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Leaving tomorrow

Oh hey, I just remembered, the Women in Secularism conference starts on Friday.

No I’m kidding, I didn’t just remember, but it kind of feels like it. Despite all the anticipation and discussion, a moment did arrive last week some time when I thought, “Oh, it’s almost now,” as if it had crept up on me.

There’s a story on it in the Houston Chronicle, or in the Houston Chronicle’s blog (or both). Look at Amy there!

Women peruse a table with female freethought paraphernalia at the first Women in Secularism conference in Washington D.C. (Photo: Center for Inquiry)

photo by Brian S Engler

And Debbie Goddard over by the back wall, under the light.

From May 17-19 over 300 women will be convening in Washington D.C. for the Women in Secularism 2 conference, a sequel to the first successful gathering the year before. The aim for attendees is to hear from prominent female free-thought activists on this seemingly contradictory predicament.

While the initial conference was about celebrating female secular activists, this year is meant to take the cause one step further. Not only will the convention rally female free-thought voices and call for women in leadership positions in secular organizations, it will combat those in the secular movement who have shown hostility towards emerging feminine secular champions.

Well I’m not sure about combat – I don’t think fisticuffs are expected.

On the other hand our showing up at all is taken as combative, so I guess I am sure.

“We want to start a dialogue to resolve these issues,” said Melody Hensley, Executive Director of Center for Inquiry (CFI) D.C., and organizer of the event sponsored by CFI. “This conference will show people that there is something missing if women aren’t recognized as part of the secular movement,” she said.

Like half the population for instance.

“A lot of women are coming out as atheists and freethinkers,” said Hensley, “whether they want to become an active member of the community is another question.” Not only do women face backlash from religious groups opposed to their atheism and feminism, but there are sources of adversity within the secular community as well. Sites such as Slymepit.com and A Voice for Men are countering Women in Secularism’s claim that atheism and feminism fit together hand-in-glove.

As Justin Vacula of Skeptics Ink said, “I fail to see how refusing to believe in God leads to the ‘logical conclusion’ of abandoning long held beliefs about women and men.”

Hensley said that with all the reprisal, women are tentative to be outspoken freethinkers and feminist advocates. “We are going through a lot of growing pains with the backlash against feminism within our own free-thought movement,” she said, “it takes a very strong person to want to deal with that.”

Oh look, fame and glory for the slime pit. Or possibly not, if anyone actually looks at it.

To bolster the outspoken few, such as Deaton, and encourage other women to step out with secularity, Hensley is bringing in heavy hitting female free-thought activists. Included in the program are  Maryam Namazie, who speaks on Islam and female oppression; Katha Politt, who writes on political and social issues for The Nation; Susan Jacoby, an expert on the history of women in the secular movement and Amanda Marcotte, a popular feminist blogger who argues that atheism is consistent with feminism and pro-choice positions. Perhaps these women, she hopes, will inspire others as O’Hair did.

Yeah!

Comments

  1. Pierce R. Butler says

    Yeah, well, Justin Vacula of SkepticSink fails at lots of things.

    This conference will be a bonanza for he-said/she-said “journalists”!

  2. says

    /Sarcasm re-engaged after extreme shock…

    So ladies at #wiscfi, I hope you are ready to serve the Vac some sammiches!

  3. screechymonkey says

    Well I’m not sure about combat – I don’t think fisticuffs are expected.

    On the other hand our showing up at all is taken as combative, so I guess I am sure.

    What else would we expect from “militant” atheists?

  4. jenBPhillips says

    a moment did arrive last week some time when I thought, “Oh, it’s almost now,” as if it had crept up on me.

    Hey, I think I was there to witness that moment! What the hell happened to April? That’s what I’d like to know.

  5. says

    Hahaha, that’s probably right, Jen.

    What happened to April is that it morphed into August and now it’s morphed into February. Exciting, isn’t it!

  6. John Morales says

    edithkeeler, it already has a name: argumentum ad antiquitatem.

    That Justin fails to see how if one belief is predicated on a prior belief then losing that prior belief destroys that belief’s basis is unsurprising to me.

  7. hjhornbeck says

    Oolon @2:
    That quote rendered me speechless, too. I honestly could not articulate, until I managed to repeat “there’s a more charitable reading, there’s a more charitable reading” a few dozen times and actually think of one. Now that I’ve read the link, I’ve got some much-needed context; he was echoing one of Marcotte’s lines:

    Of course, all these arguments depended on an atheist movement comprised of people who saw the way that religion and patriarchy are intertwined, and saw that refusing to believe in God, if followed to its logical conclusion, means abandoning the belief that women exist to serve men.

    So OK, whew, he just blindly echoed Marcotte’s wording without realizing how bad it would look stripped of original context (but within the context of what we know about his views). Awesome, I can forgive him for that one.

    This one, however:

    While being open about atheism may be serve the larger goal of creating a world that has true gender equality, this by no means supports the assertion that atheism is consistent with pro-choice positions or feminism.

    Uh, why would it need to? Here’s the words of a noted expert on atheism, Justin Vacula:

    Atheism, as it’s commonly understood, and how I use the term, is lack of belief in any gods.

    So if we go by the strict dictionary definition that Vacula promotes just a few paragraphs before, we find that atheism is perfectly consistent with pro-choice positions and feminism.

    Moral of the story: Vacula’s a poor writer and worse thinker, but I suspect that’s old news to most of us.

  8. says

    hjhornbeck @9: I am genuinely surprised that nobody at Pharyngula thought to put a phrase from that quote into Google and find the source. My own comment providing the context would have popped up at #36 over there had it not been unfairly spam-trapped (like my first comments to all FtBlogs since March). The commenters over there have been disappointingly willing to take the comment out of its context, despite how often they call out that sort of thing when done by people like Justin Vacula.

  9. Aratina Cage says

    So OK, whew, he just blindly echoed Marcotte’s wording without realizing how bad it would look stripped of original context (but within the context of what we know about his views). Awesome, I can forgive him for that one. –hjhornbeck

    So you think he needed Marcotte to take baby steps of logic instead of being able to expect her readers to be of average adult reading comprehension levels? He wasn’t writing that knowing full well what the words he wrote meant, you think?

    I am genuinely surprised that nobody at Pharyngula thought to put a phrase from that quote into Google and find the source. –Dave W

    Oh come on. It’s not our job to check every slimepitter sentence for plagiarism or obtuseness, is it?

    the commenters over there have been disappointingly willing to take the comment out of its context –Dave W

    It’s not out of context. According to hjhornbeck, Vacula just didn’t understand the words he was writing, kind of like a monkey with a smartphone. Please don’t turn this around on us as if we are responsible for him writing that, Dave. Vacula has a demonstrated problem with taking responsibility for the things he does, no need to reinforce that behavior in him.

  10. says

    @Dave, are you sure people are not just expressing how terrible a bit of thinking that is? I agree with HJ Hornbeck and when I say I don’t believe he said that and did I misread I don’t mean the most simplistic reading that he literally thinks women exist to serve men!

  11. says

    Aratina Cage @11:

    Oh come on. It’s not our job to check every slimepitter sentence for plagiarism or obtuseness, is it?

    Thinking that someone might do it in this one instance – when the quote was specifically cited as being in response to something of Amanda Marcotte’s, and thus made me to wonder what she could have written to prompt such a sentence from Vacula – is the same as thinking you’ve got to do it for every sentence written by all pitters?!

    It’s not out of context. According to hjhornbeck, Vacula just didn’t understand the words he was writing, kind of like a monkey with a smartphone.

    I disagree with that assessment. It appears that Vacula has some grasp of the concepts in question, but doesn’t see any logical connection from one to the other. It’s disingenuous of him (at best) to plead such ignorance when the piece he was responding to seems to have laid it all out.

    But comments 6 and 7 (at least) at Pharyngula really do appear to take the comment as Vacula agreeing with the idea that women exist to serve men. That is taking his comment out of context.

    Please don’t turn this around on us as if we are responsible for him writing that, Dave.

    I don’t know where you would have gotten that idea from what I wrote, above.

    Vacula has a demonstrated problem with taking responsibility for the things he does, no need to reinforce that behavior in him.

    I wouldn’t even begin to try. I thought I was mildly criticizing some Pharyngula commenters for a little hypocritical sloppiness. I can do that without enabling Vacula’s antisocial behavior, yes?

    oolon @12:

    Dave, are you sure people are not just expressing how terrible a bit of thinking that is?

    Some people over there called it bad thinking, others took it differently. Even well after the context had been provided, people were attributing the worst possible meaning to Vacula’s statement. See comment 117, for example:

    Holy shit, Vacula thinks half of the species are slaves and is willing to say such a thing to the press?

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