Women in Secularism 3, a Subjective Debriefing

women in secularism 3A farm routine knows no weekends. When I attend conferences the suspension of an everyday feeding and work schedule really interrupts the rhythm of life. Coming back home it is hard to reenter, breakthrough the resistance, and do chores again. My mind is overwhelmed with new input and digestion is more like  a rabbit in a snake than a few shrimp and asparagus a la California cuisine lite. I met many amazing people and if I were a millionaire I would make myself poor in donations The topics meld into convergence but I will try. (This is a continuation of my last post.)

“Women Leaving Religion” Candace Gorham, Rebecca Goldstein, Heina Dadabhoy, Mandy Valez, Sarah Jones, Amanda Knief.

The most interesting aspect of this was how hard it is for female people of color to leave. They in particular are tightly woven into the community of religion where too often they are the driving force of adherence and bear the greatest brunt of leaving. The more restrictive and comprehensive the religion the more difficult to overcome the gap that remains.  Issues of self-confidence and sense of certainty are harder for women. A man who has 10% of qualification will feel success but a woman of 90% qualification will feel uncertain. “Just do it,” “go for it,” and the redneck “geterdone” are predominantly male jingoes that aggravate gender relationships where the one side wishes to suspend discussion for action and the other wants more discussion and support.

“Living with A Wild God” Barbara Ehrenreich

Barbara Ehrenreich is a force of nature who has willingly sprung from her blue collar, American West background to happily attack the many absurdities and inconsistencies of conservative and liberal politics, whether the sufficiency of low wages in work or the blinding negativity of the positive psychology movement. Here she asks us to discuss more the seemingly immaterial qualities of what is poorly called the mystic experience. Noting that the words that describe the more phantasmic, subjective, noetic, and numinous are typically religious it is difficult to even engage in coherent dialog because the words have too many religious meanings. Yet the experiences are there regardless of what religion one may have, or not. These experiences do have a place in atheism and materialism and need to be studied and embraced. Certainly not dissed or avoided as deviant oddities because they seem immaterial or not immediately accessed by rationality and science.

“Should We be Concerned with Multiculturalism” Ophelia Benson, Taslima Nasreen, Katha Pollitt, Sarah Jones, Rebecca Goldstein

This seemed one of the most contentious discussions though everyone voiced concern that human rights are universal, moral, and worth enforcing or evangelizing if you will. Members who have left the most fundamental religions have the hardest time separating the ill effects from the social and traditional aspects of the religion. It would seem if you strip religions of their negative aspects all that is left is food and dance, and other arts that are less effable or amenable to criticism. It was easy for some to diss the sacred texts and tropes of their old religion while others were clear that it is the very literalness that is the problem requiring a near elimination of all religious traces for future secular success.

There is a reluctance to remove the religious culture from a people especially in those where the religion is so tightly entwined in the being of identity and every-hour action of those people. Regardless of the religion it is difficult to deny the utility of the religion when it is such a strong part of wheat made you. Recovering from conservative, fundamental religion may make you critical of many aspects but not willing to abandon wholesale the religious utility in its entirety. At least in the US now where dramatic physical abuse is near absent or underground.

It was interesting that circumcision was called male genital mutilation when of course men can still have physical orgasm while women must rearrange their sense for vaginal or mental orgasm. In these senses liberals really have had a hard time in multiculturalism and the labeling of moral relativism. Recovering from this they seem certain that there should be a canon of universal rights for all.

I found myself reacting against this wishing to contextualize it. When colonialism first happened it was a mistake, to me, to invade other people and change their culture whether or not it was oppressive. Whether large disks in the lips, bones in the cheeks, extravagant scarification, child sacrifice, ritualized cannibalism, or moral ostracism it is difficult to distill what is really  moral or not as an outsider without destroying the other we seek to accept. Yet, once we did show up pluralism and diversity cannot be condoned without contamination. Just as we stupidly passed on disease they passed back negative cultural norms.

They rightly showed how we are still culturally biased with issues of nudity, objectifying sexualization, and even homeschooling. Homeschooling is clearly a sensitive subject but there was universal castigation and lack of information where it was assumed there were always none or poor regulations, lack of secular curricula, and a void of social interactions. All of which are not true. I should note we home schooled our three children for most of their life by necessity and choice. It was interesting that what seemed most important was the necessary inclusion of cultural practice on behalf of children’s rights. The desire to ensure fluidity between divisions of class, labor, and gender through equal education. Education of women is such a huge issue that it is easy to forgive this oversight.

Yet, they admitted that much of public education was bad and they chaffed through it and wished it were different. Hmmm. I think while in other areas they have admitted the utility of virtual communities they forget the very recent development of socialized public education as a means not to freedom but labor exploitation.

In the end it seems like liberalism does mean abandoning culture if it doesn’t follow UN-oriented human rights. I wondered though the utility of autonomous communities that choose to opt out like lesbian separatism, communalism, communitarianism, communes, and other secular independents. It would seem that they long for absolute inclusion and maximum fluidity and mobility between any groups.

“Why Women are too Polite about Religion” Rebecca Goldstein, Susan Jacoby

I found this hilarious as Rebecca Goldstein is a very polite person while Susan Jacoby much less so. Guess who got talked over the most? It’s clear that personality plays a huge issue which is genetic. Goldstein discussed this with the example of dominating, self organizing, male chimpanzee behavior where humans are just one chromosome different. Some of this was covered as women having evolved to be nurturing and supportive because they bear children for long periods while men have been more independent. Another cultural part of this is religious men assume women will do the religion and educating of children though women shouldn’t be educated beyond certain levels. The organizing of social events because women need more support due to the incapacitating aspect of child rearing. The successful division of labor means increased demands of time are best met by men who can be absent. Because of oppression women have to ask politely while men can demand. In this case it would’t matter if male or female as a means to survival.

I think it was oddly missed that even cross culturally women have to be better to succeed when they cross socioeconomic boundaries–without being too offensive or the push back is elevated. If civility is social glue than to succeed in male sociability women have to be more polite to be less threatening. Strong women see their success as speaking out. It reminds me of what was called “Watson’s Law” where speaking out about sexual harassment causes more sexual harassment. The opposite of this though is “Rebecca’s Law” where speaking out attracts allies. In the end it’s better to not be silent unless it radically threatens survival.

“A Feminist’s Guide to Surviving the Internet” Lindy West

Lindy West discussed her harassment online and a resulting success that seemed bittersweet to me. Personally I don’t know how to respond politely to this. As far as I am concerned verbal abuse on the internet should be maximally punished without question. Her main point seems to be to pursue the bastards even though the law is inadequate in support. Soraya Chemaly spoke earlier about her success in making Facebook recategorize rape threats under harassment rather than jokes and humor. Earlier as well Surly Amy talked about developing a thick skin even though you shouldn’t have to–it happens anyway if you continue participation. Like unwanted calluses.

I myself Tweeted for the first time during the conference and it only took five tweets for me to get the message “You’re an idiot” and to have to block him and others. Why? Because I responded to the message “Feminists are atheists” with “Atheists are feminists as well”.  Some idiotic male rights activist couldn’t speak politely. Which to me means maybe it is right and just that there needs to be greater enforcement of  civil conversation. (Zinnia Jones came to my twitter rescue and made my self loathing at stupidity less egregious–thank you)

The book “Flame Wars” addressed this years ago but virtual communities still struggle with adding teeth to netiquette. This is a huge problem if you wish to include women and pacifist people in general. My own reaction was to quit tweeting. No one need this crap. To me this proved Goldstein to be correct; civilized humans are still a small step away from negative anarchy and the raw aggression of many animals and primates like chimps. I can see why Hobbes said even a brutal tyrant is beneficial if they make people less aggressive, by any means necessary.

“Why Secularism is Necessary for Women’s Freedom” Taslima Nasreen

Taslima Nasreen is quite clear and beautifully coherent that religion itself, in whole, is accountable for negativity. Religion must be abandoned wholesale. I am sympathetic. If you allow the sacred texts to remain, the negative narratives to be unedited, the danger is the abuse can resurface later when the direct experience of the negativity is no longer felt. Figurative and psychological meanings do not endure negative interpretation. If literalness allows abuse then the texts, narratives, and tropes must change. Gesticulating accommodations and hermeneutics allow too much deviation to negativity. The beauty of law should be its clearness, conciseness, and exactness.

I had a wonderful dinner with Taslimma and another man who was there. I had not read her novels but picked up “Revenge” and read much of it just standing there during a break in the conference. Her fiction writing is like her speech. Lyrical, melodic, with a poetic cadence.

“Women Empowering Women in Secularism” Amy Davis Roth, Debbie Goddard, Melody Hensley, Amanda Knief, Lindsay Beyerstein

This was marked by Amanda Knief a self-proclaimed introvert who completely, totally, and throughly railed on needing more women in leadership roles. As well as voting and participating in local politics. I am thrilled my 12-year old daughter an introvert got to see Knief last fall when we were protesting at SCOTUS. There cannot be too many women in leadership roles. When I joined popular secular groups women were more present in leadership but not boards. Melody Hensley noted that while some boards are more equal male tropes still dominate.  Jesus, we have  along way to go still.

Like last year everyone agreed that numbers count. It is in no way artificial or denying meritocracy to insist that equality in numbers be enforced. There is the idiotic idea as Thomas Sowell endorses that every job should be filled by the most intelligent applicant. If that were true and intelligence were evaluated without genderism women would rise to the top quickly. More the issue is getting women to step up and take the job. More the issue is there must be temporary imbalance until the environment changes such that it engenders equality.

“Exiled from IHOP: an Atheist in Assignment” Lindsay Berenstein

I missed much of this but what I got was on reproductive rights. They are denied because of issues of power. Birthing children allows men to dominate unless they accommodate the support of rearing children and the denial of the need to rear many children for a society to succeed. The ridiculous regulation of abortion has nothing to do with safety and everything to do with oppression.

I really appreciated Lauren Becker’s closing remarks that a way of avoiding offense by saying “you’re wrong” is editing the narrative text.

Jim Newman, bright and well www.frontiersofreason.com

About Jim Newman

Jim Newman is a philosopher. When I was young I wondered what was the ultimate truth. How should I behave? What makes it all work? I was intensely curious to know what it all means. It was enlightening to realize there is no ultimate truth, but nevertheless sufficient and necessary turth, and that meaning was a meta analysis of living one’s life. In this sense my work has been living large. Living and experiencing life has made me learn many things. Building boats, motors, houses, electronics. Raising animals. Teaching. Writing. Photography. Drawing. Knitting. Sewing. Cooking. Music. Painting. Hiking. Aboriginal living skills. All material aspects of reality that seem irrelevant until you realize they allow you to experience more. My epiphany came when I read Christopher Hitchen’s “Letters to a Young Contrarian” and I felt vindicated in my many meals of sacred cow.
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