The Non-Religious Patriarchy: Why Losing Religion HAS NOT Meant Losing White Male Dominance (excerpt)

coverNow available through Wiley Online!

This is not my first academic publication, but it is my first journal article, so I am very excited!  Here’s an excerpt:

Beyond this, the atheist movement fails to address or analyze the problem in meaningful ways. Within the critiques of organized religion, there is “little analysis of the relationship between economic disenfranchisement, race, gender, and religiosity” meaning that such critiques inevitably are of “limited cultural relevance for people of color.”31 Likewise, such critiques often fail to engage with the reasons that religion can be a very useful thing to women and people of color, in a strictly utilitarian way, even while it oppresses them. The atheistic, science-and-objective truth above all point of view means that the experiences of those without the luxury of choice or who cannot place more importance on philosophy than taking care of their families are both not explored and treated as inferior. Religion is not simply about a belief system, and treating it as though it is, is only possible with a blindness to all of the social benefits it provides, even while acknowledging all of the injuries it creates as well. From the position of privilege many in the atheist movement occupy, the focus is always on what is false rather than on what helps one to survive. This is not to say that organized religion is a net good, or something not worth fighting against, but rather to say that ignoring the reality of how religion helps people means being unable to offer meaningful alternatives to it.

There is a pervasive belief that “objective” science holds all of the answers without an acknowledgement that most values and causes are supported by philosophy and personal worldviews as well.32 A white male scientist is naturally going to be interested in causes related to being a white male scientist and blind to or ignorant of causes not related to that. It is a systematic bias. As a movement founded primarily by white male scientists who felt ostracized, the atheist movement has a difficult time acknowledging that science has its problems both historically and as the sole foundation of a worldview and that being white confers special privileges, as does being male. Ironically, their deep commitment to skepticism often fails to include a skepticism aimed at their own worldview.

The movement “likes to talk about the European Enlightenment as if nothing bad could ever legitimately be said about it”33 despite the fact that the Enlightenment was responsible for scientific rationalization and implementation of terrible programs that exploited and hurt people of color and women. Historically, science has been responsible for: terrible programs of eugenics, claims of biological race, and sex differences that have sense been proven to be untrue, justification of slavery, scientific experiments on people of color, forced sterilization of women who committed the crimes of being poor, unmarried, or not white, forced imprisonment of women who were sexual or became involved with someone of a different race, and the list goes on. Science has been responsible for a great many crimes against humanity, and the majority of these crimes have been committed against those least able to defend themselves. There is a natural distrust from people who have faced generations of horror at the hands of scientists and science and the atheist movement’s focus on science above all, with no recognition of the problematic history, makes it difficult for many to trust it.

In addition to the fact that church offers so many benefits to women and people of color that the movement offers no alternative for, the atheist movement often fails to create a welcoming environment. Even without addressing the fact that the movement does not make an effort to emulate the community support of church, it also does not treat the issue of welcoming women and people of color as an important one.

31. Hutchinson, Moral Combat, 199

32. Pigliucci, Massimo, Denying Evolution: Creationism, Scientism, and the Nature of Science, 1st ed. (Sinauer Associates, 2002).

33. Edwords, “The Hidden Hues of Humanism.”

There is also a piece by annalise fonza: Black Women, Atheist Activism, and Human Rights: Why We Just Cannot Seem to Keep It to Ourselves!

In this sense, therefore, this article is constructive and written to assert that black women atheists should be at the table with women who struggle for reproductive rights and with those who fight for religious rights. In this essay, I discuss the ways in which black women such as Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Ayanna Watson, Sikivu Hutchinson, Jamila Bey, Kim Veal, and Mandisa Thomas have risked social status and reputation to raise the awareness that they too struggle for human rights and in particular for the rights of women to choose not believe in a god or supernatural ideas. Indeed, my objective is to assert that black atheist women must be a part of these dialogues and debates on matters related to gender, religion, and human rights, especially at this point in history, when human and civil rights for females/women are threatened worldwide by governance that is informed by patriarchal masculinity that conveys the need to control the fate of the female body.

If you need more information or help accessing the article, feel free to contact me.

The not even a non-apology apology

Most of my criticism of Ron Lindsay and, by extension, the CFI, has been about terrible communication in response to an initial mis-step.  Ron Lindsay had the good sense to apologize for writing a nasty blog post about Rebecca Watson, though he continued to be quite adversarial in tone, even in the apology.

In the world of public figure and corporate responses, you have a lot of options: Ignore, deny, obfuscate, non-apology apology, tactical apology, and a full apology.  All of these play out differently depending on whether the organization thinks they’ve done anything wrong, what the level of public backlash is, and whether there are legal issues involved.

For a lesson in contrasts, we can look at how American Atheists responded to the lawsuit being filed by AJ Johnson and how CFI has responded to the complaints about Ron Lindsay.

AA released a long, detailed refutation of claims of racism, providing evidence and a rebuttal to all major points made.  This despite the fact that they are dealing with a legal matter, which often makes organizations become very tight-lipped.  It should be noted that this doesn’t mean that AA is innocent from any and all accusations, I am not privy to any special knowledge here, but it does mean that they are willing to publicly engage openly and clearly with those who are criticizing them.

CFI on the other hand released a statement that functionally just acknowledged that people were unhappy with them and that that was sad.  No acknowledgment of the claims or who was involved, certainly no detailed response to any of the criticisms, and no indication that they cared at all about the feedback that they had been getting — either to be indignant or apologetic about it.  Greta has a much more thorough parsing of just how bad this statement was.

What would a good statement have looked like?

Pretty much anything that wasn’t this: The CFI Board wishes to express its unhappiness with the controversy surrounding the recent Women in Secularism Conference 2.

OK wow passive language.  Here’s the problem the CFI is expressing, that is what is happening in this whole statement, so they should just express it.  They are also so incredibly vague here.  They should have just not said anything if this is what they were going to say.  If I stood where they apparently stand on the issue, I would have replaced that sentence with this:

“The CFI Board has read dozens of letters about Ron Lindsay’s remarks at the recent Women in Secularism 2 conference.  While we find nothing offensive ourselves in Ron Lindsay’s opening speech, we are making an ongoing effort to understand the perspective of the people our event was meant to support and are happy to receive further feedback.  Our goal is to be supportive of women, and if women feel we are not fulfilling that goal, we are eager to continue to receive feedback.  We were disappointed in the tone Ron Lindsay took in responding to criticism and have told him in no uncertain terms our feelings about this.  He apologized soon after these remarks, and we feel that that was the correct course of action and support him.”

While this would not have made people happy, it would have at least indicated that the board:

1. Understood the issue

2. Knew the details of the complaints

3. Cared about the responses that they were getting

4. Had an opinion about what happened, even if it was the wrong one

5. Acknowledged the need for the apology already given

6. Were not closing the door to further feedback

7. Had some sort of discussion with Ron Lindsay about his behavior

How to Be the ‘Right’ Kind of Crazy

Warning: heavy sarcasm ahead. 
Prompted by some combination of bad psych journalism, tropes, and bad advice I’ve been given. 

  • Take your meds. People who go off their meds are scary and dangerous, and I heard about one of them who went on a rampage. But also, you shouldn’t need your medication to function. Everybody is overmedicated these days and it’s not the Real You ™ once those pills touch your tongue.
  • It’s really irritating to have to put up with your weird requests and boundaries and all that attention you need. But tell us what we can do to help you!
  • Think positive. Keep thinking positive. Are you thinking positive thoughts? What about now?
  • It’s really important that you get treatment, but isn’t, like, everybody mentally ill these days?
  • Definitely don’t have problems with substance abuse, because at that point it’s all a lack of willpower.
  • Make sure you have a disorder that’s commonplace enough for us to recognize it, but not too common–that’s the stuff everybody has these days, and it’s probably because the [internet/technology/schools] are causing it.

Have more? Add them in the comments.

Grouchy Kate will go on hiatus beginning tomorrow–I’ll be back to normal blogging. 

Monday Miscellany

Hello from Ohio! I moved here on Sunday for the summer, and as I adjust my schedule to fit work, it may take me a few days to settle back to blogging. After that–well, I have these plans to write a post every day.

Until then…other people’s blogs.

Olivia writes about the new DSM, and what changes to diagnoses look like.

Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder: This is an entirely new diagnosis for this edition of the DSM. Its main characteristics are extreme temper outbursts beyond what is reasonable for the stimuli, and a continuous angry or irritable mood through 2 domains of life, at least one of which is severely disrupted. It’s similar to ODD, however it’s considered more severe, and BD, although it is more continuous in the mood rather than episodic.

Eating Disorders: This is another category that had a fair amount of controversy surrounding the changes. Binge Eating Disorder was introduced as a new categorization, characterized by extreme intakes of food and calories, often as a way to deal with emotions. Many are worried that this will turn overeating into a mental illness, however the diagnosis was introduced to illustrate the differences between the two: binge eating disorder comes with feelings of shame, guilt, and embarrassment, and extreme emotional disruption. There has been a change in the criteria for anorexia, namely the deletion of amenorrhea. The bulimia criteria have been adjusted so that the frequency of binge/purge episodes is fewer. Overall the changes were instituted to lower the number of EDNOS diagnoses. With these changes, men are now as likely as women to get an eating disorder diagnosis.*

How will we know when there’s gender equity in the skeptic movement? Stephanie expands on a point she made at Women in Secularism.

We’ll know we have gender equity when the evidence we provide for how we’re treated as women is evaluated the same way as the evidence atheists provide for how they’re treated as atheists. We won’t be treated by fellow atheists as though we need four witnesses for everything we report. The behaviors we mention over and over won’t be seen as individual incidents to be explained away. They won’t be seen as personal matters between two individuals. They will be recognized as a pattern to be addressed.

My favorite newly-discovered blog is Doing Good Science…and this is my favorite post. An excellent example of steelmanning; when #chemophobia isn’t irrational: listening to the public’s real worries.

The “Family Members, Friends, Neighbors” approach to Mental Illness: analysis of 2013′s National Conference on Mental Health

For all that the conference was supposed to be about mental illnesses, it turned out to focus far more on *sane* family members and friends of the mentally ill, rather than on people with mental illnesses themselves.

This tendency was  exemplified in the President’s speech, when he stated:  ”We all know somebody — a family member, a friend, a neighbor — who has struggled or will struggle with mental health issues at some point in their lives.”

Note the construction of the sentence: “We all know somebody – a family member, a friend, a neighbor – who has struggled with mental illness.” The person with mental illness here is alwayssomeone else. They are always removed from ourselves. They are the people we help, the people we are sad for, the people we want to save. The people who are sick, the people who are hurting, the people with the problems – they are categorically not us. They are other.

They are, moreover, specifically not the implied audience of the sentence. The implied audience is the people who “know somebody’ with a mental illness. Obama probably wanted to evoke sympathy for people with mental illnesses. But in doing so, he reinforced the trope of the mentally ill as the “other” – as people who aren’t worth speaking to, and about, directly. Despite the fact that one in five Americans suffer, or will suffer, from a mental illness, and thus make up a fairly sizeable portion of the audience.

***

Thing is, I do actually know a family member, a friend AND a neighbor who has struggled with mental health issues. You know who else has struggled with mental health issues?

Me.

Open Letter to the CFI Board of Directors

To be clear, Dr. Lindsay is entitled to his opinions about feminism and the concept of privilege. But if he had concerns about these issues that he wished for the conference organizers and speakers to address, he could have done so before the conference and in private. His decision to do so during his opening remarks was particularly inappropriate given that merely weeks before, Dr. Lindsayused his position to advocate discussing objections privately and, of all things, listening more.

As secular activists, we welcome discussion about feminism and its role in the secular movement. But a condescending lecture is not a discussion, and the opening remarks of a conference are a time to welcome and thank participants, not to air grievances against them.

*Though I know Olivia’s meaning, men are not quite as likely as women to get an eating disorder diagnosis–it seems women are both more likely to take themselves in for treatment and have a higher prevalence of eating disorders. 

The Best of the Cochrane Collaboration

The Cochrane Collaboration is an international group of 28,000 volunteers who sit around organizing research, examining the evidence behind medicine and therapeutic techniques, writing easy to read summaries of their findings, and generally improving the state of information.

And nobody told me about it.

Guys, I’m so disappointed. There I am, at work, hunting down a specific paper and I run across this MASSIVE DATABASE OF EVIDENTIARY REVIEWS, that’s just been sitting there! Waiting for me! And nobody every told me that it was there.

So of course, I got completely sucked into it….for weeks.

Which leaves me with a series of favorite reviews.

Those ‘scared straight’ programs? They’re a horrible idea.

Exercise can have a small effect on some of the symptoms of depression…it’s better than nothing at all, but not by much.

In other frustrating news, we don’t really know how to prevent sex offenders from reoffending.

CBT for people with chronic pain or disability?

Hormonal birth control in overweight women. (BMI based, I know. Sigh.)

Go forth and investigate! (And post the interesting/relevant/surprising ones in the comments. 

Ashley’s SkepchickCON / CONvergence 2013 Panel Schedule

convergence2013logoI’m a little worried — these are all new topics for me to be addressing to a crowd.  But I’m also very excited because British media, YA literature, and mental illness are all things I am deeply passionate about but don’t spend a lot of time here on this blog discussing.  So!  I hope you will be at CONvergence and come see my panels.

Thursday, July 4

11:30pm

 It seems like the villain is British way too much for coincidence. What is it about being British that makes it appealing to have villains British? Panelists: Emma Newman, Ashley Miller, Lee Harris, Emma Bull, Derek Mahr

Friday, July 5

9:30am

It’s a fantasy novel for atheists! How does that work? Panelists: Ashley Miller, Ruth Berman, Heina Dadabhoy, Sasha Katz, Chris Stenzel

2:00pm

Although much YA literature with female main characters has become best-selling in the last few years, the portrayal of the heroines of these stories is problematic. What are examples of good portrayals, both recent and old. Panelists: Michael Levy, Kathy Sullivan, Joan Sullivan, Jody Wurl, Ashley Miller

Sunday, July 7

11:00am

 Stigma of Mental Illness 

 Many of the people you know (and some of us!) are mentally ill by the standard medical definition. How do we cope? How can it be that people with mental illness are still happy, productive members of society? Panelists: Emma Newman, Ashley Miller, Kate Johnson, Steve Bentley, Molly Glover

How Not To Be a Jerk to the Future of Your Movement

(This post could be more accurately titled How Not To Be a Jerk To, Like, Anyone Younger Than You, but the skepto-atheist movement is actually one where we can directly see how young students and activists are making waves. Also, they’re the ones reading this.)

These guys make it possible. (And make funny faces.)

These guys make it possible. (And make funny faces.)

It’s no secret that the secular movement has grown into a movement full of students, enthusiastic young people who go and do and write and organize cool conferences. SkepTech, Skepticon, Secular Student Alliance anyone?.

And that means young people are watching what the secular movers and shakers are saying. They’re blogging about it and retweeting and memeing and quoting. These, secular leaders, are the future of your movement. They’re listening to you.

And honestly, we’re a little tired of being the punchline.

At Women in Secularism last weekend, one speaker described young activists as annoying. Of course, being annoying get things done, she clarified, over the laughter of the room. But you have to grow up to have perspective, she continued, and went on with her message. From my perspective in the fourth row, watching two-thirds of the room agree that my demographic was annoying and nearsighted didn’t exactly have me leaping to volunteer my time.

“You’re so young for an activist!” Look, this one doesn’t even make any sense at all. Students have always been integral to activist movements. If it would be weird (though more accurate) to tell you “but you’re so old to be interested in social movements!” then I’d strongly suggest avoiding the reverse. Besides, what does one say in response? Why yes, I am young! Thank you for noticing!

Watch your language. The Secular Student Alliance has all my love for getting this one consistently right. Student activists, young activists, teens….all great! Kids? Less so. For one, it’s simply less descriptive: kids doesn’t tell you what someone is doing as much as it conveys tousled hair and sneakers. Unless your subject is under say, 13, you’re picking a word that’s both inaccurate and dismissive.

Don’t qualify our achievements with our age.  This part is complicated, because sometimes, it negates part of the previous. Say someone blogs or does activisty things as a result of their studenthood, or for a student organization (Like the MU SASHA Blog!). Congratulations–you’re completely correct in calling them a student blogger. However, if someone does activism whilst simultaneously happening to be a student…not so much. Go for “blogger and student”. And ask yourself why you need to point out their studenthood in the first place. After all, both my co-blogger Ashley and #FtBully Ian Cromwell are students. Would you describe them as student bloggers? Why not? Why do you need to point out the student part for young collegiate or high school students, but not graduate students? Why is it relevant to their blogging? [CFI On Campus has been great about this.]

A word on facebook friending those same young activists:

Facebook is wonderful, and social media has been a huge asset to this movement. And, speaking from experience, it’s just exciting to friend and be followed by those people whose writing you’ve read, whose speeches you’ve followed on YouTube. And it’s horrifying to watch those people you’ve looked up to for long stop by your status to tell you that you just don’t get it yet. To wait five years–you’ll understand better.

For many of us, this was the first thing we got involved in, the first time we felt part of a movement bigger than ourselves, like we could make a difference and change the world. I bet you felt like that too. And I bet you heard it was silly, that you didn’t get it, that the world didn’t work that way.

So, if you find yourself considering telling that young whippersnapper about how you remember that time in your life, and really, they’ll know better later, I encourage you to continue to harken back to your teenagerhood. Can you recall, also, exactly how helpful it was for everyone older than you to inform you how little understood about the ways of the world?

Yeah, me either.

Shoutout to Chicago Skeptics, a group that responded wonderfully to suggestions and has been bringing in new and young speakers, noted when locations were age-restricted, supported the ventures of secular groups at universities, and generally have been my favorite way to get involved in the secular community. 

[Archive] Why Atheism Inspires Me to Seek Social Justice

Today, a repost. Last year, Ian Cromwell started a series asking atheists at large to contribute what being an atheist has done to improve their lives. Though I was not raised in a particularly religious fashion—a progressive take on Catholicism, followed by the epitome of spiritual-but-not-religious—my involvement in the secular movement and active identification as an atheist and a skeptic have enriched my experience. The piece has been slightly edited to correct for last year’s enthusiasm for awkwardly constructed sentences. 

[Piece originally appeared at The Heresy Club]

I have but this one short life. Though it would be nice to plan to live to a ripe and grouchy old age, it could end tomorrow. Or next Tuesday. Life has this terrible habit of behaving unpredictably, you know.

Though I am extraordinarily clumsy, I will likely, as do the vast majority of people, fade out of existence quietly. Five, ten, fifty years from then, I will have become nothing but curled pictures and retold retellings of stories.

These are facts, and they are cold. We atheists hear a lot about the chill of disbelief, about what we miss without a sense of the supernatural, the oceans of unseen, unmeasured universe we just have to have faith in. We are asked if it isn’t just a little bit lonely, to have nothing but ourselves and the neurons between our ears? With so little meaning to our lives, what motivation can we have?

Quite a bit, really.

I’ve but this one life to live. That means when I see homophobia, when I see sexism or littering or injustice in the world, I must act. I must act because now is all that’s guaranteed  But most importantly, I must act because the person who is suffering, like me, only has this moment for themselves. There isn’t any other happy alternate life for them either.

I’ll play devil’s advocate to your Pascal and his wager—in the vast infinity of beliefs, are you willing to let the unhappiness of your fellow human hang in the balance against the existence of a paradise for them in the afterlife?

I believe there is nothing to death but the winking out of one flame against the backdrop of an unending candelabra; I must do all I can in this life.

I have only this time, and if the only contribution I can leave as memory of own my existence is my actions, I must make them count. I must say what I mean. I must tell those I love that I love them now, because tomorrow is uncertain. I must share my happiness, and do what I can to give everyone else an opportunity to leap about in joy.  Sometimes this will come before my homework.

Because I am an atheist, I must act and care and speak and do. And, you know, occasionally shut up and listen.

WiS and Liveblogging Wrap-Up

I’m back! Women in Secularism was excellent. I’m catching up on everything I left alone while I was gone and have a bigger post in the works, so you’ll have to forgive me for the short summary and links.

PROOF: We're not actually the same person.

PROOF: Not actually the same person.

Liveblogs:

Opening Remarks
Faith-Based Pseudoscience. [Another from Jason]
Amanda Marcotte [Jason]
Rebecca Goldstein [Jason]
Women Leaving Religion
Gender Equality in the Secular Movement
Susan Jacoby [Jason]
How Women’s Concerns Can Best Be Advanced within the Context of a Secular Agenda [Jason]
Jennifer Michael Hecht [Jason]
Maryam Namazie [Jason]
What the Secular Movement Can Learn from Other Social Movements [Jason]
Who Speaks for Feminism?

946752_10152794524640214_1949141506_nIn Which People Wrote About Those Opening Remarks

If you haven’t actually heard or read the original talk by Ron Lindsay, I strongly suggest you read the transcript first.
…and follow that with Lindsay’s second post, where he responds to calls for examples.
Rebecca responded briefly.
Ron Lindsay…appears to have forgotten that he co-wrote this letter, and writes this.
PZ : People are not pleased. (I particularly appreciate how charitable and even-handed PZ was here–I’d be quaking in my boots right now.)

Digital Cuttlefish has a poem.
Ashley has some thoughts.
So does Amanda Marcotte.
Adam has some remarks.
Secular Woman has a statement.
PZ would like to remind everyone of the excellent work done by CFI’s Michael De Dora. Though I haven’t met Michael, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the interactions I’ve had with CFI staff. In particular, it was wonderful to meet Sarah Kaiser of CFI On Campus.

I want to emphasize that I had fun at WiS and lots of it. The conference was impeccably organized, the people were friendly and positive and gave excellent hugs, and I was happy to be there. I’m mightily sorry that the other employees are dealing with the conflict as a result of Dr. Lindsay’s opening remarks. At the same time, I’m okay with the growing pains and the ways the community has reacted to this. We can do better, and constructive criticism is part of this.

Taking it Personally: Privilege and Women in Secularism

Illustration by Tom Gauld for The Guardian

Illustration by Tom Gauld for The Guardian

There is a tendency for people to take criticism of ideas personally.  It’s true of all people, though I noticed it particularly this weekend at the Women in Secularism conference.  People also have a bad habit of criticizing individuals rather than their ideas.  I do not claim freedom from this tendency, although I do work very hard to try to be clear in that distinction.  I do not like the speech that Ron Lindsay used to open the conference with, but this doesn’t mean that I do not like Ron Lindsay.  I don’t know him, he is quite probably a pretty cool guy generally speaking.

Of course, I am not the only person who took umbrage at his opening speech.  I wasn’t particularly upset by it, I just felt it was wrongheaded as an opening speech for this event in particular and demonstrated poor understanding of the cultural theory behind the terms of “privilege” and the intent of “shut up and listen.”   I think it’s inappropriate to use the opening speech to criticize the conference goals rather than introduce it. I also think that the way he talked about critical theory indicated a lack of familiarity with the scholarship on the subject and the power dynamics at play. At best it was terrible tone deafness which was then exacerbated by his position of power in the organization, his race and gender and socioeconomic status, and the fact that he was giving the opening address not a lecture.

I also agreed with Rebecca Watson that it was particularly bad for these apparent misunderstandings to be delivered by a wealthy white man who was part of the organization in charge of the Women in Secularism conference.  In other words, it was a poorly expressed, poorly timed message delivered by exactly the wrong person for the message.maiself

For stating that, I have been accused of being sexist, of having it out for men, for having it out for Ron Lindsay, of quote-mining, of being dismissive, of shutting down dialogue by calling people names, and just good old “fuck you” and “fuck off” from strangers. I am dogmatic and hateful and trying to tear people down.

Rebecca Watson has also gotten this kind of response, but far more intense, for level-headed criticism of the talk.  In response, Ron Lindsay felt the need to make it about how Rebecca Watson is a Bad Person.  (At least further accusations of quote-mining will be justified by the use of quotes):

Rebecca Watson inhabits an alternate universe.  At least that is the most charitable explanation I can provide for her recent smear.  Watson has posted comments on my opening talk at Women in Secularism 2.  It may be the most intellectually dishonest piece of writing since the last communique issued by North Korea.

Perhaps Watson was too busy tweeting about how “strange” it was to have a “white man” open the conference to pay attention to what I was actually saying

I’m just glad Watson didn’t notify security: “white man loose on stage, white man loose on stage!”

There are also places where it continues to be clear that he doesn’t understand the “shut up and listen” suggestion, but at least those aren’t unnecessary and unprofessional attacks on someone who has criticized something he said.

Now I’d like to offer some advice to Ron Lindsay: Shut up and listen.

  • Shut up because you’re just making this more and more of a PR disaster.
  • Shut up because you’re hurting Melody Hensley and the amazing event she put together.
  • Shut up because if you’re so busy coming up with ways to defend yourself, you’re failing to understand why people are upset.
  • Shut up because it is so very clear that you are not listening.
  • Shut up because you can’t talk and listen at the same time.
  • Listen to what other people in your organization have to say.
  • Listen to what other people in the cause have to say.
  • Listen to women and men who are upset about the opening speech.
  • Listen to criticism of what you said and remember that it’s not about who you are as a person, but the argument that you’ve made.
  • Listen because it’s the right thing to do.

I appreciate that there are those who somehow think that this “shut up and listen” thing means don’t use critical thinking, but it’s actually about defensiveness.  People always take things personally.  When someone says, “You’ve got privilege,” most of us want to yell, “I worked really hard to get what I’ve got.”  And most of us have worked really hard, but it doesn’t mean we aren’t privileged — learning to see the privilege is difficult, and to see it we’ve got to be willing to shut up for a little while and recognize the possibility that there are things that we didn’t know before.  In other words, if you’re not prepared to just listen for a little while, you’re going to spend the entire time trying to prove someone wrong instead of considering the possibility that they may have a point.

Ron Lindsay presents this as a war where either you “believe reason and evidence should ultimately guide our discussions, or you think they should be held hostage to identity politics.”  This negates the possibility that this is a fight between factions who think that reason and evidence point to the necessity of identity politics and those who refuse to listen.