A Brief History of the Slymepit:
Those who aren’t familiar with the online controversy about “sexism in the atheist community” that has been going on the past couple of years are probably wondering what a Slymepit is. I’ve decided to explain it the best I can.
The controversy over the imbalance of white male membership in the atheist community (which has changed rapidly the past five years I’ve been an atheist and have watched more and more women and minorities get involved) exploded about two years ago when Rebecca Watson expressed her discomfort at being hit on in an elevator and was met by a woman named Stef McGraw, who expressed that she wouldn’t have felt uncomfortable by that particular interaction and that Rebecca Watson shouldn’t make a blanket statement about that sort of thing being sexist because not all women would feel that way.
Watson then used the exchange as “misogyny 101″ in a talk instead of addressing McGraw herself. Watson, who was a well-known blogger with a privileged platform with which to express her own opinions basically smeared the relatively unknown McGraw. Somehow, Richard Dawkins got involved, dismissing Watson’s complaint by pointing out that feminists are worried about getting hit on in elevators while Muslim women in certain areas of the middle east and north Africa are having their genitals cut off and such. The internet exploded.
In response to the controversy and ensuing attacks and smear campaigns against Dawkins and anyone who agreed with him or Stef McGraw, the Slymepit was born. It started as an infinite thread on Abbie Smith’s blog to be a place where people could debate what had happened without fear of being banned, deleted or threatened. It was to be a free speech forum and there were thousands of comments before the thread had to finally be closed and moved to a Phbb forum. There it continues.
My Experience with the Slymepit:
I have visited the Slymepit multiple times and have posted there, argued there and laughed there. It gets a bad rap because it is an open, free-speech promoting place that allows people to post without fear that their posts will be deleted and their accounts banned. This means that there’s a huge range of stuff from mildly amusing all the way to extremely offensive. Some people use the forum to personally mock some of the bloggers who they disagree with. Some use it as a forum for debate. Some troll it. One person alone has been banned and it was an underage girl who had sent a disgusting slashfic piece to The Lousy Canuck.
I don’t like everything I see in the Slymepit and most certainly don’t expect anyone to assume I endorse everything that goes on there. I am a member of reddit, twitter, facebook, etc, and am not accused of supporting all the shit things that people use those forums for. I don’t see it any different for the Slymepit.
Thoughts on Free Speech and the Slymepit:
I live in a country where free speech is one of our most sacred principles. To stifle the free exchange of ideas is tyranny and while there are some exceptions to “free speech,” these exceptions are debated constantly. I get to live in a country where people’s most sacred beliefs and values can be challenged, questioned and even outright mocked. The apparent downside to this is that I also have to live in a country where my beliefs and values are also game.
The price of free speech means that I must allow people who disagree with me to be able to air their own grievance, no matter how repulsive they are to me. That I get to live in a country where people like Justin Vacula and the FFRF can hang a banner saying, “Nothing Fails Like Prayer” means that I also live in a country where people like Fred Phelps gets to carry a sign that says, “God Hates Fags.”
The Slymepit is like that. There are some really offensive things that go on there sometimes, but it’s often met by other members voicing their own objections to it. The bad is often pointed out to label the entire forum as a bunch of misogynistic scummy neck-beards, but no one outside the ‘Pit ever points to the times when the more moderate members get together and counter the trolls and their bad behavior. It’s the equivalent of a French person basing US culture on the KKK or the WBC.
I’ve made clear my feelings about Rebecca Watson and the tactics used by her and her friends to smear their critics. I’ve also committed to attempt a more civil approach to my criticisms against them and have adopted many of the principles outlined by Dan Finke of Camels With Hammers. It doesn’t and shouldn’t follow that because of my criticisms or my prior less-than-civil approach I am in full support of everything that goes on in the ‘Pit. People should be judged by what they say, not what people in the same “room” as them say.
I hope this clears up any questions about the Slymepit you may have. If not, please go visit the forum yourself to make an informed opinion. As of the writing of this blog, there’s a debate going on right now about the name-calling tactics of one of the ‘Pit’s most notorious members who goes by the name “franc hoggle.” You’ll notice a large amount of people arguing that the tactics are useless and unproductive. Not what you would expect from some people’s description of the place as a playground for bullies and misogynists, is it?