Log in

No account? Create an account
19 June 2013 @ 12:23 am
Notes as I read CFI opening speech  
There's been some kerfufle recently that I've been ignoring, about the opening speech of a Women In Secularism conference. Apparently the conference was great, except for the opening speech. In an effort to understand, I've read the speech, taking notes as I go. I've decided to post them. This could be a mistake.

Before reading it, my bias is slightly negative towards it.

Text of speech: http://www.centerforinquiry.net/blogs/entry/my_talk_at_wis2/

I'll add each paragraph to the post too, after the notes on each.

This started as notes to myself. If anything's not clear, feel free to ask. In general, what I think he's saying is bold and outside square brackets, and my comments inside in normal text. Questions marks indicate either what I think he might be saying/implying, or that I'm wondering or unsure about x. Hopefully context indicates which.

Claim about speech: 1 principal point was critical importance of advocacy for women's rights, integral to CFI's mission
How many "principal points" did he have? How much text did he spend on "women's rights advocacy is important" in comparison to other points? What did he spend most on? Can I infer importance to him?

Claim about speech: wra importance was emphasised at beginning and end of speech
Was it?

There has been some discussion, including many tweets, about my talk today at Women in Secularism 2. I think some of the comments have been highly misleading. One of the principal points of my talk was the critical importance of advocacy for women's rights, and how this advocacy was integral to CFI's mission. This is something I emphasized at the beginning and end of my talk. You wouldn't realize this from some of the comments. Anyway, here is the text of my talk (note the video recording may differ slighly, as I did not read it word-for-word; also, grammar and punctuation probably are amiss in places, as it was intended for my eyes only).

Begins with bible reading: women should be silent & bear children, according to Timothy

Let me begin with a reading, a reading that should be familiar to many of you, it's from 1st Timothy chapter 2:

“Let a woman learn in silence with all submissiveness. 12: I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over men; she is to keep silent. 13: For Adam was formed first, then Eve; 14: and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. 15: Yet woman will be saved through bearing children, if she continues in faith and love and holiness, with modesty”

Similar pronouncements across world & time, except for Christian west since 1800. Islam still doing it.
[let's make sure to point out islam is bad? west is best?]

If you take out the references to Adam and Eve and salvation, similar pronouncements could have been made, almost surely were made, across the globe, from one to two to three thousand years before Paul write those words. And similar pronouncements were common at least up through about 1800 in the Christian west, and analogous pronouncements are still being made today in much of the Islamic world.

Women suppressed for long time, in nearly all cultures
When did it start? Don't know. Thousands of years ago.
[he's saying this to an audience that already knows this. Hopefully just gentle introduction to con, not thinking he's telling them anything new]
Slow & unfinished process of women's equality very very short time, relatively.

The suppression of women, their treatment as inferior, subordinate beings has a long history, encompassing virtually all human cultures. When precisely did the subordination of women begin? We can't know with any certainty; some anthropologists speculate it began with the development of agriculture, and that a similar hierarchy did not exist in hunter-gatherer culture. Whether that's true or not, the fact remains that the subordination of women has been a critical and common feature of human civilization for thousands of years. By contrast the slow, and very much incomplete, process of achieving equality for women has been a phenomenon of just the last couple of centuries.

Religion + subordination connected.
[not always - cathar, quaker?]
Religion gives excuses for oppression. [Religion is bad.]
Many secular orgs "regard advocacy for women's rights as integral part of mission" [Is this same as "many secular orgs advocate for women's rights & actually prioritise them"? Do they?]
Working for secular society = working for oppressive-doctrine-free society [I've seen enough online atheists who seem to want to replace with repressive ideology based on their beliefs about biology & psychology]
Can't say no religion = no subordination.
Reckons roots are deeper, affect attitudes and actions of non religious [too simplified? non-religious in religious or ex-religious society affected by religion in ways people in a never ever religious society wouldn't be. Perhaps ok for opening speech, depending on how he "returns to these points"]

The reading I just completed from the New Testament reminds us of a second point, that is, the connection between religion and the subordination of women. It is obvious that religions doctrines have often provided the rationale for treating women as inferior beings, beings who should not be allowed to speak, which of course is one reason many secular organizations regard advocacy for women's rights as an integral part of their mission.  In working for a secular society, we are also working for a society free of oppressive doctrines. But the relationship between religion and the subordination of women is not an uncomplicated, straightforward cause-effect relationship.  It’s not as though we could say with confidence if there had been no religion there would have been no subordination of women. Seems to me the roots of the suppression of women are much deeper, and that they have affected and may continue to affect the attitudes and conduct even of nonreligious individuals. I'll return to these points later.

I didn't give a formal welcome. Welcome. Weird blabbing on about how he's not saying what he basically almost said, cos you want substance, not rhetoric [has there been much substance so far? Points made wouldn't be anything new to this audience. Is the opening speech necessarily a place for substance anyway?]

One thing you may have noticed already is that I did not give you a formal welcome to Women in Secularism 2. Of course you are welcome here. We're very happy to have you with us, but this is something you know already, and, although I don’t want to appear ungracious, why take up time to state the obvious, because the reality is we have much work to do, and presumably you came here for substance not rhetoric.

[I accidentally skipped the following paragraph on first read. Notes are near the bottom of the post, in the summaries of each paragraph.]

The first Women in Secularism conference was a ground breaking event, but that's just it. It broke ground, it helped lay a foundation, but it's not clear yet what's going to be erected on top of that foundation. That’s in part what we need to find out over the next few days and that’s one reason CFI decided it was important to have a second conference.

First conference raised questions in his mind & others', and a year of vigorous online debate. [I'm not familiar with first conference. Don't know if I came across debate inspired by it] [we're great?]

The first conference raised a number of questions in my mind, and if the vigorous online debate that has occurred over the last twelve months is any indication, in the minds of many others as well.

what is relationship between secularism and feminism? [rhetorical or hoping for debate?] How to prioritise womens' rights? [this better not be followed by lots of reasons to keep it low on the list] After first WiS con [Ahhh... that's why I've been a little confused about which con people have been talking about sometimes, this one or WisCon], Atheism+: atheism + social justice activism. Not necessarily bad [it is bad?]. Humanist groups [humanism != atheism] like CFI & AHA already doing it, maybe. Combining atheism [secularism != atheism != humanism. A+ looking inward, toward atheists, I think] + select social justice activism [are they? I know nothing about them, except CFI held two woman themed cons]
Lukewarm towards A+, cos CFI already involved in SJ, inc WR [IMO, A+ is also a big fuck off to loud sexist, racist, etc atheists. Not aware of that, doesn't agree or is he lukewarm towards telling sexists & racists to fuck off?]
Potential to be divisive [is appearing have a united front more important than telling sexists & racists to fuck off?]
According to one or more, meant to be divisive [don't know who he's talking about, so can't judge accuracy. That's better than other option of using opening speech to pick out someone personally]
[where's the substance?]
Now more optimistic [hope I remember what sanguine means this time]
Naming's not most important thing. Can't force someone to id as humanist [but they're still idiots for not doing it? I must look up humanism again. Pretty sure I won't find it's the same as atheism/atheism+ though.]
Not intrinsically divisive, with caveats. Must collaborate on key matters [who judges what's key? Him? CFI? Do the racist & sexist atheists need to collaborate on "key" matters or get judged out of the club? If not, why A+ and not them?]
We [atheists? secularists?] collaborate with many groups already [too many already?]

What is the relationship between feminism and secularism? What sort of priority should secular groups give to advocacy for women’s rights? As many of you may recall, shortly after the first Women in Secularism conference, there was a call by some individuals to launch the Atheism+ movement, that is, atheism plus activism on social justice issues. This was not necessarily a bad suggestion, other than the fact that humanist groups like CFI or the AHA think that’s what they’re doing already, that is, they’re combining atheism with activism on selected social justice issues. Because CFI was already involved in social justice issues, including women’s rights issues, I was frankly lukewarm toward the Atheism+ proposal. Also, based on the rhetoric of some of its proponents, and I underscore some not all, it seemed to me to have the potential to be divisive. In fact, according to at least one proponent it was intended to be divisive. Upon further reflection, I’ve become more sanguine about the proposal. To begin, although nomenclature is not irrelevant, it’s not supremely important; at the end of the day, you cannot force someone to call themselves a humanist, so if people prefer to call themselves an Atheist-plusser, or whatever the term is, that’s fine. Moreover, it’s not intrinsically divisive to have another group or organization within the secular movement, provided the group collaborates on key matters with other secular organizations. Goodness knows, we have plenty of groups as it is and we still have found a way to collaborate on many issues.

Don't get too positive.
How to prioritize? Secular groups, inc A+
Prioritizing is important
Dig at religion.
Limits: time, space, money.
What matters most?
Not just womens' issues. [presume he means "not just", not just "not"]
What else? Who decides? What's in the scope/definition? [Uncharitable reading: Social justice is haaaaard! Too complicated. Let's just slag religious people]
Stuff about destroying patriarchy & capitalism [I don't want to think about this at the moment (that's me, me, not him)]

Still, some questions remain, for example, how should secular organizations, including any organization that styles itself as an Atheist+ group, set their priorities? You can’t do everything at once. Only the religious believe in miracles, and think that time will stand still for them. For those of us who believe in the natural world, there are three limiting dimensions to public policy advocacy, namely time, space and money. So what should atheists or humanists who are interested in social justice focus on? Women’s issues only? Presumably not. But which other social justice issues are considered critical? And who decides what’s included within the scope of social justice anyway? What is the definition of social justice?  I read a blog post by Louise Pennington the other day; she stated that although patriarchy may predate capitalism, we cannot destroy patriarchy w/o destroying capitalism. Is the destruction of capitalism considered part of a social justice program? If so, that position certainly has very significant implications.

More questions. What is feminism? What are its aims? [there are many feminisms. don't all have the same precise aims]
One definition, by bell hooks, [recognises that audience has some familiarity with feminism] seeks to end sexism, sexist exploitation, oppression.
Def cheats, cos more questions. What is sexism, sexist exploitation? No unanimous answers even within feminist movement. [true. do there need to be unanimous answers to progress?]

This leads me to another set of questions. What is feminism and what are the aims of the feminist movement? There’s a definition that I’m sure many of you are familiar with, a definition supplied by bell hooks,  and that is the feminist movement is a movement that seeks to end sexism, sexist exploitation, and oppression. In the abstract, that seems about right. But the problem with this definition is it just pushes our questions back further. What is sexism? What actions constitute sexist exploitation? I don’t think you’re going to find unanimity of opinion on the answers to those questions even within the feminist movement.

Or is there? [ugh. this paragraph looks like slagging feminism] Some claim no significant division among true feminists [what's significant? Would ask what's true, but reckon it's "quote unquote true feminists" anyway; that he thinks claimants believe themselves to be the arbiters]
Claim that there are some who call themselves feminists who are wrong [I'd agree in theory. See eg anyone who calls themselves feminist but says a woman's place is in the home. But feel he's implying claimants are using "no true scotsman"] Some are sister-punishers [where did that phrase come from? What does it mean?]

Or would you? I know that I’ve had some conversations in which the claim has been made there is no significant division among true feminists. There may be people who call themselves feminists who sharply disagree with the correct understanding of feminism, but they’re just fake feminists. Worse, some of them are sister-punishers.

He magnaminously grants that calling yourself feminist isn't enough to be one [can you tell where I'm becoming more negative about this speech? :-) ] [Contrast with above where he says you can't be forced to call yourself humanist.]
Some women think that working outside the home is enough to be feminist [I'd agree it's not enough. But it's not un or anti feminist. And at one point it could well have been a strong feminist statement on its own. This sentence is raising my hackles even though I can't disagree with it. Let's see what it leads to...]
Obviously not enough. [ok...]
Is it true there's no significant divisions in feminism? [again, what's significant? Two I can think of off-hand are sex-positivism and anti-trans. But sex-positive, anti-porn, trans-friendly and anti-trans feminists still want an end to sexism, exploitation and oppression. I'll grant that they probably define those differently, but it would be different borders, not fundamentally different meanings.]
No divisions would be surprising because there have been divisions in the past [does it necessarily follow? I'd say no divisions unlikely because feminism is large, it contains multitudes. One doesn't contradict the other, of course]
Does every feminist in audience agree capitalism needs to be destroyed to destroy patriarchy? [Personally, not something I've thought through very much. May or may not be true. Gut feeling is negative, but gut feeling about gut feeling is that that's because big change is scary. I'm glad slavery is (mostly) over, and absolutely do not want it back, but if I was someone from the time whose lifestyle depended on slavery, the thought of getting rid of it would be very scary and I'd likely feel negative about it, even if the immorality of it was clear to me]
If not, then you already have one very significant difference between feminists [again, who decides what's significant? Is his def of significant the same as that of those who say there's no significant division? Are those who say there's no sig div a large group, or just a couple of individuals he talked to? Why is he so keen to talk about divisions and disagree with those who made that claim? (Maybe he'll compare differences/divisions in feminism to differences/divisions in atheism/secularism/humanism and this bit will become relevant) Does seeing/not seeing a need to destroy capitalism mean you don't seek an end to sexism, exploitation, oppression? I imagine your idea of each of them would be quite different though. Does seeing/not seeing significant divisions in feminism mean you don't seek an end to yada yada yada? Is there any point to this part of the speech? Is trying to imply "oh, those silly feminists"? Did the people in those conversations really claim what he says they're claiming, or did he misunderstand. Or did they misspeak, or say something off the cuff?]

>Well, I’ll grant that merely calling yourself a feminist does not make you one. And it is true that some women seem to think that if you work outside the home that by itself makes you a feminist. Obviously not the case, But are there truly no significant divisions currently within the feminist movement? It would be surprising if that were the case b/c the feminist movement has had sharp divisions in the past. I just referenced a blog post from Louise Pennington in which she said capitalism had to be destroyed to eliminate patriarchy. Does everyone in this room who considers herself a feminist agree with Pennington?  If not, then you already have one very significant difference among feminists.

No division would make feminism unique among social movements [ok, so wasn't saying divisions means silly feminists. Was he saying claiming no divisions means silly feminists? Why is he bothered by divisions in atheism?]
Secularist movement has significant divisions [ok. So what's wrong a+ potentially causing more division?]
Eg symbol cases. eg protest a cross somewhere vs why bother. Why bother doesn't make you not a secularist. Disagreement can't be masked by saying "you're not a secularist, so I don't have to talk to you". [ok]

Also if there were no divisions among feminists, that would arguably make feminism unique among social movements; the secularist movement has significant divisions. For example, there are some secularists who think it’s a waste of effort to complain about/litigate so-called symbol cases. You know the type of case I’m talking about, there’s a cross somewhere on a piece of public property, so some of us think we need protest, maybe file a lawsuit to remove it. Others think not; why bother. People who take this position, assuming they believe strongly in a secular government and follow other secularist positions -- are they not true secularists? I would think they are; I might disagree with them, but I don’t think I can mask that disagreement by the simple expedient of saying “you’re not a secularist, so I don’t have to talk to you.”

This brings me to the concept of privilege [cup of tea before this paragraph, I think!]
[Have tea. I can't approach this paragraph in an unbiased way. Will try for open minded. From what I've understood from what I've heard, he's misunderstanding both privilege and "shut up and listen" in this section. He's later misunderstood and/or misquoted people pointing out issues with it, whether intentionally or not. Ok, I will try to take this as it comes, without relying on second and third hand reactions.]
He doesn't think it's complete rubbish. [well, that's a start]
It's misused to silence critics.[that doesn't mean a) it should be thrown out b) that you're right when you think it's being misused in a particular situation]
How is it valid?
Men probably have advantages over women ["sufficient evidence to indicate". Whoa! Don't pull any punches there, Ron.</sarcasm>]
Eg pay gap. [check if he's said stuff about the pay gap before (this is me being distrustful, due to not approaching without bias)]
Would be amazing if social advantages of thousands of years were erased in a few decades [got to agree here. people who argue sexism is over are idiots. And most likely sexist idiots - I usually see it in defence of a sexist or anti-feminist notion]
Legislation good for rights, harder to erase patterns of behaviour [ok. I'm generally in agreement]

This brings me to the concept of privilege, a concept much in use these days. Let me emphasize at the outset that I think it’s a concept that has some validity and utility; it’s also a concept that can be misused, misused as a way to try to silence critics. In what way does it have validity? I think there is sufficient evidence to indicate that there are socially embedded advantages that men have over women, in a very general sense. These advantages manifest in various ways, such as the persistent pay gap between men and women. Also, I’m not a believer in a priori arguments, but I will say that given the thousands of years that women were subordinated to men, it would be absolutely amazing if in the space of several decades all the social advantages that men had were promptly and completely eradicated. Legislation can be very effective for securing rights, but changing deeply engrained patterns of behavior can take some time.

"concerned" about misapplication of concept of privilege [is that because you don't like acknowledging yours or losing advantages from it? Is this the "substance" that the audience wants?]
[dispositive? Is that negative or neutral/negative? *googles* Oh. Nothing to do with positive at all. "Relating to or bringing about the settlement of an issue" "seeking a trial court order entirely disposing of one or more claims in favor of the moving party without need for further trial". So "dispositive explanatory power" means "wins the argument"?]
Some people think concept of privilege wins all arguments
eg fewer women than men in particular position, intentional discrimination ruled out [can you always do that? people lie], so must be privilege.
Not true, could be other explanations [some people think that the existence of other arguments means it's not privilege]
Good for explanatory work at a general level, in particular situations, other factors may be more significant [*may*. Got a proposal on how to rule out privilege so we can see? How do you disentangle privilege from individual situations? Got an example where it was done to some degree, and removal of some privilege made no difference? Counter-example - not many women in orchestras because blah blah blah, not discrimination, until blind auditions. Blind auditions removed discrimination at the time of the audition (who knows what experiences people had before) and numbers of women winning auditions went way up]
[why does he think overenthusiastic application of the concept is worse than overenthusiastic denial of it?]
To win this point, lets consider a related one, definitely true [unlike claims of privilege/discrimination?]
people with college degrees earn more than people without
true, cos statistics
when comparing two individuals, graduate may earn less than school leaver.
[oh, the definitely true was unlike "men have advantages over women"]
[might come back to this comparison later. let's carry on to the next paragraph, where I've just caught "shut up" out of the corner of my eye...]

That said, I am concerned the concept of privilege may be misapplied in some instances. First, some people think it has dispositive explanatory power in all situations, so, if for example, in a particular situation there are fewer women than men in a given managerial position, and intentional discrimination is ruled out, well, then privilege must be at work. But that’s not true; there may be other explanations. The concept of privilege can do some explanatory work at a general level, but in particular, individualized situations, other factors may be more significant. To bring this point home let’s consider an example of another broad generalization which is unquestionably true, namely that people with college degrees earn more over their lifetime than those who have only high school diplomas. As I said, as a general matter, this is unquestionably true as statistics have shown this to be the case. Nonetheless in any particular case, when comparing two individuals, one with a high school degree and one with a college degree, the generalization may not hold.

But what's worse is...
using concept of privilege to silence and to excuse "shut up and listen". [I suspect part of the controversy over the speech is because he hasn't listened]
Shut up cos you're man, haven't experience x, you'll only talk shite, but you don't know it cos privilege [Wussums. Not nice to be judged by your gender, is it? perhaps he is only talking shite and doesn't know it because privilege.]

But it’s the second misapplication of the concept of privilege that troubles me most. I’m talking about the situation where the concept of privilege is used to try to silence others, as a justification for saying, “shut up and listen.” Shut up, because you’re a man and you cannot possibly know what it’s like to experience x, y, and z, and anything you say is bound to be mistaken in some way, but, of course, you’re too blinded by your privilege even to realize that.

Doesn't work [define "work". doesn't work at what? Winning arguments? Getting ignorant people to shut up and listen for a bit so they can stop being ignorant?]
Doesn't work for him [define "work". He doesn't like it? It doesn't get him to listen? It's used instead of a proper argument? It's used to get him to shut up when he's butting in?]
Dogmatic approach, not reasoned argument [how can you have a reasoned argument with someone who won't listen? Either pays no attention at all, or has only a very surface understanding and thinks understands well]
Religious approach [feminists are icky like religion?]
Marxist approach [is it?]
Pigeon hole, silence, dismiss, no argument needed [I'm sure some people do use privilege like that. I'm also sure some use his argument to do the same, and avoid looking closer at themselves.]
You're a heretic/bourgeoise/man and completely wrong [The poor menz. How often is it used like that & how often is it used to try to get people to listen? I can't know, and I doubt anyone can, but in the areas of the internet I frequent, "check your privilege" generally means "you're not getting it"]

This approach doesn’t work.  It certainly doesn’t work for me. It’s the approach that the dogmatist who wants to silence critics has always taken because it beats having to engage someone in a reasoned argument. It’s the approach that’s been taken by many religions. It’s the approach taken by ideologies such as Marxism. You pull your dogma off the shelf, take out the relevant category or classification, fit it snugly over the person you want to categorize, dismiss, and silence and ... poof, you’re done. End of discussion. You’re a heretic spreading the lies of Satan, and anything you say is wrong. You’re a member of the bourgeoisie, defending your ownership of the means of production, and everything you say is just a lie to justify your power. You’re a man; you have nothing to contribute to a discussion of how to achieve equality for women.

Reiterates that concept is useful. Doesn't want it hurt by above use. [feminists, you're doing it wrong]

Now don’t get me wrong. I think the concept of privilege is useful; in fact it is too useful to have it ossified and turned into a dogma.

He's bothered by the "shut up" part, not the "listen" part. [How can you listen if you won't stop talking?]
Listening is good
People have different life experiences & perspectives
Experiences doesn't make you an authority that must be deferred to [being a man doesn't make you an authority that must be deferred to]
Listen, where appropriate, question and engage [make sure it is appropriate, and in an appropriate manner]

By the way, with respect to the “Shut up and listen” meme, I hope it’s clear that it’s the “shut up” part that troubles me, not the “listen” part. Listening is good. People do have different life experiences, and many women have had experiences and perspectives from which men can and should learn. But having had certain experiences does not automatically turn one into an authority to whom others must defer. Listen, listen carefully, but where appropriate, question and engage.

[winding up?]
started talk with bible which subordinates women
symbol and tool of oppression was silence [well fuck you. you only talked about the historic silence of women in order to tell women to shut up and listen to men (yes, this is my own reaction, not something I read elsewhere)]
[a conference about women in secularism is not an appropriate place to tell women to shut up and listen. especially in the opening remarks]
[do I continue with my ire up? If I take a break, will the annoyance come back as soon as I start again? Probably. So I'll carry on]
enforced silence is enemy of truth & progress [oh, I didn't realise that feminist bloggers actually had the power to enforce men's silence. I do accept that people are trying to get him fired from CFI. But they can't do it directly. Only by making arguments that will be accepted by whoever makes those sort of decisions.]
[also find it hard to take seriously the male opening speaker of a conference complaining about men being silenced] [the most important thing feminism can do is make sure men are listened to. Gah!] [if you don't find this irritating, it's possible you need to check your privilege. Just saying.(if you hate that phrase, suck it up. I don't use it often (or "suck it up"). Gosh, I'm still annoyed. Can you tell? Also don't seem to be writing these notes for myself any more)]
[Is this what's called a close reading? I've never taken notes like this before. Would I have noticed why he was talking about the historic silencing of women without the notes? Suspect I wouldn't have had the same degree of "fuck you" reaction]
[JS, in case you're wondering, I read your "incomprehensible" tweet at this point, not earlier]
[Ok, next line]
If someone is forbidden from speaking, you're not going to hear what they say [who's forbidding & has the power to do so? You're not going to hear if you don't shut up and listen either] [give me three examples of men told to "shut up" purely because they were men, and to silence them, not to get them to hear (remember in particular, individualized situations, other factors may be more significant!)]
[Listening is good. Especially when it's someone listening to Ron]

I started my talk with that reading from the New Testament which unmistakably assigned women a subordinate role.  Both the symbol of that oppression and the vehicle for enforcing that oppression was silence.  Enforced silence is always and everywhere the enemy of truth and progress.  If someone is forbidden from speaking, you are obviously not going to hear what they have to say.

Enforced silence robs someone of their humanity [stop trying to silence people who point out privilege. You're damaging the concept as much as anyone misusing it]
core freedoms give meaning to lives, eg conscience, association, expression, reproductive [tell the last one to the so-called "pro-life" nutbags in Ireland. Though not being killed by your pregnancy is more important the your life having meaning.][feminist bloggers are not taking those freedoms from you. you don't have to have their platform to have a platform. You can have freedom of expression, but no one is obliged to listen to you, or publish your speech. The concept of "freedom of speech" is useful, but don't misuse it to silence people]
We need these freedoms to control our own lives [I hope "we" includes women, not just the poor silenced menz]
otherwise forced into a role assigned to us [society assigns women the listening role. Don't be forced out of it. You can listen too. Don't push us into it. Especially at a woman themed conference! You're not talking to friends in the pub, you know.]

But enforced silence is also a way of robbing someone of their humanity.  Part of what allows us to give meaning to our lives is the ability to exercise certain core freedoms, such as freedom of conscience, freedom of association, freedom of expression, and reproductive freedom.  We need these freedoms to take control of our own lives, to give shape and direction our own lives; otherwise, we are just going to be forced into a role that has been assigned to us.

Here's fundamental connection bet advocacy for human rights & secularism
Humanists committed to autonomy of the individual, right to make decisions for herself [thank you for using female default here], eg occupation, relationships [so humanism definitely != atheism. Atheism implies no such commitment. (assuming he's right about humanism)]
women's autonomy needs complete social & civil equality, equal economic & political opportunity [nobody gets complete autonomy, but agree that women won't get equal autonomy to men without those]
CFI committed to working towards those [except in this speech]
predetermined role in life = bad
freedom = yay
how we get there = ?
we'll work it out [nice rhetoric (this is both sarcastic, cos you said substance not rhetoric, and heartfelt, cos I really do like it)]

And this is where we see a fundamental connection between advocacy for women’s rights and humanism.  Humanists are committed to the autonomy of the individual, the right of the individual to make decisions for herself, to decide which occupations, which relationships to pursue or forego.  Women will not be able to secure that autonomy until they achieve complete social and civil equality and equal economic and political opportunity, and that is why CFI is committed to working toward those objectives.  The notion that people are assigned, condemned to a certain predetermined role in life, whether by the church, the state, or society, is antithetical to the humanist point of view.  Freedom, real freedom, authentic freedom, that is what we want for everyone.  Of course, how to get there  --  that is not yet determined.  But that is what we are here to figure out.

I look forward to the conversation.


Right, so without going through it again, my summary of his speech is "women, shut up and listen, because silencing is bad".

Principal points, also without going through it again: Women, shut up and listen. Silencing is bad. Feminism is confusing. Freedom is good. A+ is unnecessary. I'm either really good at irony, or have no sense of it.

Ok, paragraph by paragraph summaries, in order to judge his claims about the speech. Skimming speech again.

Bible reading about women keeping silent & having babies.

Most of history & world have wanted to keep women silent & having babies.

Women suppressed for a long time.

Religion & suppression connected, but not straightforwardly.

Weird blabbing. Promises substance.

Oops, I missed this paragraph in my first reading. Adding notes here.

1st WiS con ground breaking - broke ground.
What will future be?
Let's find out.
And have another con to do that.
Summary: What happens next? [?I dunno. Maybe this paragraph doesn't need a summary (or notes!)]

I got loadsa questions.

Relationship between feminism and secularism? Atheism+ = meh

How to prioritize?

Feminism seeks to end sexism, oppression, exploitation. What does that mean?

Some feminists make "no true Scotsman" arguments

There's divisions in feminism.

There's divisions in secularism. Can't use "no true Scotsman" argument.

There's probably still sexism

Concept of privilege used as a hammer (everything a nail)

Concept of privilege used to silence men.

Concept of privilege easier than reasoned argument.

Concept of privilege not all bad.

Listening is good.

You thought I started speech with bible & history to give overview of oppression or feminism. Fooled you! It was actually to show that the concept of privilege is bad. (less snarky summary: Silencing is bad)

Feminists! You're removing freedom! (less snarky: Freedom is good)

Autonomy is good. These things are needed for autonomy. Let's get them.

Claims: "One of the principal points of my talk was the critical importance of advocacy for women's rights, and how this advocacy was integral to CFI's mission. This is something I emphasized at the beginning and end of my talk."

My judgement: One good paragraph at the end. The previous one, interestingly, can be taken as either another paragraph about importance of women's rights, or a continuation of "women! shut up and listen to men". Or both, which melts my head. I do not see him emphasising the importance of advocacy for women's rights at the beginning.

I'll try to count paragraphs on themes:

Four on overview of suppression of women historically

Three on conference/lots to do

What does feminism/social justice mean & how important are they? Three

Three on divisions in feminism.

Nine paragraphs on concept of privilege, silencing (five on privilege, six on silencing)

Two on autonomy, freedom and their importance.

There's overlap. The second last full paragraph, I've counted as being on silencing and autonomy, freedom, etc. Obviously I've counted some paragraphs for both privilege and silencing. Bible reading I've counted for overview and silencing. I haven't counted the next paragraph for silencing, but easily could have.

Six paragraphs on silencing. One paragraph on women being silenced, three on men and two on people in general.

I've counted paragraphs, not words or time, but it's fairly obvious the major theme of the speech is silencing is bad. And that the silencing of men is a more worthy topic than the silencing of women.

I didn't count the "ossified" paragraph as about silencing, since, on a skim read, it isn't. But it is part of the "listen to men" argument. Hmm... so maybe four paragraphs on silencing men is bad.

He thinks one of the principal points of his speech was "the critical importance of advocacy for women's rights". He spends one or two paragraphs on this, depending on how you judge the feminists-removing-freedom/freedom-is-good paragraph.

If one or two paragraphs counts as a principle point, than surely "women! shut up and listen to men" is a principal point.

Possible other theme: Feminists are silly. If we concentrate on humanism, it'll solve equality issues. (Eight paragraphs?)

[I realise I used the same "can't force your silence" argument as anti-feminists use on feminists, white people use on POC, etc. The difference is privilege & power. Silencing tactics from people with privilege are likely to have more effect on minoritised people than vice versa. That the balance of power is shifting towards equality in certain areas, like feminist discussion, is not a bad thing. Also, personal opinion, privileged people are more likely to whine and call it silencing if asked to listen. Minoritised people are less likely to be asked to listen anyway, cos privileged people can talk right over them. Also also, he said "enforced", when usually we're talking about deterring speech, not enforcing silence. ]

Polite comments welcome, including dissension. You don't need a livejournal account. OpenID's better than anonymous though. Understanding of privilege better again.

These are things I wrote as I read. They're rambly and possibly contradictory. Point out contradiction if you like, but in the interests of discussion, not in a "Ha! You lose!" manner.
msstacy13: Southern Fried Rabbitmsstacy13 on June 19th, 2013 12:24 am (UTC)
Hey, that ~is~ rambling...
It pretty well puts the "bling" in rambling...

But, yeah, religion is more a tool than a cause.

I'm kinda hazy on the rest of it...
a very caring potatomollydot on June 19th, 2013 12:51 am (UTC)
Does exactly what it says on the tin :-)

at least 10% Discocuntbiascut on June 20th, 2013 10:03 am (UTC)
similar pronouncements could have been made, almost surely were made, across the globe, from one to two to three thousand years before Paul write those words. And similar pronouncements were common at least up through about 1800 in the Christian west

Oh bless. 1800, that year when Western Christianity decided women's voices were as important as men's. Uh.

(I really like your point about mentioning silencing of women only to talk about how wrong it is to silence men, and that silencing of men is more important than silencing of women. But I can't get past the stupidity of "yay, Christianity got fixed in 1800! Brown people religion, when you gonna catch up?"
a very caring potatomollydot on June 24th, 2013 01:29 am (UTC)
Secular conference, so religion bad is possibly a given. I'm pretty sure racism isn't a required part of secularism (and I'm not sure anti-religion is either!)

Edited at 2013-06-24 01:30 am (UTC)
holmesfanholmesfan on June 23rd, 2013 08:17 pm (UTC)
Was the lecturer 'for real'? Does s/he actually get paid to spout this rambling garbage? No wonder you felt the need to analyse this so-called speech. The more I read the angrier I got. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.
a very caring potatomollydot on June 24th, 2013 01:32 am (UTC)
It was a "welcoming speech" for a conference. So, unlikely to have been paid specifically for this, but he is CEO of the group running the conference. Dunno if that's a paid position.

Thanks! It is pretty infuriating. There's a whole blow up about it. But there's some who can't see why there's anger.