So Much for Center for Inquiry
Quick recap for those who haven’t been following this: Ron Lindsay, CEO of Center for Inquiry, opened the Women in Secularism conference by lecturing the women on the dangers of silencing men by talking about “privilege.” When he was criticized on Twitter and various blogs by many of the people there, he responded by othering me as a person from an alternate universe who is a liar akin to the leadership of North Korea. Obviously, this was a big hit with the male supremacists who continue to harass me, encouraging them to redouble their efforts. I’ve been laying low since then, waiting for the bile to die down a bit and for my energy to return enough to deal with it all. Lindsay “apologized” while restating that he thinks I’m a liar because I disagree with him on what qualifies as the “crux” of his talk.
Dozens of letters (including one signed by the majority of Women in Secularism speakers) were sent to the Center for Inquiry’s Board of Directors, begging them to do something to restore CFI’s reputation as a humanist organization that cares about women and their ongoing harassment. CFI Tweeted that the Board was meeting in a few weeks, and that the issue would be considered then:
The CFI Board of Directors and CEO Ron Lindsay are aware that his recent talk and blog posts have generated much debate and discussion (1/3)
CFI & Board are in ongoing discussions over this matter, which will be also be considered at Board's regularly scheduled June meeting (2/3)
Further comments on this issue will be made once the Board has had an opportunity to discuss and consider it in full. (3/3)
A lot of people held their collective breath, waiting to find out if the board would issue an official apology, force Lindsay to issue a real apology, censure Lindsay in some other way, or take any strong action to show that CFI was going to recommit itself to addressing women’s concerns in concrete ways while marginalizing those who are harassing us.
Well, the Board met late last week, and today the official statement has been released! Set aside at least the next 10 seconds of your life in order to fully read through and contemplate this:
Center for Inquiry Board of Directors Statement on the CEO and the Women in Secularism 2 Conference
The mission of the Center for Inquiry is to foster a secular society based on science, reason, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values.
The Center for Inquiry, including its CEO, is dedicated to advancing the status of women and promoting women’s issues, and this was the motivation for its sponsorship of the two Women in Secularism conferences. The CFI Board wishes to express its unhappiness with the controversy surrounding the recent Women in Secularism Conference 2.
CFI believes in respectful debate and dialogue. We appreciate the many insights and varied opinions communicated to us. Going forward, we will endeavor to work with all elements of the secular movement to enhance our common values and strengthen our solidarity as we struggle together for full equality and respect for women around the world.
If you’ve read that a few times, wondering what it says, allow me to clarify: it says nothing. It makes vague statements about equality and respect without mentioning anything about the harassment of women in this community and how Ron Lindsay has enabled it. It expresses unhappiness without mentioning what exactly they’re unhappy about: Lindsay’s talk? Uppity women complaining about his talk? Men’s Rights Advocates (MRAs) now supporting CFI while continuing to hate women? No idea. It also suggests that the “controversy” is about the conference, and not about 10 minutes of the opening talk of the conference, delivered by Ron Lindsay.
In other words, they’re doing absolutely nothing and hoping you don’t care enough to do anything about it. By not rejecting it, they’re accepting the support of their new biggest fans: the MRAs, the “Slymepit,” and the people continuing to harass me, now using Ron Lindsay’s words:
In a way, I’m glad they made it so very obvious that they don’t care. Had they written something complex and layered, doing nothing but promising something (anything), it would be much harder for me to say this: I’m finished supporting Center for Inquiry.
For the past two years I’ve worked my ass off to make their annual CSICon a success, by hosting their parties, getting the SGU and other popular speakers involved, helping them create a gender-equal schedule, coordinating a blood drive through Maria Walters, facilitating scholarships through Surly Amy, and just promoting the hell out of it. This year they have yet to issue me an invite. With this statement, it couldn’t be clearer: my participation is not wanted, in the exact same way that after six years of supporting JREF’s Amaz!ng Meeting, DJ Grothe made it clear they didn’t want me, either.
My haters like to pretend I organized some kind of boycott against Richard Dawkins after he attacked me, a lie that became so pernicious I edited in a statement saying I have not (facts, as usual, had no impact on the behavior of my haters). The boycott accusation was confusing on a number of levels but these two particularly: 1. Dawkins, not me, is the one who has made demands to organizers that I not share a stage with him (it’ll be interesting if he shows up on CSICon’s bill this year) and 2. there is nothing morally wrong with people calling for a boycott of something they disagree with or, in this case, something that actively causes them harm.
With that last point in mind, fuck it: I’m boycotting and I hope you do, too. [EDIT: Ron Lindsay has apologized. See this update.] I’m not giving any more of my time or money to Center for Inquiry, just as I’ll no longer give any time or money to the JREF and Richard Dawkins. But in addition to this personal decision I’ve made, I’m actually asking you to do the same.
Do not support an organization that does not have the courage to stand up for women. The standard you walk past is the standard you accept. If you are a speaker at a paid event for these organizations, cancel your appearance. If you regularly donate money to them, stop. If you work for them, look for a new job. I have a lot of friends and loved ones who currently do one, some, or all of those things, and I trust we’ll continue to be friends regardless of what happens. But I do think that continued support of CFI will send a message that it’s okay for a supposedly humanist organization to never take a stand to help the women in its community.
I hesitate to suggest where you should redirect your energies, because the last time I did that, I convinced many people to start supporting CFI, and we can see how well that went (sorry about that). There’s always Equality Now or Planned Parenthood or the SPCA I guess. They may not be directly about skepticism or secularism or humanism, but at the very least you can be fairly certain you’re helping make the world better.