Diversity and the Best Atheist Blogger Award – Please Don’t Vote for Me


So I noticed the other day that my blog was one of the nominees for the About.com Readers’s Choice Award for Best Atheist/Agnostic Blogger. “Neat!” I thought. I voted for myself. I started getting ready to post a little post announcing the thing. I noticed that Pharyngula was one of the other nominees, and gave up any hope of winning the damn thing.

Then I noticed something else: All the other nominees were white.

Hm, I thought.

Then I checked out the other Readers’s Choice Awards in the Atheist/ Agnostic categories. And as far as I can tell, all of the nominees in all the categories are white. All the books in the Favorite Atheist/ Agnostic Book category are by white people (white men, actually). None of the ads in the Favorite Atheist/ Agnostic Ad category feature people of color. I can’t tell for sure about Favorite Atheist/ Agnostic Podcast, or Favorite Atheist/ Agnostic to Follow on Twitter — but as far as I can tell, they’re all white people. (If I’m mistaken about that, please correct me.) And none of the groups nominated — Website, Facebook Page, Community — are people-of-color focused.

This is a problem.

We’ve been talking about this a lot lately, but we need to keep talking about it, so I’m going to say it again: We need to stop making the public face of atheism primarily white, and primarily male. If we don’t, we’re going to have a self-perpetuating cycle: people of color and women won’t see themselves represented in the atheist community, and won’t feel as welcomed in the community, and won’t participate in the community, and there won’t be as many strong women and people of color to become visible faces in the community… and around the circle we go. Consciously intervening in this cycle is the only way to stop it. And doing that now, relatively early in the development of our movement, is hugely important: before the self-perpetuating cycle gets set into a deep groove of habits and patterns that are hard to break out of, and before a history of resentment and rancor has time to really set in. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Other social change movements have been bitten on the ass by this issue, again and again, and if they had a time machine and could go back and deal with it in the earlier days of their movements, every one of them that I know of would. We have a unique chance to learn from their mistakes, and to get this right early. (Not early in the movement, period — atheism and atheist activism have been around for a while — but early in the seriously visible, vocal, powerful stage of the movement.) If we deal with it now, we won’t be spending nearly as much energy dealing with it in ten or twenty or fifty years.

For anyone who’s thinking, “Hey, this is just democracy in action, the top vote-getters got the top five nominations, there’s nothing racist about it,” I passionately urge you to read Greg Laden’s excellent piece, How To Make Diversity Happen, on how a selection process with no conscious attempt to be inclusive is almost always going to wind up perpetuating privilege. If you’re thinking that deliberately seeking diversity in a selection process will lower the quality of the candidates, I urge you to read Natalie Reed’s excellent piece, Thoughts from a Diversity Hire, on why diversity itself “is a qualification, a merit and a value.” (As well as on many of the other reasons why this accusation is baloney.) And for anyone who’s thinking that making a conscious effort to seek diversity is the same as advocating “tokenism,’ I urge you to read my own piece on that topics, Tokenism Is Not Inclusivity.

For the record: I’m not mad at Austin Cline, who runs the Agnosticism/ Atheism page at About.com. He’s handling this very well. He’s aware that this is a problem; he’s accepting the criticism about it with good grace and a sincere desire to fix it; he’s soliciting suggestions for how it can be fixed. That’s exactly what good people are supposed to do when something like this happens. (And on a purely practical, Macchiavellian level: That’s how you make something like this go away relatively quickly, instead of having it turn into a firestorm that eats the Internet for a week.)

But I’m just not comfortable being part of this. So please don’t vote for me. If I’m nominated again next year, and if the nominating process gets repaired in a way that makes it more inclusive, then knock yourself out. I will be happily trounced by Pharyngula at that time. But not this year. I’m pulling a Dillahunty. I’ve been nominated, but I will not run: if elected, I will not serve.

Comments

  1. Izzy Leonard says

    I already voted for Rebecca Watson in the Twitter category, and now I feel bad. I’m afraid the only sensible policy at this point is not to participate in any of these things anymore.

  2. Anders says

    GretaChristina, I know buggerall about the world of atheist bloggers so this may be trivial, but if you were to nominate five people of color for Best Atheist/Agnostic x, who would you choose?

    I don’t mean this to imply that there aren’t any, I want to make that clear. Just thought I might pick up a few tips… :D

  3. says

    Again, though, don’t we run the risk of the kind of tokenism we all want to take pains to avoid, if we insist that every awards ballot or similar thing simply must include a non-white person just to have one? I’d prefer awards to be colorblind meritocracies, myself. The problem when ballots turn out like this isn’t racism, but the simple fact that when people put awards together, they only notice the high-profile people in the given category. PZ will always get nominated for something like this, not because he’s a white dude, but because he has a zillion readers. An equally excellent blogger who happens not to be a white dude will get overlooked, not necessarily because of the non-white-dudeness, but often because those assembling the ballot can’t be bothered to look at the less popular blogs.

  4. says

    I went to go vote for my favorite blogger, but he was not on there. It’s Hemant Mehta of the “Friendly Atheist.” This guy helped get scholarships for two active atheist students who were treated very poorly by their communities (Jessica Ahlquist and Damon Fowler) via his blog. How can anyone overlook some one as active in the community as him? :(

  5. michaeld says

    I’d rather see awards about people you might not have heard of etc then which of the 5 biggest blogs is the best anyway. When I bought a used PS2 a couple years ago I spent a lot of time reading through lists of hidden gems, underrated games and other games that slipped through the cracks. This was far more interesting to me as I found a whole bunch of things I might have missed instead of just a rehashing of the games everyone new about cause lots of people played and talked about them. We need more awards like that.

    You can find your way to pharyngula any number of ways but sooner or later if you’re an atheist on the internet he’ll come up. Better to shine the light on people that others might be skipping over.

  6. says

    I went to go vote for my favorite blogger, but he was not on there. It’s Hemant Mehta of the “Friendly Atheist.” This guy helped get scholarships for two active atheist students who were treated very poorly by their communities (Jessica Ahlquist and Damon Fowler) via his blog. How can anyone overlook some one as active in the community as him? :(

    That was my immediate reaction too. I think one would have to work really hard to come up with a reason not to include him on that list. I’m willing to give Austin Cline the benefit of the doubt though in this case…maybe he’s just not that familiar with Friendly Atheist? Next year there is no excuse though.

  7. says

    Great post. I would never have noticed that fact if you had not called attention to it. I suppose that is the problem after all–being a white male sometimes makes it harder to see stuff like this. I have found that some people do not like to hear that statement but it is true.

  8. maureen.brian says

    I wish we could drop this whole notion of tokenism.

    The very word implies that there is no way in a million years that a woman, a Black person, someone with a disability, someone of recent immigrant stock could possibly, ever – oh my god NO – be on a list of good bloggers, on a public memorial, collecting a Nobel Prize on her or his own merit. Not now, says the word, and not ever, not unless someone with real power/ability puts them there for a nefarious purpose.

    In other words it is a fascist notion and a fascist expression. To find people who either claim or aim to be rational bringing it into this conversation is just deeply depressing.

  9. maureen.brian says

    No, Martin, it wasn’t directed at you. If I gave that impression I apologise. Point still stands though!

  10. Kitty says

    I think it would be great if some of the guys dropped out. I really think PZ would, since he has been a leader in supporting Rebecca Watson and other women in the skeptic community. Once the men say “hey, forget it, I’m not going to be on the almost all white guy list again!” things will change.

  11. says

    Greta, if you look at the ‘Favorite Facebook Pages’ for the Atheist / Agnostic category, the owner of the Global Secular Humanist Movement is not white. He’s Middle Eastern. In fact, an Iraqi free thinker from Baghdad named Faisal al-Mutar. I voted for him.

  12. says

    Maureen: Indeed it does stand. That’s why I like the idea a lot of folks have shared here. Let’s forget about these awards that only serve to promote those who are already high profile, and work to promote and share discovery of the lower-profile people doing just as good work. That’s the best way to break through the acculturated laziness and ignorance that keeps the cool kids table perennially populated by white dudes. I happen to think Freethought Blogs has done superb work on this front. Libby Anne and Natalie Reed are wonderful voices I feel fortunate to have discovered.

  13. Confused says

    I rarely know/care about the race/gender/sex-orientation of the author of a blog. If I ever find out the blogger has some unusual features, I just say “cool” and move on. It doesn’t elevate/lower what I think of the blogger.

    It feels very weird for anyone to suggest not participating or that anyone should drop out. Aren’t the awards about quality, etc…?

    If I was considered to be a minority and I was only nominated/won because I was perceived to be different, that would depress the hell out of me. Honestly, I would feel deeply insulted and feel like I was being patronized to. I would lose all respect for the award and the group that gave it out.

    Aren’t there better ways to increase participation in groups you want? It occurs to me that we want more participation in general, why turn down or focus on any one group? If different segments of the population show low interest, let’s get them involved, but don’t patronize and pat them on the head for recognition they didn’t earn. Treat them with respect.

    Maybe I just don’t see the big picture. Maybe I’m too blind to stereotypes. (this is not sarcasm and I’m certainly a flawed person) I don’t begrudge people wanting things to be better. They way some are suggesting we improve things feels wrong though. I wish I had a productive suggestion to offer. Alas, I have no idea.

    Switching focus… it saddens me that people discount/elevate comments depending on which group they think the commenter belongs to. Here is some food for thought. What if I told you I’m female? What if I said I was a minority? How about that I am rich? How about that I am male? Maybe I’m poor and have a disability. Why would any of that matter? It sucks that tribalism is such an ingrained part of us.

    Hmm… it just occurred to me that atheists are a minority. lol

  14. piero says

    This will probably sound technocratic and reactionary, but in my opinion there can be no meaningful discussion of this issue unless we have the following information:

    a. What are the characteristics of bloggers we should take into account: ethnicity, class, sexual orientation, gender, sex-appeal, IQ, commitment, writing style, general knowledge, athletic prowess? I understand why tokenism is a bad thing in the context of gender and ethnicity, but why is it not an issue in the context of class, IQ or attractiveness? I mean, if the top 5 bloggers were hideously unattractive men, would the attractive male bloggers have a case? If the top 5 bloggers had IQs over 130, would unintelligent bloggers have a case? If the top 5 bloggers earned on average over 100,000 a year, would poor bloggers have a case?

    b. What percentage of bloggers belong to each of the previously established categories. If 80% of atheist bloggers are white males, chances are that the best five will be run by white males. When the US wins 50 gold medals at the olympics, nobody cares; when Chile wins one gold medal, it is a national event. Of course, a country with a population of 15 million cannot expect to do as well as a country with a population 20 times larger, with a much larger GDP, with a much higher standard of living, etc. Yet I’ve never seen a proposal to abolish the olympic games altogether. Why not?

  15. says

    Too late, I voted for you already. And hmmm. Yes, you are doing a good thing with drawing attention to this issue. But I’m not convinced that you should go so far as to turn it down if you win.

    The visibility of queer women bloggers is also good to highlight – and there haven’t exactly been so many yet that it’s already ho-hum and accepted as normal. I think your role in the community is worth highlighting – and does foster diversity. By your posts as well as your presence.

    You’re representing maybe only 2 steps forward out of the many that are needed, but it’s still much better than yet another 100% white-het-cis-male ticket. And IIRC, you score a 2 on the not white-het-cis-male scale, while the lovely and eloquent Crommunist scores only a 1. And why are people jumping straight over to Crommunist and Hemant Mehta, when they could be nominating Sikivu or Marjam :)

    And if you withdraw, then what happens? It’s not like PZ needs any more prominence.

  16. Concentratedwater, OM says

    Kitty #14:

    I think it would be great if some of the guys dropped out.

    Whatehwhowhenhuhwhywhere? Are you serious?

    You would like the white heterosexual cismales to withdraw from a contest so that some other flavor of human can win a rigged election? How the fuck does this advance the cause of [painfully specific racial/sexual/ablial group]?

    That question could/should apply equally to Greta’s post. So fucking what if the nominees are all white? Or all male? Or all American? Or all heterosexual? Or all meat-eaters? Or all right-handed?

    Labels, labels, labels, you people are fucking obsessed. The list is someone’s idea of their favorite blogs. If you think the list is shit, don’t vote; make your own fucking list. Just stop whining like a bunch of fucking four-year-olds who’ve been given oatmeal for breakfast instead of Mega Fruity Pops.

  17. Concentratedwater, OM says

    Althea H. Claw:

    And IIRC, you score a 2 on the not white-het-cis-male scale, while the lovely and eloquent Crommunist scores only a 1. And why are people jumping straight over to Crommunist and Hemant Mehta, when they could be nominating Sikivu or Marjam

    Look!

    It’s a competition!

    Our votes should be based upon the person who ticks the most boxes on the gender/race/able/shoe size/handedness scorecard.

    Fucking pathetic.

  18. Greta Christina says

    Just stop whining like a bunch of fucking four-year-olds who’ve been given oatmeal for breakfast instead of Mega Fruity Pops.

    Concentratedwater @ #21: Do not talk to other commenters in this thread in that manner. Please consult my comment policy. Personal insults of other commenters are not tolerated. Keep your criticisms focused on ideas and behavior, not as personal insults aimed at people. Any further violations will result in being banned from this blog. Thank you.

    Joke, you dill

    Alethea H. Claw: Ditto. No personal insults. Thank you.

  19. allencdexter says

    I wasn’t aware there was a problem. Seems there might be. I like to think I’m color blind when it comes to matters such as this. Frankly, I just haven’t encountered any atheist blogs by colored authors. Maybe there are and I haven’t stumbled on them. They have to exist and be good enough to hold my attention before I would vote for them.

    I struggled over whether to vote for you or Pharyngula. I respect and hang on both blogs. I picked Pharyngula because he is so prolific and constant. Your blogs are just as interesting and factual, but he puts out several every day. My vote was not intended as a put down to you or anyone else — just a simple matter of recognition of quality hard work. I have a blog too and I’m proud of it, but I’d never expect it to outclass either yours or Pharyngula.

  20. Greta Christina says

    As for the actual ideas from Confused @ #17, piero @ #19, Concentratedwater @ #21 and #22: They have already been addressed in this piece, and the pieces it links to. To repeat:

    Inclusivity is not tokenism.

    The fact that the atheist community is largely white didn’t happen by accident — atheists bear at least some responsibility for it.

    Exclusivity is a self-perpetuating cycle, and we have to take conscious action to interrupt it.

    It’s insulting to say that paying attention to diversity means sacrificing quality — it assumes that people of color, women, etc. can’t be as good.

    And it’s absurd to say that you don’t notice race/ gender/ sexual orientation/ etc. We all have unconscious biases about race, gender, age, social class, sexual orientation, and more. Acknowledging this is one of the most important steps we can take in dealing with it. Pretending that it isn’t so just perpetuates the problem.

  21. Azkyroth says

    I’d prefer awards to be colorblind meritocracies, myself.

    The problem is twofold: first, that most people who imagine themselves to be colorblind demonstrably aren’t, and second, that a SUDDEN interest in colorblind meritocracy does fuck-all to repair the legacy of past discrimination.

  22. Greta Christina says

    The problem is twofold: first, that most people who imagine themselves to be colorblind demonstrably aren’t, and second, that a SUDDEN interest in colorblind meritocracy does fuck-all to repair the legacy of past discrimination.

    Azkyroth @ #28. Yup. Threefold, actually (at least). There’s also: overlooking the myriad ways that people of high merit from marginalized groups typically get overlooked if a conscious effort isn’t made to seek them out and promote them. (Although maybe that counts as your #2, and the legacy of past discrimination.)

  23. Concentratedwater, OM says

    Althea H. Claw:

    Do you usually call men “lovely”, too?

    I don’t get it. Are there gender-specific adjectives now? And please, make it clear: do you refer to cis-men, trans-men, or both?

    Greta Christina: point taken.

  24. Concentratedwater, OM says

    Althea H. Claw says this at #24, but this comment is directed to a wider audience, not a specific person:

    Joke… Not even the explicit smiley face gave it away?

    Emoticons are, ironically, not a satisfactory replacement for words when trying to express one’s true “emotions” on a blog read by intelligent people.

    They may be fine on yahoo boards, but I feel that they only lead to confusion and arguments somewhere like this. The reason is that not all of us are aware of what all of these smiley/sad/vomiting/shouting/etc “faces” mean. Furthermore, they may mean different things to different people for all I know.

    My point: if you feel the need to resort to emoticons, then perhaps you should take a minute to consult a dictionary, a thesaurus, or just your own sense of dignity.

  25. says

    Let’s get this very clear:

    “Tokenism” is not simply any act of deliberate inclusion of minorities.

    “Tokenism” is deliberate inclusion of minorities only meant to give the ILLUSION of recognizing their worth, while not actually allowing them to demonstrate any merit, depth or contribution.

    Saying that ALL acts of deliberate, direct inclusion are “tokenism” is to completely sabotage the ability to take ANY meaningful action in terms of promoting diversity.

    It is not “tokenism” if the people deserve to be there, and if they’re contributing in a meaningful way. Frankly, I’m not sure I think “tokenism” should be used at all outside its original intended meaning of poorly written, one-dimensional characters in fiction.

    Like… for instance, if it were indeed the case that the SOLE reason I was brought on board Skepchick or FTB was because I’m trans and write about trans issues, that STILL wouldn’t be tokenism so long as there was a genuine belief that having someone addressing trans issues and contributing a trans perspective is indeed valuable in such a community… which it is. That’s not tokenism, it’s inclusivity. The line between “tokenism” and “inclusivity” is not how deliberate the inclusion is, it’s whether the decision was made in a genuine way or a cynical way.

  26. Forbidden Snowflake says

    Yet I’ve never seen a proposal to abolish the olympic games altogether. Why not?
    Because you didn’t bother to google “abolish olympics” before writing that?
    I don’t advocate abolishing the Olympics, but yeah, the fact that they are 85% competition between rich and populous nations sure as shit isn’t making them more interesting.

  27. Forbidden Snowflake says

    Emoticons are, ironically, not a satisfactory replacement for words when trying to express one’s true “emotions” on a blog read by intelligent people.

    Can you please make a list of the forms of self-expression that intelligent people are supposed to eschew? Wouldn’t want to drop our metaphorical monocles.

  28. Azkyroth says

    They may be fine on yahoo boards, but I feel that they only lead to confusion and arguments somewhere like this. The reason is that not all of us are aware of what all of these smiley/sad/vomiting/shouting/etc “faces” mean. Furthermore, they may mean different things to different people for all I know.

    That’s funny because I have a neurological disability that generally impairs interpretation of nonverbal communication and I’ve rarely if ever had a problem interpreting them.

    This sudden affected snobbery is about as convincing as “*dusts self off* …I MEANT to do that.”

  29. Azkyroth says

    Saying that ALL acts of deliberate, direct inclusion are “tokenism” is to completely sabotage the ability to take ANY meaningful action in terms of promoting diversity.

    Which, of course, is the point…

  30. Azkyroth says

    Also:

    I don’t get it. Are there gender-specific adjectives now?

    Ever hear of something called “Spanish?”

  31. crowepps says

    So long as the award is basically a popularity award, ‘here are the five most popular blogs/bloggers, pick your favorite personality’, the slate is going to look the same.

    Locus has run an annual ‘best of’ award for years and years, but it isn’t focused on ‘favorite author’ but instead which new books /novellas /stories /etc the readers considered the best. Here’s a link to the 2011 poll and survey:

    http://www.locusmag.com/Magazine/2011/Issue02_PollAndSurvey.html

    For the Academy Awards the initial slate of nominees is created by those in the business knowledgeable of who’s doing good work. Maybe the thing to do is ask some willing popular bloggers to put together nominees for Best New Blog, Best Blog Nobody’s Heard Of or whatever other categories they come up with, and then provide links so the voters can compare, evaluate and rank?

    I’ve been in SF Book Club for 40 years or so, and voted on the Hugos many times. Loved doing so because I always discovered things I had missed. For instance, just went and got the 2011 packet and discovered Connie Willis has out a new book I don’t have on my list yet.

    http://www.renovationsf.org/hugo-packet.php

    I realize that if done right this could be a lot of work, but that’s why popular bloggers have minions who would be glad to shoulder some of the load. If nothing else, it would give those underappreciated bloggers exposure, increase their hits, and give them a chance to test their servers.

  32. random says

    Some time ago, I wasn’t aware of this blog at all.

    Especially since I’m not from the US, all I saw was white male atheist bloggers. It’s not that I didn’t know women existed, but I didn’t know where to look for good articles.

    This is where Pharyngula helped.
    In a post, not so different from this, Myers wrote that it is not good that women are not represented in such lists, and gave links to several good bloggers who happened to be women.
    After that post, I checked the links and since then I also started to follow Blag Hag, Maryam Namazie and of course, you.

    Same thing can be done in this case too.
    It’s not that I think good bloggers need to b white of course, I just hardly know any who are not.
    Maybe a recommendation list from you can help?

  33. Anders says

    This is me thinking out loud to summarize my thoughts. I certainly do not claim that these ideas are particularly original. However, if I have misunderstood something I would like feedback.

    The Skeptical movement, as it now stands, is primarily reserved for white hetero cis-men. This has worked in the past (although if the movement had been diverse from the beginning it might have done better), but with the increasing awareness of how society stigmatizes everyone who is not a white hetero cis-man, this will not work in the future. There are two options.

    a) we can stagnate and become irrelevant. A movement that does not adapt to the times will wither on the vine.

    b) we can deal with it, which will lead to an increase in new ideas, new outlooks and new possibilities for cross-pollination.

    However, if we choose to deal with it, we’ll want to deal with it as soon as possible. Old ideas tend to get more entrenched if not challenged. The recent outbursts of male chauvinism (for want of a better word) associated with the various ‘gates’ is one example of an idea that will not be pushed aside so easily. This resistance towards the inclusion of stigmatized groups will not grow weaker with time. If we have the same fight in 25 years it may well tear the entire movement apart.

    There is a positive feedback loop working in the inclusion of stigmatized groups. I’ll take women as an example – if women are not visible in the movement, new members who are women will find it difficult and daunting to make a break-in. This will lead to even less women in the next generation, etc. And vice versa. So a small effort to include more women into the movement can have a great effect.

    Now, I spoke above about the values of diversity and they are really there. However, I don’t see that as the strongest reason to pursue diversity. The strongest reason is that there are women who are fully qualified for the top echelons of the Skeptic movement, but are being excluded because of ideological inertia. Not necessarily saying no to women, just not saying yes. And this is an injustice that must be corrected.

    Have I understood things so far?

  34. Nicole says

    Could it also be that more white, hetero, cis-gendered folk have more time on their hands to be involved in the skeptic/atheist/free thinking movement because they potentially don’t have a hand in the bowl anywhere else? That’s not to say they SHOULDN’T be involved elsewhere with other issues, but if that’s not at the front of their mind but this movement is, why is that?

    I don’t have time to be involved or educate myself on as nearly as much as I want to. But one thing that has become more dear to me lately is the secular movement so I spend time with it. I also try to spend time with feminist issues and queer issues, but right now secularism is what is calling to me.

    Perhaps there are other people who identify as secular, but the ones who are queer or people of color are on the front lines of those fights and may not have the energy to also be an accomplished free thinking blogger as well.

    Just an idea to throw out there.

  35. says

    Salo: Hemant Mehta isn’t on the list of finalists this year because he wasn’t nominated. Why? I have no idea. I was surprised to not see him there. I could understand perhaps not getting enough nominations to make the final five, but his name didn’t show up at all. He was nominated last year and came in second.

    I didn’t worry about it, though, because it meant that there were three finalists this year that weren’t there last year. I don’t think it would be good to have the choices be exactly the same every year and I was happy to see some new names.

    Anyway, the finalists weren’t all picked by me for people to vote on, they were submitted as nominations.

  36. Drein says

    Laughable.

    So we have to spoon feed the women and minorities now?

    The nomination process was open to anyone. Zero barriers to entry. If they had organized they sure could have promoted up several candidates. But instead, they prefer to whine after the fact.

  37. Azkyroth says

    So we have to spoon feed the women and minorities now?

    This stupid little quip shows you’re *ahem* “not arguing in good faith,” but…

    The nomination process was open to anyone. Zero barriers to entry. If they had organized they sure could have promoted up several candidates. But instead, they prefer to whine after the fact.

    The white mostly-males who were nominated didn’t have to do any organizing to get on the list; why should people of color and other women have different entry requirements?

  38. Steve Schuler says

    Christina,

    So you’re all, like, “I’m Number Two, I’m Number Two!!!” when you come in second place in the gender exclusive “Most Influential Female Atheist of 2011″ competition, but you don’t want to participate in an inclusive competition that doesn’t happen to have the degree of racial diversity that might suit your sensibilities being represented in the five finalists?

    So you’re all, like, ‘I’m all for diversity when I’m for it, and I’m, like, all against diversity when I’m against it!’

    No biggie to me, though. The whole popularity contest thing reminds me of junior high school. Kind of pleasant memories actually, but I managed to grow out of that phase. Still, many people seem to find these sorts of activities pretty interesting and entertaining, so my own ideosyncratic disinterst should not be taken as anything other than that.

    What I do find interesting, yet again, is your hypocricy.

    Just doin’ what I can to help keep you humble.

    No need to thank me.;)

    Your Pal,

    Steve

  39. Azkyroth says

    Would you mind elaborating on the inaccuracies of my note to Christina?

    First, you fail spectacularly to understand the actual issue is. Nevertheless, you adopt a nauseatingly smarmy tone, because you obviously know better than everyone pleasant.

    Your smugness isn’t just obnoxious, it’s badly misplaced. You have nothing to be smug about.

  40. Steve Schuler says

    Hey Azkyroth!

    Yeah, a deaf person would be able hear the ‘attitude’ in my comment!

    But if you’re feeling up to it, why not flesh out your criticism of my observation?

  41. Azkyroth says

    What exactly is your observation? All I can detect is a vague sense that Greta Christina handled different situations differently and that’s not okay somehow, and a lot of “aren’t-I-a-clever-freshman”.

  42. Forbidden Snowflake says

    Basically, Steve, you ridiculously equated an attempt to increase the representation of an underrepresented population by deliberately noticing it (the Female Atheist of the Year thing, which was created in response to an Atheist of the Year contest that may as well have been called Male Atheist of the Year for all the representation women got in it) to actions that perpetuate underrepresentation (such as the lily-white nominations list Greta was complaining about).
    That was stupid, and one sentence would have sufficed to say it, but instead you chose to pad the slim substance with massive amounts of smug, as though nobody ever heard this pitiful “affirmative action is reverse racism” stuff before.

    No need to thank you, indeed.

  43. says

    Steve,

    there’s a gigantic difference between something that say “Best atheist blog” and ends up comprised almost entirely of white men, and something that explicitly says “Most influential female atheist” and ends up entirely women.

    Think REAL long and hard about what that difference might be, and why those are not comparable situations, and even you might catch it. Hint: it’s in the titles themselves.

  44. Steve Schuler says

    Azkyroth,

    My observation, already plainly stated, is that Greta is willing and happy to participate in an exclustive popularity contest, gender exclusive in the particular instance I cited, but as a matter of principle (inclusivity presumably) she would like to bow out of participating in this inclusive popularity contest because the finalist aren’t diverse enough to meet her standards. If that isn’t hypocritical then I don’t know what is. That Greta utilizes double (or multiple?) standards does not surprise me in the least. That the hypocricy explicit therein eludes people such as yourself does not surprise me either.

  45. Steve Schuler says

    First, the equity of popularity contests in general have an exceedingly low priprity on my list of problems that humanity is dealing with. If a popularity contests of any variety were never held again there absence could easily go unnoticed by me.

    Maybe we would all be better off if no contests, clubs, activities, events, etc… employed exclusionary criterion. Maybe we would be better off if all of the afore mentioned were always, in one way or another, explicitly exclusionary in one way or another. For my own preference I tend to think that more inclusive activities are better than exclusive activities, but I really don’t care if men want to have men’s activities, women, women’s activities, or racially segregated activities, and so on and so forth.

    My criticism of Greta’s behaviour has already been stated and considering that I do not maintain the validity of multiple standards, I think that it stands to reason.

    Because the finalists in Cline’s contest did not include any non-whites it is not reasonable to conclude that he employed racial discrimination in the selection process. For Greta to bow out of participating in his contest on the basis that it lacks sufficient diversity seems antithetical to Dr. Kings hope that someday people would not be judged on the color of their skin, but rather on the content of their character. Greta is making the color of the nominee’s skin the determing factor in her participation and that is racist.

    Is that so hard to see?

  46. Forbidden Snowflake says

    she would like to bow out of participating in this nominally inclusive popularity contest

    FTFY

    I don’t see how you can call it inclusive when it doesn’t actually do any including.

  47. Forbidden Snowflake says

    Because the finalists in Cline’s contest did not include any non-whites it is not reasonable to conclude that he employed racial discrimination in the selection process.

    I see the problem.
    You seem to think “Since all of the candidates are white, and racial bias doesn’t exist, it must mean that all of the most worthy bloggers are white”
    Greta seems to think: “Since all of the candidates are white, and there are worthy non-white bloggers, we must have overlooked someone”

    I think I see your two faulty assumptions:
    1. Bias that is employed to correct an unequal situation is just as bad as bias that perpetuates an unequal situation
    2. Unconscious bias doesn’t count as bias, even when it creates skewed results

    Both are wrong.

  48. Steve Schuler says

    Well, it did include Greta didn’t it?

    If she were non-white would she still be excusing herself from the competition? Impossible question, obviously, but I perceive her act of protest to be a very superficial, self-serving, and hollow sacrifice of her ‘white’ privilege to express solidarity with people of color.

  49. Steve Schuler says

    Snowflake,

    You are wrong on at least one points, not only do I believe that unfair class, racial, and gender discrimination exist, I have been the recipient of all of those in my the course of my life, including two physical beatings. Now, in the larger scheme of things I know that I am extraordinarily privileged, as are most people living in the modern industrialized west with it’s freedoms and affluence. So no, I don’t attempt to maintain any sort of identity as a victim or as an under-priviledged person.

    It is very presumptive of you to attribute the absence of non-whites in Cline’s contest to “unconscious bias”, but in light of other statements that you have made you may very well be presumptive by nature, I dunno.

  50. says

    OK, Greta, no dills. I was trying to continue to be jocular, and not seriously insulting. Can I say “you silly sausage” or is even that out of order here?

    Sadly it seems my post does need clarifying? Of COURSE there isn’t a competition to score the maximum NOT-(cis-het-white-male-able-upperclass-rich-etc) points. I thought it was fairly obviously a joke, but just to be extra sure I put in a smiley. The actual point of the joke is that there are many orthogonal axes of diversity and privilege, and Greta bowing out makes it worse on one of them.

    So although I see her point and I’m really happy that the pollster took the criticism on board, I’m still ambivalent about the outcome. In the cause of diversity we’re going to have a straight man win instead of a queer woman. Um, yay? Wait, what?

  51. allencdexter says

    OK. I alluded to this in my former comment. After all the emoting, I have one simple question. Where the hell are all these black atheist bloggers? For that matter, where are the Native American atheist bloggers? Where are the ex-muslim or ex-hindu bloggers? Etc. Etc.

    Nobody has alluded to a single one. Are they non-existent?

    I suspect they may be. I’m certainly ignorant of them.

    We brought a lot of Africans here, and guess what? They bought the religious bullshit wholesale, and I suspect a highter percentage of them than most whites are emotionally dedicated to that ridiculous Jewish concoction called “Jesus.” The same is true of most Native Americans. Both races are now predominantly enslaved to the spurious religions of their captors and conquerors.

    As I see it, this is a bum rap. Nobody is trying to hold any other atheists down or marginalize them. If they start blogging, I and a whole lot of others will give them just as much of our atttention as any other blogger.

    Just tell me — where the hell are they?

  52. allencdexter says

    One correction. Jesus is supposed to be Jewish by descent, but the concoction was by what became the Catholic Church, beginning with the Council of Nicaea, four centuries after the supposed facts, which are anything but the facts.

  53. Steve Schuler says

    Snowflake,

    One item that I did not address was your presumption that I assumed that:

    “Bias that is employed to correct an unequal situation is just as bad as bias that perpetuates an unequal situation.”

    Which of course refers to the notion of affirmative action. Frankly, I have mixed thoughts and feelings about affirmative action, but I don’t dismiss the practice out of hand or as a matter of unwavering principle. Ultimately I would like to see a society in which egalitarian meritocracy prevailed providing equal opportunity for all people without consideration of class, race, gender, etc…, and I am not opposed to the judicious use of affirmative action to help accomplish that goal.

    A bit of gender information that I came upon a couple of days ago, enquiry I undertook as a result of an article on Libby Anne’s blog, turned up some interesting statistics. The Vietnam War resulted in 58,260 American deaths, 8 of whom were women, about .01 percent of the fatalities. As of August 2, 2011 4,683 Americans had perished in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, 113 of whom were women, about 2.4 percent of the deaths. This is a dramatic ‘improvement’ (depending on one’s perspective), although it falls very far short of the approximately 50/50 male/female casualty metric that would indicate something like gender equality had been acheived. I am confident that a fairly radical use of affirmative action could easily rectify this inbalance, although I am pretty confident that it would lack my support.

    Your thoughts?

  54. Concentratedwater, OM says

    Azkyroth @39:

    Me: “I don’t get it. Are there gender-specific adjectives now?”

    You: “Ever hear of something called “Spanish?””

    Yes, it’s the national language of, obviously, Spain, as well as several other countries, predominantly in South America.

    Okay, I’ve dealt with your bizarre little derail. Now, care to engage me on my original point (in English, please; it’s the language of this blog and also the only one I am fluent in).

  55. Jeffrey Soreff says

    All the books in the Favorite Atheist/ Agnostic Book category are by white people

    Odd – I don’t see anything in the criteria for this that requires that
    the book be in English. My Google skills don’t seem to be up to the search
    but there have to be authors in China who should have been in the
    list. There must be a viable Manchurian Candidate. :)

  56. Tungl says

    @Allancdexter:
    Are you seriously making the argument that the most likely conclusion to draw from “I don’t know any non-white bloggers” is “gee, guess there aren’t any”? That’s like creationists whining about how noone ever observed evolution taking place, therefore it can’t possibly happen.

    You say that nobody has alluded to a single non-white blogger. Hemant Mehta has been discussed in this thread repeatedly (and there are more, if you cared to look). You chose to ignore this mention, you chose to go on and claim that people like him just don’t exist. But you also claim that if people of colour started blogging, people would notice them and everything would be all-inclusive and there’d be no problem. While you ignored the blog that was waved around in front of face! See the hypocrisy?

  57. Azkyroth says

    You asked whether gender-specific adjectives exist, and I answered. I’m not going to do the work of imposing coherence on your flailing for you.

  58. Tungl says

    @concentratedwater:

    Yes, there are gender-specific adjectives. Google hits for “lovely boy” and “lovely man”: 4.230.000; for “lovely girl” and “lovely woman”: 19.440.000. You will find approximately opposite numbers for “handsome”.

    Also: “Labels, labels, labels, you people are fucking obsessed.”
    So, you’re trying to say that if everyone just stopped talking about race (and gender and class etc.) the problem wouldn’t exist? This has been done for years and the problem did NOT go away! This notion is so ahistorical I don’t even no where to start!
    Do you think the civil rights movement would have gone anywhere if it had eschewed any discussion of race because it didn’t want to label people? Can you imagine walking up to MLK and tell him “So what if all political representatives in this country are white? Just stop this awful labelling!”

    (I know, obviously, that the lack of inclusiveness of a blogger-award is a problem on a different scale from a lack of inclusiveness in political representation)

  59. Confused says

    If there are other great bloggers out there it would be awesome for people to bring them to our attention. If you know any, please share.

    As far as the awards, it would be nice if they had multiple rounds. The first round would accept submissions of bloggers of note. Have the entire list of submissions be viewable by everyone (minus fake submissions of course). Allow the general public to submit nomiations. The other rounds just invovle voting.

    I don’t know. I have never been a big fan of awards. It is sort of like asking what your favorite video game is. Many are quite good but for very different reasons.

    As far as the current awards, my suggestion is to participate, but continue to voice your concerns. There are a log of good people involved, maybe enough will listen and some changes can be made.

  60. AnneS says

    Nobody has alluded to a single one. Are they non-existent?

    I suspect they may be. I’m certainly ignorant of them.

    Just from the sidebar on this page you can get to Black Skeptics, and also Maryam Namazie. The latter is an ex-Muslim. Other atheists of colour who spring immediately to my mind include: Dan Barker, Heina Dadabhoy, Hemant Mehta, Taslima Nasreen and Alom Shaha. Those are just the ones whose work I’m personally familiar with – there are plenty more.

    The fact that you haven’t noticed the existence of any of these people doesn’t mean they’re not out there doing fantastic things for the atheist movement and being generally awesome.

  61. maureen.brian says

    And then there’s Crommunist, also in the side-bar. Moving further afield we have Simon Singh and Neil deGrasse Tyson – each is better know for something else but each has a blog. And so on and so forth.

    I had a primary teacher whose main aim in life was to get us to think and whose catch-phrase was, “There’s none so blind as those that won’t see.” Dead a long time, poor woman, but clearly still needed!

  62. Dobby says

    @ allencdexter

    “We brought a lot of Africans here…they bought the religious bullshit wholesale”

    I thought you were colour-blind? Also who are “we”? Do you mean “we”, the white folk? And are “they” the black folk? See how this inclusion/exclusion thing works? Unconsciously.

  63. Dobby says

    @ Tungl

    Thanks for the link to the terrific video. A must watch for the colour-blind posters here.

  64. allencdexter says

    Thanks for pointing out the bloggers of color. I will check them out and probably follow quite a few. They may become new favorites.

  65. Anders says

    How many of those on the list are libertarians or conservatives? How many of the FreeThought bloggers are?

  66. Azkyroth says

    How many of those on the list are libertarians or conservatives? How many of the FreeThought bloggers are?

    Right, because ideology is something you’re totally born with, just like sex or color.

  67. Steve Schuler says

    I’m cross-posting this comment that I made on Greg Laden’s blog article on the same topic, also linked in Greta’s article:

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/xblog/2012/02/22/how-to-make-diversity-happen/

    Greg,

    I’ve got to admit that I find a bit of irony in your expression of annoyance with Austin Cline and your accusation that his contest failed to provide sufficient racial diversity. Racial diversity evidently is not a criterion that you consistently employ in critiquing the work of others, as evidenced by absolutely no mention of racial diversity (one way or another) in your criticism of Dawkins anthology of science writers. In that instance your sole expressed concern was that females were unfairly underrepresented. I am left to wonder if had you ascertained that the number of female science writers included in that anthology were sufficient to meet your sensibilities, that you might not have continued to assess whether a sufficient proportion of non-white science writers had been included as well.

    I say this because that is evidently what you have done with your evaluation of the candidates that appeared in Austin’s final selections. In the category of Best Blogger, 2 of the 5 (40%) of the contestants are females, one of those being queer if that should be a concern to anyone but themselves. In the category of Best Twitterer 4 of 5 (80%) are females, I have no idea about any of their sexual orientations, although it may have importance in evaluating the appropriate diversity of the contestant pool. In the Best Book category all of the finalists are apparently male, needless to say 0% female. Again, I have no idea as to their sexual orientations. In these 3 categories, the categories that you provided links to in your article, the average is 40% female and 60% male, a proportion that is somewhat less than optimal but possibly sufficient. While assessing gender diversity was the endpoint of your criticism of Dawkins book, in the matter of Austin’s contest you went on to evaluate whether or not sufficient racial diversity was represented and given that all of these categories were composed entirely of ‘white’ people, it is indisputable that there is no racial diversity present.

    While I can appreciate your disappointment, to be honest, I do not share it. As you are probably aware, the initial pool of candidates from which Austin made his selection for finalists was composed entirely of nominations made by his readers. I have no means of determing what the race, gender, sexual orientation, etc…, of that pool of candidates consisted of, and neither do I have any idea what other criteria Austin employed to determine who the finalist would be. While you have repeatedly stated that there ‘should’ be a sufficient number of worthy candidates that might satisfy your sense of sufficient diversity in Austin’s contest, you have failed to substantiate your claim with specific examples. I do not think that it is fair of you to criticize Austin for a perceived failure on his part when you are unwilling to step up and provide an adequate number of non-white candidates that might help him acheive a level of racial diversity that you can abide. I have no reason to doubt that such individuals are available, but it is not an area (atheist activism) in which I have sufficient knowledge to address who these people might be. Given that it is a fairly significant concern of yours, and in your field of expertise as well, rather than just criticizing Austin for what you perceive as shortcomings of the racial diversity in his contest, it might be more constructive to provide alternative non-white candidates in all of the contest categories to help resolve this problem.

    Of course, another option would be to conduct a contest of your own design which would afford you the opportunity to ‘lead by example’, perhaps the best mode of instruction.

    Steve

  68. Anders says

    Right, because ideology is something you’re totally born with, just like sex or color.

    Why is diversity of viewpoints only desirable if they stem from inborn qualities?

  69. Steve Schuler says

    Anders said:

    “How many of those on the list are libertarians or conservatives? How many of the FreeThought bloggers are?”

    Steve says:

    I couldn’t agree with you more and think you pose very valid questions. Surely diversity encompasses much more than gender, race, and sexual orientation. While I am a fairly radical leftist in my social, political, and economic ideals, I think that free thought, skepticism, and atheism should very definitely include people of a greater range of political and social orientations and not presume ‘bleeding heart liberalism’ to be the default mode universally accepted and embraced.

  70. Azkyroth says

    1) qualities that are inborn affect one’s experience in a qualitatively different fashion from one’s chosen allegiances.
    2) a better answer, I admit, is that conservative political philosophy is largely antithetical to the goals of freethought and humanism (libertarianism is merely difficult to reconcile with humanism, in theory).

    So it’s kind of like asking “why aren’t any of them cannibals?”

  71. ckitching says

    I’m pulling a Dillahunty.

    I’m sorry. When I read this, I couldn’t help but imagine Mary Walsh’s character, Marg Delahunty. This, of course, lead to imagining Marg, Princess Warrior showing up uninvited to poke fun at Austin Cline.

  72. Greta Christina says

    Concentratedwater has been banned from this blog. He is a known troll who has engaged in threats of violence — included threats of gender-based, sexualized violence — in other blogs.

    I’m traveling, and can’t moderate as frequently as I usually do. If he shows up again using another IP address, please do not respond. I’ll block him again as soon as I can get to a computer. Thanks.

  73. Greta Christina says

    A number of people have responded to this post by asking, “If you think there should have been more bloggers of color on this list — who are they?”

    Here is a short list (again, I’m traveling and my time on the internet is limited):

    Friendly Atheist/ Hemant Mehta
    Crommunust Manifesto
    Black Skeptics (and each individual blogger in that group)
    Mano Singham
    Maryam Namazie
    Kenan Malik
    LatiNone
    No Religion Know Reason/ Caribatheist

    Some of these bloggers are on this very network, the one where the blog you’re reading right now is located. If you shift your eyes and look a few inches to the right at the list of Freethought Blogs bloggers in the sidebar, you can find them.

  74. Confused says

    I have been sporadically following the friendly atheist over the last few years. I had forgotten there was anything (still don’t remember) different about him. Cool.

    Thanks for the list. I’ll check them out.

  75. Anders says

    Thank you GretaChristina. My illness makes it very difficult to do things off my own initiatve, so it would have been difficult to go snooping on my own.

  76. Anders says

    Azkyroth.

    1) That is irrelevant unless you can also show that these qualitative differences make it less important to have a diversity of viewpoints. Can you do that?

    2) I don’t see where the great conflict between humanism and libertarianism is. Here is the Minimum Statement of Humanism

    Humanism is a democratic and ethical life stance, which affirms that human beings have the right and responsibility to give meaning and shape to their own lives. It stands for the building of a more humane society through an ethic based on human and other natural values in the spirit of reason and free inquiry through human capabilities. It is not theistic, and it does not accept supernatural views of reality.

    Where is the conflict between this and libertarianism?

  77. Leum says

    Humanism is a democratic and ethical life stance, which affirms that human beings have the right and responsibility to give meaning and shape to their own lives. It stands for the building of a more humane society through an ethic based on human and other natural values in the spirit of reason and free inquiry through human capabilities. It is not theistic, and it does not accept supernatural views of reality.

    Where is the conflict between this and libertarianism?

    Emphasis added. Libertarianism is solely interested in building a society that has complete freedom to buy and sell. It is uninterested as to the welfare of the people in the society provided they have that freedom, and is actively hostile to allowing the organization best able to make society more humane (the government) to do so.

  78. Anders says

    No, we disagree that the government is the organization best able to make society more humane. You are fighting a war against your own misconceptions of libertarianism and your demonization against libertarians. That is not a serious way to conduct an argument.

  79. Azkyroth says

    No, we disagree that the government is the organization best able to make society more humane.

    Since it advocates an approach to dealing with social and economic issues that was a demonstrably a disaster in the past and resulted in the misery and squalor of the Gilded Age and the international catastrophe of the Great Depression, it is clear that the narcisso-capitalist formulation that dominates the use of the label “libertarian” rejects either the tenet of building a humane society or the tenet of perceiving and accepting reality for what it is.

    Thanks for playing.

  80. Anders says

    Since society and the material conditions have changed so much since the 19th century, I’d be extremely wary of drawing conclusions from then as to what the outcome is now. There was simply not enough wealth to spread around. You can have the most impressive social programs that you like but they won’t help anyone if there’s no wealth to distribute.

    And if you think the Great Depression was caused by laissez-faire capitalism then I have a bridge to sell you. The Depression was caused by a catastrophic reduction in the money supply and the responsibility for that was in the hands of the government.

  81. Anders says

    Anyway, we’ve both clearly made up our minds about the matter at hand. I don’t think there’s any point to continuing the discussion.

    Adieu.

  82. PermanentStaycation says

    Confused says : “I have been sporadically following the friendly atheist over the last few years. I had forgotten there was anything (still don’t remember) different about him. Cool.”

    Something different? Racist!
    How bloody patronising: “Oh, you’re one of those people of coloured people? Bully for you! Well done, on being able to blog and everything little fellow! Cool.”

    “If I ever find out the blogger has some unusual features, I just say “cool””

    Unusual features? You racist.

    You’re all being horribly, patronisingly racist about this.
    White people and people of colour. Keep highlighting the differences won’t you, or the “unusual features”. Bloody racists.

  83. ash says

    I was on record months ago for naming Crommunist the best of the new wave of FTBer’s. (new at the time) So calls of “tokenism” are way off. I’ve never had the issues of race and privelege so well refined and fleshed out. Plus he’s a violist!

  84. Leni says

    Dearest Greta,

    I’m sorry about the limited options, but I voted for you anyway.

    Not because of your gender or race or any of that bullshit. But because I just like your blog better.

    I read it more. And I read your commenters more. And not just because there are fewer of them and so I can sorta keep up, but just because I like them better and actually enjoy reading them.

    I read Pharyngula when you and the other bloggers I love (and me) are having slow days.

    Grr. It annoys me that you have to feel responsible for this. And that I can’t just vote for you cause I like your blog :/ Which of course I can. I know. But grr.

  85. says

    Pretty racist of you to drop out because of the race of the nominees.

    If you want to call into question the nomination process, do so. If he refuses to be transparent, draw attention to that.

    “We need to stop making the public face of atheism primarily white, and primarily male.”

    Then hold the people in positions that allow them to determine the “public face of not believing in something” accountable for their actions, don’t pull affirmative action crap.

  86. says

    I just recently came across this post, and since my husband and I (I am white, and he is an African American/Cherokee philosopher) write out blog together, and now we are contributing to John Loftus’ blog, Debunking Christianity–we are at least 2 more “non-white males” that hope to crack the nut that is Christianity. The more the merrier I say!

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