Not one of us is a token

On my own blog, an argument came up — while I was so slammed with work as to be all but totally disengaged from the greater blogohedron — that just happened to become extraordinarily timely through a coincidental confluence that bears mentioning. Liam, on an older post, defended the idea that people encouraging diversity were in fact engaging in “reverse racism”, serving as an excellent foil for my argument that diversity is itself a laudable goal.

This happened concurrently with John Loftus’ rather abrupt departure from Freethought Blogs, and his slamming the door on the way out hard enough to rattle the china on the walls — he intended to do damage on the way out by picking several fights with so-called “mean atheists” when his chief concern was that the commentariat, not the bloggers, were mean to him when he launched on our network and that he’d therefore have a harder time reaching out to Christians. He was invited expressly because he had a perspective that was, while not totally unique, certainly underrepresented in our blogging group, with the hope that when people move their blogs to our network it grows the network readership overall. That doesn’t make him the “token ex-Christian” not even the “token ex-Protestant minister”, so when he suggested that Natalie Reed was only brought on for diversity’s sake rather than her personal qualifications, many of us bloggers rightly rankled.

When he was suggested as a potential new blogger here, John Loftus was pretty much jumped at by all involved, because most of us thought his work was important and he brought a specific voice that nobody here had. I was excited and honoured to have him here, and did a lot of (unpaid) work to migrate his gigantic blog export as I’ve done for many other bloggers. The export and conversion was problematic, owing largely to Blogspot’s inability to export his huge blog as a single file before the script timed out. We commisserated over a week, managed to get archives through 2007 through no small effort on either of our parts, and he was quite cordial and amicable, so I was happy to have done it. Then he threw his temper tantrum, and changed my mind about him entirely.

John Loftus’ exact words, so I am not accused of taking this out of context:

Natalie, you are ignorant. I have never heard of a single person who railed against an education except people who don’t have one, and I have never heard of a single person who railed against a critical thinking class except people who have never taken one.

You continue spouting ignorances and you don’t even realize it.

Sheesh, and to think you’re here at FtB’s. I guess it doesn’t matter what one’s credentials are to be here, now does it? After all diversity is much more important.

Followed immediately by:

Oops, my mistake, you didn’t rail against a critical thinking class, sorry.

That was the part he apologized about — not the “credentials” dig, not the “ignorant” bit, not the elitist or bigoted suggestion that her only value is in her diversity. This was in direct response to Natalie’s incredulity at Loftus’ assertion that Natalie Reed has no right to criticize him because she’s never taken a critical thinking class. That such thinking was elitism, that to require a person to have a certain education before they’re allowed to comment on another person’s tactics denies the underprivileged a voice.

Her being brought on board Freethought Blogs happened shortly before Loftus decided to quit, so he saw some folks express reservations that she was a new blogger and thus “unproven”, and he saw a number of us demand that she be given a chance because she looked to us like “rookie of the year” material for everything she’s ever written. I was one of the latter group. Everything she’d written at Skepchick and Queereka was fantastic, she knows her subject matter backward and forward, and frankly, it doesn’t matter that she’s young and untrained and unprivileged with a first-class education in my eyes. What matters is her actual work. Her writing is nothing short of insightful and engaging and challenging, and it really matters in the grand scheme of things, probably far more than my own pitiful offerings. I won’t go into the back channel politics any more than that.

John has since apologized for his emotional outbursts and for denigrating Natalie’s abilities or the reasons she was brought on board. At Greg’s blog, not to Natalie. And he continued to concurrently escalate his “war against FtB”. Regardless, John’s original grievances against Natalie are illustrative of exactly the sort of mentality that Liam expresses in that earlier post I mentioned, in Liam’s case with regard to the Women In Secularism conference and what implications it has on women joining the skeptical movement in general:

If people want to join, they will join, why should we go looking for minorities? why are they any more valuable than anyone else who wants to join?

There are a great number of mental biases we as humans are encumbered with, owing to the fact that our brains were evolved rather than designed. Among those biases are a number of unconscious ones that skew against people that don’t look, act, or think like ourselves. So, when chiefly white heterosexual males drive discourse, and attempt to create a “one size fits all” movement (borrowing from a commenter elsewhere), this movement will fit white heterosexual males most comfortably because they are the default — they are the ones who made the proverbial sweater we’re all expected to wear. The very idea that a community should be a pure meritocracy, that egalitarianism should be enforced by disregarding anything but qualifications, completely misses the point that unconscious biases exist.

Corporations and governments have recognized that these unconscious biases toward the people already in power will entrench those people as the only ones “worth having”, so to speak. Studies have been produced showing that employee turnover, job satisfaction and theft all improve with more diversity, and while most Fortune 500 companies have diversity programs, most companies overall do not. Addressing these diversity issues creates a better team, and if you have a hundred applicants to a job and only pick the most meritorious on paper, you might be missing the RIGHT pick for that job because you’re not taking into account who would make the best teammate, or who would bring the most novel ideas to the job owing to having a different background, or who has a different worldly experience to balance out all the drab monoculture you’ve already got going on.

Witness all the fooforaw over the Bestest Atheist Awards always including no women or people of color, and the counterclaim that they should not be included to exist as tokens. If your public face is nothing but white men, if you’re unconsciously biasing yourself toward the type of person you personally are, nobody will think the community is anything but your type of person.

Freethought Blogs brings in bloggers with a mind to try to cover as many aspects of the idea of freethought and anti-dogmatism as it can. While we skew heavily liberal and feminist, and skew heavily male and white and heterosexual, every one of the bloggers here offers a unique perspective. Even the white male hetero liberal feminist bloggers (*ahem*).

I joked about being the Token Canadian when I joined up, but quickly got superceded by Crommunist the Token Black Guy, and Natalie the Token Transgendered Girl, both of whom are also Canadian. And yet all three of us talk about unique aspects of life in Canada, when we do talk about life in Canada. I talk about video games, comics and other such geekery that Ed can only snark about (being the anti-geek that he is), and PZ is exposed to in a much more limited fashion. If I, Crommunist or Natalie were expected to be clones of Ed or PZ, what would we have to say that’s so compelling you to read?

As another illustration, Chris Rodda writes about Christian Nationalists exclusively, but almost never brings up the fact that she’s openly gay, which means she was brought on board entirely without respect to her sexuality. Because that’s just not what she blogs about, though she has the ability to do so and may in the future. What she has blogged about in the past and what she blogs about presently, the rampant historical revisionism done by David Barton and his ilk, is valuable to the atheist and secular communities. It therefore has a place here, without regard to her gender identity. And if she was expected to be a clone of Ed or PZ, mocking Barton et al exclusively rather than thoroughly documenting what they say and how it’s wrong and mocking them thereafter, she’d lose any unique value she has to offer to this community.

And Libby Anne of Love, Joy, Feminism came in to a flurry of freakouts over her comment policy, which was for the most part identical to how John Loftus wanted to run his blog — play nice with the freshly ex-Christians so they don’t have to come away with the impression that every community is Pharyngula. Some commenters took umbrage with that policy, but the more respectful ones at least stated that they would not comment if they had nothing salient and non-confrontational to say. This is important to Freethought Blogs as a community. Libby Anne represents one path out of the Quiverfull movement for those poor souls who are treated by this Christian cult as a baby factory. These people deserve a community, and a voice, and the fact that she joined Freethought Blogs only means more diversity in the blogs we have on offer.

There are a few targets for improvement, of course. We’ve discussed in the back channel bringing on a parenting blog, bringing on a death / grieving blog, finding a voice for latinos. None of these blogs would be launched as tokens — as people to represent diversity visually, who are given little to no actual voice. They would have a true, egalitarian voice in the realest of senses. They would have their own communities and their own free hand in how to run said communities. As I’ve said before, we all run our own blogs exactly how we want, and while we have community with one another in the form of that back channel, and collaborate and corroborate and comment on one another’s efforts, every blogger is an island — we all just share the hardware. And yes, we share it with two eight-hundred-pound gorillas in PZ and Ed, but they do not have special place here excepting in that they jointly take care of the hardware concerns. Mostly because they’re the biggest hardware resource hogs.

The important part of my standing shoulder and shoulder with Ophelia Benson or Chris Hallquist or Justin Griffith or Stephanie Zvan or Daniel Fincke or Jen McCreight or Mano Singham or Cuttlefish or anyone else on this great network is not what color, gender, or species each is. It is that every one of us can take up different strategic positions in the overall fight against freethinking by the religious castes. It is that we are all dividing the field so we can conquer. And we are here, together, on this same hardware, because we are excellent teammates and we can take multiple approaches, even when we disagree with one another (sometimes vehemently).

Bringing new blogs on in order to cover different perspectives we don’t already have, enriches and strengthens the Freethought Blogs community and brings new commenters and new demographics to the community. Capturing audiences we don’t already have is important. We can’t bring on 40 duplicates of Pharyngula, or we’d just saturate the market. It’s way more important to focus on diversity in our endeavour, to provide safe landing points from dogmatism for women, for gays, for transfolk, for people of color, for people looking for a way out of cults and religions, for people just looking for community, for people from different countries, for people of different ethnicities, for people of different life experiences. Diversity is its own good, it is its own value, and given that an express preference for diversity is a direct confrontation of many of our unconscious biases, any effort to build communities of the less-represented folk is a good and skeptical thing for us to be doing. Skepticism addresses cognitive biases and cognitive flaws directly; this is just another example of us doing exactly that.

Besides, have you seen what a shit-ton of clones of Pharyngula might become?

Not one of us is a token

44 thoughts on “Not one of us is a token

  1. 1

    There are a few targets for improvement, of course. We’ve discussed in the back channel bringing on a parenting blog, bringing on a death / grieving blog, finding a voice for latinos.

    Those would all be welcome additions to the network!

    If anyone has personal suggestions for extant blogs on these topics, that would be great. (I’m a new father, and my own father died recently.)

  2. 2

    You know, except for the obvious trolls (who do the same everywhere, even on your blog here), people at Pharyngula do watch what they say and how they say things. The important thing to note about Pharyngula is that, there, people get to blast idiocy and bigotry without repercussion. Rarely will anyone nurse the hurt feelings of bigots or the willfully ignorant there. So, it isn’t like Pharyngula is a place where people can get away with saying anything. I certainly prefer the Pharyngula style to a place where one cannot respond forcefully to bigotry or willful ignorance or trolling without being told to tone it down or to stop insulting and humiliating the hater or troll.

    As for Loftus, there was a lot of irony in his diversity complaint against Reed because Loftus’s own presence here (while it lasted) could have been seen as largely bringing diversity to FTB apart from the merit of his work. I hope he sees the humor in that. Not to mention a glaring error with the critical-thinking class angle: What are atheist blogs for if not to share, teach, and expound on critical thinking as it pertains to theism, pseudoscience, and the like?

    I am not sure, though, if Loftus realizes how hurtful that was of him to say to Reed. Simply declaring that he let his emotions get the best of him does not really signal that he understands why he shouldn’t have said that. If he does understand or wants to understand, I’d be in favor of seeing him come out and acknowledge it directly.

    And FWIW, I’ve had the opposite experience of yours from working with Loftus. He has always been kind to me and generous and thanked me for the things I helped him with on Blogger even when it wasn’t necessary for him to do so. In fact, right before Blogger implemented a spam filter, he open-sourced code developed for his blog that let a few of us atheists on Blogger block Mabus’s hateful spamming spree in a coordinated manner at its peak on Blogger.

  3. 3

    “almost never brings up the fact that she’s openly gay, which means she was brought on board entirely without respect to her gender identity.”

    As a correction: gender identity refers to the sex you feel you are, sexual orientation refers to the gender you are attracted to. Gayness/Straightness in no way implies any particular gender identity.

  4. 4

    I need to amend the part of the post dealing with his blog import. I misremembered a few things. He did manage to get some blog imported, but not all of it, owing largely to Blogspot’s inability to export his entire blog before the script timed out.

  5. 8

    Thanks for double checking that, Jason. In that case, amend my comment at #4 to read that my experience working with Loftus was not that much different from yours (practically every problem was due to a problem on Blogger’s end, which Loftus patiently waded through with me). 🙂

  6. 9

    If anyone has personal suggestions for extant blogs on these topics, that would be great. (I’m a new father, and my own father died recently.)

    Y’know… this sort of thing comes up a lot, topics worthy of address that no blogger specifically focuses on, but a few have addressed in passing. Maybe there could be an FTB-wide tag system so folks could search for these topics without being restricted to individual blogs? And, this is the sort of thing that could be addressed also by guest posts, when a commenter has something to present to the FTB community. There could be a guest post blog, or individual bloggers might have guest post guidelines.

    There is one part of FTB unique to Pharyngula, and that’s The Endless Thread, which is the closest thing we commenters have to a backchannel of our own. It’s getting more crowded and faster-moving as the greater commenting community grows.

    Re grieving: may I suggest Hank Fox’s excellent post “Ashes of a Cowboy” here.

  7. 10

    And here I was totally assuming you were a token Canuckistanian. Sorry, I will try to check my assumptions in the future.

    I think this is hard for people to grasp, because though they choose to be a part of a community, they don’t believe in the sort of community they are taking part in. This also means that they ultimately fail to understand that by taking part in the conversations, by default they are taking part in the community. What is maddening, is that they simultaneously believe that the sorts of communities they are a part of shouldn’t exist *and* that they should have a say in what such communities should look like.

    Worse, they fail to understand that encouraging people who are often marginalized to take part in such communities isn’t about some kind of affirmative action or racism, it’s about completing communities. A community where women are effectively non-existent, or are marginalized isn’t an inclusive, functional community. If I wanted a community like that, I would just go back to church. A community where people with varying shades of brown or other colored skin, again, isn’t an inclusive, functional community. The same it true of communities that are only heteronormative or which follow strict gender binaries.

    Unless one subscribes to the idiotic notion that some people are subhuman, there is every reason to want to be inclusive. This is especially true when the community being discussed is marginalized by the macrocommunity in which they exist. Where I live and am trying to help build a diverse and thriving secular community, there are a whole lot of people – including people who know and at least once respected me – who believe that atheists are subhuman. My kids are surrounded by people who believe I’m an inherently bad person – not because I’m not a Christian, but because I eschew any faith based beliefs.

    I don’t have the room not to encourage anyone and everyone who fails to accept magical thinking to be a part of our community. If that means reaching out to queers, transpeople, people who aren’t white, sex workers, other assholes, people who are mentally ill – even conservatives, then I am going to do just that. I am surrounded by people who think I am worse than or at least as bad as murderers and rapists. I’ll take all the allies I can foster, thank you very fucking much.

  8. 12


    You make a good point! I think most of us have gathered by now that this sort of anti-diversity cognitive bias is just another facet of privilege. I tried to say something similar over here. You know, that the white-, maleness of skepticism/atheism (in general) is just a feature of existing societal biases; biases we can break down with diversity for its own sake. (In the same sort of way that Arch Cons like Dick Cheney doesn’t hate gay people, because he knows some.)

  9. 13


    Pteryxx and Jason,

    Hey, that’s an idea. Slashdot started “Ask Slashdot” so many years ago to cover the same kind of gap (back when the commentariat valued expertise more than trolling). Maybe there could be a blog here that was group moderated by people with time (or reasonably trustworthy commenters) that was simply called “Ask Freethought Blogs” where we could just email questions in and a every couple hours they could be posted up as a new post and interested, helpful readers could go about it.

    I don’t know if network-wide tags has a turnkey solution, but it probably wouldn’t be impossible to implement. It’s a good idea though.

  10. 14

    With regards to the diversity of FtB, I’ve personally been pretty happy. A LOT of the bloggers that I had been following all over the place have migrated here. I remember reading Natalie’s comments over at Skeptchick and then her rather short stint blogging there. I was reading Libby over on her blog before she came over here. Same with Ed, Jen, Chris and some others.

    The even better thing is that I had no idea who the Crommunist was, and didn’t even really notice that the community I was dipping my head into what really pretty white.

    I WANT to be exposed to a diversity of opinion, and have tried to do that. I follow a baptist minister, a law professor, and a few right-wing politicians (mainly those that represent me), but I obviously have blind spots, and it’s those angles that I can’t even see that are most important to highlight — and I need someone external to myself to point them out!

    If it’s well written and well thought out, then I’m all for it.

  11. 15

    Like hell he apologized. He made one little concession to having let his emotions get the better of him, in posts and comments that were not addressed to me, behind my back, on other people’s blogs, while still accusing me of the same, burying that sentiment in excuses and further accusations, maintaining his overall position, and demonstrating absolutely no awareness of why what he said was problematic. That was not a genuine apology, and I’d prefer that it not be treated as one.

  12. 16

    I have to admit, as a white hetero dude I really like the diversity that’s going on at FTB, because while PZ does his feminist thing, I feel like I get a great deal more understanding from reading Greta’s posts on homosexuality, sex and atheism and Crommunist’s postings on race are always brilliant. It’s fun and useful getting new things to think about from new perspectives and I don’t see how that hurts anyone.

    (To which end, a Latino blogger would kick ass here. There’s so much interesting stuff going on with the secular Latino community and yet it seems that it is rarely discussed over here.)

  13. 17

    Could Age have a look in? A lot of you are very young, and while I appreciate your viewpoints, and rather envy them, some of us have taken a rather long time coming out to atheism. It was an up-hill battle for the pre-boomer. I can remember that for years when I wrote ‘nothing’ in the religion box, it would be changed by the authority to ‘protestant’. At my age, while I have been an atheist for a very long time, I haven’t been able to be open about it.
    And being an atheist is so liberating! If “Stuff Happens!”, then I am not a ‘bad’ person, being punished by someone/thing.

  14. 18


    From the perspective of the readership or the posters? Afaik, Hank Fox (The Blue Collar Atheist), Mano Singham, and Ophelia Benson (at the least) aren’t particularly young voices. PZ isn’t that young either. Younger than some, I’m sure 😉 (Apologies if I’m getting it wrong!!)

    (You can find them at the side bar or from the main FTB page.)

    As for someone writing particularly about the intersection of age and skepticism, it’s kind of the same situation as Pteryxx mentioned with regard to death, mourning, and parenting; discussed here and there but not focused on.

  15. 21

    From what I remember, few people took any umbrage at Libby-Anne. A couple of people pointed out where she had incorrectly over-generalised, in a way that looked rather Exhibit A Tom Johnson-ish. And Libby-Anne both apologised and fixed it, much to her credit. It was some others in the thread that insisted on beating a dead horse over maintaining it, not Libby-Anne herself.

  16. 22

    Actually, I think the age range is pretty diverse here. We’ve got people in their early 20s (Jen and Libby-Anne) all the way up to people in their late 50s (early 60s?).

  17. 27

    Discussions of tokenism and affirmative action always reminds me an interesting discussion that took place in my human rights law class a few years ago.

    We were having a discussion about a woman who tried out to be a fire fighter and she failed the physical test. The question was whether the failure to admit her as a fire fighter was a violation of her equality rights.

    I, Along with I suspect most of you, Are thinking, no way! She failed the test and she shouldn’t be allowed to become a fire fighter just because she is a woman.

    Here’s the catch: the physical demands of the test were such that NO woman could pass. The test was designed such that only men, with their naturally stronger bodies, could EVER pass the test. It was biologically physically impossible for a woman to pass.

    This is the point being made in this blog. When you develop a test that can only be met by those already in the group, you create an unconscious barrier to anybody else. I always remember that discussion when the topics of tokenism and affirmative action come up because I think it is a poignant example of reality.

    Before you decide to “hire the best person for the job” ask yourself if the “job” as it is conceptualized, is such that only the “in” group is capable of meeting the expectations.

  18. 28

    It is salutary to remind ourselves that Natalie made a stellar beginning at Skepchick last year, and her obvious abilities quickly made her the leading choice to launch the Queereka blog as head writer/editor at the start of the year, before having to resign to avoid interpersonal issues (and sadly, the blog doesn’t seem to be the same following her departure). What Natalie did not do when she left, however, was to bad mouth her fellow bloggers; or to delete all of her old posts from the network; or to use her new blogging platform to “vent” by launching insulting pot shots at people.

    It seems to me John W. Loftus might profitably learn something from Natalie’s example.

  19. 29

    The question was whether the failure to admit her as a fire fighter was a violation of her equality rights.

    I, Along with I suspect most of you, Are thinking, no way!

    Actually, I was thinking, yes way!

  20. Pen

    I just wanted to mention one aspect of selecting for diversity, not because it’s specifically happening at FtB but because it’s an interesting part of this topic in general. I’ve been involved in one workplace and one school who were very pro-diversity – they systematically snapped up variety wherever they found it. Despite this, neither of these places were at all comfortable to be diverse in. They had no culture in place for dealing with real conflicts or misunderstandings or varying approaches caused by difference. The belief seemed to be, ‘oh, diversity is like a bunch of people who are basically all the same but enjoy different flavors of ice cream’. The culture of the people at the top (management, principals), the ones who had selected the diverse group in the first place, was used to bully and diminish everyone else. It was weird, it was like they had no clue what they were doing, they wanted something and hadn’t thought through all the implications.

    Well, just to say what everybody here probably already knew – just getting a collection of diverse people together is only a beginning.

  21. 31

    You guys are kicking so much ass in regards to explaining tokenism. Under my real identity, I got into a real long debate till my facebook friend gave up one the subject, specifically in reference to JCP engaging in tokenism by hiring Ellen as spokesperson “knowing” it would generate controversy.

    I don’t plan to hash out my arguments here because you guys have done a much better job than I could have in the heat of facebook debate. What you have given me a new way to explain it. I was arguing from the perspective that tokenism isn’t necessarily a bad thing so long as the “token” was a qualified one rather than arguing from the perspective that inclusiveness was not actually tokenism. I have to say yours Natalie’s and anyone else’s voices I have seen on this were a hell of a lot better than mine.

    Lastly if we are making recommendations for other types voices, I would definitely love a blog that focuses on freethinking parenting.

  22. 33

    You’re not even the token Bluenoser anymore, Jason, based on Natalie’s bio. You’re the token tech guru, though, so everyone has something!

    One of the reasons I love FtB is because we have such a huge variety of views here. Yes, you start with a couple middle-aged white guys up at the top, but the diversity here is incredible. It really speaks to what a lot of people have been saying about be the change you want to see. And the community is stronger for it.

  23. 34

    Natalie@12: you’re absolutely right, my intent was not to suggest that this apology came anywhere near making up for or excusing his actions, given that it was addressed to Greg and not you. And it certainly didn’t excuse his continued actions thereafter. I’ve amended the post to clarify.

    Pen@30: sounds kinda like tokenism to me. Hiring toward the goal of diversity then suppressing anything that makes the individuals’ life experiences unique and valuable is certainly not true diversity.

  24. 36

    Yeah, I know, not only have I further diminished the relevance of Jason and Ian’s Canadianness, but I’m a Nova Scotian who lives in Vancouver. I win ALL the syrup.

  25. 38

    Re Not Guilty @ #27

    Here’s the catch: the physical demands of the test were such that NO woman could pass.

    I betcha Bev Francis (who bench presses 400 pounds) could pass.

  26. 39

    For those who are newcomers to this community, the gentleman calling himself DuWayne @ #2 is DuWayne Brayton, who is Ed Brayton’s brother.

  27. 40

    I find it funny that I find myself wanting a freethinking parenting blog, too.
    I have a blog, and I have conspicuously avoided talking about parenting or my kids on the blog mainly because within the blogging circles I frequent no one else has kids. Perhaps I am guilty of blogging with an eye to my established readers as opposed to a real niche that needs attention.

    If I knew there were as many people looking for that kind of blog, I would have invested more energy in writing on a subject that takes up a good amount of my time in meatspace. It is actually kind of ironic that in the outside world I get accused of talking too much about my kids and yet you wouldn’t even know I have kids from reading my blog without reading my “about” page.

    Part of the reason I avoid the conversation online is that I have five children aged 12, 7, 5, 4, and one month- and every time I’ve made mention of this the conversation swirls away into a Malthusian critique of my selfishness. I think that within this community, my decision to have a larger than average family is something met with either mild disdain or sideshow curiosity.

    I think I’ll make a concerted effort to work my life as a parent into my blogging from now on though, obviously there is a market for it within the larger community.

  28. 41

    To the Loftus/Reed issue, I am really disappointed- but not entirely surprised- by the way JWL has handled the whole thing.

    His apology on Greg’s blog is not really an apology in my mind. It is a concession that he acted on emotion. I’m not sure if that comment is more of an admission that he was wrong or an admission that he couldn’t sustain denying all responsibility any longer.

    His not-pology in the penultimate paragraph of his post on Debunking Christianity likewise seems to concede only a sliver of responsibility while still claiming that his emotional response was reactionary-the result of much wrongdoing by others.

    I’m Team Natalie on this one.

  29. 42

    If you think skepticism is just a fun little secret club for us superior smart people to hang out and joke about how stupid everyone else is, you’ll be fine with it being overwhelmingly white men.

    But if you actually care about getting more people to enjoy the benefits of free thinking and skepticism, you better be prepared to reach out to the people that stand to benefit more from skepticism anyway, since they are more disadvantaged.

    Generally speaking, rich white men don’t have trouble receiving health care and turn to alt med because the person doing the shitty treatments seems more caring. Women and people of color do. Rich white men’s bodies aren’t talked about in ways that are laughably scientifically inaccurate, women (reproductive health care) and people of color (racism being mistakenly perceived as genetic) have to put up with that. Rich white men don’t have to pretend they have a special “spiritual nature” and “men’s intuition” because they get to be perceived as rational and logical.

    What some people call “tokenism” is an understanding that any movement that presents its face as rich straight white men and nothing else (not that there’s anything wrong with having *some* of its face be those people!) is going to drive away the people that need it most, because if you absorb internal sexism/racism/other isms, you’re going to think you’re not logical and rational and smart enough for this movement, which is bullshit.

  30. 43


    Here’s the catch: the physical demands of the test were such that NO woman could pass. The test was designed such that only men, with their naturally stronger bodies, could EVER pass the test. It was biologically physically impossible for a woman to pass.

    Uh oh, this is biological gender essentialism, and it’s bullshit. The total range of most physical characteristics (strength of various muscles, various hormone levels) is identical for the groups classified ‘male’ and ‘female’ (not even considering that fact that social gender identity doesn’t necessarily match biological/embodied gender, hormone levels, genetic makeup, etc.) – what differs is the normal distribution of characteristics between groups. IF the test was structured such that A) it excluded significantly more women than men, and B) the exclusionary criteria were not relevant to one’s ability to successfully perform the job of firefighter, I agree that this is discriminatory on the basis of gender. Still you should be REALLY careful about using universalized/ing terms to refer to social constructs like gender (yes, biological gender is also a social construct, in the sense that the criteria we pick to define categories like female/male are culturally specific: chromosome 23, hormone levels, and genital appearance are the three most common standards for ascribing biological gender, but they’re not universal, and they’re not always in agreement with each other when read from a specific person); if there exists a man who could pass the test (i.e. if the test is humanly possible), I have no doubt that some women could pass the test.

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