On Being a Good Ally, Continued

Before I went away for the weekend, my attention was taken up by a a minor disagreement I had with Melissa McEwan at Shakesville. Since some of my experiences at the American Atheists convention bear on that, and since McEwan has written a further post about it, I wanted to write a followup. As I see it, there are four points worth touching on:

1. A glimmer of consensus on whether the atheist community is welcoming to women. In her latest post, McEwan wrote:

I will say, again, that I know there are men in movement atheism who make a practice of being good allies to women. (At least straight, white, cis women. And some men more broadly than that.)

I’m glad to hear that! And since that was the only part of McEwan’s original post that I had any reservations about, I dare say we might even have reached a consensus. Notwithstanding the noise and clamor of the misogynists, they’re not the majority. As I wrote in my convention wrap-up, there were at least two talks on feminism and social justice this weekend that got vigorous, enthusiastic applause from a packed ballroom.

Now, I’m not denying that harassment and abuse do happen. But let me state, again and for the record, that I’ve never asserted, nor do I believe, that anyone has an obligation to put up with it. If women associated with the atheist community experience sexism or poor treatment that makes them not want to return, they’re completely within their rights to do so. My only concern is that the blame for this be placed appropriately, on the guilty parties – those who engage in sexism, and to a lesser extent, those who condone it with silence – and not on the community as a whole.

It may seem like this whole argument was about semantics, but semantics matter, because people tend to change their behavior to match real or perceived social norms. Emphasizing that misogyny comes from an insignificant minority within the atheist community isn’t just true, it’s an effective tactic at diminishing it: if others are aware that the harassers’ behavior is not the norm, it makes those others less likely to participate in harassment themselves.

2. Better understanding of the basis of our disagreement. I wrote in my earlier post about a statement of McEwan’s that troubled me, about the necessity of accepting claims of personal offense without question. But The Letter D’s comment (later expanded into a post) made me see this in a whole new light.

I think D’s interpretation is the right one: it’s not that I should always and automatically revise my behavior in response to any claim of offense, it’s that I should accept other people’s self-reports of their own emotional state and not try to convince them they’re not feeling what they say they are. If that was in fact what McEwan meant, then I interpreted it wrongly, and I apologize freely and unreservedly for that. (As any atheist knows, there are countless religious believers who claim offense or hurt feelings as a way of stifling legitimate criticism, which is probably why I initially read her comment as I did.)

3. This is hard to get right. If this debate has taught me anything, it’s that a statement which seems innocuous or self-evident can be interpreted in a completely different way by a person with different lived experiences and starting assumptions. Melissa’s initial remark about mainstream atheism conveyed, to me, something that she didn’t intend it to convey. Just the same way, my comment about accepting people’s hurt feelings clearly said something to her that wasn’t at all what I intended to say.

4. With (3) in mind, let’s all try to be charitable to potential allies. That will probably raise some hackles, so I should emphasize that I’m not speaking about the conversation in the comment threads on Shakesville, but rather what happened on Twitter afterward. I was talking with another reader about the whole thing, and some people who I assume followed the discussion from Shakesville found him through my Twitter timeline and jumped down his throat.

This kind of unprovoked attack isn’t beneficial to anyone. Yes, there are bad-faith trolls out there, but there are also people who want to do the right thing and are trying to understand what that is. They’ll probably make mistakes on occasion, just as we all do. That’s why I believe that in discussions of this nature, all people should make an effort to treat others with an initial presumption of good faith, unless that person’s behavior gives reason to think otherwise. (Obviously, this doesn’t apply when personal safety could be at risk. In those situations, it’s reasonable to be especially cautious.)

Again, I’m not saying that anyone has a duty to express gratitude for allies at every opportunity, or that we should expect constant praise for showing a minimum of decency. But if allies feel like they’re walking on eggshells, or that they can never say the right thing – that’s a frustrating feeling, and it plays into the hands of the bad guys. Whenever possible, if someone says something with unpalatable implications, it’s always best to start off with “Did you really mean to say that X?”, rather than jumping immediately to “You horrible person, you must believe that X!” And yes, I realize I’ve been guilty of this as well, so I’m saying it as a reminder to myself as much as I’m offering it as advice.

Image credit: Baynham Goredema

About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • Azkyroth

    But if allies feel like they’re walking on eggshells, or that they can never say the right thing – that’s a frustrating feeling, and it plays into the hands of the bad guys. Whenever possible, if someone says something with unpalatable implications, it’s always best to start off with “Did you really mean to say that X?”, rather than jumping immediately to “You horrible person, you must believe that X!”

    Not necessarily. If one wants to be the one exerting power over someone else – to be the bully instead of the bullied, to take a turn wallowing in conditional privilege* for a change it’s PERFECT.

    * (or unconditional since this is usually the defining dynamic of allistic privilege)

  • DianeEllen

    In the post by McEwan that you supposedly had “reservations” with, in that very post was written the following:
    “My admiration for the women who hang in and stick it out and fight the same fights over and over. That is a valid and commendable choice, even though it’s not mine.”

    And you’re response to that was to engage in willful misrepresentation of what was actually said by accusing McEwan of saying “that atheism has only one voice, and it’s the voice of the sexists”

    It’s interesting that until she actually included the word men….
    “I will say, again, that I know there are men in movement atheism who make a practice of being good allies to women.”

    Ahh.. now you feel you got your cookie and so you’ll be a condescending ass and say that you and she “might even have reached a consensus”. What a garbage wad of fail you’re spewing. Just so you know, you’re not an ally, you’re part of the problem.

    And thanks for acknowledging that perhaps a marginalized person’s lived experience doesn’t need validation from a member of the privileged group. I guess you’ll want a cookie for that too.

    Oh and the very fact that McEwan responded in good-faith to your solicited request on how to be a better ally, implicitly implies she believes you to be of the group wanting to be a better ally. But don’t let that get in the way of your male ego that needed her to specifically acknowledge your gender because mentioning just the women wasn’t good enough for you.

  • smhll

    But if allies feel like they’re walking on eggshells, or that they can never say the right thing – that’s a frustrating feeling, and it plays into the hands of the bad guys.

    Would you explain how you think it plays into the hands of the bad guys? It sounds like you are suggesting it makes you waver in your support of equal rights if you don’t like the way a few people speak to you. But that might not be what you meant. I don’t want to put words in your mouth. I understand people have a strong reaction to criticism.

  • Kat

    The English language is complex and words have differing meanings dependant on who is speaking/listening, their states of mind, experiences, etc, etc. What DianeEllen sees as condescension or belittlement or whatever about Adam’s post (I really don’t know what she finds offensive/wrong about it) I see as conciliatory and asking that we take a breath and consider that however we feel we’re being offended against by others, *maybe* that’s not exactly the way it’s meant. And then clarification and explanation and exchange are in order.

    Allies don’t automatically assume that any dissension is betrayal, that every comment is meant in the most divisive/discriminatory way possible. Allies don’t have to watch and examine every utterance; there needs to be an element of trust that those who align with us have all of our best interests at heart, no matter how awkwardly they may misstate it. Giving an ally the benefit of the doubt and asking if the speaker really meant x/y/z to sound quite so…awful is far more productive and provides room for discussion and enlightenment and consciousness raising.

    No one likes being criticised but all of us need it sometimes. Offering and receiving criticism gracefully and thoughtfully will benefit everyone.

    And for the record: I’m a cis, geeky, atheist, straight, white, working, gaming female. As if that should matter to anyone for any reason but some may consider me part of the privileged class. Whatevs.

  • Lillynyx

    Would you explain how you think it plays into the hands of the bad guys? It sounds like you are suggesting it makes you waver in your support of equal rights if you don’t like the way a few people speak to you. But that might not be what you meant. I don’t want to put words in your mouth. I understand people have a strong reaction to criticism.
    —————————————————————–

    smhll: I’m glad you put that small disclaimer in there. I took a totally different sense of what Adam was saying. You never know how somebody will react if you call them out on what you feel is unacceptable behaviour or comments, so that is when one would tend to walk on eggshells. I used to always shy away from any type of confrontation, (youth, slight shyness and being female all contributed to that) however age and just plain not giving a damn anymore has released me from those constraints. I think it comes down to if the one who is being a jerk is big and scary, then of course I’d keep my mouth shut. But I’ve also found that most bullies, when you call them out on it, slide back into the hole they oozed out from. And maybe, just maybe, the one who is being a jerk just might pay attention.

  • verabruptly

    Why did you ignore large portions of what Melissa said? Why do you still want cookies for not even taking the time to read what she wrote?
    Why are you still seeking a way to be the arbiter of what she has experienced in her dealings with people who call themselves atheists?

  • louise

    You’re so totally off-base here, Adam. You need to re-read Melissa’s posts, re-examine your stance, and then acknowledged you were wrong and apologize for misrepresenting her statements.

  • brickO salt

    The actual bullying going on towards anyone who does not support all definition of any ism, as i do not, finds themselves surrounded by a bunch of William Lane Craig and Dinesh D’Souza clones that are debating about why god won’t throw asteroids on FOX news. First off I love women and i actually believe if they ran the world it would be better. But, Creating an oppressed minority/female = victim / male = possible rapist/ question it we yell MISOGYNY feeling (which is what happened) automatically (by causing empathy) forces even some of the finest rational critical minds to join an ism out of fear mongering they think means only to be pro-woman out of fear of being labeled an anti-women pro-rape scumbag. Women have been and continue to be oppressed by society without question. But I appall all oppression man/women/ethnic/political/ all are equally bad, a reasonable group of evidence loving atheists need not force common sense morality titles to our shirts as if we have a god that demands women suck. What next how about childism so we make it clear we don’t like pedo’s or hitting kids? Or maybe freeism where we make it clear we don’t condone slavery? Then maybe we cant oppress men who have 80% work caused death rate, and an instant guilt label when you hear divorce and pays the child support and signs up for the draft so on and so on. My point is some of the cheerleaders of that feminism movement are radical woman who cause nothing but harm to what a real humanist would stand for and feeds off the pity of others when attacked by irrational trolls on the net who like all calm people are muted over the fanatics. For instance Anita Sarkeesian feminist, media critic and blogger during all vid posts comments were disabled until she began actively fundraising for her sexism in video games study, than all comments were allowed and the strong woman became the damsel in distress she claimed video games portrayed woman as and did TED events national network news basically sold the shit out of the deadly trolls on YouTube and received over $100,000 towards her personal scientific research a qualified under grad in communications and masters in social and political thought. Here is good breakdown https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p6gLmcS3-NI . Remember if you don’t alow discourse and rational debate you get the nuts and we better fix it and allow the women who we admire and aspire to be and want our daughters to idolize Frm. Secretary of state Clinton and we can debate the Palin/Bachman’s and not to focus politically Ayaan Hirsi Ali is my favorite person. Use what tools we love to especially when dealing with people who you value and trust.

  • Adam Lee

    Would you explain how you think it plays into the hands of the bad guys? It sounds like you are suggesting it makes you waver in your support of equal rights if you don’t like the way a few people speak to you.

    Sure, I’ll address that. And thank you for asking me to explain. :)

    I didn’t write that passage as a reference to myself. I’ll always support feminism and equality for women, no matter who attacks me. But there are fence-sitters out there: people who haven’t wholly made up their minds about feminism, who can be convinced one way or the other. It’s them that I had in mind when I wrote that.

    The slimepitters and other misogynists out there will argue that it’s impossible to be an ally to feminists and pointless to try, because nothing you can do will ever be good enough, or because you’ll be viciously attacked and anathematized at the slightest hint of transgression. You know and I know that that isn’t true, but for the fence-sitters who don’t know that, we should take care not to act in ways that could make them think there may be something to that argument.

    If someone who’s sympathetic to feminism makes a grievous mistake, apologizes and is forgiven for it, or if there’s an argument and people end up agreeing to disagree, those things undercut the sexists’ narrative and show that it’s possible for an imperfect human being to be an ally. But if the community’s response to a mistake or a disagreement is to unleash hell on each other, even if that’s not normal or usual, it lends weight to the narrative that being an ally requires an unattainable level of ideological purity. I want to win people over to our side, so I don’t want to give them any reason, however flimsy, to think that.

    Allies don’t automatically assume that any dissension is betrayal, that every comment is meant in the most divisive/discriminatory way possible. Allies don’t have to watch and examine every utterance; there needs to be an element of trust that those who align with us have all of our best interests at heart, no matter how awkwardly they may misstate it. Giving an ally the benefit of the doubt and asking if the speaker really meant x/y/z to sound quite so…awful is far more productive and provides room for discussion and enlightenment and consciousness raising.

    Thank you, Kat! That was what I was trying to get across, but I think you said it better.

  • Adam Lee

    Oh, and one more thing: I’m not going to comment on Shakesville any further, since it’s clear to me that I’m not welcome there, but in fairness I should say that Melissa has written another response:

    http://www.shakesville.com/2013/04/and-then-this-happened.html

    I’m not going to reply to this, since I’ve said all I feel the need to say. However, for the record, I want to point out that at least two people in the comments were vilifying me for thinking it’s not worthwhile to write a post “directed at those who make movement atheism unwelcoming to women”. Which is ironic, because I have:

    http://skepchick.org/2013/03/speaking-out-against-hate-directed-at-women-adam-lee/

    I don’t suppose this will change the minds of those who’ve decided I’m the worst person in the world – really, I don’t mind disagreement, but the level of personal animus towards me expressed by some of those comments is just astounding. Still, it had to be said.

  • Azkyroth

    Oh, and another thing: wanting to be treated fairly and honestly isn’t a “cookie” any more than equality is “special rights.”

  • Octavo

    A lot of this could have been avoided by just saying you were sorry. I don’t think adding a lecture about caring for the hurt feelings of the the privileged allies was a good idea.

    Allies should spend most of their time listening, speaking up mostly to correct erring privileged people. Cookie seeking is what you get accused of for boasting about being an ally and showing your many good deeds. To quote the Tao Te Ching:
    “It is the way of heaven to take where there is too much
    in order to give where there is not enough.
    The way of people is otherwise.
    They take where there is not enough
    in order to increase where there is already too much.
    Who will take from their own excesses
    and give to all under heaven?
    Only those who hold to the Tao.

    Therefore, the True Person benefits yet expects no reward,
    does the work and moves on.
    There is no desire to be considered better than others.”
    (Translation from http://earlywomenmasters.net/tao/ch_77.html )

  • brickO salt

    Here is why ithink this idea that was doomed from the start. atheists/humanists value rational, open, logical discussion and enjoy a chance to have their view changed or change a view. Feminism a term that some use to express pride through being sexual free spirited, embracing independence. Or it could be used to spread the message of female oppression with, income, harassment, marriage, to anger over a look that a man made that meant nothing to anyone else.
    My point is your trying to mix a exclusive emotional based term that one feminist could discuss with joy with people that may disagree or it could be a person who will yell bigot, woman hater, pro-rape scum. if you use feminism to describe respect love and equality for all use humanist. Lastly the petition that was put out made me as a atheist concerned. i try to base my life, thoughts and views on observation, reason, and evidence. And basically i was shit on for raising question on info of the speakers views.
    I’m sure most atheists like me saw was our cosey semi-like minded friends signing what was essentially atheism+dogma agreement so these choices really need to be discussed in more detail first

  • athyco

    …but rather what happened on Twitter afterward. I was talking with another reader about the whole thing, and some people who I assume followed the discussion from Shakesville found him through my Twitter timeline and jumped down his throat.

    This kind of unprovoked attack isn’t beneficial to anyone. Yes, there are bad-faith trolls out there, but there are also people who want to do the right thing and are trying to understand what that is. They’ll probably make mistakes on occasion, just as we all do. That’s why I believe that in discussions of this nature, all people should make an effort to treat others with an initial presumption of good faith, unless that person’s behavior gives reason to think otherwise.

    You end this post saying you have to remind yourself not to jump to conclusions, yet here is another example of the misrepresentation that you’ve now made common in this “minor disagreement.” There is NO evidence of “jumped down his throat” or “unprovoked attack” on Twitter. You cannot produce any; it doesn’t exist. I have gone back to read all the TLs: yours, those of Yoshi_TRM, dwalton1, anamardoll, and Chris Clarke from March 20 and 21. Posting as on your previous comment thread, Yoshi/Austin was well treated. There is no evidence that he read the excellent post that TheLetterD composed for him.

    Yoshi_TMR’s “jump down your throat” reference is to a Pharyngula thread. Not Shakesville, not Twitter.

    There’s been great effort to squeeze self-righteous blood from the stone of one sentence from a post. One response in a comment thread. One quote from an ally—of yours—on Twitter. From my own Twitter TL, it can be proven that I approached you with the initial presumption of good faith that you say should be the effort of all people.

    This comment thread turned out pretty much as expected, but I had to try: http://www.shakesville.com/2013/03/so-heres-what-happened.html
    @DaylightAtheism So you had a goal to show her she was being “dismissive,” at least one preconception, and an *I* attitude going in.
    @YvonneAthyco That was my goal, yes. I don’t think I succeeded.
    @DaylightAtheism Let’s posit: she wasn’t being dismissive; she was laser focused. You then gave “Yes, but” response. http://freethoughtblogs.com/greta/2011/12/29/why-yes-but-is-the-wrong-response-to-misogyny/
    @YvonneAthyco I don’t believe I was changing the subject.
    @DaylightAtheism But you did change it–to *her* dismissal of *good atheists.* She’s hurting good atheists worse than bad one[s] have hurt her?
    @DaylightAtheism I don’t believe u think that or were aware u put her in position of dropping her point to discuss/explain/argue w/ yours.
    @YvonneAthyco I don’t deny that there atheists who are sexists. But I read her post as a blanket assertion that *all* atheists are sexists.
    @DaylightAtheism Please reread. She said, e.g. she replied to PZ in good faith because she does not believe *all* atheists to be sexists.
    @YvonneAthyco “The mainstream atheist movement doesn’t want me” says to me that atheism speaks with one voice, and it’s the sexists’ voice.
    @DaylightAtheism Did you stop reading there & not remaining paragraphs of explanation? (Was your preconception bolding that sentence?)
    @DaylightAtheism Allies are not reassuring if they don’t seem to be secure that they’re not in the line of fire.

    People who haven’t read the earlier material think this post sounds charitable and high-minded and don’t see the down-your-nose weasel words of “glimmer of consensus” and “I dare say we might even.” Investigation of the full story demonstrates that you’ve long since blasted past “initial benefit of the doubt.” In this case, no matter how lofty the rhetoric, there is nothing of value to be gleaned from you.

  • http://oolon.co.uk oolon

    Some issues with this whole thing… First there appears to be some twisting and turning to avoid admitting you were wrong. The first point is awful as you are seeing a glimmer of consensus on a point that she made herself early on! At no point did she say the community is not welcoming to all women, only to her at this time and she laid out why. Even clarifying that she admires women who do fight the fight in the atheist community. This offence you have taken with her statement seems analogous to those blaming you and others for making the atheist community less welcome by talking about harassment. Neither Melissa saying why its not welcoming to her personally or you and others pointing out and criticising blatant misogyny are saying implicitly or overtly that the community *is* unwelcoming let alone making it unwelcoming. The people being misogynistic are the ones making it unwelcoming! You shouldn’t see her making that statement an attack on you or the community even if she had made it a blanket statement. It is always an attack on those making it unwelcome not allies. I wonder if your reception to the original “nuh uh” comment you made coloured your approach to all this.

    ” If that was in fact what McEwan meant, then I interpreted it wrongly, and I apologize freely and unreservedly for that. ” … Is that not what is called a notpology? “If…”, she clearly did mean that and said it on multiple occasions so this sort of qualified apology is just not going to help.

    “If this debate has taught me anything” … Debate? Surely that is the wrong terminology, this sort of exchange should never be an adversarial debate!

    “let’s all try to be charitable to potential allies” … Nope. http://freethoughtblogs.com/brutereason/2013/03/06/totally-unsolicited-advice-for-feminist-guys/
    Number 3 and maybe 2 apply here. If you are an ally in a battle where one group is under attack your hurt feelings come 2nd, 3rd .. further down the line? Surely an ally realises that they don’t need to be given cookies and any criticism should be looked at very carefully not dismissed as “personal animus”…. These are your allies, why are they angry with you?

    On that note I’m very disappointed you went the PZ route and say you are not welcome there. I read it as some attitudes and opinions you have expressed are not welcome. Doing a flounce due to your hurt feelings just seems totally wrong… Surely these allies are challenging you to be a better ally? They are not a bunch of fools (You think that right?) so you should take their concerns very seriously, on that note read this ->
    http://www.shakesville.com/2013/04/and-then-this-happened.html#comment-850546540
    -> Read the comment policy as they suggested and get back in there and *show* you are an ally, don’t just assert it.
    BTW I’m not saying any of this from a lofty position as a feminist ally par excellence, its just disturbing to me as a pretty awful feminist ally that someone as clued up as you seems to have made such a hash of this.

  • GCT

    I fail to see what is dogmatic about A+. Is it really too much to ask that women and other minorities be treated as people?

  • M’thew

    atheists/humanists value rational, open, logical discussion and enjoy a chance to have their view changed or change a view.

    Nope. A lot of them are just as close-minded, irrational and pigheaded as the rest of humanity. Being an atheist/humanist (or rather, calling yourself one) does not automatically confer the qualities of rationality, open-mindedness and logic upon you. If only…

    Feminism a term that some use to express pride through being sexual free spirited, embracing independence. Or it could be used to spread the message of female oppression with, income, harassment, marriage, to anger over a look that a man made that meant nothing to anyone else.

    Apart from the mess this sentence is grammatically, you could try to read up on feminism. You seem to have little idea what it means.

  • DianeEllen

    ‘DianeEllen sees as condescension or belittlement or whatever about Adam’s post (I really don’t know what she finds offensive/wrong about it”

    Kat. I don’t find it offensive, I find it contemptible. McEwan was accused of saying something she did not say. I don’t know why it was important for Lee to lie that McEwan was saying “that atheism has only one voice, and it’s the voice of the sexists”. In that very post McEwan did two things:

    1. In responding in good-faith to the request for suggestions on how to be a better ally, the very act of responding indicates that the person is considered an ally trying to do better. Hence her responding to his request for suggestions.
    2. In the post itself McEwan actually wrote: “My admiration for the women who hang in and stick it out and fight the same fights over and over. That is a valid and commendable choice, even though it’s not mine.”

    Oh, and Lee’s “reservations” disappears the very women McEwan was talking about. It also disappears the people working towards being better allies.

    ‘…consider that however we feel we’re being offended against by others, *maybe* that’s not exactly the way it’s meant’

    Intent isn’t magic. I think you need to educate yourself on that concept. There is a lot of unchecked privilege going on here. And if you want to pretend this post exists in a void separate from the history and context which it exists in, then that’s your willful misunderstanding. Gaslight someone else.

    There is a pattern of behavior here which clearly shows that it’s not just a small but vocal minority that make the movement unwelcoming, but includes those that think themselves not a part of that small but vocal group.. except that they are. They just don’t want to acknowlege that uncomfortable truth.

  • GCT

    Oh, and Lee’s “reservations” disappears the very women McEwan was talking about. It also disappears the people working towards being better allies.

    I think Adam’s “reservations” were that the statement in question by McEwan, as interpreted by Adam, was disappearing the very women McEwan was talking about as well as the men in the atheist movement who believe in equality. I don’t believe McEwan meant that, nor do you, it seems. More importantly, I don’t think Adam believes she meant that anymore. And, I think it’s important because of Adam’s point about semantics and whether this gives cover and/or support to misogynists within the atheist movement or not.

    There is a pattern of behavior here which clearly shows that it’s not just a small but vocal minority that make the movement unwelcoming, but includes those that think themselves not a part of that small but vocal group.. except that they are. They just don’t want to acknowlege that uncomfortable truth.

    Are you saying that Adam is part of this group of people who are going out of their way to make women uncomfortable? If that’s your intent, that doesn’t seem fair at all. If you are simply saying that Adam has biases that he’s not aware of, fair enough, but everyone has those. The difference is in whether one tries to uncover those biases and treat people equally.

  • GCT

    @brickO salt,
    I missed your first comment until now…

    Instead of going point by point like I normally would let me just give you a pro tip: don’t claim to love equality and women and all that and then turn around to whine, “But what about the menz?” and then go on to cast aspersions on this woman or that woman. It’s not always about you.

  • Azkyroth

    A lot of this could have been avoided by just saying you were sorry.

    Why? Ther

    I don’t think adding a lecture about caring for the hurt feelings of the the privileged allies was a good idea.

    People with privilege are people too. Being less privileged in one particular area is not a blank check.

    Allies should spend most of their time listening, speaking up mostly to correct erring privileged people.

    Why should correction of error be reserved for those who “have privilege?” Shouldn’t everyone else care about whether their conclusions are correct or their behavior reasonable? It’s one thing to observe that privilege creates an obligation to take it into account and REALLY THINK about whether the error you think you’re seeing is due to your cognitive biases, it’s quite another to insist that a less privileged person cannot be wrong, at least not so that a more privileged person cannot identify it. (Anyway, how would this even work, given intersectionality? What’s the exchange rate for white privilege vs. male privilege vs. allistic privilege, for instance?)

    Cookie seeking is what you get accused of for boasting about being an ally and showing your many good deeds.

    Correcting contrafactual aspersions cast on one’s motives, character, and behavior is not “boasting.” What is WRONG with you?

  • Azkyroth

    Err:

    A lot of this could have been avoided by just saying you were sorry.

    Why? There was a mutual misunderstanding, and one side of it has been a hell of a lot more vicious and less fair than the other. I mean, what is he supposed to say, “I’m sorry we wound up talking past each other and then your fans seized on a few pieces of what I wrote to cherry-pick, selectively misread, and play free-association games with beyond all reason, I’ll never do it again?”

    Intent isn’t magic.

    Then why are you still bending over backwards to attribute the worst possible intentions to the OP? Why not just focus on behavior and effects?

  • Azkyroth

    To quote the Tao Te Ching:
    “It is the way of heaven to take where there is too much
    in order to give where there is not enough.
    The way of people is otherwise.
    They take where there is not enough
    in order to increase where there is already too much.
    Who will take from their own excesses
    and give to all under heaven?
    Only those who hold to the Tao.

    Therefore, the True Person benefits yet expects no reward,
    does the work and moves on.
    There is no desire to be considered better than others.”

    Also, this is abuse-enabling bullshit. No one is obliged to just give and give and give regardless of whether they’re treated fairly in response, that rewards bullying and cheating and leads to a deeply dysfunctional society. Google “reciprocal altruism.”

  • Lilylily

    Adam, I think you are grappling with some really important themes in this piece, and I appreciate that. I think the question of fence-sitters and “conversion” is an important one. Certainly, I see it as part of my role as an ally to try to change minds and bring more people over to my side. Frequently this is the most complicated part of being an ally for me. I struggle with how to talk to different people in ways that will be persuasive, to think about the value I place on my relationship with these people, and weigh whether a more gradual appeal to their best self would be better than a direct confrontation. It is both difficult and important to create pathways for people to think critically and change their minds. There is plenty of research in cognitive science showing that changing minds is not easy.

    Unfortunately, what this approach also gives us is respectability politics, tone policing and mixed up priorities. Activists movements that focus on persuasion can look more like PR campaigns, we look only for the most angelic examples of persons who have been wronged, and in doing so we recreate other hierarchies. We look for “innocent” victims: virginal rape victims, white/cis gay families, middle-class/churchgoing/married black people, telling ourselves that this is the only way to appeal to the majority. People have propped this strategy up for decades with different excuses. That dealing with one opression will distract from another, that the public can’t handle or won’t accept certain people so we “have to” ignore them for now, that we need to be “focused,” that we need to sell ourselves.

    I won’t argue whether or not this strategy works, but what I will emphasize is that this process, of constantly being a part of a PR campaign for your movement, stifles free-thought and forces the movement to imitate the dominant hierarchies by prioritizing the people with the privilege to grant rights. Yes, we need PR, yes, we need converts, yes, we need to change minds, but we ALSO need to have honest, precise conversations with each other. It is an important act for less privileged people to ignore those with more privilege and work honestly within the frames of their own experiences.

    It is easy for you or I to tell people with less privilege than us to wait their turn and act nicely so that they can have gifts bestowed on them by privileged people. A few years, a decade, a generation, a millenium, easy for us to wait through, we have the benefits of privilege NOW. People without power are frustrated, held down and constantly walking on eggshells now. Everyone deserves at LEAST the freedom to express the frustration of living with oppression, they deserve at LEAST a few spaces where they don’t have to “walk on eggshells” to avoid angering those in power.

    I think the conflict between you and McEwan can be summarized thus: you are in the business of persuasion, she is in the business of creating an activist space. The people who come to you may be fence-sitters, and persuading them may mean being generous and sugar-coating a bit, but the people who come to McEwan are already dedicated activists who want to expand their own thinking and are prepared to accept that their point of view won’t always be a priority. They need a place to work together to identify the forms that oppression takes, and to work to develop ways of thinking about and addressing oppression that isn’t yet addressed. And yes, sometimes that process is not pretty for outsiders, but it is incredibly important work. You express that you think McEwan’s writing is damaging to the public face of feminism and atheism and will prevent people from changing their minds. I think that the take away from this is that the two of you are just not talking to the same people. Honestly, I think if anyone is giving a bad impression of feminism, it is the person who deliberately goes into these activist spaces and then pulls out select points that are offensive to the majority. I really do support your mission to talk about this issue with fence-sitters and try to change minds. It is SO important. And I do hope that people like you who are thoughtful activists would participate in places like Shakesville. But recognize that your blog and her blog are not for the same audience, and that oppressed people do not and should not design everything they say to be kind to people with privilege.

    It is not true that if McEwan asked nicely that movement atheism would suddenly change. If you care about fence-sitters, you can continue to ask nicely and move that slow process along. In the meantime, there need to be spaces where less privileged people can express these things without having to put on an act for those with privilege. Privileged people don’t “walk on eggshells” in activist spaces because nothing bad happens to them if the egg shells “break.” Less privileged people “walk on eggshells” constantly, and suffer real consequences as a result. Let’s not infringe on their spaces and tell them they need to be more careful of our feelings.

  • DianeEllen

    GCT, Please see my previous post. Both points 1 & 2.

    And by-the-by, you’re misrepresenting the situation by reducing it down to just that statement by McEwan. That statement doesn’t exist in a void. I was using that in part to show how Lee’s “reservations”, were in fact bullshit. Again, see points 1 & 2. And it was not by accident it was disingenuous willful misrepresentation and instead of trying to justify his garbage behavior, why not admit he got it wrong and apologize. Not these non-apologies he keeps spewing, but a genuine apology. And even now that he got his cookies he’s still defensive at having his privilege called out. I’ll say it again, Lee is not the ally he thinks he is. In fact, he’s shown himself to not be an ally at all.

    Lee, next time you request ideas on how men can be better allies… just come out and say input from feminists not wanted. Cos from this whole thing—yeah, you’ve made that point loud and clear, even though you don’t think yourself part of that so-called small and vocal minority that make the movement unwelcoming to women. You are. You are not an ally. You’re part of the problem. And after all this, you still don’t want to understand why.

  • Logan Blackisle

    I fail to see what is dogmatic about A+. Is it really too much to ask that women and other minorities be treated as people?

    From A+’s official FAQ:

    Does A+ represent the official atheist position on social justice? No. Not all atheists are interested in advocating for social justice.

    The implicit assertion being that atheists who are not part of A+ are not interested in advocating for social justice.

    On another note, from the OP:

    My only concern is that the blame for this be placed appropriately, on the guilty parties – those who engage in sexism, and to a lesser extent, those who condone it with silence

    I think a distinction needs to be made here. There is roughly 1 billion people around the world who consider themselves atheists, agnostics, irreligious or some other variation. The vast majority of those people have not spoken out to condemn sexism. That they have not done so, is not a sign of implicit consent, it is a sign of ignorance.

  • Azkyroth

    Lee, next time you request ideas on how men can be better allies… just come out and say input from feminists not wanted.

    Other, of course, than the feminists who’ve pointed out that you and your side is far closer to

    disingenuous willful misrepresentation

    and those who’ve pointed out how both sides were talking past each other. Or is this one of those No True Scotsman things?

  • Azkyroth

    That they have not done so, is not a sign of implicit consent, it is a sign of ignorance.

    It is, at the very least, given the extent to which feminist and social justice ideas have been expressed and articulated, a sign of a willful, active, cultivated ignorance. Don’t make excuses for them.

  • GCT

    GCT, Please see my previous post. Both points 1 & 2.

    I have, and that’s something that I talked about in my comment. You contend that Adam was willfully misrepresenting McEwan. He wasn’t. If your beef with him is that he’s intentionally misinterpreting her words (for what reason or gain?) then you’re barking up the wrong tree. In fact, this whole post is him talking about how he misinterpreted McEwan and vice versa.

    And by-the-by, you’re misrepresenting the situation by reducing it down to just that statement by McEwan.

    I’ve done no such thing. In fact, I affirmed the opposite when I said that I don’t believe McEwan meant that. Are you trying to pick a fight for some reason?

    I was using that in part to show how Lee’s “reservations”, were in fact bullshit. Again, see points 1 & 2. And it was not by accident it was disingenuous willful misrepresentation and instead of trying to justify his garbage behavior, why not admit he got it wrong and apologize.

    At no time did Adam claim that the statement was a stand-alone statement in some void. In fact, he talked about that very thing in the first post on this subject. That doesn’t mean it was a willful misrepresentation. Additionally, this whole post is Adam talking about how he got it wrong.

    I’ll say it again, Lee is not the ally he thinks he is. In fact, he’s shown himself to not be an ally at all.

    Again, I’m going to ask you to please clarify that. Are you saying that he’s not an ally because he’s just as bad as the misogyny spewing trolls that inhabit the slymepit? Or, are you saying that he’s not an ally because he has biases and privilege? If it’s the latter, then no one is an ally, because no one is free of all bias and privilege. The difference is whether one tries to overcome biases and make a positive difference. You can argue that he’s doing a bad job because you’re pointing out biases and he’s not being receptive, but it would be beneficial for you to come with a better argument than impugning his motives in ways that are tenuous at best and don’t accord with the words he’s actually written. I’m not saying that you’re wrong or that Adam isn’t missing some bias (or that I’m not). What I’m saying is that the charges you are leveling here of willful misrepresentation or that he is continuing to willfully misrepresent don’t seem to hold up.

  • GCT

    @Logan,
    How is that dogma? Do you understand the meaning of the word?

    Also, many organizations seek to accomplish some goal. If you are not part of that organization, are they necessarily implying that you seek the opposite or are not interested in their goals?

    Got any other bullshit excuses to tar people seeking social justice?

  • Logan Blackisle

    Azkyroth:

    It is, at the very least, given the extent to which feminist and social justice ideas have been expressed and articulated, a sign of a willful, active, cultivated ignorance. Don’t make excuses for them.

    So, it is not possible for people in places like Scandinavia, Singapore, South Korea etc, to be so busy with their lives that they never notice social activism? And it is not possible for anyone to have preconceived notions that inequality, racism etc, is a thing of the past?

    When did you become active in working for social justice? And before that, were you cultivating an active and willful ignorance of the subject?

    GCT:

    Also, many organizations seek to accomplish some goal. If you are not part of that organization, are they necessarily implying that you seek the opposite or are not interested in their goals?

    Does A+ represent the official atheist position on social justice?
    -No, there is no official atheist position on anything except the existence of god(s).
    -No, A+ currently only counts x atheists, compared to the millions worldwide.
    -No, not all atheists are interested in advocating for social justice.
    -No, but we hope to be in the future.

    One of those answers implies that atheists who are not part of A+ are not interested in advocating for social justice; the others do not.

    I should also point out, that I’m not saying the people behind A+ are even aware of the fact that the quoted answer is worded unfortunately – for all I know, it could come as an unpleasant surprise to them.

    I generally stay out of forums and online activism – beyond donations and signatures – so I can’t claim any knowledge about it, except for what is immediately available.

  • Nonnie

    I agree with you so hard on this “But if allies feel like they’re walking on eggshells, or that they can never say the right thing – that’s a frustrating feeling, and it plays into the hands of the bad guys.”
    I am one of the people you’re talking about there. I think things through reallllly slowly and it takes me a very long time to be able to articulate my thoughts about complicated social matters (like years). I wish so much to be able to participate in an honest and thoughtful conversation about diversity and identity, without the fear of being permanently labelled as prejudiced because my thoughts were still evolving or I misspoke. This fear and lack of conversation has slowed me from becoming more involved, or getting off certain fences.

    People like me are sacrificed by the wayside in pursuit of more important social justice goals, which makes sense. But I still hate it. And I think it’s often akin to bullying. (People who are confident, intelligent, effortless communicators bullying those who are not.) Ending discrimination will make our society better, but so will patience, forgiveness, and giving each other the benefit of the doubt (when we appear to be in good faith).

  • Steven Carr

    Adam, did you read http://www.shakesville.com/2010/01/feminism-101.html before posting at Shakesville?

    It is very educational.

  • GCT

    @Logan,
    Your complaint seems to be that you’re putting words in the mouths of others and then complaining that they are saying those words. Also, your response does not counter the point that I made.

    Does A+ represent the official atheist position on social justice?
    -No, there is no official atheist position on anything except the existence of god(s).

    True, and no one has claimed that A+ speaks for all atheists. Quite the contrary, actually. A+ is there because we are all too familiar with the fact that there are bigoted atheists in our ranks.

    -No, A+ currently only counts x atheists, compared to the millions worldwide.

    This is also accurate. So what?

    -No, not all atheists are interested in advocating for social justice.

    Also accurate. In fact, if it were not accurate there would be no need for A+.

    -No, but we hope to be in the future.

    Also accurate.

    I don’t see your point at all.

    One of those answers implies that atheists who are not part of A+ are not interested in advocating for social justice; the others do not.

    I’m assuming you mean the third one. Well, it’s accurate, get over it and get over yourself. Instead of finding reasons to hate the people who advocate for social justice, maybe you should find reasons to actually fight back against those who seek to harass and demean women and other minorities. I know, it’s a radical idea, but it is rather telling that you seem to expend more energy telling the people trying to correct the situation how stupid/wrong/horrible they are.

    I generally stay out of forums and online activism – beyond donations and signatures – so I can’t claim any knowledge about it, except for what is immediately available.

    IOW, you don’t know what the hell you’re talking about, but you’re sure that those damned A+ assholes are ruining it for everyone! Perhaps you should actually educate yourself on the subject before shoving your foot in your mouth.

  • Logan Blackisle

    @GCT,

    I fail to see what is dogmatic about A+.

    Also, your response does not counter the point that I made.

    I assume that it is my response to the first quote you’re talking about.

    What is dogmatic about A+ is that the official forum, and the people in charge of that, are very quick to ban people simply because of disagreement. Mind you, I’m not talking about disagreement with A+’s creed, I’m talking about disagreement with forum policies (too strict, I think the complaint is), with their methods (calling someone a sexist/misogynist instead of telling them a statement of theirs might be construed to have a sexist/misogynist meaning).

    An example of this is their unfortunate wording I quoted in a previous post.

    I’m assuming you mean the third one.

    Does that mean you don’t think the implied statement is obvious?

    Well, it’s accurate, get over it and get over yourself.

    There are roughly 1 billion people worldwide who consider themselves atheists, agnostics, irreligious or some other variation. If A+’s answer, and implied statement, is accurate, then a majority of these must be aware of the social issues, and decide to remain silent.

    Since I didn’t discover these issues until I was 21-22, I know it is very possible to be ignorant of these issues. Until I started reading this blog, and various atheist-themed books (recommended by a friend), I was under the impression that religion, inequality, sexism etc, were merely superstitious nonsense that few believed in, and didn’t deserve further thought.

    This was largely because the news I read was centered on Scandinavia, where I live, and science, and because religion is considered little more than a cultural tradition where I live.

    There are also people who think that conversation over the internet is too impersonal, and so insist on only engaging in activism locally. And people who a (tech-) illiterate. And people who have too much bullshit in their lives to spare any time for activism. And the list goes on.

    Instead of finding reasons to hate the people who advocate for social justice

    When have I expressed hate towards the people who advocate for social justice?

    The fact that I am explaining a position (i.e. why A+ is dogmatic) does not mean that I agree with the position or that I am defending the position. It simply means that I am explaining why some people hold this position, nothing more, nothing less.

    If I have implied otherwise, I apologize, that was not my intent.

    You stated your failure to understand a position –

    I fail to see what is dogmatic about A+.

    - and I attempted to explain it.

    Do you want an example more?

    Why does people think proponents of A+ are dogmatic/quick to judge/divisive rather than inclusive/etc?

    Because when people try to point out a simple (if assumed) mistake, like an unfortunate phrasing, we get responses like this:

    Got any other bullshit excuses to tar people seeking social justice?

    you don’t know what the hell you’re talking about

    you’re sure that those damned A+ assholes are ruining it for everyone!

  • Logan Blackisle

    Oh, I almost forgot;

    @GCT,

    Does A+ represent the official atheist position on social justice?
    -No, there is no official atheist position on anything except the existence of god(s).

    True, and no one has claimed that A+ speaks for all atheists. Quite the contrary, actually. A+ is there because we are all too familiar with the fact that there are bigoted atheists in our ranks.

    -No, A+ currently only counts x atheists, compared to the millions worldwide.

    This is also accurate. So what?

    -No, not all atheists are interested in advocating for social justice.

    Also accurate. In fact, if it were not accurate there would be no need for A+.

    -No, but we hope to be in the future.

    Also accurate.
    I don’t see your point at all.

    The point was to show different ways to phrase an answer to the question, that doesn’t have the implication I mentioned.

    Also, on the point about 1 billion people worldwide, etc.
    Polls show roughly 1 billion people. The Atheist Census counts under 200 k (despite having been active for several months), with entries in nearly every country in the world.

  • Figs

    Insisting that “No, not all atheists are interested in advocating for social justice” implies that atheists who aren’t active participants in A+ are somehow actively working against social justice is just projection. Protesting too much, get it? What the statement is, is true. Not all atheists are interested in social justice. Some are interested in having forum conversations, over and over again, about how there’s no such thing as god. That’s all well and good, and there’s a place for that, especially if you’re operating a space that’s accessible by people whose minds might be potentially opened/changed by the discussion.

    But at some point, the rubber has to hit the road. Building a community is all well and good, but at some point, you’ve got to decide what you want to do with that community. A+ is a step in one direction, and it’s one that not everyone agrees with. That’s fine, but protesting that somebody else emphasizing social justice is UNFAIR because it points out that you’re NOT doing it, well, that’s just foolish.

  • GCT

    @Logan,

    What is dogmatic about A+ is that the official forum, and the people in charge of that, are very quick to ban people simply because of disagreement. Mind you, I’m not talking about disagreement with A+’s creed, I’m talking about disagreement with forum policies (too strict, I think the complaint is), with their methods (calling someone a sexist/misogynist instead of telling them a statement of theirs might be construed to have a sexist/misogynist meaning).

    This is a straw man that I hear a lot. You can’t imagine how you might have said anything that someone might object to, because you can’t be wrong, so those people, those horrible feminazis, must be banning you simply because you disagree with them. Of course, I’d be willing to bet that you never gave their thoughts any credence or thought as to why they might be expressing them, which sort of validates their point in most cases. I’m sure the irony is lost on you. And, it still doesn’t rise to the level of dogmatism.

    Does that mean you don’t think the implied statement is obvious?

    The statement was obvious enough as I’ve seen it multiple times from people like you who jump to assume the worst. Why is it that people want to assume the worst about a group that says they stand for social justice, but are all too often more than willing to bend over backwards to make sure that nothing a man says is ever taken as actually sexist unless that man says, “I hate women.”

    There are roughly 1 billion people worldwide who consider themselves atheists, agnostics, irreligious or some other variation. If A+’s answer, and implied statement, is accurate, then a majority of these must be aware of the social issues, and decide to remain silent.

    Are those goalposts heavy? You’ve gone from the entirely accurate statement that not all atheists are interesting in social justice to now claiming that I’m saying that majority of atheists are not interested in social justice. And you wonder why I have a problem with your arguments, and why others might.

    When have I expressed hate towards the people who advocate for social justice?

    I’m sure it has nothing to do with you protesting those who advocate for social justice while giving a free pass to those who harass women.

    The fact that I am explaining a position (i.e. why A+ is dogmatic) does not mean that I agree with the position or that I am defending the position. It simply means that I am explaining why some people hold this position, nothing more, nothing less.

    You claimed A+ is dogmatic, and now you’re trying to claim that it doesn’t necessarily mean that A+ is dogmatic? Seriously?

    Because when people try to point out a simple (if assumed) mistake, like an unfortunate phrasing, we get responses like this:

    Oh yes, you’re so put upon.

    The point was to show different ways to phrase an answer to the question, that doesn’t have the implication I mentioned.

    And, you failed, miserably, to actually defend your point with that list.

  • Azkyroth

    Adam, did you read http://www.shakesville.com/2010/01/feminism-101.html before posting at Shakesville?

    It is very educational.

    Adam’s been advocating for feminism for more than 10 years on his blog and you’re sneeringly directing him to 101 pages like you somehow think he’s just heard of it?

    If you have specific criticisms relating to it, voice them, but ignorant condesplaining is less than useless.

  • Steven Carr

    I don’t have any specific criticisms. I found it really eye-opening, and it taught me a great deal.

  • Logan Blackisle

    @Figs,

    Insisting that “No, not all atheists are interested in advocating for social justice” implies that atheists who aren’t active participants in A+ are somehow actively working against social justice is just projection.

    Active: “implies that atheists who aren’t active participants in A+ are somehow actively working against social justice”

    Passive: “implies that atheists who are not part of A+ are not interested in advocating for social justice”

    I argued the passive, you misconstrued it as the active. I shouldn’t have to tell you, but there’s a very big difference between the two.

    protesting that somebody else emphasizing social justice is UNFAIR because it points out that you’re NOT doing it, well, that’s just foolish.

    And that’s not what I argued; read again.

    @GCT,

    You can’t imagine how you might have said anything that someone might object to, because you can’t be wrong, so those people, those horrible feminazis, must be banning you simply because you disagree with them.

    I reject the label feminist, not because I disagree with the tenets, but because I believe it is redundant to call myself a feminist when I already call myself a humanist. Nice straw-man, though.

    The statement was obvious enough as I’ve seen it multiple times from people like you who jump to assume the worst.

    No, I don’t assume the worst. I don’t think the before-mentioned implication is deliberate – which, I think, I’ve already indicated a couple of times – I think it’s an unfortunate mistake that’s should be corrected to avoid confusion.

    Why is it that people want to assume the worst about a group that says they stand for social justice, but are all too often more than willing to bend over backwards to make sure that nothing a man says is ever taken as actually sexist unless that man says, “I hate women.”

    It’s really hard for you to grasp that I can criticize them without emphatically disagreeing with them, isn’t it?

    Are those goalposts heavy? You’ve gone from the entirely accurate statement that not all atheists are interesting in social justice to now claiming that I’m saying that majority of atheists are not interested in social justice.

    When A+ make the statement that “No, not all atheists are interested in advocating for social justice,” they imply that all the millions of atheists worldwide, who are not part of A+, are not interested in social justice.

    I believe that that implication is incorrect.

    “atheists who are not part of A+ are not interested in advocating for social justice” –> “a majority of [atheists] must be aware of the social issues, and decide to remain silent” –> “majority of atheists are not interested in social justice”

    “atheists who are not part of A+” = “the vast majority of atheists”

    Where are the goalposts being moved?

    I’m sure it has nothing to do with you protesting those who advocate for social justice while giving a free pass to those who harass women.

    Now you’re just arguing a straw-man. I’m not protesting those who advocate for social justice, I am simply pointing out what I believe to be a mistake. And I certainly don’t give a free pass to those who harass women – or have I done this whilst remaining unaware of my actions?

    You claimed A+ is dogmatic, and now you’re trying to claim that it doesn’t necessarily mean that A+ is dogmatic? Seriously?

    Explaining a position is not the same as defending a position, why is that so hard to grasp?

    And, you failed, miserably, to actually defend your point with that list.

    I claimed that A+’s answer held implication x, that the implication is probably a mistake, and that it alienates millions of atheists. You agree that A+’s answer holds implication x, but assert that it isn’t a problem (Whether or not it’s a mistake is out aside, and rightfully so, it’s rather a non-issue without any official A+ presence here). (that IS what you’re asserting, right?)

    I gave a list of answers without the implication, to show that the implication is unnecessary.

    I then assert that the implication necessarily marks millions of atheists worldwide, and you… disagree?

    Maybe I’m just tired (it’s 1.30 AM here), but what exactly is the problem?

  • Figs

    Next time give full context:

    No. Not all atheists are interested in advocating for social justice. Many atheists choose instead to focus on other worthy endeavors such as science education, skepticism in medicine, or the separation of church and state. Many atheists do not consider their atheism particularly important, nor do they necessarily connect their atheism to any other positions they do or do not hold. And even among those atheists who are interested in promoting social justice, not all agree that the issues focused on by Atheism Plus are the most important ones or that the supporters of Atheism Plus are addressing these issues the right way. There are as many perspectives on social justice, its meaning, its import, the current state of its various aspects, and how best to promote it (if at all) as there are people. All are welcome to start, support, oppose, or ignore groups like Atheism Plus. However, supporters of Atheism Plus are not obligated to provide a forum for their opposition.

  • GCT

    I argued the passive, you misconstrued it as the active. I shouldn’t have to tell you, but there’s a very big difference between the two.

    For the purposes of this discussion, there isn’t. It’s still projection on your part.

    And that’s not what I argued; read again.

    That’s exactly what you’re arguing.

    I reject the label feminist, not because I disagree with the tenets, but because I believe it is redundant to call myself a feminist when I already call myself a humanist. Nice straw-man, though.

    Ah, I didn’t realize that one can only identify with one group at a time. Sorry, but you don’t get a pass on this.

    No, I don’t assume the worst.

    Except for the fact that you have, complete with quote mining (as shown by Figs) in order to buttress your preconceptions.

    It’s really hard for you to grasp that I can criticize them without emphatically disagreeing with them, isn’t it?

    Criticism is one thing, but that’s not what you’re doing. You’re making shit up in order to tar people.

    When A+ make the statement that “No, not all atheists are interested in advocating for social justice,” they imply that all the millions of atheists worldwide, who are not part of A+, are not interested in social justice.

    No, they don’t, and that’s the part that you made up out of whole cloth in order to tar the A+ movement and those in it.

    “atheists who are not part of A+ are not interested in advocating for social justice”

    You dishonestly put that in quotes, but no one has said that.

    Where are the goalposts being moved?

    Exactly where I already pointed out you moved the goalposts. And, you doubled down on it, repeating your dishonest assertions.

    Now you’re just arguing a straw-man. I’m not protesting those who advocate for social justice, I am simply pointing out what I believe to be a mistake. And I certainly don’t give a free pass to those who harass women – or have I done this whilst remaining unaware of my actions?

    Yes, you are protesting us, by making shit up and tarring us with it. And, by doing so you provide cover for misogynists (not convinced you aren’t one of them, since that’s how these things usually go).

    Explaining a position is not the same as defending a position, why is that so hard to grasp?

    What’s so hard to grasp is why you think you can essentially argue that something is dogmatic and then turn around to claim that you don’t actually think it’s dogmatic when your back is against the wall.

    I claimed that A+’s answer held implication x, that the implication is probably a mistake, and that it alienates millions of atheists.

    Only if they make the same biased and uncharitable interpretation (out of context, no less) that you have strained to do. And, why is that?

    You agree that A+’s answer holds implication x, but assert that it isn’t a problem…

    No, I certainly do not. I said that the original statement that some atheists are not interested in social justice is, in fact, correct. You are now putting words in my mouth, again dishonestly.

    I then assert that the implication necessarily marks millions of atheists worldwide, and you… disagree?

    Yes, I disagree, as I’ve been saying all along. What is so hard to understand about it, except for the fact that your biases seem to be too difficult for you to deal with. This looks and feels a lot like white male privilege to me.

  • Logan Blackisle

    @Figs,

    Next time give full context

    Not all read the full answer, but sure, here’s another, more complete quote, with the same implication:

    “Atheists PLUS we care about social justice,
    Atheists PLUS we support women’s rights,
    Atheists PLUS we protest racism,
    Atheists PLUS we fight homophobia and transphobia,
    Atheists PLUS we use critical thinking and skepticism.”

    Simple logical detraction: ‘ordinary’ atheists don’t care about social justice, don’t support women’s rights, don’t protest racism, don’t fight homophobia and transphobia, don’t use critical thinking and skepticism.

    And, since I’ve been accused of it before: There’s a difference between making a statement, well-aware of the possible misinterpretations and choosing it anyway, and making a statement, unaware of malicious misinterpretations.

    I am claiming that A+ is ‘guilty’ of the latter, not the former.

    @GCT,

    For the purposes of this discussion, there isn’t.

    I don’t see how that could be so, because the difference is pretty distinct, would you mind explaining that?

    That’s exactly what you’re arguing.

    -It is unfair that A+ emphasizes social justice, when they point out that all other atheists aren’t.
    -A+ emphasizes social justice, and make the unfair implication that all other atheists don’t.

    I argue the latter, not the former. I have no problem with anyone emphasizing social justice. I have no problem condemning the vocal sexists as such. What I see a problem with, is condemning the silent majority as implicitly agreeing with anything.

    Ah, I didn’t realize that one can only identify with one group at a time. Sorry, but you don’t get a pass on this.

    I never said you couldn’t – just that I don’t, in this specific case. To me, saying “I’m a humanist and a feminist” would be equivalent to saying “I’m an atheist and I don’t believe in god”. There’s certainly no one saying you can’t say that, but it’s just redundant to state the same thing twice.

    The label atheist has a lot of baggage, whether you like it nor not. The average atheist might believe that calling themselves atheist only denotes a lack of belief in any deity, but to many people, it denotes far more. Such as the absurd prejudice most atheists face in the US, and to a lesser degree, in the rest of the western world.

    Likewise, humanism and feminism has a lot of connotations. While I believe that their basic tenets are pretty much the same (hence, the redundancy), modern feminism seems more focused on women’s rights, while I prefer the broader humanism.

    Except for the fact that you have, complete with quote mining (as shown by Figs) in order to buttress your preconceptions.

    OK, let’s check that, here are three possible interpretations:
    1. Some atheists have other interests, that they find more important.
    2. Some atheists simply do not consider social justice all that important.
    3. Some atheists insist on maintaining the current social trends, and are therefore not interested in advocating for social justice.

    A slight nitpick, but I would argue that my interpretation is not the worst. Whatever the case, I’m not saying that my interpretation is more valid than another, I’m saying it should be clarified to avoid confusion.

    Criticism is one thing, but that’s not what you’re doing. You’re making shit up in order to tar people.

    When have I done this?

    No, they don’t, and that’s the part that you made up out of whole cloth in order to tar the A+ movement and those in it.

    My statement should probably be changed to, “When A+ makes the statement that “no, not all atheists are interested in advocating for social justice,” they make it easy to misinterpret to mean that all the millions of atheists worldwide, who are not part of A+, are not interested in social justice.”

    I did not mean to imply that it was deliberate on their part.

    You dishonestly put that in quotes, but no one has said that.

    Ah, sorry, I didn’t put it in quotes to denote that someone had said it, I did it to emphasize it and to separate several distinct sentences. I’m Danish, and this is (also) how they’re used here – I’ll try to remember that that is not the case in the US.

    Exactly where I already pointed out you moved the goalposts. And, you doubled down on it, repeating your dishonest assertions.

    I asked because I honestly cannot see any goalposts being moved – as far as I can see, it is just the logical implication. At least, if we’re talking about the “atheists who are not part of A+” = “the vast majority of atheists” part.

    What’s so hard to grasp is why you think you can essentially argue that something is dogmatic and then turn around to claim that you don’t actually think it’s dogmatic when your back is against the wall.

    And you’re completely missing what I’ve been saying, so let me put it clearly:

    -Some people thinks A+ is dogmatic.
    -I disagree.
    -I think A+’s official pages are easy to misinterpret.
    -I know (some of) why detractors think A+ is dogmatic.
    -I have attempted to explain their position.

    If you can find anything I’ve written that contradicts the above – keeping in mind the difference between explaining a position and defending a position – please point it out, and I will be happy to tell you I was completely wrong.*

    No, I certainly do not. I said that the original statement that some atheists are not interested in social justice is, in fact, correct. You are now putting words in my mouth, again dishonestly.

    Ah, sorry, I thought that was what you meant when you said this:

    I’m assuming you mean the third one. Well, it’s accurate, get over it and get over yourself.

    Sorry for misinterpreting your words, it was, in no way, intentional.

    Yes, I disagree, as I’ve been saying all along.

    OK, I just wanted to clearly understand which parts you agree with and which you don’t.

    *At this point, it seems to me that either I suck at making myself clear, or you suck at reading comprehension. After re-reading my posts, it seems clear to me that I am the one who sucks, so this will be my last post (except any posts I have to make to keep my stated promise) – at least until I am confident I can make myself clearly understood.

  • GCT

    I don’t see how that could be so, because the difference is pretty distinct, would you mind explaining that?

    Because it’s a false dichotomy where both options are based on your projections. That’s the point. You can’t possibly see how A+ proponents aren’t saying anything bad about you personally, so therefore they are. It’s rather pathetic actually, especially when it’s been explained to you multiple times.

    What I see a problem with, is condemning the silent majority as implicitly agreeing with anything.

    That’s only happening in your mind, no matter how vehemently you try to continually pound that lie out. So, why are you trying so hard to perpetuate that lie? Methinks you have ulterior motives.

    I never said you couldn’t – just that I don’t, in this specific case. To me, saying “I’m a humanist and a feminist” would be equivalent to saying “I’m an atheist and I don’t believe in god”.

    Given the prevalence of “humanists” that don’t give a shit about women’s rights, it’s not the same. Not the same at all.

    OK, let’s check that, here are three possible interpretations:

    Try being intellectually honest just once in this thread, will you? The point is that you went from some atheists do not care about social justice (and even actively oppose it) to “the majority” of atheists. Maybe you’d be more comfortable if I called it a bait and switch? Get me to agree that some don’t care or active oppose and then slip in that “majority” and hope no one notices?

    When have I done this?

    By straw manning us, repeatedly, even after being corrected. Time to be honest.

    My statement should probably be changed to, “When A+ makes the statement that “no, not all atheists are interested in advocating for social justice,” they make it easy to misinterpret to mean that all the millions of atheists worldwide, who are not part of A+, are not interested in social justice.”

    This is not a concession at all, because it’s the same bullshit you’ve been vomiting all over this page from the beginning. This is rather dishonest of you.

  • Azkyroth

    What I see a problem with, is condemning the silent majority as implicitly agreeing with anything.

    Why?

  • Kain

    @Azkyroth

    Why is there a problem with condemning the silent majority as implicitly agreeing with anything?

    Because the position that “silence equals consent” is exactly the same position that rapists use when they’re trying to defend themselves for taking advantage of a drunk girl at a party.

    My only concern is that the blame for this be placed appropriately, on the guilty parties – those who engage in sexism, and to a lesser extent, those who condone it with silence – and not on the community as a whole.

    I have to admit, I’m somewhat amazed that Mr. Lee is advocating that position, and that there aren’t anyone who’s pointed out that particular flaw in his reasoning.

  • Adam Lee

    No, those things aren’t the same at all, and it’s seriously creepy that you would even consider them equivalent. If I want to have sex with someone, I need to have their explicit consent or else I’m committing a serious crime. If I see someone else being harassed, assaulted or mistreated right in front of me and fail to even speak out to defend the rights of the victim, then I’m tacitly condoning that misdeed by my silence. These are not the same kind of thing at all.


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