This letter has apparently been being sent all over the map, to organizations and (I think) mailing lists. I’ve had it forwarded to me several times because I’m mentioned in it, sort of. The poor fellow feels, despite this wide distribution, that he is being censored, so I thought he should get published at least once.
I was previously advised that my below response to the “Open Letter”, signed by a number of prominent figures in the freethought community regarding alleged sexual harrassment and the need for decorum among atheists and humanists, was to have appeared in the next edition of a major atheist magazine.
I assume the writer means this letter signed by the heads of several organizations.
The editor, who was in full agreement with the points made in my letter (printed in full below), has just advised me that the group’s Board of Directors did not want to publish my letter or any other rebuttals to the claims made in the “Open Letter.”
I will do the editor, presumably the editor copied on at least one of these emails, the courtesy of allowing them to speak for themself. This editor is generally not considered someone who needs others to speak for them.
It is clear that the atheist/humanist movement is not immune to censorship and knee-jerk adherence to a feminist PC agenda.
FANNY (fFreethinking Activist Non-Believing New Yorkers)
Any publication that has an editor does not publish everything sent to it. The same is true for any publication that represents a particular organization. You can call that censorship if it makes you feel better. I’ll get to the laughable last half of that sentence in a moment.
Here is the censored letter:
Since 2001, I have attended annual conventions of every major atheist/humanist group in the USA, as well as many meetings of the several groups here in NYC. I guess I am blind to reality, but I have never gotten the impression that the women who attended these events were told they could not think, or were groped, or yelled at, or shut out of posiitions of leadership, as Stephanie Zann asserts.
Well, yes, you probably are blind to reality. First of all, conferences and conventions aren’t the topic of “An Open Letter to the Secular Community“, which you say your letter addresses. That letter addresses online behavior. Secondly, I did not have any hand in writing that open letter, so any claims or assertions I have made were made somewhere other than the letter, making this a non sequitur.
Additionally, characterizing these experiences as assertions that I have made is an insult to all of the women who have shared their experiences either in hopes of making things better or as an explanation of why they do not participate in the events of our movements. Some of these women have only shared their experiences privately, but there are many, many more over the last several years who have told their stories publicly. When you call the recent changes in the movement “knee-jerk”, you’re ignoring the years of pressure women have brought to bear on these topics.
Finally, one of the likely reasons you’re blind to this reality is that neither I nor anyone I know is going to volunteer to tell anyone who uses terms like “feminist PC agenda” in public that we’ve experienced sexist treatment. You’ve already telegraphed the reception any woman is likely to get from you on that topic.
At least until recently, I recall most of the attendees being middle aged or older, well behaved and friendly, with most of the women participating with their husbands or significant others.I never got the impression that any of these women, whether young or old, were fearful of angry over how they were being treated.
You do understand that no woman is required to attend any of these events, yes? And yet it never occurred to you to wonder where the young or single or outspoken women were?
I do recall women in leadership posiitons for the American Atheists, Atheists Alliance and the Freedom From Religion Foundation, and I recall many women guest speakers and panelists.
I’ve done more than recall these women. I’ve looked at how they are spoken of and written about. I’ve talked to a rather large number of them and listened to more speak about being a woman in the secular movement. We certainly don’t all agree on what needs to happen in the movement, but all of them have faced sexist treatment from other atheists.
As for female guest speakers and panelists, you have feminists to thank for seeing as many as you do. They are the people who noticed that it was possible to go to an event like these and not hear a single woman speak. They said something, they argued that it was important, they stood their ground in the midst of blowback, and the situation changed.
I do not recall any women, whether attendees, leaders, guest speakers or panelists speaking out at the conventions before all of the attendees to denounce this alleged threatening, sexist behavior and identifying the culprits by names.
Do me a little favor. Find out who organized the last conference you attended. Ask that organizer whether they think the stage of their conference is the appropriate place for that behavior. Report back.
Alternately, you could read the harassment policy of any of these organizations and look to see how they want complaints reported. I haven’t seen a single one that suggested the stage was the correct venue.
That would have been the appropriate forum to do so, instead of unleashing wild, unsubtantiated accusations against unidentiifed males, both on the leadership and membership levels, in our pulbications and on the blogosphere, thereby providing grist for the Religious Reich to label the freethought movement as sexist, violent and depraved.
Actually, the accusations against unnamed speakers were made from the stage. They were made there because until very recently, there has been no channel for official complaints, and no amount of private complaint had changed that situation. It is only after feminists talked about these things openly that policies and procedures have been adopted.
If you would like to have these things handled privately, instead of from the stage as you just suggested (and oh, would that ever catch the attention of the press), the people you should be talking to are the organizations. You should tell them to listen when these issues are first brought up privately and make changes then, so no public advocacy is needed. Otherwise, you’re merely advocating that women (and the men who, yes, do get harassed) suffer in silence for the good of your cause, and you would never suggest that.
I think there is a huge difference between the type of persons who organize and attend freehought conventions and those who are addicted to posting rants on the blogosphere.
Actually, as you’ve singled me out, I should note for the record that I both attend and organize freethought conferences. Tickets are still available for ours if you’d like to come. We do have a harassment policy, though.
There are milions of unstable people out there on the internet, and trolling is rampant. We should not rule out the likelihood that some of this trolling is done by religious wackos out to discredit the secular progressive/freethought movement.
If you’re going to talk about the internet, you should perhaps get a little more familiar with what happens there, or at least the terminology. “Trolling” refers to behavior aimed at disrupting online discussions. It doesn’t imply that the people involved are not sincere, it doesn’t imply that they’re not part of the community, and it certainly doesn’t imply that their behavior is not abusive.
The identities of several of the most persistent harassers are known at this point. There no reason to think they’re “religious wackos”. Some of them, and the people who support them, even attend movement events. You may have met some of them.
And at the risk of sounding un-PC, I believe there are far too many atheist or humanist women out there who are all too ready to regard any and all criticism and disagreements directed at them from men as a form of sexual condescension or harassment.
I have experienced this first hand myself here in NYC.
Were you talking about the “feminist PC agenda”?
I find the recommendations in this Open Letter to be rather insulting, as it clearly embraces the accusations leveled at the freethought movement by the likes of Stephanie Zann and others, is clearly directed at men, and in effect tells them to change their wicked ways.
As I mentioned before, the Open Letter is about online behavior. Which “wicked ways” addressed in the letter belong to all men? Are you claiming this on behalf of all men: “Insults, slurs, expressions of hatred, and threats undermine our shared values of open and candid discussion because they move us away from an exchange of views supported with reasons” or something else? Be specific.
In other words, we men need to be reined in so the women like Zann can feel more comfortable in our midst.
Actually, I generally feel quite comfortable at these events, myself. I’m middle aged and intimidating. People who harass generally look for someone they figure will be an easier target than I am.
This is collective guilt, pure and simple, and I reject it.
Not at all. This is collective responsibility. If we want our movement to attract more women (or any other underrepresented group), we are the people who have to listen to the answers when we ask why more of them don’t participate. We have to stop denying them because we don’t like them or they make some of us feel guilty, and then we have to do something about them. Otherwise, we have to stop pretending that we want women to participate. That’s our responsibility as leaders in the secular movement.
FANNY (Freethinking Activist Non-Believing New Yorkers)
Does FANNY as an organization stand behind you on this letter? If so, just out of curiosity, what percent of your membership is female?