#30

You asked on Benson’s blog if any trans people “took umbrage with Ophelia’s statements”. So far, nobody has answered your question. So I will.

Yes, many trans people are upset with Benson about her public statements and how Benson responded to subsequent criticism. Here is a tweet where a trans woman blogger at FtB speaks positively about me and others speaking up:

Oddly, I (a cis woman) have been delegated by a few trans women friends of mine to tell you this because they don’t want to come on Benson’s blog themselves.

Why?

Because, especially after Benson had a friendly exchange on twitter with Cathy Brennan, some people became concerned that engaging in the dust-up would make them targets. At one point, Benson was going through people’s facebook posts to find unkind things said about her to publish on her blog to gain the sympathy of her readership – apparently not particularly concerned whether or not those statements were public. (Though, she did deidentify one friends-only post that she published when it was pointed out, but the fact that happened at all was very concerning.)

I know Benson thinks that’s an irrational fear, but Cathy Brennan (who Benson now seemed at least cordial to – but I believe has since distanced herself from) has a long history of doxxing trans women, accusing them of “male violence” and plastering their personal information on her websites among rapists and murders. Benson was reacting to criticism and anger directed toward her in a similar (though not nearly as extreme) way. I know it isn’t unusual for Benson to publish statements made about her, but you can imagine that privacy is a much more pressing concern for some trans women than it is for the general population. It also wasn’t guaranteed that one of the more virulent TERFs, who were taking interest, wouldn’t take it upon themselves to target people.

So, you know, when Benson was going on-and-on-and-on about how she was being silenced and how somehow she was unable to talk about trans topics or gender WHILE SIMULTANEOUSLY continuing to discuss them – some of the trans folks upset by what she was saying were LITERALLY BEING SILENT because of the threat of their privacy being violated and therefore becoming more vulnerable to harassment and violence.

You might think that is unlikely, but this is their lives. Why take that risk? For some folks, attempting to educate and discuss issues with Benson (which in the past has had limited success anyhow) wasn’t worth the risk of being retaliated against. They don’t owe Benson that – not even a little bit.

This situation also created a general unease that trans folks were not welcome at FtB, so other bloggers were encouraged to affirm their own respect for trans identities or discuss the dust-up. Benson took those discussions to be personal affronts against her, not requests for assurances that FtB remained a welcoming space. A few people were suggesting she leave. So, she rage quit.

Her blog has been full of extreme bullshit concerning trans issue ever since. She told me previously that I’m not welcome on her blog (which I don’t blame her) and others have bailed or been banned, so that bullshit is not being challenged. I think that’s unfortunate. I mean, the other day someone fucking linked “autogynophiliatruth” on there – which is classic extremely anti-trans pseudo-science.

For fuck’s sake, she has the gall to talk about “political commitments” and blame the entire dust-up on the woman who asked her the question – after flippantly suggesting she do an “obnoxious parody thing” ridiculing the whole concept of trans identity.

We’ve been discussing inclusion in the atheist community for the last few years. Didn’t many of us agree that rooting out sexism in our movement was worth the pain because we want women to feel welcome? How Benson can’t grasp that I would rather my friends be welcome in my feminism, than cater to her sensibilities and willful ignorance, I don’t know.

She asked if there was a precedent for this at FtB or if she’s somehow special and concluded that Thunderf00t was the closest. I remember when Thunderf00t stepped into a conversation he was completely out of his depth about, was criticized and disagreed with point-by-point, pretended that nobody was answering his arguments and accused them of just being unfair and anti-intellectual. He rage quit (sorta), ridiculed people for being upset and started a new life of trashing “Group-think Blogs” (I mean Purethought Blogs). This situation is very much like that, but there is one thing that Benson didn’t get right. FtB bloggers absolutely disagreed with Thunderf00t *in the blogs*. Several bloggers wrote posts discussing disagreement they had with him and so did I.

At the time, I just assumed that Thunderf00t’s ego couldn’t handle being wrong about something. That he didn’t know how to handle putting his foot in his mouth. That losing an argument so bruised him that he would rather believe that everyone hated him than that he was wrong.

Unfortunately #30 this isn’t manufactured outrage. Some of the people who’ve chosen to remain relatively quiet in all of this were friends of Benson who were placed in a very shitty situation that was genuinely horrid for them. This wasn’t a conflict of their choosing. It was a festering issue that finally came to a head.

With Thunderf00t, I thought that the root of his issue was male ego. I think he felt humiliated by being told his arguments were rubbish “on the blogs”. Through his masculine lens that presented as anger and abusiveness, because admitting defeat is not manly.

I sometimes wonder if some women are so socialized to falsely believe they are weak that they can’t even contemplate responsibility of power. When I challenge them, a very common defense is to explain to me that they don’t matter.

Which, as far as I’m aware (besides insults) is the only defense Ophelia Benson has made directly to me against my criticisms. I mean, I would rather she just tell me I’m an asshole she doesn’t want to deal with, than literally tell me that she is beneath my notice so I should shut up.

She is not beneath my notice. Her action have affected people I care about deeply. She’s allowing shitty misinformation to be disseminated on her blog without challenge. What she says and does matters.

You asked if any trans people have criticized Ophelia Benson and the fact that you #30 asked this question on her blog and nobody answered is telling. She would rather float the story that she is being silenced by a mob including cis men (James, Jason and HJ) and feature their words on her blog than admit the truth. She refuses to own the fact that her public statements angered many in the trans community, to engage them respectfully or to attempt to understand their point of view.

But frankly, I think that possibility is long gone. How do I know? Well, I’m answering this question aren’t I? I’m one of the last people that should field a question like this. I just happen to be one of the only ones left willing to answer it.

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