Ron Lindsay has a post on divisiveness in the secular community, which is attracting a hailstorm of comments.
I don’t altogether agree with it. I agree with the normative part but not entirely with the descriptive part. For instance…
…if hate-filled comments and threats to women have not been expressly called divisive, it’s because such conduct does not threaten to divide the movement. It has already been repudiated, both implicitly and explicitly, by many, if not most, of the organizations in the movement.
But that doesn’t do it. It has not already been repudiated, even implicitly, by some prominent individuals in the movement. To put it another way, there are some prominent individuals in the movement who promote it or even engage in it themselves. Not many, I think, but some. Yes that makes a difference. Imagine if there were several prominent individuals in the movement who were promoting or even engaging in openly racist discourse. That would be divisive, pretty clearly. For most of us, it works the same way when the discourse is about women (or feminists).
…the haters are not threatening to divide the movement. No matter how frequently the haters pollute our blogs, they are outside the movement already. No one in a position of responsibility wants them in the movement. Whatever differences may exist among the various movement organizations, we are united on this issue.
I wish, but no. Not all of the haters are really outside the movement.
There’s Paula Kirby for example. She’s not exactly in a position of responsibility, but she seems to be because of her connection to the RDF, so what she says has some influence. She called me and Skepchicks and “FTB” generally Feminazis and Femistasi, and she circulated that caricature. That’s hater stuff.
(A lot of people think she is the Executive Director of RDF UK. I thought so myself, and referred to her as such more than once. She’s not. Look on the RDF website or where you will, you can’t find her listed as ED or any other kind of officer. It’s not fair to blame Dawkins for things that Kirby has said.)
Ron doesn’t mention Paula, but he does mention Russell Blackford.
…the label “misogynist” is sometimes thrown about carelessly. For example, Russell Blackford, the Australian philosopher (and Free Inquiry columnist) has been called a misogynist shitbag. Yet, as far as I know, Blackford has never made any hateful comments or threats to women; indeed, he has condemned them. He has expressed doubts about the wisdom of harassment policies adopted by some organizations and, if I recall correctly, he has taken exception to some of the criticism directed against TAM (the JREF’s annual meeting). But although Blackford’s views on these issues may be misguided, that hardly qualifies him as a misogynist.
I don’t think Russell is a misogynist. I’m not sure if I’ve called him one or not, but since I don’t think he is one, I’ll guess that I haven’t. But I disagree that he has, as Ron says, condemned them (“them” being hateful comments to women). He hasn’t. That’s the issue I’ve had with him all along, ever since the summer last year: he hasn’t. He hasn’t condemned them and he has at times joined in with them. He regularly praises Abbie Smith, who is a hater-enabler as well as a hater herself. (Remember “smelly skepchick snatch”?) For many weeks he has been ranting about “FTB” many times every day on Twitter, and he’s never that I’ve seen said a word to condemn the haters. He has been all but climbing into Paula’s lap; he retweeted her deeply unpleasant “Sisterhood of the Oppressed” article more than once; he said not a word to condemn that nasty crucifixion caricature. All that does qualify him as at least a fan of misogynists.
So…I think Ron is being a little over-generous to that faction.
…the movement is divided, but it’s not divided for any good reason. It’s divided because too many in the movement are not willing to recognize that their fellow secularists can be mistaken without thereby being bigots; that their fellow secularists can have different understandings of the implications of feminism without being misogynists or “sister-punishers”; and that their fellow secularists can have can have different perceptions of the problem of harassment without being feminazis.
Yes but. Yes but sometimes it really isn’t just different perceptions of the problem of harassment, it’s labels like “Approved Male Chorus” and “Femistasi” and “FTBullies” and “smelly skepchick snatch.”
I agree with Ron’s overall point though. And I’m not without hope that things will improve.