I am a man. I scratch what itches. I belch on occasion after a beer or several large meat sandwiches. I grow moderate amounts of facial hair to which I must shave off once a week to maintain my youthful visage. I like guns but not hunting. I think anything covered in barbeque sauce is instantly better similar to everything becoming that much more awesome the second you add more power or give the item power. Power rakes for example are sweet but are even sweeter when you hook it up to an alcohol fuelled race car engine. I even sit on the couch with my hand in the waist of my pants (I believe this is an evolutionary behaviour as it resembles protecting genitalia from harm by, for example, a pouncing dog, and true story).
So when I read that women are going to have their own secular conference , naturally I think, Fantastic. I bet you thought I was going to object. Anyone who says women should not have their own voice should not consider themselves human. Women are still emerging from under the heel of the boots of man and they should be expressing themselves in a venue that is geared towards their safety and solidarity.
Being that I am a thorough skeptic, I started to think. Is this conference the right idea? Does this conference have the unexpected side effect of division? After a 4-6 hour conversation with Flora on the subject while I drove across Canada (I lost track of time driving through Saskatchewan which was fantastic!), I felt that this may not be the best venue for discussion women’s rights in a secular community if the goal is to achieve an understanding between the sexes. Flora likened the conference to the human rights rallies associated with racial amalgamation. She inferred that a “Women in Secularism” conference was a venue to strategize and come up with a plan to deal with the sexism issue as a group of like-minded people (men are able to attend this conference as well). I was unconvinced. Are women somewhat special in the Secular community as to deserve special treatment that their male colleagues are not privy to? A simple solution would be to apply ideology expressed in modern professionalism to the attendees of any conference regardless of topic. Outlawing hook-ups at after parties is not the answer to indecent proposals at conferences. Adults should be treated like adults as long as they demonstrate respect. If they want to go off and have consenting sex then by all means. Why should I care?
I can see the side effects of separation and division associated with this conference that may have a ring of truth even if I don’t mirror the philosophy in my own dealings with women. I can see why the males of the community are upset; this meeting has an unfounded yet real feeling of guilt associated with it. Are we all misogynistic? I don’t think so, but shame resonated within me anyway.
In the event that we are going to blame males for all the ills regarding female treatment I would like to point out that it does take two to tango and, unless otherwise proven, both parties should be conscious of their actions when in a high-profile position. I am not implying that women are asking for this treatment but rather some women don’t want anything to change based on their actions. Similarly, some men are extremely sexist. That being said, I prefer to presume innocence of males until proven guilty, as there are plenty of good men out there who are subject to this “privilege” label that we, frankly, cannot comprehend. Either we are ignorant to the issue that we are apart of or not involved at all. The Winnipeg Skeptical community celebrates its equal representation of women and men by not drawing any attention to it, making sexism in their community a nonissue. It’s interesting to gossip but entirely boring to talk about at length, in my opinion, at one of our gatherings. We would much rather discuss diet and Dr.Oz quackery of the month. I am not saying that misogyny does not exist; rather it is outside this particular community’s comprehension.
Also, if this is a Secular conference for women’s rights in the secular community, why is this only community labelled with this issue? Is this not the main topic in all communities of a similar nature as of late? Should the CFI (Center for Inquiry) really be only promoting Women in Secularism or should they also include Atheism, Skepticism and humanism representatives?
An article on this very subject was read to me by Flora as I drove. You can read it here. I understand that the dog, in this analogy, could not have a concept of cold with such a large fur coat. But I also feel that the Lizard did not communicate her discomfort with enough of an assertive tone for the dog to understand. I also think the lizard could bridge the gap between the dog and herself by utilizing education and experience. The lizard should have engaged the dog in an open discussion with the goal of finding a solution (not that she didn’t try but she managed to allow herself to be suppressed). I fully believe a solution could have been found so this story would have a happy ending.
My happy ending would consist of the understanding between both parties that they cannot exist with one another without compromise. For example, the lizard could have used the dog’s hair to make a coat to keep her warm (assuming the lizard can obtain enough heat to maintain its body temperature, as lizards are cold-blooded and need a heat source at all times to survive). Women are not cold-blooded, even if their feet are constantly freezing, so I feel the Lizard may have been a poor choice of animal by the author. I would have chosen a dog of equal size but having no fur. I would also make them, for the sake of the analogy genderless, as gender adds a dynamic that is unnecessary to the point. But a lizard was used so I will run with it. Removing the fur of the dog would have an interesting side effect. The dog would be able to experience cold! The temperature would have to rise to keep the dog warm. By working together to come to a solution both parties would not have the perfect arrangement but they would both be morally better off. The lizard would function normally in her new coat and the dog would gain some respect with a much-needed haircut. He may even be able to find a job and build the lizard her own desired biome within the house.
Women are marginalized by men. This is a fact. But it does not have to be the norm.
I can’t help feeling that “Elevator Gate” had something to do with a “Women in Secularism” conference. Not that it makes a difference what was the catalyst, as it is a topic that should be discussed, but undesired as the whole fiasco is and how sick of talking about it people are, it has made a real and lasting impact on the secular, atheist and skeptical communities. Nerds of the world have been forced to mature, socially, nearly overnight making the opposition to the change so powerful as to excrete ignorance. Do you blame them for their ignorant actions? Yes. I think though that all hope is not lost.
In response to the Elevator gate scandal JREF had implemented a zero tolerance policy at this years TAM9 in Las Vegas which was talked about by D.J. Grothe in a statement which said:
“We want TAM Las Vegas 2011 to be a welcoming experience for everyone who attends . . .
Please respect your fellow attendees by not disparaging them based on unfair grounds such as race, gender, sexual orientation, and disability; and by not making uninvited sexual comments toward others.
If someone asks you to leave them alone or to otherwise stop a behavior that is directed toward them, please do so. Continued unwanted behavior directed toward another person is harassment. People who harass others or cause multiple complaints of disrespectful behavior may be required to leave without a refund.
Problems can be reported to TAM staff or volunteers who will bring it to the attention of JREF management. A warning will be given when appropriate, but there will be zero tolerance for violence, physical intimidation, and unwanted intentional physical contact.”
My personal belief is this should be a standard clause in the rule book of conferences. The CFI would do well if they adopted this mentality for all the conferences they put on. Women should feel welcome and accepted in a group dedicated to the acquisition of knowledge for the betterment of mankind. I put the word “mankind” in there for a reason and to demonstrate a point about how we think as a society.
It was not until the Khitomer accord that the United Federation of Planets (UFP) included all races and denominations in their slogan “To boldly go where no man has gone before”. The slogan was changed after the peace treaty when inducting another powerful race into the UFP to “To boldly go where no one has gone before” and rightly so. Neil Armstrong stated the famous phrase “That’s one small step for (a) man; one giant leap for mankind.” when stepping onto the surface of the moon. I wonder if that iconic statement would have had a different impact on how women are viewed today if it was more inclusive. Neil perhaps did not state these iconic words in such a way as to offend women, but he would have to confirm this assertion with me to be sure. This is an indicator that we (as a civilization) should also be looking at the everyday devices that we overlook to see if we too can be more inclusive. “Onekind” is awkward to say at best. “Everyone” sounds much better and has the added effect of being inclusive to, for lack of a better word, everyone. Humanity works just as well.
I hope everyone wakes up, as we are all to blame for the faults of our culture. I feel that we, as men, have plenty to gain from the women in our lives if we only just listen. Segregation or special accommodation is never the answer. Thinking of humanity in boys vs. girls, gays vs. straights, Able bodied vs. handicapped (I prefer “differently abled” as it does not degrade the worth of this group of people) or us vs. them has never and will never lead to the betterment of humanity. Only by working together and sharing ideas can the Homosapian species bring the walls of the chasm close enough together to enable bridges to be built. Eventually the canyon representing the separation of people’s will be nothing more than a footnote in the history books.
If I can change so can you. I am a person. I scratch what itches. I belch on occasion after a beer or….
Of note: An amazing woman in my life instilled in me two concepts; the ends don’t justify the means and respect the women in your life. I hold both truths close to my chest, the latter being deserved until proven otherwise. I also go one step farther and respect the humanity in my life, unless proven otherwise. I cannot blindly follow the rules. In this case, the rules which state women are the weaker sex grossly are incorrect, which just so happens to be another lesson this woman taught me. Thanks Mom!