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

[Monday Miscellany] Accessibility, Mental Health, and Atheist Churches?

It’s Monday, and I don’t have work! I’m celebrating by refusing to get out of bed.

Chris Hofstader wrote about his experience as a blind man at Women in Secularism. This community has quite a ways to go in providing accessibility for all.

I cannot blame the conference coordinators for the behavior of the attendees but this was also a downright surreal experience for both me and my blind friend. Lots of people approached us but, with very few exceptions, they talked to our dogs and not to us humans. A lot of people asked our dog’s names but not ours. Those who actually engaged us in conversation talked only about dogs. I don’t like telling people that I’m smart or whatever but my friend graduated from Princeton, works for the government in software accessibility, has been involved in feminism for a long time, is a humanist/atheist and would have all sorts of interesting things to talk to people at a secularism conference about if they showed any curiosity. This did not happen with anyone at the QED conference in the UK. Maybe the british public education system does a better job of teaching people about diversity in general or disability in specific, I don’t know but I felt like a dog walking bot and not a human at WiS.

Hayley Stevens, though not at WiS, also has some thoughts.

Want to make your event more accessible? Cornell University has a handy checklist.
You can also listen to SB Morgaine’s talk from SSACon 2012 about making your events better.
Want your website to be less suck? Check to make sure that it is compatible with screen readers. I use this open source one. Download the reader, open your page, and see if it can read the text. Also, commenter chippanfire has this excellent remark. 

This is a new periodic table song. It’s stuck in my head. Send help.

Old, but sadly necessary:  stop hitting on the waitress.

See that cute person behind the counter who smiles at you every day as you buy your (lottery ticket/breakfast/liquor/condoms/razors/newspaper/coffee)?

That person HAS to be there and HAS to be nice to you.  It doesn’t mean anything.  You don’t have a deeper connection.  Your daily transactions are not meaningful.

Fortunately, there is a way to show your appreciation for the person who brings you your meal or fixes your drink.  It’s called tipping.  And there is a word for entitled customers who try to use the inherent power imbalance to bully customer service people into unwanted personal interactions, and that word is “douchebag.”

Ally writes about church.

A few people have asked for my feels about the very existence of an atheist church, whether it’s viable, valuable, or even possible. But despite my skepticism, there is a piece of me that really wants this to catch on, and it doesn’t have much basis in rationality or cost-benefit analysis. Granted, I have a problem with the kind of logic that argues that emotion necessarily negates rational thought. I won’t go there now, but I know the desire to cheer them on is coming from a part of me that only seems to show its face when I drink.

For anyone who doesn’t know me outside the skeptic blogosphere, I’m a social dancer, mostly swing and blues. This hobby/sport/art form attracts every brand of human being, from well-mannered seminarians to radical secular humanists like me. There are dancers who claim that you don’t need to drink to enjoy it, but I’m here to tell you that that’s only half true. Sometimes, after a night of dance scene drama, beer has a way of holding the community together.

So after a long night of dance, my good dance friends and I end up at a little local place, and one of my secular dance friends mentioned the Sunday Assembly. We discussed our respective religious backgrounds, casually and anecdotally at first, but I felt a familiar emptiness that usually accompanies stories about my seven years as a wannabe Presbyterian. Before I could stop myself, I said it.

“I miss church, too.”

Wait. Shit. What?

Small things you can do to improve mental health in your community. I’d also add respecting any and all boundaries. If someone tells you they can’t go out tonight, or that they just really don’t like hugs or loud noises or spontaneous activities, respect that. Do not push, do not force.  Treat them as normal people who’ve done the equivalent of ask for chocolate instead of vanilla ice cream, not four headed monsters who DON’T LIKE PARTIES HOW COULD YOU NOT LIKE GOING TO A PARTY.

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.

Women in Secularism: The Good, The Bad, The Awesome

Earlier this year I had to make a financial choice — I could either afford to go to DC for the Women in Secularism conference or I could afford to go to Vegas for The Amazing Meeting.  I say this not to denigrate TAM, but I could not have made a better decision.  The Women in Secularism conference is far and away the best atheist/skeptic conference that I’ve ever been to.  If you missed it, and you probably did, you need to not miss it again.

One of the things that I have trouble with in this movement is the lack of focus on issues that “matter”.  I came to the secular movement from the LGBT movement, fresh off of the Prop 8 loss, I discovered that out-and-proud atheists also had a movement, and I was eager to join a fight that I thought impacted everything, including LGBT and women’s issues.  So I went to the OCFA conference, to local skeptic and atheist meetups, I went to TAM, to Dragon*Con’s Skeptrack, to the SCA lobbying training, I wrote about it here, I wrote about it for secular.org, I gave speeches.  In short, I got involved.

Photo by Brian Engler

This month is my two year anniversary of being involved with this movement and, as someone who cares deeply about social justice, it has very often been a very difficult movement to be a part of.  For me the great appeal of secularism, the great tragedy of religion, and my own personal passion for this cause is all centered around the fact that religion is the source of many evils or used to justify those evils perpetrated against humanity.  As was said several times over the weekend, UFOs and Bigfoot aren’t that important to me, skepticism is much more interesting when applied to issues that impact people’s lives in serious ways.  Children, minorities, people of color, women, poor people, the disabled, the elderly, LGBT, and other marginalized groups would benefit so much from having the tragic consequences of religious bigotry removed from their lives.

So when people in charge of important organizations speak on a panel at TAM to say that social justice isn’t and shouldn’t be within the purview of skepticism, or people in my local atheist group leave because they think it is inappropriate that someone posted a link to a story about the Rally Against the War on Women because who cares about that feminist bullshit, or important people in the movement tell me not to bother submitting something to TAM if it has anything to do, even tangentially, with women’s issues, I start to doubt why I am even involved.

This conference was the antidote to that.  If you are someone in this movement who wants it to be about creating change in the world, this is the conference you should have been at.  If you are someone who thinks all that atheists and skeptics should do is talk about is why the bible is stupid and why UFOs aren’t real, then it really wasn’t for you.  I think that UFOs and critiquing the Bible and all of that are important discussions, but I think they are a reflection of an old, traditional, white male scientist way of thinking, and it’s not why I want to be involved.

I know why I am involved, and this conference was it.  In reality, it wasn’t the “Women in Secularism” conference, it was the “Secularism for Social Justice” conference.  I am proud to have been a part of it.

HIGHLIGHTS (all quotes paraphrased)

  • Typing 13000 words while liveblogging
  • I place as much value on anonymous comments made on blogs as I do on statements of eternal love made after a late night drinking at a bar. – Susan Jacoby
  • This conference is a good start, the first of its kind, but these panels BELONG in regular conferences. There are places for these issues at every conference we hold. Especially on science and education. Things have not changed enough, and women are the primary educators and caregivers. Secular organizations, if they want more women, are going to have to address this. The reason men aren’t here isn’t because the conference isn’t welcome, but because men in the movement don’t give a shit about this. – Susan Jacoby
  • Both religion and sexism are hard to give up. They’re ingrained and it’s tough to overcome, especially because it’s not conscious. Giving up religion feels freeing, but giving up sexist beliefs as a man isn’t necessarily freeing because it means examining, acknowledging, and confronting privilege. It feels like reentering a place where you’re made to feel guilty. But sexism impacts men too, and men don’t seem to realize it. Men get called girly as an insult and are driven away from being themselves if they’re not “man enough”. They don’t care about reproductive rights. As though they don’t have to deal with getting a girl preggo. – Jen McCreight
  • Sikivu and Ophelia disagreeing strongly, and talking about it rationally and pleasantly.
  • Recognition of the underground acknowledgement of the bad guys in the movement and how women are afraid to speak up about it because it will hurt them instead of the well-known man.
  • Panel arguments that were over details of implementation and how to fight, not over whether there was a problem in the first place
  • I have never found a trace of morality in my own religion – Wafa Sultan
  • The complete rejection of the Prime Directive and everyone agreeing that helping women in other cultures is a moral duty, not cultural imperialism.
  • It’s cultural imperialism to help these women? Tell the to the girl who had her clitoris cut off, tell that to the girls who had acid thrown on their faces for going to school, tell that to the women being stoned to death for the crime of being raped. Tell that to them and then FUCK YOU.  - Greta Christina
  • Having a military base in Saudi Arabia isn’t imperialism but opening a school is? If you can invade a country how can you not open schools? We need more secular schools, not more army bases! – Wafa Sultan
  • Wafa Motherfucking Sultan.  For many personal reasons, it was a very difficult and traumatic talk to sit through and I was nearly sobbing by the end of it, if I hadn’t been transcribing, I’m sure I would have been.  I hope that this talk goes up first, it needs to be seen.
  • A lot of people are talking about issues that apparently have nothing to do with secularism, should Catholic hospitals get public funding and refuse to give the morning after pill, should black boys be frisked without probable cause in NYC, we are skeptics, we’re good with numbers, we should care about it. These stories, we who are skeptical, we who believe that morality does not come down from on high, we who understand that it is our obligation as humans to first do no harm and make sure that others are not harmed, have to — HAVE TO — tell our stories. – Jamila Bey
  • We’re so foundational. If I can convince people to spend more time thinking about things, using critical thinking, it’ll fix a lot of these other problems I’m fighting for. Because our message is so basic and foundational, I think that it is a part of everything else. – Debbie Goddard

NITPICKS

  • Some of the talks were either too broad and not focused enough.  I say this with absolute love, because there was not woman who spoke that I didn’t want to hear more from, but many of the talks were so detail rich on such a broad topic that they were very difficult to follow.  Annie Laurie Gaylor was particularly guilty of this, I’m afraid I didn’t retain very much of what she talked about because it was basically just a list of names.  Her argument, which was that women have historically been freethinkers, could have been made in a way that wasn’t as hard to follow.  I just didn’t know any of the names or have any point of reference.  Susan Jacoby did a lot of the using names without explaining who they are thing as well.
  • Using cards to take questions was great, but I didn’t have access to any and would have had to interrupt the session or leave to get cards to be able to ask questions.  I think there needs to be a stack under each chair.  Especially since my neighbors all grabbed all of the cards immediately when they sat down so I had none!
  • The talks were too long, I’d rather have heard shorter talks from more people and some of them felt a little stretched out, I’m thinking of Bernice Sandler’s in particular, but just generally I think hour long talks are excessive when you’ve got so many other people who didn’t get to speak.  The panels were the perfect length.
  • Attendance.  I would have liked to see a lot more men and people of color in the audience.  I said it was the Social Justice in Secularism conference, and I think that’s how it should be advertised, because it wasn’t just about women and it wasn’t just for women and women’s issues are human rights issues.  So much of what we covered this year was new territory for these conferences, I hope that the conference continues and continues to expand into covering topics like prison reform and drug policy — things that impact women even though they aren’t traditionally thought of as “women’s issues” and were brought up several times over the weekend.
  • I admit that, because I work in media and I study media, I am unusually focused on this, but I wish that there had been more time spent on addressing the representation of women in the media.  And if you need someone to rant about that next year, I’m sure I’m only one of a whole lot of women in the movement who could go on and on for hours.

Readin’ a list; Photo by Brian Engler

And my final complaint, which is not a nitpick and not the fault of the conference, is the tragic performance of Edwina Rogers, who literally read a list from an old power point presentation over the course of 15 minutes and then left the conference entirely without taking any questions.  She had been there before the speech, available to be approached, so she wasn’t hiding entirely and I wouldn’t accuse her of that, she was just avoiding having to publicly answer questions.  And she clearly was not hired to be a charismatic public speaker and I never missed the overly enthusiastic rabble rousing of Sean Faircloth more.  This wasn’t just my response, I heard this from several people who didn’t know anything about her background.

I also had the opportunity to meet her and I was disappointed in that as well.  She just threw talking points at me about opening state chapters, and she and Woody, her handler from the SCA, both acted like they didn’t know who I was.  This despite the fact that I was recruited by the SCA to be one of the the first bloggers for their organization’s website, I spent hours and hours last year with Woody, led a panel discussion for the SCA last year, and have sent them much feedback and, admittedly unsolicited, advice about Edwina.  If they don’t know who I am, it’s insulting, and if they do know and they acted like they don’t, that’s even more insulting.

That said, Melody Hensley did an amazing job with this and deserves all of the credit in the world.  Conferences, especially first ones, are incredibly difficult to pull off.  This was so much better than I had hoped for, I have come away impressed by everyone involved.  Well, almost.

I will be adding a list of resources mentioned while I was taking notes over the weekend, for people who want to read more or watch videos that were recommended.

Liveblogging the Women in Secularism Conference VI

10:34 Any way to push women’s rights in politics?

Jamila: Until there are more women in office they will have to compromise everything to get anything. Run. Pay to play. Organize on the internet. Women do not right op eds, letters to the editors. Op Ed Project, google them, get in your local paper, pitch your stories, tell them it’s going on, tell them they need to know. It’s great to rant on reddit, you’ve got to get in front of people who can do something, those are journalism. Run for office if you don’t like it.

Many are apathetic even if they agree with us, how do we get them to care?

Jen: Visit the midwest or south. I use scare tactics. Lifelong secular person, I didn’t care at all until I moved to a conservative community in college and it scared the crap about me and they were trying to convert me. Many don’t realize because it’s not immediately impacting them. I moved to Seattle now it’s like atheist paradise. I try to bring up what’s actually happening in other parts of the country. If you’re not active you’re going to get screwed over eventually too.

What are the strategic advantages for our movement?

Greta: We rule the internet. We can mobilize the internet at a moment’s notice. Do you remember that we made the american cancer society’s life miserable for weeks? Anyone paying attention in the non-profit world knows don’t piss of the atheists. The Foundation Beyond Belief wanted to participate as a team member, initially they said yes, and then said no and lied about it and changed the story and lied. It got out, the atheists made their lives a misery for weeks. A lot of theists were also upset. They wanted to give you half a million dollars, my aunt died of cancer, what the fuck were you doing you don’t want their money. We run the internet and we should run with that. FBB found another cancer organization that was like we want your money and people and mobilizing and creating visibility.

Debbie: It’s called Light the Night, so keep an eye out. Doing it in Sep and Oct.

The role of pop culture?

Jamila: Tell our stories. Put an atheist in your movement, make them sympathetic. Come out. When people see you it’s really hard to hate you and oppress you.

Jen: That works. My favorite movie when I was 8 was Contact. The main character is a female strong willed scientist who is also an atheist. The more I watched it the more I thought she thinks like me and that’s OK. I read a study a week ago that looked at the top 100 films last year, 11 female leads, they were almost all stereotypes. It works when you have role models.

Greta: I would love an atheist equivalent of a media watchdog that points to bad depictions and patterns. And there are these patterns of depictions of atheists in the media. Put out a press release.

Today is the 15 year anniversary of Contact!

What is the future of secular interaction with the parties and politics?

Jamila: That’s a book. That I wish I could write right now.

Greta: I think it’s a long game. Traditional pols see us as toxic. And that was true of the gay movement in the 1970s. And they became powerhouse that the democrats couldnt ignore. But the republicans are screwing themselves because young people aren’t hostile. Doesn’t mean we should give up, to play the long game, we need to start now, but we shouldn’t expect huge payoff right away but in 5 years we can become.

Debbie: A lot of what we do is defined by what our enemies do. Right now it seems to be the religious right and they’re closely allied with the republican party. It forces most of us to side with democrats. If the religious right continues, I think default wise, we will be allied with democrats. However I think we will see a shift in that, the religious right will become less popular because young people aren’t interested. We’ll be into liberal progressives on social issues.

Is the secular movement trying to become all encompassing?

Debbie: We’re so foundational. If I can convince people to spend more time thinking about things, using critical thinking, it’ll fix a lot of these other problems I’m fighting for. Because our message is so basic and foundational, I think that it is a part of everything else.

APPLAUSE

Debbie: We see same sex issues, we have positions, you should look at science and data. You’re coming to the wrong conclusion because of bias. Let’s look at facts and history.

Greta: Anti-Discrimination Support System watch. That thing I talked about exists. Margaret Downey (sp)

JMH: Atheists have been traditionally progressive in a lot of fields. Elizabeth Cady Stanton knew she was risking her position in the women’s movement, but she thought religion caused the problems and so she spoke out. Black atheists working on socialism and civil rights. Hubert Harrison (?)

10:19 JMH: we don’t know our history, writing Doubt made me more hopeful for the future of our movement, there’s always been people questioning. The one suggestion I have is the Cold War seemed to shut down questioning, but we’re not there anymore and now our most murderous enemies are often on the fundamentalist side. Specifically, this history gives us reassurance about who we are, not just the facts but they addressed different things, what can do about forgetting our history? Annie Laurie Gaylor’s talk was amazing and showed us how much we forgot and these women addressed questions that we don’t always address now? Anyone want to take it.

Debbie: We spoke together about what we might discuss on this panel and also wanting to make sure we had interesting new things. Is there enough to talk about? There’s too much. I am going to try to have a contrary opinion even though I’m going first. Most people who get involved don’t need the history because it’s not why they’re getting involved. Why do people get involved in church? We make fun of people who are religious because they haven’t read the bible and don’t know their history. Because the purpose is to provide community. And then we kind of do that to, we might not know our history of freethought, that’s not why they’re coming to groups or arguing on the internet. Those in leadership should absolutely know, and about other social movements too, we should absolutely know the history. Things feel very new, maybe this is because the internet makes my attention span think everything is new. Pre-Youtube I don’t even know what was going on in the world. The whole world would benefit from learning knowing more history. Yes we would benefit, no it’s not why we’re coming to groups, maybe add more to venues and educate.

Jamila: Quickest answer: Yes, we should know more about our history. I’m a big fan of gifting biographies. We need to let it be know that there were always people who doubted. We need to make sure that those who are in league with the way we think that they’re aware of it. I’m going to go back to February, I love talking about, did you know they were atheists. That kind of thing. Letting people know. We can always share our wishlist on certain big internet retailers that oppress local bookstores. I wish we did more reading as a society, especially since I make my living as a journalist. But I’m a journalist on radio, so maybe there will be a Youtube meme.

Debbie: I just jotted down, if you’ve been in the bookstore, you’ve seen the banner we made for african american for humanism, we had banners with african american famous figures who were freethinkers. It is so important to people to know that there are people who look like them who think this way. To know that atheism is something that’s been present in black history, again, so important to people. In the black community people would say that atheism and freethinking is a eurocentric perspective and it’s an outside group telling them how to be, when we show the history and we’ve been part of it. Like in feminism, did you know all these people were freethinkers too? This is our history, it represents me and my history too.

Greta: What they said. Diversity work, this is nuts and bolts work, if you want to do events with black sororities or feminists, do a history of women and african american freethinkers. How diverse we’ve always been. I think there’s a divide between the old guard and the young who want to do everything differently. I think our history is important, especially learning other social change movements, but I also think that there’s a tendency that because we’ve always done something this way we must always do it that way. Like the skeptic movt has always been about ufos and bigfoot and can’t now be about the drug war and prison reform because that’s how it’s always been done. We’re changing quickly, we need to be nimble. I wouldn’t want a focus on history to become we have to always do things the way people in the movement are already comfortable with. One of the lessons from history is we can’t always keep doing things the way we always to do.

Jen: You made the one point I was clinging onto so I’ll say yes.

10:07 Greta: People who came out earlier tend to be people who are very independently minded and don’t care as much about social things. When it’s hard to come out the people who come out are people who don’t care so much about other people and don’t care as much about being social. But that’s changing because it’s becoming easier and we’ll be a community of people who are more social. We’re going to have more diversity of interests. The local groups that are strongest are the ones with most diverse range of activities. A lot of times what religious groups offer is a lot of different things, support, child care, guidance, food bank, charity, social justice, picnics. A huge variety of things. If you just activism or just skeptics in the pub or just service, there’s people you’re not reaching who might be interested. That makes a big difference.

Jen: It is hard going last! Sorry Debbie. I don’t have kids, I’ve never been religious, and I like to rage on the activities. I don’t want to sing or be social, I do like eating food and so there’s just basic things that your group can do to get a social network. It’s important to have some traditions in the group. Not rituals. Like my group at Purdue came up with this, they went out to dinner every Sunday night. Once they started doing this, the group became tight knit, they are closer, they feel like part of a group. Regular scheduled meals. Food is universal, they have to eat.

10:03 JMH: What do people, women and men and parents, get from religion? Music, singing, the quietness of periods of it, quietness with other people, and silly things like at the megachurch I once visited, they had parking for people who were coming the first time, welcoming. What do you think? How could we do some of that?

Debbie: Historically we’ve brought in people who are in science and philosophy, and not so much young parents. People who had time and had disposable incomes. There were a lot of people who didn’t like religion and we had humanists who liked to sing and the atheists wanted to talk about the bible and skeptics were hands off religion and let’s talk about the brain and ufos. They all seem to like to drink a lot. Sometimes we’re quiet together cuz we’re drinking so much. And what do people get from that, and religion cover a lot of important things. Social bonding and networks. African americans say when you move to a new city and you want to meet and get connected with new people and the black community, you immediately go to a church. Maybe those venues don’t exist for people to meet new people. The social aspects, we’re seeing that our movement is able to provide more of that, there are groups everywhere now because we are exploding. we’ll see more of that. It becomes a problem when we think we know what everyone wants. I think the debates between confrontationalists and accomodationists argue claim they know what everyone wants, some people like singing and holding hands but not everyone. The internet arguments people realize we’re diverse and have different needs. We have people on the autism spectrum, me too probably, which is cool, I’m good at math, but are less interested in community and hold handing.

Jamila: Black church and children. FINALLY. Here is my experience. I saw a speech at a center not too far from me, Debbie, talking about diversity. In February, the month when all black people events happen. Joke. Based in reality. I show up and there’s a center that’s headed by a woman and she goes I’m a hugger and me too and we hug, and I listen and look around. And there are people who look like me, and many people in this crowd, and I was told I should come to this parent thing. And I show up with my kid, no one’s saying don’t vaccinate and no one saying well, mine is an indigo child. But, I was literally embraced, my kid got playmates, we were sort of likeminded. There will be people who are like Jamila is loud and obnoxious and we will never hang out, and that’s fine, but others have gone to the zoo together, and just hung out when we were bored. I really think that when we allow people to organically seek each other out and say this is what I need and group up under the understanding that our birthday you will be proselytized or we will permit slut shaming. We see the world through a particular lens, so when we go to the movies about a God with a hammer and we go yeah that’s awesome. We don’t have to pray, we do not believe that Jesus is lord, we don’t have to assure people we don’t believe Thor is god. When I go to the hairdresser with my skeptical girlfriends our convos are much different from choir choir how’s your mama choir. It allows me to me and not on guard. And the community is stronger. Is Reba here? She rocks! When I visited I got to see her family group, I was blown away. Dads were leading activities. Whole families showed up, kids showed up alone. This community is there and available and they’re talking about science. Be who you are, be out, let people find you, because I genuinely have experienced that I know I will go to a thing where God ain’t gonna come up and I can find someone to get my hair done with and kids to babysit mine. We need to do more where the whole family is invited and kids can meet.

9:50 Debbie: A lot of times with activism you need to first define goals and then decide tactics. Like the election in Nov, you realize some goal is important, some group that is a competitor might be a group you need to work with right now to vote a certain way, that’s why coalitions exist. As we broaden and get new people, we realize that we have shared goals with some groups, but they don’t want is in there feminist group or LGBT group and that is tricky. And sometimes we overlap in goals, and these groups might be filled with woo. We have more people who are interested in working within groups to bring skepticism and atheists can be good feminists. It’s a kind of coalition building, but more overarching. I do outreach to coalitions of black sciences. Most black groups they love them some jesus, and they love science too, but let’s start with a prayer. So we ask why don’t you want us and don’t you want to help us advance science. We come in conflict with that religion, we still have goals of advancing critical thinking we need to communicate in those groups.

Greta: I think it’s assumed that if you’re confrontational and vocally opposed to religion, it’s going to be difficult, and I don’t think this is not necessarily true. They had a group that did everybody draw mohammed and it was controversial and will it be impossible after to do coalitions, they did and the muslim student group was unhappy and had a lot of conversations, and that was the beginning, and now they are doing alliance work together. It opened up a conversations and they explained why they were doing it, and discovered they had some things in common. We should not assume that if we criticize religion it shuts the door to alliances.

9:44 JMH: I want to ask about coalitions, with the religious, is it a good idea or should we keep it “pure”?

Jennifer: I thought it was very interesting when Greta said that when movements become mainstream they ally with religion and as we become mainstream we become more involved in interfaith. I don’t think working with religious groups is bad, even though I hate the term and a lot about interfaith. When I was in college, we were involved with the Episcopalians a lot because the only thing we disagreed with was the God question. Those sort of relationships work, you have a common set of values and you’re willing to set God aside to work on LGBT rights or separation issues. I do not like when atheist groups are asked to set aside their values and shouldn’t be offensive and should be more polite. The offensive thing is that we don’t believe, we can’t compromise those values. I don’t have faith, based on evidence and reason and faith is bad, I don’t want to be inter. It’s fine working with religious groups, they can’t tell us to shut up about things that make us uncomfortable.

Greta: What she said. The nature of alliance work is that you don’t agree on everything, you temporarily you set aside the things you disagree about — if you didn’t disagree, you would be in the same group. The question is are there people who we disagree with on so much that we shouldn’t work with them at all.

Jamila: It’s hard on the panel cuz I gotta follow that. Rule 1 of debate is that you define your terms. That’s also the rule I like to follow in all relationships. What do we want? Want to give a public shout out to the childcare upstairs that helps us mommies show up and bring our kids. Mine is going to have such wonderful memories of his first Surlyramics and the secularist women conference. He’s at a school in DC, 13% score at grade level in science. These are first graders. These are fifth graders. If those people who love science and maybe some who love Jesus and Allah and FSM wish to come together and go to that school and the parents who don’t have the luxury of showing up and helping, if they want to come together and do some experiments and talk about photosynthesis and talk about the world we all agree we live in actually does, I am willing to do that. I am willing to do that while wearing my FSM pendant, my evolve earrings. I will probably not wear the “show me on the doll where jesus touched you” shirt. When there is a goal, a task, an outcome we can see, I am willing to say OK, well, showing up, got your flair, pins on, go! But, there are times when the price is too high, there are times when you being there is going to be a problem. There are times where you’re going to be told if you don’t sign our declaration of faith, you can’t. You have to cover. I believe that every individual who wishes to do something, should, and bring all of themselves. If you feel I too suffer from OCD and I gotta come and do my thing or else the earthcore will cool with these people and then we’ll tap together and whatever we do. I am against a policy one way or another. Define your terms figure out the cost/benefit and go yes or no. Where a button, sing some John Lennon.

Audience : Not Cee Lo’s version

9:34 Jamila: I am a journalist, I’m going to talk about that perspective. I began writing for a black newspaper, minority media covers small things that happen in their communities and then it gets picked up by larger media and that’s how we got the civil rights movements. I was inspired by that history. I’ve always been inspired by getting stories that other people don’t have — that’s called a scoop. There’s a separation between activism and journalism, but when I find something that’s wrong, when people start to see, then people start to act. Now, am I an activist, that’s a whole other talk I give. Now the future should be informed by the past and other movements and now that we have the internet information fast. This is a return to an ideal of the founders, separation of church and state. You don’t want to use birth control, be quiverfull and get a show on the Discovery Channel. 2012 we have a bunch of elections that matter. A lot of people are talking about issues that apparently have nothing to do with secularism, should Catholic hospitals get public funding and refuse to give the morning after pill, should black boys be frisked without probable cause in NYC, we are skeptics, we’re good with numbers, we should care about it. These stories, we who are skeptical, we who believe that morality does not come down from on high, we who understand that it is our obligation as humans to first do no harm and make sure that others are not harmed, have to — HAVE TO — tell our stories. Preferable to a journalist who will listen and get it right. The future of this movement is the future of the world, it is younger, it is browner, it is a beautiful sight to behold, it is more similar than it is dissimilar and all it needs is a little care and feeding and kumbayah.

Debbie: I’m one of the people who’ve gotten involved because I did student groups and went to a CFI student leadership conference… 12 years ago. As I became an activist, I met people who had attended leadership conferences like Hemant, DJ Grothe, August, Stephanie LeRoy. Investing in the student movement is crucial. We didn’t have as many women 10 years ago who came out of the student movements who became the loudest and brash voices. Seculebrities are changing, we’re seeing shifts in what the movement is interested. The scope of the movement is changing and it’s a movement that’s hard to categorize. CFI has a broader mission, atheism, skepticism, philosophy. We call it the movement, but they are different sides. The humanist side we see a lot more young women involved, I’d like to see more of that in skepticism. Our interests are broadening. Historically it dealt with UFOs and Chubacabras, but there are a lot of people getting involved who care about vaccinations and mothers and children and things that people involved 20 years ago didn’t care about because it reflected who was involved, white scientist men. We see more women, people of color, and one of the core shifts we see is in class. A lot of these things are class issues, as the scope broadens, we’ll see more people involved. Instead of chupacabras we might focus on prison reform. Problems in education system, keep creationism out, but do we know what education is like in the south and in detroit? Most of the people in the movement don”t think about that. More people involved in social justice and service. It’ll be a hard shift because there are a lot of people who don’t think about that, there’s a focus on atheism that thinks we should focus only on why we don’t believe or what’s wrong with the bible. And we wonder why people with 3 kids and 2 jobs don’t come to these things?

9:21 This is on the future of secularism. The panel looks tired. Except Jamila, she looks totally awake. I’m guessing wrangling kids does that to you.

Jen: As a student I feel obligated to point out that I think students are the future of secularism. The one thing I have to point out is that I also think the students are the present. The SSA has been exploding recently, we have 350 groups, only a few years ago it was 100. When I founded the SSA at Purdue, that’s what got me involved in the movement was being involved on the campus. CCC is dropping in the opposite direction and they have millions of more dollars in their budget that we do, like 100 times, we have a staff member per 70 campuses, they have three per campus. Students are putting on conferences.

Greta: What she said. Want to shift gears, want to talk about the internet. The fact that we have the internet gives me tremendous hope for the future. I talk a lot about our similarity to the LGBT movement, one of the things I think about is damn if the LGBT had the internet in 1969. I want to talk about the big blowups that happen online. The fact that we’re having these fights gives me tremendous hope and optimism. I’m glad we’re having these fights now, looking at the history of other movements, in the early stages they did not deal with their stuff about race and sex, it took them a long time to get around to it. Even though it’s ugly, I’m given hope that whenever it blows up now, the conversation is different from what it was a year ago, 2-5 years ago. It was a lot more divided, split on gender lines, and that’s changing. There’s a lot more men calling them feminists and making feminist arguments. There’s more of a general assumption that sexism exists and matters. Gee is it really sexism if a 15 year old girl puts a picture of herself with a book on reddit and she gets rape jokes and comments about her appearance? More men are saying YES. Bloggers get emails all the time about you changed my mind about atheism, but I also get emails, you changed my mind about feminism. Everytime we have one of these frustrating I can’t believe atheists think this stupid shit, the fact that we’re having these arguments now, it’s going to be so much better in 5, 10, 20 years.

9:07 I will probably not be here all morning, but I will liveblog however long I’m here

From left to right: Jennifer Michael Hecht, Jennifer McCreight, Greta Christina, Jamila Bey, Debbie Goddard. This is the panel of all of my favorite people.

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Liveblogging the Women in Secularism Conference V

5:36 She has been accused of being hateful and spreading hate. She doesn’t know how to bridge the gap between left and right. And she’s been called racist for speaking out.

Forbidding burqas?

Very good, excellent, I hope they will apply it in every country in Europe

Are there resources to learn more?

Look for infiltration in America society. To learn you have to go to mosques and Islamic schools. They aren’t hiding anything. It’s easy to get the right information.

She heard a joke in Syria. A man asked for directions, and the response is you go, not the first tank, not the second, but the third you take a right. They use it to kill their own people. Who made the tanks and gave them? They can’t even make their own underwear.

Do you think we shouldn’t be worried here because it’s so much better than in the muslim world?

You should fight for your rights, you should fight, don’t take anything for granted. I didn’t mean to discourage you from defending your rights, I was trying to explain how terrible our situation is in the muslim world. But you need to defend your rights.

Is there a liberal version of Islam that you approve of?

There is only one islam, all “versions” are an attempt to be political correct.

Are muslim women able to get psychological help, are their organizations?

They are ready to accept this treatment in the west, but it’s hard in the islamic world to admit you need mental support.

Do you feel that most women are aware of the oppression against them? Why do they vote for muslim radicals such as the Muslim Brotherhood?

They are indoctrinated to believe they are free and their abuse is blessed by Allah. They need to be educated.

Do you worry that you get used by the right wing to stir up hostility and justify aggressive foreign policy?

No, I have very clear message. If people abuse my message it’s not my problem. I cannot prevent others from abusing my message. My message the problem is deeply rooted with Islam. We distinguish between muslims and islams. I am not against muslims, they are my people, I am against islam, i am against the belief system.

What do you think about the current fighting in Syria?

It’s very sad to see my people are being killed by their own government, but I still to some point blame the west, I blame the US for going into my country. For supporting the dictator, and now for supporting the islamicists. If the dictator goes, the islamicists are the only ones read to take over. Big mess in the Arab world and to be honest I feel that the US is involved in creating this mess.

5:25 How can Westerners help?

Reach out through the internet. It’s so dire, it’s beyond her ability to explain. The internet is changing things, they can see the rest of the world. It’s hard for her to see why women complain about small things, they don’t know how lucky they are. We have so many more rights, she feels free. She can walk to Starbucks to herself without being called a whore. Enjoy it, don’t take it for granted, fight for it. Reach out to the Muslim world, they need it.

The worst part of slavery is when a slave believes they are free, and this is the circumstance of Muslim women. They need more schools, more secular schools. They were brainwashed.

Mohammed hated women, and that’s why they still hate them.

What happens to open atheists in Islamic countries?

Oh. O_O the same that will happen to gay guys. They have to be killed.

Is Islam a threat to secular Europe?

Yes. I think it’s too late for Europe to fight back and establish their identity. When I went to speak in Paris I felt like I was in Gaza, 75% of my audience was covered.

Arabic countries used to be more tolerant and advanced ?

This is a huge myth. Took over a bunch of civilizations, and then claimed the civilizations as their own. Stole civilizations and claimed it as their own.

How did you become a doctor and others are prohibited?

Syria is different from Saudi Arabia. They have a relatively secular government, so they are more free than in some countries.

How widespread is sharia law among muslims in the US?

I believe extensively, yes. I think muslims in the US are provided Saudi money to promote islam. When she was new she was offered a lot of money to promote Islam here.

5:15 How can a muslim woman raise a fair minded child when she is oppressed herself? In the Western world, Muslim women have the opportunity to transform as she has. We as citizens of the free world must expose the totalitarian abuse of Islam against women. We must urge for moral clarity, for open discourse.

When she lived in Syria she cried often because she suffered, now that she’s free, she still cries for all other Muslim women in the world. She longs for a day when other muslim women can taste a little of her freedom, it’s a dream that should be available to all humanity.

Standing ovation. I think half the room is crying.

5:10 Lara Logan shared the sexual violence inflicted on her in the field in Egypt. They enjoyed her pain and suffering. It is a vivid opening to the shocking treatment to native as well as foreign women. Muslim mentality is that women are possessions and don’t belong in public. They blame the victim for failing to meet standards of dress. Logan submitted to political correctness and never used the terms muslim or islam in relation to what was done to her.

This is really fucking hard to listen to.

Her niece was forced to marry her cousin when she was 11 and he was over 40. Justified because Mohammed married his second wife when she was 6 and he was over 50. Her niece was abused and didn’t have the right to ask for divorce. She would escape to her father’s house, begging him to let her stay. He would send her back. At the age of 28, she committed suicide by setting herself on fire. Leaving four children behind.

A woman came in and was three months pregnant. She was a widow. Her husband’s brother raped her daily in exchange for feeding her children. If the rapist found out she was pregnant he would have her son kill her, and she didn’t care if she lived, but didn’t want her son to be a murderer. Wafa sent her to a gynecologist who performed an abortion but she was nearly killed in the process because she couldn’t afford to pay for the anesthetic for the surgery.

5:01 She was the first Muslim background person to say on television to say that Islam is the problem. Well-intentioned people in the West are ignorant of the treatment of muslim women and the cause.

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She is here to unmask the true face of Islam to women, it is a hateful ideology. The principles of Islam promote abusive practices. The abuse of women in Islam is legal, but comes from laws directly out of religious texts. People here deny the truth.

To say that the principles of Islam have no relationship with the treatment of women under Islam, is as as nonsensical to say that the constitution has nothing to do with the way America’s government is run. People live in denial of the reality of painful things. Death. It is the same with Islam. Mohammed said women are deficient in mind. She is thankful for the clarity of how wrong Islam is. “There is nothing more hateful for a man than a woman”.

4:56 Next up is Wafa Sultan, she was awesome on the panel. An interview with her from something (?) has 20 million hits. I’m guessing if I google it, with 20 million views, I’ll find it.

Her book is “A God that Hates”. In Arabic they don’t have the letter ‘p’, they pronounce it ‘b’, so heads up on her pronunciation. Disarming way to introduce herself.

She’s honored to be here. It’s her first time to speak at this kind of event, but also because she has survivor syndrome. She saw horrors in Syria as a citizen and as a doctor. Mistreatment of women that were supported by families and sharia. She escaped to the US. She had rights and dignity, unlike before. In her own country, she wasn’t considered mentally fit to be the guardian of her own children.

Over time she started to feel guilty, remembering the women left behind. Millions of women, not just in her country, but throughout the Muslim world, where liberty like hers wasn’t even imaginable. It paralyzed her. Even though she was delighted with her life. Guilt and freedom inspired her to fight back. First by writing, then by speaking out. Fighting for those who have no voice, those she left behind.

4:40

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4:38 She’s giving advice along these same lines to questions from the audience. Suggests asking people for advice, which is better at convincing them about the dilemma, so they’re on your side.

Are there gender differences in who gets called on? Yes, men are.

True story. It’s horrible. People just look at men more.

Do men get threatened with bodily harm like women are threatened with rape?

I think men are threatened with bodily harm. Women getting threatened rape shows the power differential. There are power differentials that we all recognize subconsciously. Men threaten each other for dominance. Women get name called, god you’re bitchy or whatever, there’s an attempt to say you’re not as nice as you used to be. What that person is trying to do is to make you angry? If they call you a name, you just say, it’s probably going to get worse, I’m getting older.

Just agree and say it’ll get worse. And when they get annoyed, you’ve won.

How do you respond to public forums to sexism?

Organizations need to think about it if the comments were inappropriate. The worst thing about bad behavior is that sometimes nobody says anything. That is the worst. Someone needs to say something. In the best of situations, someone might have said something, followed up. Someone in charge should have said it was inappropriate. When you ignore bad behavior, it gets worse.

4:20 Men can change a topic of a women’s conversation in under ten seconds, if women try to join a men’s conversation it’s almost impossible to join, much less direct.

Why is this happening? These are good people? She does it too. People intuitively think men are better and have produced better things than women. Same resumes get different responses, men get hired 2 to 1, same research gets different marks.

Women are devalued generally in society and that subconsciously translates into behaviors. The outsider is devalued. We like people who are like us, Others are devalued.

Intervening when you see these behaviors.

If someone says something wrong, Miss Manners recommends “I beg your pardon”.

Sometimes you can respond with “That comment is offensive to all of us.” (not to me) Some people aren’t that direct.

Jokes that are racist, sexist, etc. You don’t laugh, for one. And then say “I didn’t get the point of that joke. Could you say it again?” Ask them at least two or three times. “Why is that funny?” You don’t say anything for 5 full seconds. And then you just say “oh”. Lollercoasters.

Sometimes women make a suggestion and it is ignored, and then a man makes the exact same suggestion and they immediately pick it up.

The letter has three parts. The first part is very factual, because people usually agree with the facts. Separate facts from feeling. “I felt that I was not getting credit for my ideas.” I feel this, not blaming. Third part is what you’d like to happen. “I would like you to remind the group it was my suggestion initially if someone else is claiming credit.” Usually people say nothing and don’t apologize, but they change their behavior. If they try to talk, you say you don’t want to discuss it, you want it to change. Very effective.

4:10 Women do not get enough praise, we should give them more praise, specific praise about what you think they do well. Criticism needs to be feedback with suggestions, not tearing someone down. Instead of saying this is, put it in a scale. At meetings women don’t talk as much as men. Bring them in.

Listen attentively is importantly. I promise I’m only looking at my phone right now is because… yeah.

The rules of interruption. If someone who is more powerful than you, they are allowed. Obama can interrupt you. If someone has less power than you, you can interrupt them, but you are allowed. But what about people who are equal. You don’t have to stop talking when someone interrupts you if you’re equals.

Appearance importance in describing women but not men. Men and women have different styles of speech. Women speak higher, softer, and apologize before speaking. Assertiveness training. And then when women did that they were called bitches.

Who do you have lunch with? Apparently same sex lunches is normal? I can’t remember the last time I ate lunch with another human…

4:00 Small behaviors that individually don’t do much, but when they’re done repetitively they shut down women. We ALL do this, men and women. We do it to white women and women of color. These things happen to anyone who is an outsider. She’s talking about women, but it’s everyone “outside”. The other.

Everybody looks more at men than women. Women get much less eye-contact. We’re more responsive to men, more praise more criticism, more attention. Men get more coaching and tell me more and women get “uh-huh”. Women get much less feedback.

When women are speaking people are more likely to frown than for men. Men are called by their name more often. We wait longer for men to respond to a question before going to someone else. Men and women are asked different kind of questions, men get thinking questions, women get factual questions. The difference between when and why. Also in interviews.

www.bernicesandler.com has a large list of chilly climate behaviors.

3:53 Now is Bernice Sandler who I really don’t know, unlike the others who have spoken. But we’re getting a detail intro, so convenient.

40th anniversary of Title 9, which she had a lot to do with. Expert at equity issues for women, particularly in harassment. In the 1970s she filed the first charges of sex discrimination against 200 organizations. Coauthored three books, chilly climate, sexual harassment in colleges and in k-12.

She’s going to talk about how who women are seen differently than men. The “chilly climate”.

She watches TV during breakfast and she sometimes learns things from morning shows. Over thirty years ago, one morning they did an interview with a scientist who studied mixed groups, and saw that men interrupted women more than the other way around. Soon she was invited to a seminar for businessmen. By the end of the second day she realized women were getting interrupted more than men.

She took a piece of paper and counted interruptors and interruptees. Women were interrupted twice as much and a different kind. Women interrupted to be encouraging, men interrupted to ask what husbands would say on the issue.

Bernice decided to talk to the male co-leaders, and showed the chart. They denied it. She must have counted wrong, they’d never do that. She left dejected. The next day, there were no interruptions of the women. This is changeable behavior. I’ve got to get a grant to do something!

3:43 Well, I think that that panel we just watched needs to go on Youtube and be required viewing to everyone all the time.  It was fucking awesome.

I practically transcribe that panel, which was nuts. I don’t think I’m going to go quite so crazy on the speeches.

Liveblogging the Women in Secularism Conference III

Lunch

12:30 How can incorrect data at congressional hearings?

One of the most important things we can do is correct the record.

How do you answer the comments that Stanton and Anthony were anti abortion?

Abortion was illegal and women died when they were done. They would not be anti abortion today. Medical science is just so different now than then.

Any reason why people lose authority when speaking on feminism and atheism?

I’m beginning to think we should read the comments in the internet. If people can only talk about I’m an atheist, what is the point of the movement? Social progress has come from people willing to criticize religion. It was about promoting reason and science and condemning bad practices. Slavery, Capital Punishment. We mean nothing if we don’t stand for progress in civilization. What do we build.

When did special treatment for religious organizations start?

1820s? Lobbying congress. Used to get mail on Sunday, but they stopped that. Didn’t know that. Theocrats knew the constitution was secular and pushed against.

Is it possible to be a religious feminist?

There’s a bifurcation there, they haven’t applied feminist critical thinking to religion. UUC and UU are creedless and easier to understand that overlap. Have they read the bible?

Should we promote these events as promiscuous assemblies? lulz

How did we get here?

Religion sanctified sexism. Religion is the greatest threat because it reaches beyond the grave.

Slutshaming?

The language in the bible about women is pornographic in the worst way, the sexual reviling of women in the bible, that’s where it comes from. That women are owned by men and they can tell us what to wear and rate us sexually and control our worth.

The bible rules permit promiscuity for men. Double standard is throughout the bible, including the NT.

Do you think the War on Women is the last big gasp for the religious right with the growth of secularism?

I’m not that optimistic, but they are desperate to keep us in control and go back to theocracy.

Lilith, first wife and feminist, do you know a history?

She’s apocryphal and a lot of fun.

These questions are delightfully short and to the point and not arguments.

Suggestions on getting hispanic women to get involved?

The most radical thing a freethinker can do is to come out. Let people know. Imagine the ripple effects. Atheists are at the bottom of the social pole, they haven’t changed in 50 years. Why? Many people have never knowingly met an atheist. Not enough to come out of the closet, you have to leave the house.

12:16 Anne Nicol Gaylor nothing fails like prayer

Sherry Matulis abortion advocate nearly died from a botched illegal abortion. poet.

Sonia Johnson From housewife to heretic. Mormon woman who called them to task for defeated the era. Her fantasy that no woman would go to church.

Barbara Enrenreich Think for yourself

Katha Pollitt writes for the Nation, wrote Reasonable Creature.

Taslima Nasrin Religion is the great oppressor and should be abolished.

Alice Walker essay about the bible

Ursula K LeGuin

Wendy Kaminer NPR

Ann Dryuan Sagan’s widow

Natalie Angier NYTimes

Sara Paretsky mystery writer

Ayaan Hirsi Ali writer of Infidel

Robin Morgan

Julia Sweeney Letting Go of God

Then people here.

12:10 Harriet Martineau first sociologist. Put her own name on her books.

Lydia Maria Child wrote Over the hills and through the woods.

Margaret Fuller transcendentalist. Died at age 40. Woman in the 19th century. Give me truth, cheat me by no illusion

George Eliot (Marion Evans) Very religious as young woman and lost her faith and stopped going to church as a teenager and her father kicked her out of the house. Human relationships are more important than dogma.

Elmina Slenker quaker.

Ouida Marie Lousie de la Ramee was as popular as Eliot. The dog of flanders. “The Failure of Christianity”

Sharlot Hall

Zona Gale

Ella Wheeler Wilcox poet

Charlotte Perkins Gilman “The Yellow Wallpaper”. Wrote “His religion and hers” 1923. What glory is there for an omnipotent being to torture and subjugate a lesser being, like humans torturing ants

Lucy N Coleman abolitionist. Always mobbed by ringleaders of ministers

Etta Semple and Laura Knox Kansas used to be the hotbed of Freethought. Town radical and then opened a hospital and never turned away tramps or fallen women. Controversial, against blue laws and capital punishment.

Susan Wixon freethought has always been the best friend that women have

Marilla M Ricker worked with Ingersoll, was an attorney.

Annie Besant. Shaw called her the greatest orator in England, possibly Europe. Had a bizarre conversion to theosophy.

Hypatia Bradlaugh Bonner running secular movements, working for many progressive causes. heresy makes for progress

Voltarine de Cleyre. Father converted to Catholicism and sent her to convent. She became a teenage freethought speaker. Talked about sex slavery and women owning their own bodies. Converted to Anarchism after bombings. God is deaf and his church is our worst enemy.

Emma Goldman. Crusader for birth control.

Lucy Parsons anarchist, may have been a former slave married Alan Parson after Hay Market Killings and he was then killed.

Margaret Sanger No Gods, No masters. Persecuted, jailed, censored, shunned. Introduced diaphrams. Helped create pill.

Marian Sherman MD missionary in India. A believer is not a thinker and a thinker is not a believer.

Dora Russell, married to Bertrand

Meridel Le Sueur

Queen Silver magazine. child lecturer challenged William Jennings Bryan to a debate, he did not accept.

Margaret Knight lectures on BBC about why kids shouldnt be raised with religion

Butterfly McQueen aka Prissy in GWTW, an atheist from early years

Vashti Cromwell McCollum took first case against religious instruction in schools and won it in 1948. “One woman’s fight”

Ruth Hermence Green skeptic guide to bible. “The christian torture symbol” to describe cross. There was a time when religion ruled the world it was called the dark ages.

11:50 Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Wrote Women’s Bible, which made her a pariah. She pointed to the church as the fountain of all anti-woman policies.

Susan B Anthony believed only in the creed of perfect equality.

Matilda Joslyn Gage part of the triumvirate of these. She founded a separation of church and state group, the first and short-lived. Wrote Woman, State and Church, which covered the history of the church hurting women. (1893)

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11:45 The women’s movement was founded by women freethinkers. The churches opposed freedoms for women. Unsurprisingly. Women without Superstition is the book. It’s out of print and will be back next week. It’s limited to English speaking women who left writing, so it’s quite limited. British and American women mostly.

She has a power point. Woe to the Women, that’s a book. Eve was framed.

Anne Hutchinson first up. First heretic in North America, if you exclude Native Americans, but first out and out intentional heretic. She had meetings for women in her home, and some men came as well. And she got in a lot of trouble. Banished for sedition and heresy. Excommunicated and cast out as an American Jezebel. She had a settlement in Rhode Island briefly with a secular constitution.

Mary Wollstonecraft wrote about rationalist and into reason. Treat women as rational creatures. Died at 38 after giving birth to her daughter who wrote Frankenstein.

Frances Wright. Scottish heiress. First woman to address promiscuous assembles aka men and women. Abolitionist, women rights, edited “Free Inquirer” magazine, and atheist. Red harlot of infidelity. Awesome name, I think I should change my name. “Fill the vacuum of your mind!” turn your churches into halls of science.

Ernestine L Rose daughter of a polish rabbi. Canvasser for women’s rights. Also an outspoken atheist, probably the most in the 19th century. I was a rebel by the time I was 5. She kept her hair in ringlets. Her dad told her not to comb her hair on the sabbath and she said she would ask god. She did and said he didn’t say anything. Lollercoasters. In 1848 the married women’s property rights passed. Major speaker. Very famous and committed, the Gloria Steinem of her day. All children are atheists and would remain so without indoctrination.

11:38 Annie Laurie Gaylor and her mother had their eyes opened to atheism and anti-dogma POV by working on feminist issues and seen how their Wisconsin government was controlled by the Catholics. Freethought is a new concept, historically.

Voltaire was his own ACLU. He couldn’t save the life of a boy who failed to tip his hat to a religious procession. The consequence for women in this atmosphere.

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11:30 By the end of this year, all of the states will have a state chapter. Starting in June. There are only two chapters right now. They will be doing local lobbying and conference calls. They all have websites already. I wish this was exciting.

Federal action that impacts women negatively

Violence against women act
trafficking women
contraception mandate

There’s a photo of a sign from the reason rally with get religion out of my underwear sign and the woman holding it is the audience, she gets an applause

Preventative health service mandate
Big backlash against contraception mandate despite there are bazillions of reasons they are good for women
(I learned this week that hormonal contraception increases bone density, YES. Hurray annual exams? Good news, my ladybits are all good. Not TMI because it’s a women’s conference, deal/)

Educate, Influence and Share are her main goals.

Now onto State actions

6 states allow pharmacists to refuse to fill (YEAH SC)
21 states offer exemptions from contraceptive covverage
Only 18 states require sex ed to be medically accurate

National movement
Weekly Call every Thursday at Noon starting June
559 726 1300 code 199568

@seculardotorg

Promoting online stuff. Her email is [email protected]
Cell: 202 674 7800
Office: 202 299 1091 ext207

And she exits quickly to catch a train to leave.

11:21 Edwina is up. She has the first Power Point. She is just going to talk about what the SCA is, as far as I can tell. She is definitely not Sean Faircloth in terms of exciting people. Reading hardcore from the power point. *deep breath* OK.

I talked to her a bit earlier, she is very talking pointy on setting up state affiliates. Gets a clap for saying we need many more allies and supporting groups. There aren’t many.

They are involved in several coalitions in DC. CARD, NCPE, SIECUS, National Advisory Board, IFPC, LCCR..

Key issues: Health and safety, education, military, tax policy, discrimination.

No denying care based on personal belief
No denying coverage
Religious child abuse
Religious substance abuse programs

Public funding of religious schools
School discrimination
Religion in public school curricula
Religious coercion of students

Military Chaplains (this is what we lobbied at the SCA thing last year)
Spiritual fitness

Religious tax exemptions

Day of prayer
So help me God
etc

Yes, this is just a list.

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11:11 We’re in the middle of a break.  Edwina is our first talk up after it.  So.  Yeppers.

Liveblogging the Women in Secularism Conference II

10:57Jen was asked how she would ever find a husband if she was an atheist. I’ve gotten the response of don’t you want a family. I know that feel.

Ophelia wants to add pop culture and it has eliminated women in the past few decades. The absence of women here is about absence of women in movies and television. FUCKING AMEN

Jen wants us to be more enthusiastic about calling people out. When women talk out there are people who try to silence those of use who speak out. People make angry phone calls and death threats and rape threats. If you criticize a famous person in the movement they will fuck you from making progress in the movement.

10:53 The place to begin with helping communities of colors is providing social help from humanist organizations. Engage with young women who are coming out of the prison system and need reentry services because that is not something that is provided. Education, housing, living wages. African Americans aren’t getting education because of cutting funding and because the high schools are so shitty. College prep just doesn’t exist in a reasonable way for minorities. She’s talking about CA in particular, even more of a problem in the rural south. There’s a school to prison pipeline countrywide for minorities.

Provide greenspace, parks, community centers. Speak to the devastation of the social welfare safety net in the US. There needs to be a radical redress of that. Without that humanism is frankly irrelevant for these communities.

Annie is asking if the government is failing and the churches are saviors. She suggests that it shouldn’t be charity, it should be policy.

Sikivu has another doc suggestion on black reproductive rights and how people reach out to pastors of colors to support their points. Not sure the name of this documentary, from an Atlantan group. I will try to get the name.

Jen points out that not only do we not do enough, there are people who don’t think we SHOULD do anything. And back to the diversity panel at TAM last year and DJ Grothe’s insensitivity to this issue.

10:46 Stereotype threat is a real problem. But you can compensate for it by reminding them that stereotypes are inaccurate and that actually changes performance. The main thing to do is to educate children and adults about stereotypes in order to compensate for them.

Cordelia Fine’s Delusions of Gender is recommended from Ophelia with nods from others. You can’t fix it by spotting the priming and saying I don’t believe it actually causes worse performance because you’re thinking about that not just what you’re doing.

Sikivu thinks it’s important to raise feminist young women. Beyond Beats and Rhymes, documentary about hypermasculine beliefs of young men. Done a lot of frontal anti-violence prevention work with young men. That kind of activist outreach where there is an attempt to unpack the patterns of violence in communities of color. They connect to this “coolness” this “masculine” thing that young people are connected to. This is also connected to STIs and HIV rates in young people.

Jen adding to role model. Girly needs to not be associated with being bad. Jen refused to do feminine things because they were inferior. That is sexism, that is treating femaleness as lesser is bad. It’s about choice and what you’re interested, not just reactionary to female things

10:35 Rebecca: men don’t always bring up circumcision when FGM is . Atheist said to her that “FGM might be worse on a case by case basis, but it doesn’t matter because it’s being done to black women in Africa. Men who want to focus on circumcision because women of color, impoverished, and in Africa are not human in a very real sense. It’s disturbing.

Jen: Science is male biased. Because skeptics draw from science based groups, they are drawing from a white male group. A lot of organizers and attendees are not proactive about including women, I’m not being outwardly sexist, so women should just come, I’m not stopping them. You have to be proactive, you get a spiral of doom (spiral of silence). The fewer women you have, the fewer women you will have.

The thing is, they are being outwardly sexist. When Jen announced she was going to a big atheist conference, she got emails from a bunch of different women telling her to avoid these certain male speakers who are sexist or gross to women. And for some reason this isn’t public knowledge. Oh so true, so many names thrown around behind closed doors. I got apologized to after going to an event because no one warned me ahead of time about people reputed to hit on, creep on, and be sexist to women.

Rebecca: putting women on stage makes women more comfortable in the audience, just straight up scientifically.

10:28 Rebecca: When the topic is women, we explain that attendance is low because of lack of interest in the subject. When the topic is bigfoot, we explain that attendance is low because people aren’t skeptical or rational.

Sikivu on the importance of the church to women of color. Churches give things to the community that is under siege. Churches help people of color to get education, jobs, food. Where are the radical secular institutions to fulfill that role in black and brown communities? They don’t exist. New atheism has been fixated on scientism, which has excluded radical voices. The academy is dominated by European Americans, especially with tenure, publication, and recognition. Atheist scholarship has a canon, superstar white male atheism, who have a white supremacist patriarchal version of atheism.

I’m not sure I agree. Oh. And neither does Ophelia. So that’s convenient. She doesn’t think that they are scientistic, that this is a slur. Using reason shouldn’t be a negative. That’s not really scientistic, and it shouldn’t and doesn’t exclude women or people of color. It’s reinforcing the idea that these people are somehow enemies of reason and evidence based thinking.

Sikivu wants to respond. Scientism is a critique to the degree to which science has been presented as totally objective knowledge. The regime is a problem, it forecloses an examination of where the tradition has come from, including imperialism and whiteness. Positivism is problematic.

She recommends the Race Myth. Missed the author’s name. He pushes back against that reason and critical thinking exist outside of a specific context. Not against science as a discipline or science literacy. It’s important to understand that the bodies of people of color have been situated in a context of being the racialized and sexualized in the body of science.

10:20 Rebecca Watson had the best tweet, she wishes that in response to the question of why men are not here, Susan should have said “Maybe they don’t have the capacity for rational thought.” If you’re following on twitter, the hashtag is #wiscfi

10:15 Jen is up now. Sexism and religion are very similar in that they are both irrational and untrue. Skeptic atheists should be against sexism for the same reasons that they are against all irrational things.

Prioritizing is important, but small things matter. Microaggression adds up to a bigger issue. Things like “throw like a girl” or “this atheist woman is awesome because she’s pretty” matter even though they seem small.

Both religion and sexism are hard to give up. They’re ingrained and it’s tough to overcome, especially because it’s not conscious. Giving up religion feels freeing, but giving up sexist beliefs as a man isn’t necessarily freeing because it means examining, acknowledging, and confronting privilege. It feels like reentering a place where you’re made to feel guilty. But sexism impacts men too, and men don’t seem to realize it. Men get called girly as an insult and are driven away from being themselves if they’re not “man enough”. They don’t care about reproductive rights. As though they don’t have to deal with getting a girl preggo.

10:05 I’ve started a new post, because it’s gotten unwieldy on my little tablet which doesn’t like to think hard.  Ophelia Benson up now.  Man, I’m hungry.  TAM was way more on the making sure people were fed.  Just saying.

Ophelia says that the women are better at being nice.  Warm, approachable, family oriented, cuddly.  Victorian angel in the parlor, in atheism, this seems like the wrong person to do battle against god.  New atheism is a kind of battle with god, that doesn’t seem to be a job for people who make a big deal out of being empathetic and nice.  Feminists have themselves to blame for difference feminism.  Which is I think an old thing where feminist think women are fundamentally different and separate (and I guess better?) than men.  This is not something I’m familiar with, I don’t think it’s an under 30 popular thingy.  But it’s apparently a big deal in Women’s Studies.

Women are not the default sex when it comes to thinking of fighting battles.  The good news is that no one needs to be strong or testosteroney to fight God because it’s a battle of words and plenty of women are better than the average man.  You know, cuz statistics.

Progressives are just as bad at saying horribly anti-women things.

Liveblogging the Women in Secularism Conference I

10:00 Minority outnumber white babies panic. Rebecca would like to defend skeptics from the charge of being more male and more conservative, but she cannot. Rebecca talks about feminism and skepticism, NH would have forced doctors to give pseudoscience to women before abortions, angry emails were sent in that misinformation given to women seeking abortion are not a science issue. Contraception is not science. This happens every time she mentions an issue involving women.

Atheists are a little better than skeptics. They seem to leave issues that involve women to the feminists even when they are appropriate, like killing witches in Africa, or female genital mutilation. Of course, every time FGM is brought up, the first thing brought up is BUT MY PENIS WAS CIRCUMCISED. Rape threats in response to her talking about it.

Secularists get that religion is dangerous for women and generally want to protect women, but it’s somewhere below crossing out In God We Trust from their dollar bill. But they more or less get it.

In Australia there were Muslim protesters and the atheists started chanting “Where are the Women?” in protest. Apparently unaware that none of the protesting atheists were women.

9:51 Talking about the horrific billboards that said that “The most dangerous place for a black/latino child was in the womb”. This propaganda informs legislation.

Portrays women of color as dangerous breeders. Hispanic women drop anchor babies and are a threat. The horrific edit of the Violence Against Women Act which disenfranchise undocumented and lgbt women. We need to have an awareness of women of color. There are almost none in the room. I say almost none, but that’s generous in that I’m pretty sure the only women of color here are speakers. :/

Women of color are disproportionately sent to prison and disenfranchised and denied the ability to make minimum wage because of felony laws.

9:48 I love Sikivu’s voice. Not really not important, but true. She’ s from South LA, police terrorism was and is a fact of life. Darryl Gates (sp) was the white supremacist in charge of the LAPD. Eula Love was killed by two officers after allegedly wielding a knife, the first protest she remembers to go to. It was hard for her to believe at the time that a mother was murdered in her own home, home was supposed to be safe space and private sanctuary. For black women, home has not traditionally been safe space because they are less than human, less than female, sexualized, racially other bodies for public control.

We can not frame the so called war on women strictly in terms of a christian backlash if we are not looking at the degree to which women have been institutionally denied reproductive freedom through mass incarceration. Black and hispanics are presented as dangerous breeding. Calling out South Carolina for locking up poor women that the rights of the fetus supersede the rights of the mother who uses dangerous substances. Fetal homicide, where women are not only worth less than fetuses, but should be put in jail for not taking appropriate care of themselves.

9:40 Panel on intersection of atheism and feminism. Annie Laurie Gaylor introducing, from left to right, Sikivu Hutchinson, Rebecca Watson, Ophelia Benson, Jennifer McCreight. I do not know Annie or Ophelia, so it’s exciting to see them. And always exciting to see those I do know.

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9:37 I just met Edwina Rogers. Yep. I will talk about that later.

9:26 Why is atheist community building considered girly?

It’s intellectual, and we all know that’s gay and nerdy, but she doesn’t think that the perception of men is the reason that there’s difficulty building communities. The more they are a minority, the more vibrant. It’s not the same draw in secular places like NY or DC because it’s not hard to find people who think like you. Churches sponsor lots of things, but secular orgs are not as deeply involved in volunteer works, not involved in dating mechanisms. Meeting a secular guy it’s not so easy. What’s primarily needed is for local secular groups to be more involved in local education. Defeat of intelligent design curriculum like in Dover Pennsylvania, women were deeply involved, because they care about things that impact their families and offer outreach on activities they’d be involved with anyway.

9:21 Fundamentalist problem: I think I have the absolute truth, how is that not a gift rather than an imposition on a non-believer?

Do you think women who are secular are seen as immoral because are perceived as being a hedonist?

The idea that religion is the only thing that keeps women from uncontrolled sexuality is very old and very strong. Feminists were not cute enough and couldn’t get men, but also they wanted to throw everything out and have all of the sex that they wanted. These issues are easier for men.

Why aren’t there men, why isn’t there a panel for how men can help, why didn’t we try to get more men here?

She doesn’t think the gender balance would be any different with a new panel, even if that’s a good subject, but that’s not why there aren’t men here. They aren’t here because they see these issues as not important and not a primary issue. This conference is a good start, the first of its kind, but these panels BELONG in regular conferences. There are places for these issues at every conference we hold. Especially on science and education. Things have not changed enough, and women are the primary educators and caregivers. Secular organizations, if they want more women, are going to have to address this. The reason men aren’t here isn’t because the conference isn’t welcome, but because men in the movement don’t give a shit about this. Paul Kurtz was a philosopher and hired philosophers, which was a field that has always been hostile to women.

Her full speech will be cleaned up and made available eventually. This is being recorded and will be available.

9:12 Q&A

What are the symptoms of anti-religious dementia?

A craving for chocolate when you would otherwise be at church. Disagreeing with everything the vatican says. Wearing clothes that show the shape of your body.

Why are so many secularists dogmatic to the point of rudeness?

There are dogmatic atheists and secularist, who treat the religious as stupid. And that isn’t true and a bad tact, not because i am kind and gentle, but because no one responds to being told they are stupid.

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9:08 Separation of church and state should be non-partisan, but unfortunately the Republican and Libertarian parties are dominated by the religious. This means that economic conservatives.

There are not many men here. I would say that the ratio is maybe ten to one. Women’s Rights is not a position taken for granted in the movement, for some unfathomable reason.

Topic switch to Muslim women rights. She argued with Dinesh D’Souza (sp) last week. He says the left is responsible for 9/11 and is trying to undermine the family and promote secular values. You know, like not cutting off genitalia or murder women in retaliation for her dishonor. Yep.

Am I allowed to call him a douchebag? Cuz that’s what he is. Just saying.

This crowd doesn’t know about the event last week of the catholic baseball team refusing to play against a team with a girl on it because it would not teach boys proper “respect” for women. I will try to find a link to it during the break.

9:03 Talking about Ingersoll and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and how she was written out of the suffragette movement because she was not religious. Ingersoll felt that the vote was necessary but insufficient for equality.

Men thought that religion was a sort of policeman that prevented wives from fucking around and daughters from being slutty. She used words like chastity, but I like my words better.

Stanton wasn’t really rediscovered until the 1980s and the second wave which focused on similar issues.

Women downplay the importance of secular women in the feminist movement, it’s not talked about or written about, because the religious right accuses them of being Godless. Secular women are more likely to be feminist than anyone though there are exceptions. Ayn Rand. UGH.

There’s a real division between secular humanism and secular conservatism. Humanist and skeptic seems to be the labels there. Skeptics are more male oriented. Yeah. Skeptics are dudeified.

8:55 People are embarrassed by Madalyn Murray O’Hair and they avoid acknowledging her importance in the movement. Unlike Gloria Steinem, she was not traditionally feminine. There was nothing soft about her, nothing that made her “acceptable” to the public.

When Jacoby was given the FFRF award a secular man said that they’d “done a lot for the movement for showing that an atheist woman doesn’t have to be a shrill bitch.”

Many deny the secular nature of the feminist movement, probably because the religious tries to take credit for civil rights movements. You know, cuz the church in the south didn’t fight bitterly against civil rights in the 60s and the KKK isn’t a Christian organization. King’s religion was important, of course, but it was not the only position of religion. Unlike this, women’s rights was never assisted by the religious.

There’s so much history in this, it’s a dense and a little hard to follow. No slides to help. I mean, I hate powerpoint, but there are so many names being thrown out that, unless you are very familiar with the women and the history, it’s a lot.

8:48 Being called soft and the general misogyny isn’t going to deter her, but it does make younger women less interested in participating, not least because the movement in general seems “quaint” and of the 1960s. Being an “atheist” is something she simply was, it wasn’t her concern, she wanted and is primarily a writer.

Madalyn Murray O’Hair is now being discussed. Because she was a woman, it was easier to dismiss her and atheism as nutcase. McCullen called herself a humanist which was less confrontational.

I am going to misspell names before the day is out and probably many times. I am liveblogging and googling takes too long. Forgive me.

8:40 She wants to know why there aren’t as many women in the movement. Even taking into account race and education, being a woman makes you more likely to be an atheist. African American women are better educated than African American men, and they remain the most religious demographic.

Men occasionally assert that women are more religious simply because they are stupider. This got a laugh, not even a rueful one. Laughing at 8:40, these people are definitely more awake that me. Oh, Angry White Guys. Lol, they called her “Suzie”, which is better than “Ugly Old Atheist”. Man, shades of Ron Paulites.

“I place as much value on anonymous comments made on blogs as I do on statements of eternal love made after a late night drinking at a bar.”

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8:36 Susan Jacoby is now up. She wrote the book “Freethinkers” which is a lovely history of secularism in the US.

8:11 Good morning! I will be liveblogging here in reverse chronological order (newest first).  Conference starts in 20 minutes and I need to obtain caffeine.  See you soon.

Women in Secularism Conference 2012

ImageTomorrow I’m going to be getting up bright and early to do all of those things I haven’t finished doing tonight in order to only be woefully behind when I get back home on Sunday, because I’m driving up to Washington, DC to go to the Women in Secularism Conference.

I was going to just do a list of people who I am excited to hear speak, but then I realized that it was everyone whose name I recognized, which meant that basically everyone, so I’m just pasting the whole list here for you!

If you’re in the DC area at all, you should make an effort to come, it’s going to be AWESOME.  Also, I’m hoping that I will get to meet Edwina Rogers.  Really, really hoping that happens because I’d love to report what she’s like in real life.

I will be live-blogging, which will probably translate to Twitter: @ashleyfmiller