How To Post a Picture Online

So I might be coming in a little late to the party on this story, and I know that Rebecca has already covered this on the main skepchick network, but I’d like to throw in my own two cents about what I view as an incredibly important story especially for young women who are starting to get active in skeptic communities online. Over on reddit, a 15 year old girl posted a picture of herself with a Christmas present she was excited about. This seems like a logical thing to do to me, especially as it was a skeptically related present (Carl Sagan book), and she was excited about it. However apparently to some people, it was an invitation for any number of truly disturbing comments, or a plea for sexual attention. Because clearly any time a woman shows her face, it means she would like a lot of comments about who wants to stick what in which of her orifices.

Rebecca and Amanda have already covered a lot of the biggest problems with this situation, namely the idiotic comic that was posted implying that posting a picture with your face in it is something only women do and thus it is bad/attention seeking/sexual, and the rampant sexism and idiocy from the men who felt that this was the appropriate response.

I agree with most everything they’ve said, but I’d also like to mention that this sort of behavior is really quite self-destructive for the atheist/skeptic movement as a whole, and that those people who partake in it are actively undermining their own identity just to make someone else feel uncomfortable. First, one of the biggest problems the atheist movement is facing at the moment is a lack of diversity. I’ve seen in numerous places people who actively oppose many of the prominent atheists because they view the movement as a reification of the power of white, educated men. While that’s the subject of a whole other post, it does seem that if the movement included a more diverse range of people, that image would fade somewhat, and those who have skeptical opinions or mindsets would be more willing to interact with organized forms of skepticism. This seems to be logic 101 to me: if your movement lacks diversity and that’s considered a problem, one way to fix it is to not be a jerk to people who might bring diversity to your movement.

But I think there’s another aspect to this that atheist men (who partake in this sort of behavior) might want to consider: it really undermines your credibility as a skeptic or an atheist when you say things like “I couldn’t help myself” or “she was asking for it” or “it needed to be said” because it presents your entire gender as a walking pair of testicles that cannot control themselves the moment they see a female. And that’s a stereotype that is not scientifically verified. Which means that when you perpetuate that stereotype you are actively abandoning, and even acting in a completely contradictory manner to the basic principles of skepticism. So not only do you make the movement as a whole look bad, but you make yourself look bad (this is not to mention the fact that some of these people were making comments that suggested illegal/nonconsensual/intensely creepy sexual activities that made them look as if they had no morals whatsoever).

So please atheist men, for the sake of yourselves and the movement as a whole, stop harassing 15 year old girls. It’s basic human decency, and basic human decency is good for everyone.

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Olivia is a giant pile of nerd who tends to freak out about linguistic prescriptivism, gender roles, and discrimination against the mentally ill. By day she writes things for the Autism Society of Minnesota, and by night she writes things everywhere else. Check out her ongoing screeds against jerkbrains at www.taikonenfea.wordpress.com

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