Saying No to a Men-Only Debate

The Freedom From Religion Foundation’s Dan Barker recently accepted an invite to do a debate in Minnesota against a Catholic theologian as part of the “Argument Of The Month Club,” a forum for Catholic men. They covered his expenses and the debate was set for February 12th.

As Dan was looking at the group’s event page for the debate the other day, he noticed something weird:

Yes, this is a men’s club, but the problem was that the event wasn’t just organized by men. It appeared to be a debate only for men. They have a right to do that in a private club, but Dan didn’t want to give off the impression that he was okay with it:

I immediately shot the organizer David Deavel an email, which prompted the following exchange:

Dan:“While looking at your Event page today, I see that it seems to suggest that your meetings are open to men only. Is that right?”

Dave: “That’s right. Men only. 12 bucks a head for drinks, dinner, dessert, and the show! Not a bad deal, eh?”

Dan: “Can you open it to women that night?”

Dave: “No. Sorry, ours is a men’s group organization. But any atheist/agnostic men are welcome to come and plunk down their 12 bucks.”

I thought about this for a long time… maybe 30 whole seconds… before deciding I couldn’t go through with the event.

In an email Dan sent to David, he explained why he couldn’t go through with the debate under those circumstances:

The Feb. 12 topic has nothing to do with “men only.” (If it did, maybe I would understand your concerns.) I have many female friends in your area, and I simply cannot announce that their husbands and male friends are welcome, but they are not. I’m sure you see how they might feel insulted. Although I understand that private groups are free to limit membership, I cannot give the appearance that I condone such discrimination. My participation in a gender-exclusive event would reflect poorly on the Freedom From Religion Foundation, which is opposed to patriarchal attitudes. Although you may not feel AOTM is “patriarchal,” I think banning women certainly gives that appearance.

I have spoken at Catholic churches, where the leadership is all male, and I accept such invitations because attendance is open to all, regardless of creed, race, or sex. I have spoken before events organized by Islamic groups, whose membership is limited to Muslims, where nobody was denied admittance to the public meeting. I would love to do the same with you on February 12. But if you are barring women from entry, then you are also barring me.


Dan paid for his canceled plane ticket but kept his reputation intact.

Can’t say as much for the Catholic group and their No Womenfolk Allowed Club.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Mark Weber

    Would you expect anything else from an organization that designates the highest position a woman can hold is that of a None

  • bethelj

    What’s wrong with a men-only event? There are plenty of Girls Night Out events and clubs that cater to women or gatherings/Facebook pages where women can bitch about men to their hearts’ content. Men can’t have a guy thing without it being a major tragedy or infringement of rights? There’s nothing criminal in wanting to be with only one sex for a few hours’ time.

    I don’t feel a need to approve or control other people’s gathering habits. It’s fine if Barker doesn’t feel comfortable in this environment, but he’s hardly taking a stand.

  • Barbara

    Barker’s one of the good guys. Catholics could stand to learn from his ethics.

  • M. Elaine

    I can see it now…

    Dan Barker supports gender equality. Therefore: God works in mysterious ways. Therefore: The Gospels do give us the real Jesus, risen and all (debate topic).

  • CelticWhisper

    What’s wrong with this is the exact same thing that’s wrong with GNO events. They’re mandatorily exclusive – people are kept out on the basis of something they have no control over.

    There’s nothing that can be discussed in a group of people of one sex that cannot be discussed in a group of people of the other, or in a mixed group. This is basically saying “We claim exclusivity to the content of, and participation in, this debate. Who cares if female people may have some interesting ideas to present? They’re not welcome on account of being female.”

    It’s unacceptable and, were I invited to an event like this, I’d tell them that welcoming my girlfriend (who, having studied theology extensively, is someone they should feel very nervous indeed about debating) along with me is a non-negotiable condition of my attendance. They’d probably tell me to go fuck myself (not in so many words) and I’d say the same to them (in so many words).

    Weird little flash of linguistic inspiration, but would “Human Inclusive” be a good label for events that welcome all people regardless of race, sex, or…any other commonly-discriminated-against criteria?

  • Anonymous

    I agree 100%. There is nothing wrong with it, and I feel embarrassed for Dan for making such a big deal out of it.

  • C Peterson

    There might not necessarily be anything wrong with a men-only event. Barker addresses that in his concern that there was nothing about this particular event that should reasonably limit participants to men. In his view (and mine) this event isn’t a “guy thing”, so he was uncomfortable with participating.

    I think he’s quite right in seeing this club as “patriarchal”, and in my view his response does amount to taking a stand- publicly- against that attitude.

  • Aneres

    You missed the point that a public event is for the public, regardless of whether the organization discriminates among members. A “Girl’s Night Out” is not an event in which you invite other people to watch/listen to you whereas a public debate is intended for an audience. I don’t have to be a member of the Blue Man Group to go to one of their shows do I? Only magicians can go to see Penn & Teller, and only astrophysicists may watch cosmology lectures.

  • CelticWhisper

    We gots us a word for that.

    (Well, okay, three words, but…it…you know what? Shut up.)

  • grabble greebo

    I love Dan B, but this makes him sounds like a pussy. There’s nothing wrong with men’s groups.

  • Thomas J. Lawson

    I am a stay-at-home-dad. I should get offended by all of the Mommy&Me classes and events, but I don’t. Why? Because it is men who are still today trying to control the uteri of women. Until they stop that, you women can sit around and “bitch about men” all you want.

  • grabbo

    Agreed. The ‘men’s movement’ has been for the most part healthy and productive. Dan sounds like he is p-whipped by Annie Laurie.

  • Cecelia Baines

    WTF. What the hell is wrong with a male only event? Jesus Hemant, just the other day you were plastering your blog with the Estrogen Gathering in Secularism as if it were something wild, whacky and wonderful. Now, you deride the idea of a male gathering?

    Dude, that is some effed up logic and a disgusting double standard. Talk about losing creed….you take the cake.

  • Sven2547

    Great post!
    Just nitpicking: “intact” is one word.

  • The Other Weirdo

    Why bring only minor sons? Is it because the older boys will see through the bullshit and tweet extensively?

  • Cecelia Baines

    But this is hunky dory, eh?

    Hemant, you really do hold double standards. Disgusting.

  • Feminerd

    Huh. All the people (so far) who think there’s nothing wrong with this event being men’s only also say that Dan is a pussy or pussy-whipped. It’s like they can’t see that a man could be a genuine feminist ally with his own convictions on the matter who is taking a moral stand. No, they boldly call him the worst insults they can come up with- he’s a woman or he’s ruled by a woman. That says quite a lot about the subject, don’t you think?

    It doesn’t even matter if Dan is right or not about this being patriarchal. He thinks it is and he’s taking a stand. So the fact that he’s getting called a woman for it, as though that was an insult, says more about the state of gender inequality in this country than I ever could.

  • Alex

    Both men and women could attend that event.

  • Wild Rumpus

    Searching my city name plus “Women only” I get;

    Women Only Space
    Women Only Pillow Fight (?)
    Women Only Fitness
    Women Only Soccer Camp
    Women Only Networking
    Women Only Golf School
    Women Only Pharmacy
    Women Only Jobs

    It’s the Matriarchal Misandrists that are keeping us down! We have been oppressed for too long! Rise up! Fight the power!

  • Susan Quilty

    The difference is that the Women in Secularism conference welcomes male attendees. There’s no double standard here.

  • Darrell Ross

    First, that is a guest post.

    Second, minority groups are a good thing where as majority groups are simply unnecessary because, wait for it, they are a majority.

    I am a little unsure of my feelings about Dan’s actions. I think it might have been more productive had he attended the event but constantly brought up the patriarchal issue at the debate. Not that I think a bunch of patriarchal people would actually see they were patriarchal – kind of like trying to get a white wealthy Libertarian to admit they have privilege – but it could have been productive.

    But your attempt at pointing out a double-standard falls completely flat. You are comparing an open attendance secular event with a topic of “women and secularism” with a religious men-only event that has a public not-men-only topic. One is an open forum where everyone can participate. The other is a patriarchal men-only forum.

  • Darrell Ross

    Inappropriate comments abound.

  • Susan Quilty

    It’s called Women in Secularism, and men are welcome to attend. There’s no double standard here.

  • Gus Snarp

    Good for Dan. I might have let them eat the cost of plane ticket, so he’s more of a gentleman than I.

  • GloomCookie613

    Except that men are welcome at the event you’re talking about. As usual though, don’t let facts get in the way of your outrage.

  • Darrell Ross

    I am ok with a men-only event. What I am not ok with is a Church which has men and women welcome to the Church but only men allowed to attend the apologetics debate. It isn’t like they also have a women’s group which watches debates — only men can watch debates. That is reinforcement of the men-run-your-life patriarchal society.

    The stand that Barker is taking is against the patriarchy. Instead of bowing to their traditions which subvert women, he is taking a stand and refusing to participate. I can see how many people will miss the point.

    This is similar to any country refusing to provide aid to Uganda as long as Uganda maintains their kill-the-gays-bill. That would be taking a stand against bigotry.

  • Ken Duncan

    The Women in Secularism event specifically posts pictures of men in the audience. I think this important distinction may have been lost on you.

  • Darrell Ross

    To anyone having trouble understanding what it means for Dan Barker to “take a stand” publicly against patriarchy, here are some similar examples of taking a stand:

    – The UK taking a stand on gay rights by threatening to deny aid to Uganda when they were voting on their Kill The Gays bill (not sure how that turned out).

    – Some states taking a stand against the war on drugs by legalizing pot.

    Similar to these examples:
    – Dan Barker is taking a stand against patriarchy by refusing to attend an event designed to maintain a patriarchal society. The debates can only be attended by men meaning that men are the ones who do the thinking at that church – women are not allowed.

    Before you hawk your ignorance about Dan’s actions to everyone, read up a bit about what it means to take a stand publicly.

  • Helanna

    I think the main problem is why would this be a guy thing? It’s a debate club. Why on earth would women be banned? And they wouldn’t even let women in for a single night? There’s not a reason for it other than “icky girls”, so it’s just plain weird. It also shuts women out of the conversation entirely, completely ignoring any contribution they might make. Intentionally inviting nothing but male speakers sends the message that women do not have anything worthwhile to contribute.

    And, as Barker said, it would be highly insulting if I wanted to go see someone speak, and I was told that only my boyfriend or husband could go. Even if it wasn’t his decision, I’d still be displeased that he was going to speak at such a place. So I’m glad he declined the invitation.

  • Raising_Rlyeh

    What is it with Christian men and these “manly men” events? Nothing says we are straight than inviting only men to events that tell them how manly they are.

  • Outcast Kyle

    Men’s clubs are bad, but women-only buses and things like that are totally ok. Nice doublé-standards.

  • Kathy

    What’s your fucking problem? Estrogen Gathering?

  • blasphemous_Kansan

    “Dude, that is some effed up logic and a disgusting double standard.”

    Following a paragraph containing a butchered false equivalency fallacy (men are not banned from attending Women in Secularism) where a ‘male only event’ is compared with pejoratively named ‘Estrogen Gathering in Secularism’…..
    Well, your lack of self-awareness is just kind of funny.

  • Kathy

    pussy, huh? Is that your preferred term of abuse?

  • eric

    I think there’s an easily drawn difference between GNO and an “Argument of the Month club.” There is no obvious reason why an event dedicated to hearing speakers and arguing over a presentation needs to be single sex. Its like a book club – there’s nothing inherently single-sex about talking about books. In contrast, the very purpose of events like a GNO (or the male equivalent) is to socialize with a specific sub-group.

    At minimum, this is disingenuous advertising. This is not really a Wisconsin ‘Argument of the Month’ club because ‘argument of the month’ is not really their raison d’etre. This is really a Wisconsin men’s club that brings in a speaker once a month, because being a men’s club is their raison d’etre. Bringing in speakers is just something this men’s club does.

    Maybe others will see that as a distinction without a diffence, but I think it could be important. If you’re going to claim to be an intellectual group dedicated to some intellectual activity, its sexist to exclude members of one sex. OTOH, if you’re explicitly a single sex club that occasionally does intellectual things (or charity drives, or other activities), then at least you’re being up front about what you are, and I think people are probably going to be more accepting of that.
    Girl scouts: fine. Its up front. Right there in the name – scouting for girls. If someone were to start “The California Adventure Scouts” (and oh by the way, if you look closely at our bylaws you will see that we only accept boys),” that’s a bit more troublesome. Because the name seems to imply you’re about california adventure, not single-sex bonding.

  • Barbara

    The Catholic Church goes on and on about how their values promote universal human dignity. Where is the dignity in denying women the opportunity to watch a Catholic-atheist debate? Sounds like these menfolk like to keep their women in the dark about worldly matters. Nothing wrong with opening the men’s club up to women for universal topics like this.

  • blasphemous_kansan

    But, to answer your strawman-building question “What’s….is wrong with a man’s only event?” The answer is “nothing”. Such events happen all the time, and private groups are welcome to have them. Nowhere does Dan say that there is something wrong with the event, he says that what would be wrong would be his choice to associate with, and give legitimacy to, a discriminatory group.

  • Hemant Mehta

    Dammit! Fixed.

  • RobMcCune

    Right, principals are for pussies. Dan should put aside his principals, go the debate, and represent his principals for all those theists.

    Oh, wait…

  • RobMcCune

    Men can attend WIS so call support for it is not a double standard. The fact you still feel like ranting about it is some effed up neurological activity.*

    *it’s definitely not logic, and I’m not sure it qualifies as thought.

  • Susan Quilty

    I’m not sure how I feel about male-only or female-only private clubs. On one hand, a private club should have the freedom to impose any restriction they want. I could start a club where every member had to be named Susan. But any guest speakers I invited would also have the right to decline if they disagreed with my name-ist policy (or any other club policies).

    The event description in this case does appear to suggest gender stereotypes consistent with patriarcal attitudes, and that, to me, would be the more compelling reason to decline the invitation.

    The lines here also seem to be a bit blurred between a private club and a public event. If it’s a private club, why the (men-only) public invite? If it’s a public event, why limit the audience to people who fit the club’s membership criteria?

    Regardless, Dan (and anyone else) has a right to decline an invitation to any group that promotes attitudes that conflict with his convictions. Even if that means backing out if the conflict is discovered after accepting.

  • RobMcCune

    Cecilia’s problem is she is a crank who will go on rant against the belief women should not be disregarded or demeaned for their gender, sometimes without provocation. The “estrogen gathering” comment is a reflection of the “I will say something horrible in defiance of your belief in dignity for people” attitude common among this sort of crank.

  • Gus Snarp

    There are still golf clubs that do not admit women (or African Americans). Some of these are very exclusive and their members include the leading executives of major companies, partners of law firms, bankers, and their (white, male) guests. The socialization that happens in these clubs often directly leads to promotions and raises. There is little question that this is a major reason why women and African Americans are underrepresented in executive level positions.

    These are facts.

    They are the reason why the dominant majority having a general social club with regular meetings is problematic. It leads to wider discrimination, even unconscious discrimination. It’s not acceptable.

    If you want to have a few beers with just the boys, fine, but you shouldn’t be looking for a place to do it that doesn’t accept women. I’ve never heard of any group of men out alone who were afraid to bitch about women because some might be in the room. If you want to have a therapy or support group for men only, fine. If you’re a church who for some reason thinks you need to have a men only Bible study so you can freely read the dirty porn in the Bible without women listening, fine. But when you have a general interest event like this, particularly one open to the general public, then it’s flat out wrong to exclude women.

  • Gus Snarp

    There are still golf clubs that do not admit women (or African Americans). Some of these are very exclusive and their members include the leading executives of major companies, partners of law firms, bankers, and their (white, male) guests. The socialization that happens in these clubs often directly leads to promotions and raises. There is little question that this is a major reason why women and African Americans are underrepresented in executive level positions.

    These are facts.

    They are the reason why the dominant majority having a general social club with regular meetings is problematic. It leads to wider discrimination, even unconscious discrimination. It’s not acceptable.

    If you want to have a few beers with just the boys, fine, but you shouldn’t be looking for a place to do it that doesn’t accept women. I’ve never heard of any group of men out alone who were afraid to bitch about women because some might be in the room. If you want to have a therapy or support group for men only, fine. If you’re a church who for some reason thinks you need to have a men only Bible study so you can freely read the dirty porn in the Bible without women listening, fine. But when you have a general interest event like this, particularly one open to the general public, then it’s flat out wrong to exclude women.

  • Wild Rumpus

    …obviously I am getting down votes from man haters who want to protect their women only organizations from being infiltrated.

  • Gabbo Hiddababa

    you are being down-voted by religious zealots. there are all kinds of religions.

  • Grabbo Hindababa

    “inappropriate” = true.

  • Gabbro Hidddababa

    The Boston Area Women’s Democrats are a group of women who meet every month to discuss politics. It’s for women only. They invite Ann Coulter to debate with them. Ann refuses to go b/c they don’t allow men. How many of you would applaud Ann for taking a stand?

  • RobMcCune

    I conceivably could, if she has supported people (especially liberals) who have made similar complaints about country clubs and other men’s only gatherings. Coulter switched her position on whether radiation was harmful or healthy within the space of a few months, based on which side of the isle the “radiation is bad” sentiment was on. I sincerely doubt she has consistent standards about equal access to events.

  • Eric Nevling

    In your case that’s probably true, you think a lot of inappropriate things are true.

  • Eric Nevling

    Where did Dan say anything about women-only buses? You’re assuming a double standard where none exists.

  • Eric Nevling

    Not unless I’m a woman….

  • Eric Nevling

    They’re not a men’s group they are an “Argument of the month group”

  • Outcast Kyle

    Actualy I’m not talking about Dan; I’m talking about the comments of everyone that thinks that refusing to go to a men-only event is taking a stand while saying nothing about all the women-only stuff.

  • Richard Wade

    Dan wrote, “I’m sure you see how they might feel insulted.”

    Dan is a very kind person, and I think that’s why he’s giving these guys way too much credit. They might vaguely, in a distant, hypothetical way be able to just barely imagine something bizarre to them that women might feel insulted by being excluded, but I don’t think they can actually empathize and directly understand the insult women might feel in being excluded. They’re just too retrogressive, too 5th century.

  • GeraardSpergen

    My advice to Dan would’ve been to go, but “make an announcement that had you known beforehand that women were excluded you would’ve declined, as you will decline all such future invitations.” Then kick some Catholic male behind.

  • RobMcCune

    Seriously if this is a poe you need to work hard to compete with Cecelia Banes and Outcast Kyle. This is no where near the top let alone OTT.

  • Mark Ross

    This is ridiculous. I can see why Mr. Barker didn’t want to attend, but there’s nothing wrong with having a group that limits membership by gender.

  • amycas

    I think the Girl Scouts were started in part because the Boy Scouts wouldn’t allow girls, so they started their own organization. Girl Scouts is actually very inclusive (accepting girls of all colors, creeds, orientation), but I would rather it be a general scouting organization not exclusive to any gender.

  • amycas

    I don’t like “Mommy and Me.” I would rather they have a parenting get-together, not just a mommy get-together. As it stands, that group (and many others) merely reinforce the notion that mommies are parents and daddies are baby-sitters.

  • amycas

    So you think it’s true that a man can’t think for himself about women’s issues and if he does show some empathy toward the plight of women fighting for their rights and equal standing in society, then that man was obviously forced into it by some woman? Why do you have such a low opinion of men?

  • amycas

    The only places that I know of are women only are for the protection of women who have been abused or are likely to be abused, and that’s because women, historically, have been the victims of abuse more than men. This debate club is not their for the men’s protection from abusers.

  • Blasphemous_Kansan

    “Actualy I’m not talking about Dan; ”

    Yeah, that’s your first problem: irrelevance

    Seriously the next time I need an illustration of false equivalence fallacies I’m coming to this thread

  • J-Rex

    Because there’s no reason for women to be excluded from hearing a theological debate.

  • J-Rex

    Saying nothing about the women-only stuff? That’s like half the comments…

  • amycas

    “Women Only Space”

    Sounds like a space for women who have been abused and are seeking a place where they can be protected from their abuser(s)

    “Women Only Pillow Fight”

    Sounds like fun, but I don’t see why they would bar men from it. I would probably not want to be associated with that group either.

    “Women Only Fitness”

    The ideal of being skinny is pushed heavily on women, but when they go to the gym they often feel put down and/or objectified by others (usually men). Having a space where women feel comfortable enough to exercise is fine. I yearn for a world where it is no longer needed and women can feel comfortable in any space.

    “Women Only Soccer Camp”

    Not necessarily something I would support. While I do understand the importance of supporting women in sports, as they hadn’t been for so long, I don’t see the point in segregating sports by gender, but that’s another conversation to be had on its own.

    “Women Only Networking”

    This one is confusing. What are they networking for? Is it a woman seeking woman thing? Is it a professional group for women to reach out to other women professionals? I don’t know what this is, or what their goals are.

    “Women Only Golf School”

    Same opinion from me as the Soccer Camp.

    “Women Only Pharmacy”

    Ah, here we go. I have heard of these. Do you know what these are typically for? These are in place so that women can actually get the medication they need without fear of its being refused and without fear of judgment. You do know there are a lot of prescriptions for women that pharmacists have refused to give out, and the same is not true for men, right?

    “Women Only Jobs”

    I’m not sure if this is a job listing that will only hire women, or if it’s a listing for women who need help getting jobs. One is definitely a problem, and the other seems like a reasonable response to the problems women face getting professional jobs.

    Now, I’d like you to find some actual examples of anybody who is praising Dan, or Dan himself, supporting a women’s only debate group that refuses to allow men into their public events and touts the meals as stereotypically “womanly.” Just because such groups may exist, doesn’t mean Dan, or any of us, support those groups.

  • Nicole

    You don’t have to be a female to be a feminist. Good for him!

  • amycas

    He said he didn’t care too much that they limit their membership to men. What he was upset about was that they limit attendance at public events (that they’re charging for, female money isn’t as good as male money?) based on gender.

  • Gus Snarp

    Wow, maybe I should move to your city, they seem to be much more enlightened than mine. I get a gynecology practice and a bunch of singles ads.

  • Gus Snarp

    You know, when you have to make up a fictional hypothetical situation because you have no reasonable real analogy, that might be an indication that your complaint is bogus.

  • TCC

    Yeah, all those healthy and productive discussions that the “men’s movement” has fostered, like….uh….well, there’s….

    Oh right, you’re full of shit.

  • TCC

    And using “pussy” as an epithet makes you sound like…?

  • TCC

    Seriously, don’t you have someplace to fuck off to already?

  • nakedanthropologist

    Your comment is inappropriate because it is a gendered insult, specifically one that is degrading to the female gender. “Pussy whipped” means that a man is either intimidated or obedient to female authority, whether it is on-going or short term. Nor is it true, because Dan clearly outlined why he declined the invitation, at considerable inconvenience to himself. You are not only generalizing, but also being an asshole.

  • nakedanthropologist

    No one said anything of the sort, and certainly not Dan. Grow up.

  • nakedanthropologist

    Can we please refrain from gendered insults? You are essentially calling him a woman (or at the very least, someone who is of the same status) which is highly insulting to women and men.

  • ReadsInTrees

    I googled the Boston Area Women’s Democrats, and could find no such club. Maybe they’re a very tiny club who somehow don’t meet the Google radar…in which case, I doubt that Ann Coulter would stoop to even responding to an invite.

  • nakedanthropologist

    False equivalency, ad hominem, and a lack of facts as usual. Nice.

  • RobMcCune

    You’re joking right, this person’s irritation* with the concept of dignity for women is what compels them to use gendered insults.

    *irritation is probably an understatement.

  • Pattrsn

    I knew this would drive you nuts, you just can’t help it can you.

  • RobMcCune

    Wow, it’s apparently a made up story Gabbo [Morphing Gibberish], so that means Ann can’t be a hypocrite in this case because the scenario never happened. Looks like I put though and principals into an argument for nothing, though that’s to be expected when arguing with internet anti-feminists, and republicans too.

  • wmdkitty

    I refuse to click that link, I don’t have time for a wiki-walk today.

  • Cortex_Returns

    “Manly meal.”

    “…encouraged to bring minor sons”

    “…priests and seminarians…”

    Yeah, I’d run the hell in the opposite direction, too.

  • Wild Rumpus

    “A Poe” does not mean what you think it means. “Poe’s Law” refers to religious fundamentalism. This is about gender politics. I am making an argument reductio ad absurdum to illustrate that boycotting men only groups is as ridiculous as boycotting women’s only groups.

  • Wild Rumpus

    Vancouver, Canada…

  • Carmelita Spats

    I think the “minor sons” should be terrified. There’s probably a grinning priest waving at them from the doorway and the fathers of these “minor sons” are mumbling, “And remember boys,
    when we say ‘adult,’ we actually mean ‘priest,’ and you should never be
    alone with one unless the door is wide open or some other adults know
    where you are or there is a giant window in the room through which other
    wary adults or perhaps police officers can see if said priest begins to
    give the holy sacrament to your crotch. Next up: God loves bunnies!”

  • Wild Rumpus

    Vancouver, Canada. We have a female Premier, marriage equality, free abortion in the first trimester, and 41% of us are “nones” regarding religion. Come by for a visit.

  • Thegoodman

    Double doesn’t have an accent.

    Also, “women-only” clubs are typically the result of the women having nothing to do while the men enjoy themselves (or each other? I’m not one to judge.) Men rule the world and we oppress women at every turn. The oppressed banding together is not the same as the oppressor forming an exclusive club.

    Sexism exists my friend. If you care for any woman, you should learn about it.

  • rlrose328

    I completely understand Dan’s point of view. It does appear patriarchical to have a men’s only debate club. But I also support their right to have a men’s only club for whatever purpose they choose.
    I think this whole issue is being blown out of proportion with respect to gender equality. Yes, we tend to bristle at the gender separation that occurs in the Catholic, Evangelical, and Fundamentalist sects. Does that mean if a church starts a Women’s Quilting Night, you would insist that men be allowed? Or a Women of the Bible lecture series? Is this only because this particular invite was about a religious debate that women might be interested in and are unfortunately not allowed to attend?
    If I organized a lady’s night at the local scrapbooking night, would the men be miffed because it is exclusively for women?
    We’re getting carried away with getting upset about political correctness and inclusion. Sometimes, men just want to hang with other males and discuss whatever they want to discuss… same with women. It’s natural to want to bond with your same gender occasionally.

  • Thegoodman

    Here is another scenario that is not entirely different:

    Dan agrees to debate at a “Whites” party. He would logically assume this was a party where everyone was asked to dress in all white.

    However, after further research, Dan finds out this is actually a Klan meeting where the topics of debate include both atheism AND “White Power, and how to Increase it”. Obviously Dan would rescinds his acceptance to debate because he very much disagrees with the views of the host group.

  • rlrose328

    Sometimes, one just wants to debate and discuss with members of one’s own gender and that is the reason a group is started. I don’t have a problem with that.

  • Thegoodman

    I wouldn’t applaud Hitler if he said he support the legalization of marijuana. Although, I would agree with his decision.

  • rlrose328

    Nothing wrong with a man only event… but it is discriminatory?

  • JohnnieCanuck

    I do love to see humour result from careless language errors.

    ‘Jesus Hemant’ would appear to be a person’s name, without the necessary comma.

    The best is ‘losing creed’. Hemant didn’t lose it, he sold it on ebay. Well, not really, as that was his soul he sold. Still, I’m sure any creed he ever had is long gone now.

    Perhaps you meant to type ‘losing cred’. Don’t worry. You lost yours around here shortly after you hit submit that very first time.

  • Tim Brown

    Do you have any other bigoted jokes making light of sexual assault?

  • Outcast Kyle

    Like I said. Double standards everywhere. Only the self-proclaimed victims have the right to be exclusive. Last time I saw women get all the preferential treatment. Who gets children custody? Who gets alimony? Who doesn’t gets laughed at when is sexually harassed, raped or is the victim of sexual abuse? In which case of murder you get a minor sentence? Nowadays I see a lot more how most women try to fight off all the disadvantages of the gender differences, but I’ve never seen one complaining about the silver linings. Pretty convenient huh?

    Since I consider myself an egalitarian i prefer to say that either everyone can have their exclusive thing and places, or no one can have. We are equal or not, there’s no middle point.

    That’s why sexism, racism and other are bullshit. There’s just a bunch of people playing the victim card in order to have special privileges. Tha’ts why I don’t care for any woman. If I care for someone besides myself I would care for a human being, but that’s not the case.

  • John of Indiana

    Maybe they can still get Robert Bly…

  • Aneres

    Why is it that several posters continue with this false equivalency?

    A “lady’s night at the local scrapbooking night” is not a public demonstration. It’s not a debate. It’s not a show. It’s not intended for a viewing/listening audience. It is not intended to engage/encourage public discourse.

    Regardless of the value/virtue of Dan Barker’s decision, please stop using the ‘womens knitting/scrapbooking/coffee/book/motorcycle/iguana owner club’ as an analogy. A women’s only theatre troupe which does not allow men to be in the audience would be a closer equivalent hypothetical ;/

  • blasphemous_kansan

    Sorry, you’re right, that sounded weird. I clumsily trying to illustrate what I interpreted to be Dan’s point of view, which was that he wasn’t saying directly that anything was wrong with this little club or those like it, but that what he was deciding would be wrong would be his association with it. I certainly didn’t mean that there is nothing wrong with being discriminatory, just that this wasn’t Dan’s point.

    Thanks for calling me out!

  • Chrissy

    Apparently the AOTM group hasn’t gotten the message yet…their website info for the Feb 12 debate still lists Dan as one of the speakers.

  • David Philip Norris

    To play devil’s advocate for a moment, there do seem to be a diminishing number of men’s spaces — that is, space (and not necessarily physical space) dedicated for men to socialize together. I’ve thought this since reading Susan Faludi’s “Stiffed: The betrayal of the American man,” and since the concept of “heteronormative” entered my vocabulary. It’s a precarious place since there are a lot of competing needs, and trying to address them without excluding anyone is complicated.

    I’m also reading biographies of Jefferson, Adams and Thomas Paine right now, and at that time “gentleman’s club” wasn’t a euphemism for “fancy strip joint.” Throughout history these spaces have provided men opportunities to better themselves, make connections, and sharpen their minds in ways unique to male culture (which, IMHO, is in tatters right now). These spaces also provided young men with pathways to manhood, helping them find purpose and direction while achieving independence of thought and mind.

    Men need each other, and for more than sitting in the living room and watching the football game (though that has its uses too), for more than just getting away from the womenfolk, or gathering in a church basement to talk about how wonderful men are because God made them the Master Sex.

    Stepping off my devil’s advocate platform now.

  • David Philip Norris

    I’m reminded of the story about Hitchcock seeing the little boy talking to the priest, as related in The God Delusion: “Run little boy! Run for your life!”

  • Lagerbaer

    So I saw this post, and due to the red highlighting skipped everything and latched directly to the “fabulous manly meal” and concluded the post would have to do with a group of gay activists holding a dinner event with a tongue-in-cheek name,

  • Uncle Bobolink

    The theologian he was going to debate is pretty tough.
    So Dan picked a good cover for chickening out.

  • Darrell Ross

    Text is a poor communicator for sarcasm. You need a /endSarcasm tag at the end of your original comment in order to seal the deal.

  • Darrell Ross

    That’s right. That men’s club is there to exclude women from debate and from actually thinking about other viewpoints.

    Gotta leave the thinkin’ for the men folk! /sarcasm.

  • Darrell Ross

    Your failure to understand racism does not make it any less real.

    Racism is the systemic racial prejudice present in the USA. Sexism is a system gender prejudice in the USA.

    Not recognizing these facts is similar to thinking that the earth is flat or only 6000 years old. Or denying the Holocaust.

  • Darrell Ross

    … a misogynist.

  • Hibernia86

    While I understand that the Catholic Church has problems with being patriarchal and I understand that Dan wants to make sure that he doesn’t look bad, but the fact is that there are thousands of women’s groups across the country who have events limited to women only and they never get called sexist for doing so. I have no problem with a debate that allows both genders to come, but sometimes groups are organized around specific genders or ethnicities just to find people like you, not to exclude others. If we wouldn’t complain about a debate held by a women’s group, we shouldn’t complain about a debate held by a men’s group.

  • Hibernia86

    Since I know that you are obviously a frequent contributer to this site, I’d be interested in your take on the following post. I thought I’d repost this here for you to respond to it if you wish.
    While I understand that the Catholic Church has problems with being patriarchal and I understand that Dan wants to make sure that he doesn’t look bad, but the fact is that there are thousands of women’s groups across the country who have events limited to women only and they never get called sexist for doing so. I have no problem with a debate that allows both genders to come, but sometimes groups are organized around specific genders or ethnicities just to find people like them, not to exclude others. If we wouldn’t complain about a debate held by a women’s group, we shouldn’t complain about a debate held by a men’s group.

  • Hibernia86

    But the point is that if it was a woman’s group, no one would jump to the conclusion that it must be matriarchal. I understand that the Catholic Church has a problem in that its structure and many of its beliefs are patriarchal, but that doesn’t justify holding their clubs to a different standard than we would other clubs. I’d be fine with a debate with both genders but if we would be okay with a women’s group holding a debate with only women (and I have never seen any mainstream complaint about that ever) then we should also be okay with men’s groups doing the same thing.

  • Feminerd

    I can’t say I’ve ever heard of a women’s group holding a debate that only women can attend. That’s what really got Dan’s goat, if I understand Hemant’s post correctly. While only male or female speakers may be invited, though usually both sexes will be if the topic isn’t inherently gendered (and sometimes trans* people will be invited for gender topics, for their unique perspective), I can’t say I’ve heard of any group holding a “public” debate where the gender of the attendees is policed.

    I don’t think anyone is holding this club to a higher or different standard than any other club. The way the debate was advertised and presented was sexist.

    And! Even if we agree to disagree on whether the club did anything wrong, my main point still stands. Dan took a stand on something he thought was patriarchal and people called him a pussy or pussy-whipped like being a female was the worst insult they could imagine. Again, that says some very ugly things about the state of gender relations and how we view women in this country.

  • Gabbro Hiddababa Yomama

    Gabbro is wrong because
    (1) it’s a hypothetical situation.
    (2) Ann may not have been consistent
    (3) Hitler

    If you people are the rationalists, then reason is in very big trouble.

  • RobMcCune

    Let’s see if the theologian picks a non-discriminatory venue, that would solve the problem. If the theologian is as tough as you say, he has no reason not to, and could reach a broader audience.

    We’ll see if Leroy is up to it.

  • Richard Wade

    An interesting ethical puzzle. I don’t think it’s necessarily an
    all-or-nothing proposition. Sometimes several things have to be weighed and considered rather than mechanically following a formula. If a group wants to be type-exclusive in their general meetings, that’s their business. Their reasons might be something I could understand, such as mutual support in a hostile environment, or their reasons might be something with which I disagree, such as perpetuating and validating oppression of whoever is the out-group.

    My opinion would only come into play if like Dan, I were invited to speak there. That carries with it possible implications of my being or appearing to be supportive of their practices. Dan is being wisely prudent and circumspect by avoiding being associated with a practice that he finds reprehensible. Similarly, I would have an objection if a type-exclusive group invited me to speak, and they did not permit people outside their type to attend if there was no reasonable cause to expect that those out-group people would cause upset or disruption. It would be even more objectionable, and downright odd if I were wholly or partially outside their type criteria, and yet they invited me but they still barred others.

  • Gabbro

    I have a low opinion of this decision. I have a generally good opinion
    Of Dan b., as well as men in general.
    I listen to all of the ffrf podcasts and I’m a member
    Of that organization but I found this disappointing.

  • Gabbro hindababa

    I don’t know what you mean. A thing may be true or false apart from
    Being appropriate or inappropriate. Could you explain
    What you mean?

  • Gabbro

    I didn’t call you names, but then it’s common
    For religious persons to rely on ad hominems.
    You should read Norah Vincent’s memoir self made
    Man for some insight into the men’s movement.

  • Gabbro

    Look at the menweb site or google men’s movement
    Or see the work of Robert Bly. The men’s movement
    Has helped thousands of men- to be better husbands
    And fathers- better people in general.
    Best wishes.

  • lekteur

    I am a None and Proud to be ;)

  • MattD

    You lost me at “Ann Coulter”. She’s not someone I’d ever applaud, for more reasons then you’ll understand.
    Now if you said “Mrs. X”, than my answer would be “Yes”, since I find clubs excluding others on the basis of gender to be outdated, especially when the topics are shared concerns (like politics).

  • MattD

    Try not being so specific when creating hypothetical (i.e “Hitler said this”, or “Ghandi went to a bar”…..) scenarios, and you’ll have less trouble getting mixed responses.

  • amycas

    I was specifically referring to your “p-whipped by Annie Laurie” remark, where you insinuated that Dan couldn’t have an opinion of his own about these issues and that he must have made this decision at the behest of Laurie.