I am a member of the Deaf Freethinkers group on Facebook – a forum where Deaf people come together to discuss politics, atheism, agnosticism, and religion. In the last several days, many women, including myself, have been outraged at the conduct by several men in the forum. Initially, we were mainly outraged only at one male, whom I shall call L.P.
This was his opening post in the Freethinkers group:
Deafie free-thinkers here? Are they born-again nudists in order to save $$$ at thrift stores Are men brave to keep out of women issues except for red hot sex on damp beach towels? Are we free-thinkers willing to fight for our lives for sake of religion? Hello, I am a free thinker after nine months in a womb and nobody tried to argue with a die-hard NRA nut. Game to test a scarred old warrior here? Let me know so I can prepare a dish of hemlock as a tribute to a philosopher who satisfied his bride on the wide open sidewalk. Many deafies call me Plato and please do ask me why as I am still clueless to date!
Now, it is obvious he was trying to be funny. However, it quickly got old for many of us women. The moderator, Kevin wrote:
I have no problem getting into women’s tissues xxxxx issues, but I do insist on clean dry towels.
L.P. replied with the following:
Do you, Kevin mean that you can bear babies inside your he-man body? Dry towels always get damp during sex, so what is the difference in the first place? Just move to another dry spot on that BIG beach towel, mind ya!
As a long time member of the Freethinkers forum, this was the first that I had seen an overly sexual exchange. It did not stop there though. L.P. then went to another post discussing the brain and how puritanical people used to be, when discussing sexual organs and the brain. It did not focus on women vs men until L.P. started posting remarks such as:
Some researchers say that sex is all in the brain and the brain controls all sexual functions exclusively, Wondering what means in man’s brain and in woman’s brain as it is said that a woman loses her mind during sex, hmm?
Some researchers also say that women’s brains are wired differently from men’s brains. That takes me to a subject why couples argue so much, huh?
The next comment that L.P. made irritated many women even further:
Whoa, hold your hosses, girls! I was just quoting what others had said here and there to see how you’d opine. Oh boy, I am accussed of thinking dirty and different about the lovely better halves when I am open to anything on the earth. Please just think me as a starter gun instead of a biased bastard. Thank you very much!
A woman, E. replied to L.P. with the following:
“The lovely better halves” and calling women “girls” are both things you should look at. Compliments like “better halves” aren’t compliments because they are essentialist. Grown women aren’t girls. And with that, I end my mini-lecture. Don’t respond to this right away. Read it and think.
Kevin, the moderator quickly came to L.P.’s defense:
To add a bit of context here, L.P. is probably older than any of us in the group, so he grew up in a time when relations between men and women were substantially different than they are now. Cultural views of women were pretty much “stay at home and look after the children”. And even for someone who is trying, you grow up in that atmosphere, it takes real work to shuck it off. So I take that into account with his humor.
Another woman, K. replied:
Nah. We’re freethinkers. We should expect more. I mean, I’m all for letting people have learning curves and all that, and I have no problem with giving L.P. some guidance and helping to figure it all out if he’s open to it. However, we should ask for more. We are freethinkers, damnit!
For a brief moment (several hours), the sexually charged remarks stopped. However, later on in the same thread, L.P. wrote (which came out of nowhere to me):
Kevin, your description of girls in past is correct for East Coast, but not for So. Cal and Arizona where I was raised. In winters girls wore chemises and thick quilted skirts with colorful woolen shawls and in summer deep tanned girls with no tan lines wore bosom bands and hot shorts. They surely signed scary stuff to us hapless boys. That is how it was in the past (over fifty years ago).
A woman, K.W.E replied with:
No less dressed than y’all nor less profane-signed than you guys, surely?
L.P.’s response was:
Oh girl; have you met old ASDB girls who have been very outspoken?
Am I supposed to titter to be called a “girl”? I’m not that advanced yet in the years, even if I’m getting up there. With the exception of my female friends that’s just weird, so I guess not ever. I can’t imagine anyone calling Hilary Clinton a “girl”. :p
Do not blame me as I was raised in a family which always believe in girls who turn into women at age of 90 or later. My family girls will raise Cain if they are called beautiful women, not cute girlies!
This is the point where many of us women started to object to L.P.’s behavior. E. replied with the following two comments:
Context is everything. I don’t like terms of endearment from strangers, and most women with self-respect and dignity don’t expect or like them either.
You have to know me very well to call me “girl,” “honey” or anything else on that continuum.
Again, Kevin, the moderator of the Freethinkers group came to L.P’s defense:
Think of it as an opportunity to observe a vanishing species – a genuine atavism from the early 20th century. I’m going to make popcorn and watch.
K., a female later on replied with this directed to L.P:
it really very simple. If you are not related to that person or don’t have a close relationship with them, don’t use terms of endearment. Applies to both men and women. Easy rule, right?
L.P. replied with the two following comments:
Oh, terms of endearment — I was taught that girls and boys are proper formal terms while women and men are improper distasteful terms. Looks like that terms change from time to time like this. Do tell me why those terms are reversed, please. No endearment jazz, please!
For example, ladies and gentlemen are terms used in Great Britain and rare in the ole’ USA.
K. politely replied with:
Does it really matter? Things change. We all adapt.
That is when L.P. made this comment, which ultimately derailed the Freethinkers forum into a free-for-all.
Good, hey ole’ boys let’s go play poker while the ole’ girls chit-chat over bingo cards!
At that point, I got involved and I made the following statement to Kevin:
*smiles* Kevin … There is only so much sexism I will put up with in this group. And I believe I’m not alone in this regard. Please instruct Mr. L.P. to cease & desist, since he appears to only listen to males.
Kevin blew me off with this statement:
I don’t do instructions. L.P. has not attacked anyone personally. I’m not defending him, nor chastising him. I think from his perspective he’s teasing, and I’ll leave it to others to explain when they feel offended.
Plenty of us have already made it clear that we’re offended by his sexist remarks. :p This ain’t teasing. It’s trolling.
L.P. then started a new thread where he made an apology, but many of us women considered it half-assed and in some ways, backhanded. He then continued to make sexually offensive remarks, until numerous women (4 of us) shouted him down. It was at that point, that numerous men came to L.P’s defense. One of the males complained that people were starting to make rules for everyone, even when it wasn’t a good idea or not.
My response to this remark about too many rules was, “I’m sorry that you think outrage against disrespecting women creates too many rules. :p”
I never said outrage against dissing women creates too many rules.
And twisting people’s words is simply looking for an argument.
I replied succinctly with the following:
Well Eric, I don’t think anyone was asking for more rules. Only for L.P. (and his supporters) to cease and desist his obnoxious, sexist behavior and justifications. So when you raise the issue of ‘too many rules’ in this context… *shrugs*
The males continued to qualify their comments, and defend L.P. This went on for two days. One male, Ian, showed up and blasted K. for telling L.P. to shut up. and even compared what had transpired, to Mark Twain’s Huckleberry. Yes. He compared a conversation that took place TODAY, to a piece of classical literature. And when I pointed out that we were not characters in a book, but real human beings, another male sarcastically replied with, “Well, I’m a character in a book, but that’s for another thread.”
Another male, furious at K’s snarky remarks to L.P. and other males, made a motion for the group to boot K. Many of us, including male allies, came to K’s defense. But, none of the males made a motion to boot L.P.
In my conversations with several women about this, the feeling is unanimous. All of these events send a resoundingly clear message: it is okay for a man to debate vigorously, even boorishly… but a woman is NOT allowed to strongly state her opinions on the same level as men.
Many of us women feel that their opinions and positions are not welcome. So why bother continuing to comment and participate in the Freethinkers group?
In response to this ongoing controversy, a woman has already quit the Freethinkers group, and a new freethinkers group has been set up (with both women and true male allies). This is 2013. And all of this took place in a group full of men who we thought were very progressive in their thinking.
I think it is high time that the Deaf Community acknowledge and face that rampant sexism is a SERIOUS problem. These events in the Freethinkers group is stark evidence of that.