Monday, July 4, 2011

My Last Post: A Clarification

So, if you didn't notice yesterday, I kinda lost my temper at Richard Dawkins. In my passion, it came out less as a simple critique of his position and more as if I was calling for his head.

I want to clarify that.

I do not mean to make the suggestion that Richard Dawkins is now somehow irrelevant because of his views on feminism. His comments on Pharyngula infuriated me, do not be mistaken, and he has certainly lowered himself in my estimation. But, the fact of the matter is that his scientific work has served to educate millions upon millions of people in the facts of evolution, natural selection, and rational thought in general, including me. That can not, and never will be, discounted by any serious critic.

But, despite his reverential position in our movement, and in fact precisely because of it, he must be criticized when it is due, something that he, as a champion of peer review, must certainly be aware of. And I did so, in my own sweary, pinko way. And my criticism stands; our movement has, in my opinion, begun to stagnate. And yes, I know I'm a radical shouting expert, but the best movements always are such. Thus, I promise, in my term as DAFT's president, I will always push us to move beyond the Four Horsemen, without forgetting them, into new ways of thinking, into new areas of activism and helping our fellow man. That, right there, must always be at the heart of any social movement that seeks to make positive change, as I believe ours seeks to. Are Dawkins, Hitchens, Harris, and Dennett awesome? Yes, without question. But they are not the end-all-be-all of secular thinking. We need to give the same attention we give them to the Amanda Marcottes, the Sikivu Hutchinsons, the Annie Laurie Gaylors, the Susan Jacobys of our movement.

As for ElevatorGate (or whatever the Internets are calling it now), Hemant Mehta puts it perfectly:

I don’t think most of us are disputing the big issues here.
Elevator Guy put Rebecca in an awkward situation and he should have known better than to do that. He’s not necessarily a rapist or sexist, but he’s definitely ignorant.
The fact that some women and men don’t see this as a *HUGE* deal doesn’t make them stupid or misogynistic or anti-women. But I hope everyone at least recognizes the way situations like this *could* escalate (in worst-case scenarios).
No one saying you can’t flirt with women. But understand that if your flirtation isn’t returned, the thinking on the other side may not just be “I’m not interested.” It might be “I’ve had guys hit on me (or a friend) like this before and it ended badly.”
We ought to be cognizant of that.
 Succinct and simple. The guy was an asshole, and forgot his manners entirely. I don't believe Rebecca Watson was outside her rights to call him on it, and point out that this behavior is unacceptable. Maybe she could have put things better, but, hell, that can be said in every situation. Men, I just want to point out, very quickly, that just because you believe Elevator Guy didn't have foul intentions doesn't excuse his behavior. At all. And the fact that you believe Watson was overreacting? Read some goddamn Audre Lorde and bell hooks already.

Before I end this post, I would really like to thank everyone who posted on Facebook, Tweeted me, or texted me to ask about the post and discuss the issues I raised, especially Scott, a member of DAFT, who raised many important questions and who, I think, should be teaching a class on how to respectfully conduct a debate. I absolutely love, LOVE being called on what I write or say, because frankly, my big mouth combined with my history of brain surgery and prefrontal cortex issues tends to lead to me saying silly things. As long as I am President of DAFT, this will never be a group that has one unchallengeable viewpoint, because our movement is so unique. I would like, of course, for everyone to be as lefty and radical as me, but I know that won't happen. All I can ask is for every member of this group, every reader of this blog to question themselves and their views, and to inform them with scholarship before blithely dismissing the trials of other people, as Professor Dawkins did. If we can all do that, well, I think we can well and truly make some change. More than President Obama could ever dream of.

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