If you were following my mountains of tweets from TAM9, you would have gotten a sneak peek of this. But in case you missed it… at the end of Richard Dawkins’ speech on Saturday, he made a special announcement that the Richard Dawkins Foundation would be providing funding for child care at skeptical and atheist conference.
This was received to much applause, including my own. Having available child care at conferences has been one of the practical solutions I and other atheists have suggested repeatedly as a way to get more women to attend conferences. Yes, it certainly benefits both parents – but even amongst skeptics, mothers often end up (for whatever reason) in more traditional roles and are likely to be the ones stuck at home watching the kids.
Now, the motivation behind it? I can only speculate, since I can’t read minds. I suspect this is a very clever way of saying “Look how much I support women, now can we shush about this stupid elevator thing?” I know some people were upset that he didn’t give a direct apology, but for purely Machiavellian reasons, I don’t really care at this point. I’m glad something is actually getting done, instead of potentially throwing gasoline on the fire again.
Of course some are already seeing this as a victory against those Evil True Feminists who apparently crucified Dawkins. Apparently I didn’t blog about it quickly enough, because obviously writing a long post is my first priority, over catching up with sleep, work, and SSA business. Of course, I can’t take those arguments seriously when their only ammo is immature name bending like “Twatson.”
But can we please not use this positive development to shun feminists or those who disagree with us about what Dawkins said? Because Dawkins surely isn’t. When he appeared at the speaker’s reception, we happily waved at each other and proceeded to have an incredibly friendly chat about his upcoming book, and I thanked him for the childcare announcement (which was apparently Liz Cornwell’s idea, so I went over and thanked her too).
That was it. We both acted like mature human beings who happen to (strongly) disagree on one issue. As I and others joked, I’m going to stop buying Dawkin’s feminist books – but I still respect him for all the other wonderful things he does.
Anyway, I’ve totally derailed my own post – but hurray for a step in the right direction in making conferences a more accessible place for women, regardless of any political drama behind it.