45 Responses

  1. The negro leagues were forcibly separated from the major leagues, by law and by policy. Probably that is not the best analogy for expanding the pool of talent in the freethought and humanist community, given that the barriers to entry therein are far more subtle.

    • rrp says:

      I think Greta is talking about when the Negro League players were able to go into the majors, not the long period when they weren’t. I’m not sure that the barriers wrt to gender or race to the community are more subtle, even if they’re not enshrined in any law.

      Thanks for pointing out how increasing diversity could work for the secular/atheist community. Let’s hope it does.

      • What are the unsubtle barriers to women in secularism?

        • rrp says:

          I’m thinking about a case a couple of years ago when a young woman posted a picture of herself to reddit’s atheist forum holding up a picture of her holding a copy of one of Dawkins’ books. The responses, where it wasn’t just making comments about her looks, were derisive that she even might be interested in reading the material, suggesting that she was a fake and so on.

          That’s not subtle.

          • I certainly would not recommend reddit as a starting place to my daughter, because of the anti-humanistic culture I’ve seen on reddit. That said, however deplorable the behaviour of some of those redditors, you are generalizing to the entire community from one outstandingly bad example. I might as well say that campus cops are generally unprofessional and abusive because of what happened at UC Davis.

            To take an outstanding example from the other side, we’ve had at least three conferences dedicated primarily to the cause of furthering women in secularism, two in D.C. and one in Dublin. Surely these events are more representative of organized freethought than a bunch of anonymous assholes on reddit.

          • rrp says:

            I chose the reddit example because it wasn’t one of the ones that have been repeatedly chewed over by the secular community in the last three years since Rebecca Watson said, “Guys, don’t do that.” after the Dublin conference.

            Although there are certainly conferences welcoming women to the community, there is also community pushback at the same time.Or perhaps it would be more accurate to say that there has been a lot of pushback to a feminist presence in secularism. The community, especially online, is not all that welcoming from what I’ve read on different blogs and that can’t be discounted as a factor.

          • It is important that we separate nasty and unnecessary pushback (e.g. insulting, harassing, or defaming people) from the sort of free inquiry which is par for the course in the skeptical movement. When someone comes into the skeptic tent carrying their favorite ideology, they ought not be surprised when skepticism is applied to that ideology. This goes for feminism, masculism, libertarianism, New Atheism, Plus Atheism, and anything else.

          • rrp says:

            Skepticism applied to ideology means what exactly? That people can’t take ideological positions or that claims of fact wrt to ideology are subject to skepticism.

            That you wrote masculism, which is neither a word nor an ideology, is sort of odd.

          • “Skepticism applied to ideology means what exactly?”

            That people are allowed to question the premises of any given ideology without being marginalized merely for doing so.

          • rrp says:

            People can always ask questions. There’s no guarantee that all questions are of the same value or merit respect.

          • iamcuriousblue says:

            Nor should it be guaranteed that questioning currently-popular ideologies should merit automatic, dismissal, disrespect, or automatic gainsaying that such questioning only is based on defensiveness about privilege. This is quite clearly the status quo in some segments of the secular community.

          • rrp says:

            I don’t see that is guaranteed, but this is a big community, with lots of people reacting in lots of different ways in different venues. I know I can only be responsible for my own behavior.

          • ahermit says:

            Yes, it’s too bad that feminists challenging the status quo are immediately met with dismissal, disrespect and online harassment.

          • iamcuriousblue says:

            Well, if your worldview is so simplistic that you see everything in terms of brave, put-upon feminists versus upholders of a misogynistic social status quo, then its no wonder you have so much anger toward those of us who can look at feminism critically.

          • ahermit says:

            My goodness; you read an awful lot into that comment, didn’t you?

            I’m not the one with the simplistic worldview, or the anger here…mostly I’m just amused.

          • Xof says:

            As a straight, white, middle-class, English-speaking male, I have exactly 0.0% concern that I will be “marginalized” for questioning the premises of anything from feminism to string theory.

            This is what privilege is.

          • By all means, please do exercise your privilege to question both sets of theories. I’ve never seen an article about the vicious online callout culture of string theorists, but who knows?

          • Xof says:

            You don’t know many theoretical physicists, clearly.

            And anyone who thinks that anti-feminists viewpoints are difficult to find, difficult to publicize, or have a limited audience needs to get out a bit more. Unless, of course, one is being hypocritical in that one is allowing oneself the liberty of disagreeing vehemently with a viewpoint, but calling oneself “marginalized” when others disagree vehemently.

          • Anyone can get any message out to an audience on the internet. If you think that is what this is about, you haven’t been paying attention. This is about whether it is acceptable for secularists to apply skepticism to aspects of feminism.

          • Xof says:

            Why, no, I’m afraid that is not what it is about. That’s not what Greta’s post above is about.

            And “acceptable” is such a funny word. I suspect that if this were applied in other situations, people who came into my house and took a dump on the carpet would complain that I was making it “unacceptable to discuss waste management issues” by evicting them.

          • The core of the post is about broadening the pool of talent, to be sure, and there is nothing remotely wrong with that.

            I suppose we can cheerfully ignore the broader context of posting at AHA while publicizing a boycott against CFI.

          • Xof says:

            I’m glad we finally got to what this was about.

          • It’s not about any one thing, so far as I can tell. The article raises a wide variety of issues.

          • SheilaCrosby says:

            Greta is not publicizing a boycott against CFI, and hasn’t been since June 24th.

          • Do you believe this article was composed AFTER that blog post, and Greta deliberately left off any mention of Ron’s apology or her acceptance thereof?

          • Sally Strange says:

            This is about whether it is acceptable for secularists to apply skepticism to aspects of feminism.

            You can apply skepticism to feminism all you want. You just don’t get to claim that you’re being marginalized when people tell you that you’re wrong.

          • That’s cool with me. Do you see a difference between arguing that someone is wrong and calling for a boycott?

          • Sally Strange says:

            Do you see a difference between arguing that someone is wrong and calling for a boycott?


            P.S. You don’t get to claim to be marginalized because people are boycotting you either.

          • Here is the definition of the word “marginalize” from MacMillan:
            1 to make someone or something seem not important or relevant
            2 to prevent someone from having power or influence

            The point of Greta’s boycott (and the various other FtB-led boycotts) is to have someone removed from a leadership position with a public platform, thereby reducing their importance, relevance, power, and influence. So far, they haven’t succeeded (unless we count Vacula) but let’s not pretend it is something other than an attempt to marginalize a targeted individual.

          • ahermit says:

            If by “separate the nasty pushback” you mean recognize that it’s not the norm, or make it clear that such behaviour has no place in this movement I completely agree.

            If by “separate the nasty pushback” you mean “pretend it doesn’t matter” (which too often seems to be the message we see from certain quarters) then i think you’re missing the boat.

          • I meant the former, in both senses that you mentioned here.

          • ahermit says:

            Well that’s a nice change … does this mean you’ve stopped making excuses for the slymepit?

          • I’ll never stop making excuses for any place where people gather to speak their minds. My personal preference for moderated spaces does not imply that I believe other spaces should not exist.

          • Snobo says:

            He’s a guy. Of course anything you say will be wrong.

          • Alex Gabriel says:

            One thing: it was one of Carl Sagan’s books (The Demon-Haunted World, to be precise), not one of Richard Dawkins’. 🙂

        • TooManyJens says:

          There’s a great deal of information out there about the barriers to women in secularism that you could avail yourself of if you’re interested. Do you have an opinion on the central thesis of this article, which is that fostering diversity doesn’t mean lowering standards, because the “usual suspects” are not in fact the only highly talented people in the world?

          • iamcuriousblue says:

            Even while agreeing with the “central thesis”, there are some points to take issue with – 1) Of all the lack-of-diversity issues within the secularist/skeptic/atheist milieu, it seems to me that gender parity is one of the lesser ones – lots of participation by women at all levels, from what I can see. Yet gender is the issue that’s emphasized in 90%+ of the secularist “diversity” conversations. If the discussion were focused on, say, lack of people of color in secularism, you’d be pointing to a clear and present issue, yet that issue is raised comparatively less often. Of course, my guess is that there’s some hidden agendas in the “women in secularism” conversation that have little to do with actual diversity.

            2) The idea that lack of diversity is well-remedied by a “Woman in….”, “African-Americans in…..” (insert [field] here) event/publication/organization, rather than better integration into general events, groups, and media. There may be a role for such events, but it’s an admission that the more general milieu has failed to incorporate diversity and the problem isn’t anywhere close to being remedied. I’m reminded of a couple of books on street art that came out a few years ago – one volume on “Graffiti World” (representing both genders, but with mix leaning toward men) and another equal-size book on “Graffiti Women”. It struck me that a better effort would have been to issue a couple of books with a more equal gender mix; the implication of having the “Graffiti Women” book seemed to be that these artists weren’t quite good enough to make the cut in “Graffiti World”.

          • You can rest assured that if I had any issues with the central thesis of this article, that would have been what I commented about.

            I’ll go further than that, and outright praise Greta for quite selflessly saying the following: “It’s okay to scale back on re-inviting the other core group of women who frequently speak at conferences again and again and to start inviting some of these other women.”

            I’d go even further and say it is okay to invite marginalized women like Abbie Smith and Stef McGraw and Maria Maltseva and Sara Mayhew and Miranda Hale to speak at conferences. Anyone care to second that one?

          • rrp says:

            Sure, broadening the pool of women who want to speak about secularism is always a good idea.

    • throwaway says:

      Way to miss the blasted point, Damion. Not one mention of comparing the situation of ‘barriers’ themselves or that the barriers are comparable, but an example of how the very specific argument of ‘affirmative action ruins everything and will lower standards’ does not reflect reality in that situation.

  2. tecolata says:

    I have always noticed that the articles and speeches in magazines like Free Inquiry and Skeptical Inquiry were written by the privileged. I remember getting home after losing my job when my employer told me they absolutely would NOT provide the previously promised accommodation for my disability (resulting in long legal case) and I see a copy of FI with an arcane discussion on free will. And wondered, were any of those ivory tower denizens ever unemployed?

    • rrp says:

      I don’t think you can make that assumption across the board, IIRC, the author of this piece was in some severe financial trouble due to illness not all that long ago.

  3. Greg Smith says:

    Well said! But for my own selfish reasons I hope you don’t cross yourself off the list of speakers any time soon, or start declining all speaking engagements. I agree that mixing in lesser known and equally talented people, especially people from groups that are underrepresented in the movement, is extremely important.

  4. SocraticGadfly says:

    I think the real issue to one part of this essay is not that women are being marginalized, but that people unlucky enough not to have become “Names” or stars don’t get enough recognition, promotion, conference invitations, etc. in general, be they lesbian women, straight women, gay men, straight men, white, black, brown, green, Martian, Earthling, etc.

    Related to all of this, I suspect political conservatives could raise similar issues of exclusion. And, not all atheists, and certainly not all secularists are liberals. There’s libertarianians like Penn/Teller and Brian Dunning. There’s neocons like Sam Harris. There’s paleocons like “mythicist” Robert Price and even columnist George Will, who identifies as a “none.”

  5. SocraticGadfly says:

    Does privilege and being “overlooked” include political conservatives? While thought processes related to modern atheism, or modern skepticism, may likely point people in a more politically liberal direction, they don’t **necessarily** do so. There’s libertarians, neocons, and even good old paleocons who identify with the label of atheist: socraticgadfly.blogspot DOT com/2013/07/atheism-does-not-necessarily-political.html