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Sisterhood per Oppressed
Yes, I know I’m writ­ing this… four? weeks late. Deal with it. Truth be told, I’ve had a prob­lem putting the words together.

Some­thing that has really come to a head in the skep­tic com­mu­nity recently is its inter­sec­tion with other social jus­tice causes. Espe­cially fem­i­nism, but also, to an extent, anti-racism, LGBT activism, and other related activism. And how we, as skep­tics, treat those other activists. As an LGBT activist and fem­i­nist as well as a skep­tic, along with quite a lot of other peo­ple, this causes tension.

For an exam­ple, at the begin­ning of last month, Paula Kirby released an open let­ter “The Sis­ter­hood of the Oppressed”, which was… wow. Basi­cally tear­ing into fem­i­nist skep­tics and female skep­tics for act­ing like “fem­i­nazis” — a term bor­rowed from Rush Lim­baugh — and claim­ing that they had a vic­tim­iza­tion com­plex the size of Soviet Rus­sia. And what really started this? Well, DJ Grothe, the pres­i­dent of the James Randi Edu­ca­tional Foun­da­tion, had a pub­lic falling out over sev­eral blog­gers includ­ing half of the FreeThought­Blogs and Skepchick net­works, over harass­ment poli­cies at The Amaz! ng Meet­ing. Grothe had stated there was really no rea­son for a harass­ment pol­icy because he’s never received a report of harass­ment hap­pen­ing at TAM. Despite at least one pro­lific female blog­ger say­ing, yes, actu­ally, she was harassed.

What the fuck?

Even if you’re in the friend­liest safe space ever, you need to have a harass­ment pol­icy. The world does not work on Sim­C­ity rules, where you don’t build a fire depart­ment until the first fire breaks out. It needs to be there. Harass­ment at any type of con­ven­tion is com­mon, and the skep­tic com­mu­nity should know pretty damn well it’s a prob­lem, espe­cially after “Ele­va­tor­gate”. And women, sadly, are the tar­get of most harass­ment. How many men have per­sonal attack alarms? And how many women do? How many straight peo­ple, cis peo­ple, white peo­ple fear harass­ment, com­pared to queer peo­ple, trans peo­ple, peo­ple of colour?

This is priv­i­lege, guys. Check discount canada goose snowsuits for kids once in a while.


And to claim that peo­ple are being fem­ini­azis or FTBul­lies over this? Really? Oh, those oppres­sive fem­i­nists! Fight­ing for their right to be respected! For a move­ment that is mostly lib­eral or lib­er­tar­ian, discount canada goose snowsuits for kids runs the risk of cre­at­ing unholy alliances with con­ser­v­a­tives to push and keep these his­tor­i­cally oppressed minori­ties down. And with­out any sense of irony and despair at their argu­ments being appro­pri­ated. Even Andrea Dworkin felt a lit­tle sick when her anti-pornographic fem­i­nism was used to oppress women.

We should know bet­ter. We’re on the same side. Skep­tics have a stake in the fem­i­nist fight, in the LGBT activist fight, in the pro­gres­sive fight, because reli­gious priv­i­lege runs through the oppo­si­tion. The oppo­si­tion, the patri­archy, lean on that “opi­ate of the masses” and bring out their Levit­i­cal law to keep women bare­foot and to force gays into hid­ing. Why do you think most athe­ists are pro-choice, sup­port equal mar­riage, etc? Because strip the reli­gious dogma, and there aren’t really any rea­sons to sup­port the oppo­site. You can’t argue that homo­sex­u­al­ity is unnat­ural when evi­dence sup­ports the idea it hap­pens through­out the ani­mal kingdom.

This was all a point of dis­cus­sion at Leeds Athe­ist Society’s social the Tues­day before Moxon was due to speak. And while it was a civil dis­cus­sion, I did feel that these peo­ple were speak­ing from a per­spec­tive of priv­i­lege. Yes, a right to free speech exists, but there isn’t a right to be heard, and I thought it was poor form to invite some­one who ran the risk of intim­i­dat­ing atten­dees. Other atten­dees also opposed him speak­ing, but from the per­spec­tive that his work mis­rep­re­sented research and he wasn’t really the best per­son to speak on the issue, given that he ran the risk of using it as a plat­form for unre­lated big­otry and not adher­ing to skep­ti­cal inquiry.

And, as an hour or so wound on, the argu­ment devolved into dis­cussing sim­i­lar issues in the athe­ist com­mu­nity, although some­one did allege Rebecca Wat­son and Ophe­lia Ben­son were “rad­i­cal fem­i­nists” — they’re really not — and the society’s new harass­ment pol­icy that I had helped write, cog­nizant of the fact that events had started to be attended by LGBT Soci­ety and Fem­i­nist Soci­ety mem­bers in lev­els not seen since I started attend­ing the uni­ver­sity, includ­ing hav­ing two Fem­Soc coor­di­na­tors (includ­ing myself) on the 2012–13 com­mit­tee. Even if we didn’t have to use it, we knew that the pol­icy had to be there.

Again, priv­i­lege: check it.

And the vic­tim­hood com­plex? Hoo boy. The entire use of the word “fem­i­nazi” is the reac­tion of the priv­i­leged to women talk­ing about the rad­i­cal idea that women are also peo­ple. Yes, athe­ists are oppressed — there is the famous study that found athe­ists as dis­trusted as rapists — but so are every other reli­gious out­group. And to claim that the reli­gious oppres­sion of athe­ists is equiv­a­lent to the reli­gious oppres­sion of women or the LGBT population.

Since I started draft­ing this a week or so ago, two discount canada goose snowsuits for kids have come up: the first, is a blog post by Ash­ley Miller about how a SSA affil­i­ate pres­i­dent received rather unwel­come com­ments. And the sec­ond, and most awful, is a post by Natalie Reed about how cer­tain events, includ­ing the ele­va­tor inci­dent, the con­stant lob­by­ing of abuse at FTB mem­bers, and her own pri­vacy being in dan­ger of vio­la­tion, make her so uncom­fort­able to be in the Athe­ist Move­ment™ that she wants no part of it any more.

The lat­ter two issues have, for a cen­tral fig­ure, pop­u­lar athe­ist vlog­ger Phil “thunderf00t” Mason, who blogged once for FTB and got expelled by the net­work for, well, what can best be described as trolling over the harass­ment pol­icy issue. And, indeed, Mason has not taken his expul­sion from FTB kindly; he was dis­cov­ered to have regained access to the pri­vate FTB mail­ing list he was expelled from. And he posted the con­tent of sev­eral emails. You just don’t break a con­fi­den­tial­ity agree­ment, you just don’t out peo­ple. What­ever the FTB team could do to Mason, it’s noth­ing com­pared to what he could do to sev­eral FTB members.