On the Qualifications of our Alleged "Diversity Hire", Natalie Reed

On the Qualifications of our Alleged "Diversity Hire", Natalie Reed February 17, 2012

I have refrained as much as possible from publicly addressing John W. Loftus’s relentless recent attempts to pick a fight with Freethought Blogs or all his crying persecution every time anyone from Freethought Blogs has the temerity to so much as respond to his unprovoked attacks. But now he just crossed a line by charging that Natalie Reed is here as a special favor because of our concern for diversity and not because of any qualifications to be here.

Let me first make this abundantly clear. Trans or not, Natalie Reed is, in my humble opinion, one of the very best bloggers on this entire network. Here is what I wrote to her two and a half weeks ago after reading her work on Sincerely, Natalie Reed and dipping into some of her archive of previous work at Skepchick and Queereka

Hi Natalie,

I just had the neatest experience. So, I was reading your post on your S-S-Socialization and thinking, “Wow, I love this writing style. There is a passionate verve and verbal precision which energizes and tightens long, meticulously thorough, dialectically patterned, exquisitely nuanced, systematically developed arguments. More than anyone else’s I can remember reading this writing reminds me of my own peculiar writing style at my very best. I like this in that distinctive way that I like reading myself. There are certain goals I constantly pursue stylistically and argumentatively which it is exciting to see someone else also aim for and hit so directly. And I’m learning ideas I would have never thought of from a perspective that is completely foreign to me, so this is also doing things I could never do too.”

It was a staggering feeling, like finding a kindred writing spirit. Keep up the fantastic work!

I apologize for any vanity in praising her on account of her being like me. I originally opted to keep those thoughts between just her and me, but I bring them up publicly now as evidence of my unsolicited, private, already on-the-record enthusiasm for her work. Basically, as far as I am concerned, if you like Camels With Hammers you should be reading Sincerely, Natalie Reed too.

In terms of content, Natalie provides Freethought Blogs a treasure trove of necessary information and is one of our most meticulous, systematic, dialectical, and thorough arguers. She is an ideal blogger because she has a rare perspective and wealth of important experiences that the larger public desperately needs to be educated about, her writing has a distinctive voice, and she is relentlessly prolific, vulnerably revealing, both intellectually and personally honest, and just flat out great at stringing words together.

And we needed someone to address the issues she can treat for us.

Both the bigotries and well-meaning misunderstandings that trans people face cause many of them unbearable misery, unjustified shame, deep alienation, and too often death. It is a vital interest that trans people have articulate spokespeople who are willing to riskily lay their experiences bare for the privileged rest of us so that their suffering is not in vain and so that their suffering is not allowed to recur in the next generation of trans people. It is a vital interest for countless people that our culture listens to trans people and listens to the unique philosophical and psychological insights that their unusual experience gives them access to. They can help us understand the complex intricacies and intersections of sex, gender, culture, power, and privilege in much more sophisticated ways than we otherwise would. They can tell us a whole lot not only about themselves but about all of us so that we can all flourish more successfully as human beings.

And Freethought Blogs is especially a place that rightly should have made finding a worthy blogger for this task a priority. And we did.

This is because what being self-consciously “freethinking” means is being committed to thinking about and speaking out about unpopular, marginalized truths which threaten powerful repressive and oppressive interests. Freethinking is about asking questions which destabilize unjust, hegemonic forms of power which gain undue legitimacy from widespread unexamined falsehoods. If we are to live up to our bold self-anointing as a place of free thought then we need to have people here who are willing to think as many uncomfortable thoughts as necessary to shatter as many comfortable prejudices as exist.

Since we are, and I think we should remain, a self-consciously atheistic network, our main focus is breaking the unjust hold that false and authoritarian religions have on billions of hearts, minds, and lives. But we also need, and fervently want, to find people who also can fight other falsehoods and forms of repression as well. This means we unapologetically look for great atheist writers who will challenge a diversity of different kinds of falsehoods and repression. We look for writers who will expand the kinds of freethinking we do and the kinds of under-publicized truths we can offer our readers.

Natalie Reed was a superb candidate for being our first blogger who could educate on the trans experience from both a riveting first person perspective and a brilliant intellectual one.  She got where she is through no special favors. She did not have the advantage of formal qualifications to give her a platform regardless of whether her writing or insights were actually anything special. She earned her way to a byline the hardest way there is—by just offering enough brilliant insights in a major blog’s comments sections that the influential bloggers there realized her writing was special and deserving of a broader platform. She proved herself by not even trying to earn any recognition or platform but just by being one of the best voices around. And when she got her bigger platform she used it to impress some pretty good writers and astute, savvy bloggers here at Freethought Blogs such that they brought her to our attention. Again, she won them over with no special campaigning or efforts. And it only took me a short trip through her archives to realize she was talented and qualified enough to fulfill the role of speaking out on our blog network for the most unfairly reviled and marginalized of all members of the LGBT community.

I knew it was crucial we find someone to address this huge social justice issue from a self-consciously atheistic perspective. I believed that before I was ever sold on Natalie being the person for that job. Freethought Blogs needs to represent unjustly marginalized perspectives if it is to adequately and thoroughly be a place that challenges the prejudices of mainstream thinking and be a voice for suppressed truths. This has nothing to do with hiring unqualified people out of a concern for diversity at the expense of quality. It has everything to do with maintaining high standards of quality. It has everything to do with hiring based on qualifications. Natalie is a terrific thinker, she fills an indispensable content niche for our project, and as far as I’m concerned she is as good a writer as anyone on this network.

She’s eminently qualified to blog here.

John W. Loftus on the other hand? I used to look at his credentials and just assume he was qualified. I then read portions of his book and thought his summation of the illogical and superstitious dimensions of the Old Testament was an ideal account.

But the more I have interacted with him and read him interact with others, the more and more thoroughly I am convinced that when it comes to personal character and perceptiveness, he is not qualified at all to be in any position of influence. He is a weak, painfully insecure, petty, paranoid, egomaniacal, prejudiced man with a staggering persecution complex the likes of which I have never personally encountered before. The number of wholly imaginary slights he complains about is mind boggling to me. Narcissism is an undeniable natural vice of a blogger. We have the vanity to self-publish our every thought and some of us crave fame unabashedly. But, really, you don’t have to so completely and publicly collapse in upon yourself as this man does over and over and over.

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