Monday, December 31, 2012

AtheismPlus to save us from Apple

Ridiculous thread:

Titled: Richard Dawkins/PZ Myers/Jerry Coyne's blind spot: Apple
Hi everyone, first post here (and I admit, with a willingly provocative title). So, first let me say that I like the three guys mentioned above and agree with them on most issues, except one.
We may disagree on something! It's a crisis in Atheism+!

 He/she/genderless pronoun continues:
They happen to have a terrible blind spot when Apple is concerned. As some of you may not see this as a particularly worrying issue, let me remind you that Atheism+ is meant to strive for a better life for everyone, and that the use of free software is of prime importance to this goal. If you do not know what free software is, please research it. In fact, it is the only ethical choice if you value freedom.
In addition, that Apple is rotten for all sorts of reasons is well known, e.g. :
Now, Richard/PZ/Jerry not only regularly and clearly display their preferences for locked-down Apple hardware and software, but they often "advertise" them in their blogs or even in the Guardian for Richard without thinking of the consequences. I have no objection to them using OSX, even though this is disappointing, but I would suggest they reflect on what this actually *means* to use this environment, and what kind of examples they set.
Plus, as scientists, they could easily switch from OSX to GNU/Linux with no loss (and even a gain) of functionalities.
Again, this could (and will, to some) appear as a minor issue. Yet, the kind of future society we're building partially rest on who is controlling the hardware/software being built today. I hope the Atheism+ movement will embrace free software as one of its goals. Let's see what you guys think. - Atheist++
choice of OS can't be boiled down to pure ethical concerns because the fact of the matter is that some people will find that some OSes work better for them than others, regardless of ethics.
Translation: ethics, well yes, but let's think about convenience!
and then of course there's the part where the computer itself was built by exploited labour. [...] high-tech applications have fucked up histories. honestly, for now, you've kinda gotta get used to it and let people use what works for them =/ - Setar
Translation: gender relations have a thousand year history, we're going to fix that, but computers?

Man, I like Linux too, but Linux zealots are really annoying. - Amadan   
As for the ethics of choosing an OS, I do agree that basing the choice wholly on ethical ends is a curious endeavour and one that I expect would not be at all trivial. That said, I'd be surprised if the ethical outcome on much closer inspection was "oh, actually, Apple is best!". - Xisor

Then, replying to the comment about labor:

Agreed, but it is a separate issue. Let's solve the problems one by one. - Atheist++

Your argument = you don't care, and you've already bought into the Apple environment.  :)
It's your choice, but Atheism+ is about social justice and humanism. - Atheist++

This is a gem, isn't it?

Let's solve problems one by one, and yet make sure we agree on the solutions to all of them.

Setar brings up - but this might create work for PZ! The horror!

was going to read your entire post but I just stopped here. you can't seriously be telling me that changing OSes is going to be just a "minor inconvenience" for a tenured professor.
I'm just going to give you a minute to think over the kind of things a professor might have on their hard drive, and how much of a hassle it might be for a professor who doesn't normally deal with changing OSes to change OSes. As a first step, try remembering the Zeroth Law of Tech Support: your client thinks that you're a wizard fiddling with a black box.

I'm thinking more along the lines of transferring over course notes, research notes, etc. research, in fact, is probably an area where someone like PZ would encounter problems with proprietary formats. -Setar
 When discussing issues, let's first think what they would do to Prof Myers!

Back to how many issues?

No, let's not. People have different resources, interests, and priorities, so we're quite capable of discussing more than one issue at a time. The problem of natural resources is a separate problem, so it might well merit its own thread, but to say "let's not talk about that issue because we're working on another one right now" is simply absurd.

Focus is one thing we can't afford to have in Atheism+!

A summary of the rest of the thread:
  • "I find Ubuntu hard to use"
  • "Perhaps we can give Ubuntu to poor people, and they can figure it out?"
  • "I make a living doing work on Windows"
Atheism+ on feminism: "I don't care who might make money out of our sexist economy, it needs to stop."

Atheism+ on Linux and other GPL software: "We're a forum full of nerds that will do what they want because we either are making money from the status quo or we're too stupid to figure it out."

Cheers, Atheism+, for being a shitty mashup of the FSF + EFF + NOW + JREF + FFRF + HRC.

Are the organizations you already contribute to a little too effective for your liking? Join Atheism+ Today!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Don't talk about sexism

This is gold. A quality person with a quality topic gets torn to pieces.

It begins:

I'm working on an article about gender inequity within the secular movement (advocating progress, not exposé). I've spoken with some great people (PZ Myers, Greta Christina, etc.), but would really like to hear some stories from women on the ground, both physically speaking (conferences and local meetings) and metaphorically speaking (forums, blogs, email, etc.).

If you've personally experienced sexism in one of these contexts and would be willing to "speak" with me verbally or digitally, drop me a note at I'd love to hear your story

A+ asks, 'but what about transsexuals?'

The reply:

 This particular story is pretty tight, so I'm focusing on the one issue. That said, I agree that looking at inclusion across the board is absolutely essential. Down the road, I would be very interested in gathering stories from genderqueer people within the movement. An unfortunate truth of advocacy writing is that there is a neverending list of injustices to write about.

In other words, 'maybe later, thx'

Then it gets better.
I'm cisgendered... but the whole 'leaving out trans issues in an article about gender inequity' thing leaves me cold. I think if you want to address gender equity as a whole, you have to address trans issues. Otherwise you're erasing trans* people, IMO. 

Another chimes in:

I don't really feel comfortable contributing my sexism stories if the stories of trans & nonbinary people are going to yet again be ignored. 
And other... this time with more conclusive statement about the OP 'erasing' transsexuals:

I'm really not interested in letting anyone use my experiences to erase the experiences of others.
And then comes the race card:

It's the same issue- discrimination against non-male people in secularism.

There's another unfortunate issue of advocacy writing, too- nobody ever picks certain things on the neverending list because, well, it's a neverending list, and they're focusing on this one issue...

You wouldn't have to change a thing to include nonbinary people. On the flip side, you have to actively discriminate against us to not include us. It's really a matter of changing "discrimination against women" to "discrimiation against non-male people" (or whatever wording) and allowing nonbinary to submit their stories alongside women.

Otherwise, this is like doing an article on racism and only taking submissions from black people or latin@ people, but not aboriginal people or asian people because they're a "different issue".

Apparently you can't write an article about treatment of Mexican immigrants in the USA without talking about the challenges the aborigines are facing in Australia. Racism is racism.

A reasonable person asks:

Why not support that and suggest covering genderqueer issues, rather than denying all support until our demands are met?

 Oh boy.

Oh yes, why shouldn't women throw genderqueer people under the bus? I'm pretty sure that'd be a great way of promoting equality!  

Projects like this are a good idea. They can be improved by taking steps to avoid erasing marginalized people from the discussion. Backpackergirl is trying to do a good thing. We're trying to help her make it better.


wtf. what is it with this goddamn bullshit implying that we somehow have to compromise on having our goddamned existence recognized. what the fucking hell shit and fuck. this is the single worst, most condescending statement, well...ever.

this isn't compromise. this is you dangling an entire community's goddamn existence above my head just out of reach and commanding us to jump. if you keep doing this, you're going to end up being (figuratively) kicked, and at that point it's going to be up to you whether you want to shape up or throw a tantrum.

(emphasis mine) I suppose the article's author did not realize this was an existential threat to transgendered communities.

Stopped reading here. Fuck you with the power of a thousand suns. I am not female because I have two X chromosomes*. Trans men are not women if they have two X chromosomes. Trans women are not men if they have two X chromosomes.

Really. This talk of biological gender has precisely one place and it's shoved back up your ass.

*- if I even do? I can presume such, but seriously, who here has actually had themselves karyotyped?

Another person more briefly sums up the anti biological argument:

All of the above are people you erased by saying XX = woman, XY = man. 

The lone dissenter gets accused of 'pulling shit':

it has come to my attention that you haven't read your link package.

Please do so now. If you had read your link package you would have known that the shit you just pulled in this thread is completely unwelcome here. 

OP caves asks for ANY input, wonders what all the f-bombs are about:

First, I'd like to thank everyone for their input and assure you that I am not trying to erase anyone's story. I also understand the difference between sex (biological) and gender (social construct). Although, I have to admit, my post was sloppily handled in hindsight. My intention is to highlight how the secular community can become more inclusive. You are all correct, gender equity, just like gender, doesn't fall into binary categories, and the point is well taken that it is unfair to use only women's stories for this piece.

Please consider my request revised to include anyone who has experienced gender-based discrimination.

One another note, I would point out that while many of the replies to my post seemed to be in the spirit of constructive criticism, others did not. I came here in a good faith effort to gather information that I could use to advocate for more inclusivity. Perhaps my direction was flawed, but I would like to think that one could count on support and guidance rather than pointed fingers in this forum in particular. Just a thought

OP is told she's the reason the discussion isn't very civil:

While the revised proposal is nice & all...I don't really work with people who tell me I have to be sweetness and light when asking people to please maybe consider that theyre engaging in oppressive douchery, as magical as their intent may be.

Mod Note: backpackergirl, we don't tone police here, i.e. if you screw up expect to be told about it and don't whine about how you are told

... the stomping continues...

backpackergirl, we just did. And it turns out that it was a fair toss nicer than you deserved. If anybody owes anyone an apology around here, it's you 


then please consider my response revised from a simple "no" to "fuck you binarist asshole." 
Nope nope nope, and fuck you to boot. Ain't no goddamned difference. Someone's gender identity is their gender is their sex is their gender is their gender identity.


god damn I can't believe I missed that. backpackergirl, if you're still reading...leave. if that's how you think about gender then I don't think anyone here is going to want to talk to you, much less any of us nonbinary people.

because y'know

our gender is totally a social construct

when society does all it can to erase our existence

right down to the default "neutral" pronoun being male

fuck you with the energy of a thousand fuck yous condensed into a single green lantern ring of fuck you. 

Now, a few questions:

Is gender relies so much on self identification, how can we assume the speakers at secular conferences are mostly male?

Does Atheism Plus think that transgendered people should be able to compete in women's sporting events and other functions?

Does anybody think the author would feel that Atheism Plus is a SAFE environment for her? 

Don't talk about FGM

Oh. Female genital mutilation.

Don't bother telling the Atheism Plus people about it.

Why is FGM a non-issue among the A+ crowd?

Rebecca Watson essentially called male circumcision a 'first world problem' back in 2010:

To get back to drealgrin’s question, does it matter? Both boys and girls are hurt by mutilation, and neither male circumcision nor fgm can be supported by anything other than cultural or religious dogma. Both should be ended. But yes, it matters that we recognize the difference, because every time you falsely compare male circumcision to fgm with zero facts to back you up, you are not just making a case for ending male circumcision. You are belittling and undermining efforts to end a much more terrible problem.
I support the end of male circumcision, but not at the expense of people writing off the mutilation of millions of women.

Then, in June 2011, elevator gate happened.

Richard Dawkins, in his "Dear Muslima" comment, essentially called being asked for coffee in an elevator a 'first world problem'.


It would seem that we've got two camps at this point.

  1. Anti-male-circumcision advocates ('intactivists'), who are told FGM exists so get a grip and STFU
  2. Watson and Atheism Plus, who are told FGM exists so get a grip and STFU

What a gong show. It gets worse.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali leads what is likely the most reputable focused anti-FGM organization in the USA.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali also is a fellow at AEI, a right-leaning think tank.

As Atheism+ is really a weird mashup of 'progressive' ideas, they've managed to find bogus reasons to cause a fuss.

More details from an admittedly biased source

Adam Lee ( @DaylightAtheism , A+ fan ) has some winning comments.

Let me put this delicately: Growing up in Somalia, Kenya and Saudi Arabia is not the kind of life experience that I would expect to give someone a strong opinion about the feasibility of modern welfare states. I think her views have changed substantially. I even think I know how and when it happened.

Does not bode well for Atheism Plus if women growing up in these countries are not forming compliant progressive opinions! He continues:
When she took the job with AEI, she may have sincerely believed that it was just a platform for her to broadcast her own views. But I'd be willing to bet that the opinions held there have seeped into her thinking. It's a universal human tendency to adopt the beliefs of your peer group, especially when they're responsible not just for your social relationships but also for your salary. When you're rewarded for fitting in better, consciously or unconsciously, you'll often reshape your beliefs to fit in better. Not even the best of us are immune to that temptation. And that's especially true when you surround yourself with an ideologically closed circle - and I strongly suspect that AEI, like all conservative think tanks, does its best to cultivate an epistemic bubble where no dissenting views are confronted or debated.

So a well educated adult woman with an incredible story and independent success was lured into conservatism for fame and fortune.

Oddly enough, were you to suggest one of Adam's friends was in it for the money and fame, you would immediately be labeled a misogynist.

Further, Adam suggests a dangerous groupthink exists at AEI that presumably Atheism Plus is immune from.

Call me skeptical.

Where to go from here? Nowhere.

Bringing up FGM at this point does not serve the goals of Atheism Plus whatsoever, as it would derail the ongoing discussion of just who is going to speak at the next conference and the ongoing pruning of an online community.

FGM would also bring in debates about real people that would lead the effort. They might unseat the current clique of bloggers and simultaneously bend the rules to allow for strains of conservatism or more dismissive attitudes towards the complaints of western women.

So let's not talk about FGM, ok?

PZ explains his terrible jokes

Turns out PZ has responded to criticism of his conference jokes.

  1. PZ thinks joking about non-consensual sex isn't necessarily anti-feminist
  2. Good looking women may be propositioned as long as they are attending a talk about genetics.
And apparently Rebecca was only pretending to be abusing a subordinate in order to prank a friend. So much better.

Note: PZ will tell you he was telling a joke, not hitting on a woman.

Yes, and I only wanted coffee. Honest.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

PZ Myers uses massacre to criticize opponents

If you haven't kept up with Pharyngula (and who really can)

And these anonymous monsters on the internet who shriek affrontedly about women and feminists and moan that any feminist allies are ‘manginas’ — to me, every one of them has the name Marc Lépine, and is just hiding it in shame and fear and hatred and cowardice.

The title of the post is rich too.

PZ would like you to never forget:

  1. A sad little argument on the internet
  2. He's nicer than his opponents
  3. His opponents enable mass murder
  4. If they weren't such anonymous cowards, they would admit to wanting to kill dozens of people

Is there no equivalent of Godwin's law when it comes to any feminism related pissing contest?

Important to remember that this isn't "trolling" because "trolling" is never in blog posts, never done by PZ. Right?

It gets better.

Since it was mentioned in the comments, here are the names of the murdered women

Yep. First draft of the post had just enough context regarding the actions of Marc to dig into his opponents. That is all. A memorial this was not.

Stay classy PZ.

How inclusive is AtheismPlus?

Turns out a big no-no on the AtheismPlus subreddit is using 'ableist' language, as described here -

In this subreddit where you can't say 'retard', they seem to miss the fact that their subreddit exists to moderate many people with mental/psychological issues out of the discussion.

The alternative would be to suggest their racist, misogynistic and homophobic opponents are generally coming from a well reasoned source.

AtheismPlus: if you're bright enough to agree with us and be ever so polite about it, you have a future with us.

Here is an example of an article that was popular on A+:

We would be the natural allies of MRAs, if MRAs were sincerely committed to the causes with which they claim to be chiefly concerned. But no, today's MRAs—unlike the 1970s movement that earnestly sought to free men, alongside women, from the constraints of gender stereotypes, or the 1980s branch that involved a lot of drum circles and crap poetry—are chiefly concerned with one thing, and one thing only: Putting feminists in their place. Which is in the kitchen at best and in the ground at worst, if you ask these unapologetically misogynistic bags of rot.

The whole thing is funny, as many in MRAs would say the exact the same sorts of things about feminist groups today.

The article continues to focus on "MRAs" as a group of people trolling blog comments, making rape threats, writing academic papers on bizarre subjects or attempting to tear up existing sex crimes or dissolve family law.

Essentially MRAs, in the eyes of Atheism Plus, are some sort of male version of Andrea Dworkin or Lorena Bobbitt.

What you will find on Atheism Plus:

"Here is another 'nice guy' that feels entitled to a relationship. Male privilege!"

What you won't find on Atheism Plus:

"Why does Chris Brown have so many female twitter followers?"

"What is the deal with Hope Solo?"

Here is the prediction - Dialogue will continue to focus on depressed, socially isolated, perhaps straight up crazy males.


Because they are the ones that create unsafe environments. These people are indeed the enemy of all.

A+ is grounded on the idea that these people will be excluded and a 'safe' environment will remain.

It can and does work, but A+ goes well beyond simple precautions.

Since every single anonymous male on the internet is intimidating, they can be assumed to be threats.

The only way the threat is dialed down is if they say something agreeable about female perspectives, and say it quickly. Dissent can not be reasoned through, as these males simply escalate to violence if their will is not done. Media coverage of every mass shooting solidifies this idea.

Lay down the hammer of moderation, err on the side of exclusion, and things are now SAFE. Except you've guaranteed the isolation of the people you are concerned about.

So there you have it. They stood up to exclude the madness, and they ended up excluding the males.

Why Elevatorgate can only end badly

There is only one way the whole elevator drama will end. That is badly, if at all.


1) The Elevator incident is still being referenced as a self-evident example of poor decisions made by males.

The reasoning is as follows:
  1. Rebecca felt uncomfortable
  2. This discomfort was the result of the male's actions
  3. Said actions were in error because of their consequences, however subjective this result is
  4. Something about the situation was obviously "no-go". The location, the timing, the subject, the query, or a combination
  5. It is all so painfully obvious and wrong it produced a load of take-aways for other males looking for dates  

2) The Elevator incident is given as just one example of a massive systemic issue
Strangely enough,  no opinion polling exists to gauge how safe women feel in the skeptics organizations versus, say, traveling church choir groups.

What effort to quantify the problem exists beyond certain parties indexing 'hateful' (includes what could be defined as generally critical) YouTube comments and twitter posts?

3) Only one authoritative perspective exists

The guy in the elevator, as far as I know, has not stepped forward to offer his version of events.

4) Two camps emerged relatively unscathed

Opposing camps had high profile backers that did not see their reputations destroyed over the disagreement. Inability to reconcile succeeding differences help the problem snowball.

5) Profit.

Ultimately joining the shit storm elevates the profile of all involved. Perhaps this does not end up as cash, as many are compensated in various other means. More Twitter followers, (even if only 'h8ers', they serve a purpose) more contacts within a larger movement, and opportunities to be asked to speak about a problem you control the volume of.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

How to not be creepy at a conference

Elevatorgate. The facts, as Rebecca has described the scene:

Rebecca Watson was a speaker at a conference
She spoke as part of a panel discussing the treatment of women
She spent the evening chatting with people
At 4AM, in the hotel bar, she decides to call it a night.
A man follows her into the elevator
The man the asks if she would like to come to his room for coffee.

Elevatorgate is a thing, and apparently it was bad:
Vitreia [M]

As I understood what she was saying, a man who liked her invited her to his room, she declined, and that was the end of it.
He waited until they were alone in an elevator, where she had no choice but to listen to him, and propositioned her for sex. The only way you could not see this as problematic is to fail to understand that women are told, essentially, that they need to be on guard at all times (because if something terrible does happen, they're often blamed for not taking proper precaution). To corner a woman you don't know in an enclosed space and proposition her for sex apropos nothing is extraordinarily inappropriate. Furthermore, Watson had just got done with a speech in which she pleaded with the community to stop sexualizing her.
I'm seriously done with the "elevatorgate wasn't that bad" bullshit. If you don't see any problem with what happened, you don't belong here.
Now, is Dawkins a misogynist? I have no idea. I haven't called him one. But his response to the incident was couched in institutional misogyny, and the defenses of him are, at the very least, wrongheaded and privileged.


Well the incident itself wasn't that bad. It was ignorance, no evidence of malice, on the part of the part of the man.
This is where the "male privilege" part is, right here. Ignorance isn't really an excuse. The male in question didn't respect Watson's boundaries. You're taking it for granted that if you're just nice enough about it, it's okay to hit on a woman in this situation when you've had all of 2-3 minutes to talk to her. That's male privilege. There was no consideration on his part that a) they were in an elevator, and elevators can be close, uncomfortable-feeling places for some people's personal space issues, and b) women aren't automatically impressed and game for sex just because you're bold, male and happen to be polite with your proposition. Assuming either/or is male privilege.

 Where did these new data points come from?

Who knows! But they lead to a good set of rules!

How to not be creepy at a conference

DON'T expect sex. Males often aimlessly walk around believing they deserve sex when they in fact do not.

DON'T share elevators with women.

DON'T ask women questions in private. Pose questions with at least two witnesses.

DON'T pretend to just want coffee. It just makes things super extra creepy. Women will detect your true motivations and be very weirded out.
DON'T ask questions of women in situations where they have few choices. This includes, but is not limited to, transit systems, airport gates, airplanes, anywhere there is assigned seating, all rooms smaller than 20x20, obligatory functions like birthday parties, weddings and other situations where they cannot immediately evacuate the area.

DO wait for the conference to be over and send your query over Twitter, Facebook or email. Electronic communications means women will receive your request while they are safe at home. Even though it would seem unlikely, they will in fact refrain from writing a blog post about being constantly asked out by internet strangers!

DO allow the woman to make any and all sexual advances. This is the norm for modern progressive relationships, as females generally have an intuition about how creepy their advances could be to a male. Women at conferences are empowered and demand that they be the one to ask you on a date. As the relationship progresses, the woman will be the party to put forward a proposal of marriage

DO avoid females with 'chick' or 'bitch' in their usernames or abbreviated biography. Similarly, be wary of men using labels such as 'Dude', 'Guy' or 'Bro'. Such titles are meant to convey a certain attitude - perhaps tough, perhaps tendencies towards informal language. In reality it is a red flag for all kinds of needless drama.

Just follow these simple steps, and you will not be creepy in the slightest.

Jokes you aren't allowed to tell

Nothing wrong with cashing that blogging paycheck and spending it on lapdances right? PZ supports women.

Women are paid to dance naked. Nice clean fun. Hilarious.

Rebecca Watson, who apparently receives threats of sexual violence all the time, thinks that cutting off someone's penis is a joke that belongs in a presentation.

The icing on the cake: these two creeps collaborate!

The comic routine involves PZ joking that losing a card game may result in nonconsensual sex.

  Then PZ mentions exchanging his room number, getting back to the 'sex part' later.

This is followed by Rebecca giggling about how a card game with PZ will end up with him trying to impregnate you. Perhaps in an elevator?

Add to this her experiment-joke that involved making absurd demands of a female subordinate. I'm sure she'd get away with this story if she were male, right?

So funny.

What is there left to say, except perhaps 'TRIGGER WARNING'?