If you want some background as to why we even had this conference, Ken Chitwood posted in the Houston Chronicle about it on May 15th about the upcoming event. Female atheists fight for equality in freethought movement
Women are in a bit of a conundrum when it comes to religion. Increasingly, women want more roles, greater leadership and increased participation. At the same time, such vertical movement is harder for women to attain as pockets of religious conservatism tighten control, leaving women with a crisis. It turns out, what is true for women in religion is true for women without religion as well.
From May 17-19 over 300 women will be convening in Washington D.C. for the Women in Secularism 2 conference, a sequel to the first successful gathering the year before. The aim for attendees is to hear from prominent female free-thought activists on this seemingly contradictory predicament.
While the initial conference was about celebrating female secular activists, this year is meant to take the cause one step further. Not only will the convention rally female free-thought voices and call for women in leadership positions in secular organizations, it will combat those in the secular movement who have shown hostility towards emerging feminine secular champions.
Some of you may remember that I dropped a very quick entry about Ron Lindsay’s embarrassing introduction to Women in Secularism 2 (TW: animated gifs).
Now here come all the links and citations and other lengthy ridiculousness. My thanks go out to Mary Ellen Sikes because I got lots of these links from her.
The top tweet for days on #wiscfi was from Rebecca Watson.
Very strange to open #wiscfi w a white male CEO lecturing women about using the concept of privilege to silence men.
— Rebecca Watson (@rebeccawatson) May 17, 2013
I was really relieved to see that I wasn’t the only person in the audience who felt really disrespected and annoyed. On the contrary, this tweet really set the tone for the commentary over the next few days, which is a measure of the quality of attendees we had almost exclusively.
Not really comfortable w/ the comparison of oppressed people being silenced and privileged people being told to shut up and listen. #wiscfi
— Miri M. (@sondosia) May 17, 2013
I have seen so much wonderful commentary that I decided I’d make another post just to give you a roundup of what’s being said. A lot of the initial volleys were fired through Twitter and I posted a bunch of those to FB as they happened, but Oolon has also been keeping a record of the Twitter discussion about this. Check out Ron Lindsay #WISCFI Talk Reaction, and be prepared for it to load slowly because of how many tweets are reproduced. Xanthë recommended this to me and pointed out that it “demonstrates that Rebecca Watson was neither the first, nor the only, attendee or speaker to criticise the (non-)welcome speech. In fact, many of those to first begin openly criticising Dr Lindsay’s speech are other men: Adam Lee, Daniel Samuelson, PZ Myers.” So yeah, check it out.
Plenty of actual blog-sized commentary came out later once we weren’t all doing the high-tech conference-goer equivalent of passing notes in class.
Jason Thibeault was actually liveblogging Lindsay’s speech, so if you want to read his impressions while the speech was being given, check out Women In Secularism 2 – Opening Remarks liveblog #wiscfi.
“Enforced silence is always and everywhere in opposition to truth”, and “enforced silence deprives someone of their humanity”. Call back to the 1st Timothy quote at the beginning — that depriving women of their voices dehumanizes them, but silencing people by saying “shut up and listen” is also bad.
Apparently Ron went over time. Adam Lee had a question but he hadn’t written it down on his card. Oops!
I have to disagree with a lot of this. Ron, what about when people are dominating the conversation and refusing to let women discuss these ideas by talking so damn much and not letting women actually do any talking themselves? Can a woman tell a conversation-dominating man to shut up and listen to them? That’s sort of the problem here, you know. The problem your conference is trying to defray.
Rebecca Watson’s first blog-length reply to Lindsay was The Silencing of Men.
In his talk, Lindsay didn’t give any examples of men who have been silenced, though he has promised to provide some. In the meanwhile, the audience is forced to examine the only example provided: Lindsay himself, a white male who is CEO of one of the largest skeptic organizations in the world and who delivered the 30-minute introductory lecture at a women’s conference. There doesn’t seem to be much danger of his voice being silenced, though of course I may not be aware of some behind-the-scenes campaign to drive him into obscurity.
Lawyers, Guns, & Money: Stop Oppressing Men, Meanie Skeptic Women!
Matt T. in New Orleans posted a great comment as well.
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.
The Digital Cuttlefish re-posted one of the many amazing snarky poems he’s famous for and I loved it so much I wanted to share it with you.
Ron Lindsay wasn’t going to take all this criticism without a huge dose of paranoia, hyperbole, and false equivalencies, though. For a while the top three posts on the CFI website were hissy fits by their CEO because a blogger made the huge mistake of voicing the frustration and anger that a majority of the audience seems to have shared. Watson’s World and Two Models of Communication
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.
West Coast Atheist: Ronald Lindsay and WIS2
I would love to see discussion about these questions at a WIS con. I’ve love to see women discussing them rather than falling into “check your privilege” or calling each other “chill girls” and “sister punishers.” I, personally, despise the kind of radical feminism that assumes all men are rapists and that go around bashing transfolk. They deny the existence of gender and only include women born with the “right parts.” I’d like to see gender identity and expression discussed through the lens of secularism. These topics should be up for discussion, especially at a Women in Secularism conference.
Ronald Lindsay was accused of “mansplaining.” His arguments were not addressed by certain conference attendees, but he was simply written off as a “white man” whose arguments aren’t worth addressing simply because of how he was born. This was the very attitude he addressed in his talk, which doesn’t automatically prove he was right, but it is kind of telling that he hasn’t been able to engage the people who disagreed with him without getting a barrage of personal attacks upon his race and sex. So, since they won’t listen to a man, how about a woman saying the same thing?
Amanda Marcotte pointed out in no uncertain terms why this crap was happening.
— Amanda Marcotte (@AmandaMarcotte) May 19, 2013
PZ Myers: It’s 4am and people are really annoyed
It’s been a strange evening. I had a crowd of people descend on my hotel room after the evening’s events at Women In Secularism and a good day of wonderful and inspiring talks from strong women, and besides just wanting to talk and celebrate, they wanted to complain. These are people who came here for a conference on women’s issues, and they were really annoyed that the head of CFI, Ron Lindsay, chose to use the opening talk of the conference to basically chastise the attendees and instruct them in how to behave, and I’ve had more than one person tell me that they were irate that their introduction to an event that they paid a considerable sum of money was to be greeted by a talk that pandered to people who hated the event, and were volubly complaining on the internet throughout the day about it. The impression they had was that the organization was unhappy to be sponsoring this conference.
That is a weird and impolitic message to send to attendees. It was especially weird to hear that on day one, and then to watch Melody Hensley, the person who did the organizational work to set up the meeting, make fundraising pitches at the evening reception on both days. Melody definitely stands behind the purpose of this event, there’s no doubt about that at all, but we’re simultaneously getting this bizarre vibe that CFI, as represented by Lindsay, does not like this feminist stuff, and would rather that we all went away and the MRAs who are crowing about his talk were here instead.
Who is he supporting? The people who actively invest in this meeting and CFI, or the jerks who lurk on the internet and rage at women all day long with no commitment to any cause besides hatred, and are openly hoping to see the meeting fail?
Adam Lee’s Daylight Atheism: Some Sadly Necessary Remarks on the #wiscfi Intro
So let’s be clear about this: the presidency of CFI, like the presidency of any other non-profit, is a political position. Lindsay’s job is to put a good public face on CFI, to be diplomatic to its critics, and to encourage and promote its outreach activities. I don’t object to him giving the introductory talk, even at a women’s conference, but it could and should have been brief and cordial – something along the lines of, “I’m Ron Lindsay, president of CFI, and I’d like to welcome you all to the second Women in Secularism conference. Thank you for coming and we hope you have a good time.”
His job was emphatically not to begin the conference by haranguing a feminist audience about what he sees as the deficiencies in modern feminism, and then, when he received a wave of fully justified and deserved criticism for this, to respond immediately with a barrage of personal attacks directed at one of his critics, who happens to be an invited speaker at the conference to boot!
Stephanie Svan’s Almost Diamonds: An Alternate Universe
In our universe, if Rebecca collected her Skepchick team together for an event, then gave that team a surprise like Lindsay’s speech obviously was to the CFI employees at Women in Secularsim, she would be called unfit for leadership. If I used Minnesota Atheist events to make personal points without discussing strategy with the other people responsible for making those events a success, I wouldn’t stay on the board very long at all. If either of us put our teammates in the terribly uncomfortable position Lindsay put all of the CFI staff in at this conference, we’d be called unstable, irresonsible narcissists out for self-aggrandizement. Again, in our universe, we face that “criticism” for far, far less.
In Lindsay’s universe, he can take a quote from Secular Woman that doesn’t say what he says it says and try to use it as a wedge against someone whose goals overlap with those of Secular Woman. He can do that just a few short weeks after having a public disagreement with the leadership of Secular Woman and having been–privately–dissuaded from making that disagreement blow up further in public by the very people he’s using that quote against now. He doesn’t worry about that action being seen as petty revenge over that disagreement.
Ashley Miller’s Taking it Personally: Privilege and Women in Secularism
Of course, I am not the only person who took umbrage at his opening speech. I wasn’t particularly upset by it, I just felt it was wrongheaded as an opening speech for this event in particular and demonstrated poor understanding of the cultural theory behind the terms of “privilege” and the intent of “shut up and listen.” I think it’s inappropriate to use the opening speech to criticize the conference goals rather than introduce it. I also think that the way he talked about critical theory indicated a lack of familiarity with the scholarship on the subject and the power dynamics at play. At best it was terrible tone deafness which was then exacerbated by his position of power in the organization, his race and gender and socioeconomic status, and the fact that he was giving the opening address not a lecture.
I also agreed with Rebecca Watson that it was particularly bad for these apparent misunderstandings to be delivered by a wealthy white man who was part of the organization in charge of the Women in Secularism conference. In other words, it was a poorly expressed, poorly timed message delivered by exactly the wrong person for the message.
slignot: What’s Supposed to Happen AFTER You Shut Up and Listen (Thanks to Stephanie Svan for linking me this!)
[W]hile I’ve watched this in increasing frustration, the thought occurred to me that maybe Ron Lindsay never actually read far enough to understand what’s supposed to happen after someone with privilege shuts up long enough to listen to the experience of someone who has a better view of the social and legal deck stacking in society. In the hopes that he can learn to listen long enough for understanding, I’ll try to give him a concrete example of how this is supposed to work.
AtheistLogic: An Open Letter to Ron Lindsay
You have gone before a conference dedicated to giving a voice to women in the movement and told them that they need to spend more time listening to what men have to say. As though it’s possible to live in our society without knowing what men generally have to say.
Avery Thompson at Gravity’s Wings: Ron Lindsay’s rant
[T]he problem here is not that Ron Lindsay screwed up. He’s human (presumably). People screw up sometimes. The problem is that he’s refusing to listen to his critics, and he’s refusing to shut up. The reason it’s “shut up and listen” instead of just “listen” is that it’s really hard to listen when you’re busy screaming about how much you’re right. The more Ron argues, the more he demonstrates why the “shut up” part is necessary.
In closing, I want to say that I really like CFI. I really like what they do, and I really like what Ron is doing with the organization. Hell, my college organization is a CFI affiliate. I’m very thankful that they decided to sponsor WIS (twice!), and that they’re committed to equality in the secular community. Ron is clearly a feminist ally, and for that I’m very thankful. That said, I do believe Ron is really screwing up here, and he needs to stop screwing up before he starts alienating people from his organization and from the movement.
I read Lindsay’s published remarks and while Watson does have a point, I thought she was using male privilege not to silence Lindsay but to make the atmosphere so toxic that other men might be less likely to get involved in a discussion about women’s issues. I agree with Lindsay’s remarks to a point but it is the same thing that is happening to women who complain about the unfair dominance of men in the secular movement. The vocal minority of men who dislike being criticized by “uppity” women are trying to make the atmosphere so toxic that it is hoped that women will stop complaining – be silent. And that was Watson’s point of complaint about Lindsay’s remarks.
Women pointing out the injustice of male dominance isn’t the problem – the injustice of maintaining male dominance through bias, bigotry, harassment, and cyber stalking is the problem.
How do we know that Lindsay was wrong? Because one doesn’t demand open debate on subjects one agrees with.
Ed Cara at The Heresy Club: Reading The Comments
I won’t mince too many words on the content of the speech as it’s linkable here. And I won’t spend much time picking apart the false equivalencies Lindsay made in comparing prominent women skeptics who refuse to hold debates with people who harass them to Marxists. Or his strange understanding that people who use the concept of privilege intend it as a means of silencing any personal criticism. Or that even if they did want to, that they can use it to silence people. Last I checked, one of the most willfully ignorant and pointedly anti-feminist skeptics around, Justin Vacula, is alive, well and blithely speaking despite having attended the conference.
…In fact, that was it. That’s pretty much all I have to say about that.
No, the real meat of this post is on showcasing the best and brightest of comments supporting Lindsay on the followup post defending his talk, soon to become the new skeptical primer on how to dig holes.
Homo economicus’ Weblog: CFI Women in Secularism opening remarks controversy
How should a CEO have responded? An article saying he wants to get to know the problems feminists have experienced with transgender issues and how secular organisations can stop the victimisation of women in the public sphere when debating. Then actually you say this but I meant that.
But no, he responded with scorn and anger publicly.
He is going to need a thicker skin in the job, and I am unimpressed with how he has handled himself in print given the serious points Watson raised. Rather than offer a private talk he wrote an enflaming response and now is trying to douse the flames he caused in the first place because of a critique.
tigtog at Hoyden about Town: Ron Lindsay’s #wiscfi twist on the conventional Opening Speech
Lindsay bizarrely equates social justice advocates asking those who are privileged along one or more of the axes of oppression to “shut up and listen” to those who lack those privileges with women being utterly forbidden to speak in houses of worship in many religions i.e. Lindsay is equating a request for the generally dominant group who have many platforms to step back and let others lead a discussion at the front of a platform for a change with a religious taboo whereby the generally subservient social group who has no platform is forbidden to speak at all in sacred spaces.
Giving an opening address really isn’t that hard. If you wanted to be a contrarian you could have waited until the end of the conference and said “you know, I was hoping to see something better but instead I saw this…”. Instead you poisoned the well at the beginning of the conference. I am baffled at what you thought you would achieve.
Amanda Marcotte: An Open Letter to the Center for Inquiry
Needless to say, preening about how men are “silenced” when asked to shut up and listen to women’s experiences before rendering judgment on the validity of them is offensive enough. Under the circumstances, where he is a speaker and the audience present is required to shut up and listen out of politeness, the arrogance of this complaint was particularly grotesque. We are to shut up and listen to him, but men are entitled at all points in time, it appears, to yap over any woman whose complaints about sexism they find beneath their attention.
Stephanie Svan: The Hand That Feeds Me?
There was an interesting (in the Minnesotan sense of “interesting”) thread running on the Women in Secularism hashtag briefly during the conference. According to people who weren’t there to hear Ron Lindsay’s opening speech, criticism of that speech was “biting the hand that feeds” us. Fascinating, isn’t it?
Hoary Puccoon’s comment was great.
I can’t help thinking that if Lindsay had opened a conference for Hispanics in Secularism by talking about the irritation of having to learn a few words in Spanish, or a conference for African Americans in Secularism by complaining about how white athletes are underrepresented in the NBA, he would already have been told to clear out his desk. And all the locks at CFI would be changed.
I think that any response short of demanding his immediate resignation shows amazing consideration for his welfare. I think he ought to be bending over backward at this point to thank everyone involved, but particularly Rebecca Watson, for their decent and measured response.
Just in case you hadn’t already been persuaded that Dawkins does not give 3/4 of a damn about how women are treated unless it helps him criticize someone else, on the Richard Dawkins Educational Foundation website Lindsay’s rants from the CFI homepage have been reproduced.
Ophelia Benson posted about the Richard Dawkins Foundation reposting Lindsay’s petulant defensive nonsense. #RDFbullies (a play on the #FTBullies hashtag in use on Twitter by people who feel bullied by the fact that feminists anywhere are doing anything).
And no those are not “three posts about the Women in Secularism Conference” – that’s false advertising. They’re three posts about Ron Lindsay’s dislike of feminism and then his fury at uppity women who dislike his thrusting of his dislike of feminism on a conference that wasn’t meant to be about his dislike of feminism. (…)
I guess Ron was so pleased with the results of his three blog posts at the conference itself that he felt it would be even better to trash the conference afterwards with the help of Dawkins. What’s he going to do for an encore? Post photoshops of all the speakers? Is it heads on goats time?
PZ Myers, blogging about CFI’s Michael De Dora
Some people have considered the recent criticisms of the CEO of the Center for Inquiry to be a wholesale attack on the organization (well, “some people” meaning “freakin’ loons”). Nothing could be further from the truth. I’m a supporter; I think many of their causes are essential; I appreciate the work of many of the people there. Let’s not forget that the whole of the organization is not the brain of the CEO, whether it’s Paul Kurtz or Ron Lindsay, both of whom have also done good work. We have to trust in the quality of the group to overcome the flaws of the individual.
So I thought I might throw out an occasional post to let you know about a few of the commendable efforts of CFI — you know, try a little positive reinforcement in addition to my usual spiked bludgeon of criticism.
vjack at Atheist Revolution: My Letter to the CFI in Support of Ron Lindsay
Gurdur at Heathen-Hub: The Rubicon is crossed: Women In Secularism, feminism, atheism, skepticism, humanism
[T]he main point of this post is to point out what Ron Lindsay actually said, and how different it is to various claims that he attacked feminism itself, or that he condescendingly lectured the attendees of wiscfi, and so on. It was through the generousity of the national CFI that the actual conference was made possible. Up till now Ron Lindsay, as CEO of one of the main USA organizations important to both the atheism and skepticism movements in the USA, has been trying with others to help promote a firmly inclusive line aimed at getting less divisiveness in those movements, and until now he has been very restrained in response. The CFI is also responsible for subsidizing many conferences,, and paying the speaker fees for Rebecca Watson, PZ Myers and others. Now that Ron Lindsay has actually raised the issue of various people attempting to silence others through misapplication of the “Shut Up And Listen” privilege argument, and now that he has been massively attacked for having raised that issue in a conference speech, and since it is most unlikely that people like Rebecca Watson or PZ Myers will de-escalate their response, but rather the opposite, then we can expect an all-out social-media war till events and decisions on concrete issues are made, and people get tired or distracted. The Rubicon has been crossed; alea iacta est, let the chips fall where they may.
Given our support and the aims of WiS, we find it stunningly unacceptable that Dr. Lindsay chose to greet our members, our Board, and other attendees with his personal, ill-formed criticisms of feminism rather than welcoming us all to the conference we had promoted and paid to attend. Worse, he instead chose to personally welcome a man who has harassed and antagonized many of the speakers scheduled for the weekend, and who now has an interview about the conference on the front page of the website of A Voice for Men, which is monitored by the Southern Poverty Law Center for their misogynistic content.
Notably, the current president of American Atheists has been on Twitter in support of feminists. Given that at last year’s AA conference (the one paired with the Reason Rally) I got the impression that Silverman was angry with feminists for being too divisive, I wanted to give him his propers here. Link to Twitter conversation. To create a record less vulnerable to people deleting their messiness, I also embedded it here. (By the way that took forever so I hope you really love me. If someone else already did this I am not even sure I want to know because argh. *two hours pass* Ugh this is so long. My wrist hurts. FML.)
Dave Muscato, Public Relations Director for American Atheists, is also being cool.
One of the things that attracted me to working for American Atheists is our overwhelming dedication to equality, including feminism, within the broader context of the atheism activism work that we do but also in general. American Atheists was the first major atheist organization to adopt a harrassment policy for conferences, and it’s something we take very seriously. We care about all of our members and want everyone, atheist or not, activist or not, to feel comfortable at all times.
We are very proud to welcome PZ and Mary as Life Members. Although American Atheists’ mission is fighting discrimination against atheists, advocating for atheist civil rights, and addressing issues of First Amendment public policy, we care very much about feminism & social justice in the atheist activism movement and how these issues relate to and involve individuals involved in our collective efforts.
Amanda Marcotte: Tone Policing Only Goes One Way
Basically, I think the problem is everyone knows that progressives are the good guys and reactionaries are the bad guys, and so the onus to take the high road is always and forever on progressives. The problem, of course, is the “high road” is a constantly shifting target. If you refrain from overt jokes about conservatives, the next thing you’re told is too far is sarcasm. If you cave into the intense pressure to stop using terms like “racist” and “sexist” accurately, as we’ve witnessed, even talking about the concept of privilege is considered a bridge too far. You begin to realize that speaking at all from the position of moral authority as a progressive is what is offensive, because you make people feel bad for, well, being bad people.
CFI has posted via Twitter that the board is aware of all this mess.
The CFI Board of Directors and CEO Ron Lindsay are aware that his recent talk and blog posts have generated much debate and discussion (1/3)
— Center for Inquiry (@center4inquiry) May 22, 2013
CFI & Board are in ongoing discussions over this matter, which will be also be considered at Board’s regularly scheduled June meeting (2/3)
— Center for Inquiry (@center4inquiry) May 22, 2013
Further comments on this issue will be made once the Board has had an opportunity to discuss and consider it in full. (3/3)
— Center for Inquiry (@center4inquiry) May 22, 2013
Miri, Professional Fun-Ruiner brings Assorted Thoughts on Women in Secularism 2, making a point to mention all the greatness at this conference and not just the trash Lindsay tracked in as an introduction to it.
Ron Lindsay was an egregious violator of civility principles by being such a disrespectful host and then poisoning the well against Rebecca Watson in his post replying to her counter post to his talk and to his first blog defense of it. And this is especially upsetting given that only this past spring he signed a civility pledge meant to set a standard for others in the community to follow. This pledge gave a ton of instruction to people engaged in emotionally upsetting fights, including to people who were on the receiving end of awful interpersonal abuse. I believe in the ideals of that pledge. I believe that even though it demanded people do difficult things that they are vital things that must be done if the movement is to have healthy debates about serious philosophical differences in the future.
And Ron Lindsay showed that he could not stick to the pledge the first time that he felt like someone made an uncharitable reading of his words in a very heated, public dispute after he signed it. The first time! He is asking women, specifically Rebecca Watson, to be bigger than a torrent of abuse that includes rape threats, death threats, sexually degrading photoshops, a website devoted to monitoring their every misstep, etc. And he cannot handle civil criticism from that same woman that was not a fraction as abusive to him as what she has had to endure. And he showed this thin skin while being the host of a conference where she was a speaker and it was his obligation to respect the position that that role put him in as a host. This was an abuse of his position and an embarrassment.
“Surly” Amy Roth points out many good things, among them the ease of acknowledging one’s privilege without shutting up forever and how far out of its way the WiS community went to include men. Checking My Privilege and Still Speaking Out
West Coast Atheist: A Letter of Support
I’m not surprised you were harsh to Rebecca Watson after she dismissed your talk by attacking traits you posses which you have no control over.
Some people had legitimate concerns. They felt like you were too harsh on Ms. Watson and that WIS was a “feminist” conference, not a skeptic one where a discussion about argument and debate tactics would have been warranted.
I personally don’t think these issues deserve your being removed from your position for such mistakes. I support your courage to speak up about those tactics which stifle free exchange of ideas and that attack people rather than ideas.
Stephanie Svan: A Very Uncomfortable Place
I’m not trying to toot my own horn, here. This is to show how active I’ve become in this movement because of Women in Secularism. I found a home in CFI and did the best I could to make it a great one.
This is why I was so thoroughly disappointed in the actions of Ron Lindsay this past weekend at Women in Secularism2. To watch the CEO of the organization I’ve come to love undermine all the work his female employee, Melody Hensley, had done, use his position to belittle a room full of people who paid to attend a conference about women, personally welcome a known harasser, thereby validating all the harassment and abuse women have been getting, and throw a temper tantrum when faced for criticism of it all was maddening.
Ron Lindsay: Statement Re My May 18 Blog Post, in which he apologizes for comparing Watson to Best Korea. However, he still thinks she’s wrong about everything he said, and mentions, “The CFI board will decide whether my talk was contemptuous of women, as some have alleged, misrepresented CFI’s commitment to women’s rights, or in some way committed CFI to a course of action inconsistent with CFI’s mission.” This is accurate, as CFI has said as much in tweets embedded above.
Responses have obviously begun on Twitter, and I agree with Melanie Mallon’s reading of Lindsay’s non-apology.
Dear women: I’m sorry you made me lash out irrationally. #ronapology
— Melanie Mallon (@MelMall) May 23, 2013
Secular Woman Members Speak Up About Ron Lindsay’s Actions (which does what it says on the tin)
Kaoru Negisa over at Reasonable Conversation also takes the time to give Dave Silverman some kudos, along with pointing out the dubious quality of Lindsay’s supporters.
Michael Hawkins at For the Sake of Science: Bravo, Ronald Lindsay
Lindsay was saying little more than, ‘Telling one side to shut up is not how adults go about having a discussion.’ I entirely agree with him. If the goals here are to increase understanding, get a message out there, and change minds, then shutting down 50% of the population is, frankly, stupid. Just imagine if Martin Luther King did that. Imagine if he told white people that they needed to excuse themselves from the discussion. First, the crowd that was hostile to him in the first place would only harden their position, and the crowd that was in the middle would have walked away. That is, if today’s strategy of caricature, Internet feminists was applied to the civil rights movement of the 50′s and 60′s, black people and other minorities wouldn’t even be close to where they are today.
Ophelia Benson: From an optics point of view
I’ve talked to quite a few people about this since getting back from DC, some of them people who go to a lot of conferences (unrelated to secularism or feminism). Nobody could think of a single instance of anything remotely like the reception we got. The normal thing is to welcome participants and say a little about the conference. The normal thing is not to decline to welcome participants (because participants were welcomed the year before) and then scold them. That’s not normal procedure.We’re not being weird or petty in saying that. It’s not normal; it’s special treatment.
Well why do we get special treatment? What’s different about us?
Nancy at Heavens to Mergatroyd: Ron Lindsay’s non-apology apology over his non-welcome welcome
I think that Lindsay wanted to signal to Shermer and Dawkins that regardless of the CFI capitulation to these hysterical bitches, he, Ron Lindsay, was certainly not pussy-whipped. And like Dawkins two years ago, Lindsay responds to mild criticism of his inappropriate “welcome” by making things much worse. And by making things much worse I mean showing his true colors.
Lindsay sees references to privilege as a means of curtailing certain voices and elevating others, serving as a threat to “reasoned argument.” But reasoned argument without good data is next to useless. In discussing identity and oppression, lived experiences are indispensable data that can only come from someone who possesses, or is seen as possessing, a marginalized identity.
Is Lindsay silenced by the assertion that he might not always have the relevant perspective? It’s certainly not his fault that he was born male, but his gender is inextricably part of his identity, as it is with mine. Neither Lindsay, nor I, nor any cisgendered man can claim expertise on the female experience. This is not to say that men have nothing to offer in a discussion about feminism (says the man discussing feminism), but rather that only women can share lived experience about what it means to be a woman.
I’ll have Words to Say about the “welcome” speech debacle. And no, I won’t be calling (or emailing) Ron after he failed to live up to his own fucking pledge. But before I get to those Words, here is the conversation surrounding that ridiculous open letter asking us why we can’t just all play nice with each other (which is a question Ron Lindsay should be answering right about now).
Tangled Up in Blue Guy at Opinionated Bastards: Ron Lindsay’s Mistake
[I]t is into this mess that Ron Lindsay stepped when he addressed a Center For Inquiry (CFI) sponsored conference for Women in Skepticism. Lindsay, the American CFI’s President and CEO spoke in the opening remarks for the conference, and in his words he reveals that he is still under the same impression that I was until ElevatorGate woke me up; that since women under religion are dealt a raw deal they should be grateful that they are members of a skeptic organization.
PetSnakeReggie: I am a White Male and I Cannot be Silenced
They want to make the conversation around women in secularism about them. Why don’t they get to be part of the dialogue? Why are women so anxious to talk about their experience in the secular community without letting men talk about women’s experience in the secular community? Every now and again a woman pops up to tell other women how they are doing it wrong but it’s mostly the guys. They really want these women to know what horrible people they are for wanting the opportunity to say something.
And many of them felt a secular conference focused exclusively on women was a bad idea. Would they have felt the same about a secular conference focused on GLBT members of the community? Non-white members of the community? Males? Must all secular conferences be about everybody?
They talk and talk and talk and most of what they are talking about is how they aren’t being permitted to say anything. If they would shut up for a little while, they might notice how much they have already said.
Greta Christina offers two separate critiques of Lindsay’s WiS2 “welcome” speech. She breaks down her objections into those she has to the content of his speech and those stemming from the context in which the speech was given. Choosing something to excerpt here would just be hard, so I will say read these because Greta is dropping truth and insight all over everywhere.
- A Blatant Misrepresentation — And An Insulting One: The Content of Ron Lindsay’s WiS2 Talk
- He Treated Us With Contempt: The Context of Ron Lindsay’s WiS2 Talk
As an aside, Elisabeth Cornwell was apparently kind of ridiculous on Sunday as well due to her shallow understanding of women’s struggles throughout US history, but considering I skipped that day and went home early because she has done this before, I am not terribly surprised.
IMPORTANT FINAL STEP
By the way, if you have feedback of your own, I suggest you send it here, to Center for Inquiry. Please be sure to mention as many positive things about the conference as you can, because they need to know that it’ll be worth organizing a Women in Secularism 3. Please do give Melody Hensley proper name-dropping in return for all the hard work she did to bring us such an important event. Don’t let Ron Lindsay’s ambivalence toward feminism prevent us from getting together to strengthen each other and our community.