Glass Ceilings look very pretty when Smashed

[This is a repost of something I fired off to the Freethinkers mailing list (http://groups NULL.google NULL.com/group/freethinkers-club/browse_thread/thread/1bd004d4c7be5142).]

Changes are afoot in the skeptical/atheist community.

I’m not sure when this process began. Elevatorgate (http://bigthink NULL.com/ideas/39234)?
#mencallmethings (http://tigerbeatdown NULL.com/2011/11/07/why-are-you-in-such-a-bad-mood-mencallmethings-responds/)? Both feel like tipping points with a fair bit of
momentum already behind them. Whatever the case, feminism has become a
big deal within the community.

And it’s about damn time!

To be a true freethinker is to put everything under the microscope.
Discussing religion is ridiculously fun (for me, anyway), but there
are so many other topics to cover, ranging from Bigfoot to the
structure of society. Sexuality is unique because it’s thrust on you
without your consent. We aren’t born with an innate ability to make
antibiotics or worship god X, and you can claim to be ignorant about
either topic and not pick a side. Your sex was worked out well before
you were born, however, and even asexuals still possess a gonad of
some sort. The truly sex-less are incredibly rare.

Gender roles are a bit different. They’re a complex construct of
both innate evolutionary desires and social experience. While heavily
dependent on sexuality, in contrast these roles can be changed just by
wanting to change them, so they can be challenged by a free thinker.

And lately, gender roles have finally been getting the scrutiny
they deserve. Is it appropriate for a man to hit on a woman, when both
are alone in an elevator in the wee hours of the morning? How should
women deal with sex-themed abuse? If a group has an obvious bias in
gender representation, how should we fix that?

Given how entrenched sex and gender is, however, it was only
inevitable there’d be some pushback. Some have tried to shift the
topic, by moving it to how these issues are talked about or a sub-
topic they think needs more exposure. Greta pretty much nailed the
issue, so I’ll just point to her (http://freethoughtblogs NULL.com/greta/2011/12/29/why-yes-but-is-the-wrong-response-to-misogyny/).

Others are just tiring of dealing with the pushback. Remember that
vote on the most influential female skeptic? When the winner was
announced (Rebecca Watson, to no-one’s surprise (http://freethoughtblogs NULL.com/blaghag/2012/01/results-for-the-most-influential-female-atheist-of-2011/)), Jen’s blog was
flooded with trolls, leading to a ridiculous amount of deletions.
Understandably, she’s a bit burnt out.

The wost part of all, however, is the political side.

The bigger problem is that I see no real solution, and am stuck
cringing silently when someone is unwittingly praising a person who’s
really a Giant Fucking Asshole. Because the politics involved between
people or between organizations is enormous.

I feel gross staying silent and playing the game, but I often have no
choice. […] there are people and organizations in the movement I
genuinely care about, and stirring certain pots would cause them
harm.

Drama (http://freethoughtblogs NULL.com/blaghag/2012/01/drama/)

These are interesting times to be a skeptic or atheist. When we
were small and obscure, it was easy to just focus on the silliness we
saw outside. Now the community has gotten large enough to generate
internal controversy, to the point that it’s threatening to derail
what we’re about.

I’m not worried. As a group, we value evidence and logic above all.
If the gender roles are out of whack with reality in our community, or
society for that matter, that will get discovered and corrected over
time. We recognize that no-one’s perfect, and so we’re comfortable
criticizing our leaders when they get things wrong, because we know
that doesn’t disqualify the things they do right.

Think of all that heat over gender and sexism as the signs of
construction. Our community is currently under improvement, and we
apologize for any inconvenience. If you don’t like the way things are
shaping up, grab a hammer!


HJ Hornbeck