Reputation, Iago »« Who made that rule?

Token women

Oh lordy, it just never ends.

Staks Rosch did an Atheist of the Year contest at the Examiner, asking his readers to nominate candidates and giving them two days to do it. And the nominees are -

  • Dave Silverman
  • Ricky Gervais
  • Hemant Mehta
  • Matt Dillahunty
  • George Takei

Lisa Ridge did a Facebook post gently wondering why there were quite so few women, as in, none. I read the post and Staks Rosch’s comments and a post he’d written on the subject, and got somewhat warm under the collar. From the post:

I started with an open nomination process in which people could suggest nominations and make a case for their nominations. I would then take that into account in finding five actual nominees. Four nominees because pretty clear early along, but I didn’t have my fifth yet. I noticed however that I didn’t have a token black candidate or a token female candidate.

Ok…

Seriously? Seriously? I’m reminded of these unfortunate traffic stops that Mel Gibson keeps having, or of Michael Richards going overboard with the “edgy” thing. Doesn’t everybody know by now that it’s a tad insulting to attach the words “a token” to the words “black” and “female” automatically like that, as if it were simply obvious and universally acknowledged that a black and a woman couldn’t possibly be qualified? Doesn’t everybody? Because I do. It seems to me I learned that some decades ago. Why didn’t everybody else? Too busy being so happy to be someone who would never have the words “a token” attached to his label that he couldn’t manage to keep up?

Or to put it another way…what a rude dismissive contemptuous entitled thing to say. Newsflash: it is not the case that there are no black atheists or female atheists or black female atheists who are good enough to be nominated as Atheist of the Year. It is not the case that any black or woman so nominated would be a worthless talented zero who was nominated solely as a “token” of good will. It is the case that implying otherwise is deliberately insulting.

Neil deGrasse Tyson is an obvious and well deserved black nominee and if I had six spots to fill, I would have definitely picked him. But should I put him in just to have a token black guy or should I leave him out and hope that he continues his efforts and makes it next year?

Oh, poor Neil Tyson, not quite good enough to measure up to Ricky Gervais. How does that work? What “efforts” would Tyson have to “continue” to be good enough for Rosch’s list?

Still, there is no female nominee. There were a few that I thought might be good candidates, but they would only be token candidates rather than making it in on their merits. I always love Greta Christina for example, but her accomplishments in 2011 don’t particularly stand out. I thought about Rebecca Watson, but her only claim to fame this year was Elevatorgate and that hardly is worthy of atheist of the year.

What? What?? What? Greta Christina would be a token candidate because all that public speaking and writing wasn’t merit enough? Especially compared to the enormous merit of Ricky Gervais and George Takei? Rebecca Watson’s only claim to fame was Elevatorgate because all that public speaking and writing and podcasting wasn’t?

I really don’t want this to become Elevatorgate II: Electric Boogaloo especially since I consider myself a feminist for the most part. But I really didn’t think I should throw in token nominees. In the comments section, Greta Christina made a case for the token nominee and that is something I will have to consider next year. Unfortunately, many of the comments on Blag Hag seem to be from people who aren’t interested in discussing the issue rationally and just want to yell and scream about male privilege. There is certainly male privilege in the world and in the atheist community and I don’t want to ignore that, but at the same time I don’t just want to have a token female nominee.

Wonderful. Brilliant. “Token nominee” three times in one paragraph. Perfect. Never let anyone say The Atheist Movement™ is not friendly to women. On the other hand maybe The Atheist Movement¸™ I’m part of isn’t all that friendly to Staks Roschs. I suspect it isn’t.

 

Comments

  1. unbound says

    Kind of sad seeing a racist / sexist rationalize. I always wonder if they were trying to convince others, or trying to convince themselves that they aren’t racist / sexist.

    Regardless of black, female or any other designation being bandied about…Neil and Greta should have been on the list.

  2. says

    Apart from Rosch needing a reminder of the first law of holes, this is a jaw-dropping explanation of his thinking.

    I suppose it’s a reminder to us all of how blinkered many (most?) men still are. They don’t even notice how they subconsciously label any woman’s contribution as ‘less’. It’s likely that they don’t read any blog written by a woman, don’t listen to any podcast with women spaeking, and then at the end of the year they feel they can claim that no female atheist has done anything of note.

    My first introduction to this attitude was a study that came out around a decade ago showing that more than 90% of men will not knowingly read a book written by a woman.

    Rosch is just one more indicator of the shit we still have to deal with.

  3. maureen.brian says

    How does anyone manage to be “a feminist for the most part”?

    Is that a feminist as long as I’m collecting the brownie points but nor when it requires me to act on it? Not when it requires me to have any insight into reality or into my own behaviour and attitudes?

    Or does it simply mean, “I’m lying, dudes, but these women are all too stupid to notice”?

    (descends into incoherent screams)

  4. CP says

    This is just depressing. I’m beginning to think that I should cancel my hotel reservation for the Reason Rally in March.

  5. Rrr says

    Crikey. Why not try a bit of Self-Examination, eh, The Examiner? Mr(?)* Rosch seems sufficiently enamoured with hir own reflexion. Or perhaps not perceptive enough. Well, thanks for the warning, Ophelia, I probably won’t sink any time or money into that particular hole.

    * Not a totally unwarranted assumption, I propose.

  6. says

    Holy fuck, who uses “token” like that? Like, thinking it’s a positive thing?

    I’m reminded of someone commenting on a blog post with “As a straight white male, I’m unoffended by your website”, as though that somehow gave them authority on what’s offensive.

  7. Natalie says

    This is all getting so bloody exhausting. But at the same time I can’t help but feel like we’ve suddenly been hitting some kind of critical mass with this problems. We’ve had, like, five major issues of sexism in our community come up in the last two weeks (lunam, radford, nasrallah / jillette, grothe, staks). It’s both terrifying and exciting to wonder where this is all heading.

  8. janine says

    I know I have a very bad habit of linking to songs at Pharyngula. But I do avoid using lyrics to make arguments. But the opening lines of Bad by Kirsty MacColl fits so well here.

    So, please forgive me.

    I’ve been the token woman all my life
    The token daughter and the token wife
    Now I collected tokens one by one
    ‘Til I’ve saved enough to buy a gun
    Now you can’t get even but you can get mad
    And it’s not funny no and it’s not sad
    It’s just a feeling that I’ve always had
    Oh look out world I’m about to be bad

    George Takei is an atheist. I did not know. On my.

    An atheist woman, who, with the mildest of words, sets off a gigantic shit storm among internet atheists on the topic of sexism in the atheist and skeptic community is not worthy of being recognized. Staks does not seem to be big on self reflection.

  9. says

    To me it feels a bit like going back to 1970 and starting all over again…which is disconcerting.

    But fortunately it’s also wrong, which I realize when I think about it. But dang there are a lot of large pockets of pre-1970 thinking.

  10. julian says

    Greta Christina and Neil Degrasse Tyson are the only names he can think of? I think ignorance (or stupidity. not sure which) is gonna be a major flaw in this guy’s thinking.

  11. says

    He’s gor Ricky Gervais on his list, and he’s looking for a “token” female? I like Gervais as a comedian, but what the fuck did he do as an atheist that’s even remotely comparable to, say, Greta Christina or Rebecca Watson?

    And if he’s including comedians, where’s Eddie Izzard? He can do the same things as Gervais, in heels!

  12. Natalie says

    I know what you mean about the time machine thing… but I see it as just sort of certain insulated sub-cultures suddenly having the rest of the world catch up with them. When I step away from my computer, or even just away from internet skepticism / atheism, it’s suddenly… “oh yeah, it’s the 21st century out here. hurray!”

  13. Natalie says

    errrr…. wait… not “catch up”, more like “suddenly their time-capsule has been burst and the rest of the world comes pouring in”

  14. Rrr says

    Oh yes, Staks is a he. Note male pronoun in OP.

    Thank you. Must have misread, temporarily blinded by mist-red wrath. Blame my Y-chrom. Mostly harmless, though. I hope. However, I confess to a certain reliance upon other clues in your quote.

  15. Amanda says

    Neil DeGrasse Tyson does not even identify AFAIK as an atheist so the “token black atheist” isn’t even one.

  16. Fin says

    I can understand him dismissing what Watson has done – I don’t agree with him, but if he dislikes what she’s done, then it is his prerogative to discount it. What I can’t understand is the way in which he refuses to recognize the achievements of any women in 2011.

    It’s like some kind of huge mental blind spot, which stops him seeing these things, but also stops him being aware that he’s not seeing them.

    The rationalizations are horrible, too, because they’re completely inconsistent, but he’s not grasping that, either – despite being told about thirty bloody times by Ophelia. Never mind Atheism 101, what he needs is Logic 101.

  17. Rrr says

    And if he’s including comedians, where’s Eddie Izzard? He can do the same things as Gervais, in heels!

    Or Tim Minchin, barefoot! Aaand, he’a GINGER! Can’t top that.

  18. Jeff Sherry says

    There is something wrong in our community when Rosch makes use of “token” to lightly dismiss a valid complaint. Mysogyny (and racism) is part of the community and it isn’t going away.

  19. jamessweet says

    Holy fuck, who uses “token” like that? Like, thinking it’s a positive thing?

    Yeah, that’s what stuck with me. I don’t think all uses of the word “token” in that context are offensive, but treating it like a positive thing is not good. And applying it to a specific person is really bad.

    If he had said, “I struggled with that, but I didn’t want to fudge the list just to make sure I had a token woman/non-white person. This is the list I came up with, and I am standing by it,” I wouldn’t have personally found that offensive (though maybe it’s my white male privilege making me blind to it). Saying, “I thought maybe I should include a token woman/non-white person” is patronizing at best. And saying, “I was going to include X, but he/she would have just been a token” is downright insulting!!!

  20. carlie says

    Jaw. Floor.

    I like Gervais as a comedian, but what the fuck did he do as an atheist that’s even remotely comparable to, say, Greta Christina or Rebecca Watson?

    Well duh, he posed for a magazine cover in a way to show off his abs, which just so happened to have his arms stretched over a microphone stand, which looked just like Jesus and that was oh so edgy of him. That’s worth at least a dozen essays with thoughts and stuff from any woman, right?

  21. says

    Yes, I used the word “Token” three times. The context was that i didn’t want someone purely to have a token representative. There was a lot of criteria for the nominees and I weighed the open nominations heavily.

    I didn’t think (and am still uncertain) whether I should have made sure that I included a female nominee purely to have a female nominee.

    I shared with you my process and was honest with my thoughts. How should I do it next year? Should I make sure to have a female nominee? Should I have two categories one for each gender? If a woman does make it next year (and that is likely given that I am sure lots more women will suggestions in the open nomination process) will you complain that I just put one in there to avoid controversy?

    I did the best I could taking into account the open nomination suggestions and who I thought stood out most, and furthered the cause of atheism best in 2011.

    Trying to demonize me is childish. we are all on the same side trying to make our community better and fight back against the religious.

  22. Josh Slocum says

    No one’s trying to demonize you. They’re criticizing your ridiculous thought process. Cut the wounded crap.

    If you can’t figure out why what you said was so stupid and offensive you’re not thinking very hard. George Takei did more for atheism than any woman atheist, anywhere, ever, in the whole of 2011? Are you nuts?

  23. says

    I didn’t say he did. I weighed heavily on the suggestions made during the open nomination process. Takei got a lot of support. More than I would have expected.

  24. julian says

    Trying to demonize me is childish.

    No one’s demonizing you. Me, I’m just laughing at you but everyone else has raised valid flaws with your list. Mainly that you seem to be giving men preferential treatment over women in weighing their accomplishments/contributions.

  25. says

    How should I do it next year?

    here’s a suggestion: work on the bias that manages to disregard Greta Christina in favor of a professional troll like Gervais who keeps on alienating non-privileged atheists left right and center. If it’s your bias, make an effort to read more from female and non-white atheists. If it’s your reader’s bias, make an effort to highlight those writings more.

    I did the best I could taking into account the open nomination suggestions and who I thought stood out most, and furthered the cause of atheism best in 2011.

    such a blatant admission of bias, and you don’t even notice, eh? you really do think that white dudes have been better atheists than all the non-white and/or non-male atheists? And it doesn’t occur to you that this is nonsensical in an increasingly diverse movement?

  26. says

    What did George Takei do for atheism last year? What did Matt Dillahunty do last year that was more than a shit-ton of other people? Ricky’s famous, but what does he contribute? How is Hemant Mehta more impactful than any of a few dozen other bloggers? It isn’t like it is a list of three consisting of Christopher Hitchens, a Nobel or Pulitzer Prize winner, and a Medal of Honor winner on tour busting up the “no atheists in foxholes” lie. No, it is a list of five where no one seems to have achieved much of anything last year, and many of whom seem to be at best interchangeable with any of a few dozen women atheists.

    I’d almost be willing to let the “token” part slide if a) Staks were a 25 year old grad student originally from a country where English isn’t the main language, so “token” doesn’t carry the obvious baggage for him, and b)if his list were significantly stronger. Since neither of those things applies and he’s apparently entrenched in his defense, he’s a moron.

    Also, I’m surprised no one here focused on the dismissal of critics at Blag Hag as yelling and screaming(in text!) radical feminists. I’m shocked he managed to resist just writing “bitchez be trippin’ yo” and just have done with it.

  27. says

    Oh, great… Staks is here.

    Dude, the fact that you’re getting your ass kicked up and down the Internet over this, where in years past you’d have barely heard much of anything, is very likely due to the “take sexist shit no more” attitude that I’d say is a direct consequence of ElevatorGate and Rebecca Watson. So your dismissal of her looks even worse in light of what you’re dealing with right now.

  28. Jeff Sherry says

    Staks, why not set up a lifetime achievement vote for Woody Allen and ignore others from the community.

  29. says

    Jadehawk, in the interest of fairness, neither Hemant Mehta nor George Takei are white.

    true, I’m mostly just pissed at the silliness if Ricky Gervais vs. Neil DeGrasse Tyson, and my brain went from “token black” to “token non-white”

    though I have to say, I don’t get the George Takei thing, either. He’s a popular atheist, but he’s not really done anything for atheism. If this is just a popularity contest then it would make sense to have dudes predominate though; it’s pretty well-established at this point that women have to achieve more to be noticed, and when they do they will be disliked for being pushy.

  30. Graham Martin-Royle says

    I can (sort of) understand that he didn’t want to put someone in just as a token gesture, but to seriously suggest that there were no women worthy of a place on the list……………………un-fucking-believable

  31. says

    “you’re not on my side if you think white dudes really are better at being atheists than anyone else, as your list and your talk of “tokenism” implies”

    Well I don’t think that and didn’t say or imply that so I think we are on the same side. This is exactly what I mean by demonizing. People seem to be making up opinions they think I have which I don’t and didn’t express and then running with them. Maybe I wasn’t as clear as I could have been and maybe I should have made the nomination process longer or weighed them less. Maybe I should have just done it by the numbers with no editorial process on my part at all. But all this is hindsight and it still doesn’t appear to be 20/20 to me. How would you have done the nominating process? What criteria would you use? Would you have made certain that both genders were represented? How about race? other factors? Maybe you would have just gone with your opinion and not had an open nomination process at all. I don’t know. I’m open to ideas and suggestions. I’m also open to the hate. i get it from Christians all the time.

  32. Natalie says

    You use a combination of open nomination and editorial control effort to reign in the negative problems of popularity contests, such as how they inevitably screw over non-majority identities. It’s really pretty simple, Staks. What you DON’T do is combine the worst aspects of popularity contests (everyone who just happens to be super famous gets in, like Takei and Gervais) with the WORST aspects of editorial control (like allowing your biases to dictate who does and doesn’t have “merit”).

  33. anthrosciguy says

    Okay, I know I must be just about the very smartest guy ever but how is it I get this easily and guys like Rosch don’t?

    p.s. I want to be in the room when Staks Rosch explains to Neil deGrasse Tyson how Tyson is only fit to be a token black guy. Are they selling tickets?

  34. says

    I weighed heavily on the suggestions made during the open nomination process. Takei got a lot of support.

    It’s not like he’s internationally famous or such…

    I shared with you my process and was honest with my thoughts. How should I do it next year? Should I make sure to have a female nominee?

    To be honest: You’ve ruined it with your explenation this year.
    Whatever woman or person of colour you might nominate next year, that person will be your token. It will leave a bitter taste.

    Duh, we know that the atheist community has a problem of being a white boys club. Now you get suggestions of a bunch of white boys and surprise, surprise, they like other white boys and yet another white boy says “well, that’s what people want”.
    You dismissed Greta Christina because, in your opinion, she didn’t do enough, but you include Takei because people like him. That sets some bells off.

  35. Natalie says

    by the way, just thought I’d throw in my favourite quote pertaining to the problem of how open votes effect minorities:

    “democracy can’t be two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner”

  36. maureen.brian says

    Staks Rosch,

    You’re not on the same side as me because you have not thought this thing through at all, have you? In fact you seem completely bewildered by the whole conversation – one minute dismissing any critics and the next minute asking those very same people what you should do.

    With your understanding at its present level I’m afraid that being on the same side as you might be just too like picking up after an incontinent puppy – messy and essentially tedious.

  37. Natalie says

    (and before anyone says “but women aren’t a minority!”… within the atheist community, they certainly are)

  38. Irene Delse says

    Next time, how about nominating Sikivu Hutchinson or Maryam Namazie to combine two “token” categories in one and save a precious spot on the list?

    /snark

  39. kerfluffle says

    Mr. Rosch, your open nominations came from your circle. A very select group that, judging by response, tend to be comfortable with what is familiar.

    There is nothing wrong with that. So the readers of your blog are a bit banal. It is not your job to challenge or change them. However, when confronted with evidence of this banality, it might be better to address it specifically instead of implying that “the tokens” hadn’t worked hard enough to merit attention.

    You don’t get points for noticing that exclusion exists when you go out of your way to perpetuate it.

  40. a miasma of incandescent plasma says

    Staks said
    I didn’t think (and am still uncertain) whether I should have made sure that I included a female nominee purely to have a female nominee.

    No, you shouldn’t, but there are some people left off your list that have better qualifications than those you did include. Some of those people happen to be female and/or non-white. Dr Carolyn Porco and ftb blogger Maryam are 2 that jump to my mind immediately, without much thought…

    I get what your intention was with the use of the word “token”, like a beckon to affirmative action. When the first reaction to your poorly thought-out nominee list is simply, “Where’s a female?” that’s not good either. Lisa Ridge’s first reaction should have been “Where’s (specific person that happens to be female/non-white)”. Asking “Why are there NO females” would imply that the asker would be ok with “ANY” female included, (hence “token”) instead of the goal we should have, ignoring physical traits like gender, race, etc and basing judgements on actions/accomplishments.

  41. says

    How would you have done the nominating process? What criteria would you use?

    How about thinking?
    Why not ask yourself: What has been the most important thing in the whole atheist community thing this year and who was there?
    OK, so you don’t think that Rebecca deserves it for Elevatorgate?
    Actually, I kind of agree. How could she have known that such a little remark in a pretty unremarkable video would blow up the internet? So, no that’s actually not an achievement. Which doesn’t mean that she didn’t do a lot of other things that might merit her nomination.
    Or Greta Christina’s.
    And how about fact-checking?
    We all know we have biases, so, if a name comes up, why not look up what they actually did that year?

  42. julian says

    Next time, how about nominating Sikivu Hutchinson or Maryam Namazie

    Definitely did more than George Takei or Ricky Gervais…

  43. Bruce S. Springsteen says

    I think 2011 will be remembered as the year when what should have already been evident became impossible to ignore — that “atheist” is too puny an idea to encompass any broad, cohesive movement, and was bound to crack under the strain. We see the so-called atheist community splitting into ever more mutually uncomprehending and hostile factions, and why wouldn’t we expect that? It’s as silly as trying to build a movement around “theism.” Just imagine what that would look like for a moment, and you’ll see what we have set ourselves up for.

    Sam Harris was right when he opined that atheism was the weakest possible concept to try to build a community around. People can be too many other, irreconcilable things and still qualify as “atheists.” Confrontationalist, accommodationist, scientismist, philosophist, feminist, sexist, humanist, nihilist, leftist, rightist, sophisticate, vulgarian, progressive, reactionary, empiricist, solipsist. None of these is more a necessary, obvious quality of atheism than any other. These plain, significant differences of style, perspective, priorities, weaknesses and values are the kinds of fissures and pressures that will sooner or later blow apart fuzzy-headed dreams of all-inclusive atheist solidarity. Mere nonbelief just isn’t a sufficiently attractive force to overcome the many repellant ones that are consuming our attention of late. You can’t build a community around something that everyone *doesn’t* think is real. Maybe it’s best to stop trying to force the relationship.

  44. 'Tis Himself, OM. says

    George Takei did more for atheism last year than Greta Christina? I remember in 2010 Takei called a homophobe named McCance an asshole but since then George hasn’t popped up over the horizon. And Takei’s comment about McCance had no relevance to atheism.

    In 2011, at the Golden Globe award show, Ricky Gervais thanked God for making him an atheist. Other than that, I haven’t noticed Gervais doing anything to support atheism. If a token entertainer has to be on the list, then Tim Minchin is a better choice than Gervais.

    No, Staks, your list isn’t particularly good.

  45. says

    Well I don’t think that and didn’t say or imply that so I think we are on the same side.

    your list includes only males; and you dismissed two women who’ve done more for atheism than half your nominees.

    You do think that, implicitly if not explicitly, and you explicitly defend that bias as sound reasoning.

    People seem to be making up opinions they think I have which I don’t

    “people” didn’t actually say anything about your opinions. I’ve critiqued your biases and your defense thereof as some form of objective reasoning; others have been blasting you for you for the thought processes that lead you to this silly “including a woman would have been tokenism” excuse

    I’m also open to the hate.

    you flatter yourself

  46. Godless Heathen says

    Gah. Didn’t know how George Takei was, so I had to Google it… You’re telling me that the guy who played Sulu on the original Star Wars and a British comedian have done more for atheism than Greta Christina, Rebecca Watson, OR Neli Degrasse-Tyson? Or, for that matter, Ophelia Benson? Or Annie Laurie-Gaylor (listening to FFRF’s podcast right now). Grrrr.

  47. Wowbagger, Madman of Insleyfarne says

    Actually, given that he frequently tweets about his atheism and points out religious hypocrisy and the nonsense spouted by Christians – and does so to a couple of million people at a time – I’m happy to see Ricky Gervais listed. Being an ‘out’ atheist and vocal about it has to count for something.

    If nothing else having seen no small number of tweets about him saying how awful he is for evening mentioning atheism – thereby demonstrating that the ridiculous privileging of religion still exists in people’s minds – suggests he’s having some impact out there.

  48. says

    Look, I guess I am going to have to take the hate since constructive conversation seems out of the question here. I’m not perfect and I tried to create a fun little contest, but it seems that it is being taken far more seriously than I expected. I’m going to stop responding here. If someone has something constructive to say, feel free to message me privately. I would like to do The Hitchie again next year, but I will have to obviously improve the process. Suggestions on how the process should be are welcome.

  49. janine says

    Look, I guess I am going to have to take the hate since constructive conversation seems out of the question here.

    I see the problem here. Staks does not know what hate or a constructive conversation is.

  50. says

    Oh, look everyone… Staks thinks we’re all hysterical crybabies here too!

    After a metric buttload of contructive criticism, Staks declares that no one here has said anything worth listening to, and ran back to the safe confines of his little corner of the Internet where everyone agrees with him and loves him.

  51. Wowbagger, Madman of Insleyfarne says

    I should have added that, while I think there are plenty of good reasons for having Ricky Gervais on the list, it doesn’t mean I agree with the rest of the list and why there weren’t any women on it.

  52. Godless Heathen says

    @Improbable Joe

    How is Hemant Mehta more impactful than any of a few dozen other bloggers?

    I agree with this and it was actually my first thought after seeing Stak’s list, but forgot about after reading Ophelia’s post.

    However, it’s something I wonder about generally: 1. why are some bloggers more popular than others? 2. how impactful are they?

    On the other hand, I think it’s a combination of having a large following, writing books or articles, or being in charge of something or other in the atheist community.

    Plus, a lot of bloggers do a lot of work outside of their blog that isn’t as well known as their blog.

  53. julian says

    @Improbable Joe #62

    to be fair, this thread has exploded within a short time and he seems to be looking more for suggestions on how to do it next year than reasons why he is wrong.

  54. says

    Look, I guess I am going to have to take the hate since constructive conversation seems out of the question here.

    Oh dear, now I feel bad :(
    I’m so sorry I hurt your precious little feelings.
    Especially since I did my best to actually give you some constructive criticism and feedback.
    I feel like such a failure now.

  55. says

    Natalie @41 –

    What you DON’T do is combine the worst aspects of popularity contests (everyone who just happens to be super famous gets in, like Takei and Gervais) with the WORST aspects of editorial control (like allowing your biases to dictate who does and doesn’t have “merit”).

    Bingo.

  56. says

    I also love anthrosciguy @42 –

    I want to be in the room when Staks Rosch explains to Neil deGrasse Tyson how Tyson is only fit to be a token black guy. Are they selling tickets?

    Caused a noisy blurt of laughter.

  57. Natalie says

    So with a quick little handwave, Staks, even after ASKING US FOR INPUT ON HOW TO DO BETTER, you simply DECIDE that nothing anyone is saying could possibly be in any way constructive?

    You sickeningly patronizing, self-deluding twit. Good riddance.

  58. Matt Penfold says

    Even if Elevatorgate was Rebecca Watson’s only claim to fame, and only a fuckwit could think that, she would still stand head and shoulders above Ricky Gervais when it comes to being rewarded for services in the cause of atheism.

  59. Matt Penfold says

    I would add that there are many other atheists, who just happen to women, who are far more deserving of recognition than Gervais.

    Ophelia, Greta and Jen of this parish are obvious examples, but not the only ones.

  60. kerfluffle says

    Look, I guess I am going to have to take the hate since constructive conversation seems out of the question here. I’m not perfect and I tried to create a fun little contest, but it seems that it is being taken far more seriously than I expected. I’m going to stop responding here. If someone has something constructive to say, feel free to message me privately. I would like to do The Hitchie again next year, but I will have to obviously improve the process. Suggestions on how the process should be are welcome.

    Christ. Is anyone else fucking sick to death of this self-infantilism? “Having been confronted with my own error, I must flee to the safe confines of my crib and dash off a scathing missive about those “tokens” and how overly-sensitive they are. I tried! Where is my gold star?!”

  61. says

    Look, I guess I am going to have to take the hate since constructive conversation seems out of the question here. I

    you’re lying, or you’re not actually reading. for reference
    comments that imply a fix:

    I suppose it’s a reminder to us all of how blinkered many (most?) men still are. They don’t even notice how they subconsciously label any woman’s contribution as ‘less’. It’s likely that they don’t read any blog written by a woman, don’t listen to any podcast with women spaeking, and then at the end of the year they feel they can claim that no female atheist has done anything of note.

    My first introduction to this attitude was a study that came out around a decade ago showing that more than 90% of men will not knowingly read a book written by a woman.

    Crikey. Why not try a bit of Self-Examination, eh, The Examiner?

    It’s like some kind of huge mental blind spot, which stops him seeing these things, but also stops him being aware that he’s not seeing them.

    Mainly that you seem to be giving men preferential treatment over women in weighing their accomplishments/contributions.

    Duh, we know that the atheist community has a problem of being a white boys club. Now you get suggestions of a bunch of white boys and surprise, surprise, they like other white boys and yet another white boy says “well, that’s what people want”.
    You dismissed Greta Christina because, in your opinion, she didn’t do enough, but you include Takei because people like him. That sets some bells off.

    comments that directly suggest a fix:

    here’s a suggestion: work on the bias that manages to disregard Greta Christina in favor of a professional troll like Gervais who keeps on alienating non-privileged atheists left right and center. If it’s your bias, make an effort to read more from female and non-white atheists. If it’s your reader’s bias, make an effort to highlight those writings more.

    You use a combination of open nomination and editorial control effort to reign in the negative problems of popularity contests, such as how they inevitably screw over non-majority identities. It’s really pretty simple, Staks. What you DON’T do is combine the worst aspects of popularity contests (everyone who just happens to be super famous gets in, like Takei and Gervais) with the WORST aspects of editorial control (like allowing your biases to dictate who does and doesn’t have “merit”).

    To be honest: You’ve ruined it with your explenation this year.
    Whatever woman or person of colour you might nominate next year, that person will be your token. It will leave a bitter taste.

    Mr. Rosch, your open nominations came from your circle. A very select group that, judging by response, tend to be comfortable with what is familiar.

    There is nothing wrong with that. So the readers of your blog are a bit banal. It is not your job to challenge or change them. However, when confronted with evidence of this banality, it might be better to address it specifically instead of implying that “the tokens” hadn’t worked hard enough to merit attention.

    Why not ask yourself: What has been the most important thing in the whole atheist community thing this year and who was there?

    And how about fact-checking?
    We all know we have biases, so, if a name comes up, why not look up what they actually did that year?

  62. Matt Penfold says

    Look, I guess I am going to have to take the hate since constructive conversation seems out of the question here. I’m not perfect and I tried to create a fun little contest, but it seems that it is being taken far more seriously than I expected. I’m going to stop responding here. If someone has something constructive to say, feel free to message me privately. I would like to do The Hitchie again next year, but I will have to obviously improve the process. Suggestions on how the process should be are welcome.

    Or, to re-write this in English:

    I cannot be arsed to defend my position, since I cannot. I am a total coward, and so I am going to run away like Brave Sir Robin.

  63. Matt Penfold says

    Still, got a love someone who thinks it is worthy to make fun of the disabled, as Gervais has done on more than one occasion.

  64. msironen says

    Even if Elevatorgate was Rebecca Watson’s only claim to fame, and only a fuckwit could think that, she would still stand head and shoulders above Ricky Gervais when it comes to being rewarded for services in the cause of atheism.

    What the serious fuck? Gervais goes to the Golden Globe awards (as the host, no less), “thanks God” for making him an ATHEIST (not to mention the numerous subsequent media opportunities to expose atheism because of just that), and you think stirring up Elevatorgate somehow compares favourably?

    I must have wondered into the bizarre part of the Internet.

  65. SallyStrange, FemBrain in a FemBadge (Bigger on the Inside!) says

    Hey, I am a huge fan of George Takei. I’ve been following his Twitter and his FB page, and the “It’s Okay To Be Takei” campaign.

    But I had no idea he was an atheist until now. I mean, it’s not surprising, but I’ve never seen or heard him reference it directly.

    So it’s kind of boggling my mind that someone would say that he has done more for atheism than Greta Christina.

  66. says

    I wish someone would have sent me a message or called me when this blew up.

    I’ve declined the award. I had no idea this “token” bullshit was going on.

  67. Matt Penfold says

    What the serious fuck? Gervais goes to the Golden Globe awards (as the host, no less), “thanks God” for making him an ATHEIST (not to mention the numerous subsequent media opportunities to expose atheism because of just that), and you think stirring up Elevatorgate somehow compares favourably?

    I must have wondered into the bizarre part of the Internet.

    He also thinks it is funny to take the piss out of disabled kids by calling them retards.

    I guess your standards are a bit lower than mine.

  68. Michael De Dora says

    In Ricky Gervais’ defense, I think he had that Golden Globes atheism mention, he wrote a couple controversial and popular op-eds in the Wall Street Journal, he had the New Humanist cover, and he recently got a good deal of media attention for a Twitter war he had with some religionists.

    Now, I’m not saying he’s the “atheist of the year” (whatever that means), but he’s certainly one of the most noticeable public figures who is an atheist and not only acknowledges it, but actively speaks about it.

  69. Wowbagger, Madman of Insleyfarne says

    Matt Penfold wrote:

    Even if Elevatorgate was Rebecca Watson’s only claim to fame, and only a fuckwit could think that, she would still stand head and shoulders above Ricky Gervais when it comes to being rewarded for services in the cause of atheism.

    I think the size of Ricky’s audience has to count for something. I’m not trying to downplay what Rebecca’s done, but because of the size of his audience, Gervais has a far more diverse group of people he reaches when he comments on religion/atheism.

    Bascially, Twitter goes nuts every time Ricky Gervais tweets about religion; at the very least this means people are thinking about it. And, given that no small number of these people seem to have no idea what atheism is, this kind of exposure can only be a good thing.

  70. Matt Penfold says

    Oh, and for those who think Gervais is someone to admire, do you also admire the fact the sees nothing wrong in calling people with Down’s Syndrome “mong” ?

    Is that something worthy of an award ?

  71. janine says

    What the serious fuck? Gervais goes to the Golden Globe awards (as the host, no less), “thanks God” for making him an ATHEIST (not to mention the numerous subsequent media opportunities to expose atheism because of just that), and you think stirring up Elevatorgate somehow compares favourably?

    I must have wondered into the bizarre part of the Internet.

    Shit, that was not even a funny joke. It is on par with a co-worker who says “I’m an atheist, swear to god.”.

    Also, what it called Elevatorgate (Fucking stop it with _______gate!) was stirred up by the menz who took exception with Rebecca’s mild rebuke.

  72. says

    Sorry Matt – it didn’t occur to me. Now that it has, I’m not going to send a message to the other nominees, because it would look so…you know…like expecting them to do something. Like pressure. So if it had occurred to me in your case I would have instantly decided it was a bad idea.

    Well plus there’s the fact that two of them are probably hard to reach. :b

  73. Matt Penfold says

    Oh and as for stirring up Elevatorgate, I see no evidence RW did anything of the sort. She merely made a perfectly reasonable observation that women do not much care to be asked for sex at 4am, in an elevator, when they have already said they are fed up with being hit on and they were very tired and going to bed.

    That such a simple request created such a furore amongst men who think any request they stop thinking with their dick is analogous to castrating them says nothing about RW, and a lot about how much work remains to be done to deal with sexism (and I would imagine a good number of other isms) with the atheist community.

  74. Wowbagger, Madman of Insleyfarne says

    Matt Penfold wrote:

    Oh, and for those who think Gervais is someone to admire, do you also admire the fact the sees nothing wrong in calling people with Down’s Syndrome “mong” ?

    I do not; I find it appalling.

    If the ‘award’ we’re talking about is which atheist is out there doing good work in terms of changing atheism’s profile as well as being an overall decent human being then his tendency to say such things would means he wouldn’t rate as highly. But I think that’s a separate issue.

  75. Matt Penfold says

    If the ‘award’ we’re talking about is which atheist is out there doing good work in terms of changing atheism’s profile as well as being an overall decent human being then his tendency to say such things would means he wouldn’t rate as highly. But I think that’s a separate issue.

    I don’t. And since the award is supposed to be about portraying atheism in a positive light, it surely follows Gervais is not someone worthy of the award.

  76. msironen says

    @Matt Penfold:

    Let’s play a little game. First, consider the amount of people who have heard of Ricky Gervais. Then consider the amount of people who have heard of Rebecca Watson.

    Then consider how many of those people who might’ve had their consciousness raised about atheism due to actions by Gervais in 2011. Then compare that to Watson’s.

    My _personal_ results:

    Gervais: Reached tens, (hundreds?) of millions of people, showing that one can be a well-received celebrity without hiding their atheism a bit.

    Watson: Reached tens, (hundreds?) of thousands of atheists, showing that… well I guess I’ll stop right there.

  77. janine says

    It seems that someone who really does not like Rebecca Watson is taking a silly award just a bit too seriously.

  78. Matt Penfold says

    Let’s play a little game. First, consider the amount of people who have heard of Ricky Gervais. Then consider the amount of people who have heard of Rebecca Watson.

    No thanks, it is pointless. The award is not being made on the ground of popularity, so I think you have become a bit confused.

    Still, your high regard for Gervais is noted. I note you have nothing to say about his calling people with Down’s Syndrome a “mong”. Is that because you share his infantile sense of humour ? Or are just an obnoxious arsehole ?

  79. says

    Ophelia – Well, I wasn’t expecting you to ping me (though you’re welcome to, whenever you like). I was just surprised that I sat here all afternoon without realizing any of this and if I hadn’t spotted Greta’s tweet, I’d still be clueless.

    Thanks!

  80. says

    Watson: Reached tens, (hundreds?) of thousands of atheists, showing that… well I guess I’ll stop right there.

    I learned from RG that he’s an atheist. I sometimes laugh at his jokes.

    I learned from and through RW how wrong I was about some things, and new things I’d never considered before.

    Easy choice, really.

  81. julian says

    Reached tens, (hundreds?) of millions of people, showing that one can be a well-received celebrity without hiding their atheism a bit.

    I see your a Watsonian-hater. Interesting that you feel negative impacts are relevant for her but not for Ricky Gervais. To be fair your entry entry for him should read

    “Reached tens, (hundreds?) of millions of people, showing that one can be a glaringly obnoxious, unclever jerk and still be applauded by atheists for things that honestly aren’t that funny.”

    We must by fair, msironen.

  82. Riptide says

    Was I the only one who had alarm bells when he said “If it were a list of SIX people, THEN I’d be more than happy to fit some token in…”

    As though he wouldn’t have found some other measly excuse. As though he were constrained by the arbitrary number of five, and no woman or black person could have done *anything* to top out that 6th spot. As though if the list had been 10, or 20, or 50, he wouldn’t have gone scraping to the bottom of the Ol’ Whitey barrel to fill it plum full instead.

    Bullshit. Pure bullshit.

  83. Wowbagger, Madman of Insleyfarne says

    Matt Penfold wrote:

    I don’t. And since the award is supposed to be about portraying atheism in a positive light, it surely follows Gervais is not someone worthy of the award.

    Is that what it’s being awarded for, though? I just checked the linked article and there’s no criteria listed.

  84. msironen says

    No thanks, it is pointless. The award is not being made on the ground of popularity, so I think you have become a bit confused.

    @Matt Penfold:
    Your ability to separate the supporting premise of my argument and dashingly defusing it on its own, rather than tackling the argument as a whole, has been noted.

    I learned from RG that he’s an atheist. I sometimes laugh at his jokes. I learned from and through RW how wrong I was about some things, and new things I’d never considered before.
    Easy choice, really.

    @Momo Elektra:
    Well, I know better than to argue with a solipsist.

  85. Matt Penfold says

    Is that what it’s being awarded for, though? I just checked the linked article and there’s no criteria listed.

    Well I presume that making atheism look bad, as Gervais has done with his “jokes” about the disabled, would pretty much rule someone our for award I assume is meant to be positive with regards atheism.

  86. msironen says

    @julian:

    “Reached tens, (hundreds?) of millions of people, showing that one can be a glaringly obnoxious, unclever jerk and still be applauded by atheists for things that honestly aren’t that funny.”

    Hey, I thought we’re talking about Ricky Gervais, not Richard Dawkins here.

  87. Matt Penfold says

    Your ability to separate the supporting premise of my argument and dashingly defusing it on its own, rather than tackling the argument as a whole, has been noted.

    And I have noted your inability to defend your position, and you inability to be honest enough to admit you cannot.

    You are not making a good impression, unless you were wanting to come across as a sexist arsehole who thinks laughing at the disabled is funny.

  88. Matt Penfold says

    Can someone link me to Gervais’ jokes about the disabled?

    Google “Gervais” and “Mong”.

  89. jose says

    Hilarious, especially the last quote. Basically it says I’m a feminist, but no woman is good enough for my list. lol. Well done guy.

  90. SallyStrange, FemBrain in a FemBadge (Bigger on the Inside!) says

    And since the award is supposed to be about portraying atheism in a positive light, it surely follows Gervais is not someone worthy of the award.

    His fondness for rape jokes of various sorts also does nothing for the image of atheists, unless the goal is to increase the participation of misogynists rather than women.

    I’m starting to question whether that’s as foregone a conclusion as I once thought it was.

  91. msironen says

    @Matt Penfold:

    “You are not making a good impression, unless you were wanting to come across as a sexist arsehole who thinks laughing at the
    disabled is funny.”

    You, on the other hand, are making a really good showing as someone who’s willing and able to deny realities about PR to support your pet ideology.

  92. Matt Penfold says

    You, on the other hand, are making a really good showing as someone who’s willing and able to deny realities about PR to support your pet ideology.

    Am I ? I think you need to go away and re-think that.

    I note you still have not offered any defence of your position. Why not just admit you cannot ?

  93. msironen says

    Do I think Gervais is a funny man? Yes.

    Do I think Gervais did some extraordinaly good things for atheist publicity in 2011? Yes.

    Do I think Gervais is the most perfect human being in existence? No. Except according to Matt Penfold.

  94. Deepak Shetty says

    @Staks Rosch
    I’m open to ideas and suggestions.
    Ok Ill bite.
    Im sure you have heard the term Pharyngulation of silly polls and stop thinking that “open” nominations == “worthy” nominations. You probably need an Oscar/RottenTomatoes model where restricted people can nominate and/or vote. If you throw it open to the public, what you get is the popular vote (if at all). What would ever make you think that this is a good way? Your results only prove what people already know, the majority is blind or biased towards the contribution of women – and you are being called out on it. Your responses so far are also missing(in my opinion) a degree of introspection – is Ophelia’s criticism valid?

    You need to specify some objective criteria on what you are basing this award on. What does strongest mean? What should the atheist have done to qualify?
    You’ll still have disagreements ofcourse – that’s part of the fun of such lists – but you probably will get lesser criticism.

  95. Deepak Shetty says

    msironen says
    Then consider how many of those people who might’ve had their consciousness raised about atheism due to actions by Gervais in 2011.
    Can we posthumously award Stalin and Pol Pot?
    The most well known atheists as far as the religious are concerned.

  96. janine says

    Do I think Gervais is the most perfect human being in existence? No. Except according to Matt Penfold.

    Hardly the point. It seems that you just want an other reason to be dismissive of Rebecca Watson.

  97. msironen says

    @Matt Penfold:

    And if I say Bill Maher has had more of public impact (for good) than Matt Dillahunty? Are you gonna call me an anti-vaxxer next?

    Seriously, I’m interested. How low can you go?

  98. Matt Penfold says

    And if I say Bill Maher has had more of public impact (for good) than Matt Dillahunty? Are you gonna call me an anti-vaxxer next?

    It would depend on whether you made any effort to disassociate yourself from his anti-vaccination position. You have not tempered your approval of Gervais with a condemnation of his hostility to the disabled, so your approval is implicit. You must have been aware of his views on the disabled before offering support, so ignorance is no excuse.

  99. says

    Matt D – well there’s your problem right there – if you were following me on Twitter you would have seen it that much earlier. :D

    But seriously…I went out shortly after I posted this, at which point I wasn’t thinking of it as having blown up.

  100. julian says

    Are you gonna call me an anti-vaxxer next?

    I can’t speak for him, of course, but you’d be wrong. He hasn’t had a ‘good’ impact or really all that positive.

    I think, if we’re going to have these arguments, we need to separate between publicly representing most of my views, swaying public opinion towards my beliefs and working to improve the community. Bill Maher may represent the views of many atheists, but the man has not been a force for good. He’s been an open and unapologetic liberal and atheist. He’s dne nothing to sway public opinion, he’s done nothing to advance a liberal agenda and the projects he has undertaken cannot be said to be that good, even.

  101. Rrr says

    Sorry, I must have missed most of this conversation due to another boring British drama on tv. Still, Staks Rosch, Esq. is obviously no more than a bad hack, a bent token, a crooked piece of brass. Uselies.*

    Well after midnight here, signing off. Missed not a lot o substance though, did I? Apart from the well earned spanking of Mr Rosch.

    * Actual tyop, left in for appearance of accuracy.

  102. julian says

    Also, there’s a difference between visibly belonging to a community and working for that community.

  103. janine says

    I am sorry, is there a moniker that Ryan Grant Long uses. Judging from what he is saying, it would take me long to get infuriated at him.

  104. 'Tis Himself, OM. says

    Interesting that Staks Rosch ignored every single post giving reasons why his choices were not as good as they might have been. Instead, he pretends all he’s getting is “hate”, so he’s retrieving his spheroid and departing to his domicile.

  105. 'Tis Himself, OM. says

    Janine,

    I was unaware of the It’s Okay To Be Takei campaign. It makes a good point and I salute Takei for his gay activism. However it has nothing to do with atheism. Until today I didn’t know George Takei was an atheist.

  106. msironen says

    “Also, there’s a difference between visibly belonging to a community and working for that community.”

    What I’m having a hard time distinguishing is the Tea Party and the FTB “approved” commenters, when it comes to ideological purity.

  107. janine says

    What I’m having a hard time distinguishing is the Tea Party and the FTB “approved” commenters, when it comes to ideological purity.

    It has been confirmed, msironenis an idiot.

  108. Matt Penfold says

    What I’m having a hard time distinguishing is the Tea Party and the FTB “approved” commenters, when it comes to ideological purity.

    That would be because you are being required to think, rather than point at disabled people and laugh. You see, someone who could think would defend their position, and you have refused to do that. I am sorry you are having such a hard time thinking. Have you sought help ?

  109. direvus says

    Come on now. There’s a huge and obvious different between “this person is worthless” and “this person didn’t quite make it on to the top five for the year”. I enjoy a bit of righteous indignation too, but this seems like outrage for its own sake. So “token” was a shitty word choice. Take a deep breath, people.

  110. says

    I noticed however that I didn’t have a token black candidate or a token female candidate.

    You know, I’ve been sick for several days now, and that didn’t stop the peals of laughter.

    What criteria would you use?

    - atheist activism that made a difference: writing, blogging, speaking, organizing within institutions, organizing public campaigns, especially introducing different and challenging perspectives and ideas… (if we’re going to focus on writing, Sikivu Hutchinson’s Moral Combat is an insightful and original perspective-changer)

    - taking a controversial stand and taking the heat (Rebecca Watson, Jessica Ahlquist, Damon Fowler)

    Would you have made certain that both genders were represented? How about race?

    (Also nationality.) In a sense, yes. If after a year like this one the list produced by me and my readership was like yours, I would sure as hell know something was terribly amiss and that I’d done something wrong.

    So if I were you, I’d start now. You have a whole year. Familiarize yourself with the work and activities of people who aren’t usually in your field of vision, and start reading, engaging with, and talking about them. Practice consciously recognizing and rethinking your biases in how you’re evaluating and presenting their work and arguments, because you have some serious biases, Rosch. For a start.

  111. msironen says

    “It has been confirmed, msironenis an idiot.”

    I’ll take that as a compliment. Kinda like the good christian quoting “the fool says in his heart, there is no God”. You’ll do FTB proud.

  112. julian says

    So “token” was a shitty word choice. Take a deep breath, people.

    Another jackass who chooses to ignore every complaint about poor selection criteria and selection bias because it would take to much work to deal with any of it.

  113. Matt Penfold says

    Come on now. There’s a huge and obvious different between “this person is worthless” and “this person didn’t quite make it on to the top five for the year”. I enjoy a bit of righteous indignation too, but this seems like outrage for its own sake. So “token” was a shitty word choice. Take a deep breath, people.

    You didn’t understand what Ophelia has written did you ?

    If there is one issue that has dominated the atheist blogosphere this year, it is the fall-out from Rebecca Watson’s observation that the reason fewer women attend atheist/sceptic events is because all too often they are subjected to unwelcome attention from men. One would have thought such an observation should belong in the bloody obvious category, but it seems that a good number of atheists and sceptics, nearly all men it should noted, disagreed, thinking that any restriction on their attempts to get their leg over is akin to castrating them.

    Given the amount of discussion, debate, vitriol and outright misogyny that resulted, one would think that those writing about roles people have played in the atheist community this year would at least be aware that they might well be subject to biases, acknowledged and unacknowledged and take care to avoid those biases.

    It seems even that was too much to hope for, as you make clear.

  114. janine says

    Please, oh wise msironen, explain to me how one becomes a FTB approved commenter. I seem to have missed going through the approval process. But you seem to be able to spot us.

    Is it because I do not have a problem with a rad-fem like Rebecca Watson. (Does that make me a rad-fem?)

  115. msironen says

    @janine:

    “Is it because I do not have a problem with a rad-fem like Rebecca Watson. (Does that make me a rad-fem?)”

    I honestly don’t know. Does the fact that I do make me a potential rapist / a rape apologist / full-fledged rapist (apparently on the loose)? I don’t know that either. Maybe I’m just confused.

  116. says

    I wish someone would have sent me a message or called me when this blew up.

    I’ve declined the award. I had no idea this “token” bullshit was going on.

    I nominate Matt Dillahunty for Decent Human Being of the Month.

  117. says

    Who did show up? Do I gather it was Ryan? I don’t see a Ryan comment there now – was it deleted?

    I didn’t realize Staks had posted the winner or that it was Matt. Now I see why he wished someone had pinged him.

  118. janine says

    I honestly don’t know. Does the fact that I do make me a potential rapist / a rape apologist / full-fledged rapist (apparently on the loose)? I don’t know that either. Maybe I’m just confused.

    Yes, you are confused and very aggressive about it.

  119. carlie says

    Gervais is pretty bad at critical thinking skills, too. He’s trying to claim that mong is ok to use because it’s “changed meaning” now that people don’t all automatically associate it with Down Syndrome anymore. Hint: if the previous use was a derogatory slur, and the current use is a derogatory slur, it hasn’t really changed meaning.

  120. says

    SC, yes quite. I also apologize for spitting in the soup! That is, for spoiling it for the nominees; it certainly wasn’t their fault.

    I also hadn’t realized that Gervais was campaigning for it, which is quite funny.

  121. Matt Penfold says

    Who did show up? Do I gather it was Ryan? I don’t see a Ryan comment there now – was it deleted?

    I see a comment from someone called Ryan Grant Long which reads:

    It would indeed be sexist and condescending to shoehorn a female in just to have a female in. If you think there is a more deserving female (or transgender person, or anyone not male) who should be on the list or win the award that is one thing. But if you’re declining the award because certain controversy-loving paid bloggers are going to make a big deal out of it, that is another.

    It is not a name that means anything to me. There are three other comments there (apart from those by Matt) and they are all supporting Matt.

  122. janine says

    Ophelia, I just checked. Ryan’s comments are still there. There is a “more comments” line at the end of the first subthread. Perhaps you need to click that.

  123. carlie says

    As for visibility, yes, more people heard Gervais say he was an atheist than have read other atheists’ writings. However, what did that achieve? The main result was that a lot of people said “Wow, what an asshole. Figures, being an atheist.” Yeah, that really helped out atheism a lot.

  124. says

    Oh…He blocked me on Facebook, so that must apply to the Examiner too. How odd – is the Examiner part of FB?

    Stupid comment. I credit Matt with seeing and agreeing with the point; Ryan apparently thinks it’s a good idea to imply that he’s doing it for bad stupid reasons.

  125. Matt Penfold says

    I knew Gervais was an arsehole long before I knew he was an atheist. In fact I think the very first time I ever saw him on TV[1] I though he was an idiot, and that was long before he became famous.

    [1] Something with Chris Morris in if I recall. Today’s The Day maybe.

  126. SallyStrange, FemBrain in a FemBadge (Bigger on the Inside!) says

    I’ve seen msironen on other blogs. If he isn’t a slimepit denizen, he’d feel right at home there.

  127. Rich Hosier says

    Why the obsession with atheists? And why are atheists obsessed with proving there is no god sans recently deceased Christopher Hitchens?

    For such brillant people the obsessive behavior toward any form of christianity is bewildering. I m very suspect of intellectuals espousing ,not debating, on issues they so despise.

    Take this list with or without tokens and shove it!

  128. janine says

    It would indeed be sexist and condescending to shoehorn a female in just to have a female in. If you think there is a more deserving female (or transgender person, or anyone not male) who should be on the list or win the award that is one thing. But if you’re declining the award because certain controversy-loving paid bloggers are going to make a big deal out of it, that is another.

    ———————————————————————-

    Thanks Matt, for proving exactly what the problem is with the type of discussions people like Greta Christina start. If you dare to disagree with them, everyone starts fighting and you get flamed or blocked. I expected more from you.

    ———————————————————————-

    And Gregg I know twisting people’s words is par for the course now in these types of discussions, but read my comment again. I mean it in a very straight-forward way. If you think there is a more deserving female or transgender person, then HIGHLIGHT THEM. Don’t get sucked into the impending flame war (i.e. Elevatorgate II) that I promise you is going to occur if Watson and Christina have their way.

    ———————————————————————-

    All I am saying is that his explanation, on the fact of it, is not worthy of rage. If there weren’t notable female examples (just if), then I agree it would be sexist to name one as a token. That is all. Is that unreasonable? If so, why?

    ———————————————————————-

    I don’t agree Watson should be on the list. I think what she and a few others did was create a climate that is utterly hostile to reasonable discussions about gender, and I don’t see that as remarkable. It’s easy to start flame wars on the Internet.

    I do agree there were probably women that should have been included. But I don’t think this guy excluded them on purpose, nor should he be attacked, which is what I fear is going to happen now. the radical feminists will lambaste him all over the place and make his life a living hell. Instead, he should be encouraged to apologize (knowing that if he does, it will be accepted as sincere); and then offered suggestions.

    And hopefully you can at least expand beyond the few rad-fems who get media attention for fights they’ve started, and look at what other female freethinkers are doing and saying.

    ———————————————————————-

    Matt, Greta’s blog post is pretty damn hostile to this poor guy, who clearly did not do it on purpose. You think this kind of discourse is beneficial, then by all means. Have your little Internet flame wars.

    ———————————————————————-

    Natalie, I did not say that. I am a strong supporter of trans rights and I speak out routinely for trans issues. The way words get twisted in these exchanges is just absolutely disheartening. You’re attacking an ally.

    ———————————————————————-

    There is nothing wrong with not wanting to force a woman into the list as a mere token. That very act is anti-sexist. The guy could have done more research, fine. But it appears his heart was in the right place, and the way he’s getting attacked is uncalled for. If you attack everyone like this you will end up with one thing, and one thing only: flame wars.

    ———————————————————————-

    I was actually trying to include trans people since they had not been brought up at all. And they are separate categories, unless you are prepared to argue that there is no difference in the experiences of cisgender and trasngender people. Which you and I know is nonsense. Honestly, if you turn everyone into a villain, you’re only hurting our shared causes.

    ———————————————————————-

    And I’m sorry… “mansplain”??? How is that not a sexist comment??

    ———————————————————————-

    Up to the minute and in order. Enjoy.

  129. janine says

    For such brillant people the obsessive behavior toward any form of christianity is bewildering. I m very suspect of intellectuals espousing ,not debating, on issues they so despise.

    I would be happy to not think at all about christianity. But there are sizable number of people who use it to justify why my actions and freedoms should be curtailed and to explain why I am evil.

    Shoved back at you.

  130. Natalie says

    I think I really really need to write something about the “I’m not a sexist, but…” / “I’m not a racist, but…” / “I can’t be transphobic, I’m on your side!” / “you’re criticizing an ally!” arguments.

  131. Natalie says

    (and for context, the thingy I called him out on was treating “female” and “transgender” as distinct, non-overlapping categories… but it was just a quibble and I didn’t want to distract from the far more important issue of sexism, “tokenism”, etc.)

  132. julian says

    Honestly, if you turn everyone into a villain, you’re only hurting our shared causes. -Ryan Long

    Yeah, and if you insist on excusing every instance of a double standard or failure to properly consider non privileged groups you’re (can’t believe I’m saying this) not helping. You are, in fact, hurting.

  133. says

    Just so you guys know, I am taking three(3) head pats for myself, and five(5) head pats for my four(4) kittie-kiddies and one(1) puppy. That is a total of eight(8(ate!)) head pats. You folks can split the rest.

  134. Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle says

    In a weird way, I’m almost glad that douchey sexists within the atheist/skeptic community keep outting themselves. They’re saving me a lot of money and time i might have otherwise wasted on them. While obviously fighting against their apathy, ignorance and/or uselessness is worthwhile and productive, there are only so many minutes in the day.

    That they seem so keen on labeling themselves as unworthy of my attention and money is, in the short run, a good thing.

  135. says

    Hello everyone! Imagine checking Facebook on your lunch hour and finding that Ophelia Benson has used your name for the first time on Butterflies and Wheels! My one minute of fame and I find myself more sad than glad about it. I wrote my Facebook post about Staks’s “atheist of the year” contest late last night, not really to vote for my friend Dave Silverman, but as a not-so-subtle message to Staks, whom I also know personally, about the lack of women atheists among the nominees. Like Staks, I never dreamed my post (or his contest) would get so much attention.

    I’ve communicated to Staks privately that so far I’ve found his explanations and reaction lacking in thoughtfulness and introspection, but that doesn’t have to be a permanent arrangement. But I also don’t care for how he’s being portrayed right now. Although my acquaintance with him is casual (both attending humanist/atheist group events in the PA/NJ area), I’ve never had any reason to think that he’s not a thoughtful guy or not capable of re-examining his point of view on issues of such importance as sexism and white male privilege in the atheist movement. I appreciate his Examiner columns. He’s been a good source of information on secular happenings in our region. I hope that will continue.

    Or, I admit that I could be wrong about him. He hasn’t responded to me. It’s up to Staks how this continues to unfold. He’s been challenged in a way he’s never faced before, contrary to what he’s said about dealing with hateful Christians. This time it’s coming from the community he’s belonged to for a long time. I imagine it’s been overwhelming for him to see all these negative things said about him. It would be to me. A lot to think about.

    Some of the comments I’ve seen, from people who don’t know him at all except for this issue, have reminded me of the negative comments that were made about Rebecca, Greta and other atheist/skeptic women, and the men who “got it,” after Rebecca posted her video that has changed our community for the better. I hated those comments then. Not much has changed but the target. Circular firing squads. But he alone put that target on his back. Can he say anything to put this right? That’s my hope.

    It’s all happened so fast. I’m unsure of how I feel about my role in it. I still think there can be a positive outcome as a result of all this if everyone keeps talking, without the ad hominem attacks. Thanks for reading my first post!

  136. says

    Hmph. That was in response to, “There is certainly male privilege in the world and in the atheist community and I don’t want to ignore that, but at the same time I don’t just want to have a token female nominee.”

    Seriously?

    I’ll nominate Staks for Clueless Git 2012.

  137. Ewan Macdonald says

    @Matt Penfold:

    The Day Today, not Today’s The Day :) Strongly recommend the biography of Morris “Disgusting Bliss”, by the way.

  138. Rudi says

    Matt Penfold:

    You are wrong. Gervais did NOT call Down’s syndrome people “mongs”. In fact, the whole furore arose from the fact he (foolishly) thought “mong” DIDN’T mean that any more. So your entire premise for rejecting his ‘candidacy’ is false.

  139. says

    lisaridge

    Can he say anything to put this right? That’s my hope.

    How about:
    “Shit, sorry, I fucked up. I wrote a stupid article and then I got all defensive. Let’s see if we can save this award by making the process a different one next year”
    It’s not as if people didn’t respond in constructive ways about what went wrong this year and what could be done better next year.

    Matt Dillahunty
    Kudos for your reaction

    Apart from that, I find the responses over at the Examiner quite encouraging, apart from Ryan, apparently.

  140. Matt Penfold says

    You are wrong. Gervais did NOT call Down’s syndrome people “mongs”. In fact, the whole furore arose from the fact he (foolishly) thought “mong” DIDN’T mean that any more. So your entire premise for rejecting his ‘candidacy’ is false.

    Well Gervais claims he did not know. I do not believe him. Had he made a genuine mistake he would have shown contrition when it was pointed out to him. Instead, he decided to pretend he still thought he had done nothing wrong.

    It is not as though Gervais does not have form for saying stuff like this and then pretending he did nothing wrong.

  141. says

    Well Gervais claims he did not know. I do not believe him.

    I’m 32. When I grew up, “mong” was still kind of semi-professional. You’d hear doctors use that word, and it hasn’t been long that I cringed the last time I heard somebody to refer to a person with Down syndrome.
    Where did he grow up? Under a stone?
    What is so terrible about saying “shit, I fucked up, I’m sorry”?
    It’s not as if baltant denial has ever done any good.
    Ask Bill Clinton, he can tell you.

  142. SAWells says

    Ricky Gervais made some jokes. Rebecca Watson ripped the lid off what turned out to be a massive can of worms: a horrifying level of ingrained sexism in the atheist “community”. One of these things is more important than the other.

  143. says

    I want to quote some things from the interview tielserrath linked to.
    See if they sound familiar:

    Some people just don’t know why it hurts. They may say I’m being ­oversensitive. But I’ve seen the effect this language and attitude has. These words catch on…

    First I decided not to say anything, but then it escalated and I walked up to them and told them to go before I found their parents. They just ran away.

    But other people were there and they didn’t do anything. That really got to me.

    I wish those people who think it’s funny to mock people who can’t fight back could spend time in Aaren’s shoes.

    I’ve heard people try to justify it by saying it’s about freedom of speech – but where do you cross the line? Does it mean racism is OK?

    You might think it’s harmless, you may think it’s funny. But I promise you, for those on the receiving end of your jokes, it is anything but.

    Oh, and what’s Gervais’ excuse for that pic? He didn’t know that people with Down’s syndrome look like that?

  144. carlie says

    In fact, the whole furore arose from the fact he (foolishly) thought “mong” DIDN’T mean that any more. So your entire premise for rejecting his ‘candidacy’ is false.

    See my comment at #145.

  145. says

    Well, it is kind of appropriate that an award named after Hitchens excludes women… -_-

    I thought that was a funny comment until I saw that a woman had posted it and realized I must’ve been wrong.

  146. says

    Urgh. That Daily Mirror article (@181) is very reminiscent of…well maybe you’ll see of what.

    All in all, life throws a lot of difficulties at Aaren. But what has made it so much worse is a changing attitude of people in the last few years. And I think you, Ricky, Frankie and all you others who laugh at people like my son, have a lot to do with it.

    It destroys me when I’m sitting down watching television with Aaren and something comes on mocking those with learning difficulties.

    When I hear, the first thing I do is look at Aaren thinking ‘please don’t let him have heard that’. And then I just get this feeling in my stomach. It’s like nerves multiplied by a million where I feel so angry and so upset.

    Once, we were watching The Inbetweeners when something offensive came on. Aaren didn’t say anything – he just looked at me and walked out of the front room. He used to love The Inbetweeners, too.

    It’s the changing attitude bit along with the responsibility of people who model the change. The same thing seems to be happening with respect to the way it’s acceptable to talk about women. Maybe this isn’t as much of a change as I think it is; I’m not sure; but it seems to be. More people are imagining themselves as edgy standup comedians, or something.

  147. B-Lar says

    Maybe instead of changing the nomination process, you could just rename the award to being for the “Most Famous Celebrity Athiest”?

    Then it would be accurate, and your chops would not be busted.

  148. carlie says

    I thought that was a funny comment until I saw that a woman had posted it and realized I must’ve been wrong.

    I see what you did there.

  149. ambulocetacean says

    George Takei? Really? He’s cool and all but — like several other commenters here — I had no idea he was an atheist until just now.

    If Staks needs to free up a slot there’s one right there. I can’t imagine any argument that the likes of Ophelia, Greta, Jen, Maryam and Rebecca have done less for atheism than Takei has over the past year. (That’s no criticism of Takei, BTW)

    Re: Neil deGrasse Tyson, he’s a militant agnostic who is actually at pains to deny that he’s an atheist. I seem to remember him once talking about how he used to keep editing his Wikipedia entry to change “atheist” to “agnostic”.

    Re: Rebecca Watson — serious, sincere question — is her recent contribution to atheism in this context that Elevatorgate has/might ultimately make the atheist movement/community more appealing/less intimidating to women? If so, I agree that that would be a good thing. (For what little it’s worth I think that the remarks of hers that sparked the whole thing were perfectly reasonable, and the response appalling).

    I’m not going to defend Gervais for his horrid jokes. But he is certainly highlighting the absurdity of religion to an enormous audience. A lot of people might think he’s an obnoxious dick but at least he isn’t an anti-vaxer. *shrug*

  150. Janee says

    I love that so many men attach words like “screaming” or some variation of it to any mention of male privilege. They seem to be saying “silly women, listen to them complaining about men as though it’s our fault that we just always seem to be better at things.”
    It’s kind of disgusting.

  151. Dan says

    There’s tokenism, which might indeed be a bad thing (you know, like you allow “one of each”, no more no less, which then just becomes another barrier).

    And then there’s making sure you present a diverse list. That would be a good thing, particularly when we get the vote into perspective.

    How should this kind of vote be run? Well, you could just have open nominations and run the vote. The results would be predictable and boring and pointless. I think everyone agrees with that.

    You can exert some post-nomination editorial control on the shortlist. But if you do that, to avoid the problems we’ve seen you want to be more intelligent about it.

    Why not have an open nomination process, then a panel who will draw up a shortlist and decide the award? Do that and then you can exert control over who is on the shortlist – and make it an interesting shortlist – and also give the award to someone deserving (who might not be the most famous).

    Just think, what are awards/recognitions of this type *for* in the first place? Are they just “beauty/popularity” contests? Perhaps, but who cares?

    I think awards like this serve a couple of purposes. First, it’s to give some recognition to the big hitters, those who sold most books or made most noise. You want to acknowledge them somehow, sure. But do you want them to win? Why?

    Who is the publicity for? Is it for the winner? Not if they’re already famous, surely. Is it for the award organisers? Maybe, a bit. Is it for the less well known names who appear alongside the famous on the shortlist? I think that’s it.

    The interesting thing about awards like this is always the shortlist. It gets the coverage, gets people talking, raises profiles and awareness.

    Shortlists can be *used* in other words, to benefit some people who sorely need some recognition, who could do with the publicity.

    The UK’s National Secular Society has been running its “Secularist of the Year” since 2005. The nominations process is open, but the shortlist is determined by a panel, which then gets publicised and all that. And then the panel decide who wins.

    The results speak for themselves.

    The winners since 2005 have been Maryam Namazie, Steve Jones, Mina Ahadi, Evan Harris/Eric Lubbock (Lord Avebury), Southall Black Sisters, and Sophie in ‘t Veld.

    That’s a pretty diverse group in terms of ethnicity and sex. Two thirds of the winners have been women(treating Harris/Lubbock as one, since they won jointly).

    The winners usually haven’t been the biggest or most obvious names (Harris/Lubbock got it for their work on securing the abolition of the blasphemy law – and could they not, that year?)

    Dawkins is always nominated, of course, but why would you give him a prize like this? He doesn’t need £5000, whereas Southall Black Sisters do.

    I don’t write this to blow the NSS trumpet particularly, but to point out that there are very good reasons for looking beyond the usual suspects when awarding prizes of this nature. Look for the people who otherwise get overlooked, look for those who get forgotten about, but put in the work. Look for those who need some coverage.

    Dan

  152. says

    Funny you should mention it. I was thrilled that Maryam was nominated in 2005 (also that Azam Kamguian was), and ecstatic that she won. I’d been wanting her to get more attention, and trying to do my bit to make that happen; the award was obviously going to be a big step in that direction, and so it turned out.

  153. peterooke says

    I have to say that this does amuse me a bit. Not the sexism of course but I note that the Church is often criticised for perceived sexism and yet this just proves that the problem does not lie in religion but rather within each and every one of us. We are all sinners. Some of us acknowledge this fact. I commend you for this post. I know from experience that it can be tricky to face down the hordes.

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