Rules of Disengagement

This is the most recent essay I delivered to my patrons. If you want to support more work like this, you can sign up here.

Sometimes the conflicts between people working toward the same goals are important and in need of serious hashing out. If you’re battling inequality, it’s important to make sure that you’re not perpetuating other inequalities in your fight. That’s not something about which you can simply agree to disagree.

Don’t take my word on the subject. Here’s Greta Christina talking about how not fixing these problems early creates more problems.

The early LGBT movement was very much dominated by gay white men. And the gay white male leaders of that movement had some seriously bad race and sex stuff going on: treating gay men of color as fetishistic Others, objects of sexual desire rather than members of the community… and treating lesbians as alien Others, inscrutable and trivial.

And we are paying for it today. Relations between lesbians and gay men, between white queers and queers of color, are often strained at best. Conversations in our movement about race and gender take place in a decades-old context of rancor and bitterness, and they can be a minefield, in which nothing anybody says is right. We still have a decided tendency to treat gay men of color as fetish objects, and lesbians as sexless aliens. And we still, after decades, have a decided tendency to put gay white men front and center as the most visible, most iconic representatives of our community.

That makes it hard on everybody in the LGBT movement. It creates rifts that make our community weaker. And it has a seriously bad impact on our ability to make effective social change.

There are disagreements we have to come to terms with and settle. However, that doesn’t mean that every dispute needs to be viewed this way. Not every disagreement has a right side and a wrong side. This is particularly true when we get into the area of priorities and processes. [Read more…]

The Vox Day Status Principle

Posited: Helping Vox Day get anything he wants cannot improve his status, but it can sure as hell hurt yours.

We’ve seen it before with the Sad Puppy organizers. We’re seeing it again with Tom Doherty, publisher of Tor, and rightly so.

There are two things about Vox Day that make this true:

  1. He really doesn’t offer anything to build his status on. He aspires to be this guy but lacks the skills–and the charisma.
  2. Since what he wants is to get back at a world that rejected him while embracing others, helping him necessarily means shitting on good, talented people who are well-loved.

That isn’t a recipe for accolades. It’s a recipe for being seen as the minion of a wannabe cartoon supervillain. Of course, if that’s what you want, by all means, don’t let me stop you.

Just don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Make Your Code of Conduct Work for You

I haven’t featured most of my FtBCon3 sessions here, yet, and I should. There’s plenty of good content, but just looking at the list of sessions can be overwhelming for people.

Here’s the session I organized with Chelsea Du Fresne and Michael Thomas about making sure your code of conduct is something that adds to your event. We talked about creating a code that aligns with your mission and sets the tone for the event. We also talked about how codes of conduct cover more than the -isms that received the most press in the push to get these in place. [Read more…]

Who Is an Activist?

The Minnesota Atheists and Humanists of Minnesota held their National Day of Reason event at the state capitol yesterday. Most years, they’re in the rotunda. This year, with the capitol under construction, they were moved to the capitol steps.

This was my first year attending. I’m usually working and in the wrong city to make it just an extended lunch. This year, though, I spoke to promote our conference.

I had planned to provide some straightforward information in the brief time I had allotted to me, but I changed my mind. My inspiration was the theme for the event–Atheists and Humanists at the Capitol–and the fact that it was raining. Yes, the two were connected.

As I stood at the podium with rain dripping down my nose (the canopy protecting the electronics had blown up in the wind as I waited to speak and dumped a good few tablespoons of water straight onto the top of my head; the pictures will be glorious), I asked people to put up their hands if they considered themselves activists. [Read more…]

“Sins of Our Fathers”, Shawn Lawrence Otto on Atheists Talk

Shawn Lawrence Otto is a local writer who adapted the screenplay for the Oscar-nominated movie The House of Sand and Fog. Otto is also a co-founder of “ScienceDebate,” the effort to include science in the debates and discussions of pre-election politics, and has written a non-fiction book on the topic of using science to drive public policy, Fool Me Twice. Otto recently published a novel on the subject of relationships between the Native American and white cultures in Minnesota. He will be in our studios to talk about this new book, Sins of Our Fathers, a tale of race, money and the American Dream.

While this is not an atheist novel, atheists may relate to the themes of alienation and exclusion from public life. Greg Laden and Mike Haubrich will be in the studio with Shawn.

Related Links:

Listen to AM 950 KTNF this Sunday at 9 a.m. Central to hear Atheists Talk, produced by Minnesota Atheists. Stream live online. Call in to the studio at 952-946-6205, or send an e-mail to during the live show. If you miss the live show, listen to the podcast later.

Follow Atheists Talk on Facebook and Twitter for regular updates. If you like the show, consider supporting us with a one-time or sustaining donation.

Politics and the English Language, Revisited

On the occasion of Richard Dawkins complaining about “unofficial” Orwellian thought police, I went back to reread Orwell’s “Politics and the English Language“. When the meme originated in the slime pit, I ignored it, but now that we have global secular thought leaders adopting their language and promoting their contributors, that appears to have been the wrong strategy. Still, in my defense, who thought Dawkins would reach out to publicly embrace them instead of ignoring their obvious nonsense?

If you haven’t read the essay, you should. If you’ve ever used Orwellian metaphor to talk about things that are not state power, you should read it before trying to communicate with your fellow human beings again. Don’t worry. It’s short.

An excerpt:

People who write in this manner usually have a general emotional meaning—they dislike one thing and want to express solidarity with another—but they are not interested in the detail of what they are saying. [Read more…]

We’re Number One!

From the Twitter user who brought you the wholly nonexistent walkout during PZ’s wholly nonexistent debate at CONvergence/SkepchickCon, I bring you the wholly nonexistent “The #WomenAbusers Anti-FTB Bot”. It is, of course, intended as some kind of mirror of The Atheism+ Block Bot, which would make “#WomenAbusers” the group it belongs to and “Anti-FTB” what it does. The latter implication is supported by the fact that all this amounts to is a screen shot tweeted at various bloggers and commenters. The former implication is–probably–not intentional.

Screen shot emailed to me yesterday. Text provided in the post.

The #WomenAbusers Anti-FTB Bot

“All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.”
George Orwell

This bot aims to name those who demean, abuse, and intimidate women who don’t toe the #FTBullies line. The #FTBullies are a collective of abusive bloggers commenters who reside, by and large, at FreeThoughtBlogs, Skepchick, and A=. It also includes many Twitter followers and trolls. These listings will provide useful assistance for women in the atheist/secularism movements to feel safe and avoid the numerous women abusers there are out there.

Level 1
This level is reserved for the slimiest and ugliest of the women abusers. These people provide a space (usually a blog or a website) where women who dissent against them can be abused, dog-piled, and libelled. It is also reserved for those who send threats of violence, or defend or [sic] those that send threats of violence.

Level 2
This level is reserved for those dark creatures who inhabit the realm of FTB, Atheism+, and Skepchick, and utilize those spaces to further the abuse of women. Notable abuse by this level of abusers include the labelling of women as “chill girls”, “sister punishers”, or “gender traitors”.

Level 3
This level is reserved for those pesky little shites who parrot the #FTBullies mantras an apply a level of hyperskepticism about the claims from abused women who have dissented against the #FTBullis. Other irksome tactics include the repeated requests for evidence, even though it has already been supplied.

Members will be added in the near future, but to begin with, the list of Level 1 #WomenAbusers are:

@OpheliaBension (Ophelia Benson); @pzmyers (PZ Myers); @gregladen (Greg Laden); @szvan (Stephanie Zvan); @rebeccawatson (Rebecca Watson)

There you have it, folks. We’re as bad as it gets. This is the worst of what women who “dissent” from us receive. The worst abuse they get is being talked about in our comment threads by multiple people. Libel supposedly occurs, though no one knows quite where, and one threat to kick a man’s ass is counted as abuse against women. A term used a couple of times has been so entirely not overwhelmed by the general level of abuse as to still be notable two years later. And they’ve already told us about everything bad that’s happened to these women so we shouldn’t ask about anything else that might actually constitute abuse.

I love projects like this to document just how awful and evil we are. They require such puffery, such conflation as to constitute the very best defense. As I said yesterday when I saw this, this is an own goal of epic proportions.

Petition to the Secular Coalition

Update: Justin Vacula has resigned his position as co-chair. The petition to remove him is no longer necessary, and I congratulate him on making the right move for the Secular Coalition.

By now you’ve heard that Justin Vacula has been named one of the co-chairs of the Pennsylvania chapter of the Secular Coalition for America. You may be among the people who are upset about this appointment. If you are, a petition has been started that will hopefully represent your concerns.

"Wrong Way" traffic sign.

“wrong way” by kag2u. Some rights reserved.

We urge the Secular Coalition of America to reverse the appointment of Justin Vacula as co-chair of the executive council of the Pennsylvania chapter. We believe that Vacula is unfit for this leadership position for the following reasons.

1. He has engaged in extreme behavior, including harassment, in opposing feminists within the secular movement that does not befit a leader and does not promote broad participation in the movement.

2. He has, at the same time, minimized harassment as a problem within the movement and broader community.

3. He has spoken publicly and incorrectly on legal matters in a way that would be counterproductive in a lobbyist.

4. He has used his current leadership position as a tool for his personal causes, including personal grievances.

Much of this behavior has happened in venues the SCA may not be aware of. However, it will still impact the effectiveness and credibility of SCA as an organization. For that reason, all of these issues are discussed in further detail below.

[Read more…]

An MRA Speaks on Rape

A few weeks ago, I wrote about a Title IX requirement that the civil rights of accusers and accused be balanced in educational situations involving allegations of sexual violence. Unsurprisingly, this attracted the Google alert attention of a men’s rights advocate. Eventually, I got him off the topic of cherry-picking feminist quotes (or made up feminist quotes) and onto the topic at hand.

This is when we discovered what he actually thinks counts as rape and whose fault it is. First off, you have to know that–despite me presenting him with scientific evidence on the topic–rape is mostly made up.

[Read more…]

Saturday Storytime: Six Months, Three Days

I’ve known Charlie Jane Anders tangentially for years through WisCon. I cheered when she co-edited She’s Such a Geek. I’ve enjoyed her nonfiction writing on io9, particularly the occasional movie review. Somehow, I’ve missed her fiction until this week. I’ve got to fix that.

This story is, amid whatever else Charlie Jane intended it to be, a meditation on making our own way in a world of other people’s expectations. More than that I will not say. You’ll just need to read it.

The man who can see the future has a date with the woman who can see many possible futures.

Judy is nervous but excited, keeps looking at things she’s spotted out of the corner of her eye. She’s wearing a floral Laura Ashley style dress with an Ankh necklace and her legs are rambunctious, her calves moving under the table. It’s distracting because Doug knows that in two and a half weeks, those cucumber-smooth ankles will be hooked on his shoulders, and that curly reddish-brown hair will spill everywhere onto her lemon-floral pillows; this image of their future coitus has been in Doug’s head for years, with varying degrees of clarity, and now it’s almost here. The knowledge makes Doug almost giggle at the wrong moment, but then it hits him: she’s seen this future too — or she may have, anyway.

Doug has his sandy hair cut in a neat fringe that was almost fashionable a couple years ago. You might think he cuts his own hair, but Judy knows he doesn’t, because he’ll tell her otherwise in a few weeks. He’s much, much better looking than she thought he would be, and this comes as a huge relief. He has rude, pouty lips and an upper lip that darkens no matter how often he shaves it, with Elvis Costello glasses. And he’s almost a foot taller than her, six foot four. Now that Judy’s seen Doug for real, she’s re-imagining all the conversations they might be having in the coming weeks and months, all of the drama and all of the sweetness. The fact that Judy can be attracted to him, knowing everything that could lay ahead, consoles her tremendously.

Keep reading.