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Posted by on Dec 20, 2012 in Feminism, Freethought Blogs, Humor, Nonsense | 18 comments

The Dictionary: An Archaic, Useless Tool

A couple of years back — give or take a month — I was surprised and somewhat taken aback when I stumbled on a blog where I happened to disagree with the ideas being expressed (by a man, about women), and as a woman, I made the idiotic mistake of voicing my opinion, instead of simply allowing men to tell me how I’m supposed to act and feel. Among a collection of strawman arguments large enough to build a house of bale, every other word lobbed my way was an insult. At that point, I asked that particular blogger and his horde of unquestioning supporters to stop the ad hominem attacks. Did the ad homs stop? Of course not; rather it was explained to me that ad homs are no longer ad homs when they’re coupled with strawmen.  Then, of course, I was called an idiot for not knowing what an ad hom was.

First, let me clarify something: although ad homs used liberally in the course of an argument are not necessarily examples of the ad hominem fallacy (though I wasn’t exempt from that experience, either), they’re still ad homs; that is, they’re statements against the person and not the argument. So I pulled out the dictionary to show that the term ad hom, as used today, is broader than just an informal logical fallacy (e.g., your argument is wrong because you’re stupid). Never mind that that was obviously the implication. Also, the other reason that my arguments in that discussion were supposedly wrong was because I was somehow “privileged” (a classic example of argumentum ad hominem, the logically fallacial kind).

Now here’s that dictionary definition I spoke about earlier:

ad ho·mi·nem

[ad hom-uh-nuh m ‐nem, ahd-] Show IPA


appealing to one’s prejudices, emotions, or special interests rather than to one’s intellect or reason.

attacking an opponent’s character rather than answering his argument.

Seems hard to argue with, right?  Especially since all I asked is for the insults to stop. Instead, I was told, “Fuck the dictionary!” But seriously, if logical fallacies were what they wanted me to point out, then using every other word to tell someone how stupid they are (I think “idiot” was the word of choice) is an example of poisoning the well, yet another informal logical fallacy. Moreover, name-calling is what children do, and it’s an immature and pathetic way to argue. It shows the paucity of one’s intellectual position and little more.

Since that day, I’ve seen the dictionary abused in similar ways, so I thought I’d take a moment to put together a brief list of words and what they now mean in certain darker parts of the internet:

Dictionary Atheist — An atheist who goes by the dictionary definition of the term; a vile human being.

Libertarian — Someone who’s not religious and not liberal enough; a vile human being.

Feminism — A dogmatic stance on women’s issues promulgated by the likes of PZ Myers, who is notably not a woman.

Misogynist — Someone who disagrees with a feminist. See definition of feminism above. A vile human being.

Rape Enabler — Someone who disagrees with a feminist. See definition of feminism above. A vile human being.

Rape — Consensual sex with a woman after she’s been drinking. Also, actual rape.

Patriarchy — A nebulous conspiracy-like entity responsible for oppression of women in Western society.

Oppression — Being born with a vagina, even if you’re treated like a queen and allowed all the same opportunities as men.

Victim Blaming — The suggestion that women have some degree of control over their own behavior.

Slut Shaming — Pointing out that suggestive attire, inappropriate nudity, and sexual behavior are likely to get attention.

Rapist — Any man who’s had sex. Also any man who hasn’t. Synonym: man.

Rape Culture — A culture that glorifies rape. The one we live in. The same one that makes (actual) rape a criminal act.

Privilege — Something you say to get another party to shut up when you have no real argument, because clearly human beings are incapable of empathy. Existence of actual or even group privilege is irrelevant.

Schroedinger’s Rapist — See rapist, above.

Gender Traitor — A woman with her own opinions about feminism. (Also has been used to describe an internet-famous woman who scrawled the word “Pussy” on a man’s chest before signing her name.)

Chill Girl — A woman who believes that men are people too.

Sister Punisher — Synonymous with Gender Traitor and Chill Girl.

Parody — Something that only feminists are allowed to engage in.

Trigger Warning — This precedes something that might offend someone somewhere, unless you’re trying to offend them. Attempts to intentionally set off PTSD are excluded.

Sexism — Any type of bias for or against women (unless specifically approved by feminists, see definition of feminism above). Men are too privileged to experience it.

Man — A damaged woman.

Rape Switch — A bit like a light switch, except every man has one.

Evolutionary Psychology — A pseudoscience on par with psychic readings. After all, even a psychic makes a good guess every once in a while.


Please feel free to contribute your own…

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  • TheDevilsTowelboy

    From twitter a while back –

    harassment – reading a blog and disagreeing with it
    stalking – reading a blog, disagreeing and blogging about it

    • bluharmony

      Unless you blog at FTB/Skepchick, then the same exact behavior (and far worse) is perfectly acceptable.

    • Joking about kicking a woman’s genitalia: equal to actual rape and murder.
      Joking about putting a man’s genitalia into a blender: an amusing non-sexist joke on twitter

  • MRA – Anybody who disagrees with or criticises a feminist regardless of the topic, and despite the fact they have no affiliation to any such groups.

    Slyme-pitter – Anybody who disagrees with or criticises a feminist regardless of the topic, and despite the fact they have never been on that website.

    Hatred – Criticising somebody

    • Equity feminist: Not a feminist, actually just a misogynist. There is only one type of feminism. There has never been disagreement in the whole history of feminist thought and political actions.

      • bluharmony

        How right you are!

        • Also don’t listen to historians or sociologists or anyone who’s actually studied the history of feminism. Degrees and qualifications mean nothing. Lay people get their information from opinion blogs and it is 100% accurate. 😛

  • Trolling: disagreeing even if you have perfectly valid criticisms.

  • Astrokid NJ

    1) One common thread across all the re-definitions you have mentioned is the willingness to take the worst possible behavior and showcasing that as the norm.. at best.. or the willingness to see things only in black and white.. at worst. In the early days, Franc kept mentioning how manichean all the goings on are.

    I am unable to understand why one would do that in this day and (information) age.. when we are exposed to wide varieties of grey on any issue, IF WE SEEK OUT multiple opinions. Do you reckon that the root cause is that some people are closeted in echo chambers, and that it has become pathological now? I will be the first one to confess that a few years ago, I used to be disgusted at Fox News and follow only MSNBC et al.. but after certain episodes, I am now disgusted by both, but see each of them being right in certain areas.

    2) Off Topic: Re: the dictionary definition of atheism..

    I really think there’s a problem with branding amongst some of the atheist bloggers and movement. Its a good thing that PZ declares his blog as ‘biological ejaculations of a godless liberal’.. you get a good indication that his opinions are coming from the combination of multiple identities. Similarly ‘skeptically Left’ also gives a decent indication of where you are coming from.

    However.. there are times when people cant tell where one is coming from.. and misidentifies. for e.g I was at the Reason Rally, and one of the speakers there said something about “we should have a World Govt”. what? i.e hijacking of the atheist movement with some other political ideas. Also, if you watch the 1-hr interview with the atheist panel on ‘Up with Chris Hayes’, Jamie Kilstein says that atheists should work for progressive/modern liberal ideas (which is ok as long as they do it under some other label).
    This has led to our opponents..many of them as rational and evidence-based as anyone else.. perceiving us in negative ways. One may not agree significantly with the below vids, but they cant be dismissed.


    You might be atheistkult if…

  • Astrokid NJ

    brief list of words and what they now mean in certain darker parts of the internet

    One only wishes such attitudes were limited to the internet, but it is logical to expect these dark fellows to behave similarly in real life. Imagine what happens when they get into positions of power.. such as members of the jury, judges, social service workers or worse.. lobbying organizations that can influence the legislature.
    Shattered Illusions – The Fempire Eats it’s Own Worker!

  • An Ardent Skeptic

    Sorry, Blu, but I shall have to provide a better definition of privilege.

    Privilege – 1) a word used to dismiss an alternative point of view based on superficialities of the person expressing that point of view. 2) A way of engaging in the same type of prejudicial behavior that one is complaining about.

    • bluharmony

      I’ll take my lumps; that is a better definition.

  • Chill Chick

    Oppression: something experienced by white middle-class women, e.g. seeing a T-shirt they don’t agree with.

  • tkmlac

    Thank you! Now I have a handy-dandy resource guide. Next time teh menz try and oppress me, I’ll be prepared. 😉

  • You forgot: Mansplaining: A word used to cut off any attempted refutation by a male, no matter how logical or well-supported by the facts, because men cannot ever be right when criticizing a feminist.

    • not sure about your EXACT wording, but that phrase deserves to be included.

      When I first heard it I thought it was satire, but with a ‘grain of truth’ folk admonition. I had no idea so many people were using it in complete sincerity. I even did a blog post where I used the phrase to describe my own actions – thinking I was simply using this clever new in-joke. I was perplexed by some commenter turning it against me “THE FACT THAT YOU ‘MANSPLAINED’ SAYS A LOT!!!”

      • Stephan Brun

        I can make an attempt at a snarky definition ;D :

        Mansplaining: explaining while male. A vile act.

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  • “Trigger Warning — This precedes something that might offend someone somewhere, unless you’re trying to offend them. Attempts to intentionally set off PTSD are excluded.”

    I’m still livid over yesterday’s trigger-warned PTSD angle coming from my so called colleagues. Threatening people who have PTSD is now simply a “Patton slap” and LC even goes on to say he may or may not employ the same ‘threatening’ tactic!!! WHAT THE FUCK.

    Also, trigger warnings are often more accurately read: bait.

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