I attended Women In Secularism and was in the audience as Ron Lindsay gave his welcome speech. There has been a lot of conversation about this so I’m going to try and keep it short.
First, there should be male speakers at women focused conferences for a few reasons. Mainly because sexism is a problem of our entire society and both genders need to be in on the conversation for the progression of collective consciousness. Also, men can be great allies as they already hold most positions of power.
WIS2 did not choose to have any male speakers and this is the main reason why the reaction to Lindsay’s speech went out of control. Lindsay was supposed to make a welcome speech but he produced a lecture which he was not scheduled to give. Lindsay used his position inappropriately by giving his opinion about the definition of “privilege,” when he should have stuck to inviting the speakers to answer his questions about broad issues in feminism and the trajectory of Center For Inquiry as it chose not to become involved with atheism plus.
Lindsay’s speech was not completely agreeable and it was definitely ill-timed, but he did not deserve the incredible amount of insult that he received. In our secular community, no matter how disagreeable someone’s statements might be, no one should get that kind of backlash because it undermines everything we stand for: freedom of speech and open discussion on even the most taboo subjects. Even in my most recent post about Justin Vacula, the main point of argument against him was that he was dodging questions and avoiding an actual exchange of ideas.
The barrage of emotionally charged language online was embarrassing for me as an intellectual and as a feminist. And Lindsay’s response had something in it about North Korea? What is wrong with everybody?
The secular movement is constantly growing and changing; there will always be disagreements and someone doing something inappropriate.The battle over Lindsay’s speech has completely overshadowed what was a superb and exciting conference. As people who deem ourselves intelligent and humane, we should start treating each other and this movement with more respect.