Speaking Out Against Hate Directed at Women: Paul Fidalgo

Speaking Out Against Hate Directed at Women: Paul Fidalgo

Welcome to number fifteen in a series where I ask men in leadership roles to speak out against the hate we have seen directed at the women in our community.

Today, I bring you the words of, Paul Fidalgo who is the Communications Director for the Center for Inquiry. Paul talks about what he refers to as the, ‘skepto-atheosphere’ and explains why we need to move forward and fight for a better world, even if that means leaving some people behind.

Paul’s words after the jump.

From Paul:

The vaunted skepto-atheosphere: I have at times made the mistake of assuming that we’re all in this movement because we were spurred on by the same set of ideals and principles. Some are moved by social justice and civil rights, some by a devotion to reality and truth, some who simply want a community of intelligent, creative folks, and of course there will be some who want a faction to join in order to combat a nefarious “other.”

Probably most of us have a blend of all of these. For me, I think I began being moved by frustration with society’s aversion to facts, found that this aversion resulted in persecution and discrimination of reality-based dissenters, discovered the community of fascinating people with whom I can bond over more than mere nonbelief, and yes, I’ve gotten some kicks out of pointing and laughing at those who believe in absurd things.

But for some folks, that kind of factioning isn’t enough. It needs to go deeper. There needs to be an enemy. What is so deeply saddening to me is that for many who consider themselves part of this community, the enemy is women. And why? Because they’d like you to stop threatening them with rape and violence and treating them like chattel, thank you very much. I know. The nerve.

And of course this phenomenon spills out, and infects everything we do within the movement. People who ought to be friends and allies call for each other’s expulsion; one person takes an extreme position, another finds a shred of merit within the argument, and now all are painted with the same brush. It’s happening so quickly, and it’s dizzying. But it may be an inevitable side effect of the real problem.

We do this around all sorts of issues. Remember when all we cared about was who was and was not an “accomodationist”? I was guilty of overindulging on that particular brand of factioning (this person thinks Sam Harris is too callous? THEY MUST BE DESTROYED), and I regret it (but seriously, leave Sam alone). But now I’m beginning to miss those days, eye-roll-inducing as they are now.

So what I think might be helpful here is a distinguishing between those who simply operate in the skepto-atheosphere (on and off-line) and those who consider themselves part of a movement. Because you can be a skeptic and you can be an atheist and also be a rotten person who thinks little of your fellow humans who happen to have a double-X chromosome.

But I don’t think you can be part of this movement.

I know, I don’t get to decide these kinds of things. But if I did, it’d go something like this:

This movement (not merely the community of heretics, but the movement) is about lessening the power of religion, superstition, and credulous thinking because we want to live in a world guided by facts, science, and reason, because (and here’s the part I might lose some of you) we want to live in a world that maximizes human happiness, morality, freedom of thought and expression, and equality. Atheism and skepticism for their own sakes are not “causes.” They are not, in and of themselves, worthy of a movement. But we pursue these goals because we know they will bring about a society in which we are more free and equal, and in turn we will be more fulfilled and enriched as a result.

We want to save the world.

Isn’t that what a movement is all about? Activists fighting for LGBT marriage equality aren’t just fighting so that some gay folks can get hitched. It’s because it’s part of a larger project of bringing about a more moral, fairer, and better world.

There are a whole lot of folks in the skepto-atheosphere who don’t share that goal. Maybe they think they do, but in their actions, in their words, they prove otherwise.

So here is my opinion (not necessarily that of my employer). If you don’t share the goals outlined above, if you think it’s cool or funny or even necessary to debase or threaten women, then you’re just not part of the movement, even if you think you are. Because if making a fairer, better world is not your goal, then what are you fighting for? The right to terrorize people? The right to feel superior? Them’s small fries, my friend. You can do better.

If you’re not interested in doing better, you’re not part of this movement. You may be a skeptic, you may be an atheist, but you’re not part of this grand project. You’re not helping.

So of course I strongly echo the sentiments already expressed in this series. The kind of loathsome behavior we’ve seen directed at women in recent months is reprehensible, embarrassing, and shameful. It’s beneath any civilized human, but it’s outright unconscionable for those who profess to be part of this community, of this movement. We are better than that. Are you?

I mean, we get it. The Bible and the Koran are fiction and there’s no evidence for Bigfoot. So now what?

I’m going to join the movement that’s working on the “now what.” I’ll see you there when you’re ready to help.

Paul Fidalgo is the Communications Director for the Center for Inquiry.

Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us, Paul. I look forward to helping to build a better future with you.

Prior posts in this series can be found here:

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

Speaking out against hate directed at women: David Niose

Speaking out against hate directed at women: Matt Dillahunty

Speaking out against hate directed at women: Jim Underdown

Speaking out against hate directed at women: Michael Payton

Speaking out against hate directed at women: Michael Nugent

Speaking out against hate directed at women: Dan Barker

Speaking out against hate directed at women: Carlos Alfredo Diaz

Speaking out against hate directed at women: Todd Stiefel

Speaking out against hate directed at women: Michael De Dora

More to come.

Amy Davis Roth (aka Surly Amy) is a multimedia artist who resides in Los Angeles, California. She makes Surly-Ramics and kicks ass on a daily basis. Follow her on twitter: @SurlyAmy or on Google+.

19 Comments

  1. Fantastic. I love how he sums up the entire thing so concisely at the end:

    “I’m going to join the movement that’s working on the ‘now what.’ I’ll see you there when you’re ready to help.”

    People like this make me neurotic about my own writing. You’d think this guy was a communications director or something.

  2. Man, how long have I been beating the “we’re saving the world” drum? It’s so nice to see someone else who found the same rhetoric and the same ideals.

    Well, outside of Greta Christina, but I agree with her on nearly everything already because she’s brilliant.

    Thanks for keeping this going Amy. And while I’m not an atheist leader or anything (I’m barely and atheist person), I’ve got your back too :D.

  3. Very good! Yes yes agree wholeheartedly. Atheism and skepticism does not a movement make, you need goals, and you need to strive towards something.

  4. This piece makes me want to yell, “Hell yeah! Let’s do this!”

  5. Wow. And boo-yah.

  6. By far, the most motivational of the posts!

    I’m ready!

  7. Another great one.

    This movement [...] is about lessening the power of religion, superstition, and credulous thinking because we want to live in a world guided by facts, science, and reason, because [...] we want to live in a world that maximizes human happiness, morality, freedom of thought and expression, and equality.

    I would add “truth for its own sake” to that list (and this is where atheism and skepticism are indeed worthy causes in their own right). As I commented over at Ophelia Benson’s blog, I don’t really mind if someone prefers to focus exclusively on empirical claims, and not get bogged down in politics (Who has the caoacity to dedicate themselves equally to every worthy cause anyway?). However, there’s a major difference between staying out of a discussion altogheter and actively opposing anyone who seeks to improve the status of women and minorities. It’s ironic how so many of those who scream and shout about “keeping politics out of skepticism” etc. seem to confuse the “unpolitical”, “neutral” position with the most conservative and downright reactionary postion imaginable.

    you can be a skeptic and you can be an atheist and also be a rotten person who thinks little of your fellow humans who happen to have a double-X chromosome. But I don’t think you can be part of this movement. [...] if you think it’s cool or funny or even necessary to debase or threaten women, then you’re just not part of the movement, even if you think you are. [...] If you’re not interested in doing better, you’re not part of this movement.

    Hell yes to this! As long as the trolls who have been flooding every skeptical website, youtube channel, forum, or blog with toxic waste since a woman had the audacity to say “Guys, don’t do that” are part of the “movement”, I want nothing to do with it. That movement is dead to me. Gone beyond the event horizon, and nothing can bring it back. And it’s a good thing! There is no “we” that includes the anti-feminist crowd and me at the same time, and “we” sure as hell are not “on the same side”.

  8. This is my favorite series on the web right now. The publicity will make it hard for those doing this to think that there is anyone who agrees that their actions and words are acceptable.

  9. Just a secondary thing… but if you want to support women (and more power to you, and to them,) then perhaps you should use the language in a way that includes all women, not just those with particular chromosomes. I know it’s “just” a rhetorical flourish, but it’s a clumsy and hurtful one.

    • @theseer that is a good point. It would make it more inclusive.

  10. Thanks again Amy for doing this series. And Paul’s statements reflect my sentiments’ exactly; therefore this is, without a doubt, my favorite in the series.

  11. Thank you, Paul! I definitely relate to what you say here thanks for saying it so well.

  12. Thanks, everybody. I’m glad this kind of thing speaks to you. I hope we can all soon lift our heads up and do the work we want to do, and everything else becomes a just a nuisance.

  13. What he describes is what I wanted to find when I first started looking online for skeptics and atheists. After putting up with a bewildering amount of irrational concepts at Atheist Nexus (my first internet stop, because – referring back to the “strange things people believe AI, I initially thought all atheists were skeptics. I know.), I found the Skeptics Forum, which was equally bewildering in their sarcastic and lofty superiority complex.

    I found Skepchick by accident, and rather like it. A lot. But I am content to be an armchair activist for now – I don’t have a skin tough enough to be on the front lines.

  14. This describes a group of people that I would want to be part of. As far as I’m concerned, when I’m deciding if I want to be part of a group, I look at how they treat outsiders and people that have less power than they. Then I will look at if I agree with their philosophy, and will judge that philosophy based on their behavior.

    It seems that there have been a lot of (mostly) men lately that have been acting as if their right thinking means that they can act anyway they want. Doesn’t seem all that different from a lot of churches that I have been a part of. In both, the behavior of the powerful discredit their message. This essay goes some distance to counter that.

  15. These keep getting better and better. Not much to add, just +1.

    BTW, it took me a minute or two to figure out what theseer was talking about. (Making people exercise their brains is a good thing, I’m not complaining…)

  16. Another great addition. Thanks for doing this!

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