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Jun 17 2013

CFI’s board statement re Women In Secularism 2 #wiscfi

I’m pretty super-busy right now, and can’t really fully respond myself, but I wanted you all to know that CFI has released a statement about Women In Secularism 2 and the controversy surrounding Ron Lindsay’s complete lack of understanding of the movement, feminism, or the place where the actual conversation was at. It’s here, and since they’ve disabled comments (as is their undeniable right), I’m copying it here so you can feel free to weigh in on what you think about it.

The mission of the Center for Inquiry is to foster a secular society based on science, reason, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values.

The Center for Inquiry, including its CEO, is dedicated to advancing the status of women and promoting women’s issues, and this was the motivation for its sponsorship of the two Women in Secularism conferences. The CFI Board wishes to express its unhappiness with the controversy surrounding the recent Women in Secularism Conference 2.

CFI believes in respectful debate and dialogue. We appreciate the many insights and varied opinions communicated to us. Going forward, we will endeavor to work with all elements of the secular movement to enhance our common values and strengthen our solidarity as we struggle together for full equality and respect for women around the world.

That’s it.

No mention of any sort of disapprobation for said CEO’s actions in creating the controversy ex nihilo. Just unhappiness.

We’re unhappy too. That’s why we’d like an apology that acknowledges what exactly was done, by whom, and to whom, to cause this “controversy”. That’s what we asked for — an apology, and assurance that WiS3 will happen. That’s it. That’s not too fucking difficult is it?

(I can hear the howls from the haters now: “GOD, THEY SAID THEY WERE UNHAPPY, WHAT MORE DO YOU WANT FROM THEM? YOU FEMINISTS ARE NEVER HAPPY WITH ANYTHING!!”)

Miri posts longer “in brief” thoughts here.

29 comments

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  1. 1
    oolon

    Well its open to interpretation, they could be “unhappy” about the unhappiness and the controversy itself… Basically more STFU and bed down with Vacula and pals.

  2. 2
    NoxiousNana

    I am unhappy with their response, to put it very lightly.

  3. 3
    Improbable Joe, bearer of the Official SpokesGuitar

    It is so… “empty” is the word I’m looking for. It seems like the statement you would make before a board meeting, not after one.

  4. 4
    Tony! The Queer Shoop

    CFI, you just screwed up badly.

  5. 5
    Gregory in Seattle

    They are unhappy about the controversy because it casts them in a bad light. It would seem that they are just fine with what caused the controversy in the first place.

    This is the kind of notpology I would expect from a Republican.

  6. 6
    Gregory in Seattle

    @Improbable Joe #2 – It struck me more as a “We’re sorry that you were offended” kind of statement.

  7. 7
    jenBPhillips

    Exactly. “We’re sorry so many people paid attention to our CEO’s fuck up”

  8. 8
    machintelligence

    The CFI Board wishes to express its unhappiness with the controversy surrounding the recent Women in Secularism Conference 2.
    CFI believes in respectful debate and dialogue. We appreciate the many insights and varied opinions communicated to us.

    And judging by their response so far, the insights and opinions will continue to be ignored.

  9. 9
    A Hermit

    Wow…

    Just wow. That’s even less than I expected, and I wasn’t expecting much…

  10. 10
    Timid Atheist

    That they are unhappy that there’s a controversy tells me all I need to know about CFI. I’m glad I never supported them financially.

  11. 11
    Xanthë, Amy of my threads

    It’s the announcement you make, when you’re not making an announcement.

    That leaves us with the option of reading between the lines of this thin gruel, and that looks like a melancholy exercise.

  12. 12
    tigtog

    The CFI board appears to be Team Fence-sitter in a nutshell.

  13. 13
    Kels

    This sounds more like a mission statement than an announcement regarding a controversy. Hell, there’s not even an acknowledgement that they know what the TOPIC of the controversy is.

  14. 14
    Aliasalpha

    So it now stands for Cowardly Fainthearted Invertebrates?

  15. 15
    Tom Foss

    People who are saying it’s like “I’m sorry you were offended” are giving them too much credit. Nothing in there remotely resembles “I’m sorry.” It’s “You were offended. Stop it.”

  16. 16
    oolon

    The CFI board appears to be Team Fence-sitter in a nutshell.

    Yeah if anyone calls me a fence-sitter again I can effectively godwin them into oblivion… This is the *ultimate* fence sit and erases all previous fence sitting in that benchmarks need to be rewritten from this point on!

  17. 17
    sawells

    Good point – the message actually says “we are unhappy that you were offended”.

  18. 18
    Scr... Archivist

    Will we be able to see the minutes, to see how close the vote was?

  19. 19
    culuriel

    I don’t even want CFI to organize the next conference, if they even consider letting Lindsay speak again. He basically told women they should be happy for the scraps of men’s attention they get, and let the boys decide what will be considered respectful treatment of women.

  20. 20
    Eamon Knight

    To me it reads like: no matter which side they come down on (ie: “We support Ron” vs. “Ron fucked up, sorry”), some large fraction of their constituency would be pissed off at them (including possible disagreement among the board), so the best they could come up with was this non-statement. Which still manages to piss off a large fraction of the constituency. I mean, good grief: I’ve seen people whom I perceive as not on my side (though by no means all the way to Slymepit territory) who still “have problems” with what Lindsay said. Some acknowledgement of what *actually happened*, even if accompanied by an admission that they can’t agree among themselves about it, would still be way better than this.

  21. 21
    juniperann

    Tom Foss:

    “People who are saying it’s like ‘I’m sorry you were offended’ are giving them too much credit. Nothing in there remotely resembles ‘I’m sorry.’ It’s ‘You were offended. Stop it.’”

    Yup.

    From the non-statement:

    “The CFI Board wishes to express its unhappiness with the controversy surrounding the recent Women in Secularism Conference 2.”

    Could be read as “I’m sorry you were offended”, if you were inclined to be so charitable.

    Could also be read as “I’m sorry that they were offended. So sorry they troubled you with their indignation, people who were not offended.”

    By contrast, the statement “I’m sorry you were offended” is a deep and vibrant pool of meaning.

  22. 22
    Jason Thibeault

    Don’t forget that, as others like Greta have pointed out, the controversy was NOT “surrounding the recent Women In Secularism” conference. It was tangentially related to it. It was ACTUALLY surrounding Ron Lindsay, CEO of CFI, who was not mentioned by name in the nonstatement.

    It’s about Ron’s remarks, about Ron’s behaviour, about Ron’s undercutting the conference, about Ron’s walking out of a fundraising dinner so he could unprofessionally attack one of the speakers.

    It is not about WiS at all, which was an excellent conference, packed to the gills with informative, interesting, awesome talks and panels. It is ONLY related to WiS insofar as Ron was trying to blow it the hell up.

  23. 23
    noodlezoop

    Could also be read as “I’m sorry that they were offended. So sorry they troubled you with their indignation, people who were not offended.”

    I feel you.

    I sent a longish e-mail to CFI, before their meeting, to express my personal feelings on the matter. After I’d read the board’s public response several times this morning, I closed my eyes, bit my tongue, and sent a short e-mail helpfully suggesting that they make a public announcement if they were planning on saying anything more. I said that their statement was unhelpfully vague, and I was already seeing people getting upset about it. Then, I waited. “Surely,” I told myself, “surely, there must be more coming. There must be. Maybe from Lindsay himself, and they didn’t want to steal his thunder.”

    As the hours passed with no further word from CFI, my harsher inner voice finally overcame my la-la-la-la-it’s-going-to-be-OK and spat out that if this was indeed The Statement In Full, since it was so thoroughly non-responsive to my concerns and the concerns of those like me…then…it must be a response to someone not like me.

    My heart hurts.

    (btw, hi, Jason – it’s me, who sat to your right at dinner at WiS2)

  24. 24
    Setár, Elvenkitty

    Gregory in Seattle #5:

    They are unhappy about the controversy because it casts them in a bad light. It would seem that they are just fine with what caused the controversy in the first place.

    In other words, this is picture-perfect PR, done as the creators of PR intended. It is about presenting a soft, fuzzy image and nice words of “apology”, in an attempt to change public opinion on their practices without actually evaluating or changing the practices themselves.

    It is no different than the oil and gas industry’s attempts to greenwash tar sands oil and fracking, or Walmart’s advertising about how we should ignore all the protests and strikes because look! happy workers! ignore all the food stamps and Medicaid benefist behind the curtain!

    As such, here is an accurate summary to share in place of that obfuscating bullshit.

  25. 25
    Your Name's not Bruce?

    Someone, somewhere on FTB said that it would be helpful if people replaced the phrase “politically correct” with “treating people decently” or “not being an asshole”.
    Maybe organizations like CFI and JREF should start looking at women differently. Instead of replacing “women” with “special interest group we can safely ignore” they should be using the phrase “half the human population of the planet”.

  26. 26
    tyle

    I actually had fairly high expectations for CFI’s apology. I really thought that Lindsay’s fuck-ups were so obvious, so blatant, that CFI would be scrambling to save as much face as possible. I thought that they would be using their grace period to read and understand the grievances of their critics, and writing the sincerest and most detailed apology that they could…

    Now I feel like an idiot. I also feel angry.

  27. 27
    =8)-DX

    The CFI Board wishes to express its unhappiness with the controversy surrounding the recent Women in Secularism Conference 2.

    Ah, the mature adult and professional response. Unhappiness? Why not “regret” or “understanding” or even “empathy”?
    Because they wanted to express: “Oh, no.. I want to say.. oh no, I have to … oh no the tears, my eyes, I can’t see, no, no, no, this is just sooooo saaaaad!
    /slumps, falls off chair crying on the floor.

  28. 28
    =8)-DX

    Someone, somewhere on FTB said that it would be helpful if people replaced the phrase “politically correct” with “treating people decently” or “not being an asshole”.

    Well there’s also the (from my undestanding) original and valid meaning of PC: as in how politicians should speak, being careful of their language so as to offend the least number of people, so as to be seen as not siding with anyone, but representing all, even those they don’t agree with. Diplomatic language.

    And that is of course not the same as “treating people decently”, because that implies you shouldn’t tell anyone to just fuck off, when that response may be the appropriate, decent one.

    The distinction is important and, of course lost on many shouting FUCK U PC-BRIGADE! No, it’s not the PC brigade, it’s the “not being an asshole” brigade, which they are willingly not part of.

  29. 29
    Jason Thibeault

    Hi noodlezoop! Good to see you again!

    As the hours passed with no further word from CFI, my harsher inner voice finally overcame my la-la-la-la-it’s-going-to-be-OK and spat out that if this was indeed The Statement In Full, since it was so thoroughly non-responsive to my concerns and the concerns of those like me…then…it must be a response to someone not like me.

    I think that’s a pretty inescapable conclusion at this point. I think they found themselves under the gun, expected to post something on Monday but with absolutely no intention of doing anything about the problem, so they expressed having a sad about all the controversy and their commitment to listen to everyone (but not make any changes whatsoever).

    This was not intended to placate us. It was intended to be the most milquetoast acquiescence to the crowd that thinks Ron did zero wrong, with as little actual blame aimed at Ron as is possible to still qualify as a response to the controversy he built.

    And I think the whole thing stinks of a way to try to get us riled up to prove “look how impossible it is to please those damned uppity feminists!”

  1. 30
    On ya bike Notpology, Metapology has taken over Gutless Rhetoric Town

    [...] reactions: SkepChick, Lousy Canuck, Brute Reason, Pharyngula, Almost Diamonds, Pandagon More reactions: Greta Christina, Butterflies [...]

  2. 31
    CFI response roundup » Pharyngula

    [...] Jason Thibeault [...]

  3. 32
    Anatomy of an apology » Lousy Canuck

    [...] involved in WiS and feminism in general, and preferably also one from CFI to make up for their underwhelmingly vacuous non-statement, would either be hard to swallow for the parties involved, nor would fall flat or on deaf [...]

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