April 16, 2013

Gender Traitors, Sister Punishers, and Chill Girls

wall-hypocrisy-
wall-hypocrisy- (Photo credit: Wall in Palestine)
There is an obvious objection to my recent post about secular feminists having a point about the use of gendered slurs, and it has already been raised. Some will object that I am presenting an overly favorable view of secular feminists, especially if they think I was referring exclusively to those associated with FtB/Skepchick/Atheism+ and their supporters. They will point out that some of these individuals seem to have their own preferred set of gendered slurs, insults in which some of them seem to delight.

Let me be clear that I do indeed find it unfortunate that some secular feminists use terms like "gender traitor," "sister punisher," and "chill girl" as gendered slurs against women who do not share their particular ideology. It does seem hypocritical to complain about gendered insults aimed at women while using gendered insults aimed at women. And yes, "gender traitor," "sister punisher," and "chill girl" are gendered insults. They are aimed at women who disagree and not at men. And no, I do not support their use either.

This is the point where some people, particularly those who are unfamiliar with the latest rift to divide the secular community, will be tempted to claim that nobody actually terms like "gender traitor," "sister punisher," or "chill girl," making this something of a straw man. Perhaps some people do use these terms, they will concede, but surely nobody who is taken seriously by the secular community would do so. They will angrily demand examples without realizing I have already provided two (i.e., the links to Skeptifem and Almost Diamonds found in the previous paragraph).

Here is yet another example of a prominent feminist atheist using "sister punisher" in the comments section of a post on Ophelia Benson's blog (Butterflies & Wheels):

sister punisher
What makes this one noteworthy is not that it occurred on Ophelia Benson's blog but that it came from Melody Hensley. For those of you unfamiliar with Ms. Hensley, she is the Executive Director for the Center for Inquiry - Washington DC. I agree that this behavior, as well as her defense of such labels on Twitter, is disappointing to see from someone in her position.

So yes, there may be some hypocrisy involved when feminists call people out for using gendered slurs against women and then turn around and do it themselves. I will agree on that point. However, this must not be allowed to obfuscate the simple fact that we are adults, and this is not the playground. Just because someone calls you a "rape apologist" or "MRA" does not mean that it is suddenly acceptable to call them a "cunt." Just because someone labels you a "gender traitor" does not mean that you should now feel perfectly justified in calling them a "fucking bitch." And just because someone else decides to abandon even the pretense of rationality for name-calling does not mean we must also do so.

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