The Petition to Ask Freethought Blogs and Skepchick to “Return to Critical Thinking”

I’m not going to pretend that this petition by Rocko 2246 from Australia is going to succeed, but it merits discussion at least. In fact, unless we have a crowdsourced effort by people at this blog and others on “our side” of the great rift, I seriously doubt they could get 100 unique signatures per their current goal, which is at 21 signatures (at time of writing).

If any part of this petition were unequivocally true, I would throw my full weight behind it because the picture it paints of our community… oh, it is dire. It is evidently a response to Adam Lee’s petition to the leaders of our communities, asking them to not fall for Thunderfoot’s framings on certain issues — given that the Foot has apparently spread a few of these videos around to the leaders of our communities asking them to “shun” the feminists “pouring poison” in the ears of said communities. This petition is apparently the third motion in a back-and-forth that started by Thunderfoot.

Stephanie alerted us to this petition’s existence, otherwise I’d never have known it was created. It is vitally important that we know, though. Considering we’re the subject matter, and if they succeed in getting a hundred signatures FtB will be the recipient of an email that reads as follows, I figure I should make sure everyone’s absolutely aware what 21 people (at time of writing) want us to do:

To:
Skepchick.org, FreeThoughtBlogs
Return to critical thinking and respectful free exchange of ideas
Sincerely,
[Your name]

So, if this petition fails in its goal, I want to make absolutely certain that it does not fail as a result of being underpublicized. Basically, I want to make sure it doesn’t fail on account of me. And I will consider it, in its entirety, on its merits. Because that is what one does with the respectful free exchange of ideas: thinking critically about them.
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The campaign against Amy Davis Roth

I met Amy Davis Roth, also known as Surly Amy, two years ago at CONvergence 2010 – SkepchickCON 2. Jodi and I were on our honeymoon — yes, we spent our honeymoon at a geek convention. Couldn’t have picked a better venue. Amy had a table in the dealer’s room, selling her ceramic Surly necklaces, and I picked up a green atom necklace so I could wear science iconography where so many others wear their religious iconography. Her partner Surly Johnny was a bad influence on me and I drank too many Buzzed Aldrins. The experience was a bit of a whirlwind one, but I got a sense from everyone working the Skepchick party room that they were passionate, committed, and principled, even when they were doing their damnedest to make sure everyone had a good time.

My already favorable impression of Amy was redoubled when I found out that she’d nearly singlehandedly sent dozens of women to TAM over the years, organizing and running fundraisers and committing resources from her Surlys to that end. She had a great deal of help, but she was almost certainly the lynchpin. And she writes timely and important rallying cries when the movement needs them the most — and that’s what a leader does, even if they don’t necessarily want or accept that mantle.

I met her again at SkepchickCON 4 a month and a half ago, and her enthusiasm and pink Darth Vader costume put her over the top for me — I have a ton of respect for the lady. If we ever disagree, it’ll be on good terms. She’s earned quite a bit of goodwill with me.

So I guess it comes as a bit of a surprise to me that a mainstay of the skepto-atheistic blogosphere, who’s done so much to promote skepticism and atheism, and to foster inclusiveness of women in our communities, is under concerted attack.
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CONvergence: Rebecca Watson ruins everything

I noticed something shortly after the very well-received Don’t Feed the Trolls panel at CONvergence’s SkepchickCON, once ZOMGItsCriss posted the video. People who otherwise have never seen the level of anti-Watson hatred that her mere existence incurs, were surprised and angered by the fact that the comments on Criss’ video largely ignored the fact that there were five other panelists present. As such, Watson only comprised a smallish fraction of the discussion — and yet, some folks’ comments ran along the line of “why would I listen to That Skepchick bitch whine hysterically about nothing for an hour? She should get raped so she loosens up, the prude whore.” (This is, of course, a composite of real comments on that video. Edit: For skeptics of this exceptional claim, like “…” in the comments, click this to see a Youtube comment that’s very, VERY similar.)

That sort of shit was exactly our point, and it appears to have catalyzed at least one bystander to radicalize against that sort of trolling.

The last night I spent in Minneapolis, Skepchick Kammy held a barbecue at her place for the participants of the SkepchickCON track. At one point, Kammy’s son pressganged his parents into moving the attendees into their driveway so they could set off the remainder of the fireworks (left over from the celebration a few days prior, when Minnesotans celebrate Three Days After Canada Day in a sweet, but odd, gesture to your neighbors to the north). We pulled our chairs out from their back yard and set them up to watch the firework display, and I found myself setting my chair up near enough to Watson to pronounce loudly:

“Well, I was really looking forward to seeing this firework display, but now that I’m stuck here next to Rebecca Watson, it’s just ruined for me. I mean, who wants to listen to her sit quietly for an hour?”
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Rebecca Watson won’t be at TAM

Working on a secret project, so I don’t have terribly much to say today. So I’ll report on the news and throw in a few quick thoughts.

I can’t say I blame Rebecca for deciding not to participate in The Amazing Meeting this year — not because TAM is particularly unsafe for women, but because TAM is not a safe space for women. (Do you get the distinction? It’s really important that you do.)

She quotes DJ Grothe:

I think this misinformation results from irresponsible messaging coming from a small number of prominent and well-meaning women skeptics who, in trying to help correct real problems of sexism in skepticism, actually and rather clumsily themselves help create a climate where women — who otherwise wouldn’t — end up feeling unwelcome and unsafe, and I find that unfortunate.

DJ was blaming women skeptics for creating an unwelcoming environment. I found that claim astonishing, since I was only aware of women speaking frankly about their own experiences and their own feelings. I couldn’t imagine that DJ would be literally blaming the victim for speaking out. To be sure, I asked him in that thread to give us examples of what he was talking about. To my surprise, this was his response:

Rebecca: Off the top of my head, your quote in USA Today might suggest that the freethought or skeptics movements are unsafe for women. This is from the article:

“I thought it was a safe space,” Watson said of the freethought community. “The biggest lesson I have learned over the years is that it is not a safe space. . . ”

( http://www.usatoday.com/news/religion/story/2011-09-15/atheist-sexism-women/50416454/1 )

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