You may have heard that the video blogger “Thunderf00t”* recently published a video titled “Why ‘Feminism’ is poisoning Atheism“, which he’s been sending to the heads of atheist and skeptical organizations. In this video, he attacks named individuals who’ve been active in promoting diversity and fighting sexism and harassment in our movement, describing them as “whiners” and “ultra-PC professional victims” who are “dripp[ing] poison” into the secular community, and urges conference organizers to shun and ignore them. He’s also claiming that prominent members of the atheist movement who’ve previously spoken out against harassment and misogyny didn’t do so of their own free will, but were coerced into making these statements using nefarious means he declines to specify.
Although I don’t expect that anything will come of this effort, I think it’s important that ignorant and destructive statements like this not go unanswered. Therefore, I thought it would be worthwhile to demonstrate the depth of support within the secular community for measures to increase diversity among our representatives, institute anti-harassment policies at our gatherings, and other moderate and reasonable policies for making everyone feel welcome and broadening our appeal.
To that end, I’ve created a petition at Change.org, aimed at the leaders of some of the more prominent atheist and secular organizations, which you can sign to declare your support. Here’s the link and the major action points of the petition:
We support making the atheist movement more diverse and inclusive. It’s long been clear that the skeptical movement has a preponderance of white men. While we don’t disdain their participation, we believe skepticism is valuable and important to people in all walks of life, and in accordance with that principle, we consider it vital to have a movement that reflects the demographics of the society we live in. To that end, we urge the atheist and skeptical organizations to make a conscious commitment to diversity: to intentionally reach out to people of all ages, genders and ethnic backgrounds to speak at our conventions, to serve on our boards of directors, and to be the public faces and representatives of skepticism.
We support strong, sensible anti-harassment policies at our gatherings. There have been too many instances of people at atheist conferences reporting bad behavior and unwelcome conduct by fellow attendees. When it’s repetitive or especially egregious, this unwelcome conduct may rise to the level of harassment, defined as behavior intended to demean, threaten or intimidate others. We hold that preventing harassment is a legitimate and obvious goal for conference organizers, and that this can be done through the implementation of fairly simple and well-tested conduct policies.
We support the people in our community who’ve been the target of bullying, harassment and threats. Outside the conference environment, there are prominent members of the atheist community who’ve been subjected to a vicious and persistent campaign of online harassment, including obsessive streams of slurs and invective, threatening messages, sexually-tinged taunting, and malicious impersonation on social media, all carried out with the goal of bullying them into silence. We stand shoulder-to-shoulder in support of the people who’ve been harassed in this way, and forcefully and unequivocally condemn those who’ve carried out the harassment. Unless they change their ways and make amends, they have no place within the movement.
If you support these goals, please sign! And if you know of any other secular leaders whose names should be added to this petition, particularly if you have contact information for them, let me know. Here’s that link again:
* If you’re not familiar with Thunderfoot, he’s the person who exploited a security loophole to sneak back onto Freethought Blogs’ private mailing list after he had been kicked off of it, and admitted forwarding e-mails illicitly obtained in this way to third parties. This may be considered a typical example of the quality of people who are actively fighting efforts to promote feminism and diversity in the secular community.