Putting in the input


Where’ve I been? Writing my column for the Freethinker, which was due…today, which by rights I generally take to mean the end of the previous day since it’s 8 hours later over there, but this time I didn’t manage it.

It poured with rain here last night and then it stopped, so now it’s all clear and whitecappy and gorgeous.

Ron Lindsay requests input for the annual meeting of heads of secular organizations.

I’d like your input on these two questions: 1. What specific steps do you think
secular groups should take to increase diversity within our movement, in
particular with respect to the participation of minority groups? 2. As you are
aware, there are some stark differences of opinion within the movement about the
appropriate understanding of feminism and how feminism (however defined) should
influence the practices and mission of secular organizations. How do you think
these differences can best be narrowed or resolved?

Personally, I don’t think they can be, but others are more optimistic. Chime in if you feel like it.

 

Comments

  1. anon1152 says

    I am more optimistic. Though it is interesting that it’s feminism that is “however defined”, not the opposition to feminism within the movement. I think it’s that opposition that needs to redefine itself.

  2. says

    …How do you think these differences can best be narrowed or resolved?

    By not lying over and over again, and possibly by quietly sidelining (if not flat-out expelling) people who lie? I dunno, that seemed like kind of a good place to start, maybe…

  3. says

    How could feminism – however understood – not ‘influence the practices and mission of secular organizations’? Even the question seems odd to me.Feminism will influence the practices and mission of secular organizations while sexism and patriarchy exist. It’s kinda inevitable, no matter whether there are explicit policies or not. Simple as that.

  4. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    Nothing short of a collective agreement among the leaders, with a common policy of zero tolerance to the harassment and targeting of women (no, not “dissent” or “disagreement”) will work. They have to be on the same page, ban the same kinds of participants, and be consistently seen to have the backs of the targets rather than allowing thread after thread after thread to host slyme and ruin every conversation.

    I have no idea if they’re willing or able to do this, but that’s what it’s going to take. There is no other solution.

  5. Jubal DiGriz says

    I’ve heard what seems like a good strategy for improving diversity in any given organization. Simply reach out to members of underrepresented people and ask “What would you like to do”, and don’t do so in the context of “What would you like to do as a representative of X?”

    In skeptic/atheism conferences, for instance, there’s a problem when most women speakers are invited in order to give a “woman’s perspective”. There are accomplished women in every field of endeavor, and there’s no good reason why a panel shouldn’t be half female. Do this consistently and participants will stop seeing prominent woman as the gender-sensitive inclusion and just another interesting expert speaker. Hopefully the perception will trickle down… and even if it doesn’t it’s still worth doing.

    And the people who object to this plan will stop being participants, form their own groups, run things their own way, and inevitably die of intellectual incest. Win/win.

  6. Bjarte Foshaug says

    As I see it, the two goals (increasing diversity within the movement and narrowing or resolving the differences re. feminism – i.e. trying to bring both sides closer together) are inherently incompatible. There is no possible future in which this or any movement is going to be inclusive to both women and misogynist assholes at the same time). In fact, there is no possible future in which this or any movement is going to be better than nothing while the latter group remains part of it.

  7. jackiepaper says

    Here, here, Bjarte.

    I don’t want to be “brought together” with sexist, misogynistic liars and jerks anymore than I want to be brought closer to anti-vaxers or racists and for the same reasons.

  8. says

    Udo – funny you should say that. I wrote my column for the Freethinker on the relationship between the two and that’s exactly what I ended up saying. People treat feminism as an intrusion, and the underlying assumption seems to be that the normal state is just nothing; no opinion on the status of women either way. I pointed out that that is not possible.

  9. Rodney Nelson says

    I read some of the comments on Lindsay’s blog post. Some of the usual suspects have produced a new (at least to me) argument: “Harassment” is really “disagreement” and how can any skeptic be against disagreement?

  10. says

    The really brazen comment, I thought, was # 6, by “Pitchguest” who of course is a slime regular. Pg was replying to mine @ 2, which said

    Frankly I don’t have much hope at this point that the differences can be narrowed or resolved. With big name guys throwing vitriol at selected Enemy Women and all but holding them up as targets, it seems to me that women are just going to say the hell with it and stay away. I know several who have already decided that. That is of course the goal of the guys throwing vitriol, and I think they’re going to get their way.

    “Pitchguest” to me –

    To Ophelia: I wish you would stop with the propaganda that women are not accepted at atheist and sceptic conventions and conferences. Because you happen to feel personally that you do not belong does not mean that others do and if you could abstain from thinking you represent and speak for women in the community and elsewhere, I would appreciate it. Thanks.

    That’s some gall.

    The “propaganda” (and I didn’t say a word about atheist and sceptic conventions and conferences) – it’s not “propaganda” that Name guys (and non-Name guys) are throwing vitriol at women, as “Pitchguest” knows perfectly well because “Pitchguest” throws a lot of it himself! I should visit a page or two of the slime pit to collect some of Pg’s vitriol in order to demonstrate, but I can’t stomach it.

    As I said, I didn’t say a word about atheist and sceptic conventions and conferences, and I do not feel personally that I do not belong. On the contrary. I feel that I do belong, and that “Pitchguest” and people like him are the ones who don’t. I feel that I have done some things, and that “Pitchguest” has done jack shit apart from harassing people who have done some things.

    And “Pitchguest” doesn’t know what I think, and he naturally doesn’t know that I think I “represent and speak for women in the community and elsewhere.” I said “it seems to me that women are just going to say the hell with it and stay away.” That shows that I know I don’t know.

    Thick as a fucking stump.

  11. Stacy says

    I’d like to echo simonsays. PLEASE, go there and speak up.

    Also, if you’re a member or donor or volunteer at CFI, be sure and say so!

  12. Martha says

    I couldn’t stomach going past the first 20 comments or so on Ron’s post, but I did put in my two cents:

    Re diversity in general: I agree strongly that economic justice needs to play a much more central role in secular circles if we ever hope to make the movement look more like the broader community.

    Re feminism in the secular movement: most women will not take part in a movement in which some of the openly bigoted comments and personal attacks (see Pitchguest) that have been made here are tolerated.

    I first started paying attention to atheist blogs about the time that the DJ Grothe uproar began. Although I was appalled at the openly misogynist comments made in various forums, that wasn’t what almost made me give up before I’d even started. It was constant questioning and denial of the female experience by otherwise reasonable people (mostly men). Instead of listening, they constantly told us that we were unreasonable to be upset. Why would I want to fight battles like that in my spare time? Why would I want to be a part of an organization that considers people who call women cunts and suggest that they be raped for speaking out valuable allies?

    There are two reasons I stayed. The first is that I saw a youtube video of a panel of women from the Women in Secularism conference. I realized there were amazing people in the community who shared with me values I consider a lot more important than lack of belief in a deity.

    The second reason I stayed is that men started speaking up about what they’d learned during Elevatorgate and the ensuing difficult discussions. They started calling out the anti-feminists for socially unacceptable behavior. It became clear that there are plenty of people in the secular community who share my values with respect to basic decency. It’s just a shame that wasn’t at all clear before.

    CFI took a very important step in organizing the Women in Secularism Conference. Ron, please be very careful that you don’t undo that important work by implying a false equivalence between the feminist and anti-feminist sides of the current debate. I think you will find that most women spend their workdays working enduring subtle dismissals by male colleagues. We may not have any choice about that, but we do have a choice about what kind of communities to support in our personal time. I won’t support any that tolerate harassment toward women who dare to speak up.

  13. Stacy says

    Martha, wonderful.

    Ron, please be very careful that you don’t undo that important work by implying a false equivalence between the feminist and anti-feminist sides of the current debate. I think you will find that most women spend their workdays working enduring subtle dismissals by male colleagues. We may not have any choice about that, but we do have a choice about what kind of communities to support in our personal time. I won’t support any that tolerate harassment toward women who dare to speak up

    QFMFT

  14. says

    That’s a great comment, Martha. I hope Ron pays attention. I find it very annoying that he solicits advice and then lets nameless harassers shit on us when we offer some.

  15. says

    @ Martha

    Stacy beat me to it; that’s exactly the quote that made me start clapping. The whole comment is wonderful.

    On making the movement more diverse…

    If people want to make their groups more diverse, I think the number one thing to do is make sure that the meetings are accessable! A group will be lacking diversity right from the start if only able-bodied people with cars and disposable income are able to attend. Unfortuantely, because most of the people who plan the events have cars and aren’t disabled, those difficulties don’t even occur to them. A few quick tips for making sure a group is open to a much wider population:

    1) Check the bus schedule. Is the place you’re meeting near a bus stop? “Near” is a relative term…in the summer, in a nice area of town, often times people won’t mind having to walk a little ways, but if it’s raining or the meeting is at night in a bad neighborhood, people won’t want to walk far. Put yourself in the shoes of someone who doesn’t have a car. Would you be willing to go to your meeting? Also (and this is important): make sure you know when public transportation stops running at night (if ever). Even if people can get to your meeting at 7pm, if the buses stop running at 9pm, then won’t be able to attend.

    I can’t tell you how many local atheist meetups I would have liked to attend, but couldn’t, because either they were in an area without public transportation, or they scheduled after the local buses stop running.

    2) Is the building accessable? Are there wheelchair ramps? Elevators to upper floors? Plenty of seating for people with disabilities? Bathrooms? (Bathrooms: very important and often overlooked. But people with physical conditions that require frequent access to a bathroom will be looking.) One group I know of consistantly schedules meetings on the third floor of a building without elevators. Sadly, I have not been able to attend, because I am just not physically capable of climbing three sets of stairs, especially after hiking several blocks from the bus stop.

    3) Is the venue expensive? Many atheist groups like to hold meetings in restraunts or bars, which can be fun, but when planning these events, people need to remember that not everyone has a lot of disposable income. I went to a wonderful meeting once, with great people and an amazing speaker (I got to hear Richard Carrier!), but the restraunt was so expensive that I couldn’t afford anything on the menu (plus, there wasn’t one vegetarian option). It was so embarassing to nurse my diet coke all evening and put up with the concerned questions and comments from the people at my table. I’ve yet to attend another meeting there, though if there was a speaker I really admired I would probably be willing to deal with it again.

    Yes, I’m aware that it’s impossible to plan an event that will be totally accessable to everyone. And when I’ve proposed these things before, I’ve been called both unrealistic and entitled. Well, I think I’m being very realistic. If you really want to be more diverse, the best thing to do is make sure the widest amount of people are able to attend. It’s not entitled to point out the difficulties that some of us face. I’m not demanding that atheist groups cater to my needs, not stamping my foot and holding my breath and saying “You need to make it easier for me or I won’t come, so there! Hmmpth!” I’m pointing out that I can’t, physically can not, attend a lot of atheist groups, and I’m sure I’m not the only person dependent on public transportation, with physical and financial limitations. And while it will take effort, I think making meetings accessable is actually rather simple compared to some of the other tasks that need to be done in the quest for diversity.

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