Ladies, Mind Your Manners

I was recently sent a copy of a column titled “He, Too” (pdf) from the September issue of The Rational Alternative, the newsletter of Atheists United in Los Angeles. Sadly, it’s not a call to remember that women and nonbinary people are not the only ones subject to harassment in the secular movement. It is, instead, a suggestion that #metoo is somehow obviating due process in the movement’s efforts to deal with sexual harassment and assault.

The first half of author Bobbie Kirkhart’s article is essentially summed up in one paragraph.

It is a sad surprise that the freethought community is tearing itself up over such accusations and denials. Unless the accused man confesses and apologizes immediately, our discussions on the allegations eat up much of our time and energy, destroy friendships and embarrass our movement. Although there is much emotion involved, I believe we can—and must—look at these things as the rationalists we are.

I suspect that Kirkhart means she’s distressed rather than genuinely surprised. I’ve been doing this too long to be surprised, and she’s been working in the movement longer than I have. I also disagree that confession of wrongdoing stops discussion and prevents strife. People expressing remorse for their actions are still told they have nothing to feel bad about when the subject under discussion is as politicized as harassment and assault are. I’d be a happier person if I’d never seen that happen, but I have.

Black and white, complicated flow chart of a process where every step has something to do with chickens or eggs.
Not all logic makes sense. “Chicken Chicken Flow” by healther vescent, CC BY 2.0

I do agree with Kirkhart that discussions on the topic could be more rational. The number of times I’ve seen an “argument” along the lines of “He’s nice to me/highly respected in his field/chased by other women, so he couldn’t have done that” is appalling. Harassers don’t harass everyone, and often groom others to stand up for them. We’ve seen many highly respected academics and business people turn out to be serial harassers. Harassment and assault don’t happen because people have no other choice; they are a choice. Literally none of those things are correlated with harassing people or not. Still the arguments fly with far too much of the secular movement.

Even more than rationalism, however, I would argue that the secular movement needs a heavy dose of empiricism on the topic of harassment and assault. In this respect, Kirkhart falls woefully short. Continue reading “Ladies, Mind Your Manners”

Ladies, Mind Your Manners
{advertisement}

Mock the Movie: What Book? Edition

This month, we’re watching a Zelazny movie! Well, we’re watching a movie based on a Roger Zelazny book. Okay, we’re watching a movie with the same title as a Roger Zelazny book. All right, fine. We’re watching Damnation Alley because it’s late-70s George Peppard and Jan-Michael Vincent and Paul Winfield for however long his character survives.

This one is available on YouTube. The actual movie starts at 2:08. Continue reading “Mock the Movie: What Book? Edition”

Mock the Movie: What Book? Edition

Mock the Movie: Like a Classic Edition

As it turns out, a movie doesn’t have to be good to be treated like a classic. It can be “not as awful as I expected” or “long-awaited” or simply “not the worst video game movie out there”. That’s right. We’re watching Doom this month, because at the least the leads are entertaining.

This one is available on Netflix. Be warned that the first-person CGI sequence toward the end of the film has been known to cause motion sickness in those who are susceptible. Continue reading “Mock the Movie: Like a Classic Edition”

Mock the Movie: Like a Classic Edition

Mock the Movie: New Wave Edition

What’s better than a movie full of Eighties hair and music? A plot, decent acting, and good fight choreography, you say? Pish-tosh! You act like you’re looking for quality movies. Arena is not a quality movie.

This one is available on YouTube. Watch with us tonight. Continue reading “Mock the Movie: New Wave Edition”

Mock the Movie: New Wave Edition

Mock the Movie: Bad Brains Edition

You could watch a movie where questions about consciousness and death are used to make us think about what it means to be human or to question the nature of existence itself. Or you could watch The Lazarus Effect and pretend that we know less about the brain than we do in order to scare people. For some reason, we’ve decided to do the latter.

[Warning: Strobe in the trailer.]

This one is available on Netflix. Watch with us this Tuesday. Continue reading “Mock the Movie: Bad Brains Edition”

Mock the Movie: Bad Brains Edition

Mock the Movie: Where It All Began Edition

Once upon a time, in the beforetimes, when The Asylum made movies that weren’t supposed to be so bad they were funny, when they operated as Faith Films and made cheap Christian ripoffs of blockbusters, Jason and I sat down to watch a bad movie in Nova Scotia. He tweeted both our reactions to the movie. People wanted to know what we were watching that was so terrible. They wanted to be part of the awful, and Mock the Movie was born.

This month, we’re going to watch a very bad YouTube video of this very bad movie to revisit our roots. Won’t you join us in watching 2012 Doomsday? You’ll hate it. We promise.

This one is available on YouTube. Please note that we’re changing the date of Mock the Movie to accommodate our schedules. We’ll be watching on first Tuesdays after this month. We weren’t quick enough to grab the first Tuesday this month, so we’re mocking this Tuesday instead. Continue reading “Mock the Movie: Where It All Began Edition”

Mock the Movie: Where It All Began Edition

Reducing Barriers to Reporting Harassment

This post is brought to you courtesy of Patreon. If you want to support more work like this, you can sign up here.

With the conversations and reporting of #metoo showing no signs of slowing down, we’re being provided with a trove of information about the reporting of harassment: who is reporting, who isn’t, the social and institutional responses to harassment reports. This all means we’re able to see how serial harassers continue to function over time.

Sometimes, often, the problem is as simple as organizations and individuals with the power to make a difference failing in their responsibilities. At the Weinstein Company, executives helped Harvey Weinstein settle a multitude of harassment claims without taking him out of the position that facilitated that harassment. Outside the company, gossip columnists used him to advance their own careers while keeping his behavior out of the news. NPR News knew about Michael Oreskes behavior his entire tenure but didn’t fire him until it became public.

Several people who’ve come forward have also spoken about experiencing or fearing retaliation as a consequence of speaking up. Unfortunately, retaliation is a reasonable concern. It’s a common experience when reporting harassment in the workplace. An EEOC report suggests an overwhelming majority of those who report face retaliation from their employer or their peers.

Given that kind of response, it absurd to blame targets of harassment for not stopping their harassers from harassing again or even for not coming forward before now. If they stay quiet, they’re merely doing what we’ve trained them to do. The tsunami that is #metoo demonstrates that when conditions change, people are ready to report.

That means that those of us who have and enforce codes of conduct have the power to make harassment claims heard. Continue reading “Reducing Barriers to Reporting Harassment”

Reducing Barriers to Reporting Harassment

Mock the Movie: What Did You Expect Edition

“How much can we cover?”

“In two hours? Not much.”

“What kind of cool effects can we have?”

“With live action instead of anime? Hmm. How do you feel about particles?”

“Oh. Why are we doing this again?”

We’re doing it because Jason has a birthday in April and wants to watch Fullmetal Alchemist. He just doesn’t want to watch it without mocking it. So we will.

This one is available on Netflix. Continue reading “Mock the Movie: What Did You Expect Edition”

Mock the Movie: What Did You Expect Edition

Why Are You Talking?

This post is brought to you courtesy of Patreon. If you want to support more work like this, you can sign up here.

Back in 2013, the second Women in Secularism conference was put on by the Center for Inquiry. It was an amazing conference, with strong panels and talks by Rebecca Goldstein, Maryam Namazie, Amanda Marcotte, and Soraya Chemaly. Yet this isn’t why the conference is remembered.

Photo of line-art graffitti in blue on a brick wall painted white. Image is a woman wearing headphones with her hair splayed out behind her and her finger to her lips. Text below reads, "Shhh..."
“Silence at the end of the tunnel, IV” by Newtown Graffitti, CC BY 2.0

It’s remembered most for the opening remarks given by Ron Lindsay, in which he bristled at being told to “Shut up and listen.” He considered it an abuse of the concept of privilege to be told to shut up, even for the purposes of listening. He was appalled to be told he didn’t know what he was talking about.

He quoted a feminist in that speech who was both not part of the secular movement and not representative of the positions movement feminists had been trying to get movement leaders like him to engage with for several years. He only came to understand why his speech was so damaging when he held a listening session with CFI staff some time later. Then he apologized.

Lindsay would have saved himself and his organization quite a bit of trouble had he shut up and listened instead of fighting against the concept. Sadly, if the rest of the movement learned anything from his experience, they appear to have forgotten it before the allegations against Lawrence Krauss finally hit the news. Continue reading “Why Are You Talking?”

Why Are You Talking?

Where to See Me in March

I managed to cluster three speaking gigs in March. If you’re in Minnesota, come find me at one of them!

Tomorrow night and March 29, I’m taking part in Dakota County Library’s Religion and Faith Series.

Explore and gain a new understanding of Atheist, Baha’i, and Unitarian Universalist traditions by discussing their history and beliefs with our guest panelists. Find out how their traditions and beliefs impact their understanding of citizenship and role in the community and how they feel they are perceived. Audience participation is welcome. Attend one or all four program topics. Presented
in partnership with the St. Paul Interfaith Network.

A Minnesota Legacy program sponsored by Minnesota’s Arts & Cultural Heritage Fund.

Atheism
Discover some of the varying views of atheists living in our area and how this worldview impacts their day-to-day actions. Hear how panelists find community and purpose within the larger world.

Wentworth
Thursday, March 8, 6–8 p.m.

Interfaith Dialogue
Interact with people of diverse faiths, religions and beliefs living in our communities. Gain knowledge of other traditions to understand difficult events in our modern world. Join our series panelists in discussing basic questions about how to live together peacefully and equitably in our diverse society.

Robert Trail
Thursday, March 29, 6–8 p.m.

Then, on Sunday March 18, I’m speaking at the Minnesota Atheists public meeting. My talk is titled, “What Do You Mean Science Is Racist?!”

When someone says that science is racist, many of us take it as an affront to our worldview. Science can’t be racist! It’s how we come to an objective understanding of the world. Unfortunately, when we’re affronted, we stop listening. We never find out why people call science racist, never evaluate whether they may be right, never find out what change they’re asking for. We simply stay upset that anyone’s saying this at all.

The problem, of course, is that science is still a human endeavor. With that comes all the biases that plague humanity. While we may eventually manage to purge those biases, it’s a long process, and there are forces working against it.

So what do people mean when they say science is racist? Come find out. Take a tour of science’s racist past, learn how it’s improving, and find out where some of the major challenges still lie.

I’m sure it will be in no way controversial. The talk is at 2 p.m. at the Brookdale Library.

Where to See Me in March