So Justin Vacula wrote a post last Sunday responding to the criticisms of his earlier Facebook post. Other people have already responded to the majority of his claims, but I want to comment on one particular sentence (emphasis added):
It seems extremely obvious to me that people should consider the results of their actions before they make them and then act appropriately depending on various factors including their coping skills, past experiences, support systems, financial stability, etc. This line of reasoning is quite uncontroversial in some areas of the secular community when people consider ‘coming out’ as an atheist; many will say persons should not come out if they will have to face dire consequences for doing so. People who give this advice are almost never told they are ‘blaming the victim’ or ‘giving a warrant for bullies,’ but when the topic is changed to people who write on the internet — and often engage in vitriolic writing — all bets are off for some reason.
Two things. One, if people haven’t been saying it yet, then I’ll say it here: If you are a woman writing about atheism (or anything else, really) on the internet, expect abuse. Expect lots of abuse from people like Justin Vacula, or worse. Expect rape threats, death threats, and obsessive stalkers. Expect the worst humanity has to offer directed right at you, because it will happen. And if you don’t think you can handle it, you should probably take some precautions. Consider disabling comments on your blog, consider not making your email account public knowledge, only friend people that you know and trust on Facebook, etc. If these things don’t work, seriously consider not writing online. That’s the choice that Jen McCreight had to make a few months ago when she decided to take an indefinite leave from blogging. That’s the choice that many women bloggers have to make every day. If given the choice between sharing your opinions online and physical or mental health, sometimes it’s necessary to step back a bit.
However, the second point I want to make is that it shouldn’t be this way. People shouldn’t have to choose between blogging and their wellbeing. When it comes to deciding when to come out as an atheist, yes the common advice given is to weigh the consequences of that action, but at the same time the atheist community is working hard to make coming out easier. We’re fighting all sorts of battles so that future generations won’t have to worry about the consequences of coming out, because there won’t be any. Likewise, feminists are fighting to make it easier to be a woman, both on the internet and in real life.
The problem is that Vacula and his allies are the ones making blogging difficult. They’re the people we’re fighting against to make being on the internet easier for women. For him to claim a comparison between writing on the internet and coming out as an atheist is to deny the malicious role he has had. He and others like him are stalking, harassing, and otherwise attempting to silence the voices of women in this movement. In his blog post, Vacula simply appears concerned for the wellbeing of women bloggers in this movement. However, he has done nothing to make it easier for women bloggers, and has been complicit in their suffering.
In his post, Vacula treats online harassment and sexism as an inevitable consequence of blogging, instead of a problem that we should fix. He completely ignores his own role in creating and maintaining a culture of hatred that allows the harassment to occur. If he cared at all about women, he would be working to minimize the amount of vitriol they have to face, instead of proposing that the only solution to women getting harassed while blogging is for women to stop blogging. That’s not a solution, and Vacula obviously doesn’t care about women.