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Why is the Secular Coalition for America giving Justin Vacula — online bully, A Voice for Men contributor — a leadership position? [UPDATE: He’s resigned.]

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UPDATE: Vacula has resigned.

As most of you are no doubt aware, the atheist and skeptic movements have had just a teensy bit of a problem with misogyny in their ranks. You may recall the unholy shitstorm that erupted last year when Rebecca Watson of Skepchick casually mentioned in a YouTube video that it might not be such a good idea for dudes to try to hit on women in elevators at 4 AM. The assholes of the internet still haven’t forgiven Watson for her assault on the sacred right of creepy dudes to creep women out 24 hours a day, every day.

Watson is hardly the only skeptic to face vicious misogynist harassment for the crime of blogging while feminist. Last month, Jen McCreight of Blag Hag announced that near constant harassment from online bullies was wearing her down to such a degree that she felt it necessary to shut down her blog – hopefully only temporarily.

I can no longer write anything without my words getting twisted, misrepresented, and quotemined. I wake up every morning to abusive comments, tweets, and emails about how I’m a slut, prude, ugly, fat, feminazi, retard, bitch, and cunt (just to name a few). If I block people who are twisting my words or sending verbal abuse, I receive an even larger wave of nonsensical hate about how I’m a slut, prude, feminazi, retard, bitch, cunt who hates freedom of speech (because the Constitution forces me to listen to people on Twitter). This morning I had to delete dozens of comments of people imitating my identity making graphic, lewd, degrading sexual comments about my personal life. In the past, multiple people have threatened to contact my employer with “evidence” that I’m a bad scientist (because I’m a feminist) to try to destroy my job. I’m constantly worried that the abuse will soon spread to my loved ones.

I just can’t take it anymore.

McCreight’s harassers and their enablers were delighted in this “victory,” taking to Twitter to give McCreight some final kicks on the way out the door. “Good riddance, #jennifurret , you simple minded dolt,” wrote @skepticaljoe. “I couldn’t be happier,” added @SUICIDEBOMBS. “Eat shit you rape-faking scum.”

One of the celebrators that day was an atheist activist named Justin Vacula, who joked that “Jen’s allegedly finished blogging…and this time it’s not her boyfriend who kicked her off the internet.”

So here’s the latest twist:

Justin Vacula has just been given a leadership position in the Pennsylvania chapter of the Secular Coalition for America, a lobbying group for secular Americans whose advisory board includes such big names as Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins, Susan Jacoby, Wendy Kaminer, Steven Pinker, Salman Rushdie and Julia Sweeney.

It’s an astonishing choice. In addition to gloating that bullies had led McCreight to shut down her blog, Vacula has harassed atheist blogger and activist Surly Amy, including writing a post on A Voice for Men (yes, that A Voice for Men) cataloging all the sordid details of his supposed case against her. At one point he even posted her address, and a photo of her apartment building, on a site devoted to hating on feminist atheist bloggers.

Blogger Stephanie Zvan has set up a petition on Change.org urging the Secular Coalition of America to reconsider its choice. You can find further examples of Vacula’s questionable behavior there.

As Watson notes in a post on Skepchick, Vacula’s position with the SCA is likely to “drive progressive women away from the secular cause.” She adds,

I will never, ever get involved with SCA so long as someone like him holds a position of power anywhere, let alone in a state I live in. So Vacula is actively driving people away from SCA. …

It’s all a real shame, because SCA fills an important role in our movement and I’d like to give them my support. … I don’t believe secular organizations should reward bullies and bigots with high-level positions, even if those positions are volunteer-only.

I recommend that everyone here take a look at the petition.

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elodieunderglass
7 years ago

Sally, your charming faith that you are absolutely correct in areas where you are ignorant* forms a rather large bloc of cognitive errors, and for the purposes of personal growth it would be advisable to address that in the future. I mean, you don’t have to – these blind spots are indeed perfectly charming and must surely provide a lot of conversation topics for you. But if you absolutely must storm into a forum and resurrect dead threads in order to insult regular posters, then it would be good for you to consider that your original ideas were – perhaps – not very good. Maybe just a wee bit. Multiple intelligent people from multiple educated, experienced and illuminated backgrounds explicitly said why. I invite you to consider the relevance of something called peer review, a method used to parse good science from garbage, and whether or not it behooves one to scream and rage at one’s reviewers, “BUT YOU FOOLS JUST DON’T UNDERSTAND!!”

* a blind spot that includes things like “when people have stopped talking to you” and “all of evolutionary biology”; while your personality is surely evolved and pleasant, it would be really lovely if you could fix the biology one.

CassandraSays
CassandraSays
7 years ago

Sally, I’m an atheist too, and trust me when I say that your contempt for religious people is coming across loud and clear here. People generally don’t like being treated with contempt. It is possible to be an atheist without talking down to religious people and suggesting that their brains don’t work properly.

If for whatever reason you’re having a hard time restraining the urge to do that then maybe stopping and reminding yourself that people generally don’t like to be treated with contempt would help. Conversations that start that way rarely end well.

Kit
Kit
7 years ago

Late to the party with a small but often over-looked correction – Watson did not say “Guys don’t do that.” she said “Guys don’t do that to me.” followed by a short list of reason why it made her uncomfortable.

It’s the scariest part about that whole weird shitstorm. Watson wasn’t setting boundaries for her community, she was setting simple boundaries for herself. And that could not go unpunished.

Griz
Griz
2 years ago

I was looking for more information on the facts of the issue and found your site.

A prejudicing bias in the first paragraph I read stopped me short. I looked a bit further and found it dripping from almost every paragraph.

Are you seriously trying to reinforce the notion that women should not be given voice or power because they use it venomously?

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