An Open Letter to the Center for Inquiry, Withdrawing My Participation and Support


MORE RECENT UPDATE: Ron Lindsay has apologized for his remarks. I have accepted his apology, and have indicated my willingness to work with CFI again.

(UPDATE: In my original letter, I neglected to ask to be removed from the CFI Speakers’ Bureau. I have now done so.)

Dear CFI Board of Directors:

It pains me to do this, but I am withdrawing my support from the CFI national organization, and am cutting ties with all events, projects, and publications connected with it.

This includes the following:

* I am withdrawing as a speaker from the CFI Summit in Tacoma in October.
* I am resigning my position as columnist for Free Inquiry magazine.
* I am declining the honorarium I earned for my recent speaking engagement at CFI headquarters in Amherst, NY. Please re-direct this payment to the Secular Student Alliance. If that is not possible, please go ahead and send it to me, and I will donate it to the SSA.
* My wife and I are cancelling our subscription to Skeptical Inquirer magazine. This last one makes me extremely sad: Skeptical Inquirer played an enormous role in my process of becoming a non-believer, and it was the first publication to publish my godless writing. But I am no longer willing to be connected with your organization.

I will continue to support local CFI groups, as they are largely independent of the national organization. But unless I see tangible evidence that Ron Lindsay’s words and actions at Women in Secularism 2 do not represent CFI, and that this is not the direction CFI intends to take in the future, I cannot support or participate in the national organization.

I have already sent you two letters detailing my very serious objections to Ron Lindsay’s opening statement at the Women in Secularism 2 conference, and explaining why both the content and the context of that talk was insulting, contemptuous, patronizing, wildly inaccurate, and grossly unprofessional. I, and many other people in this community, have been waiting for several weeks now for an official response from CFI on this matter, in hopes that the Board of Directors would recognize that a large and growing segment of the community was deeply insulted and alienated by this incident, and in hopes that they would take this matter seriously.

Today’s response by the CFI Board of Directors was nothing short of cowardly.

Today’s response by the CFI Board of Directors was pure spin. It was bland, equivocating, obfuscating misdirection and corporate bafflegab. It expressed “unhappiness with the controversy,” without any acknowledgement of what that controversy was about or why people have been so angered by it. It referred to the controversy “surrounding the recent Women in Secularism Conference 2,” without any acknowledgement that the source of this controversy was the CEO of their organization. It took the cowardly position of valuing “respectful debate and dialogue” on important issues that concern the community, without being willing to actually take a stand on these issues. It expressed the intent to work with “all elements of the secular community,” without any acknowledgement of the “elements” in this community who have been engaging in a persistent campaign of hatred, harassment, abuse, and threats of violence, rape, and death towards feminist women in this movement. It expressed the intent to “enhance our common values and strengthen our solidarity,” creating a false equivalency between harassers and their targets. It was so dodgy, it wouldn’t even use Ron Lindsay’s name.

And today’s response by the CFI Board of Directors treated this community like fools. It responded to a serious controversy in the community, not with straight talk and a willingness to take a stand, but with bland corporate spin that obfuscated the issues and failed to address them in any substantial way… or even in any insubstantial and symbolic way. It treated the people in this community, not as participants to be talked with, but as sheep to be placated and deflected and manipulated.

Some people have been calling for Ron Lindsay to resign or be fired. I am not one of them. I have been calling for Lindsay to apologize. But frankly, I would have been satisfied with any action at all on the part of the CFI Board of Directors — censuring Lindsay, calling for him to apologize, apologizing on his behalf — that would have shown an understanding of the seriousness of this matter. I would have been satisfied with any action at all indicating that Lindsay’s insulting and contemptuous behavior did not represent CFI, and that this is not the direction CFI intends to take in the future.

The board wasn’t even willing to do that.

It has become all too clear that the people in charge at CFI — not the staffers, not the volunteers, but the people in power — are profoundly out of touch with the realities of this movement. They are profoundly out of touch with the ugly realities that any woman in this movement faces if she raises her head to speak about sexism. They are profoundly out of touch with the ways that Ron Lindsay’s opening talk at WiS2 was a dog-whistle to the misogynistic harassers in this movement. They want solidarity and a focus on common values, but are profoundly out of touch with the fact that it is literally impossible for this movement to be inclusive of everyone: that it is literally impossible to be inclusive of atheist women, and at the same time be inclusive of people who hate women or are dismissive of our concerns and our realities.

And they are profoundly out of touch with the direction this movement is going in. They are profoundly out of touch with the fact that the young people in this movement are overwhelmingly on board with feminism and other social justice issues. They are profoundly out of touch with the fact that the young people in this movement overwhelmingly want the atheist movement to work on these social justice issues in the places where they overlap with atheism… and want the atheist movement to pay attention to these issues in internal matters and be willing to clean up their own house. They are prioritizing the concerns of the old guard — and the lack of concern of the old guard — at the cost of alienating the vibrant, energized, well-organized, rapidly-growing segment of this community that is 25 and under. As Amanda Marcotte wrote in her own response to the CFI board statement (“The Center For Inquiry Likes Atheism’s Cranky White Guy Image, So Screw You Ladies”): “Sometimes, by refusing to take a side, you end up siding with one side, usually the bad guys.” In waffling and trying to placate everyone in this debate, they have alienated the people who are the future of this movement.

I’m done. It makes me sick and sad — I have great respect for many of the CFI staff and volunteers, and have great value for much of the work that CFI has done. But I can’t be part of it.

Sincerely,
Greta Christina

*****

Note to readers of mine who are angry and disappointed in the recent actions of the CFI leadership, but who don’t want to harm the projects or staff members who you do value and support, and who are wondering what I might suggest: Ultimately, you have to keep your own conscience. But you do have options. You can withdraw your time, energy, and financial support from the national CFI organization, and donate it to other organizations that are doing similar work and whose leadership you respect and trust. You can withdraw your time, energy, and financial support from the national organization, and donate it instead to local CFI groups. You can continue to donate money to the national organization, and earmark it for specific purposes that you do support rather than just for the general fund: such as supporting local groups, paying the salaries of staffers like Melody Hensley or Debbie Goddard, supporting CFI On Campus, etc. If other people have suggestions, I’d welcome hearing them in the comments.

Whatever you do, please let CFI know that you’re doing it. Email to the Board of Directors can be sent to the Corporate Secretary, Tom Flynn, at tflynn@centerforinquiry.net. Their mailing address is Center for Inquiry, PO Box 741, Amherst, NY 14226-0741. Please be sure to let them know what your current level of participation in CFI is — donator, organizer, local group member, national group member, event/ conference participant, etc.

Comments

  1. burkbraun says

    Seriously, this is quite overblown. Yes, Lindsay was doltish in his original talk. Yes, the CFI statement made everything quite a bit worse. But this is, as far as I know, between you and him, not between you and the whole world of CFI. Perhaps between you and the CFI leadership. Was the leadership under Howard Kurtz better? No, not at all. They have been white males for some time. And it is clear they are working on change, to the best of their cognitive abilities, which are admittedly limited. The point of these conferences and the outreach is to keep learning, not just to have a token effort for political correctness. So the better way to deal with this is to put more women on the POI podcast (I am thinking of the truly outstanding show with M.G. Lord)- generally to use that CFI machine to raise consciousness levels. But good luck and best wishes.

  2. kellym says

    When I stopped supporting the JREF because of its pro-harassment positions, it made me incredibly sad (still does!) because of my decades-long respect and admiration for James Randi. When I sent the email today ending my CFI membership (the followup to my paper letter a couple weeks ago) – no sweat.

  3. ekwhite says

    Greta, unfortunately, I cannot withdraw my support for CFI, as I never supported them to begin with. I can say I applaud your courageous stand. You have my respect.

  4. says

    The only thing I don’t understand: Why only ask for him to apologize instead of ask for him to be fired? Any apology he issues would be a lie, and everybody knows it. It doesn’t make any sense. If you only ask for him to express a false apology, the message is that he’s got to be more careful about HOW he says things, instead of, I don’t know, LEARNING that the things he’s saying are wrong…

  5. Martha says

    @burkbraun #2 You’ve woefully misread the situation. This is not about political correctness. This is about tapping a vast resource: atheists and secularists who want religion out of our public life but who are not willing to give our time and energy to groups whose leadership are dismissive of or even hostile to women’s concerns. We put up with plenty of that shit at work, where we at least get 70% of the salary of guys in the same jobs who don’t have to put up with that shit. There’s no way I’m giving away my time and energy into a group whose fundamental aim is to protect the clueless Old Boys’ club that’s in power. Such a strategy is doomed to eventual failure.

    We need institutions that can respond in a way that doesn’t serve merely to reinforce the stereotype of atheists as a cranky white men’s club, as Amanda Marcotte put it. I am hopeful that Greta’s withdrawal of her support, and similar moves by others conspicuous in the movement, will put sufficient pressure on CFI that they will respond– or result in the creation of newer institutions less dependent on a cult of a few personalities.

    Greta, I hope I haven’t violated your comment policy. If so, please feel free to delete or modify my comment.

  6. Eristae says

    I rather feel like I wrote a letter and then shoved it in the garbage disposal for all that CFI addressed anything in it.

    CFI says, “Well, ladies, we know you’re all upset about . . . something . . . and that this relates to us in some way, so we used our massive powers of Inquiry to find a black hole for you to shove your concerns into. Have fun!”

  7. Tinyal says

    Greta, as a long time lurker on all things FTB, I greatly applaud your actions as well as the manner in which you communicated them. There’s nothing I personally can do, other than not go through with my subscription to the Inquirer (I am no longer a subscriber but was thinking of renewing – not any longer).

    You are a brave, courage-filled woman as well as an example to 1000’s of others..

    If there’s anything I can ever do to assist,(which I sincerely doubt, but wanted to mention anyway) just drop me a line.

    Have a (much better!) summer!

    AMW

  8. Trebuchet says

    Greta, my first reaction when I read PZ’s post about this was that it was too bad, perhaps you should have kept working on it from the inside. Having read your letter, you’ve got it absolutely right. It’s a shame, but you’re right. Ron Lindsay (among many, many, others) has weakened the entire secular movement.

  9. carlie says

    Shorter burkbraun: Calm down, li’l lady. Lemme ‘splain it to you and talk you down from being all hysterical-like.

    Sheesh.

  10. Eristae says

    @burkbraun/2

    The point of these conferences and the outreach is to keep learning, not just to have a token effort for political correctness.

    In the event that you find yourself among people who are unwilling to even make “a token effort for political correctness” in your favor, then you’ve found yourself in a group that most certainly won’t support you in bigger, more serious issues.

    PS: as has been said, this isn’t about political correctness, although I think it would have been fine if it was (see above).

    generally to use that CFI machine to raise consciousness levels.

    I have kept learning and my consciousness level has been raised . . . about CFI and how my time, energy, and resources are best spent elsewhere.

  11. says

    @ #2. You mean the late Paul Kurtz?

    I have to agree with Greta that Ron Lindsay’s address, let alone his subsequent bizarre actions – whether he realised it or not – was giving tacit endorsement and support to the mob running the harassment campaign prior to, and during, the CfI’s own conference. That the board is now tacitly supporting that act of vandalistic sabotage is spineless and leaderless.

  12. seraphymcrash says

    So I just sent you a small lump of money, because I wanted to put my money where my mouth is (I was going to say your mouth as it’s your message, but then it sounded dirty). This event also caused me to join the American Atheists.

    You know what strikes me? They didn’t even have the guts to defend Ron. I would have thought they were dead wrong, but I think I would have had a least a shred of respect left if they had at least come out with a defense. But they didn’t even do that, they just issued this tepid negapology.

    Anyway, I support your decision, and will certainly consider supporting whatever organization you end up working for (or creating).

  13. Martha says

    Greta, can you say a bit more about the structure of CFI? If one were to, say send money to CFI-DC, would that support Melody while still providing no support for the national organization?

  14. mcbender says

    This is a powerful letter and a powerful action. Thank you for having the courage of your convictions and taking a stand on behalf of everyone who is frustrated and appalled by CFI’s treatment of these issues; I only hope somebody there will stand up and take notice. I can’t help being pessimistic, though, considering how they have been handling things so far.

  15. Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle says

    Atta girl, “erika”. Suck up to those bigots to the detriment of the movement.

    #15: i completely agree. Even if they would have explicitly supported ron that would have been at least a response. THIS is just cowardly.

  16. Eristae says

    I’m just going to say that awes me that we’re simultaneously being told, “Go away, we don’t want you here,” and “Don’t you dare think that it’s okay to leave and go do something else (like A+) because that’s divisive.”

    Make up your minds, people make up your minds.

  17. says

    I am so glad to see this. I withdrew my support for CFI in Canada about two years ago due to similar issues (namely, misbehaviour on the part of the CEO/NED and the total refusal of acknowledgement from the board). I’m still involved with my local branch because they are my community, and many of them are people that I care very much about. But the continued association of my community with the CFI brand has been deeply troubling to my conscience.

    I’ve been waiting for people with some influence in the freethought/skeptic/atheist/whatever movement to start saying “enough.” I truly hope that if this catches on and more people take a similar stand, that it will prompt either change or (finally) a clean break.

  18. says

    Greta, I applaud and support your decision. I have had no association with CFI and I will not with the National Organization unless they straighten things out. Good luck going forward. And thank you for being a large voice for those of us who cannot be out.

  19. CaitieCat says

    Yeah, this old lady’s definitely with the youngsters on this one. CFI don’t wanna come along on the ride to the future, that’s fine. I’ve no doubt that better organizations will come along that will fit that purpose. CFI seems to have thought that it was the only game in town, and that it could blow us off because we’d have no choice but to stay with them.

    Don’t reckon it’ll be long until they find out how wrong that was.

    For those working for the org, well, it may not be long before there’s a new org doing the same things better, and they’ll be looking for experienced campaigners who actually give a rat’s arse about people other than Default HuMan™.

  20. says

    @burkbraun #2 Sounds like enabling.

    When you are dealing with someone who has addiction issues, tip-toeing around their addiction and making excuses for them (“this is just how they are”), and politely explaining to them why what they are doing is going to hurt them *doesn’t work.* What does work is letting them see the consequences of what they are doing – let them see what they have done to their body, let them know how their addiction is hurting you and others they care about. It still might not be enough to prompt change, but enabling sure as heck won’t do it.

    The only way CFI is ever going to change is if people say “no, this is not acceptable.” As long as we keep staying, all the finger-wagging in the world won’t make a difference.

  21. carlie says

    I’m just going to say that awes me that we’re simultaneously being told, “Go away, we don’t want you here,” and “Don’t you dare think that it’s okay to leave and go do something else (like A+) because that’s divisive.”

    “Don’t say anything, but keep your ass in the pew conference seat and keep your wallet open for the collection plate fundraiser.”

  22. says

    Good. This whole thing has been outrageous, and I want the big names in the movement (of whom you are one, like it or not) to call them out on their bullshit.

    Has anyone discussed planning a “Women in Secularism 3″ event which will not be sponsored by CFI? The best way to rub their nose in their mistake is to succeed where they failed. (And I’d really like to be able to attend next time, too, so I guess there’s a personal element as well.)

  23. jim1138 says

    I have been holding onto my subscription renewal. I won’t be mailing it in. Also sent Flynn an email stating my disappointment. I did rather enjoy receiving the magazine.

  24. says

    Martha @16: That will support Melody as long as she is in charge of CFI-DC. Given that CFI’s board seems to be blaming the putting on of a conference instead of their CEO for their woes, you may want to hedge your bets. You can donate to CFI as a whole but earmark your funds for Melody’s salary. Then they will only be able to use those funds for that specific purpose.

  25. StevoR : Free West Papua, free Tibet, let the Chagossians return! says

    For whatever little it might be worth, Greta Christina you have my full support here.

    Its a firm but fair step to take in the circumstances and the CFI cannot say they haven’t been warned or that this wasn’t a foreseeable consequence of their behaviour – starting with Ron Lindsays original speech and subsequent doubling down.

    I hope this makes a difference and has a positive impact.

  26. clydey2times says

    Hopefully the rest of the A+ supporters follow your lead, Greta. It can only be a positive for CFI to no longer be weighed down by pseudo-skeptics who want to vilify anyone who disagrees with them.

    Good riddance.

  27. gemcutter says

    Because clydey2times and friends never vilify ANYBODY who disagree with them, amirite? And they’re all such GOOD skeptics, what with the upholding the status quo on gender relations.

  28. anuran says

    It’s very sad you were forced into this situation. But you’re doing the right thing

  29. azpaul3 says

    A bold move I would have advised against. Within the walls of the “enemy” camp is a powerful place to be. Your voice, from within, has been a stronger voice.

    However, I can only imagine, and poorly at that, the toll this situation has taken from you. On behalf of all fat old white guys with beards I wish things could have been different. With love and respect I can only accept and support your decision.

    You are a flame that sears the closed mind. Keep burning, M’lady.

  30. OpenMindedNotCredulous says

    I just emailed this to cfi@centerforinquiry.net:

    As a 52 year old privileged white male who has supported you directly and indirectly for a couple of decades I am appalled at your handling of the Women in Secularism conference. Frankly, unless you immediately fall on your sword you’ll never get another dime from me.

    http://freethoughtblogs.com/greta/2013/06/17/open-letter-to-cfi-withdrawing-support/
    http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2013/06/17/cfi-issues-a-statement/

  31. leftwingfox says

    Generally I prefer to support direct charities and targeted campaigns, rather than skeptic/atheist organizations specifically.

    I can, however, support you. I just bought the kindle editions of Bending and Why Are You Atheists so Angry.

    Stay Angry. Atheism should be more than just another authoritarian social organization. Skepticism should be more than just a brand and a badge. These are tools that help make us better, and if we aren’t willing to become better, then the tools themselves are meaningless.

  32. says

    Greta, I may have mentioned this before, but I shall do so again: the sheer, crystalline, laserlike clarity of your writing still amazes me, after these several years of reading it.

    It’s not just that this was a good letter, well written, and correct…you laid it all out so perfectly. I am in awe.

  33. Ichthyic says

    It has become all too clear that the people in charge at CFI — not the staffers, not the volunteers, but the people in power — are profoundly out of touch with the realities of this movement.

    The irony is, that Ron Lindsey himself could have said these EXACT words to the founder of CFI. In fact, he did say something quite similar to Paul Kurtz in their exchanges on the CFI forum itself when that engagement was still hot.

    http://www.centerforinquiry.net/blogs/entry/are_there_any_mccarthyites_at_the_center_for_inquiry/

    So without naming names, Kurtz accused various CFI staff of being “fundamentalist atheists” Further, in a despicable analogy, he likened the work they were doing to that of the Nazis. I’m sorry, but if smearing our staff as atheist fundamentalists and calling them Nazis is not a McCarthy-like tactic, I don’t know what is. For the record, CFI staff who endorsed and/or worked on various aspects of our Blasphemy Day commemoration included Barry Karr, John Shook, Derek Araujo, D.J. Grothe, Tom Flynn, Sherry Rook, Lauren Becker, Debbie Goddard, Dan Riley, Jeff Seaver, Jim Underdown, Justin Trottier, and Melody Hensley. All these staff were gratuitously insulted by Dr. Kurtz.
    If Dr. Kurtz is truly interested in having CFI focus on its “positive contributions,” then the solution is simple. He can stop engaging in ruthless guerilla war against the organization of which he remains a director.

    Now, Ron is playing the part of Kurtz, accusing members of his own organization and supporters of it of being “feminist fundamentalists”.

    The reason I’m really disappointed in CFI, is that they seem to have learned NOTHING from what happened with Kurtz.

  34. brive1987 says

    Look at CFIs mission and ask yourself why they engaged with feminism at all.

    It was largely off topic for them and they are clearly not intimately engaged with the premises underlying third wave feminism. At least not enough to properly host this conference. And that was a lapse of judgement on their behalf.

    Their statement sounded like an exasperated WTF and a click as a lid closed.

    In light of this an “irreconcilable differences” divorce is probably best.

    I am not sure in hindsight though, whether this gap translates into or should be treated as a ground zero.

    Separate the personalities/tone and we are really left with a philosophical difference.

    Or do you really believe Ron and CFI are now women hating misogynists deserving scorched earth and a lack of support for what they are actually good at?

    …………………………………………………..

    What CSI says it is there to do:

    Fostering a secular society requires attention to many specific goals, but three goals in particular represent the focus of our activities:

    1. an end to the influence that religion and pseudoscience have on public policy

    2. an end to the privileged position that religion and pseudoscience continue to enjoy in many societies

    3. an end to the stigma attached to being a nonbeliever, whether the nonbeliever describes her/himself as an atheist, agnostic, humanist, freethinker or skeptic.

  35. Ichthyic says

    It was largely off topic for them

    You know, the found, Kurtz, made the exact same argument about atheism itself.

    He reasoned that CFI should ignore atheism entirely.

    Ironically, at the time it was Ron Linday who argued in favor of tossing Kurtz and allowing CFI to embrace atheism as part of its mission.

    In short, you obviously know nothing about CFI or its history.

    run along and play.

  36. smhll says

    Or do you really believe Ron and CFI are now women hating misogynists deserving scorched earth and a lack of support for what they are actually good at?

    My humanism will be intersectional or it will be bullshit.

    An argument of the form “I don’t share your marginalization, so therefore I will not make common cause with you” isn’t a good way to make friends with me. An argument of the form “I don’t give a shit about you” is a good way to make enemies.

    /end gross generalizations on my part (for now)

  37. double-m says

    Greta, while I no longer live in the United States and have to rely on internet reports to make up my mind about such issues, from everything I’ve read, your decision seems only logical. If this group is unable to organize a conference without its leader screwing up, then it’s obviously time for something new. Also, I would go further than simply asking for an apology. Personally, I would demand that they demonstrate they’ve learned the lessons from this debacle and taken steps to ensure it won’t happen again.

    This may not be directly related (or perhaps it is), but would you consider summarizing the key points of your outlook for Atheist Feminism, perhaps in a separate article? By that, I mean not criticism of the status quo, but rather your outlook in positive terms: what are the issues Atheist Feminism should address? How should it change women, men, the Atheist community, and society as a whole?

    I’m asking because, while I completely agree with you on the CFI issue, I’ve noticed something that disturbs me. I’m an Atheist Feminist from a minority ethnic background. I’ve always been the person who has said “it doesn’t matter where your family comes from, or what your color of skin is”. But for the past couple of years – and not just when reading internet blogs, but also in my real-world life – I’ve found myself completely at odds with the ideas of white Feminists.

    These days, I mainly stick to my local Freethought group, whose members are all immigrants (mostly Ex-Muslims like myself), because reading or debating “white” Feminists sometimes makes me outright angry (this doesn’t go for your blog, I find your articles refreshingly rational). I still agree with them on basic things, obviously the fact that Feminist bloggers – white or otherwise – receive threats of physical violence makes me feel as angry and powerless as it would make a white person. But beyond that?

    Perhaps I’m overreacting, but it just seems that for them, things that I would consider irrelevant go to the top of their agenda, while things I would consider urgent aren’t even discussed. It’s like I call myself a Feminist, they call themselves Feminists, but our definitions of what constitutes a Feminist cause no longer match. This is even more true for the question of what constitutes an Atheist cause.

    I guess I’m asking for the perspective of a “white” person, because I (and probably others like me) am eager to see what common ground we have and where we differ. I’d be interested to see if this divide is real (and if so, how it can be bridged) or if it’s just an emotional reaction on my part.

  38. athyco says

    brive1987:

    Or do you really believe Ron and CFI are now women hating misogynists deserving scorched earth and a lack of support for what they are actually good at?

    I am surprised at your comment. I’ve seen so much better of your thinking elsewhere. Do you really believe, based on what Greta has written here, that your question is not a strawfeminist?

    Greta has laid out exactly what words and actions she finds objectionable and why. She asks for tangible evidence that those words and actions do not represent the organization and its direction. Without that tangible evidence, she cannot support or participate in the national organization.

    And, as Greta also says, there are local CFI groups following through on the three areas of focus that you list. There are ones that find the ability do so while also unequivocally acknowledging “that it is literally impossible to be inclusive of atheist women, and at the same time be inclusive of people who hate women or are dismissive of our concerns and our realities.” Those local CFI groups will have Greta’s support. They will have it because they’re willing to show that they value it enough to include her concerns as complementary of their own.

    The “scorched earth” is not Greta’s. She’d not taken these steps to withdraw through Ron Lindsay’s talk, his tweets, his “Officially CFI welcomes you” to Justin Vacula, the weakness of his “examples” of “shut up and listen,” his “North Korean communication” post, the meh-pology about part of that statement. She spoke her piece, encouraged others to do the same, and is still adding that encouragement (and recommendations for continued activism) at the end of this very post. You yourself said you hear “an exasperated WTF and a click as a lid closed” in the CFI Board’s statement.

    I’ve found you a discerning reader in other situations, brive. Unfortunately, not here.

  39. LeftSidePositive says

    brive1987, I strongly suggest you read everything Crommunist has ever written regarding how inane it is to describe someone as “a racist.” Then, try to apply the same thing to “a sexist” or “a misogynist.” No one here has said that Ron Lindsay is consciously or intentionally misogynistic. He has simply absorbed sexist standards from his culture like most people have, and he’s doing things that marginalize women as a result of them. Yes, it is possible to be a well-meaning person but be so defensive and pigheaded that one insists on doing harm more for the sake of one’s ego and obliviousness to the damage one’s ignorance and entitlement is causing. Ron Lindsay (or anyone for that matter) is not entitled to Greta’s support just because they fall short of 1.0 Akin on the misogyny scale. Even being a clueless pompous ass is more than enough reason for us to sever ties with someone, and that’s not the same as saying we can’t tell the difference between him and Vacula. We’re saying that in the multifactorial social dynamic in which harassment operates, Ron Lindsay’s behavior enables Vacula and marginalizes women like Greta, and as such, he needs to shape up or ship out.

  40. llewelly says

    This is an excellent response to the awful behavior of Ron Lindsay, and the CFI board’s seeming pretension that he has done nothing wrong.

    Thank you, Greta, for writing this.

  41. Eristae says

    For some reason, “amirite” always makes me think of cookies. Macaroons, to be specific. I don’t know why.

  42. Greta Christina says

    And it is clear they are working on change, to the best of their cognitive abilities, which are admittedly limited.

    burkbraun @ #2: No, this is not clear at all. The whole point of this post is that this is not clear. They are not working on change. They are digging in their heels against it. They are giving it lip service, but refusing to walk the walk when called upon to do so. And these are not stupid people. Their cognitive abilities are fine. They’re just being cowardly and willfully ignorant. If they’re trying to send any signals art all that they are working on change, they have failed miserably.

    The only thing I don’t understand: Why only ask for him to apologize instead of ask for him to be fired? Any apology he issues would be a lie, and everybody knows it. It doesn’t make any sense. If you only ask for him to express a false apology, the message is that he’s got to be more careful about HOW he says things, instead of, I don’t know, LEARNING that the things he’s saying are wrong…

    richieadler @ #6: Speaking for myself only: An apology would not necessarily indicate that he had had a sincere change of heart. But it would indicate a willingness to act differently in the future.

    You know what strikes me? They didn’t even have the guts to defend Ron. I would have thought they were dead wrong, but I think I would have had a least a shred of respect left if they had at least come out with a defense. But they didn’t even do that, they just issued this tepid negapology.

    seraphymcrash @ #15: That’s a really good point. This response from the board wasn’t just insulting to the feminists. It was insulting to anyone and everyone in this movement. It treated all of us as sheep to be spun and placated and deflected and manipulated… not just the feminists.

    Greta, can you say a bit more about the structure of CFI? If one were to, say send money to CFI-DC, would that support Melody while still providing no support for the national organization?

    Martha @ #16: What Stephanie Zvan said @ #30. That only helps Melody if she stays on at CFI-DC. If you want to support Melody, the best thing to do is make a donation that’s earmarked for her salary. That way, if she is fired or leaves, they have to return it.

  43. LeftSidePositive says

    I’m just going to link to my rebuttal of azpaul3’s “from within” nonsense that he was concern-trolling PZ with.

    Shorter me: if “from within” was really as powerful a place to be as you seem to think it is, then why the hell did Greta’s complete analysis of what was wrong with Ron Lindsay’s talk & behavior, not to mention her signing on to the letter from the conference speakers (ALL of whom were, by definition in their role as conference speakers, acting “from within!”) not even get her concerns ACKNOWLEDGED by the CFI board, let alone listened to or agreed with?!

  44. Greta Christina says

    Look at CFIs mission and ask yourself why they engaged with feminism at all.

    It was largely off topic for them and they are clearly not intimately engaged with the premises underlying third wave feminism. At least not enough to properly host this conference. And that was a lapse of judgement on their behalf.

    brive1987 @ #43: This has been addressed again and again and again and again and again. But sure, I’ll give it another stab. If the atheist community and the atheist movement wants to survive and thrive, it needs to make itself more appealing to a broader range of people than it currently does. It needs to make itself more appealing to more women, more people of color, more working-class and blue-collar people, and so on. And there are two things that need to take place for this to happen. 1: The community/ movement needs to focus at least some of its energies on issues that, while still being within the movement’s wheelhouse, particularly concern women, people of color, working-class/ blue collar people, etc. 2: The community/ movement needs to pay attention to sexism, racism, classism, etc. in internal matters. If CFI, or any other organization, is going to survive and thrive and accomplish its mission, it needs to make this happen.

    Also, as I pointed out in this piece, the younger people in this movement are overwhelmingly on board with the feminism stuff… and they are being alienated by organizations that treat feminists and feminist issues with contempt… and if organizations lose young people, they lose.

    More detail on this in my earlier piece, Does Social Justice Activism Mean Mission Drift for Atheism and Skepticism? To quote from that piece:

    “Myself, and the other people I know of who are advocating for the atheist and skeptical movements to focus more on social justice issues, are not proposing that these movements change their basic missions in any way. We simply want for these movements to expand the appeal of atheism and skepticism to demographics we haven’t traditionally attracted, by focusing part of our attention on issues that these people care about and that are still totally in our wheelhouse. We are basically advocating for two things:

    “(1) that these movements expand the focus of their existing missions into new areas having to do with politics and social justice, in ways that are consistent with those existing missions and that constitute clear overlap between those missions and these issues;

    “(2) that the organizations in these movements pay attention to these issues in internal matters, such as hiring and event organizing.”

  45. Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :) says

    Or do you really believe Ron and CFI are now women hating misogynists deserving scorched earth and a lack of support for what they are actually good at?

    Why do people keep attributing this opinion to us? What do they know that we don’t that would make it a reasonable conclusion? O.o

  46. chiptuneist says

    You know what the first thing I thought when I saw the response was?

    That is fucking lazy.

    I’m not a member of CFI, and I’m certainly not a financial supporter. This is because I’m… I’m poor, is the thing.

    But if I did have disposable income, and I was providing them with money, I would stop right now. And I would stop because of all the reasons everyone else has already gone over many times.

    But the first thing I noticed was the laziness, and that alone would have been enough. Does anyone here think that it took more than ten minutes to decide what was going to be said, and how? Because it fucking did not. It was a task on a checklist. You know, the task that doesn’t get checked off until the end, and all the other check boxes around it get checked until it’s the last task on the list, and so someone grudgingly accepts that it needs to be done. Then they do it with the most minimal amount of enthusiasm and effort possible.

    They constructed that statement with the same level of care and attention and involvement as someone taking out the trash, and they did so in about half the time. The main problem is that they weren’t taking out the trash, the secondary problem is that if they were taking out the trash they would be dragging it along the floor, leaving a trail of discarded soda and unknown mystery liquids behind them, and when they threw the bag at the dumpster, they missed, then said ‘close enough’ and went back inside.

    But yeah, main problem. This was IMPORTANT. This was going to be their response to something that has immense significance to the people who support them. This was not a task to be checked off with a sigh and a shrug at the end of the night when everything else was done. If they had been extraordinarily lazy about something as relatively unimportant as taking out the trash, I would be put off, but I wouldn’t be angry.

    I am fucking furious. This statement sends a very clear message: “We view you as a tedious annoyance, not really worth our time, but you won’t stop going on about… that controversy thing, whatever it was, I don’t really remember. Anyway, here’s a form letter. Whatever.” That’s not what the words SAY, but it is what they mean, in context.

    Well fuck that. I certainly wouldn’t support any organization that is that fucking lazy when dealing with any very important thing that they should be taking seriously. The fact that they were that lazy when dealing with THIS PARTICULAR VERY IMPORTANT THING would be not only reason to withdraw my support, it would also make me screamingly angry.

    But I am poor. And have no audience. And my saying I withdraw my support is meaningless as such. So what I’m trying to say is thank you Greta, so much, because this calls for more than words, and unfortunately words are all I have.

  47. kevinsolway says

    The CFI are out of favor with everyone. They are too weak for the crazyfems, and too weak for the anti-crazyfems.

  48. machintelligence says

    I haven’t been a contributor or subscriber to CFI for a decade or two, so my continued nonsupport means little.
    Nevertheless, I can say that, in your position I would have done the same thing. Congratulations on taking your principled stand.

  49. brive1987 says

    Apologies to all whom my comments offended.

    And no qualification of “but you have misunderstood me”.

    My post was blunt and I would certainly redact the last para (which poorly reflected some of the sentiment I read rather than Greta’s opinion or for that matter reality).

    In light of this I appreciate the patient replies.

    I completely agree that atheism without social justice is meaningless and narrow.

    It is now equally clear that the CFI Management group are mentally and philosophically “not there yet”.

    Certainly the evidence is abundant that running a conference with the themes and sensitivities of WiS is outside their pay grade. They should apologise – regardless of whether they understand the cause of the anger.

    My original posts major error (other than the unfair characterisation of “women hating misogynists”) was that it appeared I thought it OK for CFI to operate at this level. I don’t.

    I am interested in one thing Geta, you mention that you are not “proposing that these movements change their basic missions in any way”

    I’d suggest they actually have to do exactly that – though maybe the term “expand” or “develop” is better than “change”. The addition of SJ to atheism is the next big leap and a quantum jump for many.

    Certainly the dusty mission statement of CFI needs to change along with their mindset. Unfortunately there will be an extended period of discussion and education before that happens. And I cannot now envisage the mechanism that will bring change.

    I hope this is a clearer expression of my thoughts, and once again I appreciate the patience of your responses.

  50. rq says

    Very well said/written, Greta. Sharp and appropriate.
    I, too, am sorry you (and many others) have been placed in this position, but the choice to stop supporting CFI is the right one.
    I hope that eventually they realize their mistake, but I won’t hold my breath.

  51. rq says

    chiptuneist @57
    I’m just going to point to your comment and nod my head vigorously, with great enthusiasm. Very well-said.

  52. paul says

    That only helps Melody if she stays on at CFI-DC. If you want to support Melody, the best thing to do is make a donation that’s earmarked for her salary. That way, if she is fired or leaves, they have to return it.

    I don’t know if any organizations would allow (or, more to the point, honor) such specific earmarking of a donation. I think the only way to make something like that work is if the donation is ongoing in regular installments, with the stated threat of stopping it if the organization does something of which you do not approve.

  53. csrster says

    About the Author: “She is on the speakers’s bureaus of the Secular Student Alliance and the Center for Inquiry. ”
    Ouch.

    As a cranky old white atheist, although neither as cranky, white, nor old as PZ Myers, you have my support. To put it bluntly, why bother working for a rational, secular society unless it’s actually going to be a better to live in than the one we’ve got?

  54. ischemgeek says

    I completely understand and support your pissoff here. Complete customer service fail, complete PR fail.

    To mangle a sports metaphor: I don’t expect them to respond to a likely-accidental foul by one of their players perfectly. I do expect them to acknowledge that the foul happened in the first place.

  55. UnknownEric the Apostate says

    My humanism will be intersectional or it will be bullshit.

    Damn right.

  56. says

    They constructed that statement with the same level of care and attention and involvement as someone taking out the trash, and they did so in about half the time

    I’m not sure about that. To write something that vapid takes time and effort. You have to double-check and make sure you remove all expressions of opinion and delete any reference to the actual subject. It’s tricky as hell.

    What pisses me off about it is that they apparently think we’re all morons. They write a statement so pathetic, on a subject that has already generated so much talk and emotion, and then send it out to a community of skeptics? What the hell did they think was gonna happen? Did they really think that we’d all just be satisfied with that?

    I guess they did. Because they think we’re morons.

  57. latsot says

    Greta is giving up some income to make an admirable stand. What can we do? BUY HER BOOKS. They are excellent. I’m a particular fan of Why are Atheists so Angry on audiobook, read by Greta herself!

  58. says

    Greta: I support your decision entirely. One question: Where next? What other organization(s) do you think we should migrate towards?

    I think you have a place of privilege most of us don’t because you interact with these organizations and their leadership way more than most-or-any of us mere mortals.

    I’m looking at American Humanists and American Atheists. I’m not so “into” student stuff, primarily because I’m an old fart, so SSA is not where my heart or my head is.

    Any other suggestions?

  59. chiptuneist says

    I’m not sure about that. To write something that vapid takes time and effort. You have to double-check and make sure you remove all expressions of opinion and delete any reference to the actual subject. It’s tricky as hell.

    I would agree with you if it weren’t for the fact that the first paragraph looks like it was copy pasted from a file labeled “genericformletter.txt”. I find it incredibly difficult to believe that the remaining two paragraphs were checked and rechecked for anything. Hell, they couldn’t even find a more appropriate word that “unhappiness”.

    What pisses me off about it is that they apparently think we’re all morons.

    Yeah, I get you there. Do they seriously think that the people who have been deeply involved in the secular movement for years aren’t capable of spotting corporate non-statements from two miles away? That’s another reason I don’t think they spent any time or effort or thought on this.

  60. CaitieCat says

    I would agree with you if it weren’t for the fact that the first paragraph looks like it was copy pasted from a file labeled “genericformletter.txt”.

    Don’t be silly. It’s a Word Template, “Generic Organizational Noncomittal Vapidity 3a.dot”, merged with the output from Adobe’s new Adobe Bafflegab, part of the Adobe Anticreative Suite.

    It works kind of like a Mad Lib. You stick in your organization’s name, and a few generic “values” words, and bingo! Corporate Emptyspeak all ready for your important press conference!

    MS introduced it in January 2013, with their first big clients’ use.

  61. says

    The CFI are out of favor with everyone. They are too weak for the crazyfems, and too weak for the anti-crazyfems.

    Just a note on Kevin Solway: people should know who he is. He tends to pop up in atheist/skeptical discussions where they intersect with feminism.

    He’s a guy who sincerely believes that it’s a fact that a.) he can measure rationality and b.) women are on average less rational than men and c.) he’s a feminist for pointing this out.

    He’s a transcript of an interview he did. He’s also a big fan of Otto Weininger. Google that name and you’ll see. Solway has plenty of writing substantiating these views. Anyway. Just a PSA.

  62. perplexed says

    My partner and I are huge GC fans. Always have been, always will be. What you write speaks to us on many levels. We have your books and bought them for our kids. We and the kids have had the great fortune to have seen you many times.
    I respect what you have done. In my view it takes huge character and sincerity to put your money where your mouth is. You did not disappoint.

    I do however take exception to a few comments you made in your current post,

    “And these are not stupid people. Their cognitive abilities are fine. They’re just being cowardly and willfully ignorant. If they’re trying to send any signals art all that they are working on change, they have failed miserably.”

    If they aren’t “stupid” or “cognitively challenged” as you state why does that leave only “cowardly” or “willfully ignorant” as the only alternatives. I have no idea why they wrote what they wrote but can come up with several scenarios other than your characterization. I actually think it would have been easier for them to apologize knowing that a storm was going to head their way because of the nature of the way they wrote their statement so it would be interesting to hear from them regarding the motivation of why this response occurred instead of speculating on motivation.

    You also wrote
    ,
    “This response from the board wasn’t just insulting to the feminists. It was insulting to anyone and everyone in this movement. It treated all of us as sheep to be spun and placated and deflected and manipulated… not just the feminists.”

    I’m hardly a sheep and my partner is certainly not one. The response from the board did not affect us like it did you but I appreciate the passion you put into your words. In this case I believe your words were overextended and broad and don’t characterize how we felt and my guess would be others like us. Whether we are a majority or not I have no idea but I’m sure there are others who share a less passionate view of the response from the board. My guess would also be we were more the target audience the board wrote to.

    I remember the first lecture I listened to of yours a few years ago on YouTube. My partner had been reading several of your posts and had read several to me over the phone and when we were together she wanted me to watch you speak. It was the middle of the evening and I was captivated by your the weight of your words and passion. One of the take always of that video was the statement you made regarding the “LGBT” movement and how there were different roles everyone played. Some were openly militant and others much more laid back but all were important. I (we) appreciate your position and concerns regarding feminism and it’s place in the community. Our actions of how we seek change differ. Just as you identified on the video I watched.

    I wish you the best and we will continue to be supportive and ardent fans.

  63. says

    @double-m (#47) I can’t speak for anyone but myself, and obviously not for Greta, but I’d love her to do a post like that. I’d also love to hear from you. I have a horrible suspicion (well, near certainty) that we’re doing a crap job for women who are any-colour-but-white. I’ve noticed lately that on the rare occasions when I get into an online discussion, I tend to defend women first and worry about racism as an afterthought. I’m sorry. I’ll try to improve, because I know what it feels like to be at the bottom of the to-do list: the bit that never quite gets attention.

    The other problem is that when I speak out against, say, FGM, it’s all too easy for the other side to blow me off as a racist. It’s not like racism’s rare. I honestly don’t know what to do about that, and I’d love your opinion.

    If you haven’t tried them yet, there are some more FTB blogs you might like: Maryam Namazie and Taslima Nasreen particularly.

  64. says

    If they aren’t “stupid” or “cognitively challenged” as you state why does that leave only “cowardly” or “willfully ignorant” as the only alternatives.

    Because, given the flood of emails they have received from speakers and attendees, they sure as hell can’t claim any legitimate ignorance or misunderstanding. They must have consciously decided to not respond to what people are saying. If that’s not cowardly or an example of willful ignorance, what is it?

    I have no idea why they wrote what they wrote but can come up with several scenarios other than your characterization

    I notice you don’t mention any.

    Seriously, explain to me why you’re not pissed about this. Explain how this is anything other than a slap in the face. I honestly don’t get it.

  65. says

    ” My guess would also be we were more the target audience the board wrote to.”

    So your arguement is that instead of addressing the passionate people who wrote in emails and letters explaining their problems with Ron Lidnsey’s actions including some big voices and many of the speakers at their convention, the board felt the need to release a very content light message to the unpassionate majority?

  66. perplexed says

    @75…”If they aren’t “stupid” or “cognitively challenged” as you state why does that leave only “cowardly” or “willfully ignorant” as the only alternatives.”

    “Because, given the flood of emails they have received from speakers and attendees, they sure as hell can’t claim any legitimate ignorance or misunderstanding. They must have consciously decided to not respond to what people are saying. If that’s not cowardly or an example of willful ignorance, what is it?”

    I was not privy to the board deliberations so I have no idea what they consciously decided other than to share the document they published. You are certainly entitled to your speculations or chacterizations and guesses.

    “I have no idea why they wrote what they wrote but can come up with several scenarios other than your characterization”

    “I notice you don’t mention any.”

    Correct. I made a conscious choice not to guess.

    “Seriously, explain to me why you’re not pissed about this. Explain how this is anything other than a slap in the face. I honestly don’t get it.”

    Simple, my life experiences are different than yours so my reaction is different than yours. It doesn’t preclude concern or curiosity for this issue but I choose to be aggressive differently than you. If and when a times comes for me to act, I will.

  67. perplexed says

    @76…” My guess would also be we were more the target audience the board wrote to.”

    “So your arguement is that instead of addressing the passionate people who wrote in emails and letters explaining their problems with Ron Lidnsey’s actions including some big voices and many of the speakers at their convention, the board felt the need to release a very content light message to the unpassionate majority?”

    Yes that would be my guess.

  68. says

    I see you share CFI’s preference for utterly content-less statements. Maybe that’s why you don’t feel insulted by them.

  69. says

    @78
    Ok that seems backwards to me. Why issue a statement to the more or less content onlookers instead of addressing the people with the issue? For example imagine CFI was a restaurant and someone had a problem with the meal so they asked to see the manager. The manager is brought out and instead of talking to the patron who has the problem with their food/service the manager addresses the larger dining area full of other customers then wanders off. That would seem to be the worst way to approach the problem and build goodwill with its customers.

  70. double-m says

    @sheila #74 Thanks, I’ve been reading them for some time, they’re both women I admire a lot.

    I haven’t had the time to put this into polished words, so what I’m writing here will be more intuitive than properly argued. I live in Switzerland now, and one thing I’ve noticed in Swiss feminists I know in person as well as white American Feminists on the internet, is that they seem to place too much emphasis on symbolic issues and too little emphasis on practical issues, they seem to be overly concerned with “meta-” stuff.

    Meta-communication instead of communicating concrete change, exhaustive discussions about sexism on the internet but very little in comparison about real-world legal and economic inequality, clearing language of sexist phrases and debating whether a certain phrase is sexist or not, instead of debating how religious indoctrination strips women of the ability to make rational choices for themselves, and how to counteract that. If I, say, visited a feminist blog in June 2013, I’d expect the headline article to be a list of addresses of Tunesian embassies in different countries, and a call to send them protest letters. Instead, I find debates about some internet feud between a white male called Silverman and another white male called Vacula (the fact that they’re not even explaining what this feud is all about tells me they’ve been concerned with it for some time).

    Or another example: I’ve asked a number of Swiss women from the town I live in, and who identify as Feminists, what they considered to be the most annoying manifestations of sexism at their workplace. Most of the answers had something to do with sexist or patronizing language. My personal answer would be, if I worked in a place where equal pay for immigrant women, and equal access to leadership positions were a reality, I could laugh off a few immature jokes in the cafeteria. The reason they annoy me is that they symbolize an underlying sexist, xenophobic reality. To me, focussing your fight on these symbols would seem like an admission that you can’t fix the core issues, like fighting the easy fight instead of the difficult, more important fight.

    Even this post we’re commenting on here, while I completely agree with Greta’s decision, is representative of this trend. Yes, the incident should be mentioned and criticized, but it’s been mentioned way too often compared to far more important issues. The dominant topic coming out of WiS2 should be, what concrete benefits the conference had for secular women and what decisions were made that would allow us to help women who aren’t yet Atheists or Feminists. Instead, the Atheist Feminist community is devoting its time to a white male who screwed up.

  71. says

    @78

    Ok that seems backwards to me.

    Why issue a statement to the more or less content onlookers instead of addressing the people with the issue? For example imagine CFI was a restaurant and someone had a problem with the meal so they asked to see the manager. The manager is brought out and instead of talking to the patron who has the problem with their food/service the manager addresses the larger dining area full of other customers then wanders off. That would seem to be the worst way to approach the problem and build goodwill with its customers.

    This is especially troubling that a group that wants to do political work including advocacy and activism should be so bad at meeting the basic standards for interacting with your supporters.

  72. double-m says

    @sheila #74 By the way, I’ve seen the same pattern in areas other than Feminism. A member of my local Freethought group is an F2A trans-person (a person who was born female, but identifies as androgynous). This person says “please focus on convincing my Kurdish family to accept my identity instead of constantly telling me to ‘get over this phase’, help me design the personality development tools for young trans-people that regular schools and Middle Eastern family life automatically provide for young cis-people, and then you can debate whether she, ze, xe, tee, or something else is the correct pronoun for me”. Sounds eerily familiar to me.

  73. perplexed says

    @78…boards always have a fiduciary responsibility of care and diligence and operate in their own self interest and I don’t think this statement was addressed to “content onlookers. You may agree or disagree but the very fact there was an extended blackout till the release of the statement I think is telling. Next and most importantly, who exactly is their “customer” or “content onlookers” as you put it? The folks that sent letters or major donors? The board did a pro forma of some sort and decided how to address the issue. They came up with the statement delivered yesterday.

  74. says

    @perplexed, #84:

    You’re presuming a number of things:

    1. The “major donors” didn’t send letters.

    2. The “major donors” aren’t concerned by the bad publicity caused by this incident.

    3. CFI will not lose “major donors” if members begin to levee en masse and walk out.

    The bad publicity they got from Lindsey’s utterly brain-dead actions was bad, but anyone with any sense could see that this response — which, remember, is a total refusal to address the issue in a meaningful way — would make the problem a lot worse. They just took a situation where a lot of people were conditionally threatening to leave, and got those people to leave.

    Dunno about you, but when I give money to people, I like to give it to people who act wisely. Someone who thinks they can antagonize their own paid members into leaving is pretty much by definition not someone who acts wisely. I suspect their donations are going to take a major, major hit — and don’t expect the MRAs to pick up the slack; Internet trolls seldom actually contribute money to the causes they claim to support.

  75. says

    @84

    I agree they have such responsibilities, I too find the blackout telling and agree that this is what they came up with and delivered. None of that was in dispute in fact that’s exactly why I find the statement so poor in quality. I don’t see how not addressing the concerns of people who sent letters (which included a large chunk of the speakers at their last conference) serves the financial needs or the self interest of the organisation. If anything not addressing the concerns of the very speakers (big names with audiences they can sway) and attendees (who are by definition customers) who made their last event so successful seems to run counter to these very ideas.

  76. =8)-DX says

    Why only ask for him to apologize instead of ask for him to be fired? Any apology he issues would be a lie, and everybody knows it. It doesn’t make any sense.

    I don’t agree. From what I’ve read and heard of Mr. Lindsay, he is a person with a strong ego, but also a strong sense of intellectual integrity. Misinformation, defensiveness and a lack of empathy are what prevent him from properly apologising, not dishonesty I think.

    The problem is that CFI and Lindsay are also ignoring all the “soft” complaints, all the calls to reason, all the explanations, the attempts to make him understand where he went wrong. And all that leaves people with is rejection of him and the leadership entirely. It’s up to Mr Lindsay and the CFI board to correct this.

    I still think (and many have voiced this) that an honest apology, aknowledging and ceding the specific points where Lindsay was wrong/ignorant/patronising would be accepted by most if not all of the people complaining about this.

  77. chiptuneist says

    “Don’t be silly. It’s a Word Template, “Generic Organizational Noncomittal Vapidity 3a.dot”, merged with the output from Adobe’s new Adobe Bafflegab, part of the Adobe Anticreative Suite.”

    My mistake. Bet I could have saved them money on software, though. It would take less than an hour to implement what you just described FOR REALS, including something like spell check that underlines words like ‘sorry’ and ‘disappointed’ and displays dialogue boxes that say things like “‘sorry’ implies acceptance of responsibility; would you like to replace it with something more neutral, such as ‘unhappy’?”

  78. says

    Hey Christina,

    I am also an ex-cfi member and a feminist, and wanted to comment on this debate. I read Lindsey’s speech, and it did make me cringe in places, possibly because I was searching for controversy….but regardless, I certainly felt your anger at the reference to ‘angry things feminists did.’ That is certainly not helping misconceptions about feminism. But I was really excited he quoted Bell Hooks….Even though he forgot the premises of her book “Feminism is for Everybody.”

    Here is the thing. I don’t think it helps feminism for you to leave cfi. I think if you talked to Ron, or asked him to talk to feminists, maybe on a panel or whatever, that would be way more helpful.
    I think a better response from Lindsey is possible. I don’t think he is secretly very anti-feminist (although I could be mistaken), perhaps more realistically, he is a product of a patriarchal culture, who has misconceptions about feminism (like just about everyone I talk to). I know he is a reasonable guy, and if what you want from him is to promote furthering feminism, I think you could totally get it. It just might take some effort.

    A lot of people look up to you. And a lot of people *need* cfi in their lives. I respect you for being a feminist and promoting good feminist ideology, and thats why I’m asking you to remember, for the sake of women, that some feminists need their cfi communities. In my cfi group, I made so many close girlfriends and we’ve helped each other through so much and become better feminists together.

    You are in a position to change things in cfi, you have a powerful voice, more powerful than your average women in secularism conference attendee. You have the power to help a lot of people, and further feminism in a forum that I know could be, and often is, very receptive to it.

    Anyway, I hope you’ll consider my note. I’ve already spent to much time not working on exams that I need to be, but this was a cfi issue that was important to me for the first time in a long time. So I hope that whatever you decide to do, it will be good for feminism, including feminists who need their cfi communities.

    Yours respectfully,
    Christina K.

  79. Greta Christina says

    I think if you talked to Ron, or asked him to talk to feminists, maybe on a panel or whatever, that would be way more helpful.

    Christina Koutouzos @ #89: Do you think people haven’t already tried that? Lots of people have tried talking with Ron, and with the CFI board. The board was deluged with letters and emails about Lindsay’s behavior. We have been ignored.

    A lot of people look up to you. And a lot of people *need* cfi in their lives. I respect you for being a feminist and promoting good feminist ideology, and thats why I’m asking you to remember, for the sake of women, that some feminists need their cfi communities. In my cfi group, I made so many close girlfriends and we’ve helped each other through so much and become better feminists together.

    I understand that CFI does good work, especially on the local level. That’s one of the reasons I suggested, as one possible response, that people withdraw support from the national organization and re-direct it to local groups.

    But there’s a point at which “they do good work, too” is not a good enough justification to stay connected with an organization. And if people aren’t willing to leave an organization and cut off support for it when they behave reprehensibly, the organization will have no motivation to change. I’m not saying everyone has to do that — I think this is a difficult situation, with no one good answer — but I think it’s a valid action. Trying to effect change from within can also be a valid action… but if you’re never willing to leave, if there’s nothing an organization can do that will get you to leave, you’re abdicating whatever power you might have to get them to change.

    You are in a position to change things in cfi, you have a powerful voice, more powerful than your average women in secularism conference attendee. You have the power to help a lot of people, and further feminism in a forum that I know could be, and often is, very receptive to it.

    I think that’s probably true. And I am using that power as best I can, in keeping with my own conscience. I’m not a CFI staff member, I’m not on their board of directors, my power “from within” is very limited. The power I have is the power to speak, and to be heard, and to persuade. I am using it.

  80. ibbica says

    To me, focussing your fight on these symbols would seem like an admission that you can’t fix the core issues, like fighting the easy fight instead of the difficult, more important fight.

    What exactly makes you think the fight is being “focused” there? Migroaggressions are bloody “annoying”, and yes they do help support all those bigger “core issues” that you’re so concerned about. And as for it being the “easy fight”… We’re seeing right now just how “easy” it is to get people to quit those “symbols” that you’re so quick to dismiss as irrelevant.

  81. LicoriceAllsort says

    Greta @ 55:

    Myself, and the other people I know of who are advocating for the atheist and skeptical movements to focus more on social justice issues, are not proposing that these movements change their basic missions in any way. We simply want for these movements to expand the appeal of atheism and skepticism to demographics we haven’t traditionally attracted, by focusing part of our attention on issues that these people care about and that are still totally in our wheelhouse.

    What’s surprising to me is that I posted this same sentiment about Atheism+ last September on Ron Lindsay’s blog (comment #229):

    [O]ptions for involvement [in the formal atheist movement] are still limited to a handful of umbrellas that are going to motivate a limited number of atheists to action. It’s unreasonable to expect ALL atheists to have talents or interests in these few areas, particularly as atheism becomes appealing to growing numbers of people… [B]y diversifying, we’re creating more options for atheists to get involved. There is still value in the other avenues of activism within the movement, but now there’s 1 more way to appeal to atheists once they arrive, to motivate even more atheists not just to stay but to get involved.

    … and Ron himself singled out my comment as one of a few that were “helpful” (#268). It gave me hope that maybe it’d sunk in a little bit. It didn’t stick, unfortunately, as he continues to subvert and belittle meaningful discussion of social justice topics within atheism.

  82. ibbica says

    I understand that CFI does good work, especially on the local level. That’s one of the reasons I suggested, as one possible response, that people withdraw support from the national organization and re-direct it to local groups.

    I keep hearing this, and frankly “…but they do good work, at the local level” just reminds too much of “…but the church does good work, at the local level” arguments to continue to ignore it.
    Is there an explanation somewhere of just how the local and national organizations are related? Where does funding come from / go to, how readily can it be tracked? Can you count as a ‘member’ of a local but not the national org? How much independence do the local org’s have from the national one? Can a local CFI denounce Lindsay’s comments without, say, funding-related repercussions? i.e. what does a local CFI chapter do that (1) they couldn’t do independently of Lindsay and the current board and/or (2) couldn’t/wouldn’t/isn’t being done by another (secular) organization?

    Simple, my life experiences are different than yours so my reaction is different than yours. It doesn’t preclude concern or curiosity for this issue but I choose to be aggressive differently than you. If and when a times comes for me to act, I will.

    ‘…and then they came for me…’ mean anything to you?
    Hyperbole aside, yeah, you’re free to ignore others’ problems. Hell, you’re free to ignore your own problems, if you want! You don’t care, that’s fine. So what exactly is the point you were trying to make with your comments here?

  83. says

    I think if you talked to Ron, or asked him to talk to feminists, maybe on a panel or whatever, that would be way more helpful.

    Christina Koutouzos, people talked to Lindsay. In person. At the conference. Nothing changed. People sent him emails. Nothing changed. People sent CFI letters. Nothing changed.

    There has been plenty of talk. They’re just not listening. Making women feel comfortable and included is clearly not a priority.

  84. perplexed says

    @94…‘…and then they came for me…’ mean anything to you?

    Since I lost most of my family in the holocaust probably more than you can imagine. Unless you have a shared experience you don’t have a clue what that feels like. Unless you have family that came out of a camp and looked in their eyes and listened to them talk you have no idea the everlasting impact that has. So yes it has meaning for me.

    “Hyperbole aside, yeah, you’re free to ignore others’ problems. Hell, you’re free to ignore your own problems, if you want! You don’t care, that’s fine. So what exactly is the point you were trying to make with your comments here?”

    I was answering a question I was asked in a prior post. Your interpretation though very glib does not in any way accurately portray my answer as I wrote it and I thought my point was quite clear.

  85. double-m says

    @ibbica #94

    What exactly makes you think the fight is being “focused” there?

    The amount of attention given to the various topics, both in real life and online?

    Migroaggressions are bloody “annoying”, and yes they do help support all those bigger “core issues” that you’re so concerned about.

    I don’t dispute that. What I can’t seem to agree upon with white Feminists is what exactly constitutes microaggression, and what weight should be given to it.

    And as for it being the “easy fight”… We’re seeing right now just how “easy” it is to get people to quit those “symbols” that you’re so quick to dismiss as irrelevant.

    Try fighting for equal pay for immigrant women at your workplace, and you’ll get a good idea of the distinction between “easy” and “difficult”. Or try fighting to rectify a situation, where your family member, who is a great organizer, is told she can’t have that secretary’s job, but there’s an opening for a housekeeper, all of which, of course, has nothing to do with the fact that she’s an ethnic Romani person who also happens to be from the Middle East. Hint: you’ll be fighting alone, because all those white “Feminists” at the company will be too busy getting some immature trainee boy fired, who made a sex-related joke at a table of only men in the cafeteria, that wasn’t even directed at anyone specifically. And even if you do get them to set her moral hysteria aside for a moment and listen to your cause, you can bet their first reaction will be to question the qualifications of “that Gypsy girl”.

    If a woman is physically attacked, threatened, stalked, blackmailed or something similar, I’m the first person to say that we must stand together to help her. The same goes for cases where women are insulted, such as the WiS2 case, as long as they don’t overshadow more urgent issues. And of course, white Feminists are free to choose whatever causes they like. But as long as they choose non-violent disturbances in their clean, white, culturally Christian middle-class world over issues that affect the livelihood of women and their families, as long as debating internet feuds between white males overshadows helping imprisoned women or sheltering Atheists who come out from their vindictive religious families, they’re simply not my allies.

    I’ve asked Greta for her position on the subject of Atheist Feminism, because she’s struck me as an unusually intelligent and rational person. If I had a lot of common ground with a white Feminist, it would be with someone like her. I’d like to have an idea about where our cause is the one and the same, where we can cooperate on issues that we agree upon, and where our views and needs are simply too different.

  86. says

    double-m @97

    I guess you missed Richard Dawkin’s Dear Muslima kerfluffle. Somebody somewhere will always have a worse lot than yours. Does that mean EVERYONE EVERYWHERE should just throw there hands up and give up on every other injustice, since it’s not the worst one? Does the fact that larger injustices exist somehow make the smaller ones acceptable?

  87. deoridhe says

    But as long as they choose non-violent disturbances in their clean, white, culturally Christian middle-class world over issues that affect the livelihood of women and their families, as long as debating internet feuds between white males overshadows helping imprisoned women or sheltering Atheists who come out from their vindictive religious families, they’re simply not my allies.

    I’ve been thinking about this since the Women in Secularism Conference, particularly in terms of my own responses (as a white, privileged feminist) and where my attention went. Outside of some immediate interest and adoption of the concept of tracking who “matters” in a given situation, and how central mattering is to people, I’ve mainly been drawn to the more sensationalistic, non-violent things as you say, and it’s not something about myself I’m particularly proud of.

    On self-reflection, I have to conclude my focus is influenced by internalized sexism and racism; I seek out white men first, white women secondarily, and everyone else in a far third, and there’s something profoundly off about that. If I am to be a person in line with my values, I have to recalibrate who “matters”. Your comment about focusing on the sexist joke in the lunchroom while a Romani woman is denied a position she’s qualified for and would do well really hit home, so thank you.

  88. says

    Oh no – another rift in the community of, well whatever community you want to call it… I expect all the drama will feed the continuing worship of non-existant gods and ridiculous beliefs & practices for a long time to come…

  89. Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle says

    I think if you talked to Ron, or asked him to talk to feminists, maybe on a panel or whatever, that would be way more helpful.

    *lolsob* why didn’t anyone think of this before!?!?! Why didn’t they try to talk to him at the conference? Oh, they did. Why didn’t they write extensive posts about the issue, neatly and clearly detailing their objections/issues with Ron’s statement? Oh, they did. Why didn’t they write comments on the bullshit smear campaign posts Ron put up at CFI? Oh, they did. Why didn’t they write directly to the board, again neatly and clearly detailing their objections/issues with Ron’s statement? Oh, THEY DID.

    They fucking ignored all of it and then issued this worthless, cowardly non-statement.

  90. elind says

    Wow! I read the above link to the transcript of the speech in question and while one can debate the relevance or significance of one point or another (and I did read quickly) I simply don’t see the issue here.

    If there is a perceived critique of some aspect or another of “feminism” , then this resulting crisis is ridiculous.

  91. smhll says

    Try fighting for equal pay for immigrant women at your workplace, and you’ll get a good idea of the distinction between “easy” and “difficult”. Or try fighting to rectify a situation, where your family member, who is a great organizer, is told she can’t have that secretary’s job, but there’s an opening for a housekeeper, all of which, of course, has nothing to do with the fact that she’s an ethnic Romani person who also happens to be from the Middle East. Hint: you’ll be fighting alone, because all those white “Feminists” at the company will be too busy getting some immature trainee boy fired, who made a sex-related joke at a table of only men in the cafeteria, that wasn’t even directed at anyone specifically. And even if you do get them to set her moral hysteria aside for a moment and listen to your cause, you can bet their first reaction will be to question the qualifications of “that Gypsy girl”.

    So you understand how hard it is to get people who aren’t marginalized (like I am not a recent immigrant) to notice and care about the issues that do not affect them directly? It is a big damn problem and it cuts in several directions. I believe you would like people who don’t know what it’s like to be in your shoes to shut up and listen to your story so that you can catch their empathy and gain their support. (And I’ll shut up now.)

  92. Greta Christina says

    Wow! I read the above link to the transcript of the speech in question and while one can debate the relevance or significance of one point or another (and I did read quickly) I simply don’t see the issue here.

    elind @ #102: Did you also read the above links to the pieces explaining why, exactly, not only the content but the context of this talk were so troubling?

  93. Greta Christina says

    double-m: If your point is that feminists — atheist and otherwise — need to focus on serious, practical needs of poor women, blue-collar and working-class women, immigrant women, women of color, and other doubly-marginalized women (or triply- and more)… yes. I am entirely in agreement. I have written and spoken and acted about this many times in the past, and will continue to do so in the future. If I’m not doing enough, or there are particular issues you or others think I should be focusing on, I’m eager to hear about it.

    In fact, that’s a big part of why I’m engaging in this particular fight. CFI is one of the largest organizations in this movement, and it is probably the largest organization sponsoring local community organizing. And local, in-the-flesh community support is a huge amount of what multiply-marginalized women get from religion — and atheists need to be willing and able to replace it, as best we can, if we want to make a safe place to land for these women (not just women, but that’s who we’re talking about now) when they find their religion toxic, misogynist, or simply wrong. If the national organizations — and the local organizations they’re being an umbrella for and taking leadership signals from — are openly hostile or callous about giving a damn about feminism, it’s going to seriously impede these efforts. It is already impeding these efforts. I can’t tell you how many women I’ve spoken to — of a wide variety of races and classes — who have told me, “Yeah, I really wanted to get more involved with atheism… but then I saw all the misogynistic hostility, and fuck that.” I am trying to push back against that misogynistic hostility, and make atheism a safer place for more women. I’m trying to make atheism bigger and more inclusive, so (among other reasons) we have more people and resources to fight on more fronts.

    Yes, other issues are also important, and I do work on them. I’m just focusing on this one right now.

  94. says

    Feminism is as much part of the mission as opposing faith healing instead of actual medicine: both sexism and faith healing are instigated and reinforced by most religions and neither is rational.

    I think that local CFI chapters must be evaluated one by one to see if they have a commitment to rational and egalitarian treatment of all people.

  95. says

    If anyone is going to earmark a donation for Melody Hensley, you do not have to specify that it must be salary: just that it must go to her–so that, even if she stops working for them, the money can still go to her for other reasons such as supporting her next conference or paying severance pay.

  96. double-m says

    @Lauren #98

    I’m well aware of the topic, because the Rebecca Watson vs. Richard Dawkins feud spilled over to our local Freethought group and ended with all the Non-Swiss people walking out and starting their own group. It was actually one of the events that convinced me this perceived split was real. Apologies if this comment is a little on the passionate side, but I still get angry when I think about it.

    The initial position of the immigrants was that rational arguments could be found to partially support and partially criticize both sides in that debate. For example, we argued that while Richard had raised a debateworthy issue (we hadn’t decided whether we agreed with him or not, we just considered it an interesting point), his patronizing tone was inappropriate. A Bangladeshi male member of the group wanted to send him a letter saying, “Dear Richard, you may have a long life experience, your point may merit further thought, but that doesn’t mean you can treat Rebecca and other younger people like we’re ignorant children. Please stop insulting people who agree with you on 99% of the issues” (I don’t remember his exact words, but that was the essence of it).

    Similarly, the immigrant women argued that, while it was completely unacceptable that people tried to take away Rebecca’s right to free speech with threats of physical violence, her message was the wrong one from a Feminist perspective. My friend, a Moroccan woman, said “Feminism should empower women with the strength and courage to stand up to one non-violent male in a one-on-one situation without fear” (I actually wrote that one down in my diary, because it expressed my sentiments exactly). We wanted to send her a letter saying, “we’re ready to fight to protect your free speech, whether we agree with your views or not, we do agree that the boy in the elevator acted inappropriately, but we also think your position gives the impression that women can only be strong in numbers, and not as individuals. If physical safety is your concern, we have a very effective martial arts class for women here at our local group. For us, it has gone a long way toward taking away our fear of situations like the one you experienced” (paraphrased again).

    You don’t have to agree with those positions. The Swiss women at our group certainly didn’t, and we were fine with that. Unfortunately, they weren’t able to respect our views in return. We were bombarded with emotional arguments, all of which amounted to us having to totally commit to their position on faith or else be traitors to the cause. I conceded the point that we might be missing something and asked the Swiss women to state their position in clear, calm, rational terms. The response was a rant that said Feminism was a European invention (maybe it was, so what?), that my background in a patriarchal foreign culture made it impossible for me to understand it and I therefore wasn’t entitled to having an opinion about it, and that I was supposed to shut up and believe when an enlightened European woman lectured me on Feminism.

    This continued at every weekly meeting for about a month, until I said “okay, I get it, we immigrants are primitive savages who will never understand your superior white views. Now, this Neanderthal woman is politely asking you to move on, so we can all get back to our Freethought related work”. Not a chance, it went on and on and on. A few weeks later, when the group refused to work with us on a project to help asylum seekers until we agreed to commit to their position unconditionally, we walked out. This was actually the first time the group had planned to do anything immigrant related, and it never happened. What a surprise.

    It wasn’t just this one experience that did it for us. It was the final straw. This came after all those times when we had set our unimportant immigrant issues aside for the sake of unity, and supported our “common” goals, which in hindsight were more often than not goals for Swiss people. We did pursue a few projects related to minorities, but always without the help of the rest of the group. They never cared to educate themselves about these issues, never helped, but always had a lot of “great” advice. And then we weren’t even allowed to have an opinion on a matter that involved white people.

    I remember vividly, how I spent an entire day in the kitchen, when those Swiss Feminists asked me and three other Middle Eastern women to make Arabic and Turkish desserts for striking German women from across the border. Those were the same women who bragged about never doing any housework (which is easy if you have immigrant women who cook for your striking sisters, and an immigrant nanny for your kids). And then they told me that my choice to raise my children full-time, which was partially influenced by the racist incident with my cousin, disqualified a “whore to patriarchy” (yes it was in the heat of argument, but they actually used that word) from commenting on Feminist matters such as the Watson-Dawkins debate. Well, it wasn’t a problem for them when they needed a cook.

    It’s hilarious if I think about it, but the behavior of white Feminists turned me from neutral, leaning slightly toward Rebecca’s side, into a staunch supporter of Richard’s point of view. I know not all white Feminists are like that, and Rebecca herself has the least to do with it, but I felt a lot more like the “dear Muslima” he addressed in his parody after those experiences, than when I first read it. I don’t want this divide to exist, but we’ve accomplished more in the year-and-a-half since we stopped caring about the needs of white Femnists than in all the years before.

    I’m still willing to cooperate with Swiss people in the community work I do, but only if they’re willing to maintain the minimum standards of rational behavior that can be expected from an Atheist, and not if they turn their personal issues into social causes that everyone must support, while our social causes are relegated to the status of personal issues.

  97. double-m says

    @deoridhe #99

    The irony is, many of the concrete actions that would help, say, Middle Eastern women, would help American or European women every bit as much. If there was a safehouse system for Atheists from fundamentalist, presumably mostly Muslim families, it would also benefit white Feminist bloggers. Take Rebecca Watson. If some pervert nut ever decided to act on his threats against her, the infrastructure to protect her would already exist. My local community work is too invisible to make me a target, but some women who work with me even on this low level, already are targets for violent males. Nothing would make their lives easier than knowing they had a place to go with people trained to protect them if all else failed.

    The martial arts classes I mentioned in my previous comment are another example, actually a parade example. We’ve been holding them for the girls and women here, and their primary purpose is to enable us to protect ourselves from abusive, religious family members (I don’t have that problem personally, but other women here do). But it’s also helped us deal with the kind of microaggression Ibicca mentioned in a much more effective way.

    Sure, many males could still overpower me, but I’m far less worried about it now. Ten years ago, if some stranger had made advances to me in an elevator at night, I would have been every bit as creeped out as Rebecca was. I would have been very careful not to say anything that could have provoked him. Today, I’d probably make fun of his clumsiness and lack of courting skills, and be confident while doing it. Because I’ve realized that the kick many males get out of harrassing women, especially strong, outspoken women, is to watch them fall apart and run for cover.

    It took me almost 30 years to realize this, but their goal seems to be to put a woman in a position where they can dominate her. If they get a confident reaction instead of the submissive reaction they seek, if that reaction is genuine and not just practiced, so that it speaks through your body language and your voice tone as well as your words, they stop (unless they’re complete sociopaths who don’t mind going to prison for a real assault, but then these people are a threat to everyone, not just women). For me personally, this approach has done what no complaint to authority figures like shop councils could do – it has drastically reduced the problem.

    I don’t disagree that Feminism should also criticize patriarchy, push for legal changes to protect women, and so on, but my experience and the collective experience of many minority Feminists is that concrete, practical action to empower women should be our primary concern. Not the only concern, but the primary one. That includes making every attempt to solve problems ourselves, instead of running away from them and calling for outside help. Here is an example for this: I’ve attended several events that tried to encourage girls to study natural sciences. 80% of those lectures were about how to build social networks within the scientific community, 10% about dealing with stereotypes and only 10% about actual science.

    I completely disagree with that approach. What I tell the girls at the local asylum seekers’ home (we do a kind of mentoring thing there, and I have a prepared speech for it) is this:

    “Natural science isn’t about social networking, it’s about solving hard, complex, logical problems, that require you to go into uncharted territory on your own. The latter part doesn’t come naturally to a woman. I don’t know if this is cultural or genetic, but I do know from personal experience – at least at first – that natural science, when done properly, is outside the comfort zone for most women, including myself. This is something we have to recognize and not sugercoat, before we can overcome it.”

    “The woman who mentored me, when my family moved here, said to me: ‘If we stay in the comfort zone of our village community and leave exploring the uncharted territories of the surrounding forrest to the men, then the men will be making all the great discoveries and we will be stuck decorating the village.’ She was right. Yes, it’s true, the forrest may be full of scary monsters and we might have to fight them off without relying on group support. But that’s a risk we have to take if we want to get the rewards that come with it. Because the place where women as a group can earn the intellectual prestige that convinces society to take us seriously as leaders, is in the ‘hard’ intellectual disciplines. It comes from disciplines where you make groundbreaking discoveries, invent things from scratch, rather than those disciplines where you merely analyze, interpret, preserve things that already exist.”

    “You can choose whatever discipline you want for yourself. But weigh the comfort of going into law, social sciences, some administrative discipline, against the advancement you can make for yourself and women as a whole by making the counterintuitive choice, knowing full well it will lead to situations where you have to fight off a bear all by yourself. Because a leader – whether you lead people or whether you lead in terms of achievement – is expected to be the first to enter unsafe territory, not wait until someone else has declared it safe.”

    Recognizing this point was really life-changing for me. I had often complained about women not being taken seriously enough at the local Freethought group – even after it became an immigrant-only group. As an experiment, I then educated myself about a topic of higher mathematics. It was quite a threshold I had to cross there, but I forced myself to do it. Then I waited for the right time and started talking about it, by using it as an analogy for something else. At first, everyone looked at me as if I was an alien, because they might have expected that kind of mathematical understanding from a man, but never a woman. But no one has ever ignored anything I’ve said since then. The other women at the group have also tried this approach with identical results. It’s much easier to demand something, if your demand comes with irrefutable real-world evidence.

    What I’m saying is, that changing women is often the key to changing men and society as a whole. Not always, but often enough. This is something I’ve seen minority Feminists embrace much more readily – perhaps because they often have no choice – than white Feminists.

    @Greta

    My response to you involves spelling out these things more clearly. There are other issues too. I’ll try to do that during the night, but I may be too tired, since I have a six month old son with one hell of a sleep cycle. It may take me a day or two.

  98. LeftSidePositive says

    double-m, I have to say that your position regarding Rebecca Watson’s statements during Elevatorgate are a pretty revolting strawman. She said she felt uncomfortable. Not that she felt physically threatened. Moreover, statements to the effect of “I shouldn’t have to put up with this shit” are not the same as “I am incapable of handling this.” And “It makes conferences unpleasant and not worthwhile when you corner women alone” is not in ANY way, shape, or form, the same thing as “I am incapable of defending myself alone.”

    Moreover, expecting women to take on the burden of self-defense (and expose themselves to risk of further injury) is truly disgusting. “Oh, just take a martial arts class!” is, for one thing, much more the illusion of security and veers REALLY close to victim-blaming like all the rape-prevention tips people love to spout out that assumes women should take on protecting their nether regions as a second job. It also makes women sacrifice HOURS of their lives every week to an activity they don’t even enjoy (or they would be doing it already, for fun!), costing them time & money & therefore equality, just because our society has painted a giant target on them. That is accepting second-class citizen status, and there’s no indication it’s even effective anyway! Acting like martial arts is even a remotely appropriate response to creepy come-ons or gropings is absurd, because it reinforces the rape-is-only-done-by-strangers-in-the-bushes narratives, and ignores the context in which the vast majority of sexual assaults take place (contexts in which, like the very situation RW was in, would undoubtedly get a woman arrested if she punched a guy in response to a creepy come on!).

    Of course, that doesn’t excuse any of the racism that you describe, and even if they were frustrated by a viewpoint they found insulting (as, I must say, I find what you wanted to write to Rebecca Watson! Although I could only imagine what hilarious animated gif she would have sent you in response to such asinine advice as “take a martial arts class!”) that is absolutely and categorically unacceptable for them to even THINK such things like what you recounted. It also rather shows how corrosive racism is that they couldn’t just calmly articulate why they had a problem with your position and instead had to lash out (and, the viewpoint you expressed, while problematic, is expressed by TONS of educated liberal white people of my acquaintance so it’s fucked up of them to externalize it).

  99. John Horstman says

    @double-m: Thank you for taking the time to explain your perspective. I think a big part of the problem is that one of the primary effects of any kind of privilege is that one’s position is treated as the default, and so every aspect of social privilege carries the additional privilege of not having to be aware of problems faced by individuals in more-marginalized or differently-marginalized groups. Part of the issue you’re noting is caused by a simple lack of knowledge, compounded by many feminists’ defensive reactions when their own privileges are questioned (literally everyone does this, and it takes lots of practice to get out of the habit – I’m a White, male, cisgendered, man from the USA who speaks English, comes from an affluent background, and had the privilege of an excellent education, and I constantly have to make an active effort to analyze the various ways in which all of my own privileges and experiences might be biasing my views when I’m working in social justice activism, and try to not react defensively if privileges of which I might not even be aware are critiqued). I’m sorry to hear the groups you’re working with have been so ready to dismiss the concerns of people like you. One way we people of relative privilege have been attempting to help address the problem is by focusing on trying to create spaces where people with various intersectional marginalizations can actually speak out and be heard, though that’s obviously not effective if we don’t listen to what, for example, you are actually saying. This is part of the reason there’s a focus on meta-communication: unaware of specific problems, well-meaning people might try to combat problems that they see as preventing the concerns of people unlike them from being aired.

    The (loosely-defined) Third Wave has been attempting to expand the scope of feminisms and tackle issues of intersectionality. In the feminist circles in which I travel, there actually is a big focus on compound barriers faced by immigrant women and women of color and poor women (and those who may or may not belong to some combination of those groups). Here in the USA at least, there are laws in place that are, in theory, supposed to protect against the kind of overt pay discrimination and hiring discrimination you note. In practice, these laws don’t work very well, so efforts to address the problems tend to focus on how to make them work better – the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009 is one such example, if a rather tepid one (the dysfunctional nature of our governance structure doesn’t help matters).

    Another issue is the entrenched status of capitalism, which is by definition exploitative of laborers, natural resources, etc. – more value is created by the application of labor by the workers to raw materials than the workers receive in compensation. That the overwhelming majority of White, Western feminists buy into capitalism as an organizing principle of economics influences other views – if one accepts the exploitation of laborers as fair or natural, the deeper exploitation of a certain class of workers is going to be less visible, or at least viewed as much less serious (because one has already accepted the premise that exploitation is sometimes perfectly okay or unavoidable).

    I don’t have a particularly coherent response to all the issues you raise; I agree completely that they are issues that should be addressed, and the way they have so often been dismissed when you raise them (including in some of the comments here) is disturbing to me. Hopefully I can offer a little insight into some of the thought processes and perspectives that are informing the behavior of White feminists with whom you’ve had problems, though I’m obviously guessing – I can’t read their minds. Again, as someone with basically nothing to personally gain from ANY social justice issue, who has decided to try to stand up for and offer any possible help to marginalized people of all stripes, it disturbs me greatly when social justice advocates are dismissive of issues that aren’t their exact focus or directly relevant to them. If I were only concerned with the issues that directly impact me, I wouldn’t be involved in social justice at all, so, led by their examples, the implicit suggestion of White, Western feminists who dismiss concerns raised by women unlike them is that I should perhaps join up with the MRA groups intent on opposing THEIR goals. I’m not actually going to do that: to paraphrase smhll’s comment, my activism will be intersectional or it will be bullshit.

    In a sense, I think it’s a little unfair to simply ask, “How can I help?” because that puts the full burden of coming up with plans of action onto the shoulders of the already-overburdened, but not knowing perspectives other than mine through personal experience, I can really only find out how to help if others tell me. Maybe, “what problems are you facing that aren’t being addressed?” would be better. If you’re dealing with people unwilling to ask or to listen to the responses you give, then you’re probably correct in thinking there’s not going to be a whole lot of common ground. I’m sorry about that. I hope that if you keep raising the issues you experience, maybe some of the people who react defensively initially will come around after a time. Good luck, and thanks again for being willing to engage with another potentially-hostile group.

  100. double-m says

    @LeftSidePositive #110

    I’ve explained the martial arts topic further in my second comment. Its purpose is as much confidence building, as it is physical safety, and in my experience showing confidence in real-time is a far more effective weapon than public complaints. And yes, here in my strictly local community, it is VERY effective. You’re forgetting that it’s also the only approach available to many women and girls. Not everyone has the kind of public support Rebecca has. In fact, the people that a well-known Atheist Feminist is a role model for, usually don’t. If a Feminist role model cries “I’m scared” instead of saying “girls, if this happens to you, stand your ground and don’t let the guy dominate you”, then the message is disastrous for all the women who have no one to turn to and who HAVE TO handle this on their own.

    I have absolutely no patience for the kind of attitude you show. Your idea that society will change just because you demand it, may work if you live within the context of a functioning social environment. The women (and men) I work with don’t have that luxury. And I won’t even dignify the more nonsensical parts of your comment with a response. Yes, you have a right to say those things, but I have a right to ignore them, because I’ve had quite enough of this aloof attitude.

  101. LeftSidePositive says

    She never said she was scared. She said she was uncomfortable. Those are two completely different things.

    And no, my confidence won’t be built by being told I’d better do an activity I hate because it’s my responsibility not to be raped.

    And it’s a totally different thing from having a group of people who enjoy an activity and find it effective, to telling someone else they should do it instead of speaking up, and tasking them with the burden of prevention.

    You also don’t realize that Rebecca DID stand her ground and didn’t let that guy dominate her. You’re just buying into that trap that pointing out a problem must inherently be admitting weakness.

  102. double-m says

    @John Horstman #111

    I think you raise quite a few interesting issues, and I have to think about some of them. Taking capitalism in its current form for granted is one of them. One of the reasons I find Sikivu Hutchinson very inspiring, is because she also raises this issue. And “how can I help” is never a wrong question to ask, at least not with me. My response would be, “what are your resources, skills, etc.”.

    One thing just strikes me. I have no way of knowing if AJ Johnson’s lawsuit against AA has merit or not. I wouldn’t be surprised if it did, but I’m forcing myself to keep an open mind. But I find it absolutely hilarious, how AA’s dismissive statement about her skills (it effectively says she was a little girl who wasn’t up to the job, which stands in stark contrast to the person I can see in videos of conference talks) is described as an “exemplary reaction” in comments by people who would be up in arms if a white Atheist Feminist was the target of such a statement.

  103. double-m says

    @LeftSidePositive #113

    That’s exactly the kind of meta-thing I was tallking about. Philosophical discourses about whose responsibility it is to do what are only helpful, again, within the context of a stable social environment. Many minority communities simply don’t have that.

    Yes, the men who rape women are responsible. What a grandiose insight. Now how does that help me stop violence and harrassment against women? I’m only interested in working solutions, which improve the situation here and now. We’ve found such a solution, it works for us, and I strongly suspect it would work for others. If you have a better idea, I’m willing to listen. But if all you have is unhelpfulness, then your definition of Feminism and mine don’t match, I can’t see you as my ally, and I have no patience for you.

  104. double-m says

    @LeftSidePositive #113

    One more thing:

    You also don’t realize that Rebecca DID stand her ground and didn’t let that guy dominate her. You’re just buying into that trap that pointing out a problem must inherently be admitting weakness.

    Then why wasn’t the main part of her message about how she did it? Now that would have been helpful and inspiring to women and girls who find themselves in such a situation without anyone to turn to.

  105. LeftSidePositive says

    You’re the one who wanted to tell Rebecca she shouldn’t speak out, that she was speaking out incorrectly, you tried to twist her words into implying she was afraid, and you showed the presumptuousness to tell HER she should take martial arts classes. You were in favor of telling Rebecca NOT to speak out about her harassment and to take martial arts INSTEAD. Now you’re retreating into this “it works for us.” Bullshit. You were trying to tell Rebecca not to do what she was doing.

    Seriously, who the fuck would write this?!

    We wanted to send her a letter saying, “we’re ready to fight to protect your free speech, whether we agree with your views or not, we do agree that the boy in the elevator acted inappropriately, but we also think your position gives the impression that women can only be strong in numbers, and not as individuals. If physical safety is your concern, we have a very effective martial arts class for women here at our local group. For us, it has gone a long way toward taking away our fear of situations like the one you experienced”

    Translation: we think you’re a coward, shut up, you should just take it, speaking out about fixing a problem necessarily states women can’t handle that problem, and we are here to tell you what to do with your spare time so you will take the burden on yourself instead of making public statements, and here’s a massive dose of condescension from us based on our presumption that you must be afraid.

    This shit is not okay. And YOU are the one telling others what to do in this situation, not the other way around.

  106. LeftSidePositive says

    Then why wasn’t the main part of her message about how she did it? Now that would have been helpful and inspiring to women and girls who find themselves in such a situation without anyone to turn to.

    Because she was addressing MEN. You know, the ones you paid lip service about being responsible for their own poor actions toward women. She was telling men not to do that. Because we women are entitled to expect better and we don’t have to focus on telling women how to protect ourselves and deal with men who treat us badly. Inspiring women and girls to keep putting up with shit is not really ambitious thinking. You’re just accepting that women and girls are always going to find themselves in that situation. Actually standing for a community that ceases to tolerate those situations is important, and you should stop shaming a woman for speaking out towards exactly that goal.

  107. double-m says

    @LeftSidePositive #117

    You’re the one who wanted to tell Rebecca she shouldn’t speak out, that she was speaking out incorrectly, you tried to twist her words into implying she was afraid, and you showed the presumptuousness to tell HER she should take martial arts classes. You were in favor of telling Rebecca NOT to speak out about her harassment and to take martial arts INSTEAD. Now you’re retreating into this “it works for us.” Bullshit. You were trying to tell Rebecca not to do what she was doing.

    Seriously, I’ll waste my time on this for exactly this one comment, because I’m getting the impression that I’m not dealing with someone who’s interested in a serious discussion. Which part of “we’re ready to fight to protect your free speech” is it you’re not getting? The letter was longer, there was an entire paragraph that said exactly this. She had the right to say whatever she wanted to say, and no one could take that away from her. Followed by another paragraph that said (summarized) “we do agree that the boy in the elevator acted inappropriately”. How you can take the combination of the two statements to have anything to do with telling her to shut up, is beyond me – that’s as long as I’m assuming you’re not trying to derail the discussion about Feminism and minorities.

    And yes, the words “creepy” or “creeped out” do imply fear. And yes, saying that “fear” should not be the message a well known Atheist Feminist should be sending to women and girls, who see her as a role model, is justified. Especially when coming from a group, where overcoming fear is a central issue for girls and young women, and every little piece of inspiration is helpful. And yes, giving and example for a strategy for overcoming one’s fear of unpleasant situations, especially one you’ve already tested on yourselves, is the far better approach than merely demanding she do so.

    And yes, she was addressing men, but women also listened to her statements. And in my strictly personal opinion, part of being a Feminist is that women’s impression of what I do is my primary concern. It was not the message we wanted to hear from a Feminist, because of the issues I mentioned earlier. That doesn’t mean we wanted to censor her free speech. It means that we, and minority Atheist Feminists like us, are not the target audience for her type of Femnist message. Which brings us back to “where do we have common ground with white Atheist Feminists, and where are our needs too different”.

    As for your “translation” and your accusations of “shaming” people, those only exists in your imagination. I’m sorry I have to say it in this confrontational way, it wasn’t my intention to get into this kind of useless debate when I made my first comment, but it’s the only thing I can say about it.

  108. LeftSidePositive says

    “We support your right to free speech but we still think you’re sending the wrong message” is not a ringing endorsement. I’m not saying you’re censoring her; I’m saying you’re judging her, and your judgement is just plain wrong.

    And no, “creeped out” is not indicative of fear. It’s indicative of discomfort, affrontery, unease, but there is TONS of space between that and actual literal fear of one’s safety. There’s a huge difference between “It is unacceptably unpleasant to have to assess whether or not I am in danger” versus “I actually think I am in danger.” I can tell you from my own personal experience that 99.9% of the time I would describe myself as “creeped out” I had no literal concern for my immediate physical well-being.

    part of being a Feminist is that women’s impression of what I do is my primary concern.

    What the fuck does this even mean? I think being a feminist is advancing the political, legal, and social equality of women. NOT concern trolling other women. NOT refusing to hold men accountable for women’s uncomfortable situations due to their behavior. NOT telling women to shut up (and yes, “think of the girls who won’t be suitably inspired if you say something bothers you!” is functionally the same as “a good role model should ignore being bothered and you shouldn’t say that.”) about what bothers them to present a veneer of toughness. Moreover, giving women the impression that it’s okay to tell men not to do something IS A GOOD THING. “We also think your position gives the impression that…” is necessarily advising someone to change her position, which, when coupled with the fact that your position is a complete and utter strawman not to mention concern-trolling, is shaming (as is your implication that she must be afraid and it’s her fear that’s the problem, as opposed to male entitlement being the problem).

    Moreover, what is to stop your martial-arts loving friends from ALSO telling men to stop behaving like entitled jackasses? Why wouldn’t you consider someone who speaks out against male entitlement to be someone with whom you have something in common, and why would your needs be opposed to speaking out against male entitlement?

  109. LeftSidePositive says

    we do agree that the boy in the elevator acted inappropriately, but we also think your position

    “But” is generally a big red flag in this sort of thing…

  110. double-m says

    @LeftSidePositive #121

    Okay, having an opinion on how the actions of a white Feminist are received by my community is “shaming”, “concern trolling”, “telling you to shut up”, “refusing”, “strawman”, whatever. This doesn’t make any sense, and I’m done talking to you. Goodnight.

  111. LeftSidePositive says

    Not just having “an” opinion. Having the particular opinion that you expressed, which is problematic for all the reasons I have already explained. Opinions have content, and yours is wrong, and tells women to shut up and deal with problems instead of speaking out against them.

  112. double-m says

    @michaeld #120

    Such campaigns are very useful, but we can’t focus on them exclusively. it’s important to consider that men from less privileged backgrounds will be less receptive to such things – if they even reach them. Most abusive Middle-Eastern husbands and fathers would consider such campaigns Western arrogance that attacks their culture. In many cases, the only element you can reach and work with, really are the women and girls.

  113. LeftSidePositive says

    @125: fine, then do what works for you. If you don’t think addressing men will be an effective campaign in your situation, then fine. But why would you write to someone who is addressing men that they are doing it wrong? Why are you telling others not to do what they perceive needs to be done in their context? Why did Rebecca’s choice of activism get a “yes, but…” from you?

  114. says

    @125
    I don’t recall saying exclusively but at the end of the day men are a large part of the problem and any solution is going to have to directly or subtly target men because of it.

    I also don’t recall that we were discussing “the most abusive middle eastern husbands and fathers”.
    To quote you
    “Now how does that help me stop violence and harrassment against women? I’m only interested in working solutions, which improve the situation here and now.”

    There are plenty of people outside of the various criteria you just listed (“most abusive” vs less, “middle eastern” vs other immigrant groups, “husbands” and “fathers” vs boys) that such campaigns can and do reach which as my link showed have real tangible effects for improving the lives of women/girls in the here and now. Saying that a measure won’t solve all aspects of a problem by going to an extreme example doesn’t mean it can’t still have positive and immediate effects.

  115. double-m says

    @Greta

    There are many things that could be done, that might benefit both white and minority Atheist Feminists (and Atheists in general). For example, I’ve visited the Atheism+ website, and I didn’t exactly find it very helpful for my work. I don’t need a definition of the problems, I already know what they are. What I’m really interested in are solutions. So rather than an Atheism+ website, I would like a website for the Atheist Way (as in what Gora and Saraswathi did in India, applying Atheism to solve social issues).

    Having a central place for describing concrete, community and other, work based on Atheist principles would be very helpful. Perhaps a kind of moderated Wikipedia, that ideally doesn’t record the addresses of submitters, so people from less Atheism-friendly countries can contribute. Something with an article on each topic, that provides a rationale, perhaps even the philosophical motivation behind it, but more importantly the concrete steps people have taken to implement it. For example, I’d love to write such descriptions for the work we do at the local asylum seekers’ home. They could then be used by other people who do similar work, either as inspiration or perhaps even as a step-by-step recipe. And we could get inspiration for new projects from what other people do. Right now, the only place to get this kind of inspiration is Google, or reading the collected works of Gora. Both are very time consuming. I don’t have the technical skills to make this happen, but maybe someone who already runs a website does.

    As far as prioritization is concerned, I would say defending basic human rights should have the hightest priority. Physical safety really is an issue for Atheists from some minority groups, women first and foremost, but also men. For example, we’re planning to build a safehouse for Atheists and the infrastructure to set them up to live in another city, as part of a full-service “Atheist Centre” (also inspired by the Gora family’s organization in India). This isn’t something that’ll happen overnight, it will take years to build and a lot of patience and dedication, but it is something that’s very central for us. It would be much easier if we knew people elsewhere, say in the United States, were also working on something similar and we could share our ideas and experiences with them (say through the aforementioned website). I’m pretty sure the need for something like that exists in the U.S. as well.

    Mentoring is another important topic, especially for girls. Supporting young minority women, who have already graduated from highschool and want to go to college, is crucial. But mentoring girls at a much earlier age, is even more important. Getting them interested in science, helping them build confidence, teaching them things like martial arts (even if some people here disagree) can make a significant difference for them. Of course, that would require white Atheists to physically go into the neighborhoods, asylum seekers’ homes, and so on, where these girls live. For example, American Atheists would be a much more useful organization in my eyes, if their headquarters were in a socially disadvantaged New York neighborhood instead of Cranford, NJ, and if they divided their time between what they currently do and Atheism-based community work in their immediate vicinity.

    Imagine every mid-sized city had an Atheist Centre that did all these things, in addition to promoting rational thought. Imagine both the help we could provide in integrating minorities, and the credibility this would bring to Atheism. I know, it’s a distant dream, and even if all Atheists started today, only our descendants may see its completion. But just imagine how wild it would be.

  116. double-m says

    @michaeld #127

    That’s why I said “such campaigns are very useful”. No offense intended, but I usually mean what I write quite literally. No hidden messages between the lines.

  117. double-m says

    @Greta

    One huge aspect I almost forgot to mention: Atheists have an unusually high representation among scientists (yes, the majority are white males, but they can help too). That is not being used to help the minorities whose allies we claim to be. For example, if I were a medical researcher who made intersectionality between Atheism and LGBTQ-advocacy her central social cause, I would make sure that would be reflected in my scientific work.

    I would make research my priority, that would e.g. one day enable us to build the technology required for same-sex couples to have biological children. Or to give transgender people the option of transitioning completely, including the ability to reproduce as the correct sex, as opposed to merely cosmetically. Of course, that wouldn’t solve all of their problems, but it would be a major advancement.

    My closest personal friend is a transwomen – the word “beautiful” doesn’t do her personality justice – who still identifies as a Deist, and who took great risks to her health to have a more complete reassignment surgery abroad than what is legally possible in Europe. She just told me yesterday, if we made it possible for her – or even younger trans-people one day – to have children, that would be the day she’d embrace Atheism. I’m pretty sure she wouldn’t be the only one.

    What I’m trying to say is, there are cases where science can provide partial, or even full solutions for social issues. And we (the Atheist community) with our special relationship to science are not using it enough.

  118. ildi says

    My closest personal friend is a transwomen – the word “beautiful” doesn’t do her personality justice – who still identifies as a Deist, and who took great risks to her health to have a more complete reassignment surgery abroad than what is legally possible in Europe. She just told me yesterday, if we made it possible for her – or even younger trans-people one day – to have children, that would be the day she’d embrace Atheism. I’m pretty sure she wouldn’t be the only one.

    This makes no sense to me. What does one have to do with the other?

  119. Greta Christina says

    Stepping in here: I am not — repeat, NOT — going to let this thread be derailed by yet another hashing out of Elevatorgate. Stop it, everyone, now. Thank you.

  120. Greta Christina says

    Also, everyone, please dial back on the personal hostility and nastiness. Please keep criticisms focused on ideas, not on people. I don’t have a problem as a general rule with personal hostility and nastiness in debate — but I don’t want it in my blog. I am trying to keep my blog a place where people can have strong debates about difficult subjects and still keep a baseline of civility. If you can’t respect that, please take the conversation to the Thunderdome on Pharyngula. Thank you.

  121. double-m says

    @ildi

    It was a discussion about how Atheism benefits people. One of my arguments a few weeks ago was that it endorses a scientific world view, and many problems are easier to solve based on that. Her objection was, that if Atheists were so scientific and if so many of us considered themselves allies to LGBTQ people, where were all the Atheist scientists researching ways for her to complete her transition beyond just cosmetics.

    Valid point in my opinion.

  122. says

    Maybe you should tell your friend about all the research being done on growing replacement organs; an absolutely necessary step before such a thing would be even conceivably possible.

  123. says

    @134

    I’d say the first problem is funding. There is (comparably) no shortage of scientists but there is is a funding shortage that would hampers such research. Though there is research being done in organ growth and infertility treatments that can lead to such outcomes.

  124. ildi says

    Her objection was, that if Atheists were so scientific and if so many of us considered themselves allies to LGBTQ people, where were all the Atheist scientists researching ways for her to complete her transition beyond just cosmetics.

    Valid point in my opinion.

    First of all, being a freethinker or skeptic is not the same as being scientific. Atheists in general may not be more scientifically-inclined than LGBTQ people. It could be that atheists are more highly represented in the sciences than LGBTQ people, but that’s a different issue. I don’t know if there is data to support either assumption.

    Second, people tend to get advanced degrees and conduct research in a) topics they’re highly vested in, b) areas of study that match their strengths and capabilities and c) where the money is. Seems to be an arbitrarily high standard to expect people to pursue careers that they don’t personally have a commitment to in order to be allies. Maybe atheists can support LGBTQ people by supporting organizations that fund such research? Do such organizations exist? That would be a good thing to let people know about.

    Third, why would it make her no longer be a deist if atheist scientists were conducting this research? How does the pursuit of certain avenues of research by certain people change her belief system? This is the part that makes no sense to me.

  125. double-m says

    @Greta #132

    Thank you, and I apologize for my part in it. I’ll try not to get distracted from the point I’m trying to make.

  126. Rawnaeris, Lulu Cthulhu says

    Greta, I know my one purchase of Bending won’t help much, but I hope that combined with all your other readers, you feel no impact in your pocket for choosing to cut ties with CFI.

    /aside, I’m rather surprised at how much I enjoyed the story Bending. Wonderfully written.

  127. smhll says

    For example, I’d love to write such descriptions for the work we do at the local asylum seekers’ home. They could then be used by other people who do similar work, either as inspiration or perhaps even as a step-by-step recipe.

    I think there are many secular blogs and discussion boards where you could post this content or links to this content to help inform other people about constructive activism. I think you would be welcome to do it on Atheism Plus, even if you don’t find all of the content there to be relevant to your efforts.

    It’s great if we can learn from each other.

  128. double-m says

    On the topic of LGBTQ, I have to admit this is a topic that I, despite personal friendships, am not as educated in as I should be. I’m currently trying to change that, because is it is directly relevant for the work of my local group. Obviously, the share of people with minority gender identities and sexual preferences should be the same among refugees as among any other group. Yet, from our experiences at the asylum seekers’ home and in the neighborhoods where its residents are settled, it appears that all or the overwhelming majority of them are closeted, and for good reason. As an example, there has recently been a case, where a young woman, who was suspected of being a lesbian – she actually wasn’t – was raped, because among her ethnic group, there is a widespread belief that this is an effective “conversion therapy”.

    Relying only on the police to handle such cases is not enough. Creating a climate where members of such minorities can come out is currently at the top of our todo-list. This is one area where an “Atheist Way” website would be extremely helpful. Right now we have no idea how to effectively communicate this kind of change. Many of the people we’re trying to reach come from backgrounds with strong cultural and religious prejudice against any way of life that isn’t cis and straight. What we do know is, that it will take time and we’ll have to do it in smaller steps, because trying to make larger leaps would likely break the rapport we’ve built with these people (this is the most difficult part, because you have to force yourself to overlook a lot of wrongs, just to be able to set a few ones right at any given time).

    We’ve been discussing this with the local gay and trans communities, but their experience with minorities is extremely limited. They’re very interested in the project, but they also believe if they went in to do it, they wouldn’t accomplish anything except running into a wall of prejudice (they’re probably right). So basically, it’s up to the freethought people to open the door just wide enough for the gay and trans people to come in and take it from there.

    Several participants here, including Greta, have asked what they could do to help. Here’s one concrete example. I’d be very interested in hearing about cases where something similar to our project has been done successfully, and how it was done. Pointers to websites, books, documentary films etc. would be extremely helpful. Google, unfortunately, seems to be of limited use here.

  129. double-m says

    Third, why would it make her no longer be a deist if atheist scientists were conducting this research? How does the pursuit of certain avenues of research by certain people change her belief system? This is the part that makes no sense to me.

    Like I said, the debate was from the perspective of which philosophical stance provides the greatest practical benefits. Her take on Atheism and religion is basically “what’s in it for me”, which is something I can respect a lot more than “believe or you’ll go to hell”. Some people might have moral issues with it, but at least it’s not a completely irrational position.

  130. says

    Her take on Atheism and religion is basically “what’s in it for me”, which is something I can respect a lot more than “believe or you’ll go to hell”.

    Really? Because those two argument are based in the exact same reasoning: Ignoring whether the position is likely to be true and instead evaluating it according to the promised outcome.

    The “believe or you’ll go to hell” position IS a “what’s in it for me” position.

  131. double-m says

    @LykeX #143

    If your point is that no form of theism makes any sense at all, then you don’t have to convince me. I completely agree. The “believe or you’ll be damned forever” position is essentially immutable, and also, it justifies one superstitious belief (the deity in question) with another (“hell”). “What’s in it for me” is something that can change over time, and it justifies a superstitious belief with a real-world need. I’m not saying I’m thrilled about it, but at least she doesn’t live in a paranoid world where she’s in constant fear of a mind-reading, invisible alien that might condemn her to eternal damnation. The belief itself is irrational, the justification not completely.

  132. ildi says

    “What’s in it for me” is something that can change over time, and it justifies a superstitious belief with a real-world need.

    I could understand what you mean if what you’re saying is that your friend joins different religious groups based on what she can get out of it. People do that all the time; join different churches or even switch religions based on what they can get out of it. Usually from what I’ve seen it’s from one version of how to worship the Abramaic God over another (e.g.moving from a Catholic church to a liberal Christian church) – or even to modern Wicca (my source of spirituality is represented by female energy). There’s an element of supernatural belief to all of these, as is with deism.

    What I’m getting hung up on is you seem to be implying that atheism is another form of superstitious belief that she would adopt if she could get something out of it. Do you/she really think that? Is philosophical naturalism another superstitious belief she would adopt in lieu of believing there are any supernatural elements at work in the universe if people who use methodological naturalism to conduct their work directed their energies to research that benefited her?

    As you can tell, I can’t wrap my head around how it works in one’s head to say “I’ll become an atheist if atheist scientists conducted research that benefited me directly.”

  133. double-m says

    What I’m getting hung up on is you seem to be implying that atheism is another form of superstitious belief that she would adopt if she could get something out of it. Do you/she really think that? Is philosophical naturalism another superstitious belief she would adopt in lieu of believing there are any supernatural elements at work in the universe if people who use methodological naturalism to conduct their work directed their energies to research that benefited her?

    Absolutely not. I see atheism (with a lowercase “a”) and religion as two completely separate paradigms, each with its own subdivisions. For example, within the paradigm of atheism you have anything from Atheism (with a capital “A”, as in atheism plus a rationalistic philosophy), to Secular Humanism, to Existentialism, to Marxism, to Objectivism and so on. And then within the domain of religion, you have Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, Rastafarianism, Deism and so on.

    My friend has a very different take on the subject. She sees these different philosophical stances purely in utilitarian terms. From her perspective, I would say that’s more than understandable. I can’t even begin to imagine what it must be like to live with a physical disability (that’s how she describes her condition of being in the wrong body, despite correcting some of it through surgery) as severe as hers. What I do see is that it has a devastating effect on her ability to live a fulfilled life. She has to earn every bit of happiness through hard work, that most people take for granted. In my opinion, it’s only legitimate that she uses whatever aids work for her. If Atheism and its connection to science become the better aid, she’ll go with it.

    I think, this is something important to remember when applying Atheist principles to working with disadvantaged minorities of any kind. You don’t convince refugees, some of whom may not even be literate, that it’s a good idea to go to a physician instead of some faith healer on purely verbal arguments. You do convince them, if you back up your arguments by bringing a volunteering doctor with you, who will vaccinate or treat their children for free. Then they’ll see that their kids are healthier than those whose families go with the faith healer, and THEN they’ll begin to see the benefits of your rational approach.

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