I work with an openly-gay woman, who has a wife and a young child. She’s smart, funny, and often very vulgar… so lots of fun. After the recent Pride weekend, I asked if she had attended. I found her response really interesting. She said she had skipped it, and that although she has gone in the past, she is not comfortable taking her young child to Pride, largely because of the nudity and overt sexuality that is often a part of festivities.
Getting fully naked in public is technically illegal in Toronto, but during Pride, well…that law is effectively suspended. It is common knowledge that this behaviour happens at Pride, and many people avoid the downtown on these days for this reason. I had some other friends from work invite me out for drinks a couple years ago. They said they were going to the Danforth(east Toronto). When I asked why, as it was more common for them to stick to downtown, they specifically said, it was to avoid Pride. Two black guys, and one white guy, who had no interest in seeing ‘naked men’. Now I know some would immediately accuse them of homophobia… but that seems unfair, since you don’t know them, even if, it might be true.
As for me… I don’t much care for fairs, concerts…or parades. I’ve always been a bit of an introvert. I can deal with big crowds, but it’s simply not much fun. I’d rather hang out in a pub, have drinks and chat with smaller groups of people. I don’t much care what their sexual preference is, as long as they don’t get offended by logical debate. But I have to admit, as a heterosexual guy, naked men frolicking around downtown is not really my cup of tea either.
During the past week or so, I kept hearing the phrase: “getting out of your comfortzone” in positive terms, with regards to exposing yourself to things that make you uncomfortable. In this case, specifically, all things Pride.
Now, I should say, that given all this discomfort I’m describing, I do see the logic in making an exception to the law during Pride. Apart from the fact that arresting naked people would probably cause a riot during the parade, the whole point of Pride is to let people, who are often stigmatized and forced to hide who they are, let loose and be who they are. That said, there is clearly a legal exception being made here.
This is why I think ‘zero-tolerance’ policies are often brain-dead wrong. The cops and the city are making the right decision allowing for normally inappropriate behaviour to occur. Even though many still find it offensive, in order to accommodate the free expression of those who are so often marginalized, sometimes, strict adherence to the rules, and treating people ‘equally’, is not the reasonable thing to do.
It’s a balancing act, one that needs to be an ongoing negotiation.
We’ve had a fair bit of acrimony at CA on occasion, but I don’t think any of it has rivaled what recently happened at Freethought blogs. Essentially a war of words(insults and some threats apparently), both public and private, erupted between bloggers, and commenters as well, over the issue of ‘harassment’ policies.
To me, TF’s post seems pretty ignorant and childish… and seriously borders on trolling, but the shitstorm it created was no better, in my opinion. Once the battle lines are drawn and people start hurling ad homimens and strawmen at each other, rational discourse is over. This was no different and it can spiral out of control, quickly.
Now, I’ve come down on the side of being critical of some of the ‘harassment’ policies which have been floated recently with regards to conferences. But I should note, I think defining ‘codes of conduct’ for events is perfectly legitimate, and even a good idea. We’re a diverse group and from very different backgrounds, so defining expectations is often a good place to start. I also think these codes should include guidelines on how event organizers plan to deal with illegal activity, including harassment.
I object mainly to the equivocation that happens when people say ‘being offensive’ is harassment. That is not a road I think we should go down. I won’t be supporting/going to conferences that go there.
But here’s the thing. Although atheism is not equivalent to being gay…or any of the various other pride groups, I think we face similar issues at our events. In my experiences with conferences and meetups, I have found it is often the case that atheists are coming out, being who they are, and some of them are doing this for the first time, and/or its a very rare occasion for them, because being an openly-atheist person is simply not feasible for them in their everyday life.
What this means is, they are going to be excited, expressive, possibly intoxicated and feeling an uncommon bond, even with strangers. (And some are assholes) Of course, atheism doesn’t really tell you much about a person. Unlike people like PZ, I don’t think atheism implies anything at all about a person’s worldview other than godlessness. I’ve seen communists and libertarians in enough nasty arguments to know better. This false equivalency also applies to the skeptics I have met who claim feminism and skepticism are the same.
Feminism may have led you to be skeptic, or being a skeptic may have led you to feminism, but the fact is, while there are elements of skepticism(of the gender/sex status quo) in feminism, feminism also tends to advocate an ideology. And often that takes the form of ‘promoting and protecting women’ or ‘a commitment to social justice’. If this is one of your primary values, and you run into skeptics who view ‘freedom of expression’ as their primary value… well, you’re going to have some disagreements. Because the ‘safe space for women’ rhetoric that often accompanies feminism is about keeping women in their comfortzone. And those who value freedom of expression above all, are probably not going to see value in sticking to any ‘comfortzones’.
The values we choose are often not based on logic, but personal experience. Those values are the premises we use for making decisions. It doesn’t matter how logical you are. If you have different premises for your values, than someone else, you’re probably not going to come to the same logical conclusions.