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.
- 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?
- What specific criteria did you use to evaluate that it was ethically unacceptable to you?
- What specific criteria did you use to evaluate whether you believed it should be removed from the the Slymepit website?
- 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.