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Posted by on Jan 12, 2013 in Atheism, Feminism, Skepticism | 34 comments

Bullied or cajoled? AKA Have you stopped beating your wife lately?

In one of his recent videos, Thunderfoot makes the accusation that skeptic and atheist leaders were “bullied or cajoled” into speaking out against hatred against women (at the request of Skepchick Amy Roth). He was then rhetorically asked to explain what that language meant in a recent Petition to oust him from the community and to add modern feminism, with all its unscientific and neo-puritan trappings, to the programming and conduct of skeptic, atheist and secular conferences. For shame. This is yet another example of organized, all-dissent-shall-be-silenced, bullying.

Think of yourself in the place of a leader who gets such a Petition. If you refuse, you’re clearly a woman hater (since in those situations, feminism is said to be nothing more than equality between the sexes — a far cry what modern feminism teaches today). And who’s opposed to equality of the sexes/genders/races/and people of different sexual preferences, and a more inclusive environment for all? No one, as far as I know. Still, if you say nothing, it appears that you don’t care about women. And if you do agree to sign, then you’ve been trapped into supporting feminism, an amorphous and shape-shifting beast which is frequently anti-science (due to the bias those allegedly awful white males have been constantly injecting into the field), and you’ve betrayed the fundamental principles of the pro-science movement. I don’t envy the position that the recipients of such petitions find themselves in. While speaking out against hatred toward women is a good and noble idea, this is a trap, and we all know it. The leaders are stuck in a no-win situation, and that’s exactly what “bullied or cajoled” means.

It’s been eye-opening to see how modern feminism works up close. Is this the case in all communities, or is ours an exception?

  • MosesZD

    It’s been eye-opening to see how modern feminism works up close. Is this the case in all communities, or is ours an exception?

    This is par for the course. And it’s not in the atheism movement. It’s in ALL movements. I have yet to see a movement that wasn’t hijacked in whole or in part by this kind of horse manure.

    The Civil Rights movement has been hijacked multiple times. Most recently by the LGBT community. And while I do agree on equality across the board for them, brow-beating the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People) is (IMO) a load of crap.

    It’s not their mission.

    Even worse is how LGBT leaders lie about MLK supporting gay rights. Bayard Rustin, a black (and gay) civil rights leader and contemporary of MLK, was the chief organizer of the March on Washington, DC. When he confronted MLK with the demand that he
    include homosexual rights in the March on Washington MLK basically told him to pound sand and let him know that maybe he should leave the civil rights movement.

    Now we see infighting in the NAACP because some LGBT activists are trying to add LGBT rights to their agenda and amend their vision: “The vision of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is to ensure a society in which all individuals have equal rights without discrimination based on race.”

    They’re about race discrimiation. Like it or not, that’s what they do. That’s their issue. Not feminism. Not LGBT. Not anything else.

    And yet, you’ve got these groups trying to co-op them (when they’re not trashing them) and causing friction. Showing a complete lack of respect for them staying their course and attacking them for staying on mission.

    • bluharmony

      The LGBTQ community still doesn’t have the same rights as everyone else. I am fully behind them. Plus, they’re not trying to rewrite history or dismantle science. They’ve done nothing but add beauty and vibrancy to our various communities.

      African Americans are still strongly discriminated against. They are disproportionately poor, disproportionately criminal, and disproportionally uneducated.

      But women? Not so much.

      • http://twitter.com/iamcuriousblue iamcuriousblue

        I think there’s definitely still sexism within Western society, but much of the overt legally-entrenched kind of sexism is a thing of the past, and overt (and even not so overt) discrimination in hiring practices is downright illegal. That pretty much leaves a lot of cultural attitudes that are just aren’t amenable to change by the same strategies. And yet, many feminists are still in the mentality of viewing all manifestations of sexism as a nail and their only tool as a hammer. The idea seems to be if we can just ban enough of the wrong ideas, punish enough bad actions, and stigmatize enough evil sexists, everything will fall in line. And then they wonder out loud when this is met with resistance.

        The LBGT movement has largely been successful because they understand how to adjust their tactics to the situation. In the 80s and 90s, in the ACT-UP era during the peak of the AIDS crisis, it was a pretty angry movement, but it organized well and got shit done. Later, it scaled back on those confrontational tactics, focused on things like gay marriage, coming out to the people around them, and being more visible in the culture. And they’ve had huge success with that – gay people are probably more accepted now than they were in the supposedly-open 1970s. On the other hand, if you look at feminism, it’s probably considered a *less* respectable idea than was did during the 70s, largely through a whole lot of missteps and alienating the hell both out prospective allies and the culture at large. (Hell, even different schools of feminism hate each other’s guts!) And that brings us to the whole neo-feminist atheist movement who clearly has never seen a mistake by feminism or the political left that they didn’t want to go out and reproduce anew.

        • http://twitter.com/Rocko2466 Rocko2466

          The issue with sexism is it’s a mess. It’s not like someone is sitting there with all the benefits of our society.

          With things like societal pressures (etc), as soon as we assume it’s all black-and-white and our three-sentence theory explains everything, we have to know we’re overlooking things.

          http://unsolicitedcomment.wordpress.com/2011/07/26/down-with-the-up-down-narrative/

    • http://twitter.com/iamcuriousblue iamcuriousblue

      I can’t agree with you there, Moses. When something like Proposition 8 was passed in California in part because the votes of the socially conservative African-American community went against gay rights in this case, activism linking racial civil rights and LBGT civil rights rather than having the two at cross-purposes became something that was very necessary. I don’t think anybody is saying that groups like NAACP shouldn’t focus mainly on African-American issues, but they should also at least support gay rights as an allied cause as well, in no small part because a certain percentage of African-Americans happen to be LBGT. Just like the LBGT movement ignores race issues and racism at its peril. The third-wave feminist buzzword of “intersectionality” actually does have some merit. Nobody is part of just one social group, and in terms of discrimination and social power, people are situated in very complicated ways based on different aspects of their identity.

      Of course, I’m sure the people behind the petition would be quick to say that atheists simply can’t ignore gender and race issues within their own movement either. And while I would agree with that, the mistake the petitioners make is to tether that to a very narrow ideology and take an almost Scientology-like us-versus-them mindset toward anybody and everybody who they see as enemies of that ideology.

      • Karmakin

        Intersectionality has a lot of merit, actually, it’s just that generally speaking even though they claim its mantle, a lot of feminists think and act in ways that are actually very anti-intersectional.

        The belief that power is always unidirectional is probably the biggest mistake that they make. Although the problem is that in order to embrace intersectionality you need to understand that the problems we see are absurdly complex and they can’t be reduced to simple statements, is so often done.

        Or in short, they have to grow up and stop simply “blaming the patriarchy”, whatever that means.

        • http://twitter.com/iamcuriousblue iamcuriousblue

          Agreed, and I think gender is an area where power relationships are pretty complex, especially in current Western society. And yet the social justice crowd has a pretty simplistic oppressor holding down the oppressed model that would very well fit, say, the whites holding down blacks in apartheid South Africa, but don’t describe the dynamics between men and women at all.

          The fact is, the traditional model does give women some power, however dubious, notably as gatekeepers of male sexuality (heterosexuality, anyway). And that’s why you see some strongly sexually conservative strains within feminism, because that’s a small privilege that some women seem very loathe to let go of.

  • Ingemar Oseth

    Maria,

    Thank you keeping us posted on the bizarre behavior coming out of the PZ Myers – Amy Roth cabal; for it is a cabal in the fullest sense of the word. You are quite correct, of course. The wording of the petition is designed to essentially force (bully) people into signing whether or not they support its wording and intend.

    As a old, retired white man, I am fully in favor of equal rights for women, but could not in good conscience sign the petition as written. Undoubtedly there is a better, more reasonable way to address any real or perceived harassment of women within the atheist movement.

  • http://twitter.com/danielwaddell17 Daniel Waddell

    I think this could be handled.They need to call it out for what it is. This shit will continue until bullshit is called on this stupidity

    • bluharmony

      Agreed.

  • http://twitter.com/iamcuriousblue iamcuriousblue

    I wonder about how to respond to this petition. I tend to think of online petitions like that against another group as basically beneath everybody’s dignity, yet, I wouldn’t be surprised if a few of the leaders on the list thought the signatures represented a real groundswell and started making concessions. So maybe it is time to state some positions of out own and show the atheist “leadership” those have some support.

    Then again, I know more than few people are responding by simply writing off “movement atheism”, and I can’t say as I blame them.

    • bluharmony

      I keep forgetting what the point of this movement was/is supposed to be…

      • http://twitter.com/Freshverbal Oliver

        To stop men from making clumsy propositions in elevators?

  • http://twitter.com/Freshverbal Oliver

    The impulse must be to sign the petition and be done with it yet signing the petition wouldn’t end the feminists demands. It starts with being cajoled into signing a petition and moves on from there.

    It’s important to understand what kind of mentality we are dealing with. We are not dealing with oppressed people fighting for justice or people with a bloated sense of victimhood looking for revenge. They are not even malicious man hating nutters looking to push a matriarchal leadership on the secular community.

    Although they may be all or none of the above, what we can be sure of is that they are ideological fanatics and political utopians.

    As someone who has grown up in a very politicized and left wing environment I can assure you people with this kind of zeal are looking for nothing less than the power to control behavior and transform society by it’s roots. People with this level of political fervour are usually more than willing to bully and cajole, use lies and propaganda and -where needed- direct action to reshape society.

    They don’t just want to get common agreement that we are all for equality and against racism, sexism and homophobia and will combat discrimination when we see it; they want the very nature of our thought to change.

    Just as the hard line Communists and Fascists needed to alter the thinking of the people for their grand vision to come to fruition, modern feminists need the same thing.

    Any perusal of feminist theory will reveal that -just as all white people are racist in anti racism’s Orwellian narrative- society is patriarchal, in the grip of “rape culture” and is this way because of centuries of social engineering, miss-education and oppression on the part of men.

    This social engineering has been so successful that many men are misogynists even when they think they are not and many women believe they are free from oppression even whilst being under the boot of the patriarchy.

    When you look at the world through the view finder of feminist theory it is only logical that you would seek nothing short of a reverse form of social engineering.

    And social engineering can not be done without controlling thought and speech as well as behavior. Hence the kind of tactics we are seeing from the radical feminists in our midst.

    I don’t doubt that many of them mean well but they are anti scientific, anti free speech and thought and do not belong in the skeptical community calling the shots.

    • http://twitter.com/Freshverbal Oliver

      PS: Just one glance at Rebecca Watson’s career in the skeptical community will reveal that she was already talking about misogyny and sexism on a regular basis prior to Elevatorgate.

      This suggests to me that she was already looking at life and her interactions with others through the prism of feminist theory.

      It was only a matter of time until she was confronted by a situation which confirmed her prejudices.

      I think it is rather telling that -despite being on high alert for misogyny and sexism- the incident which caused her feminism to become so overt was not a serious sexual assault, loss of rights or exclusion from participation based on her gender; it was a clumsy proposition in an elevator and some rude youtube comments.

      • bluharmony

        All true, but where do we go from here, any ideas?

        • http://twitter.com/Rocko2466 Rocko2466

          This might help. I don’t know. It’s about making a stand, as a group. I can’t think of another way. It’s not like they’ll listen to reason.

          http://www.change.org/en-AU/petitions/skepchick-org-freethoughtblogs-return-to-critical-thinking-and-respectful-free-exchange-of-ideas?utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=url_share&utm_campaign=url_share_before_sign

          (Btw, this is the first thing to come up if you google “change skepchick”).

          • http://twitter.com/Freshverbal Oliver

            Signed already. Although I doubt a counter petition will be very good for us as their petition (partly because of the bullying nature of it and partly the fact that many will take it at face value; merely a benevolent petition calling for equality) is bound to have many more signatures.

        • http://twitter.com/Freshverbal Oliver

          The only way to combat political zealots on the war path is through dissent, ridicule, satire and the application of logic. I think we are on the ball already.

          Luckily I think they are doing quite a lot to help us combat their lunacy as well.

          By them attempting to purge the atheist community of ideologically impure speakers and thinkers they are ensuring that many of the brightest minds and talented speakers are persona non grata in their movement!

          They have already thrown most of atheism’s greatest minds into their ideological sin bin.

          Ask yourself this; which conference is going to pull the biggest crowd and get the best media coverage.

          The conference involving PZ, Watson and Greta Christina doing talks on the patriarchy or the conference involving Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Michael Shermer and DJ Grothe?

          • http://twitter.com/Freshverbal Oliver

            PS: They are telling us what we need to do. The fact that they are trying to censor people satirising them at conferences and banning people who criticise them online shows us what damages their project.

            We need to keep criticising, satirising and ridiculing them as publically as possible until it becomes embarrassing for them to carry on.

            More t-shirts, more fake jewelry, more videos, more comments etc etc

  • Astrokid NJ

    (from the petition) To that end, we urge the atheist and skeptical organizations to make a conscious commitment to diversity

    Quick comment about this faux-diversity PZ supports. FTB has this Indian guy Avicenna blogging about “freethought” related to Hinduism and India. Since I am also Indian, I can evaluate his claims with greater familiarity.

    Recently, with respect to the delhi gangrape case, he claimed “If the victim had not died, then the assailants would have got a maximum of TWO years only in prison” (you dont have to read the entire article.. only the comments. I no longer debate feminists.. so I just argued one absolutely glaring factual error). As you can imagine, the claim sounds like nonsense. So I looked up the laws, and quoted it to him. In case of gangrape, its minimum 10 years and max life imprisonment.
    He said “My bad”, but the commenters (non Indian) there blindly tell me that “Even though thats what the law says, nobody has ever been convicted for so long”. So I quickly pull up a case from Wikipedia in which the gang rapists were sentenced to Life Imprisonment.

    Avicenna says (paraphrase) “Bullshit. Read properly. They only got 6 months”. Sounds unbelievable right? I had to explain basic reading skills to him, and show him that its actually “life imprisonment”. Here is the quote that he cant comprehend.

    Pradip Sahu alias Padia and Dhirendra Mohanty alias Tuna were sentenced by lower court judge Mahendranath Patnaik to life imprisonment and a fine of Rs 5000 each or six months RI in lieu thereof on charges of kidnapping and raping Anjana, estranged wife of an Indian Forest Service officer

    This person sees everything through the lens of his feminist ideology, such that when confronted with conflicting data, basic common sense eludes him (i.e biased assimilation and belief perseverance.. as described below). And this is what PZ’s diversity has given us. Mediocrity that is actually an embarassment. Forget about skepticism.. there’s no common sense any longer. The commenters there ad-hominem me, of course as soon as I say I am an MRA.. and my arguments carry facts yet are to be dismissed (i.e they want the confirmation bias of an echo chamber)

    A “consistent skeptic” continually subjects his or her beliefs to possible modification based upon an objective evaluation of further evidence. While beliefs can be modified, research shows that we all possess biases that not only typically strengthen existing beliefs (both true and false), but often maintain beliefs in light of strong contradictory evidence. We will briefly discuss three relevant biases inhibiting consistent skepticism: the confirmation bias, biased assimilation, and belief perseverance.

  • http://www.atheistrev.com/ vjack

    My favorite part of the petition was the section claiming support for making the atheist movement “more diverse and inclusive” while simultaneously trying to expel Thunderf00t and pretty much any one else who disagrees with their particular form of feminism out of the movement. I mean, shouldn’t they be standing “shoulder-to-shoulder in support of” Thunderf00t? I guess it only counts as bullying when it is not them doing it.

  • http://twitter.com/dadge Adrian Bailey

    I make it a rule not to sign petitions.

  • Reason_Being

    Maria—You make a great point about the available options that leaders of the various atheist/secular movements have before them. This petition, in the way you pointed out, could easily be seen as bullying them to accept the petition as stated.

    I have stated from the start of this entire A+ debacle that I generally agree with much of what the group stands for on paper. I describe myself as a secular humanist. I care deeply about working for equality of ALL people. I have had a problem with much of the methodology and “us against them” attitudes of this group from the start. This petition is no different.

    It has created a tremendous amount of infighting. So many “activists” are now spending their time dealing with “petition-gate” and are not out writing and working on the actual issues that are important to them—be that women’s rights, sexism, racism, or more “dictionary atheist” stuff like separation of Church/State, etc. Instead of writing a scathing piece on the treatment of women in India (for example), or volunteering at a shelter for abused women, we are all here commenting and discussing a controversial petition about women….how does this help any of us? That has been my problem with A+ from the start. Yeah, sure, I like their stated goals…so how about we spend a whole lot less time trying to redefine atheism and trashing “dictionary atheists” and actually get out and work for the things that matter to so many of us?

    • bluharmony

      Hear, hear!

    • http://www.laughinginpurgatory.com/ Andrew Hall

      “Instead of writing a scathing piece on the treatment of women in India (for example), or volunteering at a shelter for abused women, we are all here commenting and discussing a controversial petition about women….how does this help any of us?”
      This petition can be filed under First World Godless Problems.

  • http://twitter.com/Stefanelli Al Stefanelli

    You all know my opinion on this petition…

  • http://www.facebook.com/WillaCartwright Willa Spatz Cartwright

    The whole reason I actively disengaged from the atheist community was because of the nonsense generated by Rebecca Watson.

    Not because of Richard Dawkins, not because of Thunderfoot, not because of anyone else – but purely because of the obvious lie from Rebecca Watson and her clones.

    • bluharmony

      Yep. It’s irrational, histrionic nonsense. And I’m afraid that those of us who are fighting against it may be doomed to lose.

  • Vic

    This shows to me how much they rely on emotion instead of rational argument.

    Everybody’s instincts cry out to support women, it’s something we learn from childhood, it’s a constant bombardement in our media to see women as nothing but helpless victims.

    Rational argument pales against the fear of being seen as unsupportive.

    I hope the government won’t get its hands on how succesfull this is.

    They got new surveillance laws thanks to the fear of terrorism.

    They could get 3D cameras and sound systems into every living room if they said it’s a measure against child abuse. Not a fan? Hm, probably a pedophile…

    It’s important to distinguish between the beneficial motive and the
    baggage you invite with supporting it. And that’s not a question for
    feelings. Not at all.

    Affirmative action for women? No? Probably a misogynist. Quotas for public offices? Haha, already got it. No imprisonment for criminal women? Already on the way in the UK.
    We should thank all the nonexistant deities on our knees that our messed up capitalist system and society can digest quite a many disruptive actions. The future will tell how long we can sustain it.

  • Jeff Hansen

    Just a few casual observations here: equality between the sexes wouldn’t be called “feminism”. And this crap reminds me of the old McCarthy era loyalty oaths.

  • http://www.facebook.com/theo.fensivatheist Theo Fensivatheist

    This is a common tactic (Occupy?) & TF in 1 of his latest video’s points to a similar thing being attempted via Anita Sarkeesians attempt to “Change” what she sees as a Misogynistic Gaming community. They see patriarchy (How i hate that word) everywhere & use it to attack anything they currently deem as not feminist enough.