Ron Lindsay’s Radical Feminism


There’s one part of Ron Lindsay’s opening speech at Women in Secularism that has been continuing to bug me. The rest of it, I’m mostly content to let others talk about. Greta’s had her say. No one has really stood up for any of the content of the speech in any detail as far as I know, just made vague calls for the value of questioning and critical thinking that ignore the context of the talk.

This part bugged me, though, because it was a mystery:

And who decides what’s included within the scope of social justice anyway? What is the definition of social justice?  I read a blog post by Louise Pennington the other day; she stated that although patriarchy may predate capitalism, we cannot destroy patriarchy w/o destroying capitalism. Is the destruction of capitalism considered part of a social justice program? If so, that position certainly has very significant implications.

Oh, well, if Louise Pennington says–what?! Who is Louise Pennington? What did she actually say? Why is it we are expected to be listening to her and engaging with her ideas? And why mention her at a secularism conference?

So, though it took a bit of work, I went and found the blog post in question.

Until two years ago, I would have still identified as a socialist-feminist, although my awareness of the structural oppression of women was growing. The unrelenting misogyny and rape apologism on the left made me reconsider my political stance as did the creation of the Feminist/Women’s Rights board on Mumsnet. The more I read on Mumsnet, the more radical my feminism became. I started reading Andrea Dworkin, Natasha Walters, Kate Millett, Susan Faludi, Susan Maushart, Ariel Levy, Gail Dines, Germaine Greer, and Audre Lorde. I learned about cultural femicide and I started reading only fiction books written by women: Isabel Allende, Alice Walker, Maya Angelou, Kate Mosse, Margaret Atwood, Kris Radish, Barbara Kingsolver, and Andrea Levy amongst many others. I started reading about women’s lives and the power of real sisterhood.

My feminism, both the definition and activism, has changed dramatically over the past 18 years. Now, I self-define as an anti-capitalist, pro-radical feminist as I believe that the source of women’s oppression is male violence which is perpetuated by the structures of our capitalist economy. The Patriarchy may predate capitalism but we cannot destroy it without destroying capitalism too. I don’t always feel a ‘real feminist’ or a ‘good enough’ feminist. All I know is that I am a feminist who truly believes that women have the power to liberate all women from male violence; that feminism is fundamentally about the power of sisterhood.

It is nice to see that Lindsay represented this argument, at least, accurately. It’s even a position that a handful of people in a room of 300 might even hold. The legacy of patriarchy is deeply embedded in our systems, including our economic systems. Capitalism does a great job of perpetuating existing inequalities of wealth and opportunity. There’s a discussion we could have there.

It still doesn’t belong in the opening speech of a secularism conference, though, any more than the fact that many communists are atheists gets brought up by Dave Silverman when he opens an American Atheist conference.  There are plenty of communists in the secular movement. I serve on a board with one. I’ve done radio shows with members of the Revolutionary Communist Party. There was a communist on stage at Women in Secularism, I’m told, though I didn’t know it at the time.

It just isn’t something we’re told we should hash out on stage for a general audience. There are certainly questions we could talk about. There is evidence that at least a socialist approach reduces religious belief. We could definitely have a chat about how the destruction of capitalism would affect secular and atheist activism.

We don’t do that, though, unless we make a special event of it. We don’t do that unless speakers are ready to have that converstaion and comfortable having it in public. Conferences address our challenges, but they do it by emphasizing the commonalities among our diverse viewpoints. Economic discussions and revolutionary changes aren’t known for promoting common cause. We have lots of low-hanging fruit and ambitious goals we can work on together before we get to that point.

So mentioning the destruction of capitalism in the opening speech at WiS as an issue to be addressed there was decidedly odd.

I am less concerned with the “what” of this part of Lindsay’s speech, however, than the “who”. Who is Louise Pennington to be someone we should discuss at WiS? Who is she, in particular, that we should put discussing her in front of the topics we came to talk about because Ron Lindsay said so?

The excerpt I’ve given above suggests that Louise Pennington is relatively new to feminism, at least in any structured way. Perusal of her other writing at Huffington Post and at her personal blog supports that. She writes well. She seems to be able to think and apply what she’s read to new situations. She doesn’t seem to be revolutionary in the sense of using or promoting violence.

There’s particularly nothing wrong with her, though plenty of people (read: a large number of WiS attendees) are rightly not going to be thrilled with her desire to attend the explicitly transphobic RadFem conference. I would probably agree with her on many topics and be able to disagree intellegently on many more. I don’t really know, because I was completely unfamiliar with anything she had to say before Lindsay mentioned her and I got curious.

That’s important. I was unaware of Louise Pennington’s entire existence before Ron Lindsay brought her up.

I don’t think that’s any failing on my part. As far as I see, she’s not an atheist. She’s certainly not an atheist or secular activist. Her writing seems to have entered the online atheosphere with Lindsay’s talk, though it’s certainly being passed around now. She’s just one more blogger on Mumsnet and Huffington Post whose work, as far as I know, has never been recommended to me for any reason, competent as it is.

As much as this feels like picking on a blogger who is trying to gather an audience, it doesn’t seem that many other people know who Louise Pennington is either. She doesn’t seem to have broken out of the mass of mostly ignored bloggers that is HuffPo, probably because she’d contributed about a dozen posts total before this one. Some of her posts have failed to attract any comments, even at HuffPo. She isn’t someone whose work gets passed around.

This post that Lindsay cited is an exception. It has well over a hundred comments, Pennington’s peak.

Why did this one post get a load of comments? Did it catch the eye of atheists or better known feminists and get passed around? Are those comments heaping praise on Pennington’s sentiments?

No, the post was linked from A Voice for Men, in an article that’s is ridiculous even by their (lack of) standards. The hundred-puls comments are almost entriely from men claiming that talking about violence toward women from men constitutes sexist discrimination.

Atheists didn’t promote this post. Feminists didn’t promote this post. Men’s rights “activists” promoted this post.

So how the hell did it end up in the opening speech for Women in Secularism?

That is what’s bothering me now. How did a blog post known about by MRAs but not secular feminists end up in Lindsay’s speech? He didn’t just stumble across Pennington’s post.

Now, I doubt Lindsay reads AVfM himself. He’s acting like a touchy person who isn’t used to having his power or position challenged and isn’t willing or able to handle the situation professionally. He’s not acting like a men’s rights activist. I think he would be disgusted by what he found at AVfM, both in content and in the quality of “argument” presented.

Others in this movement do, however, read AVfM. We know that. What we didn’t know is that these people had, directly or through intermediaries, enough influence with the CEO of CFI to have their radical feminist boggarts addressed in the opening speech of Women in Secularism while the real feminism of the speakers and audience, with thousands upon thousands of words written about it in just the year between conferences, was ignored or mischaracterized. I find that a deeply disturbing thought.

Here I steal, with permission, a note from Greta about the difference between talking about things that disturb us and doing something about them:

If you have something to say about Ron Lindsay’s talk at the Women in Secularism 2 conference, and/or about his follow-up posts responding to the controversy… say it to the CFI Board of Directors.

Don’t just say it on Twitter, or on Facebook, or on blog comments, or even on your own blog. Say it to the people who can do something about it. If you’ve already said something on some other forum, please copy and paste it, edit as appropriate, and send it to the CFI Board of Directors.

The CFI Board of Directors can be emailed via the Corporate Secretary, Tom Flynn, at tflynn@centerforinquiry.net.They can also be reached by snail mail, at:

Center for Inquiry Board of Directors
PO Box 741
Amherst, NY 14226-0741

I am told by Tom Flynn that letters to the board will be delivered to them several days before the meeting. That meeting is June 14, a week from today. If you have something to say but haven’t said it yet, now is the time.

Comments

  1. says

    Men’s rights “activists” promoted this post.

    Holy shades of the “cartoons of mohammed” kerfuffle: someone found something that they could caricature then promoted it and then got “outraged” by it. If Andrea Dworkin hadn’t existed, the MRAs would have had to invent her, because she’s half of the straw those straw-filled feminists are stuffed with.

  2. A Hermit says

    … the post was linked from A Voice for Men…

    Wow.

    Great work here Stephanie; this is an important observation which most of us would probably never have noticed.

    I hear that Lindsay went out of his way to welcome Justin Vacula (after pointedly not welcoming everyone else…) Is that who he’s listening to in women’s issues?

    Lindsey is looking more and more incompetent as this goes on. Is this his idea of skeptical inquiry? Taking advice on women’s issues from the woo peddlers at AVfM and their sycophants?

    I’m sick of seeing those irrational hatemongers being treated like a respectable part of the atheist community. Who’s next? Are we going to get notes on race relations from the nice people at Stormfront?

  3. says

    I have to say I’m curious about this bit:

    It still doesn’t belong in the opening speech of a secularism conference, though, any more than the fact that many communists are atheists gets brought up by Dave Silverman when he opens an American Atheist conference.

    Did Silverman really bring that up? And when was this? I’m almost feeling bad for not paying attention, though I arrived late to his opening last year. But I was there back in 2011. I don’t remember any of this! :(
    (Ohhh…a light bulb goes off…I’m thinking of the national conventions, but I now remember there was that regional convention in Minneapolis last year that I wasn’t able to attend. Was it then that he said this?)

  4. says

    I didn’t get the impression from your excerpts that Louise Pennington is new to feminism (she says she’s been involved for 18 years and that 2 years ago she identified as a socialist feminist), only new to the strain of radical feminism she’s into currently.

  5. says

    Thanks, Stephanie! I thought that was the point, but since you said, “the fact” I became totally confused! Don’t do this to me when my brain is fried from a long week of work! ;)

  6. says

    It just isn’t something we’re told we should hash out on stage for a general audience. There are certainly questions we could talk about. There is evidence that at least a socialist approach reduces religious belief. We could definitely have a chat about how the destruction of capitalism would affect secular and atheist activism.

    We don’t do that, though, unless we make a special event of it. We don’t do that unless speakers are ready to have that converstaion and comfortable having it in public. Conferences address our challenges, but they do it by emphasizing the commonalities among our diverse viewpoints. Economic discussions and revolutionary changes aren’t known for promoting common cause. We have lots of low-hanging fruit and ambitious goals we can work on together before we get to that point.

    So mentioning the destruction of capitalism in the opening speech at WiS as an issue to be addressed there was decidedly odd.

    This makes me uncomfortable. If your point is only that it isn’t Ron Lindsay who should be determining what is discussed at WiS, okay. But it doesn’t seem far-fetched or out of place to suggest that there might be a place for discussions of class, poverty, or the intersection of capitalism and patriarchy at a WiS conference in the future. There’s a lot of meat there for discussion–especially given how intertwined the religious right is with corporate interests in American politics.

    The “low-hanging fruit” and “common cause” stuff sounds awfully close to those who complain about including feminist and social justice issues in the atheo-sceptic-secularism movement(s) at all.

  7. says

    What I’m saying is that, if you’re dealing with an issue that has that much potential for stirring up strong feelings and you want discussion of that issue to be productive, you don’t spring that discussion on people.

  8. smhll says

    I had never heard of Louise Pennington either. I skimmed a couple of her HuffPo pieces. She links to some quite interesting blogs. Also, I like this that she said.

    I care about making spaces safe online for women so, whilst I will never support the policies of Dorries and Mensch, I do think we need to stop belittling and denigrating them. It is possible to criticise their policies without making it personal and supporting the patriarchy in silencing women. That is what we do when we fall into denigrating women. We are effectively helping to silence other women’s voices. Instead, we need to reclaim the Internet and make it the most subversive weapon we have against the patriarchy.

  9. says

    @7: I get the impression she’s 20-years-old. So, if that means “I’ve been a feminist all my life but lately have migrated to this version”…well, OK then.

    I think the point here is that why her voice out of all the hundreds of feminist voices? Maybe because it’s one voice that fits his preconceived (aka, nonskeptical) notion of what a feminist is/does/says/believes/acts like?

    One can find an example of any stupid thing that rattles around in one’s own head if one looks hard enough. An atheist who believes in ghosts, perhaps. That doesn’t mean it’s representative of that category at large — or even anything more than one person’s opinion.

    At best, it’s shoddy scholarship. At worst, it’s finding “facts” to fit one’s own biases.

  10. says

    I didn’t hear Lindsay’s speech at the conference but I read it after he posted it. I also wondered who the heck is Louise Pennington an why do I care what she has to say about capitalism, so thanks for great detective work, Stephanie.

    As a bit of an outsider, the interesting thing to me is how someone like Lindsay could be so tone deaf, not only to the content of his original speech, but to the backlash against it. It looks like the reactions of the GOP to the recent news that young people don’t like them: doubling down and telling the ‘trouble makers’ that they’re the ones in the wrong. Um… not helpful.

  11. says

    I can’t recall the last time I saw a skeptic link to or cite that notorious den of woo-woo, the HuffPo, approvingly, let alone as an authority on any subject. They’re known to be frequently and flagrantly wrong on medicine and health issues; why would any skeptic think they were an authority on feminism? Maybe it’s that feminism is all just opinions anyway, not hard science like health where there’s always a 100% right and 100% wrong set of statements. Maybe it’s because alt-med is really more of a girl thing anyway, right? Feminism and alternative medicine stem from the same kind of feeling-heavy fuzzy thinking–liberalism and communism too, probably. What they really need is for a level-headed logical man to cut through all the emotional bullshit and set them all straight.

    In any case, I’m sure we’ll soon see Justin Vacula and the Pitters howling in rage at the terrible injustice Lindsay has committed here by trying to smear all feminists–especially the ones at Women in Secularism–with the fallacious guilt by association with Pennington here. And to do it with that time-honored anti-atheist, red scare era “did you know they’re COMMUNISTS?!!?!11/?” tactic, too.

    In fact, so sure am I of this impending wave of anti-Lindsay rage, that I will hold my breath until it arrives. Just watch. Any minute now.

  12. seraphymcrash says

    @10 Ibis3

    I don’t think the problem was the topic. “Does feminism need to demolish capitalism to be successful” sounds like a really interesting talk that would not be out of place at a WiS conference. The problem is that Lindsay essentially sought out a controversial position many people would find unreasonable (especially when presented without argument, we do live in a capitalist society that has villified other economic systems) and presented it as a pillar of feminism to try and make feminism sound unreasonable. He did this during the opening speech as well. This topic is appropriate for a panel on it’s own, not embedded in his opening remarks to be used as a weapon against convention goers.

    He was poisoning the well with a straw position. That’s reprehensible.

  13. Martha says

    Others in this movement do, however, read AVfM. We know that. What we didn’t know is that these people had, directly or through intermediaries, enough influence with the CEO of CFI to have their radical feminist boggarts addressed in the opening speech of Women in Secularism while the real feminism of the speakers and audience, with thousands upon thousands of words written about it in just the year between conferences, was ignored or mischaracterized. I find that a deeply disturbing thought.

    Indeed it is. And it was also enough to make me finish my letter to the CFI board. Ron Lindsay needs to take a serious look at his current allies. And if he doesn’t, the CFI board needs to take action.

  14. says

    seraphymcrash said @17:

    I don’t think the problem was the topic. “Does feminism need to demolish capitalism to be successful” sounds like a really interesting talk that would not be out of place at a WiS conference. The problem is that Lindsay essentially sought out a controversial position many people would find unreasonable (especially when presented without argument, we do live in a capitalist society that has villified other economic systems) and presented it as a pillar of feminism to try and make feminism sound unreasonable. He did this during the opening speech as well. This topic is appropriate for a panel on it’s own, not embedded in his opening remarks to be used as a weapon against convention goers.

    Indeed! And, it’s worth considering Ron Lindsay’s own political leanings as well. Lindsay is, I understand, a libertarian. To most liberals, the question of “Does feminism need to demolish capitalism to be successful?” is one that they would be willing to consider, but probably answer no. To more left-leaning progressives, the likelihood of a no answer is less certain, but in any case, it would be a viable topic for debate.

    To a libertarian, however, merely ASKING the question “Does feminism need to demolish capitalism to be successful?” marks the asker as Not Of The Body. Libertarianism in the US has “capitalism is the best system ever!” as an axiomatic position, and even questioning it is considered heresy. So, from a libertarian, saying “this group is associated with socialism” is like saying “this group eats babies”. It’s red-baiting, plain and simple.

    If Lindsay is indeed a libertarian, as I am given to understand, then his inclusion of this notion in the speech can only be viewed as well-poisoning.

  15. says

    I remember watching a video at Zinnia Jones’ blog were her partner describes herself as a radical feminist. Of course, not all radical feminist are trans-phobic, the majority are not. But I wonder, considering how many sub-types of feminism exists, that some of these minor distinctions that can be very important in some particular cases, are what some, such as Ron Lindsay, are referring to.

  16. says

    axelblaster, I think that’s rather beside the point here. Ron didn’t just have some ideas in his head that might be different from someone else’s ideas. He presented a particular speech with particular examples at a particular conference in the middle of a particular set of circumstances in the secular movement.

  17. says

    Brilliant detectiving, Stephanie. Thanks for digging into the details on this one. I didn’t recognize that niggling sense of unease that I had when I read this part of Ron Lindsay’s speech, and you’ve nailed it here.

  18. maudell says

    Good work Stephanie.

    I didn’t know about Louise Pennington either. I was already troubled by the ‘examples’ of shut up and listen he gave. When I first read the ‘shut up and listen’ meme, I wholeheartedly agreed with it. As a white woman, I have learned so much about racial issues, ableism, gender and sexuality issues, etc. from shutting up and listening. Sometimes having to swallow an accusation, even though I meant well. It’s hard, but that’s how we can learn about different people.
    Now, while I agree with ‘shut up and listen’ (even when it’s directed at me), I didn’t appreciate his three examples. Now with Pennington, it is four.
    1-PZ: I like PZ, self-described feminist man, atheist activist, but Lindsay was criticizing women at women in secularism. Since the main argument was “I can’t speak because I’m a white man”, the value of the criticism is moot when it comes from a white man (PZ). I just can’t picture PZ saying “your opinion doesn’t matter because you’re a white man, now listen to my opinion.”
    2-Scalzi: Scalzi is interesting too, I read his blog once in a while. But he’s not in the atheist movement (I wouldn’t be surprised if he were an atheist, but I don’t know if he is), and he doesn’t even identify as a feminist (he wrote a “why I don’t identify as a feminist” post a couple months ago). Also, same as PZ for the “silenced white men” thing. Way to give examples of two white men silencing white men for being white men. Oppression!
    3-Whoever that was. Anonymous blogger no one has heard of on Daily K-OS, identity unknown. Beliefs unknown.
    and now 4- A radfem who’s not part of the atheist community.

    Well he showed them, those pesky atheist female-identified feminists! Seriously, as other critics have said before, the speech was terrible and the context worse, but that’s fine, we all say stupid things sometimes. No, my problem is that he doubled down in a completely hyperbolic manner, and when he was forced to apologize, he only apologized about the “North Korea” thing. What a perfect example of entitlement. I get the impression that he won’t apologize because he values too much the participation of atheists who want to ‘debate’ on the inferiority of women. You see, the women wanting to be part of the atheist community are divisive.

    Sorry for the rant, but I can’t believe this is still a thing.

  19. R Johnston says

    @19

    It’s long past time for libertarianism such as Lindsay’s to be recognized as the religious fundamentalism that it is. It may not be traditionally theistic, but it is every bit as much based on religious faith and the presumed infallibility of holy sources as are islam, christianity, and other theistic religions. The libertarian positions on economic matters and on the role of privilege and luck in life more generally are antisecular religious hogwash no morally or epistemologically different than anything coming out of Focus on the Family. Libertarianism is the effort to post-hoc rationalize status-quo bias without appeal to a god, and while it drops the god it remains antiskeptical antisecular faith based post-hoc rationalization.

    Libertarianism is incompatible with the pursuit of a secular society.

  20. says

    Stephanie, I try to speak from my own experience -limited- on testy subjects, such as what constitutes the correct way to practice the values of humanism and feminism. From my perspective, most of the local women our secular community are very rational. Extremely rational, when compared to the views of the general population.
    Some are mostly rational, but have some bad ideas, for example: There are a few anti-vaccination.
    So, if we apply some generosity to what Ron Lindsey said, that is an idea that could be challenged and could result in an accusation of mansplaining. In my case, it that has exactly happened.
    Then, there are other things in which feminists disagree, and both sides of the arguments present good points. For example, how do we decide if prostitution should be legalized or not. All these questions are open to free inquiry. But if you are an outlier in a particular point and you don’t agree with the consensus, you are anti-feminists or worse. Example: EllenBeth Wath’s opinion during the Adria Richards donglegate affair.
    My humble opinion is that Ron Lindsey’s portion of the speech that is under scrutiny has a lot of merit (you don’t have to read MRAs to know that these problems exists), but perhaps the time and place were not appropriate. But, if that’s the case -and it is: When and where?

  21. says

    I apologize for my dreadful writing, but what I’m trying to say is that, in my example, I opined to a mother that holds anti-vaccinations ideas and got accused of telling her how to raise her children. I didn’t even mention her children and just pointed out the flaws in Wakefield’s paper. That was even before we knew he was a complete fraud.
    So (1) did I get silenced? (2) Why should she have more merit to speak about vaccines than myself?

  22. seraphymcrash says

    Axelblaster

    I recommend you read Greta’s to posts on what Ron said, and the context of why it was offensive. The short version of the story is that Ron lectured feminism 101 very poorly during the opening speech to a gthering of women who hold the equivalent of PhDs in feminism.

    Thats presumptous and condescending. Additionally most of his arguments are ones that have either already been answered hundreds of times, or were misrepresentions of what feminists have actually been saying (for example the “shut up and listen” portions). If Ron had just shut up and listened, then most of his questions would already ahve been answered, and he wouldn’t have come away looking like a fool.

    Finally, this was an opening speech, not a discussion or lecture. Pretending that this was a two way discussion instead of a one way lecture distorts the truth of what happened.

  23. seraphymcrash says

    Also, one woman yelling at you, unpleasant as it may have been isn’t silencing you. When women are talking aout silencing, they are talking about any of the hundred different ways they are harassed, threatened and ignored, that when taken togther mean that their views and experiences are often completly discounted.

  24. says

    @28 OK, I understand what you mean by silencing. That’s more clear now and I would agree with you, then.

    as for your points in 27, It doesn’t matter if the room was filled with 300 women with equivalent degrees in Feminism, if the actual point he is making is correct. So while he could have been wrong about calling it “silencing”, like I just did above, the main argument is that some issues in feminism are not clear cut and some feminists have used some rhetorical tactics to dismiss criticism.

    To use an extreme example, could he accuse some flaws in Andrea Dworkin views and not get accused of telling a woman how to practice feminism. I believe, we agree that is not the case.

    Lindsay’s speech may not be relevant now, but since the atheism movement is growing, more and more people will self-declare atheists-feminists and a lot of those folks don’t have a prior experience in critical thinking skills. We may as well have that conversation now, seraphymcrash.

  25. says

    axelblaster, if you don’t think we’ve been having a conversation about feminism of various sorts for more than just the past year and very intensely in the past year, you haven’t been paying attention. If you haven’t been paying attention to what we have been doing, perhaps you should be a bit more reticent with your prescriptions for what we should be doing. Much like Lindsay, in fact.

    When the answer to “If not now, when?” is “For the past several months”, you’re asking the wrong questions and insulting questions to boot.

  26. R Johnston says

    Lindsay is a non-theistic Republican who Commie baits 20 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall and willfully refuses to understand that privilege and luck play important roles in life. I don’t know for certain that he identifies as a libertarian, but he is one.

  27. says

    @31, Stephanie, I hate to be a contrarian, in fact, because I know that you and Ophelia Benson have many opponents that sometimes cross the line in what we consider productive discourse, I rarely comment when I disagree, because I fell that honest disagreements by friendly opposition can still add up to the total.

    but the claim that if someone does not agree is because the are uninformed or immoral doesn’t stick all the time. The insulting one is new. But, if I came across that way, I’ll apologize for the tone.

    However, I had in the pass, personal experiences or witnessed, in which a very valid point is raised by a man and is dismissed by a feminist. Most of the time, the argument is of the What-about-the-menz type (which tends to be in the bad timing category, ’cause that’s not the issue in question at that moment and derails, even in meatspace). In other cases, the point raised by the man is very relevant. In my case the lady in question was advocating anti-vaccination, and to my horror, being quite convincing to the other young mothers present.

    The problem is not with feminism. Any idea or affiliation will have some bad ideas attached to the group. But, most groups don’t have that rhetorical jujitsu ( “checking your priviledge” or “mansplaining”) that has become in vogue and abused by some [few] feminists.

    That’s way when I rarely comment on issues here, I avoid online examples and focus in meat-space:

    In my social media circles I am acquainted with a well educated black lesbian atheists feminist from a developing country that has been very successful in raising awareness on gay issues and has faced arrest in her country of origin. In her rhetoric, she would fit right in here as a blogger, that is until you learn that she has disowned her own university educated sister (a former friend on mine in real-life) because she decided to go into prostitution. Not only that, but now she is advocating communism in her writing and if you disagree you will get banned from her network in a nanosecond. People have to walk on eggshells when interacting with her. She is a master at rhetorical jujitsu. But, seriously, communism in the 21st century?

    As more atheists come out, more and more differences of opinion will appear and they have to be debated accordingly. But if a woman or any minority is saying something foolish, I will not give them a pass because they are oppressed. The validity of the argument is like kryptonite to practitioners of rhetorical jiujitsu. The validity of the argument should be the only thing that should matter.

  28. says

    axelblaster, we’re not talking about your experience. We’re talking about what the CEO of a hosting organization did in the opening speech of a conference. Focus.

  29. says

    Above, I did mean to sound as if you are calling me immoral, I meant is just one of the other claims made in online disagreements. As far as been uninformed, I’ve been following this for a long time, so I should be informed (out of no malicious intent, it could be I’m a little dense). Have a nice weekend Stephanie, folks!

  30. says

    @35, I understand Stephanie, that’s why I think it was the wrong place and time. Not the speech itself! But I will consider your point over the weekend, I could be missing something just because it may be extremely obvious. Forest-Trees.

  31. says

    I have contacted the board already and have been encouraging others to do so. Tonight at the Cafe Inquiry I host, we will discuss it as well. It frustrates the hell out of me because I really want to like Lindsay. He is actually a pretty good executive, from what I hear from CFI administrators – when it comes to executive functions. And he also seemed to be quite supportive of having a sexual harassment policy. But he says some really ridiculous things sometimes and his performance at WiS was truly a crowning achievement of the absurd. I am over it and I am over Lindsay. As a volunteer for CFI Michigan, I have associated myself with CFI. While the thread might seem tenuous, this associates me with what the chief executive of CFI has to say.

    I don’t want to be associated with his bullshit, but I don’t want to leave CFI. CFI has been a huge part of my community building efforts and I have made a lot of friends through CFI Michigan.

  32. mythbri says

    @axelblaster

    Why are you assuming that the anti-vaccine woman you were speaking with is a feminist? If she hadn’t identified herself as one, then what does that have to do with the idea that feminists try to silence the voices of men? Woman =/= feminist.

    Also, disagreement (even loud disagreement) isn’t silencing. I don’t agree with anti-vaccination views, but I’m not going to claim that I’m being silenced by someone who holds them. I have plenty of venues in which to express my support for vaccination, to point out the flaws in the anti-vaccination arguments, and to persuade others to come around to my point of view.

  33. zhuge, le homme blanc qui ne sait rien mais voudrait says

    Just to be clear axel, no one in general will suggest that being a woman or any minority means you are right on all issues.

    It just means that you are likely to know more about your experiences being you than someone with privilege. I can see how someone might be able to try to use this to end a conversation, but this just isn’t an issue of any consequence in most cases.

    Being able to work out how to deal with such a situation is valuable. (If someone says to you that you’re doing x, and it comes from privilege, I recommend “shutting up and listening” for at least a while.)

    In the example you give, it might have been valuable to stop arguing, and instead say: I am sorry if I stepped on any toes. If it isn’t a problem, would you mind explaining how what I said was hurtful or silencing or otherwise misinformed.

    If there is a legitimate criticism there, then you can think on it, and if not, then you can either ignore the person or try to have a legitimate dialogue.

    But Ron is clearly not knowledgeable enough to have this discussion. It’s mostly a silencing tactic in itself, because it makes us have to defend or attack or otherwise spend time on something that fundamentally almost never happens and is of no import. If someone says to me, “you are wrong about evolution because you are a white man”, well, I can ignore them. And nothing more happens, whatsoever, except one person and I disagree. No big deal, maybe they block me from their website. Whatever. On the one or two occasions this might happen in my life, I guess I might feel mild annoyance, or even a bit of anger. But so what? It just so rarely happens because anyone who understands privilege knows that’s a terrible way to use it as a concept, and counterproductive. But now we have to spend time discussing this thing that almost never happens and that doesn’t matter when it does.

    Which is to say, if you think anyone on FTB or its associated movements thinks that being a woman or minority means you cannot be wrong, then you clearly have not been paying attention.

  34. says

    Now, I doubt Lindsay reads AVfM himself.

    I would previously have doubted that any regular ScienceBlogs (now FTB) readers read AVfM.
    I would have been spectacularly wrong.

    Now I don’t doubt. I don’t assume either, but I don’t doubt.

  35. says

    Flew #19:

    It’s red-baiting, plain and simple.

    And it wasn’t done in a vacuum — how many times have we seen the ‘pitters et al deride the pro-SJ camp by slurring leftist positions? And how many times have we seen libertarians in general deride their opponents in this way?

    I’m going to keep saying this: they hate us because we are definitively and whole-heartedly taking leftist positions and explaining that there is no more room for their reality-free regressive ideology than there is for religion or creationism or Bigfoot. In the same way that accommodationists try to draw a wall around religion and say “skepticism doesn’t apply here”, so too are libertarians and their ilk drawing a wall around “politics”.

    Capitalism does a great job of perpetuating existing inequalities of wealth and opportunity. There’s a discussion we could have there.

    That discussion will not be had — at least, not fairly — until skeptics learn to actually research what happened in Weimar Germany and Zimbabwe before trying to silence anti-neoliberals with mountains of text, convoluted mathematics, and rationalizations better known as “regulation” in an attempt to erase the fact that capitalism prioritizes profit making over everything else, including ethical and environmental concerns. That prioritization gave rise to tobacco science, “public relations” and lobbying, the art of propping up one’s image while continuing — if not increasing — the fundamental harmful practices one is profiting off of. It is why, rather than policies supporting greener energy, expanded social safety net and improved labour standards, we hear about “clean tar sands”/”natural gas”, “balanced budgets” and “The Real Walmart” (WARNING: link contains toxic amounts of privileged erasing the marginalized).

    And, frankly, I don’t see that happening anytime soon.

  36. Bob Dajob says

    Stephanie,

    While I think Ron’s remarks — particularly the straw-feminist, be careful of abusing the concept of privilege bit — were pretty whack, and I commend your attempt at sleuthing, you left out one huge part of the journalistic process: calling the guy and asking where he found this Pennington article.

    So what if her work was linked to at AVfM? I’m sure they link to lots of relatively unpopular feminist pieces to make their stupid points. I’m kind of shocked that you think this means anything at all. It doesn’t. And it’s somewhat irresponsible for you to intimate that it does. Lindsay’s opening remarks were bad enough. Do we really need fictional reasons to be outraged?

    As Oolon pointed out in comment 16, the Pennington piece is question is also linked to on the Atheism Plus website: http://atheismplus.com/forums/viewtopic.php?p=82849&sid=c977150e4ea58d0e7c9b4993037a35e1#p82849

    Which scenario is more likely: In preparation for a talk at the Atheism Plus-related WIS conference, Ron Lindsay cherry-picked a bit of feminism he found objectionable from the Atheism Plus site, or from A Voice for Men? My guess is the former, but, you know, we don’t have to guess. You could have simply asked the guy.

  37. says

    Bob, two things. Lindsay has made it quite clear that this is in the hands of the board now. No, I’m not taking this to him privately, although I will certainly provide an update if he tells me how he came across this article.

    As for Atheism+, which is more likely: Lindsay gave a speech on May 16 and someone added that post to their list of problematic feminism based on his talk, or someone posted a link in the Atheism+ forum on May 21 and Lindsay has a time machine?

  38. Bob Dajob says

    Stephanie,
    I owe you a big derp. DERP! That’s why I like you. You posses the attention to detail I quite obviously lack.

    That said, I suck. Keep up the good work.

  39. says

    @Bob I wasn’t linking to the A+ example as a possible source for Ron, frankly I think its extremely unlikely he has been to the forum. Errr and yeah as Stephanie points out the timing is off. I wouldn’t have mentioned if I thought the linking was inspired by Rons talk. Pretty sure its coincidence despite being slightly after. Point was until this post there was pretty much no mention of her or the post in the community. That is one rare reference and it’s not a glowing review. So why mention some obscure post that no one in the secular community seems to agree with anyway!

    But yeah you search for that post and it is well referenced in the manosphere but not many other places. If I had to guess I’d say he got his example from someone making a straw feminist argument and he didn’t check if anyone agrees with it.

  40. brive1987 says

    Interesting thesis and I think I agree with your “balance of probability” argument in addition to the self evident criticism of Ron’s branding of this focused view in more generalised terms.

    I did note though that a third of Louise’s posts (5 out of 15) had 80 plus comments. I realise that Ron “plucking her out of obscurity” is central to your argument. I just felt a bit bad that she had to be so characterised for the greater truth – damned with faint praise. I think I also picked up in your article subtext that you also recognised your argument could only be made by – to some defree- diminishing Louise.

  41. smhll says

    I did note though that a third of Louise’s posts (5 out of 15) had 80 plus comments.

    It’s pretty common for front page articles on HuffPo to have more than one thousand comments, and I’ve seen some with more than ten thousand. I don’t know what’s typical for less prominently displayed stories, but less than one hundred comments on a busy site like Huffington Post seems quite small to me.

    (I am not familiar with her posts except looking at them for a few minutes yesterday. I probably agree with her a great deal. But it seems pretty accurate to characterize her as obscure or not particularly influential.)

  42. R Johnston says

    @47:

    I did note though that a third of Louise’s posts (5 out of 15) had 80 plus comments.

    Over half of her posts have five or fewer comments. The ones that have 80+ comments have them because the right-wing anti-feminist MRA types descended upon them. Take away the hater traffic and there’s almost nothing left. She’s in no way at all prominent, nor representative of feminism, nor representative of atheism. She’s just a random blogger with low traffic. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, but citing her as a representative or an expert about feminism and secularism to the WIS2 conference goers was an intellectually dishonest deliberate troll designed only to derail the conference, a firing offense in and of itself even absent the rest of Lindsay’s speech and blogs.

  43. says

    But if you are an outlier in a particular point and you don’t agree with the consensus, you are anti-feminists or worse. Example: EllenBeth Wath’s opinion during the Adria Richards donglegate affair.

    Please. This is another example of you lying or being suckered by liars. What has happened to EBW since that thread? Some recriminations, some apologies, some refusals to apologize. PZ in particular showed his displeasure by–*gasp*–asking readers to sign a petition on her behalf. You’ll note my response: I’ve lost some respect for her but still want to support her. Please, Axel, prove you’re not a sucker or a liar and give us one (JUST ONE) example of someone actually calling her, directly, an “anti-feminist.”

    As far as the capitalism thing goes – thanks for picking up on that. I happen to be one of those feminists who thinks that capitalism is incompatible with egalitarianism in general, and Lindsay using that sincere and (obviously IMO) reasonable position as a well-poisoning tactic made me very uncomfortable. As others have said, that’s definitely a discussion worth having – Lindsay seemed to think this was some sort of “gotcha!” thing for feminists, like, Ssshhhhh, we don’t want to let them know we’re plotting to destroy capitalism! *rolls eyes* Well, some are, but we’re not exactly keeping it a secret.

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