Slymepit members struggle with the ethics of removing photoshopped naked image

by Michael Nugent on March 7, 2013

Members of the Slymepit website have spent the last few hours struggling with the ethics of whether to remove a photograph, newly posted, of an identifiable person’s face photoshopped onto the body of a naked woman.

The Site Administrator’s decision: “I have deleted the tags which embed the image, but left the link. Note: this is a picture of a naked old lady’s body onto which the head of [named person] was photoshopped. Feel free to visit the link and see for yourself, but there is nothing useful to be gained by doing so.”

On the plus side, we finally seem to have found an example of nasty pushback against feminists on the Internet that most of the Slymepit members are prepared to openly condemn. Although they are each speaking as individuals, there seems to be something close to a consensus that this photo crosses a line.

To oversimplify, their discussion about whether or not to remove it ranged from the ethical (it is an inappropriate image to publish) to the tactical (people who disagree with us will use it against us) to the ideological (we should not censor anything) to the passive (leave it to the moderator to decide).

And on the minus side, the eventual decision was to keep the photo in the form of a link, with a description of what the link leads to.

To me this shows how desensitized some members of the Slymepit have become to the ethics of people who experience empathy and compassion at a level that would make it instantly obvious that this photograph should be removed.

Four questions for Slymepit members

This incident raises four questions that I would like to ask Slymepit members.

  1. Why is that you find this particular example of nasty pushback against some feminists to be unacceptable, in a way that other examples on your website are not?
  2. What specific criteria did you use to evaluate that it was ethically unacceptable to you?
  3. What specific criteria did you use to evaluate whether you believed it should be removed from the the Slymepit website?
  4. How would you apply those criteria to other examples of nasty pushback against some feminists published on the Slymepit website?

This time I’ll give just two examples, as the fifty examples I gave last time have proved to be too daunting to respond to without citing context.

Why is publishing an image of an identifiable woman’s face photoshopped onto the body of a naked woman any worse than publishing actual photographs of a named couple’s wedding along with mocking comments about their weight and their marriage including [in response to a tweet by the wife about how much she loves her husband]: ‘To me, that looks like she’s trying to tell herself she still loves a man who no longer does it for her’?

Why is publishing an image of an identifiable woman’s face photoshopped onto the body of a naked woman any worse than publishing an actual photograph of several named feminists with mocking commentary including ‘Holy shit that’s a table of fuglies! and i have beer goggles on’ and ‘looks like she’s in the before shot for a tooth whitening product’ and photographs of other images to mock one of the women’s breasts?

An appeal to Slymepit members

None of the above images or commentary have anything to do with your stated objections to certain types of feminism, or your stated concerns about feminist thinking having too much influence on the atheist/skeptic movement.

Do you seriously not have enough empathy and compassion to imagine how a person would feel knowing that these things are published about them on the Internet, including knowing that an Internet search of their name could result in friends or colleagues seeing these photographs and comments?

Do you seriously not see how anybody outside of your mindset would see these as nasty, vindictive and cruel examples of knowingly bullying and intimidating and hurting real people with real lives and real feelings?

Some people who I respect are concerned that I am giving credibility to this behavior by providing a platform for it to spread further. And I can understand why they feel this way.

But I believe that, to change behavior by other people, we have to both challenge the behavior and talk to the people with whom we disagree.

Using whatever definition you personally choose for the word ‘bad’, I know that you are not bad people. I spent years campaigning against IRA terrorism without believing that IRA members were bad people.

But the behavior of some of your members is needlessly hurting people, and you have the power to influence whether that continues or changes.

As an aside, it is also hurting your own reputations and the credibility of your arguments, but more importantly it is causing unnecessary harm and suffering to its victims.

You can make whatever arguments you want about feminism, and its influence on the atheist/skeptic movement, without enabling this to continue.

And, as has been shown by the photoshop incident, you have the power to influence what is published by others on your website, at least to the partial extent that happened here.

Please consider doing this more often, including with other examples.

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{ 271 comments… read them below or add one }

251 Eu March 8, 2013 at 6:39 pm

Futhermore, if all Tf00t did was tell them honestly their actions, then I think it’s fully just. It’s never wrong to tell an organization truths about people (not including opinions *on* what they do/say). Why, just recently, I told Eminem about someone he was hanging out with – I told him the facts, my opinion on it (that’s not a fact, but I told him what happened verbatim so that he can make up his own mind), because I thought he might not want to hang out with such a person if he knew.

It’s a courtesy for organizations to know if they’d want to associate with FtB or not before they do…

Now if you’re saying thunderf00t told them lies, that’s another thing.

252 Eu March 8, 2013 at 6:44 pm

…And, if you didn’t predict this coming up, shame on you, but the funniest thing about what you pointed out is that its what some at FtB do – tell organizations about such and such, (and if she (watson, example) tells them what she says about the people in her speeches, then she misrepresents the story, too), to see if they’ll be taken off the list.

253 Chas Stewart March 8, 2013 at 6:53 pm

Everyone stop referring to ChasCPeterson as simply “Chas”! It’s very triggering to me because once someone commended me for my defense of EP on Pharyngula but it was ChasCPeterson and I had to let them down. I’m not even allowed to comment on there!

Anyways.

@Oolon – The point is not that people should should be righteously condemned for holding outdated and socially outlawed views but that the people who hold these views should be reasoned with and given an opportunity to learn from their mistakes or potentially teach the scorners that their righteous indignation is not justified. THEY COULD EVEN COMPROMISE AND COME TO MODIFIED OPINIONS. Why was Aratina given the opportunity to make amends while others are barred?

254 Eu March 8, 2013 at 6:57 pm

@Chas Stewart, if Aratina is a member of FtB & Company, there are probably loads of deeds their own members do/did that they would not tolerate from others. Not that they know of all these deeds, but just imagine.

When they do find out about them, it’s just a scolding… if it’s one of their own.

255 EllenBeth Wachs March 8, 2013 at 7:06 pm

@253 Chas Stewart

Why was Aratina given the opportunity to make amends while others are barred?

Huh? What? Who can bar someone from making amends?? Do you condition your amends upon time, place and acceptance?

256 Eu March 8, 2013 at 7:12 pm

EllenBeth, what Chas probably meant is that they shun their amends while accepting Aratina’s, etc.

257 Chas Stewart March 8, 2013 at 7:14 pm

@EllenBeth Wachs

Before I was banned from the Pharyngula community, maybe I made insensitive remarks that were harmful. How am I to redeem myself to that person and the community? There’s a difference in how we treat people we see as our own versus the outsiders and I think that we need to be aware of it and change that mode of thinking. The world would be a better place.

258 EllenBeth Wachs March 8, 2013 at 7:22 pm

@Chas Stewart please re-read my comment. You seem to think that you can only apologize in that one particular spot. Does it also need to be public? Who is this apology for? You or the person harmed?

259 Eu March 8, 2013 at 7:27 pm

So, Ellenbeth, I guess what you’re saying is that it shouldn’t matter if the person wants the apology or not? Very well. Although most people, if they want to apologize *to* the person, and not just make a statement that they are sorry about what they did, prefer their apologies to be accepted. This might be silly, but people *do* care about what people think of them, and if someone is sorry about something, but feel the person will still hold it against them in their heart, they might not like that.

Maybe you cannot empathize with this, but I assure you it’s a very real feeling and thought process.

Regardless, they shouldn’t accept apologies just because someone is in their circle, is what I’m concerned about. Are they judging people in their circle less intensely?

260 Chas Stewart March 8, 2013 at 7:36 pm

Of course people can apologize to anyone and in any way (privately, publicly or in the particular sphere where the offense was perpetrated) but when people are banned and ridiculed for thinking out loud then I think that reduces the likelihood that they will apologize or change their opinions (also, there’s the chance that the person could explain themselves more fully or even change the minds of their scorners) but will hunker down and find a sphere that will accommodate their now forcefully held beliefs. This is a shame for all involved who had an opportunity to grow and flush out the truth of the matter.

So, yes, fortified folks will not mind apologizing in any venue and in any way but most folks will evade this public show that might reveal their ignorance or malice.

An apology is for all involved because every time you apologize you build good character and it may help explain to the offended that no there was no malice intended.

261 smhll March 8, 2013 at 8:40 pm

Total tittybollocks! Racial slurs are universally recognized as
*group* slurs while slang for naughty bits may be considered taboo
because private parts are themselves considered taboo.

You’re reasoning here is bullshit. Body parts that are specific to the female gender ARE used as group slurs.

262 DT March 8, 2013 at 8:43 pm

Sara Mayhew #227

The name “slime pit” was a name forced upon a collection of indivuduals back when Abbie Smith’s threads were active at ERV. When the thread moved to a separate site, the name “slyme pit” was kept as a reclamation of the word, and to show that the stigmatization and slander levelled against its members was not having the intended silencing effect.

There is also a lesson to be had about judging a book by its cover. On some level, the slyme pit rewards those who actually take time to read primary sources, instead of taking the word of some preacher, or listening to 908,437th hand rumors about some flavor-of-the-month enemy. Primary research should be the default position of anyone wishing to employ critical thinking – not reliance upon rumor, dogma and authority figures.

MeanThingsAboutSaraMayhew.com could just as easily be filled with kitten pictures.

263 D4M10N March 8, 2013 at 9:16 pm

You’re reasoning here is bullshit. Body parts that are specific to the female gender ARE used as group slurs.

They can be, I imagine, but they are often enough used as general terms of derogation for people of all genders. You’ve never heard a man accused of acting like a twat or a boob? Never heard a woman told to stop acting being a dick or talking bollocks?

264 EllenBeth Wachs March 8, 2013 at 11:48 pm

but when people are banned and ridiculed for thinking out loud then I think that reduces the likelihood that they will apologize or change their opinions

But when people are ridiculed for thinking out loud it reduces the likelihood that they will change their opinions.

See how that looks with a few words taken out? That is precisely what happens to the so-called FTbullies by the slymepitters. We are constantly subjected to ridicule for thinking out loud. Do you know how many tweets, comments, posts end up there mocked dissected and ridiculed? But they seem to think this is the way to “expose” something or other.

265 Eu March 9, 2013 at 12:00 am

EllenBeth Wachs,

I believe the guy was referring to opponents commenting on FtB’s things and then lectured & dogged without hold back on what they said – which would make them defensive and reduce the chances of changing their minds after the argument/encounter.

People who read the slymepit don’t get to say they were put on the defensive. They went there FOR the defensive.

What’s put on the slymepit and not said to the subjects themselves are probably things pitters don’t think FtB-ers would change their minds about or be willing to discuss – especially since some of them are banned from commenting in the first place.

What I mean is, they probably aren’t really bothering to try to change anyone’s mind if it’s on the slymepit, from what I’ve seen. FtB has proven to be a very resistant group – no matter how you say smething, if you want to discuss politely an alternative opinion; if you act like a scared rodent in front of huge cat and make sure to be as kiss-ass as possible, you will still get chewed and spat out there if they don’t like what you said.

So I doubt most pitters are trying to change the minds of the people they write about on there. It honestly doesn’t seem worth it, depending on which FtBer is being talked about, and you can’t blame them for not thinking it is.

266 Eu March 9, 2013 at 12:03 am

So, instead, lots of times, depending on who it is with FtB & Company, “exposure” is what is chosen instead. (And with some people there… changing their minds? Get for real. That would require being forced to stay in some enclosed space debating until everyone agrees… which actually isn’t a bad idea… it has the potential to change the world, I think. Too bad it wouldn’t be implemented.)

267 Steersman March 9, 2013 at 9:26 am

EllenBeth Wachs said (#264):

but when people are banned and ridiculed for thinking out loud then I think that reduces the likelihood that they will apologize or change their opinions

But when people are ridiculed for thinking out loud it reduces the likelihood that they will change their opinions.

See how that looks with a few words taken out? That is precisely what happens to the so-called FTbullies by the slymepitters. We are constantly subjected to ridicule for thinking out loud. Do you know how many tweets, comments, posts end up there mocked dissected and ridiculed? But they seem to think this is the way to “expose” something or other.

So, how many? Apart from the fact that you couldn’t know that unless you and your cohort have been lurking about, I might suggest that y’all decloak and delurk and try defending your positions. And if you’re not able to then maybe they’re not particularly credible or tenable? Maybe that is what is being exposed and that is really what you’re bent out of shape over? Or maybe you’ll convince some of us to abandon the Dark Side.

However, as to the reasons for that state of affairs, maybe y’all are “mocked, dissected, and ridiculed” there, at least in part, because all of you, or a large percentage of you, have essentially banned a large percentage of us from commenting on your own sites. Reminds me of a joke:

During the time of the Roman Empire when they were persecuting Christians – for entertainment; on any given Sunday – the Romans decided to bury a bunch of Christians up to their chests in the middle of the Coliseum and then let a bunch of lions have at them. And, as it happens, one of the lions made a bee-line for one Christian, but, as it approached the victim, it got spooked for some reason so it jumped over him. At which point the Christian used his teeth to tear a chunk out of the lion’s “dangly bits” as it was passing over which completely incapacitated the poor beast. Which produced a roar of outrage from the crowd: “Fight fair! Fight fair!”

Can’t very well bitch and complain at shots from the cheap seats if you’re not willing to engage on a level playing field. And, somewhat apropos and as a case in point, you might want to take a look at this comment of mine which is still sitting in moderation on Zvan’s site, but which I’ve copied to the Pit (1). Do ask yourselves whether that post is beyond the pale or whether it raises questions that Zvan and company would prefer not to address. You might also consider the fact – documented in post after post after post in the Pit – that FTB, AtheismPlus, and Skepchicks makes that a rather egregious modus operandi.

1) “_http://slymepit.com/phpbb/viewtopic.php?p=72712#p72712”;

268 Sally Strange March 13, 2013 at 6:35 am

I’ve never actually been banned from a website. Wonder why that is.

Must be some kind of miracle. Maybe there’s a god after all!

269 Steersman March 13, 2013 at 7:11 am

When you toe the Party line you tend not to be labeled as a heretic ….

One would have thought that you would have been aware of that since, if I’m not mistaken, you were a combatant in what Greta Christina called the “Porn Wars” which seems to have produced no small amount of “nasty pushback” of one sort or another, and which is still apparently not resolved ….

But if you’re looking to be banned then I might suggest trying to argue against the Patriarchy at Twisty Faster’s I Blame the Patriarch which is what I would call some “virulent feminism” – I would do so myself but they generally don’t allow “dudes” to even post there – nice bit of feminist egalitarianism, eh Wat? Although I suppose I should be careful of that term as Ophelia Benson has said that just linking those two words qualifies as “misogyny”; presumably, on that basis, using a gendered insult justifies burning at the stake in her book, words that even some female feminists might consider more suggestive of “juicy, funky, flexible, and creative” than anything else ….

270 Garlic March 14, 2013 at 4:33 pm

They can be, I imagine, but they are often enough used as general terms of derogation for people of all genders. You’ve never heard a man accused of acting like a twat or a boob? Never heard a woman told to stop acting being a dick or talking bollocks?

Supporting evidence:

Google “he’s a c*nt”: 2,050,000 hits.
Google “she’s a c*nt”: 496,000 hits.

You get similar or lower ratios with neutral insults, such as “idiot” or “dumb”. This suggests that the c-word is not a “gendered insult” in the same sense that e.g. “sl*t” or “b*tch” are.

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