This past weekend, I had the pleasure of speaking at the HFA Annual Conference along with PZ Myers, Shelley Segal, David Niose, and many others. I was blown away by how receptive and interesting the audience was, and I was surprised and flattered to receive HFA’s Humanist of the Year Award.

As I was traveling to the conference Friday, a story broke that I found astounding: Men’s Rights Activist Justin Vacula was appointed co-chair of the Pennsylvania chapter of the Secular Coalition for America, the organization that recently came under fire for hiring Republican lobbyist Edwina Rogers.

In case you’re not familiar with him, Vacula has written about the “feminist lies” of Surly Amy for A Voice For Men (the same site where Paul Elam wrote a short novella on what a “stupid, lying whore” I am, and some pseudonymous grandfather called me a “bitch”).

He participated in the gleeful bullying of Jen McCreight, who was driven off her blog last month by trolls:

He posted Surly Amy’s home address on a hate site:

Vacula also seems to have an intense hatred of Amy, Tweeting about her obsessively and saying she brings harassment on herself:

Here you can see he changed his Twitter avatar into a necklace that looks like those Amy creates, and it says “Don’t censor me Amy”:

Yikes.

Several secular bloggers have already posted about this: Ophelia, Jason Thibeault, and JT have documented some of the problems we all have with Vacula, and called for SCA to remove him from the position. Stephanie Zvan has even created a petition, which details more of the ways that Vacula has engaged in behavior that will actively drive progressive women away from the secular cause.

I quickly read up on some of these things while at the HFA conference. Saturday night, I ate dinner at a table with Kelly Damerow, Research and Advocacy Manager for the Secular Coalition for America. All night, I had no idea that she worked for SCA, so the topic didn’t come up. Sunday morning, Damerow gave me her business card.

“Oh! SCA!” I said. “What’s up with that whole Justin Vacula thing?”

She started talking about how they’d keep a close eye on their state directors, but I pointed out that regardless of how he acts from now on, he has a very recent history of being aggressively anti-woman, and surely that should have been taken into consideration when choosing him. Unfortunately, I was rushed away from our conversation in order to arrange my ride to the airport – I was originally going to have to leave the conference early (before Damerow’s talk), but luckily someone volunteered to give me a later lift. So an hour or so later, I sat down to watch Damerow talk about the lobbying work that SCA does and the push to open 50 state chapters.

Damerow described SCA as a diplomatic, non-partisan organization that hoped to build grassroots support in every state. So, during Q&A, I wanted to know how Vacula fit into that plan. You can see the relevant portion in this clip:

To sum up: I very briefly described Vacula’s behavior over the past several months and asked Damerow how SCA expected to build support amongst progressive women in Pennsylvania with someone like him running that state’s chapter.

Damerow clarified that Vacula wasn’t actually “hired,” since it is a volunteer position. She then went on to emphasize that SCA needs to be respectful and diplomatic and non-partisan.

I was confused, because that didn’t actually answer my question. If I were a woman in Pennsylvania, I would never, ever want to get involved in any way with Justin Vacula. In fact, I will never, ever get involved with SCA so long as someone like him holds a position of power anywhere, let alone in a state I live in. So Vacula is actively driving people away from SCA. I’d like to know how they expect to overcome that – how they hope to reach out to progressive people, and particularly women in Pennsylvania, while an MRA is a co-chair.

EllenBeth Wachs asked Damerow what percentage of women were co-chairs, to which Damerow eventually said one out of eight, currently. Wachs pointed out that it already sounds as though they haven’t made it a priority to reach out to women. She also says that if Vacula were the co-chair in Florida (where Wachs is), she’d have nothing to do with them. Damerow states that SCA has done what’s right for Florida in Florida, and what’s right for Pennsylvania in Pennsylvania. That made me wonder: why does SCA dislike feminist secular activists in Pennsylvania?

It’s all a real shame, because SCA fills an important role in our movement and I’d like to give them my support. It’s also a shame because I enjoyed Damerow’s talk, and I liked chatting with her about non-movement stuff over dinner. I’m always looking for more awesome women to support and recommend to event organizers. But I just can’t stand the non-answers and the utter dismissal of the concerns of feminists. I don’t believe secular organizations should reward bullies and bigots with high-level positions, even if those positions are volunteer-only.

I hope that in addition to individuals signing Stephanie Zvan’s petition, the member organizations of SCA make a strong statement against this move. American Atheists, American Ethical Union, American Humanist Association, Atheist Alliance of America, Camp Quest, Council for Secular Humanism, HUUmanists Association, Institute for Humanist Studies, Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers, Secular Student Alliance, and Society for Humanistic Judaism: do you agree with SCA that Justin Vacula is a good representative of your cause? If not, weigh in and let the feminists who support you know that you support them, too.

EDIT Oct 4: As EllenBeth Wachs mentions in the comments below, Vacula has apparently resigned from his position with SCA, claiming that he made some mistakes in the past few months that were not malicious, not apologizing for those “mistakes,” comparing himself to an Ibsen character, calling it “disrespectful” to point out that his hiring alienated women in the movement, and maintaining that there is a “campaign of lies” about him, without linking to or quoting any of those lies. We can only guess.

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca leads a team of skeptical female activists at Skepchick.org and appears on the weekly Skeptics' Guide to the Universe podcast. She travels around the world delivering entertaining talks on science, atheism, feminism, and skepticism. There is currently an asteroid orbiting the sun with her name on it. You can follow her every fascinating move on Twitter or on Google+.

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73 Comments

  1. Profile photo of Dale Husband
    October 1, 2012 at 1:57 pm —

    Great, another bigoted @$$hole to avoid. Thanks for the heads up, Rebecca! Clearly, we have a long way to go before skeptical and atheist communities become truly credible and fair to all people, not just elitist men!

    • Profile photo of dr. dr. professor
      October 3, 2012 at 2:16 pm —

      You know, I’m glad that hate speech is legal in the United States. Because when people say such hateful things, it tends to let society know where the sharks are and leads society to fight against them.

      We know who is a shark, and exactly what they think, and now we can ostracize from our better society.

  2. Profile photo of simonsays
    October 1, 2012 at 2:04 pm —

    AVFM actually has some older articles on you Rebecca and they’re just as vile as the one you quoted:

    http://www.avoiceformen.com/feminism/rude-elevator-bitch/
    http://www.avoiceformen.com/feminism/behind-closed-elevators/

    That is really a terrible site.

    • Profile photo of simonsays
      October 1, 2012 at 2:06 pm —

      Ugh. And I just noticed he was going back and forth with “GirlWritesWhat”. Yikes.

    • Profile photo of Dale Husband
      October 1, 2012 at 2:10 pm —

      A Voice for Men? How about a Voice for White People, a Voice for Christians, and a Voice for the Wealthy? Oh yes, we must always ensure that those who are already privileged in society get to yell louder then their opponents, to maintain the status quo in society, even if they are abusive and dishonest.

      Damn them!

  3. Profile photo of Nicole Introvert
    October 1, 2012 at 2:09 pm —

    Oh geez, the MRAs are already all over her petition. I signed. I also was planning on volunteering for my local SCA when it becomes established, but I will not as long as I have to work alongside Justin. He has shown blatant disregard for private information. It scares me that he will most likely have access to names/addresses of folks involved with the SCA, some of which are likely not “out” as secular to everyone in their lives. He could put many people at risk.

    • Profile photo of Rebecca Watson
      October 1, 2012 at 2:47 pm —

      It scares me that he will most likely have access to names/addresses of folks involved with the SCA, some of which are likely not “out” as secular to everyone in their lives. He could put many people at risk.

      That is a very, very good point.

    • Profile photo of nymchimpsky
      October 1, 2012 at 3:39 pm —

      Oh my no-god. I hadn’t even thought about. that.

      What could possibly go wrong when a woman-hating, dox-dropping bigot has access to the full names, addresses and other contact info of marginalised people?

      I feel sick.

      • Profile photo of daedalus2u
        October 4, 2012 at 12:45 pm —

        IANAL, but if he does misuse SCA contact information and harms people using that information, then SCA could be found civilly liable.

        Maybe that is a fallback way to deal with this, wait for him to hurt someone, then put the Pennsylvania branch of the SCA out of its misery.

  4. Profile photo of Colette
    October 1, 2012 at 2:27 pm —

    Petition signed. I’m especially horrified that not only was your question skipped over, but that the speaker didn’t seem to care about Vacula’s offenses. She attempted to cover her bases by saying that he was a ‘volunteer.’ It is as if they think you are exaggerating his obvious misogyny. Either that or they didn’t really know much about him when he was selected for the position, which isn’t much more comforting.

  5. Profile photo of frogmistress
    October 1, 2012 at 2:34 pm —

    Their lack of addressing the actual issue is very disheartening. I can understand they were caught off guard when informed about the choice they had made. But they could at least try to make it look like they care about our concerns, maybe just a little bit?

  6. Profile photo of criticaldragon1177
    October 1, 2012 at 2:34 pm —

    Rebecca Watson,

    This really makes me angry. It must really make you angry as well. Why did they appoint him?

  7. Profile photo of Chas Stewart
    October 1, 2012 at 2:54 pm —

    You kind of put her on the spot didn’t you? I doubt she had time to research Vacula and would have been making a statement based entirely on the information that you provided. I think that is a probable reason for her giving you a non-answer.

    Also, anti-woman is rather broad. I will no doubt agree with you that Justin is anti Free Thought Blogs and Skepchick (which is wrong of him to be so blanketed) but I think it’s unfair to claim that he’s anti-woman. But, I also feel that MRAs are not necessarily anti-woman (I am not an MRA nor do I think it is a helpful ideology) but feel that in order to right a few wrongs against men they need to gather together and fight for those specific rights. I do not agree and think that men’s rights issues (a lower priority than most civil rights, of course) can be solved with a more general appeal to justice in the world. I know that I’m coming off as a concern troll but I think that using these generalizations inflames rather than persuades.

    • Profile photo of oolon
      October 1, 2012 at 4:10 pm —

      I agree, there is plenty to dislike about Justin Vacula but MRA as an insult? You can be a ‘good’ MRA as gender inequality affects men as well as women. I’ve heard it is an effective way of persuading people from the nutty-MRA ideology to point out that lots of feminists hate the stereotyping of men as well. So a lot of the problems blogged about on AVfM are issues that feminism is addressing as well. The nutty-MRAs just happen to blame feminism for the issues themselves for some reason… I mean we all know how great things were before feminism, uh, right?

      • Profile photo of dr. dr. professor
        October 1, 2012 at 5:03 pm —

        //gender inequality affects men//

        Okay, name a few examples.

        • Profile photo of oolon
          October 2, 2012 at 4:14 am —

          @Dr. dr. prof, “gender inequality effects men”.. You need examples? I thought it was a given that feminism is addressing these issues as well? The idea that women cannot do certain jobs is down to stereotypes of both genders, plainly. The nutty-MRAs take advantage of these known inequalities on the male side and blow them out of all proportion to make it seem like men are the ones on the wrong end of the power balance. There is no need to pretend they don’t exist at all and any mention of ‘MRA’ is anathema. Examples for you that are clearly not in any sort of conflict with feminism –
          http://freethoughtblogs.com/lousycanuck/2011/10/08/the-disadvantages-of-being-a-man/
          I’m a feminist not an MRA because feminism already addresses these issues, so I don’t see the point.

      • Profile photo of marilove
        October 1, 2012 at 6:37 pm —

        There is no such ting as a “good” MRA.

        Additionally, there is no such thing as “Men’s Rights”.

        Sexism hurts men, too, and feminism addresses sexism. Which also hurts men.

        Any and all issues you can come up with that are “good issues”? They are already feminist issues.

        • Profile photo of Traverse Davies
          October 1, 2012 at 8:38 pm —

          I’m sorry, but when I was being physically abused by my ex wife every single feminist I knew refused to listen to me, even though I wasn’t in women’s forums (occasionally I was in victims forums, talking about my personal abuse, not anything more than that…). The only support I got (and I include my own family in this) was from MRA’s. Now, I don’t support everything about the MRM, but until men like me get some support there has to be something out there that doesn’t say “Your situation doesn’t matter, and when we get women’s issues sorted it will be resolved as well”.

          • Profile photo of dr. dr. professor
            October 2, 2012 at 1:30 am

            Mr. Davies, what most are saying here is that MRA espouses a lot of sexist thought under the veil of a legitimate civil right’s movement.

            Support for Men’s issues should be there, but the MRA movement very very often crosses into sexism. Like here: http://news.mensactivism.org/ and here: http://www.avoiceformen.com/mission-and-values/dont-get-fucked/ a great lot of that content and the content on most MRA sites is flat out sexist shit.

            To your point however, support for Men’s issues should be there because domestic abuse happens to men, men commit more suicides, men have a hard time being single parents etc., but that support can/should come without SEXISM.

            It it not necessary to say “fuck women, they’re terrible” when helping a struggling single father. See what I mean?

          • Profile photo of utakata
            October 2, 2012 at 1:44 pm

            This borders on the arguement of because the Salvation Army does “good” to the “down and trodden”, we should be supporting them instead of questioning their religious based motivations.

            I am sorry for your situtation, and I don’t make light of it…as I have witnessed a friend a very similar situation to yours. And I’ll advice you as I advised him: I would go to the police and other legal means to put a stop to this, as well as seeking councilling from professionals…instead of trolling feminisst with it (you haven’t exactly said how you apporached “every single feminist [you] knew” with this) and/or seeking refuge in dubios entities “that will listen to you”. The last thing you need is to play politics with this instead of getting the proper help you need. Just saying.

        • Profile photo of oolon
          October 2, 2012 at 4:20 am —

          @Marilove, Not sure if this was addressed to me, “Any and all issues you can come up with that are “good issues”? They are already feminist issues.”

          That was my point – it is possible for an MRA to not hate feminists and acknowledge they are fighting for the same things. Can you be a feminist MRA?

    • Profile photo of dr. dr. professor
      October 1, 2012 at 5:02 pm —

      Well the issue with “MRA” is the “RA”. Men have not lost any rights. Because it somehow give the impression that men are oppressed, and usually points the finger at women or feminism as the culprit. And that’s basically closet sexism.

      Having support for Men’s ISSUES is one thing.
      – Support hotlines for suicidal men, those exist
      – Having men’s homeless shelters, those exist
      – Support for single fathers, that exists
      – etc.

      And there’s nothing WRONG with having that support there. But MRA makes it into something that starts putting blame on women for men’s problems and it’s generally an avenue men to express sexist thought against women under a thin cover of “fighting for men’s rights”.

      Men’s issues that help support men in tough situations, sure, but MRA that blames feminism for men’s issues, NO.

      BTW, feminists will often fight for Men’s issues too. I’m sure most feminists would agree that men should get maternity leave, that not only men should be in infantry, that single men should be able to adopt, etc.

      Feminism is GOOD for men too.

    • Profile photo of marilove
      October 1, 2012 at 6:36 pm —

      ” I doubt she had time to research Vacula and would have been making a statement based entirely on the information that you provide.”

      What a lousy excuse. Shouldn’t she be aware of the people she’s appointming to help run the organization she helps to manage??? I mean come on.

    • Profile photo of cortex
      October 1, 2012 at 9:19 pm —

      “I think that using these generalizations inflames rather than persuades.”

      Seeing as this post is an alert and a call to action, not a persuasive essay, it seems entirely appropriate to label Vacula so.

      A lot of people dislike labels like “misogynist” etc., because they focus on who a person is deep inside (empirically inaccessible), rather than their behavior (empirically observable), but this reasoning ignores the group-level need of marginalized people to have a way of warning each other about confirmed antagonists.

      Maybe not all wolves like to eat sheep, and hey, wolves aren’t even hungry all time. But the sheep still benefit from avoiding all wolves, and from sounding the alarm when one is nearby.

      Not that I’m calling anyone a sheep! The metaphor is only meant to apply in this limited sense!

  8. Profile photo of Chas Stewart
    October 1, 2012 at 3:00 pm —

    Actually, not a concern troll but a tone troll.

  9. Profile photo of Improbable Joe
    October 1, 2012 at 3:24 pm —

    You know… well. When an organization “refuses to take a side” where there’s someone who has clearly crossed some serious lives and they’ve given that person their stamp of approval, that actually counts as taking a side. Accepting the sexist status quo as not even worth addressing directing is taking a side. Embracing someone with ties to a hate group is taking a side.

    “We have to work with everyone, but we’re more comfortable working with members of hate groups than working with their victims. It is for victims to adapt or leave, not for the harassers to change their behaviors.” That’s taking a side.

    • Profile photo of Bjarte Foshaug
      October 1, 2012 at 3:44 pm —

      Exactly, also when the haters, and hyperskeptics and false-equivalence-spouting bothsiders go on about keeping politics/ideology out of atheism/skepticism, we should not let them get away with framing the most conservative and outright reactionary views imaginable as the “unpolitical”, “non ideological” position.

      • Profile photo of dr. dr. professor
        October 2, 2012 at 1:36 am —

        //we should not let them get away with framing the most conservative and outright reactionary views imaginable as the “unpolitical”, “non ideological” position.//

        This is EXACTLY why I avoid the skeptic community altogether actually. Because people parry legitimate ideas and social movements with bullshit overskepticism.

  10. Profile photo of R Nilsson
    October 1, 2012 at 3:33 pm —

    Is this maybe part of an orchestrated sabotage effort? To marginalise progressive atheist movements? Is 2012 a major election year in USA? Has anyone seen of Karl Rove lately? Who has anything to gain from disenfrancising free thought people precisely now? What might Vacula wish to suck in?

    Questions, questions, questions.

    I agree, the outing-mole theory seems particularly sinister.

  11. Profile photo of benjaminsa
    October 1, 2012 at 3:37 pm —

    I was also confused by Damerow’s answer, she seemed to be saying that hate speech was partisan bickering, and that the SCA should ignore any such infighting, even if it is hateful and divisive. There is a nice idea that the enemy of my enemy is my friend, and you should share common cause with anyone who shares your goals. It is a nice idea, and in general a good one, many religious people have done much for secularism. However there are some basic rules of basic human conduct to participate in group organisation, that is where Vacula picks fails, how is someone who has proven so undiplomatic and repellent, to so many, suppose to build anything?

  12. Profile photo of Parse
    October 1, 2012 at 3:41 pm —

    [EllenBeth Wachs] also says that if Vacula were the co-chair in Florida (where Wachs is), she’d have nothing to do with them. Damerow states that SCA has done what’s right for Florida in Florida, and what’s right for Pennsylvania in Pennsylvania.

    As a Pennsylvania resident, Vacula’s behavior is part of the reason why I’ve dropped out of the in-person activism. Of course, having the local leader effectively say ‘sexism isn’t the problem, talking about it is’ is the other major part of it. (“Instead of acknowledging that the movement has different perspectives within in it, not surprising in a movement based on the rejection of faith based belief systems and nothing else, and that this issue is not black and white but has many shades of gray, we continue to spend energy arguing with each other instead of spending it where it counts the most for our cause.” – source: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2012/08/21/a-chance-to-win-free-tickets-to-the-pennsylvania-atheisthumanist-conference/#comment-626653206 ).

    Attention, SCA: Promoting Vacula isn’t right for Pennsylvania, or at minimum for me (a guy from Pennsylvania).

  13. Profile photo of oolon
    October 1, 2012 at 4:21 pm —

    I signed the petition as I see him doing more harm than good. Mainly because when I first came across him all he was doing was minimising someone’s feelings about harassment. It was not *real* harassment as far as he was concerned so they *should* be ok with it! Arrogant turd was my initial thought and nothing has improved since.
    http://freethoughtblogs.com/butterfliesandwheels/2012/07/what-amy-said/#comment-229775

  14. Profile photo of KellyM
    October 1, 2012 at 6:34 pm —

    I’ve emailed SCA via their Contact Us page. Vacula’s harassment of and contempt for women is unacceptable to me. I hope the SCA finally decides to do the right thing so that I can consider offering my support in Florida.

  15. Profile photo of zylla
    October 1, 2012 at 6:35 pm —

    “Men’s Rights Movement” is almost always funny. I wasn’t aware we had lost any rights.

    Anyway… congratulations, Rebecca! Well-deserved!

    • Profile photo of cortex
      October 1, 2012 at 8:17 pm —

      Oh, we’ve lost rights, alright. We just haven’t lost them to women.

  16. Profile photo of sallystrange
    October 1, 2012 at 9:03 pm —

    No. There’s absolutely no room in a progressive secular movement for anyone who is sympathetic to the views expressed in “A Voice for Men,” which has been rightly identified as an anti-woman hate site, should be in a leadership position of the SCA. The SCA is EITHER inclusive towards men and women, OR it is inclusive to misogynist men (and a few women) who think “A Voice for Men” is onto something. It simply cannot be both.

    I have an acquaintance–a friend of a friend–who lives in PA, does not fit into the gender binary, is not entirely straight, and avoids atheist/skeptical meetups for precisely the reason that Justin Vacula and others like him dominate meetings there.

    • Profile photo of Improbable Joe
      October 1, 2012 at 10:07 pm —

      They’ll probably say that you’re being divisive for expecting them to make a choice for the group… I guess rather than allowing people like Vacula the freedom to make people too uncomfortable to attend and therefore eliminating people who would be divisive by complaining.

    • Profile photo of scribe999
      October 2, 2012 at 12:34 am —

      Yup. From the Southern Poverty Law Center:

      A Voice for Men
      A Voice for Men is essentially a mouthpiece for its editor, Paul Elam, who proposes to “expose misandry [hatred of men] on all levels in our culture.” Elam tosses down the gauntlet in his mission statement: “AVfM regards feminists, manginas [a derisive term for weak men], white knights [a similar derisive term, for males who identify as feminists] and other agents of misandry as a social malignancy. We do not consider them well intentioned or honest agents for their purported goals and extend to them no more courtesy or consideration than we would clansmen [sic], skinheads, neo Nazis or other purveyors of hate.” Register-Her.com, an affiliated website that vilifies women by name who have made supposedly false rape allegations (among other crimes against masculinity), is one of Elam’s signature “anti-hate” efforts. “Why are these women not in prison?” the site asks.

      http://www.splcenter.org/get-informed/intelligence-report/browse-all-issues/2012/spring/misogyny-the-sites

    • Profile photo of dr. dr. professor
      October 2, 2012 at 1:44 am —

      Directly from the voice for men website:

      – Science isn’t always valid
      – Violence is justified in some situations
      – Equality between the sexes doesn’t really exist

      **//Science Does Not Help Very Much – if Science was, ever, to become the master of our social and personal lives then we would need to be turned into emotionless robots in order to comply with its various dictats.//**

      **//Why Violence Is Often Justified – in situations where men stand to lose their homes and children//**

      **//Going Round In Circles MRAs need to understand that there is no such thing as ‘gender equality’. The alleged search for gender equality is mostly just a scam engaged in by various political groups.//**

  17. Profile photo of Steve Caldwell
    October 1, 2012 at 10:21 pm —

    Damerow clarified that Vacula wasn’t actually “hired,” since it is a volunteer position.

    Anyone who has worked in non-profit community organizations can tell you that even unpaid volunteers need sufficient scrutiny appropriate for the job they are doing before being accepted.

    “Volunteer” isn’t a blanket excuse not to do appropriate screening, interviews, background checks, etc.

    I’ve heard it expressed that “volunteer” is pay grade and not a position. In other words, a volunteer is an employee without salary and there are times when even volunteers need to be asked to resign or involuntarily fired.

    If Mr. Vacula’s past actions distract from the mission of the Secular Coalition of America, then it’s perfectly appropriate for him to resign from his volunteer position or even fire him.

    • Profile photo of bug_girl
      October 2, 2012 at 6:41 am —

      Seconded. I managed a large (>100) volunteer corps, and they went through extensive background checks, including criminal records.

      SCA has chosen to look the other way, OR were blindsided and digging in their heels about the decision. Either way, I am done with SCA.

      • Profile photo of pteryxx
        October 2, 2012 at 10:41 am —

        Seconding insufficient vetting, with more info (also posted on FTB)

        A commenter over at JT’s pointed out that the phone recordings of the SCA’s decisionmaking conference calls are publicly available:

        http://www.patheos.com/blogs/wwjtd/2012/10/petition-to-the-sca-on-justin-vacula/#comment-26132

        Kelly (26:00): “Do any of you have any interest in being a chair or co-chair?”
        Stacks Rosch: “I would nominate Justin.”
        Kelly: “Justin you’ve been nominated, what do you think?”
        Justin: “Thanks, I’ll accept the nomination.”
        Kelly: “Excellent, is anyone else interested and want to be co-chair?”
        Brian Fields: “I wouldn’t mind working with Justin. Justin and I work really well together, we’ve done a lot of stuff in the past.”
        Justin: “I’ll nominate Brian.”
        Kelly: “Ok Justin and Brian, you guys are going to be our co-chairs of our executive committee… Thank you so much for accepting… Woo hoo!”

        That should only have been provisional acceptance pending further vetting. Particularly where chilly climate is concerned, because if not addressed, that climate will have been self-reinforcing in the people working closely together.

        • Profile photo of marilove
          October 2, 2012 at 11:55 am —

          What the hell does a guy have to do and say in your world to be labeled a misogynist? He writes for a misogynistic hate group. And did you READ what he wrote about Amy??

  18. Profile photo of epistaxis
    October 2, 2012 at 12:12 am —

    I’m dismayed by the hyperbole and specious name-calling in all the accusations against Vacula. I hadn’t heard of the guy until this came up, but even your own evidence doesn’t justify calling him “anti-woman” or a “men’s rights advocate”. There’s an appalling lack of skepticism and eagerness to turn allies into enemies here. It’s clear that you don’t have the best interests of the skeptic or feminist movements at heart, and I don’t even want to presume to guess what your motivations are for the irrational tribalism of dividing everyone who agrees with you about the important things into “for us” and “agin’ us”.

    …That said, this Justin guy needs to go. Now. Though he doesn’t seem to be everything you’re calling him, he certainly does appear to be terribly inconsiderate of other people and naive about social etiquette, to put it far too mildly. Those are deal-breaking qualities in any sort of public representative of the movement, especially at a statewide level. Even if his appointment weren’t already controversial and divisive, it would obviously become so sooner or later. Surely the Secular Coalition has other volunteer work it needs done that doesn’t involve speaking on a state chapter’s behalf.

    I’m going to stop short of signing the petition, even though the wording there seems pretty fair, because I’m alarmed at how it came about. But I really do hope Justin steps down, or maybe even better, the Secular Coalition retracts his appointment and promises to vet its state leaders more thoroughly in the future.

    • Profile photo of Jack_Gladney
      October 2, 2012 at 8:58 am —

      What exactly is unfair about the charges laid out against him?

    • Profile photo of Adam Howard
      October 2, 2012 at 10:19 am —

      I’m sure you think you are being very even-handed, neutral, and unbiased. Unfortunately, the reality is that you are basically saying that calling out misogyny is the real problem and something that only irrational vindictive bitches do. I know, you didn’t use those words–but you might as well have. You are part of the misogyny problem in skepticism/atheism in the same way that liberal denominations are part of the Christianity problem in broader culture: you present a position with a veneer of reasonableness that gives cover to extremists.

      • Profile photo of epistaxis
        October 2, 2012 at 11:48 am —

        you are basically saying that calling out misogyny is the real problem and something that only irrational vindictive bitches do. I know, you didn’t use those words–but you might as well have.

        I said nor meant nothing of the sort, and I’m disturbed that you’d willfully misconstrue my statement like that.

        My point is that this evidence does not support a claim that Vacula is a misogynist. It does support the argument that he’s a mean-spirited asshole who shouldn’t be appointed to represent anyone.

        But what scares me is that you want to turn everything into the red team (misogynists) vs. the blue team (feminists?). Not everything is about women! Sometimes an asshole is just an asshole, and people on both sides of whatever stupid internet fight you’re spoiling for should be willing to call him out for that. I don’t disagree that atheism/skepticism has a misogyny problem, but that’s not the only problem we have (see: race) and you shouldn’t try to frame everything (and everyone) in terms of it. Even in the short term you’re shooting yourself in the foot by driving away your allies: there is no reason why only feminists should be opposed to Vacula, but for some reason everyone is all too eager to set him up as some kind of martyr for the men’s rights advocates instead of a lone jerk, and they might very well take you up on that.

        • Profile photo of marilove
          October 2, 2012 at 11:57 am —

          It would probably be helpful if I responded to the right post!
          What the hell does a guy have to do and say in your world to be labeled a misogynist? He writes for a misogynistic hate group. And did you READ what he wrote about Amy??

          • Profile photo of epistaxis
            October 3, 2012 at 1:33 am

            What the hell does a guy have to do and say in your world to be labeled a misogynist?

            Show evidence of being systematically biased against women.

            He writes for a misogynistic hate group.

            If you’re talking about A Voice For Men, I only see one article by him there, and it’s about his internet drama. Can you please provide evidence for your claim that he “writes for” such a group?

            And did you READ what he wrote about Amy??

            Yes, that’s why I think he’s an asshole who shouldn’t be a representative of the movement.

          • Profile photo of Kammy
            October 3, 2012 at 9:23 am

            If you’re talking about A Voice For Men, I only see one article by him there, and it’s about his internet drama.

            Why write about his internet drama there, of all places? He does have his own blog, right? The only reason to write for that site is to get attention from that audience. He was courting the audience of a known hate site. Why do you suppose he was doing that?

          • Profile photo of Rebecca Watson
            October 3, 2012 at 9:00 am

            Writing for a site isn’t writing for a site if it’s only once?

        • Profile photo of pteryxx
          October 2, 2012 at 11:59 am —

          I think you’re confused as to who’s looking to frame everything in terms of feminism.

          #mensrights@reddit Justin Vacula, Contributor to AvfM, selected as the Leader of the new Sec… http://t.co/MYtsdPZ6 – – – – – – – – – -

          http://freethoughtblogs.com/almostdiamonds/2012/10/01/reasons-not-to-sign-a-petition/

        • Profile photo of Improbable Joe
          October 2, 2012 at 12:05 pm —

          epistaxis: So what is the middle ground for you between feminism and misogyny? Can someone really be neutral on this kind of subject? “Oh hey, I’m not a racist but I’m cool with the Klan as long as they aren’t expecting me to help burn some crosses, and I’m cool with black people as long as they don’t expect me to stand up to the Klan”? Is that your position?

          There ARE two teams, and you’re apparently on the wrong one.

        • Profile photo of dr. dr. professor
          October 2, 2012 at 1:40 pm —

          Well the problem with what you’re saying is that “there’s no evidence, it’s not about women”, but you did that before taking the time to look into the actual facts.

          Look at the site he posted with: http://www.avoiceformen.com/activism-page/angry-harry/
          http://www.avoiceformen.com/mission-and-values/dont-get-fucked/
          http://www.avoiceformen.com/author/justin-vacula/

          It’s a misogynist website (READ IT) and he’s on it. The correlation is pretty clear dude.

        • Profile photo of oolon
          October 2, 2012 at 2:10 pm —

          @epistaxis, Read the post again – it says ‘anti-woman’ but not misogynist. Commenters opinions may differ from the orginal post but that is no way indicative of an us-vs-them war.

          I’d personally say we are all a bit misogynist, why wouldn’t we be when brought up in a society that is geared towards misogyny? Thing that differentiates is are you seeing the problem and trying not to be part of it? Posting a piece on a feminist hate site about ‘feminist lies’ is a shitty move in anyone’s book, which you seem to agree with but don’t like the ‘tone’ of the comments on him here.

  19. Profile photo of Anthony Jeffries
    October 2, 2012 at 12:33 am —

    Signed. These Men’s Rights @$$holes are really vile, and it upsets me that I share a gender and species with them.

  20. Profile photo of izilari
    October 2, 2012 at 2:11 pm —

    Cool friends ya got there, SCA.

    And by “there” I mean my state. Great. Thanks!

  21. Profile photo of Manuel Moe Garcia
    October 2, 2012 at 3:14 pm —

    Signed, and promoted petition on G+. Sadly, got a little grief over it. Peculiar that racism disqualifies people from public support, but the behavior above does not.

  22. Profile photo of Luna
    October 2, 2012 at 5:09 pm —

    This is so frigging stupid. Being a volunteer makes it that much easier to fire his ass. Volunteers DO represent your organization. And having worked for nonprofits I can tell you some volunteers are there for narcissistic reasons and can do a lot of damage.

    On the point of MRAs versus men’s groups: I agree some men’s groups can be positive. If their message is how they can become better family members, learn how to get rid of their sexism and become more enlightened. Any group that claims men need more rights is doing the opposite.

    • Profile photo of dr. dr. professor
      October 2, 2012 at 6:44 pm —

      //Any group that claims men need more rights is doing the opposite.//

      Agreed.

      //If their message is how they can become better family members, learn how to get rid of their sexism and become more enlightened.//

      Not necessarily. Men’s support groups or sub-groups within larger support organizations for things like single fatherhood, suicide, PTSD, domestic abuse situations are a good idea. And that goes beyond the scope of just “teaching them to be better family members”. But here’s the thing, THOSE SERVICES FOR MEN ALREADY EXIST WITHIN LEGITIMATE ORGANIZATIONS!

      Suicide prevention hotlines have plenty of men’s specialists, many single fatherhood groups exist, PTSD groups will help men and the military PTSD groups help mostly help men, etc.

      So setting up support for men is not the issue. Much support exists for male issues, and setting more legitimate support up for specific male demographics within those groups is not an issue. Feminism is not arguing against that at all.

      The bullshit here about talking about men’s issues, is that why does it always happen when feminism is brought up? It seems whenever women’s problems are brought up, people start to say: “hey, unfair, think of the men” as if every feminist and every feminist issue is out to belittle men or men’s issues.

      When does a feminist say
      “Don’t have testicular cancer support group”
      “Don’t have single father nights”
      “Don’t have specialists trained to handle 20-something men contemplating suicide”
      “Don’t help a man experiencing abuse”

      Oh right… never.

      And that’s exactly what the MRM is, a contrarian reaction to feminist advocacy for legitimate women’s issues. And that’s the problem.

      • Profile photo of Luna
        October 2, 2012 at 7:03 pm —

        @DrProfessor oh I agree, it never should have been brought up here. It’s an insult to women. But I do think it’s important to clarify. And what I’m defending is men’s groups that “exclude” women so they can openly discuss private men’s issues without feeling embarrassed. I don’t care what group it is as long as they are strongly vocal in their alliance with feminism and women’s rights and make that clear.

        • Profile photo of dr. dr. professor
          October 2, 2012 at 8:25 pm —

          Yeah, what strikes me is that there are whole MRM groups for Skeptics in the first place. People react so strongly against feminism without thinking about it and every pro-MRA video I see is filled with anger and knee-jerk reactions to things feminist say.

          So to hear so many people who call themselves skeptics going on emotional and poorly researched rants against feminism is puzzling, because it’s not skeptical, it’s emotional.

          The PA chapter’s decision to assign him to the leadership was a bit like electing a Klingon to command a Vulcan warship.

  23. Profile photo of John McKay
    October 2, 2012 at 5:49 pm —

    The fact that Damerow immediately jumped to “not hired” as a defense shows, in my mind, that she was not caught flat-footed by the question. Even before the petition had been written, Edwina Rogers was jumping into various discussions of the issue (such as Stephanie Zvan’s Facebook page were we were discussing the wording of the petition) and using “not hired.” To me, it sounds like Damerow had already received the official talking point.

  24. Profile photo of daedalus2u
    October 4, 2012 at 12:22 pm —
  25. Profile photo of KellyM
    October 4, 2012 at 5:57 pm —

    Besides his refusal to list even one lie by his feminist detractors, the funniest thing about Vacula’s not-pology is the fact that he doesn’t know what the word “eponymous” means.

  26. Profile photo of cajela
    October 4, 2012 at 10:27 pm —

    Or “buttress”.

  27. Profile photo of steve
    October 10, 2012 at 11:03 pm —

    I wonder if the people defending him would also be defending him if he wrote an article for Stormfront or some other racist website?

    AVFM is the equivalent of that. It’s a hate site full of misogyny. People need to start taking misogyny just as seriously as they do racism. It’s just as bad.

    Thank you Rebecca. Without you I fear misogyny would flourish in the atheist community.

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