Talk about it like a grownup

Paul Fidalgo has a very cogent note to anonymous sneery opponents of the Women in Secularism conference on his (highly recommended) Morning Heresy CFI blog:

Look, people, and yes guys, I’m talking to you specifically. This conference is not about “separating” women from men, it’s about having the spine as a movement to say that women deal with prejudices and oppression that are unique to them, thanks to religion, and at the same time recognizing that our own community has a LOT of work to do in how we treat, acknowledge, and highlight our female half. It’s not a conference exclusively FOR women, but yes, about them. Our boss Ron Lindsay says men absolutely should attend. PZ Myers says men should attend. And I’m telling you, too. If you think it’s a problem to have a conference like this, I challenge you to buy a ticket, show your face, and talk about it like a grownup. No more nameless Internet thuggery.

Well quite. If you have something to say, show your face and talk about it like a grownup. You’re safe. We don’t deliver fatwas. We don’t throw acid. We don’t poison the water supply.




  1. A. Noyd says

    If a women-centric conference really was unnecessary, the fatal argument against holding it would be a shrug.

  2. iknklast says

    I just wish I could go. So many conferences, so little time, and my boss expects me to show up at work with some degree of regularity. Oh, well, at least the Reason Rally was during Spring Break!

  3. Nathair says

    I thought the whole point of the ‘net was that we don’t have to travel to some other city (country, hemisphere) in order to disagree with each other (or apparently to be considered “a grownup”.) Nor do I think much of this dare to come face down a hostile crowd or else shut the hell up (and let’s face it, if he brought his smug little show on the road hostile we would be.)

    I think TGOMEP is about as wrong as you could possibly be on this but Show Up or Shut Up seems a pretty silly response.

  4. says

    “our own community has a LOT of work to do in how we treat, acknowledge, and highlight our female half.”

    And indeed, in gaining a female half in the first place (as opposed to, say, some lesser percentage)

  5. Josh Slocum says

    Ophelia, I’m just furious. Over on the Dawkins thread with the misogynist bully, we get a moderator coming in to tut tut at “both sides” and how any more comments from “either side” will be canned. I left this comment (in case it gets deleted over there):

    Oh no you did not. No you did not just put that sexist provocateur on equal footing with women like Ophelia who objected to being treated like dirt. No you did not just say “both sides.”

    What is wrong with you guys here on issues like this? I understand moderating is time-consuming and frustrating, but damn it, DO BETTER. Don’t act as though the victims of bigotry are just one “side” like so many others. And if you don’t mean it to sound that way then don’t say it that way. Gee, how about condemning the abusive moron—why can’t you bring yourselves to do that?

    Jesus Christ. And on a goddamn thread about the Women in Secularism conference! Wake. The. Hell. Up. Lots of tongues are wagging about how RDF has a big honking sexism problem. Boy howdy, do you ever.

  6. says

    Josh – I saw that – the mod’s comment, I mean, not yours. It’s especially ironic, or absurd, or pathetic, or something, given that the post cites Elisabeth Cornwell, who is the president of RDF in the US. The trolly guy was insulting her along with the other women…yet a mod for RDF somehow treats it as a matter of “stop it both of you.” And gave the trolly guy the last word. Honestly…

  7. Josh Slocum says

    It’s the fucking living end, O. I hope you save this and use it as an example at the WIS conference. These things are what add up to women-hostile spaces. It’s a goddamn outrage and RDF should be called out on it.

  8. says

    It’s the kind of thing that’s way too complicated to explain for that situation – in fact it’s the kind of thing that’s way too complicated to explain period. One looks like a crazy person if one tries. You have to have been there.

    But yes. I am quite annoyed. That guy took over the whole thread, pissed on the very idea of the conference and on all of the participants, and got the last word. I replied to him, always briefly, but I was treated as his equivalent, and he got the last word. (I mean – hello, RDF? I’m one of the speakers? I’m one of the named people he was insulting in all of his posts? As is Elisabeth Cornwell? Yet you tell me to shut up? Are you kidding?)

    Sigh. It’s pathetic.

  9. Egbert says

    I’ve had a few problems with the moderators over at, so understand the frustrations and sense of injustice. If you read their terms and conditions:

    You’ll see that the troll breaks 1, 2 (in my opinion), 3 (probably), 5, 8 (definitely), and yet is still allowed to completely derail the thread.

  10. Cassandra Caligaria (Cipher), OM says

    I’m with Nathair kinda. I’m no fan of anonymous internet thuggery, but I certainly don’t want in-person interactions to become a prereq for grownup conversation. Even when I’m dealing with people I’m quite comfortable with, I simply can’t compose-then-communicate my thoughts in any meaningful way in person. (I do okay with memorized scripts in some formats.) And at a conference? As in, rooms full of strangers? Noooo thank you.

    On the other hand, I absolutely loathe the kind of jerks who abuse their anonymity to make other people feel unsafe (which misogyny does, and anonymous misogyny even more effectively) with relative impunity. And also the kind of mealy-mouthed morons who think berating “both sides” is the appropriate way to deal with an argument between bigots and non-bigots.

  11. says

    I sent a stiff little note to the RDF complaints department.

    No, fair enough about not wanting to talk in person. But – as you all already agree but I’ll say it anyway – people who use anonymity to throw shit at non-anonymous people with impunity…are scum.

  12. Paul Fidalgo says

    Surely it’s clear that I am asking for — in toto — a heightening of the discourse around women in our movement, regardless whether one treks to a conference in DC, but that I also add a specific challenge to actually attend said conference, which, yes, seems like a big ask, but that’s why they call it a challenge. So, again, to clarify:

    1, No more jackassery in general
    2. If you really wanna show your stuff, come meet us in Arlington

    And thanks for posting, Ophelia.

  13. Philip Legge says


    if I were you I’d send a cc: of your e-mail to Elisabeth Cornwell to let her know how debate on this topic – which you are intimately involved with, being one of the invited speakers FFS! – was derailed by a troll (who as Egbert points out flagrantly broke the terms of the RDF’s terms) and then shut down with a ridiculous assumption of false equivalence by a moderator.

    It would be like if a similar troll derailed a thread on say, global warming (haven’t we seen that sort of troll enough times as well?), and a moderator decided to say, “well, we can’t have both sides sparring at each other, as though one side were right and the other clearly wrong, hur hur hur!”.

    I notice however, that you’ve had one of your posts complaining about this go through though.

    Moderator – seriously? You’re telling me I can’t reply to an anonymous troller’s insults? You’re talking about “either side” as if we were toddlers kicking each other in the back seat of the car? Hello? I’m one of the speakers at this conference – what sense does it make to tell me I can’t reply to this anonymous sneering at the very idea of the conference?

    I think the fact that you are one of the invited speakers to the conference is obviously in your favour, and I hope the moderators see sense.

  14. Cam says

    I applaud everybody who’s engaged with these jerks.

    It’s not that I’m not glad that the movement’s being forced to have this conversation, but I have to say, the misogyny has burned me out in a big way. Boy howdy. There are only so many times a person can headdesk in a day.

  15. says

    Philip – well it was the only comment (as opposed to one of a bunch). It did occur to me that the reminder of direct relevance to me personally might earn it the right to stay. (It also makes the mod look silly, but that’s his fault, innit.)

    Cam – same here, but I have that awful “can never let anything go” quality. Or maybe I should say it’s principled, not awful.

  16. Michael says

    I notice however, that you’ve had one of your posts complaining about this go through though.

    Nope it’s gone. I saw it for brief second on the front page. Comment’s about moderation always get deleted.


  17. Philip Legge says

    And they’ve locked the thread. No more argument to be had!

    Congratulations, Richard Dawkins Foundation. You’ve not only permitted a troll who registered that account just two days ago, and who only commented on that single thread, to shit all over the thread with arguments made bad faith, derisory bullshit about the very idea of the conference, and insults to the women invited to speak at the conference – but in addition, by heavy-handed moderation you’ve totally silenced the very voices who are to speak at the conference, women in secularism, by shutting down both sides of the debate by a false equivalence that those responding to the assertions of the troll were being unreasonable.

    That is completely dishonest. That website is looking more and more like The Intersection’s toleration of bad faith trolls and sockpuppets.

  18. Nathair says

    On the other hand, I absolutely loathe the kind of jerks who abuse their anonymity to make other people feel unsafe


  19. says

    That is completely dishonest. That website is looking more and more like The Intersection’s toleration of bad faith trolls and sockpuppets.

    Is John Kwok posting there yet?

  20. SAWells says

    Dawkins, and the people he employs, do seem to have this weird ingrained blind spot about sexism. It’s not that they’re bad people or consciously sexist, I think; they just have a default setting in their minds that there are ordinary human beings, the kind with penises, and then there are women, whose concerns are less important. That bizarre “Dear Muslima” response during Elevatorgate was a real eye-opener.

  21. says

    You know what.
    I often use the “two sides approach”
    With my kids
    They’re two and four.
    I only use it when I’m actually sure that this is a two-sided conflict and not one of them willfully hurting and abusing the other.
    And then I let them sort it out themselves.
    And if they can’t, whatever the object of their quarrels is gets confiscated.
    Works well in making them find a solution together.
    So, clearly the RDF moderators think that you’re toddlers and they’re adults.
    They also think that you’re quibbeling about a toy and actually not something serious.
    They are unable to identify a bully as for what he is.
    They also clearly think that this is something where everybody needs to find a middle ground and a compromise like who gets which toy when.
    And you’Re not allowed to complain about the decision.
    I don’t know how you could make your disdain for women any clearer.

  22. WayneShenton says

    I’ve had a few problems with the moderators over at, so understand the frustrations and sense of injustice. If you read their terms and conditions:

    The thought of someone on FreeThoughtBlogs moaning about moderation is quite amusing.

    I’m not at all surprised that the RDF mods have a dim view of people from FTB. This, after all the crap some FTB users have come out with, along with false allegations of “racism”, etc.

  23. julian says

    Pardon me while I chortle, and then guffaw.

    Pardon me while I piss in your general direction.

    I’m not even gonna argue with you, fucknuts. I’m just going to troll back. Seems to be the only kind of communication you things comprehend.

  24. says

    Cupcake, it surely flew right over your head, I wasn’t calling for you and your likes to be banned or moderated.
    I was expressing my disgust at you folks showing up again because I consider you to be the scum of the earth.
    The free speech you value so much, remember?

  25. says

    Honestly – the issue isn’t moderation as such. It’s bad moderation. Moderation done badly. It’s not “omg never delete any comments ever, never ban any trolls ever”; it’s “don’t treat the no-name troll who derailed the thread in order to sneer at women including your own executive director as the same kind of commenter as one using her own name, with a long history at RDF (and elsewhere), who is one of the speakers being insulted by the no-name troll, who replied briefly and more or less temperately.”

    I mean…suppose we have a teacher who watches calmly while Billy throws old sandwiches and apple cores at Betty, and then when Betty stands up and tells him to stop, tells both of them to stop sparring. That would be one incompetent teacher.

  26. julian says

    The free speech you value so much, remember?

    You know, I’ve read most of the topics these festering sores have been in across most of FTB and I have yet to see comments ‘go missing.’ They were deleted. They were told they would be deleted and they were given ample warning to stop behaving like pus leaking zits.

    And they chugged on.

    Like the idiot that trolled the RD post.

    And people are complaining wasn’t singled out for his behavior.

    (Jesus, how fucking hard is it to point to a double standard? Here’s an idea, don’t point to point to people applying almost identical criteria to similar situations.)

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