPal donation buttons themselves.
  2. When you donate money to an individual, you have no say in how it is spent. Greta Christina is not a charitable organization; she is a person. She can do whatever she wants with the money she received. And who is in a better position to know how much money she has, what expenses she has, and what she needs than Greta herself?
  3. It is irrelevant that you and I have never spent that much money on shoes. Could she have bought less expensive shoes? Sure, but how is that even remotely relevant here? Once again, see #2.
  4. Nobody has taken Greta Christina up on her offer to return their donation. After becoming aware of the controversy, she graciously offered to return anyone's donation who felt betrayed in some way. She's had no takers. Might this mean that none of the people complaining actually donated?
In sum, this manufactured controversy strikes me as both thoroughly ridiculous and as a clear case of the FtB/Skepchick/Atheism+ opponents doing exactly the same sort of thing they accuse these bloggers and their supporters of doing. Greta Christina did nothing wrong here, and she went above and beyond what could reasonably be expected by offering to return donations to those upset by the situation. I suspect that the problem some have with "Shoegate" stems more from who Greta Christina is than from anything she did. And that's unfortunate indeed.

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