We will discuss the issues around gender and diversity in secularism. This has recently been a frequent topic with a lot of strong, differing opinions. Let’s plan for a respectful discussion of the issues and their impact on the secular movement. The idea is not to re-hash specific past cases, but to look at how these issues affect our group locally and in the online community where we spend much of our time.
Questions: Should we be doing more to make women, racial minorities, LGBTQ+ and others more welcome (safe) in the secular community? If so, what are some good approaches? What does being an ally look like? What are we already doing?
See the recent Open Letter to the Secular Community that was signed by leaders of several US secular organizations, including CFI (US). Here’s a related excerpt:
“The Debate over Sexism and Feminism
Before listing some specific recommendations regarding improvement of online communications, we have observations about one particular set of interrelated issues that has engaged much of the secular community in the past year, namely sexism within the secular movement, the appropriate way to interpret feminism, and the extent to which feminism, however interpreted, should influence the conduct, policies, and goals of movement organizations. This set of issues is worthy of careful consideration, but in a few areas our positions should be very clear.
The principle that women and men should have equal rights flows from our core values as a movement. Historically, there has been a close connection between traditional religion and suppression of women, with dogma and superstition providing the rationale for depriving women of fundamental rights. In promoting science and secularism, we are at the same time seeking to secure the dignity of all individuals. We seek not only civil equality for everyone, regardless of sex, but an end to discriminatory social structures and conventions – again often the legacy of our religious heritage—that limit opportunities for both women and men.
Unfortunately, the discussion of these issues has suffered from the same problems that plague online discussion in general—although arguably to a greater extent. Some blogs and comments actually exhibit hatred, including rape threats and insults denigrating women. Hatred has no place in our movement. We unequivocally and unreservedly condemn those who resort to communicating in such a vile and despicable manner.”
And here are some responses to the above letter:
Secular Woman: “it gives equal voice to the sexist ideas and beliefs that have been perpetuated as differing “interpretations” of feminism… As a secular feminist organization committed to understanding and exposing societal constructs that contribute to the inequality of women and other oppressed groups, we have no desire to listen to, respect, or continuously debunk overtly sexist viewpoints. Just as most scientists are not interested in debating the beliefs of creationists, we are not interested in debating gender-biased, racist, homophobic, or trans*phobic beliefs.”
Secular Census: In offering a one-size-fits-all formula of listening more, being more compassionate, and so on, the Open Letter fails to distinguish between spirited debate where such strategies may be helpful and more serious situations where they won’t be — and might even be dangerous.
And some advice to atheist men that was recommended by a member.
Should be interesting!