Sporadic (Link)Spam

Pavlov’s dogs ate my homework*, so while I write up ethnographic fieldnotes (Worst. Thing. Ever.) here’s some collected clicky things. 

I’ve listened to the Dalek Relaxation Tapes too many times this week. Oddly enough….and I’m mildly embarrassed to be saying this…they work. Or at least, they make me giggle so much I can’t stay stressed.

On a more serious note, I’d like to have a real job some day, and while this isn’t something I worry so much about (counseling is pretty darn female-friendly), Geek Feminism has advice for you if your industry is mostly about teh menz.

Skeptical psychology at its best: Ed Cara of Heresy Club writes about Dissociative Identity Disorder/Multiple Personality Disorder. If you’ve read Sybil, read this. If you haven’t, read it anyways.

A raw and honest account of assimilating one’s own identity.

Did you dress up for Halloween? Did you make fun of women who were ‘dressing slutty’? Stop that.

Stoya wins it all with this open response to everyone who asks “Is there something wrong with me if I like/don’t like ____?”

At least in the United States, you have the right to be wanton, sexually provocative, and promiscuous.
Conversely, you don’t have to exercise any of those rights.
Neither the sex industry nor recreational promiscuity are for everyone. You can be friends with known pornographers and prostitutes without being one yourself. Being accepting of whatever safe, sane, and consensual acts people want to engage in with their bodies is awesome.

And then extra points for this bit:

Asexuality is definitely a thing. I don’t personally understand it, but if it makes you happy go for it. Or don’t go for it. Go for not-it? I’m going to remove my foot from my mouth now.

Information is Beautiful has a massive interactive diagram of the scientific evidence for different health supplements. Mouse over the bubbles for the best effect, and then scroll down and read how it’s done. And then go play with the Drake Equation!

* And by this I actually mean I procrastinated until morally reprehensible, and I’m spending today fixing it. 


Sporadic (Link)Spam

Behold the Blog: All My Stubborn Ounces

I’ve been meaning to make some regular features of my blogging here, and now that I’ve lassoed a free half hour to myself, I’m starting this one: Behold the Blog. Every Monday, give or take the occasional midterm, travelling, or mid-quarter-life-crisis, I’m going to talk about a blog I hope is new to you.


To Feel the Stubborn Ounces of My Weight

You’ll see I haven’t put a link on that title. That’s because the best posts on this blog deserve a very clear preface. I’m going to let Cassy, the author, tell you in her own words:

TRIGGER WARNING: No-holds-barred descriptions of sexual violence and strong language to follow (also, discussion of depression, PTSD, alcohol abuse, and anorexia). Please, practice self-care in reading this, as I made sure to do so in writing it.

Cassy is this lovely beautiful person I met almost exactly a year ago. I showed up to the first Carl Sagan Day Chicago, knowing very few people, and somehow in the hustle and bustle I ended up wandering over to the redhead holding nutella-frosted cupcakes.(Chocolate–it’s like magnets!). When I joined the Secular Student Alliance a few months following, we ended up as the only two members who woke up early enough to attend church: the culmination of our Send An Atheist to Church fundraiser. A little later, Cassy was the one of the two people I asked to make sure I didn’t skip out on my first therapy session.

And then, this summer, Cassy told her story:
I Am a Survivor, and This is My Story: Part I, Partner Rape
I Am a Survivor, and This is My Story: Part II, Date Rape
I Am a Survivor, and This is My Story: Part III, Relationship Violence
I Am a Survivor, and This is My Story: Part IV, Healing & Epilogue

She’s been blogging ever since. And she’s still the strongest person I know.

Behold the Blog: All My Stubborn Ounces

Liveblogging the Women in Secularism Conference V

5:36 She has been accused of being hateful and spreading hate. She doesn’t know how to bridge the gap between left and right. And she’s been called racist for speaking out.

Forbidding burqas?

Very good, excellent, I hope they will apply it in every country in Europe

Are there resources to learn more?

Look for infiltration in America society. To learn you have to go to mosques and Islamic schools. They aren’t hiding anything. It’s easy to get the right information.

She heard a joke in Syria. A man asked for directions, and the response is you go, not the first tank, not the second, but the third you take a right. They use it to kill their own people. Who made the tanks and gave them? They can’t even make their own underwear.

Do you think we shouldn’t be worried here because it’s so much better than in the muslim world?

You should fight for your rights, you should fight, don’t take anything for granted. I didn’t mean to discourage you from defending your rights, I was trying to explain how terrible our situation is in the muslim world. But you need to defend your rights.

Is there a liberal version of Islam that you approve of?

There is only one islam, all “versions” are an attempt to be political correct.

Are muslim women able to get psychological help, are their organizations?

They are ready to accept this treatment in the west, but it’s hard in the islamic world to admit you need mental support.

Do you feel that most women are aware of the oppression against them? Why do they vote for muslim radicals such as the Muslim Brotherhood?

They are indoctrinated to believe they are free and their abuse is blessed by Allah. They need to be educated.

Do you worry that you get used by the right wing to stir up hostility and justify aggressive foreign policy?

No, I have very clear message. If people abuse my message it’s not my problem. I cannot prevent others from abusing my message. My message the problem is deeply rooted with Islam. We distinguish between muslims and islams. I am not against muslims, they are my people, I am against islam, i am against the belief system.

What do you think about the current fighting in Syria?

It’s very sad to see my people are being killed by their own government, but I still to some point blame the west, I blame the US for going into my country. For supporting the dictator, and now for supporting the islamicists. If the dictator goes, the islamicists are the only ones read to take over. Big mess in the Arab world and to be honest I feel that the US is involved in creating this mess.

5:25 How can Westerners help?

Reach out through the internet. It’s so dire, it’s beyond her ability to explain. The internet is changing things, they can see the rest of the world. It’s hard for her to see why women complain about small things, they don’t know how lucky they are. We have so many more rights, she feels free. She can walk to Starbucks to herself without being called a whore. Enjoy it, don’t take it for granted, fight for it. Reach out to the Muslim world, they need it.

The worst part of slavery is when a slave believes they are free, and this is the circumstance of Muslim women. They need more schools, more secular schools. They were brainwashed.

Mohammed hated women, and that’s why they still hate them.

What happens to open atheists in Islamic countries?

Oh. O_O the same that will happen to gay guys. They have to be killed.

Is Islam a threat to secular Europe?

Yes. I think it’s too late for Europe to fight back and establish their identity. When I went to speak in Paris I felt like I was in Gaza, 75% of my audience was covered.

Arabic countries used to be more tolerant and advanced ?

This is a huge myth. Took over a bunch of civilizations, and then claimed the civilizations as their own. Stole civilizations and claimed it as their own.

How did you become a doctor and others are prohibited?

Syria is different from Saudi Arabia. They have a relatively secular government, so they are more free than in some countries.

How widespread is sharia law among muslims in the US?

I believe extensively, yes. I think muslims in the US are provided Saudi money to promote islam. When she was new she was offered a lot of money to promote Islam here.

5:15 How can a muslim woman raise a fair minded child when she is oppressed herself? In the Western world, Muslim women have the opportunity to transform as she has. We as citizens of the free world must expose the totalitarian abuse of Islam against women. We must urge for moral clarity, for open discourse.

When she lived in Syria she cried often because she suffered, now that she’s free, she still cries for all other Muslim women in the world. She longs for a day when other muslim women can taste a little of her freedom, it’s a dream that should be available to all humanity.

Standing ovation. I think half the room is crying.

5:10 Lara Logan shared the sexual violence inflicted on her in the field in Egypt. They enjoyed her pain and suffering. It is a vivid opening to the shocking treatment to native as well as foreign women. Muslim mentality is that women are possessions and don’t belong in public. They blame the victim for failing to meet standards of dress. Logan submitted to political correctness and never used the terms muslim or islam in relation to what was done to her.

This is really fucking hard to listen to.

Her niece was forced to marry her cousin when she was 11 and he was over 40. Justified because Mohammed married his second wife when she was 6 and he was over 50. Her niece was abused and didn’t have the right to ask for divorce. She would escape to her father’s house, begging him to let her stay. He would send her back. At the age of 28, she committed suicide by setting herself on fire. Leaving four children behind.

A woman came in and was three months pregnant. She was a widow. Her husband’s brother raped her daily in exchange for feeding her children. If the rapist found out she was pregnant he would have her son kill her, and she didn’t care if she lived, but didn’t want her son to be a murderer. Wafa sent her to a gynecologist who performed an abortion but she was nearly killed in the process because she couldn’t afford to pay for the anesthetic for the surgery.

5:01 She was the first Muslim background person to say on television to say that Islam is the problem. Well-intentioned people in the West are ignorant of the treatment of muslim women and the cause.


She is here to unmask the true face of Islam to women, it is a hateful ideology. The principles of Islam promote abusive practices. The abuse of women in Islam is legal, but comes from laws directly out of religious texts. People here deny the truth.

To say that the principles of Islam have no relationship with the treatment of women under Islam, is as as nonsensical to say that the constitution has nothing to do with the way America’s government is run. People live in denial of the reality of painful things. Death. It is the same with Islam. Mohammed said women are deficient in mind. She is thankful for the clarity of how wrong Islam is. “There is nothing more hateful for a man than a woman”.

4:56 Next up is Wafa Sultan, she was awesome on the panel. An interview with her from something (?) has 20 million hits. I’m guessing if I google it, with 20 million views, I’ll find it.

Her book is “A God that Hates”. In Arabic they don’t have the letter ‘p’, they pronounce it ‘b’, so heads up on her pronunciation. Disarming way to introduce herself.

She’s honored to be here. It’s her first time to speak at this kind of event, but also because she has survivor syndrome. She saw horrors in Syria as a citizen and as a doctor. Mistreatment of women that were supported by families and sharia. She escaped to the US. She had rights and dignity, unlike before. In her own country, she wasn’t considered mentally fit to be the guardian of her own children.

Over time she started to feel guilty, remembering the women left behind. Millions of women, not just in her country, but throughout the Muslim world, where liberty like hers wasn’t even imaginable. It paralyzed her. Even though she was delighted with her life. Guilt and freedom inspired her to fight back. First by writing, then by speaking out. Fighting for those who have no voice, those she left behind.



4:38 She’s giving advice along these same lines to questions from the audience. Suggests asking people for advice, which is better at convincing them about the dilemma, so they’re on your side.

Are there gender differences in who gets called on? Yes, men are.

True story. It’s horrible. People just look at men more.

Do men get threatened with bodily harm like women are threatened with rape?

I think men are threatened with bodily harm. Women getting threatened rape shows the power differential. There are power differentials that we all recognize subconsciously. Men threaten each other for dominance. Women get name called, god you’re bitchy or whatever, there’s an attempt to say you’re not as nice as you used to be. What that person is trying to do is to make you angry? If they call you a name, you just say, it’s probably going to get worse, I’m getting older.

Just agree and say it’ll get worse. And when they get annoyed, you’ve won.

How do you respond to public forums to sexism?

Organizations need to think about it if the comments were inappropriate. The worst thing about bad behavior is that sometimes nobody says anything. That is the worst. Someone needs to say something. In the best of situations, someone might have said something, followed up. Someone in charge should have said it was inappropriate. When you ignore bad behavior, it gets worse.

4:20 Men can change a topic of a women’s conversation in under ten seconds, if women try to join a men’s conversation it’s almost impossible to join, much less direct.

Why is this happening? These are good people? She does it too. People intuitively think men are better and have produced better things than women. Same resumes get different responses, men get hired 2 to 1, same research gets different marks.

Women are devalued generally in society and that subconsciously translates into behaviors. The outsider is devalued. We like people who are like us, Others are devalued.

Intervening when you see these behaviors.

If someone says something wrong, Miss Manners recommends “I beg your pardon”.

Sometimes you can respond with “That comment is offensive to all of us.” (not to me) Some people aren’t that direct.

Jokes that are racist, sexist, etc. You don’t laugh, for one. And then say “I didn’t get the point of that joke. Could you say it again?” Ask them at least two or three times. “Why is that funny?” You don’t say anything for 5 full seconds. And then you just say “oh”. Lollercoasters.

Sometimes women make a suggestion and it is ignored, and then a man makes the exact same suggestion and they immediately pick it up.

The letter has three parts. The first part is very factual, because people usually agree with the facts. Separate facts from feeling. “I felt that I was not getting credit for my ideas.” I feel this, not blaming. Third part is what you’d like to happen. “I would like you to remind the group it was my suggestion initially if someone else is claiming credit.” Usually people say nothing and don’t apologize, but they change their behavior. If they try to talk, you say you don’t want to discuss it, you want it to change. Very effective.

4:10 Women do not get enough praise, we should give them more praise, specific praise about what you think they do well. Criticism needs to be feedback with suggestions, not tearing someone down. Instead of saying this is, put it in a scale. At meetings women don’t talk as much as men. Bring them in.

Listen attentively is importantly. I promise I’m only looking at my phone right now is because… yeah.

The rules of interruption. If someone who is more powerful than you, they are allowed. Obama can interrupt you. If someone has less power than you, you can interrupt them, but you are allowed. But what about people who are equal. You don’t have to stop talking when someone interrupts you if you’re equals.

Appearance importance in describing women but not men. Men and women have different styles of speech. Women speak higher, softer, and apologize before speaking. Assertiveness training. And then when women did that they were called bitches.

Who do you have lunch with? Apparently same sex lunches is normal? I can’t remember the last time I ate lunch with another human…

4:00 Small behaviors that individually don’t do much, but when they’re done repetitively they shut down women. We ALL do this, men and women. We do it to white women and women of color. These things happen to anyone who is an outsider. She’s talking about women, but it’s everyone “outside”. The other.

Everybody looks more at men than women. Women get much less eye-contact. We’re more responsive to men, more praise more criticism, more attention. Men get more coaching and tell me more and women get “uh-huh”. Women get much less feedback.

When women are speaking people are more likely to frown than for men. Men are called by their name more often. We wait longer for men to respond to a question before going to someone else. Men and women are asked different kind of questions, men get thinking questions, women get factual questions. The difference between when and why. Also in interviews.

www.bernicesandler.com has a large list of chilly climate behaviors.

3:53 Now is Bernice Sandler who I really don’t know, unlike the others who have spoken. But we’re getting a detail intro, so convenient.

40th anniversary of Title 9, which she had a lot to do with. Expert at equity issues for women, particularly in harassment. In the 1970s she filed the first charges of sex discrimination against 200 organizations. Coauthored three books, chilly climate, sexual harassment in colleges and in k-12.

She’s going to talk about how who women are seen differently than men. The “chilly climate”.

She watches TV during breakfast and she sometimes learns things from morning shows. Over thirty years ago, one morning they did an interview with a scientist who studied mixed groups, and saw that men interrupted women more than the other way around. Soon she was invited to a seminar for businessmen. By the end of the second day she realized women were getting interrupted more than men.

She took a piece of paper and counted interruptors and interruptees. Women were interrupted twice as much and a different kind. Women interrupted to be encouraging, men interrupted to ask what husbands would say on the issue.

Bernice decided to talk to the male co-leaders, and showed the chart. They denied it. She must have counted wrong, they’d never do that. She left dejected. The next day, there were no interruptions of the women. This is changeable behavior. I’ve got to get a grant to do something!

3:43 Well, I think that that panel we just watched needs to go on Youtube and be required viewing to everyone all the time.  It was fucking awesome.

I practically transcribe that panel, which was nuts. I don’t think I’m going to go quite so crazy on the speeches.

Liveblogging the Women in Secularism Conference V

Liveblogging the Women in Secularism Conference IV

3:30 Susan says that atheists were also hidden from the feminist movement. The audience asks why women try to rewrite the bible and koran?

Wafa: Because the Koran doesn’t serve us. She asks why atheist groups and liberals are not responsive to her message

Susan says it is a confusion of multiculturalist liberals with atheists.

Wafa wants to know why she hasn’t been invited to important things like this before. And Susan says because they don’t have women generally.

Greta advises everyone to continue call out misogyny. As frustrating as every internet blowup over reasonable. It’s blowing up differently now than a year ago, there are more men on our side. It used to be more divided. Bloggers get emails all the time from people saying you changed my mind about feminism. As frustrating as the fights are, every time they happen we move forward and hang in there.

How do you respond to feminists who say that reaching to women in muslim countries is cultural imperialism?

Lady next to me: This is bullshit, I don’t know feminists who say that
Jamila in the back: This doesn’t happen to men

Liz: You hear it in sociology and anthropology all the time. We don’t want to have Western influence on them. Fair enough if they don’t want it, but most of these countries often wanted to have the tennis shoes and the watches and learn things and I don’t think it’s our right to say no. And I think this idea, I think it’s great to embrace the beauty of various cultures, the artwork, the writing, the poetry, it’s lovely, but lets not deny people education and the right to choose their life. To me it is incredibly arrogant to make the assumption that these women that are oppressed horribly if given the opportunity would not want it. I’m going to stop before I get outraged.

Greta: It’s so intolerant to impose our view, tell that to the girl who had their clitoris cut off, who are being stoned to death for the crime of being raped, who had acid thrown in their face. Tell that to them and then FUCK YOU


Wafa: Nothing left for me to say. 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 schools no more army bases!

Susan: We are out of time, we’ve been told this has to end on time.

3:18 Susan says she doesn’t understand pushing we can be good without god because she wants the religious to prove that they can be good with god.

Why do the religious get more credit when we’re at the forefront of social movements? How do we work with them?

Greta: The queer movement has aligned itself with religion and is distancing themselves from the secular. They see atheists as toxics. Feminists as well. If we make ourselves a powerhouse movement so they want to be with us. We can organize online in a heartbeat. It’s going to be a long game. The more that we overcome the stigma and do visibility, and that’s what happened with the LGBT movement. Initially other social change movements didn’t want to be associated with them, but they overcame the stigma, and others wanted to be allied with them

Liz: Rising from the Rails. In this book, about the rise about the black middle class. The atheist movement has always been in the black community and yet there was a conscious decision that was made as unions were being built up and blacks were rising into the middle class and finding a place in society, there was a conscious decision not to align with atheist. At the time there was also communism and socialism. I’m wondering, and I really recommend this book, do you think that has something to do with being an ostracized group that you don’t need to add one more bit of ostracism. Being gay, black, and an atheist is the triple threat. Sorry, nobody likes you.

Greta: I think that’s a lot of it, unwillingness to be doubley or tripley stigmatized. And in the US religion is mainstream and patriotic, as the LGBT became more mainstream, it allied with the mainstream and religion. Not wanting the double stigma, wanting to be mainstream. The solution is visibility, we are also part of America, we are also patriotic, and we are globally patriotic. and we’re a powerhouse and you want to get 20k people writing angry emails to somebody, get the atheists on your side.

3:10 Susan had to lie about getting married so she could get birth control when it came on the market when she was 18. Young people take this stuff for granted. Also assumptions that Islam is one way but *our* religions are different. It shows you how fragile these gains can be. Islam is younger than Christianity and Judaism, it hasn’t gone through reform yet.

Lady next to me: We need the ERA!

Wafa makes a point that the US is massively better.

Greta: Contraceptive rights are huge, I also think a great way to reach them is gay rights. Straight young people are very passionate about. And the religious right is too. That’s a real hook.
(This is how I came to the atheist movement myself)

Here’s a statement from the audience: secularism does not provide clear guidance on moral principals, women rely on religion to provide morality.


Wafa: I have never found a trace of morality in my own religion


Greta: Religion tends to be behind the curve on moral development. Secular ideas come first and then religion catches up and tries to catch up. Human beings have morality, we’re social animals, we evolved with moral instincts. Largely secular societies they’re doing better

Annie: The idea that morality comes from supernatural realm is I think immoral. Morality is based on consequences, do they harm, religion is about whether you offend god. How is that morality? Maybe it’s about women being brainwashed.

Liz wants the person to wrote it to stand up. Promises to be human. Steven Pinker’s book The Better Angels of Our Nature is recommended.

Liz: One of the reasons I didn’t believe because I read the children’s bible and was very confused by it and would ask if it was satan that drowned everybody, that was god. That worried me. A similar story was told when my dog died, and I was told that animals didn’t go to heaven because they didn’t have a soul. Why would I want to go to heaven if there weren’t animals that I loved? Why would I want to go there? My brother’s suffering as a hemophiliac, who died of AIDS having contracted it through a transfusion, someone told me that people like my brother are put here to remind others how lucky they are.

3:02 Susan says even in secular Scandinavia, there’s still a gap between men and women. Mentions what she said earlier about Ayn Randians saying that there wasn’t any need for social support. I will mention what I said earlier and say oh Ron Paul People.

What do you think we can do? How do we reach out to the young?

Wafa: My situation is a little different, we need to educate women in the Islamic culture. Their situation is very dire, and I believe Western women need to reach out to those women. I have a liberal friend in Syria whose daughter wears a hijab because she decided she’d have a better chance of finding a husband. A woman in Cairo with a master’s degree and she is covered from head to toe. she said “I consider myself a whore because they forced me to sleep with a man not of my choice and for three years I didn’t have children and so I hope this reason will be enough for him to divorce me.” Reach out for those women.

Greta: Support the SSA. There’s a perception of the atheist movement as fuddy duddys. The student group is amazing and it’s growing and it’s much more gender balanced and they are much less stupid about feminism. When I give talks about diversity, they are already onboard. Local groups make bridges with the SSA groups. There is a problem when students graduate, they leave the movement. Students who are already working in cooperation with their local groups are more likely to stay in the movement.

Annie: It’s very vibrant and SSA. Also one of the things FFRF has done is very modest student essay competition. High schools seniors, college, and grad students. It’s not that much but consider how many religious scholarships are out there. We need to do more.

Jen makes a good point on twitter that Liz is presenting hypotheses as known facts when it comes to evolutionary psychology and such.

Liz: Support the CFI on campus and Debbie Goddard is fantastic. Or best allies are the religious wingnuts trying to take away rights, and this is a men’s issue as well, we’re talking about jumping into a couple’s bedroom. That issue strikes a chord with almost everybody and there’s nothing like a good movement, a good something to fight for that will galvanize people. You have to be passionate to devote time and energy and give up your weekends to come to conferences and give talks. We have to ignite this passion in young people and remind them what is at risk. For women in particular, taking away bodily rights takes away the ability to have a full role in society. We have to remind young women what’s happening.

Liz cont’d: young women didn’t have the experience of knowing that you’ll never succeed beyond secretary. That’s what’s happening.

2:50 How much does the realization that everything is very fragile when you reproduce have to do with mothers becoming more religious

Greta: My question is the breakdown of society. I’d like to see how the stats break down in other countries, here it’s male 70:30 on religion, I wonder in Scandinavia if there is still a tendency to a gender difference. Is it culture or is there some legitimate tendency for women?

Liz: I have a paper! Jessica Collette and Lazardo study. Power control theory of gender and religiosity. One of the things they found was that when women were raised in patriarchal families, those women tended to be much more likely to become religious as adults. In egalitarian households, women’s difference from men in religiosity is gone. It’s difficult to get published academically if you’re critical of religion. We’re starting to find those answers, and there’s a large environmental factor

(it seems to me that this is a long way of saying it’s strongly if not exclusively cultural)

Greta: If that’s the case, one of the things we can do is work towards a more egalitarian society! I think the social services and networks are important for secularist to provide, but it’s not enough for us to provide a side network, we need to be advocating for the country to change.

Annie: It’s a public problem, we should each have to be little individual charities. It’s a band-aid solution. We shouldn’t have to be doing these charities. People who are told they must be subservient are going to be more religious.

2:42 And Susan steps in with my complaint, saying that churches are the primary provider of services that people need. Community and usefulness and support is not a negligible benefit. How can secular communities provide more of this, we could, but we are not right now! Big applause.

Liz: the one thing the secular community can’t replace is family and when people come out they often lose their families and their friends. Back to the difference between men and women, in the cost of reproduction. Women have a huge cost in raising a child that men do not have necessarily. When a woman loses her family, loses her social support, the risk of her child dying goes up. And there’s data behind this and it’s always been true. Women will sacrifice everything for their children, the secular community can’t replace their family and that cost. We can educate and address that. When a woman has a child, even if they don’t go to church, they will go back to religion once they have children.

Annie: The black church may be its own creature. I don’t think most churches offer free daycare. I think we’re overstating what churches are doing.
(the only daycare I know of in Columbia, SC is in churches. All of it. Some of which charges, I don’t think they’re generally free.) She doesn’t think women go to church to get stuff but to give to it.

Wafa: Hamas was elected by the majority of Palestinians to rule the west bank. The main reason was because they had money to provide social services. As long as Islamists control food and social services they will take over. I am afraid for Syria because I believe if the dictator leaves, Islam will take over because they are more ready to play the game with survival.

2:35 Susan asks about the differences in extremes of women in Afghanistan versus moderate Judaism. What are the benefits that women get from the most repressive religion?

Annie: they don’t get killed

Liz: Hunter gatherer tribes are very egalitarian. Agriculture led to property, and men through physical strength could control property and this is when women and children became property. The benefit was to eat and survive and have children. Their men then protected them from other men.

Wafa: the benefit of being raised in Islamic culture was that she was able to sense the difference between the two sides of the world. She doesn’t take her freedom for granted. She was taught that she was a crooked creature like the rib she was created from. Being here without her husband by her side is a big adventure.

Greta: Why is society religious at all? Once you grant society is religious, the answer to what women get out of it is easy, women get to participate in society. Why are men leaving faster than women it’s easier. Men have privilege, it’s easier to take on stigma and put yourself out on the edges, you still have a lot of other privilege going for you. If you already have the stigma of being poor, a person of color, a woman, gay, it’s difficult.

Annie: I wasn’t being totally facetious when I said don’t get killed, because that is the threat that hangs over the head of the apostate, especially if they’re a woman. 1 million women killed for being a witch, I don’t know if that’s in our genetic memory. Women have certainly been socialized into thinking this is what it is too be good, but women have more power than they think if they would get rid of religion. The benefits of religion to women, in my mind, are very negligible. There are social outlets elsewhere.

Religion is used to keep people inline, but I think she’s missing the fact that churches provide things that maybe “religion” itself doesn’t.

2:25 Wafa asks us to excuse any difficulties in understanding her as not her heavy accent but on jetlag. She tells the story of telling and an imam to shut up and crowd loves it.

The woman to my left keeps talking back to the people talking on the panel. It’s weird. Lots of “no ways” or “that’s horribles”. To my right is elbows.

The more religious people are, the less creative they can be. This explains the stagnant situation in the Islamic world. This is why it’s crucial for women to break through from religion so they can be more creative and productive. A few people stood to clap. Including talky lady to my left.

2:21 The crowd is filling up. There are a lot more people sitting up front now. I’m actually sitting next filled seats on all sides. Scary.

Elizabeth is still talking about providing social safety nets. Enthusiastic applause and to Greta.

Why are women so religious? This is an important question. Women are more likely to be religious than men. One of the things we need to look at is that religious in the US is seen as women’s work. The leaders are men, but on a day to day basis, that’s women’s job. Women are supposed to be the civilizing force. And bringing up children and teaching them morals.

For women to not be religious, it doesn’t just mean defying religious expectations it means you are a gender outlaw. While this room is comfortable with that (hand up) it’s difficult or impossible for women to do that. It isn’t always safe. Many have to stay within social norms, both in terms of religion and gender expectations. Greta thinks we need to liberate women from the equation of being religious means being female.

2:16 Elizabeth says she comes at this from an evolutionary point of view. We should be asking what religion provides minorities and women that outweighs the oppression. This isn’t a cabal of men to oppress women, or whites to oppress minorities, this is something that’s happened over human evolution, some is genetics, some is environment. Genetics don’t happen in a vacuum, social environments do not fall from the sky, the two interact in complex ways. It’s not nature vs nurture it’s nature AND nurture.

When we offer those benefits, they won’t need religion anymore. You see it in countries with strong social nets, like in Scandinavia. They aren’t better because they’re atheists, they’re atheists because they are better. AMEN.

2:11 Annie is talking about funding abortions through charity.

Ophelia Benson is also liveblogging.

2:02 Left to right Susan Jacoby, Wafa Sultan, Greta Christina, Annie Laurie Gaylor, and Elizabeth Cornwell.


In other news, I’m having a horrific allergic reaction to some sort of perfume or air freshener or something in this room.

1:57 Lunch is over, people are trickling in, the room is still surprisingly empty.  Afternoon is starting with a panel.

Liveblogging the Women in Secularism Conference IV

Liveblogging the Women in Secularism Conference III


12:30 How can incorrect data at congressional hearings?

One of the most important things we can do is correct the record.

How do you answer the comments that Stanton and Anthony were anti abortion?

Abortion was illegal and women died when they were done. They would not be anti abortion today. Medical science is just so different now than then.

Any reason why people lose authority when speaking on feminism and atheism?

I’m beginning to think we should read the comments in the internet. If people can only talk about I’m an atheist, what is the point of the movement? Social progress has come from people willing to criticize religion. It was about promoting reason and science and condemning bad practices. Slavery, Capital Punishment. We mean nothing if we don’t stand for progress in civilization. What do we build.

When did special treatment for religious organizations start?

1820s? Lobbying congress. Used to get mail on Sunday, but they stopped that. Didn’t know that. Theocrats knew the constitution was secular and pushed against.

Is it possible to be a religious feminist?

There’s a bifurcation there, they haven’t applied feminist critical thinking to religion. UUC and UU are creedless and easier to understand that overlap. Have they read the bible?

Should we promote these events as promiscuous assemblies? lulz

How did we get here?

Religion sanctified sexism. Religion is the greatest threat because it reaches beyond the grave.


The language in the bible about women is pornographic in the worst way, the sexual reviling of women in the bible, that’s where it comes from. That women are owned by men and they can tell us what to wear and rate us sexually and control our worth.

The bible rules permit promiscuity for men. Double standard is throughout the bible, including the NT.

Do you think the War on Women is the last big gasp for the religious right with the growth of secularism?

I’m not that optimistic, but they are desperate to keep us in control and go back to theocracy.

Lilith, first wife and feminist, do you know a history?

She’s apocryphal and a lot of fun.

These questions are delightfully short and to the point and not arguments.

Suggestions on getting hispanic women to get involved?

The most radical thing a freethinker can do is to come out. Let people know. Imagine the ripple effects. Atheists are at the bottom of the social pole, they haven’t changed in 50 years. Why? Many people have never knowingly met an atheist. Not enough to come out of the closet, you have to leave the house.

12:16 Anne Nicol Gaylor nothing fails like prayer

Sherry Matulis abortion advocate nearly died from a botched illegal abortion. poet.

Sonia Johnson From housewife to heretic. Mormon woman who called them to task for defeated the era. Her fantasy that no woman would go to church.

Barbara Enrenreich Think for yourself

Katha Pollitt writes for the Nation, wrote Reasonable Creature.

Taslima Nasrin Religion is the great oppressor and should be abolished.

Alice Walker essay about the bible

Ursula K LeGuin

Wendy Kaminer NPR

Ann Dryuan Sagan’s widow

Natalie Angier NYTimes

Sara Paretsky mystery writer

Ayaan Hirsi Ali writer of Infidel

Robin Morgan

Julia Sweeney Letting Go of God

Then people here.

12:10 Harriet Martineau first sociologist. Put her own name on her books.

Lydia Maria Child wrote Over the hills and through the woods.

Margaret Fuller transcendentalist. Died at age 40. Woman in the 19th century. Give me truth, cheat me by no illusion

George Eliot (Marion Evans) Very religious as young woman and lost her faith and stopped going to church as a teenager and her father kicked her out of the house. Human relationships are more important than dogma.

Elmina Slenker quaker.

Ouida Marie Lousie de la Ramee was as popular as Eliot. The dog of flanders. “The Failure of Christianity”

Sharlot Hall

Zona Gale

Ella Wheeler Wilcox poet

Charlotte Perkins Gilman “The Yellow Wallpaper”. Wrote “His religion and hers” 1923. What glory is there for an omnipotent being to torture and subjugate a lesser being, like humans torturing ants

Lucy N Coleman abolitionist. Always mobbed by ringleaders of ministers

Etta Semple and Laura Knox Kansas used to be the hotbed of Freethought. Town radical and then opened a hospital and never turned away tramps or fallen women. Controversial, against blue laws and capital punishment.

Susan Wixon freethought has always been the best friend that women have

Marilla M Ricker worked with Ingersoll, was an attorney.

Annie Besant. Shaw called her the greatest orator in England, possibly Europe. Had a bizarre conversion to theosophy.

Hypatia Bradlaugh Bonner running secular movements, working for many progressive causes. heresy makes for progress

Voltarine de Cleyre. Father converted to Catholicism and sent her to convent. She became a teenage freethought speaker. Talked about sex slavery and women owning their own bodies. Converted to Anarchism after bombings. God is deaf and his church is our worst enemy.

Emma Goldman. Crusader for birth control.

Lucy Parsons anarchist, may have been a former slave married Alan Parson after Hay Market Killings and he was then killed.

Margaret Sanger No Gods, No masters. Persecuted, jailed, censored, shunned. Introduced diaphrams. Helped create pill.

Marian Sherman MD missionary in India. A believer is not a thinker and a thinker is not a believer.

Dora Russell, married to Bertrand

Meridel Le Sueur

Queen Silver magazine. child lecturer challenged William Jennings Bryan to a debate, he did not accept.

Margaret Knight lectures on BBC about why kids shouldnt be raised with religion

Butterfly McQueen aka Prissy in GWTW, an atheist from early years

Vashti Cromwell McCollum took first case against religious instruction in schools and won it in 1948. “One woman’s fight”

Ruth Hermence Green skeptic guide to bible. “The christian torture symbol” to describe cross. There was a time when religion ruled the world it was called the dark ages.

11:50 Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Wrote Women’s Bible, which made her a pariah. She pointed to the church as the fountain of all anti-woman policies.

Susan B Anthony believed only in the creed of perfect equality.

Matilda Joslyn Gage part of the triumvirate of these. She founded a separation of church and state group, the first and short-lived. Wrote Woman, State and Church, which covered the history of the church hurting women. (1893)


11:45 The women’s movement was founded by women freethinkers. The churches opposed freedoms for women. Unsurprisingly. Women without Superstition is the book. It’s out of print and will be back next week. It’s limited to English speaking women who left writing, so it’s quite limited. British and American women mostly.

She has a power point. Woe to the Women, that’s a book. Eve was framed.

Anne Hutchinson first up. First heretic in North America, if you exclude Native Americans, but first out and out intentional heretic. She had meetings for women in her home, and some men came as well. And she got in a lot of trouble. Banished for sedition and heresy. Excommunicated and cast out as an American Jezebel. She had a settlement in Rhode Island briefly with a secular constitution.

Mary Wollstonecraft wrote about rationalist and into reason. Treat women as rational creatures. Died at 38 after giving birth to her daughter who wrote Frankenstein.

Frances Wright. Scottish heiress. First woman to address promiscuous assembles aka men and women. Abolitionist, women rights, edited “Free Inquirer” magazine, and atheist. Red harlot of infidelity. Awesome name, I think I should change my name. “Fill the vacuum of your mind!” turn your churches into halls of science.

Ernestine L Rose daughter of a polish rabbi. Canvasser for women’s rights. Also an outspoken atheist, probably the most in the 19th century. I was a rebel by the time I was 5. She kept her hair in ringlets. Her dad told her not to comb her hair on the sabbath and she said she would ask god. She did and said he didn’t say anything. Lollercoasters. In 1848 the married women’s property rights passed. Major speaker. Very famous and committed, the Gloria Steinem of her day. All children are atheists and would remain so without indoctrination.

11:38 Annie Laurie Gaylor and her mother had their eyes opened to atheism and anti-dogma POV by working on feminist issues and seen how their Wisconsin government was controlled by the Catholics. Freethought is a new concept, historically.

Voltaire was his own ACLU. He couldn’t save the life of a boy who failed to tip his hat to a religious procession. The consequence for women in this atmosphere.


11:30 By the end of this year, all of the states will have a state chapter. Starting in June. There are only two chapters right now. They will be doing local lobbying and conference calls. They all have websites already. I wish this was exciting.

Federal action that impacts women negatively

Violence against women act
trafficking women
contraception mandate

There’s a photo of a sign from the reason rally with get religion out of my underwear sign and the woman holding it is the audience, she gets an applause

Preventative health service mandate
Big backlash against contraception mandate despite there are bazillions of reasons they are good for women
(I learned this week that hormonal contraception increases bone density, YES. Hurray annual exams? Good news, my ladybits are all good. Not TMI because it’s a women’s conference, deal/)

Educate, Influence and Share are her main goals.

Now onto State actions

6 states allow pharmacists to refuse to fill (YEAH SC)
21 states offer exemptions from contraceptive covverage
Only 18 states require sex ed to be medically accurate

National movement
Weekly Call every Thursday at Noon starting June
559 726 1300 code 199568


Promoting online stuff. Her email is [email protected]
Cell: 202 674 7800
Office: 202 299 1091 ext207

And she exits quickly to catch a train to leave.

11:21 Edwina is up. She has the first Power Point. She is just going to talk about what the SCA is, as far as I can tell. She is definitely not Sean Faircloth in terms of exciting people. Reading hardcore from the power point. *deep breath* OK.

I talked to her a bit earlier, she is very talking pointy on setting up state affiliates. Gets a clap for saying we need many more allies and supporting groups. There aren’t many.

They are involved in several coalitions in DC. CARD, NCPE, SIECUS, National Advisory Board, IFPC, LCCR..

Key issues: Health and safety, education, military, tax policy, discrimination.

No denying care based on personal belief
No denying coverage
Religious child abuse
Religious substance abuse programs

Public funding of religious schools
School discrimination
Religion in public school curricula
Religious coercion of students

Military Chaplains (this is what we lobbied at the SCA thing last year)
Spiritual fitness

Religious tax exemptions

Day of prayer
So help me God

Yes, this is just a list.


11:11 We’re in the middle of a break.  Edwina is our first talk up after it.  So.  Yeppers.

Liveblogging the Women in Secularism Conference III

Liveblogging the Women in Secularism Conference II

10:57Jen was asked how she would ever find a husband if she was an atheist. I’ve gotten the response of don’t you want a family. I know that feel.

Ophelia wants to add pop culture and it has eliminated women in the past few decades. The absence of women here is about absence of women in movies and television. FUCKING AMEN

Jen wants us to be more enthusiastic about calling people out. When women talk out there are people who try to silence those of use who speak out. People make angry phone calls and death threats and rape threats. If you criticize a famous person in the movement they will fuck you from making progress in the movement.

10:53 The place to begin with helping communities of colors is providing social help from humanist organizations. Engage with young women who are coming out of the prison system and need reentry services because that is not something that is provided. Education, housing, living wages. African Americans aren’t getting education because of cutting funding and because the high schools are so shitty. College prep just doesn’t exist in a reasonable way for minorities. She’s talking about CA in particular, even more of a problem in the rural south. There’s a school to prison pipeline countrywide for minorities.

Provide greenspace, parks, community centers. Speak to the devastation of the social welfare safety net in the US. There needs to be a radical redress of that. Without that humanism is frankly irrelevant for these communities.

Annie is asking if the government is failing and the churches are saviors. She suggests that it shouldn’t be charity, it should be policy.

Sikivu has another doc suggestion on black reproductive rights and how people reach out to pastors of colors to support their points. Not sure the name of this documentary, from an Atlantan group. I will try to get the name.

Jen points out that not only do we not do enough, there are people who don’t think we SHOULD do anything. And back to the diversity panel at TAM last year and DJ Grothe’s insensitivity to this issue.

10:46 Stereotype threat is a real problem. But you can compensate for it by reminding them that stereotypes are inaccurate and that actually changes performance. The main thing to do is to educate children and adults about stereotypes in order to compensate for them.

Cordelia Fine’s Delusions of Gender is recommended from Ophelia with nods from others. You can’t fix it by spotting the priming and saying I don’t believe it actually causes worse performance because you’re thinking about that not just what you’re doing.

Sikivu thinks it’s important to raise feminist young women. Beyond Beats and Rhymes, documentary about hypermasculine beliefs of young men. Done a lot of frontal anti-violence prevention work with young men. That kind of activist outreach where there is an attempt to unpack the patterns of violence in communities of color. They connect to this “coolness” this “masculine” thing that young people are connected to. This is also connected to STIs and HIV rates in young people.

Jen adding to role model. Girly needs to not be associated with being bad. Jen refused to do feminine things because they were inferior. That is sexism, that is treating femaleness as lesser is bad. It’s about choice and what you’re interested, not just reactionary to female things

10:35 Rebecca: men don’t always bring up circumcision when FGM is . Atheist said to her that “FGM might be worse on a case by case basis, but it doesn’t matter because it’s being done to black women in Africa. Men who want to focus on circumcision because women of color, impoverished, and in Africa are not human in a very real sense. It’s disturbing.

Jen: Science is male biased. Because skeptics draw from science based groups, they are drawing from a white male group. A lot of organizers and attendees are not proactive about including women, I’m not being outwardly sexist, so women should just come, I’m not stopping them. You have to be proactive, you get a spiral of doom (spiral of silence). The fewer women you have, the fewer women you will have.

The thing is, they are being outwardly sexist. When Jen announced she was going to a big atheist conference, she got emails from a bunch of different women telling her to avoid these certain male speakers who are sexist or gross to women. And for some reason this isn’t public knowledge. Oh so true, so many names thrown around behind closed doors. I got apologized to after going to an event because no one warned me ahead of time about people reputed to hit on, creep on, and be sexist to women.

Rebecca: putting women on stage makes women more comfortable in the audience, just straight up scientifically.

10:28 Rebecca: When the topic is women, we explain that attendance is low because of lack of interest in the subject. When the topic is bigfoot, we explain that attendance is low because people aren’t skeptical or rational.

Sikivu on the importance of the church to women of color. Churches give things to the community that is under siege. Churches help people of color to get education, jobs, food. Where are the radical secular institutions to fulfill that role in black and brown communities? They don’t exist. New atheism has been fixated on scientism, which has excluded radical voices. The academy is dominated by European Americans, especially with tenure, publication, and recognition. Atheist scholarship has a canon, superstar white male atheism, who have a white supremacist patriarchal version of atheism.

I’m not sure I agree. Oh. And neither does Ophelia. So that’s convenient. She doesn’t think that they are scientistic, that this is a slur. Using reason shouldn’t be a negative. That’s not really scientistic, and it shouldn’t and doesn’t exclude women or people of color. It’s reinforcing the idea that these people are somehow enemies of reason and evidence based thinking.

Sikivu wants to respond. Scientism is a critique to the degree to which science has been presented as totally objective knowledge. The regime is a problem, it forecloses an examination of where the tradition has come from, including imperialism and whiteness. Positivism is problematic.

She recommends the Race Myth. Missed the author’s name. He pushes back against that reason and critical thinking exist outside of a specific context. Not against science as a discipline or science literacy. It’s important to understand that the bodies of people of color have been situated in a context of being the racialized and sexualized in the body of science.

10:20 Rebecca Watson had the best tweet, she wishes that in response to the question of why men are not here, Susan should have said “Maybe they don’t have the capacity for rational thought.” If you’re following on twitter, the hashtag is #wiscfi

10:15 Jen is up now. Sexism and religion are very similar in that they are both irrational and untrue. Skeptic atheists should be against sexism for the same reasons that they are against all irrational things.

Prioritizing is important, but small things matter. Microaggression adds up to a bigger issue. Things like “throw like a girl” or “this atheist woman is awesome because she’s pretty” matter even though they seem small.

Both religion and sexism are hard to give up. They’re ingrained and it’s tough to overcome, especially because it’s not conscious. Giving up religion feels freeing, but giving up sexist beliefs as a man isn’t necessarily freeing because it means examining, acknowledging, and confronting privilege. It feels like reentering a place where you’re made to feel guilty. But sexism impacts men too, and men don’t seem to realize it. Men get called girly as an insult and are driven away from being themselves if they’re not “man enough”. They don’t care about reproductive rights. As though they don’t have to deal with getting a girl preggo.

10:05 I’ve started a new post, because it’s gotten unwieldy on my little tablet which doesn’t like to think hard.  Ophelia Benson up now.  Man, I’m hungry.  TAM was way more on the making sure people were fed.  Just saying.

Ophelia says that the women are better at being nice.  Warm, approachable, family oriented, cuddly.  Victorian angel in the parlor, in atheism, this seems like the wrong person to do battle against god.  New atheism is a kind of battle with god, that doesn’t seem to be a job for people who make a big deal out of being empathetic and nice.  Feminists have themselves to blame for difference feminism.  Which is I think an old thing where feminist think women are fundamentally different and separate (and I guess better?) than men.  This is not something I’m familiar with, I don’t think it’s an under 30 popular thingy.  But it’s apparently a big deal in Women’s Studies.

Women are not the default sex when it comes to thinking of fighting battles.  The good news is that no one needs to be strong or testosteroney to fight God because it’s a battle of words and plenty of women are better than the average man.  You know, cuz statistics.

Progressives are just as bad at saying horribly anti-women things.

Liveblogging the Women in Secularism Conference II

Google +1 Button: Not Buzz

Google has apparently not learned its lesson when it comes to getting involved in social ventures, and is rolling out a new feature called the +1 button, which is essentially equivalent to Facebook’s “Like” button.  If you’ve got a Google profile, you can see what your friends with Google Profiles have +1ed and, unlike Facebook, you don’t send out notifications every time you +1 something.  In other words, you only see +1s when you get the site in a search result anyway, so it’s like a personal recommendation tailored to your search.

See +1s

 The other thing that is slightly different than the “like” button is that Google is integrating the results into their overall search engine algorithm.  Though they haven’t explained exactly how that will work, one assumes that sites with more +1s will end up higher in the search results than those that haven’t been +1ed.  We’ll see how long it takes for businesses to try to take advantage of that.

Social media has been a struggle for Google, especially since their debacle last year with Buzz.  Although they immediately addressed the privacy concerns and general uproar, Buzz failed to take off and it earned them a visit from the US Federal Trade Commission for being misleading in their tactics and not upfront about their services.

This +1 button seems to be a nice marriage of what Google already does well, searching, with the more social aspects of the web.  Hopefully they can avoid the criticisms they had with Buzz, since this will be strictly opt-in, and it seems like it could further personalize web search results, which is great.

Here's the video introduction from Google: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OAyUNI3_V2c

Google +1 Button: Not Buzz

Children and the Supernatural

I read this really fascinating article about children and the ages at which they are prone to believing in the supernatural.  So often we think of faith as childlike, and no matter what religion or superstitions you hold to, those of other people always seems silly and naive.  Something a 4 year old might believe in, but not an adult.

Now, I know one study doesn't prove anything, but there are some interesting conclusions.  The younger a child is, the less likely they are to believe that a supernatural being is trying to communicate with them.  And, without being primed with information, children aren't very likely to believe something supernatural is causing events.  Very young children are the most skeptical of all!

The researchers gave the children a game to play and during it knocked pictures off the wall and made the lights flicker — the control group wasn't told anything about it and the experimental group were told there was a friendly ghost in the room ahead of time.  The control group didn't make anything of the supposed signs, but the way the children reacted was sharply different between age groups.

The eldest children (7-9) got the idea that the spirit was doing those things to signal them and responded accordingly.  The middle group (5-6) thought that it was the spirit, but didn't or couldn't make anything of the intention behind the behavior, she was "like a mischievous poltergeist with attention deficit disorder: she did things because she wanted to, and that’s that."

But the youngest children (3-4) simply thought that the picture wasn't stuck to the wall very well or the light was broken.

So, it seems that believing in magical beings who can communicate with you through the real world is an acquired cognitive skill or requires some development that doesn't happen until you're a bit older.  

Skeptical Baby is Skeptical

skeptical baby is skeptical

Children and the Supernatural