The Strike at Putney

I’ve read rather a lot of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s work. So it is that, frequently over the last couple of years, a particular story has been called to mind. Today, between Monette’s guest post this morning and a friend on Twitter asking why she is “still involved with a movement where the idea of not cornering women in enclosed spaces created a two-year-and-counting blood feud”, it seemed an appropriate time to share it.

This isn’t to suggest any particular course of action. It’s simply a note that I try never to forget how much any group that runs on volunteer effort relies on the unpaid work of women.

“But what are we going to do, ladies?” said Mrs. Robbins briskly. Mrs. Robbins was the president. She was a big, bustling woman with clear blue eyes and crisp, incisive ways. Hitherto she had held her peace. “They must talk themselves out before they can get down to business,” she had reflected sagely. But she thought the time had now come to speak.

“You know,” she went on, “we can talk and rage against the men all day if we like. They are not trying to prevent us. But that will do no good. Here’s Mrs. Cotterell invited, and all the neighbouring auxiliaries notified–and the men won’t let us have the church. The point is, how are we going to get out of the scrape?”

A helpless silence descended upon the classroom. The eyes of every woman present turned to Myra Wilson. Everyone could talk, but when it came to action they had a fashion of turning to Myra.

She had a reputation for cleverness and originality. She never talked much. So far today she had not said a word. She was sitting on the sill of the window across from Lucy Knox. She swung her hat on her knee, and loose, moist rings of dark hair curled around her dark, alert face. There was a sparkle in her grey eyes that boded ill to the men who were peaceably pursuing their avocations, rashly indifferent to what the women might be saying in the maple-shaded classroom.

“Have you any suggestion to make, Miss Wilson?” said Mrs. Robbins, with a return to her official voice and manner.

Myra put her long, slender index finger to her chin.

“I think,” she said decidedly, “that we must strike.”

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A Very Uncomfortable Place

I met Monette Richards at last year’s Women in Secularism conference, though I’d known her online before that. We’ve since become friends, just as is the case for every CFI volunteer or staff member I’ve spent any significant amount of time interacting with. They are good people, doing excellent work, many of whom are in very tough spots after this year’s conference. Monette wrote this about being in that tough spot.

Early last year, I discovered Center for Inquiry because of an event they were throwing, the first Women in Secularism conference. When doing further research, I found a chapter that met not two blocks from my house. Never one to pass up imbibing beers with like-minded people, especially when I can walk home, my husband and I joined and started attending meetings.

We were immediately made to feel welcome by the entire group. They were personable and interested in talking to us and none of them said “bless you” when I sneezed! It was awesome.  Then, we went to Arlington, VA for the conference.

I keep trying to express exactly what that conference did for me, but can never come up with the words.  Instead, I will tell you what it inspired me to do. [Read more…]

Vacula v. Silverman

Because some folks are asking it be pulled out of Twitter into a readable form. Throwing in another voice or two you don’t usually see involved, because ripple effects are part of the point.

@ With is with your constant pandering toward women, Dave? It seems to belittle them, as if their merits don't stand on own.
Justin Vacula

@ you mean when I treat women as equals & allies, while dissing the anonymous assholes who post and rt vile messages & pix?
David Silverman
[Read more…]

An Alternate Universe

Rebecca Watson inhabits an alternate universe.

That’s how Ron Lindsay, CEO of Center for Inquiry, who is attending his organization’s own Women in Secularism conference, opened a blog post last night. That blog post is noteworthy mostly for missing the point and much of the text of the post it’s responding to. However, that is obvious enough that it’s already been pointed out in the comments and probably will be repeatedly noted in other blog posts across the ‘net. I don’t care much for pointing out the obvious, but there is one thing about this post I would like to address.

I agree with Ron Lindsay about this statement. Rebecca does live in an alternate universe. So do I. [Read more…]

Girls: Missing Victims of Religious Sexual Abuse?

The classic picture we have of a child victim of sexual abuse in religious institutions is a boy being abused by a Catholic priest. There are a couple of good reasons for that.

The first is that the hierarchy of the Catholic Church has given us a central group of people we can point fingers at for the decades of inaction (or action against victims) in their churches. The victims of Catholic priests have a powerful central authority to deal with, and it’s given them reason to band together and reason for news media to report on their immense struggle to be acknowledged.

The other reason is that, again because the Catholic Church has a central authority, it has made it easier for researchers studying church-facilitated abuse to use the Church as a proxy for religious institutions more generally.

The Catholic Church, however, is unusual. It is extreme both in the degree of organization and in the degree to which it limits the role of girls in the church. This means that stereotypes of child sexual abuse in the church are likely going to be misleading. Not surprisingly, a new study and report has found just that. [Read more…]

Saturday Storytime: Come to My Arms, My Beamish Boy

Douglas F. Warrick writes surreal short stories, weird little realities that make internal sense but don’t leave the reader exactly comfortable. His first collection of these stories, Plow the Bones, is just out.

“You know the funny thing about these visits?”

Eisley looked up again. For a second, his glasses looked like they might flood with whiteness again, but just a flicker and then his eyes were on Cotton, those eyes that used to be so wild, so mad with the things he knew, now just sad and accommodating. He sighed and said, “What’s that, Cotton?”

“When you’re around,” Cotton said and shifted his weight on the hard, lumpy hospital bed. The memories of his dead–sleeping mind still stuck to him and he was grateful. “I feel better… Not… you know, not all the way right again. Just… I know where I am.”

Eisley nodded. His eyes left Cotton and he sighed again. He really hadn’t changed. Not in sixty damned years had he changed. His brown hair still crept down across his wide pale brow and he still brushed it back in place with the side of his finger like he didn’t even know he was doing it. He had the same suit. Even now, in spite of his compassionate tone and his pitying eyes, he was still performing, still impressing himself with his own aesthetic control.

Nobody really changed all that much. Not in the end.

The things in the shadows chattered and mumbled. They sounded like children… no… no, like the tapes he used to play for… for his grandkids, the ones, the… the Chipmunk tapes. In the van. On the way to… to what? Jesus, what a thing was this that he could remember the goddamned tapes but not the names of the kids he used to play them for. What a goddamned thing was this.

“I guess… this will probably be the last visit?”

Eisley leaned forward, rested his arms on his knees and squeezed his long thin hands together. His fingernails looked blue. His voice was clinical. “What makes you say that, Cotton?”

“I’m tired. I’m… running out of…” His mind locked up. He felt his mouth open up, heard the confused mewling, croaking noise that came out. He felt stuck, locked inside his own body, pounding his fists against the walls and screaming, No, damn it! Don’t do this to me now! Give it back, it’s mine, it’s been mine for eighty–four goddamned years! It’s my body, my mind, let me have it back!

“You’re running out. I understand.” Eisley stood up, brushed his hands down the front of his brown pants, the pleats standing out from the shadows they cast. They were too long on him, bunching around his well–polished loafers. This was the way with Eisley. Everything always polished. Everything always just slightly ill fitting. “I hope,” he said, his eyes disappearing again behind the great white flood in his spectacles, “that you’re right, Cotton. About this being the last, I mean. I hope that quite sincerely.”

The things in the shadows, slick and black, smiling with their whole faces, crawled forward. Cotton closed his eyes again.

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A Comedy Crush

I went to the taping of Wits last Friday. A couple friends are fans of Neko Case and Kelly Hogan, and they asked us whether we wanted to join them. We said, “Sure.” Case makes good music, even if it isn’t the sort of thing I listen to on my own, and we’d been curious about Wits for a while. In their case, encouraging your audience to live-tweet is great viral marketing.

It was good show. In fact, it was nearly tailored to my interests. The comedy bits were highly surreal, Case and Hogan had some very frank things to say about living in poverty and are funny themselves, there was the appliance guy who chalked everything up to angels, and I got to see a Minnesota public radio audience try to figure out what to do during an Iron Maiden sing-along.

Then there was the comedy guest. [Read more…]