FTBCon Tomorrow!

Richard Carrier in service uniform as a Petty Officer (1991)The massive, amazing, totally free online conference hosted by Freethought Blogs starts tomorrow and runs through Sunday. We have over 100 speakers and 33 sessions. Many names you’ll recognize and love. Many names you might not know but will be glad to have been introduced to. There will be topics you might not have heard discussed at an atheist conference before. And so many! I’m already sad that I won’t be able to see everything myself, but I’m going to be spending the whole weekend drinking scotch and watching as many sessions as I can.

You can browse the schedule at Lantyrd: see FtBConscience. More information about the conference is available at FtBCon.org, including our conduct policy and how to attend (see here and here) and how to submit questions for Q&A (through our chat room).

My talk, What the Military Taught Me about Feminism, will go live this Sunday (July 21) at 11am Pacific Coast Time (the online schedule is all in Central time, so subtract two hours for Pacific; the official page for watching that session is here). I’ll be telling some embarrassing and personal stories about my time in the service twenty years ago as a young naive man, and reflecting on how they changed me and contributed to what I know and how I think today. There will be a moderated Q&A. Please bring questions. Warning for Viewers: Some of my stories will be about the sexualization of women, and I will be repeating sexual slurs and other things I saw and heard that can be quite shocking.

For more backstory on my Coast Guard career see Atheists in Foxholes. The photo here (above right) is my last service photo in full uniform and cap, as a Sonar Tech, Third Class (which means Petty Officer, Third Class, the equivalent of a Corporal, which is an NCO, or Non-Commissioned Officer), with two marksmanship ribbons (pistol and rifle) and the National Service Medal (indicated by the more colorful ribbon).


  1. Uncle Ebeneezer says

    Good interview Richard. It sounds like the military has much of the same problems with it’s culture as the sports locker-room. There’s not only a high amount of sexism but there’s also a group bullying effect (even from the coaches themselves) that inhibits boys from raising concerns. I think that’s a huge reason why so many males don’t dare to even think of girls’ perspectives until they are in college. It’s funny, I was an athletic kid who also had an artistic side but really didn’t express it early (at least through school). I can tell you with absolute certainty that if a jock ever dared to speak up against the kind of misogynistic talk that is pervasive in the boys locker-room, they could count on being labeled “pussy” or “fag” by an unhealthy majority of their peers. So even if you don’t come from a family that has that sort of attitude, you run into it all the time in sports.

    Anyways, I came to feminism even later than you. It was part of a general political awakening and really solidified by finally thinking about scenarios and asking myself how I would feel if such and such were done to my girlfriend, mom, niece etc. And nowadays I hang around with a lot more guys who are fellow musicians and many of them were the anti-thesis of jocks. Theater, jazz band, AV-club kinda guys. And it’s amazing how many of them reached alot of these more compassionate conclusions than I did. And I wouldn’t be surprised if my early immersion in sports culture had a big effect on why it took me so long to think about this stuff.

    Also, I really liked your emphasis on how challenging it was at first to start recognizing your biases. But how after awhile it really starts to become second-nature, with practice. I know many people who think that simply having any type of prejudiced thought makes them a bad person and they are determined not to be a bad person so they come up with crazy justifications rather than just understanding that all it takes is recognizing the biases that we all are subject to, and holding them up for scrutiny, that is the key.

    It sounds like you worked with some really awesome women in the Guard. Just out of curiosity did their rank and expertise shield them from sexist remarks from their superiors? (I assume nobody under them would be dumb enough to mess with their CO.) Sexist language is so common-place in movie depictions of military that it’s hard to imagine how it must be with more females in the barracks.

    • says

      Just out of curiosity did their rank and expertise shield them from sexist remarks from their superiors?

      Everything I witnessed was “behind their back.” But then, I generally only hung out with enlisted folk. My combat officer never mentioned sexism from above, but then she might not have wanted to (there are rules against sowing dissension in the lower ranks and complaining down about abuse from above could be perceived that way) or it might just never have come up (there is a certain amount even women like her just start taking for granted).