No one is being purged

24 01 2013

Much has already been said about Shermer’s statement regarding atheism being “a guy thing” and how the sensible thing to do would’ve been to say, “What I said wasn’t well thought out.  Allow me to apologize/clarify the intended meaning of my statement”.  Rather than what he did, which was to write an article that invokes the spectre of witch hunts and purges.  I, like many in the secular community, found myself baffled by Shermer’s reaction after Ophelia Benson called him out on his statement.  If anyone should know better than to make such arguments, it would be Shermer.  Wouldn’t it?

Now it would be disingenuous if I were to ignore that Shermer had more to say in his original quote than, “It’s a guy thing”.  Throughout this post I’ll be quoting from this article (unless otherwise stated).

First of all, Benson shortened the quote. What I prefaced the above with is: “I think it probably really is 50/50.” Benson also left out my follow up comment moments later that at the 2012 TAM (The Amazing Meeting) conference of skeptics and atheists, there were more women speakers than men speakers. I misspoke slightly. According to D. J. Grothe, the TAM organizer, there were an equal number of men and women speakers (the roster on the web page is incorrect) until, ironically, Ophelia Benson herself dropped out. As for the sex ratio of attendees, there were 40% women in 2011 and 31% in 2012, the shift, Grothe speculated online, possibly due to some of these very same secular feminists irresponsibly blogging about how skeptic or atheist events were not safe for women.

In any case, please read my answer again. Where do I say or even imply that women are, in Benson’s characterization of what I said, “too stupid to do nontheism” or that “unbelieving in God is thinky work and women don’t do thinky?” Clearly that is not what I said, as punctuated by my preface that I believe the actual sex ratio is 50/50. And for the record I don’t believe for a moment that women are not smart enough to do nonbelief thinking, or any other type of cognition for that matter.

Ok.  So what if the gender split really is 50/50?  We’re running the risk of having two different discussions.  One is strictly about the numbers and the participation rates, the other is about an underlying culture of discrimination that numbers alone can’t explain.  Back when the debate about how women were being treated came to the forefront of the secular community, some out there were demanding the numbers.  E.g., collect data on the number of women going to conferences, the number of harassment complaints that had been made, and compare this to the general population to see if a problem existed.  The problem is that determining the existence of gender discrimination in a community can’t be boiled down to a numbers game.  Now if we were going to make an argument that discrimination towards women is worse in the secular community than in others, then numbers would be useful.  However, that has not been the focus of the discussion within the community about women in secular-atheism.  Later in the article Shermer writes:

For all I know there may very well be stereotyping still going on in secular circles, but here I would like to challenge the assumption that a sex ratio other than 50/50 is evidence of misogyny. It isn’t.

Ok.  Fine, but the argument that misogyny exists in secular circles is not based solely on uneven sex ratios.  We are aware that unevenness in numbers does not equal misogyny.  Refuting that argument isn’t very useful.

Most of what Shermer writes in the article up to this point can be summed up as, “Ok.  It has a few problems but it’s not terrible.  He doesn’t say anything that’s too off the wall”.  Unfortunately, things start to take a bizarre turn right about here:

As well, as in witch hunts of centuries past, we should be cautious of making charges against others because of the near impossibility of denial or explanation after the accusation. (Just read the comments about me in the forum section of Benson’s blog, where I’m called a “jackass,” a “damn fool,” and other descriptors that have become commonplace in the invectosphere. Is there anything I could say that would not confirm readers’ beliefs?

First, if anyone can invoke the spectre of a “witch hunt” it would be female-identified feminists.  Because, you know, women were actually burnt as witches.  All those names Shermer was called?  That’s happening to the feminists as well.  Second, there is something Shermer could say to prove the beliefs of those commenters wrong.  “What I said wasn’t well thought out.  Allow me to apologize/clarify the intended meaning of my statement” Judging by the response to the article, most people would’ve accepted the apology.

In a different article he writes,

Let me provide another example of moral progress that at first will seem counterintuitive. It involves a McCarthy-like witch hunt within secular communities to root out the last vestiges of sexism, racism, and bigotry of any kind, real or imagined. Although this unfortunate trend has produced a backlash against itself by purging from its ranks the likes of such prominent advocates as Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris, I contend that this is in fact a sign of moral progress.

If you’ve been looking for a way to get people to immediately ignore the point you were making about moral progress, here it is.  Mention purges and, “a McCarthy-like witch hunt”.  To muddle the message even further, state that people were purged even though such a thing never happened.

What Shermer seems to be getting at in the aforementioned article is that there have been great strides of improvement in the role women have to play in the atheist movement.  Since our attention has turned inwards to address instances of sexism and misogyny things are getting out of hand, at least that’s the case in Shermer’s view.  He comes off as saying, ‘I’ve been very supportive of women in atheism.  Why are you coming after me now as an example of someone who hates women?’.  Of course, it’s been pointed out that Shermer has straw-manned the criticism made by Benson in response to his original statements.  I think Ed Brayton sums up Shermer’s reaction the best:

All of this is such an hysterical overreaction that it leaves my jaw agape. No one has been “purged” in any “inquisitions” or “witch hunts.” What they have been is criticized for saying dumb things now and again. You’d think that Shermer, who has spent most of his adult life encouraging people to think critically would recognize criticism when he sees it, but he squeals like a stuck pig when the harsh glare of criticism is turned on him.

Getting back to the first article.

Finally, there is a deeper problem here that I have observed over the past several years that I would like to address to the larger secular community, and that is the dangers of in-group fighting and inquisition purges of those who are not “pure” enough in their atheism, skepticism, or humanism.

I’m going to make the collective voice of secular feminists sound like a broken-record for a moment but, “Who is being purged?”  There is no central organization dictating who can and cannot participate in the world of secular-atheism.  Aside from internet forums, there hasn’t been a banning of people who disagree on feminism.  No one is dragging Shermer, Dawkins, or Harris off to a camp for defying the will of the party.  Mass burnings of “Skeptic” magazine aren’t taking place.

Nobody likes in-group fighting.  It isn’t fun, and we’d rather be focusing our energy on dealing with issues we can all agree on.  The problem is that the list of issues is rather small in our community.  As I previously wrote for CFI, “Being an atheist is fine, but it should not be the central basis of your ideology.”  The larger message behind that statement had to do with getting atheists to engage in political movements.  It’s really difficult to use lack of a belief in gods as a central driver in what you do.  Splits within movements happen all the time, movements where the threads that tie everyone together are much stronger than they are among atheists.  The transition period is bound to be unpleasant, but I don’t think it should be a shock to see a split occurring when the idea that is supposed to unite us is so weak. Given what Shermer says in his article, he is not unaware of the tendencies of movements to split.  However, he seems to view it as something that is generally undesirable.  I view it as necessary in the struggle to address the major issues of our time.  Why would I want to waste time in a group that is being held back from achieving its goals because a number of people cannot agree on the right way to move forward?  I would rather go with the faction that has demonstrated that its interpretation of our situation is best backed up by the evidence.  Such an approach doesn’t require a purge.  All it needs is for people to go their separate ways.

To avoid having that last statement taken the wrong way I should be clear: None of this means I’m going to completely ignore Shermer or suggest that other people do the same.  I just don’t see him as a voice to listen to when it comes to feminism in the secular-atheist community.  Stick to writing books on skepticism and why people believe weird things.





Women, Atheist Conferences, and You Know Where This is Going

24 05 2012

We’re approaching the the anniversary of that fun little incident involving Rebecca Watson, elevators, and coffee.  This time around though the issue is moving out of the elevators and right into the conference centres.  A buzz can be heard coming from the atheist community as a growing chorus of voices are starting to speak up about the behaviour of some men towards women at conferences.  The issue of sexual predation is a real one.

Speaking on a panel at CFI’s Women in Secularism conference, Jen McCreight made mention of how people have been approaching her behind the scenes to warn her to stay away from certain male speakers at conferences who have been known to behave in problematic ways towards women.

Stephanie Zvan writes:

Right now, though, I’m going to talk about something that happened almost outside the conference. It had its genesis on stage, when Jen McCreight mentioned that, when she started speaking at conferences, multiple people contacted her behind the scenes to tell her which male speakers she should steer clear of.

That this is going on should be a concern.  The fact that some have observed behaviour in male speakers that is bad enough that it warrants giving warnings about them should make you stop and ask, “what is going on?”  Inevitably, this has turned into an issue of name and shame.  Should we be calling people out on their behaviour in public, or do we pull them aside and say, “Hey, look, listen your behaviour, it has some of us concerned”? (edit to add a quote from an AAFW member)

Atheism isn’t a cult. We don’t need to put group togetherness above all else. Name ‘em. Shame ‘em. We need to make sure that shit like this isn’t tolerated, and whispering secrets to warn people one by one of certain individuals doesn’t do much to resolve the problem. Better than nothing, sure, but repeat offenders need to be called out.

What do the readers think about this one?  Sound off in the comments as I’m not sure which way I lean.  I think it would vary by the nature of the comments and behaviour.  Perhaps you start with the private warnings but if the person does it again and again then maybe the pressure of the public hammer needs to be brought down.

Zvan does bring up a good objection to the name and shame idea when she reminds us of what happened to Rebecca Watson when she spoke out publicly on Youtube (and the guy wasn’t even named).  Then there was the explosion that resulted when Watson called out a student blogger for a blog article she wrote.  A year might as well be a life-time in the blogging world so I think most of the negativity from that has subsided but it still brings back nasty memories of arguments that quickly spiraled out of control and became a barrage of insults more than anything else.   So if we are going to name names we better learn to tread with extreme caution.

Another point that should be addressed will be the likely group of people who say, “well this isn’t such a big deal” or “we should be objective and skeptical about this!”  Zvan offers up this to address such objections:

Q: Do famous atheist speakers really act like assholes to women?

A: Yes.

Q: Really?!

A: I said, “Yes.” I’ve experienced some of it, in front of witnesses. I’ve talked to other women who’ve experienced it personally. I’ve talked to conference organizers who have strategies for minimizing the damage when they have to invite one of these men to one of their conferences.

Also, did you just express “skepticism” over this? It’s a completely uncontroversial statement. Unaccetable gendered behavior exists. Our movement is not immune. Men don’t become immune to bad behavior just because people like how they speak or write or organize. Yes, it happens.

Q: But it’s never happened to me!

A: Now we’re getting out of the realm of questions. This will be the last of that. But, to your point, this may sound like a silly question, but are you a guy? If you are, you’re not likely to experience gendered misbehavior from another guy. Let that sink in for a bit.

Not male? Well, there are a couple of things to consider. If you flatter or lightly flirt with these guys, you’ll miss the kind of behavior that happens when they don’t get their way. If you interacted with lots of other people around, you’ve seen their more public faces. Beyond that, not every jerk can or will be a jerk to every person.

Q: But–

A: Shhh. Questions.

“Our movement is not immune”  That is the key message to take away from this excerpt.   I’ve witnessed people who try to reject the idea that the problem exists by saying that we need to do some sort of study to examine the rate of incidences in order to state that this is a problem.  Basically, an attempt to crunch social interactions down into lab-size. Understand this, we are not saying the problem in the atheist community is worse than the general community.  We are saying that the atheist community is part of that general community and that problems that infect the general group will be contracted by the atheist group.  When you have women in the community stating that they’ve witnessed this problem behaviour the proper response is not, “need more data.”

You should also consider Greta Christina’s   comments:

Compare, on the one hand, the problem of a hostile environment in which many women don’t feel welcome or safe in a community, because of a climate that tolerates sexual predation, or that looks the other way when it happens.

Compare, on the other hand, the problem that some women who don’t want to seem too eager won’t get laid when they might otherwise — and that some men who aren’t persistent in the face of rejection won’t get laid when they might otherwise.

Which do you think is the bigger problem?

Later on the same day that Christina made that post, someone in the comment thread had this appalingly stupid and insulting comment that illustrates the problem we are facing perfectly:

“I suspect it’s only ugly women who complain of the environment they find themselves in. It is simply a marker of your typical feminists mental illness.”

These sort of comments were prevalent around the height of the Rebecca Watson controversy.  I’d see blog posts that linked to videos criticizing Watson with words such as “hot”, “sexy”, “attractive” before “girl” talks about sexism.  But people would refer to Watson and her supporters as “ugly” and other variations (Pre-empt: Yes, I’m well aware that this does not characterize everyone that disagreed/disagrees with Watson and that there are those who would make arguments based on actual ideas.  I’m sure that those who disagreed with Watson were also referred to as “ugly”).  Using a woman’s physical appearance as a way to criticize is to ensure that she, “can’t win.”

Jen McCreight wrote on Twitter:

“I like how I’ve been attacked for being pretty and for being ugly. You can’t win as a woman, can you?”

Of course, it shouldn’t matter.  The discussion and debate should be on the ideas. As Greta Christina says, “The point isn’t that I’m not ugly. The point is that it shouldn’t matter.”  So before you go ahead and make any comments about physical appearances playing a factor in the opinion of a woman, stop and think.  Then delete your comment and save yourself from speaking like a fool.

Then we have the insult towards people who suffer from mental illness.  Nevermind that the statement doesn’t even make sense, ugly women complain therefore, mentally ill?  The response should again be, “So what?”  So what if someone who voices an opinion that you find disagreeable has a mental illness?  It’s a personal attack, one that tries to discredit the opinion without actually properly debating it.

Despite how heated discussions on this issue tend to get in our community, they do need to happen.  I hope to see that discussion happening in comment threads and if you have read this far then I hope I’ve been clear on some of the “don’ts” for such a conversation.  It will help it in being more civil and insightful.

Here are more links on the issue that are useful to read:

http://freethoughtblogs.com/almostdiamonds/2012/05/22/making-it-safer-in-the-meantime/

http://freethoughtblogs.com/wwjtd/2012/05/22/flirting-sex-and-lines/ (I want to give JT a hug.  Especially considering his speaking out on mental health)





Professor Shannon Dea: Worse Than Stalin says Pro-Lifer Alan Sears

11 04 2012

In an opinion piece for LifeNews, former federal prosecutor in the Reagan Administration and current President and CEO of the Alliance Defense Fund, Alan Sears, spoke out against abortions on a level that goes beyond self-parody and straight into the realm of, “this can’t be true, can it?”

Sears begins with the typical “Roe v. Wade is a great tragedy that has led to the murder of millions of innocent children” tripe, a line so over-used that those of us on the side of choice and women’s rights wish that they’d come up with something new so that we’d at least be able to stay on our toes.

Pro-lifers like Sears are unable to fathom the idea that the choice of what a women does with her body is her choice and hers alone.  He finds unfairness in the fact that the, “father’s rights are no longer any more sacred than the life in the mother’s womb”.  A UW student, commenting on the article after I posted it to Facebook, put it aptly when he pointed out that the comment raises the issue of “men’s rights”.  On an issue that has nothing to do with them.

We also learn that  Planned Parenthood are, apparently, performing “tele-med” abortions according to Sears these, “negate the presence or participation of medical staff.  An expectant mother simply steps into a room, confirms to a doctor via a video chat her determination to abort, follows his directions to press a specific button, and – voila! – a drawer pops open with two pills inside”

Now I know what you are thinking, this sounds all too sensationalist to actually be true. From what I can gather, the tele-med abortions as described by Sears are completely false (surprise!).  Republican politicians looking to pass laws to further restrict women’s rights have misrepresented what happens.  Women still have to go through the same checks and procedures as if though it were an in person examination See here. http://www.rhrealitycheck.org/article/2011/12/13/wisconsin-looks-to-block-telemed-abortions and here http://www.rhrealitycheck.org/article/2012/03/21/trap-law-telemed-abortion-bans-pass-minnesota-committee

Next the parody goes even further as we are presented with the typical (and again overused) Joseph Stalin comparison.  But Sears out-performs many pro-lifers when he takes a direct shot at UW’s own Shannon Dea, co-president of Planned Parenthood Waterloo Region.  Sears’ deluded mind somehow manages to logically justify the argument that, “Stalin, though, had nothing on Shannon Dea.”  What did Dea do to deserve this comparison?  She must’ve murdered millions right?  Of course not.  All she said was, “Medical science is irrelevant to the question of when a fetus becomes a human being – that matter is a legal and philosophical one, not a medical one.” Regardless of whether you agree with this statement or not, I do hope that you realize that saying Dea is worse than Stalin is simply mind-boggling.

The intent of Sears is not to have a reasoned debate.  It’s to make statements so absurd that they can’t even be countered in the first place.  Readers of LifeNews are not going to care about what Dea actually said, they’ll just see the word “Stalin” and make a mental connection linking women’s rights and pro-choice activists to the Soviet dictator.

Then there’s the, “you’re killing the next potential genius” argument.  Well, perhaps that last child that the doctor just aborted was set to be the next Hitler.  Give that doctor the Nobel Peace Prize.  Of course, to make this argument on other side is just more nonsense, a distraction.

In the end this article is nothing more than a stupid though admittedly entertaining sideshow to the larger and on-going fight for women’s rights.

 

Want to help out with Planned Parenthood Waterloo Region? Go here: http://www.ppwr.on.ca/05.html





Protest Abortion. Get a Credit

12 10 2011

Back in my day (Ok, 4 years isn’t that long), earning an extra credit in highschool involved helping the needy, volunteering as a coach for the local sports team, working with special needs kids.  You know, the kind of work that makes life just a bit better for the living.

But the folks at Christ The King Catholic School have a different idea of what constitutes community service work.

A Catholic school in Winnipeg will give students credits if they attend vigils outside an abortion clinic, prompting criticisms that schools that receive public funding shouldn’t be allowed to use that money to political ends.

In addition to having a busted moral-compass that guides children towards making the difficult process of getting an abortion that much more terrible, this school should be stripped of any public funding it’s receiving.  There is no place in a secular society for a school that wants to engage in such activities.

Even if they weren’t receiving funding though, I would still point out how reprehensible the actions of the school are.  Community service should encourage children to do good for others.  But the legions of anti-choicers have no real interest in making life better.  Lies, deception, and propaganda don’t mix into a recipe for a better world.

 

 





Sexism in AAFW

27 09 2011

A recent discussion over on the AAFW Facebook page dealing with the issue of the clear gender imbalance that was apparent at our first meeting of the term (and has been apparent ever since I joined the club) led Rowland Tupac Keshena to offer up his view on why this problem exists within our club and the larger atheist/secular movement.  He is blunt and unforgiving in his analysis.  As he should be.  Sexism is a problem in this movement.  Here at UW, the problem is amplified by the sexism and misogyny that is disturbingly prevalent among students and faculty.  A harsh criticism of this culture is needed to make the point clear: AAFW will not tolerate such attitudes within its membership.  While this is not to say that someone who speaks or behaves in a manner deemed sexist by the rest of the group will be expelled, it is a warning that such opinions will be met with tough responses.  

-Chris

What I’m going to say might come across as a bit harsh, but I am going to say it anyway. Also know that it is rooted in my experience as one of the senior members of this club.

I’ve been a member of the AAF for nearly five years – one of the last of the old guard – and I can safely say that during that period the club has been one of the biggest sausage fests I have ever been a part of. In fact, while I am now an exec again, I barely took part in AAF this past winter and summer terms because I just couldn’t take the BS anymore.

I think the problem of a lack of interest from women to take part in AAF beyond the first meeting or two largely arises from the fact that most of our members are neck bearded, mouth breathing Math/CS/Engineering/Science troglodyte-like men who lack even the most basic skills required for human social interaction and who fall for the massive intellectual folly of “hey, I am a rational, logical atheist/agnostic/ignostic/ sceptic/secularist/bright/humanist/etc. and as such none of the bullshit oppressive mindsets that are so associated with the world’s major religions don’t apply to me!” (See my recent post on this -Chris)

At UW there is a massive problem of male supremacist views within the faculties I named above (though of course not everyone from them is a neck bearded, mouth breathing, stupid mother fucking MRA fuck.  I don’t give two squirts of shit about whether men from those faculties believe the problem exists, because it does. Ask any of the women who have been accosted by men after a class telling them to get the fuck out of Mech Eng or whatever.

These views, even if they go unstated in an open manner, get brought into AAF buy our more cave dwelling members. As such many of women who join up are made to feel stupid, belittled and like they have nothing to say that could possibly be worthwhile or interesting.

It doesn’t help that lots of the male members are also some kind of missing link between homo sapiens and our more ancient hominid ancestors.

So systemic male supremacist views combined with neck bearded, mouth breathing stupid male mother fuckery is the reason we do not have lots of female members.

It’s actually not a hard problem to fix. We just have to squash this shit from day one, and every time subsequently that it rears up. Whether we do it with a rain of chair blows to the head or with words I’ll leave it up to the other members. (Words can be the equivalent of chair blows to the head when written with such vitriol.  - Chris)





Pro-Lifers Get Support from B.C. Mayor

19 09 2011

Mere days after writing a post in which I pointed a finger and laughed at our American neighbours for the absurdity created by faith, I find myself faced with a strong reminder that Canada can hardly brag about being a bastion of reason.

A “Pro-Life Week” has been proclaimed by the mayor of Kelowna B.C.

In Kelowna, British Columbia, Mayor Sharon Shepherd has bowed down to a Christian group and issued a proclamation that says September 24th to October 2nd will be “Protect Human Life Week.”

“It is the intention of this proclamation to promote respect and protection to all human life, especially the infirm, the aged, the handicapped and the unborn,” the Protect Human Life Week proclamation states.

As Mehta writes, “Yeah, she’ll respect human life… unless you’re a woman who needs an abortion, in which case she doesn’t give a shit about you.”  A perfect summary of the pro-life movement.  For them it is not about human life.  It is about control and submission to a very specific way of life.

In addition to siding with groups that are an affront to human decency, the mayor has also made the horrible decision to promote that factually misleading and miserable excuse of a documentary film, “Expelled”.

Those wishing to tell the mayor why they disagree with her actions can e-mail her at  mayorandcouncil@kelowna.ca

 





Girls Discriminated Against For Menstruation (And What You Can Do About It)

13 07 2011

My previous post was on a Toronto school allowing Muslim prayers to take place during the period following lunch.  Now, thanks to an article in the Toronto Star, we have even more reason to be opposed to what is taking place.  The previous story had alleged that students were being seperated by gender.  There is now photographic evidence of this:

The girls sitting at the back during Friday prayers are menstruating and not allowed to sit with everyone else.

Feminism is my credo, and my eye was instantly drawn to the fact that girls are placed in the back, behind the boys, separated by benches used as shields.

And menstruating girls are segregated, off in their own little group…

Stigmatized, bleeding mysteriously and bewildered by maternal instructions, these girls are not allowed to pray (I am told other religions require this as well). You can see them in the Star’s photograph, the boys at the front, the girls hidden behind, flattened in prayer, and the girls with periods sitting cross-legged or kneeling.

These girls are in grades 7 and 8. OMG I am like totally remembering myself at that age and I would like have died of embarrassment except that I noticed even then that no one ever actually does. That’s unfortunate.

School should be about teaching equality between the sexes.  That one is not suprerior to another and that the natural functions of the body are not grounds for discrimination.

At a young age, these women are already being told that their worth is less of that than their male counter-parts.  In a society that puts enough pressure on women as it is, the actions of this school and the religious leaders are simply deplorable.  Disucssions regarding menstration are challenging as it is.  If school is about education, then it needs to educate, not discriminate.

Mallick describes how the West is still opening up to discussions around this bodily function:

I speak as a person who loves being female, but it is a huge drag on your career, carries with it a constant threat of violence and is, well, exhausting. Men are one thing but other females can be even more tiring. Plus you get your period around age 11-13 and how this event is handled casts a shade, good or bad, on the arc of your development as a female.

Men know nothing about this. Tina Fey in her new book of essays, Bossypants, recalls trying to get a comedy sketch about feminine napkin advertising past the male writers at Saturday Night Live. She was describing the horror of being a young girl wearing what felt like a saddle with, of all things, belts (I am not making this up. Thankfully, they use strips now that adhere to your underwear).

She discovered that the men weren’t opposed to the sketch because they were guys. They simply had no idea what she was talking about. It did not occur to them that all women start out with this level of humiliation. You worried about leaks? Huh?

I assumed things had improved for young girls, which has always been the only true point of feminism, to make things better for them. But little has changed. I don’t think modern mothers necessarily teach their daughters about that glorious invention, the tampon.

The girls at this school aren’t toughened for ridicule, which is only part of the reason I hate their being singled out for a female function we are still learning to discuss openly in the modern West.

Mallick closes her article by asking if anyone else will stand up for the young girls that are too shy to stand up alone.  She mentions school board trustee Michael Coteau, who has expressed his desire to see the prayer service follow the gender-equity rules of the school (I know.  The ideal would be to have the prayer sessions removed from the school).  You can e-mail Coteau to express your desire to see the rules respected.  It’s up to you if you want to make a point about the seperation of Church and State.





An Analogy of Assault

6 07 2011

(This post was originally posted at Disjointed Thinking.)

There has been a recent controversy in the atheist movement about some comments made by Rebecca Watson about sexism. I really don’t wish to explain the whole thing and thus bring that argument back here, so I’ll just refer you to the summaries of the events made by Jen McCreightPZ Myers, and Phil Plait. But essentially, one issue that has been brought up as a result is the fear of rape that many women have. As a straight white man, it is difficult for me to truly understand this fear, and the precautions that women take as a result. I can’t say that I’ve ever been nervous at the thought that I might be sexually assaulted. (Although I’ve often felt nervous about walking behind a solitary woman on the sidewalk, for fear she might be fearful of me! Nobody likes pepper spray in the eyes.) I try to sympathize with women on this, and I try to be a decent human being about the whole thing, but it is difficult, and I understand why many men don’t get it. But walking home today, I had an experience of my own that I think might be roughly analogous to it. I hope that some women can chime in and let me know if the analogy is actually apt. Read the rest of this entry »





Guys, listen. That? Stop Doing That.

21 06 2011

Rebecca Watson speaks about her experience at an atheist conference in the UK (among other things):

I have written a few rants about religion’s bias towards women.  Sadly, the atheist movement isn’t entirely free of this attitude.  Watson tells the story of a man who wanted to go back to his hotel room with her after a night of drinking with other atheists from the conference.

If you don’t understand what’s wrong with that after watching the video, read her responses to some of the comments on the video.  I’ll repeat what Watson said, asking a woman to go back to your room.  Don’t do that.

Whoever it was that asked Watson if she wanted to go back to the hotel room probably failed to realize why this would make her uncomfortable.  He may have also been unable to comprehend that women do in fact attend atheist conferences to discuss matters of atheism.  Not, as some may have it in their head, to engage in one night stands.  Even if that wasn’t his intent, the question demonstrates poor judgement.  It also doesn’t help our case when the men in the movement are made to look like the Forever Alone, socially awkward male who doesn’t understand how to behave respectfully around women.

Now there is no shortage of atheist women. Though I can’t help but notice an unbalanced gender ratio in AAFW.  Granted, I haven’t been to any meetings this term, but I’d be surprised if the ratio has balanced itself.  The club has tended to tilt towards being male heavy since my joining.

This is not to fault the club or anyone in it.  As for what we can do to create more diversity.  My only suggestions would be to continue promoting the club thus reaching a wider option.  The second, is to recognize any biased behaviour that may crop up from time to time.  There hasn’t been anything serious, at least to my knowledge, in recent times.  Let’s keep it that way.





Submission for Salvation

3 06 2011

Source: Friendly Atheist

This images sum up exactly what the Christian patriarchs’ attitude towards women is all about.  Submission and subservience.  There is no place in the Church for strong, independent women in the faith of the patriarchs.  It was the actions of Eves that condemned humans to a life of sin, they so often like to remind us.  Though they never say anything about a male god who set the wheels turning, who created the perfect conditions for Eve to defy him.  Perhaps Eve deserves our praise for wanting to gain knowledge and break free of the rule of the dominating father.

As pointed out over at the Friendly Atheist, there are likely many women who want to leave the Church, but due to the social networks and support systems that exist within the Church, it’s not as simple as walking out.  This is not to belittle the strength and independence of women.  It is to acknowledge that a system of chains makes it difficult for even the most strong-willed to walk away.

Yet, I am sure there are women who also willingly submit and have no problem being the second-class.  I recall, from years ago, a discuss in a high-school English class in which we had to name something that was viewed by most as being an advancement but which we felt was going in the wrong direction.  One student spoke out and said that she felt that the position of women as ordained priests was not progress.  Now the nature of the discussion did not allow for elaboration, which was unfortunate.  In a discussion that was filled with dislikes of cellphones and e-mails, this one stood out.  What was it about the thought that women could have more influence in an organization they belong to that was so threatening to this young woman?  Does it show that religion can convince us that submission of the free individual to the rule of authority will grant awards in an afterlife?

There are critics of the feminist movement who regard it as nothing more than an attack on Christian family values.  I would actually agree that the criticism is valid.  Feminism should attack the patriarchal institution that wants control.  Feminism is about the equality of women.  The Christian patriarchs are an obstacle to that equality.

-Chris








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