‘Over It’ Follow-Up: Why Would Anyone Criticize an Anti-Rape Poem?

February 18, 2013

In November 2011, award-winning playwright and feminist activist Eve Ensler wrote a poem about rape called "Over It" (the first line is "I am over rape"). A few days ago I wrote a poem based on "Over It," using the same title, the same structure, and some of the same lines-echoing, expanding on, and supporting many of Ensler's sentiments. In response, PZ Myers wrote a blog titled, "You don't get to be ‘over' rape," telling me (and, by extension, Eve Ensler) that "you don't get to be 'over' rape." I may disagree with Ensler's statistics and methods (while agreeing with her goals), but I would never question her motivations, nor tell Ensler that she doesn't "get to be 'over rape'." I am "over rape" in exactly the same way Ensler is "over rape."

Why PZ Myers (or anyone else) would presume to criticize an anti-rape poem (of all things) by a prominent feminist is beyond me, but at least one of us is terribly, terribly confused.

Comments:

#1 rocko2466 (Guest) on Monday February 18, 2013 at 7:27am

Hi Ben

Great articles (both of them).

You get criticised because anything that does not fit people like Hensley’s specific narrative is unforgivable. Hensley and her cohorts believe that any criticism is misogyny. You pointed out a series of problems with Hensley’s ideology and that is taken as harassment.

Under their approach, all criticism should be attacked and indiscriminately labelled as ‘misogynist’ and not considered any further. This is highly damaging and is purely emotive and without any rational foundation.

The problem I see is that: if these people cannot accept criticism as being criticism (and not ‘harassment’) then they will never achieve any of their more reasonable goals (such as reducing the occurrence of rape). Their resistance to facts and issues other than those they are directly focused on interferes with their ability to bring about meaningful change. Indeed, if no skepticism can ever be applied to their ideology it stands to reason that if, by their measure, society were to become no longer patriarchal or deeply sexist, they would never find out as any suggestion that things are inconsistent with their ideology leads to aggressive and unreasoned attacks.

They also wholly undermine the efforts of skeptical organisations (like the Centre for Inquiry has intended to be, before the intrusion of ideologues into its ranks) by causing those organisations to lose credibility by their dogged focus on fringe issues (like the use of language) and their inability to see society’s other ailments that cannot be seen through the prism of their ideology.

These people are incapable of stepping back and applying reason. They’ve gone too far into their own brand of reactionary political theory.

#2 skmc (Guest) on Monday February 18, 2013 at 7:53am

In response, Melody Hensley wrote a blog titled, “You don’t get to be ‘over’ rape,”

It is standard practice to link to posts to which one refers, and a link would really help here. The only post I can find entitled “You don’t get to be ‘over’ rape” is by P.Z. Myers, not M. Hensley.

#3 Stephanie Zvan on Monday February 18, 2013 at 8:05am

Thanks, skmc. That’s all I can find too. Here’s the link: http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2013/02/16/you-dont-get-to-be-over-rape/

#4 Stephanie Zvan on Monday February 18, 2013 at 8:15am

Also, I have to disagree with the “exactly the same way” characterization. Ensler is an activist who is “over” other people doing nothing on her topic. You appear to be “over” other people doing things other than what you would do. As far as I know, you’re not an activist on this topic.

That’s a substantial difference.

#5 Thomas B (Guest) on Monday February 18, 2013 at 8:23am

I read the poem too and I couldn’t understand what the “lynch mob” attitude was all about!  I mean, if they had some cogent disagreements with about the topic, that would be one thing, but there was literally a MOB of people simply piling ridicule on you!  The overall impression was that they were just trying to intimidate you into silence.  I remember thinking that if this is what feminism has become, maybe I shouldn’t call myself a feminist anymore.

#6 KevinISlaughter on Monday February 18, 2013 at 8:55am

“As far as I know, you’re not an activist on this topic.”

Strange comment. Where is the licensing board?

#7 SkepticReport on Monday February 18, 2013 at 8:57am

It is pretty obvious that Melody Hensley had no interest in either reading or understanding the point of Ensler’s poem.

We can’t even know if she is supporting the One Billion Rising campaign. She won’t answer that question.

All she had in mind was to go for Ben’s throat, and now she is screaming bloody murder, to blanket out the fact that she screwed up royally: By attacking Ben, she is also attacking Ensler for doing the exact same.

That’s really all there is to it.

#8 Stephanie Zvan on Monday February 18, 2013 at 9:01am

Yes, that is a strange comment.

The closest anyone seems to be trying to come in licensing activists is in Radford’s prior post. No one needs to be licensed to be an activist, with the exception of a few sorts of professionals. They do, however, have to do more than feel that something is bad. Unlike under the nebulous concept of “sin”, one has to do more than oppose something in their heart in order to be an activist. As the name suggests, they have to be, well, active.

#9 Stephanie Zvan on Monday February 18, 2013 at 9:03am

As has already been mentioned, SkepticReport, Melody Hensley did not write any such post.

#10 Oliver (Guest) on Monday February 18, 2013 at 9:08am

Your article & poem were both unmistakably anti rape yet the feminist ideologues attacked you as if you had written a defence of rape.

They didn’t politely disagree with you and address the points raised in your article. They didn’t discuss the statistics or make a case for dance as an effective opposition to rape; they attacked you as an enemy, a bad man, a misogynist, a rape apologist.

This is proof positive that the feminist ideologues in our midst are not thinking rationally but dogmatically.

How on earth the Center For Inquiry can remain relevant when it employs such anti free inquiry ideologues as Melody Hensley is beyond me.

#11 Stephanie Zvan on Monday February 18, 2013 at 9:10am

Oliver, if you follow the link to the blog post written by PZ, not Melody, you will find people discussing all of those things. Misrepresenting that will help nothing.

#12 Oliver (Guest) on Monday February 18, 2013 at 9:15am

Stephanie to deny that the main reaction was a denunciation of Ben as a bad person is to deny the obvious. Whilst it is true there was some deliberation on the actual meat of Ben’s post that was an afterthought. First came the ad hominen dog pilling.

He was written off as a person worthy of being taken seriously before any discussion began.

Denying that will help nothing.

#13 Stephanie Zvan on Monday February 18, 2013 at 9:20am

Oliver, PZ’s post itself was about the criticism of the use of the statistics. That’s hardly an afterthought.

#14 SkepticReport on Monday February 18, 2013 at 9:33am

Stephanie Zvan,

I think Melody is capable of defending her own views.

What about you? Do you support the One Billion Rising campaign?

#15 Renee Hendricks (Guest) on Monday February 18, 2013 at 9:37am

Ben, I suspect that more than a few read your post but did not comprehend it. Even more likely, it was skimmed and not completely processed.

In any case, I found your original post on this to be very well-thought out.

#16 Stephanie Zvan on Monday February 18, 2013 at 9:37am

SkepticReport, I don’t think one has to be Melody to not a factual correction (which Ben now appears to have incorporated in his post, albeit without noting it was an edit). Nor do I think my views are relevant to whether you’re perpetuating that factual error.

#17 SkepticReport on Monday February 18, 2013 at 9:53am

Stephanie,

I am asking where you and Melody stand with regards to the One Billion Rising campaign.

Do you support it, yes or no?

I really don’t see why this is such a hard question to answer, given the feminist-activist nature of the campaign. Something both you and Melody make a pivotal part of your identities.

#18 Stephanie Zvan on Monday February 18, 2013 at 10:00am

That’s nice. Keep asking if you like. However, I have no intention of answering you, not because it’s difficult to speak for myself (I haven’t asked Melody and have no idea why you’d want me to speak for her when a few comments ago you tried to tell me not to), but because it’s a distraction and a derailment.

Ben says he’s confused. I answered him, and I did it without reading either Melody or PZ’s mind. I’m content with that.

#19 SkepticReport on Monday February 18, 2013 at 10:06am

Stephanie,

It takes a lot more effort to explain why you won’t answer a simple question, than to actually answer it.

How odd. One might get the impression you came here to bash Ben.

I really don’t get this “new activism” thingie.

#20 Stephanie Zvan on Monday February 18, 2013 at 10:13am

Oh, no. It would take much longer to explain my thoughts about the event. Why would you expect my statement to be much shorter than Ben’s blog post on the topic? It’s much faster to sling out a “one might get the impression” than to provide the results of thinking something through.

#21 SkepticReport on Monday February 18, 2013 at 10:15am

Stephanie,

But I didn’t ask you to explain your thoughts about the event.

All I asked was whether you support the One Billion Rising campaign or not.

How hard can it be?

Do you support the One Billion Rising campaign, yes or no?

#22 skmc (Guest) on Monday February 18, 2013 at 10:17am

How odd. One might get the impression you came here to bash Ben.

No. One gets the impression that your persistent question is irrelevant.

It is not even relevant if P.Z. Myers supports One Billion Rising, and he is the one who wrote the post to which Ben Radford refers here. To reiterate: Radford misattributed Myers’s post to Hensley, and then edited his post without acknowledging the error.

This post is not about Hensley.

#23 Stephanie Zvan on Monday February 18, 2013 at 10:24am

But I didn’t ask you to explain your thoughts about the event.

All I asked was whether you support the One Billion Rising campaign or not.

No, actually, you did ask me to explain my thoughts about the matter. You simply wanted them compressed into a one word answer to a nebulous question. (How exactly do you define “support”?) Not only is it a—continuing—derail from the topic of this post, but it can’t possibly give you anything like an understanding of my position on the topic. It is a pointless, now tedious, derail.

#24 SkepticReport on Monday February 18, 2013 at 10:27am

Stephanie,

Look, this refusal of yours is getting ridiculous.

Are you really going to keep explaining why you won’t answer a perfectly simple question about a campaign that goes to the very core of your main interest, namely female oppression?

Do you support the One Billion Rising campaign, yes or no?

It really can’t be that hard, Stephanie.

#25 Stephanie Zvan on Monday February 18, 2013 at 10:30am

No, I think I’m done explaining. You’re not reading or thinking about my answers, so there’s no point.

#26 SkepticReport on Monday February 18, 2013 at 10:32am

Stephanie,

While we apparently will have to wait until the Universe burns out to hear your answer, we have learned one thing:

The next time Melody, Rebecca, PZ, Richard, or Greg ask people to “support” a cause, we can just refer them to your response:

Please define “support”, because it is such a “nebulous” question.

And then go 24 rounds explaining why we won’t answer the call, and then close the gates.

Because that’s how Stephanie Zwan is being an “activist”.

#27 Stephanie Zvan on Monday February 18, 2013 at 10:36am

Do you “support” President Obama? Yes or no only, please.

Do you “support” universal childhood vaccination? Yes or no only, please.

Do you “support” decreasing the number of animals used in medical research? Yes or no only, please.

No clarification of your answers allowed, but be prepared to be judged on your answer for no other reason than that you’ve commented on this post.

#28 SkepticReport on Monday February 18, 2013 at 10:47am

Stephanie,

Yes, I support President Obama.

Yes, I support universal childhood vaccination.

Yes, I support decreasing the number of animals used in medical research.

I answered all your questions, readily, the first time.

Now, are you finally going to answer mine?

Do you support the One Billion Rising campaign, yes or no?

#29 Stephanie Zvan on Monday February 18, 2013 at 11:00am

You support the use of drones and the killing of U.S. citizens without due process?!

You support vaccinating children with medical weaknesses that contra-indicate vaccination?!

You support the trend toward using so few animals in research that they sometimes end up wasted on trials that can’t support statistical significance over multiple tests of the data?!

What kind of person are you?!

No, I don’t answer forced yes/no questions from people who act like you act in your first comment here. That’s why.

If you’re actually interested in my take on the event, however, you might be in luck. Ben is not the only person with access to a blog. I might blog about it at mine, where I regularly talk about rape, where it’s anything other than a distraction. Since you already follow my blog (and thus already have a pretty good sense of what kind of activist I am without trying to force silly questions), you’ll know if and when I do.

#30 Al Stefanelli on Monday February 18, 2013 at 11:01am

“Why PZ Myers (or anyone else) would presume to criticize an anti-rape poem (of all things) by a prominent feminist is beyond me…”

And the FC(n) strikes again. Ben, I’ve read both yours and Ensler’s poems and found them both intriguing and well written.

Having had cause to interview a few dozen rape victims (all identify as feminists of varying ages between sixteen and almost eighty, but of the ‘equity’ brand) for an upcoming book, I’ve found that roughly three out of ten have expressed a similar sentiment to what Ensley has written. That’s roughly thirty percent, not an isignificant number.

- Stefanelli

#31 SkepticReport on Monday February 18, 2013 at 11:03am

Stephanie,

Even though I answered all your questions the first time, with no hesitation, you still try to get out of answering mine.

Now, do you support the One Billion Rising campaign, yes or no?

#32 Renee Hendricks (Guest) on Monday February 18, 2013 at 11:09am

“Having had cause to interview a few dozen rape victims (all identify as feminists of varying ages between sixteen and almost eighty, but of the ‘equity’ brand) for an upcoming book, I’ve found that roughly three out of ten have expressed a similar sentiment to what Ensley has written. That’s roughly thirty percent, not an isignificant number.”

The more interesting part (at least for me) is that 70% didn’t express that similar sentiment. As someone who has experienced rape and having read Ensley’s bit, there are some points I can get on board with and many points I can’t.

I do appreciate that Ben pointed out that the statistics put out are misleading. It seems to me those stats are intentionally done that way so as to incite fear. Fear is not a solution to rape.

#33 Al Stefanelli on Monday February 18, 2013 at 11:14am

“I do appreciate that Ben pointed out that the statistics put out are misleading. It seems to me those stats are intentionally done that way so as to incite fear. Fear is not a solution to rape.” - RH

Indeed, Renee. I am still compiling statistics from my interviews, but I agree with your statement.

#34 Eshto (Guest) on Monday February 18, 2013 at 11:34am

Ben I’d be surprised if most of your detractors even read your article, and I already know most of the people loudly screaming about ‘feminism’ in the on-line atheist community have no real academic background in feminism, or gender issues, or social science in general. They have personal grudges and they use ‘feminism’ as an excuse to slam people on-line and create drama and blog hits. At this point I’d be shocked to read anything of value and sincerity coming from this goofy “atheismplus” crowd.

#35 Stephanie Zvan on Monday February 18, 2013 at 11:34am

All righty there, SkepticReport. I will lay this out baldly, since you seem to be having trouble with the argument from example. You giving me a yes or no answer to those questions is simply giving me a response. It is not actually telling me your positions, presuming that the answers to my follow-up questions are all “No”.

Those questions, phrased as “yes or no” cannot produce answers that reflect your postitions because your unconstrained answers would more accurately be, “Yes in general but not in every detail”. Yes and no and, if you want to claim to be educated on someone’s views on a topic of this complexity, you’re going to need far more than a three-character-maximum response field.

And yes, that’s an answer.

#36 atheist-1973 on Monday February 18, 2013 at 11:44am

The difference is that Ensler’s piece describes actual events, while yours is mainly attacking straw-feminists and other non-existent creatures.

#37 atheist-1973 on Monday February 18, 2013 at 11:50am

Do you at least see the absurdity of using a “skeptical” blog to attack mythological creatures? Instead of strawfeminists, why don’t you spend time attacking the bad habits of leprechauns? It would at least be more entertaining.

#38 SkepticReport on Monday February 18, 2013 at 12:04pm

Stephanie,

That’s an interesting reply (not an answer, though).

Allow me to take you back in time:

http://www.change.org/petitions/secular-coalition-for-america-remove-justin-vacula-from-a-leadership-position-in-the-pa-chapter-of-sca

Yes, it’s your campaign, to have Justin Vacula removed from a leadership position in the PA chapter of SCA.

Either people supported it, or they didn’t. Your campaign left no room for any reservations, that you now insist campaigns must have.

Why the change?

#39 Contextual Assault (Guest) on Monday February 18, 2013 at 12:12pm

I’m glad that Stephanie did not waste time writing a lengthy “thoughts on One Billion Rising”, because then she’d have filled up half of the comment space here. wheew.

#40 Stephanie Zvan on Monday February 18, 2013 at 12:14pm

That makes no sense. I can vote for Obama while both supporting him generally and opposing particular policies. In fact, I cannot partially vote for him or vote for him while voting against a particular policy. You’re confusing decision points with positions.

#41 SkepticReport on Monday February 18, 2013 at 12:23pm

Stephanie,

So, you go from “not answering forced yes/no questions”, to distinguishing between “decision points” and “positions”.

Have you ever supported a campaign, while having some reservations?

#42 Stephanie Zvan on Monday February 18, 2013 at 12:26pm

Yes, I do ‘go from “not answering forced yes/no questions”, to distinguishing between “decision points” and “positions”.’ Why, do you see some inconsistency there?

And yes, of course I’ve supported campaigns while having reservations. I’ve volunteered for political candidates about whom I had some reservations. Have you not? Do you limit your activism to the perfect?

#43 SkepticReport on Monday February 18, 2013 at 12:33pm

Stephanie,

Of course I don’t limit my activism to the perfect, and neither do you.

Which is why I cannot make these two ends meet:

a) You refuse to say whether you support the One Billion Rising campaign, because doing so would not reflect your positions: The answer would be “Yes in general but not in every detail”.

b) You have no problems supporting campaigns, even though they are not perfect.

That’s the inconsistency I see.

#44 atheist-1973 on Monday February 18, 2013 at 12:33pm

The nice thing about limiting one’s activism to the perfect is that one will never lack for outrages, nor will one ever need to defend one’s actions.

#45 Stephanie Zvan on Monday February 18, 2013 at 12:40pm

Claus, do you mean to say that all this time you’ve been asking me whether I worked for the One Billion Rising campaign? That was what you meant by support?

You’re right. That answer is easy. I did not work for it.

#46 SkepticReport on Monday February 18, 2013 at 12:44pm

Stephanie,

No, not at all. I am asking you why you use the two arguments, depending on which campaign it is.

You have made it clear that you support some campaigns, even though you have reservations, while you refuse to say whether you support other campaigns, because you will have reservations.

#47 Stephanie Zvan on Monday February 18, 2013 at 12:51pm

Claus, you’re getting yourself all tied up in thinking I’m being inconsistent when I told you way back in comment #23 that you hadn’t defined “support”. The difference in my answers isn’t based on what campaign we’re talking about. It’s based on the fact that you’re using two different definitions of support and treating them as though they’re the same thing. If you use more specific words to talk about each kind of support, the “inconsistency” that has you confused will evaporate.

#48 SkepticReport on Monday February 18, 2013 at 1:07pm

Stephanie,

No, I am not using two different definitions of “support”. I am not making a distinction, you are.

You support some campaigns, even though you have reservations. Correct?

You refuse to say whether you support other campaigns, because you will have reservations. Correct?

#49 Stephanie Zvan on Monday February 18, 2013 at 1:12pm

See, Claus, you’re still confused because you didn’t do what I suggested you do. So I’ll do it for you.

I [work for] some campaigns, even though you have reservations. I refuse to say [as a simple yes or no matter] whether I [do something nebulous that you, Claus, have specified is not working for] other campaigns because I will have reservations.

Different specific actions. No contradiction.

#50 Renee Hendricks on Monday February 18, 2013 at 1:16pm

This whole back-and-forth between Stephanie Zvan and SkepticReport has got me thinking.

It does seem to me to be a yes-or-no type of question if one asks “do you support this thing/idea/group/etc.” Either you do or you don’t. If you want to get into the specifics of that thing/idea/group/etc., that’s where you flesh out specifics. For example, I support the MRM. However, there are certain things and people within the MRM that I don’t support. I don’t support feminism (for the moment). The overwhelming “bad” for now has made it impossible for me to support.

Stephanie seems to be trying her damnedest to side-step for fear of being called out on the specifics. Big deal. Say you do or do not support One Billion Rising campaign and then move on to say there are things within that campaign you don’t agree with.

It seems to be rather simple, at least to me.

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