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Old 10 Apr 2012, 04:30 AM   #353198 / #1
DMB
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Default Feminism and secularism

Important upcoming conference:

http://www.womeninsecularism.org/

May 18–20, 2012, Crystal City Marriott, Reagan National Airport, Arlington, Virginia

Quote:
FEMINISM AND SECULARISM

Given the role religion has played in the repression of women, they would seem to be natural allies, and, indeed, many feminists have been outspoken and influential secularists. However, the relationship between secularism and women’s issues remains largely unexamined.

Speakers
  • Lauren Becker, educator and organizer, vice president & director of CFI Outreach
  • Ophelia Benson, author, editor, and commentator, Butterflies & Wheels
  • Jamila Bey, author, editor, and journalist
  • Greta Christina, writer and blogger, Greta Christina’s Blog
  • Elisabeth Cornwell, evolutionary psychologist, executive director of Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science US
  • Margaret Downey, activist and author, founder and president of The Freethought Society
  • Annie Laurie Gaylor, author, radio host, and co-founder of Freedom From Religion Foundation
  • Debbie Goddard, activist and organizer, director of CFI On Campus and African Americans for Humanism
  • Jennifer Michael Hecht, teacher, poet, and author of Doubt: A History
  • Melody Hensley, executive director of CFI–Washington, DC
  • Sikivu Hutchinson, author, teacher, and editor of blackfemlens.org
  • Susan Jacoby, journalist and author of Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism
  • Jennifer McCreight, blogger at BlagHag
  • Bernice Sandler, author and nationally known expert on women's issues
  • Wafa Sultan, author and human rights activist
  • Rebecca Watson, co-host of Skeptics Guide to the Universe and creator of skepchick.org

In an effort to encourage more parents to attend the convention, The Richard Dawkins Foundation US will be funding daycare services for anyone who needs it. Daycare services are only for registered conference participants.
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Old 10 Apr 2012, 01:41 PM   #353273 / #2
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If only I still lived in the area, I would be there in a heartbeat.
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Old 13 Apr 2012, 12:31 AM   #354239 / #3
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So many familiar names.

Susan Jacoby in her book Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism discusses feminism in it, and she notes that it's a mostly secular movement. Especially the present wave of feminism, which got started in the 1960's.

That's interesting. It goes to show how sexist the more prominent and political sorts of religious traditions are -- the relatively non-sexist and female-friendly ones are mostly alternative religions and very liberal versions of big-name ones. But atheist activists should not congratulate themselves too fast. There are plenty of sexist atheists, and let's not forget about the Rebecca Watson elevator scandal.

Some accommodationists might argue that it's important to try to hush up all the rejection of religion among feminists, to avoid alienating potential supporters who are religious. And indeed, that was a big issue in late 19th cy. feminism -- Elizabeth Cady Stanton's Woman's Bible was very controversial back then.

But while I don't believe in being gratuitously insulting, I think that being accommodationist is a bad idea when it's not reciprocated. Continually turning the other cheek can make one a doormat.

Back to the conference, it'll be interesting to see if any of the speakers address these questions.
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Old 13 Apr 2012, 01:48 PM   #354411 / #4
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well I'm only (vaguely) familiar with a couple of those names, which says something about the role of women in secularism.
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Old 13 Apr 2012, 11:26 PM   #354582 / #5
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It might say something about you!
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Old 22 May 2012, 09:27 PM   #366869 / #6
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It's now over, and various bloggers have reported on it.

Ophelia Benson: Butterflies and Wheels: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
Ashley F. Miller: 1 2 3 4 5 6
In Review: Women in Secularism | Rippere
The Morning Heresy 5/21/12: A Deep and Undulating Whoop | Center for Inquiry
The Women in Secularism conference ROCKED | Blag Hag
Ideas from the Women in Secularism Conference #wiscfi – The Skeptical Seeker
Women in Secularism conference: a summary, part 1 | Pharyngula by Skatje Myers, PZ's daughter
Zero Intolerance | Almost Diamonds, Making It Safer in the Meantime | Almost Diamonds

Overall, the conference was a great success and at least some of its participants loved it.

Edwina Rogers presented what the SCA was doing in 15 minutes, then ran off to catch a train. At least she did not try to explain about how feminist and secularist the Republican Party supposedly is.

Skatje Myers was disappointed in Susan Jacoby's talk, which seemed aimless to here, but
Quote:
This was made up for by the next session, a panel moderated by Annie Laurie Gaylor, with Ophelia Benson, Sikivu Hutchinson, Jennifer McCreight, and Rebecca Watson: “The Intersection of Non-theism and Feminism”.

Hutchinson provided a welcome racial minority perspective here. She talked about how disproportionately affected by sexism minority women were and are; how historically black women’s reproduction was strictly controlled by slave owners, how black and Hispanic women are seen as “dangerous breeders” and the recent laws regarding “chemical endangerment” and such are targeting them. I don’t think she really established a link between what she was talking about and secularism, but it was interesting nonetheless.

Hutchinson also criticised the secular movement for promoting scientism, saying that scientism generally excludes racial minorities and women, even throwing out the accusation of white supremacy.
I'm suspicious whenever I see someone complain about "scientism", because it often seems like a way of complaining about mainstream scientists rejecting some of that someone's pet beliefs.

There's no obvious hint of that in her case, so was she claiming that liking science implies that one believes that only white males are worthwhile people?
Quote:
Watson and McCreight discussed their experiences with introducing feminism into atheism/skepticism, and the backlash that results. The complaint when they do so is basically “this is not science/atheism, so it doesn’t belong here”. McCreight made the case that the goals are similar. Religious belief is irrational and not fact-based, and so is sexist belief. If your goal is to promote rational thinking, feminism is an inevitable part of that. But unfortunately, the difference between the two is that giving up religion feels freeing, whereas giving up sexist beliefs often feels more restricting.
Interesting point.
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Benson talked about how at some point, some of the feminist movement stopped pushing for equality, and embraced a “Okay, we’re not equal, but we’re different in good ways” attitude, which created the common stereotypes of women being more caring, better at emotions, more family-oriented, and so on. This attitude, perpetuated by a lot of women’s studies academics, has been harmful to women in secularism since none of these supposedly “good” stereotypes are advantageous for secular activism, so women are passed over.
So "difference feminism" was trying to turn unflattering stereotypes into virtues?
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Old 22 May 2012, 09:50 PM   #366879 / #7
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I find "scientism" is as ill-defined as "Islamophobia". People use it in so many ways and its use can often be translated as "I don't like science". I don't understand the remark about it (whatever it is taken to mean) excluding racial minorities and women. There could be a rather insulting implication that racial minorities and women are too dumb to do science.
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Old 22 May 2012, 10:39 PM   #366901 / #8
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I dated a feminist once.
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Old 22 May 2012, 10:43 PM   #366903 / #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ozymandias View Post
I dated a feminist once.
And once was enough?
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Old 22 May 2012, 11:02 PM   #366907 / #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rodney Dobson View Post
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ozymandias View Post
I dated a feminist once.
And once was enough?
Yeah, that's what she said about the date.
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Old 22 May 2012, 11:20 PM   #366910 / #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DMB View Post
I find "scientism" is as ill-defined as "Islamophobia". People use it in so many ways and its use can often be translated as "I don't like science".
Or as I said that "I hate it that mainstream scientists are rejecting my pet theory".
Quote:
I don't understand the remark about it (whatever it is taken to mean) excluding racial minorities and women. There could be a rather insulting implication that racial minorities and women are too dumb to do science.
Or else that science is something that mostly white males do.
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Old 26 May 2012, 08:14 AM   #367738 / #12
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I've thought it over, and Sikivu Hutchinson makes me happy in a certain way. After seeming like a Commie so much of the time, I'm relieved that there are some people who make me seem like a card-carrying member of the John Birch Society.
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Old 26 May 2012, 03:26 PM   #367792 / #13
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Women in Secularism: The Good, The Bad, The Awesome - Ashley F. Miller - Open Salon
Quote:
Earlier this year I had to make a financial choice — I could either afford to go to DC for the Women in Secularism conference or I could afford to go to Vegas for The Amazing Meeting. I say this not to denigrate TAM, but I could not have made a better decision. The Women in Secularism conference is far and away the best atheist/skeptic conference that I’ve ever been to. If you missed it, and you probably did, you need to not miss it again.
She paraphrases:
Quote:
I place as much value on anonymous comments made on blogs as I do on statements of eternal love made after a late night drinking at a bar. – Susan Jacoby

It’s cultural imperialism to help these women? Tell the to the girl who had her clitoris cut off, tell that to the girls who had acid thrown on their faces for going to school, tell that to the women being stoned to death for the crime of being raped. Tell that to them and then FUCK YOU. - Greta Christina

Having a military base in Saudi Arabia isn’t imperialism but opening a school is? If you can invade a country how can you not open schools? We need more secular schools, not more army bases! – Wafa Sultan
She had some criticisms, like some of the talks being too broad and not focused enough, and she found Edwina Rogers an embarrassment -- ER mainly rattled off talking points.
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Old 26 May 2012, 04:34 PM   #367800 / #14
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I'd like to ask secular women here at SC whether they feel that we are dominated by men when we're here.

I don't, but then I'm quite a bossy woman.
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Old 26 May 2012, 04:56 PM   #367803 / #15
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Just watch out for the elevators.
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Old 26 May 2012, 06:36 PM   #367809 / #16
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<naughty!>
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Old 28 May 2012, 08:57 AM   #368119 / #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Politesse View Post
Just watch out for the elevators.
Yes; instead, discuss such thing within earshot of a crowd of gossipers.
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Old 09 Jun 2012, 08:14 PM   #371417 / #18
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CFI's Women in Secularism Conference | The Intersection of Non-theism and Feminism - YouTube
Panel discussion introduced by Annie Laurie Gaylor and featuring Sikivu Hutchinson, Rebecca Watson, Ophelia Benson, and Jennifer McCreight.

SH remembered from her childhood a black woman murdered in her home by the LA cops. She made an issue about what many black and Hispanic women have to go through, how they get a double whammy because of their race/ethnicity and sex.

RW talked about how NH politicians once proposed mandating false "information" about abortion and other anti-woman pseudoscience, and how she got criticized for bringing in something not worthy of skeptics' concern. She also mentioned a stand-up comic at some conference who hated women.

OB then got into feminist theorizing, and how some feminists constructed "difference feminism", of turning supposed female vices into virtues.

JMC then got into priorities, then she stated that we have to fight small things as well as big things. She also conceded that she has to fight sexist beliefs that she had grown up with. She also appreciated it when her boyfriend decided that abortion and birth control are worth fighting for -- her bf didn't want to see her get pregnant either.


ALG then put the question of why women and minorities are underrepresented.

RW then asked why women are considered not interested in skepticism if they don't seem interested in Bigfoot. SH then noted that churches are often that only thing available to help poor women. Then she complained about New Atheists' supposed "scientism" and made a big issue out of professional scientists and New Atheists being largely white male and supposedly affirming white male supremacy. OB then criticized her about "scientism", that it's often used as a dirty word for rational and skeptical methods. Then RW noted some man claiming that Female Genital Mutilation is not a problem because it's something being done to African women. Then JMC noted the problem of male overrepresentation in scientific research, and the problem of not having many female speakers at conferences.

Then JMC noted the problem of some male conference speakers being very troublesome toward women.

RW then described an experiment in showing videos of 1 woman for 1 man and 1 woman for 3 men as an advertisement for a certain event. Men were the same for both, but women were more interested for the 1:1 advertisement than the 1:3 one.

ALG related a man who was pleased to have some success in avoiding sexism. She then got into American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS) and the Pew surveys about religion, and then took questions from the audience.

RW then got into the question of gender stereotypes and how to fight them. OB then elaborated on that and how trying to fight stereotypes saps cognitive effort. SH then mentioned the question of raising boys as feminists.

JMC recalled how she rejected female stereotypes in her teens so she could be a good feminist, until she decided that she was reinforcing the supposed inferiority of such stereotypes. This reminds me of those black people who refuse to eat watermelon because they consider eating watermelon to be an insulting stereotype.

ALG then had a conspiracy theory about how the Religious Right opposes universal health care because it would help make them irrelevant. In its absence, it would pose as a savior with its charity, despite its failure to do so. SH then talked about making coalitions with like-minded activists, like the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Rights. JMC then noted that some activist skeptics don't seem to like the idea of charity or "women's issues". Some atheists and skeptics also don't seem to like the idea of community. She also related that she was once reading The God Delusion when a religious woman asked her how she expected to find a husband.

OB then noted that a lot of popular culture seems to have eliminated women as lead characters in movies and the like. JMC then noted that she and many like-minded bloggers get angry screaming phone calls, rape threats, death threats, and the like. Also higher-level threats like not inviting someone or not publishing someone's book or not advertising it.
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Old 09 Jun 2012, 11:31 PM   #371461 / #19
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CFI's Women in Secularism Conf. | Susan Jacoby: "The Dearth of Women in the Secular Movement" - YouTube
She noted that recently, her audience has been 75% male, but some years earlier, it was 90% male. She then noted that women tend to be more religious than men, and that some "gentlemen" in the atheist movement explained it as women being dumber than men. These Social Darwinists would call her "Susie", while the Religious Right types would call her an ugly old atheist.

About liberal and moderate religion, she thinks that she'd prefer that to hard-boiled fundie religion, as opposed to what Sam Harris seems to think.

She then turned to female atheist activists in the past, noting their rarity. First not many women in good professional positions, then many activist-minded women preferred feminist activism. Then she discussed Madalyn Murray O'Hair. She'd said things not much different from (say) Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris and the like. She slammed Vashti McCollum for calling herself a secular humanist rather than an atheist.

My own opinion on her is that she was way too nasty to her fellow activists. She ought to have recognized who her friends are and tried to be more conciliatory.

SJ then got into the question of why US feminists have been trying to hide their secularism, an effort that dates back to the middle of the 19th cy.

That's helped certain religious apologists, the sort who have tried to take vicarious credit for *every* progressive movement, including ones that their predecessors had opposed. Although some forms of religion had been involved in the abolitionist and black civil-rights movements, some forms of religion had been on the opposite side.

Returning to that hiding, she noted how late 19th cy. feminists disavowed Elizabeth Cady Stanton and her Woman's Bible on Biblical sexism. She was only rediscovered in the 1980's. Recent feminists have also been reluctant to talk about the secular women in their movement, as if to hide from the Religious Right's charge that they are "godless". Buy secular and atheist women do tend to be relatively feminist, with some notable exceptions, like Ayn Rand with her misogyny.

She then noted a division between secular humanists and secular conservatives. Skeptic activists tend to be more male-oriented and conservative; she's been invited to only one skeptic conference, but to several humanist ones. She then noted that secular conservatives nowadays tend to associate themselves with the Religious Right, including leaving behind separation of church and state.

Then she answered audience questions, like what "anti-religious dementia" is. Dinesh D'Souza had claimed that she suffers from it.

She then addressed the question of whether secularists are dogmatic, then she described some experiences with a historically religious college.

This reminds me of what Ed Babinski once stated about religious colleges, that they turn liberal and secular, and then the more zealous and fundie members go off and found new ones, starting the cycle again. He noted that most fundie colleges are relatively young, and that the older ones have liberal tendencies.

Then a question about association of feminism with hedonism. Followed by one on what can be done to make men feel more welcome. She speculated that many men are not very interested in feminist sort of issues.

She concluded with a question on community building. She's found that the strongest secularist communities are in places with lots of religious conservatives, like in Grand Rapids, MI.


Very nice speech.
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Old 11 Jun 2012, 03:44 PM   #371830 / #20
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thanks for the links
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Old 20 Jun 2012, 11:50 AM   #374485 / #21
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The secular student group, most of you know, that I founded at Syracuse University a few years ago started off nearly 100% male.

Well, a year ago I stepped down as president and we had a female president AND vice president. Our group has seen a dramatic increase in event attendance AND by women. So I wouldnt say it is dead or dying in the least.
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