Ron Lindsay made mistakes, but the CFI should still be supported.

I checked back on this post to read the comments and felt they had gotten away from the issue at hand with no hope of ever making a return.  As a result, I’m closing them.

And today is the day I alienate every potential reader of my blog.  I say that mostly in jest, but there’s a small part of me that worries about it.  That fact alone, I think, necessitates the writing.  However, it also moves me to start off with a long list of disclaimers.

I consider myself very close friends with Greta Christina (and note that this is written in the present, not the past tense).  She’s one of my favorite people because she is filled with a fire to make a better world that I doubt I will ever come close to emulating.  Ditto for Stephanie Zvan.  Though my interactions with Rebecca Watson have been far more limited than my interactions with Greta and Stephanie, I still consider Rebecca a friend who is the subject of much of my admiration.  Ditto for Amanda Marcotte.  Short of Ed Brayton (and maybe not even short of Ed Brayton), is there a person with a better mind for politics in all of atheism than Amanda?  I have enjoyed every interaction I’ve ever had with Amanda Marcotte.  She is kind, more humble than she should be, and brilliant.

I also think Al Stefanelli, a slymepitter, is a good guy whose work is driven by compassion and the desire for a better world.  In this way, I don’t think he is very different from Rebecca, Greta, Amanda or myself.  I do not always agree with Al…or Greta, or Rebecca, or Amanda.  But in spite of my disagreements, I like them all.  There are some aspects of all people that I do not respect, but in these people I respect the great majority of what makes them up, and so I can say that I admire them all.

I also consider myself a feminist.  Sure, some feminists have told me I’m not one, and I can’t make them consider me a feminist.  But I consider myself one, which itself should confirm that I don’t consider “feminist” to be a dirty word.  I acknowledge harassment of women in the atheist movement.  It certainly happens and it’s certainly contemptible.  I acknowledge inequalities in society for women, which are certainly contemptible and must be fixed.  Feminism is a valid, noble, and necessary cause.  I want to see it succeed.  It must succeed.

I also think that most of the people who inhabit the slymepit are, well, slime.  I read some of their comments upon my engagement and it was elementary school rage at a social enemy’s happiness all over again.  I have no love for that group.  Chief among them is Justin Vacula who I consider to be one of the most childish, obtuse, and despicable atheists on the planet.  He’s a cruel person and I don’t like him.  I’m not here to defend Justin Vacula or his ilk.

The disclaimer above gets into the crux of why this post is being written.  I’m about to criticize the way the CFI situation is being handled and it’s important to me that I don’t get lumped in with slymepitters for doing so.  Though I empathize with the plight of women and loathe the slymepit, I think it is plain that very often people like me who offer critiques of the way the feminist movement does some things gets people like me branded with the same mark as the slymepitters by an appreciable number of very vocal feminists.  Not all, but certainly an enough to deserve attention.  I’ve had it happen to me (it should be noted that the linked comment is one that survived, many more purely vitriolic comments were deleted), and it’s a frequent and clear enough occurrence that I mostly don’t write about feminism, even though I empathize with the cause.  What’s more, I know I’m not the only prominent atheist who recognizes the woes of women and yet largely avoids the topic due to that same trepidation.

This sucks.  I’m not saying it sucks worse than harassment or any of the issues facing women, so please don’t compare the two.  But it does suck none the less.  It doesn’t force any would-be allies into silence, but it does often move them to silence either because we don’t wish to spend a majority of our time defending our character or because we fear ostracism from the movement we love for saying the wrong thing.  If attempting to talk about feminism causes a person to spend an inordinate amount of time defending their character, rather than their ideas, it’s understandable how people might quickly tire of it and start focusing their efforts elsewhere.  I want feminism to succeed and so I want the movement to have the most allies possible.  This is why I feel the need to point out that a perceived lack of understanding is often met with a rush to condemnation (not by all, but undeniably by a substantial number) rather than patience with people who want to help.

I’m not saying that we should accept all allies.  I agree that dividing the atheist movement by expressing our contempt for bad people is a good thing.  But sometimes people believed to be wrong/uninformed by feminists are treated as though they’re contemptuous of feminism rather than just ill-informed of it.  This results in fewer potential allies of the type we should want.  Even worse, I think a lot of time it doesn’t just create silence in would-be activists (like myself), but it also causes them to go running in the opposite direction out of resentment.  This is quite a different thing than dividing the atheist movement by ostracizing the cruel among us.

So, with all the disclaimers out of the way, here’s where I agree with Ron.

That said, I am concerned the concept of privilege may be misapplied in some instances. First, some people think it has dispositive explanatory power in all situations, so, if for example, in a particular situation there are fewer women than men in a given managerial position, and intentional discrimination is ruled out, well, then privilege must be at work. But that’s not true; there may be other explanations. The concept of privilege can do some explanatory work at a general level, but in particular, individualized situations, other factors may be more significant. To bring this point home let’s consider an example of another broad generalization which is unquestionably true, namely that people with college degrees earn more over their lifetime than those who have only high school diplomas. As I said, as a general matter, this is unquestionably true as statistics have shown this to be the case. Nonetheless in any particular case, when comparing two individuals, one with a high school degree and one with a college degree, the generalization may not hold.

But it’s the second misapplication of the concept of privilege that troubles me most. I’m talking about the situation where the concept of privilege is used to try to silence others, as a justification for saying, “shut up and listen.” Shut up, because you’re a man and you cannot possibly know what it’s like to experience x, y, and z, and anything you say is bound to be mistaken in some way, but, of course, you’re too blinded by your privilege even to realize that.

I also agree with Rebecca Watson about it when she says:

Lets be clear: there are, without a doubt, people who misuse the term “privilege” and there are those who use the concept of privilege as their sole point of argumentation.

So even if you doubt my assessment that this type of thing happens, surely we can trust Rebecca on this issue.  Amanda Marcotte is also aware that this happens:

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

While it may not be the handful of leading feminists doing this, it cannot be denied that in comment threads this happens repeatedly.  And the thing is, the thought leaders of feminism are not the only faces of the movement.  All the feminists who are not writers or speakers may very well have more to do with the image of feminism than its most prominent faces.  And many of those people are often quick to throw out “privilege” as the entirety of their argument.  Ron is correct to be worried about this and Rebecca is correct to affirm it.  For anybody worried about keeping our allies, this is very worrisome.

There are also places where I think Ron was wrong.  I think Rebecca was even-handed in her criticism and that Ron was not even-handed in his retort.  I don’t think his retort was entirely unfair, but it certainly betrayed the civility that Lindsay so frequently advocates.  He was certainly guilty there, even though he did apologize later for that.  I also side with Greta on much of the context argument.  I think Dan Fincke summed up how I felt very nicely:

Like myself, Ron Lindsay has a PhD in philosophy. I was appalled and insulted at how Lawrence Krauss arrogantly, ignorantly, and counter-productively belittled philosophy and encouraged know-nothing attitudes about the subject as I sat in the audience at the American Atheists convention in 2012 (and got a depressing amount of raucous applause for doing so). I would be beside myself were I to be invited to speak or attend a secular conference and be introduced by Lawrence Krauss and have him ambush me with remarks impugning the integrity of philosophy as a discipline and remarking that he hoped I would address them in my pre-prepared talk as he handed me the microphone.

Now pretend this was something far more personal and important to me than just my field of study and teaching and writing, imagine this was my field of study, teaching, writing, and an area of my life in which I suffered daily, systematic, culturally engrained discrimination. I would be very angry too and so I sympathize with the visceral outrage and incredulousness of many of the women attending the conference and reading about it online. Particularly galling was Lindsay’s inability to adequately define privilege before criticizing it or to adequately explain how it works well in helping us analyze injustice against marginalized people before talking about potential abuses of it. As a philosopher, I am bothered by Lindsay’s laziness in understanding concepts before criticizing them and his blindness about feeling like he was in a position to criticize the concept to an audience of feminists without even taking any time to treat it in its strongest and most useful senses. This was, remarkably, an astounding instance of privilege induced blindness itself. It is staggering and upsetting that he managed to do that to open a conference on feminism. 

So believe me when I say that there are definitely valid concerns at play here for feminism that they are justified in being upset about.  I am absolutely not saying otherwise.

However, I think people are acting on that anger disproportionately in ways that have become commonplace within the feminist movement.  A good example is Matt Dillahunty’s experience with the Atheism+ forums.

Thankfully Matt wasn’t dissuaded by an all-too-common experience on a forum that deals primarily with feminism, but not everybody has skin as thick as Matt’s.

An example of a place where I think there was a bit too much quickness to see an attack where a mistake may have been the best explanation in the CFI maelstrom comes from Greta’s post.  (Yet another disclaimer: I love Greta, I respect Greta, and I think she’s right about most things – my disagreement does not decrease my affection or my respect for Greta.  As we like to say to each other, “let me be straight with you”.  It is one of the most difficult things in life to critique a friend, but Greta and I both know it’s a demonstration of respect, not of disdain.  Sadly, we’re both public figures, so our disagreements sometimes take place in public.)

I will make this very clear: I don’t think Ron Lindsay consciously intended to treat the attendees and speakers at Women in Secularism 2 with contempt. I just think he didn’t particularly care. And that, in itself, is a serious form of contempt.

This is the kind of thing that makes me worry.  Far too often when reading threads on feminism I see mistakes taken as malice.  I don’t see how one reaches the conclusion that Ron didn’t care if he treated the attendees of a conference his organization went to great lengths to put on with contempt, and not that he is simply not sold on the idea that he treated them with contempt.  The response may be that it came off that way and that intent is not magic, which is fine, but that doesn’t defend the premise that Ron didn’t care.  I know intent is not magic, but it’s also not irrelevant.

Up to this point, if you could pick one person in the atheist movement who you can count on to usually be a diplomat (without also sacrificing his spine or his honesty), it’s Ron Lindsay.  He’s not the type to just not care about this kind of thing.  Quite to the contrary, I suspect Ron was thinking “What better place to bring up my concerns with feminism’s PR issues than with a lot of them here?”  Yes, he mishandled it, and I wish he could acknowledge that.  But isn’t this a more likely and forgivable explanation than a guy with Lindsay’s history not caring about showing contempt for a group of people for whom he has often fought?

He treated the very people the conference was being held for as trivial, far less important than him getting to use our platform to spout his opinions. He treated the women at that conference — and the men and non-gender-binary people — as if the patronizing insult he had to know we would take from his talk, and the derailment of one of the few events we have that’s specifically devoted to our concerns, was obviously of less concern than his own personal opinions about our work. He took the space that was set aside for us, and he used it against us. And he did this with no apparent concern for how this might affect us.

He treated us with contempt.

After reading Ron’s talk, it seems to me that he realizes the inequalities women face and wants to end them.  In this, I don’t think it can be argued that he is not on the side of women.  When he brought up his concerns (concern for a problem that even Rebecca Watson has admitted exists), to my eye, they read as concerns that were brought up because he felt they were hindering the advancement of feminism and, therefore, needed to be addressed.  When the “space set aside for us” is discussed, I suspect Ron considered himself part of “us” – so long as “us” means people who want things to improve for women.  And he tried.  You may think he botched it, but to turn a botched effort for a shared cause into contempt, I think, is very unfair.

You can say intent is not magic, but intent is the difference between a Justin Vacula and a man like Ron Lindsay who at least affirms the plight of women and has asserted, by word and by action in the past, that he wishes to aid women in emancipating themselves from that plight.  That distinction matters.  It’s what separates a certain enemy from a potential and willing ally against that enemy in the future.

And yes, the CFI statement was PR fluff.  To me it essentially said “Look, we support the same cause, but we think you guys are going overboard and we’re done with the issue.”  If that’s what they meant, I wish they would’ve at least elaborated on it.   I didn’t like it at all.  But this is being translated as the CFI not representing and pursuing equality, not that their CEO with a history of working towards equality failed to get it right on this one occasion.  Who can deny that the CFI, under Ron Lindsay’s directorship, has worked ferociously in the interest of equality and safety for women?  I mean, aren’t the WiS conferences proof of that in themselves?  PZ was right when he said that despite his disappointment with the Lindsay that the CFI is a great organization that fills a very important niche.

I understand the personal strength and sacrifice required to take a stand on principle (due to our close friendship, Greta’s aware that I know this more than most).  I know Lauren Lane, the lead organizer for Skepticon, lost tremendous amounts of sleep over whether or not to take a similar stand with Skepticon.  Those decisions are tough, and I back Lauren’s calls on Skepticon 100%.  She has proven herself to be the best decision-maker for the job, and even though I disagree on our assessment of CFI, I still admire Lauren and appreciate the difficulty of such decisions.  And in the case of Greta, I very much appreciate what she’s willing to do to get her point across, and I know it’s not easy.  I don’t want to diminish the courage of people like Greta.  This is the stuff real heroes are made of.

That being said, I don’t think it’s the right reaction in this case.  The CFI clearly wants to help.  Ron Lindsay clearly wants to help.  If his understanding of how to help is flawed in places (and it is), I don’t think the way to make him understand that is through political pressure.  Perhaps Ron will never understand how he bungled it on this occasion, but one failure should not invalidate a lifetime of work in the interest of women.  Political pressure works sometimes, but here I think it will just empower pride, which will drive us further away from each other when we should be united.

I think pride has become a major problem on both sides of this issue.  I really do think our pride is getting the better of us and is forcing us into an us vs. them mentality (I don’t mind us vs. cruel people mentality, but I do mind a mentality which often demonizes those who don’t agree with us in full).  I’d wager there are some people in the slymepit who were once fence-sitters – people who wanted to help, but who were treated with such contempt that they turned a 180 and ran in the opposite direction.  Their resentment then led them to hate hate the people in a cause to which they might otherwise have been sympathetic – they became the enemies they were accused of being.  Some will say “good riddance, we don’t want them”, but I don’t agree.  It’s the people like Vacula who appear dangerously devoid of empathy who we do not want.  But the people who ran away from feminism, not out of a lack of concern, but because of rebuked attempts to understand or suggestions for improvement that resulted in accusations of “mansplaining” or other exhibits of condescension where patience to help the person develop would’ve been the wiser option…I think it’s a pity and a detriment that we lost them.

So, now that I’ve driven away every friend, fan, and reader I’ve ever had, here’s the summation of my post.  Fight our enemies with vigor, but don’t let the vigor convince us that we have more enemies than we do, lest we create more enemies for ourselves and a dearth of allies with which to fight them.  To the slymepitters, calm the fuck down.  Stop poking and prodding for the sake of antagonizing people you disagree with.  You know you do it, and it just makes you assholes.  Also, ditch Vacula.  Don’t let personal grudges become more important to you than social injustice.  That’s not the way to become “brave heroes” (the most redundant pairing of words since “tasty delicious”).

To the feminist movement, I know you’ve endured a ton, but please try to exhibit more patience in the interest of a stronger movement so that those who come after you don’t have to endure as much.  Much of your anger is justified, and I have no desire to take it away from you (Greta Christina is very right about what anger means to social movements).  But Greta is also correct when she says anger can be a double edged sword.  It can empower us or destroy us when our anger becomes unfocused.  I’m not asking for more patience for injustice.  I’d never ask for that.  But do try to be more patient with the people who, like me, want things to get better for women – who acknowledge that things need to get better for women – but who might disagree with you about tactics from time to time.  Not all feminists are guilty of this, and I’m not saying they are.  But enough are guilty that it does create silence and alienate potential allies, even the ones as accustomed to pissing people off as I.  A lot of people who mean really well and are trying very hard to be different feel under constant threat of angry rebuke.  They feel alienated, unappreciated, and mischaracterized.  This may not be the intention, but it has had that effect – and intent, as I’ve been told, is not magic.

You all know that I’m not a fan of occupying the middle ground for its own sake.  As I’ve always said, if someone is arguing that 2+2=4 and another is arguing that 2+2=6, the answer does not necessarily lie in the middle.  But in this particular case, I really do think that this is getting out of control and that everybody needs to calm down and start taking steps toward one another.  And when I say “calm down”, I’m not asking anybody to accept marginalization or inequality.  Nor am I asking anybody to shut up.  All I’m asking for, all I’m pleading for, is enough patience to not hamstring a very important cause by being so swift to declare enemies.  This has two very unfortunate side effects.  The first is that in the minds of your detractors (and, more importantly, in the minds of many fence-sitters) it makes it look like you’re creating enemies due to a lack of real ones, which I know is not the case.  All the more reason to not give that impression.  The second is that it drives away potential allies of the variety you should want.

To take a botched attempt at helping mold feminism for the better and the ensuing disagreement to charge Ron Lindsay with contempt for women, I think, is too far-reaching.  And then to play the game of nuclear politics by asking people to pull support from the CFI, as if all the pro-women efforts in the group’s history vanished the moment Lindsay fumbled his attempt at trying to help, sets a precedent that I do not think is healthy.  I’m not opposed to boycotting groups that do not share our interests, but I simply am not sold that the CFI is such a group (or that Ron Lindsay is such a person).  And if, like me, you believe the CFI holds a unique and important niche and shares our interests, wouldn’t it be better to work from within organizations like the CFI to reform them rather than blow them up and splinter them?  I mean, boycott Chik-Fil-A…but the CFI?

And yes, the slymepitters will likely link to parts of this post to bolster their efforts to antagonize.  Welcome to tribal mindsets.  It doesn’t matter that I expressed utter loathing for most of them, I’ll have critiqued their enemies and they’ll laugh like hyenas as if my suggestions for improvement for a cause I support means victory for them.  They did the same with Ron Lindsay, even after Lindsay affirmed the necessity of feminism.  The fact that MRAs and slymepitters touch themselves anytime someone suggests that the feminist movement might do better with a little more patience should not convince anybody that people like myself are friends to the slymepit.  We’re not.  I’m not, and I’d wager Ron Lindsay is not.  But the presence of Vacula at the WiS conference does not mean that Ron should not have raised the issues he did.  And Ron’s welcoming of Vacula was almost certainly Ron being his usual inclusive, diplomatic self, not a treaty by handshake with one of the most despicable people in atheism.

I don’t think it’s a dedication to social issues that is creating more and more dysfunction in our movement.  Instead, I think it’s often our inability to discern the difference between a willingness to police our own and a willingness to metaphorically shoot first and ask questions later with a nuclear arsenal and no concern for splash damage.  I love that atheists police our own – think of how much better off the Catholic Church would be if they could manage this!  But we can go about it in unproductive ways, and I think this occurs more frequently in discussions of feminism than anywhere else.

It is not my intent to condescend women or feminists.  Surely nobody thinks that ideas for improvement, even if you don’t agree with them, are condescending.  I’m looking at women who I view as equal parts of a movement I love and treating them with the same forthrightness I treat any other atheist.  I want you to win, and pointing out how I think you’re stopping yourselves from winning is something I do for no other reason than because I care.  For some, hopefully not many, that will not be enough and they will label me an enemy of the cause.  If that makes me an enemy, so be it.  Though it is indeed an odd kind of enemy who cares about you.

So there you go, me doing what I’ve always done and ragging on everybody.  I’ve criticized both halves of a balkanized issue.  If nothing else, perhaps we can all find some common ground by raging at me.  I kid, of course.  Fuck, look at me trying to make peace and writing 4,600 word blog posts.  I’m becoming a strange synthesis of James Croft and Dan Finke…

Last thing.  I intend to read every comment (probably tomorrow though).  I’ll listen.  I may not respond, and I may not write another post about feminism as long as I live (that will depend on what happens with this one, I guess).  But I do promise to read.

This post was written with a tremendous amount of hope.  I’d love to see that hope borne out in the aftermath.  There are more good people in this movement than cynics like me often think and, sadly, I think that pessimism is present in greater supply in the discussion on feminism.  The problem is that we often prematurely relegate good people to another tribe.  Sometimes justifiably, but not always.  Nowhere close to always, in fact.   When good people are at each other’s throats for pride or passion, I think we all lose out.

Ron Lindsay and Rebecca Watson and Greta Christina are all good people who want almost the exact same thing with regards to women’s equality.  It’s unfortunate that they can have swords drawn at each other while the true enemies of equality watch on.  Is this really the fight we want?

  • Laury Plant

    JT, that was well written and I appreciate how you’ve thought it out and phrased it. I’m still not sure what to think of all this, but I know most of my thoughts parallel what you written here in style if not in substance alone. Thank you.

  • unbound55

    While I do appreciate your views on the subject, I would like to share my perceptions on this matter.

    Ron Lindsey probably shouldn’t have opened the conference with what he said. If there was only one or two things that weren’t quite right in his speech, I don’t think there would be an issue. However, the number of issues with his speech was more than one or two things. This is evidence of a serious problem.

    First, someone who cares about the issue should certainly have seen the very perception of a white male opening the conference. I myself have refused to speak about diversity to new recruits in my organization for that very reason. The very image of a white male stating that we value diversity is strongly at odds with anything I could possibly say.

    Second, the first quote that you hold up as agreeing with is something that, practically and philosophically, is essentially wrong. Shut up and listen is exactly what needs to happen if you don’t have the specific experiences yourself. You may have something to add, observations that may have value, but, first and foremost, you need to listen first. I certainly have my own perspective and observations on the subject, but the women in my life have real experiences on impacts to their lives that I will never truly understand no matter how hard I try. Neither will Ron. The very concept that I should speak first before listening to those with real experiences and impacts is just plain absurd.

    The primary reason that I don’t disagree with withdrawing support from CFI is the leadership response. This struck a strong cord with me because it is very similar to the reason that I left the Catholic church. It was one thing that Cardinal Law did what he did, but it was something entirely different (and very telling) that the leadership of the Catholic church said, “Meh”. This is what the CFI did with their statement. They didn’t address the concerns…they didn’t even really acknowledge the issue. They pretty much said, “Meh”, and that, my friend, is a huge problem.

    • Dan Fincke Camels With Hammers

      Lindsay behaved terribly at CFI. I mean, really really really badly.

      But he is NOT Cardinal Law. He did not cover up and facilitate ongoing child molestation. People who stay in support of CFI are not tantamount to Catholics making apologies for the Cardinal Law’s of the world.

      • unbound55

        My apologies. I was making an analogy of poor leadership response; it was not my intent to make the analogy appear to be the same scope.

    • eccles11

      ” The very image of a white male stating that we value diversity is strongly at odds with anything I could possibly say.”

      No, your condition of birth is not a sin. You as a white male can value diversity, you are allowed to say that. Especially if you are the CEO of an organisation that just organised a conference for women, and that organisation values diversity. You are allowed to say that, and it doesn’t make it not true.

      A white male at a women’s conference sounds like diversity to me though. It seems like a gesture of “us”, as in. “You have allies”, “you(as a group) are not in this alone”

      Fuck this racial/sexual prejudice bullshit.

      • unbound55

        My condition of birth certainly is not a sin. However, it becomes difficult for a person new to an organization to accept the story that we are very serious about diversity coming from “the man”. In an ideal world, my actions and deeds will speak on their own. However, we do not live in such an ideal world. People are not able to read my mind or my organization’s mind. We should be able to clearly display our commitment to diversity by showing the people that are succeeding…not by “the man” giving verbal assurances that it is so.

      • sinmantyx

        His white maleness isn’t the ISSUE – it’s the excuse.

        The implication is that Ron may have been as clueless as her was, to why the crowd was annoyed at his speech and angered by his reaction to criticism of it, because he lives the life of a white man.

        It’s a bad excuse, really.

  • Ace_of_Sevens

    I see your point. I think a lot of the issue here is that if no one will respond to appeals to apologize or admit any sort of wrongdoing, cutting ties is the only option left other than just going along to get along. I’m sure why you can see that was unappealing.

    If Ron Lindsay somehow missed that his speech was going to be construed as an accusation that the conference speakers were bullying people into not questioning their narrative, all he had to do was apologize and say that’s not what he meant and he communicated it poorly. If he had talked to any of the upset people, he could have addressed their concerns. Instead, we get him not budging an inch and CFI not really even acknowledging the problem and the offended parties are supposed to do all the bridge-building themselves. Why should they?

    • Chris Ho-Stuart

      Plus also his job was to welcome everyone and open the conference; not to give one of the conference talks.

      It isn’t just the content of the talk that is the problem. It’s also the abuse of the opening slot to give an uninvited speech.

  • Carla Burris

    I don’t see you taking the middle ground just for the sake of taking the middle ground. I see it as more a matter of not throwing the baby out with the bath water.

    Lindsay and CFI do need to see that they bungled badly, so I completely support Greta’s response. Her pulling out as a CFI speaker and columnist is a big in-your-face response that they can’t ignore. A number of donors sending their renewal forms back with a note instead of a check is that series of small wakeup calls that will tell them that a good chunk of the atheist community thinks they bungled. But the local CFI groups should continue to get support, and I don’t think anyone’s suggesting that the national CFI gets a whole new BOD. CFI needs just enough punishment/correction/upbraiding/whatever to know that they messed up, but we should be ready and willing to offer our forgiveness/support/acceptance when they take responsibility for their (in)actions and demonstrate that they will behave better going forward.

    • Brittney Behr

      I believe that when the CFI does take responsibility for its actions, everyone will welcome them back with open arms. Everyone makes mistakes, but you can’t be forgiven if you don’t seek forgiveness.

      • Sam

        Well, not everyone. My boss, for instance, will never forgive them. Grudges will be held.

        • Brittney Behr

          I’m willing to venture that most will, however, recognize the effort to right wrongs and continue to support them.

          • Azkyroth

            If, you know, it occurs.

    • Dana Fredsti

      Carla, thank you for voicing my opinion so succinctly. I agree with much of what JT said (and admire him for sticking his neck out to say it considering all the axes around), but I do feel that Greta’s response (and others like hers) is appropriate for the reasons you gave.

      JT, I admire you for trying to see both sides; I hope people let you follow your heart on this and allow you to disagree with them without it hurting your friendships. And I hope LIndsay gets over his pride and apologizes. Whether or not he meant to offend, he DID offend, and apologizing is the polite (and the adult) thing to do.

      • Edward Gemmer

        I think there is one context that has been glossed over. There were a lot of tweets, including (I think) from Rebecca Watson, disparaging Lindsay for being a white man while he was talking. He seemed to take these tweets poorly, which is understandable, given that we can generally agree that racist, sexist statements can cause hard feelings.

        • athyco

          Edward Gemmer: Are you aware that Ron Lindsay was also the only white man who spoke at WiS in 2012? He welcomed the speakers and attendees at the conference reception.

          There were no tweets or blog posts or comments from Rebecca Watson or anyone else disparaging him for being a white man.

          Since his whiteness and maleness had not caused such tweets in the past, the evidence is that the reaction this year–while one or more may have noted those aspects–did not spring from these attributes. The tweets and blog posts and comments this year spring from his words.

          • Edward Gemmer

            Maybe not, but when you disparage someone for their race and gender, they can be understandably pissed off.

          • athyco

            You know full well that the tweet did not consist only of “Lookit, a white guy, talkin’. She had to wait and hear him out for at least 1,490 words–more than half the talk–before she tweeted. Otherwise she would have had to be clairvoyant to include his negative take on “privilege.”

            And the WiS2 hashtag bears out that plenty of others got in before she did.

          • Edward Gemmer

            That’s fine – I understand those tweets. I’m not attacking anyone for their tweets. I’m saying that those tweets seemed to deeply offend him, which is perfectly understandable. Not just from the context that disparaging racial or sexist remarks usually cause hurt feelings, but also for him, being part of this group that is actively trying to support women, they were probably extra offensive. All of his work set aside because of his race and gender. So his response seemed to echo that, and I’d like to see a bit more empathy for him as long as we are talking about feelings.

          • athyco

            I type. I delete. I type again. I delete again.

            It’s not because your words are powerful, Edward Gemmer. It’s because I’ve come to realize that I can’t do justice to the contempt I feel looking at your oblivious cruelty, your willfully blind manipulation attempt. It’s pathetic if you can’t help it; it’s putrid if you can.

            We’re supposed to have a bit more empathy for Dr. Ronald A. Lindsay, President and CEO of CFI because Rebecca Watson deeply offended him by writing the words “white man” in a tweet. It was disparagingly racist and sexist!

            And then: “All of his work set aside because of his race and gender.” You don’t spare the hyperbole in your pursuit of guilting others, do you?

            Empathy. It was an SAT word you had to memorize and then realized its usefulness when weaponized; it certainly doesn’t come to you naturally enough for you to ask “Can I actually say this after the last two years of interaction Rebecca Watson has had with others who disagree with her?”

          • Edward Gemmer

            You should probably delete and type again because I have no idea how anyone could say it is “cruel” to have empathy for Ron Lindsay. That makes no sense at all.

    • Cylon

      Well said, Carla. I appreciate JT’s perspective, too, and I don’t for a second think that continuing to support CFI makes you an enemy to feminism or anything like that. But in the end, I can’t say that I disagree with Great Christina in the actions she has chosen to take. I am sympathetic to the idea that we should be aware of the impact our actions may have on those who are currently on the fence, so to speak. On the other hand, sometimes we do just have to take a stand for what we feel is right and damn the consequences. It seems that in this case JT and Greta Christina draw the line for where to take a stand in different places.

      • athyco

        Agreed with the “well said” to Carla, and agreed with your “take a stand.”

        Lest we forget, freedom of association and freedom of conscience were mentioned as core freedoms in Ron Lindsay’s WiS2 talk.

  • RhubarbTheBear

    As a person who happily discovered CFI years ago, and will never grasp all the nuances of the endless political squabbles, thank you for this post. Part of the reason that I have resisted becoming more active in this movement is the very real danger that I’ll make bitter enemies simply by opening my mouth and making myself an easy target. For those who want me to “shut up and listen”, sure, I’ll shut up. I may even listen. But then what’s to keep me from quietly walking away? Nothing. Why be part of a movement which covets only my passive support? If my participation isn’t welcome, I’ll find something else to do.

    • sinmantyx

      The “shut up and listen” thing is a phrase that refers to making sure that, especially those in privileged positions, don’t use their own myopic perceptions when participating in activism.

      This has been a real problem in activist circles, where instead of being allies, that they are paternalistic in helping *those people* in ways that can sometimes increase power-disparities instead of rectify them.

      An extreme example of this is boarding schools for Native Peoples.

      It’s also called “white burden”.

      Believe it or not, actually ASKING communities what their needs are and how activists can help is a NEW THING.

      It is not, at all, a call for people to STOP interacting and asking questions and giving their input and explaining their experiences. It is the opposite of that.

      Ron Lindsay misunderstood this, and lectured a group of people on the subject, when one of the speakers at the conference pointed out his misunderstanding to him; he compared her to a North Korean dictator.

      That’s why this is happening.

      At least Ron apologized about the “North Korean” bit.

      • RhubarbTheBear

        I’m going to have to research what actually went down in this particular instance before I can comment further. That’s going to take a while. I’m behind. I still haven’t caught up with the whole Paul Kurtz kerfluffle…

  • Stephanie Zvan

    Ask yourself a question, JT. Where are all the CFI employees who were at the conference and saw their boss’s behavior during the conference and after who are now standing up and saying, “No, no! We really think you should continue to support CFI national”?

    • Chimako

      Sorry, I know I’m not JT. Just wondering where those employees are? I mean are they saying that online or just in person? I’ve been following this around pretty closely to see exactly how it’s going to play out but I havent seen those employees? I’m only “out” online tho so that’s the only place I can look.

      • Stephanie Zvan

        That’s my point. None of the people who work for the organization and saw what happened are urging people to stick around and support CFI. And drumming up support for CFI is something none of them are normally shy about doing.

        • Sam

          Surely you’re not suggesting that the lack of shills is due to malicious intent on the part of CFI.

          • Stephanie Zvan

            I don’t understand what you’re asking, Sam. What or whom do you mean by “shills” and what part of CFI are you talking about? Lindsay, the board, and the people I would normally expect to speak up to request support for CFI are all parts of CFI.

        • perplexed

          So your perspective is the employees think that everyone should stop supporting the organization that employs them. Is that about it?

          • Chris Ho-Stuart

            I think she is suggesting that most of the people working in CFI and who are aware of what went down actually do understand that there is anger and allow that a valid response is to disengage.

            I’ve not tracked this, but it looks about right.

          • Stephanie Zvan

            Additionally, that they understand the anger itself is valid.

          • perplexed

            The board to disengage from the debate or the employees to disengage from “drumming up support”?

          • Chris Ho-Stuart

            Neither, of course. We’re talking about people in general supporting CFI or disengaging from it. That’s the blog topic.

          • perplexed

            Apologies Chris…I thought Stephanie’s point was the employees were angry and disengaging so I’m confused by your response.

          • Chris Ho-Stuart

            No problem. Stephanie is saying that CFI workers who were involved with the conference are empathetic with people who are choosing to disengage from CFI.

            Stephanie is suggesting that JT could take a cue from them and have a bit more acceptance of the choice by Greta, Skepticon and others to disengage from CFI.

          • perplexed

            Thanks for the clarity. Can’t we deduce that Greta’s and the CFI employees thoughts in fact have had significant calculus in what he wrote. I think the several mentions of the friends he has including Greta in fact means he took their choices into account but did not impact his stand. He made a choice of a different path and his note shows concern he may lose friends because of it.

          • Chris Ho-Stuart

            But JT isn’t just taking a different path. JT is saying we should all take his path with him. He’s saying Greta made the *wrong* choice.

            I think JT is absolutely incorrect on that. (And don’t worry JT: I don’t hate you for being wrong, any more than you cease to be Greta’s friend by calling her action an overreaction.)

            Greta’s principled and non-hasty choice of action is powerful, and in the best traditions of effective non-violent reform. Having a number of prominent folks make a strong statement like that can be a helpful lever for those still working within the CFI to address the mistakes.

          • perplexed

            As is JT’s choice in the spirit of non violent reconciliation. Regardless, I appreciate your perspective and respectfully disagree.
            As to leveraging at CFI, my guess and I state up front pure supposition on my part would be that there will be no further statement from CFI on this issue, there will be employee fallout, they will be replaced and after short term heartburn at CFI they will continue as they have.

          • Chris Ho-Stuart

            Perplexed… I am honestly unclear as to where we disagree. Spell it out for me please! I’m fine with disagreement but I don’t yet have a handle on which particular point you disagree with.

            Certainly JT choosing to continue to work within the CFI for change would be great. Is he proposing that? I hope so! Or is he just planning to regret the mistakes and let it all be water under the bridge as he continues simply to support CFI? Honest question there… it looks to me like the latter!

            With this blog post, the actual *change* JT is proposing is a change on the part of Greta and others who take the disengage tactic. He said it is an over-reaction, and (as I understand it) he would like us ALL to continue to support CFI.

            That’s …. odd. There’s a mistake by Ron and by CFI, that they have yet to acknowledge. Greta has done something about it.

            And what JT is trying in this blog is a criticism of Greta. (With a lot of other stuff assuring us he’s still a friend and that Ron made mistakes.)

            There’s something screwed up about the priorities there, quite apart from the matter of whether disengagement is an overreaction or can be an effective tactic.

          • perplexed

            Chris…I understood your support of Greta’s position of disengagement as creating leverage for change. I on the other hand think her disengagement will not change a thing in the long run.
            I think Greta is trying to force their hand. Very brave and I think it won’t work.
            Ron made a mistake not knowing his audience and with his approach, very clumsy.
            Not sure CFI made a mistake at all with their reaction. I think they said enough is enough.
            I think a line has been drawn in the sand on both sides.

          • Chris Ho-Stuart

            Thanks, I get you now.

            I’m not intending to make predictions either way.

            I think the possibility of improvement is there. I’m not persuaded that the board’s statement was a carefully calculated insult. If this was intended, then I would expect it reflects a massive rift between the board and the membership; an unstable situation! My guess is that internal conflicts and disagreements within the board resulted in a messy self-contradictory statement that avoided saying anything much at all. But that’s just a guess.

            (The contradiction was in calling for dialog while at the same time making no mention of any of the specific issues everyone had been sending them.)

            Thanks for the exchange;

          • perplexed

            Thank you as we’ll and just one off topic point if I may…I find it interesting I have had more open and respectful dialogue on this blog today than any of the other blog sites even though perspective has been as mixed and the topic as divisive. If we could create this as the paradigm I’d bet goals would be achieved much faster with broader participation. Thanks again and I enjoyed our chat.

          • Fey Wyndom

            Is spanking children is an effective tool for a child’s development of morality? I bet the the detractors can get Lindsey and the whole CFI, the board and all the employees to parrot whatever they want them to say once their whole organization and livelihoods are on the line. “Please mommy, I’m soooo sorry; I’ll never do it again! Please don’t hit me anymore!”

            But, I wonder if that tactic with a friend, is really the best. I know most of us grew up in authoritarian households, and I know most of us grew up in America where the military is the primary tool for diplomacy, but damn.

          • Chris Ho-Stuart

            You ask: “Is spanking children is an effective tool for a child’s development of morality?”

            The answer is… no. A “time out” is much more effective. Another approach is to speak to children and explain to them where they make mistakes; also to ask them questions and invite them to reflect.

            This parallels the appropriate way to deal with the mistakes made by Ron and CFI. You could write and explain clearly what the problems were. You could try and talk with him. If attempts to communicate fail, then rather than attempt to punish in some way, the better approach is a “time out”, or disengage.

            Oh hey! That’s what people have been doing!

        • baal

          Inferences from silence? You’d get along well with the conservative majority in Salinas v Texas.

          • Fey Wyndom

            You are comparing Lindsey to the conservative majority in Salvinas v. Texas?

          • baal

            No, this comment is misplaced. I wrote a new one up where it belongs.

        • Chimako

          ooooooooo, okay. I was seriously confused. carry on.

    • eccles11

      Where are all the muslims condemning the terrorists? hmm.

      • Chris Ho-Stuart

        Huh? All over the place. It’s by far the most common standard for Muslims. That’s just weird — and off topic. Sorry for contributing to the derail, but wow.

    • baal

      I thought I already commented on this point but i can’t find it.

      SOP PR move would be to tell the employees to be quiet and not go out and solo try to argue people. Standard. It’s a lot like an attorney telling a client to not say another word in public.

      Secondly, inferences from silence? The 5th amendment is about criminal law but the general idea applies. You should not take absence of evidence as evidence of absence unless you have run through all the possibilities (like they were told to be quiet).

  • Chimako

    As a Lindsay, I’m deeply offended that you spelled Lindsay wrong in the title. Otherwise, I see your point and probably need to think about how to not pigeonhole as much as I do. Also, I’m not really offended. it was meant to be humorous. :D

  • MandaSauce

    Thanks for writing this, JT. I’ve been struggling with a similar ‘middle ground’ perspective on this issue myself. The response didn’t seem proportionate to the offense to me, but this is a pretty new situation. Maybe I was wrong and it was time to take a stand and I was just resisting it because of the status quo. Hearing that someone else I respect was in a similar position helped clarify my thoughts. Atheists in general sometimes strike me as not being terribly familiar with being organized and the appropriate uses of the power that comes with organization. Feminism is such a polarizing issue in our community right now that I think some sort of rallying point like this was inevitable. Eventually a straw was going to break the metaphorical camel’s back and skeptical feminists would flex their organized muscle and start demanding that things change. But I don’t think CFI deserved to be that straw.

  • Entropy101

    Ron welcomed a known harasser of several of the speakers and did not welcome those said speakers. You are tainted by the friends you keep.

    • Chimako

      I agree with this. Ron Lindsay mega fucked up big time. A real time apology where he admits he fucked up would be nice.

    • Sam

      Guilt by association isn’t exactly the best policy in the world.

      • Chimako

        Actually, it is. If you hang with racists, you better go fucking out of your way to prove to me you’re not a racist. And even then, I’m probably going to think you’re lying to me, otherwise, why are you hanging with racists?

        • ool0n

          Absolutely the fallacy of association refers to irrelevant associations… Its not in the slightest bit irrelevant when someone chooses to ally to a place where nasty lies, bullying, misogyny and bigotry emanate. For example…

        • Fey Wyndom

          But if you hang with a human being that works to help improve equality for women…then…Oh, wait, I forgot, that human said something I didn’t like once. BURN HIM!

          • Chimako

            absolutely, there are things that are 100% like that. This is one of them. It makes me sad to think that you think “okay, this person did something absolutely horrible to me but they’re a good person and I’m sure they didn’t mean it and it was only once, so I’ll still be friends with them”.

          • Fey Wyndom

            I’m not in the inner circle. I’ve heard people allude to other goings on behind the scenes, he missed a talk to blog, he said something about RW. I don’t know. But, to me it is like hosting the Evolution Conference 2. And the Welcome speaker said, “And we all know evolutionists say we come from monkeys!” Yes, the straw-man of straw-men, the one that makes us want to throw poo. Just like feminists hate to hear, “And we all know women want to silence men!” Yes, the straw-man argument. I would buy that it was malicious if this was WIS10. But WIS2. Come on…please…don’t go to nuclear yet, give the peeps on our side a chance to learn. Pleeeeese.

          • athyco

            But add this to your scenario: the welcome speaker at Evolution Conference 2 was taken aside and told that he must reassure conference goers that he knew full well that he’d opened with a strawman and should assure them that he won’t do it again. The welcome speaker refused. The welcome speaker tweeted “at least no one insulted me by saying ‘loose Piltdown Man on stage.’” The welcome speaker wrote about 4 more creationist strawmen to support his statement. The welcome speaker skipped his organization’s fundraiser dinner to write an angry post. The welcome speaker posted a terse “that was intemperate” mehpology with no comment section.

            And when the conference host organization finally posts a corporate bafflegab nothing statement weeks later, people then announce that they’re leaving and why.

            Nothing nuclear.

        • Sam

          So, then, by the fact that you associate with JT, and you’re inferring JT’s guilt, a simple application of this policy indicates that you are also guilty.

          • Chimako


    • Wariness

      I’m tired of seeing this fucking “gotcha” considering it’s not true. Justin Vacula even said in his podcast that /he/ approached Ron and not vice versa. Ron welcomed everyone from the crowd who walked up and introduced themselves to him.

      • sinmantyx

        That’s good to know. Thanks for the clearing that up.

    • Chris Ho-Stuart

      In fairness; Ron’s “welcome” to Justin Vacula was not part of his formal remarks. It was made (as I understand it) on the spur of the moment in a conversation when Justin came up to him individually and (I think?) asked if he was welcome. (Can anyone actually present confirm or refute this?)

      Be that as it may, Daniel Fincke is right. Ron’s deliberately *not* welcoming speakers and then using his slot for opening remarks (plus extra time I gather!) for a surprise talk of his own pet peeve was WAY out of line.

      • Ace_of_Sevens

        Agreed. This is just Vacula playing his usual game of trying to spin innocuous remarks to get people to fight with each other. Let’s not get sucked into it now that he tried to get us to pick a fight instead of Slymepitters.

    • Edward Gemmer

      While I’m in blast mode – bashing Justin Vacula is the laziest form of “social justice” that atheists practice (and we can be pretty lazy). He’s a 24 year old student who works with disabled people and stages one man protests in his community about to speak against religion. I keep hearing this meme that women get rape and death threats at every turn, and that may be true. But what is also true is that people such as Greta Christina say he is one of the “main harassers” or here JT calls him “cruel” and “despicable.” You know what he isn’t doing – making threats to anyone. He’s nice and polite and soft spoken and willing to listen to anyone. Anyone who thinks he is some sort of horrible person needs to go out and live more life and deal with actually horrible people. Hating somebody shouldn’t be some sort of litmus test for the community.

      • Sally Strange

        Justin Vacula spread that lie that I faked a rape threat against myself. Tell me more about how he’s such a great guy, I should overlook that kind of gratuitous personal attack.

        • Edward Gemmer

          Personal attacks seem like the status quo in this community.

      • athyco

        You know, I’m not much interested in hanging around horrible people. But I’m not much interested in hanging around with Justin Vacula, either. See there? I agree partly with you and partly with those who are more directly in the path of his behavior.

        But I’m not fence sitting. I think Justin Vacula waves any “bad” thing around like a sparkler for as long as it will burn or until he’s forced to put it out. He trots things out when he’s pretty sure the audience is unaware–willfully or not–of the full story, and he can present himself in a good light.

        That he still brings up the accusation that Sally Strange faked a rape threat on a Thunderf00t thread infuriates me. I was reading that thread in real time when it happened, and all it took was one stupid bozo (and his being a stupid bozo was clearly evidenced by his other posts) saying that she must have done it herself, and a whole pack of them were off to the races. Thunderf00t himself was being impersonated without response in that thread, so his indifference means that she gets no relief from the Justin Vaculas of the world months and months and months later. Justin knows that he has no proof and that he’s safe because Thunderf00t won’t provide it. Cowardly snot.

        I’ll bet you don’t know the last time Justin Vacula and Surly Amy interacted with each other and what the behavior of each was. Obviously she did nothing wrong or he’d trumpet it again. But him? He’d used yet another Surly Amy pic on his fundraising page for WiS2. Doh, all that “studying” on his fair use right to use the first one, and he skips a plain “non-commercial with attribution only” statement for one she’d released to CC.

        He’s either stupid or too eager to poke away at someone, Edward. My advice is for his non-MRA buds to be wary enough to keep an eye on him. He could end up costing collateral damage a step or two down the road. Anyway, he was asked to do an interview on A-News about their planned peace talks a month after. Does he mention the second use of her work? Naw, it’s another tired, slanted rehash of the “lowest of the low” DMCA incident forcing him to dox her. Hey, it’s a post about peace talks. Justin Vacula can’t be blamed if he doesn’t mention a peaceable interaction with Amy a month earlier in a post about peace talks. (Sorry, the sarcasm couldn’t be restrained.)

        Then there’s the stupidity of “Be my agent, Ophie.” Within the last week he’s done yet another sly “Thanks for the promotion, Ophelia yuk yuk” via tweet. Isn’t it about time that he got tired of it? You know, the way an infant outgrows the endless game of peek-a-boo, the siblings outgrow the “I’m not touching you!” fights in the backseat? He’s young, yeah, but damn, his personality is already being blighted with too damn few expectations.

  • Emily Moskal

    JT: cosign. I’d write something more long-winded and heartfelt, but you did it all for me. Thank you.

  • Ace_of_Sevens

    Let’s say you went to a poly conference and the keynote was given by someone who wasn’t poly and didn’t have anything solid good to say about poly, but talked about how many polyamorous people are perverts who just want to exploit a harem and didn’t welcome you, but did welcome a Fox News reporter who was there to give slanted coverage for the old middle-American Republicans to tut-tut over. When people took it as an accusation they were like that, instead of clarifying or addressing their concerns, he flew off the handle and started accusing them of being liars. The organizers wouldn’t do anything except issue a vague, bland statement that they wish people wouldn’t fight.

    How great would the rest of the org have to be for you to keep attending and supporting them, especially if there are plenty of other conferences around?

    • Michaelyn

      “the keynote was given by someone who wasn’t poly and didn’t have anything solid good to say about poly, but talked about how many polyamorous people are perverts who just want to exploit a harem and didn’t welcome you”

      Okay, first off, this is a terrible analogy. Ron Lindsay is, dare I say it, a feminist. And he had plenty of good things to say about the feminist movement. His mistake was stating a critique that probably shouldn’t have been included in his opening talk. Yes, I think CFI could and should issue a better apology statement (or just one apology statement at all). However, I think the way you’re conveying this situation is exaggerated and a little unfair.

      • LordOberon

        I agree with Michaelyn. That was a terrible analogy. It seems like instead of trying to understand what JT wrote, you are trying to force an analogy just to be contrary

        • Sam

          In the spirit of JT’s post, let’s not jump to the conclusion that he was acting out of malice. Maybe he’s just terrible at analogies.

      • Ace_of_Sevens

        I get your point that he at least self-identifies that way. If he had established more feminist street cred, this might have gone better. That is, the talk would have been interpreted very differently if someone the audience knew as a feminist activist had given it.

        • eccles11

          “More feminist street cred”

          If only he had been the CEO of an organisation that had organised and hosted 3 women in secularism conferences, instead of 2. He might have had enough EXP.

          • sinmantyx

            Well, if he used that XP to up the relevant skills – that would have been great.

            Apparently he put his points elsewhere.

      • Jason Thibeault

        I don’t think it’s a terrible analogy. Analogies are not identicalities.

        But this analogy could be improved by saying that Ron identifies as poly, and even has multiple partners, but talks down about all those poly people who aren’t in multiple closed situations. Or waxes pontific about how polyamorous people keep attacking monogamous people for being monogamous (though there are a few of those, they are not in my experience anything like the majority).

        Leave everything else exactly the same, and you get a tone-deaf attack on a stereotype of the community the person claims to be part of.

    • wfenza

      Funny you mention that. The keynote speaker at the latest poly conference (in Vancouver) gave a workshop entitled “How Not to Be a Poly Elite Douchenozzle.”

      It was devoted to telling poly people to be less smug and judgy about other poly people, and it was delivered by Samantha Fraser, who self-identifies as poly, but also describes her relationships as “an open marriage,”* which many in the community don’t consider to be polyamory.

      Leading up to the conference, Lindsay’s feminist cred sounds about comparable to Fraser’s poly cred. Her workshop went over great. Just wondering if you picked the right analogy there…

      * source:

      • wfenza

        sorry, “source” should have been

      • sinmantyx

        How do you think it would have went over if it were a lecture-type one-way speech given during the time the “welcoming” speech was supposed to be delivered?

        And how did Fraser respond to criticism?

        Having a panel or workshop about the issues that Ron Lindsay brought up has been floated around as something that would have been a GREAT DEAL better.

        If it were a panel – people could chose to go or not go and it wouldn’t have been a one-way conversation.

        • wfenza

          Is that an honest question? My honest answer is that I think it would have gone over just as well. Most poly people are familiar with and annoyed at the behavior Fraser was criticizing, and so cheered her calling out. I think a poly convention is a much better place to bring that up than anywhere else. Those sorts of discussions should be kept in-house.

          Then again, you’re right that a “welcome” speech would not really be the proper place for it. I don’t think JT or anyone else was failing to acknowledge that Lindsay made mistakes, particularly in his choice of timing and his hyperbolic, unwarranted response to criticism.

          I was just respond to Ace’s example, where he seemed to find it obvious that if this sort of thing happened at a poly convention, everyone would have hated it. My response was intended to say that, having been to a poly convention (and reading about many others), I don’t think it would have been a big deal at all. Even if people were bothered, I can’t imagine it would have exploded the way this did.

          • sinmantyx


            A good number of people agree that Ron Lindsay made errors.

            The question is not whether or not he acted inappropriately, but what the response should be.

            The question is: How much insult should “certain feminists” take before they stop towing the line and vote with their feet?

            The people he insulted (and the Board insulted by their non-statement) are people who have put years time and energy into this community. The non-statement, if there was any meaning in it at all, was that the Board cares more about including “all segments” than calling out unfair treatment of those who have contributed a great deal.

            There is just no indication that we’re not going to get more of the same – the same type of thing that we’ve been dealing with all along.

            I mean, The Atheist Experience screwed up their physics once when attempting to describe fundamental celestial mechanics. So, I wrote them a letter correcting them. I am confident that their response to the letter was not that I was living in some separate universe or am akin to a despot dictator. So, I’m still a fan.

            I know the slant on this from many people is that somehow there is a group of chronic complainers that are on some sort of incessant campaign against the “smallest slights” – that somehow it’s IMPOSSIBLE for leaders of these organizations or certain particularly aggressive individuals to act in a reasonable way.

            On the flip side of that, I’m wondering what WE have to do in order to be treated with respect even from those who call themselves allies and whose job it is to be representative of large organizations. It seems that the answer to that is to refrain from standing up for ourselves, communicating our lived experience or correcting people when they are wrong about even the most BASIC elements of our expertise if those expertise lay outside the hard sciences.

            So – I understand the appeal of calling it quits.

  • perplexed

    I want to start this note by saying this is just a hypothesis based on my time sitting on a variety of boards using the facts I have read over the last few weeks about Ron’s speech and the board’s reponse. I am assuming a lot but the question I have kept asking myself is “why” did the board choose this route.
    The bulk of the posts I have read have either expressed rage or agreed with the rage leveled at CFI based on the statement CFI issued regarding Ron’s speech at WIS2. Many folks are seriously pissed and wrote communiques to the board of CFI that these authors felt were ignored. Some have even decided to no longer contribute dollars and/or disassociated themselves from the organization.
    Some have characterized the statement a non-pology or a lack of courage and so on.
    As I mentioned, I have been giving a lot of thought trying to understand “why” they responded the way they did. And make no mistake, in my view this was a heavily discussed, well thought out process by the board I believe they read every tweet, post, note, email, snail mail and so on.and. I think the board process initiated the minute the blowback from Ron’s speech manifested so there were probably a lot of conversations over weeks. They probably got significant input from some folks outside the board as well. Then after all these conversations and weighing all the options available they came to a conclusion and wrote a carefully crafted note. In my view they spent significant time on that note.
    The “why”…
    I believe the board made a decision to draw a line in the sand. They knew exactly how that letter was going to be received. The folks in CFI have been around a long time so I believe they decided that the squeeze was worth the juice and they said “fuck you”. I believe they felt they invested time and resources to advance feminist causes the way they see it, they tried to encourage debate the way they see it and were rebuked by many because it wasn’t enough, or correct or whatever. So they reached a point and said we will never please some folks so we wish them well, we’ll take a hit, and move on.
    Every movement throughout history has elements that splinter and folks go their own way. Not necessarily a bad thing.
    But let’s not think that this statement from CFI was anything but a well thought out plan of action. They’re not hoping in time this goes away, they want the people that they feel aren’t playing well to go away.

    • Laury Plant

      I’m never sure if I should buy this line ‘they knew exactly how that letter was going to be received’. It just doesn’t pass the smell test, not here, not when M$ makes bonehead PR choices, not when other similar cases come up. It implies ‘they must be in perfect knowledge of the situation so any perceived mistake must be intentional and crafted as such’. It’s a screw up, that we agree on, but intentional and malicious? I don’t buy it. That doesn’t fit, as JT has pointed out, with their history of many many good choices in the past. How do they go from mostly-good to absolute ‘fuck you, my way or high-way’ monsters all in one fell swoop? Only if you buy the line that they ‘knew what they were doing’.

      • perplexed

        The easier avenue was to apologize, have Ron “mea culpa” and it would blow over…till the next time. They said no more. I think these are very smart folks and this was extremely calculated. They still had chances to apologize once their statement was out and again chose not to. They aren’t tone deaf, they said fuck this and walked.

        • Laury Plant

          Screwing up once, then screwing up again…means their calculated? Sounds like the pattern is that they screw up if anything.
          You’re right, they had a chance and screwed it up, but that’s not evidence of some calculated act of defiance, it’s further evidence that they…get this…screwed up again! It’s not some grand conspiracy to see this.

          • perplexed

            If screwing up means you think they erred in their response that’s certainly one way to look at it. I don’t. This was extremely calculated. That’s why they went silent for weeks. They talked about every angle of this for weeks. That statement was not written in minutes, it was written and revised over days. No conspiracy at all. Just a strategic plan executed which is what boards do.

          • Laury Plant

            You sure their board just didn’t meet til now? And formed a hasty but wrong response? I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt that this ISN’T a crafted middle finger to the situation because of their history. I don’t know that it’s not, just as you cannot know based on your assumptions that it must be. Were you privy to knowledge that says they talked about it for weeks? Are there minutes of these board meetings available perhaps?

          • perplexed

            I have and do sit on boards. This was a major shitstorm. They new and reacted to it quickly as any board I have been associated with or know of would react. It’s what boards do. This response was anything but hasty. Do you really believe that after weeks of absolute silence and a ton of correspondence they came up with hasty response knowing the implication? They did an analysis and came up with the statement. You and others get to choose whether it was ultimately right or wrong.

          • Laury Plant

            It was wrong. I’m not disagreeing at all with that. I’m pointing out your presumption of ‘I sit on boards too’ means you know their board. I’ve sat on boards as well, some very well structured, and some very dysfunctional that can’t tie their own shoelaces without a 4/5′s majority vote. Do I really believe anything without good evidence? Do you? I do NOT know how their board functions, and until someone presents some evidence that says this particular board runs a tight ship, I’m going to disagree with your characterization of it as some kind of monolithic entity designed to offend when trying to apologies. Stop with that presumption please. That’s all I’m addressing here.

          • perplexed

            First, in my post I said it was all presumption and I do get to presume and I presume this based on my experience.. Time will tell if I’m right or wrong. You get to disagree with my methodology and conclusion as you have.
            I’ll presume one more thing. There will not be an apology forthcoming or any other statement. They are done with this. There will be employee fallout at CFI. It’s a shame but it will happen. They’ll refill the positions. This will all cause them some heartburn and in the end will have a negligible impact on them in the future.

  • Jason Thibeault

    You’re absolutely right that I said some of the flack you took for that post that’s become your bone-of-contention with feminists was way, way out of line. However, I can’t say that any of that which you showed me was posted by anyone I know in the community, excepting one who pulled the same crap on me and is still banned at my place to this day.

    But all of that notwithstanding, in that same thread, the people who were thoughtful and trying to make you see where you went wrong were largely ignored. I get it — you had to deal with the bomb tossers first. But you needed to go back and engage with the people who were explaining where you went wrong (incidentally — largely the same places Ron Lindsay went wrong, in not understanding where the conversation actually IS today, and having large chunks of knowledge about the terms of art used in feminist conversations missing entirely).

    You’ve straight up called certain people who are too nice to religionists “not allies”. What you’re seeing here is people straight-up calling people who are too nice to the antifeminists and harassers “not allies”. You can learn from that and be a better ally.

    I level this criticism on you in good faith. I know you’re a good guy. You know I like you a good deal, and I am not trying to blow anything up here. But I think you’re absolutely wrong in telling people who are calling Ron Lindsay “not an ally” that they need to support the organization who’s backed the guy up and refuses to even acknowledge that the “controversy surrounding Women In Secularism” is actually controversy surrounding Ron Lindsay. Don’t take away the one weapon these folks have in their battles to get this community to take the harassment they’re on the receiving end of seriously.

    • Nathan Hevenstone

      This is basically what I was planning on writing (minus the friendship part as we’ve never met JT, though I do usually love what you write), but Jason got here first, so I’ll just cosign it…

    • perplexed

      So educate us Jason. Where is the conversation today.

      • Chimako
        • perplexed


        • Edward Gemmer

          I kind of feel like “it’s not my job to educate you” pretty much excludes you from being an activist for any cause. Educating people is Step #1, and if you don’t like it, that’s fine, but please stay away from any efforts to attract people to the cause.

          • athyco

            Activism involves more than attracting people to the cause.

            An activist doesn’t have to be an educator at all. There are very good activists (who have their niches in Step #2 through Step #42) who know that they don’t have the temperament to educate; your “pretty much excludes you from being an activist for any cause” is not correct.

            Plus, an activist can be a good educator and still, from time to time, tell people that they don’t have the time or patience or information easily at hand to educate at that moment. There are others who are good at educating who will be discriminating in the caliber of those they will teach so that neither they nor the “student” waste time and effort.

            Check out Richard Dawkins on Twitter for a good example.

          • perplexed

            You are certainly entitled to your opinion and perspective. I’ll certainly give your comment the weight it deserves. And quite frankly I’m not asking you for shit. That was why I addressed it to Jason. Jason made a comment in his post and I was asking for his explanation. Which may or may not be different than half the folks reading the blog.

      • John H
        • perplexed

          Let me make this easy for you. Jason was the one in his post that said this is “where the conversation is today”. So I was curious from his perspective where it was. Google that.

          • sinmantyx

            If you are going to respond with hostility to answer to your question from people on an open-comment blog thread; could you just e-mail the person you are talking to or something?

          • perplexed

            I repaid sarcasm with sarcasm but I appreciate your comment. Thanks for your response.

    • JTEberhard

      This may be the only comment I made, but because we’re friends I wanted to hit on this:

      “You’ve straight up called certain people who are too nice to religionists “not allies”. What you’re seeing here is people straight-up calling people who are too nice to the antifeminists and harassers “not allies”. You can learn from that and be a better ally.”

      I don’t think this is accurate. I have, in fact, often said that I support being nice to religious people. James Croft I consider an ally, nice as hell though he is. What I have said is that people who encourage people’s delusions while calling it niceness are not allies because we don’t share the same goals. My goals are to point out unreason and to make it clear that irrationality is bad for the world. If atheists are telling religious people who beautiful unreason can be, we’re not after the same things.

      However, in the case of Lindsay, the CFI, Greta, you, me, etc….we all do want the same things.


      “But all of that notwithstanding, in that same thread, the people who were thoughtful and trying to make you see where you went wrong were largely ignored. I get it — you had to deal with the bomb tossers first.”

      I don’t think that’s accurate either. I said in the comments to you that you made some good points. When people made good points, I even added them to the post. I don’t think it can be said that I ignored anybody other than the ones who weren’t making good arguments or who were just derailing the thread.

      Thank you for the criticism in good faith. *hug*

      • Jason Thibeault

        I do still think that while you did put in effort, my “largely ignored” criticism is not a mischaracterization. I didn’t forget your modifying the post in making the calculation. The problem was, a lot of it was in term-of-art shorthand.

        And the fact that Ron Lindsay was demonstrably being over-nice to the people doing the harassing, and that people are telling him he’s not an ally for it, means he’s Chris Stedman, not James Croft in your analogy.

        But I know you at least enough to know you’re trying. And I know you recognize unambiguous shitbaggery for what it is.

        I don’t know what I’m really trying to say here but “keep working at it.” Level-grind.

        • JTEberhard

          One of my worries in writing this would that I would lose friends like you who would probably disagree with me. I’m happy to see that, at least in your case, the fear was unfounded. *hug*

        • jfigdor

          I’m with Jason Thibeault here. JT, it seems like Chris Stedman is the better analogue to Ron Lindsey in this example. So the question is, do you now have a new-found understanding of and perhaps even respect for Chris?

          It does seem like you hold faitheists to a higher standard than you hold feminist allies.

    • Fey Wyndom

      Yes, nuclear option our way to a healthier community. Um, I don’t mean to be rude, but your authoritarian upbringing is showing, you might want to check that.

  • Bridget Gaudette

    JT- I’m half-way through and I am bothered by your need to keep saying how much you love and respect people and giving disclaimers. That speaks louder to me than anything else you’re saying.

    Disclaimer: I have only met Greta and she was great.

    • Wesley Da’Nomad

      We went to dinner – all of us in Kansas for Reasonfest… I also recall me taking you over and introducing you to JT and Matt before one of the talks. Or did the talk start before we went over there. Anyway, thought you had some time to hang out with JT too

      • Bridget Gaudette

        Yes I met and hung out with JT. I was talking about the women JT listed and gave disclaimers for.

    • baal

      “and giving disclaimers”

      You are in the enviable position of not being a public figure about to be severely verbally beaten. I really wish folks on your position in the greater argument showed understanding of JT’s emotions and those of other similar situated folks.

      • Sam

        The development director of Foundation Beyond Belief’s kind of a public figure, dude.

        • baal

          I was speaking of JT and while JT is a public figure this blog posting strikes me as deeply personal on his part.

          • Sam

            I was just saying that it’s a little disingenuous to act like Bridget’s not a public figure. I’m sure she understands that aspect quite keenly.

          • baal

            again with overlooking the context
            the other part of the sentence is the ‘about to be beat’ part
            my complaint is that she’s showing a lack of empathy and that she is a public figure should make her better able to understand where JT is at and not less able

      • eccles11

        I’m not Bridget, nor do I speak for her. However my interpretation of what she said was not a lack of understanding of his situation right now. Just that it is very telling that one must continually give disclaimers when you are about to disagree with a certain group of people. On a subject where someone should expect reasonable, rational response to disagreement, not a verbal beating.

    • Edward Gemmer

      I agree. It’s probably the single biggest problem in the skeptathiest movement I’ve seen. Disagreement, discussion, learning – one would think these would be the lifeblood of such a movement. Instead, it’s constant suspicion over what “side” someone is on, as if JT feels someone may think he’s a mole because he doesn’t want to boycott CFI. Good grief.

  • Slow Learner

    JT, you clearly mean well.
    Greta clearly means well.

    Ron Lindsay does not clearly mean well, or he would have found time to say “sorry, I fucked up” by now. How hard can it be?

    • Sam

      You can mean well and still be too proud to admit when you’re wrong.

      • Brittney Behr

        That’s not a good trait in a man with a leadership role in one of the most important skeptic organizations in the nation.

        • Sam

          Agreed, but it’s certainly not the same as actual malice.

          • Azkyroth

            This seems like a distinction without a difference.

          • Sam

            Being too proud to admit when you’re wrong is no different than malice?

          • bigcheeese

            This seems like trying to cling to a point (he doesn’t mean well) even after agreeing that’s probably not the case.

          • Sally Strange

            Sure, but the confusion is exactly what’s at issue here. I can’t tell if Lindsay means well or not. It’s UNCLEAR.

      • Slow Learner

        True. It gives the impression that he doesn’t care though. And as JT noted, supporting and putting on the Women in Secularism conference two years in a row suggests that CFI *does* care. Which is counter-productive, to make vast efforts in one direction, and then contradict that by *failing to apologise*.

        • Sam

          I was simply trying to say that failing to apologize is not evidence of not meaning well, which is what it seemed like you were saying in your original comment.

          • John-Henry Eric Beck

            It *is* evidence, just not proof.

    • Daniel Moran

      I’m sorry, do you know Lindsay’s mindset? Do you honestly think he went in there thinking, “I’m going to bash feminists all throughout my talk at a conference for women, mwahahaha!”?
      To say you know his mindset better than he did is simply arrogant.

      • Slow Learner

        I don’t need to know his mindset. I know that good, sensible people were appalled by his speech and felt it detracted from an otherwise excellent conference.
        Now either he intended that effect or he didn’t, but the fact he has had that effect is indubitable.
        That’s his responsibility to deal with. He has had time and scope, to apologise, or to try to explain himself, or whatever, and has not.
        So the impression is not that he means well, but that he doesn’t care.

        • Fey Wyndom

          Will you write out the apology that would work? Realistically, if you had worked your butt off for the betterment of X. Then you gave a talk about X. Then some X people said you showed contempt for them, in your talk. How would you draft a letter that did not wreak of your own hurt-feelings. Imagine Lindsey was your brother. Please draft a the kind of letter that people are waiting for.

          • Feminerd

            “I realize what I said was inappropriate. I was there to welcome people, and my speech did not succeed at that goal. Indeed, it did the opposite and hurt many people whose goals I wholeheartedly support. I apologize to those who have been impacted by my words and actions.

            My initial response to the criticisms of my speech was also not acceptable. I was unprepared for the backlash, which I really did not expect, and that led me to hasty, ill-considered actions. I apologize for acting unprofessionally and in a way that throws my commitment to feminism in question. I support wholeheartedly the goals of inclusion of women and women’s issues in the atheist movement.

            I still think there is a conversation to be had about privilege-shaming, but the opening speech as WiS 2 was neither the time nor the place to try to hold that conversation. So again, I am very sorry that this wonderful conference and its many amazing speakers were impacted negatively by my clumsy, naive opening speech.”

            If Ron Lindsay had written that letter or something similar, this would be much less of a shitstorm, don’t you think?

          • Chris Ho-Stuart

            I was going to try my hand also, but you’ve nailed it.

          • Slow Learner

            I was going to answer that question, but Feminerd has already done it.

          • sinmantyx

            Trust me – he has been provided a great deal of advice on that matter.

      • invivoMark

        What comment did you read?

        I read one that said, “Ron Lindsay does not clearly mean well,” in other words, it is not clear what Ron Lindsay means. But this is apparently not the comment that you read.

    • jfigdor

      An apology, a real apology, would go a million miles.

    • Slow Learner

      Worth noting that more than a month after the events in question, Ron Lindsey has managed to apologise. Briefly, incompletely, belatedly – but he has apologised for his actions.
      It shouldn’t take so long, or a letter-writing campaign; but at least he’s said he’s sorry. Credit where it is due.

  • Chris Ho-Stuart

    I’ve been thinking of resurrecting my blog; and was thinking of addressing some of the things you address here also. But as I am not established already, and not as directly involved; I’ve felt it best to spend more time listening to people. Thanks for giving me this to listen to also!

    That was a long post; largely because you have felt the need to hedge and surround it with all kinds of disclaimers. The need for that is real, unfortunately. I do it also. And that bothers me a bit, That’s a minor niggle about life.

    I’d be surprised if many of the major players here would actually take offense at this post; the disclaimers are more for the benefit of a wider set of readers and commentors; where you can indeed get pretty unforgiving tribal participants.

    I’m inclined to think it is a good thing that there are different responses. Having a couple of hardball reactions (Skepticon, and Greta) is helpful. Especially as — in both cases — they are not punishing, but actually paying the price themselves. I’ve been intrigued to see that Ophelia and Ron were having a cordial twitter exchange a few weeks ago and mooting the possibility of some kind of dialog, and this may still be a possibility. I’d like to see that too. Some public comment from local CFI groups has been good… especially the post written as if by a five year old.

    The CFI board statement was … bizarre. I speculate that the board was divided themselves, and couldn’t bring themselves to say that; so they said as little as possible. The resulting statement was horrible. It didn’t even mention that the issue was specifically the conference opening, but spoke only a problems with the conference. It spoke of the importance of dialog, but then totally ignored all the specific input it received on what had everyone so upset! Good grief.

    My impression is that your closing remark — that Ron and Rebecca and Greta all want almost the exact same thing — is probably true — at least with respect to what all of them want for women in the movement. But my guess is that this statement is one that will generate some dispute.

    But for what it is worth, I think you’re right; the issue is not a result of Ron wanting something different. The biggest problem (for me) was that the time and place he chose for making his input was dreadful. It should have been written as an opinion piece for the CFI blogs, and then any issues (pro or con) with the content could be considered without all the weirdness of using an introduction to a conference to bring it all up.

    As time goes on, I’m hope Ron personally will engage *someone* (Ophelia would be great, I think) on those two points. (1) Recognition that he was way out of line using his conference welcome for this (2) Criticism and defense of the content.

    (I’d like those two aspects to be really clearly separated.)

  • ccaldwell314

    I appreciate that you put more thought into this than ANY of the pro-CFI responses I’ve seen. I know you are well-intentioned in writing this… though I feel you are likely being much too generous to Lindsay, and I think this is partially because you are an exceedingly kind-hearted person, for all your firebrandiness ;). I also don’t mean that to say that your kind-heartedness weakens your critical thinking in any way.

    I’m also concerned that you would deem someone like Stedman not an ally, but are willing to write off everything Lindsay did as misunderstood and well-intentioned. That’s not because I have any love for Stedman, but because it seems like some sort of disconnect.

    I don’t consider Lindsay an ally, because he used his platform to make women who were at the conference feel belittled, skipped a WIS CFI function to write a post viciously attacking and mischaracterizing one of the speakers, has refused to back down, and as of right now has issued no apology. I would dare say that holds much more weight than being the overseer of a group that put on the conference, especially since most of the hard work came from Melody Hensley and other volunteers – not Ron Lindsay.

    I disagree that Ron Lindsay is interested in being a feminist ally – or if he is, he’s doing it wrong. Many men are amenable to the causes of feminism (pro-choice, equal pay, etc), but act like petulant children the moment they are called on their privilege. I think if Ron was interested in doing his part in putting this behind everyone, he would have already apologized and begun attempts to start mending those bridges he so horrifically burned. Perhaps he’ll read your post, finally realize what he did wrong, ditch his pride, and apologize. At this point, there would be the added problem that it would come off as a PR ploy and would be considered by many to be too little too late. Whether I would fall into that group would depend upon the contents of the apology (should there ever be one).

    Until then… I, along with many others, will continue my boycott of the national CFI (though I will still be wholly supporting the fantastic local groups).

    • JTEberhard

      On the Stedman bit, I answered that below but will c/p up here:

      “I don’t think this is accurate. I have, in fact, often said that I support being nice to religious people. James Croft I consider an ally, nice as hell though he is. What I have said is that people who encourage people’s delusions while calling it niceness are not allies because we don’t share the same goals. My goals are to point out unreason and to make it clear that irrationality is bad for the world. If atheists are telling religious people who beautiful unreason can be, we’re not after the same things.

      However, in the case of Lindsay, the CFI, Greta, you, me, etc….we all do want the same things.”

      • ccaldwell314

        I want welcoming spaces for women in the secular movement. If Lindsay wanted that, he would understand that he messed up and issue an apology. Many women (speakers even!) did not feel welcomed by Lindsay at WIS CFI, as demonstrated by the massive outrage caused by his talk.

        Even giving the benefit of the doubt and assuming he does want that (and thinking his remarks were simply misunderstood), he should apologize for how they were construed and better explain his intentions – not go on the offensive and attack one of the speakers.

  • GBJames

    Well, JT, I think that was quite a good post. I find myself very much in the position you describe. I’m a supporter of feminism but decline to comment much on the subject because I don’t want to be dismissed simply because I’m an older white male. So I get along supporting Planned Parenthood and battling thuggish Republican types. But for the most part I stay out of feminism-related blog communities.

  • Criamon

    I definitely see where you’re coming from and largely agree. I think the real issue here was one of a lack of acknowledgement. That lack of acknowledgment is really what’s behind the difficulty of people moving on.

    Dillahunty often takes the active step of preventing further discussion beyond a given issue of contention until that particular issue is understood by both sides, if not in the same way at least understood in terms of what each position asserts and why. This is done so that understanding can be fostered, if not outright agreement.

    The problem I see here is that there was a bungle and it was never actually acknowledged as a bungle. There was the bungle itself, then blogs illustrated and explained the bungle. Then there was a pause to see if CFI or Lindsey acknowledged the bungle – that it existed and that it was what it was. But that didn’t really happen. It’s hard to move beyond that because the bungle in question was particularly salient to the event and values everyone came together to support.

    Now that being said, the bungle wasn’t as huge as it is being felt because although it was a bungle and although the bungle was in conflict with the very values we’re trying to foster, it is also the case that the bungle wasn’t an act against those values but rather a mistaken attempt at fostering those values. That is, Lindsey’s bungle wasn’t a deliberate act against feminism. He wasn’t paying lip service to feminism while deliberately acting against it.

    So all that being said, it would have gone a long way if CFI and Lindsey would have just put forward some kind of indication of acknowledgment and understanding of the nature of what people found troubling and/or offensive. Not having done that, it might still do some good if that happened now anyway.

    Even when you accidentally offend someone you still do what you can to repair the relationship.

    • Criamon

      OK, so I apparently misspelled his name. Mea Culpa. I’m mostly a lurker and consumer as opposed to a commenter and poster.

  • baal

    “So, now that I’ve driven away every friend, fan, and reader I’ve ever had, here’s the summation of my post.”

    Much to the contrary, I like your writing and spend time here due to your empathy towards real people and not pre-applying an ideology before you consider the facts and circumstances.

  • OmniZ

    JT, I disagree with what you wrote but I really don’t think you lived up to your promise of pissing off the entire internet.

    I’m not sure under what context or by whom you were told you weren’t a feminist, but as far as I’m concerned you are. I think you are wrong about a lot of what you’ve said about feminism above, but it’s clear (at least to me) that you are trying and that is what’s important.

    I don’t have to explain to you the benefits of firebrand atheism, nor the fact that there are many atheists who are more akin to diplomats. Feminism is similar: it has its firebrands who go around yelling at people about privilege and rape culture, and occasionally it’s a little bit acerbic, but it also gets results (I became a strongly-identified feminist this way). It also has its 101-level spaces where people can go to educate themselves on feminist and intersectional issues with a little bit of handholding. Both are important and both are important to the movement.

    The most important point I would like to make is this:

    You say you’d wager that some people from the slymepit were once potential allies who were alienated. How many agnostics do you think your firebrand atheism has converted to theists? *I* would wager that those two numbers are pretty similar.

    I would also like to say that sometimes feminists might come off as abrasive for a very good reason: we have to deal with the same shit every day. Try explaining for the 1000th time that the way a woman dresses doesn’t cause rape, and you might just snap at the 1001th person who asks what she was doing wearing a skirt that short. I’m sure you get tired of explaining Pascal’s Wager sometimes.

    • OmniZ

      I just realized I totally wrote “1001th”… This is why I’m not usually up this early.

    • ModVAVet

      THIS. 1000X THIS.

    • yvonne23

      Yes, absolutely.

      As for being alienated, when I screw something up with a person or group I wish to be an ally with, I learn from it and become a better ally. If someone chooses to run in the opposite direction instead I’m pretty confident that they were never really an ally.

  • ResearchToBeDone

    I disagree. The thing is, no one who is withdrawing their support from CFI has said that they wouldn’t consider supporting CFI again if the organization acknowledged to how it fucked up. No one has said that CFI is irredeemable. If CFI wants the support it had before all of this went down, all they have to do, the ONLY THING they have to do is acknowledge their mistake in a way that shows they understand and won’t do it again.

    Frankly, if the leaders of CFI can’t think critically enough to understand their mistake and acknowledge it after everything everyone has written about it, I don’t think they have anyone to blame but themselves. This shit is not hard to get past – you acknowledge your mistakes, you apologize, and people move on. But when an organization so thoroughly fails to acknowledge their mistake, and then implicitly blames the consequences of their mistake on the people who had to deal with the fallout from it, I think it’s entirely reasonable for people to decide to leave. I think it’s entirely reasonable for people to decide to support organizations that demonstrate that they are capable of thinking critically about issues they aren’t already directly invested in. That is, after all, the whole point of having a skeptic movement in the first place.

    Apologizing is not hard. CFI is not being held to an unreasonable standard. If they can’t meet that standard, then there are other organizations that can and will do better that deserve our support more than they do.

    • baal

      “No one has said that CFI is irredeemable.” But, in reality, non-profits who lose a sizable percentage of their support and have donations dry up don’t recover. Own the possible range of impacts of your choices.

      • ResearchToBeDone

        I didn’t mean “They will do fine without this support”, I meant “They can get the majority of the support back easily”.

        • baal

          I don’t think it’s anywhere near easy to regain reputation – particularly since skepticon has disassociated. that’s not a small statement (how big is the hole you need to dig out of?)

    • perplexed

      Of course CFI can think critically. They made a well thought out decision how to respond and executed that strategy. They knew people would disengage and that was part of their calculus. You can disagree with whether the strategy will prevail but they thought the money and support they lost would be minimal to their mission and they’re probably right.

    • Fey Wyndom

      This sounds like something from the pulpit, “If they will just renounce the devil and admit their sins they will be admitted into the Kiiiingdom of Heeev’n!” Scary!

  • Kim

    ” And Ron’s welcoming of Vacula was almost certainly Ron being his usual inclusive, diplomatic self,….”

    Given the circumstances, the occasion and the audience, nothing could have been further from diplomatic, and for someone with his background and experience to do such a thing argues strongly for him being deliberately provocative.

    I think you are taking the concept of charity way too far. If Lindsay had held his hands up and admitted that he had got it wrong with his speech, none of this would be happening. But he compounded the error by his subsequent actions – skipping the fundraising dinner; attacking RW; and doubling down on his argument – reinforcing the view that he held the conference and its attendees in contempt. It is a perfectly reasonable conclusion arrived at from a wealth of evidence.

    You invoke Lindsay’s character, experience, qualifications and previously known positions to defend his actions but it is these very things that make the case against him. With all that behind him, how could he possibly make such a speech, and follow it up the way he did, and not be totally aware of what he was doing? He’s not a wet behind the ears naïve novice. It may well be a bit of a leap to get to Greta’s position that he didn’t care about treating people with contempt, but it’s a perfectly understandable and justifiable one.

    CFI’s tardy and wholly inadequate response was also totally contemptuous, and contemptible.

    You are just wrong on this, JT.

    • Ace_of_Sevens

      He didn’t welcome Vacula in the speech. Vacula came up and asked if he was welcome, then tried to play this up to get people to fight.

      • John-Henry Eric Beck

        I haven’t seen any clear statement on the exact circumstances of the welcoming of Vacula. But even the most generous possibility, that he was standing around welcoming anyone who came up and had no idea who Vacula was, doesn’t help him much. Lindsay hasn’t stepped up to say so, for one thing. For another there was concern voiced to CFI ahead of time about Vacula as a harasser and troublemaker, so there’s good reason Lindsay should have had some idea who he was.

        • athyco

          I’ll agree with your evaluation generally but can still find good reason not to continue adding this incident into the mix. Justin Vacula has less compunction than I (and most anyone I know of outside the 8th grade) against setting up “Let’s you and him fight!” with elided truth. He had opportunity to flesh out the circumstances on a broadcast later that day. His not explaining until after the “Lindsay welcomed Vacula but not us” message had spread is part of his pattern. Even if the conclusion reached is not inaccurate for the previous account given, he likes to frame it as “jumping to conclusions.”

      • PZ Myers

        Errm, I saw Melody Hensley welcome Vacula — but it was because she was standing at the entrance to the conference, welcoming EVERYONE. She was being diplomatic and fair, and no one faults her for that at all (Vacula did try to play it up in a tweet, but the rest of us saw it as no big deal.) She welcomed me, she was shaking hands and hugging swarms of people, it’s what the conference organizer does.

        The catch is that Lindsay did none of that. He was aloof from the proceedings. He gave a welcome speech in which he weirdly announced that he wasn’t welcoming us, and the only exception of his distancing attitude was that he took time out to welcome Vacula. If it was entirely prompted by Vacula himself, which wouldn’t surprise me, it alleviates some of the peculiarity of that exception, but it doesn’t change the fact that he was distracted and disinterested from the rest of us.

  • Improbable Joe


    You may know and like Ron Lindsay, but you’re an insider and that colors your perspective. From an outsider’s view, Lindsay has been treating people with contempt since the whole “open letter” nonsense in April. He’s also been using slymepit/MRA framing when addressing feminism and specific people within the movement. From a ‘non-friend’ viewpoint, there’s no reason to believe that Lindsay and I share the values that are important to me. After all, half of the slymepit claims to be feminists too.

    • ool0n

      “After all, half of the slymepit claims to be feminists too.”
      No Joe, more like 90+% according to a poll they did. Thing is Metalogic took the same poll to AVfM and was dismissed by Dean Esmay who said by the Slymepit definition of “feminism” 90+% of AVfM readers would be “feminist” as well… Says it all really.

  • Ian Cromwell


    The TL/DR version of my reaction can be roughly summed up thusly: “

    So if you want to stop there, you can and probably should, because I’m about to get into the weeds in a very spammalicious way.

    “I do not always agree with Al…or Greta, or Rebecca, or Amanda. But in spite of my disagreements, I like them all.”

    This IS the crux of your argument, and it is a very silly crux. The fact that you like someone is utterly irrelevant to whether or not the thing they are currently doing is right or wrong. The issue at stake isn’t people’s fuzzy feels about each other, it’s about the thing that is currently happening.

    “But sometimes people believed to be wrong/uninformed by feminists are treated as though they’re contemptuous of feminism rather than just ill-informed of it.”

    If I could I would forcibly take this hoary trope out behind the woodshed and end its miserable existence with the blade of a good shovel. Yes, sometimes people get mad at others when they say stupid stuff. USUALLY, however, that is after a long and repeated insistence on the person SAYING the stupid stuff in repeating the stupid stuff and defending it and saying it isn’t stupid and that everyone else is wrong and needs to just calm down and be rational. And then yes, people get angry because they’re being “managed” instead of being listened to. The problem is not with feminists for getting angry.

    As someone who DOES talk about this stuff on a regular basis, I understand what it is like to get that blowback. Yes, it does suck. But there is a constructive and useful way to respond to that blowback, and neither you, Ron, nor CFI has apparently figured that out.

    “And many of those people are often quick to throw out “privilege” as the entirety of their argument. Ron is correct to be worried about this and Rebecca is correct to affirm it. For anybody worried about keeping our allies, this is very worrisome.”

    This is just the feminism version of the “black people play the race card too often” meme, mixed in with some concern trolling. I find it “very worrisome” that Ron thought this was worth mentioning to a group of people who he has no reason to suspect engage in this behaviour. I find it “very worrisome” that you think this was the appropriate venue for that discussion. When Ron goes to a general skeptic’s conference and talks about how “worrisome” it is that skeptics use bottled phrases and regurgitated arguments instead of reasoning things through (a behaviour I see WAY more often than feminists misapplying arguments about privilege), then I will accept this as Ron just being super concerned about stuff.

    “I don’t see how one reaches the conclusion that Ron didn’t care if he treated the attendees of a conference his organization went to great lengths to put on with contempt, and not that he is simply not sold on the idea that he treated them with contempt.”

    1: hey, that thing you said was really contemptuous
    2: what about it was contemptuous?
    1: here’s a list of reasons
    2: well I’m simply not sold on the idea
    1: are you going to respond to the criticisms?
    2: no.

    And that’s how you get to the conclusion that he doesn’t care.

    “But this is being translated as the CFI not representing and pursuing equality, not that their CEO with a history of working towards equality failed to get it right on this one occasion.”

    This is a gross misrepresentation of the issue and what people are saying about it. This is not a “we have always been at war with Eastasia” situation. It is a “the Eastasians are being jerks right now, and if that’s how they’re going to behave then we’re going to have to do something about it” situation.

    “The CFI clearly wants to help. Ron Lindsay clearly wants to help.”

    The ‘clearly’ part is SELF-EVIDENTLY false. If it was clear, there wouldn’t be a problem. I don’t see them as ‘wanting to help’, I see them as ‘wanting the issue to go away’. Not the same thing.

    “To the feminist movement, I know you’ve endured a ton, but please try to exhibit more patience…”

    Gosh, I can’t imagine how anyone could confuse you with a mansplainer.

    “Surely nobody thinks that ideas for improvement, even if you don’t agree with them, are condescending”

    I do. The act of suggesting an idea and the act of condescending are not opposites – it’s quite common for someone to do both. See Rand Paul at Howard University.

    “If that makes me an enemy, so be it”

    There are useful things we can do with the wood from that cross if you’ll kindly climb off of it.

    “It’s unfortunate that they can have swords drawn at each other while the true enemies of equality watch on.”

    I’m going to need a second shovel for this one.

    Overall my problem is this: you’ve decided that the blame is on feminists for being too angry, and that it would be “more productive” if they would just give people the benefit of the doubt more often. This is not a novel argument. While the vast majority of feminists (and those who argue for social justice) actually DO the specific behaviour you say you wish they would do, you’ve decided that because you got blown back, it’s EVERYONE ELSE’S fault for not recognizing your sincere desire to help. You don’t consider it possible, at least not in this piece, that “wanting to help” and “helping” are sometimes at cross purposes, and that those who have been at it for a while are quite practiced at distinguishing between the two. People are also pretty good at distinguishing between ally behaviour and the behaviour of social justice carpet-baggers.

    If your point was that you don’t think a boycott of CFI is warranted, make THAT case. Talk about the need to support the organization’s members. Talk about how the individual staff don’t necessarily agree with the board, and how they are working from within to change the organization. Talk about how people rely on CFI for quite a bit, and that there are different ways to protest (maybe suggest one). But you didn’t talk about any of those. Instead you went into a series of digressions about how the problem is that people aren’t being charitable enough.

    You also managed to stress how much you totally respect Greta without addressing one sentence of her argument, which is a pretty impressive feat.

    I still like you, JT, but I think the thing you are currently doing is wrong.

    • mythbri

      Crom, your parallels with the conversations that are typically held in the context of anti-racism are spot on, and I think really help to clarify the issue here.

    • perplexed

      I don’t think what you identified as the crux of his post was his main point at all but it does in fact identify the blindness of bias folks bring to the debate.

      • Ian Cromwell

        “The disclaimer above gets into the crux of why this post is being written”

        Yes, the blindness of the bias, also known as “reading”.

        • perplexed

          And herein lies the rub…the personal attack. What a hero.

          • Sally Strange

            Please try to understand that “you’re speaking from a position of privilege” is not a personal attack but rather an explanation for why you are wrong about a specific issue, i.e., an issue that involves privileged and marginalized people interacting with each other.

    • Sally Strange

      If your point was that you don’t think a boycott of CFI is warranted,
      make THAT case. Talk about the need to support the organization’s
      members. Talk about how the individual staff don’t necessarily agree
      with the board, and how they are working from within to change the
      organization. Talk about how people rely on CFI for quite a bit, and
      that there are different ways to protest (maybe suggest one). But you
      didn’t talk about any of those. Instead you went into a series of
      digressions about how the problem is that people aren’t being charitable

      Agreed. When I saw the headline, I was expecting an essay that went more or less along the lines of, “Yes, Lindsay really messed up, but CFI is still worth supporting for reasons X, Y, Z…”

      Not a long disclaimer preceding a half-hearted attempt to validate Lindsay’s original point, which was basically tone-trolling feminists.

    • Ace_of_Sevens

      The idea that feminist boards sometimes abuse people who stumble into their spaces or onto their issues without much background knowledge is true. You’ve seen seen, JT’s seen it. We all have. The mistake people make is thinking this is somehow unique to feminism. Go onto an audio forum and say there’s no difference between $20 & $1500 loudspeakers or onto a gaming forum and say you don’t see what the big deal is about free-to-play and you’ll get a couple people who are just as abusive and angry.

      This isn’t a characteristic of feminists. It’s a characteristic of impatient people, who you find all over the place. Feminism is just more likely to get blamed than other group affiliations.

    • Edward Gemmer

      “The issue at stake isn’t people’s fuzzy feels about each other, it’s about the thing that is currently happening.”

      There’s a word for that. As Bunk would say, Shiiiiiiiiit.

      This entire controversy is about fuzzy feelings. Ron Lindsay said some thing and maybe they weren’t really wrong or maybe not really against feminism and may not really against women, but goddammit a bunch of people there felt bad after he talked and so he should apologize or quit. This whole thing is about fuzzy feelings and how people felt after he talked. The response to CFI is absolutely tone-trolling. Own it and call it what it is and don’t try and pretend it’s about some substantive debate about feminism. It ain’t.

      There’s no debate here. Some people got their feelings hurt and they want an apology and if they don’t get it they are taking their ball and going home. The end.

      • Bernard Rieux

        “Sheee-iiiit” isn’t Bunk Moreland, it’s Clay Davis. Major (and notably telling) fail.

        • Edward Gemmer

          Good point. My Wire stuff is outdated. Though I always laugh when someone says something is “telling.” Like, what does this extremely limited amount of data tell you?

      • sinmantyx

        Yes, because all of the responses to his talk, his blog post, his skipping a fund raising dinner to write his blog post, and him personally welcoming Justin Vacula must have been written while those ladies were on the rag.


        I mean, it’s not like Justin Vacula responded to a request to be left alone with a blog post about how he should be entitled to go anywhere he wants; or that he joked about how a picture of a woman being kicked in the groin (essentially a joke about the infamous “cunt punt”) and her breast clawed at and twisted as she bent over in pain, posted to his facebook wall, would annoy that person.

        Oh wait – that totally happened.

        Did you read Rebecca Watson’s initial criticism of Lindsay’s talk? It was all about how she was a sad sad panda.

        Oh wait – it totally wasn’t.

    • disqus_stztYvLFPm

      upvote x100 million

    • ModVAVet

      JT, I know you don’t know me, but I like you, too, and I fully agree with everything Ian (who also doesn’t know me) said above. What criticisms you see here, please take with a grain of salt, and know that they’re mostly not against you as a person. Just take them seriously, and think about it, and stop reading for a bit if you find yourself getting upset.

    • Andy The Nerd

      JT: if you want to be The Ally Whisperer, then *be The Ally Whisperer* and get on with your bad self already instead of this mansplainstragavagnza.

  • Shanon Nebo

    I loved this, and it said everything that has been creeping around in the back of my mind since this whole thing happened. Thanks so much for the time and care you took in writing this. I really, really appreciate it.

  • Peter Ferguson

    I’m not going to comment on the Ron Lindsay issue as I find myself in agreement with you JT. However, I find it quite ridiculous that you had to precede what can only be described as mild criticism with a disclaimer. I perfectly understand why you had to do it though, but it speaks volumes of the current state of the atheosphere that one can’t offer mild criticism without being lumped into other groups who may have also offered criticism, or worse, lumped in with those who have only made personal attacks and harassed people.

    But are we going to submit these association fallacies and precede every post with a disclaimer or are we going to start tackling the issue of people unfairly grouping people into homogeneous groups?

    • Sam

      “the atheosphere”

      No. Just no. Stop that right now.

      • RhubarbTheBear

        Okay, what’s a better term?

        • Sam

          “The atheist movement,” as Peter has said, already describes this.

          Nevermind that I disagree with the implication that one can’t object to something without having a ready-made alternative at hand.

      • Peter Ferguson

        Yeah. Just say stop. Don’t explain what is wrong or offer alternatives or anything useful.

        There is no set term to describe the atheist movement, people don’t even like the word movement. But for sake of brevity and simply trying to convey what I was trying to say, surely I can use “atheosphere”. Surely it is not such a big horrible no-no.

        • Sam

          Not only is it a very silly word, and not a real word, it’s also confusing. It practically begs for association with “blogosphere,” which seems not to have been your intention.

          Why not simply say “the atheist movement,” if that’s what you meant? It’s hardly worth the time to create shorthand if you must then spend even more time explaining the shorthand than you saved by not using the established phrase.

          • Peter Ferguson

            I have gotten my hand bitten off me for using atheist movement too. But I understand what you are saying.

          • Sam

            I’m sorry I was short with you. That was unkind.

            I’ve just got a bit of a perhaps-irrational dislike of people making up new words when they could be using words that already exist and adequately cover the concept.

          • Edward Gemmer

            You must hate Dr. Seuss.

  • Rebecca Hensler

    JT, the counselor in me agrees with much of what you have said. In fact, I have publicly stated that what this situation needs is a Restorative Circle (google it) including Ron, the CFI board, Melody, and as many speakers from the conference as possible. Everyone needs to be heard and to know they are being heard, and Ron needs to apologize. This meeting would be facilitated by someone secular but not involved; the Humanist community includes many who are qualified.

    To me, listening and apologizing are at the crux of this issue; that is where Greta, Lauren and others are drawing a line. It is one thing to make a mistake. It is another thing to refuse to apologize. And it is a third for the leadership of an organization to publicly state — whether actively or passively — that an apology is unnecessary.

    Ron is the only one who can break this impasse. To do so would require two acts: 1) Listening face to face to the concerns and anger of women involved with the conference and 2) Acknowledging and apologizing for his mistake.

    The best thing that those (like yourself, JT) who understand both sides and have friends on both sides can do is encourage this outcome.

    • mikmik


      • perplexed

        I would have agreed to this common sense approach a year or so ago but not now. There is a point of saturation that demands separation because goals and dialogue have changed the paradigm. We’re there.

    • JTEberhard

      I am all for encouraging that outcome.

    • SleeZee Lyers

      CFI clearly doesn’t believe it made a mistake.

      Are feminists able to accept, “sorry, but we disagree, but we want to keep communicating?” for an answer? it doesn’t seem so. It seems their response has been of the form, we demand you accept blame, we demand you apologize, and we demand a firing.

      I am genuinely curious, because sometimes we all face this, what would you recommend doing or saying if a person demanded an apology from you for something you felt you were absolutely in the right about? Especially if you felt any apology would only encourage them to demand more in the future?

      • athyco

        Yet their six-sentence statement does not “clearly” make that assertion. Perhaps they know that if it did, there’d be more defections?

        There is no monolith of feminists, so you can stop with a singular “their response has been.” You can also stop with the and in your list of so-called demands.

        If I demanded an apology from someone who felt absolutely in the right to refuse it, I’d judge based on my ability to fulfill my goals (which they shared) elsewhere. I’d judge on how much more difficult my work would be if I communicated with them with the new status quo that had been reached. I’d have the right to stay with the organization and work from within. I’d have the right to work elsewhere and talk elsewhere.

        Have you forgotten that Ron Lindsay, in his talk to WiS2, mentioned core freedoms? Along with freedom of speech, he added freedom of conscience and freedom of association. I’d make use of them, and since they’re my rights, I’d consider but not be ruled by an organization that wanted me to think of its desire to associate with me. Nor would I allow someone else’s frustration about getting along to rule my conscience.

        • SleeZee Lyers

          “Yet their six-sentence statement does not “clearly” make that assertion. Perhaps they know that if it did, there’d be more defections?”

          Their statement was indeed vague. What we know is they didn’t apologize, they said they looked forward to communicating more in the future, and that they respected everyone involved.

          Read between the lines: That is “no, we disagree with you on this issue, but we hope to keep working together.”

          I am not CFI, my guess, based on experience with the assholes at FTB, SkepChick, and feminists around, is they believed coming out with that direct statement would cause an even greater shitstorm and fan the flames.

          No monolith of feminists is true in and of itself, but you do yourself no credit in intellectual honesty to not understand what I mean, FTB, SkepChick, Salon, Slate, The Guardian, and even Tumblr.

          Just look at any of those sources, at Marcotte, Benson, Christina, Myers, Watson, etc., and you’ll a pretty unified response: demanding an apology and a firing.

          • athyco

            That is “no, we disagree with you on this issue, but we hope to keep working together.”

            And as Ron Lindsay stated in his WiS2 talk, two core freedoms–association and conscience–allow for anyone to say to your between-lines conjecture: “No, we disagree enough on this issue to work with other organizations that have the same goals as yours but add goals that we also find important.”

            I can’t speak for every outlet and network on your list, but I can shoot down “monolith” right away with FTB. There are FTB feminist bloggers and readers who are not breaking ties with CFI.

            Finally, you cannot quote any of the people you list–Marcotte, Benson, Christina, Myers, Watson–demanding an apology and a firing. You don’t want to damage your credit in intellectual honesty by saying such things without the evidence.

          • SleeZee Lyers

            Just as historians, linguists, researchers of all kinds read texts and interpret their meanings, the underlying message of the Bensons, Marcottes, Watsons, Myers, etc. is pretty damn crystal clear.

            It shows how far off the skeptic tree feminists have fallen to disingenuously claim there has been no call for his firing.

            Fine be feminists. Just stop calling yourself skeptics. You clearly ain’t.

          • SleeZee Lyers

            The Marcotte open letter clearly demands an apology from CFI and a firing of Lindsay.


          • athyco

            From your link:

            He [Ron Lindsay] outraged the mainstream supporters of his organization in order to placate a few fringe characters. I’ve already seen, for instance, the popular comedian Jamie Kilstein withdraw his support from CFI over this. I myself am considering doing so if Lindsay does not resign, or at least apologize.

            “Clearly,” you say? Ending with those four words? While I was there getting this quote, I put “resign” and “fire” and “firing” into Ctrl+F. There’s nothing else there.

            There has been no argument with any statement that says “published feminists have been calling for an apology or resignation or firing. But if you want to say that they’ve all said apology and resignation or firing, that’s ridiculous.

            I can call myself a skeptic all I like because my version of skepticism means reading the actual words rather than digging for the “underlying message.”

            First rule of holes. Stop digging.

          • ool0n

            I don’t think they actually read these letters, so many assertions that “they demanded his head”, so little evidence.

          • athyco

            There’s a patented Convenience Meter Reader. :)

            Its algorithms include the probability of the original source being checked, comparison of text for a false equivalence level with particular situations, and ease of eliding/misinterpretation. Send it through the CMR, feed it to folks like Slee, and Bob’s yer uncle.

      • Rebecca Hensler

        First of all, I have not seen feminist demands for a firing. I have seen and heard feminists express the hope that either of the following two events will occur:

        1. Ron will apologize on his own behalf and without pressure from the CFI board.

        2. The CFI board will require Ron to apologize, which would make it clear that whether or not Ron was himself sorry for his statement, it does not represent the organization and the board regrets that he made it as CFI’s representative.

        Secondly, my proposal is a discussion in which a party or parties may or may not choose to apologize for their actions and may or may not offer to make amends, following an open and honest conversation about what happened and how it affected all involved. In this conversation, one or more parties might state that an apology would help move the conflict toward resolution, This is different from “Demanding an apology.”

        As for myself, it is hard to imagine not having some regrets about having made a statement that caused this much conflict, stress, and distraction from the overall success of an event sponsored by an organization of which I was the head. I think it is possible for Ron to acknowledge that it was inappropriate to make such a statement — even when it does represent his personal views — in the context of a introductory speech at a conference including so many speakers with strong and diverse opinions and feelings on the issue.

        • SleeZee Lyers

          “First of all, I have not seen feminist demands for a firing. I have seen and heard feminists express the hope that either of the following two events will occur:”

          “To continue supporting CFI, I would like to feel that they are being run by a leader who knows what he’s doing. I do not have that confidence in Ron Lindsay.”

          There is no way to read Marcotte’s open letter as anything other than a call for his firing.

          I truly don’t understand how you can claim otherwise and call yourself either a skeptic, a rationalist, or intellectually honest.

          • Observer

            Well, there is that part where she writes, “I myself might consider withdrawing my support unless he resigns…” and that might be construed as a demand that he be fired. Except that she then adds…”or at least apologizes.” So your claim that there is no other way to read her letter is demonstrably false. The letter is more nuanced than you claim.

            An apology OR a firing, is not the same as the “apology AND a firing” you explicitly claimed a few posts back.

          • SleeZee Lyers

            Well I credit you with one thing: while Hensler says no feminist ever called for his firing, you at least admit feminists did call for his firing, just not both his firing AND an apology.

            So what we have left then is your agreement there was a demand if he doesn’t apologize he must be fired, which brings me back to my question above,

            What should an organization do if they disagree with a group, and do not feel an apology is in order?

            And my question, can feminists be satisfied with a statement “we disagree on this, let’s continue to talk”?

            On the other hand, I doubt your reasoning that Marcotte demand either/or passes anything but a very strict non-semantic parse.

            Especially when you consider the main and repeated themes of the letter:

            A) he offended
            B) she cannot support CFI
            C) he is a bad leader
            D) she will boycott CFI and encourage others to de-fund them (in a “nice neighborhood shame if something were to happen to it” comparison to Susan G. Komen.)

            Add to it her tweets


            I spoke to several dozen people last night, and every one had the same point: they cannot support CFI if @RALindsay stays as leader.


            I will be blunt: If the secularist movement continues to support Ron Lindsay, I will publicly write them off as irrelevant.

            Add to that that others understood exactly what she was saying:

            Chris Clarke of Pharyngula make it crystal clear what this was about was a firing


            Dear Skeptics Movement: Yes, nonprofits really do fire executive directors for that kind of thing. Sincerely, the real world.

            Take all of that together, notice the conclusion is a clear statement that Marcotte demanded his firing.

            Perhaps not his firing AND his apology, just his firing.

            Since she only mentions apology once, in a subordinate clause, as a throwaway, and runs the ouster campaign across twitter and rawstory for days, it’s clear what her real demand is.

          • athyco

            You know, the more you post, the more I forget that there’s a person you’re supposed to be slapping at with your screen name and the more I determine that you deserve it all to yourself. Thank you for that, actually.

            Let’s say Amanda had been eavesdropping and heard the CFI Board secretary say, “We’re going to vote on our options: (1) a noncommittal corp-speak statement, (2) an apology from Ron, (3) a censure of Ron, (4) requesting a resignation from Ron, or (5) firing Ron.”

            I’d be willing to have her secretly write down what her top two of these five choices would be, then I’d BET MONEY on them. So the fuck what?

            The fact that her writing left open that she’d accept two of the other three choices means that your “take all of that together” conclusion is bullshit.

          • SleeZee Lyers

            Apologize OR I call for your firing does not an apology make.

            Apologize OR I call for your firing does not get people to apologize, it gets people fired.

            Apologize OR I call for your firing or similar was common in Soviet Russia, China, similar, where it was “Recant or be thrown into the camps”.

          • athyco

            Look, SleeZee, there are conventions to the language.

            “Recant or be thrown into the camps” came from someone with the power to throw you into the damn camps. None of those who said “We’ll accept an apology or a censure/resignation/firing” had the power to force an apology/censure/require resignation/fire Ron Lindsay.

            Without the necessary power, the choices given are voluntary for the other party–even to the point of making “none of these” one of the choices!

            SleeZee, look deep into my font. Now…type “I, SleeZee, am desperately trying to cover my naked lack of understanding with increasingly outrageous claims.” OR never post here again.

            Let’s see what potent power I have in making my demands. *twirls moustache end* Muwhahahahahahaha!

          • sinmantyx

            Thanks for not Godwinning this – other historical atrocities just don’t get enough hyperbolic offensively inane usage.

        • Rebecca Hensler

          SZL, You seem to want to fight about who has said what in this conflict, rather than discuss my proposal of a manner in which the conflict might be resolved. Perhaps you should start a new thread of comments addressing that topic, as your comments neither critique nor add to my proposal.

      • sinmantyx

        Some have called for firing – but only as individuals. No organization or open letter with more than one signature does that.

        The letter that was signed by several of the conference speakers did not seek a firing. This is how they concluded their letter:

        “At a minimum, Ron Lindsay owes us, his staff and volunteers, and the people who paid to attend his organization’s conference an apology that demonstrates that he understands the harm he has caused and commits to repair the damage. Anything less will make it difficult, if not impossible, for us to continue to support CFI the way we have in the past. While we support CFI’s work, we are not willing to be abused or see others abused to see that work go forward.”

        This is what Secular Woman’s statement was:

        They asked for:

        “Secular Woman is hopeful that Dr. Lindsay and/or the CFI Board of Directors will offer a formal, complete, and deserved apology and retraction to Secular Woman and secular women and feminists* regarding his “welcome” statement and later blog comments. We trust that Dr. Lindsay and the CFI Board will now, and in the future, actively demonstrate their intolerance of all who harass, threaten, bully, and work to silence women and feminists. Finally, Secular Woman seeks open and honest in-person dialogue regarding women, feminism, and the secular community with the CFI Board of Directors.”

        And I know of no-one that even hinted at a firing before he responded to criticism the way he did.

        • SleeZee Lyers

          Thank you. I accept that about Secular Woman, but the claim has been that feminists have not called for his firing, not Secular Woman.

          Marcotte isn’t just some random blogger.

          • athyco

            Damn, you still won’t admit that resignation or firing were just options for some feminists. OPTIONS.

            The claim has never been that some feminists have not called for his firing as one possible OPTION.

            Here’s a claim you can’t rebut: No feminist individual or group within the pool of secular/humanist/feminist has called for Ron Lindsay’s firing without including the lesser option of an apology.

          • SleeZee Lyers

            Apologize or I’ll get you and your little dog Toto too is not a call for apology.

            It is a threat.

            And just step back and look at how overqualified you had to make your claim, a far cry from “no feminists ever called for his firing”.

          • athyco

            Oh, kiss my aspirin bottle full of shifting sand.

            SleeZee, you’re mellllllting. Here’s a hint. There is no threat without any power.

            I wish this were happening on Twitter so that I could storify it. Would you consider linking it to the Slymepit or somewhere on SkepticInk to show them how you’re doing, SleeZee?

          • Fey Wyndom

            Sounds to me like all the authoritarian melodrama we heard from the pulpit growing up, “Renounce the Devil (Lindsey) and ask for forgiveness or you will be sent directly to HELLFIRE!!”

          • sinmantyx

            Or – be reasonable, communicate in a diplomatic way, and don’t double-down on your mistakes – or you will be sent directly to being disagreed with and have to deal with harsh criticism.

            If you do a REALLY bad job at what your job is, people will tell you. If you don’t seem to care that you did a bad job at what your job is, it might annoy people.

            THE HUMANITY.

          • Fey Wyndom

            By reasonable, you mean, agree with you? See the world you the way you do? I agree, just as everyone does, that Lindsey was in-artful in places in his speech. But, I know a lot of men in the atheist movement that are scared shitless to speak or get involved at all in feminist issues. Because no matter what they say, they will be heard through bitter ears (just as Dillahunty mentioned above) Poor JT waded in (hi JT!) to speak his conscience and now he is wrong as well.

          • athyco

            JT has every right to speak and behave as his conscience dictates. He has been disagreed with, but he’s not had that disagreement presented wrathfully nor has it been without explanation.

            There are a number of places where feminist issues are discussed with a commenting policy in place. If the men you know in the atheist movement can’t find them for themselves, then you–with their best interest at heart–can find those places for them.

            If you truly believe there exists at this time a “no matter what they say” problem, then you–with their best interest at heart–can develop one for them. Surely you know other women who’d gently discuss feminism with these men.

            And as your gentle discussion continued, it could be linked to for its unique status would certainly make it noteworthy. More people would comment; others would ask to guest post; you’d find some among the comment sections that you’d ask to guest post.

            You could be famous, Fey.

          • Fey Wyndom

            I hear you that policies are in place. I think that is wonderful, but as Dillahunty discovered, reactionary vitriol is often the reaction. And and Ed Clint has discovered, quote mining and shaming have been used by respected atheist feminists in the movement. I really appreciate your kind words. I believe that humanism, compassion, and patience will eventually make collaborators with current enemies, I just hate to watch the cannibalization.

          • sinmantyx

            So – what – they can’t take criticism? Seriously?

            I mean *actual* criticism not the abuse that is sometimes called “criticism” that feminists tend to get?

            I went ROUNDS with some guy that uses “feminine” to mean the same things as “irrational” and “unconscious”.

            I didn’t block him and barely got terse with him.


            However, there are people who *claim to be egalitarians* that I don’t want to be in the same room with and would never approve a comment by them on my blog if they simply wanted to say they liked kittens.

            The big LIE and I think that it’s being believed WAY too much – is that people that are getting the ass-end of a stick from many feminists are on their shit-list because of disagreement about topics of interest.

            They aren’t.

            If you don’t LIE or refuse to honestly engage or hang out with people that run websites with a “Blame this [rape] Victim” segment (and not have a problem with that) or make up sexist nicknames for people like “Twatson” or perhaps you don’t SHUT UP about *self defense* in a comment thread about an F*ING gang rape even when it is explained to you multiple times that what you are doing is inappropriate….


            Dillahunty had a conflict with a moderator on the A+ forums (someone I know personally actually – by weird coincidence) and they eventually worked it out for the most part.

            I am a big Dillahunty fan – and I am still a friend to the person he had a conflict with. Is that so hard to believe that I’m not some weird exception?!

            I swear I’m starting to think that people are JUST SO unaccustomed to women (and by extension feminists of other genders – who are many times accused of being feminized by anti-feminists) being assertive about their opinions that any disagreement, any criticism, is seen as angry screaming?

            I mean, is there some weird filter that adds “you misogynist piece of shit” at the end of every paragraph they write? Cause if that’s what’s going on in people’s heads that would make some sense.

            I mean, with the whole crap with Thunderf00t before he really really went off the rails; If you read the criticisms of his first post, the nastiest thing that was said about it was that the POST (not even Thunderf00t himself) was “clueless”. Then he went on some self-fulfilling persecution complex marathon of ridiculous – because he couldn’t frickin’ handle not being agreed with.

            IRONY ALERT.

            Nobody, that I’m aware of used “Misogynist” to describe TF until well after his *MISOGYNIST* post – though I think calling Rebecca Watson “Rebecca Rape Threat Watson” got him that great honor by somebody or other.

            With this backdrop – seriously – how the F did Ron Lindsay think that giving a lecture on making sure feminists don’t tell other people to be quiet and listen (based, we find out later, on a misinterpretation of an activists 101 phrase about making sure you actually interact and speak with members of the groups you seek to be allies with) and then when this is pointed out to him he chooses (among all the people who were annoyed by his speech) to target Rebecca Watson – who has endured some f*ing horrible shit – and EMBOLDEN her hate-posse by falling into their idiotic talking points about “those people” being totalitarian crazy-pants Borg or something.

            Reading his response to her blog post about his speech made me curious if he even read it.

            At least, to his credit, he apologized about that bit.

          • sinmantyx

            Sorry – that post made little sense. Sleep I must.

          • sinmantyx

            With respect, that is true.

            One SW member absolutely called for Lindsay to be fired:

            There were a lot of letters written to the Board and it’s fair to say that at least a few of them called for firing. Trust me, there was a wide range of response – well NONE positive – but a range.


            The counter-claim is simply best re-framed as, “There may have been a few individuals calling for Ron to step down, but there was never a campaign insisting that he be fired. In fact, there wasn’t one then and there isn’t one now.”

            Asking for dialog and/or an apology was the face of all organized responses. However, that fact doesn’t fit into the “witch hunt” narrative.

            Oh – and about that witch hunt narrative:

            Of course the problem is that if feminists become upset about something or someone’s actions – it really doesn’t matter what they are upset about this side of getting acid in the face or having their genitals mutilated. Someone will force their concern into a “hysterical woman” or “professional victim” accusation.

            The real question is “What level of crap should we expect women to take before we refrain from punishing them for responding?”

            That’s been the question for the last two years or so.

          • athyco

            I guess we’ll show SleeZee how to clarify and get on the same page with others, sinmantyx.

            Yes, I will agree with all of your comment. Except for a blanket “that is true” about feminists calling only (I believe you used “absolutely”) for a firing. SleeZee has already set the bounds on the pool of feminists he’s talking about–the prominent ones.

            Just look at any of those sources, at Marcotte, Benson, Christina, Myers, Watson, etc., and you’ll a pretty unified response: demanding an apology and a firing.

            You and I and the undoubtedly inestimable Charles should be counted as the little people outside the line of his fire. :)

          • sinmantyx

            Oh yeah, that comment you quoted is absolutely bullshit.

      • PZ Myers

        You know, you don’t get to pretend to be the voice of moderation and reason while using that pseudonym — it marks you as a hateful crank who is just biding his time, waiting for a good opportunity to puke up some more hate.

        Every word you write is flagged as the work of a spiteful fraud. Thanks for helping out with that!

        • SleeZee Lyers

          Oh PeeZus, you are your own greatest enemy. And perhaps the ruination of the modern atheist and skeptic movement.

          Hateful crank? Spiteful fraud? Puke up hate?


          • ool0n

            Yeah sleazy liar describes this commenter very well as evidenced in this thread. Doesn’t really matter his nym is a childish joke, that’s just icing on top.

          • sinmantyx


            Is that seriously a word?

          • Feminerd

            It is a real word, but it is somewhat archaic. More modern parlance is “… the ruin of the modern atheist movement …”

            1. the act or state of ruining or the state of being ruined.
            2. something that ruins.

          • SleeZee Lyers

            Thanks, I’ll note that, and I am hopeful to have more coffee in me next time I use ruination so I can use the more modern parlance.

          • sinmantyx

            You just said “parlance”.

          • Feminerd

            To be fair, I used it first :/

            EDIT: I don’t like what SleeZee is saying and I don’t agree with it. It just doesn’t make sense to get mad at him for this particular, totally OT issue when there are so many valid reasons.

          • sinmantyx

            That’s true.

            This is my I’ve-lost-my-patience temperament. I’ll dial it back.

          • SleeZee Lyers

            I like that wmdkitty gave you an upvote for that, because it indicates there are lots of ignorant people around, not just you in this regard.

          • sinmantyx

            I’m saying things like that to you – because at this point I am not taking you seriously.

            You’ve misrepresented things by generalizing them unreasonably; and refused to acknowledge that when evidence to the contrary was presented.

            Then, you began insulting an individual and making accusations; that are on there very face not fair even if the conditions that you mentioned were true.

            For example, it is not “sucking on a teat” to be given speaker fees.

            This is sucking on a teat:

            Also, asserting that someone is the “ruination” of the modern atheist movement is unnecessary hyperbolic and meaningless – regardless of who you are aiming that accusation toward.

            So, I’ve decided that your best contribution here is teaching me neat words.


          • SleeZee Lyers

            It’s sucking on a teat to continuously take speaker fees from an organization, to say over the course of years that you are aligned with the values of the organization, but to never join the organization.

            It’s not just PZ, it extends to FTBullies, A+ Theism, SkepChicks, and the rest.

            And ruin of the modern atheist movement? It’s certainly been a huge drag on the movement for the past two years.

            You may think the naming of the enemy and the two minute hates serve a purpose, tell it to Emmanuel Goldstein.

          • sinmantyx

            Any other organizations with tens to hundreds of members that you want to hit with that paint your throwing around?

          • wmdkitty

            Oh, right, we’re “ignorant” because we had to actually go and look something up.


          • SleeZee Lyers

            No, you’re ignorant for upvoting sinmantyx’s comment when you clearly were just plain old wrong to do so.

            *rollseyes* shudders at feminist thought processes and feminist behaviors.

          • Feminerd

            <– Feminist. Somewhat radical feminist, if you put me in one of the schools of thought. Or do I count as "the token nice/reasonable one"?

          • SleeZee Lyers

            One one (mostly silly) topic we agreed. If you and I were to meet, we would probably agree on say, 85% of things.

            Just like outed misogynists like Ron Lindsay and you would probably agree on say, 85% of things too.

            It’s how feminists deal with the other 15%, with vitriol, salting of the earth, demands for firing, playing the victim card, saying simultaneously men aren’t oppressed and that feminism is the way to stop that oppression, redefining sexism such that women seemingly can never be sexist, believing in sky demons, being patronizing and condescending to women that disagree with feminist positions, claiming to be sex positive when you are really just being sex political, never taking responsibility for truly stupid things other feminists say by using No True Scotsman arguments, distorting studies, and I could go on and on, that might be where we differ. :)

          • sinmantyx


            The “outed misogynists”?!

            Do you really want to do this? Cause I can unpack that load of crap if you really want me to.

            However, people interested in a real conversation about a topic generally don’t start that conversation with a huge list of vague accusations toward a very large heterogeneous group of people.

            Seriously – I’m asking because otherwise I don’t want to waste my time.

            Edit: I’ll take it off this board if I address the huge lists of feminist sins.

          • SleeZee Lyers

            Whatever babe, do what you want. But I’d prefer you lay it on your boyfriend, because you’re boring as all get out.

          • sinmantyx

            I’ll take that as a “no”.

            Have a nice day.

          • Feminerd

            Except I don’t do any of those things. No one I know does any of those things. I haven’t seen it really happening in this case either.

            Ron Lindsay fucked up. He fucked up bad. He then compounded his fuckup by refusing to apologize for it- that’s when the shit hit the fan. I don’t consider it salting the earth or unnecessary vitriol to call for an apology when he told a bunch of feminist scholars not to sister-shame or privilege-silence, when they’re not doing that. It was extremely condescending; in a panel discussion, it might be appropriate, but not in a welcome speech. There’s no rebuttal to that, and it casts a pall over the whole thing when the welcome speaker says “you’re doing feminism wrong” to all the attendees and speakers. That’s … not welcoming.

            1) Can women be sexist? Oh yes. Gender essentialism is wrong no matter who does it or for what reason, and the modern feminist movement has been trying to get it out for awhile now, because we recognize that those Second Wave and early Third Wave thinkers were wrong about that. 2) Believing in sky demons? Gee, you just described every religious person ever. It’s not exactly unique to feminism. 3) Modern feminism also asserts that patriarchy is bad for both men and women, though clearly worse for women, and that the radical notion that people are people is the way to fix that. 4) Being patronizing to non-feminist women? Not a good thing, but one I can understand. It’s rough to have your eyes open and see people being willfully blind, and that frustration can manifest itself in condescension. It’s a terrible, terribly human reaction that is simultaneously understandable and unacceptable. 5) I don’t understand your sex positive = sex political statement. Please elaborate.

            6-7) No True Scotsman arguments and distorting studies are bad, whoever does them. I truly haven’t seen studies distorted by academic feminists, but I’m not truly in that scene, so I won’t assert it doesn’t happen. I will say that most studies I’ve seen, completely undistorted, support feminist contentions about what’s wrong with society’s gender expectations and some of the best ways to fix those problems.

          • SleeZee Lyers

            With respect, I’m only going to respond to one point, not because I agree or disagree on the other issues. I read what you wrote and mostly disagree, but you and both have better things to do today.

            Sex political is my label of what many feminists refer to as sex positive, in which when you look closely, they really aren’t sex positive, but instead examine all sex under the microscope of their feminist politics.

            So you get this, where sex positive Amanda Marcotte rails against women giving men 5 minute blow jobs in the kitchen.


            So read that, nod your head, agree with her, it’s all very wise and stick to the oppressive man, but then ask yourself,

            Would Amanda have felt the same way about one woman giving another woman oral sex in the kitchen? Or about one man giving another man oral sex in the kitchen?

            My guess is she would have cheered them on.

            And that’s what I mean sex political, where everyday, I see feminists taking the men bad, women good approach to everything including sex, never seeing their bias, and always with a good rationalization.

            But it’s a term I made up, and I am sure no one else has heard of it, so I did want to clarify that.

          • Nathan Hevenstone

            A quick note on that… I’ve finished reading both articles (had to dig a bit for Amanda’s original article as it wasn’t at the initial link provided in the response you linked to), and here’s my thought-process:

            a) I’d like to see empirical evidence that women’s sex drive basically goes extinct after having kids (as Ace seems to be claiming, though I could have misread). I’ve seen gobs of evidence suggesting otherwise.

            b) Blowjobs are inherently one-sided in pleasure… obviously. Out of curiosity, do the women who wrote that book offer a way for husbands to return the favor?

          • Feminerd

            So yeah, anyone who starts off by calling Amanda Marcotte a “harridan” isn’t going to be an unbiased observer. Ad hominem much? You should clearly double check your sources before posting them- the language of the article tells me what the content is likely to be, and it’s not likely to be content I agree with. The author further goes on to wonder “why no guy’s tried to lock down this particular catch with a diamond ring yet” and posts an unflattering photo of Ms. Marcotte, playing into the ‘all feminists are just frumpy, angry women who couldn’t catch husbands and don’t really have anything important to say’ marginalizing trope.

            As for that content- gee, Ms. Marcotte is saying that women shouldn’t feel forced into acts they may or may not like (I don’t like giving blowjobs myself, they taste icky) for the sole purpose of “getting their husbands off”. As she rightly points out, that’s the opposite of a sex-positive message. If a person wants to perform a sex act on another willing person, that’s one thing and totally yay! If a person feels forced to perform a sex act on another person, that’s completely unacceptable. The article actually makes fun of the idea that a woman’s sexual pleasure and desire matters and frames it as a matter of a wife’s ‘duty’ to her husband regardless of what she wants or likes. Seriously, what kind of maggot-brained, callous, without-the-sense-God-gave-a-flea (metaphorically speaking) ignoramus still thinks that’s accurate or acceptable? As even the author admits, Ms. Marcotte isn’t against the practice of enthusiastic, mutually agreeable blowjobs. She’s against the idea that women owe any sexual acts to their significant others; so am I. The fact that you posted this piece of dreck as your example of “sex political” says very, very bad things about you.

          • sinmantyx

            Really – the one poster raving against FtB, Skepchick, A+ and “feminists” – links a blatantly sexist article?

          • Feminerd

            I know, truly shocking. I may have to make my way over to my fainting couch.

          • sinmantyx
          • Feminerd


            And $400 in the US :(

          • sinmantyx

            That’s really not that bad of a price. I wonder what shipping might be.

            My cats would cause it’s ruination though.

          • Feminerd

            Oh it’s not a bad price at all. Just too much for me at this time- I’m in the middle of trying to find a house to buy, so all my money is tied up into “house”. And “refrigerator”. And “washing machine and dryer”. And “fix my husband’s car, again”.

          • sinmantyx

            Good luck with that. We’re buying soon as well.

            What a pleasant conversation. :)

          • Feminerd

            Indeed. Good luck on house-hunting!

          • sinmantyx

            Oh no – the couch is $2000. The shipping is $400. That sounds more reasonable.

            And now completely out of my price range.

          • Feminerd


          • wmdkitty

            If you need some pearls to clutch, you’re welcome to borrow mine.

          • SleeZee Lyers

            Ignore the shit from the blogger, just read Marcotte.

            I would have linked to Pandagon except Marcotte erased all of that old stuff — too embarrassing for her.

            “As she rightly points out, that’s the opposite of a sex-positive message.”

            Well if you believe that there is no need to give your lovers blow jobs because you think they are icky, you probably should not be calling yourself sex positive either.

            If you think no blowjobs *in the kitchen* because … oppression, than you’re certainly sex political.

            “The article actually makes fun of the idea that a woman’s sexual pleasure and desire matters and frames it as a matter of a wife’s ‘duty’ to her husband regardless of what she wants or likes. Seriously, what kind of maggot-brained, callous, without-the-sense-God-gave-a-flea (metaphorically speaking) ignoramus still thinks that’s accurate or acceptable?”

            Take that down two notches of outrage and ask around, many women, including actual sex positive feminists do.

            Yes, occasionally to give your partner pleasure, or for all sorts of crazy reasons, you can do things in sex that you aren’t always crazy about. And yes, if you are in a confirmed relationship or a marriage, you may indeed feel that is your duty. And it is, just as your partner’s duty is to attend to your needs and desires.

          • Feminerd

            You are willfully missing the point. A person who wants to pleasure hir lover and chooses to do something ze’s not crazy about- totally fine. A person feeling forced/shamed into pleasuring hir lover and doing something ze doesn’t want to do- completely not-fine. This is the whole point behind enthusiastic consent and sex-positivity. It’s about doing what you want for whatever reasons you may want to do them (including, but not limited to, pleasing a partner) and not doing the things you don’t want while not feeling bad about not doing them.

            You linked me to a blogger who is clearly a misogynist asshole. You stated that ze was a good read and/or a good example of a new phrase. Therefore you get to take the flak for agreeing with and publicizing hir atrocious views of women. If you want to take down Amanda Marcotte’s sex positivity, you picked one of the worst examples ever.

          • SleeZee Lyers

            Well, tit for tat.

            Amanda Marcotte clearly shows herself in that clip to be a misandric asshole who puts sexual politics above sexual pleasure. That is certainly not sex positive by anyone’s standards.

            As I have said, I would point you to her post all by itself except she deleted them.

          • sinmantyx

            So, you couldn’t find an example of one of the issues you have with feminism that made your big long list of sins that was recent enough to actually exist on the internet in-tact?

          • sinmantyx

            Yes – ignore all that sexists stuff – like the comment SleeZee Lyers made on this thread about him preferring to speak to “my boyfriend”.

            Dig dig ….dig dig dig……

          • SleeZee Lyers

            Reading comprehension, improve it please….

            “Whatever babe, do what you want. But I’d prefer you lay it on your boyfriend, because you’re boring as all get out.”

          • sinmantyx

            Seriously – you’re going to own that?

            You could also just decide to not say stupid sexist things, then you don’t have to try to rationalize or justify it.

          • sinmantyx

            You’re seriously taking time out of your day to criticize someone for liking a comment that was essentially a joke about how you used an archaic word?

            You also might want to look into the epistemology of “ignorant”.

            Well – at least you’re not this guy:

          • wmdkitty


    • SleeZee Lyers

      So what should Ron and CFI do if they truly believe they did not err, but the feminists erred?

      • athyco

        Do you understand that now that the CFI Board has issued its response, most no longer have any concern about what they should do?

        If Ron Lindsay and the CFI Board are willing, as this vague statement demonstrates them to be, to stop calling on support from those feminists who’ve said they want nothing more to do with CFI without an apology or greater response, then the feminists will move their support and funding and volunteering to other organizations.

        After all, Ron Lindsay said in his talk that there were others out there with many of the same goals. And those organizations (since the feminists officially walked on CFI and not vice versa) will probably be glad to have them for their support and funding and volunteering. Actually, I can say more positively than “probably” since I’ve seen an official of the American Humanist Association tender an invitation. I’ll have to recheck, but I’m pretty sure the one I saw was to Greta Christina.

        • SleeZee Lyers

          “Do you understand that now that the CFI Board has issued its response, most no longer have any concern about what theyshould do?”

          Huh? This makes absolutely no sense given the shitstorm from Marcotte, FTB, SkepChick and the boycott.

          But apart from that, I think the question of what does a group do when faced with demands to apologize that they disagree with is fundamentally interesting.

          I think if you thought about that for a bit, you would understand more about what they did.

          Instead you (all) are here still hung up on your demands because you insist you are correct without looking at it from a different perspective. This is what causes impasse in general.

          • athyco

            Instead you (all) are here still hung up on your demands because you insist you are correct without looking at it from a different perspective. This is what causes impasse in general.

            CFI has done as it sees fit.

            Therefore, I make no further “demands” (imagine scare quotes around this word from here on) on CFI. Rebecca Watson makes no further demands on CFI. Greta Christina makes no further demands on CFI. Amanda Marcotte makes no further demands on CFI. No other feminist who intends to boycott CFI makes further demands on CFI.

            If (and I don’t care how probable or improbable the if may be) CFI wants anything further to do with me, Rebecca Watson, Greta Christina, Amanda Marcotte, or any other feminist who boycotts CFI, then it is up to CFI to come asking.

            CFI may come asking, or CFI may not.
            We may answer, or we may not.
            What’s the impasse?

          • athyco

            I just had a thought–one that hadn’t occurred to me earlier because it’s not my nature to run after someone who’s said “I am unhappy with this controversy” is as much as I’ll get after I said I wanted “I apologize.” It actually makes me feel dumb since I’ve certainly seen the other side engage in it until I’m sick of it.

            There have been a couple of years worth of dredging up this and that and this and that…Amanda and the Duke case from 2007, bigod, and two years of fallout from the Dublin Lift. Much of it as nitpickingly stupid as refusing to see the difference between and and or.

            If CFI had refused to apologize or fire its CEO for something you had started a “shitstorm” over, SleeZee, you’d be an emotional leech never letting go, wouldn’t you? You’d put out a call to all the other emotional leeches to join you. The idea of “Well, we got our answer. Time to look toward other organizations for our time and money” just wouldn’t occur to you. You’d have to hang on and poke and shake and yowl and pout expecting that the unrelenting irritation would get you what you wanted. You wouldn’t care how grudging it might be. You wouldn’t even care if it resulted in an explosion all over you because you could then badmouth even more.

            Walking away as an option is just as foreign to you as your never seeing a logical end to a “shitstorm” is to me.

          • narcissistic.claptrap

            “Instead you (all) are here still hung up on your demands because you insist you are correct without looking at it from a different perspective. This is what causes impasse in general.”

            Sleezee, are you seeing demands being made in this comment thread? I see some people agreeing with the OP and some people stating reasons why they, personally, have chosen to withdraw financial support from CFI.

            I am very curious as to which posts you are perceiving as “demands” or “insistence that we are correct without looking at it from a different perspective”.

            I am also curious – are you a financial supporter of CFI? If not, why not? Will you be a financial supporter in the future? If so, why?

          • SleeZee Lyers

            a) I like your screen name

            b) the “demands” in this thread are the admissions that for the feminists, CFI must apologize (and almost certainly fire Lindsay). You can tell this is a demand because when asked, what can CFI do if they just fundamentally disagree with the feminists, the answer has been “Self-reflect until they get it right instead of wrong.”

            c) I am not a member or supporter of CFI, but I am not Marcotte either sucking off their teat to pay for my attendence at their conferences, speaking at their conferences and parleying that into my career, telling people before now how much the CFI is right about skepticism, and then tweeting about how CFI must fire their CEO. I can’t quite say that’s hypocrisy, or even unethical, but it’s just grossly entitled backstabbing behavior.

          • sinmantyx

            Holy crap.

            b) That’s a lie that has been DEMONSTRATED to be false on this thread multiple times in conversations you were involved in.

            c) So, to strongly disagree with the actions or words of those in power is “backstabbing behavior”?!

            What did you say about “lock step” again and how that’s BAD?

          • SleeZee Lyers

            c) She’s had every opportunity to support them financially, but in fact, she’s sucked off their teat for years and she has said she has never supported them financially. Now she urges other people to boycott them and ruin them financially, and why? Because of a speech.

            I dunno, I think Marcotte had many other choices to effect change at CFI than calling for firings and financial ruin.

            Okay, I got it. She’s basically acting like a concern troll.

            She is concerned CFI is hurting itself. She is demanding change from CFI. But it’s clear from her years of never becoming a member of CFI while accepting payments from them, that she has never actually supported CFI, contrary to her statements.

            B) See Sally Strange elsewhere in this thread.

            As I’ve said in these “demonstrations of falsehood”, demanding an apology of person X or ELSE FIRE PERSON X is a coercive demand that person X be fired. Sally Strange, and others, confirm that.for feminists, CFI cannot just issue a response that they disagree on this issue but dialogue is open and look forward to communicating in the future.

            As usual, the feminists declare war and refuse to even own that.

            I’ve got work to do. You are welcome to continue your denials.

          • narcissistic.claptrap

            Thanks for your reply. You and I certainly see this differently. I have been a financial supporter of CFI, and I have now chosen to stop that support. I haven’t seen anyone demand that they do anything. I have simply seen people exercising a right to withdraw funding from a group they no longer feel enthusiastic about. Perhaps advocates for CFI such as you will shore up the financial hole left by disappointed folks like me.

          • Sally Strange

            That was really a joke, you know. They think they’re right, I disagree, whattayagonnado? Seems like a pointless question.

      • Sally Strange

        Self-reflect until they get it right instead of wrong.

        • SleeZee Lyers

          Thank you for your honesty, Uncle Joe.

        • Fey Wyndom

          So there is a Right and a Wrong? And we skeptics Know there is only one way. And those zat do not agwee wis us zey vill suffa! Zey vill pay for zeir impudence!

          • athyco

            What? No, Fey.

            Funny. You got the capitalization of nouns right in the sentence you didn’t write in accent. The capitalization has errors in the accented sentences. Yeah, the content is weird, too, but I noticed that capitalization stuff.

          • Fey Wyndom


        • Fey Wyndom


          • athyco

            Uh, I think you meant that for me, Fey.

            I know that my response to your content was short, but it was there. Here it is again—> “What? No, Fey.”

            If you want to ignore the rest of it because it struck me funny for you to put on a German accent in writing but ignore that in German the nouns are capitalized, then please do.

          • Fey Wyndom


      • sinmantyx

        Sleep in the bed they made.

        • Fey Wyndom

          You are like the Christian mom that says to her atheist son, “Don’t come crying to me when you are burning in Hell!”

          • athyco

            My great-grandma said that to me when she was 92 and I was 13. I was great-grandma sitting while my great aunt and great uncle were at a Mardi Gras ball.

            Of course, she said that to me as she was pouring each of us our fourth glass of her homemade scuppernong wine, so we both laughed and snorted drunkenly.

          • Fey Wyndom


        • SleeZee Lyers

          Thank you for confirming what I’ve been saying.

          The feminists are not at all able to accept anything other than complete acceptance of their beliefs and demands.

          Sounds like a great fit with the Skeptical movement.

          • athyco

            But if you’re not at all able to accept anything other than complete acceptance of your beliefs and demands….

            Oh noez! You’re a feminist, SleeZee!

          • athyco

            Oh, and SleeZee, you didn’t type the line I gave you. Nor did you never post in this thread again.

            See? You’ve just proven that a “Do this or do that” construction does not constitute a threat or constrain you from doing as you wish when the person using that construction doesn’t have power to compel one or the other.

            But at least that quick left turn into the Land of Oz was funny.

          • sinmantyx

            And wild generalizations and leaps to conclusions are awesome sauce!!!

            Are you really coming at this from a stance of Relativism?

            Should we “agree to disagree” about stuff and things?

          • SleeZee Lyers

            Heh, talk about awesome sauce, check this out. (Btw, when she says following, she means you. And of course FTB, JT, PZ, the whole #FTBullies crowd.)


            Leaving the Skepchick Network

            Posted on June 20, 2013 by Katie

            Heyo Canadian Atheist folks – it’s me! Katie! You might remember me from a while back…

            I left for a little while to go write for Teen Skepchick and now I’m back. Here’s why:

            1. Rebecca Watson (and a lot of her following, really) is a cyber bully. Plain and simple. For a (semi) recent example, see this. Sara pointed out a very legitimate point but instead of discussing that point in a logical and interesting manner Rebecca just attacks her. I have seen this happen a number of times with Rebecca and other people on the skepchick network. When people point out a legit problem they attack instead of thoughtfully engage.

            2. I am a feminist, and I don’t agree with Rebecca et al. as I find them pedantic. In the link in the above point Rebecca picks on the term “ragging”. This sort of stuff is a waste of time, IMO. I just disagree with the level of severity that she takes on things, ie.

            3. Go try and disagree with Rebecca or someone on that site (or off the site) and see how fast the skepchick network minions jump on you and eat you alive. Even writing this post my fiance said to me “you’re marking yourself as an enemy” because speaking out against the skepchick network puts a mark on you; it shouldn’t be that way. The skepchicks call for apologies from people all the time but I think they should apologize for being pretty nasty/silly to people (especially in comments; which… I don’t have the time or energy to sort through right now).

            4. As an academic I value freedom of speech, good & rich discussions and logical conclusions; this is rarely found on the skepchick network. I don’t value hypocritical crap. They do realize that with the whole Ron Lindsay kurfuffle they are proving the exact point that Lindsay was trying to make, right?

          • sinmantyx

            ?! What is your point?

            You just posted a long thing describing someone’s conclusions about stuff.


          • athyco

            I am….what’s the word?…devastated.

            Devastated? No, now that I consider it, that’s wrong.

            I’m not interested in examining this mess, so I’m…detesting.
            I’m eating my last peppermint snack, so I’m…demented.
            The bulb in my lamp just blew out, so I’m…delighted.

            Sorry, SleeZee. I deny that your delivering defections to denigrate and devalue others is deleterious.

          • sinmantyx

            I wonder if she is actually using “pedantic” correctly. That’s just a really weird thing to say.

            I disagree with people because they are pedantic?!

          • athyco

            As far as I can tell, she means “pedantic” as “correcting me when I don’t wanna be.”

            If she lets that last question be the last time she mentions Skepchick, it’ll probably be the last time Skepchick has any reason to mention her.

            Still, ain’t it a hoot? This feminist walked away from Skepchick and SleeZee is happy. Other feminists are walking away from CFI and SleeZee is “wassamatta u? gotta have it all your own way?!?”

          • sinmantyx

            Obviously Skepchick wasn’t a good fit for her and if she was writing for Teen Skepchick she is probably very young.

            Dear Katie – nobody thinks you’re a bad person for not being a good fit with the Skepchick network.

            Apologies in advance that your post is going to be linked by haters for the end of eternity as proof that Rebecca Watson is the anti-lack-of-Christ.

          • sinmantyx
          • athyco

            I didn’t connect your name here with another I’m more familiar with elsewhere! I gotta say, I love love love that fixin’ you recently gave that open letter.

          • sinmantyx

            Oh yeah – it’s me. :)

          • SleeZee Lyers

            Ron Lindsay said nothing homophobic, he just something you found annoying, so you went from annoying to silencing him, demanding he recant, repent, and be fired.

            Your analogy thus fails.

          • sinmantyx

            You’re not connecting the dots correctly.

          • athyco

            I never knew there
            could be so much wrong in so
            short a word as “thus.”

            Haiku 4 u, Slee.

          • sinmantyx

            Oh gosh – I’m going to bed. I can’t reign this into any semblance of a serious discussion at 5 a.m.

            It was worth it for the Haiku though. :)

  • Improbable Joe

    Oh, and I saw this exact same thing on ‘Judge Judy’ yesterday! (don’t laugh…)

    The woman’s dog mauled another dog, and her defense was that pit bulls have a bad reputation, her particular dog was a good puppy, and in any case her dog had never mauled another dog before. None of that addressed the fact that her dog actually bit another dog really badly and had to be dragged off of it. She lost and had to pay the vet bills.

    By the same token, defending Lindsay by saying that there’s a reputation of people being jerks to feminists, Lindsay is a nice person, and in any case he’s supported feminism in the past… same losing argument, same negative judgment.

    • wfenza

      I don’t think that analogy works at all. The issue in a dog bit case is the negligence of the owner. The owner’s argument what that s/he couldn’t have foreseen what the dog would do because she had no reason to believe her dog was violent. Historically, there was a “one bite” rule in cases like that, where the owner wasn’t responsible for the first bite, but any subsequent bite was deemed to be the owners fault because s/he was on notice of the dog’s vicious impulses.

      In your analogy, Lindsay appears to be the pitbull, but who is the owner? JT? I don’t get it. Nobody is responsible for Lindsay’s action other than Lindsay and perhaps CFI.

  • Doug B.

    I agree with the theme of your post – the pride is overwhelming things but if Lindsay and CFI acknowledged they understood why there was a blow up instead of the PR fluff their Board put out then maybe Greta and others might not have cut all ties with them. It seems that being tone deaf doesn’t help a vapor rich environment

  • Entropy101

    JT, take Greta’s book “Why are atheists so angry”, replace atheist with feminist and read again.

  • ool0n

    Two things come to mind …

    1. The disclaimers are insulting, say what you believe and lay it out. Do you really think your friends don’t know you are a good guy? One post would turn them against you? Sounds very much like Slyme-mythos to me and does them a great disservice. Let alone the various commenters who will decide on the substance of your post not all the “I love everyone!” sugar coating that hides a view that you’ll get punched if not sufficiently disclaimer ridden. Perpetuating the “FTBully” narrative there…

    2. “To the feminist movement, I know you’ve endured a ton, but please try to exhibit more patience…”
    Tone trolling, knock it off. Again very insulting to the bloggers and commenters on FTB who day in day out are very civil to even the worst pitters who shit up comment threads regularly. Feminists who show amazing levels of patience way beyond me and I’m privileged to not have my personhood brought into question by the shittery. That others decide to go nuclear instantly is their choice and having seen many patiently explain over and over feminism 101 concepts I don’t blame them one bit.

    • Peter Ferguson

      Have you seen what happened to Ellen Beth Wachs? One disagreement, and she was called slyme-pitter, MRA, misogynist etc. She has been pretty much ostracised since. So I don’t blame JT for having to write a disclaimer and protect himself from the same thing happening.

      • ool0n

        Lets assume in lieu of links to these accusations (You are going to back them up, right) that you are correct.

        Some anonymous commenters called her X, Y and Z…Once, in one thread now long dead in the heat of the moment, I assume? Are they following her around calling her these things? Spreading these lies far and wide? Strangely I saw none of this in either of her posts. Why didn’t they turn up there!

        She has not been “ostracised” either unless PZ asking his commentariat to sign a petition in her favour was a dream? Many of PZs commenters disagreed with her treatment in that Adria thread but you are so desperate to make false equivalence you are happy to “exaggerate”.

        You really are full of it Pete, bit like the time you self-proclaimed you were a “harsh critic of the Slymepit” and produced no evidence. I’m sure you won’t repeat that again… Links please so I can assess the severity of these MRA/Slymepitter/Misogynist accusations.

        • Peter Ferguson

          You can find all the info on her two posts on her website, I suggest you read both of them –

          I never made any claims that people were following her around or spreading lies far and wide. Nor was I comparing her experience to anybody else’s so I have no clue what you are trying to say there.

          Her ostracisation has nothing to do with PZ directly, it only began then. PZ hasn’t played an active role in it. But since she disagreed once she has lost many people she once called friends. Her post on Secular Women attests to some of this. Others have blocked her on Twitter, Facebook and refuse to talk to her, but I suggest you talk to Ellen yourself if you wish.

          • Sally Strange

            Yeah, I lost a lot of respect for EllenBeth as a result of her comments on that thread about Adria Richards. I also thought people went overboard in attacking her. Some of those people later apologized and she accepted. Her behavior since then has caused me to lose further respect (for unrelated reasons) so I don’t follow her on Twitter anymore and I defriended her on Facebook.

            Explain to me again why this is a problem? A person I previously liked and respected disappointed me on some issues I regard as important, and thus I choose to interact with her less. This makes me some sort of oppressor? This is your proof of horribly bad behavior?

          • Peter Ferguson

            You’re are talking about your personal reasons. So even if your actions are perfectly excusable it doesn’t excuse the actions of others. So your personal reasoning doesn’t negate what I am trying to say above.

            Agreement/disagreement is one thing, but she doesn’t the treatment she is receiving. Also, I don’t believe you are/were mentioned in her posts or on Twitter so you are not one of the people I am discussing.

          • ool0n

            So your claims are bullshit? In that link Nerd said why is she “sounding like an apologist for misogynist behaviour” . Kate_waters, whoever that is, went nuclear and told her to fuck off a lot…

            Do you even bother to read your citations before making a serious claim?

            So she fell out with some friends over that episode, well duh! Caine apologised to her and she refused to even acknowledge it. She then supports the ridiculous sceptical women petition … That people don’t want to talk to her is entirely up to them, it’s different from organised shunning which you claim. Ostracism is a serious allegation and it seems you have no evidence for it as many have done no such thing. (see Sally Strange who is definitely “in-group” and would be required to be shunning her for your claim to be true)

            Fancy retracting any of your bullshit? Or is your “ostracism” by the group basically defined as whoever you decide is in the group?

          • Peter Ferguson

            Jesus Christ Oolon, your penchant for putting words in people mouths is ridiculous. First you try and say I was claiming that people were following her around, calling her names and spreading lies – I never said such a thing.

            Now you are saying I was claiming there was an organised shunning. Again I said no such thing. Ostracism doesn’t need to be organisaed at all.

            I forgot you always had a very thin grip on what people actually say and what you actually hear.

          • Sally Strange

            Well, you claimed that she was receiving treatment that was terrible and unfair. You’ve not provided any examples of that. Normally when someone talks about horrible, unfair treatment, I think about things like: Constant monitoring for innocent mistakes, active propagation of outright lies, incessant petty sniping on social media, starting a website whose main purpose is gathering and organizing harassment efforts, that sort of thing. If anyone is doing anything like that to EllenBeth, it would be wrong, but so far as I know that’s not happening. So I’m still in the dark as to what happened to her that’s so awful.

          • Peter Ferguson

            You can receive poor treatment which isn’t any of those listed above. Your employing “Dear Muslima” logic here. If it isn’t this sort of poor treatment then it is poor treatment worth speaking off?

          • Sally Strange

            LOL, no. I’m not saying EllenBeth’s treatment was OK because the way some other people were treated was worse. I’m just saying that your claims that she was horribly treated, ostracized, etc., don’t hold up.

          • Nathan Hevenstone

            To be fair, even PZ Myers didn’t like the way she was treated in that thread…

          • Sally Strange

            I didn’t either, and I said so at the time! But to claim she was ostracized as a result is just false. PZ put up a post drawing attention to a petition in support of EBW a month or two later. I signed it. I guess #FTBullies are just incompetent when it comes to ostracizing people.

          • Nathan Hevenstone

            Agreed completely.

            And I signed that petition, too, in full support of EllenBeth, because she didn’t deserve that shitty treatment, either, and I still think that Atheists of Florida should be ashamed of themselves, if not completely disbanded for that dismal attack on two of their most powerful members.

          • EllenBeth Wachs

            According to whom?

          • Peter Ferguson

            Oh, and I have supplied the evidence, the evidence was the Adria Richards thread. Yes, you say some people have apologised but that is not the point. The original point was why JT had a disclaimer, it is simply to avoid being treated the same for voicing a disagreement. Whether some people apologise afterwards is moot.

          • Sally Strange

            So, the thing that JT Eberhard has to “protect” himself against is people calling him names and making hyperbolic attacks and accusing him of not being a feminist? Is that what you’re saying?

          • Peter Ferguson

            Against being lumped in with other groups for no reason eg. the slyme-pit. And possible hyperbolic attacks yes.

          • Sally Strange

            Show me where anyone lumped EllenBeth Wachs in with the Slymepit. I participated in that thread and I don’t remember that.

          • ool0n

            Pete has a problem providing evidence when asked… He rails against strawmen then chokes when he has to pony up.

            EDIT: Specifically he claimed Rebecca Watson “called Ed Clint a rapist”. When he couldn’t provide evidence he slunk back and claimed his *opinion* that she *implied* this was sufficient to make the claim.

          • Sally Strange

            I do recall people saying that she sounded like an MRA, or an MRA apologist – and other people, including me, leaping in immediately to correct them by informing them of the background she has in the movement.

            Edited to point out that, to my recollection, she was defending, for reasons that are still unclear to me, a guy who was making really blatantly insensitive, sexist, and abusive comments. So it was understandable, again, to me, that people unfamiliar with her would assume that that was where her sympathies lay.

            I am still not seeing what is so egregious about experiencing this sort of thing that it warrants preemptive “protection.”

          • ool0n

            Smacks of treating people as “special snowflakes” who cannot back up their claims and get upset as a result… Admittedly in Pete’s case he rarely can, but the heat he gets from that inability is justified.

          • Peter Ferguson

            I used Ellen Beth as one example. Many have been lumped in with slyme-pitters based on nothing, including myself despite never visiting the site. Ellen Beth wasn’t called a pitter on that thread, it was on twitter but I can’t locate the tweet. You are welcome to disregard it but it doesn’t change how she was treated (on that thread and in other spheres), including being called a misogynistic chill girl.

          • Sally Strange

            She was advancing a position, in that particular case, that I view as misogynist.

            “Chill girl” is an insult, yes, one that’s fact-based and related to one’s acceptance of misogyny and patriarchal standards.

            EllenBeth really messed up. She received some harsh criticism that was perfectly warranted. She received some unwarranted attacks as well. Those have since ceased, and the people making them were informed by PZ, myself, and others, that they were off-base.

            This is seriously underwhelming as examples of horribly unfair treatment against which JT Eberhard needs to preemptively “protect” himself. For the record, if JT was making misogynist arguments, all the disclaimers and personal relationships in the world would not matter in the least.

            Sorry you got called a “Pitter” when you’re not. It’s at least heartening that you understand that being a Pitter is something to be ashamed of. But I don’t see the relevance here. Nobody’s calling JT a Pitter, and it turns out that the only instance that YOU know of EBW being accused of being a Pitter is a one-off unsubstantiated remark on Twitter.

          • Peter Ferguson

            Well that is where we differ. I used Ellen as ONE example. Many, many other people have been called pitters, misogynists etc. for little or no reason, it is quite pervasive. In fact I sent 3 benign tweets to Ophelia B and Amanda Marcotte and I was label “creepy and harassy” by Ophelia and branded a pitter and blocked by Amanda- ridiculous.

            We have come to a stage where people immediately presume that one person is on x or y side of the “rift” and judge that person’s actions on that perception. This is why JT put in the disclaimer, so people know where he stands. Otherwise people might assume he is making the criticism because he is on the side of the pitters.

            It is why I think people treated Ellen that way because they assumed she was a certain side, it is why I probably got called a pitter, people assumed. So in this respect I don’t blame JT, that is all I am saying.

          • Nathan Hevenstone

            What tweets did you send to them? Can you link to those tweets here?

          • Peter Ferguson

            You can find them here


            There is a lot of info there but you can just hot ctrl+f and look for my name. There are 4 tweets in all. One was a oke which I apologised for and Ophelia accepted.

            If you find yourself anyway interested I tried defending myself in the comments but was met with nothing but association fallacies and presumptions of guilt. Not to mention being told to fuck off and what not.

          • ool0n

            You conveniently forget that Ophelia also amended to say you did not tag her… Even though you literally did, it was a mistake supposedly. No reason for her to believe you but she did anyway.

            “I was label[ed] “creepy and harassy” by Ophelia and branded a pitter”
            –> Lie, she said she found your tweets to be “creepy and harassy” not you. Ophelia spent quite a while explaining that fact to you. Reading words and understanding really is a problem for you isn’t it?
            –> No where did Ophelia “brand” you a pitter. Some people made an assumption you were from there and you corrected them. Oh the humanity!

            You are full of it Pete and building your own cross to stick next to JTs.

          • Peter Ferguson

            I didn’t mention the 3 other things she got wrong but refused to correct either so what’s your point? And I didn’t tag her, please learn the difference between tagging and hitting reply.

            Labeling my actions harassy in a thread called “page o’ nonstop monitoring and harassment” vs calling me harassy, you can split the hairs if you like.

            I never said she called me a pitter, there you go again, putting people words in their mouths then you somehow have the audacity to question their reading comprehension.

          • ool0n

            Admittedly the way you wrote the branded a pitter bit could have been by Amanda as well. Have a read of your own sentence again, how is anyone supposed to know you don’t mean by them?

            Again someone accused you of being in their “circle jerk”, you said you were not. How terrible!

          • Peter Ferguson

            Also I don’t want to be derailing this thread so please reply to me elsewhere if you wish to reply.

          • ool0n

            You are right about derailing as you have some work to do… To support your position that JT is right to have disclaimers you brought up Ellen Beth’s treatment and she was called, according to you -
            1. An MRA [citation needed]
            2. A misogynist [citation needed]
            3. A misogynistic chill girl [citation needed]
            4. A pitter [citation needed]

            NONE of which you have supplied in about 20 comments… Are you spreading misinformation to further some agenda?

          • Sally Strange

            Right. Unnamed others have had this horrible thing happen to them, and the one person you chose as an example of these horrible things, it never actually happened to.

            Pardon me if I dump my salt shaker out on your claims.

          • EllenBeth Wachs

            “She was advancing a position, in that particular case, that I view as misogynist”

            What” That Adria shouldn’t have tweeted the picture? THAT is a misogynist position? And you wonder why people have a problem with the misuse of the word “misogynist?”

          • ildi

            It did appear tone-deaf, at the very least, to keep harping on whether or not Adria mishandled the situation after the over-the-top misogynistic reaction she got.

          • EllenBeth Wachs

            So you are saying I should NOT have talked about how Adria handled the situation on a post that talked about how Adria handled the situation. Okay

          • sinmantyx

            This is NOT an equivalency: it is an analogy.

            A friend of my nephew was drunk and walking through the park. Some guys sitting in the park made a comment about her. Instead of just ignoring them, she screams a load of insults at them.

            The men got up, and chased her through the neighborhood, shouting that they were going to do unmentionable things to her.

            She did get away by running through yards and that sort of thing.

            How would you view someone hearing that story and saying, “Well, she shouldn’t have insulted them.”

            Well – yeah – she really shouldn’t have insulted them. That wasn’t a good thing to do. I suspect she probably even used racial insults as well – that’s TOTALLY uncool.

            But NO. You don’t point out that she shouldn’t have insulted them. You say – HOLY CRAP those men are dangerous shit heads and she shouldn’t have had to deal with that horrible situation.


            Those who might criticize what you said in that thread, run the same risk of appearing to focus incorrectly.

            Stephanie, when you came to her and others with your experience on PZ’s blog, appear to have made a similar mistake of focus. I realize that I could be included in that and I apologize.

            I mean, if that friend of my nephews recounted the experience and included what might appear to be unfair criticisms of those men (like mentioning their race or something). THAT MOMENT would not be the time to call her on that unfairness.

            The right response is: That’s horrible what you went through. You didn’t deserve that.

          • ildi

            No, I’m saying that you doggedly sticking to that topic once it became apparent that how she handled the situation was a minor issue compared to the sh*t-storm of a backlash she was getting sure started to sound like you were trying to imply that the backlash was warranted. I don’t think you meant it that way, but it was unproductive that you couldn’t let go of it on that thread. People understood your position, they disagreed with you, just walk away at that point.

          • EllenBeth Wachs

            Doggedly sticking to the TOPIC of the post, yes.

            They most certainly didn’t understand my position. They misrepresented it as you are doing right now that I implied the backlash was warranted. I stated explicitly that it wasn’t.

            I am well aware of the fact they disagreed with me. I got viciously attacked over it. Jesus, you wonder why I have a problem.

          • ildi

            No, I don’t wonder why you have a problem. You insisted on doggedly sticking to the topic of a post when the topic itself had morphed into something else. It wasn’t your post, so I don’t think it was up to you to insist that it stay on topic as you define it. It doesn’t justify the way you were attacked, but I still don’t get why you continued to pursue it when the other people were done with that aspect of the topic. If you weren’t implying that she deserved the backlash, then why couldn’t you just let go once everybody had moved on?

          • Nathan Hevenstone

            EXACTLY! The backlash she received made her initial actions utterly irrelevant, unless they’re being used to blame her for the reaction she got.

          • EllenBeth Wachs

            I am not going to respond to you any further because you are obviously not responding in good faith and you are triggering some serious trauma for me

          • ildi

            I was merely giving an outsider’s perspective; I have obviously failed if it is coming across as not responding in good faith and I apologize for any triggering on my part.

          • Nathan Hevenstone

            In light of the backlash Adria received (rape and death threats, many including her address, phone number, and pictures of her residence), how in the hell is how she handled the initial situation (which you are otherwise right about) in any way relevant, other than as a cudgel to be used to blame her for the unnecessary and utterly disgusting backlash she received?

          • EllenBeth Wachs

            Because PZ made it relevant, period. I am done with this conversation because it is bringing up too many painful memories. You are certainly not helping.

          • Nathan Hevenstone

            I’m sorry. I don’t mean to trigger anything. I just want to understand. And I don’t. The backlash Adria should be all that matters. Why isn’t it all that matters?

          • wfenza

            Because she’s not the only one who was involved?

          • Nathan Hevenstone

            Of course. And that plays in to why I think Adria made a mistake. But I still don’t see how her mistake is relevant to the backlash she received unless it’s intended to be used as a way to blame her for that backlash.

            Did Adria make a mistake? Absolutely.

            Is the backlash she received her fault? Hell no.

          • wfenza

            I don’t think EllenBeth was talking about the backlash. Do you think her comments suggested that Adria deserved the backlash she got? I’ve looked it over and I can’t find anything in her comments stronger than what you just said – “I think Adria made a mistake.”

          • Nathan Hevenstone

            I’m sorry, but I promised EllenBeth not to have this conversation anymore. I disagree with her, but I will not contribute to triggering her.

          • baal

            Because Adria wasn’t the only person harmed.

            The nature and harm done to Adria was over the top and excessive. I don’t doubt misogyny was part of that excess but other factors such as going to public shaming first (a violation of other social norms) contributed. So did a culture that says it’s ok to beat up and use all the power at your disposal to punish people with whom you disagree or think are harmful. This mindset is that it’s not enough to be proportionate but that you must grind your enemies as much as possible (or at least need not consider how much your grinding or not – or that so long as you don’t stalk and kill your enemies, you’re morally ok!).

            I hold to the line that what we need to talk about are harms, who is harmed and why and that necessitates a discussion of all of the context including the range of possible actions open to each of the parties. This is a very different approach than ratifying a single act or not.

            By pulling out one segment (the most severe) and saying the rest of it is nothing, drek not worth consideration, a pittance is to belittle real harms done to the other parties.

            Worse, without looking at the full scene, you miss noticing the best places to make the least change that would have prevented the problems (a strategy that folks use to keep planes in the air btw). Weigh in how easy or likely it is given basic human nature to get people to follow your least change as well. If it’s not enforceable absent a drone over everyone’s shoulder, maybe a different strategy is needed.

          • Sally Strange

            I’m confident I never used the word “misogynist” to describe your position at the time, but something along the lines of “chilling the willingness of harassment victims to report”, which, I think rational feminists can agree, is something that at least contributes to misogyny.

          • Nathan Hevenstone

            Hey Sally? Could we drop the convo with Ellen? Regardless of the disagreement, it’s triggering her and, being a survivor of suicide myself, I understand that and would rather not trigger her.

          • Sally Strange

            Hey, sorry, I didn’t see that until after I responded to her post.

          • Nathan Hevenstone


          • Nathan Hevenstone

            I used Ellen Beth as one example. Many have been lumped in with slyme-pitters based on nothing, including myself despite never visiting the site.

            Like who else?

            This is the first time I’ve ever interacted with you as far as I can recall, so sadly I can’t defend you from that. I will say that, in this thread, I haven’t seen you say anything that’d make me lump you in with the Slymepitters and misogynists and such, but I also think you are very wrong about this whole situation.

            Ellen Beth wasn’t called a pitter on that thread, it was on twitter but I can’t locate the tweet. You are welcome to disregard it but it doesn’t change how she was treated (on that thread and in other spheres),
            including being called a misogynistic chill girl.

            Find those tweets.


            Not because I don’t believe you, but because I never saw them and, if I had, I would have defended EllenBeth against them, because they are wrong.

            EllenBeth went wrong with this situation. Horribly wrong. Wrong enough that it is, at least to me, entirely understandable why some people have decided to have no more interaction with her and are angry with her.

            But she’s no misogynist, no MRA, no “chill girl”, and no Slymepitter.

          • ool0n

            Tweeps were supporting her, even those that disagreed on the specifics of the thread so I’d call that more Ferguson manure. In fact here is the thread where Pete turns up to slime…

          • Nathan Hevenstone

            I do recall people saying that she sounded like an MRA, or an MRA apologist – and other people, including me, leaping in immediately to correct them by informing them of the background she has in the movement.

            Same memory I have. There were a few… a minority!… on that thread saying she sounded like an MRA, but they were immediately called on it. I think even PZ Myers himself called them on it, as it’s obviously not the truth.

          • EllenBeth Wachs

            I suggest you go back and read the thread because this isn’t correct.

          • ool0n

            Nathan was right, no one called you an MRA. Actually no one said you sounded like one either. You did defend someone being extremely “MRA’y” and got called an apologist for misogyny though. Evidence below:-

            Comment Page 1 – three references to MRA none directed at EllenBeth.
            This massively escalates matters -> EBW: “Caine- I will need your real name so you can be sure not to be involved with any of my conferences. It’s terrible I treat people fairly”. Caine deserves an apology back for that.

            Comment Page 2 – seven references to MRA none directed at EllenBeth
            [One tangentially about her when Janine was defending her - the backstabber! " I found where EllenBeth made her mistake, saying that the borderline MRA troll Matthew Best had a rational point. I explained to her how and why this was a huge mistake."]
            Narciblog, EBW is a… “mansplaining, victim blaming misogynist”… IMPORTANT: Narciblog was being sarcastic as many tried to point out but you missed it. Xie plus Stacy, Sally and Janine were very much on your side in this page in fact.
            PZMyers: “EllenBeth: Wrong question. If I said something really stupid and rude, of course I’d rather no one knew about it. If I robbed a bank, I’d also prefer that no one ever caught the guilty party.The guilty party doesn’t get a choice.”
            Caine: “For what little it’s worth, I’m very sorry I said nasty shit about EllenBeth in regard to the harassment complaint at her conference. I did not have the whole story and without that, unfortunately, as Cerberus noted, it set off alarms all over the place – it certainly set off mine. That said, I could have enquired and been much more thoughtful. Instead, I was an ass and made assumptions. I am very sorry I did that, EllenBeth.”

            Page 3 Julian pops up to complain, but no one calls EllenBeth an MRA. Julian makes a good point that kate_waters shouldn’t have called her this: “misogynistic chill girl, vying for male approval”… Kate_waters gets some shit in this thread and subsequent ones for xyr *provocative* nature. Julian gets banned due to PZ being a dipshit and thinking him a pitter. Hyperdeath stands up for EBW and Julian, to no avail.

            Statement from PZ: “For the record, I consider EllenBeth Wachs a friend and positive contributor to the cause of atheism and humanism and to feminism. I think she was wrong here — she was thinking too much as a conference organizer, and not enough as a minority fighting for respect — but that the reactions here were far too heated to be useful.”

            Page 4 EllenBeth is long gone and everyone has forgotten her- no mentions of her at all let alone her being an MRA..

          • EllenBeth Wachs

            What the fuck is wrong with you? Did you miss the part where I said I was suicidal when this went down and that this was triggering me?

          • ool0n

            Sorry EllenBeth, I thought you might like to know no one called you an MRA on there as you seemed sure someone did. My apologies.

            This whole thread is discussing your experience there though, I suggest you stop reading it as there is a lot more than my comment above.

          • Nathan Hevenstone

            Actually, I think we need to drop this whole conversation. Her position on this whole situation is unimportant. I’m not okay with triggering EllenBeth. Let’s drop it.

          • ool0n

            Already dropped like the proverbial hot potato! Should have replied to you not Ellen :-/

          • EllenBeth Wachs

            I NEVER said anyone called me an MRA. I don’t need nor want your advice. Now kindly leave me alone.

          • ool0n

            Double apologies then as I misread your reply to Nathan. My mistake.

          • ool0n

            Apologist for people like him, and misogyny apologist… I commented below but looks like I should have replied to Nathan not EllenBeth!

          • sinmantyx

            Someone said that she was “using Slymepit talking points” after she said something to the effect that the people on PZ’s blog can’t stand to be disagreed with.

          • ool0n

            I didn’t say that you claimed people were following her around repeating the lies… Lets try for reading comprehension Pete ->

            “Are they following her around calling her these things? Spreading these lies far and wide? Strangely I saw none of this in either of her posts. Why didn’t they turn up there!”

            These are called “rhetorical questions” a form of hyperbole to make a point – thusly that these things are NOT happening, therefore.. so what? Not nice and criticised by Sally etc but hardly a campaign of lies like that from the Slymepit as contained in one thread and maybe 3/4 ppl who did it.

            Ostracism has a specific meaning, please try again then. You mean she fell out with some people and now they don’t talk? A small number of FTB bloggers and commenters? Cos that doesn’t sound like ostracism to me by any definition – also not exactly that unusual when people fall out.

            Where are your citations? I said in your one link these are not supported ->

            “One disagreement, and she was called slyme-pitter, MRA, misogynist etc”

            Support your accusations.

          • Nathan Hevenstone

            Wait… EllenBeth signed that… string of words?


            I missed her name on it the first time I read it.

            And what makes it worse is that she’s actually talked about the sexism in the secular movement in the past, acknowledging it and everything, so it’s not like she’s not aware of it. Did her experience on Pharyngula make her that bitter?


          • EllenBeth Wachs

            I never had any intention of signing what you refer to as “that string of words” The reason I did? Because Bridget Gaudette was intimidated into removing her signature. And yes, I am pretty bitter about a lot things. I think I have earned the right to be.

          • ildi

            Just to clarify, did you sign the letter stating that you feel safe and welcome in the atheist community because the years-long stalking you suffered was just an example of an isolated incident, or because you’re pissed off?

          • Nathan Hevenstone

            That makes me sad. You were treated way too harsh. Even PZ Myers thinks so. But you also made two pretty big mistakes on that thread… and I’ve highlighted them already.
            As to Bridget being “intimidated” into removing her name… again, the information that Mary Ellen “threatened” to reveal was already common knowledge. You can’t threaten to reveal something already known. Mary Ellen perhaps felt that the circumstances of her leaving SW made her signing of that insulting string of words suspect, to say the least.

            That simply isn’t blackmail.

            And more… I don’t think Bridget’s name was removed from the letter. It was still there last time I looked. So any “pressure” (assuming there was any) obviously failed.

          • EllenBeth Wachs

            It has been removed. I suggest that you not replace your experience for Bridget’s.

            Just because you think I was wrong doesn’t make you right.

          • Nathan Hevenstone

            I stand corrected. Bridget’s name is no longer on the letter. I apologize for that.

          • baal

            “. Even PZ Myers thinks so”


            PZ said gee that was a little rough but I love it when you all beat the living shit out of anyone and everyone for any reason so ok maybe be a little nicer to the next one.

          • Sally Strange

            What treatment is she receiving? A smallish number of people feel the same way I do. Otherwise, she’s not being harassed or attacked, so far as I know.

          • Nathan Hevenstone

            Her behavior since then has caused me to lose further respect (for unrelated reasons)

            I don’t mean to drag this off-topic, but… behavior since then? Unfortunately I’ve not seen a lot at all from EllenBeth since then. What else has she done?

          • ool0n
          • Nathan Hevenstone



            And I’m still learning the hard way not to have any heroes.


          • Sally Strange

            I don’t want to derail this any further – if you want to email me or message me on FB, I’d be happy to talk about it.

          • Nathan Hevenstone

            ool0n gave me a link… and wow…

            That’s all I can say…

          • ool0n

            Doesn’t undo the good she has done, but yeah seriously off base these days… Very weird when you compare to her treatment by the Slymepit (Some of its dennizens with little or no objection from the rest) which spread malicious lies from her stalker. ERV called her EllenBeth WachJob, others crazy cat lady and alcoholic.

            I guess because the Adria stuff came from a source she saw as friendly that made it 10x worse and set her on this course.

            [Pete: Note serious accusations... Now note links!

          • EllenBeth Wachs

            “Some of those people later apologized and she accepted”

            I can’t accept an apology that was never given to me.

            Not having your respect is hardly something I am losing sleep over considering the manner in which you tend to treat people.

          • Sally Strange

            That’s cool.

            There, see how terribly I treat people! It’s awful.

            Edited to add: This is exactly why I lost respect for you, EllenBeth. I criticized your position in that Adria Richards thread, but I never personally attacked you and then stepped in to defend you against the over-the-top attacks from those who didn’t know you.

            Now you say you don’t care about my respect, because of “the manner in which I tend to treat people”?

            What manner is that? Is it similar or different to the way I treated YOU?

            I guess next time I shouldn’t bother sticking up for you, because that’s apparently not something you respect. I dunno, it’s all very confusing.

          • Nathan Hevenstone

            Even PZ Myers thinks Ellenbeth’s treatment was too harsh and unfair.

            But she did make two big mistakes:
            a) Defending someone who was clearly triggering the PTSD of survivors
            b) Insisting on commenting on a side of the whole Adria Richards debate that became irrelevant when she (Adria) received the backlash.

            Even I think Adria handled the initial situation wrong. But I also don’t care, because she never should have received rape and death threats, many with her home address, personal phone number, and even pictures of her residence attached. That response made her initial actions irrelevant. Absent that backlash, I promise you, the discussion surrounding Adria Richards would have been quite different.

            That is where Ellenbeth went wrong… which left me shocked because she’s been such a strong atheist and feminist hero in Florida and I admire her greatly for it. Normally, she knows better. I still don’t understand where she was coming from given all the facts presented.

          • ool0n

            Absolutely it was painful to see EllenBeth not realise she was being attacked not for that criticism but because that criticism was out of place! She was technically right, the best sort of right as we all know, but oh so very wrong.

          • Peter Ferguson

            He acknowledged but never apologised. Also, I am not trying to defend Ellen’s actions, whether she was right or wrong is moot, even if wrong she shouldn’t have been treated in that manner and for people to defriend her over it is ridiculous.

          • Nathan Hevenstone

            I would agree with you, except I’ve now read a recent blog post of hers and…


            I’m going to go out on a limb and say that her behavior in that thread is just the tip of the iceberg.

            I do still think she was treated way too harshly, but I’ve been given more information and…

  • césar

    i had been waiting for a post just like this one. thanks, jt.

  • Park James

    ” Even worse, I think a lot of time it doesn’t just create silence in would-be activists (like myself), but it also causes them to go running in the opposite direction out of resentment. ”

    I’m sorry, but if some white dude gets his fee fees hurt in a conversation with a feminist and it causes him to join a hate group (the slyme pit is a hate group), I don’t want him as an ally, and I can’t imagine why anyone in the atheist movement would want him as an ally. If the same person had an argument with a black person and joined the KKK, I would just say “good riddance, you piece of shit.” Anyone who goes slyme pitting deserves the exact same response.

    • Nathan Hevenstone

      Sorry, but that’s not a legitimate analogy. The Slymepit’s not great at all, sure, but to compare them a group like the KKK?

      Not until they start openly advocating, and perpetuating, the physical abuse of women will that be a legit analogy.

      The Slymepit really doesn’t rank as a hate group. It’s a forum for anti-feminists to rant rave about how much they hate and concoct bone-headed conspiracy theories about our supposed “power” over the secular world. Many, perhaps even most, of the people who post there are contemptible. But I’ve found one or two whom I actually have had nice and even productive conversations with, even while we ultimately disagree with each other.

      I just don’t think the Slymepit does enough to qualify as a hate group. They certainly don’t advocate violence like AVfM does.

      • Park James

        “The Slymepit really doesn’t rank as a hate group. It’s a forum for anti-feminists to rant rave about how much they hate and concoct bone-headed conspiracy theories about our supposed “power” over the secular world.”

        Anti-feminism can’t really be described as anything but hatred for women, can it? I suppose somebody who was particularly upset by a comment by a feminist might run to the pit briefly, but anyone who stayed there for significant time would surely be taking part in full on misogyny.

        “Not until they start openly advocating, and perpetuating, the physical abuse of women will that be a legit analogy.”

        I don’t believe that explicit calls for violence are necessary for hate group classification. I will acknowledge you are correct and in a moment of excitement, I may have godwinned a bit. The gist of my analogy remains the same though.

        • Nathan Hevenstone

          I feel like hate groups should have more… I guess… influence than the Slymepit does. It’s largely just a gathering place for ranters and ravers. While I grant that some members have been harmful to the movement as a whole, I don’t think the Slymepit itself has influence to be anything more than a small bruise…

  • Nathan Hevenstone

    Okay… let’s pretend that this was a general atheism conference, and the person who was supposed to welcome the atheist attendees and speakers instead did this whole speech about a) how he’s not going to welcome anyone and b) goes on a rant about the tone atheists use to engage non-believers is wrong.

    He then pointedly welcomes a theist who decided to show up for the express purpose of trolling the conference.

    After that, one of the speakers writes a post about what this guy did wrong, to which he responds by comparing her to a frickin’ North Korean leader. He then later apologizes for that but refuses to acknowledge his initial mistake. The organization he heads then decides that the best way to respond to it all is note that people are angry over some controversy, but that’s it.

    Would you continue supporting that organization?

    I wouldn’t.

    JT… I usually love the stuff you post and, generally, based on your blog posts, I think you’re awesome.

    But your being blinkered, here.

    What Ron Lindsay did is just plain wrong. His response to being called out was just plain wrong. CFI’s response to all this is just plain wrong.

    Why is that so hard to admit?

    Ron Lindsay effectively tone-trolled feminists and tried to tell us how we’re supposed to behave. And you expect us to be understanding?

    Screw that!

    This is 101-level crap. Most of us are, justifiably, IMO, sick and tired of discussing this over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over and over…

    I’m personally sick and tired of hearing how feminists just aren’t nice enough and how we should all just hold hands and sing Kumbaya (or however you spell it) and get along.

    I don’t want to get along with Justin Vacula. I don’t want to get along with some of those who post at the Slymepit. And I sure as hell don’t want to give my money to an organization that supports the kind of Feminism-101-level tone-trolling that their CEO did at a feminist conference that they put on. (And for the record, if they don’t support it, then they did utterly horrid job of showing it.)

    I do have the right… don’t I?

    • JTEberhard

      I’m going to make one more comment on this post. This captures the reason I tend to stay away from the discussions about feminism. There is a narrative that often supplants what people actually say.

      “What Ron Lindsay did is just plain wrong. His response to being called out was just plain wrong. CFI’s response to all this is just plain wrong.Why is that so hard to admit?”

      In the post I assert all of this. It’s not hard to admit. I said it myself. I said Lindsay fucked up. I said CFI’s response sucked. Those things are all true…which is why I said them.

      How can conversations happen when so much of what gets said isn’t even acknowledged? Or that people can ask for concessions one half has already made?

      So much of what you said was either in response to nothing I said, or took issue with points where I’d already said I agree with you. Of course you have the right to not support them. I never said otherwise. I was making the case for why it’s not the best course of action, not denying you the right to do otherwise.

      I also am not asking you to be buddy-buddy with Vacula or any of the slymers. I made that abundantly clear in the post.

      It’s so hard for me reading so many comments like this to keep a charitable mindset. : It also dilutes the impact when those same people insist that I’m the person failing to grasp 101-level concepts.

      I appreciate the flattery, and this response was not intended as a personal attack. But can you not at least empathize with my frustration?

      • Nathan Hevenstone

        What concessions?

        You think that a mistake was taken with malice, specifically referring to Greta’s note that she thinks Ron just doesn’t care.

        I think Greta’s right. I think Ron’s proven that.

      • athyco

        What part of your frustration is being caused by Rebecca and Greta and those who agree with them?

        They’re boycotting, not drawing swords, as you put it at the end of your post. They’re showing where activism elsewhere will support the goals of CFI without involving CFI national. Ron Lindsay said himself in his talk

        Moreover, it’s not intrinsically divisive to have another group or organization within the secular movement, provided the group collaborates on key matters with other secular organizations. Goodness knows, we have plenty of groups as it is and we still have found a way to collaborate on many issues.

        A concession that Ron Lindsay and CFI fucked up doesn’t carry much weight if you don’t think that Ron Lindsay and CFI should feel censure and consequences for fucking up. It also doesn’t carry much weight if you think those fucked up against should carry that weight–by being the ones who’ll have to be saddled with disclaimers in far more posts than you, since future discussions of feminism that even skirt the edges of patriarchy, privilege, and feminists being heard will face those challenges in comment threads and opposition posts. Yeah, and be nice and thicker-skinned, too.

        Look at that list of invited speakers once again, JT. Who among them deserves to shoulder that weight?

      • Kim

        I’m sorry, JT, but most of your frustration is self-inflicted. When you start off a blog by stating how you’re probably going to alienate people and how much you value and love and respect those people, doesn’t it occur to you that all those people whom you know are going to disagree with you might just be right, and you are not?

        You did indeed make all those those points about Lindsay, CFI etc being in the wrong but instead of leaving it at that you then tried to second guess their intent which, however well-intentioned, carries no more weight with your interpretation than it does with anyone else’s. As many have said, intent stopped being the issue the second Lindsay refused to listen to those who felt insulted and undermined. The best he and CFI can hope for now is damage control, and they are signally failing to address that either. Hubris? Cowardice? I don’t know, but not even the most charitable interpretation can excuse them now.

      • Radi4

        JT, at least some of the frustration comes from the fact that you used exactly the same already-discredited arguments that Lindsay did in support of his actions. And that it IS tone-trolling when you ask the aggrieved party to make nice and “please be patient” and “please educate”.

    • Edward Gemmer

      You do have that right. Just don’t say you value diversity while at the same time saying there are just those people that we can’t have around because you don’t want to put any effort into getting along with them.

      • Nathan Hevenstone

        Right… because in order to support diversity, I have to want to get along with people who are against diversity.

        Makes perfect sense.

        • Edward Gemmer

          Yes, you do. That’s the entire point of diversity – finding people who are different and learning to treat them like human beings instead of garbage. It’s not simply a checklist based on race/gender/sexuality.

          • Nathan Hevenstone

            Um… no. It’s not. I don’t seek out racists and misogynists and homophobes in order to diversify a movement because they work against the ideals of fucking DIVERSITY.

            They’re all about homogeneity, not diversity.

            So no, I will not include them. They can go to hell.

          • Sally Strange

            No, it’s not a checklist, but if you are serious about including people of all races, genders, sexual orientations, and so on, then you must by necessity exclude the people who are bigoted against certain subsets of the population.

  • Sal Rosenburg

    well it’s nice to see the athiest movement hasn’t changed in the past year, we’re still concerned with making sure feelings aren’t hurt and everyone is included!!!! So sweet and stupid at the same time

    • Chris Ho-Stuart

      … and then he reads the comments… :-)

  • ildi

    “I suspect Ron was thinking “What better place to bring up my concerns with feminism’s PR issues than with a lot of them here?””

    How does this interpretation help? I don’t care what his concerns were, how valid they were, how well he understands the concepts that cause him concern, or how many feminists agree that he may have a point. That was not his job. This also doesn’t explain his subsequent extremely unprofessional behavior. These are not the actions of the CEO of a sponsoring organization. I am surprised that this is even up for discussion.

    I do find it interesting that CFI has not published anything from the conference itself except Ron’s posts. So, maybe Ron WAS speaking for CFI with his opening statements. However, even if CFI feels strongly that feminists have a PR issue, the CEO’s welcome speech should not be converted to a bully pulpit to bring up these concerns.

  • Mary Ellen Sikes

    Nuance alert (sorry – it’s my thing). I agree with you, JT, that Ron Lindsay wants what most nontheists want for the movement, but **only so far as its external goals (political voice, SOCAS, public respect, scientific literacy, etc.) are concerned.** Where I disagree with your statement is with respect to an internal vision for the movement itself – whom it includes, how / whether diversity is prioritized, and the role of organizations vs. “rank and file” activists and virtual participants. I hold that Ron Lindsay’s vision about those things is very different from mine, those of many of my friends and colleagues, and perhaps yours also, JT, if you were to have that conversation with him. And I think this distinction is really important – we absolutely cannot be successful with the rest of society until we have some internal stability about some of these questions of identity and pluralism. They are critical to any nascent movement and ours is not exempt, as a disturbingly pervasive theme of internal conflict and division has demonstrated over the past few years.

    • wfenza

      This is the single best criticism I’ve seen so far.

      • Mary Ellen Sikes

        Thank you.

    • narcissistic.claptrap

      Beautifully stated, thank you.

      • Mary Ellen Sikes

        Thank you.

    • perplexed

      Agreed but how do we get to next steps? Seems each time someone asks for polite dialogue they are shouted down so if there can’t be a coherent conversation, how do you get to your endgame? Even if it’s not polite how do we get to next steps with the pervasive antagonism? What is the jumping off point?

      • athyco

        I posit that a concern about unnamed others who have “shouted down..a coherent conversation” is a variation of the concern about unnamed others who’ve said “shut up and listen.” Come to the table without prior slanted vocabulary.

        Here’s my personal jumping off point for you: edit Ron Lindsay’s talk so that the history lessons therein aren’t shallow. Remove the vague references like “I’ve had some conversations with claims….” Fulfill his promise after his introduction just before his non-welcome:

        Seems to me the roots of the suppression of women are much deeper [than religion], and that they have affected and may continue to affect the attitudes and conduct even of nonreligious individuals. I’ll return to these points later.

        Get rid of hyperbolic analogies and rah-rah nothings like Marxist and real freedom, authentic freedom.

        Actually welcome the speakers and attendees. Actually thank the staff and volunteers for all their hard work. If you’re really going to end by saying you look forward to the conversation, don’t poison the well.

        • perplexed

          Others that put their name on a document asking for the conversation to proceed civilly that was received poorly by many. That was a pretty fair cross section of the community. Seemed like some got their feelings hurt for not be asked to participate.
          Everyone comes to a table with baggage, the idea is to get to the table.
          This conversation is bigger than Ron but we can’t get off the dime.
          Maybe if those conversations were occurring Ron wouldn’t have said what he did.
          My guess is you won’t hear about this from Ron and the board any longer. They feel burned and that ship has sailed.

          • athyco

            Aaaaarrrgh, perplexed. What document?

            …”was received poorly by many.” A pox on passive voice. It’s cowardly. Say who you mean. Quote what they said. CFI has a twitter account (@CFICFE) named “Defend Dissent,” so if “received poorly” means that it received dissent and disagreement and constructive criticism, then CFI supports the right to that dissent and disagreement and constructive criticism.

            What the heck is the value of a vague “pretty fair cross section,” and how is it different from an argument from popularity?

            Who are these somebodies who got their feelings hurt? Who did/didn’t ask these somebodies to participate and where?

            What do you mean these conversations aren’t occurring? You have evidence of their being “shouted down” somewhere and the internet being set to send a shock through the keyboard of anyone who tries to post an article or comment?

            And if Ron and the CFI Board have felt burnt and sailed off in their ship, why aren’t you saying that they’re the ones with hurt fee-fees who can’t get off the dime and are refusing to enter into civil debate?

            I told you what I’d want as a jumping off point. You ignored that and didn’t even offer a specific counter jumping off point. That’s just sad for someone who’s written so much to say so little.

          • perplexed

            My bad, let me try to be more concise…
            The letter to the community from several of the organization leaders asking for open and more respectful dialogue. Rebecca Watson’s response and others were extremely negative to the letter. WIS responded negatively as well.
            Look on the blogs to see folks shouted down. If they have dissenting points of view they get crushed and leave.
            I don’t think Ron and the board got their feelings hurt, I think they really don’t give shit any longer and won’t try.
            Your jumping off point is to narrow and you keep making it aboutvRon, itneeds to be much broader.
            Thank you for your critique.

          • athyco

            The open letter in April? I’d say that no matter what others’ responses were to it, as a signatory, Ron Lindsay should have upheld its points. He made it his responsibility.

            He had the perfect opportunity to show that the points in that open letter were sound and workable. perplexed, he did not. Think what would have been left unspoken and untyped if he’d had that letter hanging by his computer monitor.

            From the letter:

            …[W]e can give one another the benefit of the doubt, strive to understand the whole story, and de-escalate rhetoric to foster more productive discussions. We can become better at disagreeing by treating each other like reasonable human beings.

            Perhaps the talk would have benefited from a rewrite to get in the “whole story” and “de-escalate rhetoric.” Then, even if unsuccessful and dissatisfaction was being communicated, a “white man loose on stage” tweet might have been deleted rather than posted.

            Shall I remind you of the bullet points of that open letter?

            Moderate blogs and forums.
            Go offline before going online: pick up the phone.
            Listen more.
            Dial down the drama.
            Be more charitable.
            Trust but verify.
            Help others along.

            Ron Lindsay (actually, I believe, his staff) moderates his blog. His last entry has no comment section whatsoever. But he didn’t take steps offline to speak to anyone who was dissatisfied–either by phone or in person. (Some attendees and speakers approached him, though.) There was no indication of listening more in his blog response to Rebecca Watson. There certainly wasn’t dialing down the drama or charity in it. A number of commenters followed his links to verify his “examples” on a previous post but got no response when those examples fell short. CFI’s response doesn’t initiate any steps to help others along.

          • perplexed

            First I appreciate your thoughtful response.
            My original point was general to the community regarding polite dialogue, not specific to Ron but you asked where I was originally pointing and it was that document. It got shouted down. To me it seemed folks not invited to participate shouted loudest.
            As to Ron’s speech, not everyone felt disabused but he clearly did not know his audience. I would say he made a mistake of ignorance or arrogance or both but don’t believe he thought he would get this reaction. I think he believed he was going to advance the conversation. Error in judgement but he and CFI have worked tirelessly to move the feminist agenda forward. The problem is as I tried to note in a different post that different groups view that agenda differently.
            His response to Rebecca was understandable but inappropriate. There he should have kept his own counsel.
            I truly believe in the end the board said this is a step too far. I think they are prepared for whatever happens, chalk it up to experience and move forward. If people or organizations walk away from them, that’s their choice.

          • athyco

            First I appreciate your thoughtful response.

            You’re welcome. I’ve been adhering to Greta Christina’s policy while here.

            My original point was general to the community regarding polite dialogue, not specific to Ron but you asked where I was originally pointing and it was that document. It got shouted down. To me it seemed folks not invited to participate shouted loudest.

            There’s a major sticking point there, perplexed. If the community–or even a subset of it–is going to be labeled as “shouting down” others, you do yourself a disservice by acting the role of the teacher who punishes the whole class. Please stop doing that, especially as the open letter has not been “shouted down.” Every signatory to it can follow every tenet and bullet point. Every signatory to it can require anyone commenting in their space to follow every tenet and bullet point!

            As to Ron’s speech, not everyone felt disabused [?] but he clearly did not know his audience. I would say he made a mistake of ignorance or arrogance or both but don’t believe he thought he would get this reaction. I think he believed he was going to advance the conversation.

            I can accept that. But if I believe I’ll make a friend happy with a surprise visit that makes them quite unhappy instead, my belief/intent no longer matters. At that point–if I want to be welcome in the future–I make sure that my friend knows I’ll not do something like that again.

            Error in judgement but he and CFI have worked tirelessly to move the feminist agenda forward. The problem is as I tried to note in a different post that different groups view that agenda differently. His response to Rebecca was understandable but inappropriate. There he should have kept his own counsel.

            No, CFI is not a feminist organization. They are a humanist organization. I don’t expect them to work tirelessly for the feminist agenda, only as it overlaps the humanist one. But neither do I expect CFI to chide this group of feminists for “enforc[ing] silence robbing someone of their humanity.” In that case, the humanist side is actively hindering the feminist side.

            After all, the feminists in this pool of speakers/attendees knew full well that the conference was sponsored by a humanist organization and had worked well with them and for them in the past. They had every right to express that their actions never merited this talk. They had every right to ask for evidence. They had every right to present their own evidence backing opinions that this talk and resulting tweets/posts were condescending and contemptuous.

            I truly believe in the end the board said this is a step too far. I think they are prepared for whatever happens, chalk it up to experience and move forward. If people or organizations walk away from them, that’s their choice.

            And there we agree in the main. I may believe less in their preparedness, given the time frame at this point.

          • perplexed

            I didn’t think I was acting as a teacher but making an observation but I appreciate your comment.
            I understand they are not primarily feminist but it seems to me CFI has invested significant time and treasure in this endeavor.
            Lastly, the only place we depart on this point is I think they’re extremely prepared. If you don’t see a further statement from them or Ron and I don’t think you will, you’ll know just how prepared they are.
            I enjoyed our chat, thanks for you time.

      • smhll

        I think the jumping off point has to be a dialogue. Ron Lindsay’s speech was, at the time it was delivered, a monologue. We can discuss specific online conversations that contain the words “shut up” or “privilege”, but we can’t address vague allegations that several feminists somewhere were intemperate that one time.

        I realize that men feel affronted when a feminist uses the word “privilege” as part of an explanation. However some of the self-reporting when someone (noisly) says “the word privilege was used to silence me”, I tend to find that about as accurate as “I was banned by PZ Myers simply for disagreeing.” (That is, I think some simplifying and slanting of the story is happening and I would much prefer to read the original discussion.)

        • perplexed

          I think we can agree that Ron’s speech was tone deaf on so many levels. I give him the benefit of the doubt his heart was in the right place, his execution on so many levels was misguided. Regardless, I had thought some cross sectional group or groups sooner or later would hash this (the broader feminist context) out. Based on their statement I don’t believe CFI has interest going forward of participating in that conversation and that’s too bad. Quite frankly, I also believe now that the feminist issue regarding the community in general is insoluble in it’s current iteration. There has now been a line drawn and I think folks will dig in deeper ultimately groups splintering off.

    • yvonne23

      Very well said.

  • Ralph Anavy

    Reading all this, and trying to put it in context, I think you are blowing it out of proportion and are willing to burn the house to make your point.

    It helps no one to preach self destruction just because of internal squabbles.
    Has anyone though about pausing for a moment before adding fuel to the fire, and being so bloody self righteous ?

    • athyco

      Will you please provide direct quotes from the people who have written that they are boycotting CFI that amount to “burn the house to make your point”? Please provide direct quotes that add “fuel to the fire” and are “so bloody self righteous”.

  • invivoMark

    I disagree.

    I disagree that we can just chalk Lindsay’s talk up as a simple innocent mistake. If that were it, then Lindsay’s actions afterward, and CFI’s not-even-a-notpology statement would not have been what they were.

    I disagree that we should worry about “turning away potential allies”. CFI and their supporters will either support feminist issues, or they won’t. They aren’t going to fundamentally change their viewpoint just because Greta was mean to them. The point of alliances is to coordinate efforts, and CFI came out screaming that they’re not going to coordinate dick. Lindsay indicated that any future coordination with CFI would be counterproductive. The correct response of the feminist movement is to dump CFI. That’s what they did, and I’m proud of them for it.

    And sure, sometimes comment threads get a lot nastier than they should. So what? You’re an ally of the feminist movement. Your job is to do things that advance the feminist movement’s goals. If what you’re doing is causing even more distraction and nastiness, then you’re doing it wrong. If you then proceed to criticize everyone who calls you on that, then you’re treating the movement with contempt, and that’s what Lindsay did.

  • Syd LeRoy

    Thanks, JT

  • Mallorie Nasrallah

    Isn’t a plea for good discussion absent the threat of name calling and “shut up” statements insuring people feel welcome, and setting a tone of decency for a conference?
    If there is a known problem with “shut up” type languag isn’t it at least plausible that setting out to avoid that from the onset is an excellent way to be inclusive and welcoming?

    • Chris Ho-Stuart

      No; unless you have good reason to think that language will be in use at the conference itself, and need to prevent that. Otherwise it is just insulting.

      Crommunist’s parallel example given below may help understand this important distinction.

      (quoting) When Ron goes to a general skeptic’s conference and talks about how “worrisome” it is that skeptics use bottled phrases and regurgitated arguments instead of reasoning things through (a behaviour I see WAY more often than feminists misapplying arguments about privilege), then I will accept this as Ron just being super concerned about stuff.(unquote)

      Ron was there to give the conference welcome and opening. He explicitly declined to give a welcome and instead lectured feminists about alienating language allegedly being used outside of the conference.

    • Nathan Hevenstone

      Would you be willing to read a blog post of mine?

      It’s called Theistsplaining (Shut Up and Listen). I’m a pretty bad writer, but hopefully it explains why I, personally, don’t have a problem with the phrase “shut up and listen”.

    • athyco

      As you think that Ron Lindsay was “setting a tone of decency for a conference,” there must have been some evidence that there wouldn’t be a tone of decency at the conference.

      Ron Lindsay called the first WiS excellent in his closing remarks (yeah, imagine…a white guy gave closing remarks and the feminist blogosphere didn’t explode!), so that would be evidence against a problem with “decency.” He said in the WiS2 opening talk that he’d been reading “vigorous debate” in the year since, but he’d never commented or written a post of his own about the “shut up and listen” problem. He signed, in his capacity as CEO of CFI, an Open Letter about civility that never mentioned problems with “privilege” or “shut up and listen.”

      So no, I don’t think that he had any indication that “shut up” (I notice you leave off the “and listen”) language was a plausible problem. When you chide a group about an implausible problem with unnamed perpetrators and don’t give them plausible examples with named actors when asked, that’s the opposite of inclusive and welcoming.

      I don’t invite people to a party (especially one most have to pay to help me put on), then gather them to tell them not to crap on the rug or pee in the potted plants before I turn on the music or lay out the food.

  • Rain

    Behold all the snobby people arguing with each other about their stupid privilege. Hurry up y’all and get on with making a better world or whatever.

    • onamission5

      You’re better than this comment, Rain.

  • wfenza

    That took guts. I’m glad you found the courage to say it, as I think a lot of that really needed to be said by someone in a leadership position. Just don’t start calling yourself a Brave Hero :-P

  • Kit

    I have a group of women up this weekend visiting and one has attended both WIS. She is heartbroken that there will be no third WIS. She said that the second was better than the first, and it was a great event where women could have their voice heard, and inspire other women and men attending. We wondered if any other group would step up to sponsor such an event, or if women would have to form a new group to put on a conference, which is really a lot of work. Melody worked very hard (she contacted my friend by email to make sure she was OK with this years confernce before hand). Is anyone going to be brave enough? I wish there had been more “thank you, this was great, we appreciate your putting this even on…but we really are upset about THIS.” Ron’s response was dumb, and their response not wha tsome would wish. But they know this, Ron knows this, but now WIS is dead in the water…part of it is it seems a few, and they are leaders so their opinions should count for more, have decided to deem CFI as non supportive women haters…. so goodbye WIS, and let’s see what alternatives are offered. Building up an event from scratch is HARD. It can be done, but will the same ones calling for the lynching of CFI come up with the solutions?

    • Sally Strange

      Is it really certain that there will be no WIS3? I wasn’t aware of any official announcement to that effect.

    • kagekiri

      Lynching? Really? Choosing not to associate with or fund a group is lynching?

  • narcissistic.claptrap

    This might be my first comment here, so I should start by saying I am a regular lurker and I appreciate your point of view in general, JT.

    I am a director at a medium-sized non-profit. And there have been times in my career when I have been misunderstood by a donor. Each of those times, I have had to put on my big girl pants and acknowledge that regardless of my intent, I failed to communicate effectively with my core audience. Because it is my professional obligation to ensure that the people who support our cause understand that they are valued, that we are actively representing their interests, and we care about their concerns.

    I knew little about Ron Lindsey prior to this kerfuffle. I have sent checks to CFI and I subscribed to Free Inquiry magazine, so I have some familiarity with CFI and its mission. When I read the text Lindsey posted on CFI’s website and his subsequent attacks on Rebecca Watson, I was disappointed but willing to wait for the official organizational response.

    And here’s what this reader concluded from the official post-board-meeting blog post from CFI: this organization, at this time, does not demonstrate an understanding of me and my concerns as a secular feminist. I will therefore direct my ladydollars toward an organization that does.

    • invivoMark

      I gave this comment an upvote for “ladydollars”. If I could give it another upvote for the content, I would.

    • Fey Wyndom

      I hear you. I believe that Lindsey and CFI will be squeezed, mafia style, and will make all the pretty words you want. However, nonviolent communication and conflict resolution theories indicate there may be better ways to build community and allies.

      • Entropy101

        It is called voting with your feet/money. It is not being squeezed, mafia style. Everybody is completely free to donate money and or time to any organization they prefer. If that organization does not look after their interests in a way they expect, than they are completely free to walk away.

        A great number of people let it be known that they were very unhappy with the CFI for very specific reasons, but they withheld action until the board would address the issue. The board did “address” the issue and now people are voting with their feet, not squeezing mafia style.

      • narcissistic.claptrap

        Fey, would you be willing to clarify why you think redirection of my discretionary funds is comparable with a mafia squeeze?

        For me, I looked at two comparable charities, and chose the one that seems to be better aligned with my priorities. How, in your opinion, does that compromise a goal of building alliances within the secular community?

        Do you think that CFI’s response to the complaints about Ron Lindsey’s speech demonstrated an interest in alliance-building? if so, in what way?

  • athyco

    All the feminists who are not writers or speakers may very well have
    more to do with the image of feminism than its most prominent faces. And many of those people are often quick to throw out “privilege” as the entirety of their argument. Ron is correct to be worried about this and Rebecca is correct to affirm it. For anybody worried about keeping our allies, this is very worrisome.

    Thus you ended the section on agreeing with Ron Lindsay’s concern on “ossify[ing] the concept of privilege into a dogma” (from elsewhere in his talk). Of what I know of you, 99% is positive, but as a feminist (or ally, as others may want to say), this passage should bring a flush to your face.

    I’m a feminist who is not a writer or speaker; therefore, I’m among those who “may have more to do with the image of feminism than its most prominent faces.” If I’m not smart enough to argue my feminism without throwing out “privilege” as the entirety of my case, how do I get smart enough to avoid it?

    Here’s how: I listen to/read the prominent feminists. I follow their lead. I help educate–or even strongly disagree with–other feminists who have not yet understood or who reject the nuance. And the prominent feminists continue to speak out and write in efforts to strengthen and refine their responses and reactions to the situations, showing again and again how to use “check your privilege” and “shut up and listen” responsibly.

    But what happens? An “ally” stands on a stage to open only the second secular conference with only women speakers and lectures the prominent feminists who have been teaching me how to avoid exactly what he’s tsk-tsking about.

    And as I read his words, I wonder where the hell he’s getting these concepts and phrasings. Why is there dogma and why have the attendees only presumably come for substance not rhetoric? Wait a minute…why would saying “You’re welcome here” be rhetoric?!? Wait another dogdammed minute…who in this group of secular women uses the term sister-punisher?!? WTF…right after the chiding for “shut up and listen,” he then says “enforced silence robbing someone of their humanity</i“??!!??

    No, I’m entirely cold to the idea of supporting an organization who will not question how its CEO treated this invited group of prominent speakers and the attendees interested in hearing from, learning from, and being activists with them. According to your theory, he treated them as either the clumsiest or most malicious of feminists who were never interested in learning from them or supporting them anyway. He then–expressing surprise that he’d even been asked–gave them a throwaway post of some of the crappiest imaginable examples of what he was talking about.

    Think: You’re allowing those invited prominent women to be treated as scapegoats for unnamed others and their hypothetical faults. You’re making discussion and activism more difficult both the prominent women and for non-writing/speaking feminists who have learned from them.

    • Radi4

      You know, I’m kinda glad that Disqus ate my comment, because this is MUCH better. Thank you for writing this, athyco.

      • athyco

        Thanks, Radi. :)

  • SleeZee Lyers

    You haven’t done your research on Amanda Marcotte. Interview those who know her well. She is a liar and has no sense of ethics.

    • Park James

      Haha fuck off.

    • JTEberhard

      That is simply untrue.

      • SleeZee Lyers

        That she is a liar is certainly my opinion, but it’s actually quite well documented across the net.

        Sense of ethics: one example: has she ever apologized for her Duke comments, you know on the day the students were actually declared innocent and she said “Can’t a few white boys sexually assault a black woman anymore without people getting all wound up about it? So unfair”

        That was the day the students were not declared not guilty, but declared absolutely innocent.

        There is much that ethically wrong in how she treats people she disagrees with.

        Hey do me a favor, ask Amanda if she is actually a member of CFI. My guess is she speaks at their conferences, accepts money/expense payments from them, claims to be a skeptic and much aligned with their goals, demands the firing of Ron Lindsay, but my strong suspicion based on her writings is that she is not actually a member of CFI.

        Read her open letter, see if you get that sense too.

    • Chas Stewart

      Even if you feel this way, JT has shown an ability to critically examine the way feminism is discussed and advocated for in the atheist movement and this needs to be congratulated. JT is close friends with these people after all and yet is still willing to disagree on a HOTLY contested subject.

      I disagree that Justin Vacula is non-empathetic and the most despicable atheist in the world. This can’t possibly be true. Justin is a graduate student that dedicates much of his free time counseling mentally disabled students and advocating for the church/state issues in his home state. He is insensitive regarding other bloggers in this community but that does not make him despicable. He is willing to argue with anyone and though he doesn’t change his mind easily, at least he’s able to have the discussion and give the opposing party an opportunity to make their case for his very partisan audience.

      Saying all this, I can’t help but be excited for JT’s ability to understand that Lindsay’s comments must be judged against his entire body of work regarding women’s rights. It’s fantastic! Don’t get bogged down by all of the things that you disagree with.

    • Edward Gemmer

      My experience with Marcotte is she is more concerned with a good story or politicizing her causes than she is with things like “is what I’m saying factually correct?”

      • SleeZee Lyers

        Yes, I think she has shown this to be the case many many times.

  • disqus_stztYvLFPm

    “To the feminist movement, I know you’ve endured a ton, but please try to
    exhibit more patience in the interest of a stronger movement so that
    those who come after you don’t have to endure as much. Much of your
    anger is justified, and I have no desire to take it away from you…”

    I highly disagree. Things will not get better if we use “patience” as our tools. By applying pressure to CFI in the form of a boycott, Greta, Rebecca, and others are showing that this kind of behaviour from Ron Lindsay and the CFI Board of Directors is not acceptable and that a stronger commitment to women’s (and broader social justice) issues is necessary.

  • Trevor Britton

    While i respect you JT and your opinion, i am going to have to lean towards the side with greta. I have pretty low tolerance for intolerance or belittling. CFI didn’t help its case with its response. Regardless of their intentions, its clearly not the things they should be saying especially to people they invited to a conference. For what its worth I will be pulling the CFI pamphlets from my tabling supplies for the time being. But no. I dont hate you. Haha.

  • randomfactor

    It’s the people like Vacula who appear dangerously devoid of empathy who we do not want.

    I think the problem is that this stance is one point where you and Ron Lindsay disagree.

  • onamission5

    “If attempting to talk about feminism causes a person to spend an inordinate amount of time defending their character, rather than their ideas, it’s understandable how people might quickly tire of it and start focusing their efforts elsewhere.”

    Imagine, if you can, that you don’t have a choice to tire of it and focus your efforts elsewhere, because it is something which directly and weightily affects you every single day of your life. Imagine that when people do tire of it and walk away, they leave you with a bigger share of the burden and less energy to do the job than if they’d never showed up to “help” to begin with. Imagine that every time you try to tell your self-declared allies what it is that you need them to do to help you solve your problems, one or more of them will tell you, not yet, be patient, be nicer, be nicer, be nicer.

    How long would you last before walking away from movement atheism and self declared allies entirely?

    • TaylorMaid

      A thousand times yes to this. These people with large audiences decide they “can’t deal with the drama”, state that they support women’s rights, and then stop talking about it. And what happens then? The people attacking feminism get to point to the silence as tacit support. People like Jen and Natalie got tired, but they can’t walk away, and the hits keep coming. Those still left standing fight against it, and are greeted with crickets from those who called themselves allies.

    • Radi4

      You said this much better and in far fewer words than I did (in the looong comment that Disqus ate). Thank you!

    • yvonne23

      Yes. Exactly.

      Also, if attempting to talk about X causes a person to spend an inordinate amount of time defending their character, rather than their ideas, maybe that person needs to examine their ideas and change the way they talk about X.

  • Jason Koskey

    It’s not just about Ron’s remarks. You’re totally right that innocent mistakes are forgivable. It’s the doubling-down on the mistake and stonewalling against all helpful criticism that’s unforgivable. And that’s what CFI is being boycotted for. Not for Ron’s remarks, but about how his organization handled the community’s concerns, which was to pretend they would all just go away. Any organization run this way DESERVES to fail. There are others to support with better management.

  • Brian Crisan


    I agree with you on this issue. You’ve expressed much of the same sentiment I’ve had about this controversy and I applaud you for addressing these issues.

  • ByTor

    I’m still not convinced there was anything wrong with Ron’s initial speech. I’ve read many of the complaints. If Ron’s goal was to spur the goal of having people come to clear and concise points or agendas while at the conference in regard to stated goals, instead of using terms such as “privledge” or oft confusing terms with assumptions to meanings, I’d say they missed the point. In fact, many are actually making his point. And I certainly don’t think he was being “arrogant, etc” as refered to about Krauss.

    • athyco

      Ron Lindsay wrote the post “A Few Examples of ‘Shut up and Listen’” in answer to women at the conference asking him just who in that secular audience who knowingly and willingly put in time and money and effort to attend a con sponsored by a humanist organization [were also "enforc[ing] silence, robbing someone of their humanity.” His examples were lamentably weak; with further investigation, 3 of the 4 made the case against him; the other was a presentation on the concept of privilege.]

      C’mon…do you really believe that all the feminists in the world want to go to a con sponsored by a humanist organization? Were these women going to agonize over presenting at WiS2 or at RadFem2013? Not just no…hell, no.

      Ron went all vague and anonymous and scary scenario in his talk, and your comment is doing the same thing. Who are the “many? How are they “actually making his point”?

      It’s all paraphrase and evaluation and refusing to present the actual case.

      [Edited to add material in block. I deleted more than intended in the first draft.]

      • ByTor

        “my concern about the misuse of privilege was not the primary focus of my talk” –Ron

        And it wasn’t. He made an excellent point about the use of language and meanings and encouraged the attendees to break through those barriers. I think that is admirable. I didn’t take it as vague, anonymous and scary. That is opinion.

        Are people reading some underlying theme into what he said? I am missing something? He was obviously staunchly pro-feminist.

        • athyco

          ByTor, do you know that there is vanishingly rare online discussion or stated policy about bathing regularly during a secular humanist or atheist con?

          Do you know that Comic-Con and others do have online discussions and policy about bathing regularly during the con?

          Ron Lindsay was asked after his talk to give examples of those attendees/speakers to whom he was addressing his remarks setting up those language barriers. He failed.

          Now, are there feminists like the Comic-Con attendees who don’t bathe? Yes. Some of them were going to hold a conference of their own earlier this month: RadFem2013. Were the speakers/attendees at WiS2 in that pool of feminists? No.

          It’s insulting to be told you as a feminist do a thing negatively and you have actively spent time discussing how to do that thing positively. It’s burdensome to have to answer to that insinuation as you go forward in your feminist writing and activism. The pool from which the WiS2 speakers and attendees are drawn are set back by the presentation of this “barrier.”

      • ByTor

        I”m short on time and will make a more detailed post tommorow.

  • Melissa Lee

    I may disagree with you as far as whether or not CFI deserves to be boycotted. But one thing I will NOT do is call you a “mansplainer” or a “tone-troller” or say your measured, rational post made me “throw up in my mouth”. Jesus, people.

    I’d like to thank you for pointing this out:

    “We fear ostracism from the movement we love for saying the wrong thing.”

    and this:

    “…sometimes people believed to be wrong/uninformed by feminists are treated as though they’re contemptuous of feminism rather than just ill-informed of it. This results in fewer potential allies of the type we should want.”

    THIS is highly prevalent in the skeptical/atheist/secular community. And it is a huge problem.

    Remember Phil Plait’s “What Is Your Goal?” talk (that’s what it should have been called, IMO) Well MY end goal is to win hearts and minds. And that requires patience and understanding. A LOT of it.

    Anyway, this post really spoke to me. Thank you for writing it.

  • Kareem Jordan

    “It doesn’t matter that I expressed utter loathing for most of them, I’ll
    have critiqued their enemies and they’ll laugh like hyenas as if my
    suggestions for improvement for a cause I support means victory for

    Wait, so they’ll support the comments that will help others better accomplish their goal even if those comments come from someone who expressed loathing for them? Weird. It’s… it’s like they care more about the goal than the petty bullshit.

    What will they do next? Save kittens? Help lead us to a cure for AIDS? You have to stop them!

    • bigcheeese

      Wait, what?

      It takes either a massive failure in reading comprehension, or a massive dose of dishonesty to twist what JT is saying – that these slimers will take suggestions for improvement as if they were attacks on feminism – and paint that as a positive trait.

      • Kareem Jordan

        I actually meant to attack his assumption that “slimers” will take his suggestions for improvement as if they were attacks on feminism.

        I was attempting to suggest the possibility that maybe if they’re willing to link to an blog where the author goes out of his way to say he’s not one of them, then maybe it is the actual overall message that’s important to them.

        • Kim

          Seriously, Kareem? That’s speaks of either gobsmacking naïveté or trolling. The notion that a slymer might find anything but himself/herself important is risible.

          • Kareem Jordan

            There is at least one “slymer” who is working on an invention to combat HIV so clearly that’s not true.
            The more you exaggerate, the bigger the shock when people realize the exaggerations aren’t true.

          • Kim

            and…..there they are!

          • Kareem Jordan

            … what?

          • Edward Gemmer

            WTF? I post on the Slymepit. I also have two daughters. I also represent low-income people, typically racial minorities, on a daily basis. The notion that people who post on the Slymepit don’t care about anything but themselves is risible.

        • bigcheeese

          Fair enough. If they actuall link to the piece instead of (or without) taking some quotes out of context, I will gladly admitt I was wrong on that point.

  • John H

    That being said, I don’t think it’s the right reaction in this case.
    The CFI clearly wants to help. Ron Lindsay clearly wants to help. If
    his understanding of how to help is flawed in places (and it is), I
    don’t think the way to make him understand that is through political

    JT, their behavior in response to criticism casts serious doubt on their good intentions, which is why this exploded. It could have been entirely mitigated with a statement like, “I’ve received a lot of criticism of my opening remarks. I’m deeply sorry that [not "if"] I offended a segment of the audience, speakers, and community. I was speaking from a place of ignorance; as someone not intimately involved in feminist politics and activism, I was not aware of how my words were likely to be interpreted, nor that I was reiterating points used for cover by people launching harassment campaigns against prominent women in the secular community. In retrospect, it probably should have been obvious that lecturing a room full of feminist activists and academics about their own area of expertise was a bad idea. I made a mistake. My words were my own and did not necessarily reflect the opinions of
    other members of CFI, including those who worked on putting this
    conference together, nor CFI as an organization. I’m going to take some time to examine the responses we’ve been getting and to learn more about the subject. I may have more to say later once I’m better informed, but for now I’d simply like to apologize for any harm I’ve caused.”

    If your friends or a group of people you’re actively trying to help react strongly and negatively to something you say, is your first response to be defensive? Or is your first response to apologize and ask them to explain what you did wrong, because you legitimately were trying to help? I mean, I apologize if I bump into people getting off the elevator, and they’re not usually mad in the slightest. Shouldn’t people you have an investment in helping and who obviously feel far more wronged deserve at least that amount of consideration?

    Instead, Lindsay’s response to Watson’s extremely measured critique was beyond defensive, it was vicious. If he wanted to air his concerns with feminism’s branding and public image, a round-table at the conference organized by the organization he heads to discuss just such issues would have been an excellent, welcome approach; lecturing to a captive audience is not the way to do this. Greta Christina pointed most of this out. Likewise, the CFI board’s response was functionally to chastise the very people they’re supposedly interested in helping for objecting to something they found harmful and then the doubling-down on the harmful behavior that followed. All of this is extremely inconsistent with a real desire to help.

    For that matter, look at how very different your own behavior is. That’s because, while you may not be a 24/7 feminist activist and might occasionally say things in a way that rubs other feminists (I certainly accept your self-appellation) wrong, you actually do care, and it shows. People dealing with issues of gender discrimination can sometimes be nasty, sure; we all have days, and those subjected to ongoing harassment are probably going to have more of them than average because of that. And some people on a given ‘side’ of an issue are always going to be nasty and lash out indiscriminately. I think I’ve probably personally stepped too far across that line before; after a full day of reading about people victim-blaming an unconscious minor for rapists repeatedly raping her, I can lose patience for even minor apologetics or minimization. I’m sorry if that’s contributed to your reticence. When there are entire subcultures dedicated to things like fucking women who don’t want to have sex with one while still skirting the legal definitions of rape or rolling back 100 years of gains made by feminism, someone using the same language or arguments as these discourses can unfairly catch misdirected vitriol. But still, you acknowledge the reality of specific problems reported by women and other feminists and make a real effort to listen and engage. This is not what Lindsay himself nor the CFI board have done. And that’s why we don’t see them acting in good faith.

    • John H

      Oh, and I have one other suggestion: since you are definitely a fierce advocate for gay rights, replace references to feminism (I don’t even think you really need to change the bits on privilege) in Lindsay’s speech with references to gay activists (or, hell, even atheists) and see how it reads to you.

  • bigcheeese


    knowing how much you put into this post and that you worried about the reaction, let me both try to ease your mind, and also offer respectful criticism on the small part I disagree with you on.

    First of all, you definitely won’t lose your readership over this. Yes, a few extremists here and there may leave, but trying to cater to those people, the ones who will not accept any disagreement with their stance, is exactly what some say started this, and something I’m sure you don’t support either.

    Secondly, I think you are missing the point of why (most) people are boycoting CFI. It’s not what Ron Lindsay said in his first speech. It’s not even the awful, AWFUL way that he responded to criticism. It’s the utter lack of conviction and principle shown by the board’s statement.

    That’s when Greta,and Rebecca, and Amanda, et all. decided they’d had enough. And I can’t blame them. They should have taken a stand. They should have addressed the comments made by Lindsay, both in his speech and his follow-ups. And they should have either said they were wrong, or misguided and apologized, or they should have said they didn’t feel they were wrong, discriminatory or exclusive, and stood by them. I would have respect either of those two stances, as either one would have shown a willingness to take a stance and stand up for what they believe in.

    By taing the route they took – being as vague as possible, being sorry about the controversy, etc. – they demonstrated an unwillingness to take a stance. It didn’t even have to be an either or stance. It could have been a consiliatory stance, like the one you are taking here, pointing out the faults on both sides’ argument. But they should have taken a stance. By refusing to do so, they show themselves as more concerned with not making waves than for standing up for what their belief.

    And THAT is why I’m all for stopping support of CFI. Because I do not want a spine-less organization being on the forefront of representing us. And if there is anyone on this planet who I’m sure would not stand up for that either, it’s Greta Christina.

  • Edward Gemmer

    BTW it literally drives me insane that American Atheists are being sued for racism and all anyone can care about is how Ron Lindsay made them feel.

    • athyco

      Does it? Your sanity depends upon your ability to read minds and know “all anyone can care about”?

      That’s odd. I see nothing that stops you from blogging about it or finding an article on that topic and commenting on it. I mean, you wouldn’t stand up in a theater and declaim that you were being driven insane by the other theater-goers focusing on that one movie at that time, would you?

      • Edward Gemmer

        Actually, it also bothers me when Transformers 3 gets more discussion than say Lost in Translation. This Ron Lindsay stuff is the Transformers 3.

        • athyco

          The sentence that jumped to mind immediately after reading that was “Get off my lawn!”

          • Edward Gemmer

            LOL you are probably right but still, when a woman sues a major atheist organization for racism and harassment (after months of people saying there is an atmosphere of harassment in the atheist community), it deserves a level of attention beyond “well that’s interesting.”

          • athyco

            Well, you’ll have to produce evidence that “that’s interesting” is as far as the attention level has gotten. And Edward, I’m afraid that you already know that it’s gone beyond that.

            You see, you brought this up on the latest CFI thread on an Amanda Marcotte post. You commented after a number of people had followed your link, looked up and provided others, discussed with “aw shit” how they’d been thinking of supporting American Atheists financially with the funds that they would have given to CFI, stated without equivocation that they would hold off on support until there was an outcome.

            What were the bullet points in the Open Letter that Ron Lindsay signed?

            Moderate blogs and forums.
            Go offline before going online: pick up the phone.
            Listen more.
            Dial down the drama.
            Be more charitable.
            Trust but verify.
            Help others along.

          • Edward Gemmer

            Sure, like eight people said that. But come on, I’ve seen three blog posts that were actually dedicated to the subject, plus a few others that mentioned the lawsuit in context of other things. PZ Myers posts pretty much after every meal, yet I’ve seen nothing from him, really nothing from FtB in general except for a post by Black Skeptics. Nothing from Skepchick. Nothing from other sites. Considering this is the biggest thing to hit the atheist community since I’ve been in it, that’s odd and bothersome.

          • John-Henry Eric Beck

            There is not yet much information available upon which to comment. Knowing a lawsuit exists is one thing, and it is worrisome. But who knows enough of the details to actually comment on the merits of the suit at this stage?

          • Edward Gemmer

            Lawsuits against employers alleging racism are inherently difficult to prove. That said, in a climate where people have been constantly claiming that there is an atmosphere of harassment, sexism, and racism, and then someone actually sues an atheist organization for such, there is silence. This silence is why people keep saying that atheists ignore black people.

          • athyco

            You used “silence” twice after proving that you know there are posts and comments. The word now means “less discussion than Edward Gemmer wants as quickly as Edward Gemmer wants it.” Alert the lexicographers.

            Please link to all comments you have made on this situation in which you do not include a remark about what the coverage of it says about the community. A comment solely about this particular lawsuit, not one (as above) that says something general about civil jurisprudence in the first sentence and then shifts focus away from the lawsuit in the second and third. Certainly not a comment that is not 4.6:1 words of community bashing over specific case.

            Without a matching 8 for the people you didn’t bother to mention (even though you knew of them), an assessment might arise: “You manipulator. You empathy-deficient user of minorities for high-horse mounting.”

          • Edward Gemmer

            That assessment would be the one this community makes. It’s a community that engages in wild, vacuous arguments over mostly nothing based on spurious evidence. Elevatorgate, JREF, Ron Lindsay, CFI, pick a topic and you have huge amounts of hand wringing based on some minor interaction between people.

            Then, when someone sues a relatively major part of the community for racism, it’s “well we will just wait and see I guess,” and that’s just the relatively few that care about it enough to mention at all. Yes, it’s annoying to watch. Clearly, there seems to be a strata for what the “community” cares about when it comes to social justice.

            I any event, sure on one level you are right. Rushing to judgment is not wide. Castigating people for things they may not have done is also not wise. But that does not explain why a lot of people have ignored this issue completely.

  • Fey Wyndom

    The real question now is, does the A+ have the muscle to intimidate CFI? Lindsey, CFI, CFI board, CFI employees could man, woman, and child have cow-tailed in the previous month. But they didn’t. I seriously doubt a metaphorical gun to the head will make CFI suddenly think it should maybe spend some time contemplating this issue.

    This is where it gets sticky. Because secular feminists believe they are in kinship with African Americans in the Civil Rights movement, when it was a no hold bar, “In it to win it”, fight the enemy for equality, “If not now then when?”,” Do it for the children! Equality NOW!”

    “Loose the DOGS of WAR!!!”

    …but dear dear frightened, hurting, scared friend…you are loved, and you are important, and needed by the movement…please stay…please show compassion

    • athyco

      What does A+ have to do with this? Who is out to intimidate CFI? When did anyone have a metaphorical gun to CFI’s head?

      None of the rest of your comment makes enough sense to me to ask questions about.

      • Fey Wyndom

        1. Lindsey insulted A+ in his talk.
        2. Many people are pulling financial and other support from CFI, that will end paychecks to individual people and possibly end the organization. In this economy, losing a nonprofit job leads to the unemployment line, not another nonprofit job. Sweet athyco, do you see the analogy?

        • athyco

          Lindsay said that he’d started out “frankly lukewarm” towards A+ and moved to “more sanguine.” He didn’t insult A+.

          If it leads to unemployment, there are some CFI employees a great number of people will raise/donate funds to help with expenses while they job search as well as looking to help get them another job. There are other CFI employees who won’t get that attention.

          • sinmantyx

            I’m pretty sure the big donors aren’t moving away. If that happened, or they were worried that would happen, they would be acting differently.

          • Fey Wyndom

            Sweet, thank you for letting me know. Whew!

  • smhll

    But sometimes people believed to be wrong/uninformed by feminists are treated as though they’re contemptuous of feminism rather than just ill-informed of it. This results in fewer potential allies of the type we should want. Even worse, I think a lot of time it doesn’t just create silence in would-be activists (like myself), but it also causes them to go running in the opposite direction out of resentment.

    I was trying to go along open-mindedly with you about what you are saying. However, when you admit to “running in the opposite direction out of resentment”, while that is understandably a human impulse, I need to suggest that it is a sign of character weakness if your commitment to social justice fluctuates in a fickle way based on how nice and accommodating people are to you. I know you don’t believe that only well-dressed people or people who don’t wear Axe body spray deserve to vote and only people who use proper grammar should have free speech rights. Even feminists who disagree with you should be allowed to open bank accounts and drive cars. But you’d just rather not be active in their movement?

    I think the fundamental source of friction here within a group of so-called social justice warriors is that women get plenty-too-much of men (or the whole culture) telling them how they are allowed to behave. When you (or anyone else) starts in on it, it touches a nerve. It can sound a little paternalistic. (“Well, I would have taken you out for ice cream if you had asked me nicely, but now, no dessert for you.”)

    You write in a very personal way, and are open about your thoughts. Therefore criticism that you receive on your blog (and compliments as well) are going to be fairly personal and related to the personal thoughts that you have shared. I think people will reply more about facts if you are posting more about facts. (The internet is a wacky place with many loud mouths, so I could well be wrong.)

  • sinmantyx
    • Feminerd

      That’s a good apology. Short, sweet, and to the point. It might be too little too late for a lot of people, but it’s definitely a step in the right direction at the very least.

      • invivoMark

        You’re kidding, right? That was a content-free nonpology that failed to indicate either understanding of his mistakes or enlightenment of his views, and it does nothing to instill optimism with regard to future interactions.

        It says nothing more than, “Oh shit, I guess there’s a lot of pressure on me to say these words. So here you go, now please stop hating me.”

        • Nathan Hevenstone

          It has become obvious that this is going to be a process.

          This apology indicates that he’s finally starting to understand where he screwed up. Is it a perfect apology? No. Not even close. Could it have been better? Yes.

          Though I’m pretty sure there’s no such thing as a perfect apology, and he would have pissed people off no matter what he said. Russel Blackford, for example, has tweeted that he’s angry at Ron for apologizing at all.

          IMO, it is, I sincerely hope, a first step. I feel as if some conversations can start to take place, now. At least, I hope so. Perhaps I’m being overly optimistic, but I want WiS3 to happen and I like Center for Inquiry a hell of a lot. My hope is that this is the beginning of healing and changes and steps to a better, brighter future for all of us.

        • Feminerd

          It’s not a notpology, because he doesn’t say the critical phrases such as “I’m sorry if anyone was offended” or the like. It is content-light, but honestly, at this point anything he says is going to be taken apart.

          It doesn’t negate what came before. I don’t think people should change their reactions based on the apology. I just think it’s a nice gesture, no matter how hollow it might be, and a step in the right direction.

          • invivoMark

            “I’m sorry that I caused offense” doesn’t count?

            Other than that, I agree with you. I never thought an apology would really change much – not unless it was worded in just the right way, which you know would never happen. What’s far more important is the actions of CFI. Those will tell us whether they are truly committed to supporting feminism, or whether those who support feminist causes would be better served by investing in other directions.

          • Feminerd

            Parsing it, no, I don’t think it does count as notpology language. The nuance matters. He admits he caused offense and doesn’t lay the blame for it on the offended parties. “I caused offense” says “I fucked up”. “I’m sorry you were offended” (which he did not say) says “I’m not at all sorry that you’re oversensitive”. It’s a subtle twist of language, but an important one.

            As you say, this is totally just nitpicking. We agree on the big stuff like what this means to the overall situation.

          • invivoMark

            I don’t buy that at all. We already know he caused offense, he already knows he caused offense, and causing offense isn’t the thing that he did that was wrong. No one wants an apology for causing offense. We want an apology for saying stupid things, treating a social movement with contempt at a conference arranged specifically for them, for insulting, insinuating, and falsely accusing. Those are the real crimes, not causing offense.

    • wmdkitty

      Still too vague — he hasn’t shown any actual understanding of the issues, just said “I’m sorry you were offended”, which is a classic not-pology.

  • Franklin Bacon

    What goes around, comes around. The lack of respect for the founder of CFI was reprehensible, but now Lindsay is experiencing the same disrespect he and his showed to Kurtz. This current situation is a predictable outcome.

    But let me say, I would allow you to ask me to coffee in an elevator. I am not going to implicate the entire atheist community, even if it were out of line, in a particular instance.

    • sinmantyx

      Whenever anyone mentions coffee and elevators I’m going to link this. Sort of like a Rick-Roll; but not really.

      I encourage others to do so.

  • Franklin Bacon

    Is this entire piece a “Dear Muslima” letter?

  • ModernSexCulture

    Having only read his prepared speech ( I’m at a loss for what was wrong with it. Did I miss something? His reactions and actions afterward do not sound very productive but his speech was good, I thought. As an anti-rape culture activist, a newly identifying feminist, I feel it is crucial to listen to people who are critiquing you.

    I’m in the midst of writing a speech and discussing how to effectively disarm rape culture on a day to day basis is the focus. I think you bring up very good points here.. That being willing to listen to the everyday person, who unwittingly contributes to harm or truly doesn’t think they are harming, is key to working with society. You do not tell the people, “Hey, you’re harming everyone around you by thinking this and saying that!” Instead you say, “You may not be aware that this kind of thinking is how we as a society end up oppressing each other and harming each other.. even though we didn’t mean to do that. Why do you think these things have been helpful? Here is a thought I have to offer. What do you think about it?” You begin a dialogue. Most people WANT equality..

    It’s just.. we don’t always know when we’re being assholes to each other. We don’t always understand. We don’t always know that we’re hurting each other and it takes time .. and a lot of conversation, to get through that.. to understand each other.

    Anyway, sorry if this comment makes little sense. This is a big topic. I just wanted to say thanks for speaking up. I am a fan. :)

    • Feminerd

      I suggest you read Greta Christina’s response to the welcome speech to understand why people are so angry. You may not agree with it; that’s fine. But it should give you some understanding of why it was such a big deal.

      • ModernSexCulture

        That is helpful. Thanks!

        • Feminerd


          • ModernSexCulture

            I ended up reading this as well which REALLY helped with the context:


            This is terrible :-/ I mean, I do think the point in his speech was valid, though how he got there was a terrible delivery. I stated in a comment above I hadn’t realized it was an opening speech and the bit where he says he doesn’t need thank people for being there because it’s a assumed and a waste of time.. was very, very strange.

            And I do get that it would feel very patronizing. When someone feels they need to take time out to explain to me what they-know-i-already-know.. Its very odd and a huge time waste. I’m still shocked it was the opening speech.

          • Feminerd

            Yeah, that seems to be most people’s reaction. Ok, yes, he had some points that would be valid in a panel discussion, but they are absolutely not appropriate in an opening speech. His later actions with Rebecca Watson and not showing up at the dinner were just bizarre and unprofessional, which didn’t help matters.

            I’m glad he’s apologized and things seem to be moving in a positive direction now. CFI does a lot of good, including hosting the WiS conferences, and I’d hate to see that stop happening.

    • Nathan Hevenstone

      Feminerd’s suggestion is actually better than mine. I was gonna be a bit self-serving and suggest you read my post Theistsplaining, but Greta is much more direct and just does a much better job.

      You can still read mine if you want, though… ;)

      • ModernSexCulture

        Thanks! Yeah this is.. wow.. I hadn’t realized he posted about Watson as the conference was happening? And also, that bit in his speech about not wanting to thank them was.. very strange. It is definitely a WTF moment. And I also hadn’t realized this was the opening speech.. that is a very strange spot to have that critique.

        And now, thinking about it, I get why someone would feel they were being patronized by that speech. I feel that way when someone sounds as if they are scolding me, or lecturing me, about something I am well aware of.

        This is fascinating. I still don’t completely disagree with his overall point but it’s pretty clear that the setting was the wrong place.

        • Nathan Hevenstone

          Yeah. He basically skipped the Donor’s Dinner in order to compare Rebecca Watson to Kim Jong Un.

          And actually, like you, I don’t think his overall point was necessarily wrong, either. In fact, I actually do agree with him about the basic gyst!

          I think where he went wrong was assuming that we didn’t already know all that. He really did essentially mansplain to us. We are already fully aware of silencing and when words like “privilege” and “mansplain” and “misogynist” and so on are turned into slurs and how that’s harmful to our cause, and we were aware of that before he felt the need to explain it to us.

          So you could that it’s not so much the message as it is the timing and the place and the general thought of “I have to explain this”, when we already knew.

    • mikmik

      Yes! If I find something out of line, I have to wonder if that was the intent, if my reaction is biased, or there are other misunderstandings at work, like just being unaware of the impact of spoken words – like you say.
      It is so easy to react in anger, but it is also easy to give others the benefit of the doubt as a default position. It pisses me off that, when I point some of these things out, the efforts accusers can go to to defend the use of their harsh interpretations and perceived malice of the speaker.
      It is tiring, all the time, but it does seem to be becoming a cultural signature of the ‘everybody is out to get me/no one is going to pull the wool over my eyes’ attitude that many militant shit disturbers seem to wield.
      Good post, ModernSexCulture.

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