Diversity, also “[adjective] bloggers”

I’m not properly settled in to my new country by any means, but I found a relatively cheap internet cafe and Natalie has a post titled “Thoughts From A Diversity Hire” which I want to comment on, so briefly:

The first thing I want to say is that I think there’s a very simple way to point out the value of diversity that should make sense to people in the atheist movement: Dan Barker and Ayaan Hirsi Ali are both in-demand speakers within the atheist movement. And they’re in-demand in large part because they can talk compellingly a experiences that not everyone has had (ex-Christian fundamentalist and ex-Muslim respectively.)

If you can get that, you should be able to get why it’s so valuable to, say, have someone who can write compellingly about trans experiences (Natalie) or about experiencing Christian fundamentalism as a woman (Libby Anne). Not that this is all there is to the value of diversity–you can read Natalie’s post for more on that–but it’s one element that should be especially easy for people here to understand.

The other thing–Natalie writes:

One of the problems I see pop up a bit regularly in the skeptic community is how often terms like “objective” or “neutral” in terms of perspective or position will covertly overlap with privileged perspectives. For instance, I’m a transsexual blogger, Ophelia and Stephanie are female bloggers, Greta and Chris R. are queer bloggers,  Ian and Sikivu are black bloggers, Maryam is an ex-muslim blogger, and so on, while PZ, Ed or Greg are just… bloggers.

Now I’m not real familiar with the phenomenon of transsexual/female/queer/black/ex-Muslim/whatever writers not being considered “objective” or “neutral,” so this may end up being tangential to Natalie’s intended point. But there is something that, at first glance, looks weird about our choices about which adjectives we use to describe people and which adjectives we leave aside even though they’d be accurate. I’m not sure it’s as weird as it seems at first, though.

Dan Savage, for example, is an atheist who blogs, but even people who know that probably won’t think of him all that readily if you ask them to think of “atheist bloggers.” (Same goes for Amanda Marcotte, Cory Doctorow, and probably a bunch of other people I’m not aware of/not remembering right now). Odd, isn’t it?

But you could imagine a case that’s the inverse of the Dan Savage case, a gay atheist who blogs, but who doesn’t write so much about gay issues. I think such a person wouldn’t often be described as a “gay blogger.” And what I think shows is that when describing writers, we tend to apply the adjectives that come through most strongly in their writing, and leave out other things even when they’re publicly known and perfectly accurate. It’s not clear that there’s anything wrong with that.

Programming note: *I think* I’ll have free wifi access tonight (my night, ~12 hours from now) and will be able to blog a bit more then. On the other hand, job orientation schedule sounds a bit hectic. We’ll see what happens.

From the archives: Gary Gutting on Mackie, Plantinga, and the problem of evil
Friday recap: arguments for the existence of God, Chris Mooney, and more!
God: kind of like an abusive boyfriend
Bertrand Russell explains Ray Comfort