It’s a Women in Secularism anniversary! May 16, 2013Posted by shaunphilly in Culture and Society, Skepticism and atheism.
Tags: feminism, religion, Women in Secularism
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One more day!
Tomorrow morning, Ginny and I will be getting in the car and driving down to Washington DC to attend the Women in Secularism conference. And on Sunday, Ginny and I will be celebrating our one year anniversary! In fact, the reason we didn’t make it to the first Women in Secularism conference was because our wedding was the same weekend last year. And while I considered skipping out on my own wedding for a conference, ultimately I decided it would not be a good decision. Plus, our wedding rocked.
I’m looking forward to seeing some old friends, meeting some new ones, and generally having a great weekend. I may be blogging, or at least tweeting, from the conference (@polyskeptic), but if I don’t I will certainly have something to say after I get back.
I do hope to avoid any and all potential absurdity from some certain persons who will be attending, and broadcasting, from the conference while there. I will reiterate that I am really not interested in interacting, socially or for the sake of
argument discussion, with people who perpetually fail to comprehend the intersectionality of social issues as they relate to the drive that pushes atheists to be active. The same motivations I have to be active in this community lead me to care, and act, about other issues. And since (with atheism and feminism, for example) there are overlapping concepts and goals, having a space for people who contain the multitudes of social justice concerns makes sense. Again, nobody is claiming any necessary logical relationship between atheism and gender equality as envisioned by feminists such as myself. The point is that the desire to be an activist for one set of concerns—such as the separation of church and state, education and theocracy, and atheist civil right protection—is related to the desire to see other issues dealt with in society. And since these different issues have some overlapping concepts (like privilege), experiences (like discrimination and misunderstanding), and similar goals (general human rights) it makes sense that some people talk, write, and act on their intersectionality. The whole point of intersectionality is that various cultural concerns have overlapping affects and experiences, and some of us care about how atheism, skepticism, gender issues, racism, ableism, etc intersect.
The problem, for many critics of this view, is that they don’t agree with or care about the kind of feminism that we espouse. That’s fine. They have the legal protection of believing whatever they want, and they can still do pure skepticism/atheism, if they want (I think that’s getting old and boring, personally). On the other hand, this critical view has nothing to do with the fact that we we plussers and other atheist advocates for third wave feminism comprehend, care about, and argue for the active intersection of these issues. Nobody is forcing anyone else to contribute or cooperate, and nobody is redefining atheism or trying to enforce community standards.
Why the fuck can’t some people comprehend that?
In any case, I will be there and I expect it to be a great weekend.
Will you be there? If you are reading this and plan on being there, feel free to come say hello to either of us. I will likely be wearing the blog shirt or something equally offensive to mainstream sensibilities.
Confessions Of A Former Misogynist (re-blogged) February 15, 2013Posted by shaunphilly in Culture and Society.
Tags: feminism, misogyny, patriarchy
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While reading the post, I saw some similarities to my own transformation, not from misogyny to being a feminist per se (I did recognize some of what he said in my own past, before I had a more solid understanding of feminism), but from being generally emotionally reactive and defensive to forcing myself to be more open, transparent, and self-reflective.
I highly urge everyone to read and share the post.
Ben concludes with this important paragraph:
This process took decades with me, though. Debunking a feminist conspiracy in your head is a little bit like deprogramming yourself from a religion. It takes years of self-reflection and asking some really uncomfortable questions about yourself, but you do come out of it a better person. [my emphasis]
I think this is important because with the recent splits in the atheist/skeptic community, pointing out that this transformation is so similar to leaving a religion, many atheists who are ‘skeptical’ of the recent attention to (‘radical”) feminism may start to understand that just as many of them took years to leave religion, they may still need years to leave the misogynistic and patriarchal worldview they still live in.
Tags: feminism, FtBullies, politics, society
This, ladies and gentlemen, will be a rant of sorts. I’m not happy with humanity today, and it’s my own damned fault for reading blogs!
So, I’m a feminist of a specific kind. I have evolving but ideologically-leaning views about the relationship between gender, history, and culture. I think there are things that we should be focused on as a society to improve the world related to those feminist ideas. I think that we need to become familiar with concepts which will be consciousness-raising and will shift our perspectives on how to behave.
The details of what specific kind of feminist I am, what ideologies I prefer, and what changes in perspectives we should work towards are almost not worth explaining, because all I have to say is that I read Freethought Blogs and Skepchick and I agree with them more often than not. I think Greta Christina is an excellent advocate for both atheism and feminism. I think Rebecca Watson had something to teach me in talking about a guy in an elevator. I miss Jen McCreight’s contributions to the conversation. I have learned lots about race and privilege from Ian Cromwell. I think PZ Myers is witty, intelligent, and sometimes wrong (actually, he’s mostly right there).
So, now you know where I stand right?
Here’s the thing. If you read any blogs who have a dog in this fight (you know, the fight about the role of feminism, if any, in the atheist/skeptic community) then you will either think that Rebecca Watson, PZ Myers, etc are generally right and are fighting for a worthy cause within the community or you will think they are bullies (FtBullies, if you would) who have a view based upon “garbage feminist scholarship” and who are creating a division in the community with their, well, bullying and such. Some, such as my good friend Staks, have given up reading any FtB posts at all. I think he’s missing out on a lot by doing so, and I’m not sure if he will change his mind.
It has gotten so bad that I am not even sure what the philosophical differences are, most of the time. Most of the posts I see now are not substantive philosophical critiques of a point of view, they are an attack on the other side. This has become a polarized, party-line division, much like what exists in politics.
And this is no surprise to me. Tribal mentalities exist in all communities, so the fact that this happens in the atheist community is to be expected. I would like skeptics to be better, but I’m too cynical to really believe that will happen even among those who should, ideally, know better. Humans are emotional and irrational (which they then rationalize, in most cases), so all I can do is be both frustrated and amused at it all.
Take this post by Maria Maltseva called A World Without Dogma. it starts off OK, but then you immediately see that PZ Myers, Rebecca Watson, and Richard Carrier are all Marxist feminists who may endanger us with their terrible Marxist ways. I really thought I had run into a Republican blog by accident, for a moment there.
The arguments there are straw men. There is no attempt to take seriously the problem of how to address feminism as a skeptic (and yes, I know there are people who do take this issue seriously from some of them I also read), but rather the point is to show how untrustworthy, unskeptical, and how bad the other side is.
And yes, some at Freethought Blogs do the same thing, and I will admit that I am less annoyed when I agree with the one doing the mocking than when I disagree, even though I also do get annoyed, occasionally, by some I agree with (especially Amanda Marcotte, who I agree with more often than not but I find her writing to be abrasive, so I don’t generally read her stuff anymore, except in rare cases).
So, let’s spell it out; there are people on both sides of this issue being snarky, using mockery, and who dislike each other greatly. I want to see people who are able to see that snark and let it roll off of them. I don’t want the emotion, passion, and even humor to go away, I want it to be waved off and for us to be able to actually have a substantive discussion about things like feminism without it turning into politics as usual. I want people to be able to hear mockery, snark, etc and let it roll off them and pay attention to the message, but often there is little actual message to sink one’s teeth into.
Yes, some people I will talk to will be wrong (painfully wrong), but can’t we drop the meta-debate? Can’t we stop talking about elevatorgate and talk about the philosophical disagreements which underlie why elevatorgate was such a big deal? Can’t we address privilege, safe spaces, and the concerns that men have all while we recognize that understanding the perspective of others is part of the process of making it all better for all of us?
I know I’m biased, but I think that is precisely what people such as Greta Christina have been doing. I want a world where the complaints that men have with our culture are solved. I want a world where the complaints that women have about our culture are solved. I want a world where tribalism and petty interpersonal squabbling don’t dominate philosophical debate. Mostly what I see now is that PZ Myers and Thunderf00t don’t like each other anymore, Rebecca Watson is (supposedly) an ugly bitch, and my view of feminism is a totalitarian dictatorship in the making.
I want to put aside petty interpersonal squabbles, platitudes, and deal with real issues. But I won’t get what I want; the battle-lines will be drawn more vividly and I will be forced to be a combatant even if I try and avoid perpetuating the divisions. And the effect of this is that I will inevitably become further removed from any real dialogue between people on different sides of this issue. I will have less exposure to views different from mine, despite my desire to understand their point of view, because the conversation will become meta-, rather than substantive.
I can try to keep it away from here, but the simple fact is that I do think that one side of this debate is mostly right. It’s just like PZ Myers said some time back, compromise with crazy is half-way to crazy town. I think that FtB, despite some of their poor behavior from time to time, is mostly right, and I find Maria Maltseva mostly wrong, but still worth listening to in case something good comes through.
Not saying so would be inauthentic, so I will be placed on one side of the battle lines, and when I take a step across to try and understand, I will be shot at because I’m perceived to be wearing the uniform of the person seen as the leader on my “side.”
It’s absurd. I’m interested in the truth, if such a thing exists, and I will hope that these stupid squabbles evaporate into a truly skeptical conversation.
Recommended Reading: Feminism January 14, 2013Posted by shaunphilly in Culture and Society, Skepticism and atheism.
Tags: atheist community, feminism
On “Equity Feminism” and “Gender Feminism” (Love, Joy, Feminism)
An excellent critique of a post by vjack about how to talk about feminism. I think Libby Anne nails this one.
Third wave atheism or the ‘new skepticism’? August 20, 2012Posted by shaunphilly in Polyamory.
Tags: feminism, LGBT, new atheism, privilege, third wave atheism
edit: I saw Jen’s follow-up post as well. I like this image best:
A couple of days ago (I’ve been moving and such), Jen wrote this post on her blog about how the atheist community has been a “boy’s club” and how we need to help progress towards a “third wave” of atheism. The key part is this:
I don’t want good causes like secularism and skepticism to die because they’re infested with people who see issues of equality as mission drift. I want Deep Rifts. I want to be able to truthfully say that I feel safe in this movement. I want the misogynists, racists, homophobes, transphobes, and downright trolls out of the movement for the same reason I wouldn’t invite them over for dinner or to play Mario Kart: because they’re not good people. We throw up billboards claiming we’re Good Without God, but how are we proving that as a movement? Litter clean-ups and blood drives can only say so much when you’re simultaneously threatening your fellow activists with rape and death.
It’s time for a new wave of atheism, just like there were different waves of feminism. I’d argue that it’s already happened before. The “first wave” of atheism were the traditional philosophers, freethinkers, and academics. Then came the second wave of “New Atheists” like Dawkins and Hitchens, whose trademark was their unabashed public criticism of religion. Now it’s time for a third wave – a wave that isn’t just a bunch of “middle-class, white, cisgender, heterosexual, able-bodied men” patting themselves on the back for debunking homeopathy for the 983258th time or thinking up yet another great zinger to use against Young Earth Creationists. It’s time for a wave that cares about how religion affects everyone and that applies skepticism to everything, including social issues like sexism, racism, politics, poverty, and crime. We can criticize religion and irrational thinking just as unabashedly and just as publicly, but we need to stop exempting ourselves from that criticism.
Yes, I agree. We, in the blogosphere have been talking a lot about “new” (or “gnu”) atheism, but in the same way that a Jr. leads to a III, we can have the future of the skeptic/atheist movement be a third wave where we include all of the various effects that religion, theological thinking, and non-skepticism generally affects our lives.
In short, we need to transcend mere atheism and move onto application of skepticism to all aspects of culture, beliefs, and actions. We need a new skepticism.
I have been trying to do just that for years at this blog. I saw the kinds of arguments that people had about god, religion, and things like science, and saw parallels between how we think about monogamy and polyamory. I saw unskeptical thinking leading people towards conservative views about sex and relationships, and I began to draw those lines using what I had seen in the skeptical community since I ran into it a decade ago.
In the years that I have run this blog (and after subsequently adding some new writers), I have broadened my focus to include questions of orientation, gender, and have even wrote about my own neuro-atypicality. Yes, I still focus on atheism and polyamory most of the time, but that is because these are the subjects I know best. I look to people like Ginny (my lovely wife) to write about gender, trans, sexology issues (when she’s not burdened by grad school work, that is). And Wes and Gina do their things, whether controversy or convulsions of laughter.
In doing this, I have come to a fairly progressive perspective, which I suppose is no surprise to anyone who knows me. I support LGBT rights, including the right to marry, raise children, etc. I support people who are simply trying to live their lives with political and legal freedom afforded to them not according to theological concerns, but by rational and empirical arguments based on fairness and compassion.
But most importantly, I support the freedom of speech and thought, without which the freedom to act would be parochial and hindered. As Keenan Malik recently said,
Whatever one’s beliefs, secular or religious, there should be complete freedom to express them, short of inciting violence or other forms of physical harm to others. Whatever one’s beliefs, secular or religious, there should be freedom to assemble to promote them. And whatever one’s beliefs, secular or religious, there should be freedom to act upon those beliefs, so long as in so doing one neither physically harms another individual without their consent nor transgresses that individual’s rights in the public sphere. These should be the fundamental principles by which we judge the permissibility of any belief or act, whether religious or secular.
(H/T Greg Mayer over at WEIT)
I support maintaining a skeptical community that fights for the truth, is aware of concepts like privilege and how it influences or worldviews, and which perpetually self-improves by allowing for criticism and dissent, when dissent is warranted.
To conclude, I agree with Jen that we need a third wave of atheism. And whether we think of it as an atheist movement, a skeptical movement, or a social justice movement led by skeptics and atheists, the important thing is that we must keep challenging ourselves to understand more, listen better, and remember that religion and non-skeptical thinking has effects which may not be immediately obvious to us, with our perspective. Religion effects different groups in different ways, and so we need to be inclusive in order to progress towards the goal.
The goal of making ourselves, as activists, obsolete.
Kirk Cameron on marriage: The blind leading the blind August 10, 2011Posted by shaunphilly in religion, atheism, polyamory, culture.
Tags: Christianity, feminism, gay marriage, kirk cameron, marriage
Ow, that hurt, But not as much as reading this:
Now, I’ve found Kirk Cameron’s Christian antics annoying for many years. Since my friend Brian Sapient debated him and his Sith master Ray Comfort back in 2007, I have found him to be a pretty dense tool (almost as bad as Tof Friel, really), but this recent event just makes me want to scream with frustration.
Now, I want to write more substantially about the concept of marriage in the next day or so (mostly because I just got engaged to the lovely Ginny), but for now I want to say a few quick things about the idea of marriage, relationships in general, and the role of men and women in them. I want to say these things because I think that the current model of marriage in the evangelical Christian community is poisonous for both men and women, advocates an immature way for men and women to communicate and interrelate, and just generally sucks giant troll balls.
And what’s worse, it informs many of our ‘traditional’ definitions of marriage.
Kirk Cameron advocates a model of marriage with the man (and there always will be a man, as marriage is defined as an institution between one man and one woman of course), is supposed to “play the role of Jesus Christ to your wife.” There is no equality, no real sense of compromise, and certainly no meaningful feminism here. The man is unambiguously in charge of his wife. This is not a relationship of equals, but one of a power relationship. Just as we are to obey God, the wife is to obey the husband. Sure, if he has “crossed the line” (meaning, is emotionally/physically abusive) then he is not “protecting her” (because that is part of his job, of course) and is not doing his job well. But I doubt that divorce would be an option, as god ordained these marriages, and only we can fail in them; not god.
This is but one of the many aspects of current Christian trends that makes me feel sick. It promotes clearly obsolete gender roles, places people (specifically women) in a place of subservience (and not in the fun and kinky way that some women like, although I’m sure there is some overlap), and (again) it promotes vigorous suction on the balls of the troll which may or may not live under the bridge near your house. His name is Ted.
The irony for me is that many people in our culture, even less batshit nutzoid people than Kirk Cameron, think that gay marriage or polyamorous marriage (not to be confused with the often harmful polygamous marriage) is unhealthy while finding this version of marriage proposed by evangelicals to be relatively healthy. At least (they may say) they are really committed to each other. Or they may say that at least it is the way god intended marriage to be. This is an indication of a fundamental disease at the root of our culture when it comes to thinking about marriage and gender roles. There is no wonder that divorce and teen pregnancy rates are higher among so-called red states; it is these areas which are more prone to this unhealthy model of marriage.
I love my future wife. I love her in a way that a man who sees himself as the master of his wife simply cannot. I am genuinely interested in seeing her free, fulfilled, and treated as the equal that she is. I cannot, not would I try, to “put my foot down” or to make a proclamation about what will be what. It may be hard, we may disagree, but we will communicate openly about all of our desires, fears, and joys. Further, she loves me (this I know, for the Bible…wait, never mind…). She desires me to be fulfilled, free, and will allow me to be who I am, genuinely, inside. Neither of us has to pretend. We don’t have to strive for some fantasy ideal or deny aspects of our selves in sacrifice for our relationship, because our relationship is about a celebration of our selves.
I will put my relationship against that between Kirk Cameron and his wife any day of the week. Any man who sees his wife as subservient, who plays off of old cultural roles for each spouse without any hint of skepticism towards their ideological merit, or who gives men “man cards” which their wives are not even allowed to see is a weak and cowardly man. His worldview is weak and cowardly, and it is a conservative worldview whose influence stretches beyond the evangelical Christian world, but surely dominates that world.
I know too many people, men and women (they are really boys and girls, even in their late 20′s or 30′s) who are inexperienced sexually, relationship-wise, and therefore emotionally stunted. They see this ideal life and marriage set up before them and do not relent even as they fail over and over to find it’s reality. They believe that Jesus will provide for them, and cannot see their own blindness.
And many of these “values” seep into mainstream culture, where (outside of the educated upper middle class generation I grew up around) these ideas are still held with reverence. Heteronormative monogamous male-dominated marriage is more the norm than I think many of us educated and elitist types want to admit–and possibly more than we realize. This idea of the traditional marriage, which is not even traditional if we want to be truly historical about it, is what is doing damage to real human relationships. Not gay marriage. Not polyamorous people who are married and who may want a legalized polyamorous marriage.
It is the closed-minded version of what god wants, what is right, what is ‘Merican even, that will destroy our relationships.