Get Ally Skills Training at Skepticon

If you’re interested in the work we’ve done around these parts to reduce harassment and sexism in movement atheism and skepticism, here’s a chance for you to play a part. The Ada Initiative, which works on these issues in open technology and culture, is doing their annual fundraiser. The skeptic community doesn’t usually fall under their umbrella, but a few of us have been supporting them and receiving help from them for a while now. In return, they’ve made us a deal.

Image of four people around a table in the workshop.If our communities manage to raise $5,000 by midnight this Friday next Wednesday, October 8, the Ada Initiative will bring their Ally Skills Workshop to Skepticon for free. This isn’t usually something we manage to find money for, but I think we can do this, particularly since PZ has already managed to raise over $1,800 toward the goal.

Sound good? Great! Donate now!

Donate now

If you need a little convincing, or just want to know why I support the Ada Initiative, keep reading. [Read more…]

Our Employees Are Not Authorized to Speak Against Harassment

Peter Boghossian didn’t stop making an ass of himself with the tweets I noted earlier this week. He’s still at it, and he’s gotten worse. After someone pointed him to my post, he tweeted at me.

He didn’t actually block me, so I responded to him. [Read more…]

A Swing and a Miss

Yesterday, Greta received some ugliness as a response to her criticizing Sam Harris as factually wrong on women in atheism. She tweeted about it and noted that this was a reaction to criticizing an atheist leader. Harris, who was copied on the tweet, spent some time being defensive about the situation, but finally tweeted that he didn’t want people harassing others on his behalf.

This morning I was seeing some people talking about a “wonderful” response to the situation by Peter Boghossian, one of freethought’s faces of philosophy, who specializes in “bringing the tools of professional philosophers to people in a wide variety of contexts.” So I thought I’d take a look. Always up for a bit of professionally thought-through criticism. [Read more…]

Entirely Predictable

I suppose this could be viewed as a response to Michael Nugent’s recent finger-wagging at PZ, and in a way I suppose it is. Really, though, his post is just a nucleation point for a number of thoughts that have been swimming around.

The important thing to remember is that, if you want to control how a problem is addressed, you have to address the problem effectively. If your actions are ineffective, your methods are undermined. If you try to control the way people address problems from a position of inaction, you have exactly zero moral authority. You have even less moral authority than that if you were in a position of power and/or influence when you declined to fix the problem.

This blowup has been entirely predictable from the start. [Read more…]

Is This #NotAllAtheists?

Is it #NotAllAtheists to ask that people talking about the Shermer allegations and Dawkins’ recent tweets urging rape victims to shut up and accept responsibility for being raped if they were drunk–to ask that these people also talk about the fact that the people who have busted their asses and taken abuse for years to keep this problem from being swept under the rug are also thoroughly tied in to movement atheism and skepticism? I’m not sure.

I’m still going to ask that people do this. Why? Nothing to do with trying to make atheists look better, though there are good reasons to to be wary of painting atheists as a monolith, particularly in the U.S.

No, I ask that people not erase those of us who stood up and yelled and agitated on this because that’s why this managed to stay quiet as long as it did. We have nothing like the platform of a Shermer or a Dawkins, which means we can go unheard. And Dawkins is doing his damnedest (which isn’t enough) to try to make sure no one listens to us.

Please don’t help him.

Dawkins Wants to Be Rid of These Troublesome Bloggers

First we had Dawkins trying to suppress the allegations against Michael Shermer by exerting his influence behind the scenes. Then we had him try to suggest that date rape isn’t so bad. Then we had him try to suggest that people who have been plied with alcohol by others remain responsible for…something (terrible analogy) and that feminists don’t respect women if they believe it’s possible to victimize them. Then we had him try to suggest that rape of a highly intoxicated person, a crime in itself, shouldn’t be reported.

Now, in defense of another friend and colleague, he’d like to shut us down directly. [Read more…]

Dawkins Throws Himself on a Grenade

Last night, we saw the Shermer allegations hit the broader media. Knowing that the women whom Shermer had targeted were using their names in the article and having a pretty good idea what it said, I’d already written a post telling people who had previously dismissed these claims to think hard about their reactions to the article before going public with them. I read the Oppenheimer article to be certain it said what I thought it must, but my post went up within half an hour of the article.

I’m more than aware that Richard Dawkins has no obligation to read the free advice I give, much less take it, but I have to believe it would have been better if he had in this case. He and Twitter are not on good terms most of the time. This morning was particularly egregious. [Read more…]

After the Shermer Article: What Do You Decide?

An article has just been published on Buzzfeed about sexism in atheism and skepticism, the allegations against Michael Shermer, and the protection he’s received from some portions of the movement.

It isn’t as though this information is particularly new. Some of us have been talking about this problem for years. We’ve had details on Shermer’s behavior for more than a year at this point, and we’ve seen the responses to that as he has continued to make appearances at conferences and been added to secular think tanks.

This situation is new in some respects, however. These allegations have not just appeared in a blog. They’ve been public for more than a year in some cases, and with a New York Times columnist prepared to listen and take their claims seriously, these women have used their names. The journalist in question, Mark Oppenheimer, has a history of uncovering abuse in other communities, prompting reform.

That makes this yet one more important decision point for people in these movements. [Read more…]

Are Men Really Harassed More Than Women?

This past Thursday saw a bold, contrary assertion made in The Daily Beast. Cathy Young, libertarian and “equity feminist” polemicist, asserted that harassment of men is ignored under the headline “Men Are Harassed More Than Women Online”.

The Study

The basis for the headline, and the key point for Young’s argument, was that a two-week-old press release from a UK think tank claiming “Male celebrities receive more abuse on Twitter than women” had been ignored. Being in the U.S., I can’t say much about how Demos press releases are usually treated, but I will agree that Young’s article was the first I’d heard of the research. However, looking at the release, it was immediately evident why it had been ignored. [Read more…]