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Sep 10 2012

Finding the faults

Years ago I was in a relationship with someone who for the sake of convenience I will simply call ‘Rhonda’. Rhonda and I began dating shortly after I started undergraduate, and lasted about a year before, for reasons that are not really relevant to the story, we split up. It was an amicable split, and we both said that it was important to remain friends. Meaning what I said, I would invite Rhonda to take part in the things I was doing, we’d talk on instant messaging and phone on a regular basis, and I generally tried to include her the way I would do for anyone with whom I shared a close friendship.

A number of frustrating months passed before I realized that, despite my best efforts, I was deeply dissatisfied with my friendship with Rhonda. While I made regular efforts to include her, she kept me at an arm’s length and consistently begged off socializing with me. It did not help when she began dating someone else – someone I knew, and did not like (a fact she knew well). It was obvious to everyone that Rhonda was romantically involved with this guy, but she refused to talk about it. I will not pretend to some kind of maturity that I did not possess (and may still not), and certainly I had the option of confronting her, but she knew that I was upset and (I believed) she knew about what.

Her failure to talk to me on this issue (and a number of others), either because she was unwilling or unable, suggested to me that we had strikingly different views on what ‘friendship’ meant. So one day I called her on it, and basically spelled it out: we should stop calling our relationship a ‘friendship’, because we were not behaving the way I thought friends should. Whatever it was we had was not a true friendship, and had not been for some time. She was upset, understandably, but as far as I was concerned the only thing I had done was put words to something that was abundantly clear.

I don’t think about Rhonda much these days. It’s been 8 years since the events I describe above, and she and I have both moved on to other things in our lives, having spoken a handful of times since that conversation. However, I find myself reminded of this story as I watch the latest fracas over how the proponents of Atheism+ are supposedly “dividing” the atheist community. A number of people are at least pretending to be very upset and concerned for the future of organized atheism now that a new group has emerged with a specific focus on certain issues that transcend the standard atheist fare of church-state separation and counterapologetics. Their charge is that this group, by setting themselves apart, have created a schism in a community that was otherwise unified.

Of course, as someone who has been involved in the atheist community for a couple of years now, I find this supposed ‘unity’ of the atheist cause to be nothing more than ridiculous wishful thinking. It is an argument that is based more on the cynical reimagining of reality and selective vision than it is on actual concern for atheist unity. I observe a parallel tactic being attempted by high-ranking Republicans, who charge President Obama with using “divisive” language that “separates” Americans by class instead of advocating unity.

The reason why both the Republicans and the anti-Atheism+ hyenas (so called because while they laugh a lot, I’ve never observed them do or say anything particularly funny) have a stupid argument is because recognizing a problem is not the same as creating it. This whole “divisive” thing is nothing more than the political application of the age-old principle of “he who smelt it dealt it“. American society is deeply divided by class, wherein those who have a great deal of wealth also have a great deal of political influence, and use that influence to pass laws that continue to sequester wealth in a small number of hands instead of moving it to the economy at large where it might do more good. It is not ‘dividing the nation’ to say so; no more than it is “class warfare” to suggest that the rich don’t pay enough in taxes: it is simply putting words to the evident reality.

It is also interesting to me, as someone who observes the discussion about race and racism, to see this old chestnut popping up elsewhere. Anti-racists like myself frequently have to deal with silly accusations that we are the “real racists” because we notice the effect that race has in the world, rather than simply behaving as though it doesn’t exist in any meaningful way. I’ve pointed out how stupid this argument is before - it is not the fault of the bystander yelling “look out!” that you get run over by a bus, as though the warning causes the bus to spring into existence. Your inattentive ass was going to get flattened regardless.

The fact is that there are some atheists who are interested in certain topics, and that there are others who are interested only in religion per se. From my perspective, the fight against misogyny and racism and homo/trans/xenophobia and privilege and the whole general mish-mash of issues that atheism+ professes to be focussed on is exactly the same as the fight against religion. All of these things are ideas that find fertile ground in the decaying peat of our poorly-evolved brains, and we can reach into the same toolbox to help address them. That being said, these fights matter more to some than they do to others, and if it were simply the case that some people were going to focus on what they like, the ‘creation’ of atheism+ would be an entirely non-controversial event.

The problem, as far as I can ascertain, is that there are a large collection of angry dogs lying in mangers and saying that because they don’t care about these issues, nobody else can either. These are not new voices – they are the same people who have been pushing back against the inclusion of more female speakers at conferences, who railed endlessly (and futilely) against sexual harassment policies, who think that PZ’s blog “used to be good” before he apparently began taking his marching orders from Rebecca Watson… this is the next verse of the same song they’ve been singing all along: you’re not allowed to do things differently.

My conversation with Rhonda wasn’t the day we stopped being friends – it was the day I simply put words to the fact that we hadn’t been friends for a long time, maybe ever. The creation of atheism+ isn’t the dividing of the atheist community – it’s merely the formal acknowledgment of the deep fault lines that have run through the community all along.

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102 comments

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  1. 1
    Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle

    The creation of atheism+ isn’t the dividing of the atheist community – it’s merely the formal acknowledgment of the deep fault lines that have run through the community all along.

    Bingo. That seems to be the basis of the objection to A+, or, more specifically, to feminism being included in A+. Women, after all, are supposed to drop everything to cater to men. Women are supposed to giggle and say “oh, boys will be boys!” no matter what men do or say. Women are supposed to agree with them and give them cookies.

    A+ means that delusion isn’t true. And whoa are they upset that mommy isn’t doing what mommy is supposed to do.

  2. 2
    andrewwilson

    ” … I find this supposed ‘unity’ of the atheist cause to be nothing more than ridiculous wishful thinking. … “.

    Those us against Atheism Plus are, in fact, saying the opposite. Atheism has always been non-unified. The only thing any of us can guarantee to have in common is that we don’t see enough evidence for gods or the supernatural.

    Many atheists are completely for the aims of Atheism Plus (as am I), as long as you are fighting for equality of opportunity, but it is precisely because Atheism Plus are trying to create a unified group that we are against it.

    I happily stand with christians/muslims etc… who are against racism/misogyny etc… In fact, I’d rather spend my time fighting these things in public with anyone who stands with me on these things rather than be a member of a group that claims inclusivity, but you can only be an atheist to join, even if you agree with all of our aims.

    The issue of equality of opportunity for everyone is so important that having a specifically atheist group that is pro social justice is divisive (not to the atheist community, we are only a group in the loosest population dynamics sense) but to the wider community fighting for social justice.

  3. 3
    mynameischeese

    “I’d rather spend my time fighting these things in public with anyone who stands with me on these things rather than be a member of a group that claims inclusivity”

    1. What? So you can’t do both? You can’t stand with Muslims, Christians, etc against racism/sexism/homophobia/transphobia/etc while at the same time standing with atheists against racism/sexism/homophobia/transphobia/etc?

    2. And you have a problem with atheism claiming “inclusivity,” but only to atheists, but no problem with Christianity being inclusive but only to Christians?

  4. 4
    Crommunist

    So I take it you’re outraged by the existence of, say, a group like American Atheists?

  5. 5
    DaveL

    Many atheists are completely for the aims of Atheism Plus (as am I), as long as you are fighting for equality of opportunity, but it is precisely because Atheism Plus are trying to create a unified group that we are against it.

    How is Atheism plus trying to “create a unified group” any more than, say, the JREF? I mean, here they are with conventions, nametags, a designated spokesperson, planned speakers, etc.

  6. 6
    Stephanie Zvan

    andrewwilson, you should probably be aware that “equality of opportunity” is a phrase that libertarians use to mean “pretend everyone starts on a level playing ground, even though they don’t. If you use it in these discussions, people will assume you mean that you’re for social justice in the abstract as long as no one actually has to do anything to achieve it.

    As for Atheism+ being an exclusive group because it identifies as atheist, you should know that many social justice groups are, as a practical matter in the U.S., exclusive of atheists. That makes atheism one basis of discrimination we all hold in common. Social justice groups frequently organize around a shared injustice, even if they work more broadly. This is no exception.

  7. 7
    andrewwilson

    “What? So you can’t do both? ”

    Of course I can. You didn’t read my post. I said I would stand with anybody who was against racism etc…

    “And you have a problem with atheism claiming “inclusivity,” but only to atheists, but no problem with Christianity being inclusive but only to Christians?”

    I have a problem with anyone who is claiming inclusivity but only to certain people. I don’t care what their religious views are. If they are a member of a humanist group/pro social equality movement then their religion is not harmful. So what if they believe in original sin? They’re wrong, but everyone is wrong about something. It obviously is not affecting their stand on social equality. So I stand with them on these specific issues.

  8. 8
    andrewwilson

    Who said anything about being outraged. I’m not outraged, I just don’t see a need for it.

    As for a group specifically American Atheists? What do they talk about? Presumably many of them are pro-gun, conservative libertarians as well. They won’t necessarily have any political aims in common.

    If they feel they need to meet (and perhaps the US is a special case and does need it) then that’s fine, but they don’t specifically say they are better than other atheists (a la Richard Carrier) and claim every other Atheist that doesn’t belong is a “douche”.

    If someone is pro-gun, conservative and republican but happens to be an atheist, then discuss those issues with them.

    Just a thought experiment. Imagine for a minute that a group of pro-gun, libertarian conservatives set up an group that were for all the issues mentioned and then one of their members wrote a blog like Richard Carrier’s. How do you think atheists would react to that?

  9. 9
    andrewwilson

    ” … people will assume you mean that you’re for social justice in the abstract as long as no one actually has to do anything to achieve it. … ”

    Equality of opportunity is the only way to achieve equality of any kind.

    I assume what you want is equality of outcome.

    OK then, in that case, we should positively employ more male nurses (even if they are not as good as some of the female applicants) because it is more important that we get an equal number of female and male nurses than that we have good nurses.

    That attitude is patronising to both men and women. The only way to achieve equality for everyone is to give everyone an equal chance to demonstrate their talents and to judge them on those talents.

    Forcing men or women into particular jobs to make up the numbers is, in fact, the equivalent of fixing the books and what it will end up doing is masking the real racism/misogyny that is built into the system.

  10. 10
    andrewwilson

    I’d be interested to find out which pro-social equality groups in the US specifically exclude atheists. I’m pretty sure the American humanist association doesn’t.

  11. 11
    kbonn

    I think part of the issue is that some people here tend to lump people who have disagreements with one or some of methods or priority of certain goals with trolls and people who irrationally want the movement to fail. This behavior doesn’t seem to be unwelcome by certain posters here, and in this case they are being divisive.

    Further, some people see A+ simply as an extension of FtB, and see this behavior as “FtB behavior”, therefore A+ is divisive, rather than certain people are divisive. Much in the same way saying “There is a big problem with misogyny in the Atheist community”, is often meant, “There is a big problem with a small group of sexist atheists”, but could be read as “There is a widespread (meaning a large percent of individuals) problem with sexism within the atheist community”.

  12. 12
    Crommunist

    I’m not outraged, I just don’t see a need for it.

    Incorrect. If you simply didn’t see a need for it, you’d shrug your shoulders and say “that’s unnecessary”, much the same way as you probably do about Honey Boo Boo or wearing ascots. The backlash has not simply been “I don’t see a need for this”, it’s been “this is a bad idea that threatens me somehow”.

    How do you think atheists would react to that?

    You mean after they’d stopped laughing? I’d imagine that, if they weren’t raving lunatics, they’d note that a) no one person (especially not a blogger) is in charge of atheism, and b) the existence of a group that likes guns doesn’t say anything about those who don’t, and if they think there’s some value in sharing some intellectual real estate then they’re welcome to. Then again, I am probably overestimating atheists quite a bit. A bunch of people would probably go crazy – it wouldn’t make them correct to do so.

  13. 13
    Crommunist

    The only way to achieve equality for everyone is to give everyone an equal chance to demonstrate their talents and to judge them on those talents.

    Boy would it be nice to live in that world. What colour is the sky there? Or does that world “not see colour”?

  14. 14
    mynameischeese

    Em…what? Equality of outcome? Equality of outcome is more or less what you would expect to find if you had equality of opportunity.

    Of course, that’s only assuming that you’re attempting to look at things rationally.

    Unless you think that nursing is a stereotypical female occupation because there is a gene on the Y chromosone that prevents men from being good at it?

  15. 15
    andrewwilson

    The JREF isn’t specifically an atheist group. It’s s skeptical group. There is a difference.

    I’m quite sure there will be christians that are members of JREF because they are completely against the profiteering of Peter Popov, Yuri Geller etc…

    And you might well say, but they aren’t they guilty of magical thinking too, y’know, being christians and all?

    Yes, but so are we all guilty of magical thinking at times. No-one is completely free of magical thinking. In fact those that think they are completely free of it are the ones to keep an eye on.

  16. 16
    Crommunist

    I have a problem with anyone who is claiming inclusivity but only to certain people

    So your problem with atheism+ is that it’s… for atheists?

    I’ve gotta admit, that’s a new one.

  17. 17
    mynameischeese

    I read the post. You’re not making sense. Why happily stand with everyone, yet have a problem with A+-ers, but not xtians. Why the double standard?

  18. 18
    DaveL

    So you’re only against unified groups when they’re composed of atheists?

  19. 19
    andrewwilson

    @mynameischeese: I can’t seem to reply to your comment directly (maybe only allowed certain depth or something). So replying here.

    ” … Em…what? Equality of outcome? Equality of outcome is more or less what you would expect to find if you had equality of opportunity … “.

    Is it? I suppose, if you assume that attitudes are only cultural and we managed to rid everyone of thinking that way, then perhaps.

    But do you have any evidence to show that there is no genetic influence to people’s attitude.

    For example. There are no barriers to a man becoming a teacher or a nurse, yet there are vastly more women employed in those vocations.

    Is that because women, in general, are inherently better at those things (i.e. genetic) or is it because society says they are or is it, as I would suggest, partly both? Do you have some evidence to support your position?

  20. 20
    Anthony K

    The JREF isn’t specifically an atheist group. It’s s skeptical group. There is a difference.

    So it’s okay if skeptics (some of whom are libertarians, Christians, etc.), try to unify, but atheists? No way.

    You’re grasping at straws.

    , but it is precisely because Atheism Plus are trying to create a unified group that we are against it.

    The above is ridiculous. And if you were really against unity (for whatever reason), you really wouldn’t have written “we”.

    Further, this bizarro anti-unity reason is most certainly not the reason all or even most of your team is against Atheism+. The cries of “You’re being divisive!” are real.

    Finally, there’s nothing you can do about it. You don’t like Atheism+? Then tip your hat and be on your way.

  21. 21
    karmakin

    Yes, the traditional gender role is that women are more compassionate than men and as such do a better job at nursing.

    It’s really frustrating that people don’t understand that it’s gender roles and the existence of such that are the enemy here.

  22. 22
    Crommunist

    The null hypothesis: ur doin it rong.

  23. 23
    Anthony K

    But not the American Atheists, otherwise andrewwilson would have presumably shown up in Kagin’s blog to lambaste both the AA and Atheism+.

  24. 24
    andrewwilson

    Why could it never be demonstrated either way (or that both play a part)?

  25. 25
    andrewwilson

    @mynameischeese

    ” … I read the post. You’re not making sense. Why happily stand with everyone, yet have a problem with A+-ers, but not xtians. Why the double standard? … ”

    Because it takes energy away from existing social justice movements that include anyone that is pro social justice.

  26. 26
    Crommunist

    That’s not what the null hypothesis is. The null hypothesis is to assume equality between groups until evidence is presented otherwise. It’s one of the fundamental unpinnings of the scientific method. You’re proposing a specific mechanism (genetic component to nursing) and then demanding that others DISprove it.

  27. 27
    Anthony K

    So the problem is divisiveness, not ‘unity’.

  28. 28
    andrewwilson

    @ Crommunist

    ” … That’s not what the null hypothesis is. The null hypothesis is to assume equality between groups until evidence is presented otherwise. It’s one of the fundamental unpinnings of the scientific method. You’re proposing a specific mechanism (genetic component to nursing) and then demanding that others DISprove it … ”

    I wasn’t proposing any mechanism. I was suggesting that both environment and genetics play a part. (They play a part in just about everything else). So that is the default position until someone proves it is entirely genetic or entirely cultural, which no-one has yet.

  29. 29
    andrewwilson

    Yes, but not divisiveness among atheists but among social justice groups.

  30. 30
    jenny6833a

    In a comment, Cromunist says, The backlash has not simply been “I don’t see a need for this”, it’s been “this is a bad idea that threatens me somehow”.

    That’s a fine example of why many of us oppose those who tout A+. You nastily attribute bad motives to anyone who disagrees. You might try calm, logical responses to objections instead of dismissing them with insults.

    It seems to me that choices are best made after examining the consequences. I’ve been saying that merging an unpopular idea like atheism with an equally unpopular idea like radical 3rd wave (or 33rd wave, or whatever) feminism is bound to do more far more harm than good to both.

    The opponents of atheism will scream that atheism is inherently radical feminist and the opponents of each version of feminism will scream that feminism is inherently atheistic. Neither cause will sell well when saddled with the other.

    Individual atheists should support social causes of their individual choice, but not under the banner of atheism or some subset thereof. Individual feminists should, if they so wish, support atheism, but not under the banner of feminism.

    To try to be 100% clear, I oppose A+ because mixing one unpopular cause, atheism, with another unpopular cause, radical 3rd wave shrieking, will slow the expansion of atheism while at the same time slowing progress towards political, social, and economic equality of the sexes.

    And I now expect to be totally ignored, or to be the target of what I’ve come to call the A+ rebuttal consisting of off the wall accusations.

  31. 31
    Sam N

    Well Jenny, it would help if you didn’t yourself do what you purport A+ proponents do.

    “radical 3rd wave shrieking”

    Right, it’s all just a bunch of shrieking.

  32. 32
    Anthony K

    I was suggesting that both environment and genetics play a part. (They play a part in just about everything else).

    Bernie Madoff’s scheming.

    Entirely cultural or entirely genetic? Or a combination of both?

    Eating shellfish.

    Entirely cultural or entirely genetic? Or a combination of both?

    Wearing tuxedos.

    Entirely cultural or entirely genetic? Or a combination of both?

    More women in nursing.

    Entirely cultural or entirely genetic? Or a combination of both?

  33. 33
    Anthony K

    Well, since there are non-atheists who are part of Atheism+, your claim that it excludes non-theists is false.

    Further, since religiosity may directly hinder social justice, you can understand why interfaith or secular social justice groups may not do well to include anti-religious atheists.

    Finally, Atheism+, which serves to differentiate some atheists from others (namely those who are interested in social justice vs. those who are not), it serves your weird non-unity function very well.

  34. 34
    Anthony K

    And I now expect to be totally ignored, or to be the target of what I’ve come to call the A+ rebuttal consisting of off the wall accusations.

    Then why show up to cry about feminist shrieking at all?

  35. 35
    Anthony K

    So, just so that we all absolutely understand the positions of andrewwilson and jenny6833a, it’s your contention that Atheism+, which grew out of a desire of some atheists to distance themselves from others (e.g. those who were being called cunts for over a year to distance from those who called them cunts), is hurting feminism? The social justice thing to do would be to continue to subject themselves to being called cunts?

    Do I have that right?

  36. 36
    Crommunist

    You might try calm, logical responses to objections instead of dismissing them with insults.

    Like the 1000 word post about it? Also, there was no insult in my comment. Here’s one: you’re a ninny. See the difference?

    And I now expect to be totally ignored, or to be the target of what I’ve come to call the A+ rebuttal consisting of off the wall accusations.

    Yes, that’s what happens when you say stupid things. People either ignore you or make fun of you. Weird how that works, eh?

  37. 37
    mynameischeese

    “But do you have any evidence to show that there is no genetic influence to people’s attitude.”

    So you want me to prove the non-existence of a gene on the Y chromosone that makes men bad at nursing. Um. You know that 1. you can’t prove the nonexistence of something. And 2. if you’re proposing that there’s a special gene that prevents men from being good at nursing, that the onus in on *you* to offer up some proof.

    “For example. There are no barriers to a man becoming a teacher or a nurse, yet there are vastly more women employed in those vocations.”

    Hilariously enough, a lot of people have written about this very thing without needing to resort to sex-gender essentialism. Apparently there are jobs that pay a lot better than nursing and teaching…fields that employ men disproportionately and pay them disproportionately. How about that?

    But do you have any evidence to show that there is no genetic influence to people’s attitude.

    For example. There are no barriers to a man becoming a teacher or a nurse, yet there are vastly more women employed in those vocations.

    But do you have any evidence to show that there is no genetic influence to people’s attitude.

    For example. There are no barriers to a man becoming a teacher or a nurse, yet there are vastly more women employed in those vocations.

    “Do you have some evidence to support your position?”

    Dude, I was just about to ask you the same thing, but I’m guessing your answer is going to be No.

  38. 38
    Crommunist

    It very much seems that way. I’ve got to say, it’s both the weirdest and dumbest objection to something I’ve ever come across.

  39. 39
    mynameischeese

    [copy and paste fail paragraphs 5 - 6. sorry!]

  40. 40
    andrewwilson

    I corrected myself in a later post. The default position is that both have an influence (unless there is some 3rd option) until someone proves beyond doubt that it is only environment or only genetics that play a part.

  41. 41
    KarenX

    People are very, very fixated on the idea of divisiveness. Yes, Atheisim+ is divisive. Everyone admits that–even the Atheism+ people (or the feminist skeptics and atheists forming women’s groups within skepticism, or the cultural minority skeptics and atheists forming their own groups, et cetera). Arguing about something so obvious is what’s frustrating and making conversations about it devolve, I think.

    What I don’t understand is why divisiveness is considered to be a net loss instead of a net gain. It’s basically just division of labor. It has benefits! There’s no actual problem with effectiveness or productivity when atheists focus on their own personal interests.

    So what’s really going on? Why has “divisiveness” been spun as a drawback instead of a perk?

  42. 42
    Lyra

    I want a forum where I can discuss social justice issues with other people who don’t believe in supernatural being or forces along with certain expected standards of behaviour. The nerve huh?

  43. 43
    mynameischeese

    Yeah. But as another commenter pointed out, that tells us pretty much nothing.

    But let’s approach this from another end: How would you *prove* that you’re living in a place with “equality of opportunity”? And how would you prove that a society does not have equality of opportunity? (because if it’s unfalsifiable, it’s kinda useless).

    If everything is all wishy-washy genes-and-environment-but-we-can-never-know-how-much-of-each, how does one know if one is in a society that has equality of opportunity or not?

  44. 44
    kbonn

    Well, obviously the trolls are against it, as they are against anything.

    But there are people who might disagree with the exact methods or priority of A+ who feel that they are being not listened to or dismissed as trolls. In this case it is bad.

    Divisiveness can be good, as long as it is done accurately. I am not convinced so far that it is being done in the fashion. I think far too many people are being swept out or dismissed when they shouldn’t be.

    Sweeping out Trolls, bigots and other ill-meaning people is a good thing, catching far too many well meaning people in the net is a bad thing.

  45. 45
    andrewwilson

    @mynameischeese:

    ” … If everything is all wishy-washy genes-and-environment-but-we-can-never-know-how-much-of-each, how does one know if one is in a society that has equality of opportunity or not … “.

    If it is the case that both genes and environment affect behaviour and attitudes (and there are studies that show genetics has a role and studies that show environment have a role) then that is the reality we have to deal with. How we feel about some finding has no effect on the truth of that finding but does give us a basis for finding a solution.

  46. 46
    Crommunist

    But there are people who might disagree with the exact methods or priority of A+ who feel that they are being not listened to or dismissed as trolls. In this case it is bad.

    What about in the case where they disagree, but for bad reasons? Reasons that have been addressed several times before, in writing? This happens a lot during discussions of evolution, where someone will come in and ask “but why are there still monkeys” ad nauseum, ignore all answers to their questions (or modify those questions in some trivial way that doesn’t reflect the fact they’ve been answered). It happens in racial discussions too, as well as gender ones. Those people don’t feel like they’re “trolls”, nor do they feel like they’re being “listened to”, but their questions/contentions are bad ones.

    I haven’t been paying much attention to the atheism+ thing, but based on my prior experience in these kinds of discussions I would not be shocked at all to learn that the vast majority of people who “aren’t being listened to because they have disagreements” are, in fact, asking why there are still monkeys.

  47. 47
    mynameischeese

    You didn’t answer my question about how one would know if they are living in a society with equality of opportunity or not.

  48. 48
    kagerato

    It does seem to be something like that. The thing is, if they could actually show evidence for how the formation of a new group harms the existing social justice movement, then they’d actually have a case. The whole contention is stalled out at stage one because it’s always presented merely as an assertion instead of empirically.

    Granted, we can show how the formation of groups has sometimes taken (transferred) members from one place to another. However, that’s not the item to be proved. The topic of interest is whether this movement increases, decreases, or does nothing to the rate of achievement for the particular goals of social justice.

  49. 49
    khms

    Not so strange, it seems to me, just a bit short-sighted. The idea that it is easier to advance topic a if you’re not trying to advance topic b at the same time is not so strange. They’re just not seeing (or acknowledging) that a and b are actually parts of one and the same basic idea, and that they’re both fighting against the same attitudes, and that therefore they cannot really win alone, and are stronger together.

    Of course, there’s also the point that as of yet, we don’t know if there will ever be actions branded as A+, apart from being a discussion platform. It is entirely possible that any actual actions will take place under different branding. (Or not, of course. Much too early to say for sure.)

    In any case, it is certainly correct that the majority of the howling seems to come from a different songbook.

  50. 50
    andrewwilson

    I did. I said, just because the answer is messy, or not what we want to hear, or results in a system that might not be completely measureable to our satisfaction, that wouldn’t alter the truth of it.

    Who’s to say it wouldn’t be measurable anyway? And even if it wasn’t measurable, then that’s the way things would be. Messy and shades of grey, like the real world usually is.

  51. 51
    kagerato

    I’d like to point out you’re using a lot of oversimplified thinking. Assuming that the causes of everything are these nebulous categories “genes” and “environment” is not particularly insightful; it’s just restating the old nature/nurture false dichotomy.

    First, genes aren’t actually distinct from the environment. Genes are formed and evolve in an an environment. It’s actually impossible to even know what genes will be active and what their expression looks like without studying the environment they exist and developed in. There’s an entire field of study about this: epigenetics.

    Second, “environment” includes such a massive number of things that it may as well be equivalent to “everything”. By this loose thinking, human will is environment. Culture is environment. Technology is environment. Wars, slavery, and genocide are environment. Natural disasters are environment. Resource availability is environment. Even genes are just part of the environment. The utter lack of specificity makes ascribing the cause of anything to environment simply pointless.

    Third, how do you measure equality of opportunity without measuring outcomes? I’ve never understood that and it always seemed rather incoherent. Even if you take a few steps back from occupations and look at education, wealth, role models, media messages, and so forth — isn’t that just examining the outcomes of precursors instead?

  52. 52
    kagerato

    You dodged the question again there. What factors identify equality of opportunity? Obviously, you’re not allowed to list anything that can be fairly described as an outcome, because you’ve philosophically eliminated that as being unfair. Unless you’d like to renounce that particular premise as being foolish, which would be wise.

  53. 53
    mynameischeese

    You said in an earlier comment that you’re working toward (and A+ should be working toward) “equality of opportunity.” Now you’re telling me that there’s no way to know if you’ve arrived at “equality of opportunity” or if you’ve moved further away from it because it may not be measurable and there are messy shades of grey and all that.

  54. 54
    Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle

    Chill gurls gotta pretend nothing’s wrong to get head pats from the boys.

  55. 55
    mythbri

    @jennynumbers

    I find it extremely hard to believe that you are honestly, truly, cross-my-heart-and-hope-to-die believe that:

    unpopular idea like radical 3rd wave (or 33rd wave, or whatever) feminism is bound to do more far more harm than good to both

    Because it doesn’t reflect an understanding that third wave feminism and radical feminism are two separate types of feminism. Conflating the two implies to me that you don’t actually know what either of those types actually are (especially when expressed with the “or whatever” you tacked on at the end).

    So how can I believe that you are qualified to understand the oh-so-dreadful consequences of allowing some people to conflate their atheism and feminism under a specific label (Atheism +) if you don’t even understand what it is? Wouldn’t that understanding be an integral part of your risk management matrix?

    And this:

    Individual atheists should support social causes of their individual choice, but not under the banner of atheism or some subset thereof. Individual feminists should, if they so wish, support atheism, but not under the banner of feminism.

    Simply does not seem workable in any variation, including this one.

    “Individual feminists should support the separation of church and state, science education, and promoting a secular society, but not under the banner of feminism nor some subset thereof (even including feminists who are also atheists? Really?). Individual atheists should, if they so wish, support feminism, but not under the banner of atheism (even including the atheists who are also feminists? Really?)”

    I’m an atheist and feminist, and a feminist and an atheist. The one informs the other. There are a lot of over-lapping causes between the two identities as I incorporate them into my own. Is it this way for everybody? No. But I am capable of holding more than one cause in my head, and I see no reason to separate them. By your logic, in order to achieve purity of separation between feminism and atheism, I’d have to create a spreadsheet to make sure that my time thinking about each doesn’t overlap.

    No one’s saying that anyone has to join Atheism +. But saying that atheism has to be completely separate from any other school of thought is a denial of my own experience.

    If you’re not a feminist, if you don’t want to be part of Atheism +, if you just don’t rank social justice causes to be as important to you as other things, then that is completely fine.

    But don’t presume to tell me what I can or can’t do with my atheism and feminism.

  56. 56
    raethfall

    This! This so hard it hurts! Thank you Crommunist for eloquently stating exactly what I was trying to put into words.

  57. 57
    Crommunist

    That’s why they pay me the big bucks

  58. 58
    hall_of_rage

    You keep using the same example about nursing, but have you ever taken a hard look at what happens in nursing fields? Male nurses are promoted so disproportionately, even when less qualified on paper, that it’s ridiculous, and has been given a name: the “glass elevator.” Men who do work thought of as “women’s work” are often treated as if they are so special for making that choice that they are exceptionally talented. For fuck’s sake. It’s not about “natural qualifications”. Do some research and try again.

  59. 59
    baal

    I read what Crommunist wrote and I find my self agreeing with the vast majority of it. I read what Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle gets out of the same phrase and think, why would I ever associate myself with someone so hung up on sarcasm and weird overstatement (blunt clarity, not sure how to characterize the caricature).

    If I’m to believe what I see from the folks who write with passion but not vitriol (OP), I shouldn’t find fault with the comment from Illuminata (and a bunch more, Illuminata’s post is the first one and illustrates the point). That said, I cannot get past the tone or apparent lambasting of unlimited groups (or I’m magically supposed to limit negative comments or abusiveness to only some deserving group that I’m to magically intuit).

    I can’t intellectually get from OP to first comment. The emotion is too unspecific in its target. Does the first comment really fall into the ambit of the OP?

  60. 60
    lirael_abhorsen

    Whaaaaaat?

    Social justice groups are already subdivided. They consist of different people and subgroups, they work on different issues. Aside from the other reasons for this, division of labor is necessary, or we’d never get anything done. Everybody can’t work on everything with everybody at once.

    Since you seem to be interested in social justice, are you familiar with the idea of intersectionality? That is, that it’s not just worthwhile to look at racism, sexism, etc, but also to look at the ways in which race and gender intersect, in which gender and class intersect, in which class and disability intersect, etc? A+ is intersectionality. It’s looking at the intersection of atheism and issues like race, gender, sexual orientation, and class – specifically, looking at those issues in the wider society through an atheistic lens, and looking at how they play out within the atheist community. I don’t think there’s currently a glut of organizations and movements looking at these particular intersectionalities.

  61. 61
    kbonn

    Sorry Crommunist, this a reply to you, though I don’t seem to be able to reply directly to your post.

    I certainly get what you mean, some of them might very well be asking “why are there still monkeys?” However, I hope(however naively) that in an skeptical and rational community, that if those people asking are not dismissed immediately, they might learn something and/or actually start to understand why there are in fact, still monkeys around.

    It is hard for me, as I am still a relative newcomer to the whole scene, so understanding how things have been going since last year/elevator-gate is difficult. (You could say I’ve had the ‘privilege’ of not having to deal with all that shit until just recently.)

    My personal opinion is that too many people are being either dismissed, or directed to an educational forum in a way that makes the person being directed feel dismissed. Or that because they might not have the requisite education on the subject that their point is being ignored. I think this is more common when we are talking about privilege, it can be a tough thing to be introduced to, particularly in the middle of a passionate discussion or heated argument. Talking about it in a way that is rather flippant or short with someone, like “your privilege is showing” is probably fine when you know the person you are talking to. But if that is the first time someone has seen it brought up, or the first time they are confronted with it themselves, it can make a difficult concept seem belittling or make the person feel ignored. Rather than then educating themselves of considering what is being told to them “Have you considered this position/argument from the perspective of someone less privileged than yourself”. They see it as the messenger being attacked rather than the message(IE “So I am wrong because I am a White male!!!), and might reply in kind.

    In any case, I got a little OT there, but my point I suppose is this. While I understand that constantly educating people and/or expending effort to communicate subjects like privilege are difficult and tiring(draining might be a better word), how else is the message going to get across? Is everyone who is getting turned off from A+ or FtB a misogynist or an asshole? I doubt it! Couldn’t more of these people be our allies?

    I often get told I am a tone troll when I raise these points. I am not trying to say “You are doing it wrong”, but just asking “How can we do better?”.

    In any case, I enjoy your posts very much and always find them interesting.

  62. 62
    Crommunist

    The relationship between bloggers and commenters is indeed a strange one. IGitBB is using a shorthand cut to the end of an argument, based on the understanding that I already understand the steps in logic that ze took from my post to hir comment (and I do). My posts tend to be, although I am not always successful at this, geared toward people who are where I was around 5 years ago (logical, sympathetic, but skeptical). This makes it a lot easier to agree with me, I hope.

    I find this too with my black friends when I am in mixed company. I will make a comment that I wouldn’t dream of making outside the context of a group of people who don’t have certain crucial things in their lived experience, and then quickly realize that not everyone in the group understands all of the subtext and will agonize over whether or not I need to give a full explanation of all the other stuff I said without saying it. Speaking in shorthand is useful and time-saving when everyone’s operating from a position of shared understanding, but it can be confusing, offputting, and occasionally offensive when spoken in the presence of those who aren’t there yet.

    So yeah, I can see where your discomfiture comes from. I’d suggest confronting IGitBB on it directly rather than obliquely, but I don’t really police comments that much.

  63. 63
    Crommunist

    As far as I know, the atheism+ website has a “101″ section for exactly these kinds of conversations in a more-or-less judgment-free environment. I don’t think it’s fair to expect every person at every time to have the emotional energy to take privilege head-on, so the fact that some people are punchy is not a fair criticism of the group as a whole. I’m not always inclined to hand-hold and explain to every “race realist” under the sun why welfare isn’t 21st-century reparations, and I am specifically someone who tries to educate people on these topics.

    One of the hardest things to learn when you are a member of a privileged group is that, despite how badly you might want to learn from low-status groups (or ‘teach’ them where they’re failing, which is worse), sometimes you’re going to have to back off and leave with a question unanswered or an issue unaddressed. To put it another way, it’s not the ‘job’ of the oppressed to teach the oppressors. It usually turns out to be their (our) responsibility, which is not quite the same thing, but that’s an unfortunate reality.

  64. 64
    kbonn

    Well put. I certainly don’t expect everyone to be able to take it on every time it comes up. I was partly trying to describe(perhaps poorly) where this idea of divisiveness of A+ comes from, not that it is justified.

    I think it is a difficult problem. I just think that many people are being turned off from A+ when they shouldn’t be.

  65. 65
    Crommunist

    Undoubtedly. That is not unique to atheism+ – a lot of cis folks are turned off by trans feminism, a lot of white folks feel put out by anti-racists, and I’m sure I don’t need to work too hard to convince you that there are men who are hostile to feminism. Many of these people probably agree with 90% of what is being said, but can’t get past one or two things where they feel they’re being unjustly attacked by the mere articulation of the underlying ideology.

    The question becomes whether or not that’s a failing of those who are doing the articulating, or those who haven’t yet learned to put their own privilege aside long enough to hear what is being said. I don’t think there exists a ‘right way’ to have this conversation (efficacy depends so highly on the individuals involved), which is why I think it’s good to have lots of voices defending similar positions.

  66. 66
    kbonn

    Yes, exactly. In your post “What’s in a name” you mention the whole part about ‘I am not my ideas’ and how ideas being part of ones sense of self can make it harder to shake these ideas.

    I think part of the issue with a lot of the discussions that happen both here and on A+ forums involve privilege, specifically those who are lacking privilege in one area or another. Many (lets say strait white guys) can often feel that they are being told that they are wrong because they are strait white guys, or that they aren’t welcome due to their status. Certainly some/most of the blame is on them, but I think it is very important not to introduce people to the concept in a manner than can be perceived as hostile or rude. It can be hard to accept “You can’t know what this is like, because you are man/white/strait/cis” when that is exactly what is understood. Nevermind if it is presented in a way that sounds more like “You are wrong, because you are a man/white/strait/cis.”

    Even when it comes across perfectly, you can still feel rather dumb about the situation that caused it to arise (I did). It isn’t pleasant. It just needs to be put in a way that is non-confrontational.

  67. 67
    Crommunist

    No. No. No no no no no.

    You keep harping on this “non-confrontational” thing, and how people just need to be nicer. It’s wrong EVERY TIME YOU SAY IT, but you keep saying it.

    Even when it comes across perfectly, you can still feel rather dumb about the situation that caused it to arise

    You defeat YOUR OWN ARGUMENT when you say stuff like this. All the sugar-coating in the world isn’t enough to prevent people from finding ways to duck out of the conversation. The problem is NOT that oppressed groups aren’t being nice enough to members of the majority – the problem is that the majority can’t see past their own butthurt enough to grasp that THEY ARE PART OF THE PROBLEM.

    No. You’re wrong. Stop it.

  68. 68
    andrewwilson

    1. Yes, technically speaking, genes are influenced by the environment. But there is very little anyone can do about the compliment if genes they have. Even with the latest technology. That is my point. Our genetic compliment is part of what makes us, us. I known there is a field called epigenetics. My 1st degree was in biochemistry. Just because we don’t know everything doesn’t mean you can dismiss anything. Someone born with XX will definitely be physically(proteomically) a woman. Anyone born with XY will definitely be a man (unless the have androgen insensitivity syndrome). To think that our genetic makeup *doesn’t* also effect our physical brain and affect our behaviours and attitudes, and consequently what skillsets we might have is verging on magical thinking.

    2. I agree that the environment is a massive thing and has all sorts of effects on a human. But that effect id based on various genetic predispoitions (see point 1).

    3. You don’t measure equality of opportunity. You regulate for it. Things like CVs being anonymised when given to employment panels etc are one way, off the top of my head, that could be done.

    Also, how do you actually know, given that our genetics has an influence on our skillset, that the numbers of men and women in any particular job at any particular level should be 50/50?

    Are you fighting for there to be a 50/50 split in the number of male/female coal miners for instance?

    There should be no barriers to any woman who wants to, becoming a coal miner, but are you really advocating that a 50/50 split should be advocated?

  69. 69
    Crommunist

    Someone born with XX will definitely be physically(proteomically) a woman. Anyone born with XY will definitely be a man (unless the have androgen insensitivity syndrome).

    QFtheoppositeofT

  70. 70
    kbonn

    Alright, I am not sure I came across as I intended.

    I don’t think the problem lies with the oppressed or the minority. I hope that isn’t how I’ve come across.

    I also want to clarify, that what I am primarily discussing is someones initial exposure to some of these discussions or understanding their own privilege. Not repeated discussions regarding the subject, where they have presumably had several chances to learn more about the subject matter. I am not sure this makes a difference(to you, or at all), but my thought (at least at this time) is that it does.

    At a time when someone first comes up against it and/or reveals their privilege in regard to a particular discussion, are they part of the problem? Someone could easily show that they are blinded by their privilege in regard to a subject without being an asshole. I am not suggesting being nice to assholes.

    In any case, I can concede that I am perhaps being too optimistic in regards to people coming around. I certainly haven’t been a part of this discussion nearly as long as many posters and commenters here, but even in the short time I have been here, people seem to be getting more and more dug in and it looks like things are going to get worse before they get better.

  71. 71
    Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle

    read what Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle gets out of the same phrase and think, why would I ever associate myself with someone so hung up on sarcasm and weird overstatement (blunt clarity, not sure how to characterize the caricature).

    I’m confused. You correctly identify that its sarcasm and overstatement, yet this upset you because . . . . .. I have no idea.

    Crommunist gets it exactly right in his response to you. I’m “using a shorthand cut to the end of an argument, based on the understanding that I already understand the steps in logic that ze took from my post to hir comment (and I do).”

    IOW, my comments are generally not concerned with the audience members who lack the understanding of the background, concepts, etc. Because, frankly, I’m bored to fucking death of having 101-level derails with people who have no real desire to understand. TO BE CLEAR: I’m not saying YOU have no desire to understand, just that in my experience, people who complain about my “tone” rarely do.

    And, to be honest, if what I say makes you uncomfortable -good. That could mean it touched on something you need to examine. And i’m all about that.

    For example: when i first started reading anti-racism blogs I stepped my foot right in plenty of times with “I’m white and I’m not like that!” etc. And, even went as far as you did with wondering why i’d want to be involved with people who say the things that those blogs said.

    That was because I was (and still am to varying degreess) blinded by privilege. What they said and how they said it made me uncomfortable because it made me think of things I either didn’t want to think or had never thought before. Uncomfortable, upsetting and jarring experience.

    And I wouldn’t trade it now for the entire universe.

  72. 72
    Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle

    I shouldn’t find fault with the comment from Illuminata (and a bunch more, Illuminata’s post is the first one and illustrates the point).

    P.S. I entirely disagree. Find fault with it, if you feel there’s fault with it, but explain yourself and give me the opportunity to do the same. By asking me directly.

  73. 73
    andrewwilson

    @Crommunist

    What do you mean by “QFtheoppositeofT”?

  74. 74
    Crommunist

    QFT = Quoted for Truth

    I am quoting that fragment of your statement because it isn’t true. You may be fascinated to do some reading in the wonderful world of gender essentialism and realize that the arguments you’re making are both sociologically and biochemically antiquated.

  75. 75
    andrewwilson

    What is untrue about XX -> proteomically female and XY -> proteomically male?

  76. 76
    mynameischeese

    “You don’t measure equality of opportunity. You regulate for it.”

    How can you regulate for something you can’t measure? You’d never be able to make a rational judgement about whether the regulation is effective or not.

    Plus the example you give is complete BS since most jobs that require a CV will also require an interview. And when it comes to pay raises, it wouldn’t work because you don’t just remain anonymous once you have a job. You don’t go to work with a bag over your head to hide your identity.

  77. 77
    Crommunist

    ‘Man’ and ‘Woman’ are social constructs that are definitely correlated with chromosome, but not exclusively so, and certainly not in the way you wish to use in your argument.

  78. 78
    andrewwilson

    @Crommunist

    “‘Man’ and ‘Woman’ are social constructs”.

    LOL.

    If that is your level of argumentation you are stooping to then we are finished here.

  79. 79
    Crommunist

    Thank fuck. If I had known it would be that easy to get rid of you, I would have said that right away.

  80. 80
    andrewwilson

    Interesting to know your aim was to get rid of me rather than trying to find the truth. Oh well.

    Bye.

  81. 81
    Crommunist

    Not my aim, just a fun bonus.

  82. 82
    kagerato

    [andrewwilson]: But there is very little anyone can do about the compliment if genes they have. Even with the latest technology. That is my point. Our genetic compliment is part of what makes us, us. [...] Just because we don’t know everything doesn’t mean you can dismiss anything.

    How does suggesting a genetic influence on behavior imply that men and women are incapable of the same occupations? Or inherently inclined towards different occupations? You’re having some trouble constructing a logically valid argument here. I will help by suggesting that you need to start by demonstrating a broadly observable genetic difference between men and women which has been causally linked to the behaviors you find justifiably segregated.

    Without that, basically you’re using a kind of weak genetic determinism as a premise. As to that last line, it’s a form of know-nothingism. “The fact that my argument has no supporting evidence is no reason to dismiss it!” Sadly, yes.

    Someone born with XX will definitely be physically(proteomically) a woman. Anyone born with XY will definitely be a man (unless the have androgen insensitivity syndrome).

    You’ve apparently not yet heard of transgender people. They do exist. These inaccurate oversimplifications have caused serious harm to them in the past and continue to do so in the present.

    Perhaps you were trying to refer to sex, in which case you need to use the words male and female. Do note that there are intersexual people.

    To think that our genetic makeup *doesn’t* also effect our physical brain and affect our behaviours and attitudes, and consequently what skillsets we might have is verging on magical thinking.

    No one argued that. Of course genes have some influence on the brain, behavior, and attitudes. What you’re presenting is an entirely different perspective — that men and women are fundamentally segregated (by genes or whatever else) such that they are inherently different from birth. Actual study of men and women, especially changes from the historical perspective, have proven the exact opposite. Whenever we thought gender segregation was the product of an actual hard-barrier low-level difference between men and women, it turned out to be wrong. All measures of any difference, whether physical or intellectual, have shown greater variation within each sex than between them.

    I would expect, considering your confidence, that you’d have presented some degree of evidence for your inherent differences hypothesis by now. Repeated requests receive nothing. Why is that?

    I agree that the environment is a massive thing and has all sorts of effects on a human. But that effect id based on various genetic predispoitions (see point 1).

    Environment is based on genetics? Am I reading you correctly? If so, that’s exactly backwards. Environment controls gene expression (and indeed, gene content). As I said, the nebulous term “environment” really explains nothing in any concrete sense.

    Maybe you were trying to say that environmental forces interact with genes, in which case, yes, obviously. That doesn’t prove any of your previous assertions, or even begin to support them.

    You don’t measure equality of opportunity. You regulate for it. Things like CVs being anonymised when given to employment panels etc are one way, off the top of my head, that could be done.

    Deciding not to measure it is exactly the same in practice as claiming gender/race/wealth/etc blindness. “I don’t see gender.” Sure. You don’t see it because you have no intent to do so. If you don’t measure it, you have no possible way to know that you are wrong. That’s extremely convenient if you happen to be in the group(s) benefiting from the status quo.

    Also, how do you actually know, given that our genetics has an influence on our skillset, that the numbers of men and women in any particular job at any particular level should be 50/50?

    Didn’t Crom explain the null hypothesis to you earlier? You don’t get to assert, before any study or experience, that there is an inherent difference in the sexes attributable solely to genes (or any other natural system). That gets challenged real quick around here, in case you hadn’t noticed.

    Would you accept a drug that the manufacturer claimed work, on the basis that “you can’t disprove it doesn’t?” That’s your logic here. The positive claim is the one that has to be supported. Trying to make the opposition demonstrate the negative claim, which is actually the null hypothesis, is reversing the burden of proof.

    However, I do note that there’s plenty of historical and cross-cultural evidence that perceived and actual differences between men and women were the result of educational, social, cultural, economic, political, and technological institutions. Since you don’t seem to have any confidence in this, try finding a single difference you see which has not dramatically changed (if not outright disappeared) over time. Typically, you won’t need to go any further back than the early 20th century to show the dissolution of what nearly everyone once believed were “inherent differences”.

    Are you fighting for there to be a 50/50 split in the number of male/female coal miners for instance?

    There should be no barriers to any woman who wants to, becoming a coal miner, but are you really advocating that a 50/50 split should be advocated?

    No, I don’t care about the gender balance in coal mining. It’s a dying industry that won’t continue, and that makes it completely irrelevant to just about any discussion.

    Let’s talk about something relevant, like STEM. I do advocate for an even gender balance in all the sciences, engineering, and mathematics. The fact that some fields, including physics, computer science, and most sub-fields in math are male dominated is a real and pertinent issue. Something is broken here, and if you don’t allow for the factors I’ve described to explain it then the onus is on you to present the evidence for your hypothesis.

    The vast majority of the arguments I’ve seen that believe there’s nothing wrong with gender imbalance in STEM rely either on broken “separate but equal” irrationality and/or on the implicit belief that women are somehow intellectually inferior. They leave no provision or acceptance for the possibility that gender and skills have any meaningful level of social construction, and do not attempt to analyze the causes of the phenomena at all. We can safely call this pattern a “just-so” ad-hoc rationalization.

  83. 83
    kagerato

    What ‘level’ of argumentation is that? Did this comment serve any purpose other than act as a functional insult — “ha ha you sooo stupid, you don’t know what man and woman is”?

    Please do some research on gender before coming back, if, indeed you decide not to stick the flounce. Man and woman are not synonyms of male and female. Even male and female are not some perfect natural construct, with no variation, intersection, or exclusion, either.

  84. 84
    mildlymagnificent

    @andrewwilson

    Teaching and nursing – women do them better? Innately?

    I’m old enough that when I went to primary school 50+ years ago there were _plenty_ of men teaching there. There’ve been no genetic changes in humans in the space of a generation or so, but something’s changed. Nowadays, no-one would be surprised to find no men at all teaching in their local primary school. It wouldn’t be that wages have gone down as more women entered the profession and more and more men have chosen better paying, higher status occupations. Could it?

    Just think about the pay and conditions for doctors in the old USSR. Not much prestige and very little pay. Why? Maybe it was because in the USSR this profession was dominated by women. As for men and nursing. What man in his right mind would have taken a job as a nurse 20, or even 10, years ago when they’d get better pay with less qualifications (and no non-earning study years) for driving an ambulance?

    It’s entirely possible that your thesis about innate abilities might have some validity. But there’s an awful lot of history of labour and economics you’d have to get past before you’d have any chance of demonstrating it.

  85. 85
    andrewwilson

    @mynameischeese:

    ” … No, I don’t care about the gender balance in coal mining. … “.

    ” … I do advocate for an even gender balance in all the sciences, engineering, and mathematics … ”

    Ha! There’s the root of the problem. Coal mining may be a dying industry but that was just one example of a dangerous profession that is done by way more men than women. If you want a better example, try gold mining, quarrying, ore mining of any type.

    You are quite happy to fight for equality for women in jobs like maths etc (which I’m all for) but you are also quite happy for men to do the physically dangerous jobs. And when I say danger I mean a chance of death.

    Why don’t you care that many more men do the dangerous jobs?

  86. 86
    andrewwilson

    That was to @kagerato not @mynameischeese

  87. 87
    mynameischeese

    You replied to the wrong person, but I’m going to respond anyway.

    Women coal miners:
    http://preview.tinyurl.com/9dwmvom
    http://preview.tinyurl.com/96bslzs
    http://preview.tinyurl.com/9p6oxts
    http://preview.tinyurl.com/9pbhmzj

    Obviously women are capable of coal mining and other dangerous jobs. There’s nothing about a XX that prevents a person from doing such a job.

    And I suppose you must realise that women have been fighting for the right to do dangerous jobs, like soldiering or being astronauts or coalminers, across history, yes? So why are you making up a BS version of history where women sat at home and were content to let the menfolk do the coalmining and the astronauteering when in fact women have been doing these jobs and have been fighting to do these jobs in greater numbers and for equal pay, for as long as these jobs have existed?

  88. 88
    andrewwilson

    I did not, at any point, say women weren’t capable of doing these jobs or that women weren’t fighting to do these jobs.

    I asked why aren’t you fighting for a 50/50 split in the numbers of men/women doing these jobs in the same way you are for computing/maths/sciences etc?

    @kagerato said they weren’t interested in that.

  89. 89
    mynameischeese

    “I asked why aren’t you fighting for a 50/50 split in the numbers of men/women doing these jobs in the same way you are for computing/maths/sciences etc?”

    And I answered: Women HAVE ALWAYS fought to go into these fields. Why are you asking why women don’t fight to go into dangerous occupations when they have, in actual fact, always done so?

    But let’s review your position in this conversation. You started out saying, “Many atheists are completely for the aims of Atheism Plus (as am I)”

    But it’s become clear that you are NOT for the aims of Atheism +. 1. You subscribe to sex/gender essentialism, so you’re clearly not concerned with the rights of trans people. 2. You’re copying and pasting arguments from the MRA playbook and you are not willing to do even superficial research into the stuff you’re asserting (about male nurses, for example), so you’re clearly not interested in feminism.

    You also said, “as long as you are fighting for equality of opportunity,” and then, through your comments, you defined this fighting as turning a blind eye to inequality and asserting that there is no way to measure it.

    If only you had told the truth about your position from the begining: You are not at all interested in the aims of A+ and you’d prefer if we all adopted your colour/gender-blind do-nothing, pretend-to-see nothing position.

    And this is why I need Atheism +. I need some kind of shorthand to tell people that Andrew MRA Wilson and I might both lack belief in a deity, but that’s where the similarity ends.

  90. 90
    kagerato

    Now you’re just playing “gotcha” games. I told you why I don’t care about coal mining, and you then decide that my real motivation is some kind of Middle Ages chivalry.

    Similarly, I don’t pay any attention to gold mining. It’s not a growth industry and there’s not going to be many new jobs to be found there. You might want to do a little research into resource scarcity if you don’t understand the trend there.

    I’m perfectly happy to have an even gender split in any dangerous occupation. Accomplishing that in a dying or dead industry is damn near impossible, however, unless you want to fire some of the men in order to replace them with women. Was that your next gotcha?

    It’s extremely unlikely we will have an even division of labor in danger zone jobs such a police work, firefighting, and the military so long as patriarchal attitudes are dominant. The overemphasis on peak strength, which is only a modest component of the job itself, is a good example of how misconceptions drive away people. (Endurance, alertness, hands-eye coordination, and determination are all higher priority traits.) Most men and women alike are not well suited to these occupations, and the vast majority are not in the kind of mental and physical shape to make them optimal choices. More importantly, the stereotyping that created gender segregation in the first place also contributes to a heavy atmosphere that makes it socially difficult for any “outsider” to make substantial inroads.

    That’s not to say that’s it’s impossible to make progress, of course. It does imply, though, that positive and proactive measures to incorporate more minorities are necessary to see any substantial difference over a short time frame.

    By the way, you never provided any empirical observations which would allow for identifying equality of opportunity, is it now your conclusion that doing so is impossible?

  91. 91
    smhll

    Someone could easily show that they are blinded by their privilege in regard to a subject without being an asshole.

    Honestly, I don’t think this is true. Often people who are lack awareness of someone else’s reality due to privilege are quite stubborn and tend to treat the other person as if they are lying or exaggerating. This is quite offensive! And being patient and polite can often feel like banging one’s head against the wall. Dismissiveness is a real thing, and marginalized people think their polite comments get dismissed more than a privileged person’s comments. And are sometimes pissed about this.

    The purpose of an Education Forum on the Atheism+ boards is to have other conversations that can move past the 101 level without having to stop and spend 8 or more posts defining terms every time an unfamiliar term comes up. No rational class in, say, Philosophy, would encourage new people to wander in any day of the week throughout the year and ask a beginning question in the middle of a class discussion. Different discussions cater to the needs of different people. Please don’t insist that every discussion in every forum be tailored for beginners. (When I’m over my head in Philosophy discussions, I either use Google or leave. And I bought a book on critical thinking.) One can expect Google and Siri to answer unlimited questions. It is not fair to expect other people to use their time to provide that kind of service. (Yes, being rude can take the same amount of time as being polite. Being terse and referring someone to a FAQ does save time.)

  92. 92
    kbonn

    @smhll

    Sorry, I didn’t mean to suggest that every discussion should cater to introductory level stuff. Nor do I think that any/ever discussion should be derailed in order to explain things to a person who is clearly new to the material being discussed.
    I don’t think I actually did say anything of the sort.
    The classroom analogy is good, but your particular example is poor. This is more like a freshmen accidently signing up for the wrong class or going to the wrong class on a random day.
    The student then tries to contribute, but is not prepared to do so, this could include making simple mistakes, gross misunderstanding of the subject matter, and/or possible insulting some members of the class depending on what type of class it is. Now, assuming that the contribution wasn’t cruel or hatefully directed at other classmates. What should the Instructor do? Clearly they want to remove the student and move on with the discussion, but does it help to embarrass the student in question, or call him/her and asshole? In two years, that student might contribute a lot to that particular class. Now, if the student starts getting into verbal spats and refuses to leave, that is a different situation.

    One thing I think that rarely gets discussed is the age of people who wander into these conversations for the first time. I remember quite well how fucking smart I thought I was when I was 15-16 years old. Never-mind how little world experience I had and how little I knew in reality. Not sure how 15 year old me would have responded to the idea of privilege in regards to myself, especially if I thought I was being called stupid or dismissed for being a male.

  93. 93
    Crommunist

    Imagine this was a third-year biology lecture at BYU. A biology class where home-schooled freshman fundamentalist Christians regularly showed up and took up valuable instruction time asking basic-level questions that either had nothing to do with the material taught in the class, or (more regularly) were sneeringly designed to show the professor that hir field was illegitimate and that ze should be fired. Imagine that the professor had to deal with these questions not only from belligerent students, but from professors in other fields like physics and algebra. Imagine these questions were often personal attacks (“so are you saying your mother was a monkey? Well maybe yours was, but mine wasn’t!”)

    Now ask the question again of yourself. How would you expect the instructor to respond? Now ask if your expectation is reasonable. Ask if the onus to be polite and respectful and actually listen to what is being said lies on the student rather than the teacher. Ask if you’re expecting the instructor to demonstrate superhuman magnanimity to every interloper who walks into the room without having done the preparatory readings.

  94. 94
    andrewwilson

    @mynameischeese

    I have nothing to do with the MRA. Lets get that straight once and for all. I am not guilty of “copying and pasting arguments from the MRA playbook”.

    I do not espouse gender essentialism. Notice I said “proteomically”. That is an accurate biological statement. Yes there are trans people. Most of them will also have an XY or XX chromosome, but the are proteomically male or female. Trans references how they see themselves and how we should see them, not how they are biologically or genetically.

    I am completely interested in equality. Our disagreement is about how to achieve it. Your automatic reaction to assume I am from the MRA is disingenuous and, to be honest, somewhat insulting.

  95. 95
    andrewwilson

    @kagerato

    ” … Similarly, I don’t pay any attention to gold mining. It’s not a growth industry and there’s not going to be many new jobs to be found there. You might want to do a little research into resource scarcity if you don’t understand the trend there. … “.

    Mining in general and ore mining in particular is, in fact, a growth industry. Where do you think all the precious metals for phones, tablets and computers comes from?

    ” … It’s extremely unlikely we will have an even division of labor in danger zone jobs such a police work, firefighting, and the military so long as patriarchal attitudes are dominant. … ”

    So, when there are more men in a particular job than women (regardless of the danger of that job), that’s because of the patriarchy and when there are more women than men in a particular job, that’s because of the patriarchy too?

  96. 96
    mynameischeese

    “I am completely interested in equality. Our disagreement is about how to achieve it.”

    Nope. You are not interested. You insisted that you can not measure for equality. You insisted that one cannot take into account outcomes when looking at social policy, dodged questions about how to measure progress, then insisted that you cannot measure it.

    And the comparison between you and other MRAs wasn’t automatic. I waited until *after* you posted your little argument that women don’t fight to do dangerous jobs (despite the fact that the do and always have). That old chesnut is a typical MRA-style argument. Along with your unjustified, unresearched assertions about teachers and nurses.

    Numerous commenters have asked you for your alternative approach to social justice and you’ve failed to lay it down for us…because you don’t have one. It’s clear that your real objection to A+ is that you’re anti-feminist.

    No doubt you will now whinge to some sympathetic MRA anti-A+ers on reddit about how people like like me just can’t handle your [nonexistant] alternative approach to social justice because we don’t like “dissent.”

  97. 97
    mynameischeese

    @andrewwilson

    “So, when there are more men in a particular job than women (regardless of the danger of that job), that’s because of the patriarchy and when there are more women than men in a particular job, that’s because of the patriarchy too?”

    Your tiny little brain can’t handle taking into account the fact male-dominated fields tend to pay better than female-dominated fields, can it? It also seems unwilling to accept that women still want to do dangerous jobs and are capable of doing them, but the disparity is there because of discrimination.

    But of course, that’s all beside the point. The main thing that I took away from your comment is that you’re against the theory of patriarchy fullstop, but you’re not going to propose an alternative theory to explain gender discrimination (because, as revealed in earlier comments, you don’t think equality can be measured). So again, we must assume that you dislike feminism and social justice and that is the real reason you object to atheism +.

  98. 98
    kbonn

    I can concede that the weight of it being repeated over and over is not something I have been subjected to in regards to any topic. I totally get that it can really wear someone down. But is that the fault of a single student who doesn’t make personal attacks and isn’t intentionally hurtful and doesn’t direct hatred at anyone in particular. (Even though, through ignorance or as a result of privilege, does upset or hurt one of more individuals). Does that mean that this new interloper should be responded to in an overly rude and/or insulting, hurtful manner?

    It is a difficult situation. I certainly don’t blame the professor for being worn down. Nor am I suggesting that obvious insults should be put up with. I just read an article that I think puts my concerns better than I have put them. Linked to on A+, Here

    I certainly don’t expect that compassion can be shown to every “George” all the time. I responded to the discussion in regards to the A+ forum…

    “I think it is one of the main difficulties within the community now. Balancing safe space for the oppressed groups,(which is often made possible by a lack of patience for people like George), with bringing more people like George over to our side, (which of course requires more patience for George and compassion for the difficult process he is going through). I think some people(myself included) who try to talk more about the second side of it, are often seen as tone trolls, or threatening the safe space. It is very possible that I am giving too much importance to the latter part at the expense of the first. I think it is hard to get the balance right.”

    I would be interested on your thoughts about the article.

  99. 99
    Crommunist

    I want to caution you over your now twice-repeated argument from “intention”. It matters little what someone “intended” to do when it comes to hurting others. The hurt is still done, all the person saying “I didn’t mean it” is doing is asking for the ability to hurt others and then not have to face any responsibility for it.

    I look at this on a strictly contingent basis. IF your goal is to reach out to people who are coming into a conversation from a place of privilege (type I), then you are doing yourself a disservice if you do not make reasonable accommodations for their ignorance. Most people who are involved in these conversations understand and do not dispute this. However, if you are trying to create a space for people who understand the larger issues to focus on ways to organize and act (type II), then it you are in no way required to make such allowances.

    Your argument assumes (as do many others) that the focus of such organization is to teach those with privilege. This argument confers little or no matching obligation to those with privilege to listen or learn some of the basics before wading in and demanding answers to their questions. Privilege is often matched by a misguided sense of entitlement – I deserve to be listened to in this space, even though I lack relevant knowledge. This is not done from a place of malicious intent, but that is irrelevant to the fact that it is unwelcome and destructive to the conversation (of the second type). If your complaint is that the level of treatment privileged people are experiencing is not commensurate with the gravity of their transgression, you need to first look very carefully at what type of conversation is happening.

    In either case, anyone who walks into a classroom of any type and demands, either through words or behaviour, that everyone is obligated to teach them is being rude and deserves to be met with proportional rudeness.

    I will try to expand this point in a full post this afternoon. Stay tuned.

  100. 100
    kagerato

    Mining in general and ore mining in particular is, in fact, a growth industry. Where do you think all the precious metals for phones, tablets and computers comes from?

    Is there a reason you feel the need to read out of context and impute ignorance where none exists? Don’t you think that’s a little condescending? Weren’t you criticizing exactly this sort of behavior earlier?

    Women can certainly join the mining corps to acquire minerals in demand. They have to deal with a lot of discrimination and bias to do it, as well as poor working conditions and insufficient pay. So there might be a reason why mining is not listed high on the prospective jobs list, huh?

    So, when there are more men in a particular job than women (regardless of the danger of that job), that’s because of the patriarchy and when there are more women than men in a particular job, that’s because of the patriarchy too?

    Well, yes. You seem to be having great difficulty understanding how a complicated mixture of causes could generate multiple different effects.

    Patriarchy is not some comical collection of evildoers sitting in their Great Lair, Legion of Doom style. It’s a broad set of attitudes and biases that play out in numerous ways throughout society. It should be pretty obvious that any complicated system is not going to universally serve the interests of all men everywhere. Nothing can do that.

  101. 101
    kagerato

    What are you doing to achieve gender equality? Further, why do you spend so much time arguing that people who support that goal are wrong? Particularly when you’ve failed to substantiate your claims about what is supposedly wrong about their approach?

  102. 102
    kbonn

    Sorry, I just want to clarify one thing.

    I think that a goal should be reaching out to people of privilege (esp within your own community IE, Atheists). I don’t think it should be THE goal. Though I can concede that much of my discussion has been in this area, so I could very possibly have come across as if it is the only thing that matters.

    I also wasn’t suggesting that all discussion be halted to deal with the new unprepared person, merely that the direction towards an educational section/link be done(at first) in a neutral a way as possible.

    As to intent. Obviously, it can be hard to determine on the internet. I am not suggesting that the hurt is less significant if it isn’t intended, but if it is able to be determined, does the transgressor deserve the same treatment as if it was? Isn’t the person more likely to being educated? (insult from ignorance rather than cruelty, though it can often be both)

    I am not sure I will be on again today, but I look forward to your post, and I am sorry if I’ve taken up too much space with this already(you kept responding, so I figured it was ok to continue).

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