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May 17 2013

Women In Secularism 2 – Opening Remarks liveblog #wiscfi

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Update: Ron Lindsay posted a transcript of his remarks, which is good because this liveblog doesn’t do the actual words spoken justice. I need to emphasize that this man used his opening remarks to tell women to stop being so forceful about getting people to stop talking over them and listening to them for once. That may not have been his intent, but it was the undeniable effect of the words, on their face, not misinterpretable.

Ron Lindsay: as a conference organizer and public speaker, perhaps this might help. Have you considered that when someone says “shut up and listen”, maybe that’s someone telling you — possibly for the nth time — that you’re over your allotted time and are chewing into the next person’s chance to speak? Have you considered that perhaps “shut up and listen” is an admonition against dominating the dialogue and turning it into a monologue, and advice on how to begin the process of listening to others?

1:30: Lauren Becker opens the conference!

CFI and Lauren (the Benevolent Dictator and Time Overlord) are very happy we all had the guts to show up and profess our lack of belief.

Q&A is being done by card/pen, write our questions and raise hands to give to staff and Lauren will read the questions from the floor.

Handing off to Ron Lindsay, who begins with a reading from 1st Timothy about women being transgressors who will be saved by bearing children. Calls of “bullshit” and guffaws from the crowd.

Speculation that patriarchy came into being with the hunter gatherer societies. Oppression of women has been part of human society for thousands of years, and the restoration of women’s rights have only been happening for the last few centuries. Religion often provides rationales for why women should be subordinated; that’s why these groups recognize the overlaps between irreligion and feminism.

Questions were raised at last WiS conference — what ARE the overlaps between religion and feminism? Ron Lindsay discusses his original luke-warm reception to Atheism Plus, his sadness that some proponents said A+ is supposed to be divisive, but he’s become “more sanguine” since. Worried about A+ being unable to focus on specific issues, says that A+ers are unable to focus on every social justice movement at the same time, so how does the group choose its targets? Some proponents of feminism say that patriarchy can’t be ended without ending capitalism — Andrew Tripp nods vigorously, Ron Lindsay acknowledges this.

Merely calling yourself a feminist doesn’t make you one, mention of “sister punishers” and “fake feminists”, but certainly not every feminist believes in the same thing, so there are divides among feminists. (Well, yeah. And there are in fact people who claim to be feminists who are not — just look at those “equity feminists” stealing the word like cargo-cultists.)

Lindsay says that the concept of privilege “has some validity”, but that it can be abused, used as a just so story when privilege might be “one explanation” but there might be other factors at play. Okay, sure, That’s absolutely true, But then he devolves into a rant against straw feminists using privilege as a “dogma” to get people to “shut up and listen”. I’m clutching my keyboard at the moment.

“Enforced silence is always and everywhere in opposition to truth”, and “enforced silence deprives someone of their humanity”. Call back to the 1st Timothy quote at the beginning — that depriving women of their voices dehumanizes them, but silencing people by saying “shut up and listen” is also bad.

Apparently Ron went over time. Adam Lee had a question but he hadn’t written it down on his card. Oops!

I have to disagree with a lot of this. Ron, what about when people are dominating the conversation and refusing to let women discuss these ideas by talking so damn much and not letting women actually do any talking themselves? Can a woman tell a conversation-dominating man to shut up and listen to them? That’s sort of the problem here, you know. The problem your conference is trying to defray.

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  1. 1
    Miri, Professional Fun-Ruiner

    BOOOOOOOO

  2. 2
    Improbable Joe, bearer of the Official SpokesGuitar

    Pretty awesome* that your conference starts with a white guy standing up for the oppressed white men everywhere. It is ridiculous that there are places where men aren’t allowed to dictate and dominate every discussion, and where women might get to take the lead and tell men to shut up and listen for once in their lives.

    *And by “awesome” I mean “disappointing but not unexpected.”

  3. 3
    NateHevens, resident SOOPER-GENIUS... apparently...

    I found this opening utterly confusing and rather disappointing, but you already know that… :D

    Did Ron know who he was talking to?

  4. 4
    carlie

    And he got to give the first talk…why?

  5. 5
    John Morales

    carlie, is it a bad thing? ;)

  6. 6
    Tanya

    “Some proponents of feminism say that patriarchy can’t be ended without ending capitalism — Andrew Tripp nods vigorously, Ron Lindsay acknowledges this.”

    I was nodding too. I am not sure I agree 100% (don’t know enough) but I think I agree more than I disagree.

  7. 7
    Silentbob

    @ 4 carlie

    I expect it’s because he’s the President and CEO of the Center for Inquiry which is presenting the conference.

    Lindsay has posted some comments and the text of his talk here.

  8. 8
    Ubi Dubium

    I was mystified as to why he thought this was a good topic for an opening talk. The opening should be about what’s coming up for the weekend, or maybe some brief thoughts on where the movement is headed and why CFI chose the speakers and panel discussion topics that it did. And that’s all, the opening should be welcoming and short. If he really wanted “privilege” to be part of the conversation, CFI could have scheduled a panel discussion on the subject or something.

    The rest of the talks have been great, but this one was not a stellar opening.

  9. 9
    carlie

    I expect it’s because he’s the President and CEO of the Center for Inquiry which is presenting the conference.

    Yeah, but that shouldn’t automatically means that he gets to give a speech, much less an opening one. I see this kind of thing all the time, and the head honcho doesn’t want to do it, the people sitting there don’t want to listen, and often (as in this one) the person doesn’t really know what the conference itself is about or worse (also as in this one) doesn’t really agree with it or understand it. Sure, trot out the chairperson to say hi and get some applause, but there’s no reason that person should be taking up time with a talk.

  10. 10
    Markita Lynda—threadrupt

    Talk about the wrong place at the wrong time! Especially since research shows that if men get to dominate the conversation in a mixed group only 2/3 or the time, they feel they are being silenced by not getting their fair share of the conversation.

  1. 11
    Women in Secularism is going strong » Pharyngula

    [...] didn’t help that the opening remarks (by a bearded white guy, no less) were basically a high five to the people trolling the con — Ron Lindsay tut-tutted the attendees for using the concept of privilege to shut down [...]

  2. 12
  3. 13
    WiS and Liveblogging Wrap-Up » Ashley Miller

    [...] Opening Remarks Faith-Based Pseudoscience. [Another from Jason] Amanda Marcotte [Jason] Rebecca Goldstein [Jason] Women Leaving Religion Gender Equality in the Secular Movement Susan Jacoby [Jason] How Women’s Concerns Can Best Be Advanced within the Context of a Secular Agenda [Jason] Jennifer Michael Hecht [Jason] Maryam Namazie [Jason] What the Secular Movement Can Learn from Other Social Movements [Jason] Who Speaks for Feminism? [...]

  4. 14
    Women in Secularism 2: Breaking News: Even at WiS, we have to defend the purpose of WiS! | Dissent of a Woman

    [...] Jason Thibeault was actually liveblogging Lindsay’s speech, so if you want to read his impressions while the speech was being given, check out Women In Secularism 2 – Opening Remarks liveblog #wiscfi. [...]

  5. 15
    Ron Lindsay’s #wiscfi twist on the conventional Opening Speech

    [...] of thoughtful activist women on various topics. I didn’t bother to click on anybody’s liveblogging of the welcoming speech, because welcoming speeches are all pretty much the same, right? Welcome and thank you to the [...]

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