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Richard Dawkins, Lindy West, and the Cartoon Video of Great Hatefulness

Is Richard Dawkins using his bully pulpit to bully feminists?
Is Richard Dawkins using his bully pulpit to bully feminists?

Almost three years ago, a feminist activist committed what many not-so-impartial observers apparently see as an unpardonable sin: she was less than polite to a small squad of Men’s Rights activists at a demonstration in Toronto. At least one of these gentlemen caught her outburst on video, and uploaded it to YouTube.

You know the rest: the video went viral, and the activist, a red-headed woman known as Chanty Binx (or “Big Red,” to the douchebag army), found herself suddenly transformed into “The Posterchild of Everything Wrong with Feminism,” as one of her haters put it. Her face has become ubiquitous in antifeminist memes, and she’s endured nearly three years of harassment.

Earlier this month, antifeminist YouTuber Sargon of Akkad — who makes his living pandering to some of the internet’s worst lady haters — posted an animated video by another antifeminist YouTuber in which an angry Islamist and an angry feminist sing a song explaining that they pretty much believe all the same things. (For some reason, this nonsensical theory is something that a lot of antifeminists have convinced themselves is true.)

The angry Islamist in the video is a familiar racist stereotype, complete with “funny” accent. [Correction: He’s evidently supposed to be a parody of this guy, known as Dawah Man, a legitimately terrible person you wouldn’t think atheists would have to strawman in order to criticize..]

The angry feminist, meanwhile, isn’t a generic figure; she’s an especially crude caricature of Binx, spouting nonsense that neither Binx nor any other feminist actually believes: the video ends with her encouraging the Islamist to rape her, because it’s not really rape if a Muslim does it, dontchaknow.

It’s a vicious, hateful little cartoon made worse by the fact that these words are being put in the mouth of a real woman who’s been the target of a vast harassment campaign for years.

Yesterday, Richard Dawkins, apparently seeing this horrendous video as a clever takedown of some brand of feminism that he must think actually exists, shared it with his 1.3 million Twitter followers:

Dawkins-tweet

Dawkins, a well-respected scientist-turned-embarrassing-atheist-ideologue, has become notorious for his endless Twitter gaffes. But this is plainly worse than, say, his famously pathetic lament about airport security “dundridges” taking his jar of honey; his Tweet contributed to the demonization of a real woman who’s already the target of harassment and threats.

The awesome Lindy West pointed this out to him in a series of Tweets and linked to one of my posts cataloging some of the abuse Binx got after the video of her went viral.

In a series of eloquent and angry Tweets, she made clear to Dawkins how and why he was misusing his huge platform and contributing to an atmosphere of hate online. Dawkins, alternately indignant and defensive, ultimately took down the offending Tweet, but not before making other Tweets that were nearly as bad. Dawkins can’t even do the right thing without being a dick about it.

Let’s watch Lindy at work:

 

Lindy West ‏@thelindywest like literally what is wrong with you @RichardDawkins RETWEETS 47 LIKES 337 Lamentation Smythethank god it's overMargaret PlessAllison ElaineRachyAlice Pinegabs ❁GORILLA SUITNINA 5:19 PM - 26 Jan 2016 Reply Retweet Liked More Tweet text Reply to @thelindywest @RichardDawkins Who's in these photos? Lindy West ‏@thelindywest Jan 26 the complete ideological horror show aside, that is a caricature of an actual real woman and you are feeding her harassment @RichardDawkins

Richard Dawkins ‏@RichardDawkins 7h7 hours ago @thelindywest I didn't know that. Who is the real woman? 1 retweet 5 likes Reply Retweet 1 Like 5 More View other replies Lindy West ‏@thelindywest 7h7 hours ago Here: https://www.wehuntedthemammoth.com/2013/04/15/canadian-feminist-activist-receives-death-threats-and-other-abuse-after-being-targeted-by-mens-rights-activists/ … @RichardDawkins View summary 16 retweets 55 likes Reply Retweet 16 Liked 55 More View other replies Lindy West ‏@thelindywest 7h7 hours ago It would serve you well to research the people & movements whose support you accept & whose propaganda you disseminate. @RichardDawkins

Lindy West ‏@thelindywest 7h7 hours ago One might even argue that it's a basic responsibility concomitant with wielding such a large and powerful platform. @RichardDawkins 21 retweets 114 likes Reply Retweet 21 Liked 114 More View other replies Show more Zoë “Shitpost” Quinn ‏@UnburntWitch 7h7 hours ago @thelindywest @RichardDawkins oh good he's promoting a guy who built a career off of stalking and harassing me and my family 19 retweets 86 likes Reply Retweet 19 Like 86 More View other replies Lindy West ‏@thelindywest 7h7 hours ago Richard, this is not a thought experiment for us. It's not an ideological pissing match. @UnburntWitch @RichardDawkins

Lindy West ‏@thelindywest 7h7 hours ago It is a constant, violent, unprovoked, psychologically damaging barrier to full engagement with the world. @UnburntWitch @RichardDawkins 21 retweets 83 likes Reply Retweet 21 Liked 83 More View other replies Lindy West ‏@thelindywest 7h7 hours ago You make yourself complicit in that system by validating and amplifying the voices of our harassers. @UnburntWitch @RichardDawkins 22 retweets 100 likes Reply Retweet 22 Liked 100 More View other replies Lindy West ‏@thelindywest 7h7 hours ago Please stop, or at least do so with full knowledge of the scope, history, and implications of your actions. @UnburntWitch @RichardDawkins

After what was apparently an unsatisfactory response from Dawkins — I couldn’t find his Tweet, if there was one — West repeated and expanded upon her basic points. [EDIT: The unsastisfactory respose, West tells me, was that Dawkins posted a link to one of the videos of Chanty Binx at the Toronto demonstration.]

Lindy West ‏@thelindywest If this is your response, please go on record, explicitly, that you believe women you dislike deserve rape & death threats. @RichardDawkins

Well, that got his attention:

Richard Dawkins ‏@RichardDawkins 7h7 hours ago @thelindywest What the hell are you talking about. When have I ever said any such thing? 7 retweets 34 likes Reply Retweet 7 Like 34 More View other replies Lindy West ‏@thelindywest 7h7 hours ago Did you read the link that I sent? Posting this video implies an endorsement of her abuse (and will definitely amplify it). @RichardDawkins 9 retweets 71 likes Reply Retweet 9 Liked 71 More View other replies Richard Dawkins ‏@RichardDawkins 7h7 hours ago @thelindywest No. What link? Somebody told me who she was. I was about to delete my original tweet. Then I looked up the Toronto vid . . .

Lindy West ‏@thelindywest 7h7 hours ago I sent you a series of tweets. Feel free to read them in my TL. Here is the link again: https://www.wehuntedthemammoth.com/2013/04/15/canadian-feminist-activist-receives-death-threats-and-other-abuse-after-being-targeted-by-mens-rights-activists/ … @RichardDawkins View summary 16 retweets 67 likes Reply Retweet 16 Liked 67 More View other replies Lindy West ‏@thelindywest 7h7 hours ago Then you looked up the Toronto vid and...felt like that woman deserved what she got? That's exactlly what I'm talking about. @RichardDawkins 7 retweets 77 likes Reply Retweet 7 Liked 77 More View other replies Richard Dawkins ‏@RichardDawkins 7h7 hours ago @thelindywest I think she deserves nothing more than ridicule. I would never shriek "Fuckface" at her. But I would laugh at her. Ridicule.

So there you have it: when informed that a tweet of his will almost certainly worsen the vicious harassment faced by a young woman whose only “crime” was being rude to a couple of MRAs in public, Richard Dawkins, a one-time winner of  the American Humanist Association’s Humanist of the Year Award, replies by saying that “she deserves nothing more than ridicule.”

West replied:

Lindy West ‏@thelindywest Please don't insult me by pretending you don't comprehend the gravity and scope of this conversation and your complicity. @RichardDawkins

Lindy West ‏@thelindywest 7h7 hours ago Great. Good job. If you leave those links up you are fomenting further abuse, and that's a choice you should own. @RichardDawkins

Dawkins then decided to suggest that perhaps Binx was, you know, crazy:

Richard Dawkins ‏@RichardDawkins 7h7 hours ago @FulcrumAmber @thelindywest Perhaps mentally ill, to be charitable. Anyway it's disgraceful that she's apparently received violent threats. 1 retweet 8 likes Reply Retweet 1 Like 8 More Lindy West ‏@thelindywest 7h7 hours ago First of all, mentally ill people are fully capable of holding and expressing valid, well-considered, justified opinions. @RichardDawkins 48 retweets 214 likes Reply Retweet 48 Like 214 More Lindy West ‏@thelindywest 7h7 hours ago 2nd of all, you know nothing of this woman's mental state but her anger. Armchair diagnoses are presumptuous and insulting. @RichardDawkins 37 retweets 159 likes Reply Retweet 37 Like 159 More Lindy West ‏@thelindywest 7h7 hours ago And thirdly, it's exactly this spectrum of misogyny--dismissiveness to outright abuse--that feminists are angry about. @RichardDawkins

Dawkins ultimately agreed to take down his Tweet linking to the execrable video. But he offered no apology. And he went on to suggest that just maybe Binx had … threatened herself.

Richard Dawkins ‏@RichardDawkins 7h7 hours ago Having learned that the woman in the joke song is a real person who has been disgracefully threatened with violence, I'm deleting my tweets. 65 retweets 436 likes Reply Retweet 65 Like 436 More Richard Dawkins ‏@RichardDawkins 5h5 hours ago Maybe I'm naive. Can't believe anyone's as nasty as her. Nor that anyone would threaten her. Nor that anyone'd lie about being threatened.

User Actions Follow Richard DawkinsVerified account ‏@RichardDawkins Richard Dawkins Retweeted Boltzmann Is this really true? How depressing. But it would explain a lot. Richard Dawkins added, Boltzmann @NameIsBoltzmann @RichardDawkins People lie about being threatened all the time these days. Some have gotten caught threatening themselves.

We’ve seen this, er, argument before.

sharkethics

Does Dawkins have any conception of just how much abuse women like Chanty Binx get? If she were sending herself all the threatening and harassing messages she gets, she wouldn’t have time to eat or sleep.

And I wonder if Dawkins thinks she drew the caricature of herself that was used in the video he retweeted.

Thoughtful as ever, Dawkins made sure to remind his 1.3 million followers that Binx still deserved all the mockery they could deliver. Just not the death threats please!

Richard Dawkins ‏@RichardDawkins 8h8 hours ago @YourSluttyGF Yes, she deserves abundant mockery, the more the merrier. But she doesn't deserve violent threats. Nobody does.Richard DawkinsVerified account ‏@RichardDawkins @cleanpulse @YourSluttyGF I don't feel the smallest bit guilty. She deserves mockery. But if there's a risk of inspiring violence, NO NO NO!And he begged his readers to think about the real victims here — those people, like him, who might have to curtail their mockery somewhat because their terrible, terrible fans might be inspired to hurt someone.

Richard DawkinsVerified account ‏@RichardDawkins PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE don't EVER threaten anyone with violence. We should be free to use comedy/ridicule without fear it may inspire violence

RIP, Richard Dawkins’ comedy career.

Is Dawkins actually unaware that by punching down at a woman who’s already been the target of a three year harassment campaign he almost certainly is contributing to the threats he claims to deplore? It’s hard for me to believe that he could be so naive. But the alternative explanation — that he knows full well that he’s encouraging the harassers — is even more disquieting.

One good thing has come out of this ugly episode today: The Northeast Conference on Science & Skepticism has un-invited Dawkins from its event this year. A post on the group’s website today explains:

The Northeast Conference on Science & Skepticism has withdrawn its invitation to Richard Dawkins to participate at NECSS 2016. We have taken this action in response to Dr. Dawkins’ approving re-tweet of a highly offensive video.

We believe strongly in freedom of speech and freedom to express unpopular, and even offensive, views. However, unnecessarily divisive, counterproductive, and even hateful speech runs contrary to our mission and the environment we wish to foster at NECSS. The sentiments expressed in the video do not represent the values of NECSS or its sponsoring organizations.

We will issue a full refund to any NECSS attendee who wishes to cancel their registration due to this announcement.

The NECSS Team

Good for them. The atheist movement needs to stand up to the haters and harassers in its midst, including those like Dawkins, who may not directly harass or threaten but who use their huge platforms to amplify and embolden this hatred and harassment.

It would be nice if Dawkins were to actually learn something — a little humanity, a little humility? — from this incident, but when it comes to the subject of feminism Dawkins seems incapable of taking in new information, much less learning anything from it.

EDITED TO ADD: And now, as if to prov what I just said in that previous paragraph, Dawkins is now second-guessing his decision to take down his tweet linking to the video, because GamerGaters are telling him that Chanty and I made up the evidence of the abuse she got.

dawktakeback

NOTE: Lindy West has a book coming out soon. Pre-order it below!

CORRECTION: I added  a bit noting that the Islamist in the cartoon video is supposed to be a parody of a real person.

EDIT: I added a line about Dawkins tweeting a link to a video of Chanty Binx at the Toronto demonstration.

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Alan Robertshaw
6 years ago

@ EJ

thus I either agree with Alan entirely or feel that he’s a monster. (This is pretty normal between us.)

🙂

But you know I still love you right?

(Obviously in that macho blokey way that you see in war films or buddy cop movies)

RosaDeLava
RosaDeLava
6 years ago

@TinyAntsGoingToEatMe
I.Know.RIGHT?!
I’ve spent the past few days mostly just sitting on my computer looking at theories and fanfiction, I can’t wait for a new episode.

dhag85
6 years ago

@Alan

if it’s true then it’s not offensive and if it’s false then it’s irrelevant

False statements can be extremely damaging (“dangerous”), which you also go on to acknowledge. This makes them not irrelevant at all. I don’t get how things that are harmful can be irrelevant.

weirwoodtreehugger
6 years ago

Mic drops much appreciated.

This is one of my favorites and I offer to all the too numerous to name people who’ve contributed to the thread and deserve it.

http://49.media.tumblr.com/e95bd2a317c632ad00fce24bbf9385ca/tumblr_mloa08X1v91rq3i3ro1_1280.gif

Auntie Alias
Auntie Alias
6 years ago

Thanks for the link, @dhag85!

Alan Robertshaw
6 years ago

@ dhag

False statements can be extremely damaging (“dangerous”)

Oh yes indeed. Obviously that’s the basis for defamation law. But, for me personally (and I stress the subjective aspect of that) I wouldn’t feel offended.

I may feel the need to take some action, but it’s the same as if my neighbour was releasing some toxic chemical. I might find his actions dangerous and seek an injunction, but again it wouldn’t be because I was offended. Even when people have threatened me with violence I don’t feel offence, but obviously that doesn’t mean I won’t do something about that.

Maybe it’s just a semantic thing perhaps?

Scented Fucking Hard Chairs
Scented Fucking Hard Chairs
6 years ago

I may feel the need to take some action, but it’s the same as if my neighbour was releasing some toxic chemical. I might find his actions dangerous and seek an injunction, but again it wouldn’t be because I was offended.

What if the chemical smelled like farts?

</silliness>

Alan Robertshaw
6 years ago

@ SFHC

Ha, once against you’ve made me rethink my position 🙂

ETA: you probably know that in the UK ‘Trump’ is the standard silly kids’ word for fart. I’ll leave our USian friends to run with that as they see fit.

Paradoxical Intention
6 years ago

http://i2.kym-cdn.com/photos/images/newsfeed/000/980/435/094.gif

Honestly, I like the Greg version better.

Tessa
Tessa
6 years ago

Alan Robertshaw:

Maybe it’s just a semantic thing perhaps?

I think it must be. What exactly do you consider “taking offense”?

Alan Robertshaw
6 years ago

@ Tessa

That’s a very good question and in a way it’s hard to articulate.

In some ways it’s easier to define it by what it is not. It’s not ‘disapproval’ or “feeling threatened” for instance. They’re all perfectly valid responses to certain situations.

I suppose the nearest colloquial equivalent would be “bothered”, but even that doesn’t quite grasp it. Being ‘bothered’ by something can be an excellent motivation for addressing an injustice for example.

To me “offended” has a connotation that the offended person has an expectation and entitlement that other people should feel sorry for that person and should feel the same way, even if objectively the person has suffered no actual harm.

To use the Mary Whitehouse example again, when people say they’re offended my reaction might be “Well just because you don’t like something, so what? It doesn’t harm you and why should anyone else care or jump to your tune?”

I’m probably not explaining that very well, it’s hard because it’s such a subjective feeling, but I suppose to oversimplify, it’s feeling that some slight to yourself has some import in the wider scheme of things.

Alan Robertshaw
6 years ago

@ Tessa

Edit function seems to have vanished but I wanted to add that, as I said before, I have no issue with other people feeling offended.

People’s feelings are entirely a matter for them and it’s not for other people to dictate how anyone should internally react to something.

Kat
Kat
6 years ago

@Alan Robertshaw

ETA: you probably know that in the UK ‘Trump’ is the standard silly kids’ word for fart. I’ll leave our USian friends to run with that as they see fit.

I see HUGE POTENTIAL in this information. Believe me. Mark my words.

(You know Donald flirts with me, right? Whether it’s conscious or unconscious, I don’t know. I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot him with a water pistol, and I wouldn’t lose any of my appeal to him. But flirting with me is to be expected. Sadly, Donald is no 10.)

Where was I? Oh yeah. This information will mean a TOTAL AND COMPLETE SHUTDOWN OF DONALD TRUMP.

Kat
Kat
6 years ago

@Alan Robertshaw

Oh and can I just say I loved your relationship advice on the other thread.

Being attentive to a woman = good
Calling her a ‘whore’ = bad

*Scribbles notes furiously*

That stuff’s frikkin’ gold dust. You should write a book (I’m given to understand there a market for that kind of thing)

Why, thank you. It seems that at long last my talent for advising others is coming to be appreciated.

Ask Kat: A Feminist’s Advice to Men’s Rights Activists

In my mind, I’ve spent the publisher’s advance $$$$$$ already.

Scildfreja
Scildfreja
6 years ago

oh my gosh this thread

I cannot even. I would love to contribute but there is so much! I’ll just say that, after some thinking, I’d disagree with what I posted about Atheism & Misogyny earlier in the thread, and I quite like WWTH’s comments on being more precise with words like atheism and movement atheism, and whatnot. Thank you for that!

Brony, you are one of my favourite posters over at PZ’s :3
comment image

Brony, Social Justice Cenobite

I’ve given a thought to the issues present in “dogpiling” and they come down to these from what I can tell.

1) Social context of the engagement. Is the person entering a place where they are free to leave and face no repercussions? Or are lots of people coming to them? If it’s not like the harassment that female people, racial minorities and LGBT+ people face online, and they are not likely to be followed and bothered by people from places like here I don’t see much of a problem.

2) Number of “opponents”. It would be nice if it were just a discussion, but it’s often argument to fight and the more people someone is responding to the more likely they are to make mistakes and stick with the textual version of “fight/flight/freeze”. There is something to be said for typing up a reply and letting it sit for a while and taking another look before posting so I have limited sympathy here.

@littleknown

Regarding atheists “needing to own” the problem of misogyny within atheism: This strikes me as a little too close to the suggestion that Muslims “need to own” the problems of misogyny and terrorism within Islam

.
If there is better wording than “needing to own” I would be happy to consider it.

I agree that there are very real risks when it comes to asking individuals to work for change inside their groups and the example you bring up is one I go to mentally when it comes to how things go wrong. Another might be the psychology behind the fallacious appeal to blacks having to deal with “black on black crime”. In that context I’m speaking of a member of a community who can deal with the bad behavior choosing to do so (I agree that not everyone can and that matters).

But I’m also thinking of groups outside of marginalized communities like the “Slymepit” that Josh linked a reference to on pg10. Another might be 4chan, or pressuring the police to self-police for criminal cops. Basically there is a general social use for pressuring individuals with respect to bad behavior in their group, but like everything else when it comes to human behavior there are good and bad expressions. Because of that morals and ethics are important so that xenophobia and bigotry are avoided, as well as being careful about accurately representing reality.

I won’t pretend to have all the answers but here is what I consider when suggesting that a person should criticize people in the same group as them. I’m happy to take criticism because I’m sure it’s something that I will always be improving on.

1) In-group psychology always matters, to a point.
The best people to affect change in a group are people in the same group or allied groups because of the way that group psychology works. It would be nice if we could depend on people learning to control their social emotions but we don’t live in that world yet.This is why it matters that it’s us atheists criticizing our own. I think that this matters and that there is a way to encourage members of a group to police their own, but it must avoid bigotry and xenophobia.

Atheists actually demonstrate just how strongly we respond to group symbolism and group emotions because if we are being defined by what we are not instead of what we are, that is pretty powerful psychology. Three is a huge diversity of kinds of people in there and we still “flock” using the word atheist. The whole “dictionary atheist” problem (I can explain if you are unaware) is even an example of in-group fallacious reasoning designed to persuade other group members to ignore someone’s appeal for a group action.

Because in-group psychology only matters to a point I have the rest of this list.

2) Don’t push people past their tolerances.
Not everyone can or should try to pressure members of their group. Arguing can take a toll and it is an art in lots of ways. Betrayal is what some people will feel and that can get really complicated depending on the group.

3) The appeal to an Individual must Reference specific characteristics.
Group appeals should be based on characteristics rationally and logically defined so that whole persons and eventually the group are not what our emotions target (hate is fine if properly managed). For example here in the US we are utterly dishonest in how “terrorism” is used. It’s a tactic and instead of describing the actions, tactics and underlying causes it only gets applied to brown people or other ridiculous things when it’s mostly white, right-wing and religious terrorists we face. The forced-birth crowd is another example. Beliefs, styles of thought (like stereotyped thinking), actions and communications are what should be singled out when pressuring an individual with respect to a group.

4) Proportional phrasing.
The phrasing must respect the fact that it is a portion of the group with the problematic characteristics (to avoid the garbage going on with how Muslim refugees are being treated). Note that groups like the clan include these characteristics as defining features so that changes things when it comes to members getting painted with group characteristics.

5) Letting people show you what they are.
When talking to a member of that group they should be given the chance to show you what they are like as an individual. I have no reason to think that any random Muslim I meet would necessarily act in a way I don’t like or agree with any specific thing I dislike about some Muslims and I would not assume that they did without a specific reason. The same goes for Republicans or Libertarians.

6) There should be a reason to think they would be around the people with bad behavior.
The people being pressured to criticize their fellow group members should realistically be interacting in the same environment as the people with the problematic characteristics/shitty behavior. It would not do to demand that a Muslim in America do something about terrorism in another part of the world. But we say “the standard you walk past is the standard you accept” for a reason. Criticizing ‘pitters or MRAs for accepting shitty behavior around them seems fine to me.

Brony, Social Justice Cenobite

@Scildfreja
Thank you!

I’m always surprised because I often feel like an asshole. I appreciate that.

Brony, Social Justice Cenobite

Also Fluttershy is my favorite :3

David N-T
David N-T
6 years ago

Read something earlier today and it pretty much bring together my thoughts on new atheism and it reminded me of this thread, so I thought it’d be worth sharing:

http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/01/29/new-atheism-worse-than-you-think/

Scildfreja
Scildfreja
6 years ago

@Brony,

The ponies saved my life, I’m relatively sure, so they forever hold a soft spot in my heart :3

And you are not a butt! I think you’re generally well-spoken!

LindsayIrene
6 years ago

To me “offended” has a connotation that the offended person has an expectation and entitlement that other people should feel sorry for that person and should feel the same way, even if objectively the person has suffered no actual harm.

You’re very much forcing your own hyper-specific definition onto the word. If I’m offended, I certainly don’t want people to ‘feel sorry’ for me. I don’t know, maybe it’s a British thing, which may partially explain Ricky “Ooh, I’m soooo offensive!!!!” Gervais.

Tessa
Tessa
6 years ago

Alan

@ Tessa

That’s a very good question and in a way it’s hard to articulate.

In some ways it’s easier to define it by what it is not. It’s not ‘disapproval’ or “feeling threatened” for instance. They’re all perfectly valid responses to certain situations.

I suppose the nearest colloquial equivalent would be “bothered”, but even that doesn’t quite grasp it. Being ‘bothered’ by something can be an excellent motivation for addressing an injustice for example.

To me “offended” has a connotation that the offended person has an expectation and entitlement that other people should feel sorry for that person and should feel the same way, even if objectively the person has suffered no actual harm.

To use the Mary Whitehouse example again, when people say they’re offended my reaction might be “Well just because you don’t like something, so what? It doesn’t harm you and why should anyone else care or jump to your tune?”

I’m probably not explaining that very well, it’s hard because it’s such a subjective feeling, but I suppose to oversimplify, it’s feeling that some slight to yourself has some import in the wider scheme of things.

But wouldn’t the line between “bothered,” “disapproval,” or “feeling threatened” and “offended” be entirely subjective by the outside observer and what they feel is harmful? I know you say “even if objectively the person has suffered no actual harm” but who determines it objectively? Even an outside observer will base whether they believe someone is harmed on their own biases. So “offense” becomes this nebulous thing usually used to discredit.
You will end up with two groups, both thinking about the other:
“My concerns are real and important, I’m not offended” and (to use your example) “ Just because [they] don’t like something, so what? It doesn’t harm [them] and why should anyone else care or jump to [their] tune?”

That was kinda what I got from part of Beta’s comment. “when someone takes offence, it’s because they don’t have a proper argument.”

And part of your earlier comment “I might find his actions dangerous and seek an injunction, but again it wouldn’t be because I was offended.”

In both these cases, why are they mutually exclusive with being offended?

Alan Robertshaw
6 years ago

@ lindsayirene & Tessa

Yeah, I do see where you’re coming from; and trying to define a concept perhaps isn’t useful as each person will have their own interpretation.

As my original point was that it is possible to be someone who doesn’t get offended (and I reiterate, that’s just a personal thing, I make no criticism of people who do get offended) perhaps I can just explain my own personal take on it this way:

If someone does or says something to me that could be perceived as negative, I make the analysis ‘does this action/situation/words present a risk of actual serious harm to me? If the answer is ‘no’ then that’s the end of if and I put the matter out of my mind.

It’s hard to articulate, but do you get my drift?

As to the point about mutual exclusivity, I don’t think in either of your examples it is an either/or situation.

Obviously there will be occasions when people will put forward mere offence in lieu of an argument (cf showing gay people on TV etc). We’re all familiar with the “will no one think of the children!” mentality.

But I can completely understand why, in addition to all the actual arguments against someone like Roosh promoting rape culture, someone may also find his views offensive.

Falcon
Falcon
6 years ago

@LinkxZeldaFan

I remain a feminist

bunch of insecure intolerant little bitches

BITCH.

you’re always bitching

bitches!

BITCHES.

…k.

Tessa
Tessa
6 years ago

Alan Robertshaw:
(Before I begin, I do want to point out in your original post, you say “People’s feelings are entirely a matter for them and it’s not for other people to dictate how anyone should internally react to something.” But during your description, you separate feeling threatened and disapproval from being offended because they are “perfectly valid” responses, and separate bothered from it because it’s excellent motivation. This implies you feel offense is not a valid response and not a good form of motivation. I’d venture that being bothered, threatened by, or disapproving are all varying degrees of taking offense.)

Here is my take on offense. I tend to see it as basically a strong negative emotional reaction, or more specifically feeling emotionally harmed by something. But I think the offense is purely sourced at the person feeling it. I’m a huge fan of self reflection, so I think it’s always good to examine why one feels offended by something. I’m also all about empathetic responses to others, and trying to learn what makes someone offended and examine your own feelings on that matter.

Since you brought up something near and dear to me, I’ll use that. Let’s take someone offended by gay people on TV. There is 1) the religious aspect, they believe it’s morally wrong on a religious level, and the people engaging in the act are harming themselves, and the exposure has the potential to normalize immoral behavior. There is 2) Simple ignorance having soaked in cultural queues that it’s gross, maybe some added fear that by being exposed to it, it’s encouraging gross behavior in others. There’s also maybe 3) on the male end, the misogyny aspect of a man liking men is like a woman. And of course 4) a combination of the others to varying degree.

Now I personally don’t agree with any of those, so I would examine those motivations, and not personally care if I offended those people (sometimes I might revel in it). In actuality I would also take offense myself at the notion that my love or attraction to another consenting person would harm others and I should have to hide myself and my feelings away because of it. And I’d work to encourage that the society um features that encourage offense by homosexuality are decreased, and acceptance is more the norm.

Another example I can think of is when others are offended by certain words that I am not. Sure you can say, in the grand scheme of things, words are words, but words have meaning and even those can have an impact not only on individuals but society as a whole. So if someone is offended by a word, I try to examine or learn why and determine if I care enough to change what I’d typically say around them. And if I choose not to, I’m prepared to face the social consequences of doing so (similar to not caring if homophobes think poorly of me).

If I am personally offended by something, I do try to examine what I find offensive, if I can determine why, and if I care enough to try to do anything about it.

OK, I think I rambled enough.

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