Ania Bula needs your help to table at WiS3

Ania Bula and Alexander Gonzalez of Scribbles and Rants are doing a fundraiser to get to Women In Secularism 3. Well, they WERE, until some kind soul paid for their and Miranda’s tickets. Now Ania’s asking for help funding the fundraiser so she can table as well.

Thanks to a generous donation, Alex, Miranda, and my tickets have been taken care of. As such, I am going to up the ante a little bit. If I make my goal, I will use the money that would have gone towards buying a ticket to purchase a table at the con and sell my artwork and a variety of other products of mine. In return, I will donate a percentage of my profits (from the con table) to either the con itself, or to help out the fundraisers of great people to be able to move to safer places.

Considering she’s doing some quite wall-worthy art, it might be worth your time and effort to help her succeed in this endeavour.

Fundraiser is here!

Point of Inquiry disbanding and joining Mother Jones over CFI/WiS debacle

I’m sure this will be reprinted on one of their blogs very soon, but I was just sent this press release by Adam Isaak. I’ll link as soon as possible.

Point of Inquiry Team Resigns, Launches New Show with Mother Jones

On Friday, Point of Inquiry’s two co-hosts—Indre Viskontas and Chris Mooney—resigned from their positions at the Center for Inquiry. On Monday, Point of Inquiry producer Adam Isaak followed suit. This note is to explain our reasons for departing CFI and our future plans.

In May of 2013, when the Women in Secularism II conference took place in Washington, D.C., Point of Inquiry—the flagship podcast of the Center for Inquiry—was more successful that it has ever been. Following a format change in 2010, our audience has increased by 60 percent and our growth rate has doubled in the last year and a half. We’d recently done a highly successful live show featuring Steven Pinker before a packed room at the 2013 American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting, and interviewed guests like Oliver Sacks, Jared Diamond, Paul Krugman, and Mary Roach. We had started to incorporate new, successful video content. 2013 featured our most listened-to show ever and we were averaging well over 2 million total downloads per year.

Then came the events at that conference—including a widely criticized speech by Center for Inquiry President & CEO Ronald Lindsay. Lindsay then went further, writing a blog post which referred to a post by one of his critics—Rebecca Watson—as follows: “It may be the most intellectually dishonest piece of writing since the last communique issued by North Korea.”

In response to public criticism of Lindsay’s speech and blog post, CFI’s Board of Directors issued an ambiguous statement regretting the controversy, but going no further than that.

These actions have generated much discussion, criticism and polarization within our community. In addition, they created an environment at CFI that made it very difficult for our producer, Adam Isaak, to continue working there.

We, like others, welcome Lindsay’s recent apology. That apology, however, was not followed by any direct effort to retain Chris or Indre, nor did it make up for the very real toll this controversy has taken upon our podcast and our ability to produce it.

The actions of Lindsay and the Board have made it overwhelmingly difficult for us to continue in our goal to provide thoughtful and compelling content, including coverage of feminist issues, as in past interviews with guests like Amanda Marcotte, Katha Pollitt, MG Lord, and Carol Tavris.

The Center for Inquiry has supported us in the past and has asked Chris and Indre to speak at many of its conferences. We are thankful for that.  But we’re a team and we do this together. We believe that this controversy has impaired our ability to produce the highest quality podcast under the auspices of CFI and that our talents will be put to better use elsewhere.

To that end, we are in the process of formalizing a new podcast that will allow us to continue to provide the in-depth interviews with leading intellectuals that made Point of Inquiry such a success. We’ll announce the name and more details about the new podcast shortly but as of right now, we can already announce something we’re all incredibly excited about: the new show will be produced in collaboration with the nonprofit news organization Mother Jones. You can follow @MotherJones on Twitter to get the latest updates on the show’s official launch. We all look forward to turning our attention to the work at hand, and leaving this controversy behind.

Adam Isaak, Indre Viskontas, and Chris Mooney

For more information or to schedule an interview with Chris Mooney or Indre Viskontas, please contact Adam Isaak at [email protected] or at 701-540-5855.

This document can also be found at: http://goo.gl/FMQHd

The Google shortcode is to a Google Drive document hosting the original release.

I can testify as to its legitimacy from at least one of the participants. I’ll link elsewhere as soon as they are posted.

(Why’s the world gots to go blow up when I’m so sleeeeepy!?)

Anatomy of another apology

So, Ron Lindsay apologized. That’s good. Not superlative good, but it’s not bad, in any respect.

Someone pointed out privately the timing between my post on Friday dissecting the Kickstarter apology, and this apology. I chuckled, and said that I only wish I had that level of influence. But this does put me in a position where I have to parse the apology in light of what I wrote on Friday, and despite the fact that I do find this apology somewhat wanting, I also know how difficult it must have been to do, and that wins from me a lot of (provisional) goodwill.

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Anatomy of an apology

People are talking a lot lately about what qualities a genuine apology might take — what sort of apology, for instance, Ron Lindsay might be expected to make if many of the feminists he’s so undercut with his opening speech are going to actually accept it and thereafter find it in their hearts to resume their support of CFI, given that most of us have explicitly ASKED for such an apology.

Kickstarter gave us a great example that we can dissect, even where it has a few rough edges yet. They even did it in exactly the right order.

The backstory: a really horrid pick-up artist manual with first draft material including passages like:

Pull out your cock and put her hand on it. Remember, she is letting you do this because you have established yourself as a LEADER. Don’t ask for permission, GRAB HER HAND, and put it right on your dick.

In the context of a relationship where you’re not particularly familiar with a person, there’s good reason why there was an outcry against this rape-culture-steeped, utterly empathy-free, deep-fried nonsense, and why Kickstarter has apologized for not acting in time to shut it down. The Kickstarter was fully funded, and they were made aware with only two hours left before it closed. They were not able to stop the automated processes from finishing, and so this pick-up artist’s manual on how to input Konami codes into women to unlock Sex Mode will probably come into being.

(Then again, it probably would anyway — I have no idea what the kickstarter would actually fund, short of vanity press publishing.)

So, despite the damage that was done, why does Kickstarter’s apology work?
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Two takes on CFI’s non-statement you should read

Kaoru Nigisa at Reasonable Conversation discusses the non-statement made by CFI, including this about the mythologizing that the antifeminist quarters have included in their “Skeptic Women” petition in support of Ron Lindsay’s strawmanning and lack of comprehension about the conference and conversations he was hosting:

We are aware of a campaign, headed by Amanda Marcotte and others, to remove Ronald A. Lindsay from his position as CEO of the Center for Inquiry. We do not support this effort.

Where? Where has anybody, Amanda Marcotte or otherwise, lead a “campaign” for Ron Lindsay to be fired? Everybody I have read has asked for an apology, either from him or on his behalf. And who is calling to interfere with the careers of people? This is completely made up nonsense, a collection of hyperbolic ghost stories told by anti-feminists to justify their harassment tactics. The point of this letter is just to tell the world that the undersigned don’t have any problems with people treating others horribly. They’re fine, so why should they give a shit about anybody else?

Basically, this is weapons grade projection.

And at CFI On Campus, Seth Kurtenbach channels his inner fifth grader to explain why the statement by CFI is less than adequate:

In the second paragraph, we learn that the CFI Board has a wish. A wish is a want, or a desire. Some people believe wishes come true under certain circumstances. For instance, some people believe a genie can make a wish come true. Other people believe wishing upon a star makes your wishes come true. I don’t believe in those things, but maybe the Board does.

The CFI Board’s wish is to express unhappiness. Unhappiness is a lot like sadness. This is a very sad wish. Why is the Board sad? Because of a controversy about their women’s conference. I wonder who did this to them? Whoever did controversy to them must be pretty mean, because it makes the Board wish to express unhappiness. The people who made this controversy must have a problem with women. I hope the Board’s wish comes true, so that they can express this unhappiness, and the people behind this controversy can feel ashamed! Maybe I will wish upon a star that their wish will come true.

People are rightfully upset that the CEO of CFI, Ron Lindsay, brought the feminism conversation’s equivalent of a creationist accusation that evolution is undercut by Piltdown Man to a convention where everyone damn well knew it was a fallacious argument on a number of grounds. They are upset that Lindsay had the temerity to bring up falsehoods and straw dummies in the opening speech for a convention he was holding, in order to chastise the participants over things that are patently wrong. They are upset that he left a fundraising dinner to call one of the speakers comparable to a totalitarian fascist country. They are upset that his lack of professionalism, not to mention his lack of knowledge on the topic, overshadowed the speakers that everyone was there to hear. They are upset that the CFI board’s statement threw the conference itself under the bus by saying that there was controversy surrounding the conference, rather than surrounding their CEO’s actions.

If it takes a fifth grader’s explanation to make that plainer than everyone has made it so far, I more than welcome this contribution to the dialogue.

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.

My letter to CFI re Women In Secularism #wiscfi

I have sent the following letter to Tom Flynn, who is receiving letters for Center For Inquiry to be shown to the board members when they meet about Ron Lindsay this Friday. It is structured off of a letter that Miriam wrote intending to collect signatures and deliver with multiple names attached. I sponsor her letter in full, but I absolutely had to expand on much of what was said.

To the Board of Directors of the Center for Inquiry:

As an attendee of the recent Women in Secularism conference, I write to register my disappointment and sense of betrayal with regard to Dr. Ron Lindsay’s opening remarks and his subsequent behavior. I support the recent letter written and signed by thirteen of the conference speakers and would like to add my voice to theirs.

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Solidarity at #wiscfi

You might have seen this FtB solidarity photo from Women In Secularism 2 floating around, where the members who were on-hand after Maryam’s talk got a group photo taken with our signs expressing solidarity with the atheists in Muslim countries who are being persecuted for daring to think freely — whose lives are made miserable, and in some cases made forfeit, because they dare disagree with the majority.

Stephanie Zvan, Ophelia Benson, Brianne Bilyeu, Maryam Namazie, Jason Thibeault, Kate Donovan, Miriam Mogilevski, PZ Myers, Ashley Miller. Photo by Brian D. Engler.

Stephanie Zvan, Ophelia Benson, Brianne Bilyeu, Maryam Namazie, Jason Thibeault, Kate Donovan, Miriam Mogilevski, PZ Myers, Ashley Miller. Photo by Brian D. Engler.

Left to right, signs say:

Free
Happy
Defiant
Ateist
– Stephanie Zvan

WE ARE ATHEIST
WE
ARE
WITH
YOU
– Ophelia Benson

Recognize The
WORTH of
Non Believers –
– Respect The
RIGHTS of
Non Believers
I stand in SOLIDARITY with
ATHEISTS!
– Brianne Bilyeu

THOUGHT
IS
NOT
A CRIME
– Jason Thibeault

We stand
with you
– Kate Donovan

Secularism for
ALL women –
NOT just Western!
– Miriam Mogilevski

ATHEISM
IS A VIRTUE
NOT A CRIME
– PZ Myers

Together
We are
Stronger
– Ashley Miller

(You might also have seen a photoshopped version of this photo stripping it of its important message and making it all about a certain self-promoting asshole. That’s, I’m sure, SLIGHTLY more important than decrying the human rights violations perpetrated on fellow atheists, right?)

But you may not have seen the full scope of this effort.
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Asking the Wrong Question about Ingersoll #wiscfi

I ended up missing the last two talks of the Women In Secularism conference because I had to catch a stupid plane that was stupid ten hours earlier than I would have stupid liked. Stupid. Blah.

Okay, I’m happy that I’m home, and completely bloody spent, but in a good way. A mostly good way. There were a few nasty objectionable ragey bits, but that’s okay, we can all disagree here on the internet. And it’s not like disagreement with those nasty bits weren’t put front and centre on the stage through the entire conference.

Those ragey bits had a minor trend among them — several of them were expressly about how uninviting such a conference or such a social justice movement in general might be to men. In the one case, you have CFI CEO Ron A Lindsay’s opening speech claiming that feminists are using the word privilege to shut down civil disagreements or as a club to end arguments (without providing examples), and “cautioning” the feminists in the audience that men should not be told to “shut up and listen”. (As though only men did that.) We won’t talk about this poorly thought-out exercise in well-poisoning, this abuse of Lindsay’s bully pulpit, because many people have already expended far too many words (though here’s some excellent ones) about a man’s point of view during a conference attempting to expand women’s input in the secular movement. Suffice it to say, I strongly disagree with Ron, but making this conference even more about him undercuts all the worthy content from the women who spoke this weekend.

Sadly, I didn’t get to see one of the other ragey bits in person. During the second-last slot of the day today, R Elisabeth Cornwell of the Richard Dawkins Foundation presented a talk titled Who Speaks for Feminism. Kate Donovan was on hand to live-blog it. There were a few sticking points in it, but I’m most interested in this brief post (well, brief compared to all the other transcription I’ve done this weekend!), in challenging only one part.
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