Women in Secularism is going strong

I’m off in Washington DC at Women in Secularism 2, and I’m taking it easy. You can try to follow what’s going on at the conference via twitter, but that’s going to be a mess: unlike every other conference I’ve ever been at, the twitter feed for this one is nearly completely divorced from the reality of the event. It seems that if you put on a woman’s conference, the anti-feminists will send a representative or two to attend and throw out occasional twisted remarks prejudicial to the event, which will then be echoed by the obsessive mob in the lovely manosphere.

It’s genuinely bizarre. If you thought the #wiscfi hashtag was a corrupt mess before the conference, it’s even worse now. It’s representative of the endemic bigotry against women that even atheist/skeptic cons don’t get this degree of malicious nastiness from their opponents.

It didn’t help that the opening remarks (by a bearded white guy, no less) were basically a high five to the people trolling the conRon Lindsay tut-tutted the attendees for using the concept of privilege to shut down conversations with…who? The thugs who hate the whole idea of Women in Secularism? It was the most inappropriate, uninspiring, wrong-headed conference opening ever. The director of CFI trolled a conference built by his own organization, and offered words of encouragement to the people trying to disrupt it!

All I can think is that he decided to make all the other talks look good by starting off on the lowest note he could. He shouldn’t have bothered, all the talks on the first day were excellent. Oh, you aren’t here? We’ve got three people from FtB live-blogging it all.

Jason/Miri/Kate covered the first panel, on faith-based pseudoscience. The panelists discussed the ways medicine in particular is undermined by quackery, and to give the True Skeptics™ conniptions, specifically addressed how religious lies contribute to the problem.

Jason/Kate covered Amanda Marcotte’s talk on how feminism makes better skeptics. She mainly talked about how patriarchal assumptions corrupt decision-making, highlighting, for instance, the opposition to Plan B, which cannot be attribute to rational decision-making at all, but is entirely faith-based. And when you look at the agenda of the theocrats of the religious right, it’s appalling how much of it is all about controlling women.

Jason/Miri covered Rebecca Goldstein’s talk on religion, humanism, and moral progress. She covered the philosophical and historical theme of “mattering”, of struggling to live a notable or even extraordinary life. Humanism is the only attempt to make lives matter that has progressed to including everyone.

Check in with those guys throughout the day as they take on the job of representing the conference accurately to the world — you sure won’t find that on twitter, which is worrisome. I wonder if other groups will organize to bully other events by disrupting their twitter feeds? Nah, only defending the rights of women seems to generate that much hate.

Comments

  1. says

    And I’m sorry, but the @hashspamkiller account that was supposed to filter out the garbage tweets doesn’t work — it’s overwhelmed by the quantity of tweets and is lagging hours behind the actual meeting.

  2. says

    PZ, the limit is the retweet rate imposed by Twitter itself – the quantity of legitimate tweets from conference goers was outstripping the @hashspamkiller account – there are additional accounts, @hashspamkiller1, @hashspamkiller2, and so on, but following them all isn’t exactly ideal either!

    Fortunately, the @hashspamkiller was able to favourite all of the tweets without being cast into Twitter jail – so the URL to follow is: https://twitter.com/hashspamkiller/favorites

    It’s possible the account will get Twitter jailed today. Remember, this sort of technical solution shouldn’t be necessary, except that the atheist community is lumbered with a group of toxic misogynist assholes who want to fuck up other atheists’ conferences. That’s what’s really deplorable here.

  3. says

    @ PZ

    the endemic bigotry against women

    It is flaring up all over the place. I console myself with the thought that it is a backlash … an indication that we are winning. The “crisis” – κρίσις. It is just a little hard to reconcile with this process sometimes. I hope that I am not wrong.

  4. Ulysses says

    I read part of Lindsay’s remarks but when I got to his lukewarm, “well, since despite many peoples’ efforts it exists I guess maybe it’s okay, for certain values of okay” acceptance of Atheism+ I realized he wasn’t going to say anything I’d be interested in.

  5. says

    Yeah, I know — the problem is intrinsic to twitter’s model for how everything ought to work. They have nothing to deal with concerted efforts to flood a hashtag, and their search function is hampered by the fact that it ignores blocks: search on a hashtag, and it returns every tweet using that hashtag, including those by people you’ve blocked.

    If they would fix that one stupid design decision, this whole problem would go away.

  6. Ulysses says

    I went back to Lindsay’s opening speech. Here’s part of his comments about privilege:

    I’m talking about the situation where the concept of privilege is used to try to silence others, as a justification for saying, “shut up and listen.” Shut up, because you’re a man and you cannot possibly know what it’s like to experience x, y, and z, and anything you say is bound to be mistaken in some way, but, of course, you’re too blinded by your privilege even to realize that.

    Damn, Ron, you’re so blinded by your misunderstanding of privilege to recognize that mansplaining exists. That’s primarily what’s happening when feminists tell clueless men like you to shut up and listen.

    I knew that Lindsay wasn’t a strong advocate for feminism. Sure, he’s in favor of regarding women as human beings and I’m sure many of his best friends are women, but feminism is not one of his causes. But his tepid, almost apathetic opening remarks to Women In Secularism were both patronizing and mildly supportive of the slymepit.

    Sorry, Ron, but any interest I might have had in supporting CFI evaporated solely due to your efforts.

  7. imthegenieicandoanything says

    Cheese! The guy writes like an undergraduate with an unlit pipe in his mouth! And he’s a LEADER of something?

    I’d post there, but he wants me to play ‘funny games’ and the effort of re-reading his piece made me sadder than the Baby Jesus when a boy discovers his penis.

    [mutters] “He really believes that shit he’s saying, like he’s being misunderstood. Like Truman was misunderstanding poor Doug MacArthur, mebbe? Cheese!”

    Thanks to all of you doing the good work there. I’d want no part of an event which opened with this kind of person.

  8. Ogvorbis, broken failure. says

    tut-tutted the attendees for using the concept of privilege to shut down conversations

    I thought that people speaking from a privileged position were the ones shutting down the conversations — ‘I’m white, male, straight, cis-gendered, college educated, and middle class so sit down, shut up, and let me tell you what your experience is’.

  9. says

    Fuck PZ Twitter limits on accounts! Seriously though it is a major pain avoiding twitter jail. It could have been configured so hashspamkiller 12345 take turns in retweeting so one account has every sixth tweet but it was discussed and following one account is obviously a lot easier. As xanthe says favs are up to date assuming the 1000 limit a day is not breached. All this is undocumented by twitter. Not happy with that aspect of the api.

    Miri mentioned grease monkey and it looks pretty easy to get a script that killfiles ALL ppl on the block list on chrome and Firefox.

  10. says

    So that killfile function will work on hash searches. Everything from the standard web client. If anyone knows how to write plugins for tweetdeck let me know.

  11. Pteryxx says

    The hashspamkiller favorites feed only works for signed-in Twitter users, too. *grumble grump*

  12. says

    I just loved the clear grumpiness with which Ron approached his speech. He struck me as a man who has felt dragged into a situation he finds intrinsically nonsensical, almost desperate to make it clear that he’s up to his personal limit with the demands of feminist thought.

    It was a little sad.

  13. doubtthat says

    The irony, of course, being that WiS2 is more or less a perfect opportunity for a fella to shut up and listen.

    There’s the obvious substantive problem with Lidsay’s comments, but also, why then and there? Maybe you think that, but hey, listen to the conference and if you’re still pissy about that trite list of things-that-other-people-say-feminists-say that are rarely ever said by feminists, make a blog post about it or some stupid YouTube video.

  14. Jackie, Ms. Paper if ya nasty says

    Yeah, I read about Ron’s folly last night. What a disappointment.
    I cannot imagine traveling all that way and spending all that money only to be greeted like that.

  15. says

    During all this time Ron Lindsay struck me as a basically decent fellow who just doesn’t get it and who is pretty uncomfortable.
    Suddenly he sees people fighting left, right and centre and although he’s technically on bord with that feminism stuff he would prefer it not to be that loud.
    Where do all those kids come from, why do they rock the boat and why on earth are they so noisy?

  16. says

    “I’m willing to listen, but how DARE you tell me to shut up??”

    Basic physics, Ron. You can’t listen if you won’t shut up. Is this really that hard?

  17. carlie says

    It’s interesting how it’s such a horrible affront to be told to be quiet and listen for awhile. Why, if you can’t weigh in on EVERYTHING ALL THE TIME and be PAID ATTENTION TO, somehow you’re being oppressed?

    And I’m with Ulysses. I know it does some great work, and Melody works her ass off doing damage control, but when things like this keep happening, the good signal to bad signal ratio is such that I just don’t want to put in the effort to jump into that organization.

  18. says

    Ron has claimed that he’s going to provide examples of men who have been silenced by feminists using privilege as a silencing tactic. I can’t wait! Finally, after all these years and hundreds of claims of the amazing silencing power of the magical “privilege” incantation, finally–an actual example. Maybe more than one.

  19. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    Finally, after all these years and hundreds of claims of the amazing silencing power of the magical “privilege” incantation, finally–an actual example. Maybe more than one.

    Hmm…I just wonder how many examples, when looked at in detail, will be cases where the man was trying to tell women how they should feel. In which case, it doesn’t prove his point.

  20. Onamission5 says

    Shorter Ron Lindsey:

    I’ll let you ladies have your little “conference,” but don’t think this means you get to act all uppity.

  21. says

    So incredibly disappointing. In his blog post, Lindsay says:

    One of the principal points of my talk was the critical importance of advocacy for women’s rights, and how this advocacy was integral to CFI’s mission. This is something I emphasized at the beginning and end of my talk. You wouldn’t realize this from some of the comments.

    Over half his talk (word-count-wise) was spent on his perceptions of divisions within feminism and his ideas about using the concept of privilege to tell people to “shut up and listen”. The former is basically the set-up for the latter, which is the main point of his talk.

    There is no mention whatsoever of the silencing and threatening behavior that continues to take place, within the secular movement, toward women.

    Even if one were to (in my opinion, incorrectly) grant him the truth of what he’s saying, the fact is that a white man in a position of authority, with the task of opening a conference on women in the secular movement, thought that *this was the most important thing to discuss*. He thought it most important to talk about *how people are being unfair to men*.

    When we speak, *what we choose to focus on* communicates as much as the meanings of the words we say. In Lindsay’s case, I’d say it communicated way more.

  22. says

    I read some of the tweets. I am still not a twitter user so I don’t get some of the acronyms at first. Justin Vacula appears to be enjoying himself. I guess I don’t know many of the ‘personalities.’ It also seems that many of the tweets are by people who are not even there but are pretending to be. As an example, is Sara E. Mayhew even at the conference? She tweets:

    Sara E. Mayhew
    ‏@saramayhew
    #wiscfi embarrasses women in secularism by not showcasing ANY women in STEM, or distinguished gender studies/social justice academics.

    She can not have read the list of speakers.
    The tweets from yesterday are almost useless. Too much to wade through.

  23. says

    No one should be told how to “feel”. Ever. I can make a value judgment on it privately, but that’s it. I know plenty of people who are offended by knowing that I don’t believe in God, even when I’m entirely silent on it. Can I tell them they can’t feel that way? No. Do I care at all that they do? No. But, at some point I tried to understand their side. I just came up empty. When it comes to issues of Feminism, I acknowledge I don’t understand how it is to be a woman, just I don’t understand how it is to be a racial minority, etc. I don’t argue against people explaining those feelings in all but the most overtly insane examples. I think a lot of this is along the lines of white people being outraged that BET exists, etc. WOMEN in Secularism! What do you think would happen if we had a MEN in Secularism conference? THEY would go nuts.

  24. hypatiasdaughter says

    Perhaps Ron was invited to a “Women in the Church” conference where women are supposed to sit around and let their menfolk tell them what their roles are – direct from god’s mouth to the menfolk’s ears – took a wrong turn at Albuquerque and ended up in the wrong conference?
    Do ya think that Ron is going to face vicious, persistent and ongoing personal attacks for the next few years for his gentle rebuke of some “bad” apples in the secular movement?
    Silly me! No one in the secularist community would countenance and tolerate vile behavior towards one of their own, would they?

  25. says

    Sara Mayhew is not here. She’s a parrot echoing & amplifying Vacula’s distortions…and that is another reason Vacula should be disinvited from participation in any part of the atheist movement’s activities. He’s acting as a disinformation agent, nothing more or less.

  26. Nick Gotts (formerly KG) says

    My comment on Ron Lindsay’s post:

    Others have dealt adequately with your disgraceful condescension to the people this conference was supposed to be about. I’ll just mention two particular points.

    (1)
    “The first conference raised a number of questions in my mind, and if the vigorous online debate that has occurred over the last twelve months is any indication, in the minds of many others as well.”

    Maybe the term “vigorous online debate” was used ironically, but somehow I doubt it. Are sustained campaigns of harassment against feminist bloggers, including threats of rape and murder, obsessive use of misogynist slurs, and photoshopping images of one’s their heads into pornographic images what you mean by “vigorous online debate”? Or have you somehow missed all these? Because while whining about the concept of privilege (which you have misunderstood) being used in “silencing men” (I’m a man, I understand what is meant by privilege and that sometimes, I really should shut up and listen), you have said nothing whatever about them. Why is that?

    (2)
    “there was a call by some individuals to launch the Atheism+ movement, that is, atheism plus activism on social justice issues. This was not necessarily a bad suggestion, other than the fact that humanist groups like CFI or the AHA think that’s what they’re doing already, that is, they’re combining atheism with activism on selected social justice issues.”

    Well, your pompous finger-wagging lecture from a position of privilege is a fine illustration of why Atheism+ is needed. As it has developed, it has actually become primarily a place where atheists who want to can discuss social justice, among other issues, without constant interruption from misogynist harassers. It is also, unlike the CFI or AHA, very much an international group. But I see no sign that you so much as acknowledge the existence of atheism, scepticism or secularism beyond the USA.

  27. Anthony K says

    The first conference raised a number of questions in my mind, and if the vigorous online debate that has occurred over the last twelve months is any indication, in the minds of many others as well.

    Have you seen the vigorous debate around vaccines Ron? Lots of questions raised in the minds of many.

  28. Anthony K says

    other than the fact that humanist groups like CFI or the AHA think that’s what they’re doing already

    Don’t forget the Catholic Church, Ron. They think they’re for social justice too.

    And skeptics fighting anti-vaxxerism is also a good suggestion, other than the fact that real public health professionals think that’s what they’re doing already.

  29. Anthony K says

    other than the fact that humanist groups like CFI or the AHA think that’s what they’re doing already

    See? That’s two, fuckers, the exact perfect number of groups espousing social justice values. The addition of even one more completely destabilises the warp membrane tachyon field, forcing widespread Bussard reconfiguring therefore women shut up.

  30. Pteryxx says

    Over half his talk (word-count-wise) was spent on his perceptions of divisions within feminism and his ideas about using the concept of privilege to tell people to “shut up and listen”.

    …and here I thought women were supposed to be the ones bad at counting, fractions, and division. >_>

  31. David Marjanović says

    See? That’s two, fuckers, the exact perfect number of groups espousing social justice values. The addition of even one more completely destabilises the warp membrane tachyon field, forcing widespread Bussard reconfiguring therefore women shut up.

    *dropkicks Internet on Anthony’s stash*

  32. Cyranothe2nd, ladyporn afficianado says

    Holy shit, the comments on GFI. THE COMMENTS!

    The very first comment is all “Why isn’t GirlWritesWhat a speaker? ARE YOU SILENCING MRAs RON???” This is the group Ron’s choosen to ally himself with. *shakes head* What a joke.

    What would it take for WiS to divorce itself from CFI? Do they need CFI for org purposes? For money? Because seriously, I’d be happy to donate both to see WiS independent of this fuckery.

  33. smhll says

    It’s interesting how it’s such a horrible affront to be told to be quiet and listen for awhile. Why, if you can’t weigh in on EVERYTHING ALL THE TIME and be PAID ATTENTION TO, somehow you’re being oppressed?

    This, so much! (Thank you for saying it.)

    I would also add, isn’t it interesting that if you have a thought, somehow it must be worth listening to. Add probably something the person you are talking at hasn’t ever thought of. Even if it’s the first thought that popped into your mind.

    (Yeah. Sad now.)

  34. says

    FYI, bit late, but responding to problems with the @hashspamkiller having to abide by Twitters demented rate limits… @aratina has created this from the blocklist ->
    http://www.theblockbot.com/?page_id=128

    GreaseMonkey/TamperMonkey script that killfiles the Slymers in any Twitter page. Can look at any hash free of assholes :)

    Hail to Aratina!

  35. Stacy says

    What would it take for WiS to divorce itself from CFI? Do they need CFI for org purposes? For money? Because seriously, I’d be happy to donate both to see WiS independent of this fuckery

    WiS was the brainchild of, and organized by, Melody Hensley, who is Executive Director of CFI-DC.

    Lindsay’s lack of support is shameful. I wish the CFI Board would boot him. Maybe if enough people write and complain, he will be forced to (at the least) apologize. Hint, hint.*

    * Passionate but civil and well-argued letters, sent via snail mail; that’s the sort of thing executives respect. If you’re a donor, better still. Mention that.