ActivismFeminismReligionSkepticism

Speaking Out Against Hate Directed at Women: David Niose

Here is part six in my ongoing series where I ask the men who are leaders in our community to speak out against the hate that has been directed at many of the vocal women in atheism, secularism and skepticism.

Today, I bring you Mr David Niose, The President of the American Humanist Association. David speaks to the idea that while conflicts are inevitable, violent intimidation and threatening conduct online or in person is never the answer. He also brings us some moving words from Humanism and its Aspirations.

David’s comments after the jump.

From David:

The blogosphere has rarely been known for its high sense of decorum, but the vile comments recently directed toward women in the atheist-humanist-skeptic communities give us reason for pause. Occasional disagreements within our communities on various issues are to be expected, as are the fiery tempers that sometimes accompany such disagreements. Given our strong opinions and our willingness to stand up for what we believe, it would be more surprising if we went a lengthy time period without some kind of high-profile clash occurring. But still, the inevitability of conflict in no way justifies any kind of conduct, whether by written communication or otherwise, that utilizes violent intimidation. As atheists-humanists-skeptics, and as decent human beings, we need to do what we can to create an environment that reflects an understanding of the difference between healthy debate and threatening conduct, between mature discourse and hateful bullying.

Words from Humanism and its Aspirations are particularly appropriate here: “Humanists long for and strive toward a world of mutual care and concern, free of cruelty and its consequences, where differences are resolved cooperatively without resorting to violence.” It’s unfortunate that such standards of decency have not yet become universal, but until they do we should stand together in opposition to thuggish behavior. Obviously, the human animal still has a long way to go, but our communities should be doing what they can to encourage mature and respectful dialogue.

~David Niose

David Niose is The President of the American Humanist Association.

Thank you so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to comment for us, David. It is much appreciated.

Prior posts in this series can be found by clicking the links below.

Speaking out against hate directed at women: David Silverman

Speaking out against hate directed at women: Dale McGowan

Speaking out against hate directed at women: Ronald A Lindsay

Speaking out against hate directed at women: Nick Lee

Speaking out against hate directed at women: Barry Karr

More to come.

Amy Roth

Amy Roth

Amy Davis Roth (aka Surly Amy) is a multimedia artist who resides in Los Angeles, California. She makes Surly-Ramics She is the fearless leader of Mad Art Lab and cohost of Makers' Hustle Podcast Support her on Patreon. Follow her on twitter: @SurlyAmy or on Google+.

Previous post

AI: Chick-fil-gay

Next post

Skepchick Quickies 8.1

35 Comments

  1. July 31, 2012 at 6:02 pm —

    I was going to hold of on criticising him because he is speaking out against the horrible threats people have been receiving but I hope we live in a world where that is the minimum we could expect from a reasonable person.

    Is it just me or has his statement been very carefully worded so that it condemns violent threats but could in no way be interpreted as supporting either position, in particular the position that sexism and sexual harassment are bad?

    I suppose I should add a thanks for at least condemning the threats. Unfortunately that is something.

    • July 31, 2012 at 11:12 pm —

      Yeah, that was monumentally vague. :/ Probably my least favorite so far. At the same time, submitting something *does* imply that they are on our side and not ashamed of that fact, so that is good, I guess. Still, it’s meh.

    • August 1, 2012 at 12:57 am —

      I really dislike this one. It only addresses threats of violence, and by failing to address other types of harassment it leaves it wide open for him to say “Someone told you to shut up and go make a sandwich? Whatever, it’s not like they were threatening violence.”

  2. August 1, 2012 at 5:43 am —

    To be fair, he does specifically mention “comments recently directed toward women in the atheist-humanist-skeptic communities”, without any reference to “both sides”, and characterizes them as “vile”. I agree that a more explicit condemnation of sexism in all its ugly shapes (not just the ones that involve violent threats) would be preferable, but I think the same thing could be said (to a greater or lesser degree) about most of the responses in this series. Not the best thing I have ever read, but still a lot better than nothing.

    • August 1, 2012 at 2:25 pm —

      “but still a lot better than nothing.”

      This kind of thinking bothers me. We should never settle for “good enough” or “better than nothing”. That’s not good.

      In the grand scheme of things, though, this vague support isn’t BAD.

      Taken as a whole, the entire series so far, has been great! We can’t expect people to be perfect.

      We also can’t expect to NOT talk about the problems we see in some of these submissions!

  3. August 1, 2012 at 1:42 pm —

    I knew we could bag one. It was too good of a trap. “We would like your opinion on this topic. There is only one correct opinion. We will finely parse your response to make sure that it is absolutely correct in every particular.”

    You lose, but thank you for playing, Mr. Niose. There is no consolation prize.

    • August 1, 2012 at 2:24 pm —

      Wait … what?

      We will finely parse your response to make sure that it is absolutely correct in every particular.”

      Are you fucking serious here? No one has finally parsing” his opinions — he gave a PUBLIC opinion, and we are discussing that PUBLIC opinion.

      It’s not a perfectly written support letter. I hope even you can see that. It’s not terrible and I imagine he supports our cause, but it’s so VAGUE, like he’s trying not to cause a stir. Just bothersome, really.

      It’s my least favorite so far. What’s so wrong with that?

      You REALLY REALLY REALLY REALLLLLLY need to get off this notion that if we don’t 100% agree with everything someone says, that means we are demonizing them and demanding they totally 100% agree with us on everything ever.

      WTF, man?

    • August 1, 2012 at 2:53 pm —

      It’s ok Dave, your comments are extremely important to us here. In fact, your invitation to provide a statement on paranoid conspiracy theories for publication on our blog is in the mail. Go on out and look for it.

      Awwww, it’s not there yet?

      Do keep looking.

  4. August 1, 2012 at 2:47 pm —

    Yeah, I don’t get it. Is Davew suggesting that disagreement with our posts isn’t (/shouldn’t be) tolerated here?

    • August 1, 2012 at 3:06 pm —

      It’s just YET MORE of his Echo Chamber bullshit.

      Which is ironic because what he’s saying is that we must agree with every post 100% OR ELSE … I don’t know. Or else, what, the world will explode?

      • August 1, 2012 at 3:50 pm —

        Oh, he’s saying even more than that. He’s suggesting that the leaders that are being asked to give statements are 1) being vetted to make sure they agree 100% and 2) are being “raked over the coals” if they do not fall into lockstep with the Skepchick party line.

        I guess we must present their statements with no comments about how well we like the sentiments or we are playing a game of Gotcha; you know “come into my parlor” type shit.

        As Dr.Ian Malcolm said in Jurassic Park, “That’s a big pile of shit.”

        • August 1, 2012 at 3:55 pm —

          THANK YOU for making that clear. I could not quite pinpoint why Dave’s comment really made me uncomfortable. It was oddly phrased, that comment.

          I generally like to give Dave the benefit of the doubt because he’s made some great strides over the years, and I’ve grown to sort-of like him lol, but WOW. Never mind. Take all that back.

          Dave is squarely back in my “ignorant asshat” catagory.

        • August 1, 2012 at 4:19 pm —

          “Oh, he’s saying even more than that. He’s suggesting that the leaders that are being asked to give statements are 1) being vetted to make sure they agree 100% and 2) are being “raked over the coals” if they do not fall into lockstep with the Skepchick party line.”

          No on the first, but yes on the second. No vetting is required. Any reasonable person who is asked to make a comment about misogyny for a feminist forum will understand exactly what to do. They will either write what is required or not respond at all. I really don’t think you can find a skeptical leader who is *for* misogyny. At least I hope you can’t. I also don’t see that many different ways to deplore what is clearly deplorable behavior. As to being raked I think this thread speaks for itself.

          • August 1, 2012 at 4:28 pm

            I really don’t think you can find a skeptical leader who is *for* misogyny. At least I hope you can’t.

            Oh.

            You do realize that the point of this is far more than whether someone is or is not “for” misogyny, right?

            Also, are you suggesting that there is no skeptical leader that is sexist? Or believes in sexist things? And that all skeptical leaders support feminism, and specifically, support *Skepchick*? Because that would be a silly suggestion.

          • August 1, 2012 at 5:18 pm

            All I can say to that Dave is that your idea of being raked over the coals and mine are vastly different.

    • August 1, 2012 at 3:57 pm —

      “Yeah, I don’t get it. Is Davew suggesting that disagreement with our posts isn’t (/shouldn’t be) tolerated here?”

      I’m implying that soliciting a bunch of people to repeat the same opinion is more than a little pointless. The fact that commenters still find fault is more amusing than anything else. The only reason I posted is I thought other people might be amused as well. I’m not sensing a COTW in my near future, however.

  5. August 1, 2012 at 4:48 pm —

    Does anyone else find it ironic that the first half of Dave N’s post is trying to draw a fine line between disagreement and violent intimidation (a line that seems to me as broad as an 8-lane highway), and Dave W is claiming that the slightest disagreement with “the Skepchick party line” results in being raked over the coals.

    Is there really no distinction between threats of rape and death on one hand and “Could have been better”, “very vague” and “Meh” on the other? Isn’t that the entire point of this series of posts, to restore civility to arguments withing the skeptical community, make the hatred and threats socially unacceptable and make sure everybody knows that?

    • August 1, 2012 at 4:51 pm —

      Yet another question: Why doesn’t my spell checker object to “withing”, but complains about perfectly crommulent words like “Skepchick”?

    • August 1, 2012 at 5:40 pm —

      We just can’t fucking win, really. If we were to agree with EVERY thing in these submissions, we’re an echo chamber. If we don’t agree with everything that’s said, then we’re just being difficult.

      Does DaveW NOT see how contradictory his comments are??

      Especially when you consider how fucking often he whines about this place being an echo chamber! I MEAN COME ON DAVE.

    • August 1, 2012 at 7:11 pm —

      Does anyone else find it ironic…

      Incongruous or hypocritical, perhaps. Not ironic.

      Isn’t that the entire point of this series of posts, to restore civility to arguments withing the skeptical community, make the hatred and threats socially unacceptable and make sure everybody knows that?

      It is possible that is the concept, but if so it wasn’t well thought through. I doubt any of the trolls and asshats who post those vile comments read Skepchick or if they did once upon a time they were banned within a few milliseconds. So really at best this is preaching to the choir.

      • August 1, 2012 at 7:23 pm —

        You’re dismissive attitude is noted but you are wrong.

        There are multiple websites dedicated to mocking us and a known asshat and obsessive troll just posted about this series yesterday. Yes, those people still read our blog but why should that even matter? This series is not for them. I am interested in moving forward and finding out who does care about the issues related to women and humanism in general so the majority of good people can find each other and together we can move forward in positive ways.

        If you are just interested in naysaying, stirring up trouble and dismissing legitimate effort to stop hatred and to build bridges from the good men who are also leaders in our communities, then simply step out of their way so the rest of us can get some work done.

        • August 1, 2012 at 8:16 pm —

          If you are just interested in naysaying, stirring up trouble and dismissing legitimate effort to stop hatred and to build bridges from the good men who are also leaders in our communities, then simply step out of their way so the rest of us can get some work done.

          I suggest a different question. “What have you done past and will you do in the future to encourage civility in debate and discourage misogynistic comments like those listed?”

          • August 1, 2012 at 8:20 pm

            This.

  6. August 1, 2012 at 6:50 pm —

    “The vile comments recently directed toward women in the atheist-humanist-skeptic communities” have done more than given me reason to pause. The comments and the response (or lack of one) have motivated me to reevaluate all of the organizations that I support. I’ll be supporting those organizations that actively and forcefully fight against the hate and leaving the rest behind.

    • August 1, 2012 at 7:10 pm —

      Yep. You highlighted one of my issues with this. “Reason to pause.” How very … eh.

  7. August 2, 2012 at 3:20 am —

    “Reason to pause.” How very … eh.

    I’m not so sure. Thinking about how committees and organisations do and don’t work, this statement reads to me as though DN decided he wanted 2 things.

    One, he wanted to get a supportive response out promptly.

    Two, he didn’t want to write an elaborate argument (time-consuming) about how some attitudes undermine good behaviour and can justify bad behaviour. (And that also means he didn’t need to consult anyone else about what to say and how to say it or worry if anyone in the organisation might want something more long-winded or nuanced or “balanced”.)

    So he stuck to a simple, direct statement that this kind of bad behaviour is always and everywhere beyond limits. And he did it quickly.

    Fine by me.

    • August 2, 2012 at 4:37 am —

      You’re really making a lot of assumptions about his intent…

      It’s fine if you like what he’s written, but the assumptions are a bit odd.

      • August 3, 2012 at 4:36 am —

        OK. The ‘reason to pause’ wording sounded like a bit of a signal to me.

        Maybe I’ve spent too many years seeing too much internal politicking in some organisations – but I instantly put this together with the not-very-strong statement and thought Aha! This man’s ducking out of a wider discussion within his organisation.

        Hence the very limited, focused, absolutely unarguable proposition that threatening rape and other violence is thuggish behaviour. Not a word, a hint, a rumour of an idea, a tiny baby step ventured into the more general area of negative attitudes towards women.

        I know absolutely nothing about the people he works with, so I can’t presume that any of them would argue against a more comprehensive statement. But my committee-politics antennae are still a little bit quivery.

        • August 3, 2012 at 12:39 pm —

          So, basically, he doesn’t want to rock the boat. How very corporate of him.

          I am still not impressed.

          Rock the fucking boat. The boat needs to be rocked. Hard. Otherwise it’ll just stay stagnant and nothing will change.

        • August 3, 2012 at 12:41 pm —

          Either that, or you’re saying he just didn’t have time to make a well thought-out, less vague statement? If so, then what’s the point? I mean, I assume the other submitters are just as busy as he is, and yet…

          All poor excuses, man, and leaving me very unimpressed.

          I think it’s probably somewhere in the middle — he didn’t want to rock the boat, or take a lot of time writing something. So, you know. MEH.

Leave a reply