SKEPCHICKCON TOMORROW OMG

convergence2013logoOn a scale of stoked, I’m like a 9.  All of the bestest people in the world are going to be at CONvergence.  I, of course, still need to pack.  I’ve spent all day editing my Podcast instead — it’s on iTunes now, which I think makes it official.

Goals for SkepchickCON:

1. Look professional on the panels

2. Convince awesome people to come on my podcast/show

3. Look fancy

4. Hang out with the awesomest people.

I have also found a new apartment in the DC area, so hopefully I will soon be back to making ukulele videos more regularly.  I am currently debating whether I should be taking my ukulele with me to Minneapolis or not.  Yeppers.

SCHEDULE:

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

Tonight at 7pm EST – The Ashley F Miller Show

Tonight, join me, Dan Fincke from Camels with Hammers, and Mavaddat Javid, who has a Tumblr here.

Topics:

Politics: SCOTUS and Prop 8

Media: documentaries “The New Black” and “American Revolutionary

Guest Choice: Prostitution issues

 

After the discussion that the three of us have, I’m hoping to include anyone else who would like to join in the discussion.  This is the first run, so it might not go totally smoothly as it’s all being figured out, but I’m thinking I can answer any questions sent through chat as well as invite people to join the hangout for discussion.

https://plus.google.com/events/c5js9i9ar4ctbg9shs23v51atb8

Monday Miscellany

Debating race and inequality is….messy.

Chana needs a better science-religion Venn diagram. I can’t figure out which part to quote, so you should read the whole thing.

Here’s a nifty pull quote from David Silverman, interviewed at Netroots Nation:

But really when we’re talking about how we’re dealing with this, it’s hard because atheism is all about free speech, atheism is all about open communication, and some atheists are simply not nice people. And just like some Christians are not nice people, and some Jews are not nice people, some atheists are simply not nice people. And there’s a lot of people who are in that middle area, and there’s a lot of misunderstanding. So what I think has to happen is that the feminist voice in atheism has to be protected — protected may be not the right word, but I’ll use it anyways. The voice of feminist has to be protected, it has to be amplified, it has to be helped by the men in atheism and by the women as well. We have to make a stand that says, “It’s just obvious that men and women are equal and it’s also obvious that rape jokes sent to feminist speakers and sent to feminist bloggers, that’s not what good people do.”

At the crux of that, I’ve said many times that the atheism movement is the good guys. We are the good guys! We strive for equality, not advantage, that’s what makes us the good guys. Good guys don’t act like that. They don’t act like that to our enemies, and they don’t act like that to our allies. I have seen people within the atheist movement treat other atheists more poorly than I would treat the worst of our adversaries, and that shames me. That makes me ashamed of them.

And speaking of atheists, Hemant fact-checks Time’s piece on community service, and whether or not secular humanists offered help in the wake of the Oklahoma tornado.

As an addendum,  I’m all for voting with your dollars and canceling your subscription to Time in protest (as I’ve seen many advocating). But I’d argue that you can probably do more if you cancelled your subscription, were outraged, and then organized, joined, or otherwise did a community service project. 

And, for a question: what’s the best argued blog/article/op-ed you’ve read that argues for a postion you do not hold?  

Proposed: That We’d Just Be Better Off If We Forgot About That Flying Spaghetti Monster Stuff

Move over, Noodliness.

Move over, Your Noodliness.

I floated this post idea on Twitter and everyone told me to write it, so if this goes badly, I think I can just blame it on them, right? That’s how it works?

It’s not that the original Flying Spaghetti Monster wasn’t a useful allegory–in fact, it was a hilarious allegory with enough snark to give us atheists years of rib-elbowing and behind-hand snickering. It’s just that now, it’s become part of the dialect, if you will. OMFSM. Pastafarians. Whatever this was.

And I think, as this movement focuses more on social justice, as we combine feminism with atheism…or even if you’ve just wondered how to have more women in your group…we need to take a look at things like this:
[Excerpted from The Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster]

We’d like to tell you all about our Heaven, which features a Stripper Factory and a giant Beer Volcano.

[….]

Q: If there’s a Beer Volcano and a Stripper Factory in Heaven, what’s FSM Hell like?

A: We’re not entirely certain, but we imagine it’s similar to FSM Heaven, only the beer is stale and the strippers have venereal diseases. Not unlike Las Vegas.

*goggles*

Sorry, one of the big in-jokes in atheism has a stripper factory? A factory? Like the sort where inanimate objects are made? And simultaneously, we’re looking about for reasons women are less likely to be atheists than men?

Oh, there’s male strippers too:

Q: Are there male strippers in FSM Heaven for women?
A: Probably, but they are invisible to the non-homo guys.

Cuz it wouldn’t be heaven if straight men had to see nearly-naked dudes!

Antarctica, the cursed, is the continent that is the Pastafarian equivalent to Christianity’s Hell. The Beer Volcano froze over millennia ago, the strippers wear big bulky parkas and snow pants, and the place is covered in ice and snow.

Yeah, the real problem is when strippers cover up. That’s hell. </sarcasm>

I’d like to argue that this is not, perhaps, the face we want to put on our message. We do not want the intrepid high school google-er, sitting at her computer when her parents are out, trying to find out more about her unbelief and why there keep being pasta jokes and coming upon….Stripper Factory.

Oh, but you say, it’s just become part of what we do. It’s offhand! Most people don’t even know the whole thing about the Kansas School Board and the book and most of the people who do know about the book haven’t read it–and—–

Really?

Have you recently told a Christian they can’t just pick and choose the gay friendly parts of the bible, or giggled along as a Family Values Politician divorced–what does his bible have to say about that? Did you let them get away with pleading ignorance, or that it was the main message that was important? But you want me to ignore the strippers, because the important part is about teaching science in school?

I think not.

 

.

 

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