I’ve been struggling recently, trying to find the best way to handle the ongoing barrage of anger and hate that has been directed at various people in the community. Although I haven’t been anywhere near the thick of things, it gets exhausting just watching my close friends and people I respect and admire continue to get attacked for saying things that don’t appear to be particularly controversial. From the response we’ve been getting, I’m not alone. We’ve seen a huge outpouring of support in the commenters, people sending messages via the contact form, Twitter and Facebook. I know that many of you out there are feeling just as angry and helpless as I do when I see friends being attacked and a community I love start to fracture at the edges.
I’ve always been a big believer in taking action to make a difference but I’m not able to put myself on the front lines of the battle. And I think others feel the same. But, I want to do *something*. So I thought I’d put together some things that you and others can do to make a difference in this community to build it up and strengthen the foundations, while Rebecca, Amy and others are fighting to make the community a fun, welcoming and diverse space for everyone.
1. Support organizations that specifically want to make their events safe and comfortable for women
There’s been lots of talk about conferences and making skeptical and atheist conferences a comfortable space for a diverse group of people. If you agree that this is a good goal, support and attend the conferences that do as well. CSICon and Skepticon are two that are coming up. Women in Secularism is early next year. And there are plenty of others. The More than Men site has a great listing of cons that have identified harassment policies. And, if you decide not to go to a conference because of a lack of harassment policies or diversity in speakers, let the organizers know. It will make a difference.
2. Support Charitable Organizations in the name of Atheism and Skepticism
Debbie wrote a compelling and beautiful piece on why this is so important earlier this week and I can’t top it. There are plenty of great causes out there. Foundation Beyond Belief is a charitable foundation created to focus, encourage and demonstrate humanist generosity and compassion. They select and feature various charitable organizations and help you decide what charities to support.
They are also currently a national sponsor for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Light the Night walk. This happens to be my pet charity and last month, the Atlanta Skeptics raised $1,650 for our Light the Night team from the Star Party. Because we are part of the FBB team, this donation will be matched by the Todd Steifel foundation, which has pledged to match all donations up to $500,000. The goal is to raise a million dollars this year. Help out by donating here!
I can think of few things more important to building this community than education and support for young people. The Secular Student Alliance works to support and provide resources for secular students across the country. Camp Quest is an organization that puts together secular summer camps. You can donate directly to SSA and Camp Quest. Or, if you want a little something for yourself, buy a Surly from this page and Amy will donate a percentage of her profits to one of these fantastic organizations.
Can’t donate directly? Over the next week or so, you can show support by just clicking a button. Foundation Beyond Belief, Camp Quest and the Secular Student Alliance are all up for grants in the Chase Community Giving program. You can vote every day and make sure these great organizations get funding! It’s a little bit of a pain but you can log in with a Facebook account and look for the organization names to vote. You can vote for two organizations per day.
3. Participate in Skepticamp or a local skeptics group
If travel is not an option, consider participating in a local skepticamp. Several local groups have found that skepticamps are a great way to meet people, learn and share your knowledge. The ‘Un-Conference’ nature of Skepticamp means that, by definition, everyone is welcome and can participate.
Similarly, local skeptics groups that have Skeptics in the Pub or Drinking Skeptically are great ways to meet people and expand your experience with skepticism. And, if you don’t have a local group or skepticamp, why not start one?
We’ve been putting together a (usually) bi-weekly vodcast on Google+ to help local groups get some questions answered. It’s called Some Assembly Required and we do it as a live Google+ Hangout so you can come by and ask questions or review our older episodes, which are recorded and saved on our YouTube channel.
4. Participate on the Internet
Activism comes in many forms. If you want, you can participate in skeptical activism from right behind your keyboard! Participate in Web of Trust, Wikipedia, the Skeptics Stack Exchange. There are plenty of things to be done and Tim Farley knows all of them. Check out his presentation from TAM, which contains lots of great ideas and suggestions for how to do effective activism on the internet.
5. Contribute directly
And, if you’ve done all that and you still want to help, you can always directly support the people who are being targeted. Buy something from Skeptical Robot or Surly-Ramics to support Rebecca and Amy. Donate directly on Jen’s page and let her know she’s missed.
Or, just send a message of support or respond to someone saying negative things. Speak out, if you can. Call out when you see people misbehaving on the internet. Raise the social cost of being a misogynist. Let’s show these people that we won’t let the people we admire and respect be silenced and that we won’t keep silent when we see our friends attacked.
These are just a few ideas of how to turn this tide of negativity into something positive. There are lots of other things to do. Leave your ideas and suggestions in the comments!
Featured image and cartoon courtesy the fantastic Jill Powell!