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Stop Oppressing Men, Meanie Skeptic Women!

[ 418 ] May 18, 2013 |

The inter-movement fights of the skeptic world, like geek gate-keeping in the geek world, is something I keep tabs on from afar. Though I am an atheist, a skeptic and–I think it’s fair to say– fairly geeky, I simply don’t have time to immerse myself in these worlds. But I am always lurking, always watching…to see what’s going on in these strange, distant places. And often what’s going on is that people are acting like asses.

Here’s something very assy that happened at a secularism conference for women.

Cards on the table, I am not sympathetic at all to the idea that people talk about privilege to shut  (straight, white) men up. I’m sure there are people who use and abuse the idea of privilege, but I think for the most part people use it in ways that are legit. Furthermore, shutting up is actually a great thing to do sometimes. You might learn something if you do. I know–it’s worked for me.

Comments (418)

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  1. Matt T. in New Orleans says:

    I’ve been following this kerfluffle the past couple of days almost by accident. It’s popping up in the Twitter feed. Anyhow, what’s striking me about the whole “shutting men up” routine is how much it reminds me of the “oh, you’re just calling this racist thing ‘racist’ ’cause you want to stop debate on said thing”, usually inre: the president’s birth certificate or the whole “mosque at the 9/11 site” thing or the immigration debate in general. It’s a tedious way of saying “Don’t make me feel bad for being an asshole”, which seems to be the mating call of a whole lot of white dudes. I tell you for free, these guys themselves are enough to keep me out any skeptic/nonbeliever organization. They’re almost as unsavory with regards to racism/sexism/homophobia/general Patriarchy as your “conspiracy theory” crowd.

    • bexley says:

      Well duh. Feminists are the real sexists. /snark

    • commie atheist says:

      Also, Andy Sullivan’s bullshit about how calling research into inherent, genetically-driven differences in intelligence between “races” racist is stifling academic freedom.

      • justaguy says:

        Indeed. Racist pseudoscience isn’t just racist, its also pseudoscience, and therefore worthy of denouncing on its own apart from any political concerns. And decrying the political correct thought police is just a fairly transparent way to shift the conversation away from the very real problems with Richwine’s dissertation as a piece of scholarship. I flipped through his dissertation, and am aghast that something so superficial can earn you a PhD from the Kennedy School. Its the kind of writing I would be overjoyed to get from an undergrad, but doesn’t really cut it as graduate level work, let alone a dissertation. So, yeah, apart from being racist bullshit, its also worthy of being denounced purely for being bullshit.

        • astrosmash says:

          Well the only reason to consider the legitimacy of racially differential intellegence is to be able to deny a group full equal status based on race. I’d say if you want to deny people their rights and dignity based on IQ, go for it… Except that EVERYONE has to take the ‘test’. Donald Trump would be sopping up vomit in the pota-potty outside the methadone clinic…

      • Jeremy says:

        Well, Sullivan apparently considers Ron Unz’s critique of Jason Richwine’s PhD thesis to be “serious” because Unz appropriately decries all concerns of “political correctness” and disavows any description of Richwine as being motivated by racism. Also, probably not coincidentally, Unz was writing for The American Conservative, which was founded by racist Pat Buchanan. I don’t think it’s just him, either. Somewhere along the way, a whole lot of people have decided that calling someone a racist is silencing them and taking away their free speech. So, in order to have a “serious” discussion of racist pseudoscience, there has to be an understanding that no one involved in the discussion is racist.

        • aimai says:

          Little noticed in that Unz piece, except by the people for whom it was a massive dog whistle of “I’m OK/You’re OK” is that Unz attacked and dismissed Stephen Gould on the basis of a single undergraduate paper supposedly refuting Gould’s work on a 19th century biologist and racist. The point Unz makes, very bluntly, is that Gould was an “avowed Marxist” (which I, having taken a course form Gould at Harvard, find impossible to believe) and that his biology was influenced by his supposed Marxist refusal to believe the races were distinct and easily ranked–not only that but Unz basically dismisses all of Gould’s work as false because (he says) one small essay about one person was not wholly accurate.

  2. commie atheist says:

    A link to Rebecca Watson? You may finally get that flame war you’ve been hoping for. Calling all MRA bros…the Batshit signal is up!

  3. Lee Rudolph says:

    Well, I have to admit that reading through the comments after the link to the account of “something very assy” that happened at a secularism conference for women was a task that, in the event, I simply was not up to. My goodness, how some of those fellas do go on. It was almost enough to give me religion!

    • djw says:

      At a minimum, these repeated incidents should begin to shake one’s faith that sexism is a problem of religion, rather than a problem of humanity.

  4. Bijan Parsia says:

    Of course, such kerfluffles raise the obvious question: Is shutting up (these, at least) men a bad thing?

  5. justaguy says:

    I’m sure there a lot of thoughtful, and intelligent people in the skeptical community. But a lot of the New Atheist attacks on Islam are based on unexamined privilege, in that they are thinly veiled expressions of the superiority of Western civilization that don’t consider the wider social and political contexts in which the phenomena they denounce take place (Sam Harris is a great example of this). With that in mind, I’m in no way surprised to see the same kinds of attitudes directed towards people within the skeptical movement. Was anyone surprised during elevatorgate, when we learned that Richard Dawkins is just as condescending to women as he is to Muslims?

    • Lee Rudolph says:

      Actually, I think if you go back to the original accounts of elevatorgate, you’ll find that it happened while Dawkins was ascending from the con.

    • Code Name Cain says:

      Richard Dawkins is an asshat to everyone, it’s in his blood like Newt Gingrich, but I think it’s a stretch to take his or Harris’ bigotry against Muslims, and try to use it to enlighten why there are skeptic men who don’t understand sexism in the least.

      The skeptic movement is (or should I say was?) mostly centered around combating pseudoscience so when it comes to something like understanding privilege I don’t think you should expect them to be much better than the rest of the wider science fandom community or, sadly, possibly the nation at large.

      • justaguy says:

        Its not clear how being against pseudoscience and being aware of privilege go together. Are scientists any more enlightened than anyone else?

        • Code Name Cain says:

          No, they aren’t. That was my point, which I apparently didn’t say clear enough.

          Being a fan of science, which is pretty much what a skeptic is with a few additional quirks, isn’t some kind of general awesomeness badge which makes you more enlightened about everything. So we shouldn’t have to come up with unique theories for why there are men in this group who are completely clueless about feminism.

          • justaguy says:

            Ah, yes I misread you – sorry.

            • aimai says:

              No one is “expecting” anyone to do anything–Skeptics want to move on from being a white male geek meeting at which there are no women and therefore NO WOMEN SCIENTISTS to actually having some relevance beyond being fannish clannish assholes to people who don’t have access to good educations, who don’t know what science is, who are prey to right wing religious miseducation, or who fell prey to the anti vaxx and anti floride hysteria. Almost all this shit–the anti science stuff–grows out of the actual politics of learning and the social situation of learning and knowledge. So anyone who actually wanted to combat this stuff really, rather than getting together and masturbating about how cool science is, probably needs to start addressing the social construction of knowledge, the dissemination of informaton, and the exclusion of women and minorities and LGBTQ people from skeptic and atheist conferences because they are troubling the hierarchy and making claims to matter.

              That’s basically it. The CEO guy could have graciously said “Welcome all these new people and new voices to our conference. We hope to learn a lot from you. And now I yield my time to our first speaker.” That’s what conference organizers do. They don’t introduce a conference on Buddhism by reminding the Buddhist monks there that the only true god is Jesus and they should be nicer to missionaries.

        • Matt T. in New Orleans says:

          I don’t think it has anything to do with scientists, really. This is just from my own personal experience, but I think it has a lot to do with these guys just feeling smarter and superior to everyone else because they eschew religion or superstition or the paranormal or what have you. To my mind, it’s not a whole lot different from two fans of two different sports teams engaging in a round of dick wagging over supposed superiority of something they really have fuck-all to do with. I freely admit that during my own personal philosophical journey there were times when I was a dick to folks who believed in Christianity or astrology or Art Bell.

          Tying it back to the conspiracy theory set and adding in the Fortean/anomalistics/paranormal curious types, it appeared very much a “boys club” and, for the most part, was, at least in the early days of the interwebs. Quite a few of these dudes felt like “outsiders” because of their views and interests, and since human beings are such dramatic creatures, they amped it up and circled the wagons whenever possible. And as much as I hate to cast aspersions on someone who ain’t here, a whole mess of them were (and still are) wholeheartedly in favor of the Status Quo when it comes to gender roles in society.

          These guys think they’re too smart to consider privilege. Again, just from my experiences and I’m probably being harsher than I should. But fuck ‘em if they can’t take a joke.

          • DocAmazing says:

            Oversimplified, you have the confluence of “people that smart should know better” with the inherent sexism of much male geekery (Frazetta posters in the old days, for example).

          • justaguy says:

            Nailed it.

          • STH says:

            There’s a macho contingent there, for sure, and also a libertarian one (and some overlap between the two). Some of them think of themselves as lone wolf hero types and tend to champion extremes of free speech because they consider themselves so tough. So you get a lot of comments like, “I don’t know why those whiny bitches are complaining about the endless rape and death threats–I guess they just can’t take criticism!”

          • José Arcadio Buendía says:

            Yes, except the women there aren’t there for a purely feminist reason either. They along with the shitlords are there to arrogate themselves over the dupes who don’t believe what they (don’t) believe. So, if this was just a conference on feminism, it would be an entirely different context.

            But when you’re already in a group of people who have decided that their superiority matters, as you yourself point out, why should it be different in this regard? How do we know the women don’t feel the same about the inferior theist scum they despise?

            Funny how being completely out of touch is a valid criticism of religious leaders, but when it’s applied to anyone who is in some kind of academic field it’s a crime against humanity. Most people don’t understand why this kind of thing isn’t just special pleading. The majority of those are really confused as to why equality is different from equalization. And transphobia *really* makes it look like special pleading. So does making excuses for traditional Islam. But if you’re confident in your justification, explain it. If you not only refuse to explain to the masses but condescend on them for needing explanation, then it’s just lame to complain about their misunderstanding.

            Look, if you’re going to call men shitlords and dismiss their conversations on the issue as “mansplaining” etc. then don’t be outraged when they don’t like it. Just ignore it. It’s part of the process. Their reaction shouldn’t be relevant, right?

            tl;dr if this was a feminism conference only, I might have a different reaction, but in the “skeptic” crowd, the rules are different

            • Matt T. in New Orleans says:

              I don’t know, man. It was a secular conference for women and a big topic was how women fit into the grand skeptical web. Let’s not bullshit ourselves, women’s involvement in the skeptical movement and how men are reacting to it has been the thing all the cool kids have been fussing about for the last year or so. That seems to me sufficient grounding for feminist thought to be considered, assuming that’s even a valid consideration and I don’t agree that it is. It’s like arguing that one shouldn’t bring skeptical consideration to a feminist conference, and that’s just goofy.

              And why should the “rules”, whatever they are, be different just because the topic of consideration isn’t “purely feminist”, whatever that means? Feminism and skepticism are both about challenging assumptions and interrogating belief. I know my own path to feminism came directly because of my skeptical inquiries and once I got over my dick.

            • commie atheist says:

              But when you’re already in a group of people who have decided that their superiority matters, as you yourself point out, why should it be different in this regard? How do we know the women don’t feel the same about the inferior theist scum they despise?

              What the fuck are you going on about?

              • N__B says:

                It seems an atheist hurt his feelings.

                • Jeffrey Beaumont says:

                  I think he is saying that the whole skeptics/new atheists crowd is a bunch of assholes, and that we shouldnt be surprised when these jerks start infighting about their own relative positions of superiority over the ignorant masses.

      • Incontinentia Buttocks says:

        Newt Gingrich is in Richard Dawkins’s blood?!?

      • nonononoNO says:

        BEING AN ASSHOLE ISN’T “IN THE BLOOD” YOU UNSCIENTIFIC SHITHEAD. Way to ignore all human choice and agency in being a jerk, moron.

    • Ronan says:

      “I’m sure there a lot of thoughtful, and intelligent people in the skeptical community. But a lot of the New Atheist attacks on Islam are based on unexamined privilege..”

      Indeed! The problem with any community that gives Dawkins middlebrow horseshit creedence is that it wont rise above the gutter

    • JL says:

      I want to suggest Crommunist (Freethought Blogs blogger Ian Cromwell) as a New Atheist/skeptic who is not a giant tool, and in fact dedicates a great deal of his blog to fighting racism and sexism, from a skeptical perspective.

    • Tristan says:

      From the wikipedia page on Richard Dawkins (emphases mine):

      “Dawkins was born in Nairobi, Kenya. His father.. was an agricultural civil servant in the British colonial service in Nyasaland (now Malawi)… he returned to England in 1949, when Dawkins was eight. His father had inherited a country estate, Over Norton Park, which he turned into a commercial farm…

      Dawkins describes his childhood as “a normal Anglican upbringing”.”

  6. thebewilderness says:

    That is kinda classic, opening a womens conference with a d00d telling the women not to be so meeean to the d00dz.

    • commie atheist says:

      Yes, exactly. Apparently his organization, was the organizer of the conference, but still, how tone deaf can you be to make your privileged white self the opening speaker?

      • drkrick says:

        Some (brief) welcoming remarks would be a pretty routine agenda item. Using them to remind the ladies to make sure to properly respect their betters makes you wonder how they got this thing scheduled over his objections.

    • commie atheist says:

      Great mansplanation here, from comments:

      It’s a women’s conference in the sense that the conference subject is ‘women in secularism’, not in the sense that only women may attend or speak.

      Beautiful.

      • Bijan Parsia says:

        It’s a women’s conference in the sense that the conference subject is ‘women in secularism’, not in the sense that only women may attend or speak. you don’t need to worry your pretty lil head about speaking as the menz will explain it all to you.

        That’s a bit clearer now.

      • thebewilderness says:

        I liked the comment where the d00d mansplains that if the speaker didn’t tell you what the word privilege means then you can’t say he is ignorant of what the word privilege means. Excellent!
        And here’s another couple!!!!!!!!

      • Warren Terra says:

        Not technically wrong. Not remotely grasping the issues at hand, though. Glad the commenter had fun defeating those strawmen, though.

  7. Shakezula says:

    And often what’s going on is that people are acting like asses.

    Life, encapsulated in one short sentence.

  8. Spokane Moderate says:

    Two consecutive posts with an exclamation point in the title? Chicks are so emotional.

  9. MAJeff says:

    Furthermore, shutting up is actually a great thing to do sometimes. You might learn something if you do. I know–it’s worked for me.

    Ayup.

    • Lee Rudolph says:

      My old car-pool buddy, raised (though not born) in Vermont, told me that up there they say “If you can’t improve the silence, don’t talk.”

  10. STH says:

    I was just browsing the #wiscfi hashtag (which has been swarmed with anti-feminists) and found someone defending the UK Independence Party against criticism that it’s racist.

    Classic.

  11. Fighting Words says:

    Come and see the violence inherent in the system. Help! Help! I’m being repressed!

  12. Jamie says:

    “Check your privilege” has become kind of an ironic invocation. But it should’nt be. For a white, hetero man such as myself one of the best things we can do is just shut the fuck up and listen to what other people have to say.

    • José Arcadio Buendía says:

      White men aren’t always wrong.

      • sophronia says:

        And they’re not always right either. Sometimes people other than white men have legitimate things to say! Shocking, I know!

        The point here is that white men have plenty of outlets and opportunities to make their voices and opinions heard. There’s just no reason for them to constantly drown out everyone else, even in places that are specifically supposed to be welcoming to people who are not white males. But apparently this concept is just impossible for a good portion of men to grasp.

      • Anonymous says:

        Nobody said they were. Nearly everyone said that their expertise in women’s experiences (particularly in the context of several years’ endless baiting by angry anti-feminist babies) is limited and their theorizing and opinions don’t count for much. At best, Lindsay should have welcomed attendees and bigged up other speakers. Instead, he hijacked the opening speech and peppered it with a lot of MRA dogwhistles.

        If the goal was to establish the credibility of white men as women’s allies in the march towards equality within the skeptic movement, that goal is now located a little further down the road.

      • thebewilderness says:

        No they aren’t, but it would be very helpful if they noticed when they are.

      • commie atheist says:

        White men aren’t always wrong.

        And some of them can jump! Really!

      • McAllen says:

        No, but they’re wrong way more often than they think they are.

      • Malaclypse says:

        White men aren’t always wrong.

        Are they always made of straw?

      • Chuchundra says:

        Of course we are. And if you disagree, you’re just a privilege-having mansplainer.

        In fact, there’s a good chance you might be a rape apologist.

        • Heron says:

          It must be aggravating going through life thinking anytime someone who isn’t a white guy tells a white guy he’s wrong in your presence, that they are also calling you a rapist.

  13. Peter says:

    I thought that read that something very sassy happened at the conference. So I was pretty disappointed.

  14. Major Kong says:

    I usually have to pay to have women oppress me. I didn’t realize they were giving it away for free.

    • Anonymous says:

      And still doing it in standard, white dude pontificating with large words and big theories women couldn’t possibly understand, neener neener, sort of way.

      • Informant says:

        Is there any reason to continuously mention that the guy is white? There are no racial dimensions to his remarks that I’m aware of.

        • Dave says:

          It is, fairly self-evidently, a major component facilitating his cluelessness.

        • Anonymous says:

          White men in this culture are brought up thinking they are experts in everything, and that their opinions are always valid. That’s the entire basis of his speech; that he has something to say about feminism, and the broads in the audience need to pay attention.

          • Lee Rudolph says:

            White men in this culture are brought up thinking they areought to be experts in everything of any importance, and consequently when they find themselves in circumstances where they become even slightly aware that they are not, they frequently (1) become frightened, angry, and frustrated by their failure to be expert, and/or (2) work very hard to demonstrate that whatever it is they’re failing to be expert at is of ABSOLUTELY NO IMPORTANCE.

            At least, that’s how it seems to me (from both introspection and observation of many other white males).

        • Anonymous says:

          Had you bothered to read the text of Lindsay’s speech or any of his follow-up posts you’d know that he whinged about “identity politics,” a stock phrase a man of color is unlikely to use, and that he complained that the only reason he was getting push-back for his little hyperbolic tantrum was that he was a “white man” occupying the “stage,” and thus an easy target for Angry, Irrational Female-Types with Bones to Pick.

          His whiteness has a lot to do with his defensive, selfish attitude. The conference wasn’t about him, but he had to make damn sure a captive audience knew how disappointing that was.

          If you have a problem with people referring to him as a white man, take it up with him. He started it.

          • MosesZD says:

            I have and I can tell you’re full of shit. You have willfully and intentionally taken what he’s said in a way to help with your professional victimization.

            He’s talking about two important concepts:

            1. Stereotyping.

            2. Demeaning people with dogmatic responses.

            It’s not particularly different than the way the KKK, the Marxists, many religious fundamentalists act when they go to spread their dogma.

            • Incontinentia Buttocks says:

              For those playing along at home, “professional victimization” is a tell.

            • aimai says:

              You do realize that accusing an entire audience of women of engaging in “professional victimization” is…kind of the problem?

            • Jeffrey Beaumont says:

              Also someone invoking “the KKK, the Martists, many religious fundamentalists” in one breath probably has a pretty crappy argument.

              • thebewilderness says:

                I rather like it myself.
                It always reminds me of Archie Bunker arguing with Meathead over everyone putting their pants on one leg at a time, which escalates in the most delightful way.

            • Heron says:

              Damn; you came to absolutely the WRONG PLACE to slander Marxist, buddy. Also, your response above is so hilariously stupid that I’m just going to sit here in my chair and laugh at your idiocy, instead of wasting my time to refute what you’ve written, as easy as that would be. You simply aren’t worth any words that aren’t derision.

            • tigtog says:

              your professional victimization

              LOL at your pig-ignorant incoherence. What exactly do you think “victimisation” means? Because you’re using it as a a synonym for “victimhood”, and even then the typical accusation of “playing victim” is a bloody odd description to use for those who are refusing to be silent about prejudice and discrimination.

              Are we rocking the boat holding your complacent status quo? What a pity.

    • commie atheist says:

      Rebecca Watson inhabits an alternate universe. At least that is the most charitable explanation I can provide for her recent smear. Watson has posted comments on my opening talk at Women in Secularism 2. It may be the most intellectually dishonest piece of writing since the last communique issued by North Korea.

      Yeah, that’s someone who should be just shutting the fuck up now.

  15. LeeEsq says:

    For the life of me, I really can not figure out why these problems keep happening in the geek community again and again. I suppose that every heavily male community is going to lean towards sexism but the amount of privilege and patriarchal feelings in the geek community is kind of mind-boggling. The willful lack of self-awareness among nerds and geeks is one of the reasons I started distancing myself from fandom and even when I was in it I always was at the periphery of it. I’m in the dance community right now, its a lot more socially well-adjusted.

    • Joey Maloney says:

      I don’t think it’s that difficult to understand: people are so very very proud of having seen through the delusion of religion/psuedoscience/alt-medicine/whatever that they believe they have seen through ALL delusion and view the universe absolutely objectively. Then someone points out they’re walking into walls over and over.

      “Inconceivable!”

      “No, look, see, you missed…”

      “Inconceivable!”

      “But you’re not considering…”

      “Inconceivable!”

      “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”

      “ARRGHBLARGLE BLARGLE RAGERAGE BITCHEZ!”

    • Bijan Parsia says:

      This might be helpful.

      First, I think we do need to be cautious in measurement. “Geek community” isn’t a very precise term and even within more coherent groupings such as “gamer” we have a fair bit of diversity.

      Second, I think the combination of high percentage of men plus a highly competitive, dominance based ethos which has as a core component a) persecution by outside forces and b) a specific theme of “inappropriate” sexual/romantic inadequacy is going to foster a lot of misogyny of a lot of different forms. In particular, I think it makes both individual incidents and bad group reactions more likely (and the latter more intense).

      Third, as much of the community is online much of the time, opportunities for online disinhibition are much larger. I’d go further and posit that a lot of the identified factors in online disinhibition happen offline (esp. for geeks) as well. In particular, the idea that being highly knowledgable or intelligent can compensate for other problems including bad behavior is not uncommon. For example, if a student skips meetings or is unprepared and yet turns it good work, I’m generally going to be more relaxed about it. The idea that it’s “net, not gross” behavior that matters (which is to a certain extent true and very important in some cases) combined with an inferiority/superiority based inflation of the positives gives permission to arbitrary negative behavior.

      Worse, the negative behavior can be highly tangled up with the sense of worth. One may not be as smart as Sheldon Cooper, but one can be easily be as much of an ass. (The fact is that the actor is not enacting doing physics but is enacting assholery.) Actually, The Big Bang Theory is a great example of cultural reinforcement of bad tendencies in various geek communities. It is, as a typical sitcom, fairly sexist in a variety of ways, though over time has gotten better (introducing almost the same number of smart, intellectual, and well educated female regulars helped) it’s still the case that all the male leads are variable sexist (though typically played for laughs as a kind of cluelessness). Women enter the picture almost exclusively as domineering mothers or sex/romantic objects (or both). Most of the women introduced are at the movie star end of conventional attractiveness and played as such in world. And yet the nominally unattractive protagonists “score” very well.

      So, you’re a kid watching the show. You find it highly amusing. The characters seem admirable in so many ways. So you emulate them. Now you’ve patterned your behavior on 1) being irrationally domineering about your intelligence or knowledge with the only restraint being someone else besting you, 2) lots of little sexist moments, 3) successful sexual access to a wide range of highly attractive women, and 4) a persecution complex because of super attractive women not finding you attractive (enough).

      (It’s particularly interesting because there are several different modalities of misogyny available, from Wolowitz’s PUA stuff to Sheldon’s casual psuedoscientific bullshit and indifference. And each gets redeemed and has their likability systematically reinforced.)

      Anyway, it’s a theory.

      • Anonymous says:

        I do agree with some of this. But

        In particular, the idea that being highly knowledgable or intelligent can compensate for other problems including bad behavior is not uncommon.

        being irrationally domineering about your intelligence or knowledge with the only restraint being someone else besting you

        all of this assumes that men start out being the bigger fan, the better expert. That women aren’t as invested in the subculture, are feigning interest, have a superficial understanding of the nuances.

        • Anonymous says:

          In other words, it assumes that the men doing all the bad stuff are The Real Geeks and their impatience and anger with women is a result of hyper-intelligence (and sexual frustration) rather than insecurity, narcissism, and a misplaced delusion that being male makes them superior to the ladies.

          It’s not a particularly fair or accurate assumption, and it erases both the decent geek dudes out there not hurting anybody, and the myriad women who are, in fact, smarter than the dudes. Intelligence has never been an adequate excuse for anybody acting like an asshole, so it seems a bit disingenuous to make apologies for geek men, as if they’re somehow hampered by being so “knowledgeable.” Same with sexually frustrated, nerdy, off-puting women. They’re not given a pass for man-hating because they’re undersexed, and rarely are on-line screeds* written in favor of them getting laid because they Deserve It.

          *not suggesting that’s what you’re doing, but pointing out that men will forever be considered victims of evil, superficial, feminist bitchery because they’re being denied sexual access to beautiful, desirable, non-threatening women, women being the trophy men are awarded for existing.

        • Bijan Parsia says:

          I agree that there is this addition or perhaps embedded presumption that is key. Failures of a man (by and large) are read as exceptional (to the man, or wrt men in general) whereas failures of a women are read as iconic (of that women and of women in general).

      • Bijan Parsia says:

        One of the things in the back of my mind was a bit of a paper by Egan on Asperger’s syndrome and CS education. I looked it up (you need ACM access, sorry; I quote the key bits below):

        People with the syndrome are of normal or above average intelligence, some are even considered gifted. Because AS is more commonly found in boys than in girls, this paper will refer to the student with AS as “he”.

        Why are students with AS drawn to computer science? A recurring theme in case histories of AS is an attraction to highly organized systems and complex machines. Clumsy and easily overwhelmed in the physical world, AS minds excel in the virtual realms of mathematics, symbols and code. The culture of the computer world has subtly evolved to meet the social needs of adults in high functioning regions of the autism spectrum which include AS. In the geek warrens of engineering and R&D, social graces are beside the point. You can be as off-the-wall as you want to be, but if your code is bulletproof, no one’s going to point out that you’ve been wearing the same shirt for two weeks. People with AS have a hard time multi-tasking – particularly when one of the channels is face-to-face communication. Replacing the commotion of the traditional office with a screen and an email address inserts a controllable interface between a programmer and the chaos of everyday life. A world where respect and rewards are based strictly on merit is an Asperger’s dream. [6]

        [6] Silberman, S. The Geek Syndrome, Wired Magazine, 9, 12
        (December 2001).

        What’s interesting is that this analysis isn’t entirely wrong, but it does ignore that it isn’t a pure merit based system and that you have to fit in other ways in order to succeed (for a given amount of merit) a good deal of the time.

        (I shared this article with a female graduate student and she said, immediately, that she didn’t share the “It doesn’t matter if your most recent shower was not recent enough to reduce your body oder so long as you have good code” philosophy. It was a great trial to her to have to work the undergraduate labs wherein a fair number of the students were not writing great code and not washing often enough.)

        • aimai says:

          This is going to come across as meanspirited but I simply cant imagine half the attention male programmers and socially dysfunctional assholes get for their brand new diagnosis of “aspergers” being given to any class of women who were defined as neuro-atypical or otherwise socially unskilled or dysfunctional. I mean: I just can’t imagine it because I’ve never, ever, seen it. If women don’t fit in they are made to fit in, or they are forced out.

          • Bijan Parsia says:

            That seems accurate to me, not meanspirited.

            I have no idea how prevalent this is, but for a while in the mid to late 2000s, I encountered a fair number of men in CS circles who would self- or other-diagnose Asperger syndrome as what was pretty transparently an attempt to excuse their behavior.

            I’ve seen some notably good instances of support for gender deviance (but typically for men who were already established in the community but then, e.g., transition or take up public transvestitism (to pick two examples)).

            It would be very nice to have some hard data on the the prevalence and distribution of this sort of tolerance/with-holding in a variety of communities.

          • Lee Rudolph says:

            Women get to be hysterics!!!

          • DocAmazing says:

            Just came up for air having read a bunch of stuff on psychology (the America Psychiatric Ass’n convention is in town today, just in time for Bay to Breakers). The new edition of the Bible of psychiatry/psychology, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, Fifth Edition (DSM-V) is coming out this month. Among the revisions: no more Asperger’s syndrome, as it included among Autism.

            I suspect the socially-inept types who wish to medicalize their behavior are going to be less enthusiastic about calling themselves “autistic”.

        • Caren says:

          I’m so sick of the Aspergers excuse.

          My son has Aspergers, and he has it bad. He can no longer be in a mainstream school. He can’t read people’s facial expressions and miscommunication is common and can set off meltdowns if not clarified.

          My son is not a sexist asshole.

          It’s the easiest thing in the world for people who are comfortable with stark black/white rules to practice basic manners. Socially awkward or face-blind is not the same as being a creep.

          Someone with Aspergers would actually appreciate watson’s “Guys, don’t do that.” Someone with Aspergers would also get that introducing a conference should include welcoming the participants and introducing the speakers.

          The butthurt has nothing to do with having Aspergers.

    • Anonymous says:

      Bijan got it right.

      I suppose that every heavily male community is going to lean towards sexism but the amount of privilege and patriarchal feelings in the geek community is kind of mind-boggling.

      Honestly, this sounds like you’ve got blinders on.

      Nongeek-identified men are no different. Repeat: they are not different. The specific tenor of the misogyny in any given group may differ from any other, but it flows from the same source and manifests itself just as brutally. And victims of it don’t care about the wherefores.

      TheHairpin folk recently addressed this concept–that male “geeks” or socially awkward men have a special, justifiable grudge against women–beautifully. It behooves men who are invested in exposing the misogyny of other men (cf white western men’s courageous stand against brown Muslim men and their venomous oppression of women) to take a good, hard look at themselves. Socially ostracized women with geeky interests experience the exact same isolation as their male counterparts; the difference is, they don’t suddenly become misandrists and their unhappiness does not manifest as aggression against or resentment of men.

      It’s not the geekiness or the homosociality of a culture that, in themselves, is to blame for men promoting one another and policing women out of their little clubs, treating them, first and foremost, as girlfriend material and, secondly, as interlopers.

      Talk to actual women. This shit happens everywhere.

      • Bijan Parsia says:

        Great points. While the particulars differ, the end environment (and often the structures) are similar. It’s not hard to repeat my (unoriginal) analysis on jock culture, business culture, art or music culture.

        • Bijan Parsia says:

          Hmm. I think I have to go further and say that my reply implicitly accepts the premise that geek culture is disproportionately sexist (or more extremely so). A simpler explanation is that its just somewhat more visible (esp. for people who are heavily online).

          • Bijan Parsia says:

            And what should I stumble upon via the awesome Feminist Philosophers was this spot on essay:

            I’ve spent the last couple months in the company of writers, mostly poets, mostly men. I am growing weary. The group I hang with is large and fluid—I’m not naming names, not pointing fingers, I like these people—and yet an issue I cannot ignore has begun to emerge: when it comes to many of the men in the company, mid-thirties and younger, making conversation, even with women present (older, younger, students, professionals, I’m a grandmother for Christ’s sake), the topics frequently revolve around who is sleeping with whom, which female is more fuckable, which poop or dog-cum reference is the funniest, and what is the latest text from “the Korean girlfriend.”

            …Back to the weeks of concentrated writer events. One man offered as a compliment “You look rape-able.” One man seemed compelled to check out and comment on the breasts and legs of all the women we passed (or perhaps it just seemed like all) on the street, at the bar, in the restaurants. One man I was talking to opened a conversation with “You know that chick…” It turned out he was referring to the late-thirties editor we had just been chatting with, but it took me a minute to figure it out, because not in my wildest dreams would I have referred to the mature, professional woman as a “chick.”

            BTW, who the fuckity fuck fuck fuck thinks that “rape-able” is something you say to or think about anyone?

            This kind of crap went on and on. It was exhausting. Exhausting to figure out how to respond to the relentless misogyny from men who are otherwise kind and educated, who would never think of themselves as chauvinist assholes. I have heard more than once from this crew, “Most of my favorite poets are women.” If I were to guess, I’d bet that the lot of them vote pro-choice, support the Violence Against Women Act, and consider women well capable of intelligent, complex thought. I certainly don’t assume that all men under 40 would engage in the kind of language and behavior described above; indeed, I know of many who would never do so. And yet, after the past several weeks, its frequency is far beyond what I thought possible.

            • Jeffrey Beaumont says:

              Yeah, it turns out our society produces a lot of people who accept the terribly conventional gender roles without thinking about it. Also it turns out that younger, single men walk around looking at women with sex and mating on their minds first and foremost, whether they are conscious of it or not.

              Who knew?

              • Bijan Parsia says:

                You just glossed on by the “rape-able” bit, eh?

                And, surprisingly, I’ve been in plenty of contexts, even all or mostly male ones, where somehow…SOMEHOW…we all managed to get through it without talking continually about sex.

                Who knew?

                • bspencer says:

                  Plus there are ways to talk about sex that don’t objectify women.

                • Jeffrey Beaumont says:

                  No, the rape-able thing is terrible. Also, anecdote aside, no one anywhere ever tells a woman that, short of some sort of weird inside joke. Literally more people are eaten by cannibals each year than someone trying to using rape-able as a compliment.

                • Jeffrey Beaumont says:

                  Also, I didnt say talk, I said think. Young single men do tend to think a lot about sex. It is sort of biology. That this might be expressed in misogynistic ways is the whole conventional gender roles thing I mentioned.

                • Bijan Parsia says:

                  Jeffery, I’ve no idea what your original comment was trying to achieve and how it was supposed to relate to Sullivan’s essay.

                  She was describing her experience. She was describing speech, not thought. Your original comment made no mention of speech and your follow up comment emphasized that (which then weirdly claimed it was implicit). At this point, I sincerely can’t tell if you are pooh poohing Sullivan’s essay or supporting it.

                  Given your comment which seems to deny Sullivan’s report that someone used “rape-able” as a compliment to her (yes, you “put it aside”, but saying “except for the times that it happened, it never happens” doesn’t really sound so good.)

                • Jeffrey Beaumont says:

                  I dont know why I cant reply to your reply…

                  But I am saying Sullivan’s speech is doing two things which are worth pointing out:
                  1) stating the obvious fact that lots of young men thing and talk about sex in misogynistic ways, even though they dont intend to be misogynistic and
                  2) setting up a straw-man with the outrageous rape-able thing. I am not accusing her of making it up, but she happened to be witness to an exceedingly rare event. I am sorry she heard it, aghast that the guy apparently said it, but it has no place in the overall argument about sexism. Citing the crazy is not a good way to make a point.

                  None of this is to say that men shouldn’t be sensitive to they ways in which their sex drives make them say and do sexist things they rationally wouldn’t agree with, nor to say that casual sexism isnt exhausting for a lot of women to put up with.

                • Hogan says:

                  I am not accusing her of making it up, but she happened to be witness to an exceedingly rare event.

                  Do you have any data on that, other than “it stands to reason” or “I’ve never heard it”?

                • bspencer says:

                  Well, actually “citing the crazy” is a great way to make a point if it is but one instance of crazy in a sea of crazinesswhich for many women it is.

                  Did you read what she said? She said she was exhausted. Now, be logical here for a sec. Would she be exhausted if she had had to put one up one instance of crazy…or do you think–DO YOU THINK–that perhaps it’s the little bits of cumulative craziness that have gotten to her?

                • Jeffrey Beaumont says:

                  No, she said she was exhausted from all the casual stuff, like calling the editor a “chick”. The crazy comment was the outlier.

                  And Hogan, I am going to say the onus is on you to demonstrate that “rape-able” is not exceedingly rare as an attempted compliment towards women.

                  And on the whole “citing crazy” to make a point. Bad way to argue. If you cite the 9/11 hijackers to criticize the Islamic world, that is a bad argument. If you cite the very rare instances of terrorism to justify losing all kinds of civil liberties, that is a bad argument. If you cite your statistically unlikely need for “self defense” to justify gun violence in our society, that is a bad argument. If you cite tsunamis to justify wearing a life vest all the time… well, you see my point.

                • Bijan Parsia says:

                  I dont know why I cant reply to your reply…

                  WordPress limites comment nesting. So we get to level 4 and it sucks.

                  1) stating the obvious fact that lots of young men thing and talk about sex in misogynistic ways, even though they dont intend to be misogynistic and

                  I don’t think she’s stating that per se, she’s reporting on an experience both the external (i.e., what the doods were saying) and the internal (i.e., how that affected her). Both are critical.

                  2) setting up a straw-man with the outrageous rape-able thing. I am not accusing her of making it up, but she happened to be witness to an exceedingly rare event. I am sorry she heard it, aghast that the guy apparently said it, but it has no place in the overall argument about sexism. Citing the crazy is not a good way to make a point.

                  Here is where you go wrong, I think. She isn’t “setting up a strawman”…it was part of her experience. The “Women are bitches” was also part of her experience (and that isn’t so rare). Let’s grant that calling someone “rape-able” as a sincere compliment is rare and that even in this instance the guy was trying to be ironic or something. But just because that over the top thing is rare doesn’t mean that some over the top thing is unlikely.

                  None of this is to say that men shouldn’t be sensitive to they ways in which their sex drives make them say and do sexist things they rationally wouldn’t agree with, nor to say that casual sexism isnt exhausting for a lot of women to put up with.

                  But it is, it seems, explicitly to say that if someone does something outrageous (if rare) to you, you shouldn’t mention it?

                  Dude, that’s weird at best.

                • Jeffrey Beaumont says:

                  No, like I said in my reply to bspencer, I am just saying that winning points with the outrageous and crazy isn’t a good way to win arguments. Report it, sure, but it isnt really germane to the bigger picture.

                • Hogan says:

                  And Hogan, I am going to say the onus is on you to demonstrate that “rape-able” is not exceedingly rare as an attempted compliment towards women.

                  I’m not the one making a claim. I don’t know whether it’s extremely rare, slightly rare, not unusual or what the hell. You’re the one confidently asserting it’s vanishingly rare, and I’m not sure why I should be the one to explain why you’re so confident.

                • Jeffrey Beaumont says:

                  Let me put it another way…. Sullivan mentioned a lot of casual uses of words like bitch and chick by otherwise not sexist guys, and explained why she found that exhausting. Good point, all true. Poeple, probably myself included casually use misogynistic language without being conscious of the misogyny. Hell, I know a lot of women who use those sorts of words all the time too without thinking about it. We ought to think about it though, and so kudos to Sullivan.

                  I just objected to the way she through the rape-able thing in there like it was just as common place. That is like throwing Jeffrey Dalmer into a conversation on crime rates. An extreme outlier that doesnt really help make one’s bigger point, and actually distracts.

                • Bijan Parsia says:

                  No, like I said in my reply to bspencer, I am just saying that winning points with the outrageous and crazy isn’t a good way to win arguments. Report it, sure, but it isnt really germane to the bigger picture.

                  I still find absolutely no way that Sullivan was “winning points” with the outrageous and crazy. She didn’t say that lots of people called her rapeable. Frankly, if someone said that to anyone in my hearing that would be the most salient thing. She didn’t make a big deal of it in her essay. It was one of a bunch of things. (She spent more time on “chick”.)

                  Finally, I think your line about the rarity of the event needs some support. “Rape as compliment” is not an uncommon theme. “Not rapeable” (and variants) as insult is rather common.

                • Jeffrey Beaumont says:

                  I’m going to commit myself to punching squarely in the face the first person I hear use rape-able as a compliment. I am confident I will never have to go through with my commitment.

                • thebewilderness says:

                  You probably won’t because you do not experience harassment on the streets or at gatherings like the one under discussion. Try asking the women you know how many times they have been instructed by some d00d that calling her rapeable was a compliment.
                  Or go to i-once-had-a-guy-tell-me on tumblr and prepare to be creeped right the hell out.

                • Bijan Parsia says:

                  Let me put it another way…. Sullivan mentioned a lot of casual uses of words like bitch and chick by otherwise not sexist guys, and explained why she found that exhausting. Good point, all true. Poeple, probably myself included casually use misogynistic language without being conscious of the misogyny. Hell, I know a lot of women who use those sorts of words all the time too without thinking about it. We ought to think about it though, and so kudos to Sullivan.

                  She is describing her specific experience, not general trends.

                  I just objected to the way she through the rape-able thing in there like it was just as common place. That is like throwing Jeffrey Dalmer into a conversation on crime rates. An extreme outlier that doesnt really help make one’s bigger point, and actually distracts.

                  The analogy is entirely bogus. She makes no claims about the relative prevalence of the slurs. She’s reporting on her experience. She didn’t make the “rapeable” comment a central theme of her article. I really don’t understand why you think she needs to censor that part of her experience to satisfy your sensibilities.

                  I hope you’re ready to punch out some folks.

                  (And yes, “not rapeable” or “reluctantly rapeable” as insult is surely way more common. I’d be surprised if someone offered “rapeable” as a sincere, non-ironic, straightup compliment. But I’m surprised by a lot of things.)

              • aimai says:

                I’m going to put my comment here but its in response to JB’s insistence that something he hasn’t heard isn’t fairly common. I’m not going to “womansplain” to him that the chances are damned good that he hasn’t heard things that are said to women all the time. I, personally, have had guys lean out the window and shout “suck my dick” while relatively few have said that to their male companions or to me when I am in a social interaction with them. Set and setting influence what gets said, and to whom.
                Second of all compliments and insults change over time. “Rape” as an intensifier is actually on the rise among teenagers–lots of women, and mothers, have reported hearing their sons or students say it extremely casually as in “Dude, she was so raped!” or even “I was so raped by that test.”

                In conclusion, since you don’t know what the fuck you are talking about, please don’t waste our time opining on shit that you don’t know like what gets said to other people on a regular basis. And please also can the faux macho “I’ll punch in the face anyone who…” Like you fucking would you asshole? You can’t even get up enough manly courage to respect someone else’s self reporting about her life on an internet where you would risk nothing. The chances that you would square up to a potentially violent encounter with another man are ZERO.

                • Anonymous says:

                  Again, all of this.

                  Jeffrey, you’re on the internet. The internet which is full of men “joking” about raping women. Unless you’re suggesting that something “crazy” is also exceedingly common, you’re being demonstrably incorrect in a way that suggests you’re lying. Please stop.

              • Ronan says:

                Talking along these lines (‘shes rapable’ , ‘id love to rape her’ etc is relatively common in male conversation from my personal experience)..

            • Anonymous says:

              Great linkage, Bijan, thank you.

          • chris says:

            A simpler explanation is that its just somewhat more visible (esp. for people who are heavily online).

            I could buy the explanation that anyone can be sexist, but geeks are worse at hiding it (or don’t even bother to try).

    • Heron says:

      It depends on the fandom and where you experience it. For instance, The Homestuck and Elementary fandoms tend to be pretty good on these issues, though “pretty good” doesn’t mean perfect. The Nerd-Fighter community is very dedicated to equality and non-assholery as well. Tumblr in general has been -in my experience- a great place to find nerdery with a social conscious, and when the MRA’s and harassers to show up there, in a medium where they can’t use a local majority to shout down their opponents, they typically get their rears handed to them on a platter. Fark threads can go either way depending on the active commenters that day and the topic, and of course Reddit is lousy with creeps.

  16. Ronan says:

    I think his speech has been a little misrepresnted though. It might be mealy mouthed, but he does say:

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

    That seems like a reasonable perspective. Whether people agree or not
    His starting point initially was:

    “That said, I am concerned the concept of privilege may be misapplied in some instances”

    And Watson showed that by highlighting tweets where the use of privilege was ‘misapplied’ (in her opinion, though obviously not in the opinion of the Radfem tweeter

    The speech was more nuanced than let on, (and cant be taken out of the context of responding to what happened last year.)
    It doesnt seem so bad, imo

    • Ronan says:

      And the sceptic movement could do with shutting up and listening to those people they attack so regularly (generalising a complex mix of people/cultures into on single, simplified caricature)

      • Bill Murray says:

        I think that will happen right after the people they attack shut up and listen to them

        • Ronan says:

          I’d say 95-99% of people who profess, or struggle with, some sort of religious belief have either never heard of the sceptic movement or really care about their bloviating..
          For the 1-5% extremist fringe (ranging from Jerry Falwell to the recently deceased Osama Bin Laden) who seem to be their intellectul opponents, well..

          • DocAmazing says:

            And therein lies the problem. Religion is wildly privileged in our society. By means of it one can get lenient treatment for the commission of crimes, gain access to funding sources, and be given the benefit of the doubt in countless situations. Not to recognize this is mere idiocy.

            People of faith don’t know or care about the skeptic movement because they don’t have to. Their professed religion gives them unearned advantage; the dynamic is not all that different from any other form of privilege.

            • Ronan says:

              I think the sceptic movement offers a simplistic, caricatured vision of religion that isnt useful for anything except to act as strawman. Its the definition of intellectually laziness

              • Ronan says:

                A lot of institutions/movements/ideologies/groups are privileged in our societies to varying degrees..I personally dont know how useful it is as a general frame of reference

                • DocAmazing says:

                  When women’s health is not subject to the approval of armed Christian fundamentalists and connected Catholic bishops, then I’ll buy that religion is not a useful frame of reference. When members of the military are not subject to mandatory religious indoctrination, then I’ll buy that religion is not a useful frame of reference. When a prosecutor is removed from his her position for considering churchgoing as proof of virtue and therefor grounds for more lenient prosecution, then I’ll buy that religion is not a useful frame of reference.

                  Until then, try this: pull a quarter out of your pocket and read what’s stamped on it.

                • Ronan says:

                  Euro on the front, eire on the back?

                • Ronan says:

                  I joke .. though I just think blaming religion for societal misogyny and US militarism is over the top

                • DocAmazing says:

                  Wow. You’re in Ireland and don’t see the destructive effects of religion on society?

                  I’m…speechless.

                  Better to let Enda Kenny tell it:
                  http://newstalk.ie/watch-enda-kenny-magdalene-live-here

                • Ronan says:

                  Of course I do. Im not even religious, but I dont think offering a caricatured version of religion helps. I dont think blaming only ‘religion’ for deeper societal problems helps. I dont think using the crimes that certain religious institutions have committed to beat up on some general ill defined idea of religion is useful or interesting.
                  I dont live in Ireland anymore, but Kennys predeccessors and the society they served were more than capable of committing the crimes they did without the input of the Bishops

              • Bill Murray says:

                see i would say religionists mostly offer a simplistic caricatured vision of society

                • Mean Mister Mustard says:

                  Charles Bukowski - “The problem with the world is that the intelligent people are full of doubts, while the stupid ones are full of confidence.”

                • DocAmazing says:

                  W.B. Yeats–The best lack all conviction, while the worst Are full of passionate intensity.

            • Jeffrey Beaumont says:

              This is sort of a gross overstatement. No, not sort of. It just is. Turns out that “religion”, like all kinds of things, are complex and nuanced.

              Ask a Muslim in America what kind of privilege religion gives them.

              • bspencer says:

                Muslims are still less reviled than atheists.

                • Ronan says:

                  Where is the atheists GITMO? Or national security laws set up directly targetting atheists? Or the equivalent of the Burqa ban (in France)? National security agencies set up specifically to identify atheists terrorism? Wars against atheist countries? Leading politicians declaring a crusade against atheism?

                • bspencer says:

                  Yeeeeah, I’m not claiming that American atheists’ experiences are on par with Muslims’ anywhere, so slow your roll, player.

                  My point is that people often percieve people of faith to be people who are guided by a moral code, whereas atheists are perceived to be amoral. If you don’t think that being able to claim religion–any religion–is actually a pretty substantial form of privilege then…I dunno.

                  Oh, and I wonder…exactly how are atheists treated in Muslim countries? Wonderfully I’m guessing.

                • Philip says:

                  At least they trust us (slightly) more than rapists!

                • Ronan says:

                  re atheists in muslim majority countries, depends on the country..but Im only saying specifically in western countries at the minute, Muslims (especially muslim immigrants) are treated much worse than native atheists

                • Mean Mister Mustard says:

                  Ayup !

                  Most ex-Soviet Muslims are secular and many don’t believe in God or think religion is important. Their families lived under a Communist regime for some 70 years, with its campaigns of official atheism and anti-religious indoctrination in schools. In the ex-Soviet Muslim-heritage republics, there are huge struggles between those happy in their secularism and those who are attempting to recover a Muslim identity. That struggle has played out in Chechnya as well as in Uzbekistan.

                  http://www.juancole.com/2013/04/fathers-sons-chechnya.h

                • bspencer says:

                  If they don’t believe in god, how are they Muslim?

                • Jeffrey Beaumont says:

                  Yeah, sure. What the hell.

                • Ronan says:

                  “If they don’t believe in god, how are they Muslim?”

                  Probably should be Chechnians are generally secular..

                • Jeffrey Beaumont says:

                  Really, I can’t let this idea that atheists are more reviled than Muslims go. This really flies in the face of all the facts. Especially in this country and other western countries.

                • DocAmazing says:

                  There’s an “out” Muslim in Congress–Keith Ellison. Please name one “out” atheist in Congress.

                • I don’t think you can compare Congress with the general population. Certainly there are places in the US where being an atheist is unremarkable (although it’s maybe not a trait that gets you elected).

                • DocAmazing says:

                  although it’s maybe not a trait that gets you elected

                  …or promoted, or off-the-hook for your spousal abuse, or called on to speak in class, or…

                • Hogan says:

                  At that level of competition, the real honor is just being nominated.

                • bspencer says:

                  Really, I can’t let this idea that atheists are more reviled than Muslims go. This really flies in the face of all the facts. Especially in this country and other western countries.

                  AAAAAAAACTUALLY, NO. Facts: I have them. You don’t.

                • Jeffrey Beaumont says:

                  Sorry, bspencer, posting one study doesnt win you the facts war. I’m going to need to see some public pronouncements by our political leaders about how atheists are dangerous, murderous, and threatening the very existence of our civilization. I’m going to have to see a pattern of hate crimes. I’m going to need to see politicians accusing each other of being atheists in attack ads. I’m going to need to see the people flipping out about where atheist events are being held or where their organization’s offices are located. I’m going to need to see pilots refuse to pilot planes or passengers demand other passengers be removed because they are atheists. I am going to need to see the proposed legislation to keep atheists from expressing their identities or beliefs in public. I’m going to have to see people put the whole “atheist vs everybody else” ideology into action to justify wars.

                  Look, I dont disagree that publicly stating one’s atheist positions might not win you mistrust and anger from a lot of people. I know from my own experience that expressing my atheist views has made believers angry, because they felt like I was insulting them. It is true. But the whole prejudice/racist spectrum of nonsense that has been unleashed against Muslims pales in comparison. It just does.

                • bspencer says:

                  Yeaaaaah, Jeffrey, that’s not just moving the goalposts, it’s decimating them. You said something wasn’t true; it was. Period. End of story.

                  Please note that I said atheists were reviled, not oppressed. Though they ARE it’s rather harder to prove it simply because atheists are not visible in the same way Muslims are.

                • Jeffrey Beaumont says:

                  So we revile atheists but cant oppress them because they are less visible than Muslims. But we actually like Muslims (i.e. dont revile them), but we repress them anyway?

                  It seems to me that reviling must come ahead of repression. Maybe not?

                • bspencer says:

                  I specifically said atheists WERE oppressed.

                  It’s a complex problem, obviously, that is affected by a 1000 extenuating circumstances, including a panoply of privileges as well as geography.

                  That being said, my original point still stands.

                • …or promoted, or off-the-hook for your spousal abuse, or called on to speak in class, or…

                  That’s just not universal. Although I am thankful to know of nobody in my family who has abused a spouse, those relatives – coastal elites! – make no secret of atheism and get promoted and hired and teach classes. I don’t doubt that you’re fucked if you’re an atheist in X place in America but it sure isn’t all places.

                • Jeffrey Beaumont says:

                  I dont see how your original point still stands. Aside from one study about people not trusting atheists, you have yet to even start to prove that atheists are more reviled or more oppressed than Muslims. Check your privilege.

                • Tristan says:

                  Yeah, sorry, someone brings up this ‘no atheist has ever been elected to public office’ thing every time this comes up anywhere, and it’s just plain not true.

                  I’ve written about three different paragraphs in this space and then deleted them, so I’ve resolved to just say this: getting into a deep involved argument about which oppressed group is the most oppressed is one of the most counter-productive things a person who actually cares about bettering the position of any such group can do.

                • DocAmazing says:

                  Out of sixteen entries, five held elective office, and one nearly wasn’t seated due to atheism. Gotcha.

                  This isn’t about “who’s more oppressed”. It’s about the unearned privilege that religion enjoys in the US. Bringing up Islam as a counter-example is cute & all, but doesn’t change the fact: atheist groups have good reason to be pretty bugged by religion in the public sphere. Hell, non-fanatics have pretty good reason to be pissed.

                • Tristan says:

                  ‘”This isn’t about “who’s more oppressed”’

                  There’s an entire mountain of text above us that disagrees with you.

                • Ronan says:

                  “getting into a deep involved argument about which oppressed group is the most oppressed is one of the most counter-productive things a person who actually cares about bettering the position of any such group can do.”

                  Indeed! Now it’s apparently more oppressive to have your hypothetical neighbours not theoretically trust you, than having vast sections of your government targetting your communities and neo facist street gangs marching on your neighbourhoods

                • Ronan says:

                  Actually, my ‘point’ diagrees with you..we do have to have some realistic ranking of oppression imo

                • Aquaria says:

                  Good grief, how stupid are you not to know that atheists are more hated than Muslims or gays?

                  First of all, if atheists aren’t more hated than either of those, then explain this UMinn study, moron:

                  http://static.thesocietypages.org/files/2013/03/Atheists-as-Other-Moral-Boundaries-and-Cultural-Membership-in-American-Society.pdf

                  Here, I’ll quote Page 218, Table 1 for you liars and fools:

                  Section I

                  This group does not at all agree with my vision of American society:

                  Atheists: 39.6%
                  Muslims: 26.3%
                  Homosexuals: 22.6%
                  Conservative christer: 13.5%
                  Recent Immigrant: 12.5%
                  Hispanic 7.6
                  Jew: 7.4%
                  Asian American 7%
                  African American 4.6%
                  White American 2.2%

                  Section Two

                  I would disapprove if my child wanted to marry a member of this group:

                  Atheist: 47.6%
                  Muslim: 33.5%
                  African American: 27.2%
                  Asian American: 18.5%
                  Hispanic: 18.5%
                  Jew: 11.8%
                  Conservative christer 6.9%
                  White 2.3%

                  But no, the poor Muslims have it worse boo hoo hoo.

                  As for the dumb Ronan: I can list entire nations where atheists are routinely imprisoned, tortured and murdered. Do you really want to be so utterly stupid as to go to that moron place?

                • This group does not at all agree with my vision of American society:
                  I would disapprove if my child wanted to marry a member of this group:

                  Imagine! Religious people don’t agree with the non-religious and would rather their child marry religious people! That sure is a solid indicator of hate right there, and has resulted in many zero episodes of discrimination against me in the thirty-some states I’ve visited and the Bible Belt one I lived in. Am I just incredibly lucky?

              • Mean Mister Mustard says:

                Muslims in Chechnya are generally secular.

                • bspencer says:

                  “Secular Muslim?”

                • Mean Mister Mustard says:

                  oops. wrong cubicle. Dilbert?

                • Mean Mister Mustard says:

                  Don’t know about that.

                • djw says:

                  “Secular Muslim?”

                  Why not? We’re fairly accustomed to the idea of secular Jews and secular Catholics. Like most religious identities, “Muslim” describes religious beliefs, religious practices, and a social identity. There’s no reason all three of those must always go together.

                • aimai says:

                  Another and more common way of phrasing it–which Tsarnaev’s uncle used is “ethnic Muslim” or “ethnic Chechen” meaning Chechens in the past and muslim in the past or having cultural ties with those groups rather than an overt ideology or dogma associated with those groups. Of course you can be an ethnic Muslim or a cultural muslim in the sense that you might live a largely secular lifestyle but still like your special dishes on Eid, or avoid pork.

              • DivGuy says:

                If you don’t think that being able to claim religion–any religion–is actually a pretty substantial form of privilege then…I dunno.

                I really don’t.

                Being a Muslim in America is not a form of privilege. It means you are at serious risk of being a victim of violence, being an object of hate, in a way that is not at all comparable to the experience of atheists.

                I guess I shouldn’t generalize for all atheists, but it’s certainly been my experience. I can’t think of any stories of comparable violence or harassment directed against atheists.

                I guess you could say it’s about intersectionality and being Muslim in America both is and is not a privileged position, but I think for the purposes of internet discourse the Is Not far trumps the Is.

              • bspencer says:

                You said what I said wasn’t right. It was. Period end of story. Check your privilege.

                BTW, you’ve been obnoxiously wrong about everything in this thread. I know being wrong sucks. I know being schooled sucks. But at some point you’ve just got to accept defeat and move on. Now move on.

                • Ronan says:

                  Checking your privilege and listening to others works both ways..there is literally no way anyone can argue that in modern say USA Muslims are more privileged than atheists..
                  Was Martin Luther King more privileged than the white atheist liberals fighting along side him?

                • Ronan says:

                  ..although of course you could specify it as being percieved as a Muslim, falling into one of the two WOT carictaured ‘Muslim groups’ (Arab and South Asian) and being openly devout

                • DocAmazing says:

                  Was Martin Luther King more privileged than the white atheist liberals fighting along side him?

                  Well, in the 1960s, there weren’t many open atheists among liberals; there were among Communists, who did a lot of work in the early Civil Rights movement. Care to tell me about the massive privilege enjoyed by Communists in the US?

                • Ronan says:

                  Yes, the average white communist was more privileged than MLK..welcome to the rabbit hole of US privilege politics

                • bspencer says:

                  I wasn’t aware we are just talking about Muslims in the States.

                • Ronan says:

                  my point is only in most (all) western countries at the moment it is more difficult to be a devout Muslim than an atheist..on a global scale perhaps its more difficult to be atheist..but even that is tied up in numerous local conflicts between/within religions etc

                • bspencer says:

                  Yeah, I’m trying to make a nuanced argument here. First of all, oppression and hatred are, in the end, two different things because of how they manifest. Second of all, it’s hard to have an Oppression Olympics because Muslims are visible in a way atheists are not. I think being able to say you have a “moral code”–which is how people perceive claiming religion–is a form of privilege. I think that being a part of a tiny, reviled minority is necessarily going to involve some form of oppression. It doesn’t mean I think Muslims are treated like wonderful, special snowflakes here in the States.

                  BTW, can’t help but notice that whenever there’s a thread up about feminist issues, you always play the role of detached devil’s advocate. Just keeping us feminists on our toes, huh? But make ONE observation about the privilege of being able to claim a religion and you could not get on your Huffy bike fast enough.

                  Speaking of checking privileges, you might wanna check yours.

                • Ronan says:

                  I generally dont comment on threads about feminist issues because I tend to think (personally) that the concept of privilege is overused. Im a feminist in so much as I agree with the idea of equality and opporrunity for all, that white men have (and do hold) privileged positions in society, that what I suprficially understand as the partiarchy is a destructive and counterproductive force (towards men and women) etc. I dont think I take a detached devils advocate poition, I think that I am just being honest in my indifference towards issues like ‘Dawkins says something sexist’ etc. But I generally try not to comment on those threads, and dont..
                  My comments above are nothing to do with feminism, they’re to do with the claims speciically about atheists (which I am).. I just dont agree..

                • Ronan says:

                  ..or I generally try not to comment, rather than dont..

                • Ronan says:

                  and my argument is specifically accepting *my* privileged position, as an atheist, as a memebrr of the ‘cultural norm’ or whatever in my society..it specifically recognies that

                • Nichole says:

                  BTW, you’ve been obnoxiously wrong about everything in this thread. I know being wrong sucks. I know being schooled sucks. But at some point you’ve just got to accept defeat and move on. Now move on.

                  Late to the comments, as usual, but, day-um, bspencer, that was one helluva comment. You go girl.

                  I think perhaps that Mr. Beaumont may have been sent in by way of Mr. Lindsay’s organization. The savor of MRA is very great in him.

                  shutting up is actually a great thing to do sometimes. You might learn something if you do.

    • Bijan Parsia says:

      This prompted me to read the supplied text.

      Paragraphs 1-6 seem unobjectionable. As you say, a bit mealy mouthed, but fine. Then we have:

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

      Yes, this is so much more efficient that saying at the beginning, “I hereby welcome you to Women in Secularism 2″.

      Bunch more waffly and sorta weird stuff, but fine. Then paragraph 12:

      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.

      I think it starts to go very pear shaped at this point. I love the approval of the bell hooks definition (“seems about right”) and the ignoring of the vast literature on these questions. I mean, why the “I don’t THINK you’re going to find unanimity of opinion”? A casual perusal of either the academic or the general feminist literature will reveal a ton of contention on these topics.

      Oh, here’s why!

      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.

      “Some folks say”…indeed.

      The next two paragraphs are all about “Well, NO DIVISIONS?! Can this *really* be true you Some Folks Who Say Which I Suggest Are The Majority, Dominent, or Entirety of Feminism? But look! I Quoted a Feminist (Pennington) who said in a blog post that capitalism is prior…DO YOU ALL AGREE?!?!? HUH!!! HUH?!?!?!”

      Then we have the privilege paragraphs with a nice little peak of “Now don’t get me wrong. I think the concept of privilege is useful; in fact it is too useful to have it ossified and turned into a dogma.” which basically accuses feminists as a whole of being dogmatists. Yay.

      Then we get how silence = oppression and the robbing of humanity. So feminists oppress menz!

      So, out of 24 paragraphs (2,427 words) we have 12 (1,246 words ≈51%, coding generously in Lindsay’s favor) which are clearly hugely objectionable.

      So I don’t feel that the speech was taken out of context. Putting aside the crappiness of the speech qua speech, it did exactly what was claimed…put as central to the debate a phenomena (feminism as a whole silencing opponents and being dogmatically uniform) which 1) was evidently untrue to the casual observer and 2) ignored the real and severe problem of internet shitstorms against women and feminists which have the measured effect of silencing their targets. (Not all of them, obviously.)

      And the dood is a philosophy PhD:

      Ronald A. Lindsay is president and CEO of the Center for Inquiry. He received his Ph.D. in philosophy from Georgetown University and his J.D. from the University of Virginia School of Law. He has been described both as a lawyer masquerading as a philosopher and as a philosopher pretending to be a lawyer. Both statements may be true. One undisputed fact:

      So, I don’t agree with your assessment, fwiw.

      • Ronan says:

        haha..i really enjoy your criticial, well sourced responses fwiw!..and yeah youre right,i dont think i agree with my assesment either anymore. i read it too quickly

      • Anonymous says:

        Thank you for that.

        And as an addendum, Lindsay’s speech didn’t happen in a vacuum. It happened in the midst of a shit-filled shitstorm, and instead of supporting victims of threats and bullying, he decided to nag them and wag his finger and tell them how unreasonable and boring they’re being, trying to carve out a space where they can commune without being called cunts and nazis.

        • aimai says:

          Lindsay’s speech reminds me of Larry Summer’s famous face plant into the garden when he took time from his busy schedule massively fucking up Harvard’s finances (why, yes, my father is a Professor there and has all the skinny on just how bad Larry’s financial decisions were for the endowment) to man-splain to the wimmen scientists how very unsuited they probably were to science and math.

            • DocAmazing says:

              So my best guess, to provoke you, of what’s behind all of this is that the largest phenomenon, by far, is the general clash between people’s legitimate family desires and employers’ current desire for high power and high intensity, that in the special case of science and engineering, there are issues of intrinsic aptitude, and particularly of the variability of aptitude, and that those considerations are reinforced by what are in fact lesser factors involving socialization and continuing discrimination.

              That’s the quote. More finesse that Jason Richwine, I’ll grant you, but that’s what we’d expect from the guy that was largely responsible for the deregulation of derivatives and assisted in the looting of Russia.

      • Incontinentia Buttocks says:

        Philosophy, as a discipline, at least in this country, has its own rather severe gender problems.

  17. fka AWS says:

    Interesting that in the previous flame war thread, someone linked to this beatdown of Freddie De Boner from 2010 which covered some of the same points.

    I’ll shut up now.

    • commie atheist says:

      Heh, indeed.

      You want to be a feminist, Freddie? Listen closely, because I’m about to tell you how:

      SHUT. THE FUCK. UP.

      I mean it. SHUT THE FUCK UP, Freddie. Shut the fuck up and let the big girls talk. Because we know way more about this than you. And every time you want to pitch in with an observation? Shut the fuck up a little bit harder. And maybe, after a few years or decades or whatever, you might have absorbed enough from listening to people with actual feminist insight (possibly related to their actually being women) to contribute productively to the conversation. But, in the meantime, actual feminists are going to get a lot more done, simply by virtue of not having to listen to the ungodly noise that comes out of your mouth. Truly, Freddie: You should shut the fuck up. Shutting the fuck up is, in fact, the biggest contribution you can make to the feminist cause.

      • MosesZD says:

        Did that work? Nope. It simply made it worse as RadFems like that have alienated equalty feminists like my mother, my wife, my daughters and myself who believe in taking care of both sides of the fence societies real problems rather than the made-up dogma of the radfems.

        But if you think the dogmatic shout-down of another is the way to go… Good for you. All you’ll need to complete your world is Chairman Mao’s Little Red Book of Feminism.

  18. Murc says:

    I am not sympathetic at all to the idea that people talk about privilege to shut (straight, white) men up. I’m sure there are people who use and abuse the idea of privilege, but I think for the most part people use it in ways that are legit.

    I’ve had people tell smugly tell me “Check your privilege” in a tone that implies merely uttering that sentence means they win the argument, but, y’know, those have mostly been people I wouldn’t take seriously anyway.

    If people who are actual leaders and opinion-makers start deploying it that way, I’ll maybe pay attention. Otherwise I view people spotlighting it with the same skepticism I view people who chose to spotlight the most egregious commenters they can find at, say, FDL; that is, I’m going to assume it’s part of a distraction.

    • Vance Maverick says:

      Leaders and opinion-makers

      ??? What does this even

      • Bijan Parsia says:

        I think Murc is saying that highlighting problematic “check your priviledgers” is the same as nut picking or taking random leftist kooks and saying that the Democratic party has a kook problem. There’s no evidence that the leftist fringe has any real power in the Democratic party, so tarring them with those fringe views is just wrong. Contrariwise, the variously wacked conservative fridge includes racists, sexists, homophobes, etc. etc. etc. and are to a very high degree embraced by the Republicans.

        Compare Watson and Dawkins. Watson’s original post was very measured and explainy. Dawkins “Dear Mulsima” letter was…not and it was in keeping with the storm of abuse Watson go. (Dawkins got some pushback, but most that I saw was similarly on topic and almost always had a “Dawkins is usually so good, wtf”. There were no death or rape threats to my knowledge.)

        • Murc says:

          Bijan sums it up nicely.

          Basically, there will always be people who are crazy, disingenuous, etc. out there, and the degree to which I take them seriously (and this is going to sound horribly elitist) is somewhat contingent upon how important they are.

          Like it or not, someone with a NYT column or who holds high elected office is more important, or at least more powerful and influential, than random person somewhere writing letters.

    • MPAVictoria says:

      Hi Murc, sorry to go off topic but are you the same Murc who was posting at the truth about cars a few days ago? Just curious.

      • Murc says:

        I am not. I really only post here and a few other places that are deeply, deeply nerdy. Bit surprised there’s another person using the same nym out there.

    • aimai says:

      I’ve had “check your privilige” said to me (and I’m a white feminist d’un certain age) and I’ve actually always benefitted from doing so. Speaking philosophically and anthropologically the phrase doesn’t really determine how you take it–it just reminds you to check the philosophical grounds and premises on which you are standing, the body from which you make your observations. This is an admonition that we are all advised to take occasionally even if you come to the conclusion that it is not, in fact, your priviliged position that is affecting your viewpoint.

      The resort to “higher authorities” to make sense of this obvious fact is, as someone below in the thread pointed out, exactly contrary to reason–very few “authorities” in any field are not priviliged, highly priviliged, even if they have been elevated from the ranks of outsiders and the underclass by some Horatio Alger like sycophancy to the upper class. There are plenty of people who are paid, in fact, to dismiss privilige and class, race and gender, as meaningful ways of analyzing social interactions and social hierarchy and they are in the news every day: Ben Carson, Peggy Noonan, Kathleen Parker, “Dr.” Helen Mrs. Ole Perfesser, Kathryn Lopez, Herman Cain. If you are waiting for their insights into what is important you don’t have long to wait, but you won’t learn much.

      • Murc says:

        I’ve had “check your privilige” said to me (and I’m a white feminist d’un certain age) and I’ve actually always benefitted from doing so.

        I have benefited, and often greatly so, from being told to check my privilege. I’ve also, as I said, had it deployed at me in a sneering fashion, in a way that implies that having said the phrase means I lose and the person I’m talking to wins.

        The resort to “higher authorities” to make sense of this obvious fact is, as someone below in the thread pointed out, exactly contrary to reason

        I actually have no idea where you’re going with this paragraph, as, while everything in it is true, it seems entirely tangential to any point I was trying to make.

        • aimai says:

          Who knows what point you were trying to make? I was making a pretty clear point that “waiting for authorities” to tell you how to think is pretty counterproductive when the information is held by people who are definitionally, in society at this point, non-authoritative or where you refuse to recognize gender/gender experience as conferring any kind of authority w/r/t the individual’s own personal experience: i.e. women speaking for themselves.

          Also: I’m very sorry that someone sneered at you and made you feel all weepy. That’s just the way I feel lots of the time when guys explain to me that I make no sense or am crushing their feelings by having opinions and defending them on public forums.

          • Murc says:

            Who knows what point you were trying to make?

            If you have no idea what point I was trying to make, I question the utility of attempting to respond to me with anything other than either a request for clarification or a statement that I have expressed myself incoherently and should do better.

            I was making a pretty clear point that “waiting for authorities” to tell you how to think is pretty counterproductive when the information is held by people who are definitionally, in society at this point, non-authoritative or where you refuse to recognize gender/gender experience as conferring any kind of authority w/r/t the individual’s own personal experience: i.e. women speaking for themselves.

            … okay?

            Everything in that sentence is true, but I again question how it is germane to the sub-thread at hand here, especially given your aforementioned statement that I haven’t communicated myself clearly enough for you to have any idea what I’m talking about.

            Also: I’m very sorry that someone sneered at you and made you feel all weepy.

            … this happened to me? When? You’d think I’d remember.

            That’s just the way I feel lots of the time when guys explain to me that I make no sense or am crushing their feelings by having opinions and defending them on public forums.

            Well, if people are telling you you make no sense, they’re either not informed and/or smart enough to get what you’re saying, you’re communicating your opinions badly, or they’re being very, very disingenuous. One of the three.

    • R. Johnston says:

      If it seems to you that someone has smugly told you “check your privilege” then you should either shut up and listen–you might, after all, be wrong–or shut up, not listen, and take whatever you have to say elsewhere because the person telling you to “check your privilege” isn’t interested in listening to what you have to say and your continued need to get the last word serves only to further stir up the shit storm because of your need to feel superior to the person improperly telling you to “check your privilege.”

      In either case shutting up is indicated. Continuing to argue with someone who tells you to “check your privilege” is poking idiots with sticks at best, condescending mansplaining or the equivalent at worst.

      • Jeffrey Beaumont says:

        Well, the “check your privilege” sentiment can be used pretty effectively by people who are trying to distract from a good point….

        For an example, take Loomis’s recent call for better international standards of labor. Critics like Yglesias, and other capitalist-water-carriers, argued that placing our “privileged standards” on “emerging markets” just kept those poor people in places like Bangladesh from getting good jobs, and even suggested that calls for protecting Bangladeshi labor was really backdoor calls for xenophobic economic protectionism. When Loomis pointed out that people in the US also die from crappy workplace safety, there was a lot of eye rolling, as though pretending that the deaths of Bangladeshi garment workers and Texas fertilizer workers was in bad taste. The former, after all are poor, and deserve whatever scraps they can get, while the latter probably have cable tv.

        • aimai says:

          Now that’s really a bullshit arguement. Can you give an actual link to someone who used the catchphrase “check your privilige” on this matter? People–among them Ygleisias, certainly made the argument that causing a job loss in Bangladesh while trying to promote standards there was potentially hurtful to the Bangladeshis but as far as I know he didn’t accuse his critics of operating from a place of safety and/or privilige. And I really never heard anyone on the left make any kind of privilige argument w/r/t the Texas deaths which are almost uniformly understood to be the result of the same corporate capitalist malfeasance as produced Bangladesh.

  19. Kiwanda says:

    I’m sure there are people who use and abuse the idea of privilege, but I think for the most part people use it in ways that are legit.

    Reading the linked post by Rebecca Watson, and the talk that Ronald Lindsay gave, it looks like both of them pretty much agree with both parts of this statement. Shame on Ronald Lindsay.

    • MosesZD says:

      Too bad you didn’t bother to read the whole speech before reading Watson’s patented over-reaction. He was making a speech about silencing people with dogma and how it doesn’t work to further your goals.

      He was actually comparing what Watson, Myers, et.al. do in labeling and attacking others with fundamentalists, Marxists, and other dogmatic belief systems that operate like this little group of radical feminists.

      Which is not to pillory all feminists. Just like most religious people are decent folk, so are most feminists. But in every movement, there’s always some hard-core group of totalitarians who go out of their way to make it about them.

      And they will what it takes to ‘win.’ No matter how much pain and suffering they cause in their little jihad.

      • aimai says:

        Holy MRA crap–how can you compare “feminism” as a movement to Islam or Marxism–both of which are or were actual political movements, and sometimes even terrorist movements, that run entire countries and militaries and police organizations. Do you really think that some woman telling some man “could you please listen to the point I’m trying to make” is the equivalent of a terrorist “jihad?”

        • Mean Mister Mustard says:

          “could you please listen to the point I’m trying to make” is the equivalent of a terrorist “jihad?”

          Saying feminism is not a political movement does not remove that group from the world of politics. Politics is extant in every human institution. But I suspect a horny male will accept please listen as a threat, just with less lasting bodily harm.

          • Bijan Parsia says:

            “In an unprecedented act of violence today, the radical feminist group ‘Librarians of Justice’ (LOJ) struck terror in the hearts of men across the country. It seems that LOJ had managed to infiltrate nearly every library in the country so when they were activated, no where was safe. These crazed jihadists rose as one and took to the streets where they viscously shushed men of all ages. Hapless victims reported that some LOJ members not only shushed them, but repeatedly told them to shut up and listen.

            Republicans condemned Obama for not calling this loathsome action an “atrocity” until almost 30 seconds after the first reports came dribbling in. The White House claimed that the delay was due to the president having just asked Michelle Obama about her day and was busy listening to the response.”

      • STH says:

        And how the fuck is all this appropriate to open a conference? He opens a conference on women’s issues by telling the folks there–mostly women–that they’re doing feminism wrong. In what universe is this appropriate?

        (Even if it were true. I tell you, I am so, so tired of white men shitting on feminists for supposed crimes committed by these fabled straw feminists. Which they never give examples of. When pressed, Lindsay came up with a blog post by PZ Myers saying that people like himself–people with privilege–should shut up and listen to other people with other experiences. Who could object to that?)

      • DocAmazing says:

        Pain and suffering? Are you serious?

        Being told to listen before commenting is painful? Being informed that being and Elevator Creep is objectionable is suffering?

        Your nerve endings must be aflame 24/7.

      • bexley says:

        Too bad you didn’t bother to read the whole speech before reading Watson’s patented over-reaction.

        MosesZD used to be a feminist but ever since Elevatorgate he’s outraged by the concept of privilege.

      • Kris says:

        If feminists are to stop throwing around words like “privilege”, then people like yourself need to stop throwing around words like “dogma”.

        What does that even mean? What does this feminist dogma entail exactly? What are you disagreeing with?

        If there was ever a word that’s repeatedly used as a silencing measure and a way to take away legitimacy from a statement without having to respond to it directly, especially in the atheist sphere, whether towards feminists, liberals, anti-theists, etc, it’s “dogma”.

  20. John says:

    Is there really anything worse than organized atheism? It’s like they rejected religion, and then took the worst parts of it and used it as the basis for forming a community.

    I’ve never been in any real way a religious believer, but the idea of becoming involved in the “Skeptical Community” is completely alien to me. Why do people do this? Isn’t the whole advantage of not being a religious believer that you don’t have to do this kind of thing?

    I wonder if this is something that appeals more to 1st generation atheists who grew up in very religious families than it does to those with no serious religious backgrounds. Because, even ignoring all the sexism stuff, the appeal of it goes completely past me.

    • bad Jim says:

      Actually, the atheists are annoyed that the skeptical community considers religion off-limits to criticism; homeopathy is fair game but holy water is something else entirely.

    • Ed says:

      Is there really anything worse than organized atheism?

      Well, they haven’t started any holy wars recently. Atheist organizations can serve a purpose in helping like-minded people support each other in a country that is in some areas still quite hostile to publicly professed atheism and atheists. I suppose when atheists gain some political clout they may become as obnoxious as say, the Catholic bishops on family planning, but I think they have rather a long way to go (and would be more likely to be obnoxious on behalf of science in any case).

    • Anonymous says:

      As an atheist born and raised and with a large atheist and agnostic social circle, I’d get little joy out of these conferences. Not everyone, as you say, has that privilege. If people (particularly women and PoC, who are disproportionately underrepresented in the Anglophonic skeptic and atheist communities) are unhappy about having been indoctrinated and want to meet like-minded people to discuss things they’ve never had an opportunity to, to share lived experiences, and to geek out over similar hobbies in a fun*, safe*, welcoming* and intellectually stimulating environment, what the fuck does it really hurt?

      *Lately, these cons have not been fun, safe, or welcoming to a shitload of people, unfortunately.

    • commie atheist says:

      Yeah, seriously, is there anything worse than rotisserie baseball? I mean, why not just go watch the fucking games, amirite?

      I really don’t give a fuck myself, but you could say the same thing about anything that people gather together in groups for because of a shared interest – ComicCons, blogger conventions, cat and dog shows, whatever. Who the hell made you the arbiter of what people are or are not allowed to do in groups? Not everyone shares your interests, and you don’t have to share anyone else’s.

      • joe from Lowell says:

        This is not a terribly convincing argument when deployed on behalf of people whose “shared interest” revolves around criticizing what other people (religious believers) like to get together and do.

        • carcin says:

          Yeah!

          How dare we object to religious believers getting together to deny gays the right to marry, or to stone the occasional blasphemous slut to death?

    • Shakezula says:

      Any group that makes absolutist statements about behavior that harms no one can go fuck itself for me. That goes triple when you’re talking about privately held beliefs. “You MUST believe in God,” is just as offensive as “Thou shalt NOT believe in God.” (You can substitute drinking hoppy beer, listening to Steve Miller, &c.)

      But I don’t think the average atheist is a finger-wagging scold. Most people who believe in a religion I meet are also not pains in the ass about it.

    • Leeds man says:

      Is there really anything worse than organized atheism?

      Yes. Organized theism.

    • DivGuy says:

      I’ve got nothing against organized atheism.

      I have a big problem with anti-pluralist atheism–the argument that what the world needs now is the end of religion. This movement, which is only a subset of the atheist community and atheist thought, is the primary area of the community in which this sort of misogyny reigns. It is also associated with the sort of uncritical privilege-based attacks on Islam.

      • aimai says:

        I’m an atheist and I really don’t get the hate on for religion. I mean, I despise lots of aspects of modern organized religion and specifica religious dogmas. But I don’t despise or even wonder at people who are religiously inclined or looking for something numinous in their lives. I just really don’t care. The people who use specific religious tracts and histories to oppress other people would absolutely do it anyway, for some other reason, if they didn’t have what they think of as religious backing to do so. Viz: the entire skeptic anti woman misogyny which is on display every.single.time. women appear at their conferences and refuse to play the role of submissive manic eyed pixie girl, there for themen to display their tail feathers to or rub up against like randy dogs in heat.

        • DocAmazing says:

          Having spent a small amount of time in communities that claimed to be very religious, I absolutely understand hatred of religion. A quick reading of the history of the Thirty Years’ War or a photo of the Bamiyan Buddhas or a few hours spent helping security at a women’s clinic should give one a quick understanding of what religion can do.

          Are all religious people destructive? No. Are all nuclear reactors Chernobyl? No. I approach each category in a similar way.

          • delurking says:

            Yeah, I’m with DocAmazing here. I’m an atheist and I don’t (categorically) have a problem with theists. But 20 some years in the Bible Belt among the rollers has made me a touch phobic, I have to say. Having my kid be tormented at age five by the other kids in kindergarten, told day after day at recess that she was going to burn in hell because she wasn’t a Christian, not to mention some of the stories my students tell me about what goes on in their churches — you want to talk battle scars — well, I can’t really see religion as exactly harmless anymore, or benevolent either.

          • DivGuy says:

            Are all religious people destructive? No. Are all nuclear reactors Chernobyl? No. I approach each category in a similar way.

            The evidence that religious people are uniquely more dangerous is here unargued and unsupported.

            This is a situation where checking privilege at the door might be useful. You’ve just consigned pretty much all of Africa and India to the “Chernobyl of humanity” bucket.

            • chris says:

              The evidence that religious people are uniquely more dangerous is here unargued and unsupported.

              Fanatics are more dangerous. Religion is the leading source of fanaticism.

              I don’t think anyone claims religion is *uniquely* dangerous, just that it is dangerous. There are ideologies that are not religious that are about as dangerous as religions.

              • DivGuy says:

                This is an assertion, not an argument.

                To what degree is “fanaticism” a cause or an effect of religion? To what degree is fanaticism more or less represented among religious people?

                Is fanaticism something that arises among more oppressed classes, and are we mistaking the effects of oppression for the effects of religion?

                • justaguy says:

                  If you are genuinely interested in that question there’s an enormous body of social science research into religion you could read, including Clifford Geertz’s Islam Observed, Mahmood Mamdani’s Good Muslim Bad Muslim, Timothy Mitchell’s Carbon Democracy, Saba Mahmood’s Politics of Piety, Scott Atran’s work on suicide bombings, etc.. All of these make clear that the distinction between religious, political and social causes or goals are ridiculously simplistic, and completely inadequate for understanding political Islam and similar movements.

                  People who take a methodological individualist perspective tend to view “fanaticism” as the function of individual belief. But that ignores the broader social and political contexts in which people act.

                • DivGuy says:

                  I’m relatively up on that literature. (It’s not quite my field in the study of religion, but it’s close enough.)

                  My point is that the argument that religion is “like nuclear power” because it “causes fanaticism” is not informed by critical reflection or, you know, evidence.

          • jwp says:

            Are you seriously using the Bamiyan Buddhas as an example of why religion is categorically evil? That makes as much sense as Republicans pointing to governement services they’ve been eviscerating for decades to demonstrate the inability of government to provide services.

            • DocAmazing says:

              Tell me, what happened to the Bamiyan Buddhas, and why?

              • justaguy says:

                It really depends on where you want to start telling that story, do we start with the Taliban deciding to destroy the statues, or include the cold war political context that led to the creation of an international Jihad movement focused on Afghanistan, or, perhaps, to the US and British governments’ decisions to arm religious militias to help establish Saudi Arabia? The rise of the Taliban hardly happened in a void, and they are reacting to a wider world order that is not reducible to Islam.

                • Hogan says:

                  Or you might want to start with why they were built in the first place.

                • aimai says:

                  You can’t get around the fact that a particular form of Islam–an anti iconic/anti imagery form that also has zero respect for antiquities, other religions, or even its own past chose to do this and would have chosen to do this regardless of the cold war history of the Taliban. The Saudi sponsored forms of Islam that are pushed around the world very successfully using Saudi money are anti-icon and anti-the past–this is something they have done in Saudi Arabia itself: they have chosen as a culture to destroy what is old because it is seen as idolatrous or backwards or too limiting to Islam to have it identified with any one period or aesthetic.

                  Whether the Taliban’s actions were any different than Napoleon’s in stealing stuff from Egypt, or the Roman Christians in stealing stuff from abandoned pagan temples, is also part of the argument, I suppose, but both those examples are a repurposing of the original materials and demonstrate a respect for the cultures/aesthetic of the past while the Taliban deliberately blew up something beautiful because…why?

                • Tristan says:

                  All that Saudi money that sprang out of nowhere, coincidentally at the same time the west became a petroleum based economy.

                • joe from Lowell says:

                  You can’t get around the fact that a particular form of Islam–an anti iconic/anti imagery form that also has zero respect for antiquities, other religions, or even its own past chose to do this and would have chosen to do this regardless of the cold war history of the Taliban.

                  You also can’t get around the fact that a particular form of Buddhism chose to build them in the first place.

        • R. Johnston says:

          A lot of this analysis depends on how broadly you define “religion” Personally, the defining characteristic of religion is faith absent or impervious to evidence. Misogyny, whether or not based in theism, shares all the important epistemological characteristics of a religion. Same goes for libertariansim, anti-vaxism, climate denialism, etc.

          The “hate” for religion comes from the fact that any validation of the epistemology of religion, such as by “skeptics” declaring criticism of religion to be out of bounds, also validates racism, sexism, classism, science denialism, etc. regardless of whether or not such is the intent of the person validating the epistemology of religion. The epistemology of otherwise benign theistic faiths can not be meaningfully distinguished from the epistemology of morbidly cancerous faiths. If you say that faith absent and contrary to evidence is a valid or excusable epistemological tool not to be criticized in the case of friendly squishy Unitarians then you abandon the philosophical grounds needed for telling big-foot afficianados, white supremacists, and people stoning women to death for not marrying their rapists that they’re wrong.

          • DivGuy says:

            Personally, the defining characteristic of religion is faith absent or impervious to evidence.

            I am also opposed to most forms of evangelical Protestant Christianity, as well as some forms of fundamentalism Islam and Judaism.

            What you have labeled the “defining characteristic of religion” is in fact only the defining characteristic of a tiny subset of the world’s religions.

            • Philip says:

              So mainstream Christians and Muslims don’t have faith or consider it a key part of their religion? Color me skeptical.

              • DivGuy says:

                “Key”? Sure.

                “Defining”? No.

                One of the major goals of mid-20th century conservative American protestantism has been to define religion as a series of truth claims, in order to marginalize moderate religious folks who might not assent to all of those truth claims, or who might find the practical, communal, and ethical aspects of religion more important. We shouldn’t let the Christian Coalition define Christianity, and all of religion even more so.

                • Malaclypse says:

                  This. Most religions are concerned with ortho-praxy. Very few (arguably, only conservative Protestant) are genuinely concerned with ortho-doxy.

              • joe from Lowell says:

                the defining characteristic of religion is faith absent or impervious to evidence

                So mainstream Christians and Muslims don’t have faith or consider it a key part of their religion?

                Everyone see what happened here?

          • Jeffrey Beaumont says:

            Yeah, no, this is pretty much all wrong.

            One does not have to throw the baby out with the bath water. I mean after all, the same sort of epistemology that gave us the electric light gave us the atom bomb. Do we now have to throw out physics and chemistry as legitimate scientific disciplines if we want to see nuclear weapons disappear?

            Also you used epistemology five times in two paragraphs. As a teacher, I need to chide you for your crummy writing (vary your words), and as a person I need to chide you for your attempt to wow the room with your vocabulary.

            • Where’s the baby? All the “babies” here are secular in nature, whether it’s helping the poor and needy, providing community activities and cohesion, or producing uplifting works of art.

              • joe from Lowell says:

                If religious people do something negative, it’s because of the religion, and wouldn’t have happened without the religion.

                If religious people do something positive, their religion had nothing to do with it, and it would have happened anyway.

                Heads I win, tails you lose.

                • Walt says:

                  I love the “Heads I win, tails you lose” game. I don’t like to boast, but I have a perfect unbeaten record.

              • Hogan says:

                Religion doesn’t meet any need that I’m aware of feeling. I don’t assume that’s true for everyone.

      • chris says:

        I have a big problem with anti-pluralist atheism–the argument that what the world needs now is the end of religion.

        The idea that nonreligious people can just live and let live with religious people took a rather large body blow about 12 years ago. IMO, “Religion’s Misguided Missiles” (which I believe you can still find online if you care to; note the date) is a major contributor to the changes in atheism and the atheist community since then.

        You can certainly go too far in trying to convince people to abandon religion, but the idea that it is harmless and should just be left alone is hard to defend. Religion has been oppressing and killing people about as long as it has existed.

        Islam is occasionally singled out because of the historical circumstances, but any religion has the potential to be just as dangerous.

        • Jeffrey Beaumont says:

          If you think 9/11 was principally about religion then you really need to go review your modern history.

          • DocAmazing says:

            Right, those hijackers were all secular types advancing a purely political goal.

            • Jeffrey Beaumont says:

              Obviously they were religious, and imagined their conflict with us in religious terms. Also, yes, the goals were purely political.

            • Ronan says:

              They were inspired by a number of factors, (for example look at the book the myth of marytdom)..all social phenomenon are complex multifacted events, very few are about one thing, so even something that might look superficially like a religious conflict is inspired by a number of other factors (general geopolitics, personal psychology etc)..
              Im not doubting that Al Qaeda isnt religiously inspired to a large degree, but that doesnt really tell us a huge amount about anything bar Al Qaeda

              • Jeffrey Beaumont says:

                Really they were inspired by the essentially accurate perception that the USA has been a force for bad things in the Islamic world for the last fifty years, from supporting Israel’s bad treatment of the Palestinians to supporting dictators to facilitate our oil extraction. To many people all of this represents an imperial power basically making war on them

                That this asymmetric conflict might then get couched in religious and cultural terms to edify and valorize resistance is not surprising. In fact it is what always happens.

                But that doesnt change the fact that the conflict of which 9/11 is the most dramatic moment isnt essentially political. They dont hate us because of our freedoms or our religion, they hate us because they believe (at least partially correctly) that we are responsible for a lot of bad things in their world. We are exercising power over them in a way they dont like. Political.

                • Ronan says:

                  You cant ignore the specific religiously inspired ideology that the leadership propagated though,which did speak about reetablishing the caliphate and uniting the worlds muslims under it..
                  US foreign policy helped them recruit I wouldnt deny, but imo wasnt the driving force amongst the leadership

                • Jeffrey Beaumont says:

                  Let me quote myself back to you:

                  “That this asymmetric conflict might then get couched in religious and cultural terms to edify and valorize resistance is not surprising. In fact it is what always happens”

                • Ronan says:

                  Sure but Im emphasising the ideology as the main factor and you are US foreign policy..which is fine

                • chris says:

                  the USA has been a force for bad things in the Islamic world for the last fifty years, from supporting Israel’s bad treatment of the Palestinians

                  And religion has nothing to do with these grudges, right? The hijackers were mostly Saudi. We aren’t exercising power over the Saudis in a way they don’t like; we aren’t exercising power over the Saudis at all. We are allied to the Saudi king, who is exercising power over the Saudis, but that’s not what this is about.

                  Why did the Saudi hijackers feel such solidarity for the Palestinian cause that they were willing to die for it, again? The very concept of an “Islamic world” presupposes that people are willing to identify with another nation (or part of another nation) on the basis of, well, Islam.

                  Furthermore, whatever you may think of the merits of Zionism, it clearly couldn’t exist in anything like its present form without religion. If the people are just people they can live anywhere. It’s only the religious claim that a specific area of land was granted to their ancestors by God that could make them determined enough to (re?)claim that specific land and drive out whoever else happened to be living there at the time.

                  You could argue that, say, Northern Ireland was really a national conflict that only took on religious overtones because the sides happened to follow different religions, but that argument really won’t work for Israel. It wouldn’t exist at all without the religious identity of the Zionists, and it wouldn’t be such a flashpoint for the whole region if so many people of other nations in the region didn’t identify with the Palestinians on the basis of their religion.

                  For that matter, Dawkins argued that the reason the 9/11 attackers were so willing to die for *any* cause in the first place was their belief in an afterlife — specifically, one in which they would be rewarded for martyrdom.

                  I’m not going to claim that religious people are the *only* ones capable of self-sacrifice, but the religions that emphasize the glory of martyrdom (and the rewards martyrs will receive in heaven) sure seem to produce an awful lot of martyrs, don’t they?

      • carcin says:

        I’d love to see you illustrate the difference between a “privilege-based attacks on Islam” and any other kinds of “attack on Islam”….

        Where does “it is all made-up bullshit” fall?

    • joe from Lowell says:

      It’s like they rejected religion, and then took the worst parts of it and used it as the basis for forming a community.

      Have you ever seen a recovering alcoholic go through a bag of Hershey’s Kisses?

      The fanatical personality type is found both within and outside organized religion. The correlation that really jumps out is between the fanatical personality type and the convert.

      What you might be picking up on is the relative lack of people born into atheism within the “skeptic community.”

  21. bargal says:

    Sort of reminds me of the way the subject of Bradley Manning is considered off limits by certain professional gays in SF.

  22. bad Jim says:

    Here’s an example., which merely notes “Personal essays and articles outlining one’s views and opinions about religious matters are of less interest”.

    Perhaps “off limits” is too strong, but it’s my strong impression that skeptical societies tend to avoid the sort of frontal attacks upon religion of which atheists are fond.

    • Bijan Parsia says:

      If we look at the full paragraph:

      A note about religion: We are a magazine of “science and reason.” Where religion is concerned, our main emphasis is on topics in which empirical, scientific, testable claims are made. We are especially interested in scholarly and scientific studies offering new analyses and new data (e.g., from major new polls and surveys) on religious belief and its effects. Personal essays and articles outlining one’s views and opinions about religious matters are of less interest, unless strongly science-related or offering something particularly noteworthy or newsworthy. We occasionally publish special issues on science and religion, with invited articles by noted authorities, but again the emphasis is on religion’s intersection with science.

      It seems clear that they aren’t concerned with strong attacks on religion per se, but they are bias toward scientific discussion in general. In other words, it’s not that religion is a discourage topic but that personal experience or opinion pieces (in general) are not of interest. I’m guessing that they get a lot more of that on religion than on other subjects.

  23. Manju says:

    “very assy”

    I don’t know about the rest of you, but i couldn’t get past this. Never seen this before.

    So I Googled it up. But that backfired, as the Google insisted I was looking for “very gassy”.

    But it did offer up a font called “very assy”. That’s it, afak. You guys can keep googling but I think bspencer just done pulled that damn phrase out of her ass.

    Very Impressive.

  24. MosesZD says:

    What a stupid post. Did you READ HIS FUCKING SPEECH? No, obviously you didn’t.

    Watson gives feminists, atheists, and skeptics a bad name with her idiotic, narrow-minded, hyper-partisan view of the speech.

    This is what he said:

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

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

    And that is exactly what has been happening. And that is exactly what Watson just did.

    And you fell for it hook, line and sinker.

    That’s pathetic.

    • Malaclypse says:

      Cool mansplainin’, bro.

    • Bijan Parsia says:

      What a stupid post. Did you READ HIS FUCKING SPEECH? No, obviously you didn’t.

      Yes we did.

      And you are quite wrong in your analysis of what Watson did, which strongly suggests that you didn’t read her article or you can’t read it except through a strongly distorting ideological lens.

      In other words, stop projecting, bro.

    • Leeds man says:

      A young, toasty whine. Aftertaste somewhat bitter.

    • slightly_peeved says:

      After complaining about how women won’t listen to his reasoned arguments, Watson’s actual argument is ‘it doesn’t work for me’. So his reasoned argument against the assumption that he is blinded by privilege is ABSOLUTELY SOAKED in his blind privilege. He needs no logical, rational answer for women’s arguments; they just don’t work for him. And being a man, that’s all the argument he needs.

    • DivGuy says:

      Marxism??

      Oh my stars!

      These feminists are Marxists or at least something very like it. Run away now!

    • bspencer says:

      Thanks for bringing his words over. He’s breathtakingly wrong about everything.

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

      But the fact is that that’s TRUE. Some people are too blinded by their privilege realize they’re just wrong about some things. It’s why I’m very much for shutting up and listening. If you shut up and listen you might actually give a good argument a chance to marinate, you might learn something, you might realize that you are WRONG.

      This approach doesn’t work. It certainly doesn’t work for me.

      Too bad, I guess.

      It’s the approach that the dogmatist who wants to silence critics has always taken because it beats having to engage someone in a reasoned argument.

      Yes, and it’s also been used by people who are trying to point out a person’s privilege might blind them to the plight of someone who doesn’t share the privilege. This is a legitimate and perfectly reasonable thing to do.

      “Shutting up and listening” doesn’t work for Mr. Lindsay. It works for me. I fear we are at an impasse.

      • DivGuy says:

        Yes, and it’s also been used by people who are trying to point out a person’s privilege might blind them to the plight of someone who doesn’t share the privilege. This is a legitimate and perfectly reasonable thing to do.

        “Shutting up and listening” doesn’t work for Mr. Lindsay. It works for me. I fear we are at an impasse.

        Exactly. Occasionally, I’ll shut up and listen and I’ll still disagree afterward. That’s what human discourse is about. But you’ll never know which it is, and you’ll never make progress toward that better and just world unless you first do shut up and listen.

        Shutting up and listening is great.

        • aimai says:

          There’s something else to add which is that “listening” is a natural part of every conference–its half of what doing analysis is if your analysis doesn’t entirely focus on what’s already in your own head. I’ve given a bunch of conference papers in my day: if I’m talking about Japan I’m also not talking (presumably) about Russia–that doesn’t mean I’m “shutting up” about Russia but it may mean that those data and those issues aren’t involved in my current speech. The audience politely waits and hears what I have to say and then they might want to question me about this, or focus on the parts of what I said that they find relevant. But usually while they are listening they are…attentive. That has to precede discussion.

          Beginning a conference with the first talk being “stop talking people in the audience and at the conference” is kind of weird. It misses the point of the introductory speech–which is to welcome people not warn the off of interacting. The other part which is to essentially dredge up personal grudges against unnamed and unnameable “others” with whom Lindsay thinks he has a fight is, of course, also hugely inappropriate. But in any event pausing to listen to another point of view (a feminist view, a marxist view, an islamic view) is never the same as being “shut up” –its called turn taking and it happens in every good discussion.

          Of course Lindsay is afraid that “white male privilige” means that he never gets his turn, or he doesn’t get final say, and I think that’s a legitimate fear he may have. Which is to say that he intuits, although he can’t admit, that in a mixed crowd with many different viewpoints his viewpoint may not rise, by acclaim, to the top. I think its signifcant that he begins the conference with a beat down and a reminder–he clearly was petrified that if he had to be chosen by acclaim or wait until the last day of the conference his viewpoint wouldnl’t be accorded any deference.

        • bspencer says:

          You get it.

      • bspencer says:

        I would also like to add that referring to people with whom you disagree as “Marxists” may be viewed as a silencing technique. ;)

    • bspencer says:

      I should add that a lot of what we do when we try to research an issue is to trust our sources. I trust Rebecca Watson, as I see her as member of the sanity/reality-based community. Clearly, you disagree. You choose to believe someone who, judging from the words you brought over, is *not* living in the sanity/reality-based community. Different strokes for different folks, I guess.

    • Thers says:

      Right on. Chicks need to shut up and listen to this dude’s long speech about how he’s been silenced.

    • Pjay says:

      And that is exactly what happened, IRL.

    • Bruce McGlory says:

      My goodness, you’re so emotional! Calm down, breathe deep, maybe take a nice hot shower. Then, come back, actually read Lindsay’s assnine speech – this time without the psychotic levels of misogyny – and try again.

  25. Hogan says:

    OK, fine, I’ll shut up. But YOU CAN’T MAKE ME LISTEN, MOM.

  26. Uncle Ebeneezer says:

    The flame wars of the past year in the skeptic/atheist community have been very interesting. As this D-bag speaker illustrates, there’s a whole lot of privileged thinking at the heart of the problem. My guess is that this is the natural result of the fact that the community has been historically comprised of privileged white males. Fortunately the community is splitting and more women, gay/lesbian, people-of-color are joining in and prominent bloggers like Watson are bringing attention to the problem. While there are always dweebs who side with Dawkins/Harris or this guy and try to keep the protective bubble around the white males, there are just as many who are calling out the sexism/misogyny when they see it. Freethoughtblogs is full of bloggers who are actively opposed to the sentiments that the MRA contingent, and creating subsets like Atheism+ specifically designed to separate themselves from the a-holes, and create a community where that sort of thing is not tolerated. This is a good thing for the community. It’s going to take time to clean up the movement, but many fine bloggers are committed to having a safe place for atheists to go where they don’t have to deal with various forms of bigotry that these episodes have shown. It’s a good thing that skeptics are being asked to explain why women should be treated any differently than men, from a rational perspective. Biases are being shown under a bright light and prejudices are being challenged. Both are probably long overdue.

    Hopefully people will resist the temptation to these episodes as just another excuse to beat up on atheism by suggesting that this sort of sexism/misogyny/Islamophobia is somehow tied to atheism/skepticism. As if it doesn’t exist in every church, mosque, synagogue across the land (heck it’s even codified right there on the pages of their sacred texts in most cases) and probably in equal proportions. “Atheists are all sexist, Islamophobes” is nearly as bad as “atheists have no morals.”

    Not aimed at OP or any particular comments here, just something I’ve been thinking about while reading this story and others like it across the internet.

    • bspencer says:

      Hopefully people will resist the temptation to these episodes as just another excuse to beat up on atheism by suggesting that this sort of sexism/misogyny/Islamophobia is somehow tied to atheism/skepticism.

      Yes. This. Yes. This.

  27. Manta says:

    “people talk about privilege to shut (straight, white) men up”

    I think you will have to drop the “straight” label: on this very blog G.G. was accused of that.

    • sharculese says:

      Not having straight privilege doesn’t take away all the privilege that GG does have.

      • Manta says:

        Did I misunderstand you, or you just agree with what I said?

        • sharculese says:

          You misunderstood me. Or possibly I misunderstood you. Privilege is a complicated thing, and obviously a lot of times people are going to have one kind but not others. That said, the most obvious forms of privilege are always going to be straight, white, and male, and any list should probably include those, even if an obvious example of someone who has one but not others comes to mind.

  28. Pjay says:

    I am a geek, a woman, a feminist, and an attendee of the conference, and Ms. Watson has entirely mischaracterized Mr. Lindsay’s talk. She and PZ Myers and others at Freethought Blogs often use the privilege concept to attempt to silence dissent, even among other feminists. I will not be silenced by these people; they do not speak for all feminists.

    • Manta says:

      Pjay, can you give some proof for your claims (I don’t have a dog in this fight, but these are the rules of the game).

    • Bijan Parsia says:

      Hi Pjay,

      I did an analysis above of the supplied text of the speech and I don’t think Watson has mischaracterized the speech.

      I’d be interested in a more precise sense in which Watson, Myers, etc. often “use the privilege concept to attempt to silence dissent,” i.e., do you have any sort of count?

    • bexley says:

      She and PZ Myers and others at Freethought Blogs often use the privilege concept to attempt to silence dissent

      Examples?

      • Matt T. in New Orleans says:

        She and PZ Myers and others at Freethought Blogs often use the privilege concept to attempt to silence dissent

        Does it actually work, though? How does it work? God knows, the mansplaining has not stopped. Like I said above, I’ve heard the same thing inre: racism, that even bringing up the idea that, say, the president’s birth certificate is somehow questionable is a racist stance means someone is trying to shut down all conversation because, apparently, once one’s has been called a racist (or a sexist), one’s tongue falls out or or one is forced to take a vow of silence or something.

        From what I’ve observed, even when the dreaded r- (or s-) word is uttered, nobody shuts up, especially racists and sexists.

    • Hogan says:

      I will not be silenced by these people

      Well, that’s super.

    • thebewilderness says:

      I’m so shocked!

    • Anonymous says:

      Women rarely announce that they are women like this, all triumphant and defiant. So, kinda doubt it, bro.

    • Bruce McGlory says:

      I heard PJay is the sole cause of global warming and wrote the screenplay to Gigli!

      Random, evidence-free accusations are fun!

    • Like Lindsay, you are using “silencing” as another way to say “pointing out how egregiously fucking wrong you are.”

      If it turns out that you are wrong and have been proved to be so, the rational thing to do IS to shut up… about that claim in particular.

      This is, however not “silencing.” It doesn’t actually inhibit anyone’s ability to exercise their constitutionally guaranteed right to free expression.

  29. Steve says:

    This post and the replies are the reason I don’t consider myself a feminist anymore and would never attend a skeptic convention. This is exactly the sort of picky bullshit that drives me away from both feminism and A+. Agree with us, think like us, or you are assholes. Support radical feminism or you are a rapist. Atheism used to be about living without a false friend in the sky. Now it’s about preserving everyone’s feelings. Fuck this. If you can’t be offered a cup of coffee without having a meltdown, I’d rather not be near any of you. Feminists are just as guilty of sexism as men and feel it’s is now their privilege to shout men down and femsplain. None of this has to mean a wet slap to any of you, unless you wanted an atheism movement, which is now hopelessly splintered.

    • Bijan Parsia says:

      This post and the replies

      Which you did not read.

      are the reason I don’t consider myself a feminist anymore

      Which you never did so consider a feminist and you definitely were never a feminist.

      The rest, alas, is not silence.

    • Ronan says:

      Steves not a feminist anymore!!!!

    • Hogan says:

      If you can’t be offered a cup of coffee without having a meltdown

      You are so full of shit it must be oozing out your earholes.

    • mds says:

      I gotta admit, I thought “femsplain” was a nice touch.

    • Malaclypse says:

      This post and the replies are the reason I don’t consider myself a feminist anymore

      I used to be a feminist, but then Steve got butthurt, and now I wonder who will get me a sammich.

    • thebewilderness says:

      The MRAs have arrived to mansplain how women do it tooooo!

    • Leeds man says:

      If you can’t be offered a cup of coffee without having a meltdown, I’d rather not be near any of you.

      If you think “Don’t do that, guys” is a meltdown, I think the not being near thing will work very well for all concerned.

    • Anonymous says:

      Feminists are just as guilty of sexism as men

      Well, as long you’re admitting it, I’m cool.

      Also, this hand-wringing over schisms and splinterings of movements is the worst of red herrings. You don’t want to get along, and you don’t want cooties cootying up your little boy’s club. Just admit it and have done with it. It’s in everyone best interest if the boys keep their treehouse and the adults occupy the front room. Atheism will, somehow, survive your (white) (male) flight.

      • thebewilderness says:

        That isn’t what they want though. They have made it quite clear that they want women there at their gatherings to grope and proposition.
        That is why they have a meltdown every time a woman suggests that they had a different goal in mind when they attended a skeptic gathering.

        • Anonymous says:

          Oh, I know. They get off on the bullying and find the mass harassment a bonding exercise between bros. But they have to whine about Deep Rifts in order to play the game. Let the rifts deepen. There’s no need for dudes like Lindsay to insinuate themselves in women’s conferences in the first place, and there’s no need for Vacula to sit in the back of the hall and make a nuisance of himself. I know they think they’re being courageous, fighting back against stern mommy figures. There’s never going to be any resolution.

    • Data Tutashkhia says:

      This post and the replies are the reason I don’t consider myself a feminist anymore

      Why, you should still believe in equal rights for every human being. Pay no attention to zealous fools. Every movement has those.

    • sharculese says:

      Fuck this. If you can’t be offered a cup of coffee without having a meltdown, I’d rather not be near any of you.

      This is ironic in the middle of your whiny sulk about the mean nasty feminists.

    • Excluding guys like you is a feature, not a bug.

  30. commie atheist says:

    Seems like a good place to leave this.

  31. Kristen says:

    If he would have been willing to spell out what his exact disagreements were instead of making the argument about “tone/approach”, maybe we could really have the true discussion he claims the “dogmatic” feminists are supposedly silencing. But even then, that discussion would not have been appropriate in the opening speech.

    (which begs the question however: Why is he upset with the word privilege, but so casually throws out the term “dogma”? That’s a silencing word, no? Assumes we haven’t thought out our arguments, we’re just regurgitating?)

    By making it about tone/approach, he is indirectly giving legitimacy to the blatant misogynists. Not all disagreements are created equal. Not all discussions are worth having. Not ALL ideas/opinions belong on the table! They understand this when it comes to “teaching the controversy” of intelligent design vs. evolution. Alt med quackery having no place in medicine. Not inviting white supremacists to a civil rights meeting.

    By assuming that we so casually drop the privilege bomb merely to avoid outside opinion is nothing short of insulting.

  32. Kristen says:

    I sometimes get the feeling that many people who have a problem with feminism is because they view the true equality of men and women as a form of pseudoscience. Clearly, these ‘dogmatic” feminist attempts at resisting their biology are getting out of hand.

    “Separate but Equal” is the rational form of feminism. But “Everyone is human so let’s dismantle the systems that created a division”? That’s dogmatic and radical! Those divisions came about by natural selection!

    And most importantly, you aren’t even checking in and asking the menz nicely if we are on board with your agenda first, which clearly means you want a matriarchy!

    • Bruce McGlory says:

      From my perspective (married gay white dude), its more like the guys who react so strongly against feminism fall into one of two groups:

      1) Painfully oblivious dudes who are genuinely surprised to find out that different people experience the world in ways different from them

      and

      2) Men who are guilty of knowingly doing, saying and/or behaving in ways feminists are criticizing.

      And yes, that means that I think dudes who go apeshit over discussions of sexual harassment, or rape or the like, are guilty of those exact things. That’s why they do everything they can to muddy the waters and cast doubt.

      • Xenologer says:

        Yeah, it’s always cause for serious concern when a guy does something like object to harassment policies by arguing that rules against sexual harassment effectively forbid interaction with women. Which… I mean, no? That is only the case for people who don’t know how to interact with us except by sexually harassing us in which case, yes, they need to just stand in the corner and leave everyone alone.

        I don’t know whether to be dismayed by the number of men whose objections to feminism amount to, “But I’m a sexual predator and I’m very upset that you’d say that is a bad thing!” or be grateful that so many of them give such clear warning before I get anywhere near them.

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