By Sasha - 02 Mar 2012

We Need to Talk: Defaulting and Bias

Something that Natalie Reed touched on, is the fact that straight, white, cis men are seen as the “default“. This cultural message leads some male skeptics, who should really know better, to have internalized an idea that minorities have biases (because, obviously, they’re different!) and they do not. I think this is the biggest factor leading to what’s come to be called “mansplaining“. (When you think about it, “mansplaining” is not much different from what many skeptics and atheists do all the time when talk to theists, climate change deniers, creationists, anti-vaxers, etc. The difference here is that they aren’t really talkinmg facts, they’re often talking feelings – filtered through bias.) As a student of history I’ve learned the lesson all historians have to get really quick: Everyone is biased.

It’s fashionable in atheist and especially skeptic circles to aspire to eliminate or suppress our biases, but is that something we should or are even capable of doing? Would a better approach be to acknowledge our own biases and try to work out what’s happening when we interact with people from different backgrounds through listening and friendly discussion?

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By Sasha - 01 Mar 2012

Natalie Reed: Thoughts From A Diversity Hire

[I asked Natalie Reed if I could publish this here because she makes a point I have been failing to make, and she makes it much better than I could have. It originally appeared on February 20, 2012. And yes, she’s our first non-white dude contributor, but we’re looking for more.]

Those of you who follow FTB as a whole, or were keeping up with the Target Audiences comment thread, are probably already aware of a rather nasty remark John Loftus made insinuating that I’m not really qualified to be writing for this network and was only brought in for the sake of diversity.

This post is not going to be another discussion of Loftus or his remarks. There’s not really any need to carry that any further, I feel comfortable with how this resolved and like there isn’t much left to be said. I also feel for the most part that his comments speak for themselves, and my colleagues at FTB have already done a great job of defending my worth and discussing why his diversity-hire comment was not okay and crossed the line.

But I do want to talk about the issue of diversity, and “tokens”, both as a general thing and within the skeptic, atheist and humanist community. The issue goes well beyond Loftus’ remark, of course, and has been coming a lot lately, most notably perhaps in the Staks Rosch “Hitchie award” controversy. When these kinds of comments are made, claiming that the presence of women or minorities is mere “tokenism” and that it is overlooking merit and qualification, there are a few particular issues we tend to focus on. Usually, our first instinct is to defend the actual merit and qualifications the person does have, such as Dan’s post saying all kinds of entirely too flattering things about me, or people pointing out the degree to which women like Rebecca Watson, Greta Christina, Taslima Nasrin and Amanda Marcotte were at least as influential within atheism during 2011 as were George Takei and Ricky Gervais, who were included on Rosch’s list. Many people didn’t even know Takei was atheist until that list of finalists was issued! This kind of clarification is of course important, but it doesn’t cover the entirety of the issue.

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By Sasha - 29 Feb 2012

Submit your short films to the Atheist Film Festival!

If you’ve been reading atheist and skeptic blogs recently, you may have read some posts by Anne Sauer from Mad Art Lab about the Atheist Film Festival and their short film contest. Here is another one, with the exciting news that I will be attending!

Want the opportunity to share your cinematic vision with hundreds of other atheists, skeptics, and freethinkers on the big screen, and a chance to win $250? Every year, the Atheist Film Festival in San Francisco (AFF) features a selection of provocative, engaging, thought-provoking, and/or hilarious short filmsWhether you’re an amateur filmmaker, pro, semi-pro, or never operated a camera other than your smart phone, they want to see what you can come up with!

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By Sasha - 28 Feb 2012

If you are “not taking sides” you may be helping the bad guys.

I know someone who argues that women need to accept responsibility for a sexually charged atmosphere at our events. Some women “dress like sluts” and “act like whores” which leads some men to miscalculate or something and sexually harass women — even the ones who don’t dress and act all slutty and whorish. This is textbook victim blaming and I really doubt this person would say that an African-American person who was called a racial slur needs to accept the fact that since some other African-Americans at the conference “acted really black” they can place all the blame on the person who acted wrongly.

I despair and come close to just saying “fuck it” and abandoning my participation in the skeptic and atheist communities on at least a weekly basis because of how often I see unconscionable behavior not only happen but being defended by man, and in some cases at least tolerated by very prominent leaders in our community. Sam Harris has famously argued that “moderate”, liberal theists provide cover for religious extremists. I see the same thing happening here. People who defend “minor” sexist acts and ideas, or who even just avoid talking about it are providing cover and a safe-haven for the people who threaten to rape 15 year old girls on reddit and who actually commit sexual assault and rape.

Your silence in the face of sexist behavior and speech and your attempts to “calm things down” when we call people out for being horrible are interpreted as support by not only the ones we’re talking to at that moment but also that quiet person in the back who has horrible ideas and a will to use them. Every time you say “Yes, but…” there may be a real shitball like the “Amazing” Atheist who is thinking to himself  that you agree with him.

– Sasha Pixlee

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By Sasha - 27 Feb 2012

More Than Men needs more than men

As a privileged person who is pro-diversity I write and talk a lot about things to advocate on behalf of those without privilege. I hope I’m doing a good job of it and I really to try to think things through so I don’t say or do something stupidly patronizing or ridiculously privileged. The thing is, I know I screw up sometimes and when I do it is usually because as much as sympathetic and supportive as I try to be I just don’t have the perspective needed to really understand what it’s like to not be me. None of us do. We only really have our own experiences to go on when drawing conclusions and when we belong to groups that are culturally designated as the “default” we have a hard time understanding the nuances of what it’s like to not be that “default”. I need and appreciate reminders of what I’m missing. It helps me be less of a jerk.

From the start there has been a lot of internal and external discussion of whether or not a project like More Than Men with it’s country-club style membership can really serve a purpose in the movement for greater equality and diversity. Obviously I think it can, if only because there are some people who are receptive to the message but because of how society trains them they have a harder time hearing and understanding a minority voice. But straight, white, cis, able-bodied men can’t be all there is anywhere. Now that we’ve got almost two months behind us here it’s time to get closer to where I’ve wanted us to be all along.

Consider this the official announcement of and your invitation to contribute to “What I Wish You Knew About Me“. If you’re not the “default” in one of our cultural categories, here’s where we need you. We need to you give us the perspective we’re missing. We want to give you the mic for a minute and tell us about something that most people miss about what life is like for you that you really want us to know about. Or respond to something someone here has written and tell us what we got wrong or overlooked. We want to learn from you so that we can be less jerky. Please give us a hand?

– Sasha Pixlee

 

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By Sasha - 24 Feb 2012

SkeptiCal 2012

In addition to blogging here I actually do skepticism. In fact I do a little work to help put together a regional conference with some much more hardworking people. If you’re planning on being in the San Francisco bay area on April 21st or would like an excuse to visit this here, please consider SkeptiCal 2012. This will be our third year, and our second in this venue — the DoubleTree hotel at the Berkeley Marina.

Not only will I be attending (though not speaking), but we’ve managed to get an even split between male and female speakers including our parent organization’s president, Elyse Anders of the Women Thinking Free Foundation.

Tickets until April 1st are $50 ($35 for students) and $60 for everyone thereafter so, get your tickets soon and save yourself some money for the bar!

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By Sasha - 23 Feb 2012

Benjamin Stonier: Realize You’re Discriminating

Most atheists that I know started out with religion or religious overtures, and they fixed that when they realized how crazy religious belief really is. They recognized that you can find in religion the same sort of social controls that have been used by other oppressive organizations throughout history, and they got the fuck out of there, bringing their mind along with them. And congratulations! You’ve figured out that the biggest scams in human histories are scams. People deserve to be recognized for their cognitive functions sorting themselves out. But one victory doesn’t often win a war, and a lot of people seem to think that coming to one solution gives them all the solutions, especially when it comes to interacting with other groups of humans.

That’s just not true. I’m going to admit something right now. I’m a straight, white guy with a middle-class upbringing. I am also, irrevocably racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, ableist, and probably a host of other -ists and -phobics that you can toss at me. I’m like this because I’m a product of a society that is also racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, ableist, and all the others. I’ve been taught a certain view of normalcy, and as a result, I act with mannerisms that reflect this certain view. It’s not an attempt to insult; I’m not consciously discriminatory. But it’s still there.

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By Sasha - 22 Feb 2012

A Gentleman Does Not Tackle

Something lighter today. My good friend and my  favorite comedian Matt Gubser gives his take on the questions I asked on Friday. This is him working on his bit before it’s completely finished, so he’s asked that you not judge him by it. I think it’s hilarious, though.(Video is NSFW due to some salty language.)

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By Sasha - 21 Feb 2012

Remember when we said “Help Wanted”?

Yes, recently we asked for more submissions. I hear from many many men that they like what we’re doing here. I also hear that they want to contribute. Well, have I got news for you — YOU CAN!

Don’t worry about having something “original” to say (lord knows I’m not very original), or for it being super-duper polished (you’ve read my work, right), just write a few hundred words, make a video, draw a picture…and send it to me! Tell us that diversity is important to you. Tell us what you’re doing to make things better.

Also, still looking for a couple of staff writers who can post once or twice a week. I am a busy guy and I need help to make this place as awesome as it can be. Get in touch, please.

( If you really won’t contribute, please at least spread this call far and wide to people who might.)

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By Sasha - 20 Feb 2012

“But I’m an atheist…”

I hear it over and over and over again. “I’m an atheist (or skeptic), so I’m not a racist/sexist/homophobe.” The theory seems to be that religion and irrational belief are the source of all human wickedness. Since the speaker is an atheist or a skeptic and so has rejected theism and/or embraced critical thinking they have also rejected all other irrational beliefs in society.

Bullshit.

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