How Organizations Can Improve Movement Diversity


Ron Lindsay asked for input going into a meeting of national secular organizations.

Specifically, I’d like your input on these two questions: 1. What specific steps do you think secular groups should take to increase diversity within our movement, in particular with respect to the participation of minority groups? 2. As you are aware, there are some stark differences of opinion within the movement about the appropriate understanding of feminism and how feminism (however defined) should influence the practices and mission of secular organizations. How do you think these differences can best be narrowed or resolved?

The second question is not an easy one to answer from the perspective of what national organizations can do, so I’ll give that one more thought before answering. The first is one of those things I talk about and promote other people talking about, so I have things to say. I started to get long-winded and detailed, so I’m moving my answer here. Luckily, Ron promised to read even treatises.

Note that when mention an action below, it isn’t because I don’t think anyone is doing it now. This is a general statement, some of which comes from learning from organizations’ successes.

The first step organizations need to take toward improving diversity is breaking the idea down. “Diversity” is a nebulous concept that will lead to vague goals or actions at best. Reframe the question in terms of underrepresentation instead.

Look around the communities you serve. Make an effort to see everyone who is there. If you operate on a national level, look at census data. If you operate on a local level, spend some time walking in different parts of town or looking at the events featured in neighborhood newsletters. Figure out what your community looks like away from the areas you usually see.

Now look at your organization and its events. Run a survey if you don’t have a good handle on your demographics. Where are the differences? Notice them, but consider them value-neutral for the moment. Don’t stop at race and gender. Consider education. Consider income and profession. Consider marital status. Consider disabilities. Consider sexuality. Consider religion.

When you have a list of characteristics that aren’t present or are underrepresented in your organization compared to the community you serve, ask yourselves what each offers you. Put aside other considerations for the moment and be selfish. You need to know why–beyond “because it’s right”–you’re working on diversity if you’re going to put time and energy into the problem. Do different people offer knowledge or skills you lack? Do they offer passion about an issue under your mission? Do they offer political clout or good PR? Do they offer numbers? Do they offer organizational experience or willingness to volunteer?

Now ask yourself what you have to offer each underrepresented group. This is harder than you think. You know what you offer your current membership. If you didn’t, your organization wouldn’t be as successful as it is. However, if your current offer were compelling to these underrepresented groups, they would be less underrepresented.

That doesn’t mean that you don’t have what an underrepresented group is looking for, but it probably means you at least don’t treat those features of your organization as selling points. Are your local meetings in wheelchair-accessible, vegetarian- or vegan-friendly, family-friendly locations easily reached by mass transit? If they are, do you tell people when you advertise the events? Do you sponsor ex-Muslim speakers or speakers who specifically address issues of labor or poverty? Do you offer special programs or pricing for students or people in poverty? Do you offer volunteer opportunities in urban (or rural!) areas? You may already have exactly what an underrepresented group is looking for, but you might not be telling people or you may not be taking the opportunity to advertise directly to people who would benefit.

Alternately, you may not currently offer much of interest to these groups. That isn’t necessarily hard to change. Secular organizations, like most political activism groups, tend to overrepresent the status quo in everything but the issue at stake–in this case, religion. However, secular organizations have an advantage that they don’t use as often as they might. Religion has long been a tool to reinforce and uphold the status quo. There are very few, if any, underrepresented groups who won’t produce productive answers to the questions “How has religion been used to keep you ‘in your place’ or tell you you’re worth less?” and “How is it being used now?” (Note that these are different questions than “How does religion…?”) People will tell you where the problems you can address are.

Only then is it time to make decisions about actions you’re going to take, when you know who and what you want and what you have to offer. Specifics will depend on the organization’s priorities, of course, but they should be much easier to determine at that point.

There is still one issue worth addressing in some detail, however. That’s the problem of managing change and the conflicts that come with change. As a movement, secularism has been all over the map in how it has handled this issue. There have been stellar responses to conflicts and dismal responses. If we want to decrease the dismal responses, it’s time to start planning for conflict.

Do you want your group to incorporate a more diverse membership? Then plan for inclusion. Plan how you will handle the current members who, for example, treat each woman who walks in the door as a dating prospect or each ethnic minority as answerable for their entire group. Decide how you’ll deal with the existing members who treat differences in perspective as challenges to their intellect. Decide–now–how you want to deal with all the behaviors that you’ve been told repeatedly are barriers to participation.

Or decide that those are integral to your membership (or too difficult to deal with directly) and find another way. Your organization doesn’t encompass all of the movement now. It doesn’t have to in the future. You may be more effective on issues of diversity if you work in partnership. Want to sponsor a feminist, atheist speaker? Do so in conjunction with a reproductive rights group. Bring your members together on more even ground. Sponsor a talk on cool science in an inner-city high school with a good enrichment program. Pick up the tab for a biblical scholar with a UU community. Hold a discussion group on how the New Testament glorifies poverty with a labor organization or the influences of Puritan asceticism with a drug legalization organization. Make partners rather than asking people to come to you.

Another note while you’re doing that: Make sure that speakers from underrepresented groups (or writers, for organizations that have publications) aren’t only given space when they’re talking about diversity. This happens a lot, and while it talking about diversity occasionally is a very good thing, there are three problems with this:

  1. Talks about diversity don’t appeal to a diverse audience. Most underrepresented groups already understand the value of diversity. They’d rather see someone who “look like” them talk about something else.
  2. Consistently having speakers from an underrepresented group talk about issues of diversity undercuts that group’s perceived authority on other topics. “All ABC ever talk about is XYZ. They’re just distracting us from the real work.” Sound familiar?
  3. We’re allowing a wealth of talent to lie fallow. I would love to hear Tony Pinn talk about secular liberation theology the next time I see him on stage (because huh?).  However, I know I’ll be sharing a stage with him in two months to talk about exactly the subject of this post.

Where secularism is just starting to make real inroads on an underrepresented population, consider whether your organization might be best able to help by supplying resources to a specialized group. A small grant can go a long way in a small organization, for meeting space or advertising. Having an experience organization leader on an advisory board, particularly if that person can say, “Here’s what we did”, instead of, “Here’s what you need to do”, can be incredibly useful. Other kinds of expertise, such as experience in navigating the bureaucracy of nonprofits, is helpful. So is putting events on calendars that reach a broad audience.

In short (hah!), plan for diversity the way you would for any other broad mission in your organization. Break it down, figure out your goals and resources, and look ahead for the obvious roadblocks. It isn’t easy, but it isn’t something you have to–or can–do all at once anyway.

Comments

  1. Ron Lindsay says

    Thanks, Stephanie, for taking the time to provide a thoughtful and detailed reply. Much appreciated.

  2. says

    I’m waiting for people to stop reading at “consider religion” and start shouting here. Luckily, there are many words after that point to preempt their objections.

  3. says

    If I were talking about atheism, the answer might be different. This is specifically secularism, though, and I can think of one or two religious (or specifically not non-religious) groups that will likely be there. On the other hand, Minnesota Atheists did run a secular bible study with a liberal Christian group for some time.

  4. says

    Justin Vacula should be thrilled that there will be Surly Grants. His suggestion was to give minorities money to go to conferences.

  5. Bjarte Foshaug says

    The only real answer to the first question is to stop looking for an answer to the second question. Anyone who still wants the difference with the anti-feminist faction to be “narrowed or resolved” is part of the problem rather than the solution. Everything worth doing in the atheist/skeptical/humanist movements at this point has something to do with driving the wedge all the way through the movement, making the schism complete, and burning all bridges. Only then can we forget about “infighting”, and the scum who have been flooding every website, youtube channel, forum, and blog with toxic waste for nearly two years can fade into the regular “background noise” along with the religious right, the antiwaxers and the 9-11 truth movement. Until then any attempt to make the movement more diverse and inclusive – or even better than nothing – is a waste of time.

  6. Nils Pihl says

    I disagree with Bjarte. I don’t think we should burn bridges. Atheists, even those that are anti-feminists, are valuable allies in bringing about social justice. I think we have an opportunity, and responsibility, to include them.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-_2xGIwQfik Neil DeGrasse Tyson famously rebuked Dawkins on being too hostile to people who “don’t get it”. I think it is good advice, and we should follow it.

    In my opinion, if we don’t have the energy to deal with other atheists we might as well pack up and go home. If we are really going to ADVOCATE social justice, and not just sit around and pat each other on the back for how enlightened we are, we need to not burn bridges.

  7. Stacy says

    Atheists, even those that are anti-feminists, are valuable allies in bringing about social justice. I think we have an opportunity, and responsibility, to include them

    If you include people who deny my equality, then you can count me out.

  8. Nils Pihl says

    I don’t know that I recognize that anyone has denied you equality – I think some people have had a different opinion on what equality would mean. I don’t have to agree with them, but I am not going to be intellectually dishonest and say that my way is the only way. I think they are wrong – doesn’t mean I will accuse them of denying women equality. It just means that they are wrong, and could be made right.

  9. Stacy says

    Your equality is not being questioned. People who support your equality are not being monitored and harassed.

    I will not be a part of any movement that embraces anti-feminists. I will not be a part of any movement that embraces people who are against racial equality, or equality for LGBTQ people.

    And I am not the only one.

    I am not debating the point with you. I am telling you. I don’t give a damn what you make of the information.

  10. Pteryxx says

    Nils Pihl… go read the link at Alethea’s #4, then re-evaluate your position as to who’s being “too hostile” to whom.

  11. says

    Nils, what you “recognize” has not the tiniest bit of utility as an indicator of what is happening.

    When someone says their ability to have fun sexytimes without having to worry about consent trumps my ability to have recourse when someone harasses me, they are denying my equality. When someone says I can’t see equal representation of people who look like me on stage “because merit, duh!”, they are denying my equality. When someone says that the only reason a man would agree with me is because I am giving them sex–or because they are emasculated–they are denying my equality. When someone uses my gender or sex as an insult, they are denying my equality. When someone claims their anger is righteous but mine is just being irrationally emotional, they are denying my equality. When someone says I am trying to take over “their” movement because I express a concern about the movement in which I volunteer substatial time and energy, they are denying my equality.

    You sticking your fingers in your ears and singing “La, la, la, la”, doesn’t make a bit of difference as to whether it’s happening. It just marks you as too uninformed to have anything to add to the discussion.

  12. Nils Pihl says

    “Nils, what you “recognize” has not the tiniest bit of utility as an indicator of what is happening.”

    I disagree. My experience is valid, too. Doesn’t make me right, but my experience counts, as I am also part of this movement. I am not saying you are wrong. I am saying that I don’t recognize some of the things that you say are happening. It is up to you if you want to take that opportunity to educate me or to insult me. I recognize and respect what your experience of this movement is. Please extend the same courtesy to me, as I am here in good faith.

    “When someone says their ability to have fun sexytimes without having to worry about consent trumps my ability to have recourse when someone harasses me, they are denying my equality.”

    I think this is a strawman. I could be wrong, but I haven’t seen this happen. I have seen some people argue that having a policy will serve to scare women away by making the conference sound hostile to women. I am not saying I agree with them, but that is what I have heard people like Tf00t saying.

    “When someone says I can’t see equal representation of people who look like me on stage “because merit, duh!”, they are denying my equality.”

    I disagree here. I have been a feminist for a long time, and I disagree with you. Doesn’t make you wrong or me right, we just have different opinions. I want the best speakers to speak – and if I found out that I had been robbed of listening to amazing women like Hensley, Kirby and Hirsii Ali because of atheism being a boys’ club, and I instead had to listen to some less inspiring man, I would be furious – but I don’t see that happening. There are men I don’t care for in this movement, and there are women I don’t care for in this movement. Maybe I am wrong, maybe it IS happening. I just don’t see it. It is up to you if you want to take that opportunity to educate me or to insult me.

    “When someone says that the only reason a man would agree with me is because I am giving them sex–or because they are emasculated–they are denying my equality.”

    I completely agree with you here, which is why I was disappointed with Hensley’s and Roth’s treatment of Sara Mayhew. I don’t think it matters what context they said it in – it is misogynistic in every context. We all mess up sometimes, and I still think Hensley is a great person. When someone says that I only agree with you because I am emasculated, they are denying us both. It’s a problem I see on both sides of the fence, and I think it would be dishonest of us to place it squarely in the other camp. We have to get our own house in order, too.

    “When someone uses my gender or sex as an insult, they are denying my equality.”

    Yes. That is horrible, and we should all stop doing it.

    “When someone claims their anger is righteous but mine is just being irrationally emotional, they are denying my equality.”

    Depends on the circumstance. I don’t think I’ve seen you in particular being irrationally emotional, but I have seen both men and women on both sides being irrational. It becomes sexist when being irrational is written down as being caused by your gender. I reserve the right to call you irrationally emotional when I think you are irrationally emotional, and I hope you feel that you can call me out on that too. If I ever said you were being too emotional BECAUSE you are a woman, then I would surely be a sexist – just as some people on our side have been sexist in saying men don’t understand the arguments because we are not as emotionally and empathetically gifted. But yeah, don’t use gender as an insult. 100% with you.

    “When someone says I am trying to take over “their” movement because I express a concern about the movement in which I volunteer substatial time and energy, they are denying my equality.”

    No, they are being stupid. Not sexist, but stupid.

    Even when I disagree with you I wouldn’t attack you by saying you are too uninformed to have anything to add to the discussion. I take offense at that. I’d ask for an apology, but no one ever apologize for anything on here anymore. Both sides are right all the time.

    I’ll go first – I am sorry if I am ignorant about some of these things, and my ignorance makes your life harder. My heart is behind this movement, but I recognize that I sometimes fail. I recognize that Dawkins is behind this movement, even when he fails, I recognize that Hensley is behind this movement, even when she fails. It is up to you if you want to take that opportunity to educate me or to insult me.

  13. says

    It is up to you if you want to take that opportunity to educate me or to insult me.

    Oh, no. I have many more options than that.

    I think this is a strawman. I could be wrong, but I haven’t seen this happen. I have seen some people argue that having a policy will serve to scare women away by making the conference sound hostile to women. I am not saying I agree with them, but that is what I have heard people like Tf00t saying.

    Not a strawman. A fairly direct paraphrase. Of Thunderf00t.

    I disagree here. I have been a feminist for a long time, and I disagree with you. Doesn’t make you wrong or me right, we just have different opinions. I want the best speakers to speak – and if I found out that I had been robbed of listening to amazing women like Hensley, Kirby and Hirsii Ali because of atheism being a boys’ club, and I instead had to listen to some less inspiring man, I would be furious – but I don’t see that happening. There are men I don’t care for in this movement, and there are women I don’t care for in this movement. Maybe I am wrong, maybe it IS happening. I just don’t see it. It is up to you if you want to take that opportunity to educate me or to insult me.

    This isn’t a question of agreeing or disagreeing. It isn’t a question of interpretation or opinion. If you are telling me you can’t fill half a stage with women because of the “merit” of women speakers, you are telling me that women speakers are worse. The argument I cited explicitly ties merit to gender. Your argument is merely a distraction. If you really wanted “the best” speakers to speak, the lineup of any event would always be the same. It isn’t. You don’t. You want a lineup that meets a certain standard of entertainment and education. Plenty of women meet that bar to enable equal representation.

    I completely agree with you here, which is why I was disappointed with Hensley’s and Roth’s treatment of Sara Mayhew.

    No one has said the reason someone agrees with Mayhew is because Mayhew is giving them sex. To the best of my knowledge, no one is saying that about anyone who agrees with Mayhew. The only argument that has been made there is that some women have received recognition for their work that has been denied to other women because of their respective political positions. That is an argument about the efffects ofsexism, not an argument about the quality of anyone’s work.

    If I ever said you were being too emotional BECAUSE you are a woman, then I would surely be a sexist – just as some people on our side have been sexist in saying men don’t understand the arguments because we are not as emotionally and empathetically gifted.

    Wouldn’t the world be a wonderfully easy place to live if everyone were so explicit about their socially unacceptable, frequently implicit motivations? The fact that they are not is not an argument. Don’t try to use it as one.

    No, they are being stupid. Not sexist, but stupid.

    Prove it. You’re ruling out sexism in this behavior despite sexism’s prevalence in the societies in which this is happening. You’re ruling it out despite your agreement that these people are already acting in a sexist manner. Clearly you have evidence to back that up, right?

    It is up to you if you want to take that opportunity to educate me or to insult me.

    No, actually I can just make you go away and stop using up my time explaining things I’ve explained to many people many times over already over the course of several months in which I could have productively been doing something else. That I haven’t is something you should seriously consider showing some gratitude for instead of acting entitled.

  14. Stacy says

    Nils Pihl, did you read the post just before this one?

    Stephanie and others have been monitored, mocked, and abused, daily, for over a year.

    You presume to argue when women tell you of their experience. You seem to think you get a vote in whether they–we–choose to work with the harassers or not–

    –And then you feel insulted when Stephanie points out that your perception of the problem is not a useful indicator of what people who are not you are actually dealing with?

    You’re insulted to be told you’re uninformed?

    I am amazed at how very much you seem to value your own opinion. You are obviously very sensitive to perceived slights, and relatively unconcerned with the constant harassment experienced by others.

    It is up to you if you want to take that opportunity to educate me or to insult me

    Nobody is obligated to educate you. Educate yourself. I suggest you start by getting over yourself and learning to listen.

  15. Nils Pihl says

    Regarding Tf00t:

    “When someone says their ability to have fun sexytimes without having to worry about consent trumps my ability to have recourse when someone harasses me, they are denying my equality.”

    Tf00t doesn’t say, even in what you posted, that you shouldn’t have recourse if you are harassed. You are strawmanning him. Tf00t is not arguing that the leg girl should have no recourse if she felt that Tf00t had stepped over the line – he is arguing that everyone’s an adult, so harassment shouldn’t happen. That’s where he is wrong, in my opinion. Adults can still harass, and we need to look ourselves in the mirror and understand why harassment happens. What he is saying is problematic, but not for the reasons you are highlighting. Tf00t has been an idiot about a lot of this, but so has a lot of his opponents – and I submit to you that you are misrepresenting him in an unfair way right now. Maybe I misunderstand him, but I really don’t see him advocating that you should have no recourse if you are harassed.

    “If you really wanted “the best” speakers to speak, the lineup of any event would always be the same. It isn’t. You don’t.”

    I don’t arrange the events. I do want the same people. Please don’t speak for me. You can think it is stupid of me to want more Dennett, Harris, Dawkins and (Hitchens) – but I do. It has nothing to do with their gender, and everything to do with my journey to atheism. Fuck me, right?

    “No one has said the reason someone agrees with Mayhew is because Mayhew is giving them sex. To the best of my knowledge, no one is saying that about anyone who agrees with Mayhew. The only argument that has been made there is that some women have received recognition for their work that has been denied to other women because of their respective political positions. That is an argument about the efffects ofsexism, not an argument about the quality of anyone’s work.”

    I think this is misinformed at best, and dishonest at worst. I don’t know you very well, so I will give you the benefit of the doubt – but reducing her attention to her (position + gender) is internalized misogyny and pretty overt misandry, too. It insults me as a man that you don’t think other men can agree with her without the motives being sexual. If a woman is denied attention because of her political position, she is denied attention because of her political position. If a woman is GIVEN attention because of her political position, she is given attention because of her political decision. What Hensley said was sexist, in every context. Doesn’t make Hensley a sexist, she just said something stupid. We should all stop saying stupid things – and certain people on here should pretending as if though being a feminist makes you immune to saying stupid, sexist things.

    “Wouldn’t the world be a wonderfully easy place to live if everyone were so explicit about their socially unacceptable, frequently implicit motivations? The fact that they are not is not an argument. Don’t try to use it as one.”

    I am sorry but I genuinely don’t understand what you are saying here :( Care to try again? My faultt, I’m sure, but I don’t understand the grammar of your answer.

    “Prove it. You’re ruling out sexism in this behavior despite sexism’s prevalence in the societies in which this is happening. You’re ruling it out despite your agreement that these people are already acting in a sexist manner. Clearly you have evidence to back that up, right?”

    No. I give people the benefit of the doubt. I don’t have to back that up. Sexism is not the first thing that atheists disagree about, and it is isn’t the first time that someone has said that someone else is hijacking the movement. See accomodationism etc. People say you are hijacking the movement because you don’t act the way they want you to act – and it doesn’t necessarily boil down to your gender.

    “No, actually I can just make you go away and stop using up my time explaining things I’ve explained to many people many times over already over the course of several months in which I could have productively been doing something else. That I haven’t is something you should seriously consider showing some gratitude for instead of acting entitled.”

    I just so happen to think that this conversation is productive. I am learning a lot, and who knows, maybe someone else is, too. I see this conversation as you engaging in promoting social justice to an open-minded audience, and I am grateful to everyone that spends their time defending their convictions. You should know that I am grateful to you, even though you occasionally insult me, and you know that I am grateful for it because I emailed you saying as much. Your last sentence seems designed just to be hurtful, but I am glad that my gratitude matters?

  16. Nils Pihl says

    “Nils Pihl, did you read the post just before this one?”

    Yes.

    “Stephanie and others have been monitored, mocked, and abused, daily, for over a year.”

    Yes.

    “You presume to argue when women tell you of their experience.”

    No. That is not what I said.

    “You seem to think you get a vote in whether they–we–choose to work with the harassers or not–”

    No, I get a vote in whether WE choose to work with them or not. What ANYONE does INDIVIDUALLY is up to them, but I get a vote in what WE do. So do you.

    “–And then you feel insulted when Stephanie points out that your perception of the problem is not a useful indicator of what people who are not you are actually dealing with?”

    Yes, I am insulted when someone says I have nothing meaningful to contribute – because I assure that even my supposed ignorance is something of value. Advocating for social justice means educating people.

    “You’re insulted to be told you’re uninformed?”

    No. I am insulted when someone says I can’t contribute. I am uninformed about a great range of things, especially the female experience – just as you are likely uninformed of the male experience or Chinese experience or whatever else that you are not. In my book, you are still welcome to talk to me about whatever you want to talk about. Fuck me, right?

    “I am amazed at how very much you seem to value your own opinion. You are obviously very sensitive to perceived slights, and relatively unconcerned with the constant harassment experienced by others.”

    Are you really? Yes, I am sensitive to being insulted – but I am not here to spread my own opinion. I am here to actively engage in an important topic among peers.

    “It is up to you if you want to take that opportunity to educate me or to insult me

    Nobody is obligated to educate you. Educate yourself. I suggest you start by getting over yourself and learning to listen.”

    I disagree. We are all obligated to educate each other. That is my philosophy and I stand by it. You are free to disagree. There is nothing wrong with my listening skills. I am here in good faith, actively trying to expose myself to opinions I might not have heard before or that I might not understand. Maybe I am too far removed from some things to understand them as readily as you, but I assure you I am listening.

    Also, fwiw, I think it is mighty ironic to have a 3rd party but in and tell me that I value my own opinion too much. I’ll happily be the kettle, if you are the pot.

  17. says

    Tf00t doesn’t say, even in what you posted, that you shouldn’t have recourse if you are harassed. You are strawmanning him.

    That was his argument against anti-harassment policies. No strawman. He explicitly did not want me to have access to anti-harassment policies because they might interfere with his leg biting in a bar.

    I do want the same people. Please don’t speak for me.

    Okay. If you say so. Where do you argue for this in any context other than discussions of gender?

    think this is misinformed at best, and dishonest at worst. I don’t know you very well, so I will give you the benefit of the doubt – but reducing her attention to her (position + gender) is internalized misogyny and pretty overt misandry, too. It insults me as a man that you don’t think other men can agree with her without the motives being sexual.

    Do quote the statement you think is anyone attributing sexual, rather than political, motivations to agreeing with Mayhew.

    I am sorry but I genuinely don’t understand what you are saying here Care to try again?

    Plenty of people disguise motivations, and plenty of people do not understand their own motivations, particularly when it comes to things like sexism and racism. This is a well-documented phenomenon. The fact that someone doesn’t explicitly say that what they’re doing is attributable to gender is not an argument that what they are doing is not attributable to gender.

    No. I give people the benefit of the doubt. I don’t have to back that up. Sexism is not the first thing that atheists disagree about, and it is isn’t the first time that someone has said that someone else is hijacking the movement. See accomodationism etc. People say you are hijacking the movement because you don’t act the way they want you to act – and it doesn’t necessarily boil down to your gender.

    First you say you don’t have to give data, then you try to give examples. That’s good, because you’re not just giving anyone the benefit of the doubt. You’re arguing that I’m wrong. However, your example doesn’t cut it. There is a difference between “hijacking the movment” and “hijacking my movement that is not yours, you outsider”. That dynamic was not part of the accommodationism wars. In fact, I don’t believe “hijacking” was even part of that discussion. That was “You’re making my work/life more difficult by being a big meanie.” Find me someone who specifically laid claim to the movement in that case.

    I just so happen to think that this conversation is productive.

    Really? Because you haven’t bothered to go back and say, “Oh, yeah. I guess they are denying your equality. Let me explain why I think “we” (which includes “you”, the person whose equality is being denied) should overlook that and treat them as important allies.” You’re just continuing to argue about what you think I’m getting wrong. When do you go do something about them?

  18. Nils Pihl says

    Let me just start by thanking you for taking the time to respond to me again. I am grateful.

    We still disagree about that particular detail of Tf00t. He was an idiot about many things, but I think you are misrepresenting him. I am happy to leave it that if you are. I hope we can still be friends. I have a lot of respect for you and your opinions.

    “Okay. If you say so. Where do you argue for this in any context other than discussions of gender?”

    I have personally never argued for it ever. Even in the context of gender. Just telling you what my own preference is. I am not speaking for anyone else. Please treat me as an individual, and not as a man.

    “Do quote the statement you think is anyone attributing sexual, rather than political, motivations to agreeing with Mayhew.”

    http://www.saramayhew.com/blog/index.php/2012/09/cfi-responds-melody-hensley/ I think that was sexual harassment. I really do.

    Plenty of people disguise motivations, and plenty of people do not understand their own motivations, particularly when it comes to things like sexism and racism. This is a well-documented phenomenon. The fact that someone doesn’t explicitly say that what they’re doing is attributable to gender is not an argument that what they are doing is not attributable to gender.

    Ok, I understand you now. I am not comfortable speculating on people’s motivations.

    <i?"Really? Because you haven’t bothered to go back and say, “Oh, yeah. I guess they are denying your equality. Let me explain why I think “we” (which includes “you”, the person whose equality is being denied) should overlook that and treat them as important allies.” You’re just continuing to argue about what you think I’m getting wrong. When do you go do something about them?"

    I find it productive because I ge to understand your arguments, and I value that. Doesn’t mean I agree with you. I don’t HAVE to agree with you to value your opinion. I am more than happy to try to accomodate your experiences. I am more than happy to have sexual harassment policies if that makes you feel safer. Doesn’t mean I agree that we need them. If you want them, we should have them. I am behind you and everyone else on this. Policies should be in place.

    I agree with you that women are marginalized in society in many ways. So are men. We should do something about our hurtful gender roles. From bloggers like you I learned to examine my own privilege – something that I have found immensely helpful and enlightening.

    And I do things about these things – but obviously not on your blog. On your blog I talk to you. Thank you again for taking the time to talk to me. (And I disagree about the accomodationism thing.)

  19. says

    We still disagree about that particular detail of Tf00t. He was an idiot about many things, but I think you are misrepresenting him. I am happy to leave it that if you are.

    Actually, I’m not. You haven’t explained how I’ve misrepresented him. You just asserted that I have, then asserted it was still a valid position after I explained to you why it is not. How is what he said any different from arguing against harassment policies because he’s afraid they’ll keep him from fun sexytimes in the bar?

    Please treat me as an individual, and not as a man.

    I am treating you as someone who is standing up for other people’s arguments. If you equate your personal preference to their argument, as a defense of their argument, understand that you have put it outside the realm of mere personal preference.

    “Do quote the statement you think is anyone attributing sexual, rather than political, motivations to agreeing with Mayhew.”

    http://www.saramayhew.com/blog/index.php/2012/09/cfi-responds-melody-hensley/ I think that was sexual harassment. I really do.

    What Melody tweeted: “Hey, I can get more attention, speaking gigs, and the boys will like me if I keep ragging on Skepchick!” Are you arguing that ragging on Skepchick is a “sexual, rather than political” act? Is “ragging on Skepchick” somehow tied to Mayhew’s gender? Is it presenting as a sexual being? Is it a sexual act?

    You equated that tweet to people telling me that men only agree with me because I offer them sex. Back it up, or tell me you were wrong.

    I don’t HAVE to agree with you to value your opinion. I am more than happy to try to accomodate your experiences.

    We haven’t been talking about my “opinions” or individual “experiences” for quite some time. We are talking about arguments that you have tried to pick fault with and failed. Trying to relegate them to “opinion” now minimizes them. Don’t do that.

    I am more than happy to have sexual harassment policies if that makes you feel safer. Doesn’t mean I agree that we need them. If you want them, we should have them. I am behind you and everyone else on this. Policies should be in place.

    This isn’t a question of my feelings. The only circumstances under which we would not need a policy for dealing with harassment is if it were never to occur, if everyone were to instinctually deal with it well whenever it happened, or if it were a trivial matter for all involved. None of those things are true.

    (And I disagree about the accomodationism thing.)

    No, you’re not “disagreeing”. You’re asserting something contrary to my argument, then declining to support your assertions.

  20. freemage says

    There is one other step I would encourage–the largest organizations need to specifically go out of their way to recruit a qualified PR person–someone familiar with both social justice issues AND social media. And that person should be given the job of being the ‘voice’ of the organization. If DJ Groethe had had such a person vetting his comments, the damage he did would’ve been vastly curtailed, and he might’ve even gotten schooled in a fashion more conducive to learning why his language was so hurtful and divisive.

    Nils: On ‘best speakers’, specifically. The notion that there’s a strict ladder-like hierarchy of speakers, with a ‘best’ and the top, then a second-best, third-best, and so on, is already starting in the wrong place. Fact is, competence is hard to narrow down like that. Instead, you’ll have broad categories, with comparisons between individuals in those categories often being determined by circumstance and preferences. However (and there have been so many studies on this one I’m not going to bother linking any), people are prone to looking first at others ‘like’ them for credibility. So if you’ve got a middle-class, cis, straight white man picking out all the speakers, and he’s just reaching into that ‘top’ category, without making a deliberate effort, he’s going to overlook women, racial minorities and so on, because, hey, Dawkins always works for him, right? It takes a conscious effort to overcome that natural human bias.

  21. jackiepaper says

    Nils, let me put it this way:

    I don’t want to associate with bigots of any stripe. I don’t care if they are religious or not. Being an atheist does not make you my automatic ally. In fact, I think resolving to let bigotry slide in our community makes assholes of us all. Also, how in the great wide world could a sexist be helpful in social justice issues? Should we coddle homophobes and racists too or are they only bad guys because some of the people they hate are men?

    Feminism is a social justice issue. Apparently, it isn’t important to you. My humanity and equality can be dismissed with a hand wave and the person doing so would still be my ally in your mind. Try not to pull anything doing those mental gymnastics.

  22. Nils Pihl says

    Fairmage, fair enough. I see your point and concede that you are probably right. I will examine myself.

  23. says

    I am more than happy to have sexual harassment policies if that makes you feel safer. Doesn’t mean I agree that we need them. If you want them, we should have them. I am behind you and everyone else on this. Policies should be in place.

    You say you’re a feminist, yet you are not yet positive that sexual harassment policies are needed? Clash of cognitive dissonance!

    I know this is going to sound like an impossibly high bar to meet, but I don’t see the need for sexual harassment policies, but sure, let’s have them if it makes you feel better is not a feminist sentiment, and it is objectively incorrect. If you don’t see the need, it means that something is wrong with your perception, because the need is there. It is a TRUE FACT that sexual harassment policies are needed. If you don’t think that they are, YOU ARE WRONG. If other people don’t think that they are, THEY ARE WRONG. There is no point in discussing this, unless you are seeking to provide edification for lurkers.

  24. says

    Can we chat or have a call about this? I’d be happy to try and answer your questions.

    No. You can try to reason this out in public, or you can go away and think about it for a bit.

  25. jackiepaper says

    Nils,
    You say we should only have harassment policies to make women feel safer, not because they need to be safer. Are you saying that all the women coming forward at the risk of being obsessively harassed and lied about are themselves lying about their experiences? Or is it that you think they should just take it and shut up, because that’s how women should be treated?
    Let me see, sexists are our friends and women are fragile little liars who you think we should give no credence to, but you’d let them have harassment policies just to make them feel better.
    Wow, go away.
    I can’t speak for anyone else, but I don’t want anywhere near me ever. You are not an ally.

  26. Nils Pihl says

    I am not going to bother with you SallyStrange. The discussion with Zvan is plenty, thank you. She has been generally civil, helpful and intelligent. I am feminist and a true scotsman. You are just loud.

  27. says

    “Let’s adopt an unnecessary policy to placate the women” is NOT something you can sincerely believe AND also sincerely believe that feminism is important.

    Well, to be fair, it’s like the compatibility of science and religion. You can hold both positions, but it means you’ve skipped some steps between them.

  28. Nils Pihl says

    That’s not what I am saying, jackiepaper. I’m sorry you don’t see me as an ally.

    I am not saying anyone is lying. I am not saying anyone is fragile. Women and men should be treated with respect and dignity.

    The topic of sexual harassment at conferences is very close to my heart, believe it or not. I have been harassed at a conference myself – AND I STILL DON’T THINK WE NEED A POLICY. Why? Because the policy wouldn’t make me feel safer – what would make me feel safer is TALKING about these issues.

    Imagine that.

  29. says

    Nils, if you want to play “pit the good feminist against the bad feminist”, I’ll just boot you from the blog now. I have been exceptionally forebearing with you. That doesn’t give you any claim that others have to do the same.

  30. jackiepaper says

    Nils,
    You forgot to tell her she was shrill too.
    Remember, uppity wimminz who need men to explain things (especially things like sexism) to them aren’t just to loud (even in text) they are also shrill.
    Come on, man. I almost had a Bingo.

  31. Nils Pihl says

    I think I am going to have to take a break from this for a day or two. This discussion is becoming difficult for me at an emotional level, and I can’t reply to Zvan because I am not ready to have certain parts of my life become public knowledge.

    I’m sorry to everyone I have offended by not communicating clearly, and I am sorry for not answering the questions that have been directed at me. I consider that a failure, but I am not ready to talk about my experience with sexual assault in front of a crowd that is angry with me.

    I understand I made you angry, but I still have to clock out.

  32. jackiepaper says

    Nils, nothing you have said here shows you as a feminist. Feminists don’t advocate for making more room in a community for sexists while dismissing policies that protect women from sexual predators.

  33. Nils Pihl says

    I am going to take a break for a day or two and consider if am ready to tell people about what happened to me. If you don’t think that would add anything to the conversation, please let me know and spare me the humiliation.

  34. says

    Nils, you don’t have to talk about anything you’re not up for talking about. You don’t have to defend yourself or prove anything to us. Or to me. I understand that you have some pride caught up in what you’re saying here, but you don’t have to defend it. I was quite serious about going away and taking some time to think this all through. This conversation right here isn’t an end or a game to be won or anything else.

    You’ve been talking about it as education. Give yourself some time to absorb it that way.

  35. jackiepaper says

    I don’t recall this thread being about you Nils. I am sincerely sorry for what happened to you. None the less, you have no reason to make this about you.

    Fair warning: You awful arguments will not go uncriticized because you are the victim of sexual assault. Many of us here have lived through various kinds of abuse and I don’t recall anyone taking it easy on us. (Please have a look at the post on AD prior to this one for reference.) Please do take all the time you need before considering coming back and mansplaining to women why they don’t really need protection from sexual harassment or why they should be more friendly to sexists. Because that sort of thing will make decent people angry with you.

  36. says

    No more responses to Nils, please. They will be deleted, and he will not be back in this thread, perhaps on this blog. He has indicated here and in email–after being told not to try to take this conversation private–that this argument has not been good for his emotional health. I have suggested he take his concerns to someone trained to deal with them rather than me, as I have no qualifications on that score. I can’t in good conscience allow the argument to continue.

  37. says

    Extroverts and introverts.

    Our organization got more people coming out by moving the meeting around so that they weren’t always downtown or always uptown, but also on either side of the city and in different suburbs, thus making it convenient for different subsets of members to show up.

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