After a 15-year-old girl’s post to /r/atheism was met with thousands of jokes about statutory rape, Rebecca Watson decided she’d had enough. The lead writer at Skepchick published Reddit Makes Me Hate Atheists, a tirade against the subreddit’s sexist behavior.
“If it’s not enough that the 15-year old girl is getting a nonstop flood of rape offers from grown men, there are also plenty of posts trying to make her feel bad for being such a stupid fucking female,” Watson wrote, screen-capping hundreds of comments for evidence.
The story had thousands of redditors wondering if this sort of behavior exclusive to r/atheism, or does Reddit, in general, have an intolerance problem?
On /r/truereddit, “a subreddit for really great, insightful articles,” commenters discussed what Watson’s article says about Reddit. Several top comments recommended unsubscribing from large and default subreddits for a more pleasant experience.
In the targeted subreddit itself, redditors discussed whether r/atheism is truly intolerant or just has a PR problem.
“It's not a PR problem if you can't spin it to sound better. You can't spin jokes about raping a teen girl into something not rightfully outrageous,” wrote lifeinneon. “It's an actual behavior problem. This isn't about atheism, this is the broader atheist community and how /r/atheism contributes to that idea that atheists are misogynistic, elitist, white jerks.”
“I feel pretty bad about it,” wrote keepthepace. “I remember when I saw the picture I thought ‘Ok, the discussion will just be about the girl's look.’”
“I haven't lost my faith in all atheists (oh the irony!) but I did learn a little about how reddit and other websites work,” she wrote. “As a girl, it's difficult sometimes. People assume things. They think I'm unintelligent, shallow, or desperate for attention.”
Pseudonymous communities have a long way to go before young women can feel as comfortable as their male peers, but the exposure Watson has given Lunam’s experience finally has redditors talking instead of sweeping it under the rug.
Photo by Lunam