CFI Shows Zero Backbone

I’m a liberal Democrat, so I’m rather used to the leaders that ostensibly support the things I care about backing down in the face of a fight. It’s frustrating as all hell, but you eventually come to expect it, at least politically.

Still, I am fairly new to the wider atheist/skeptical movement, and I’m still getting used to which groups hold the same values that I do. I remember when the Secular Coalition of America (what I call the “other SCA”) hired a Republican lobbyist who basically spent her career up to that point getting people elected that stood against everything the other SCA does to run the organization…and that hasn’t turned out horrible.

CFI originally attracted me because I thought that Melody Hensley and Debbie Goddard were pretty damn awesome. Michael De Dora does a really tough job as well, and so do many of the other staffers who work there. In fact, though people will say otherwise, there has been very little blowback against the Center for Inquiry since its CEO, Ron Lindsay, decided to lecture a bunch of feminists on what feminism is and isn’t.

That is until they released the result of their discussion on the matter which is…less than stellar.

The mission of the Center for Inquiry is to foster a secular society based on science, reason, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values.

The Center for Inquiry, including its CEO, is dedicated to advancing the status of women and promoting women’s issues, and this was the motivation for its sponsorship of the two Women in Secularism conferences. The CFI Board wishes to express its unhappiness with the controversy surrounding the recent Women in Secularism Conference 2.

CFI believes in respectful debate and dialogue. We appreciate the many insights and varied opinions communicated to us. Going forward, we will endeavor to work with all elements of the secular movement to enhance our common values and strengthen our solidarity as we struggle together for full equality and respect for women around the world.

I’m sorry, but this is a fucking joke. Seriously, what could have possibly been going through the heads of the board of directors when they drafted this? Did they think that it would be accepted?

The fact of the matter is that they are making it perfectly clear that they have no interest in maintaining the confidence of the social justice-minded among the atheist movement. This is a shame since Women in Secularism is a great idea and one that can really do a lot of good for the movement, but not if it seems as if they’re doing this to check off a box. I believe that members of the staff are passionate about getting women involved in secularism, but it seems like the leadership sees it as a nuisance.

Greta Christina and Rebecca Watson have both pulled their support from the organization, which probably means very little to those in charge. We’ve also started to see the emergence of the predictable distortions, such as this signable open letter which reads in part

We are aware that the silencing tactics, accusations, shaming and/or smearing campaigns employed by influential representatives of the Atheism Plus movement – particularly certain bloggers and speakers associated with Skepchick and Freethought Blogs – have included calls to interfere with the careers and personal lives of valuable contributors to the secular/atheist/skeptic movement. We are witnessing an effort to purge supposed undesirables from the movement, based on personal and political agenda. We do not condone this. Some of us have been directly targeted by these tactics, and others of us are afraid to use our real names online, let alone attend conferences, because we fear we may be targeted next.

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

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

Basically, this is weapons grade projection.

The thing is, I am entirely unsurprised by this. Seriously, I’ve already seen how this mythology is built. First the statement comes from CFI that is so ambiguous that it says absolutely nothing but tries to shift blame away from itself and its CEO, then people pretend that there is some horrible campaign to get people fired (that they will refuse to support or support with comments on blogs that go against the things the blogger has said), then it’s all about how hateful we A+ers are because we’re stifling free inquiry and a false equivalence is made between the right to free speech and the fictional right to be given a platform.

This is an old script. We have new elements (let’s see how long it takes the Vacula to get Ron Lindsay on his radio show), but ultimately it’s the same thing. Anti-feminists will pretend that they care about free speech so long as you’re loud enough to yell over them and embellish the truth because that’s how good skeptics win arguments, apparently.

*sigh* At least there’s still American Atheists. Dave Muscato and Dave Silverman seem to understand that just because something doesn’t make you personally uncomfortable, that doesn’t mean you should stand by and let other people be harassed. That’s really what this boils down to: CFI has stated clearly that they’re good, so what does it benefit them to be concerned with somebody else? That’s a sad attitude to have.

27 thoughts on “CFI Shows Zero Backbone

    • I had caught it flying by on my Facebook feed and was just going to go looking for it. Thanks for saving me the time %)

      As to the rest, I think it’s one of the major problems that we face as a movement: too many people simply are in it for the philosophical consistency (which is fine, really) but don’t really care about the practical implications of being an atheist. I got into this movement because I saw that atheists supported the things I did for the same reasons I did. It’s a passion for me because I want to make the world better and think that eliminating the power of bad ideas will help a whole lot.

      And that’s why I am baffled by people who don’t care about that stuff. They are atheists merely because they don’t believe and only fight oppression when it serves to support their sense of being right (like how Dawkins seems to only care about women when it helps him point out the horrors of Islam), and I can’t imagine that just being right is enough.

  1. I also think that Melody Hensley and Debbie Goddard are pretty damn awesome. Also Lauren Becker. And they deserve better than this from the CFI board.

    I don’t want Ron fired, I want Ron to apologize, and not just to Rebecca. Or I want the Board to say that Ron made a mistake and they are taking action internally to prevent this happening again. Something!

    • That’s really the point, isn’t it?
      Something, just something; anything at all to show that they’re even aware of why people are pissed. The tiniest little hint that they consider this something other than a minor nuisance, to be dismissed and ignored.

      Just something.

  2. You mean you haven’t seen this?

    http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/05/20/an-open-letter-to-the-center-for-inquiry/

    Or this?

    http://elevatorgate.wordpress.com/2013/05/19/amanda-marcottes-petulant-attempt-to-overthrow-ron-lindsay/

    Of course, there’s still American Atheists, who’s currently involved in a lawsuit concerning the firing of one of their employees who may or may not have been fired because she was black. Then there’s the fact that David Silverman have previously said you should always “listen to the woman” regardless if they’re right or wrong, and he recently said on Brave Hero Radio with Justin Vacula that you don’t need to provide evidence that someone is mired in shit – which is funny, because I’m pretty sure Silverman has broken both of those rules with the current lawsuit. Whoops.

    But you have to ask yourself, what was it really about Ron Lindsay’s speech that is/was so damned insulting that people are actually asking for his immediate dismissal, or even an apology for that matter? Was it really his brief objection to abusing the concept of privilege, the phrase ‘shut up and listen’ and how insulting it is to both scepticism and freedom of expression?

    Or was it him talking about feminism in a way that wasn’t dogmatic? Because I’m curious, you say he was lecturing feminists. Was he? Were all the people attending Women in Secularism 2 feminists? Yeah, some of them were, clearly, but how do you figure he was “lecturing” them, and how do you figure he was “lecturing” them specifically? Moreover, you say he was “lecturing” them what feminism is and isn’t? Really? I have the transcript right here in front of me and there are a total of four references of feminism in his speech, and in none of them did he question the legitimacy of feminism or attempt to provide his own definition of feminism. What he *was* questioning was the notion that there are ‘true’ feminists, and a ‘true’ definition of feminism, and that those that don’t believe in this ‘true’ definition are either false feminists or ‘sister punishers.’ That he did say and you can dispute that however you like, but the other? Did you even listen to what he was saying?

    Here are the paragraphs (in succession) that dealt with feminism and feminists specifically:

    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.”

    http://www.centerforinquiry.net/blogs/entry/my_talk_at_wis2/

    I suggest you read the whole thing.

    • You mean you haven’t seen this?

      http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/05/20/an-open-letter-to-the-center-for-inquiry/

      Or this?

      http://elevatorgate.wordpress.com/2013/05/19/amanda-marcottes-petulant-attempt-to-overthrow-ron-lindsay/

      Amazingly I have, and all the first says is that she doesn’t want to support CFI if she can’t trust it’s leader. I suppose she’s obligated to support the organization or she’s obviously campaigning to have the guy fired? Freedom of expression only applies to people who support an organization, otherwise it’s a “campaign” to get somebody fired?

      Of course, there’s still American Atheists, who’s currently involved in a lawsuit concerning the firing of one of their employees who may or may not have been fired because she was black. Then there’s the fact that David Silverman have previously said you should always “listen to the woman” regardless if they’re right or wrong, and he recently said on Brave Hero Radio with Justin Vacula that you don’t need to provide evidence that someone is mired in shit – which is funny, because I’m pretty sure Silverman has broken both of those rules with the current lawsuit. Whoops.

      AA actually responded to the lawsuit, and provided evidence in its defense. CFI gave a cowardly response that said absolutely nothing. The rest is you purposely mischaracterizing what Silverman has said, in the first case trying to imply that he was saying that you had to admit that the woman was right when all he was saying was that you should actually listen instead of ignore and insult. In the second case, I don’t listen to shows that have been titled just to insult somebody, but if I have literally nothing to do one day I’ll give it a listen and most likely find out that you’re taking Silverman out of context. Just a guess.

      But you have to ask yourself, what was it really about Ron Lindsay’s speech that is/was so damned insulting that people are actually asking for his immediate dismissal, or even an apology for that matter? Was it really his brief objection to abusing the concept of privilege, the phrase ‘shut up and listen’ and how insulting it is to both scepticism and freedom of expression?

      Part of it is that the feminism that he’s discussing (and that people like you like to discuss) doesn’t exist. Parts of it do, but the people in that room generally don’t agree with it. Part of it is that he, like you, seems to think that “shut up and listen” means forever rather than what it really means which is, “You should pay attention to what other people have to contribute because you have failed to do so up until now.” I don’t quite understand how listening to another person’s input is an insult to both skepticism and freedom of expression, unless both mean “paying attention to Pitchguest’s opinions” to you. In order to actually approach something skeptically, that means you have to sometimes stop flapping your jaw and hear what somebody else has to say, since it might be important information. Especially when that person has a lifetime of experience that relates to the topic at hand.

      Or was it him talking about feminism in a way that wasn’t dogmatic? Because I’m curious, you say he was lecturing feminists. Was he? Were all the people attending Women in Secularism 2 feminists? Yeah, some of them were, clearly, but how do you figure he was “lecturing” them, and how do you figure he was “lecturing” them specifically?

      You’re being pedantic. Many, if not most, of the people in that audience were feminists. Certainly most of the speakers were. He was lecturing them by pretending that they weren’t aware that there are many approaches to feminism and by talking about privilege like he knows what it means despite his definition clashing with the common one that most of the people in that room not only know, but practice. It’s like walking into a graduate philosophy class, going to the podium, and saying, “Have you ever considered that maybe everyone around you is a figment of your imagination and you therefore don’t need a moral framework?” It sounds exciting and groundbreaking to somebody who has never studied philosophy, but people who have already grappled with it extensively and found out how to address that concern rightly feel as if they are being treated like 101-level students by somebody who clearly has no expertise on the subject. He spends quite a bit of his speech asking questions that most of the people in that room have dealt with and implying that they never thought that, for example, people might have different definitions of “exploitation”. Either he seemed to think that the establishing of these as valid questions has never happened, which is insulting, or that the opening speech to a convention was the time to ask his own questions, which is unprofessional.

      I have the transcript right here in front of me and there are a total of four references of feminism in his speech, and in none of them did he question the legitimacy of feminism or attempt to provide his own definition of feminism.

      No, he just pretended to be in possession of knowledge that the people in the room were unaware of, such as the idea that there are many people who disagree on what is and isn’t feminist thinking. Strangely enough, people generally don’t believe that there is only one way to be a feminist, and they are not calling for people to listen to them and only them, which is one of the reasons why Ron Lindsay failed miserably to name three people who have said that.

      What he *was* questioning was the notion that there are ‘true’ feminists, and a ‘true’ definition of feminism, and that those that don’t believe in this ‘true’ definition are either false feminists or ‘sister punishers.’ That he did say and you can dispute that however you like, but the other? Did you even listen to what he was saying?

      And the problem with this is that, despite the insistence of people like you and Lindsay, no mainstream liberal feminist (which is the majority of ones in the atheist movement) thinks there is one true feminism. None of them. They certainly argue for how they think it should be interpreted, but that’s kind of how a discussion happens. Also, stop scare quoting “sister punishers.” The only people who use that phrase seem to be assholes who are trying to strawman feminism. Same goes for “gender traitor”. The only time I have seen the later is from actual radical feminists (the real ones, not the term that is used by anti-feminists to mean “people I don’t like”), who are a real thing with an ideology that is vastly different from liberal feminists, and I have not actually ever read “sister punisher” used outside of anti-feminists pretending that that’s a word we really use. The person you are quoting by putting quotes around that word seems to be Paula Kirby. While I think it would be an interesting name for a female analogue to the Punisher, I suspect we’re not discussing potential Marvel characters, so I’m going to have to ask that you stop dishonestly quoting the term.

      Basically what you interpret Lindsay as saying is roughly equivalent to a theist going to the front of TAM and saying, “You know, not every skeptic is an atheist. In fact, some may not fully believe in god, but they don’t say that there necessarily isn’t one either. They call themselves ‘agnostics’.”

      • “Amazingly I have, and all the first says is that she doesn’t want to support CFI if she can’t trust it’s leader.”

        I see. You wasted my time. I had assumed you would be honest, but you are either a stupid or a disingenuous asshole.

      • Was the time I wasted the time you took to come up with this eloquent reply? Or perhaps your ingenious pseudonym? Because you could have just saved yourself the trouble.

      • Pardon me. He didn’t say “listen to the woman.” At least, not just.

        He linked to an article where the author said, “Write, ‘I think you’re right’ in Comments sections of articles, Facebook postings etc. of feminist women. Whether or not they’ve been harassed or attacked, agree with them and do so publicly.”

        http://slymepit.com/phpbb/viewtopic.php?p=94278#p94278

        So, really, what David Silverman should have done in response to AJ Johnson was to say, “I think you’re right” instead of doubting her word.

        You’re being pedantic. Many, if not most, of the people in that audience were feminists. Certainly most of the speakers were. He was lecturing them by pretending that they weren’t aware that there are many approaches to feminism and by talking about privilege like he knows what it means despite his definition clashing with the common one that most of the people in that room not only know, but practice.

        It doesn’t matter if “many, if not most” of the people there were feminists, now does it? He wasn’t “lecturing” them. He was talking about problems of abusing the concept of privilege and using it to shut people up, which ironically is exactly what transpired after his speech on Twitter, Facebook, etc. Also, when preparing a speech, there’s no guarantee that everyone in the audience would be familiar with the subject matter, so you write as if most do not — which is a common practice as an orator — and which is something most speakers were likely familiar with. It is stupid as hell to go after Ron Lindsay simply because he didn’t speak of feminism and its practices as though they were infallible.

        So what if they were aware of it. How many times have you heard speakers attending a secularist convention or conference, speak of atheism and the importance of critical thinking as though the audience were not DULY informed of it already? Were they lecturing the audience, too?

        And do they practice it? Many who were speakers at this year’s WiS have several times abused the concept of privilege to silence others. “White privilege”, “white male privilege”, “able-bodied privilege”, “heterosexual privilege”, the list goes on and on and on. And any who shall challenge their view gets labelled “misogynist”, “rape enabler”, “rape apologist”, etc.

        And the problem with this is that, despite the insistence of people like you and Lindsay, no mainstream liberal feminist (which is the majority of ones in the atheist movement) thinks there is one true feminism. None of them. They certainly argue for how they think it should be interpreted, but that’s kind of how a discussion happens.

        Oh poppycock. Ever heard of Christina Hoff Sommers? She coined the definitions ‘gender feminism’ and ‘equity feminism.’ If you say you’re an equity feminist on, say, FtB, not only would they disagree – by implying you condone the harassment of women, or that you think women should stay in the kitchen, or that you think ‘bitches ain’t shit’ – but if you stay firm to your view, they would ban you. They certainly don’t allow any kind of discussion about it, at least not a long one.

        For any of the more ideological ones, like PZ Myers, Ophelia Benson, Stephanie Zvan, Greta Christina or Jason Thibeault, any dissent and you get immediately sent into moderation or banned. Depends on how strongly you expressed yourself. Any opposition to feminism, banned. Any opposition to gender feminism, banned. Any questions and you’re ‘JAQing off’ and if you continue arguing, you’re banned. At least they’re consistent.

        And the problem with this is that, despite the insistence of people like you and Lindsay, no mainstream liberal feminist (which is the majority of ones in the atheist movement) thinks there is one true feminism. None of them. They certainly argue for how they think it should be interpreted, but that’s kind of how a discussion happens. Also, stop scare quoting “sister punishers.” The only people who use that phrase seem to be assholes who are trying to strawman feminism. Same goes for “gender traitor”.

        Really?

        On “sister punisher”:

        http://freethoughtblogs.com/butterfliesandwheels/2012/05/here-it-comes/#comment-173203

        Melody Hensley:

        “This is what you call a sister punisher, a woman who turns on other women to gain favor of sexist men.”

        http://freethoughtblogs.com/greta/2012/05/23/mencallmethings-ugly-mental-illness/#comment-71670

        Melody:

        “With all of the sister-punishers out there like Abbie Smith and Miranda Celeste Hale, we should also add a #womencallmethings.”

        http://freethoughtblogs.com/greta/2012/05/23/mencallmethings-ugly-mental-illness/#comment-71722

        SC (Salty Current), OM

        “‘Sister-punisher’ is great, and I will use it from now on.”

        http://freethoughtblogs.com/greta/2012/05/23/mencallmethings-ugly-mental-illness/#comment-71785

        “Rupert McClanahan @ #28 and SantasLittleHelper generally: Your comments are in violation of my comment policy. Personal insults towards other commenters are prohibited, as is being unpleasant, nasty, snide, sarcastic. This is your one and only warning. Further violations will result in you being banned from this blog.”

        http://freethoughtblogs.com/greta/2012/05/23/mencallmethings-ugly-mental-illness/#comment-71850

        Santa’s Little Helper to Greta Christina:

        “You forgot to mention SC and Melody – they used personal insults as well.

        Stay consistent, Greta.

        Also, libel is in violation of your comment policy. Yet that person was not banned AFAIA.”

        http://freethoughtblogs.com/greta/2012/05/23/mencallmethings-ugly-mental-illness/#comment-71940

        Rupert Mclanahan to Greta Christina:

        “‘Rupert McClanahan @ #28 and SantasLittleHelper generally: Your comments are in violation of my comment policy. Personal insults towards other commenters are prohibited, as is being unpleasant, nasty, snide, sarcastic. This is your one and only warning. Further violations will result in you being banned from this blog.’”

        ‘I think I was just being accurate and descriptive. Apparently when you don’t like the statement, it is insulting, unpleasant, snide, and sarcastic. On the other hand, comment #1 (Melody), right off the bat called people sister-punishers in an off-topic comment! Greta, your post didn’t even mention Abbie Smith and Miranda Celeste Hale to my reading, and yet it is A-OK for this Melody person (still convinced she is a Poe) to start trashing them in post #1, to totally derail the comments and make this all about herself, in addition to Abbie Smith and Miranda Celeste Hale (who, as far as I am able to tell, did not bring a dog to this particular fight).

        Sigh.’”

        http://freethoughtblogs.com/greta/2012/05/23/mencallmethings-ugly-mental-illness/#comment-72022

        Greta Christina:

        “Rupert McClanahan has explicitly stated that he will not respect my comment policy. He has therefore been banned.”

        http://web.archive.org/web/20050826022740/http://www.pandagon.net/archives/2005/05/shes_the_kinda.html

        Amanda Marcotte:

        “Enter the Sister Punisher, a woman whose willingness to turn on other women to curry the favor of sexist men knows no bounds.”

        http://books.google.se/books?id=289AF8F3ZxQC&pg=PR15&lpg=PR15&dq=sister+punisher+amanda+marcotte&source=bl&ots=yaY6hvWCwP&sig=IirRbMA1rayhMoaICLEngo963tY&hl=sv&sa=X&ei=ZyrDUZDeA5Gw4QSO_4CICw&ved=0CD0Q6AEwAg#v=onepage&q=sister%20punisher%20amanda%20marcotte&f=false

        On “chill girl”:

        Melody Hensley:

        “Women that play the “chill girl” and put down feminists to gain approval from men.”

        Sara Mayhew on Melody Hensley:

        “Melody Hensley doesn’t like people labelling her “professional victim” just because she disagrees. Wants Ben to “own up”. But she called me a chill girl, known sexist, and claimed that women ‘rag on’ Skepchicks just to try and get male attention (heteronormal much?). Did she own up? No. She’s never apologised—just blocks ppl.

        CFI should be ashamed to have a director who organises WiS but accuses smart young women, like Miranda Celeste Hale, of getting speaking gigs not because they earned it, but because they suck up to men.”

        http://elevatorgate.wordpress.com/2013/03/18/melody-hensley-reiterates-her-affinity-for-the-chill-girl-epithet/

        Melody Hensley on the term “chill girl”:

        “It’s a good descriptive term. I could spell it out in a couple of sentences, but why should I?”

        http://atheismplus.com/forums/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=677

        Greta Christina on the Atheism Plus forum discussing the merits of “chill girl.”

        http://freethoughtblogs.com/almostdiamonds/2012/09/10/a-note-to-chill-girls-and-queen-bees/

        Stephanie Zvan:

        “How do you know whether you’re a chill girl? Simple. Is your reaction to complaints from other women of harassment and discrimination based on gender to turn to the guys and say, “Nah, I’m fine. It’s all cool”? Then you’re a chill girl.”

        On “gender traitor”:

        http://skeptifem.blogspot.se/2011/07/inside-mind-of-gender-traitor.html

        Was interviewed by Teen Skepchick:

        http://www.skepticink.com/skepticallyleft/2012/11/01/gender-traitor-solidarity/#comment-698254915

        http://teenskepchick.org/2011/07/14/teen-skepchick-interviews-skeptifem/

        Just Paula Kirby, you say? Indeed.

        Hopefully that’s enough basket of links to satisfy you. By the way, like before, I’m going to document this in case it gets either edited or memoryholed. Cheerio.

    • I don’t have to read the whole thing. I was there and heard the entire thing first hand.

      Because I’m curious, you say he was lecturing feminists. Was he? Were all the people attending Women in Secularism 2 feminists?

      Yes he was lecturing. He used what was supposed to be welcoming remarks on behalf of CFI as an opportunity to let us all know how Ron Lindsay personally thinks we’re doing feminism wrong. And, from my discussions with numerous other attendees, I think the number of attendees in the audience that day who were not feminists was approximately one.

      Either Ron knew in advance that his speech was going to cause this reaction, in which case he should have consulted the CFI board before doing it, because it affects all of CFI. Or he didn’t realize that it would cause this reaction, in which case he’s clueless about secular women, and should not be CFI’s spokesman on anything regarding women’s issues.

      • He linked to an article where the author said, “Write, ‘I think you’re right’ in Comments sections of articles, Facebook postings etc. of feminist women. Whether or not they’ve been harassed or attacked, agree with them and do so publicly.”



        So, you’re trying to tell me that you read that and the first thing you thought was, “He’s saying I have to agree with everybody if they’re a woman!” rather than, “He’s encouraging people to show public support for people they do agree with instead of being silent”? That’s seriously how you read that?

        You see, those of us who write our opinions in our own space (instead of just using other people’s comments sections and forums to state our ideas), often build communities of people who agree with our general ideas and values. What that usually means is that they take for grated that we have their support and, rather than expressing their agreement directly, they stay silent. On the other hand, people who disagree with us are very vocal and generally more inclined to yell and harass. What this article is saying is that rather than assuming that your support is acknowledged, actually tell people you do agree with that you agree with them.

        It is not saying that you must say so to people you disagree with.

        It doesn’t matter if “many, if not most” of the people there were feminists, now does it? He wasn’t “lecturing” them. He was talking about problems of abusing the concept of privilege and using it to shut people up, which ironically is exactly what transpired after his speech on Twitter, Facebook, etc

        I could tell how silenced he was by the three blog posts he wrote about what happened. I can only imagine if he weren’t so very oppressed, he might have produced four, five, or even six blog posts comparing various people to fascist dictatorships!

        A welcome speech is not the place to tell people who have spent the past few years to the majority of their lives being told that their opinions don’t matter and being harassed for it that the people most likely to attempt to silence them might be silenced, too. Yes, that sometimes happens, but that is neither the time nor the place to bring it up, especially since that very accusation is used to try to invalidate atheist women, often by people who show no concern for any other aspect of feminism other than this one thing that affects them, personally.

        Also, when preparing a speech, there’s no guarantee that everyone in the audience would be familiar with the subject matter, so you write as if most do not — which is a common practice as an orator — and which is something most speakers were likely familiar with. It is stupid as hell to go after Ron Lindsay simply because he didn’t speak of feminism and its practices as though they were infallible.

        So, if I go to an engineering conference, should I assume that most of the people in the audience don’t know geometry? If I go to a philosophy conference, should I assume most of the people there don’t know the Myth of the Metals? If I go to an atheist conference, am I to assume that most of the people in the audience have never heard of Pascal’s Wager?

        It’s ludicrous to assume that at a conference focused on a particular subject that the majority of people there don’t know the very basics of that subject. And nobody is going after him for not speaking of feminism as though it were “infallible”. They are going after him for not only being condescending to the people in the audience, but skipping a fundraiser for his organization to write an angry, histrionic blog post about somebody who wrote a very measured response to him.

        Oh poppycock. Ever heard of Christina Hoff Sommers? She coined the definitions ‘gender feminism’ and ‘equity feminism.’ If you say you’re an equity feminist on, say, FtB, not only would they disagree – by implying you condone the harassment of women, or that you think women should stay in the kitchen, or that you think ‘bitches ain’t shit’ – but if you stay firm to your view, they would ban you. They certainly don’t allow any kind of discussion about it, at least not a long one.

        Yes, I have heard of Christina Hoff Sommers and I disagree with her arguments strongly. Her distinction between “gender feminism” and “equity feminism” is roughly the same as the creationist distinction between micro- and macro-evolution. One is the natural outgrowth of the other. Similarly, her opinions that the genders are “equal but different” echos precisely religious complimentarian arguments and, just like the complimentarians, entirely misses the point that modern liberal feminism is not trying to upend gender roles, merely reversing them, but rather make them irrelevant. If girls still want to play with dolls, that’s fine, but they shouldn’t be coerced into it. It also aims to get rid of the pointless and unsupported notion that women just aren’t good at things like thinking and try to disabuse people of the notion that it’s acceptable to threaten to rape and/or murder them for being vocal about an opinion, which happens to women at a much higher rate than men.

        As to staying firm to your view and you get banned, a) that’s their prerogative and if you have a problem with that, I recommend following this link, signing up for a free blog, and writing about Sommers to your heart’s content, and b) they have had this argument many times, and it gets as tiring to have to bring up the same things over and over again. If you have a new point that hasn’t been refuted many times before, sure, but people are not there to listen to you say the same things that have been said over and over again. Your magic fingers won’t make the argument any different from the last guy’s and trying to force people to respond in no way makes it unreasonable to no longer want to deal with it. If you ran a blog and had to deal with several creationists every week who all came on there demanding that you refute “irreducible complexity”, you would just start banning them, too, when you realize you’ve already dealt with it and they’re getting insulting when you don’t take them seriously.

        As to your quotes:

        Greta Christina and Amanda Marcotte are speaking to very specific instances of very specific types of people. The Greta segment is especially disingenuous of you to post since the purpose of the post is talk about how not to use that term to dismiss people who disagree with people. She’s attempting to avoid exactly what you’re complaining about.

        Marcotte is pretty clear that she is not talking about blatant dismissal of all people who disagree, but people who actively work against feminism. She’s talking about Ann Coulter and Phyllis Schlafly, people who are outspoken women that argue that being an outspoken woman is bad. I think that terminology is entirely appropriate in those cases, though I will modify my original statement to read, “Liberal feminists generally don’t use that term to blithely dismiss anyone who disagrees with them, on the rare instances they use it at all.”

        On that note, I will agree that Melody’s posts are right out. She does seem to be using the term too broadly and, with this new information, I will have to seriously reconsider my opinion of her and her activism, and will make an effort to disagree with her vocally and vociferously whenever I see her misapplying that term. You are absolutely right that that is unacceptable.

        As to SC’s embrace of that term, she’s a blog commenter that likes that term. If you have examples of her using it to silence people who it doesn’t apply to, then I will agree that she’s wrong. If it’s just her liking the term, she’s allowed to like any term she likes.

        Skeptifem is a radical feminist, which means something very specific, and I have already said that they are not the same thing as liberal feminists and have written, a number of times on this site, about my disagreement with them and their mindless hatred of men, their trans*phobia, and their sex negative attitude. She is not applicable to this conversation precisely because, as Ron Lindsay pointed out, there are many different types of feminism.

      • [b]He used what was supposed to be welcoming remarks on behalf of CFI as an opportunity to let us all know how Ron Lindsay personally thinks we’re doing feminism wrong.[/b]

        Hahahaha, no. He used what was supposed to be welcoming remarks on behalf of CFI as an opportunity to let us all know how Ron Lindsay personally thinks we’re doing skepticsm wrong.

      • Adamantium lined mousehat is the key… Never lets anything in but zero resistance to the crap coming out!

  3. By the way, I’ve seen your annoyance when people expect you to sit at the computer waiting to approve their comments out of the moderation queue[1], so I’m going to vaguely insult you and pretend that taking a screen shot frightens you into approving my comment if you were thinking about not letting me present my brilliant opinion on your blog. Passive-aggressive closing to make me sound like I wasn’t trying to be a douche.

    [1]: http://reasonableconversation.wordpress.com/2013/05/23/if-you-cant-bring-yourself-to-fight/#comment-1973

    • The above comment was edited because Pitchguest seems to think, like the person he was referencing (link in the original) that it’s my job to wait patiently for people who disagree with me to find my blog and comment, and when I want to spend time with a friend or, I don’t know, sleep, then I need to make sure that I have a system in place to handle the flood of genius that comes from their magic fingers.

      I will repeat, again, that I am under no obligation to provide my time or my platform to anybody, and if that means that you feel I lack “integrity,” you are more than welcome to believe that. I will send you the weight of my concern in gold bars.

  4. There were some individual letters that called for him to step down. However, there were no campaigns to do so.

    In other words, as far as I’m aware, there were no calls for him to step down by more than one person – such as the letter that many of the speakers signed onto or any that were issued by organizations.

    This gives a pretty good indication of the types and ranges of responses: http://www.secularwoman.org/members_react_to_ron_lindsay

  5. AA actually responded to the lawsuit, and provided evidence in its defense.

    Okay, this is the part that really angers me; the feeling that black women can be thrown under the bus to save white allies.

    Silverman’s response had no relevance what-so-ever to the lawsuit. His claim that “she agreed that bible support slavery” is no way refutes the claims that Johnson had to endure racial jokes. The email that he quoted is also dishonest because it is an official email where Silverman is CCed.

    Certainly most of the speakers were. He was lecturing them by pretending that they weren’t aware that there are many approaches to feminism and by talking about privilege like he knows what it means despite his definition clashing with the common one that most of the people in that room not only know, but practice. It’s like walking into a graduate philosophy class…

    I actually agree with most of this statement. Lindsay’s talk had problems, it was not well-written, it was not focused, and he tried to talk about many things all at the same time but I don’t see how it deserves the backlash that it received (while keeping in mind the almost aboslute silence regarding the lawsuit). I’ve read the part of his speech that deals with feminism at least three times. I’ve read a number of responses to his speech and they all involve mind-reading, interpretations, nit-picking, as well as many other ridiculous ways to not engage with the argument.

    For example, she writes, “I’m pretty sure that the “one proponent” Lindsay referred to here is me.” Well, no. you don’t know that. It could be Richard Carrier. It could be someone else. That’s mind reading. That’s not engaging with the argument. And after she asserts that Lindsay refers to her, she continues by adding that “[a]nd this representation of my ideas, and of the ideas of the other people who wrote about Atheism Plus and divisiveness, is a gross misrepresentation.”

    • Okay, this is the part that really angers me; the feeling that black women can be thrown under the bus to save white allies.

      Silverman’s response had no relevance what-so-ever to the lawsuit. His claim that “she agreed that bible support slavery” is no way refutes the claims that Johnson had to endure racial jokes. The email that he quoted is also dishonest because it is an official email where Silverman is CCed.

      No, but his response that “In addition, Ms. Johnson was never subjected to racial jokes at any time, nor would anyone at American Atheists tolerate such behavior” does at least respond to it. If she has specific instances that she can claim, then we can examine them, but without the lawsuit here to see her specific claims, there is no reason to contend that an organization that has made an effort to reach out to black atheists under Silverman’s tenure subjected her to racist jokes. If some examples are provided, then I would agree that that was wrong and AA needs to do something about it, but right now we only really have Ed Clint’s reporting which has, thus far, been riddled with inaccuracies and outright falsehoods.

      As to the email, I don’t see why an official email in which Ms. Johnson shows support for a billboard that she claims to have opposed is dishonest. She even begins by identifying herself “As someone who understands that the point of the billboard was not to objectify or demean the African American community,” so it makes me skeptcal of her claim now that she did find it objectifying and demeaning. How is that not valid?

      I actually agree with most of this statement. Lindsay’s talk had problems, it was not well-written, it was not focused, and he tried to talk about many things all at the same time but I don’t see how it deserves the backlash that it received

      The original backlash it received was quite mild. It was a reflection that the context in which he chose to say those things was inappropriate. It would be like going to an NAACP conference and speaking for several minutes on how some people abuse the concept of “racism”. There are places to say that, even at the NAACP (such as panels and talks on how to improve the movement), but in a welcoming speech it’s inappropriate. Moreover, the parts that were most offensive are the ones where he strawmans concepts like “shut up and listen”, talking about them as if it means that those with privilege can never speak instead of recognizing that those with privilege have, historically, used it to silence others and it helps to make informed decisions about social issues if you stop and listen to the victims of those issues. What’s offensive is not that he’s talking about a problem in social justice movements, but rather that he’s arguing against a problem that doesn’t exist but people who try to silence proponents pretend exist. It’s roughly similar to the claim that “children can’t pray in school.” Of course they can and no atheist organizations are against that, but they are against forced school prayer. If he was going to make a statement, he should have done so in a better venue (like a panel at the convention on how to improve the movement) and by addressing actual problems, not the strawman problems that enemies of these ideas create to discredit them.

      You might argue that Lindsay was simply misinformed, which is possible, but his subsequent responses were defensive and absurd, not to mention incredibly over the top (and frequently employed mind reading as a tactic).

      As to the point about what Greta Christina wrote, whether she is correct about it referring to her or not, it remains a gross misrepresentation of the goals of the Atheism Plus movement. She may be incorrect on who he is talking about (or she may be correct), but that his points are arguing against something that is not being argued for for the most part is still valid criticism.

      • No, but his response that “In addition, Ms. Johnson was never subjected to racial jokes at any time, nor would anyone at American Atheists tolerate such behavior” does at least respond to it. If she has specific instances that she can claim, then we can examine them, …

        As to the email, I don’t see why an official email in which Ms. Johnson shows support for a billboard that she claims to have opposed is dishonest. She even begins by identifying herself “As someone who understands that the point of the billboard was not to objectify or demean the African American community,” so it makes me skeptcal of her claim now that she did find it objectifying and demeaning. How is that not valid?

        First, since she is doing the lawsuit, there is no way she will make any public comments until the lawsuit is finished, as her statements could be use/abused by AA’s lawyers.
        Second, your attitude is very problmetic and racist to be honest: we have a black woman who has hired a lawyer, invested lots of time and money to raise a complaint against an organization and in response a white guy has written a few sentences assuring you that no racist joke was ever issued. And you have decided to believe the white guy. Not only that, you are implicitely saying that she is lying (i.e., that it ‘makes you skeptical’). So yeah, like the rest of them, you rather throw black women under the bus and save a white ally. It is fine if you want to hold judgement until the lawsuit is settled but then demand some explanation from Mr Silverman and not the possible victim.

        The original backlash it received was quite mild.
        No, it was not. Implying that a guy is sexist and misogynist and he preferrs to welcome harassers and etc. is not mild criticism by any stretch of imagination.

        And again, I understand your criticism of the context of his talk. I don’t necessarily agree with your citicism; for example you claim that “he’s arguing against a problem that doesn’t exist” which is untrue. There are certainly peole who try to silence others. I understand that it’s a lesser problem compared to say victim blaming or other issues that women suffer but nonetheless it exists. So I can only accept your criticism as “Ron should have talked about these other more imprtant problems” which is a fine criticism but then agian, I don’t see how it deserves the backlash that it received.

      • Before we go any further, I’m going to have to ask you to explain why an email that states her support for the “Slaves” campaign has no bearing on her claim that she did not support the “Slaves” campaign, or why it’s dishonest because it’s an official email with Silverman CCed.

      • Because she was working for AA? The email was sent on March 2012. She was fired on Sept. 2012 so when she sent the email, she was being paid by them. Even the email starts by emphasizing that:
        “Hey
        I need to ask a favor, or rather, American Atheists would like to request a favor.”

        Does it sound like she was sending the email purely on her own will and that she was completely free and honest to express any opinion? Clearly not.

      • She is clearly making a request on behalf of her organization, but her opening statement is speaking on behalf of herself. However, I will grant that in official email, a person is not free to speak their mind in most cases.

        That being said, without the lawsuit to show any specific instances, we don’t even have two opposing claims. Show me another claim, which will come out when the lawsuit becomes public or the trial starts, and we can examine it. If it turns out that those claims have merit, you can be sure to see me bending the better part of my vocabulary to excoriating Mr. Silverman and American Atheists. Until then, all we have is a horrendously dishonest article in which Ed Clint makes a lot of unsubstantiated claims he refuses to update and correct, even when the people he is speaking about show up in the comments to say that he is mischaracterizing them.

        And I’m going to have to cut that subject short there. It’s entirely off topic.

        No, it was not. Implying that a guy is sexist and misogynist and he preferrs to welcome harassers and etc. is not mild criticism by any stretch of imagination.

        They said that his behavior was inappropriate and condescending, which is entirely true. They also pointed out that while explicitly not welcoming the members of the conference, he did welcome somebody who has a documented track record of harassing many of the people in the room.

        If merely implying that a person may be sexist or misogynist is considered so extreme as to be an attack, then I suppose we are to pretend that sexism and misogyny don’t exist? How, out of curiosity, does one deal with those problems if it’s out of bounds to even imply that somebody may have crossed a line? Or are we to just ignore it, as if pointing out the offense is so much worse than the offense itself?

  6. Okay, I submited the comment by accident while it was not done, “she” refers to Greta Christina’s post on Lindsay’s speech.

    I used to consider myeslf part of this “skeptic” or “atheist” movement but soon it became obvious that there are just too many egos who simply cannot admit to ever being wrong. This criticism of course applies to all the sides of the arguments but I had some hope perhaps knowing about the limitations of our mind and our biases will make a difference. Apparently it doesn’t.

    I’ll continue to use Greta Christina who also writes: ” For Lindsay to give that particular opening talk in that loaded environment — and for him to then make a point of going up to Vacula and personally welcoming him to the conference — showed a level of contempt for the speakers and attendees of that conference that is shocking… and that is entirely unacceptable.”

    But according to Justin Vacula the ‘welcome’ was just a typical professional kind of welcome you get when you enter an event. Melody also gave him a handshake and a welcome. Why these two handshakes are treated differently? How come Greta can read Lindsay’s mind and immediately conclude that his handshake shows “he wanted to make a point and show a level of contempt for the speakers”?

    • Why these two handshakes are treated differently? How come Greta can read Lindsay’s mind and immediately conclude that his handshake shows “he wanted to make a point and show a level of contempt for the speakers”?

      That’s a good question. My suspicion is that Melody didn’t just stand at a podium and tell people that they should be worried about silencing their critics before welcoming somebody who quite famously suggested that the best way for women not to receive rape and death threats was to simply not say anything controversial in public. I can’t say for certain, but that confluence of events would have certainly upset me.

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