Friday, May 31, 2013

Progressive Victim Blaming

In the day to day cycle of reading and writing about feminist topics, it is clear that one thing that is terribly wrong is "victim blaming".

One tragedy of the recent days has been the Woolwich murder.

Currently there are a lot of people playing the "blame game".

It seems to be a typical reaction to an awful scenario. Who could have allowed this to happen?

In the case of rape, one should not find blame in the victim. One can always create a hypothetical scenario in which the victim potentially avoids an attack, of course, but this does not change that there ought to be absolutely no scenarios in which the outcome is sexual assault.

When it comes to terrorist attacks, our thinking about this topic (especially among progressives) changes. Suddenly, all kinds of deconstructions of the event are fair game.

Provided for example is the following article, by way of Glenn Greenwald:

Assed Baig has written an article titled "Woolwich and the Muslim Response".

Following is each paragraph with critiques.

The first bit:
The murder in Woolwich has shocked everyone, no one was prepared for such a killing on the streets of the UK. The response has been of disgust and condemnation. This incident has raised some questions that politicians and the mainstream media have conveniently dodged. I am disgusted and appalled by what has taken place, but why should I have to condemn or apologise for such a crime, it had nothing to do with me.


No one was prepared for such a killing in the UK?

Eight years ago Islamists lit up the transit system in London.

Does anyone seriously read a machete attack in the news and think it is something surprising? Or do people pick up the news and already know precisely what motivations the attacker has already?

This is such old news at this point, and Baig should stop pretending that these are loads of isolated incidents.

Why is it that Muslims and Muslim organisations are expected to condemn and distance themselves from the actions of two individuals? Why is it that Muslim organisations do not even need to be prompted to condemn; they are readily condemning actions that have nothing to do with them. There has been no attempt by Muslim organisations to discuss the causes of the attack, no attempt to question the mainstream media narrative that imposes labels on Muslims. 
I was born and brought up in a majority Muslim area of Birmingham. I have travelled the country and the world. I have come across thousands of Muslims, spoken, debated and challenged opinions. Radicalisation is not a religious problem, it is a problem of society, and specifically, in this case, British society.

In these paragraphs, Assed Baig is essentially asking the question: "What does this guy have to do with us?"

"Like, he presumably attended worship services with us, read the same authors as us, believed in the same supernatural reality as us, but beyond that why should Muslims have to answer any questions about this?"

Muslim leaders have been scared into silence. Prevent officers visiting mosques and community leaders frighten them. They are told that if Muslims display any political opinions outside the mainstream then they are extremists, that if they do not inform on them, that their bank accounts can be frozen, mosques closed and they could face prison. Muslims are afraid. Muslim organisations and leaders are subservient to the state, scared to mention foreign policy as a radicalising factor just in case they are harangued for justifying the murder. It has got to such a state that we do not even realise that our minds have been conditioned through years of media misrepresentation and widespread Islamophobia. Questioning the reason for a murder does not mean condoning or justifying it. Condemning something that has nothing to do with you feeds into the narrative that this is a Muslim problem, that this is something that the Muslim community are responsible for, at least in part.

So, Muslim leaders are too scared to deflect blame away from Islam because people will make them eat their words. 

Sounds fair so far?

In turn so-called Muslim leaders stifled debate and discussion in mosques, too afraid to discuss anything political. For too long they have played a subservient role to the state, asking for a seat at the table and hoping for crumbs to be passed to them. I have not met a Muslim that has condoned the actions in Woolwich, but let’s not ignore what radicalises. British foreign policy radicalises, double standards radicalise, making Muslim youngsters feel like their opinions are not legitimate radicalises, stifling debate and discussion radicalises, not giving people a conduit to vent their opinions and frustrations radicalises, a lack of identity in Britain radicalises, we are either extremists or moderates.

These "Muslim leaders" aren't subservient to the state. They were created by the state.

Governments have explicit policies that curate "diverse communities". The more noise you make, the more representative you must be of conservative religious groups. Often issues of family law is completely deferred to religious arbitration.

Education? That's also under the purview of conservative religious opinions.

The state elevates the power of Muslim leaders to ridiculous proportions.

We are told that Muslims are equal citizens in this country but the reality is something very different. If we say we don’t drink, we are labelled anti-social or not willing to integrate, if we drink we are labelled moderate, if a Muslim wears a hijab, she is oppressed, if she doesn’t she is liberated, if we express an opinion outside of the mainstream narrative, we are angry, if we join a mainstream political party we are passionate, if we sing the praises of the British establishment we are liberals, if we object to foreign policy we are extremists or Islamists.
This is just nonsense.

In a free society, nobody is obligated to like you. Get over it. Bring this stuff up with your therapist.

I for one am fed up of this apologetic and subservient tone. I have nothing to apologise for, I should not be asked to condemn the actions of two men that had nothing to do with me just as a white man should not be asked to condemn the murders committed by Anders Brevik or for the violent actions of the English Defence League.

The comparison is stupid.

Here's the thing: Islam is not a race.

White Norwegians are not responsible for Brevik.

Similarly, white British people are not responsible for the EDL.

However you can bet the EDL is responsible for the EDL.

After the Woolwich murder, nobody is asking black people for an apology. And nobody is asking the Arab population for an apology.

The message being sent is a firm, clear "WTF!" to the Muslim community.

Have Muslims not proved their worth to this country? Muslims have bled for this country during WWI and WWII, they have fought for Empire, they have served as colonial subjects, they have waved the flags, sang the anthems and anglicised their names –Mo and Ed. But still we are not accepted; we still hear ‘Muslim appearance’ in the mainstream media, which basically means non-white, not one of us.

The joke here is the outright denial that someone can look Muslim.

One can.

The religion has firm dress codes for men and women.

Muslims have an identifiable appearance, just like hipsters and stock brokers have an identifiable appearance. To deny this is insanity.

I am privileged, I went to university, I had an abundance of left-wing white friends that never questioned my opinions because of my religion or ethnicity, that accepted me as an equal, and made me feel that I had a place in society, we shared our politics as well as our battles.

Shared our politics?

Apparently "politics" in this sense is limited to opinions about worker's unions and the posted speed limits.

If Baig were to deeply inspect his political opinions, he may find that they don't overlap in all areas.

For example, can we expect to see Baig at the next gay pride parade? Probably not.

My parents still fear that I will be arrested for writing and expressing an opinion as a journalist. I have been inundated with calls since the attack from Muslims that are afraid of a backlash, one even asked me if there would be ethnic cleansing. I told them not to be afraid because I had faith in the British people to see through the fog that politicians and mainstream media perpetuate.

Don't worry, you won't get arrested unless you say something anti-Islam.

Draw a cartoon, perhaps.

Why is it that Joe Glenton can say that foreign policy is a radicalising factor but our so-called Muslim leaders tiptoe around the issue? Why is it that George Eaton can say that Muslims should not have to distance themselves from the attacks, but our so-called leaders are falling over themselves to do it? Why is it that Glenn Greenwald can question whether the attack is terrorism, but my fellow brothers and sisters are afraid to do the same?

Why can't someone say Islam is absolutely garbage without being called a racist "Islamophobe"?

I was born here, I am British, I am standing in the tradition that says that my opinion is just as valid as anyone else’s, that I have a right to object to the hypocritical treatment vented out to Muslims without being accused of condoning or justifying such attacks. There are Muslims that will disagree with me, that is fine, we must understand that we are not a homogenous group, Anjum Choudry and his motley crew do not represent me, neither do the Muslim Council of Britain with their 400 affiliated mosques run by old men in committees. Unfortunately non-Muslims in the public sphere represent my views more than our so-called Muslim leaders.

Shouldn't be surprising, as you previously stated you share "politics" with a bunch of "left-wing white friends".

To be ‘leaders’, senior Muslim figures must lead. Whilst politicians and the media carry on scapegoating Muslims, a true community leadership must face up to the reality of foreign policy and suppression of Muslim communities over the last decade, and call it out for what it is.
This is overwhelming absurdity.

First, Baig states that Muslims really aren't answerable to the actions of other Muslims.

Then he states that Muslims are British, should be commended for being "colonial subjects", fighting for the Empire and fighting in both world wars. Supporting British foreign policy, in other words.

In the midst of a lot of strange comparisons, Baig attempts to say that Muslims aren't a homogeneous population, they don't necessarily agree on everything, and this is perhaps why he thinks that a "Sorry" is not required.

Then finally, in a climax of contradiction, Baig chastises Muslim leaders for their inability to call a spade a spade and blame it all on British foreign policy.

Wait, didn't Baig say that Muslims didn't have to agree? That Muslims didn't need to apologize?

Now all of a sudden Muslims must join in solidarity, and ask the British government (and presumably its people) for an apology for the murder in Woolwich.

This is the same old "progressive" dead horse.

Woolwich, in Baig's and Greenwald's mind, is just another incident of "blowback".

In their eyes, Islam is absolutely blameless and is a completely inert political ideology. Somehow, Islam can convince someone to wake up at dawn to pray but magically cannot convince one to cut up the nonbelievers. Even when the books pretty much spell it out.

For many "progressives", the real culprit is western foreign policy and western "Islamophobes".  Somehow, unstable people from Nigeria, Egypt, Yemen, Pakistan, etc are losing their minds over minute details of British foreign policy!

To the western world, Baig and Greenwald are saying "Look at what you're wearing. I mean really!"

"With that top on, who wouldn't want to kill your innocent citizens?"

"You dress like you want a jihad!"

PZ the breadwinner

On Wednesday, this post was made in response to things read in the LA Times and other papers.

Turns out the subject of women as breadwinners is making the rounds in the media, and conservative news outlets.

Some talking heads voiced some rather backwards ideas about a "natural order" in the household without backing it up with any data.

This is where PZ Myers enters the game, of course, to call the Republican/Libertarian crowd that they are a bunch of idiots.

While it's amusing to read a takedown of hardcore Bible thumpers, PZ ends on a rather bizarre note:

Here’s the deal, Fox News. The world is changing. It’s not getting worse, it’s getting different, and I know that’s the kind of thing that makes bitter, cranky old conservatives weep into their scotch and water, but deal with it. Besides, you’ll be dead soon and won’t care any more.
And it’s not just getting different, it’s getting better — those women in the workforce are more independent, more free, and living more fulfilling lives that matter. Welcome it. And hey, how about getting off your privileged butts and making sure that they get paid the same as men, so those families and children you’re so fucking concerned about can get by?

This appears to be some sort of argument, but it lacks any awareness of America's economic realities.

Employment rates are not good.

Many people are underwater on their mortgage and/or carry too much high interest debts.

How does PZ read this situation?

The solution that PZ puts forward is ostensibly pay equity legislation. Beyond that, things are just fine!

Somehow the answer to all our problems is to guarantee females get paid the same as their unemployed and underemployed male counterparts!

Of course, had PZ actually read the articles in question instead of responding to the data by simply stating the opposite of whatever conservative talking heads said, he may have had something substantive to add.

But no.

Forget what data might mean.

Forget that Egypt is reporting a similar reality without a correlation to women's empowerment.

Forget that the female breadwinners are more often than not to be members of lower income households.

The important part is that we disagree with the theocratic evildoers!

Thursday, May 30, 2013

A Note about Doxxing

The latest online drama related to the "FreeThoughtBlogs" gang is just who is guilty of more "doxxing".

To "dox" someone is to reveal personal information about someone online that they would not want revealed. The definition of personal information depends on the context of the situation. Sometimes it's information that is obviously damaging, like a credit card or social security number. Often it's something seemingly simple, like a full name or a phone number.

Typically doxxing is done so anonymous trolls can prank or intimidate the victim in a number of ways. Ordering unwanted pizza, making fake appointments, leaving bizarre voice mail messages.

The "FreeThoughtBlogs" crowd like to cast themselves as the victims in all this, but really it's a game of give and take.

Here's some short version of the story that is purposefully missing a lot of detail -

Once upon a time, a certain FreeThoughtBlogger (or was it FTB fan?) took it upon himself to identify the location of a "harasser". Presumably the information was to be used to embarrass the "harasser" in front of his employers. Remember, the FreeThoughtBloggers love to see "misogynists" get the axe.

It turned out to be the address of the "harasser"'s ex-wife.

Then, the address of a well known FTBer was copy & pasted to the "SlymePit" forum. It may or may not have been public information, however it was probably disconcerting to see it there.

Fast forward a bit, PZ Myers ended up with booked test drive appointments with car dealerships in his area.  One can imagine this is tremendously annoying.

Some time later, (or perhaps before?) a Twitter user and YouTuber pointed out to one of the FTB crowd that he/she essentially doxxed himself/herself by sharing easily identifiable location data. The video was made to show the FTB crowd that their behavior doesn't necessarily jive with their statements about their situation.

Closer to the present, an FTBer posted some criticism she received from a protected Twitter account. Protected Twitter accounts are usually a signal that the Twitter user generally does not wish their thoughts to immediately be broadcast as wide as Twitter would typically allow. The user asked for the removal of the content from FreeThoughtBlogs.

This was followed up by FTBers publicly attempting to connect the dots between people posting with real names and their "sock puppet" accounts with fake names. By any measure, this is doxxing - the result is the same.

The merry go round continues:
  1. Somebody says something on the internet
  2. Somebody is incredibly pissed off about it
  3. Some amateur sleuthing happens to find out the motivations, weaknesses and contradictions the people involved may have
  4. This information is then used to say something on the internet, and then we're back at the beginning
In this rotation, the "something" said may be doxxing, or lead to doxxing. 

If you write detailed blog posts about specific people and events, you will eventually "dox" someone.

They might be someone you abhor. But it may be just as likely to be a friend. It is on you to think about how you respond to each incident and take the appropriate course of action.

The fingerpointing and harassment claims are incredibly tiresome.

You have several choices:
  1. Stick to your guns and tell everyone "welcome to being internet famous, deal with it!"
  2. Make it clear that it's purely a revenge play to align for previous slights by your opponents
  3. Redact the information as appropriate
Save everyone a lot of headaches and stop pretending that one can make themselves immune from being in the wrong when it comes to information sharing.

Perhaps one reasonable course of action is to take the information down so long as cooler heads prevail.

This leads us to the conclusion that all content on this blog is liable to be deleted or redacted.

This content does not exist to "dox" or "Google bomb" people. There is no point for this to be an extra-judicial offender registry for people making bad arguments on the internet.

The point is to highlight problems with bad reasoning.

Unrepentant nonsense factories will be documented thoroughly. This is a public service.

It is however important to discriminate between the people who believe nonsense in error and those that have built a career in it.

The former may be disappointed to see a strange blog show up beside their resume in a web search.

The latter are thrilled by manufactured controversy.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Breadwinners and breadlosers

Reading this article about Egypt presented the following statistic:
Yet one fact can't be overlooked: Almost 40% of Egyptian women are the sole breadwinners in their households. Many have had to overcome domestic abuse, sexual assault and poverty.
Looking for US numbers, this article was discovered:
We find that there are more wives, and women generally, supporting their families economically now than ever before—and there could not be a more important time to ensure that working women receive the pay they deserve. The typical woman only earns an average of 77 cents to the male dollar. It is not difficult to imagine how many more women would be breadwinners—and how much better off our families would be—if the gender wage gap were closed.
While part of this was undoubtedly due to steep job losses by men, even now in the midst of the so-called “Man-covery,” women still comprise about half of U.S. payrolls (49.3 percent as of February 2012).
Some groups of women, particularly women of color, immigrants, and low-income women, have always had high levels of labor force participation.
In no small part due to higher male unemployment, alongside the longstanding trends, in 2010 in nearly two-thirds (63.9 percent) of families with children women were either breadwinners or co-breadwinners.
Breadwinning wives are even more common in families with lower incomes.
And the paper's conclusion:
 And yet, in spite of women’s ever-growing economic contributions to their families, the gender wage gap persists and the only indications that it is beginning to narrow are due to men experiencing a greater decline in real earnings compared to women
Closing the wage gap because everyone is doing worse is hardly the same as gender equality. As these numbers make clear, supporting real pay equity for women is important for women and their families.

More recently, the LATimes has published an article about a Pew study that says the same things:
The new reality is a dramatic shift from decades ago, the Pew Research Center found in a study released Wednesday. Two years ago, more than 40% of American households with children relied on a mother as their biggest or only source of income — a massive jump from 11% of families in 1960.
The article also mentions changing attitudes:
Though married couples try to juggle the demands of work and home, concerns remain about single mothers trying to do the same. Nearly 2 out of 3 Americans see the rise in single motherhood as a "big problem," Pew found in surveys this spring.
However, worries about working moms, single or married, have softened with time, and younger adults are much less troubled by the trends, Pew found. More than half of young adults said the increase in unwed motherhood was a small problem or not a problem at all.
Researchers also found that most people now reject the idea that a wife outearning her husband is bad for a marriage. Back when Huff was dating her husband — who was working as a waiter — a customer razzed him about the fact that she was going to make more money as a doctor.
His reaction? "Yeah. Who cares?" she recounted.


Some facts about the situation:

  • More women than ever are primary sources of income in their households
  • When both husband and wife are working, it's not uncommon for the woman to earn more
  • Pay gap is closing largely due to men losing employment/wages
  • Working women are less likely to be members of wealthy households
  • Younger people are less worried about single parents and unwed parents

This is a disaster of incredible proportions. It is rather tragic that a metric that one may think is a measure of success in gender equality matters seems to be a harbinger of doom. 

The story seems to be that women are not choosing careers as much as they may be coerced into employment to make up for losses in their partner's earning abilities. This is not a demonstration of freedom but of changing economic realities.

Perhaps contributing factors are the gradual evaporation of the manufacturing sector and a greater number of female college graduates. Females have marketable skills and larger economic incentives than ever before.

This the appearance of winning a battle while losing the war. 

It is entirely possible that this is a part of generally positive changes - a general shift to a more equitable employment arena, a skilled workforce that will eventually command higher salaries and more flexibility in home life.

Yet the doom and gloom scenario is still quite convincing. Is this gender equality or underemployment? If things were looking up, why aren't wealthy households participating in the changes? Why would troubled economies be so similar to developed nations in this respect? (Example above: Egypt)

One worrisome measure is the attitudes of the younger population. While the last century has in many ways belonged to incorporated parties, young people see marriage as a construct of financial liability, forced intimacy and the "patriarchy".

The reasoning is straightforward - adults can choose to have kids before marriage if they want to. Adults can focus on what's important. It's a free world and the "traditional family" is more Hollywood than reality. 

An apparent contradiction is that while this "progressive" wave sees little as fixed in the home, the growing opinion is that social services and employment law needs to be more concrete. 

For some examples of this trend, see some opinions thrown around today:
  • Early childhood education needs to be filled in by government services. 
  • Parental leave (for both parents) leave needs to be mandated.
  • Teachers need to be evaluated more strictly and answerable to both parents and students.
Largely missing from this outline is further discussion of the role of the father or the role of the mother. Who does what is at this point irrelevant. The assumption is they're far too busy working to put food on the table, and society as a whole needs to normalize educational outcomes so the next generation is not completely lopsided in economic opportunities.

Overall, the lesson may be that simple gender breakdown metrics misses the big picture and it's all too easy to paste together solutions in one area to make up for uncomfortable deficiencies in others.

Where does this leave us?

Is this the bumpy road to success or is the bridge out?

Another year, another SkepchickCon

Now that "Women in Secularism" is over, one may think the 'feminist' conference season is over.

No! It would be impossible to build a career in "feminism" by attending only one conference a year. One needs to get out there and build a profile.

Yes, it so happens that the very same people that are going to a women's conference in Ireland in June will follow it up by getting drunk in Minnesota in July. 

Why Minnesota? Well, it's probably pretty cheap, accessible for most, and best of all there is a sci-fi convention happening at the same time.

The event is SkepchickCon. An add-on to sci-fi convention "CONvergence" which is more or less one big party for fans of Skepchick.

Here's the lead in for the 2013 version:
SkepchickCON is the science and skepticism track of CONvergence, a four-day science fiction and fantasy conference held every summer in the beautiful Minneapolis area. This year, we’ll have panels on everything from food science and mythology, science vs. religion, and penises of the animal kingdom to a live riffing on Prometheus with Rebecca, PZ, and MST3K’s Kevin Murphy and Bill Corbett.
We’re also hosting more interactive workshops than ever—bioluminescence with microbiologist Siouxsie Wiles, hands-on astronomy with Nicole Gugliucci, and geek art with Mad Art Lab.
Plus, every night, you can meet the Skepchicks and other scientists and skeptics in the Skepchick Sideshow party room, where we’ll have more info on science and skepticism as well as delicious chemistry demonstrations by mixologist Anne Sauer.
You get four days of science, skepticism, and all-around geektasticness for the cost of a CONvergence badge—$60 for all four days if you register by May 15, 2013. In addition to SkepchickCON events, the badge gives you access to everything happening at CONvergence, including all panels and workshops, multiple themed parties, the costume masquerade, and more.
Science! Skepticism! Live Geeks!
Our lineup this year is incredible: neuroscientist Indre Viskontas of Point of Inquiry, microbiologist Siouxsie Wiles, science writer and filmmaker Shawn Otto, Desiree Schell of Skeptically Speaking, journalist and blogger Amanda Marcotte, biological anthropologist Greg Laden, natural resources scientist Emily Cassidy, cultural geographer Kirsten Valentine Cadieux, plus PZ Myers(Pharyngula), Stephanie Zvan (Almost Diamonds), and Jason Thibeault (Lousy Canuck) of Freethought Blogs. 
All of these amazing people will be joined by a ton of Skepchick Network contributors: Rebecca Watson, Amy Davis Roth, Bug Girl, Debbie Goddard, Nicole Gugliucci, Heina Dadabhoy, Melanie Mallon, Jamie Bernstein, Emily Finke, Ryan Consell, Anne Sauer, Olivia James, Lux Pickel, and Mindy Townsend.
Donate to SkepchickCON
We don’t charge admission to the panels or get any cut of ticket sales from CONvergence, so 100% of the cost of flying in guests and putting them up in the hotel is covered by donations. We also use the funds we raise to print up informational flyers and host the nightly after-hours Skepchick room where all CONvergence attendees can stop by and find out more about science and skepticism. If you can spare some cash, paypal your donation to skepchick (at) or by clicking the widget below. You can also help us by spreading the word!

"Nightly after hours" "finding out about science and skepticism".


The bits PZ is most excited about:

Uh-oh. The MST3K guys and Rebecca Watson, queen of snark? I’ll be the sad old pedant in their midst, and they might just take a few sarcastic swipes at the tiresome geezer bringing their show down. Should I drink lots of coffee first to compensate? Or lots of alcohol to disinhibit? Or both? Recommendations will be needed.
At least I’m confident that I can handle the science vs. religion and penises. Wait, did that come out right? 
P.S. Be warned: this is not your usual staid ol’ skeptic/atheist conference. This is a strand of critical thinking in the riot of weirdness that is CONvergence.
Yes, it’s a fully integrated part of the larger SF con. No special tickets, not set apart in any way from the other events, so you can bounce from a filk session to a costume parade to a panel on the zombie apocalypse to a Skepchick-sponsored panel on global climate change. It’s a nice mix; it also means the sciencey stuff I’d talk about has to include more pop-culture/SF relevance.

Again, the event sounds like it fits the template of SkepchickCons past.

Sounds like a grand old time.

Getting drunk with the MST3K guys and having an opportunity to talk about ridiculous looking animal dicks?

What's not to like?

As a group, they've defined what a "fun weekend" is for them and they're going for it. More power to them.

There are just a few things about the event itself that is revealing about the "Skepchick" organization as a whole.

The organization is not a meritocracy

The core group of people attending weren't selected by committee of impartial observers. They are, give or take a few names, the same core group of people that attended Women in Secularism. Many of them likely high-fived Richard Carrier at the American Atheists convention earlier in March.

Usually, one could expect an invited speaker to be the "headliner" of an event.

Instead, we have an ensemble invited to complement Rebecca Watson's charming deconstructions of bad sci-fi. As she recently shared on Twitter:

The organization has no clear goals

Science? Skepticism?
Inviting PZ Myers, a non-skeptic by his own admission, reveals that the group doesn't care about "skeptic" as a label at all.

The event itself touts science, that is without a doubt. However it is to the same extent that the sci-fi convention next door celebrates science. It is a curiosity, an inside joke, an ice breaker to share over jello shots.

Let's not doubt the science cred the group has. It's easy to take shots at the academic history of some of the speakers. But it's safe to assume that there are going to be some true science-heads at the event. If you were a grad student in Minnesota, why wouldn't you attend?

That said, the group is more populist than action oriented. Similar to the I f**king love science Facebook page.


Amanda Marcotte will attend. Rest assured everyone will be made aware of the Christian right's march against women's rights. Marcotte is consistent and correct on this point. Anyone not avowedly pro-choice will get an earful!

Unfortunately the rest of the meetup seems to be completely ad-hoc. Consider this a challenge to actually use some of the SkepchickCon 2013 time to create some goals for the organization in the space of gender equality over the next year. Goals beyond "get Ron Lindsay fired".

The event is a demonstration of the privilege of the speakers

It is quite strange to hear cries of "privilege" from the "feminist" speakers attending this event.

The tired refrain is that old rich white men simply don't "get it". They don't understand women, minorities, etc. etc.

The great irony here is this gospel is often preached by "childfree" unmarried people that find the time and money to fit in two or three continent-spanning conferences a year while staying on top of daily Twitter drama. The echochamber midi-chlorian counts are off the charts.

These are the type of people that will talk long about "sexism in the workplace" while being completely removed from a 9 to 5.

Remember that SkepchickCon climate change panel? They'll hold that panel, right after returning from Ireland. Ireland, one can only assume, needed an in-person update about what was happening on Twitter.

Will they buy carbon offsets for their globe trotting?

Remember these are the the atheists that care about the environment.

....Of course, this is a snarky response to SkepchickCon

This is the "call out" culture that they've seeded. The "queen of snark" understands snark.

Here's a tip for would be conference goers:

If a "conference" is indistinguishable from a birthday party for the host, the organization might be a joke.

"All my friends are here!"

Save some money!

Save the environment!

Join a local sorority!

Monday, May 27, 2013

The Definition of Harassment

Once upon a time, a one Justin Vacula went to the Women in Secularism 2 conference in Washington DC.

Despite many thinking that Vacula would be the troublemaker, it turned out that the "feminists" found much more wrong with the President of CFI, Ron Lindsay (more herehere, here and here)

That same Vacula is now raising money to go to the the next conference, this time the show is in Ireland.

The conference is titled "Empowering Women Through Secularism 2013" and rolls out the usual suspects. Ophelia Benson, PZ Myers, Rebecca Watson.

Presumably the event is happening with the speakers it has because Michael Nugent has something to do with the organization.

His tweets betray his interest in the opinions of the invited speakers:

PZ Myers especially seems to be the one CC'd the most on Michael Nugent's whereabouts.

But you can't fault Michael Nugent - one is led to believe that he actually wants to put the genie back into the bottle.

The trouble comes when the others open their mouths - in a post titled "Stalking", Ophelia Benson describes Justin Vacula's campaign to visit the event in Dublin:

He’s raised more than enough already.
So this is how it’s to be. I can’t go anywhere now without being followed by a dedicated harasser.

Note this is Ophelia's post in its entirety, as she apparently doesn't care to explain her libel to new readers.

It is not clear how exactly Vacula earned the label "harasser", however it might be related to how no thinking person can believe Benson's endless victim narrative and is generally tired of her poor interpersonal skills.

She continues the nonsense on Twitter:

Justin Vacula merely appearing at the conference is "stalking".

For some perspective, the reader is encouraged to how Jamie Kilstein talked down some heckers:
“Here’s the thing. You clearly had everything handed to you and you know what tells me that? The amount of time you put into how you look because that’s all that matters to people like you. There’s no reason to cultivate a personality because you have everything handed to you because guys like that just want to put it into anything with a hole. And that’s the problem.”
Jamie Kilstein then addresses a male in the crowd:
"Are you on my side or their side? I can't tell... You're working it out? Is it really a debate? They're not going to fuck you, sir."

Why aren't Twitter "feminists" angry at Jamie Kilstein?

Well, since Kilstein didn't actually say the c-word, they didn't identify his language as objectification and gendered slurs.

Meanwhile the hero of Pharyngula is voicing his opinion about other secularists.

First, his opinion of DJ Grothe, Michael Shermer, and Ron Lindsay:

Then apparently PZ's two cents about Russell Blackford:

To round things off, in the Skepchick universe, if you aren't aware, Richard Dawkins is a racist.

The ultimate question here is, what exactly is harassment?

According to the "social justice" warriors, Twitter/Tumblr "feminists", and "FreeThought" bloggers, this article itself is harassment.

This article:
  1. Documents the words of PZ Myers, Ophelia Benson, and Rebecca Watson
  2. Dares to disagree with the threat narrative of the holy trinity
This article should go straight to the top of the Skepchick "Page 'o hate", Benson's "harassment" updates, or PZ's "I get email" blog posts.

However it is a safe bet that none of this criticism will surface on their online properties for two reasons:
  1. This article is not authored by one of a high profile, so they have no publicity to gain from slandering it.
  2. The article is just cogent enough to give them pause.

Returning to the real world, we have an opportunity to return to our question.

What exactly is harassment?

It needs a stricter definition than mere disagreement.

How's this: Harassment is a conscious effort to label your opponents as racist, sociopathic woman haters.

Richard Dawkins has been called a racist.

Thunderf00t has been called a sociopath.

And everyone is labelled a misogynist.

Harassment is coercing people into resigning for the crime of disagreeing with your political opinions.

Every few months, the "social justice" crowd picks a new victim as the target of boycotts, petitions for termination, calls for resignation  and outright demands for excommunication. The targets of these campaigns have been Richard Dawkins, Justin Vacula, Ron Lindsay and Thunderf00t.

Does this definition of harassment work?

Who exactly are the harassers?

Haters of Dawkins find new friends on Twitter

So, a lot of people apparantely think Richard Dawkins is racist.

Dawkins said the following things on Twitter:

Now, how did the social justice warriors read this?

Well, Richard Dawkins is of course racist, right?

That is the opinion of Amber:

Some Twitter users try to set her straight:

Jamie was concerned that she couldn't handle the response, so he came to the rescue:

Rebecca Watson picks up on the story:

Amber is delighted:

Jamie celebrates:

Let's have a closer look at Amber's arguments on Twitter. These are usually her concluding arguments:


  1. Some "social justice" warriors think Dawkins is racist for even talking about the word
  2. No additional evidence is provided for this claim
  3. Trying to engage with these people makes you a "toughguy" trying to harrass the fragile, innocent females
  4. Rebecca Watson reflexively friends women who hate Richard Dawkins
  5. "Feminist" Jamie Kilstein asks Dawkins to "suck his nuts". 
  6. The best proof of racism is a penis rendered in text.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Is this rape?

Often the rape cases that get a lot of online publicity are simple.

What happened in Steubenville, for example, was very obviously wrong. Football team, passed out victim, pictures posted online. Several crimes occurred. And sadly, many of the crimes are not unique circumstances. 'Feminist' bloggers were quick to share their outrage.

More recently, there is another rape case in the news, one of a very different sort. From DailyKos article:

Florida teen Kaitlyn Hunt, 18, is seeing her young life turned upside down and her future jeopardized simply because she fell in love. Unfortunately for her, she fell in love with a younger girl who has vindictive bigots for parents.

The situation?

Perpetrator: 18 year old white female

Victim: 14 year old [white?] female

Incident: Sex in high school bathroom. Sex was consensual, if a 14 year old could consent to sex with an 18 year old.

Hunt opted to refuse a plea deal, which means she'll be in court and potentially face the maximum penalty for the crime.

Consent laws in the west are rather strange. So strange in the United States, that 'feminist' forums think they could change.

Adding to the strangeness of this situation, DailyKos went as far as creating a petition to present to the Florida prosecutor asking to drop the charges.

Then DailyKos came to realize the real ages of the girls involved:
The public scrutiny of this case has brought to light problems with the initial reporting, and with the original story coming from the Hunt family. Previously, Hunt's parents said that the younger girl was 15, and Hunt 17 when the relationship began. The release of the arrest warrant made clear, as subsequent news stories report, that the younger girl was 14 and Hunt was indeed 18 when the relationship began.
These corrections, and the initial dishonesty of Hunt's parents, make this story much more problematic, and our original petition moot.

So, move the birthdates out a little bit and a progressive news site goes from all out calling the situation a love story interrupted by the victim's parents ("vindictive bigots") to calling the situation "problematic".

Many would still read the facts of the situation as presenting a good challenge to existing law. Laws based on age do have a tendency to make cruel and short sighted assessments of complex situations.

However there remain a few interesting questions that have come to light.

Should this case be treated differently than a case considering an 18 year old male and 14 year old female?

Would we be reading about this if the suspect was not a gorgeous 18 year old white woman?

This presents a unique opportunity to have a discussion.

Will people talk about this and potentially disagree, or will they simply wait until the next news cycle presents a blindingly obvious bogeyman?

Elevatorgate never ends

Recently this article was brought up as a point of discussion.

The article was written 2011 (ages ago!) about elevatorgate. That little incident that defined how one should behave at a conference. And, the debate is only going to end badly.

Much of this has been addressed in the other articles, however to quote a few things directly from the article:

The first quote is apparently R.D. himself:

The man in the elevator didn’t physically touch her, didn’t attempt to bar her way out of the elevator, didn’t even use foul language at her. He spoke some words to her. Just words. She no doubt replied with words. That was that. Words. Only words, and apparently quite polite words at that.
If she felt his behaviour was creepy, that was her privilege, just as it was the Catholics‘ privilege to feel offended and hurt when PZ nailed the cracker. PZ didn’t physically strike any Catholics. All he did was nail a wafer, and he was absolutely right to do so because the heightened value of the wafer was a fantasy in the minds of the offended Catholics. Similarly, Rebecca’s feeling that the man’s proposition was ‚creepy‘ was her own interpretation of his behaviour, presumably not his. She was probably offended to about the same extent as I am offended if a man gets into an elevator with me chewing gum. But he does me no physical damage and I simply grin and bear it until either I or he gets out of the elevator. It would be different if he physically attacked me.
Christopher from "gedankenraum" (thought space?) adds:
What he basically says is: it’s all in her head. She had the freedom to interpret the guy’s „only words“ and it’s her own fault she interpreted in a way that offended her. And he ignores there are certain interpretations delivered by the context and history of men and women interacting, which he can be (and is) oblivious of because he is on the happy side of the gender divide in this respect.
Then Jen M is quoted:
Words matter. You don’t get that because you’ve never been called a cunt, a faggot, a nigger, a kike. You don’t have people constantly explaining that you’re subhuman, or have the intellect of an animal. You don’t have people saying you shouldn’t have rights. You don’t have people constantly sexually harassing you. You don’t live in fear of rape, knowing that one wrong misinterpretation of a couple words could lead down that road. 
You don’t, because you have fucking privilege.
Gedankenraum adds:
And she links to a „privilege 101″ that has a nice metaphor about a furry dog and a lizard living together in a house in a temperate area, where the dog controls the air conditioning to keep the temperature low and nice for him. Now, when the lizard complains about the cold, the dog has no clue what cold feels like, because being too cold is no experience in his life. That’s his privilege, which, as is explicitly pointed out, is not his fault. The problem (and his wrong behavior) arises when he denies the feeling of cold could exist because he doesn’t know it, and makes a „in your head“ argument similar to Dawkins.

What to make of all of this?

First, none of this addresses Dawkins' point.

When PZ Myers defecates on a wafer, who really knows what a Catholic may be thinking?

Maybe a Catholic would immediately think of the past few hundred years of anti-Catholic sentiment in the west, the United States especially. Do you really know what that feels like? Should you care?

Second, words do matter, but words also have an understood meaning.

The c-word used in the elevator was "coffee". Not the other c-word.

The i-word used in the elevator was "interesting". Not "intercourse".

Elevatorgators will say "Oh, but you read between the lines and the true meaning was obvious!"

Yet if we are all on the hook to be answerable what you might see into a sentence, we are all in loads of trouble.

There is no evidence that would suggest that "coffee guy" would have seen an evening filled with literal coffee as a failure.

Third, the "lizard" metaphor is bad.

Having a cold lizard in your room is like having a blind man at your conference - there are limited things the individual affected can do about their situation, and they are objectively pained by it.

If you're cold blooded, the physical realities of your situation will prevent you from doing some things. You won't be attending the CFI conference in Antarctica, for one.

A vagina is not a disability.

Finally, sometimes it's on you to change your perspective.

Catholics, Muslims, anti-vaxxers, Mormons, Republicans, Democrats - how can we bludgeon these groups every day of the year and not feel the need to apologize?

Well, it's taken for granted that the true fix to the situation is for the groups in question to change their perspective.

The Catholics/Mormons/Muslims could stand up and say that we're privileged because we don't know what it is to truly know Jesus/Muhammed and understand our creator's true intention.

The Democrats could stand up and say we're privileged because we're not poor urbanites and we don't know what it is to depend on social programs.

The Republicans could stand up and say we're privileged because we don't know what it is to be a small business blah blah blah... taxes, religion... you get the idea.

To top it off, the anti-vaxxers could know say that we don't know what it is to have a child with autism, and especially have a child with autism in an elevator.

But boo-hoo. Everyone can "suck it up". Right?


Friday, May 24, 2013

The Rape Card

The other day, David Silverman called on Justin Vacula to denounce the hatred:

The following two cents were provided:

Meanwhile, in an alternate universe, the following exchange was happening between an exhausted fan and one Rebecca Watson: (the fan was unfollowing due to constant drama)

Meanwhile, the following comment was given to the discussion about the "c-word":
There is no comparable word [to cunt] for men. Women have never used a word to maintain power over men in a completely oppressive way. You can claim circular logic all you want, but while I was being burned and raped I was called a cunt many times. It's not your problem that the word makes me think of that, but know that it does and I'm one of MILLIONS. Are there words like that for men? This is like the tired old defense of using racial slurs. How about we just leave all that behind? Showing sensitivity to the unknown and not-understood is not some kind of terrible surrender or burden.

The common thread in all these responses is essentially "Yes, however, rape!"

The essence of Silverman's statement is "I'd think of online abuse holistically, however, rape! Someone's received a rape threat, this must be 'addressed' by all opponents."

Watson's response to her fans is "Yes, my Twitter feed is a tiresome soap opera masquerading as feminism, however, rape! I received a rape threat, your voiced dissatisfaction merely emboldens people that would do me harm and you fail to show solidarity with true victims. I need not impress you, you need to impress me."

And finally, a discussion about gendered slurs is essentially "There may not be something categorically wrong about female body parts as insults (e.g. 'boob' or 'tit'), however, rape! I was raped, and you are not able to relate to this experience in a meaningful way so your argument is invalid."

To restate a few things:

Atheists and skeptics are ill-concerned about people outside their tribe

No secular leader to date has been at all concerned with the online 'feedback' undoubtedly received by Shirley Phelps-Roper, Sarah Palin, Sylvia Browne, et al.

In fact, characters like PZ Myers have nurtured the Internet Hate Machine for their own purposes.

When messages that were likely already directed out-group were fed back in-group, the game unravels and whoever can feign the most concern for the current state of affairs is the hero of the day.

If it comes to be known that the "feminists" of secularism truly either were not aware or spoke out against the photoshops of corndog-eating Michelle Bachmann and Rick Perry, then their arguments regarding what happens in Twitter political battles is bulletproof.

Otherwise they're in a glass houses of varying sizes and should perhaps abandon pretense of caring about the issue at large.

"Just having an opinion" is similar to "Just asking a question"

Watson says that she received threats for "having an opinion".

This expression of innocent for simply "having an opinion" seems similar to what is already regarded with disdain within the "rational" community - "just asking questions".

From the RationalWiki definition for "JAQing off":
JAQing off is the act of spouting accusations while hiding behind the claim that one is "Just Asking Questions." The strategy is to keep asking leading questions in an attempt to influence listeners' views; the term is derived from the frequent claim by the questioner that they are "just asking questions," albeit in a manner much the same as political push polls.

To claim that one is "just asking a question" is to just ask for a ban in many "freethought" online properties.

As publicly "JAQing" it wins you condemnation, it is not a huge surprise that "having an opinion" might also be unpopular.

Yet the battle is already framed.

Once upon a time, our valiant heroine shows up to voice an opinion. She says something incendiary about other ape-like creatures who have different opinions. An example opinion is that one may "fuck off".

The response to this opinion about opinions is of course out of proportion. It strikes a chord and tempers flare. Thousands of comments. Some are of course rape threats. Death threats. Things you do not wish your mother to see.

Yet the very next day, she returns to the trenches for more! How can that be? Our savior is brave, our savior is true, our savior is right.

Our hero is... Ann Coulter.

Or Simon Cowell, if you prefer.

Words will unfortunately remain triggers regardless of their acceptance

According to the comment above, the c-word is used to by men "maintain power" over women.

Also, the commenter states that millions of women presumably share this view. This definitely places makes the c-word in the same family as the n-word.

It would appear that this perspective puts men entirely at fault for the particulars of language. It was a word created to be degrading, used to offend and oppress. The bias of the dictionary is proof that men are not nice people.

There's another word that fits this profile a little better: "Queer".

Queer. What could be worse? It is synonymous with weird. It's not difficult to imagine many people grew up with this word being thrown alongside fists.

However, one can fast forward twenty or so years and to find 'queer' is a term you must use if you are to seem 'with it'. In the land of Twitter feminism, nobody can even imagine being born in the first half of the 20th century.

The argument seems to be that there remains a critical mass of people (primarily in North America) that find the c-word wickedly offensive and queer empowering. This defines what is currently appropriate.

This is absolutely true.

What isn't true is that men cannot be insulted or degraded. It's not true they have magic words as ammunition that cannot be matched by insults from women. While it's true that the word dick is impotent, it isn't true that the word impotent is currently impotent.

Here's a tip on how to insult males: start with "impotent" or a Viagra jab, transition to a Bobbitt joke and then end with "angry virgin". Should have a fairly high success rate.

None of this addresses the issue of violence directly.

You just read a bunch of words from/about a bunch of people that all agree rape and online threats are bad.

All of this is a number of hangups about how to talk about things concerning rape, as how rape is spoken about surely influences a systemic "rape culture".

An important discussion, but also more often convenient than purposeful. Everyone gets an opportunity to cut their opponents to pieces over language and appearances without actually learning anything much. No threats seem plausible enough to pull a Salman Rushdie on the situation.

Notice this article is not in a peer reviewed journal. No sources have been cited. No real proposals are provided. The few snippets provided is arguably quotemining. This is par for the course in this kind of dialogue.

This is 100% opinion provided to perhaps take little wind out of the sails of posturing online "activists". The other people are bigger jerks.

It's easy.

It simply should not be taken as saying anything substantive about rape.

The highest goal of these words is to show one person that they may not be participants in feminism as much as they are witnessing the growth of a cult of personality.

That is all.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Banana hammock feminism

So there's this:

At this point, one could say "Girls, don't do that" or "This is objectification that leads to HBM!"

However, banana hammocks are funny.

Do you know what else is funny, since we're on the topic of tightly packed genitalia?

Camel toe.

Feminist growth potential

More CFI drama, this time from "Secular Woman" (

In a letter denouncing Ron Lindsay titled "Statement of Objection to Center for Inquiry CEO Ron Lindsay's Actions Regarding Feminism" it adds:

As a result of Dr. Lindsay’s actions, the past year’s conflicts have been further enflamed, continuing to alienate the demographic showing most growth potential within the secular community - women - not just from CFI, but from the secular movement. Secular Woman is hopeful that Dr. Lindsay and/or the CFI Board of Directors will offer a formal, complete, and deserved apology and retraction to Secular Woman and all secular women and feminists regarding his “welcome” statement and later blog comments. We trust that Dr. Lindsay and the CFI Board will now, and in the future, actively demonstrate their intolerance of all who harass, threaten, bully, and work to silence women and feminists. Finally, Secular Woman seeks open and honest in-person dialogue regarding women, feminism, and the secular community with the CFI Board of Directors.

This continues to chant the "feminist" line that if it secularism took reproductive rights more seriously, more women would join.

What "feminists" seem to mean when they make this statement is if the secular community more actively owned certain political viewpoints, women would flock to secular groups.

How is this viewpoint at all rational?

Presumably those that have unreservedly feminist views already belong to a liberal church.

The message sent to the Unitarian Universalists and Lutherans would be: "Hey, secularism is exactly like this but better!"

Meanwhile the message sent to Catholics and Mormons would simply remain: "F*** you, if you are going to say anything remotely neutral about the 'traditional' family structure you may as well keep tithing!"

The strategy seems to be to cannibalize whatever remains of the Christian left. Take whatever organization they already have in place around social justice issues, and throw it out the bloody window!

The person they're trying to recruit is the card-carrying NOW member that stays away from atheism because Christopher Hitchens was a bit too much.

There must be at least five of these people!

A winning strategy?

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

More CFI Drama

It was requested on Twitter by a hopefully new reader that a response be written for Amanda Marcotte's "An Open Letter to the Center for Inquiry".

However there is nothing to really argue here. Marcotte (and presumably some others) want Ron Lindsay out. They are upset. No amount of typing by third parties is going to change that.

All that can be done is to point out the ridiculousness of their opinion or proposed solution.

For example, from Marcotte's piece:

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.
On top of it all, his lecture was full of attacks on strawmen. I have seen people use this word “privilege” as a weapon to claim that no one of a certain race/class/gender has a right to an opinion at all, but that strategy tends to be the purview of anonymous blog commenters who have no real power in the world.


Here Marcotte admits that "privilege" is used to shut down evil Republicans Libertarians rich white males on various feminist online properties but this only done by "anonymous blog commenters" that have "no real power in the world".

There are quite a few things are ridiculously stupid about this statement:

  1. The "anonymous commenters" are presumably the people that actually attend feminist events (and her talks)
  2. Marcotte's own profile is built on spouting off on the internet, and using one's real name doesn't magically buy you credibility
  3. The "misogynist" faction of this "debate" is always asked to defend the anonymous sexist messages that Watson and Marcotte receive. Now, when Marcotte is asked to account for undesirable feminist comments, she dismisses them with an argument she wouldn't herself accept if the tables were turned.
Marcotte continues on playing the "privilege card":

The thought leaders who have been angling for feminism to be a major concern of the secularist movement do not do this

Is Marcotte serious? Did Rebecca Watson not write an article called "The Privilege Delusion"?

An excerpt from Watson's piece:
"You posted in response to Dawkins on the Pharyngula thread, bravely battling both [Dawkins] and the hoards of clueless privileged people who didn’t get it. [...] I’m sure Dawkins will continue to be stinking rich until the end of his days [...] Also, some of you are wondering if I’m criticizing all rich, white, old, etc men when I call out those attributes. No! I am merely illustrating the unbelievable height of Dawkins’ privilege."
Back to Marcotte:
In doing so, he angered many prominent and important members of the secularist community and I suspect embarrassed his staff, though anti-feminists who have spent years harassing and abusing women for daring to promote a feminist view of secular activism were delighted. (As with Lindsay, I have largely found these anti-feminists’ complaints to be incoherent strawmen. I’ve asked many of them to provide substantive points of disagreement with feminists, and have yet to hear any that reflected reality. It has become clear to me that they simply dislike feminism, but don’t have the courage to explain their real reasons why.) From a purely political point of view, his actions have been a disaster. He outraged the mainstream supporters of his organization in order to placate a few fringe characters. 

To restate point #3 - here, Marcotte is plainly pinning anonymous "anti-feminists" on Ron Lindsay, immediately after dropping all responsibility for "anonymous" privilege card playing feminists. It should be pointed out that in Marcotte's last article, her fans made Bobbitt jokes in the comments.

The rest of Marcotte's piece is pleading with CFI to convince/force Lindsay to apologize or resign.

The irony here is that Marcotte is essentially trying to prove that men like Ron Lindsay are not being told to "shut up and listen" over male privilege.

Yet the fact of the matter is that Ron Lindsay is being asked to "shut up and resign" over something even more trivial.

Such contradictions.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Marcotte quotemines Vacula

The Houston Chronicle had an article about the drama the other day.

In short, the Houston Chronicle article, or rather blog post, created a narrative where the "Women in Secularism" was a "fight for equality" against the likes of Paul Elam, Justin Vacula, and the "SlymePit" forum.

This is a nonsensical narrative of course, and the one Amanda Marcotte would love to put in the limelight.

This is what the HC article leaves out, which was left in the comments by this blog's author:

A thoughtful article.
However much of this piece entirely fits within the narrative some of the speakers at WiS want to build, rather than all the facts surrounding their critics.
Many people want this to be viewed as a simple matter of AVFM vs WiS, Paul Elam vs WiS, or Justin Vacula vs WiS.
These characters are easy for the ‘feminist’ activists to demonize and exile.
If you dig deeper, you’ll find the speakers of WiS have had more controversial things to say about people like Richard Dawkins, Michael Shermer, Harriet Hall, etc.
And it’s more often men showing up to secular conferences and making the most provocative speeches and burning the most bridges within the secular community. All for the sake of ‘progressive’ and ‘inclusive’ political ideals.
And finally, many actors in this play have openly stated they “hate” skeptics/atheists and refuse to identify as skeptics/atheists.
Is this leadership or is this distraction?

As article comments go, you can expect this snippet is currently one of many. At time of writing, the Houston Chronicle article had 123 responses. As you can imagine, some are probably good, some are probably nonsense.

Amanda Marcotte has written a review of the blog post, entitled "Fringe Misogynists Expose Themselves To The Houston Chronicle".

Marcotte relies on the fact that her readers really won't think too hard about the hundred or so comments on the article, and will take it for granted that they're all unrelenting hatred.

Marcotte then copies one of the most problematic pieces from the Houston Chronicle blog post:
As Justin Vacula of Skeptic Ink Network said in response to another piece from conference speaker Amanda Marcotte, “I fail to see how refusing to believe in God leads to the ‘logical conclusion’ of abandoning the belief that women exist to serve men.”
Here Vacula is responding to the idea that atheism somehow logically requires someone to abandon completely patriarchal beliefs. If someone can be atheist and be a misogynist, then atheism must encompass the entire spectrum of feminist viewpoints.

Marcotte's original confusion arises from her post "Why Atheism is Consistent with Feminism and Pro-Choice Positions":
But as Natalie Reed and others have discovered, a not-insubstantial percentage of atheist men have convinced themselves they can both not believe in a god and somehow still conclude that women were put (by who?) here on Earth for the purpose of pleasing and catering to men.

Another way to respond, if Vacula's words are too jarring, could be: "Is Marcotte actually so daft as to be surprised that not every secular person is vehemently pro-choice?"

Just to be clear - at no point does Vacula actually state that women exist to be subservient to males.

Back to the present, Marcotte adds in her response to the Chronicle article:
Well, at least we know where he stands. I, for one, appreciate an anti-feminist who comes right out and says it. I do grow weary of those whose cowardice in the face of people’s repulsion towards them argue for female inferiority ellipitically.
And then continues to "quote" Vacula again:
[Misogyny] comes in various forms, but at the end of the day, it always comes back to trying to feel bigger and more powerful by telling yourself that not only are you superior to half the human race by birth, but that they exist, to quote Vacula, to “serve men”.

It's obvious Marcotte is quotemining here.

Now on to the comments, this time on Marcotte's "Pandagon" blog, if you had any doubt about how much of a hatchet job Marcotte is attempting here:
[girlcousin] Good article! And, the person you describe is why russian brides are so popular. These a**holes are always whining about how no one over here is a 'real' woman, so they have to buy a wife, who, hopefully has Boris off the American husband once they have their green card. Complete win win.
[ekwhite] After reading just one or two comments on the Houston Chronicle article, I feel like I fell into a sewage pit. And does Justin Vacula really believe that women exist to serve men? Did he just drop in from the 19th century?

... And there many more people in the thread that believe Vacula is some sort of wife beating evildoer.

Then some people have a go with some "feminist" humor:
[lm945] I have no problem serving men. They go very well with fava beans and a nice chianti.
[Heidi Jo Bean] Reminds me of what Jeffrey Dahmer said to Lorrana Bobbitt: "You gonna eat that pickle?"
And Marcotte herself responds to someone who pointed out that maybe her quoting of Vacula was misleading:
[Amanda Marcotte] That's simply not true. I linked his blather, and if you can decipher it, have at it. But it's not useful to argue with fools. I am, unlike the fool in question, not hiding my arguments at all. I just don't see the need to painstakingly restate them in a world with heavy archiving every time any lunatic demands it.

The hilarious part is that Marcotte's original "atheism is pro-choice" piece is linked directly from the article. She linked his blather and her blather in the same post! This is how her original reasoning is so easily cited in this discussion.

Yet apparently Marcotte can't find the time to remember her own sentences or her own arguments.

Why do people invest time reading an author that does not bother to recall their own work?

PZ needs to invest in a mirror


How feminism handles criticism

It's the last day of the "Women in Secularism" event, and people are still talking about the Ron Lindsay opener.

Adam Lee blags about it as "Some Sadly Necessary Remarks on the #wiscfi Intro":

Although every other speaker this weekend was a woman, as you’d expect at a conference about women in secularism, Ron Lindsay, the president and CEO of the Center for Inquiry, gave the opening remarks on the first day. I was expecting something short and formal, but no. Incredibly, he used the opportunity to deliver a “both-sides-do-it” peroration, in which he expressed sympathy in principle for the aims of feminism while nevertheless scolding certain (unnamed) feminists for allegedly turning feminism in practice into a dogma that unfairly stifles men’s important and valuable opinions. He said, for example, that the idea of privilege is “often used to silence others” in a way that’s similar to “the approach taken by ideologies such as Marxism”. (See the transcript here.)
This is the same kind of condescending, above-it-all “well, atheists may be right about some things, but you shouldn’t be so militant” rhetoric that we’ve all heard and grown tired of. It would have been misguided at the best of times; when it was spoken by a male CEO, at the kickoff of a feminist conference, to a room full of feminist attendees, it was inappropriate to the point of farce. The overall air in the conference room, I think I can say, was incredulous.

Adam Lee is incorrect.

Ron Lindsay's remarks are not like being called "militant atheists". If Ron behaved in the way Adam describes, then Ron is behaving exactly like Adam.

Ron apparently scolds unnamed feminists for being a bit over the top, presumably.

Meanwhile, Adam Lee scolds unnamed atheists for being all-out misogynists:

People in glass houses?

Adam continues on to Shermer, etc:

This is the Shermer affair all over again: an atheist leader – and it’s almost always an older white man – who supposedly esteems peer review and rational debate, yet when he receives arguably merited criticism, flies off the handle and firing off a barrage of bizarrely hostile and disproportionate personal attacks. This is the characteristic behavior of someone who expects to be listened to at all times and to always have his opinions welcomed in any forum, and feels irrationally angered and threatened when that privileged position is questioned.
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 respondimmediately with a barrage of personal attacks directed at one of his critics, who happens to be an invited speaker at the conference to boot!
As I said on Twitter, such loose-cannon conduct is undiplomatic, unprofessional and unbecoming the head of a major secular organization. It suggests a serious deficiency in judgment, which ought to be of concern to all of CFI’s supporters, directors and friends, insofar as it undermines our confidence in CFI’s leadership.
But all this, I want to emphasize, isn’t to cast aspersions on CFI’s other staff members or detract from the excellent work they did in organizing this conference. I’ve said many times that a greater concern for diversity and a stronger alliance with feminist and social-justice groups are the future of the secular movement. It’s smart tactics from a political standpoint, since we have a common enemy in the religious right, and given current demographic trends, it lays the foundation for strong and continued future growth. All the goals that this convention was created to support are good and worthy ones. That’s why it was and is a grave disappointment that the man currently in charge of CFI seems not to be on board with them.

The Shermer affair in a nutshell: Shermer writes about an interesting study.  Benson writes about Shermer's article, then writes that the study is obviously demonstrating sexist bias or partiarchy, yadda yadda, then scolds Shermer for not figuring it out.

A few short steps later, and Shermer is now a misogynist!

What is Adam Lee talking about when he says "merited criticism"?

And the most retweeted #wiscfi tweet:

So embarrassing, Watson has to leave:

In summary, the criticism so far is "Why doesn't the old white guy who didn't want to be told to shut up and listen just shut up, listen, and resign already?"

Followed by "Uggggh, too much patriarchy, I'm leaving early!". In this case, early is defined as two days after the 'incident'.

The criticism is almost too constructive, as Adam Lee would say. 

It's clear that Adam Lee wants Ron Lindsay out. The next steps for Adam would probably be to write another petition, replace the name "Thunderf00t" with "Ron Lindsay" and submit the petition to... Ron Lindsay... again.

If people at the Center for Inquiry were smart, they'd realize this is not just one incident but rather a long play  by shallow Atheism+ "progressives" to own any inertia that secularism has and claim it for Atheism+.

That is, claim it for a less self-critical, less effective, less constructive brand of secular group. One defined by a bunch of Twitter "feminists" that currently seem incapable of sharing their feelings in more than 140 characters at a time.

And another tidbit about Atheism+ : it's painfully obvious that none of the Atheism+ forum regulars actually attended Women in Secularism. And why would they? When the Human Rights Campaign is too conservative for you, why bother going to Women in Secularism?

Also, if you're an Atheism+ forum regular, it's likely you are a broke teenager. That may be another reason that you did not attend. And as Jacoby points out, you likely didn't vote either.

The faster CFI can hitch itself to the Atheism+ fail wagon, the faster we can give up and just attend comic cons. Alas, comic cons are actually the places that Skepchick and PZ want to be. To restate: PZ essentially asks why nobody goes to secular conventions while sitting in a comic con

What a weekend.