We Were Too Forgiving

So you may remember when DJ Grothe accused certain skeptic women of scaring other women away from TAM, and destroyed the goodwill of many in our community. Former supporters ceased supporting TAM, but most of us were willing to give James Randi the benefit of the doubt. Some of us even tried to meet our obligations to TAM, and suffered for it.

And many of you probably remember when Ron Lindsay got up in front of a room full of skeptic women, at a conference for skeptic women, and insulted them thoroughly. Then he took to his official blog and attacked Rebecca Watson rather viciously. Then he failed to apologize. CFI took an inordinate amount of time to issue a statement that amounted to “suck it.” But when Ron finally got round to apologizing, we forgave him, and most of us cautiously supported CFI again, despite the fact the Board had failed to take appropriate action.

And now, this. And this.

unacceptable

It’s too much.

My opinion is only my own, but I believe we have been too generous. We’ve forgiven too easily. And we’ve shielded reputations, failed to name predators, failed to demand substantial change. Our community has suffered for that failure.

We just wanted to be reasonable.

We need to internalize this truth: the reasonable thing to do is to demand abusers and harassers be held accountable for their actions. The reasonable stance is to demand that the leaders of the skeptic community apologize sincerely when they’ve harmed women, and make necessary and substantial changes in addition to that apology. The reasonable request is to require that organizations take measures to appropriately respond to harassment and abuse perpetrated by their employees, or speakers and attendees at their conferences.The reasonable stance is to say that this behavior will not be tolerated within this community, and if you are proven to engage in it, you are no longer welcome in our organizations and at our gatherings. And it is reasonable to expect those who fail to appropriately address misbehavior to step down, or if necessary, for their employers to terminate their employment.

It is reasonable to withdraw support from organizations that fail to live up to these standards.

It is unreasonable to tolerate the status quo, to protect big-name predators because they are big names, or to expect the victims of predation to suffer in silence.

It’s also reasonable to give people and/or organizations a chance to correct their deficiencies (although obviously this does not apply to those whose harassment was egregious, or if they assaulted or abused another person). It may even be reasonable to give them a second chance to get it right.

But it is far from reasonable to give them a third chance.

We cannot be expected to accept excuses, explanations, and lukewarm apologies indefinitely. Nor should we be expected to endure indefinite inaction. We cannot tolerate abusers remaining comfortably anonymous and allow their victims to be gagged.

We cannot continue to support organizations like the JREF and CFI, who have gotten it so egregiously wrong so very many times.

Here is what I believe should happen now:

Women in Secularism 3 should be moved from CFI to Secular Woman, American Atheists, or another national organization that has proven it can be trusted on these issues.

Those who speak, write, or volunteer for JREF and CFI should decline to continue doing so.

Employees of those organizations who are not okay with how these serious issues have been handled should be assisted in finding other employment if they choose.

Those who donate their time and/or money to these organizations should cease all support immediately.

Does this seem harsh? It’s meant to be. We’ve already given them first, second, third, fourth, and umpteenth chances. Despite the good they have done, they have proven they will not adequately deal with harassment and abuse. They’ve made their choice.

It’s time for us to make ours.

Choosing Rock

Some of you fence-sitters and those who’ve been, I dunno, trapped deep underground with no internet access for two-plus years, may be wondering what the fuss is about. I mean, jeez, Ron Lindsay just made a bone-headed speech and spouted off on the official CFI blog. What’s the harm, amirite? You may think the response is disproportionate to the offense.

But the thing is this: both the content and the context of his little lecture at WiS2 were awful. His actions afterward, when he attacked Rebecca Watson rather than attend a fundraiser for his own organization, displayed a stunning lack of professionalism, and went against the principles he himself had agreed to abide by. He betrayed himself as well as the women he said he stood by. That shows a weakness of moral fiber that concerns me deeply. [Read more…]

Three Posts that Should Be Required Reading for Ron Lindsay

Greta Christina has gone and said about all I could have said about this situation, and so much more. Ron Lindsay is a fool if he doesn’t read, then seriously contemplate, both of her posts.

A Blatant Misrepresentation — And An Insulting One: The Content of Ron Lindsay’s WiS2 Talk

He Treated Us With Contempt: The Context of Ron Lindsay’s WiS2 Talk

Afterward, he would be a raging dumbass not to head over to Jon Scalzi’s blog to see how a proper apology is done (h/t PZ).

Presidential Statement on the SFWA Bulletin, June 2, 2013

I don’t hold out much hope he’ll be capable of processing any of these, but one never knows. There they are, Ron. They might help you mend a few of the bridges you burned.

understand

[Read more…]

What About Teh Menz? – Answered!

The next time some sniveling asshat starts the “But what about teh menz?!” whine, don’t sweat it. Yeah, it’s annoying as shit, and we’ve answered that “patriarchy hurts men too” about five quadrillion-zillion times, and we’re tired of it, but it’s all good. The question has been answered by someone with a masculine voice and a penis who identifies as a menz. All we have to do is aim the sniveling asshat at this video. Seriously. Watch it. Just use caution if you have any medical conditions that make punching a fist into the air and screaming “Fuck yeah!” at the top of your lungs painful. (And remember to say thank you to Mary at Skepchick for finding it.) [Read more…]

One Man’s Paranoia is Another Woman’s Sensible Security

One of my coworkers made the mistake of saying he wouldn’t mind helping me wash rocks last night, so I dragged him home and shoved a toothbrush in his hand. Fortunately for him, he doesn’t mind scrubbing dirt off of hand samples while blabbering on about various and sundry, or it might have gone very badly for him. I now have many sparkling clean rocks suitable for shoving under people’s noses and saying, “Look! LOOK! Look at how awesome this is!”

This is all to the good, but it’s an incidental detail having nothing to do with geology that I wish to discuss here.

People new to the apartment have a variety of reactions. Many are surprised by the number of rocks and books strewn throughout, and get lost wandering through libraries of stone and paper. Others are a bit overwhelmed by the art, especially when they poke their heads into the bedroom and realize that, yes, I am that much of a LOTR fan. Some get enchanted by the kitty, and have difficulties understanding they shouldn’t touch. No, especially if she’s being friendly and cute. That’s her “Oooo helpless naive victim!” routine, and there will be pain. Some have a combination of all reactions, in varying degrees.

And some are intrigued by the door. [Read more…]

New at Rosetta Stones: The Founding Mother of Modern Geology You Probably Don’t Know

We’ve got our next Pioneering Woman in the Geosciences up: Mary Horner Lyell. Yes, married to that Lyell. Some of you may not have known she was a fine scientist in her own right. It was hard finding information on her, but I did manage to draw together enough for a sketch, and I think you’ll like her quite as much as I do. Go introduce yourselves.

Hey, Richard Dawkins! Women Aren’t Invisible

So stop treating us like we are.

Really, you only seem to notice women when you can use them to conveniently bludgeon religions. You’re super-concerned about how women are treated in the Muslim world because Islam. You call the Judeo-Christian god a “misogynistic…bully,” because hey, great point of attack, amirite? So women might get the idea you’re on their side, but when it counts, when we’re fighting against sexism and misogyny in the atheist community, you “Dear Muslima” us. When it comes to abortion rights, you’re more for pigs and parasites than you are women. You don’t see us, actual human beings with fundamental rights to bodily autonomy and respect. You see a rhetorical device. And you don’t even seem to be aware you’re doing it. I hope you’re not. I hope you’re not the kind of man who would deliberately erase a woman from the picture. But unintententional or no, that’s precisely what you’re doing.

How the religious right (and, later in pregnancy, Richard Dawkins) view pregnant women. All they can see is a fetus.

How the religious right (and, later in pregnancy, people like Richard Dawkins) view pregnant women. All they can see is a fetus.

[Read more…]

I Think I’m a Little Bit in Love with the American Secular Census

Apparently, there’s an Open Letter to the Secular Community going around. Once again, people are running about in a flutter trying to find ways to make our online dialogue more civil. And once again, they’re missing the point.

The American secular census really gets it, though. Their whole letter explaining why they didn’t sign is worth reading, but let me just put my favorite bit here:

The role of feminism in the secular movement

The handling of this topic is actually my greater concern about the Open Letter. Despite good intentions, this area of the document in my opinion has the potential to broaden the rift between secular women and the formal secular movement.

There’s nothing to disparage in the Open Letter’s affirmation of equality of the sexes as fundamental to a secular worldview. Where the Open Letter falls short is in simply expressing these principles philosophically without any acknowledgment of intent to act on them organizationally. Stating support for an abstract idea is not the same as a pledge; groups that want women to feel welcome, safe and valued in the secular movement need to demonstrate that with their actions — or women won’t be convinced.

The War on Women

In 2011 and 2012, a record number of anti-abortion bills were passed in state legislatures. These measures and their connection to a broader theocratic agenda have been largely ignored by secular identity organizations. Meanwhile, secular women are asked to support Darwin Day resolutions, lawsuits against religious symbols, and other issues far removed from this most basic and simple right to bodily autonomy. Many women view the War on Women as the most significant and damaging church-state threat of their lifetime. Secular organizations’ silence and inaction on the religious basis of declining abortion rights and access represent an enormous wasted opportunity for movement expansion and, to some women, a betrayal.

Women online

The fact is that some secular women and their allies have been victimized online. The abuse has ranged from insults and name-calling on one end of the spectrum to rape and mutilation threats on the other. What separates these incidents from the hate mail and threats typically experienced by atheists at the hands of religious fanatics is that these are atheists (mostly men) targeting other atheists (mostly women).

The Open Letter clearly condemns online threats and hatred, but I was troubled that the “Our Approach” section could be interpreted by some victims as trivializing their experiences, blaming them, or even exposing them to further risk. In offering a one-size-fits-all formula of listening more, being more compassionate, and so on, the Open Letter fails to distinguish between spirited debate where such strategies may be helpful and more serious situations where they won’t be — and might even be dangerous. This problem was paramount in my decision not to sign.

Let me state very clearly what I wish the Open Letter had said: Women who are harassed or cyberstalked are not being harassed or stalked over some failure of theirs to practice appropriate online discussion techniques. They aren’t being targeted because they see grouping patterns among their harassers (what the Open letter appears to condemn as “guilt by association.”) They aren’t singled out because they lack the patience to educate others. They are being victimized because their harassers have a pathological need for attention, a feeling of entitlement, or some other deficiency that leads them to attack other human beings. Harassment is the fault of harassers, and harassers bear the responsibility for stopping it.

The unfortunate truth ignored by the Open Letter is that there are good guys and bad guys in many of these situations, each group needs to be dealt with differently, and in the case of stalking and threats, only trained experts should be offering advice.

Excellent points, all. I wish more of our community leaders would pay attention to them. Good on Mary Ellen Sikes for pounding them home.

slam dunk

Secular woman and Ophelia Benson aren’t happy, either. I imagine there will be plenty of others.

When You’re Prepared to Give Up Name and Face

I’ve known for a very long time that I want to write for a living. Been writing since childhood, y’see, and at some point it occurred to me that being a writer was the most sensible thing to do for a person who was decent with words and wanted to be lots of things. A writer can vicariously be whatever they damn well please. A writer can spend all day every day fantasizing, and get paid for it.

So yes, I knew by my teens that I wanted to be a writer. And I began doing all of the things necessary to become one. Literature classes. Creative writing classes. Job in book store. Change name.

Oh, yes, the name change was essential. I share my legal last name with a well-known retailer. It isn’t the done thing to crack your adoring public over the head with your latest hardcover for cracking jokes. And a character of mine had filched my first name and refused to give it back. And stalkers. And I wanted to be taken seriously. That, I thought, required picking a male pseudonym – or at least masquerading by initials. [Read more…]

New at Rosetta Stones: A Pioneering Geographer Named After My Old Home State

I think you’re going to adore Zonia Baber. I do. She’s fantastic. I wish I could be like her when I grow up, and I wish I could have met her, and I’m glad I got to know about her. Go have a read-through and tell me if you feel the same.

(And yes, her name really was Arizona. Those of us from Arizona have that extra incentive to think she’s the best, but really, it’s not like anything more was needed.)