Ugly is as Ugly Does

My recent feud with the Tim and Lisa Ridge from the NJ Humanist organization has exposed some interesting dynamics within the atheist/ humanist community. Clearly, unlike our evangelical counterparts, our diversity has the ability to hinder a single minded focus regarding the direction of our socio/political affiliations. While those who propose faith based legislation have the luxury of myopia, and are not hindered by curiosity, we in the skeptic community are burdened with phrenic perspective. Sometimes those perspectives are not aligned.

Such was the case when the Ridge’s and I began lobbing metaphoric grenades at each another during a recent Facebook brouhaha. Apparently, our perceptions of one another are not at all admirable. That much is clear. But in a macro sense, this exchange does expose much of the difficulty Atheists have organizing. Many of us (myself included) have a tendency to make assertions when we’d be better served by listening. Dare I say that often –as a group– we are not as evolved as we like to think we are.

The issue at hand here, which caused caustic division between otherwise like-minded people, was something I perceived as a politically correct scolding directed at me that had much less to do with what I was actually being admonished about, and more to do with pre-determined bias. I have both experienced (and documented) this type of petty animus before, and it’s expressed via the same kind of pious indignation that usually comes from someone who wears a cross around their neck. Although “humanists” think themselves above such puerile stereotyping, there are many in our community who are as sexually and emotionally repressed as Midwestern bible thumpers, and react to those who defy biblical sexual precepts the same way that fundamentalist theists would.

Indeed, I believe the over-reaction to my initial statement was reflexive, and nothing more than an excuse for the Ridge’s to rationalize their anger at those who dare not adhere to their astigmatic standards of what a “humanist” should look, and think like. I’m not even sure if they are psychologically aware of their true motivations. But regardless, In turn, my reaction was equally reflexive.

And this is where the fun starts…

The Atheist/humanist movement employs satire, and sarcasm constantly. No one seems to mind when vicious (even if one feels that they are deserved) editorials are written about Sarah Palin, Ann Coulter, or SE Cupp. Moreover, when satirical professionals like Seth MacFarlane, John Stewart, or Bill Maher –whom the Atheist/humanist community admire– make jokes based on ethnicity, or misogyny, I have yet to hear, or read a condemnation from any high profile skeptics. The reality is, in the battle for hearts and minds, I think everyone understands that humor has always been a useful tool. However, one little joke made by yours truly at the expense of Greta Van Sustren suggesting that sometimes burkas might not be so bad, and suddenly (in their minds) I am a sexist pig, unworthy of being part of this community.

Apparently, in this politically correct “humanist” abyss, heterosexual white males can only make jokes about other heterosexual white males. In my not very humble opinion, this is how the atheist/humanist community pushes people away. A politically correct determination of what forms of humor, and moreover, what subject matter is acceptable, and which are not. Certain people get a pass, and others do not. The hypocrisy is staggering.

Jokes about a person’s appearance (especially a woman’s) are considered to be humanist sacrilege. However, like a zero tolerance policy that disregards context or circumstance, it does nothing to promote actual tolerance. Renown writer, Greta Christina, a woman and an intellect whom I admire, and who I have little doubt would dislike me intensely, has recently made such a proclamation. But I respectfully disagree, depending on the circumstance, of course.

What if one’s appearance is a function of their hate, and if they use the humanist movement to push forth a divisive agenda? What if being fat and ugly is not about actually being fat and ugly, but more about a reflection of their inner selves, manifesting itself though a provocative representation? What if, a woman resented men so much that their inner ugliness advertised herself as a flannel clad refrigerator with an R. Lee Ermy haircut? What if she systematically tried to compensate for thousands of years of female subjugation by chastising every male who isn’t a docile, wimpering, dolt? And what if she did all of this while hiding behind the iron curtain of political correctness?

Would such a hate filled bigot not be allowed to be satirized like any others? Would their anatomy, or their political affiliation give them a free pass? It’s not like anyone is claiming that it’s acceptable to walk up to unattractive people and begin berating them simply for their appearance. Hardly. In fact, I personally detest such cruelty. But when one’s gravity inducing heft and unattractiveness are a function of a vile attitude towards others, (in this particular case, men) personally, I don’t give a damn what any of the PC police say… it is very much in play.

One item that seemed to raise ire of Ms. Ridge was my use of the term “penis hating” to describe such women, and it was met with such incredulity that one might think that there are no such women in this world. Apparently, “feminists” who deem any male/female sexual intercourse to be an act of rape have no such inherent anger issues directed at men. I, as a misogynist male, surely must be imagining it. I get it. Men are pigs (unless they are submissive cuckolds).

Why I even have to explain this concept is beyond me. But I’ll try. Just as there are bigoted, small minded males out there who derive their views of women through erectile dysfunction and inability to emote, there are women out there who are so angry at men that they are no better. Is that so radical?

But from a penis haters perspective, even in instances where a woman displays an utter sexist contempt for the Y chromosome, she must still be cajoled as if she were a delicate flower. Oh how grand it must be to be able to set your own rules of engagement, and then claim to be victimized when they are not followed by those you chastise. But this is not how reasonable people argue, debate, or even altercate… this is the reaction of a school bully who gets hit back. “No Fair!, I can insult you, but you can’t insult me back!”

Have another doughnut, Jumbo.

During this heated exchange with the Ridge’s and their internet cronies, I was called (among other things) a disco reject (insult based on my appearance) , a retard (O.K., that one is probably true), a Tea Partier (that one hurt), and being just like Rush Limbaugh (that one really hurt). I was called “little man” by Lisa Ridge herself, when which compared to her was entirely accurate, but nonetheless brought back the childhood trauma of never being able to play in the NBA. Also my testosterone level was brought into question by Ms. Ridge, to which (if I were to be fair) I should acquiesce to her expertise simply based her abundance of it.

But to reiterate, I believe this was more about an expression of cultural and sexual repression, and Lisa Ridge was using PC censorship to enact her anger at the male gender. Like Ahab chasing his white whale, Ridge pursues her white males… and yes, I realize the irony of the person who most resembles an enormous sea faring mammal being portrayed as Ahab in this analogy. But regardless, this is how a few –not most– women like Lisa Ridge in the humanist community approach males who are not social invertebrates.

Speaking of which, brings me to the emotionally castrated Tim Ridge, who gallantly came to the defense the colossus in sensible shoes he’s bound to. When I met Tim, I couldn’t help but feel that he was being dragged around by his wife like a soccer mom with a 5-year old on a leash at the mall. Personally, I admire his ability to endure suffering, for if I found myself in a life sentence of misery married to an oppressive affront to femininity like he is, I’d take a job defusing bombs. He must be quite a guy.

But it was Tim who wrongly accused my wife of being in porn. Not that we believe that there’s anything wrong with that, it just happens to not be the case. Yet it was the assumption Tim Ridge automatically made based on my wife’s appearance. I guess any woman who doesn’t resemble a wig wearing forklift doesn’t get the same politically correct protection.

But the reality is that my wife Jane and I represent what sexual bigots –both theist, and humanist alike– hate. We are inter-dependant libertines who like to shower and take pride in ourselves. We are affectionate, and madly in love after 15 years of marriage. And worst of all, we don’t feel that female empowerment must come at the expense of emasculating men.

But in some people’s minds, intimacy and equality are mutually exclusive concepts.

Now for my part, I will accept a certain level of culpability where it concerns this altercation. Normally when I’m accosted by a sexually repressed behemoth who exudes this sort of indignation, I’ll just walk away leaving them to be alone with their 6000 calorie a day diet and their impending diabetes. Maybe that’s what I should have done here. But I reacted voraciously when I felt that someone was using this otherwise noble movement for their own petty, self indulgent, hate filled reasons. So I broke out the allegories. If there is fault in that, I’ll accept it.

Those predisposed to take sides against me will have already done so. To them, it makes no difference that I actively fight for gay rights, and against female subjugation (especially where it concerns religion). Or even that I’ve written a book about marriage equality, and a woman’s right to control her body, and her libido. It makes no difference that I adopt a socio/political position that is in total sync with what the humanist movement claims to believe. None of that matters when its presented by someone like me. I made a joke that a few erection killing mastodons found offensive. I must be a terrible person.

But I fear that the Atheist/ Humanist movement is in danger of being co-opted by a gender divisive special interest. There are elements of the “humanist” community who use it as a platform to espouse hate and anger. And while our community cultivates some of the most beautiful minds our world has ever known, and as we collective strive to quell disease and hunger, and promote scientific knowledge… we must lighten the hell up as we do so. No one wants to join a group of humorless complain-a holics.

… and if Tim & Lisa Ridge would like to develop a sense of humor, read this blog and laugh at themselves as I have done reading their colorful descriptions of me, being a NYC boy, I’d be willing to let bygones be bygones and grab a beer. Hell, I’ll buy.


About Rich Woods

Rich Woods is the author of the critically acclaimed books, UnLearn Vanilla Marriage, and Yahweh to Hell. He is also a columnist, sociologist, and satirist who has performed seminars around the country. He's also made several TV and radio appearances. Transitioning from a blue-collar background has given Mr. Woods a unique perspective --and an even more unique elocution--among his peers. Raised Catholic, Mr. Woods is now a very public atheist who champions the separation of church and state. He's an advocate for non-traditional relationships, including --but not limited to-- negotiating non-monogamy, as well as being a vocal opponent of political correctness. Throughout his career, Woods has had colorful metaphors hurled in his direction from both liberals, and conservatives. To be honest, most of the vitriol comes from the Tea Party. However, he considers one of his greatest accomplishments having been called "Harry Reid's Lapdog" , and referred to as being "just like Rush Limbaugh" from two different sources within minutes of one another. Originally from Queens, New York, and presently residing in central New Jersey, Rich Woods is madly, and hopelessly in love with his wife Jane since before they were wed in 2002, and is the proud father of two successful, brilliantly creative, young adult children. Try as he might, he can't juggle.

Posted on June 3, 2012, in Recent Posts. Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Brilliant piece Rich. I thought the burka comment was funny,

    This reminds me of when I’d make an obvious joke on my site or on my show and I’d get the same type of response. Someone out there would think I was serious, failing to see the satire or mockery and then make an unfair/misguided decision about me or even those associated with me. Then came their delusional story telling, spreading the meme about my hatred of women or desire to kill all theists or some other ridiculous lie.

    You are right about everything you’ve said here and have said it much better than I could. This type of attitude that you dealt with here is one of the many reasons I am less involved today than I was a few years ago. The same pain I see when looking at a world full of theism is the same pain I feel when seeing how some atheists act. The world would be much better if we all had a much more keen sense of humor.

    Thanks for being so strong, you rock.

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