My Talk at WIS2

May 17, 2013

There has been some discussion, including many tweets, about my talk today at Women in Secularism 2. I think some of the comments have been highly misleading. 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. Anyway, here is the text of my talk (note the video recording may differ slighly, as I did not read it word-for-word; also, grammar and punctuation probably are amiss in places, as it was intended for my eyes only).

Let me begin with a reading, a reading that should be familiar to many of you, it's from 1st Timothy chapter 2:

“Let a woman learn in silence with all submissiveness. 12: I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over men; she is to keep silent. 13: For Adam was formed first, then Eve; 14: and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. 15: Yet woman will be saved through bearing children, if she continues in faith and love and holiness, with modesty”


If you take out the references to Adam and Eve and salvation, similar pronouncements could have been made, almost surely were made, across the globe, from one to two to three thousand years before Paul write those words. And similar pronouncements were common at least up through about 1800 in the Christian west, and analogous pronouncements are still being made today in much of the Islamic world.

The suppression of women, their treatment as inferior, subordinate beings has a long history, encompassing virtually all human cultures. When precisely did the subordination of women begin? We can't know with any certainty; some anthropologists speculate it began with the development of agriculture, and that a similar hierarchy did not exist in hunter-gatherer culture. Whether that's true or not, the fact remains that the subordination of women has been a critical and common feature of human civilization for thousands of years. By contrast the slow, and very much incomplete, process of achieving equality for women has been a phenomenon of just the last couple of centuries.

The reading I just completed from the New Testament reminds us of a second point, that is, the connection between religion and the subordination of women. It is obvious that religions doctrines have often provided the rationale for treating women as inferior beings, beings who should not be allowed to speak, which of course is one reason many secular organizations regard advocacy for women's rights as an integral part of their mission.  In working for a secular society, we are also working for a society free of oppressive doctrines. But the relationship between religion and the subordination of women is not an uncomplicated, straightforward cause-effect relationship.  It’s not as though we could say with confidence if there had been no religion there would have been no subordination of women. Seems to me the roots of the suppression of women are much deeper, and that they have affected and may continue to affect the attitudes and conduct even of nonreligious individuals. I'll return to these points later.

One thing you may have noticed already is that I did not give you a formal welcome to Women in Secularism 2. Of course you are welcome here. We're very happy to have you with us, but this is something you know already, and, although I don’t want to appear ungracious, why take up time to state the obvious, because the reality is we have much work to do, and presumably you came here for substance not rhetoric.

The first Women in Secularism conference was a ground breaking event, but that's just it. It broke ground, it helped lay a foundation, but it's not clear yet what's going to be erected on top of that foundation. That’s in part what we need to find out over the next few days and that’s one reason CFI decided it was important to have a second conference.

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.

What is the relationship between feminism and secularism? What sort of priority should secular groups give to advocacy for women’s rights? As many of you may recall, shortly after the first Women in Secularism conference, 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. Because CFI was already involved in social justice issues, including women’s rights issues, I was frankly lukewarm toward the Atheism+ proposal. Also, based on the rhetoric of some of its proponents, and I underscore some not all, it seemed to me to have the potential to be divisive. In fact, according to at least one proponent it was intended to be divisive. Upon further reflection, I’ve become more sanguine about the proposal. To begin, although nomenclature is not irrelevant, it’s not supremely important; at the end of the day, you cannot force someone to call themselves a humanist, so if people prefer to call themselves an Atheist-plusser, or whatever the term is, that’s fine. Moreover, it’s not intrinsically divisive to have another group or organization within the secular movement, provided the group collaborates on key matters with other secular organizations. Goodness knows, we have plenty of groups as it is and we still have found a way to collaborate on many issues.

 Still, some questions remain, for example, how should secular organizations, including any organization that styles itself as an Atheist+ group, set their priorities? You can’t do everything at once. Only the religious believe in miracles, and think that time will stand still for them. For those of us who believe in the natural world, there are three limiting dimensions to public policy advocacy, namely time, space and money. So what should atheists or humanists who are interested in social justice focus on? Women’s issues only? Presumably not. But which other social justice issues are considered critical? And who decides what’s included within the scope of social justice anyway? What is the definition of social justice?  I read a blog post by Louise Pennington the other day; she stated that although patriarchy may predate capitalism, we cannot destroy patriarchy w/o destroying capitalism. Is the destruction of capitalism considered part of a social justice program? If so, that position certainly has very significant implications.

This leads me to another set of questions. What is feminism and what are the aims of the feminist movement? There’s a definition that I’m sure many of you are familiar with, a definition supplied by bell hooks,  and that is the feminist movement is a movement that seeks to end sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression. In the abstract, that seems about right. But the problem with this definition is it just pushes our questions back further. What is sexism? What actions constitute sexist exploitation? I don’t think you’re going to find unanimity of opinion on the answers to those questions even within the feminist movement.

Or would you? I know that I’ve had some conversations in which the claim has been made there is no significant division among true feminists. There may be people who call themselves feminists who sharply disagree with the correct understanding of feminism, but they’re just fake feminists. Worse, some of them are sister-punishers.

Well, I’ll grant that merely calling yourself a feminist does not make you one. And it is true that some women seem to think that if you work outside the home that by itself makes you a feminist. Obviously not the case, But are there truly no significant divisions currently within the feminist movement? It would be surprising if that were the case b/c the feminist movement has had sharp divisions in the past. I just referenced a blog post from Louise Pennington in which she said capitalism had to be destroyed to eliminate patriarchy. Does everyone in this room who considers herself a feminist agree with Pennington?  If not, then you already have one very significant difference among feminists.

Also if there were no divisions among feminists, that would arguably make feminism unique among social movements; the secularist movement has significant divisions. For example, there are some secularists who think it’s a waste of effort to complain about/litigate so-called symbol cases. You know the type of case I’m talking about, there’s a cross somewhere on a piece of public property, so some of us think we need protest, maybe file a lawsuit to remove it. Others think not; why bother. People who take this position, assuming they believe strongly in a secular government and follow other secularist positions -- are they not true secularists? I would think they are; I might disagree with them, but I don’t think I can mask that disagreement by the simple expedient of saying “you’re not a secularist, so I don’t have to talk to you.”
 
This brings me to the concept of privilege, a concept much in use these days. Let me emphasize at the outset that I think it’s a concept that has some validity and utility; it’s also a concept that can be misused, misused as a way to try to silence critics. In what way does it have validity? I think there is sufficient evidence to indicate that there are socially embedded advantages that men have over women, in a very general sense. These advantages manifest in various ways, such as the persistent pay gap between men and women. Also, I’m not a believer in a priori arguments, but I will say that given the thousands of years that women were subordinated to men, it would be absolutely amazing if in the space of several decades all the social advantages that men had were promptly and completely eradicated. Legislation can be very effective for securing rights, but changing deeply engrained patterns of behavior can take some time.
 
That said, I am concerned the concept of privilege may be misapplied in some instances. First, some people think it has dispositive explanatory power in all situations, so, if for example, in a particular situation there are fewer women than men in a given managerial position, and intentional discrimination is ruled out, well, then privilege must be at work. But that’s not true; there may be other explanations. The concept of privilege can do some explanatory work at a general level, but in particular, individualized situations, other factors may be more significant. To bring this point home let’s consider an example of another broad generalization which is unquestionably true, namely that people with college degrees earn more over their lifetime than those who have only high school diplomas. As I said, as a general matter, this is unquestionably true as statistics have shown this to be the case. Nonetheless in any particular case, when comparing two individuals, one with a high school degree and one with a college degree, the generalization may not hold.

But it’s the second misapplication of the concept of privilege that troubles me most. 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.

This approach doesn’t work.  It certainly doesn’t work for me. It’s the approach that the dogmatist who wants to silence critics has always taken because it beats having to engage someone in a reasoned argument. It’s the approach that’s been taken by many religions. It’s the approach taken by ideologies such as Marxism. You pull your dogma off the shelf, take out the relevant category or classification, fit it snugly over the person you want to categorize, dismiss, and silence and ... poof, you’re done. End of discussion. You’re a heretic spreading the lies of Satan, and anything you say is wrong. You’re a member of the bourgeoisie, defending your ownership of the means of production, and everything you say is just a lie to justify your power. You’re a man; you have nothing to contribute to a discussion of how to achieve equality for women.

Now don’t get me wrong. I think the concept of privilege is useful; in fact it is too useful to have it ossified and turned into a dogma.

By the way, with respect to the “Shut up and listen” meme, I hope it’s clear that it’s the “shut up” part that troubles me, not the “listen” part. Listening is good. People do have different life experiences, and many women have had experiences and perspectives from which men can and should learn. But having had certain experiences does not automatically turn one into an authority to whom others must defer. Listen, listen carefully, but where appropriate, question and engage.

I started my talk with that reading from the New Testament which unmistakably assigned women a subordinate role.  Both the symbol of that oppression and the vehicle for enforcing that oppression was silence.  Enforced silence is always and everywhere the enemy of truth and progress.  If someone is forbidden from speaking, you are obviously not going to hear what they have to say. 

But enforced silence is also a way of robbing someone of their humanity.  Part of what allows us to give meaning to our lives is the ability to exercise certain core freedoms, such as freedom of conscience, freedom of association, freedom of expression, and reproductive freedom.  We need these freedoms to take control of our own lives, to give shape and direction our own lives; otherwise, we are just going to be forced into a role that has been assigned to us.

And this is where we see a fundamental connection between advocacy for women’s rights and humanism.  Humanists are committed to the autonomy of the individual, the right of the individual to make decisions for herself, to decide which occupations, which relationships to pursue or forego.  Women will not be able to secure that autonomy until they achieve complete social and civil equality and equal economic and political opportunity, and that is why CFI is committed to working toward those objectives.  The notion that people are assigned, condemned to a certain predetermined role in life, whether by the church, the state, or society, is antithetical to the humanist point of view.  Freedom, real freedom, authentic freedom, that is what we want for everyone.  Of course, how to get there  --  that is not yet determined.  But that is what we are here to figure out. 

I look forward to the conversation. 

 

Comments:

#51 Ruby Dynamite (Guest) on Monday May 20, 2013 at 10:07am

@oolon - So I did some snooping around at A+‘s forums and did a bit more searching (because, honestly, one thread isn’t really enough proof for me) and it does seem as though more of the A+ folks are more sex-positive and supportive than I thought.

Still.  Doesn’t change the fact that a lot of them are (more than likely white) social justice warriors who have hyper-aware sensitivity to ... well, everything.  Trigger warnings all over the shop, an entire thread where they just go back and forth whining about how they’re more oppressed than the person who posted last because of X.  It’s porn, if you’re a social justice warrior.  Me, I prefer having constructive conversations where people know how to handle themselves like grownups and don’t expect everyone to bubble-wrap the internet for them.

#52 ApostateltsopA (Guest) on Tuesday May 21, 2013 at 11:23am

@Ruby a whole thread where we play opression olympics? I haven’t seen it though there are several support related threads. Do you think anyone seeking support is “whining”?

@Ron,

Wow. Just wow. Your thread is filled with an amazing level of condescending crap. Sure you said a few “nice” thinks. I personally loved your descision to tolerate us at a+.

You are being an ass. Take some time away, then come back, perhaps you’ll be able to see it, though I am not holding my breath.

#53 Ruby Dynamite (Guest) on Tuesday May 21, 2013 at 11:33am

@Apostate I don’t consider trying to one-up each other with personal struggles to see who’s got it the worst constructive, no. 

Whining is a noise that is generally noncommunicative and not constructive.  Hence, yes, I do consider that thread to be packed full of whining.

#54 ApostateltsopA (Guest) on Tuesday May 21, 2013 at 1:47pm

@Ruby,

I agree that is not constructive, however I do not recognize the behavior you are describing with any thread on A+. You can use it or my youtube account to send me a pm with the link, or just name the thread and subforum. Personally I think your description is likely highly uncharitable and a misrepresentation. However since you have not been specific in your criticism I can’t know.

#55 =8)-DX (Guest) on Tuesday May 21, 2013 at 3:08pm

I’d hope you actually do listen to the criticism. Your talk not only included bad rhetoric (quoting the “women shut up and be nice” bible quotes *at the very start*? Issuing a “nontroduction” and saying people should take their welcome for granted at a conference about how women often aren’t welcome?), but you also paraded your complete ignorance of the issues you discussed! Your discussion of privilege was a complete strawman, more painful due to the flawed examples you gave (the privilege gained by getting a university education is inherant in things like how easy it is to get a job, one’s entrance pay, the social circles one is easily accepted in, assumptions others make about your intelligence, etc. Your actual pay compared to a particular rich uneducated person doesn’t remove that privilege). Reading a feminism 101 (or just look up the meaning of the word privilege on wikipedia) would have lead to a much better talk from you.

Couple this with the way you downplayed or brushed over your own (and by extension all male) privilege, and your main concerns were with how pointing to privilege could be misused?

Don’t be surprised that your talk left a sour feeling in the mouths of many of the attendees as well as others online. Please rethink these matters and offer a proper apology. And on topics you clearly don’t understand, at least try the “listen” part, before realising that shutting up is better than opening your mouth and putting your foot in it.

=8)-DX

#56 echidna (Guest) on Tuesday May 21, 2013 at 6:57pm

Ruby: “Trigger warnings all over the shop”

I grew up around a lot of war veterans, and one of the things I learned really early was that certain words or sounds brought back to them vivid memories that were better left dormant.  It was often unspoken, but basically you tried to avoid triggering these guys.  That’s what trigger warnings are about. 
That’s why Ron Lindsay’s speech was so awful - he didn’t consider that he was one more voice discouraging women from speaking, evoking the many times women have been silenced - in a space and time where women were meant to be given the space to speak without being told to be silent. Again.  All because he doesn’t fully understand that the word “privilege” is a word packed with meaning, like many words are.

“I don’t consider trying to one-up each other with personal struggles to see who’s got it the worst constructive, no. ” - if that’s what they are doing.  It might be a case of trying to reassure each other that they are not alone.

#57 Iamcuriousblue (Guest) on Wednesday May 22, 2013 at 2:48am

Actually, Lindsay’s gave an excellent, highly nuanced talk taking a basically pro-feminism position, while at the same time, calling out the more clownish nonsense that’s currently being done in the name of secular feminism. Basically, progressive *liberalism* at its best. The fact that so many in the Myers/Watson/A+ clique had huge problems with it shows just how illiberal these people have become.

I’m sure no matter how balanced he was being, Lindsay knew he’d be dropping a bombshell by being critical in any way of this clique. But critics be damned - he was given a venue where the people who most needed to hear this message would hear it and he took advantage and did so. So sorry that it was “inappropriate” and apparently bummed everybody’s morning, but considering those that didn’t like it have been specialists in bumming out everybody else, well, practically always, maybe it’s about time these people had to hear a strong critical voice about their behavior, from someone who they thought was bought and paid for.

I’m sure this will spawn the same whispering campaigns, character assassination, and petitions demanding Lindsay’s dismissal that DJ Grothe was getting last year, and Justin Vacula a few months after that. These people most stung by Lindsay’s criticisms are nothing if not vindictive and controlling, and are not ones to let any real or perceived slight pass without due retaliation.

#58 oolon on Wednesday May 22, 2013 at 3:51am

@iamcuriousblue, “The fact that so many in the Myers/Watson/A+ clique had huge problems with it shows just how illiberal these people have become.”

... I posted on my blog all the tweets about the conference that came from people referencing “/linds[a|e]y/i” and not on the block list. To my knowledge no one on the block list was there so not really relevant to how the talk went down. The criticism was universal over the 120 tweets I have.

So when the “clique” is pretty much the whole audience I think you have what we call “consensus”. Unless you can find people who were there in great number who actually liked the talk? (Yeah Vacula did, then went onto A Voice for Men to crow!) Or have you a conspiracy theory handy to wave this evidence away?

Maybe those outside the “clique” should start their own conference and not intrude on one that is clearly wanted by the majority who were there. Apart from Rons talk it was a resounding success. Well done to CFI.

#59 Iamcuriousblue (Guest) on Wednesday May 22, 2013 at 10:53pm

Oolon @ #58

It’s not clear at all that those who were live tweeting were representative of the “whole audience” (bad argument there, Oolon), but in any event, even if Ron said something that pissed most of the audience of WIS off, that hardly makes him wrong. In fact, I think he chose a damn good venue to drop his bombshell, because of the large number of attendees *who really needed to hear that message* and couldn’t simply dismiss him as another random internet troll. In fact, all the more well-timed, because the Myers/Watson clique have been recently talking like CFI and Lindsay were in their hip pocket. He certainly disabused them of that notion.

The usual suspects are up in arms, but at least this time they’re up against somebody with some power in the movement, for whom their usual bully tactics aren’t going to work so well.

#60 oolon on Thursday May 23, 2013 at 2:32am

@iacb, only #FTBullies live tweet?

No one heard his message, if there was one, so he failed epically there. Unless you can point me to examples of neutral parties agreeing with him? Seems he added plenty of undecided people to the FTB/Skepchick side of the issue of unexamined privilege and sexism in the secular community.

Bully tactics Like criticism! In word form… On blogs… In the open… So bullying and unlike anonymous violent threats, constant anonymous “criticism” and nasty parody and ridicule from 10’s of Twitter accounts and blogs. #FTBullies stands for “Fuck The Bullies”, you know that right?

#61 Tony (Guest) on Friday May 24, 2013 at 10:48am

Ron Lindsay:

You are not fit for the position you have.  It’s a shame to look at you, who can’t seem to grasp that the anti-feminists (yes, based on the actions of the men and women-yes, women can be anti-feminists-they can and should be characterized as opposed to _social, political, and economic equality for women_…I.e. feminism) are wrong.  It is plain as day. Their position is not one reached by logic or reason.  Their harassment doesn’t have equal weight with those calling for gender equity.  Their position calls for people to be silent, to not speak up. Their position calls for harassing people they dont like through email, on Facebook, on blogs, on Twitter-anywhere they can have their say, they will.  They see nothing wrong with their tactics. I have no idea why, but that fact should be disturbing enough to stop a reasonable person in their tracks. As the current leader of the Center for Inquiry, one would think you would be just such a reasonable person. One would think you would weigh the barrage of gender based slurs, photoshopped images, and opposition to anti-harassment policies against the equality for women. Free speech is about more than the freedom to say what you want, wherever or whenever you desire. Free speech should be guided by empathy and understanding of others.  Free speech should not be guided by a personal desire to say what one likes, consequences be damned. Especially when those consequences have a direct, and detrimental impact on actual human beings.  Telling a known ally of a women’s hate group that he has no place in a movement seeking to broaden its base is free speech used responsibly.  Such a statement carries with it the understanding that in seeking equality for women in the atheist movement, those who wish to bully women into silence stand in direct opposition to said goal.  Telling prominent female voices in the movement that they have no place in the movement, bereft of any justifiable reason does nothing to broaden the base of a movement seeking equality. It is the purest form of free speech, used irresponsibly without any consideration given for the outcome. 
That is the difference between those who support anti-harassment policies and those who reject them.
That is the difference between those who criticize their harassers and those who invite hate groups to a secular women’s conference.
By your own words you have shown a lack of understanding of the problem in the movement. You do not seek equity. You seek the opportunity to give both “sides” their say.
What you fail to realize is that one side has nothing worthwhile to say. By giving them the time of day, by attempting to draw an equivalence between feminists and their harassers, you show where you stand.
IN. THE. WAY.
Now I kindly ask you to move, by stepping down.

#62 Iamcuriousblue (Guest) on Friday May 24, 2013 at 8:23pm

No, by “bully tactics”, I mean things like going after the jobs of anybody in the secular movement they disagree with, conducting outright smear campaigns, damaging people’s reputations based on outright falsehoods, and so on. I sincerely believe that much of what is written on FTB would actually rise to the legal standard of defamation if somebody wanted to pursue that.

As for your long litany of abuse, completely one-sided bullshit. Basically, everybody who questions the Myers/Watson faction is collectively responsible for some kind of “gender harassment” campaign, and on the other side, nobody on the feminist side has ever issued a threat of physical harm or otherwise used unethical, silencing tactics. Just go on believing that, dude. Some of us aren’t swallowing that koolaid.

#63 Iamcuriousblue (Guest) on Friday May 24, 2013 at 8:26pm

RubyDynamite @ #45

“I had the grand fortune of getting to be in an after-charity-BlogTV that Thunderf00t was attending and when someone pointed out that I’d arrived, my being a lesbian came up and Thunderf00t just waved his hand dismissively and said, ‘ppfff, what can I do with that?’ and continued soaking up the adoration of other guys in the chat.”

I’d never heard you mention that before, but wow. I was never a Thunderfoot fanboy to begin with, but that certainly lowers my opinion of him.

#64 GrzeTor (Guest) on Saturday May 25, 2013 at 12:42pm

Feminism is unfair and unjust by itself, by it’s very concept of supporting ONLY women’s rights. It’s not difficult to notice that systematicaly increasing ONLY female rights would mean one day they would tower about all other’s rights. That’s the direction the feminism leads us - towards a female privilege.

As to Atheism+ crowd. As Ron noticed it’s not only about women vs. others. It’s about a fundamental right to free speach, not only in the law, but also in practice. So that everyone can voice his opinion, without being chased by an angry pack of wolves ready to eat him for them being mentally unstable enough to withstand hearing an opinion incompatible with their worldview. About having a safe space for telling what you thing without the danger of character assasination campaigns, theats etc.

Ufortunately to achieve this the movement and organizations have to be clensed from the intolerant to the free speach. Normal people willing to engage in exchange of information should to be protected from likes of religoous “blasphemy” guys or their atheist equivalent - Atheism+ crowd, and other anti-free-speach bullies.

#65 GrzeTor (Guest) on Monday May 27, 2013 at 7:46am

“Unless you can find people who were there in great number who actually liked the talk?” - perhaps this is a clue of a big problem - a Facebook like evaluation system, in which the deciding factor is the number of likes and dislikes? Based on how one feels about something, with a special priority given to feeeling offended because of some ultrasensitivities? Is it what Center For Inquiry should be about - pleasing the audience, just like entertainers do? Repeat the Inquiry part of the name 10 times before answering - “inquiry: Search for truth, information, or knowledge; examination into facts or principles; research; invextigation”.

#66 oolon on Monday May 27, 2013 at 8:22am

““Unless you can find people who were there in great number who actually liked the talk?” - perhaps this is a clue of a big problem - a Facebook like evaluation system, in which the deciding factor is the number of likes and dislikes?”

I’m talking about the people who were there and paid to be at a conference where feminism is a main focus. The attendees and speakers were the experts. Where does someone with no formal education or expertise get to condescendingly explain to a room of experts that they are doing it wrong?

He wasn’t invited to speak because he is an expert on feminism and women in secularism. He is CEO of CFI, that does not make him an expert on the subject, clearly.

So yeah “...principles; research; investigation” .. Do your fricken homework and talk to the experts before opining on a subject again. We all should do this.

#67 GrzeTor (Guest) on Monday May 27, 2013 at 9:53am

@oolon - I see you are engaging in an ad-hominem attack against Ron, claiming he’s not qualified to make speaches. Have you actually read what is on this site?

Ron has a Ph.D. in philosophy, and in his speach he does exactly what you’d expect from such background -  asks questions and participates in a dispute about the basic nature of things:

“What is the definition of social justice? And who decides what’s included within the scope of social justice anyway? “

“This brings me to the concept of privilege, a concept much in use these days. [...] In what way does it have validity?”

“What is feminism and what are the aims of the feminist movement?”

“So what should atheists or humanists who are interested in social justice focus on? Women’s issues only? Presumably not. But which other social justice issues are considered critical?”

From what I see I can conclude that his opponents don’t think about such basics, but are just repeaters of the slogans specific to their subculture. Do they even think, or act on herd-controlled emotional impulses?

Besides, I don’t see why the subject of “Women in secularism” conference has to be a left-wing special interest ideology called feminism. If you don’t get it - women in secularism include conservative secular women, libertarian secular women. What you basically say is that atheist community should be under a dictatorship of relatively liberal majority and ignore, disregard or persecute a 20% conservative minority?

#68 oolon on Monday May 27, 2013 at 10:14am

Why can you not find a list of attendees that appreciated his talk? Secular women of any sort that were there and liked the talk, not too worried about the label feminist.

But really its not an ad hominem to question his expertise in feminism and women in secularism. Is it? (I assume that’s what you meant rather than your bizarre strawman interpretation of not being qualified to make speeches.) How is having a philosophy PhD even relevant to an expertise grounded in sociology!

#69 GrzeTor (Guest) on Monday May 27, 2013 at 10:47am

@oolon: I’ve written that Ron is fully qualified and has expertise in giving the type of talk he gave - a speach about basics.

So let’s see the qualifications of other speakers, compared to Ron, according to YOUR criteria:

Rebecca Goldstein - Rebecca Goldstein is a novelist and philosopher. She received her Ph.D. in philosophy from Princeton University. According to your criteria being a philospoher makes her unqualified.

KATHA POLLITT - Katha Pollitt is a poet, essayist and columnist. A poet, better qualified? They don’t even write about her academic level.

CARRIE POPPY - animal rights activist, podcast co-host.

AMY DAVIS ROTH - Amy Davis Roth (A.K.A. Surly Amy) is a 4th generation multimedia artist. An expert in sociology according to you?

SHELLEY SEGAL - singer, songwriter. Where’s the sociology expertise?

You seem to be full of hyporcisy.

#70 oolon on Monday May 27, 2013 at 11:41am

LOL, so your contention is that secular *women* are not as *qualified* to talk about the subject of feminism and women in secularism as…. A man.

Nice one. Seems you and Ron have much in common.

His speech was about basics and he messed it up big time. I’ve not seen a blog post supporting it yet that is not from a Slymepitter. Find me an objective supporter of his speech. Even someone who was not there. Ideally someone who was!

I’ll give you an objective voice from another man with a philosophy PhD who said his speech was “very inappropriate”... He wasn’t there afaik.
http://www.patheos.com/blogs/camelswithhammers/2013/05/feminism-civility-and-ron-lindsays-welcome-to-women-in-secularism/

#71 GrzeTor (Guest) on Tuesday May 28, 2013 at 1:42am

@oolon - you are confused. In your head you mix multiple categories in to one big mish-mash. For example you think that belonging to a group makes someone unusually qualified in the subject of issues this group (like being a cancer patients makes you an oncologist), while those who don’t belong to a group are not particualry qualified to talk about a group, especially compared to members of that group (like a doctor who has always been in a perfect health, never sick is less qualified to talk about diesease than sick people, or an atheist is not qualified to talk about islam).

What we actually know is that there are multiple factors that make members of a group less likely to have views or voiced opinions of issues of this group less close to the reality than an objective observer. Biases, conficts of interests, lack of wider perspective including things for comparison - this may be few of a long list of a reason. Feminist talking about feminism is not objective. What you’d expect in this case includes activities like hiding bad sides or weaknesses of the ideology itself.

In a sense to get an objective perspective on human-related issues we should run proven data analysis algoritms on a computer, and let it display results on a conference.

When it comes to objective supporters of this speach - why don’t you read THIS forum? I’m one. Besides you propose basing evaluations on OPINIONS, or FEELINGS, as well as POPULARITY, rather than if the information provided was true or false. 

Your second mixup is somehow equating “women in secularism” and “feminism” as a single subject. As if they were the same. I’ve already given examples like secular conservative women, or atheist libertarian women (not subscribing to feminist ideologies) that show that such mixup is wrong.

So your thinking that secular women = feminists = experts in the women’s issues is completly wrong, thus leading you to completly wrong conclusions.

#72 oolon on Tuesday May 28, 2013 at 4:38am

Right so an objective observer will be able to better explain someones lived experience to them? You do realise this is rather contradicted by the evidence? When have objective observers ever been the agents of change in regard to bigotry? Racism was not addressed effectively by objective observers who did not experience racism. Homophobia is not experienced by straight people so they are not the experts on it. Neither are they leading the charge to remove it from our culture. Same with women, the conference was specifically set up to discuss the barriers to women in secularism. How do you break them down and make the community serve women better. Having the conference was one way to achieve this.

Your cancer example is ridiculous as the experts on what it feels like to have cancer will be cancer patients not oncologists. They are likely to have insight into what doctors do wrong and how to create a better environment for their needs as they experience what works and what doesn’t. Its a problem that does not lend itself to outside objective analysis as there is no test bed to simulate a persons experience. (Although u haz algorithms apparently!)

Comparing women to cancer patients is obviously not particularly accurate, however the cancer in this case would be cultural pressures on women that pigeon hole and oppress them. Patriarchy, misogyny, rape culture are the cancer. Its not directly analogous as there is no patriarchy oncologist, maybe sociologists in terms of understanding it. But again the people who are experts in what its like to be a secular woman are women given they experience it first hand.

Ron Lindsay is not a woman so he should from time to time pass his thoughts about how women are treated in the secular community by some women and shut up and listen to them. He doesn’t have to accept what they say but without even listening he will get nowhere. I seriously doubt he passed his speech by anyone before unloading it on the audience. I also seriously doubt he did any research given his examples of silencing men were laughably bad. Rebecca Watson came up with a better example off the top of her head in her post.

This is just funny as… “In a sense to get an objective perspective on human-related issues we should run proven data analysis algoritms on a computer, and let it display results on a conference.”
Pray tell what are these “proven data analysis algoritms” of which you speak, citations needed! (Are you a Poe?)

Finally… “So your thinking that secular women = feminists = experts in the women’s issues is completly wrong, thus leading you to completly wrong conclusions.”
My thinking is there is far more overlap in the “secular women, feminists, womens issues experts” Venn diagram than the “secular men, philosophers, womens issues experts” one! Not exactly rocket science… Unless you think CFI invited all the wrong people to the conference? They should have got a load of male philosophy PhDs to speak/run the conf and tell them ladiez what to do!

#73 GrzeTor (Guest) on Tuesday May 28, 2013 at 3:23pm

@oolon - wrote “Unless you think CFI invited all the wrong people to the conference?” Actually that’s an interesting question. Let’s see what your criteria would be: you have already stated the need for “an expertise grounded in sociology” - there was a definite underrepresentation of sociologists and scientists in general (as compared to what I see as optimal level for CFI-like organization) in WIS2. You have also suggestet the need for ” experts on what it feels like ” which would mean psychologists - again deficient at WIS2. You have also said something positive about holding executive positions: organizers, managers etc. had appropriate representation at WIS2. Who was overepresented? The communicators - writers, blog writers. journalists etc.

As to the representativnes of interests of the whole spectrum of women in secularism as I wrote before - there was a big gang of advocates of feminist ideology, while definitely too little of advocates for conservative or libertarian positions. A clear left-wing dictature at WIS2. That’s bad - it would be interesting to learn something about the situaltion of conservative and libertarian women in secularism.

As to the per-person evaluation of speakers: first I’m not much into personal politics stuff, unlike those attacking Ron. I’m more into evaluating contents, and it’d be possible when the videos show up.

Going back to the shut up part -  a question that needs to be answered is who has been shut up by the aggresive behavior of Atheism+ / Freethoughtblogs clique? I’s bet on those not participating in this discussion - a bunch of shy, introvert or vunerable people. Preferring to stay silent, out of active particiaption because of the theat posed by A+/FTB personal attacks activism. We may never hear from them unless the environment is cleaned from the anti-free-speach attackers.

#74 GrzeTor (Guest) on Tuesday May 28, 2013 at 5:44pm

@athyco criticizing me for writng
“historical cases [...] They are not relevant now.”. Perhaps there’s something in it. When I took took some psychological tests (applied by a professional) one of the results classified me as future-oriented personality. So perhaps assigning low revelancy to the something popular in the past may be a result of a pro-future bias.

Going straigth to the interesting parts of your post - about class-based legislation. First some introduction. In the medieval or ancient past we did actually have a bunch of rights protected by the legal apparatus. But they were not universal. Humans were divided into classes (like aristocracy, clergy, peasants, townsman) or in the case of India into castes, which sometimes subdivided into some more sublcasses (eg. guilds). The set of rights was assigned based on such class. A member of aristocracy or clergy enjoyed a sizable set of rights, while a peasant was not free (assigned to the land, which he couldn’t leave).
One of the biggest achievments of modern legislature, as compared to the past ones, is not only the larger scope, but the universality of it - the law, including the rights, bans, responsibilites applies to everybody. 

So what is the role of feminists? They are the destructors of this modern law system, via the abandonment of universality of it. They take what would be a reasonable general and universal law, and degenerate it by adding some “FOR WOMEN” clause. Thus causing the legislation to go back into class-based one, this time class being a gender.
It’s especially hypocritical if atheist women who first protested muslims attempts for a separate law system then support “FOR WOMEN” class-based legislation.

#75 oolon on Wednesday May 29, 2013 at 1:59am

“It would be interesting to learn something about the situaltion of conservative and libertarian women in secularism.”
—Who should they have invited then? Give me some names.

“A question that needs to be answered is who has been shut up by the aggresive behavior of Atheism+ / Freethoughtblogs clique?”
—Who indeed. The people annoyed by them are anything but silent. Even the people supposedly demonised by them are anything but silent. When FTBs/A+/etc tactics are to criticise what you say and not who you are it’s pretty hard to argue against it as a principle. Even if you don’t agree with their point of view, its still a point of view. Tactics the other “side” are to attack based on personal attributes, any of them, regardless of how misogynistic, homophobic, racist, transphobic, classist, fat shaming, slut shaming, etc etc the attack may be. Rarely are there any attacks based on a particular blog post or substantive argument someone on FTBs, A+ or Skepchick has made, its more likely a tweet, throw-away comment etc that is twisted and manipulated to attack.

Rare example of valid criticism was of Rebecca Watson’s Ev-Psych talk, although an attack of science denialism had to be thrown in. She thanked the critic and changed the talk to remove the factual mistakes and make it clearer she was talking about pop-EP not the whole subject. Given she was attacked I reckon a Ron Lindsey level meltdown might have been expected, she is obviously thicker skinned than Ron.

#76 GrzeTor (Guest) on Sunday June 09, 2013 at 2:30pm

I wonder if part of the problem stems from the fact that the position of CEO of organizations like CFI in itself is self-contradictory?

A CEO for commercial organization such person has only one goal - profit, with no other goals conflicting with it. To achieve the goal of profit CEOs of commercial institutions can utilize tools such as lying and manipulation, creating a monopoly, using customers via fineprint, or hidden features like planned obsolescence of products, or first catching cusomers on promotion then rising prices, or delaying payments to suppliers to invest saved money on temporary deposits. Or - that’s very popular - simply indocrtinating customers that the products are great, while competition’s are broken via marketing and PR.

Politicians do the same by pleasing everybody, dishonestly promising everthing for everybody, and presenting themselves as solvers of all problems. This way they also gain popularity. 

Churches go even further - getting lot’s of money now, while promising promising eternal life in an unverifilable realm after death.

In case of organizations that try to stand for thruth-seaking a CEO is put into a self-conflicting position:

1. On one hand such person is supposed to care for finances - increasing sponsorship, membership etc.

2. On the other hand the whole goal of ogranization prevents such CEO from utilizing all those provem methods that I’ve described, that would make it easier to achieve success in point 1.

So whatever a CEO does is wrong from some point of view. Stand for an unpopular truth - there’s always someone offended, who thus won’t join in or sponsor. Try to please everyone like a politician - you loose the main goal of organization, perhaps endangering it’s sense of existance long-term. Tell nothing - you don’t do enough to popularize organization ideas, thus you are useless etc.

#77 JT Eberhard (Guest) on Monday June 10, 2013 at 7:36am

What Gretchen said at #22.

#78 Neil C Reinhardt (Guest) on Tuesday June 11, 2013 at 4:22pm

This 78 year old Agnostc Atheist Activist who has been an Atheist for 69 of my 78 years and an Athist Activist for OVER half of a century, and who is many times more generally experienced and more generally knowledgable than are most 78 year olds much less than anyone younger, plus having tested to have a “superior intelligence” Sez:

While those who complained about your comments may not actually be “retards” for all intents and purposes, they are!  They are illogical, irrational and clueless!

Thanks for your Time and I wish you the very Best!!

Neil

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