Sunday, May 19, 2013

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.

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