I am a White Male and I Cannot be Silenced

It sounds really stupid when I say that I can’t be silenced, doesn’t it?

I mean, here I am writing a blog entry and I get to say whatever the fuck I want.  Nobody is telling me to shut up because I’m a white guy.  Nobody seems to think that I haven’t a right to speak my mind.  It’s really fucking easy for me to have my say any time I like.

I bring this up because I’ve been reading a lot about a welcome address given at the Women in Secularism conference just over a week ago.  The address got on the nerves of a lot of attendees because the speaker, a white male, chose to use part of his speech to admonish the women in attendance for perhaps taking feminism too far.

Now the fact he is a white male should not be the big issue here as he is the CEO of the Center for Inquiry and they did sponsor the event.  Having him open the conference does seem somewhat appropriate.

But when he came out and admonished the attendees for telling men to “shut up and listen,” one wonders what he was thinking.  Was he thinking this was a great way to endear him to the attendees at the conference?  If so, he was, at best, foolish.

Is he correct that feminism can be taken to unhealthy extremes?  Well yeah.  Just about anything can be taken to unhealthy extremes and that can and does include feminism.

What I see from so many white males, though, is this idea that they are being bullied into silence by feminists in the secular movement.  I’d find that easier to believe if there weren’t so damn many of them talking.

That’s the thing.  The world is filled with white guys who are saying what they want all the fucking time.  Since when did we get the idea that we were being shut out of the conversation?

I know a lot of women in the secular movement and many of them are also feminists.  We talk about all sorts of stuff and I’ll bet I talk way more than they do because – well – I talk a lot.

It’s shitty and I’m constantly reminding myself to shut up and let other people say stuff.  I don’t think I do it because I’m a white guy.  I think I do it because I’m me.  I’m constantly reminding myself to be quiet and let others talk.  Some days I’m better at it than others.

But when a woman talks to me about the experience of being a woman, I do a much better job of shutting up (I hope) because they know way more about it than I do. It’s not that I’m not permitted to have an opinion on the topic.  It is that I probably shouldn’t share my opinion until they have had an opportunity to share their perspective.

Because they are experts on being a woman and I’m not.

Now, I don’t have to wait for them to tell me about their experience if I don’t want to.  I can go onto the internet and say whatever I damn well please on any of a thousand different forums.  I wonder how this translates into “being silenced?”

If I’m a speaker at a secular conference (I don’t expect I am likely to be one but let’s play pretend) and I say something that upsets others at the conference (men or women), they will probably call me out on it.  On Twitter.  Immediately.

I’m not being silenced, though, because I’m still talking, right?

I now have to defend what I said and if I can’t defend it, I should apologize, right?  If I don’t, then I probably won’t be asked to speak again.

I’m not being silenced by anyone but myself.  My choices determine what will happen next.

But I’ll tell you what – the difference between what I will hear as a result of saying something others disagree with and what most women would hear is precisely the reason that this speech was so tone deaf.  Hell, you can see it if you read the comments in support of what he said.

Look at all the guys who are smugly patting him on the back and using terrible derogatory language to berate the women who might have the audacity to think that he was just a titch condescending and/or insulting.  The hatred these guys feel for women they have never met pours off their keyboards in a manner that is, frankly, embarrassing.

They are making comments about how they are being marginalized in which they are marginalizing those with whom they disagree.  And the irony is completely lost.

They want to make the conversation around women in secularism about them.  Why don’t they get to be part of the dialogue?  Why are women so anxious to talk about their experience in the secular community without letting men talk about women’s experience in the secular community?  Every now and again a woman pops up to tell other women how they are doing it wrong but it’s mostly the guys.  They really want these women to know what horrible people they are for wanting the opportunity to say something.

And many of them felt a secular conference focused exclusively on women was a bad idea.  Would they have felt the same about a secular conference focused on GLBT members of the community?  Non-white members of the community?  Males?  Must all secular conferences be about everybody?

They talk and talk and talk and most of what they are talking about is how they aren’t being permitted to say anything.  If they would shut up for a little while, they might notice how much they have already said.  Most of it completely self-centered and useless.

That’s fair, I suppose.  Most of what gets posted on the internet is self-centered and useless.

Must men be shut out of the dialogue around sexism and secularism?

Absolutely not.

But maybe they ought to check their ego at the door.  Contrary to what a lot of guys seem to think, you can argue with a feminist.

Of course, if you start saying things like “you deserve to be raped” or “I’m going to punch you in the face if I ever meet you” or calling her a “feminazi,” what you have done is abandon your argument for intimidation tactics.  If you can’t stand behind your argument without using intimidation tactics, your argument wasn’t very good to begin with.  If you can’t stand by your argument without calling someone names, you need to go back to high school because that is where that behavior belongs.

I’ve posted opinions like this on the internet before and do you know how many personal attacks I’ve gotten?

None.

Do you know how many threats I’ve gotten?

None.

Do you know how many times I’ve been called a slut, frigid or a cunt?

You get the idea.

It isn’t just because I’m a comedian and I would just laugh at those people and make fun of them until they gave up.

It’s because I’m a white guy.  And because I’m a white guy, I can say whatever I want, whenever I want.  Even about other white guys.

See what I mean?  I cannot be silenced.

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About Petsnakereggie

Geek, movie buff, dad, musician, comedian, atheist, liberal and writer. I also really like Taco flavored Doritos.

46 responses to “I am a White Male and I Cannot be Silenced”

  1. Laramie Sasseville says :

    You say, “If you can’t stand by your argument without calling someone names, you need to go back to high school because that is where that behavior belongs.”

    Make that grade school. High schoolers should know better.

    • Petsnakereggie says :

      They should. But if there are anything like I was in High School, they probably don’t.

      My sample size is, admittedly, quite small.

  2. Colttaine says :

    “What I see from so many white males, though, is this idea that they are being bullied into silence by feminists in the secular movement.”

    I dunno dude. When Rebecca Watson says:

    “Very strange to open #wiscfi w a white male CEO lecturing women about using the concept of privilege to silence men.”

    I can’t help but think think she is trying to illegitimise perspectives based solely on race and gender. She did the same with Dawkins over elevatorgate.

    “Since when did we get the idea that we were being shut out of the conversation?”

    And i tend to think that when Amanda Marcotte in response writes an open letter to CFI directors calling for Ronald Lindsay’s resignation http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/05/20/an-open-letter-to-the-center-for-inquiry/ we’re getting pretty close to being shut out of the conversation.

    And hell, Lindsay wasn’t even disagreeing with what the feminist crowd was saying, just the method of saying it (shut up and listen)

    • Petsnakereggie says :

      Pretty close to being shut out of the conversation? Really?

      The fact that Lindsay was a white male opening a conference about women in secularism and using that time to tell the women at the conference that they were doing it wrong is extremely relevant and I can see why Rebecca brought it up.

      If the CFI board decides to ask for LIndsay’s resignation, it will have nothing to do with Marcotte’s opinion. She can say whatever she wants. Just like I can. Just like you can.

      If he’s asked to resign, it will be the result of what HE said. Not the result of what anyone else said.

      The fact you use terms like “feminist crowd” suggests to me that you are regularly looking for women who are trying to marginalize you. Which is ironic because the term “feminist crowd” marginalizes them.

      • Colttaine says :

        First of all he was the CEO for the organisation that paid for and organised the event. Secondly, as Lindsay himself pointed out, the “time he used” to tell women they were “doing it wrong” was 200 words out of a 2400 word speech.

        Maybe the CFI board will ask for Lindsay’s resignation, and maybe maybe it will be completely regardless of what Marcotte and others have said, but you can’t deny that there has been a calculated attack on his professional life for questioning certain people’s ideological line. This is straight up dogmatism.

        I make no bones about the fact the fact that i’m not a feminist. I don’t agree with the ideology at all, but that isn’t the issue here. Lindsay IS a feminist, and agrees with feminism, and he still go dragged over the coals for merely suggesting that telling people to “shut up an listen” was perhaps not the best way to engage in dialogue.

      • Petsnakereggie says :

        Calculated? No. A bunch of people didn’t sit down in a room and try to ruin his life.

        What he said made them angry and they wrote about it. Because that’s what they do. He is responsible for what he said and if the result is his resignation, nobody should point fingers at anyone for the tone-deaf nature of this remarks.

        You (and many others) seem focused on the number of words that upset many people. Do you think that 200 poorly chosen words are irrelevant?

        Lindsay himself argues it was “only” 10% of his speech. What is the magical percentage at which it would have been OK to be upset by what he said? 25%? 50%?

        Most of the people at that conference came away upset by what he said. But you don’t give a crap because they are feminists and to you it is just another example of dude being silenced. OK. You have a right to your opinion and – as I’ve pointed out – nobody is preventing you from sharing it.

      • Colttaine says :

        I understand that 200 poorly chosen words can hurt people. But there are a lot of people (yourself include in my opinion) implying that he spent the entire time given, ranting about the issue, when in reality it counted for very little of the speech. In a 1 hour tv show, what he said on the topic of “shut up and listen” equated to a advertisement break. And tone-deaf remarks? Again, that “ad break” didn’t disagree with feminism in any way, just the action of telling people who disagree with you to “shut up and listen”…

        Fact: unless you want to institute blasphemy laws, you could be offended by 100% of what Lindsay said, and it still doesn’t matter. Hell, PZ nailed a eucharist to a copy of the qur’an. Do you think calls to the university of Minnesota to fire his arse are justified? I can’t stand the guy, but i don’t think threats to his tenure are justified based on his religious views.

        Lindsay challenged their dogmatism (on one minor point of linguistic etiquette no less). Plain and simple. And you’re right. I don’t give a crap that they’re feminists, any more than i give a crap about christians offended by PZ nailing the eucharist.

        I agree, that as an anon on the internet, nobody is necessarily stopping me from sharing my opinion, however i think its more than a little disingenuous to ignore prominent activists within the movement like Marcotte, publically calling for Lindsay’s resignation (ie attacking is professorial standing, and livelihood) because he doesn’t agree with them on every single little point. You can claim all you want that any action taken by the CFI board is based entirely on Lindays words alone, but even if nothing eventuates from it, the actions of Marcotte and Watson are not how honest, open, exchange of ideas are handled.

      • Petsnakereggie says :

        But there are a lot of people (yourself include in my opinion) implying that he spent the entire time given

        I implied no such thing. I said “part of his speech.” While I did not say “200 words or approximately 10% of his entire speech,” any inference on your part does not equate to implication on my part.

        equated to a advertisement break.

        Since I hate commercial breaks, your analagy is not an effective one.

        He was the opening speaker at a conference for women in skepticism and he chose to use enough of his time that a lot of people noticed and were upset to admonish those there for telling men that when it comes to the subject of the experience of being a woman, they know more about it than he does.

        Hell, PZ nailed a eucharist to a copy of the qur’an. Do you think calls to the university of Minnesota to fire his arse are justified?

        No. But I do believe they had the right to make such a call. What the University chose to do with that call was their business.

        And you’re right. I don’t give a crap that they’re feminists,

        What I said was you don’t give a crap because they are feminists. Their feelings of being marginalized are invalid compared to the possiblity of Mr. Lindsay being marginalized because (in your opinion) they are wrong (because they are feminists) and he is right (because he criticized them).

        To you, a whole bunch of women (and men) being upset by Lindsay’s statements have no right to be upset or, at least, have no right to complain about it. Or call for action as a result.

        because he doesn’t agree with them on every single little point.

        They are calling for it not because he disagreed with them but because he chose the worst possible place and time, created the wrong atmosphere for an event they paid good money to attend and, when challenged, he failed to provide examples to support his accusations.

        If Lindsay is forced to resign, he will still get to talk and he still has useful things to say. He is not being silenced. Neither are you.

      • Colttaine says :

        No… you said:

        “The fact that Lindsay was a white male opening a conference about women in secularism and using that time to tell the women at the conference that they were doing it wrong is extremely relevant and I can see why Rebecca brought it up.”

        If i didn’t know anything about this whole debacle, I’d have to assume that “opening a conference […] and using that time” meant that was the core of the opening speech. But that’s neither here nor there.

        “Since I hate commercial breaks, your analagy is not an effective one.”

        Nice obfuscation. Allow me to clarify. His short mention about telling others to “shut up and listen” was marginal compared to the body of the opening speech.

        “telling men that when it comes to the subject of the experience of being a woman, they know more about it than he does.”

        Perhaps about the experiences of being a woman. But i’d be willing to be fat stacks of cash that Lindsay has more experience about being told to “shut up and listen” because of his race and gender… especially after the last week of BS. Or does that same argument about experience not apply when it doesn’t suite you?

        “No. But I do believe they had the right to make such a call.”

        So Marcotte and Watson had the right to disagree with Lindsay, and attack his gender, race, personal and professional character, rather than his points (which i agree with to the extent of free speech) But despite not rebuffing my point to which you say “No.” (as far as i can tell), you’re still siding with them and how they handed this issue?

        “What I said was you don’t give a crap because they are feminists. Their feelings of being marginalized are invalid compared to the possiblity of Mr. Lindsay being marginalized because (in your opinion) they are wrong (because they are feminists) and he is right (because he criticized them).”

        I don’t give a crap that they’re feminists. I don’t give a crap because they’re feminists (ie they individuals who subscribe to feminist ideology which they allow that to inform their word view, particularly on gender issues). However you choose to word it (its the same thing in my opinion), my personal beliefs aren’t really the issue here.

        Lindsay IS a feminist. He DOES agrees with them, and their doctrine/ideology. He just doesn’t disagree with them, or think they’re wrong, or criticise them, because they’re feminists, he just doesn’t agree with telling people to “shut up and listen” when they don’t share you’re worldview.

        I never said Lindsay was right. He is a feminist, and in my opinion he’s wrong too. The issue here isn’t that i disagree with either of them. The issue is that even though he agrees with them on practically everything (including the existence of patriarchal privilege, which this issue is all about), they’re willing to throw their own under the bus because of a discussion linguistic minutia. Come on, Its kind of fucked…

        “They are calling for it not because he disagreed with them but because he chose the worst possible place and time, created the wrong atmosphere for an event they paid good money to attend”

        Silly me, i thought the conference was Women In Secularism. Turns out it’s suppose to read: Women In The Echo Chamber. They paid good money to hear the status quo damn it!

        “If Lindsay is forced to resign, he will still get to talk and he still has useful things to say. He is not being silenced. Neither are you.”

        As i said, if you want to equivocate my anonymity and free speeh on the net, to personal attacks and calls to get a guy fired from his job in real life, that’s your prerogative i guess, but i think its a pretty disingenuous assessment of the situation.

      • Petsnakereggie says :

        I got halfway through writing a big giant response but there really is no point.

        You and I will never agree. I’m wasting my time and you are wasting yours.

        Have a lovely evening!

      • oolon says :

        One small point.
        “First of all he was the CEO for the organisation that paid for and organised the event. ”

        Apart from the patronising implication that because he is the leader of the org and they paid for it he gets special privilege to deliver an ill informed lecture rather than a welcome. The org didn’t pay for it, their donors did. In the case of the conference it was pretty much break-even from what I’ve heard. So the attendees paid for it and they got a sub-101 misunderstanding of privilege condescendingly explained to them at the outset.

        He really doesn’t get any cookies for having a tiny bit of understanding of feminist concepts when he threw in that turd.

        Your dog-whistle of “feminist dogma” is not unnoticed. Religious dogma is maintained through authority in the face of evidence. Your implication this applies to feminism shows you know fuck all about the social sciences and feminism. Find a feminist that has any sort of authority over the beliefs of another and you could have a point.

      • Petsnakereggie says :

        I truly apologize as I didn’t intend to be patronizing. I just meant that I understood why he was speaking and, had the content of his speech been better, that probably would not have been an issue. Or, at least, not a major one.

        I will certanly offer no defense of what he said.

        I don’t believe that I ever used the term “feminist dogma.” Or are you talking about the other commentor?

      • oolon says :

        You didn’t say that “Colttaine” did! So was speaking to xyr….

        Probably me replying to your comment cos of the nesting that caused the confusion. Anyway I like your post so not criticising you at all!

  3. thecategoricalhousewife says :

    The haters that I get mostly do not offer any valid arguments. They just spout insults.

  4. athyco says :

    CFI is a humanist organization. The pool of feminists who are interested in a conference sponsored by a humanist organization are not the ones who use the concept of privilege to employ “shut up and listen” as a silencing tactic.

    If they were, Ron Lindsay would have seen the concept of privilege discussed for that purpose in the first Women in Secularism conference. If they were, Ron Lindsay would have had 12 months to respond to other examples of it developing in the blog posts, articles, and talks given by men and women in this pool of feminists. If, through his responses, he’d seen no explanation of a goal other than silencing or an affirmation that “shut up and listen” was meant for silencing, he’d have a point for the speakers/donors/attendees of WiS2.

    He did not. He still does not. His audience was made up of men and women who’d never done “silencing” beyond anything that is done on his own site: posting without opening a comment section, closing an active comment section, deleting objectionable comments, editing comments, blocking some commenters after multiple objectionable entries. There is evidence of the first three on Ron Lindsay’s blog in the latest two posts.

    Ron Lindsay said this within his (and I disagree with this number) “200 words”:

    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.

    “because you’re a man”
    “cannot possibly know”
    “bound to be mistaken”
    “too blinded by your privilege”

    He set up a strawman in the opening remarks to a group of secular women who identified–by their very willingness to spend hundreds of dollars as attendees and their time and effort as speakers at this particular conference–as both feminists and humanists. They performed brilliantly, from all accounts. (The post about Rebecca Watson on which he closed comments and wrote a limited apology is how he responded publicly to one of them. Have you seen Ron Lindsay write anything in thanks, congratulations, or praise to any of the others?)

    Even if I agreed with the numbers, it would take an exceptionally good 90% to offset the hyperbolic strawmanning 10%. Unfortunately, the other 90% was mediocre: a non-welcome, a Bible reading, a superficial history, rhetorical questions, a tale of his being “frankly lukewarm” about a new activist group, then becoming “more sanguine,” and unidentified yet troubling “I’ve had some conversations.” The most irritating of this 90%, in my view, came in making flowery promises:

    Seems to me the roots of the suppression of women are much deeper [than religion], 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.

    He never delivered.

    I wonder why he didn’t take the advice of the fellow at the conference to whom he gave (according to the fellow’s tweets) a handshake and personal welcome, Justin Vacula? Justin says that a writer should run his work by someone beforehand who could give input on how to make the writing less liable to cause angry feedback.

  5. Lee says :

    The phrase I like to use for the behavior you’re talking about is “shouting from the rooftops that they’re afraid to speak above a whisper”. It’s not original with me — I picked it up out of a story somewhere — but it does describe this kind of situation with stunning accuracy.

  6. forgedimagination says :

    This was fantastic, thank you. And thank you for your discussion with Colttaine. It was . . . illuminating.

  7. Sar says :

    Yeah. There’s no way for “Shut up and listen” to silence anyone, unless people start following that directive.

    If society enforces “Shut up and listen” the way advocates want it enforced – with criticism, flaming and social shaming then the people who are made to shut up or be driven away are silenced.

    Complaining “we’ve got no power now so our slogans are fine” is no more justification.

  8. Greg A says :

    Am I mistaken, or did the CFI dude manage to make thoughtful points without being derogatory or profane? And yet here we are seeing the backlash. The quality of the backlash is very different from the quality of the backlash that many women receive when they speak up. But it is still a backlash, and women aren’t entitled to tell us how we feel any more than we are entitled to tell them how they feel.

    It is deeper than fairness, it is incentives. If women would like men to be involved in a respectful dialogue, the men must share in the benefits of honesty (there are plenty of benefits to go around!). “I can whine about men as a group but you can only talk because you’re an asshole who won’t shut up” is not welcoming. It won’t win converts. It doesn’t advance the cause.

    Remember elevatorgate? In hindsight, I think Watson was more reasonable than all of the cacophany suggested. But one thing that struck me is that men who wanted to talk about male issues (such as the fears that men feel when interfacing with women) were shouted down, whether they were willing to listen to women talking about women’s issues or not.

    I get it, I don’t have to fear being raped every time I go outside. But I am still full of fear, and telling me to shut up won’t make me express my fears in a less misogynistic fashion.

    • Petsnakereggie says :

      His comments were not profane. But they were derogatory. I thought so when I read them. It seems clear a lot of people at the conference thought so. I believe it is pretty easy to be derogatory without being profane.

      When a guy answers a woman’s comments with “yeah but what about what we guys have to deal with,” he is making it all about himself.

      I can write about stuff that concerns me as a male. Stuff that scares me as a male. What you are talking about is people hijacking a conversation about a legitimate fear women have to talk about yourself. Also, fear of talking to women is not on par with a fear of being raped, is it?

      Which, I think, is the point that was being made.

      • Greg A says :

        Okay, I don’t know how careful you are being in your wording, but I recently went through a lengthy debate with someone who would not say “Yeah but.” He would only say “no.” I was happy to say “Yeah but,” but he literally would not say “yeah” in any context, it was infuriating. The difference between “no” and “yeah but” is huge to me.

        So I’m pleased that you attributed a “yeah but” to Lindsay. But I’m disappointed that you equated that with “making it all about himself.” No, he is making it *partially* about himself. The “yeah” sounds dismissive, but it occupied roughly 50% of his speech. He firmly believes in the “yeah.” It’s not an afterthought. He’s shut up and listened, and now he has been invited to speak.

        As you say, the status quo is based on men not listening. Is the problem that men are evil?? I think the problem is that listening is good. More listening is more good. Men have been allowed to talk since ancient times, but *listening* is a new thing *to everyone*. If listening is just for men, or if feminism is just for women, then it is dead on arrival already.

        And as a general point of philosophy, which I don’t expect you to accept just because I told you so, but: comparative suffering is bullshit. The rich man suffers from his addictions as surely as the beggar does. This is axiomatic to me.

    • Lee says :

      This is the Tone Argument. “You’re all so ANGRY! We’d be much more likely to listen to what you’re saying if you’d just be more polite and respectful.”

      The problem with the Tone Argument is that, bluntly, it’s a catch-22. When women and minorities have been polite and respectful, they simply get brushed aside. After all, if we’re not even *upset* about it, then it must not be very important, right? So… no. Like the farmer with the mule, you have to get the mule’s attention first.

      Also, the time to talk about “the fears men feel when interfacing with women” is NOT during a discussion about something nasty that has been done to a woman (or a group of women) by a man. That’s called “hijacking”. If you want to talk about the fears you feel when interacting with women, do it on your own blog and your own time and invite people to join you there. Don’t try to take over a discussion about women’s issues and turn it to your own concerns. That’s just rude.

      • Greg A says :

        Lee – I agree that if you are looking for The Tone Argument, you could easily believe that this is an instance — like a dog whistle. But I doubt that was Lindsay’s intent, and it is certainly not mine. Lindsay focused on the semantic content of communication. I think it is possible to be angry, and to demand for that anger to be understood, without telling anyone else to shut up. And even if that fails, it is possible to acknowledge that it is detrimental to dismiss others, even if sometimes it happens.

        But there are two categories you used that I’d like to probe.

        You said, “When women and minorities have been polite and respectful, they simply get brushed aside.” The category here is so huge and it is not named — who is the actor, who is brushing aside? *I* do not brush people aside for failing to malign or attack others while airing their grievances. In fact, it is something I seek and try to be attuned to specifically because I know it is so rare. I delight in characters such as Martin Luther King Jr. who managed to effectively compell understanding, all while explicitly avoiding making it an “anti-white” movement. I am more moved by these characters. But you are right, of course, that there are many people who are dismissive of women’s complaints. I do not want to be categorized as one of them.

        And the other category… you said, “[the time for men to talk] is NOT during a discussion about something nasty that has been done to a woman by a man.” That’s a pretty neat category of discussions, and I think generally I’d agree. However, I mentioned elevatorgate. I was not there, but I do not get the impression that anything particularly nasty was done to Watson in the elevator. If you are establishing a category of times when men must shut up, it is important to acknowledge that that category is bounded, even if we may disagree with where exactly the bounds fall. We must know there are bounds, or it does seem like a blanket invitation to shut up.

        I’m still waiting for somebody to say, “Yeah but men should still listen,” so we can have a good round of agreement.

      • Petsnakereggie says :

        OK, I accept that a good round of agreement would be great but it is difficult to get that when you essentially say “I’m still waiting for someone to say what I want them to say.

      • Greg A says :

        Let me give an example. Rebecca Watson’s “The Silencing of Men” (May 18). The tone of this article suggests to me that she is offended/angry that a man would come to a feminist conference and presume to lecture on principles. And it seems to me that, in turn, many of the comments come from men responding angrily to her tone.

        Personally, though, I loved her article. Her factual content is basically “yes, yes, yes” — she agrees with Lindsay on his core points, even though she makes it clear that she didn’t enjoy his saying it. She specifically says she doesn’t appreciate it when some feminists do unfairly dismiss men. She also adds some apt stories of feminists who have been effectively silenced or intimidated, which doesn’t disprove Lindsay’s point but sure does add some valuable context.

        Most importantly, to me, despite her angry tone, she still was explicit that she believes people of privilege should not be dismissed arbitrarily. That is sometimes something that I think can stand to be said out loud. A periodic elaboration of principles can be a good part of a principled movement. She did honor to her anger, *and* to the principles she shares with Lindsay.

      • athyco says :

        Apologies if I’m ineptly using the reply function.

        Greg A says:

        I agree that if you are looking for The Tone Argument, you could easily believe that this is an instance — like a dog whistle. (1) But I doubt that was Lindsay’s intent, and it is certainly not mine. (2) Lindsay focused on the semantic content of communication. (3) I think it is possible to be angry, and to demand for that anger to be understood, without telling anyone else to shut up. (4) And even if that fails, it is possible to acknowledge that it is detrimental to dismiss others, even if sometimes it happens.

        (1) Here’s another shorthand for you: intent is not magic. Within the last 24 hours, John McCain had to tweet clarification of his remarks in a meeting of an official House committee meeting. Ron Lindsay has been asked specific questions about examples of his words to prove that his “intent” was valid. Those examples stand only if you do not read the discussion to take in the nuance and parameters–the same nuance and parameters that you seem to have missed.

        (2) What does this even mean? Give specific examples of his words doing this. Why should such a focus be presented as the opening talk to this audience at WiS2?

        (3) Of course it is possible. It is done all the time. There are, for example, no uses of it in this comment thread. There are few examples of it in the comment threads on Ron Lindsay’s CFI blog (and those are people who are against its use trying to turn it on those who don’t see it as an overarching problem).

        (4) That is also possible–someone who has heard the same tired argument for the eleventy-third time from those who willfully misunderstand or deflect might whip out the “shut up and listen” on someone who later uses it in innocent oblivious ignorance. This scenario has been discussed as a concern so that it is not used as a blanket response. I am sorry that you are unaware of that and assume that such discussions have not taken place.

        You said, “When women and minorities have been polite and respectful, they simply get brushed aside.” The category here is so huge and it is not named — who is the actor, who is brushing aside? *I* do not brush people aside for failing to malign or attack others while airing their grievances. In fact, it is something I seek and try to be attuned to specifically because I know it is so rare. I delight in characters such as Martin Luther King Jr. who managed to effectively compell [sic] understanding, all while explicitly avoiding making it an “anti-white” movement. I am more moved by these characters. But you are right, of course, that there are many people who are dismissive of women’s complaints. I do not want to be categorized as one of them.

        The distance of time and some successful changes separate you from the facts on the ground at the time. Dr. King was not seen as delightfully avoiding actions “to malign or attack others while airing their grievances.” Neither were his organization nor organizations that worked with him. Check out how delightfully the FBI dealt with him.

        Let’s take the pool of women and men who would attend a Women in Secularism conference put on by the Center for Inquiry, an explicitly avowed humanist organization. Do you consider them avoiding or making an “anti-man” movement? What is your evidence?

        Thank you for wanting to stay out of the category of the many people who are dismissive of women’s complaints.

        And the other category… you said, “[the time for men to talk] is NOT during a discussion about something nasty that has been done to a woman by a man.” (1) That’s a pretty neat category of discussions, and I think generally I’d agree. (2) However, I mentioned elevatorgate. I was not there, but I do not get the impression that anything particularly nasty was done to Watson in the elevator. (3) If you are establishing a category of times when men must shut up, it is important to acknowledge that that category is bounded, even if we may disagree with where exactly the bounds fall. <4) We must know there are bounds, or it does seem like a blanket invitation to shut up.

        (1) What does “pretty neat” mean here?
        (2) She has never said that about the elevator interaction. Can you let that unrelated-to-WiS2 incident go?
        (3) When “men” must shut up? You need evidence that the anyone in the pool of attendees for WiS2 means for “shut up and listen” to be so broadly applied. Not even Ron Lindsay went that far.
        (4) That is already known. That was the thrust of the conversation/discussion in every one of the posts that Ron Lindsay linked to in his “A Few Examples…” post. No one has ever declared that there are flexible boundaries, even though there are some specific inflexible ones. For example, if I tell you, “Greg A, you’ll have less fear in interfacing with women if you stop picking your nose and wiping it on their cocktail napkins,” then I have to have evidence that you do that for the chiding “advice” to be useful, much less not insulting.

        I’m still waiting for somebody to say, “Yeah but men should still listen,” so we can have a good round of agreement.

        ?

      • athyco says :

        Greg A, you began your first comment with this:

        Am I mistaken, or did the CFI dude manage to make thoughtful points without being derogatory or profane? And yet here we are seeing the backlash. The quality of the backlash is very different from the quality of the backlash that many women receive when they speak up. But it is still a backlash, and women aren’t entitled to tell us how we feel any more than we are entitled to tell them how they feel.

        And you cannot prove that anyone in the pool of attendees/speakers at WiS2 have responded with a backlash that shows them “entitled to tell us how we fell any more than we are entitled to tell them how to feel.”

        Then, you say that you loved Rebecca Watson’s “The Silencing of Men” article. Your description of her “offended/angry” tone and “yes, yes, yes” agreement with Lindsay says to me that you didn’t understand the point.

        Ron Lindsay spent 30 minutes telling the WiS2 attendees very basic things that they already know and believe and perform and deal with–as though they did not already know and believe and perform and deal with them. He then spoke as though any of his questions and concerns about people with privilege being dismissed arbitrarily or silenced (specifically by “ossifying” the concept of privilege and saying “shut up and listen”) was being carried out or supported by some seated right there before him.

        Most importantly, to me, despite her angry tone, she still was explicit that she believes people of privilege should not be dismissed arbitrarily. That is sometimes something that I think can stand to be said out loud. A periodic elaboration of principles can be a good part of a principled movement. She did honor to her anger, *and* to the principles she shares with Lindsay.

        She, and others from the pool of possible attendees/speakers at a conference put on by an openly humanist organization, had made such statements of principle explicitly before this conference. In the year of “vigorous debate,” as Ron Lindsay called it, between WiS and WiS2, they linked to articles written by men, commented on those articles, had men commenting on their articles so they weren’t dismissing people of privilege arbitrarily. Dr. Lindsay was never asked to support the claim that “shut up and listen” has never been used as a blanket statement or at all to silence the privileged. He was asked to support that claim in relation to the attendees/speakers at his own organization’s conference.

        Rebecca Watson’s “The Silencing of Men” you found to be an “honor to her anger *and* to the principles she shares with Lindsay.” Lindsay at first found it to be comparable to a communique from North Korea, for which he later posted a closed-comment apology. You saw the article as catching up afterwards: “Oh, we may not have said this specifically before, but yes, all right, we agree with you.” Ron Lindsay saw it as “Not only have we not done this, we’ve said these same things specifically before. Why are you bringing it up as though we hadn’t?”

        Like nosepicking, Gary A. Do you wish to continue the conversation on that topic by agreeing with me that you were wrong in picking your nose? Or would you rather continue once I acknowledge that I was wrong to chidingly advise you not to do something you’d never done in the first place?

    • athyco says :

      Am I mistaken, or did the CFI dude manage to make thoughtful points without being derogatory or profane?

      Except for the last two words of your question (which are so out of the realm of this discussion that you should disavow them), you are mistaken. You are mistaken because you look very little at the actual talk and don’t consider the audience at all.

      There is nothing educational, entertaining, or empowering in the beginning 431 words. Those words are a superficial history, well-known background to even people who have just begun to consider the topic. Ron Lindsay didn’t even use the easily predictable reaction of the crowd to involve them–perhaps in a call and response series of questions/statements. That makes those 431 words condescending and empty to this audience–evidence that he was lecturing them, not involving them.

      There is nothing but excuse and hand wave in his 78-word non-welcome. It is ridiculous to assert that–in fewer than 78 words–he couldn’t save the time that he was later so concerned about and actually welcome his audience. It is insulting for him not to give the same words that he later spoke directly to one attendee who immediately tweeted it: “Officially CFI welcomes you.” It was condescending to end this section by saying that attendees came “presumably for substance not rhetoric.” Presumably?? The CEO of CFI presumes that people who paid hundreds to come to a conference put on by his organization expected substance? He doesn’t know?

      There is nothing researched or nuanced in the 940-word first half of the body of his talk. There is no mention of the specific tenets of feminism held by the invited speakers that this audience will hear. It makes assertions that no one in the pool of WiS2 audience/speakers would agree were accurate. It spoke of vaguely troubling conversations he’d had with unnamed others. It was careless of the facts and history of the actual people to whom he was speaking; it was careless of the facts and history of the speakers his organization had invited.

      There is nothing in the history of the people to whom he was speaking that evidenced any reason for his “concern” in the 823-word second half of the body of his speech. Let’s say a superintendent of schools had two high schools in his jurisdiction: school A has silenced complaints; school B has not. The superintendent spends 823 words about his concern on this topic in a meeting with the staff and administration of school B. (After a superficial history lecture, a non-welcome, and a careless, nonspecific exploration of aspects of pedagogy about which he has questions–but has not previously asked any of the scheduled presentations to address.)

      There is nothing educational, empowering, or entertaining in his closing 150 words. They, at the least, do not include superficial history that condescended to his audience, a non-welcome that asserted to read the minds of his audience, non sequitur rhetorical questions to annoy his audience, or an unevidenced chiding to alienate his audience. (Yay, 150 words.)

      Even taking out the unevidenced chiding on a (as this post says) ridiculous charge of silencing white men, the talk was condescending, unwelcoming, and annoying.

      If I am mistaken, let’s discuss specifics. The transcript is posted on Ron Lindsay’s blog. I think that my evaluation above demonstrates that I’ve examined its content.

      And yet here we are seeing the backlash. The quality of the backlash is very different from the quality of the backlash that many women receive when they speak up. But it is still a backlash, and women aren’t entitled to tell us how we feel any more than we are entitled to tell them how they feel.

      Prove that the attendees/speakers from the pool of those who’d speak for or attend an event put on by a humanist organization has told you how to feel about Ron Lindsay’s talk. Ron Lindsay was asked to prove that anyone from that pool had “ossified” the concept of privilege into “shut up and listen” in order to silence men and to show men who had been silenced. He failed, and his failure runs in line with his talk’s failure in being poorly researched, condescending, non-welcoming, annoying, and chiding. Backlash against that which is poorly researched, condescending, non-welcoming, annoying, and chiding is not a surprising reaction.

      It is deeper than fairness, it is incentives. If women would like men to be involved in a respectful dialogue, the men must share in the benefits of honesty (there are plenty of benefits to go around!). “I can whine about men as a group but you can only talk because you’re an asshole who won’t shut up” is not welcoming. It won’t win converts. It doesn’t advance the cause.

      What? Have men a history of providing incentives to women to be involved in a respectful dialog or is incentive-providing just something women must do? The words you put in the mouths of your hypothetical women speak for you, Greg A. Where is the respectful dialogue or the benefit of honesty in your predetermined evaluation (identified by your choice of “whining about men as a group” for your perception of women’s concerns and “because you’re an asshole who won’t shut up” as your projection of women’s reasoning)? Why would a woman reading that quotation see your participation as advantageous?

      Remember elevatorgate? In hindsight, I think Watson was more reasonable than all of the cacophany suggested. But one thing that struck me is that men who wanted to talk about male issues (such as the fears that men feel when interfacing with women) were shouted down, whether they were willing to listen to women talking about women’s issues or not.

      Shouted down? With rape or death threat emails, tweets, and comments on blog posts and videos that you uploaded about the male issue of the fear when “interfacing” with women? With dismissive, even slur-constructed nicknames used over and over for months and months? With lies and quote mining? With photoshops of your face on naked bodies, of your name and another’s attached to a gif of a dog humping a cow, of drawings of you bound naked with semen splotches on and around you?

      It is shameful that men had to meet such a backlash when they tried to post such discussions…say, on open threads or direct posts about the subject that they themselves or others wrote. No, there was nothing anywhere on the internet for men. And people in the middle of discussion not letting the subject of specific posts on women’s issues change to male issues even when asked politely?!? The gall!

      I get it, I don’t have to fear being raped every time I go outside. But I am still full of fear, and telling me to shut up won’t make me express my fears in a less misogynistic fashion.

      Eliding important parts of the issue is not honest. The disputed quote is “shut up and listen” and it’s a shorthand for the nuanced position that listening actively requires an open mind first and foremost. It requires you not to have developing in your mind what you’re going to say in defense about the first four sentences so that you miss the explanation/expansion going on in the next four sentences. “Shut up and listen” comes into play under two circumstances: (1) someone in the course of discussion demonstrates that there is an area for which they lack the ability to do that and (2) the speaker on the other side has determined that the quality of discussion thus far shows that someone as reachable. It is an expression of the hope that something can be overcome–confirmation bias, lack of experience, an empathy deficit, knowledge gap.

      …won’t make me express my fears in a less misogynistic fashion.

      That particularly caught my eye. Would you say the same thing is true if you replace “misogynistic” with “homophobic” or “racist”? How does the gender, sexual preference, or race of the person with whom you are in discussion–even a heated one–“make” you express anything in a misogynistic, homophobic, or racist fashion?

      • Greg A says :

        Hi athyco. When I saw my inbox this morning, I thought I was being dog-piled. But it turns out, it is just you. Unfortunately, even so, there is such a lack of brevity here that I cannot hope to respond to everything. But here are two things I think are core to my point:

        You said, “Ron Lindsay spent 30 minutes telling the WiS2 attendees very basic things that they already know and believe and perform and deal with”. IMHO, the correct response when someone tells you something you already know is “yes”. Maybe “yes and” or “yeah but”. I’m delighted that many people found that within themselves. I often have arguments where it turns out fundamental principles like this one are not shared, and so an explicit statement of fundamental principles turns me on. I think it is *always* valuable to admit to your fundamental principles. Even with people you strongly disagree with, a statement of common principles will help you build respect and make your disagreements more stark.

        You said, “How does the gender, sexual preference, or race of the person with whom you are in discussion — even a heated one — “make” you express anything in a misogynistic, homophobic, or racist fashion?” I was talking about incentives when there is a backlash against statements that you say everyone already agrees with. One of the things about Lindsay is that he explicitly framed it in terms of goals. What are you trying to accomplish? If your aim is to air grievances against men, “shut up and listen” may be appropriate. But that will not convert people, it will not expand your audience or build a movement. If your idea is to build a principled movement based on humanist ideals, “shut up” has no place, but frequent statement of high principles might. It might serve to expand your audience and inspire respect. Women do not have a responsibility to inspire respect within men. But *movements* have a responsibility to consider how to achieve their aims.

      • athyco says :

        Hi athyco. When I saw my inbox this morning, I thought I was being dog-piled. But it turns out, it is just you. Unfortunately, even so, there is such a lack of brevity here that I cannot hope to respond to everything. But here are two things I think are core to my point:

        There is a logical fallacy in three notices making up a “dog-pile,” and since we’re on the net, I’ll wait as you take time to respond. People play chess by snail mail, after all.

        However, as I read through your post of “the correct response when” and your turn on of “an explicit statement of fundamental principles” (which is “*always* valuable”), I’m seeing an attraction to absolutes and authoritarian thought that I do not find valuable. Although I agree that understanding common ground does make differences more stark, I disagree with a refusal to then move forward to address those stark differences.

        Ron Lindsay’s talk addressed a specific group of people. His choice of a warning about “ossifying” privilege and “shut up and listen” as a silencing tactic is a time-wasting irrelevancy if it’s not about them. It is an insult if he’s saying without evidence that it is about them. I think that you do not concur. There is our stark disagreement.

        It’s the nose-picking situation, Greg A. If your goal is to interact successfully with women, stop picking your nose and wiping boogers on their cocktail napkins. If you ask for my evidence of your doing that, and I say that I mean it as a general warning because I’ve heard about its being done, the warning is irrelevant. Even though you agree, it’s not a concept you’re delighted to have “found” and congratulate me for saying to you. The warning is insulting if I give it after having a year to observe you, have no evidence that you behave in that manner, and warn you about it anyway.

        I was talking about incentives when there is a backlash against statements that you say everyone already agrees with.

        I have never said anything about “backlash against statements…everyone already agrees with.” If there were nothing to disagree with, tweets (if any) would have said, “Well, that was boring, but at least it was quick” (being 800-900 words shorter), and on to the next speaker. After all, Ron Lindsay welcomed the speakers/attendees to the reception at the first WiS, and there was no backlash.

        One of the things about Lindsay is that he explicitly framed it in terms of goals. What are you trying to accomplish? If your aim is to air grievances against men, “shut up and listen” may be appropriate. But that will not convert people, it will not expand your audience or build a movement. If your idea is to build a principled movement based on humanist ideals, “shut up” has no place, but frequent statement of high principles might.

        Well, that’s pure baloney. I’ll grant you that he took a swipe at that in his last 150 words, but aside from that, your “frequent statement of high principles” just doesn’t exist in the rest of the talk. Prove your assertion by pulling from the text, Greg A; otherwise you’re pulling from thin air.

        It might serve to expand your audience and inspire respect. Women do not have a responsibility to inspire respect within men. But *movements* have a responsibility to consider how to achieve their aims.

        Expand an audience among whom? Women in secularism who wish not to be accused of doing things they don’t do? Inspire respect how? By being a poor host who not only *explains* a non-welcome, but also makes no mention of the hard work of staffers, the accomplishments of invited speakers, any enthusiasm for the content his organization has to present, the appreciation for attendees whose presence shows a willingness to make an effort that can be nurtured toward future volunteering and fundraising?

        Three hundred attendees, Greg A, showing with their presence that they were interested in what CFI was providing. Do you think that if they’re unsettled by the CEO, that’s going to expand future audiences? Do you think that if their disquiet is met with “loose white man on stage” snark tweets from Ron Lindsay and quips about North Korean communiques for which he’s convinced he needs to apologize, it inspires respect?

        We’ll see how the board considers the talk, the tweets, and the blog posts in the consideration of “how to achieve their aims.”

        What’s the use of lofty principles if you don’t put them into action, Greg A?

      • Greg A says :

        Hi again athyco. I’m finding it really vexing that you accused me of a logical fallacy for sharing my gut impression upon seeing my inbox. I did not know that was a logical claim.

        I’m actually generally opposed to absolutes, thanks for asking. But I do think that a principled movement often benefits from applying those principles universally. And I do think principles are often valuable, even if they are not absolute.

        And I’m quite opposed to authoritarianism too, thanks for asking. I do not think anyone has the right to force a principle on anyone else. There are principles that I find very valuable, but I think the only way to share them is by communication, and by example.

        Anyways… you are accusing Lindsay of being insulting, as you also seem to admit his semantic content was largely correct. I don’t see it that way, but I can understand how you could see it that way. That’s what I would label as “yes and”. As in, “yes, and you don’t have to be a jerk about it, because we already know.” So far as I’m concerned, I’m glad you can say that, and I’m glad Lindsay can say what he said, and I wish everyone would be less obnoxious and sensitive about this sort of stuff, but that is rather difficult and we are all only human after all…

        As for high principles, I think the principle Lindsay was expounding was the core of humanism: every person deserves respect. When he asks feminists not to tell men to shut up, to me it is as if he is tacking onto that, “yes, even men deserve respect.” Of course, that may be an uncontrovertial principle in humanism, but it is not entirely clear how it fits into feminism. It is certainly not universally followed, even among humanists, so I think the principle deserves frequent elucidation.

      • athyco says :

        I gave reasons for finding his talk poorly researched, condescending, non-welcoming, annoying, and chiding.

        I asked for specific quotes from his talk in rebuttal of any of these charges. None provided.

        Although you clearly think Lindsay was “expounding” high principles, I disagree that his words outside the closing 150 come close. I asked for specific quotes. Again, none provided.

        I respect your rights as a fellow human being. I see no reason as a feminist who is also a humanist (as were the attendees/speakers at WiS2) who espouses reason, ethics, and justice–to respect your ducking specific questions/requests in this discussion or to respect your repeated general assertions without evidence.

      • Greg A says :

        athyco – Okay, I thought I had explained this, but I will use quotes as you ask. Lindsay said, “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”. In my mind, he is evoking the high principle of showing respect for all people. It’s kind of hard to excerpt, of course, because he diffuses that point across 3 paragraphs, because he’s trying to give a speech and not a checklist. But it is the core of the speech, and I believe it is the part you found frustrating.

        So, yes, he was definitely chiding. I’ll add to that that he wasn’t as clear as I would have wished, because in my opinion “shut up” isn’t really the problem, “I won’t listen” is.

        For example, when someone classifies his argument as “The Tone Argument”, that seems to imply, “I don’t have to listen, because I’ve already debunked everything you might have to say.” Please correct me if I’m reading too much into that categorization, btw. It has happened here in this forum, and I see something like it *every time* I talk to self-identified feminists. Knowing that my speech will be categorized and then dismissed makes it very hard for me to talk to feminists. I feel like I’m tip-toeing through a mine-field. Knowing that when I espouse humanist principles, I will be called authoritarian, it is off-putting. It is a problem. It is not the biggest problem, and I couldn’t possibly assign blame for it, but it does hamper a lot of possible goals. That is why Lindsay asks, “what are the aims of the feminist movement?”

        And yes, women face much worse. When a woman makes the same recommendations that I do, she is frequently exposed to vile attacks. That is also a problem. I do not mean to sweep it under the rug, and I am crossing my fingers for luck, hoping that this conversation doesn’t devolve into you accusing me of ignoring that problem.

        I have two questions, I’d like to know if you would agree with me on the answers:

        When is it good for a man to listen to a woman?

        My answer: Whenever she is talking. I think he should listen to her even if she is chiding/condescending/etc. I think he should even listen to her when she is wrong. Listening is good.

        When is it good for a man to agree with a woman?

        My answer: Whenever she is right. Even if it is uncomfortable, and even if she is being condescending, and even if he doesn’t immediately understand that she is right.

        Or in other words, I reject The Tone Argument. I think men should respect the communications of women even when their tone is off-putting.

      • athyco says :

        Ron Lindsay said in “A Few Examples of Shut Up and Listen”:

        So I gave a talk yesterday afternoon in which I emphasized how horrible it was that women had been suppressed for thousands of years, and, on many matters, had been instructed to remain silent. As I stated at the end of my talk, this enforced silence robbed women of their humanity, and I indicated that CFI was committed to working toward a society in which the autonomy of women would be respected and, among other things, they would be free to express themselves however they wanted.

        And he said in “My Talk at WIS2”:

        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.

        Greg A said in his first comment here:

        If women would like men to be involved in a respectful dialogue, the men must share in the benefits of honesty (there are plenty of benefits to go around!). “I can whine about men as a group but you can only talk because you’re an asshole who won’t shut up” is not welcoming. It won’t win converts. It doesn’t advance the cause.

        You started your comments here saying the opposite of what Ron Lindsay says was the primary intent of his talk! Lindsay doesn’t want you or women to fret over “welcoming” or “converts” or “advance the cause.” He wants “among other things” for women to be free to express themselves however they want!

        How had you come to your inaccurate conclusion? Either your poor comprehension skills (as goes his argument with those who objected to his speech) are to blame, or Ron Lindsay’s evaluation afterwards is self-serving–his primary message was that his audience did need to fret about “welcoming” and “converts” and “advance the cause.”

        Greg A, I believe that Lindsay was being self-serving, and you heard/read more closely what he meant. Those 431 words at the beginning were a dry history lesson with no mention of that history being “horrible.” If I wanted to rewrite the speech from there to say that women’s rights had advanced as far as they should for the good of society, I could. There is nothing there to prohibit it.

        Also, his assertion that he ended talking about enforced silence robbing women of their humanity? Naw. Tell a marginalized group that you’re concerned about “shut up and listen” as an argument against a privileged group, and then say this?

        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.

        But enforced silence is also a way of robbing someone of their humanity.

        After the “shut up and listen” chiding, such a passage–gender free and in the present tense–is heard as “The worst of men did this to you; watch your step that you don’t become the worst of women doing it to us.”

        So I don’t think that your reading skills are so inadequate. I think Ron Lindsay was trying to pull his trousers back up while trying to claim they’d fallen around his ankles accidentally.

        So, yes, he was definitely chiding. I’ll add to that that he wasn’t as clear as I would have wished, because in my opinion “shut up” isn’t really the problem, “I won’t listen” is.

        Great. You are going to follow in Ron Linday’s footsteps by telling what the “problem” is while providing not a single stinking example of an attendee/speaker at WiS2 who has done/written/said anything like a blanket “I won’t listen” without good reason. Richard Dawkins won’t debate William Lane Craig. Is Craig right to put an empty chair on a stage and say that the problem is that Dawkins won’t listen? You complain about “blanket” invitations to shut up and listen and then blanket declare “the problem”? Damn, that’s hypocritical.

        For example, when someone classifies his argument as “The Tone Argument”, that seems to imply, “I don’t have to listen, because I’ve already debunked everything you might have to say.” Please correct me if I’m reading too much into that categorization, btw.

        If you were unsure of the definition and examples of “The Tone Argument,” then you’d have been better served to spend a few minutes with Google. Especially if you’re going to dismiss it as being “like a dog whistle.” It has nothing to do with debunking.

        It has happened here in this forum, and I see something like it *every time* I talk to self-identified feminists. Knowing that my speech will be categorized and then dismissed makes it very hard for me to talk to feminists. I feel like I’m tip-toeing through a mine-field.

        I’ve evaluated your argument as generalized, unevidenced, dodging. and unworthy of respect. Feminism is not a requirement to come to those conclusions. Nowhere has anyone here gone so far as to declare it’s very hard for them to talk to an entire group as you just did with “feminists.” More “blanket” hypocrisy.

        Knowing that when I espouse humanist principles, I will be called authoritarian, it is off-putting.

        What humanist principle is espoused by the words “women whine about men” or “the correct response is” or “Is the problem that men are evil??” or “comparative suffering is bullshit” or “it’s axiomatic” or “express my fears in a less misogynistic fashion”?

        It is a problem. It is not the biggest problem, and I couldn’t possibly assign blame for it, but it does hamper a lot of possible goals. That is why Lindsay asks, “what are the aims of the feminist movement?”

        Yeah, those 8 words and their context:

        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.

        He asks the question, quotes the bell hooks statement accepted by most humanist feminists–300 of whom who are there specifically to discuss how that can be done under the secular humanist umbrella, then dismisses it to an abstract that “seems about right.” How can I say he dismisses it? Because the rest of the paragraph and the next three paragraphs are all about the “problem”! He even uses the term “sister-punisher”! Who among his paying audience and invited speakers uses that?

        And yes, women face much worse. When a woman makes the same recommendations that I do, she is frequently exposed to vile attacks. That is also a problem. I do not mean to sweep it under the rug, and I am crossing my fingers for luck, hoping that this conversation doesn’t devolve into you accusing me of ignoring that problem.

        It devolved into you “crossing your fingers for luck” about me making accusations–for the second time. Yet I’ve made no “accusation” with the connotation being that I have no standing or evidence for my presentation of facts and evaluation of them. The “benefit of honesty” you mentioned before would be appreciated.

        I have two questions, I’d like to know if you would agree with me on the answers:

        When is it good for a man to listen to a woman?

        When is it good for a man to agree with a woman?

        Sorry. I don’t agree with the framing of your questions in the first place. The goal is to get rid of the condescending, the warnings, the mistaken, and the flat-out wrong so that gender doesn’t matter at all in who listens to or who agrees with whom.

        Or in other words, I reject The Tone Argument. I think men should respect the communications of women even when their tone is off-putting.

        That’s good to know, as it probably extends to the occasional “shut up and listen” when it’s not a silencing tactic. (Also, leaving off the “debunking” idea, your presentation of tone trolling is correct.)

      • Greg A says :

        Hi athyco – I do not mean to dismiss your attempt to highlight my poor reading skills, or Lindsay’s poor trouser management, or whatever, but I don’t know how to respond. I honestly don’t know what your overall goal is here. Are you trying to score points? Can I just stipulate that you won? I am a hypocrite. I make mistakes. Are there any other personal failings you’d like me to admit to?

        I have a question: If labelling Lindsay’s speech as The Tone Argument “has nothing to do with debunking,” then what does it have to do with? What is the purpose of that label? Maybe I was completely wrong — that is why I asked to be corrected. I am willing to listen.

        Anyways, you objected to how I framed my questions about how men should treat women in such a way that gave me hope. Because I *think* we agree completely that it shouldn’t matter what foot the shoe is on. For example, that’s why I decry competitive victimhood — it is wrong when *anyone* trivializes the suffering of another. We should listen to eachother because we are both people, not because one is more of a victim than the other.

        So when it is revealed that humanist ideals help men as well as helping women, I think this is fantastic. It means they are good principles, they are for everyone.

        And as a purely practical matter, I happen to think it is powerful advocacy — if you tell a man that your philosophy is good for him as well as for women, it makes it easier for him to listen. Of course men should listen, even when women think they should shut up. But if your ideals happen to appeal to men also, I don’t see why you wouldn’t advertise this as loudly as you can. It is a very common perception among men that feminists hate men, that the movement is just about retribution and not about justice. It seems to me that disproving this misperception is valuable.

        Or in other words, when a man says, “don’t you believe that men shouldn’t be told to shut up?” if you chose to say “yes, but women shouldn’t be told to shut up either!” you may have just built a bridge (YMMV — lots of men are assholes). Or you could criticize his reading comprehension skills, authoritarian language, and connotational condescension instead — I’m not trying to tell you what to do. You know, it’s a free country.

        There are *many* different approaches to advocacy and if you think criticizing every detail of another’s communication is your preferred method, I’m surely not going to dissuade you.

      • athyco says :

        Hi athyco – I do not mean to dismiss your attempt to highlight my poor reading skills, or Lindsay’s poor trouser management, or whatever, but I don’t know how to respond. I honestly don’t know what your overall goal is here. Are you trying to score points? Can I just stipulate that you won? I am a hypocrite. I make mistakes. Are there any other personal failings you’d like me to admit to?

        In a rather ironic twist, I must point out that I did not highlight your poor reading skills. Of two choices, I chose that Lindsay’s follow-up blog writing was self-serving evaluation and actually said, “So I don’t think that your reading skills are so inadequate.” And should our paths cross in the future, I’ll stick to being entirely literal based on your reaction to the word picture of Ron Lindsay trying to pull off a CYA move.

        Through discussion we determine the stance of others. I am of the opinion that your stance was a defense of Ron Lindsay’s talk, but there wasn’t enough attention to the points in the OP or the original talk to move it beyond “Leave Ron Lindsay aloooooone!” As discussion moved along, several new tactics were included to strengthen a weak argument: an appeal to the golden mean (e.g. “But it is still a backlash”), deflection and sweeping generalization (e.g. “women whine about men as a group” and “blanket invitation to shut up”), vocabulary that obscured rather than enlightened (e.g. “benefits of honesty” and “semantic content of communication”). I found that your argument elided the original audience and circumstances while lacking specificity to support your claims of “elucidating high principles” to said audience in circumstances of rather heightened importance.

        My stance is to respond to comments that do things like that. There are no points to score, and you can do as you like in response.

        But your last four sentences quoted above, I do hope, will tell you something. You’re taking this personally. When one internalizes disagreement with words appearing in the comment section of a blog post as labeling them a loser, a hypocrite, and wide open to “accusations” (term from from previous posts) of “other personal failings,” one is not in a frame of mind to grow, but to defend the status quo.

        As for the tone argument, you’ve better clarified what you believe it is, but I still don’t understand why you think it involves debunking or deserves to be likened to a dog whistle. A tone argument causes a response like Lee’s by telling someone that they have good points (thus, no debunking involved), but that they’re using the wrong words–too terse, too sharp, too aggressive, too vulgar–and it’s coming from someone who claims to be on your side. No one is saying that Ron Lindsay took the wrong tone; his talk chided the tone of unnamed feminists. It was a double whammy–no evidence that anyone in his audience endorsed any such thing (strawman) and a tone argument.

        As for the rest of your comment, read it over to yourself several times, please. It is packed with assumptions and assertions and arguments from ignorance. I know you won’t like hearing that, but specifics like your eliding of the shorthand of “shut of and listen” to just “shut up,” the framing, and undefined neologisms (e.g. “competitive victimhood”) continue to suck.

        There are *many* different approaches to advocacy and if you think criticizing every detail of another’s communication is your preferred method, I’m surely not going to dissuade you.

        Agreed, you’re not. Your first comment started out with “Am I mistaken…?” You were asking for information if you were in error. If you can’t point out that the content of my comments are in error, I’m certainly not going to take seriously your telling me that I’m doing the tone wrong in telling you what you wanted to know–and why. Gee whiz. We first hear that feminists can’t say “shut up and listen” without it being a wrong method that hurts the cause. Next, a feminist can’t be detailed and analytical without it being the wrong method. Besides, within all that criticizing were over 30 questions. You addressed lamentably few. In your comments, on the other hand, there were about 8 questions, and you received responses to most of them.

        I won’t play on a field with movable goalposts; especially when one of the provable ideas behind the feminist movement being that the playing field still isn’t level in the first place. (Even Ron Lindsay said that in his talk.)

        With that, I believe that there has been enough back and forth between us so that those who come behind and read it will be able to make an informed decision between our positions. To paraphrase our gracious blog host, beyond this point for me the returns have diminished.

        Have a good one.

      • Greg A says :

        You accused me of trying to defend the status quo. Yes, I am responding defensively. You accused me of trying to defend the status quo. Seriously?

        Good day.

      • athyco says :

        I vacillated about making another comment. On the one hand, this comment will give me satisfaction at another’s expense, and that’s not particularly praiseworthy. On the other hand, my preference is that I’d like to know if there was an embarrassing facepalm moment so that I could avoid anything like it in the future. With the hope that you share such a preference, Greg A, here goes:

        Why should I have expected defensiveness? I already had an example of your not getting defensive about the same topic, so perhaps a reminder would keep you from escalating defensively. I had even taken the distancing step of saying “when one internalizes disagreement with words appearing in the comment section of a blog post….”

        But bobafett had kept to the second person you after you asked this question here on the evening of June 5:

        But I have a serious question, how *should* I express my fears, then? Do my fears have any place in any dialogue with feminists?

        And part of bobafett’s answer in the wee hours of June 6:

        The minute you get small, make it all about you, and make your personal pity party take the spotlight away from the issue is when you are perpetuating the status quo and oppression.

        The next time you think to deploy the standard “I’m incredulous” messaging rhetorical question “Seriously?” or to state that reacting defensively is an “of course” reaction, you may remember to check other comments in the thread to see how you’d reacted earlier to “status quo” being linked to your point/position/question.

  9. bobafett says :

    Beyond “comparative suffering” being “bullshit”, there is the concept of “competitive victimhood” which is a consistent strategy of those in power making it all about them and their suffering. This ends conversations, and protects the status quo. Basically they feel the equivalent of “white guilt” (could be male guilt, able-bodied guilt, cis-gendered guilt, or what have you) and to right their internal moral compass for feeling guilty, they choose to engage in competitive victimhood. This does nothing to help the feminist movement. It’s basically a “poor me” from the dominant culture who holds the privilege. It serves to enforce the status quo, inhibit change, and just makes those who oppress feel better. So if someone wants to call this dude out for making guys out to be the victims when they are confronted with their patriarchy, good for them he deserves it.

    • Greg A says :

      bobafett, I think you are getting at the fact (illustrated well in the comments on Lindsay’s blog) that men often say “no, I am a victim too, so *you* have to shut up.” I am not saying that. Lindsay is not saying that. It is a thing that is commonly said, though, and I find it repellent also. I would strictly say, “I am a victim, you are a victim, we should share our experiences to become stronger.” No one should shut up.

      But I have a serious question, how *should* I express my fears, then? Do my fears have any place in any dialogue with feminists?

      • bobafett says :

        As long as the individual from the dominant group understands that their suffering and victimhood is objectively less than the oppressed group they continue to wield privilege and power over, and that the “suffering” that all people have taken part in does not cancel out their responsibility to equality and ending the oppression they benefit from, as long as you when dealing with your fear don’t eclipse, dominate, and hijack the conversation about patriarchy, privilege, dominance, oppression, and real people suffering objectively more than you then its all good. The minute you get small, make it all about you, and make your personal pity party take the spotlight away from the issue is when you are perpetuating the status quo and oppression. There are men’s groups looking into men and masculinity issues that may deconstruct male privilege, the role patriarchy serves in oppressing men as well, and a good place to explore your personal fears when confronted with the devastation patriarchy causes and the fact that you identify with the group that continues to oppress and feel guilty about it. Your fear has a place, just don’t make it all about you.

  10. Lee says :

    Greg A… are/were you a philosopy major by any chance?

    The reason I ask this is that a fair amount of what you write seems to fall into what my editor friend calls “Yes, that’s a sentence” territory — IOW, the words all fit together grammatically, but the sentence itself is opaque. She says that’s a common issue with people who have either had philosophy training or are writing in the field.

  11. Lee says :

    Greg A, I see that you are laboring under a misapprehension. I didn’t say that Lindsay was using the Tone Argument (although he may have been), I said that YOU are. Here is why, from your initial comment.:

    Am I mistaken, or did the CFI dude manage to make thoughtful points without being derogatory or profane?

    It is deeper than fairness, it is incentives. If women would like men to be involved in a respectful dialogue, the men must share in the benefits of honesty…. It won’t win converts. It doesn’t advance the cause.

    Translation: “If you want us to listen to you, then you have to be NICE to us! Meanwhile, we can be as nasty to you as we want as long as we don’t use any language that Mrs. Grundy would call obscene.”

    And then this bit: Remember elevatorgate? … one thing that struck me is that men who wanted to talk about male issues were shouted down

    Translation: “Also, if you refuse to let us hijack discussions of sexism directed at women and turn them into discussions of male issues, you’re being MEAN to us”!

    If this is the best you can muster in favor of your position, (1) nobody is impressed and (2) you’re providing an excellent illustration of Being Part Of The Problem.

    • Greg A says :

      Lee, we are *all* part of the problem. That is something I believe firmly. So I am not surprised that I am part of the problem. I try to apply principles that I believe will advance all of us.

      You translated my statement as “Meanwhile, [men] can be as nasty to [women] as [men] want”. That’s the exact opposite of my belief. I can see why you would be defensive and see that even when it is not said. But I do not believe that at all. In fact, I believe the opposite. I am happy to tell women to listen, and I am happy to tell men to listen. I am involved in many kinds of advocacy and I advise *anyone* involved in advocacy to pay careful attention to their tactics. I don’t know what you think Lindsay was saying, but I think he was saying that as advocates, attendees of the conference should pay attention to their tactics. I’ll remind you that when MLK wanted to shake up Birmingham, his first step was to spend months teaching blacks about pacifism. Not just (or even mostly) about disobedience, but about pacifism. Powerful advocacy prospers with a frank discussion of tactics.

      And I’m not sure I agree with your characterization of elevatorgate as sexism directed against women. But if you hear that I support nasty speech from men, you are probably not capable of understanding me so I’m not going to waste my time on that.

      Cheers.

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