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Jun 24 2013

Accepting Ron Lindsay’s Apology

I want to thank Ron Lindsay for his apology. I am accepting his apology. And I am now willing to move forward, and to work with CFI in the future.

A bit of background, for those who haven’t been following this: At the recent Women in Secularism 2 conference hosted by the Center For Inquiry, CFI’s CEO Ron Lindsay opened the conference with a talk that many people — myself included — found deeply insulting and contemptuous to women and to feminists, both in its content and its context. This talk, as well as Lindsay’s follow-up blog posts, sparked a major controversy in the atheist/ skeptical community, and caused some people to withdraw support from CFI. Several weeks later, the CFI Board of Directors issued a response to the controversy, which many people — myself included — found bland, equivocating, obfuscating, and entirely non-responsive to the actual issue. Many people and organizations who had been angered by Lindsay’s talk, but who had been waiting to see what the CFI Board was going to say and do in response, decided at this point to withdraw their support from the organization, and to cut off ties with it. Again, myself included. And also including the free student-run conference, Skepticon, which decided to stop accepting sponsorship and financial support from CFI.

Ron Lindsay has now apologized. Here is his statement:

It has been a few weeks since I have said anything in public about the controversy over my remarks at the Women in Secularism 2 conference. As CFI announced via Twitter, this pause was to enable the board to have time to consider the matter. The board has issued its statement. It is now an appropriate time for me to make some remarks.

I am sorry that I caused offense with my talk. I am also sorry I made some people feel unwelcome as a result of my talk. From the letters sent to me and the board, I have a better understanding of the objections to the talk.

I am also sorry that my talk and my actions subjected my colleagues and the organization to which I am devoted to criticism.

Please accept my apologies.

So, to repeat: I want to thank Ron Lindsay for his apology. I am accepting his apology. And I am now willing to move forward, and to work with CFI in the future.

Some people have been saying that Lindsay’s apology was a not-pology. I don’t think that’s accurate or fair. It may have been more terse than some people would have liked; it may not have gone into as much detail about what Lindsay did wrong than some people would have liked; it may not have had as much in the way of concrete promises for future change as some people would have liked. I share some of these sentiments. But it was not a not-pology. It was a real apology. Lindsay did not say, “I’m sorry you were offended.” He said, exact quote, “I am sorry that I caused offense.” He said, exact quote, “I am also sorry I made some people feel unwelcome.” And he said, exact quote, “I am also sorry that my talk and my actions subjected my colleagues and the organization to which I am devoted to criticism.”

He did not say, “I am sorry people were hurt.” He said, “I am sorry I hurt people.”

This is a community that places a high value on people acknowledging when they’re wrong. The atheist community is built largely of people who have acknowledged that they were wrong, about something very large and important (namely, the existence of God). The skeptical community is built around the core value of prioritizing reality over opinion or dogma… and of being willing to let go of opinion or dogma, and acknowledge one’s mistakes, when evidence contradicts it. I want to live up to those values.

What’s more, this is also a community that understands the cognitive biases that make apologizing difficult — even when blatant mistakes and wrongdoings and contradictory evidence are staring you in the face. This is a community that understands the cognitive biases that lead us to start rationalizing our actions the moment we do anything at all. This is a community that understands the cognitive biases that lead us to seek and prioritize evidence/ people telling us we’re right, and to ignore or minimize evidence/ people telling us we’re wrong. This is a community that understands the cognitive biases that make it harder to walk it back once you’ve gone out on a limb; that make it harder to acknowledge mistakes once you’ve doubled down on them. This is a community that understands the cognitive biases that make apologizing difficult… and therefore, this is a community that tries to support and praise and reinforce apologizing and the acknowledgement of mistakes, both in the larger society around us, and within our own community. I want to live up to those values.

Besides, from a purely practical standpoint: In the future, if I’m trying to persuade someone who’s screwed up to apologize, I want to be able to tell them that…well, that this is a community that places a high value on people acknowledging when they’re wrong. and doesn’t hold grudges for it.

So thank you, Ron. Apologizing is hard. Apologizing for something big that got lots and lots of people furious at you is especially hard. I’ve had to do it in the past, and it sucks. Thank you for doing it. Apology accepted.

I am accepting this apology somewhat cautiously. Trust has been broken, and that takes time to repair. And I am still very dissatisfied with the CFI board’s bland, equivocating, obfuscating non-statement on this controversy. Trust takes time to repair… and that repair work has to be done, not just with words, but with actions. I do expect concrete action in the near future, as well as the middle and long-term future, to make it clear that both Lindsay and the CFI board take these issues seriously. Some forms that might take:

* A pledge to put on a Women in Secularism 3 conference.
* Tangible support — in money/ resources/ both — of projects/ organizations focused on women’s issues, where those projects/ organizations/ issues overlap with CFI’s mission.
* Tangible movement towards greater diversity — not just in gender, but in race, class, gender identity, and other issues — in hiring, volunteer recruitment, board appointments, speakers at conferences and other events, and similar areas.
* Recognition of the real harassment that feminist women in this movement experience (Lindsay has already done this, it would be good to get this from the board as well) — and tangible support in efforts to counter it.

Words aren’t enough. But they’re a start. They’re an important start. They are often a necessary start. We often need to acknowledge out loud — to others, and to ourselves — that we messed up and want to make things right, before we can start to make things right. I am accepting this apology somewhat cautiously… but I am accepting it. I am thanking Ron sincerely for it. And I am ready and willing to move forward, and to work with CFI in the future.

I’m not going to tell any of my readers what you should do here. I didn’t do that when I withdrew my support from CFI, and I’m not going to do it now that I’m returning it. You have to keep your own conscience. But I do want to say this, and I hope you’ll bear it in mind when you’re considering your decision:

When I withdrew my support from CFI and cut off ties with them, many people told me, “You can’t cut off your support! They do such good work, even though they screwed up! You should stay, and work for change from within!” And I’ve been responding, “If you will never leave an organization no matter what they do, they’ll have no reason to change. You are abdicating your power. You will not be able to make change from within. They’ll have no reason to do anything you ask.”

The reverse of that is also true.

If you’ll never return to an organization no matter what they do, they’ll also have no reason to change.

Obviously you have the right to spend/ donate your time and money whenever you like, to support whatever companies/ organizations you like. Nobody has the right to your time and money. But withdrawing connection and support from an organization when they screw up is only effective if your support will be returned once the screw-up gets acknowledged and corrected. Staying with an organization forever no matter what they do means abdicating your power… but staying away from an organization forever no matter what they do also means abdicating your power.

You have to decide for yourself what constitutes sufficient change and a sufficient correction of the screw-up. But if nothing at all will ever be good enough, you are abandoning the power you have to effect change… just as much as if nothing at all will ever be bad enough.

Words aren’t enough. But they’re a start. They’re an important start. They are often a necessary start. I am willing to accept these words as a good-faith indicator of a good beginning. And I am ready and willing to move forward.

Some other posts from other people, saying similar things:

Ron Lindsay Apologizes, Amy Davis Roth (Surly Amy)
Accepting Apologies And Moving On, Amanda Marcotte
Apologies Are Hard, Stephanie Zvan
Moving Our Community Forward, Kim Rippere and Elsa Roberts, Secular Woman
Onward, Ophelia Benson
We’re making progress, Martha (guest post on Butterflies and Wheels)
Thank You, Ron, Dana Hunter
Anatomy of another apology, Jason Thibeault
Ron Lindsay Apologizes: A Small Step in the Right Direction, Adam Lee
Good on Dr. Lindsay, Kaoru
My Part in the “Campaign” to “Get Ron Lindsay Fired”… and My Thoughts on His Apology, Nathan Hevenstone
An Apology from Ron Lindsay, Darwin Harmless

47 comments

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  1. 1
    Pieter B, FCD

    I stopped my monthly donation to the national organization, with the intention of changing to a monthly donation to CFI Los Angeles. That is still my plan. If the national Board follows the example of Mr Lindsay, I may add them back, albeit at a lower level than my support for the local chapter.

  2. 2
    Marcus Ranum

    You make an important point: if you walk away from an organization, you lose any ability to influence its direction, unless you plan to start a competing organization.

  3. 3
    Kevin

    I think it’s patently obvious that the apology was prompted by the economic impact that occurred in the wake of the CfI board’s statement. If there had been no economic consequences, this apology would not have been forthcoming. (Aside: It also means “the pit” has little to zero economic muscle, and certainly did nothing to pick up the slack left by the mass exodus from the rest of us.)

    Ron needs to understand that his actions harmed CfI. And the board needs to understand why their inaction harmed CfI.

    Has any board member individually come forward to discuss this issue? That to me is very puzzling.

    I won’t be rushing back.

    The apology is almost word-for-word what Stephanie said she thought was required in the first place. The problem is that this apology should have been given in the first place. Now, I think the trust has been broken and it’s going to take a little more work on their part to repair the damage.

    It’s a first step. Problem is, everyone else is on the 100th step, so they have come catching up to do.

  4. 4
    Markita Lynda—threadrupt

    I don’t think they have noticed a drop in donations yet. It’s more of a potential drop come renewal time.

  5. 5
    jfigdor

    Greta makes a great point:

    “If you’ll never return to an organization no matter what they do, they’ll also have no reason to change… But withdrawing connection and support from an organization when they screw up is only effective if your support will be returned once the screw-up gets acknowledged and corrected. Staying with an organization forever no matter what they do means abdicating your power… but staying away from an organization forever no matter what they do also means abdicating your power.”

  6. 6
    Martha

    This is a great post, Greta! I especially like the way you dealt with the issue of cognitive biases. I’m convinced it’s significant that Ron apologized in spite of all of that, but I agree that we won’t achieve a more diverse community without holding feet to the fire.

  7. 7
    petterhaggholm

    As you point out, it’s early in the process and the apology needs to be backed up with deeds—but that said, I find myself trusting people, organisations, or companies more after seeing them screw up, then deal with it, than if I never see them screw up at all. A week ago I had a feeling that Kickstarter were good people, but how am I to know whether they really are, or whether they’ve just never screwed up in public? We’re all humans, everyone errs. Well, Kickstarter fucked up but they apologised beautifully, owning their mistake fully, and putting their money fairly literally where their mouth is by donating $25k to a charity combatting the foulness they made the mistake of funding. Brilliant move! And now I know that even when the people at Kickstarter err, as everyone will, they’re prepared to own up and work to make things better. If CFI backs Lindsay’s words up with deeds, they deserve all the more credit for it: we shouldn’t expect them never to make mistakes.

    (I must say, though, I find the bland board statement almost more offensive than Lindsay’s statements. Yes, his speech was a horrible and offensive blunder; yes, he initially responded very poorly. But it’s human nature to get emotional and defensive and double down. The calculated nothingness of the official CFI statement has neither apology of “clearly hadn’t thought that through properly” or “understandably though unfortunately emotional”.)

  8. 8
    muggleinconverse

    As you said, words aren’t enough. I won’t be pleased or supportive until they actually take some of the actions you suggested.

  9. 9
    dofang

    This is a baby step for CFI leadership to evolve toward the awesomeness of their staff. They have a lot to learn from the people who work for them. I’m guardedly optimistic.

    Thanks for showing how it’s possible to be gracious and fair while demanding justice.

  10. 10
    Zugswang

    I’m happy to see that, while this certainly is too fresh to be behind those involved, that they are slowly moving past it. Now we can focus more on that which unites.

  11. 11
    Jason M. Wester

    You know, Greta, it is pretty big of you to accept this apology. I’m glad you’ve done it. What I don’t understand is why the offending remarks were so offensive. I haven’t seen anyone in your camp give any serious consideration to Lindsey’s point that you guys seem to hate bearded white males. It really seems that way. I’m a bearded white male, and those of us who are white, male, bearded, have been repeatedly bashed for those essential characteristics, characteristics which we did not choose. We were born that way. I’m not saying you do that, but many in your camp do it with some regularity. It seems to me that Lindsey’s remarks about the abuse of privilege are spot-on in that regard. What is good for the goose doesn’t appear to be good for the gander. Thing about that is, us white males who do care about social justice have little interest in bashing ourselves.

    Bash away. Blood in the water.

  12. 12
    Jason M. Wester

    And by the way, I don’t participate in the slyme pit, don’t have very many atheist friends at all. Honestly, I feel pretty alienated by the online atheist squabble. I’d very much like to be more active in that regard, go to these conferences, do more activism, but I do feel alienated and unwelcome. I am, after all, white and male, and I’m not sure I’d be welcome. Honest as Abraham here. Have any of you ever considered that you are alienating potential allies?

  13. 13
    petterhaggholm

    Even if his remarks have merit (I actually haven’t read or listened to his speech; I can but suspect that it was not 100% in error), there’s a huge matter of context. The idea was not merely presented but presented by the CEO during the opening remarks, generally intended to be tone-setting, as I understand it. Blond-bearded though I am, I cannot but feel that this context rendered it grossly inappropriate, EVEN IF there are contexts where it isn’t.

  14. 14
    Greta Christina

    What I don’t understand is why the offending remarks were so offensive.

    Jason M. Wester # #11: Explanations of why Lindsay’s remarks were so offensive are linked to in this piece. Here, once again, are those links:

    A Blatant Misrepresentation — And An Insulting One: The Content of Ron Lindsay’s WiS2 Talk
    http://freethoughtblogs.com/greta/2013/05/30/misrepresentation-ron-lindsay-content/

    He Treated Us With Contempt: The Context of Ron Lindsay’s WiS2 Talk
    http://freethoughtblogs.com/greta/2013/05/30/contempt-ron-lindsay-context/

    I don’t wish to re-hash it again, as I am working on moving forward.

  15. 15
    Jason M. Wester

    But Greta, you just patronized me by assuming I can’t follow your links, but you didn’t address my central question. I’ll phrase it differently: what are you moving toward? Marginalization and excoriation of people like me, people who are about social justice but who don’t believe they can speak about it anymore (which was, I think, Lindsay’s point). That is the question. Are you now going to call out all of the people in your camp who routinely bash people (namely white males, bearded perhaps) because they happened to be born that way? Are you now going to work toward reconciliation since you’ve won? Where do you want this to go? I have a good heart; I am raising two daughters to be kick-ass world-burners. Am I welcome?

  16. 16
    Pieter B, FCD

    I’m a bearded white male, and those of us who are white, male, bearded, have been repeatedly bashed for those essential characteristics, characteristics which we did not choose. We were born that way.

    I was born white and male. The beard was a choice.

    I understand that I’m privileged because I’m white and male. My privilege is something I did not choose; my recognition of it is. Consequently, I don’t get offended when someone talks about white male privilege. I didn’t feel hated by anyone at WIS2, and I don’t feel hated by Skepchicks, A+ers or “FTBullies,” whoever those might be.

  17. 17
    echidna

    Jason M Wester,

    Greta has already answered your question. On the 6th line of the OP, there are links labelled content and context. Read them. For me the important one is context.

    As an female engineer, I have had many opportunities to observe how men simply ignore women (I have developed good strategies to get around that – I’m not making excuses). You know the classics: women can say things in meetings, only to have someone else (a man) present the same idea two minutes later, as if it were new. And for him it is – there is often genuinely no memory of a woman having spoken. (I normally thank him for his support, hoping that someone else remembers, which they usually do once the reminder is there). It is normal for a man to be doing the speaking. Most men don’t notice the imbalance, in fact most women don’t either, but as soon as you measure it, it becomes obvious.

    WISC is a conference specifically designed to allow women to speak, without the normal male dominance factor shaping the event. Ron Lindsay, in his welcoming remarks that did not welcome, stomped all over that.

  18. 18
    Jason M. Wester

    @ Peter B: Good that you feel that way. I do not, however. I feel unwelcome and derided.

    @echidna: I hear what you are saying, completely. All of us, though, do not behave that way. Some of us white males love women, love homosexuals, love frikking everyone. Aren’t you generalizing? Did Lindsay really patronize you, or did he bring attention to a legitimate fissure in the atheist movement? Did he want to bring us together, or did he intend to tear us apart?

  19. 19
    Improbable Joe, bearer of the Official SpokesGuitar

    Jason M. Wester,

    Do you make a habit of going into places where no one knows you, and immediately try to change the topic people are talking about in order to make everything about you? Especially when it is for the purpose of complaining about being a victim based on things no one is saying about you or people like you?

    Because if people don’t much like or respect you, it is likely because of that specific behavior rather than your gender, race, or facial hair.

  20. 20
    Travis

    Jason, your post really did not make it clear that you had read Greta’s posts. It would not be the first time someone has complained about something not being addressed when it already was. If you had written something like “I read your post discussing this his comments and while you address blah blah blah, I felt this other issue was not fully discussed…” it would have been clear, but right now all we know is that some unknown statements have been made that make you feel marginalized. You have not given any examples of posts or comments that you feel are doing this, or why you feel this way. So it is hard to address your concerns in any meaningful way.

    I might not have a beard, but I am a white guy with a pretty big moustache and I have never felt this way reading about this issue.

  21. 21
    echidna

    Jason:

    Aren’t you generalizing? Did Lindsay really patronize you, or did he bring attention to a legitimate fissure in the atheist movement? Did he want to bring us together, or did he intend to tear us apart?

    Firstly, where do you see generalising in my comment? Where have I said that all men behave that way? The strategies that I allude to work because almost all of my male colleagues are good people, who don’t want to behave in a sexist way. They are normal people, behaving in normal ways. The trouble is, those normal ways automatically assign less value to women – even when the people concerned are aware and wish to behave otherwise. That’s just how it is.

    Yes, Ron Linsdsay was patronising. As for Ron’s argument, it was simply the wrong place and time for it. He said later that he was speaking in response to posts by PZ and a couple of other men. Don’t you see that he is barely acknowledging the presence of women at WISC?

    Anyway, please go and read Greta’s two posts.

  22. 22
    echidna

    But Greta, you just patronized me by assuming I can’t follow your links

    Now this is just stirring the pot.

  23. 23
    Jason M. Wester

    @Improbable Joe: Non sequitur.

    @Echidna: I think Lindsay was concerned about the fissure in the atheist movement more than anything else. But on every other point, I agree with you.

    @Travis: If you haven’t run into white male bashing yet, good for you.

    I’ve read Greta. I read Greta. Hers is a strong voice. I’ve read her books, and I admire her. Immensely. Hers, though, is the sin of pride. She used her power to take money away from the secular cause. I’ve seen over and over support reneged because of a trifle. She exercised her power; she has power in spades in the atheist community. She feels good because she won. I would feel the same way. Sad thing is, secularism lost because of Greta’s pride. That is an honest take from someone well outside this controversy. Someone who put his toes in these waters only with the greatest trepidation.

  24. 24
    Jason M. Wester

    @ Echidna: Why didn’t you quote the finishing clause on that sentence?

  25. 25
    Travis

    @Jason, once again you keep claiming there is this bashing, but you have not posted a single example of what you mean, or even expanding on why you feel marginalized. You might notice I wrote one sentence about not having experienced this myself, and a full paragraph saying it is unclear where you are seeing this bashing, or what is actually being said that makes you feel this way. It is impossible to respond to your posts in any meaningful way because it is completely unclear why you feel the way you do.

  26. 26
    Jason M. Wester

    Lastly, I’ve had my say. I needed to say it. I’m going back to being a lonely atheist. I’m reading your comments, but I have no desire to back-and-forth. I hope Greta reads and ponders my pride comment. Come visit me and I’ll cook you dinner. Peace out.

  27. 27
    echidna

    @ Echidna: Why didn’t you quote the finishing clause on that sentence?

    No reason to. Greta has answered your central question about why the remarks were offensive in her two links that you seem to refuse to read.

    You “rephrased” your question in a goal-post shifting way to

    What I don’t understand is why the offending remarks were so offensive. I haven’t seen anyone in your camp give any serious consideration to Lindsey’s point that you guys seem to hate bearded white males.

    From your remarks, I don’t get the impression that you hear women at all. You even call us guys, although I suppose that you probably think that’s a normal form of address for women. What group of people are you referring to anyway? Women in general? Readers of this blog? Who?

    Give an example of where you see Greta, or even commenters on this blog, showing hatred of bearded white males. If you can’t, then why are you asking that question here? What makes you think that Ron’s generalised remarks were appropriate to “welcome” conference delegates with? This was a topic appropriate to a panel discussion, or session speech, if, and only if, he had included specific examples. As it stood, it was just insulting.

    Ron Lindsay has apologised, after all. Do you think that he now thinks his remarks were appropriate?

  28. 28
    gemcutter

    @Jason:

    I somehow doubt you are here in good faith. Especially with that last comment about the secular movement being ‘harmed’ because Greta encouraged people to stop donating to CFI (and dontate to other secular charities instead). That is HUGELY disingenuous.

    But on the off chance you are saying these things in good faith, I’m going to engage you as if you were.

    Jason, I am also of the bearded, white male persuasion. The idea that anyone prominent in the secular movement has a problem with bearded white dudes is pure fabrication. Nobody at this blog network has ever criticized or ostracized anyone for being white or male. Even commenters don’t (at least not without being shot down by other commenters), no matter how much the slymepitters would like to convince you the regulars here engage in that. PZ Myers is as much of a picture of white male bearded privilege as you get, and yet he is welcomed with open arms by all the people who are supposedly against those things.

    And here’s the distinction. There IS criticism of the atheist movement of having too many white male bearded dudes as leaders, and not enough of everyone else. This is not to say that white male bearded dudes are BAD, but rather, that there is a representation problem, or a problem in the movement that does not appeal to minorities, despite the fact that atheism should be a cause that crosses cultural, racial, and gender divides.

    This is NOT equal to trying to sideline or marginalize white male bearded dudes. But inevitably, some people treat ANY criticism of the movement for over-representation of white, male, privileged voices as somehow an attack on white males. And then they will patronizingly explain that it’s all REALLY a meritocracy, HONEST! There will be an ugly backlash by white males, all eager to explain to us that really, they agree that women should have rights but you’re REALLY making way too big of a deal out of this, and you’re overreacting to this whole ‘sexual harrassment’ thing and so on and so on. People will sometimes point out the utterly clueless nature of this backlash, and will point out that the commenter is highly privileged, white, and male, and has no idea of the marginalization and infantilization that women in our society experience, and that is pounced upon by disingenuous anti-feminists as an assertion that ‘white men are always bad and wrong’, even though it’s not.

    You have allowed the anti-feminists to frame this debate, and you have fallen victim to the golden mean fallacy. I will reiterate. Literally nobody on ‘our side’ of this debate wants to marginalize white male bearded dudes.

    Signed,
    A fellow white bearded male

  29. 29
    Pieter B, FCD

    It seems odd that a self-professed atheist would use a phrase like “the sin of pride,” doesn’t it?

  30. 30
    Jason M. Wester

    Okay, so you drew me back in. http://www.jasonwester.com

    Yeah, I’m here in bad faith, or I’m no true Scotsman.

    You know, sin is a Judeo-Christian idea that is very much ensconced in our culture. Forgive me for appropriating it. Please do.

    I’m asking questions. Isn’t that the point?

    That is all.

    Women. I love you. Homosexuals. I love you. Transsexuals: I love you. Greta Christina, I love you.

    But don’t think for a second that this stuff hasn’t pushed good people away. Don’t think it for a second. It has.

  31. 31
    gemcutter

    If it has pushed anyone away, Jason, it is because they do not understand the issues.

    If you are here in good faith, I wish to help you see why these things are a problem. I am not trying to say that you are certainly here in bad faith, but I can’t tell from just your comments. I do know that there are a huge number of incidences where sockpuppets have been used to ask just the sorts of questions you’re asking, with a disingenuous intent. These things are hard to tell, especially through the internet.

    But honestly, Jason. This framing that Greta has somehow ‘harmed the movement’ by using her pull to ask people not to support CFI is dead wrong. She explicitly encouraged people to instead donate to other organizations. Greta did not somehow command her fans to stop giving money to the movement as a whole, as your framing implies. There is no ‘sin of pride’ here.

  32. 32
    gemcutter

    Jason, you have an overall nice blog, by the way, at least from the very brief perusal I gave.

    I’m willing to believe that you are seriously asking a question in good faith. If that is the case, please consider my #28 comment as honest criticism of your position. If PZ Myers can be a leader of the wing of the movement described by the anti-feminist crowd as ‘vilifying white males’, then white males are actually welcome, no matter how much the anti-feminists would like you to believe otherwise.

  33. 33
    Jason M. Wester

    @gemcutter: I am here on good faith. I seek to understand. I seek to understand because I want to go to an atheist conference, and as per my understanding right now, I just don’t feel welcome. Thing is, there’s nothing in what I wrote that would indicate bad faith. Sock puppets aside, I generally expect to be taken at my word. I have put it out there exactly who I am, and it sure as hell isn’t a sock puppet.

  34. 34
    Jason M. Wester

    and @ gemcutter: I’ll grant you that I don’t understand the issues. I don’t go to conferences, have ZERO atheist friends in Mississippi. Am I welcome? That the question I am asking. Is my family welcome? I honestly don’t know the answer to that question. It seems to me, pretty much an outsider, that I’m not. I wonder, if I approached a Greta Christina, say, would she speak to me, or dismiss me out of hand. If you can’t understand how someone could get that impression, I think an examination of rhetoric is in order.

  35. 35
    gemcutter

    Jason,

    I would like to know exactly why you don’t feel welcome. Can you show me an example of something, preferably with a link to an original quote, that would indicate that anyone at an atheist conference might be trying to be unwelcoming to white males, as a group?

    I know that Ron Lindsay’s actions at WiS made women feel unwelcome, as a group, at a conference meant to discuss their issues. Ron EXPLICITLY refused to welcome the attendees, then turned around and EXPLICITLY welcomed a known anti-feminist harrasser to the conference. Can you see why this might be a problem?

    Lastly…being taken at your word on the internet is, unfortunately, hard to come by. But it’s for good reason. There’s a LOT of incidences of people not deserving it. There are dozens upon dozens of incidences of comments on blogs claiming to come from ‘fans’ of the blogger which ‘ask questions’ about a blogger’s behavior based on talking points from ideological opponents, where the ‘fan’ turned out to be a sockpuppet. If you want to be unambiguously interpreted as debating in good faith, when making a post in a place nobody knows you, you generally have to be VERY careful, and engage in extremely substantive, careful debate. I don’t think you did that here.

    As I said, your blog DOES imply that you are most likely debating in good faith. But that you just, somehow, haven’t gotten it yet. I’d love to help you get it, but I am a bit of a lurker myself, and don’t feel that I could have a drawn-out conversation with you, and I’m not sure this thread is the place to do it anyway.

  36. 36
    petterhaggholm

    You won’t be welcome if you go to a conference specifically for women, where a prevailing theme consists of well-documented problems with sexism making women feel unwelcome, and using a position of authority give an opening speech complaining about women making men feel unwelcome. Can you honestly not see how that’s inappropriate? By analogy, it’s true that some people should try to lose weight for health reasons, but if I write an otherwise reasonable speech to that effect, then go in the role of chairman of a major organisation and read it out as the opening remarks for a conference on anorexia, I’m being an enormous asshole, because the terrible choice of context makes it seem like I have no regard for the attendee’s actual problems. (“Seem” probably isn’t even the word.)

    When I say this, please note (and I am very aware) that I say this as someone who has felt that there are some things that make me feel unwelcome, qua man, in some feminist spaces. I feel justified in saying that, and in posting that blog entry. But I’m also very aware that I post that as an entry on a basically-never-read blog by a random nobody on the internet, not the CEO of CFI at a conference specifically about women’s issues.

  37. 37
    Jason M. Wester

    @gemcutter: I’ve had classes from the most virulent feminists you can imagine, and enjoyed them, by-and-large. You assume too much.

    You know, I agree with you that Lindsay came off as out of touch with third-wave feminism. No doubt. I am, absolutely, out of touch with third-wave feminism, too. I grant you that.

    I’ll ask another question: Someone like me, white, male, raising daughters to bust-heads, etc., why am I a de facto evil in this worldview? (Third wave radfem). Maybe Christina’s blog doesn’t identify as third-wave radfem, but you understand that is the norm nowadays, right?

    You understand that Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens, is pariah in this worldview, don’t you?

    If you haven’t seen the white male bashing, do you live in a cave? I have to post links to Watson’s “rich, white, male”? Please don’t posture. Let’s get real here.

  38. 38
    Jason M. Wester

    I’m going to grill porkchops and feed my family. I feel like I’m talking to a brick wall here, so I am going to do my damndest to avoid commenting further. In my brief time here I have been:

    1. Patronized
    2. Accused of bad faith
    3. Accused of being a fake atheist
    4. Accused of being totally ignorant of feminism
    5. Quoted out of context
    6. Just generally unwelcomed

    All for asking a series of questions.

    And you wonder why people don’t want to comment here? There are many of us who are scared to death to comment here.

    I would hope you’d think about that.

    Thank you to those who have at least tried.

    Pride.

    Peace.

  39. 39
    gemcutter

    I’ll ask another question: Someone like me, white, male, raising daughters to bust-heads, etc., why am I a de facto evil in this worldview? (Third wave radfem). Maybe Christina’s blog doesn’t identify as third-wave radfem, but you understand that is the norm nowadays, right?

    Citation needed here. Radical feminism is a specific thing, and is generally WAY out of the mainstream. Mainstream feminism is actually rather explicitly AGAINST many of the tenets of radical feminism nowadays. The term ‘radfem’ gets bandied about as a smear against moderate feminists, by people who want to equate people like Greta Christina with Cathy Brennan.

    And no, you are not de facto evil in the worldview of modern feminism. Neither am I. Neither is PZ.

    And neither are Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens. The reason those people are criticized by feminists is because of the problematic things they have said to women and feminists.

    Dawkins has implied that feminism is irrelevant because there are women in the islamic world that have it worse. Hitchens said a whole PILE of misogynistic things. He was also a war apologist, and advocated things bordering on genocide. Harris has said problematic things too. It’s not BECAUSE they are old white guys. It’s BECAUSE they have given voice and legitimacy to stupid anti-feminist sentiments.

    And even then, most feminists are willing to say that Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens were right about certain things. Dawkins is generally pretty on the ball about biology. Who would have thought? But he knows nothing about social science.

    The reason these people are widely criticized by secular feminists is because they say stupid, anti-feminist things, and then double down on them when criticized, demonstrating their incredibly privileged viewpoints. Dawkins doesn’t understand that women still have genuine problems in the western world that are worth addressing.

    If you haven’t seen the white male bashing, do you live in a cave? I have to post links to Watson’s “rich, white, male”? Please don’t posture. Let’s get real here.

    Rebecca Watson is not saying what you seem to think she is saying. You DO have to post links here, if you want to claim that Watson is bashing rich white men BECAUSE they are rich white men. To my knowledge, she has never done that. If you can provide me a link and a quote, I will believe it.

    She HAS criticized rich white men for being oblivious to their privilege, and saying shitty things about women. But that’s not the same thing at all.

  40. 40
    perplexed

    Let’s agree Ron made an error. The depth and breadth depend on what side of the street you live on regardless…
    Why is there an expectation now that CFI would move towards the points you document? Are you saying they were significantly ineffective in following their mission and now they need to do these things to get your support? I don’t recall anyone being upset with their mission achievement before this mess. Actually, quite the opposite.
    They may or may not have organized WIS3 but the other issues, what happens if they don’t go in that direction you laid out? Then what? You walk away again? Counsel others to follow their conscience again? Who weighs the metric? What is the metric?

  41. 41
    gemcutter

    Jason,

    Get off that cross. Seriously.

    You asked some questions, but your demeanor has been seriously thick-headed, and very close the the modus operandi of standard trolls around here. You have been criticized, and you have had your motives questioned.

    This is because many of the linked articles in this article that you are responding to explicitly answer the questions you have asked. This has been discussed by Greta and other bloggers to death. Asking questions that bloggers and commenters feel have been covered by them and their colleagues a thousand times is a sure-fire way to be seen as disingenuous in the comments section.

    And so far, you haven’t really responded to anyone here on any substantive point. I see an insistence that you don’t feel welcome, some vague anti-feminist framing of the issues, and then saying that Greta has somehow ‘harmed the movement’.

    Look, Jason. I’m trying to engage you in good faith. You’re making it very hard for me, but I’m doing it. But now it seems you’re just going to walk away and ‘claim victory’ by saying that you have been treated badly. But you haven’t been treated badly for ‘just asking a few questions’, and you certainly haven’t been treated badly because you’re an older white dude. You have been treated badly because you have ‘just asked some questions’ similar to questions Slymepitters ask.

    And now you’re putting yourself up on the cross the moment you take any heat for your (self-admitted!) ignorance of the issues, and claiming victory by leaving, because some people didn’t take you 100% at your word, and we were ‘mean’ to you. This is suspiciously similar to the modus operandi of Slymepitters. This is why I thought you might have been posting in bad faith.

    I still don’t believe you are, but you have to stop interpreting criticism of white guys for the shitty things they say and do as criticism of white guys because they are white guys.

  42. 42
    echidna

    Jason,

    In my brief time here I have been:
    1. Patronized
    2. Accused of bad faith
    3. Accused of being a fake atheist
    4. Accused of being totally ignorant of feminism
    5. Quoted out of context
    6. Just generally unwelcome

    1. By being supplied with links to the answers to your questions.
    2. as a response to your: “Hers, though, is the sin of pride. She used her power to take money away from the secular cause.” Which is demonstrably not true.
    3. No, but you did display some cultural baggage of Christianity with the phrase “Sin of pride”.
    4. No-one said totally ignorant, but nor are you displaying much understanding.
    5. Please don’t tell me you are referring to my picking out the first part of “But Greta, you just patronized me by assuming I can’t follow your links, but you didn’t address my central question.”, when they are two quite separate ideas joined together.
    6. And yet people are engaging your specific comments, which is more than what you are doing in return.

    Don’t you think you are misrepresenting the situation a bit?

  43. 43
    JesseW, the Juggling Janitor

    I sent a note to Jason M. Wester (through his site) suggesting that he write (on his site) a post summarizing and responding to one (or both) of Greta’s content and context posts. I’ll post a summary of any dialog this engenders.

  44. 44
    JesseW, the Juggling Janitor

    Mr. Wester has now posted a reply on his blog, in which he expands (a bit) on his understanding of why Greta (and others) responded as they did. It’s here: http://www.jasonwester.com/?p=829 . It does not, sadly, appear to reflect any successful communication having occurred.

  45. 45
    SallyStrange

    Women. I love you. Homosexuals. I love you. Transsexuals: I love you. Greta Christina, I love you.

    Okay, maybe you love Greta Christina. That’s reasonable.

    But me? Just because I identify as a woman? You love me just for that? Sorry, that’s bullshit, and it’s not really striking any kind of meaningful blow against prejudice and bigotry to claim to “love” ALL members of an oppressed class. “I love women!” is an extremely common phrase that never fails to turn my stomach because it usually precedes a blatantly offensively sexist statement. Also, the preferred terms are “lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender.” “Homosexual” as a noun is not cool. Neither is “transsexual” as a noun.

    There’s some education for you. I hope you benefit from it. If you can’t, it’s not because you’re a white guy.

  46. 46
    daniellavine

    Engaged with Jason a little bit on his blog post about this thread. He readily admitted he was being more aggressive than was warranted with his first comment and that he should be more careful with his attributions of opinions like “hatred of bearded white males”. I don’t think it’s very likely that he’ll agree with anyone here on whether Lindsay’s remarks were justified but he might be coming around to the idea that it comes down to an honest difference of opinion.

  47. 47
    John Phillips, FCD

    Wonder how long before the pitters find him and how he’ll respond to them.

  1. 48
    A Blatant Misrepresentation — And An Insulting One: The Content of Ron Lindsay’s WiS2 Talk » Greta Christina's Blog

    [...] UPDATE: Ron Lindsay has apologized for his remarks. I have accepted his apology. [...]

  2. 49
    He Treated Us With Contempt: The Context of Ron Lindsay’s WiS2 Talk » Greta Christina's Blog

    [...] Accepting Ron Lindsay’s Apology [...]

  3. 50
    Women in Secularism Speakers Letter to CFI Board » Greta Christina's Blog

    [...] UPDATE: Ron Lindsay has apologized for his remarks. I have accepted his apology. [...]

  4. 51
    Parsing the Center For Inquiry’s Non-Statement about Ron Lindsay and the Women in Secularism 2 Conference » Greta Christina's Blog

    [...] UPDATE: Ron Lindsay has apologized for his remarks. I have accepted his apology. [...]

  5. 52
    The CFI Running Joke: A Timeline | SkepDirt

    [...] Christina accepts Lindsay’s apology in Accepting Ron Lindsay’s Apology [...]

  6. 53
    Why Talking About Feminism Can Be Scary | Research to be Done

    [...] One might reasonably say, for example, that Ron Lindsay, having apparently recently come to understand this distinction, now has a higher feminism-specific acuity than he did [...]

  7. 54
    Processing: The Sexual Harassment And Abuse Floodgates In General… And CFI In Particular (UPDATED AND CORRECTED) » Greta Christina's Blog

    […] many people are expecting me to say something about this: especially after the part I played in the recent CFI controversy. And yes, right now I am thinking very carefully indeed about my future with […]

  8. 55
    On “toxic feminism” – The Nation and the people | Crommunist

    […] While I recognize the possibility that it’s the latter, nearly every time I have been in a position to adjudicate a “toxic feminist” environment, it is the case that someone has made a flawed argument and then goes on to complain about being “misinterpreted”. My usual response, therefore, is to assume it’s the former – that I am in the wrong for reasons I don’t yet understand – and interrogate myself accordingly. This is, by the way, a far cry from the ‘sackcloth and ashes’ fear-mongering that is drummed up in Ms. Goldberg’s article and other places. Usually it is enough to apologize and to try and do better next time. It always has been for me. I’ve seen that approach been applied for bad actors elsewhere. […]

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