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.

For a longer recap of much of what was wrong with Lindsay’s clueless talk and response, check out Greta’s two excellent posts.

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:

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.

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca is a writer, speaker, YouTube personality, and unrepentant science nerd. In addition to founding and continuing to run Skepchick, she hosts Quiz-o-Tron, a monthly science-themed quiz show and podcast that pits comedians against nerds. There is an asteroid named in her honor. Twitter @rebeccawatson Mastodon Instagram @actuallyrebeccawatson TikTok @actuallyrebeccawatson YouTube @rebeccawatson BlueSky

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  1. I’d love to have a job where I could skip out on my duties to write stuff on the Internet attacking a colleague/guest/supporter of my organization, and then get full support from my bosses for doing so, without so much as a slap on the wrist. How did Ron Lindsay land such a cushy position?

    1. Well, he’s white. And male. And American. I’d say that’s about as qualified as you can get for being an entitled clown.

      1. Like the Larry Summers speech in 2005, man gets up in front of a mostly female audience and immediately makes a face-plant. The Rand Paul speech at Howard was also in the same line, ‘hey how did I know that black people know history, white people never do’.

        But perhaps they should do this more often. I have given several hundred conference speeches and none of them has been to an all woman audience. I doubt that any of them was even as much as 50-50. Yet for any woman in my field standing up in front of an all male audience is the norm. And since I do Internet security, having multiple points of view is vital. Trying to work out ways of making Internet dating safe is going to be rather difficult if the only point of view you have to work from is that of a 200lb male.

        Oh and mansplaining, we had a real live example of that at the last IETF meeting (its a part of the New World Order that has some influence over some Internet stuff). Five women come to the microphone to complain about ‘diversity’ issues in the organization and get fobbed off with the usual excuse that people have to come up through the ranks. And there the conversation is stalled until I got up and pointed out I have been going there for 20 years and we had women involved in the IETF then yet of the 20 people on stage who are responsible for running the organization, there is not one woman and the reason we were having the discussion in the first place was that the idiotic selection procedure they have had rejected the one woman nominated for a spot. Which was all the more ridiculous given that she had been on the IESG before. After the issues had been properly mansplained an actual debate followed. And I am left thinking ‘like seriously?’

        One point that might be valid is that use of the phrase ‘check your privilege’ is pretty loaded. Sure there is male privilege and that has co-evolved with the feudal system where ‘privilege’ was the private law of the nobility. But telling people that they need to check their privilege suggests that this is a character flaw that only some people suffer from or that only people with net advantages need self-awareness. The term perspective is more accurate and better for consensus building. You can at least attempt to look at a situation from a different perspective. Bill Gates and Warren Buffet admit that he has privilege but when it counted they came out and pointed out that Mitt Romney’s perspective excluded 99% of the country.

        But to choose that particular venue to pick that particular fight seemed particularly obtuse. It is not even as if the phrase ‘check your privilege’ is exclusive to feminism. It originated on and is mostly associated with the social justice movement and economic privilege rather than gender. In fact until Lindsay I had not heard the phrase used in the context of gender at all.

        But hey, the guy is only delivering the keynote, why expect him to check his facts let alone his privilege?

        1. Larry Summers didn’t make a face plant. He dismissed concerns about Harvard’s particularly bad record for women in STEM fields by using a straw-woman argument and got lauded in the media as a brave warrior against political correctness. On the other hand, Rand Paul came off as so tone deaf to black America that he actually believed that if they knew the founders of the NAACP were Republicans, they’d switch. That he thought that Howard students wouldn’t know that came off as kind of racist. I guess he thought they all used affirmative action to skate through school. That Rand Paul got criticized while Larry Summers got praised simply shows how much easier it is get away with being sexist than racist.

          1. Well I had a different perspective, I had a friend (now sadly passed) who was a member of the Harvard faculty and I heard of the talk through him and how it was galvanizing the existing campaign against Summers before any of the media reports came out.

            The real problem was not the speech (though that was bad), it was that Summers himself was the reason that women were not getting tenure. He had vetoed a series of women recommended for tenure and driven away Cornel West. So he was giving a keynote on a talk on diversity being the main cause of the problem he was stating platitudes about.

            The speech itself was nonsense because even if you accept the dubious premises that Summers took, they lead to precisely the opposite conclusion. There are two reasons for arguing for equality, one is fairness, the other is quality of the product. In the case of an academic institution the whole purpose is to open young people’s minds to knowledge and learning. So if there are biological differences as Summers hypothesized it would make it more important to get women into faculty positions as it is a quality issue.

            There is also an intentional structural bias to white anglo saxon protestants at Harvard. When they instituted the legacies program to reserve a third of the places to the children of alumni it was intended to be an affirmative action program for white people. That was the justification given for the proposal: to keep out Jews.

            Keeping out the Jews at Harvard was one of the main reasons that all the expansion in science and engineering took place at the other end of Broadway at MIT. Minsky wasn’t welcome at Harvard, so MIT was his only option. So if you wanted to work with Minsky you went to MIT. By the time Harvard began to dismantle their faculty quotas, the damage had been done. Harvard will never be in the first rank of science or engineering universities. The collegial admissions system at Oxford has had a similar effect ceding Engineering to Cambridge. Colleges like Oriel and Brasenose were allowed to use Engineering as a soft course for rowers and rugby players.

            The reason that Summers was one of the youngest tenured Professors in Harvard history was that he was fortunate enough to be there at exactly the right time when the university was scrambling to avoid the charge of being the bastion of anti-semitism that it was. And like many parvenues who have made it into the establishment, he repaid the favor by kicking down the ladder lest anyone else climb it behind him.

  2. Unless some shit seriously changes, I don’t think I will be renewing my membership with CFI. Which is too bad, because many of the staff at CFI are awesome, it’s just the leadership I can’t support.

  3. Secular Woman? They could do a WIS3.

    Anyway good for you and I agree, why support organisations that are second best… I was indirectly supporting CFI and won’t be any more, was considering membership depending on this but so much for that!

    1. Oddly enough, judging by additions to the SW members-only facebook page, we are currently experiencing a influx of new talent. You know, you don’t need to be a woman to join! :)

  4. Well, this sucks. Like you, I was hoping that CFI would be a good alternative to JREF. I had already stopped supporting JREF, after having attended TAM several times in past years, and now I’ll stop supporting CFI.

  5. I feel sad that so many groups that I respected have not been up to the simple challenge of treating women as equal to men.

    I won’t say ‘never’, but I can’t support the CFI as they exist today. Clearly whatever problems Lindsay had are shared by the board.

    1. Right? It’s not hard. You just have to NOT go out of your way to piss off half your potential membership. Yet they can’t even manage that little bit.

    2. Well they have an EP researcher on the board for a start, so maybe she was less than sympathetic given the (deserved) roasts of her field.

      I think Lindsay’s problem is that nobody mansplained what he did wrong before he posted his ‘alternative universe’ attack. Here is an attempt:

      1) If you are going to make the etiquette of Internet discourse the topic of your keynote and you end up with multiple members of your audience feeling offended then you have FAILED.

      2) If you are going to make etiquette the topic of your welcome address you had better get your etiquette right and actually welcome the audience for coming. Because acknowledging the fact that people have made time and effort to attend is more than just a mere courtesy.

      3) Imagine for a moment that you are the keynote speaker at a convention of gay men and you are a Roman Catholic priest. You decide to start off your talk by making voicing some incorrect assumptions about the gay community that prove you have no clue what you are talking about then continue to tell your audience at some length that yes there are gay pedophile men and that this is a problem and we need to stop that. You don’t mention pedophile priests or the role of the church. Is there anything that you can say in the second half of your speech that can bring the audience round?

      4) If after talking about Internet etiquette someone says that they feel personally offended and you believe that they misunderstood you then your first line of response should be to blame your ability to communicate effectively rather than claim that they are living on a different planet.

      There is a formal structure to a speech that attempts to raise a provocative point. First you have to establish that you understand the case you are arguing against. Lindsay did the reverse.

  6. Endorsed. Which means slightly money that I can now spend on our SVP trip this year.

    Lindsay et al.: so long as they maintain this toxic position, I’ll prefer other company.

  7. Rebecca, you could always support the American Humanist Assocation (AHA):

    They even have a dedicated Feminist Caucus:

    Did it ever occur to you that the Center For Inquiry and some of those other atheist, skeptic, and freethinker groups were founded by male chauvinists who did not want to support feminism? In their minds, you and the other feminists invaded their territory and what happened with Ron Lindsey was part of the backlash against you. The AHA has no such hangups.

    1. Paul Kurtz was a male chauvinist and did not support feminism? Would you please elaborate?

  8. I am boycotting too. It breaks my heart. Not just because of all the amazing people I care about who work for CFI, but because Skeptical Inquirer magazine was a huge influence on me when I was learning to embrace my identity as a skeptic, and later an atheist. They are going to get a strongly worded subscription cancellation letter from me.
    Rebecca, you continue to show grace and good humor in the face of utterly unwarranted hostility from organizations and individuals who should be falling over themselves thanking you for all you do for this movement and this community. Keep on speaking up and know that there are lots of us who have your back.

  9. I was already not supporting any of them, from a lack of enthusiasm and general gross feelings more than a deliberate effort. I stand by you and support you, and now I will make an effort to have nothing to do with CSI (or Dawkins for that matter). Have you heard of A is For? They are a great women’s rights organization started by Martha Plimpton, Gina Loukareas, Maureen Herman of the band Babes in Toyland, comedian Lizz Winstead, and Broadway actress Kellie Overby among others. They are not actively part of the skeptical or atheist community, and are about women’s rights and not specifically out there for promoting science, but I know most of the people involved are informally skeptics and science advocates. Obviously there is a lot of intersection between the two subjects, with sex education, politicians thinking that women can’t be impregnated by rape, etc.

  10. I’d already donated to Secular Woman in the aftermath of WIS2. In response to this, I’ll send some money to Planned Parenthood.

  11. So damned disappointing. At what point do you stop trying to make change from within and just give up?

    1. What indication is there that Rebecca has given up, precisely? She is still “within” the movement. Skepchick still exists. She’s done a hell of a lot more for skepticism and atheism than most people and I don’t doubt that this will continue to be the case.

  12. Thank you for this post, Rebecca. This makes me very sad. I have been following the movement for a few years (I entered the scene a few months prior to what is now referred to as “elevatorgate” [does that phrase offend you? If so, I can stop using it]) Anyhow- I was looking forward to making next years WISC my very first, but I am truly disheartened. I will join you in your boycot of CFI, and I have already joined you in a boycott of TAM, and Dawkins. I will not pay money to attend a conference/ support an organization that clearly does not value me as a member of their community.

    I appreciate the suggestion by another person for alternatives. I will look into AHA.

    I have a question- remember the statement David Silverman gave when he was asked by Surly Amy and others to write a statement on harassment at conferences? If I remember correctly, it was clearly in support of feminist values and non harassment. Did I miss something? Would you consider directing your efforts and activism (and blog readers) there?

    I cannot say this enough- I am so disappointed in the response from CFI. I don’t understand why they choose to create a safe haven for MRAs.

    1. I can’t speak for Rebecca, but personally I loathe the phrase “Elevatorgate” just because it gives the instigating incident WAY more importance than it deserves. The scandal isn’t the incident in the elevator or Rebecca’s very brief initial comment on it but the way the skeptical community reacted to her.

      1. “Elevatorgate” puts the emphasis in the wrong place, as Joshua says; moreover, it’s one more example of overusing the “-gate” suffix and driving it into the ground. I’d go with “the Dear Muslima Incident” or something of the sort.

        1. I love that I’ve started to hear people refer to “The Dear Muslima Fallacy”. And Maryam Namazie solidly debunked that position at WiS2.

      2. TY Joshua et al., I Completely agree. It felt kind of wrong when I referred to Elevatorgate, but I know that is how it has been referred to in the blogosphere/twittersphere and couldn’t find another phrase for it. My apologies. I think I will refer to it as “that one time Rebecca said Hey guys, don’t do that” and the skeptical movement went ballistic. Anyhow- Thanks to the commenters recommending other organisations. I am really really trying to find a place that truly upholds humanist values. AA, AHA, and SSA here I (and my $$, though admittedly few $$s) come.

      3. “Watergate scandal” is used to refer to the political crisis which lead to the resignation of Nixon over two years after the failed break-in at the Watergate hotel. The break-in itself was of relatively little importance. Nixon even won re-election after the news covered members of his re-election campaign breaking into the Democratic HQ. The break-in wasn’t even the beginning of the of the dirty tricks campaign carried out by Nixon’s team, it’s just the first to really hit the news and stick in peoples minds, and lead to a lot of other crap coming out into the open. “Watergate” wasn’t the issue, but was a convenient, easy to state, handle for the whole scandal.

        Hey, maybe “Elevatorgate” isn’t such a bad analogy after all. Rebecca was at the conference to give a speech about why women feel uncomfortable at conferences, so the issue of misogyny was known, but not a major issue of the movement. A rather minor incident representative of the problem was publicized, and –boom– everything becomes wide open and the extent of the problem is exposed, with repercussions (good and bad) go on for years.

        Before I wrote this, I checked this thread to see if Rebecca had spoken, as I’m willing to abide by her wishes as to the term. She hasn’t (yet).

        1. TBH, the word is like nails on a chalkboard to me, but that’s in part because it’s what is shouted at me online by every mouth-breather with a hate-on for women. So I avoid it, myself.

    2. I’m in the same boat. I got interested in the skeptic/atheist communities when this all started to happen. I decided to sit back and watch instead of get involved. Well, it hasn’t gotten better. That’s for sure. I’ll support and I really wish I could go to skepchick con this year.

      1. Yep, Trinity! I agree on all counts! I have only recently become more vocal, commenting on blogs here and there. Honestly, that is in large part due to my fear that I would get pushed out before I was ever really “a part of” the skeptical community. I finally decided that I needed to outwardly support and thank the ones that advocate for those of us that are/were not ready to speak. I will be looking in to conferences for the upcoming year as well!

    3. Don’t confuse David Silverman (American Atheists) with Ron Lindsay (CFI). Both of them gave statements to Surly Amy. And yeah, it’s hard to reconcile Lindsay’s statement with this latest BS.

      1. Hoho Chas, not been banned from Skepchick yet then? Drive by trolling I guess keeps you under the radar… Good luck with that!

  13. I’m appalled that the CFI board couldn’t muster the guts to call bullshit. Some humanists.

    Good news is that frees up more of my capital for Women Thinking, Planned Parenthood, and other organizations, I guess.

  14. I had sent a letter to CFI in advance of their board meeting. The board’s response is so inept it has stunned me into silence. I will not be renewing my membership or supporting them in the future. I hope another organization steps forward to sponsor future Women in Secularism conferences.

    I am a member of Secular Woman, which formed last year as a result of the first WiS, and Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. I have nothing but good things to say about both of these organizations.

  15. Silver lining: If we can get conferences and organizations of our own together, we won’t have to put up with this kind of “leadership” anymore. We won’t have to entertain any of the Slymepitters. Whenever we get together, we can just have a good time without watching our backs and tensing up. For once, I won’t have to grit my teeth supporting skeptical outreach because I know some of what I do supports people like Shermer and Dawkins.

    The JREF and CFI have made a decision to ostracize young skeptics to keep the old dudes happy. As a result, their organizations are going to grow old and die off. Eventually, we win. Without us, they lose.

  16. “Unhappiness with the controversy.” Could that phrase be any more worthless? I think we should allow every arbiter in society to issue similar rulings.

    “Bang! bang! I hereby declare that I’m upset that this trial is happening. Innocent! Guilty! Oh what do I care, I’m going home!”

    There’s a common tack in Mormon communities that’s similar to this – you’re supposed to “avoid contention.” How convenient this is for the people in privileged positions to make disagreeing with them a misstep without every getting their hands dirty. Being upset simply that a controversy occurred is an implicit siding with the status quo.

  17. *Sigh* looks like my first time donation last year will be my last as well, the way things stand.

  18. I’m with you in your boycott of CFI. I had sent them an email in advance of last week’s board meeting, but after a brief, disappointing conversation with Ron Lindsay at last year’s CSI Con, I was only hanging on by a thread anyway.

    Tomorrow I will head over to my local Planned Parenthood for my weekly day of volunteering, where I also walk past the ever-present harassers/prayers/pamphleteers to drop off my Scientific American and Texas Observer magazines as waiting room reading.

  19. How have we not mentioned this fact: they had MONTHS to come up with a response. The best they could do is a long message that says absolutely nothing whatsoever?

      1. Well, it takes time to craft a good not-pology.

        “The CFI Board is sorry that you were offended…no, that’s been done… wishes to express its unhappiness with the controversy, yeah!”

      2. Yea. Overall, definitely not long. Insultingly short, in fact. But that is a hell of a lot of words to write without even accidentally creating some kind of meaning. If this was a stunt or a contest entry of some kind, I’d be impressed.

  20. CFI is definitely joining JREF on my shit-list. They’re clearly not interested in my support, so I’ll oblige by not giving them any.

    1. ….send your support to Planned Parenthood….it’s under full assault along with my autonomy as a human…

  21. Such a disappointing response from the CFI. I’m all with you on the boycott, and will be writing to let them know.

  22. Shorter CFI: Can’t we all just get along? We’re not actually interested in addressing any wrongs here, we just want the complaints to go away so we can go on with business as usual.

      1. Dogdammit. The longer I sit with this the angrier I get. Sad part is, I am not even surprised that this was the route CFI chose, this is exactly what I have come to expect not just from the secular community but from the world at large and self-proclaimed allies as a whole. Support when it looks like support is cool or edgy or fun, and a giant shit on everything they paid lip service to when it looks like there might be social consequences for the stand they’ve taken. Just shed the ally mantel and slip right back into privilege, easy-peasy.

  23. So, no organization is perfect, and we won’t find a perfect alternative to CFI et al. But how an organization responds to a screw-up is pretty indicative of whether they merit a second chance – and wow, did they ever do a horrible job. Thanks, CFI, for making Monday crappy with a completely unacceptable response to the many thoughtful criticisms you’ve received.

  24. It is very helpful that the CFI has identified groups or individuals that don’t agree with Ron Lindsay as various sort of “elements.” That’s always helpful.

  25. Men’s rights advocates, from what I’ve seen, are frothing at the mouth fox news watching conservative republicans. One should question membership to any organization that they endorse. I went to one of their websites to find out exactly what they thought and I got a noxious display of the worst kind of right wing conspiracy theories, basically Glenn Beck stuff.

    I’m a progressive first and an atheist second, so I can’t abide by any organization that purports to be for secularism but supports a faith based patriarchy. That defeats the point of it, I mean that’s why I’m an anti theist, religion is inherently sexist, racist, and in opposition to social progress. If you endorse all of those things then it doesn’t matter what you believe or don’t believe, you are still part of the problem.

  26. Fuck ’em. More money for the “Joe in Secularism” conference I’m throwing in my house this weekend. *grins*

    Seriously though, my money was already going in other directions, but I’m hoping this means that no money from any future Surly-Ramics I buy will go to support CFI. I’ve been donating to PP and to help people get to various conferences, but not for anything sponsored by CFI ever again.

    1. I raised and donated $1800.00 to CFI this year. I am currently looking for alternative projects to support in the future. Or heck, maybe I’ll just have a Surly Con. ;)

  27. CFI understands there’s a problem or actually several problems. They’re not concerned enough about any of these problems to do anything but express their unhappiness these problems exist. If they don’t care about alienating half of skepticism then I don’t care enough about CFI to continue to support them.

  28. I pretty much stopped caring about organized skepticism during the elevatorgate shenanigans. It seemed pretty clear that the big organizations were in full nothing-to-see-here mode with regards to admitting that there’s a ton of sexism, and were more interested in putting on fundraising cons with Big Names than actually doing work. I’m not surprised, but still disappointed to see that this is still happening.

    Before that event, I’ll be honest, I wasn’t too hot on Skepchick. But it made me look at what you do closer, and after I did, I’d say you doing the most for both women in skepticism, and for skepticism. You’re the only site I still check in at semi-regularly. So please, keep doing what you’re doing. Because the JREF and CFI clearly cannot.

  29. Before I read that “statement” I did not know that there was an even blander and more boundary-weak creature within communication than a no-pology. Apparently it is possible to spend so many words saying absolutely nothing…

  30. Kind of like ryawesome, I have become more of a fan of Skepchick and SGU because of what has been going on since you spoke out initially about the elevator. I haven’t been a member of CFI, so I can’t really boycott them; that being said I support you on this.

  31. Goodness, what a mess of bafflegab. That’s the most content-free mass of words I’ve read since the Romney campaign’s attempt to release a “pro-woman” statement.

  32. Kinda makes it tough for an org to call out mealy-mouthed political leaders who won’t take principled stands on “controversial” issues when they can’t even do the same, doesn’t it?

  33. I am actually trying to understand who’s wrong and who’s right. First, I (with no doubt whatsoever) condemn any sexist or misogynist messages that are sent to Rebecca or any other person. They are gross.

    But why are some women saying that they are being bullied by a few women like Greta, Stephanie and Rebecca and sending letters to CFI requesting that Lindsay not be fired? Some said that they’re leaving Secular Women ’cause of being bullied and their pro-Ron arguments not being cared about. This is very puzzling to me.

    1. Why don’t you ask those women for specific examples instead of asking here for evidence of their vague assertions?

        1. Actually, I’m not asking for any evidence, but trying to understand why they think so. One such activist is Miranda Celeste Hale. I find myself leaning towards Rebecca’s/Amy’s side in this issue, but cannot totally account for what the pro-Ron women are saying.

          And, I do take offense at the suggestion that “If-you-disagree-or-have-doubts-you-must-be-lying.”

          1. Of course you’re “not looking for any evidence” but you sure can make really nasty claims about people, huh? And then just say, “I’m only WONDERING! Gosh, why are you so mad? I’m just wondering!”

            If you’re not lying, then where is the proof?

    2. For the same reason that they claim that Rebecca is the worst evil man-hating “misandrist” blogging bully because she uttered the words “guys, don’t do that”. Apparently it’s super cool for Ron Lindsay to talk down to a room full of feminists and mansplain to them about how they should act, and he needs letters of support for that, but Rebecca lives in an “alternate universe” according to him and them for disagreeing. And the CFI board thinks the situation is jolly well all under control.

      1. The problem is that you are asking us for an explanation of someone else’s reactions. Why don’t you ask THEM? You will encounter these kinds of responses here because there is an endless stream of clueless or pretending to be clueless folks who ask the same questions over and over and over to keep the discussion from advancing. If your question looks like one of those questions, people will be cautious around you.

        Again, ask yourself why you are asking us to explain how some other person feels. Read their stuff if you want to understand them. Otherwise you look like you are asking us to make their argument for them. No thanks.

        1. This may be nested under the wrong comment. It is directed towards “liberaloutlook”. (In my experience, people who align themselves as liberals tend not to have this level of “aw shucks but what about….” to them, but we’re all playing nice here.

          1. Do you think this person is *actually* a liberal? Or maybe just a troll?

            ‘Cuz I’m a liberal, through and through, and I am certainly not very “aw shucks” about anything.

          2. Well I did try to find it by asking them first. I just found pro-Ron letters to CFI, but not much “evidence.” I’m literally appalled at how many assumptions you are making about me. I didn’t say aw the letters to Rebecca suck but what about …. Of course, they suck. “Why are those women saying that” is a different question altogether.
            I asked because I thought Rebecca and Amy have addressed many other doubts pretty well, but this one does not seem to be addressed. e.g. On reading Justin Vacula one would think that Amy was trying to harass him with copyright claims, but reading Amy’s post revealed the actual situation that Justin had *in fact* used her works without permission and then posted her address in retort. *That* explains a lot and clears doubts. I have read Greta’s posts and at this point I’m agree more with Rebecca’s/Amy’s/Greta’s than those who are pro-Ron. I already know about the speech. I just asked that why some women are signing pro-Ron letters. I ask *you* as I already know their side. They say “some women are dominating the conversation.” I just want to know that what those on Rebecca’s side [not meant to be disparaging] have to say about this. If you can, do it instead of venting your anger on someone you barely know. You cannot expect everyone to just “take” a side and complacently scoff at those on the other side.

          3. Perhaps they are “dominating the conversation” because they have a basis of credibility with a much larger community which the others do not possess?

            Just askin!

            I can imagine Ron Lindsay is a nice man. That is not incompatible with being utterly useless in a topic which he chose to hold forth on – without a hint of irony.

            Often people come to the defense of other nice people no matter how badly they’ve stepped in it….or how much the refuse to learn from the response they get to stepping in it.

          4. @liberaloutlook: You’re asking the wrong question, then. It looks to me like what you want to know is if Rebecca has a response to people who say she (and other women who are speaking out against sexism/CFI/Ron Lindsay/whatever) is dominating the conversation. That is an entirely different (and more reasonable, though still annoying) question than “why do they say that?”. The only people who can tell you why they are saying that are the people saying it. All we can offer is speculation. I personally have no need to do that because I find the claim that Rebecca is dominating the conversation (as if there is only one conversation?) preposterous. I’ve seen lots and lots of people who are not Rebecca speak out.

          1. Maggie Thatcher was a woman.

            She was wrong about EVERYTHING.

            What is your point?

          2. A tweet is not a letter. A tweet is not anything. It makes no argument, adds no facts. Public discourse should be driven by facts and arguments, not 140 character brain farts.

            Plenty of people agree with Lindsay that shouting ‘check your privilege’ is obnoxious and rude. It is just another agenda denial tactic to drive people out of the conversation. So people voice their agreement on that.

            Most people believe that it is wrong for Christians to be bullied because of their beliefs. And yes it actually does happen to Christians and not just in other countries. But who would think it appropriate to stand up in front of an audience of Gays and Lesbians and open the keynote by (1) saying they are not welcome and (2) raising the problem of gays bullying Christians without any mention of the fact that the reverse is a vastly bigger problem.

            I get hate mail. I have received hate mail from people like Timothy McVeigh and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard. But I have never considered myself personally at risk. You don’t need to be Rebecca Watson to get hate mail that is way scarier than what I get, you just need to be female and have the temerity to say something that some man finds vaguely threatening.

    3. “I am actually trying to understand who’s wrong and who’s right.”
      um, the topic is Ron Lindsay, and how he said insulting things in his opening speech. maybe read Greta Christina’s explanation of why it was bad, her explanation is accurate.

      there is no one else to discuss.

      it isn’t “WHO” is wrong or right, it’s “Ron Lindsay did this particular thing, let’s talk about that”

      maybe you are mixing up this controversy with a slightly different one.

      1. “I am actually trying to understand who’s wrong and who’s right.”

        also, your difficulty understanding is kinda the whole point. CFI released a statement that was deliberately useless. They could have tried to clearly established right and wrong, but they didn’t. Their statement is such a fog that you can’t see what particular things it is commenting on.

        this is similar to smokescreen tactics used by bullies.

      2. Marilove is just demonstrating how to troll in an effective manner. One way is to select people randomly and then call them “troll” so that they start replying angrily. Sorry, I’m not going to feed you anymore.

      3. Actually the topic is about a lot more than that. You might want to stop typing and do a lot more reading.

  34. That’s probably the most cowardly thing I’ve ever read. They can’t say “we have no problem with what Ron said”, but they can’t bear to deal with the shit-storm of abuse that befalls anybody who publicly sides with feminists. At least the JREF and RDF have the guts to side with harnessers. Skepticism has a major asshole problem and it’s only going to get worse since the assholes (rightly) think the big guns have their back.

  35. When CFI sees a loss of revenue and support they’ll complain about how Rebecca, PZ, Greta, et al went gunning for them. They’ll probably demand an apology for disrupting all the things they do.

  36. I wanted to believe that Ron Lindsay was the exception among the CFI. It seems to be the other way around. It is a shame, but we can move on. There are other organizations that we can support.

  37. Flabberghasted! They had official statements from both SW and the WiS speakers, explaining the problem and asking for specific remedy and/or apology conerning Lindsay. I’m still willing to believe that this non-statement was a cautious probe before actually firing Mr Lindsay (perhaps their bylaws require the CEO to sign any official statement and they want some space to breath between firing him and getting a new CEO). Rather than that it sounds like Mr Lindsay managed to suufficiently mansplain himself to the board =(.

  38. Does Dawkins really refuse to share the state with Rebecca? I hadn’t heard that.

    Ouch. How petty.

  39. This is like a re-run of the 1980s only the gender roles have swapped places.

    Back in the 80s there actually were folk like Andrea Dworkin who would quite literally respond to a man arguing against her by saying ‘you are only saying that because you want to rape me’. Which was just crap on every level imaginable. Not least because, well Dworkin had all the sex appeal of a road accident.

    Now we have a bunch of men behaving in the same crappy way. And what is utterly weird is that they seem to be completely unaware of how they are behaving. I came across the elevatorgate affair the other day. When I saw the original video the way I read it was that Rebecca was giving the guys dating tips: Don’t proposition a girl alone in an elevator it is REALY creepy. Somehow that gets twisted into Watson accuses men of raping her.

    What is going on here, I think is that the men are continuing the arguing against Dworkin twenty years later using Rebecca as a proxy. So they don’t bother to find out what she is said, they just assume that she fits their pre-existing stereotype. So its really a straw man argument going on.

    I found a similar attitude at work in the comment threads of the You Tube videos of the Skepticon talk. Folk leaping to the defense of Evolutionary Psychology saying that Watson is unqualified to debate the issue. So I stick my hand up and say, well if you won’t say what was wrong to her because she is unqualified, how about you give me your argument, I have a D.Phil in experimental physics from the Department of Nuclear Physics at Oxford. Turns out they won’t debate Rebecca because she is not qualified and they won’t debate me either because I am waving my credentials about. So I ask what their qualifications are in the field and they have none at all.

    I would probably shade the case against EP somewhat differently than Watson, I think that she has a good case against ‘differential’ EP reasoning. Most academic social studies experiments are incapable of demonstrating the existence of an effect let alone a genetic cause and the idea of finding a hunter gatherer explanation is plain stupid. The EP type arguments I use in my work are rather less controversial, pointing out that industrialization is only a couple of centuries old and we are not culturally or genetically adapted to it as a species.

    What I think is going on here is that these are men who feel their position in society under attack and they are looking for pretty much any crutch they can use to prop it up. And that is why they come to skepticism and “science”. So they are not really interested in scientific enquiry, only the bits that support their own personal project.

    I have not bothered much with Dwarkins, I think that Stephen Jay Gould had a better grasp on evolution.

    1. “Back in the 80s there actually were folk like Andrea Dworkin who would quite literally respond to a man arguing against her by saying ‘you are only saying that because you want to rape me’.”

      Citation needed.

      1. This isn’t Wikipedia you know.

        OK I did exaggerate, there was really only one Andrea Dworkin.

        Back in the 1980s camcorders weren’t exactly common and there wasn’t a You Tube to put videos up on. So most of her live performances are lost. The only one that survives that I know of is the Meese commission video which was a tame performance.

        The prose style fashionable at the time was a pseudo academic word salad approach. The passage from Intercourse that is usually quoted illustrates the problem:

        This is nihilism, or this is truth. He has to push in past boundaries. There is the outline of a body, distinct, separate, its integrity an illusion, a tragic deception, because unseen there is a slit between the legs, and he has to push into it. There is never a real privacy of the body that can coexist with intercourse: with being entered. The vagina itself is muscled and the muscles have to be pushed apart. The thrusting is persistent invasion. She is opened up, split down the center. She is occupied–physically, internally, in her privacy. … There is no analogue anywhere among subordinated groups of people to this experience of being made for intercourse: for penetration, entry, occupation. There is no analogue in occupied countries or in dominated races or in imprisoned dissidents or in colonialized cultures or in the submission of children to adults or in the atrocities that have marked the twentieth century ranging from Auschwitz to the Gulag. There is nothing exactly the same, and this is not because the political invasion and significance of intercourse is banal up against these other hierarchies and brutalities. Intercourse is a particular reality for women as an inferior class; and it has, in it, as part of it, violation of boundaries, taking over, occupation, destruction of privacy, all of which are construed to be normal and also fundamental to continuing human existence.”

        Like Sarah Palin’s ad libs on Fox News, this doesn’t make any sense written down but if you had seen it delivered live the intended meaning was obvious enough. Just like in Lindsay’s address.

        Seriously, did she really need to bring up Hitler and Stalin? Wasn’t one enough? And what purpose do they serve other than to push a few rhetorical buttons?

        Of course back in the 1980s the academic establishment was writing in rather similar styles and worse. The implicit message being that if you can’t understand the private language that they use to discuss the topic then you are automatically disqualified from having a view.

        1. It’s always so great when the media chooses your leaders for you…

          Dworkin was a patriarchal wet dream.

          It seems to me an abuse of the topic to even bring her up.

    2. “Dworkin had all the sex appeal of a road accident.”

      FFS. Can we not with this kind of shit? It does not help.

    3. Hey Phillip,

      You can cut that shit out right now:

      And Dworkin herself did, in fact, suffer instances of sexual violence, so your statement is particularly callous.

      And, yeah…cite the shit you’re talking about. There’s a lot not to agree with in Dworkin, but there’s also a lot to strawman, and I strongly suspect you’re doing the latter!

      1. Yes, she did. And she made statements about men in general based on those events. But she actively promoted a political platform that she hoped would affect everyone.

        I posted an excerpt from one of Dworkin’s books. She is unable to describe heterosexual intercourse without bringing up Hitler’s death camps and Stalin’s gulags and describing it as ‘violation of boundaries, taking over, occupation’.

        Now note the difference between the points that Melissa and Rebecca make and the ones that Dworkin makes. I can understand the points Melissa and Rebecca are making for a start, they are clear, concise, well argued and free of unnecessary rhetorical ornament. With Dworkin there really isn’t an argument as such, just a string of words and phrases designed to elicit an emotional response.

        It is all a matter of context. Melissa and Rebecca (elevatorgate) described actual situations in which there was an unwanted advance that made them uncomfortable. Pointing out that their type of behavior raises rape concerns is hardly gratuitous. If however they had responded to Lindsay’s address with a convoluted incoherent screed that brought up rape repeatedly for no apparent reason then the situation would be rather different.

        We can argue about what Dworkin actually meant or getting into parsing her prose but I don’t think that is very useful. My point was that the type of discourse she engaged in was rather unpleasant, just like Lindsay’s. And the mention of Auschwitz, gulags and violation are a total non-sequitur. And no, it is not a matter of looks, its her sour, misanthropic world view and her snearing approach to contrary views that I find so unappealing.

        1. Your comparison of Lindsay and Dworkin is flimsy at best, and completely and utterly irrelevant. Your comparison added NOTHING AT ALL to the discussion, and you’ve now successfully derailed the conversation for many paragraphs. I didn’t even bother doing more than briefly skimming this response, because IT DOES NOT MATTER.

          Maybe get back on topic and add something worth-while to the discussion? Because from where I sit, it just seems like you brought Dworkin up because you just *had* to remind us that “some women be crazzzzzzy” (according to you) and we, of course, must not forget! “I agree with Rebecca and all, but remember this lady? She was toootally crazy, man. Just like Lindsay! We can’t forget that women be crazy sometimes, amiright?”

          So, ya know, stop derailing and let’s get back on topic, shall we?

          1. “Your comparison of Lindsay and Dworkin is flimsy at best, and completely and utterly irrelevant.”

            Indeed. That is why I find it strange that people keep focusing on that single aspect of his statement. To say that he has derailed the thread because other people solicited him for citations isn’t fair nor accurate. LeftSidePositive was correct that Philip’s initial comments regarding Dworkin were callous, toward her and sexual assault in general, and it is fine to criticize him for that. But I would seriously suggest that you read the rest of his comment before making statements like this:

            “Because from where I sit, it just seems like you brought Dworkin up because you just *had* to remind us that “some women be crazzzzzzy” (according to you) and we, of course, must not forget!”

            because believe it or not, the passing criticism of a person doesn’t at all have to be premised on the fact that that person was a woman. He could have just as easily stated “You know what, this reminds me of a situation back in the 1980s where this anti-fem male also made such an such crap statements, and now they’re continuing this arguing toward Watson, using her as a form of proxy,” because his statement about Dworkin was *an irrelevant rhetorical introduction to his criticism of the modern anti-feminist movement*. It could have been left at that, but everyone apparently took an issue that he criticized a woman. Oh. My. God. That never happens except by MRAs, no?

            “So, ya know, stop derailing and let’s get back on topic, shall we?”

            Yes! Let’s all stop talking about Dworkin! Maybe we can comment on literally anything else in Philip’s initial statement. I personally liked this:

            “So they don’t bother to find out what she is said, they just assume that she fits their pre-existing stereotype. So its really a straw man argument going on.”

            This IMO basically encapsulates Lindsay’s response to Watson. I wouldn’t say that he quite fits into the further discussion of anti-science MRAs or pro-EP people, and that that’s probably a more apparent mis-analogy, but the general sentiment of lack of proper communicative skills is appropriate.

          2. Exactly how does it excuse Lindsay to point out that there was one woman who used the tactics he seems to be griping about who was active over 30 years ago?

          3. Apparently my previous comment is not going to make it through moderation. That’s fine I suppose; it was sarcastic and rude, and after seeing how Phillip has most recently responded to you, it appears that I have misinterpreted what he intended with the statement anyway. I took it to be illustrative for the purpose of introducing the concept of bad rhetoric, basically independent of Dworkin’s gender, even though he commented on it (and made other inappropriate comments toward, that LeftSidePositive pointed out). But, it seems that he brought it up in order to point out that yes, there have been women (at least one) like that, and that the rhetoric these women use is being projected onto other women like Rebecca in a false straw manning that is characteristic of much of the modern anti-feminist movement.

            This is somewhat topical I think, though it deviates from the central point of Lindsay/CFI and instead toward the general anti-feminist rhetoric. I still think, as I tried to say (badly) in my unpublished comment, that the accusation of derailing isn’t justified, since further discussion was prompted by people who asked for citations, and in particular with LeftSidePositive’s comment there was an accusation of straw manning as well that Phillip chose to respond to. So, the derailing isn’t just his fault, nor would I say a majority of it was even though he wrote the most of anyone.

          4. Maybe they are focusing on it because what he said is BULLSHIT?

            He could have just as easily stated “You know what, this reminds me of a situation back in the 1980s

            Yeah, he could have “easily” said that BUT THAT IS NOT WHAT HE SAID. You do realize I”m commenting on what he ACTUALLY said, and not what you’ve made up in your head, right?

            And your comment made it through moderation. EVEN *I* get tossed into moderation on occasion and I’ve been here since 2007. It happens.

            Why do people act like fucking martyrs when they randomly end up in moderation, as if it’s some sort of sign we are trying to silence them? Holy shit. I bet your face is red now, huh, Richard? Get over yourself.

          5. I’ll go out of order, since some responses will follow from others as such:

            “And your comment made it through moderation […] Why do people act like fucking martyrs when they randomly end up in moderation”

            As I understand it moderation isn’t a random process, though I don’t host a WordPress blog so I’m not exactly sure of how it works. But my thought was that the administrators of a blog are the ones that allow or do not allow comments to pass through, depending on whether or not the comments were in line with the commenting policy. My most recent comment in this chain pointed out the previous one did not make it through, not to criticize the moderation or attempt to make a martyr of myself, but because my comment (and others actually) was submitted before others that were coming through earlier. My statement “That’s fine I suppose; it was sarcastic and rude…” was me justifying the moderation of my previous comment I thought was being applied. As a relatively new participant here, I should be more cautious in what tone I used, and that initial comment probably crossed lines. At least, that’s how I saw it.

            My more recent comment was me backing off from the tone I used, and also the interpretation that I initially applied. I was at least explicit in the latter, if the former was not apologetic enough. And so we come to your statements like these:

            “Maybe they are focusing on it because what he said is BULLSHIT?”
            “Yeah, he could have “easily” said that BUT THAT IS NOT WHAT HE SAID.”

            and yes, you are correct. It does appear that Phillip meant to single out that example because Dworkin was a woman, to indeed give a name to the type of people that anti-feminists like to cry on about. I was wrong, and criticisms of my first comment are justified. However, I did catch my mistake, and attempted to ameliorate. I hope this clarifies that further.

            “I bet your face is red now, huh, Richard?”

            Only as far as my inability to interpret what was being said, and be polite. This is something I will work on in future comments.

          6. If it added nothing at all why keep returning to scratch at it?

            You keep complaining that I make no substantive points, that I derail the conversation yet you don’t do any more than gainsay what I just wrote by complaining that my answers to your complaints are off topic. The conversation was at 80 posts when I joined.

            As a matter of fact I did point out that exclusionary discourse tactics were epidemic across the left before your first response but it was held for moderation. And I also pointed out that they are practically non existent today, at least as far as the left is concerned. Which is a result I find rather interesting.

            I have a research interest here because, well I was one of the designers of the Web and wrote some of the very earliest Internet discourse systems back in the early 90s. So my perspective is quite naturally the role that Twitter is playing in souring Internet/Public discourse as a whole rather than focusing on one user having their account blocked on the basis of a tweet that I have not actually seen.

            Here we are pillorying Lindsay on the basis of one speech and one blog post that were rude and insensitive. Yet you think it irrelevant to point out that we did once have a left wing version of Ann Coulter spitting out similar stuff over a twenty year period with rather fewer people wiling to step up and say she was full of it.

            You can’t do that sort of thing on the left and be taken seriously anymore, back in the 1970s/80s it was a common career building strategy that worked for quite a few. The result was that the left was fractured into little silos. I find that rather interesting just like I find the fact that these male troglodytes coming to Lindsay/Dwarkin’s defense appear to be arguing against something rather different to what was said.

            Finally, one phenomena that I did notice a little while back was the puzzling collapse of the right wing blogosphere. Many of the former GOP sites are now very firmly independent. Sullivan is firmly off the reservation as is ‘Axis of Evil’ Frum. But some of the middling sites closed down when people approached the bloggers and paid them handsome salaries to sign up as writers. With the net effect that there are really no forums where a right winger who does not toe the platform at least 105% can have a voice and even there the only debate allowed is on how to present party ideology more effectively or whether the standard should be raised to 110% or higher. I find that fascinating, almost as if someone decided that they wanted to make sure there was no space for dissent in the party and went out and bought up all the blogs that might serve as a nucleus.

        2. SERIOUSLY, though, the more I think about this, the more annoyed I am: Instead of talking about the topic at hand — Lindsay and CFI — you ***IMMEDIATELY*** derailed the discussion to be about some random woman from the past who has no actual connection or relevance to this topic at hand. Instead of reacting to and discussing the absolute abhorrent response of CFI and their treatment of women, the FIRST thing you thought was to compare Lindsay to a woman whom you clearly dislike. Instead of reacting to and discussing the absolute abhorrent response of CFI and their treatment of women, you had to trash talk some random woman not even connected to this discussion.

          Your priorities are clear.

          Do you actually think you’re HELPING? Or that you are coming off as an ally? Because you’re not.

          1. ‘Immediately’ some 80 odd posts later.

            Pointing out that Lindsay seems to be arguing a 30-year old caricature seemed relevant to me.

            Politics was very different in the 1980s. Before the Internet numbers of people involved didn’t really matter, it was access to the microphone and the press that mattered. So politics was very different and not just Feminist politics. Across the whole left you had little cliques whose strategy was to get to the top by discouraging participation by anyone not of like mind. Printing was expensive and most books lost money. Lefty publishers were willing to publish books that upset the establishment but not books that would bring criticism from both sides.

            Now there is something like that process in place on the US right at the moment but that seems to be a uniquely US anomaly that has more to do with making money for Rupert Murdoch and skewing political debate rightwards than getting Republicans elected to office. It costs a few wealthy individuals about a billion dollars per election cycle to skew the national debate that way. And they are destroying the GOP and the newspapers in the process.

            Apart from that particular aberration, most everyone tries to be inclusive and gain as wide a following as possible. You can have fringe views but you can’t monopolize the debate and push out reasonable voices.

    4. “So they don’t bother to find out what she is said, they just assume that she fits their pre-existing stereotype. So its really a straw man argument going on.”

      Hence the expression “straw-feminism.”

      1. Yes, its straw-feminism, but here is what is really weird, these people picking fights with Rebecca are men in their 50s+ who are well versed in the norms of academic discourse. And they really are looking to start a fight.

        Its not as if Dawkins had no opportunity to see the remarks he was commenting on first hand in ‘elevatorgate’. But he wades into an online flamewar to dis someone without bothering to find out what they actually said. Is he really so clueless?

        I think in the case of Dawkins he feels threatened. You could see some of the same attitude coming through in his occasional snide sideswipes at Gould.

        And the fact is that Dawkins should feel threatened because his view of evolution is defective. Gould was a lot better at pointing out the holes but the assumption that every evolutionary change is an adaptation to be explained is silly and unnecessary. I think the concept of memes is actually mistaken because genes are almost entirely the result of Darwinian evolution but there are many examples of social constructs being deliberately created. Back in the 1950s the CIA advised the monarch of a South Asian state to start a personality cult centered on himself and the monarchy to cement his powerbase. Now Westerners go to Thailand and assume that the reverence shown to the royal family is an ancient tradition. Memes rather obviously evolve through Lamarkian processes. So lumping them together with genes is at best confusing. But I think Dawkins is falling into the trap of having found one particular hammer and being determined that therefore everything must be a nail.

        Dershowitz did much the same thing to Chomsky in the 1990s. They used to debate each other on Israel on a regular basis. Then Dershowitz started to get more public attention and the ultra-Zionist line he follows became less and less defensible so he basically called Chomsky a NAZI sympathizer which had the desired effect and Dershowitz didn’t need to answer Chomsky’s arguments any more.

        Lindsay’s speech on the other hand immediately reminded me of a similar speech by Larry Summers that turned out to be the last straw for his position as President of Harvard. But in that particular case it really was the last straw, there were moves underway in the faculty to bounce him out the door long before the speech.

  40. Depressing but appropriate reaction to the “statement.” I held out hopes (and donated regularly) to CFI, but this is baffling.

    Unfortunately, I’d already given up on most skeptical groups/activities. I started becoming more active in politics in 1999, inspired to be an atheist/humanist voice, and worried about the lack of rationality and reason in legislation. The sexism and, frankly, bigotry and irrationality of some individuals, as well as many formal and informal groups, has actually made much of this harder.

  41. I think this type of statement comes from the same place the misogyny comes from. They are simply incapable of thinking of women as human beings with the capacity to think, reason and feel. My hypothesis is that inability to perceive someone as a human being is the root of all xenophobia, all tribal hatreds, all racism, all misogyny.

    1. Yeah, gonna have to agree that no one writes such gobbledegook if they think their readers have brains or the capacity to parse and critique basic English communication!

    2. There are a lot of women on the board…. I think it’s just a huge misstep…and a profound desire to “MAKE ALL THE UNCOMFORTABLE FEELINGS GO AWAY”

      It is somewhat tragic because it will have exactly the opposite effect. I feel like they got some really bad PR hack in on that board meeting and no one brought donuts…

      low blood sugar and conflict aversion I think are the culprits…

    1. No, it’s definitely not, as that is CFI *Amherst*, a branch, and not the national org. Please be careful about doing things like that–badgering an affiliate does us little good and makes everyone look bad.

  42. Moving on to Lindsay specifically, I think his real complaint is that some gurlz have formed a club with no boys allowed. Which would be a rather serious complaint if the club in question was actually in the business of trying to run the world or something similar. But there isn’t even much of a club, let alone an ability to run things.

    Lindsay points to a rule setting out a definition of feminism as evidence of there being no debates within feminism without asking himself why feminists would have decided such a rule is necessary.

    Anyone who was around in the 1980s-1990s would know exactly why such rules are necessary: The motivation for the definitional debates was to separate ‘true feminists’ from false ones. In short the people attempting to seize control of the term were behaving in precisely the type of exclusivist, factional behavior that Lindsay purports to be complaining of. Back in the 1980s the communists were still a political force and they brought rather nasty infighting tactics to whatever venue they saw as a potential platform for their true cause. So there were people like MacKinnon trying to skew the definition of feminist to only include Marxist feminists against porn.

    Of course there are some people who find spurious reasons for excluding certain people’s views from consideration. There is a whole field of study called ‘agenda denial’. When it is impossible to argue against a case on the merits, argue that it is the wrong time to hold the debate or that we should instead be talking about something completely different: Don’t talk about the expansion of Israeli Settlements in the West Bank now that Israel faces a mortal threat from Iran’s nuclear program. Don’t talk about creepy guys in elevators propositioning women at 3am in the morning, talk about oppression of women in Saudi Arabia. Repeal Obamacare immediately so that we can start a proper debate on how to achieve universal health care.

    As for checking privilege, seems to me that Lindsay’s problem is that he comes to an entire field of thought makes some superficial observations and gets upset when called up on his lack of self awareness is called on and then complains about being asked to examine his lack of direct awareness of the situation.

    Whatever ‘hate mail’ Lindsay was getting, I rather doubt it was as bad as the stuff that Rebecca gets.

    I find it rather interesting that of all the videos on You Tube with controversial views, nobody ever seems to challenge the credentials of the men speaking. And when I come along and present my credentials they get upset that I would dare to do that. Of course none of us need to present credentials, we have a penis.

    But what do you expect, the Republican party preaches the value of self interest and looking out for yourself above all else then people get all surprised and shitty when they discover that is exactly what they practice in office: Tax cuts for me but no pension for thee. Atheism attracts its own band of shits who are really looking to ‘prove’ how men evolved to be smarter than women because they have a penis. They are a minority but they are there.

  43. Nonpology alright! “Going forward” indeed!.. I’m suprised it doesn’t have “proactive” and “World’s best practice’ in it somewhere as well.

      1. And “leverage”, I forgot “leverage”. Or “leverage our symbiosis”, is just begging to be included in this context.
        All that spin doctor shit just wants to be in there.

  44. I wrote this at PZ’s place, but I’ll repeat myself. This statement is even worse than just trying for the vague, non-specific, non-apology position. The CFI board is unhappy about the “controversy surrounding the recent Women in Secularism Conference 2”. They are unhappy that people are unset/offended/dismayed and that this was communicated publicly and directly to the board. (There would be no “controversy” if everyone just swallowed their anger.) The board did NOT express any “unhappiness” over the cause of the “controversy”. The implication seems clear to me that the board either agrees with what Lindsay said or isn’t bothered enough to give a damn.

  45. RW- You might want to clarify that you are still not calling for a boycott of JREF and RDF (just CFI), because I had to read it twice to get that. Dawkins has been annoying my shit out for long enough that I was hoping you did mean to call for a boycott of all three…
    Otherwise, Keep Rockin’!

  46. I was wondering whether it would be possible to make a blander less meaningful statement than that issued by the CFI, so I took it as a writing challenge:

    Center for Inquiry Board of Directors Statement on the recent unpleasantness:

    The mission of the Center for Inquiry is to foster nice and good things, and to oppose the spread of nasty and bad things.

    The Center for Inquiry, including its CEO, is dedicated to advancing niceness, and that is why we do good things. The CFI Board wishes to express its unhappiness with nastiness and bad things that may or may not have happened recently.

    CFI believes in being nice and good. We appreciate that people have said things to and about 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 niceness and good things.

    No, somehow that still feels more meaningful. It actually takes a stance against nastiness.

  47. I had the temerity to send a tweet to you about Lindsay and the CFI bullshit, some CFI/MRA axis of evil fucker saw it and swiftly saw to it my twitter account got suspended. The potential for passive aggressive silencing on social media gets me down. Being a transgender woman drops me into one minority, being a skeptic then intersects with that and my tendency to be mouthy puts the icing on the cake. If you notice that the mouthy transsexual has suddenly disappeared it isn’t always because we have to take time out to focus on being fabulous. Sometimes assholes who don’t like to lose arguments to women or be told robustly to go away especially from THAT sort of a woman, do underhand things to shut us up.
    The revolution will be good people, but it won’t be polite.

    1. I have come to regard Twitter as a force that tends to drive these debates to extreme polarization which is why I have stopped using it.

      The main reason Rush Limbaugh says all the stupid stuff he says is that he is on the air shooting off his mouth for three hours a day. Of course he comes across as an ignoramus, he has no time to do any research even if he was inclined to do so.

      Reducing all your thoughts to a 140 character tweet has much the same effect. Twitter forces people to strip out all nuance and context. Whenever we have one of these episodes there is a long string of really hate filled tweets.

      1. Or maybe we can just say, “it’s fucked up that someone uninvolved in a conversation tried to shut down your media access with twitter because you supported a feminist. Twitter has particular argumentative challenges, but is a great collaborative tool. Advancing true social equality will strip a lot of anti-equality assholes from the confidence needed to be outright douchecanoes, I hope, and then maybe one day, one day not soon enough, but maybe one day soon, we can enjoy a world where trans, cis, male, female, queer, black, Asian, Arabic, Hispanic, white, WHATEVER people aren’t shunned, denigrated, or silenced so that that kind of shit doesn’t happen to you or anyone else again. TOS are there to prevent harassment (really, protect a company, but by having harassment clauses), not promote it.”

        And then maybe, you can throw in a little, “I don’t like being limited to 140 characters, so I don’t use it.”

        1. Well I could only last time I used that language my post was held for moderation.

          Having people try to shut her down doesn’t bother me half as much as that they succeeded.

          But I think the attempt to shut people out of the discussion like that is itself part of the rather nasty social dynamic that Twitter seems to create.

          I don’t like the role that Twitter and Facebook have come to play in controlling the agenda and deciding who is allowed to participate.

      2. I used my account for sharing and supporting with other transgender people. At the point the suspension was enforced I had also been sharing links about support for sex workers. There seems to be a large number of transgender women sex workers. So when people instigated the ban on my account for even mentioning CIF to Rebecca that’s what they interfere with, people sharing resources and support at what is percieved to be the powerless bottom of the pile. I don’t want to stop using social media, even with it’s shortcomings my options for discourse and activism are already limited enough. I would like a dialogue with companies like twitter and facebook over how they might nuance their procedures to avoid silencing the marginal people even more.

        1. marilove, just checking, it was me you were calling condescending, right? The comment order is mixed up. Anyway. Yeah. I do know I’m a condescending twit. (if appropriate) and a great many other things.

        2. marilove, I’m assuming the deliberate misgendering of me is your way of proving your alpha status. I do love it when big scary people online misgender me deliberately. I know they’ve lost the argument and so do they, and now so does everyone else.

        3. Megan did not post the tweet that got her banned. So I was not going to weigh in on the fairness or unfairness of Twitter’s action because I simply don’t have the information to be able to do so.

          Given that the context of the discussion here includes a number of hate tweets, I thought the more general role of twitter rather relevant. Twitter seems to be purpose built to bring out the nastiness in people. It encourages them to think and post in soundbytes. It has been quite a few years now since I saw a nastyfest where Twitter didn’t play a part. Take a look at Rebecca’s nastyfile and take a look at how much of the nasty comes through Twitter.

          In the cosmic scheme of things whether Megan or Rebecca got dissed by Twitter or Dawkins or whomever does not amount to a big issue in themselves. The real issue is whether they are illustrative examples of the type of behavior that goes on all the time on a much bigger scale. Rebecca seems more than capable of standing up to the cyberbullies but I know hundreds if not thousands of people who have reacted by withdrawing.

          Rebecca tries to address this problem by publicizing it and I try to address the problem by understanding it and changing the Web. I was a member of the original CERN team that built the Web in the early 90s.

          Most people here grew up after the Web had become ubiquitous. You may remember the first time you used it just like I remember the day we got a colour TV. But Dawkins and Lindsey did not. And that might well explain why their behavior rather resembles that of old men yelling ‘get off my lawn’. But if so they are out-liers in the dataset. I didn’t grow up with the Web either, I watched it being built piece by piece. I built some of those pieces.

          It seems rather likely to me that the Dawkins issue blew up because he was responding to the Twitterverse fuelled conversation and didn’t trouble himself to check the original sources. Another part of the polarizing aspect of Twitter is that you get so many tweets congratulating you on your position it can lead some people to miss the fact their presentation was rather nasty.

          There seems to also be something of a meta problem with a group of reactionary men who don’t seem to know that modern feminist discourse is completely different to what they imagine. I don’t think that they can all be convinced otherwise but I think that some might be.

          Sorry if you feel I am being condescending.

          1. I couldn’t post the tweet as I no longer had access to it. It was a one line comment after reading transcript of the talk, and three posts and Lindsay’s response. I also can’t be sure which it was as twitter only supply a complaint number. I think I know which one it was, there wasn’t much else going on worthy of note. It got fourteen seperate complaints, I got a ticket for each one I had to respond to twice to each. Plus four complaints about something called “aggressive following” which I had to learn about today. It’s usually reserved for accounts that use scripts to follow and unfollow hundreds of users a day. I am so clueless the comment order on here confused me, scripting is not something I’m capable

          2. Capable of. My comment was followed up by some fuckery by a purveyor of finest fuckery and a few minutes after that follow up I found myself ejected from the playground. 14 complaints is the giveaway. I never get more than two people reading any given tweet. 14 is wild and unlikely acclaim.

          3. Given the numerous Tweets that are absolutely horrid it comes as something as a surprise that you would be suspended for that.

            They do suspend for aggressive following and bot scripting. The limits appear to be related to the number of followers you have. I have never managed to hit them and I did at one time have tens of thousands of followers on several of my accounts.

            Your experience sounds to me like either (1) the tweet was a lot worse than you are letting on or (2) someone used 14 sockpuppet accounts to make the complaint from or (3) posted to some list telling people to send in complaints.

          4. No shit, sherlock. Thanks for assplaining how Twitter works, we had no idea.

          5. If you can be arsed, it’s currently at no.22 in the chart of shit I talk, click my name and you’ll get a glimpse into the shrubbery that passes for my mind.

    2. That is awful. The fact that CFI can’t take a strong stand against the people behaving in this way is deplorable.

  48. I started discussing this issue with a friend that is more personally involved with CFI (and I won’t go into specifics on whom, for two reasons: 1) privacy of course, and 2) by “started discussing” I mean that it was something we only exchanged a sentence or two back and forth about late last night and haven’t actually talked about yet), and I likened it to a situation at the University of Michigan that occurred earlier this year, where an InterVarsity Christian group was “kicked off campus” because they included a qualifying section in their student group constitution that required student leadership members to sign an affirmation of faith, which the University said was against their non-discrimination policy. And I bring this up because the center there responsible for managing student organization services had released a similarly political and, while not nearly as non-specific as CFI’s (which I’d like to echo from others is surprising from them), vague statement about the case that didn’t actually convey an accurate portrayal of the situation.

    There are two things to be said about this particular case that some may find reassuring and not (and yes I mean to say “and,” not “or”), the first being that the University, along with releasing that statement, was conducting meetings with the group to negotiate their return to being a sponsored/recognized student organization; the outward politicking didn’t really mirror what was going on internally. The statement was a PR stunt, meant to help protect the University against overreaching criticism while it worked out its issues.

    The second thing is that the result of that negotiation was actually a reinstatement of the student organization against their will by cutting out an unwritten exception to the anti-discrimination policy, effectively nullifying claims the org. might have wanted to make under said policy for protection themselves in other issues, leaving exactly zero people happy. So, take what you will with what grain of salt you will. I don’t mean to yet project this type of ineptness onto CFI quite yet, not at least until I’ve talked with my friend, but it wouldn’t be very honest of me to mention this side story about politicking ? working without that caveat.

    1. Apparently my last statement included a character that got translated into a question mark – I meat to say at the end, “…politicking [does not equal] working without that caveat.”

    1. Megan, what’s your Twitter username? People following you will make your account less likely to be suspended… Also a tip – tweet without @’ing anyone at least 50% of the time if you think your account is in danger. Twitter use this ratio to determine spam accounts.

      Lastly, @the_block_bot — sign up and you can block the really nasty ones automatically at Level1, anti-feminists at Level2 and just boring ones at Level3… Sometimes L3 leap to L2 or L1 so the ultimate option ;-)
      If you install the zapper -> into Chrome or Firefox it can be set to delete tweets from blocked people or make them glow. This way you can see who is likely to be arguing in good faith. You can also use this instead of the block bot as it removes tweets without you having to block anyone.

  49. This is all so disappointing. I really wanted CFI to do better. I wasn’t expecting much just better than this. Maybe I have lowered my ideological-bar in accepting their crap. Oh well. There are so many social issues out there too and feminism is just one of them. Are we going to be this defunct on other issues not yet tackled to my satisfaction in the skeptical community such as race, disability, poverty, etc?

    This just seems more status quo behavior in light of prominent skeptics and leaders sharing their defunct opinions, the likes of DJ Groth, Micheal Shermer, along with Richard Wiseman, and others as talked about here before. Remember the Lawrence Krauss thing ( I still remember the Hall thing and I am not charitable.

    This has been one of my problems with the ‘movement’ right along. Leaders in public light that don’t have a pat response for supporting all people in the movements they are supposed to be championing. These are not good representatives. The affiliation with the likes of the Slympit and MRA groups, yuck! These people should be marginalized out of existence, not gaining footholds. It is absolutely appalling. The Ron Lindsay thing, to me an outsider, just feels like more of the same. The movement with this group of people is defunct, not working, not gaining steam, supporting tropes that many would gladly put firmly in the past.

    1. I don’t know if I am making the last paragraph clear. I mean it when I say, “Leaders in public light that don’t have a pat response for supporting all people in the movements they are supposed to be championing.” That means saying things at openings of conferences like, welcome everyone for coming. And then really welcoming everyone, even those they disagree with ideologically.

      When subgroups in the movement are acting in way that is morally appalling, such as let us say calling women cunts, then marginalizing that behavior. Leaders should be cognizant if appalling behavior, such as rape threats, is gaining footholds in the movement and make steps when necessary to end such behavior. Maybe even gasp ending memberships to people acting inappropriately, separating themselves altogether from such folks. I don’t want inappropriately to be confused with differences in ideology. I don’t think that these leaders understand the problems that are brewing in their own movement or even more sadly if they are so privileged that they just don’t care. I hope they are not asking for a double helping of more status quo.

    2. I’m trying out my local AHA group. A friend of a friend started a skeptics group a bit of a drive from here, but from what I know of my friend, I have fairly high hopes about that. Worse comes to worst, I may start my own damn group.

      I signed up for state’s LGBTQ equality organization. I don’t know how skeptical it is, but from talking to one of it’s new board members, it’s sure as shit better than CFI.

      I hope, as utterly frustrating as it is, you can feel valued and respected in a group that does good work. Following Skepchick the last year or so has definitely fired up my urge to participate–half the time so that I can counteract some asshat. I think it’s the worst kind of dumb that prominent organizations and people are so insistent about being them.

      1. miserlyoldman, I am glad you are finding footing in the skeptical movement for social good. I have not found mine yet. I would like to participate more, but, I don’t know how best to make that happen. I end up supporting social issues and honestly, that means aligning with christian groups but not joining them formally. They would never approve my non-religious beliefs. :)

        1. We’ll see. I’ve only been to one meeting so far, but for the most part, it looks like their meetings are: religion is bullcrap, amirite? Hopefully, we can do some work at the local family shelter or work with Equality Maine or do SOMETHING other than just have a bunch of, “religion, who needs it?” meetings.

          1. My preference is to fight the real impacts the fundamentalists are having on the ground which are impacting mostly poor women’s reproductive autonomy (not just with regards to abortion, but birth control and access to preventative health care for their lady parts)

            My atheism is a grace note to my conviction to going toe to toe with religion where it is doing the most harm.

            I am over having sophomore philosophy majors drive the focus or discourse….

          2. Fight on eamc! It is a very important fight to have. I have a friend who had been profoundly affected by the role religion played in the planning or unplanning of one of her children. It is very disturbing. Everyone has to find their social good where they can find it and see where they can make the most impact. Not all religious groups are funding a political agenda and the war on women’s reproduction rights. In my city, that would seem pretty absurd in that poverty is rampant. Not to say that there isn’t plenty of shaming, but trying to shut down a planned parenthood would be cutting a lifeline for many women and children in poverty. Local religious groups wouldn’t want to be a part of that. (That is not also to say that faith based groups in my area are not indirectly funding the war on reproductive rights.)

  50. Liberaloutlook:
    In response to, “Actually, I’m not asking for any evidence, but trying to understand why they think so. One such activist is Miranda Celeste Hale. I find myself leaning towards Rebecca’s/Amy’s side in this issue, but cannot totally account for what the pro-Ron women are saying.”

    There are no ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ sides. This is a social situation and as such there isn’t going to be this hard data of reasons to feel a certain way. There is history and drawing conclusions. To answer your question about the other side, if you mean Lindsay and CFI supporters, they have reasons and good ones too. He is a part of the skeptical movement and has dedicated a lot of time and energy to it. He fulfills a vision of the movement that other people support. CFI in many people’s opinion has done a lot of good for the skeptical community.

    That is not the problem that we are discussing here. It is about how best to move forward in the movement. Do you think that Lindsay was out of line? Do you agree with the response that CFI is taking now on this issue? My question to you is, what do you think? Are you willing to take a stance such as Rebecca is taking?

  51. I am glad this discussion is going on, but it definitely extends to more than just CFI. Have you all seen the stuff about American Atheists, regarding David Silverman & AJ Johnson? Silverman’s “response” is here It seems rather dismissive and weak. Plus he actually cites her refusing her severance package as evidence that he was correct in firing her! Even if American Atheists didn’t do anything wrong in terminating AJ Johnson, Silverman’s reply seems in rather poor taste and poorly worded.

  52. Can someone explain this to me? After hearing about this controversy, I read Ron Lindsay’s speech. Assuming the one he posted is the same as what was said, I don’t see what the issue is. I read lot of people our outraged but I can’t find any example in his speech that is outrageous.
    CFI’s response says a lot, no ‘nothing’. It says they don’t feel his speech deserves the response it received.
    And Rebecca Watson’s statement :”,
    Lindsay spends a good deal of time arguing against the idea that feminism as a movement has no significant internal disagreements, ”
    The written version of the speech certainly does not say that, not at all.

    “he has a serious problem with feminists who use the word “privilege” as a way to silence men”
    And he should, as should you and me and everyone. It’s a problem. Now I do not understand who someone thinks that was the crux of his speech.

    Based on reading his speech and the responses it seems like people are looking for a reason to be outraged and not thinking about the speech.

    What is CFI supposed to apologize for, specifically? What insult was issued during the speech?

    1. “Assuming the one he posted is the same as what was said, I don’t see what the issue is.”

      Discussion about the speech might be better had in Rebecca’s previous blog post on the matter. This is also about other issues, such as Ron’s blog post in response (that’s where the North Korea references comes from) and issues with harassment at conferences that hasn’t been fully dealt with.

      “It says they don’t feel his speech deserves the response it received.”

      The response to this statement of course follows from the previous: it’s not just about the speech.

      “And Rebecca Watson’s statement[…]”

      Again it’s more than just the speech, but very briefly: the tone is not one about CFI promoting women. That discussion was all in the beginning and the end of the speech; it’s difficult to even call it concluding or introductory material, because introductions and conclusions flow logically into and from the body of a speech or essay. But discussions on privilege? On whether or not Atheism+ is redundant? On whether there are divisions in feminism? On whether or not feminists employ the “no true Scotsman” fallacy? None of those sound appropriate as accompanying material to the “CFI wants to help women” narrative, and I think a lot of people feel that way as well. But with that, I won’t say any more about the speech; again this is about more than just that, much more.

    2. At Geekoid, in response to “he has a serious problem with feminists who use the word “privilege” as a way to silence men”
      And he should, as should you and me and everyone. It’s a problem. Now I do not understand who someone thinks that was the crux of his speech.
      Feminists are not silencing men. This is a pretend situation you and Lindsay are perpetuating. What do you think was the crux of his speech? I certainly wish it had been, “Welcome attendees”.

      “Based on reading his speech and the responses it seems like people are looking for a reason to be outraged and not thinking about the speech.”
      Not just the speech, there are also the tweets and follow up posts. It is an ongoing issue.

      1. Lindsay is also deeply ignorant of or actively ignoring ALL of the deep context of this moment in a looooong line of controversy which dates back years. It’s an example of his privilege that he has not experienced what we are addressing in our complaints over the last few years…and yet feels confident enough to stand before a room full of women and have the balls to chastise them…and lecture on “feminism”. It’s gobstoppingly stupid.

        If you truly don’t get it…then step back and do some homework.

  53. my letter to CFI:
    To the Board of Directors of The Center For Inquiry:
    I am extremely disappointed in the Board’s non-response to CFI President and CEO, Ron Lyndsay’s actions during and following the Women In Secularism 2 conference. For someone in the critical position of being “the face” of CFI, he clearly showed very poor judgement and, in my opinion, did significant damage to CFI’s reputation.

    Here’s just a bit of background on where I’m coming from. About four years ago, I happened to stumble upon the Atheist and Skeptical online community. I was thrilled to finally find a group of “like-minded-people” (cliche, I know). After a couple of years of immersion and absorption in this community, I came to the realization that I wanted to become a member of an organization that wanted to do more than just the “fun” science and debunking stuff and to not just interact with the “religion is bad” crowd. I needed to find more depth and meaning in my skepticism. This led me to Secular Humanism and ultimately to CFI. I found that CFI had a great mix of humanism, atheism, and science which I found very attractive. I was excited to get more involved with CFI because it seemed to be in complete alignment with my core values and my interests. In fact, I decided that my first (and so far only) skeptic conference was CSICon-Nashville last year. As a single father of 3 young school-aged girls, my available time to do conferences like this is limited, to say the least, so I could only manage to attend one of the days, but still had a great time and left wanting more. Interestingly, the one and only time that day that I saw Ron Lindsay speak (not realizing his position with CFI), I thought he came across as abrasive and rude, but I just dismissed it by thinking that since it was my first conference, it must be just the “skeptical way” and par for the course. By the way, I feel differently about that “Lindsey experience” now.

    With all that said, I commend CFI for trying to advance the status of women and promoting women’s issues through its sponsorship of the two Women in Secularism Conferences and I hope that my 3 daughters will live in a better world due to effort like these.

    But, despite these efforts to raise the level of dialog for women’s issues, the craven actions of the CFI Board, by issuing such a ridiculous statement in response to Mr. Lindsay’s actions, forces me to deeply question CFI’s true level of dedication to women in secularism as well as whether CFI aligns enough with my core values to continue my support.

    Because I am not burdened by any misty-eyed loyalty or some perceived shared-history, I believe that I can honestly say that this feels like a crossroads-moment for CFI. Although, Mr. Lindsey, undoubtedly has great strengths and talents that many organization would covet, based on his pettiness, poor judgement, and his obtuseness to the significance of his actions, I have no confidence that Mr. Lindsey is the right person to progress CFI into the future that I would like to see. I truly hope that CFI will take the better road and move on with building a bigger and more powerful coalition. It’s not too late to fix this.

    In the meantime, you should know that I (and I think many others) will be suspending support to CFI until more meaningful actions are taken by the Board.


    1. Dave, when you found Lindsay “abrasive and rude”, was it his criticism of Chris Mooney’s latest book? Because that had my blood simmering. The moderator deserves praise for giving Mooney a few minutes to respond after that, which was not in the original schedule.

  54. After somewhere in the region of thirty emails to twitter in response to a pile of complaint tickets from them, my account is back. Wasted a chunk of today doing it. That’s my reward for supporting CFI in the past. Never again.

  55. Yes, if you audiences doesn’t get something, clearly it’s their fault~ Or maybe if you can’t explain it, then you don’t understand it either?

    I read all the accompanying material, and non of it address anything that is negative in his speech.
    Nothing I read was patronizing nor worthy of any of the heated rhetoric that no surrounds it. Some doesn’t like that he brought up very real issues with some group involved with feminism. These are not what feminism is about, but they are issues that should be addressed.

    Greenstone123 – “Feminists are not silencing men.”
    I think you reply underscores the real reason fore the outrage: People took a statement out of context and went all rage happy. I know feminism isn’t about that. I never said it was, nor did the speaker. It is an issue within some feminism groups. one that must be addressed. If feminism as a whole doesn’t address these groups that do do that, you are all going to get lumped together. The is totally unfair, but that’s the reality.

    I cannot find 1 single complains against the speaker that actually address a non out of context quote, or completely twists the intended meaning.

    Greta Christina say the problem was context. Is there a better place to try to start a dialog and point out issues within a group then where many leaders from the group will be paying attention?

    Rebecca is in the wrong here. She has made complaints that are factually wrong. If you said something about a speech I gave that was completely the opposition of what I said, I would wonder if you where from another universe as well.

    1. “Is there a better place to try to start a dialog and point out issues within a group then where many leaders from the group will be paying attention?”

      I quote Greta:
      “This was not just some random talk midway through some random conference. This was not just some random series of blog posts written on some random date. This was the opening talk at the Women in Secularism 2 conference. […] Opening talks welcome attendees and speakers, get people excited about what’s coming, take care of schedule changes and other logistical matters, let people know what else the hosting organization is up to, hustle for donations. They do not lecture the attendees and speakers and financial supporters on everything that they’re doing wrong.”

      One might hazard a guess that this particular contextual complaint wouldn’t have been made if it wasn’t the opening speech.

      “I read all the accompanying material, and non of it address anything that is negative in his speech.”

      I quote Greta again:
      • On misrepresentation of “divisiveness”: “And this representation of my ideas, and of the ideas of the other people who wrote about Atheism Plus and divisiveness, is a gross misrepresentation. The point of starting Atheism Plus was not to create divisiveness just for divisiveness’s sake.”
      • On his statements regarding resources: “That’s one of the main reasons we keep hammering on about the atheist movement needing to focus more on social justice issues, both publicly in areas where it overlaps with our existing missions, and internally in our own policies and practices. […] Doing this draws in more resources — because it draws in more people.”
      • On unanimity: “He was addressing a roomful of people who, ourselves, represent a huge range of diverse opinions and perspectives on feminism. Why on Earth did he think it was necessary to lecture us about how we’re not going to find unanimity of opinion within the feminist movement?”
      • On his statements of feminists denying division: “I would like to issue another request: Name three feminists — not some random person with a blog on Daily Kos, but serious and respected leaders or writers in the feminist movement — who claim that there are no significant divisions within the feminist movement.”
      • On silencing men with privilege checking: “This is a total straw-feminist position. This is a position that no serious feminist holds, but that gets routinely set up and attacked because the actual things that actual serious feminists are saying are actually pretty reasonable.”

      Shall I go on through some of the stuff she said in the Context article? You may not agree with what she is saying, but to completely deny that anybody has addressed anything negative in his speech, while saying you’ve read everything, is textbook Newspeak.

    2. I’m guessing if you are explaining to me how people get lumped together…I will have a place to lump you.

  56. FWIW I cancelled my subscription to Free Inquiry in September 2011 because it was clear which way a Ron Lindsay-led organization was going to bend at that point. I’ll have nothing to do with them until they do a 180 from where they are now. No great loss since I was just a solitary chucklehead with a magazine subscription, but it was an issue of conscience.

  57. Their statement isn’t complicated. I put on my “Patriarchy filter glasses” and it comes out like this.
    “Fellow Dude-bros,
    The womenz are getting totally upset about some stuff that happened a while ago. You know how it is. They were all in the same room and probably all started menstruating because of that pheremone stuff that evolution makes them have. There’s no need to mention what happened because their periods would have made them upset about anything. Amirite?
    In conclusion, we’ll just wait two weeks until they’re at the other end of their cycles and this should all blow over, okay?
    In doodliness,
    Ze glasses! Zay do everything!

  58. CFI- what a disappointment.
    I cannot believe he actually stood up and said those things to a room full of women at a conference meant for them! Come on! What ever gave him the idea that this was a good way to open a secular womens event? Oh yeah, Patriarchy. Still, so disappointing. And their reply- too awful. I am in a local CFI meet up group, and will be seeing if we can change the affiliation.

    I am no longer puzzled by sexism in the skeptic/atheist community. I use to be, but that was before the whole “ridiculous outrage over a phrase” nonsense, when the MRA, slymepitters, and other anti feminists, showed their true colors. They were merely upset because their lack of religion was the SINGLE way most of them lacked privilege, and that was upsetting them. They don’t give a crap about anyone else, they just want to maintain and improve their own status.

  59. My husband & I have been financial supporters of CSICOP for years. Now we are trying to figure out what we can do instead, to support skepticism & rationality. This is very sad.

  60. Sandi, I suggest something like Secular Woman or an organization that helps women and is itself under attack from misogynists, such as Planned Parenthood.

    In a way, it’s fortunate that the welcoming speech for WIS2 was not given by its actual organizer, Melody Hensley. She would have welcomed everyone with sincere warmth, waxed briefly eloquent about the quality of the speakers and programme, and invited everyone to enjoy the conference to the fullest, make new friends, and forge new bonds for future cooperation. And it would have been that much longer before we found out Ron Lindsay’s breathtaking incompetence as a leader of any organization that purports to be guided by rationality.

  61. ” 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.”
    I have been unable to find anywhere that he calls you a liar or uses the word liar in any context. Can you direct me to it?

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