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Lou Doench

Somehow I knew you would have something wise to say about this. Good job of course.

I do wonder if perhaps this is a problem that will be dealt with by the slow and steady hand of time. The old white dudes are going to pass, as we all must. The next generation of atheist activists are going to be growing up in a much more diverse atheist community almost by default as the demographic trends seem to favor a more godless society than the one we grew up in.


I would suggest, on the anniversary of Boobquake, that we organize a project to test, en masse, SOME testable stupid religious claim, with priority given to the ones that are just plain insulting as well as insultingly stupid. Perhaps we should make it a holiday and celebrate in our social circles or with community events. We could make up and serve a recipe for Proof Pudding, even :)

But, amusing as it is to note that "huh, we don't at least want a pair of them?" I think Jen's reasons about making it a one-time thing are spot on.


Thanks for posting this. It's good to see too that Jen's getting a lot of support over this. It must be hard enough to always have to be the one to bring this sort of stuff up. The first accusations of overreaction are unfortunately already popping up on her blog.

@Lou Doench: I hope you're right, but that will only happen if the new generation is actually more aware of unexamined privilege than the old. So it will only solve itself on its own if we keep pointing out its existence.

Doug Kirk

I actually really like Azkyroth's idea. Pointing out all the testable claims religion makes is a wonderful way to break down the "unprovable, untestable, unknowable" barrier that many believers put up about god.

And what better time is there than the anniversary of Jen Mcreight's famous public test?

Oh, and also, what Jen and Greta said.


I stepped outside during the start of the Q&A with Eller on Sunday, and apparently missed Jen calling him on it, and caught the end of you doing so as I returned. What a bad time to step out. But, I caught his attempted apology, and it was obvious he missed the point entirely.
This isn't the first time I've heard this exact same thing from guys about Christina Rad. I'm not a fan of talking head type Youtube stuff, but if I was I would have no interest in checking out her blog/videos because all I ever hear about her is how hot she is. (for the record, I did hear it from a lesbian once... whatever that's worth). I've even heard it from outside the atheist community, from friends sending me links "hey, you're an atheist, check out this hot atheist chick". Drives me batty. I know I shouldn't let it stop me from giving her a listen/read, but... it does.
I was also put off by the rap video that was mocked with no attempt to show an alternative. There are skeptical musicians, shocker! Including rap/hip-hop.

Sunday, I think, was awesome, though. Ethnic minorities weren't represented so well, but I think women really were in the end. You and Rebecca owned it, and I came away excited about the future of atheism/skepticism, because it was obvious that the stuffy old socially awkward white guys were the past. I really appreciate this, because as a socially awkward white guy, I'd like to be a bit less cliché when I'm older.

Bruce Gorton

What Jen and Greta said, coupled with blank confusion that it even needed saying.

After years of more or less the same thing being said over and over again.

Seriously, the only thing slower on the uptake is a frigging pokemon.


Ultimately, I think there's a problem of accountability here. If people aren't punished for the dumb and vacuous things they say, and they keep getting re-invited to speak at these sorts of events, I find it difficult to see how anything is going to change.

Mainly, the people organizing and funding these conferences ought to pay close attention to whether the speakers can understand and respond to criticism correctly. I, for one, certainly don't feel comfortable having people who can't held up as leaders for the entire community.

Jack Rawlinson

Spot on.

All I'll say is please, atheist women, don't react to this by staying away from atheist conventions. Please react by descending on atheist conventions in your droves. Quite apart from the fact that this would be intrinsically a good thing, I think it will also make some of the the guys think twice about their more knee-jerk sexist attitudes - certainly about publicly expressing those attitudes.

I want the atheist community to be as diverse and inclusive as possible. I want it to include people of all ages, sexes, races, cultures, nationalities, sexual orientations, physical types and political stripes. I don't want it to be possible for critics to point and say "Oh, atheism is just for old white men/rebellious middle-class students" or whatever (although please let's not forget that we old white males have our place too. :-) ) . I want it to be demonstrably, irrefutably clear that atheism is for everyone.

And of course, that means that we have to be willing and eager to listen to those within our number who have a problem with prevailing attitudes. We must always be willing to discuss these things. No one should feel intimidated about expressing a grievance. I'm heartened to hear that Jen received instant support for her comment on this occasion. That helps.

Andrew T.

Well said. Given how closely sexism and religion are intertwined with each other (and given how it doesn't take an unattainable amount of critical thought to deduce that our community should be as welcoming as possible), I really don't think there's any excuse for an upstanding atheist activist not to be above that.

If I had sat through Eller's lecture, I would have been rolling my eyes from the tenth second in. As a gay man, I can offer an additional bit of perspective: I've never found a lick of appeal towards shallow, sexualized objectifications of women in the first place, and resent the assertion that I should.

Matt Dillahunty

I've spent some time talking to Jen and Greta about sexism and diversity in the past and I spent some time talking to Surly Amy and Rebecca Watson about it during this conference. I was actually sitting next to Greta when this happened and I wanted to get up and walk out.

In a sad bit of irony, Beth (a feminist, scientist and wonderful person who I'm going to marry in October) posted a link to Jen's blog post on her FB wall and within 5 minutes, I was embarrassed all over again by comments from the 'just don't get it' segment of the population.

I can only hope that I was never this obtuse, but whether I was or not, I'm at least encouraged that I'm no longer blind to this.

David made some great, thought-provoking points. He also said some things that I strongly disagreed with. I spent the bulk of the talk taking notes on things to think about, things I wanted to discuss with him (because I strongly disagreed) and things I wanted to remember for future talks.

He's smart and his view, from the anthropology POV, is valuable in many ways.

But when the boob-blonde-bingo started, I just wanted to crawl in a hole.

I'd just had a conversation with Rebecca about this very subject the night before...and how a lot of my previous inability to see things like this for what they are was due to presumptive biases that I was unaware of.

Those presumptions are gone.

So add my voice to Jen and Greta and many others. There's still a lot of consciousness raising to do.

Posts like this have to continue. Friends don't get a pass, and an honest treatment of the issues is necessary to continuing to change the scene.

In a very real way, I've directly benefited from what happened at this event - and while I'd have benefited even if no one had spoken up, I benefited more because of the discussions surrounding it.

I'd buy his books, I'd hang out with him, I'd have him on the show, I'd have a drink with him, I'd have long discussions about strategy and anthropology and I'd even invite him to my wedding. David's on the right side - and he still did something stupid.

We've all done something stupid from time to time, that's how we learn. The bright side is that we're wired in such a way that we can learn from the mistakes of others, as well.

I sincerely hope we keep challenging things like this - without apology - because it helps us all learn.


Hi, I've been reading this blog a lot but it's the first time I've commented. It's interesting that I came over here and read this just after commenting on The Thinking Atheist's facebook page, regarding Coughlin's response to TTA's inteview of Thunderf00t. In the first half-hour of comments, two people had already expressed their dislike for Coughlin by calling him a "girl." I don't know enough about this Coughlin/Thunderf00t fight to comment on that, but had to comment on the misogyny of my very gender being used as an INSULT.

It always amazes me how people fighting their own marginalization so easily and blindly marginalize others in their midst. From the Student Democratic Society in the 60s telling women they should contribute by making the coffee, to the women in the Arab Spring movement now being told to "go back home, the men have got this now," it keeps happening. And still so many men refuse to look at their own unquestioned assumptions about women's value and contributions. It makes me extra especially sad and angry when that happens in a population that purports to value free inquiry and learning.

It is so hypocritical to call for others (theists etc.) to question their cultural assumptions and personal biases when you are unwilling to do the same with your own baggage.


....and I just got a response to "get over it."


So, was David Eller technically incorrect when he said it was good from a marketing standpoint that a couple of high-profile female atheists were physically attractive or was he simply wrong to have said it?

Is there anything to the idea that an attractive face makes a better marketing tool than an ugly one, or is the multi-billion dollar advertising business misguided?


Ginger, it's not technically incorrect, but it is one thing to say "this woman is smart and funny and incisive, and btw, attractive" and another thing to just say "she's hot [end of value list - ideas? what ideas?]" Also, while it is true that attractive people are rated as more likeable, more believeable, people want to be their friend more, etc., this effect is not limited to women. Attractive men have an edge over ugly men in just the same way. So where is all the discussion about how attractive the various male atheists are or are not? Why is that not seen as their PRIMARY value the way it appears to be women's? Why do their ideas and arguments get the focus, when women's don't?


And Geoff, please don't let the misogynists' focus on Cris's looks discourage you from checking her stuff out. She really is incisive and insightful, and incredibly funny! That's the whole problem, people see "hot blonde" and just ignore all of the actual work she does and the things she says.


Kinda, sorta reminds me of something I read, heard years back. Some mommies are at their kids school and one parent asks another, "Who is the prettiest girl in the class." The other mother responded (paraphrase)..who gives a sh*t about that. I wanna know who is the best leader, the kindest, the smartest...and, there's an and, BTW The Beauty Myth is one of my all time fav. books. Awesome "G".


Ben Pearre

I wasn't there, but I'd like to ask: was Eller making a _recommendation_, an _observation_, or an _endorsement_ of cultural norms? It seems that this discussion has completely focused on the value of his comment as an endorsement. Of course that's an important point, but why no discussion of how it interacts with the other possibilities?

Because no matter how much you hate it, it's a legitimate observation that hotties will attract people to any movement. Maybe I'm wrong. You can test it easily enough. That's what we're all fighting for, isn't it?

If it's a recommendation, then you can argue about whether it's effective. This too can be evaluated if you define "effective".

If the objective is to attract more people to atheism, then I would guess that hotties will help in general. Hot women will attract single men, some of whom will be worthwhile. For that matter, hot women attract hot straight women (people tend to associate with others who "look like" themselves). Of course, that's a great argument for diversity in spokespeople, but conventionally hot blondes are a demographic too! And, frankly, they're underrepresented in many movements I care about. Including this one.

So if your purpose is just to attract people to the movement, then let's agree that everything I've said above is a testable hypothesis.

What if your purpose is to make a social statement about the value of women? Of course then everything said here applies. But is that the primary objective of an atheist movement? Maybe, or maybe compromising the ideals of the war on sexism is not worth it just to promote atheism. I'd consider that a very valid position, but I don't think it's the only possible conclusion, since I hope that in the longer run atheism will reduce sexism. What Would Machiavelli Do?

What if your purpose is to attract people who are interested only in the intellect? Then whether a spokesperson is hot or not is irrelevant, and the only relevant feature of his comment was its value as an endorsement of sexism.

Again: I wasn't there, but I can easily believe that Eller is telling the truth when he says that he just assumed it as a given that any atheist blogger he'd discuss is also brilliant, and that of course this matters. Here's a contrary hypothesis: if all he cared about were her looks and not her intellect, he'd be advocating using any random hottie as a spokesperson, rather than a (I assume) brilliant and eloquent one. If he assumes that it's only her hotness that matters, then it doesn't matter whether she can construct an argument. The fact that he didn't advocate using any random model as a spokesperson makes this hypothesis seem, um, far-fetched. OF COURSE he assumes without question that what she has to say matters! Why are you unwilling to believe this?

That said, I think I am beginning to appreciate the degree to which women are valued first for their appearances. Outside the context of our society's expectations, I think that what Eller said may have been a completely accurate observation, and even if he developed it into a recommendation he may have been correct. File it under "Sometimes the truth hurts"? Maybe. First, answer me these questions three:

(1) Is it okay to say something correct--and potentially useful--that could also perpetuate a stereotype amongs those who already subscribe to the stereotype?

(2) To what extent is it okay to blame Eller for rubbing salt in a wound, ASSUMING that he is not responsible for the wound?

(3) Why do you assume that Eller doesn't value cute atheist bloggers for the fact that they're good bloggers? Wasn't he discussing bloggers at the time? Isn't it reasonable to assume that _of_course_ he believes that anyone he mentions is a good blogger?

Back to my original point about observation vs. recommendation vs. endorsement, I will close with a quote from Stephen Pinker:

"A denial of human nature, no less than an emphasis on it, can be warped to serve harmful ends. We should expose whatever ends are
harmful and whatever ideas are false, and not confuse the two."


Maybe advertising with cute girls can work short term. But if we bring people to our side with superficial advertising, isn't it contrary to our message? Does truth and free thought need to be candy coated? Especially when that candy coating is at the cost of a segment of the movement, the very segment we're supposed to be expanding. I don't doubt the ad industry knows what they're doing, but I doubt they have any interest in truth and morality. We do, and we don't need to fill seats with people who came for the babes, we need people who came for the honesty and substance. How can we criticize religion's sexist and discrimination and hold people to higher standards if we aren't exercising them ourselves from the start when we invite people to join us?
Maybe it's idealistic, but idealism is why I'm a skeptic.

yeah... You're quite right I should not hold it against Cris, and if she published in a format that worked better for me I'm sure I would follow her more, but the real end result that I must admit is that the hype about her focused on her looks creates negative interest for me. Not because of her, but because I don't want to associate with that kind of hype.

If the objective is to attract more people to atheism...

The better question is why that is the objective. To the extent that we oppose religion because of the social issues it creates or contributes to, choosing a marketing strategy which exacerbates one of those very problems might just be considered a touch counter-productive.


For those of you saying it is "useful" to focus on women's looks, I have to ask: useful for what/whom?

Useful in encouraging more smart women to speak out about their views? no.

Useful in getting more women to go to atheist conferences? no.

Useful in getting true humanists (who care about the value and dignity of ALL humans, including the half that happen to be female) to join and identify with this movement? no.

Useful in getting people to think critically about ALL their society's assumptions, not just the theistic ones? no.

Useful in attracting sexists who don't really care what women have to say? yes!

Useful in attracting people who are averse to examining their own biases? yes!

We really have to ask: is that the kind of movement we want to be? Then why not just set up phone-sex talk-to-a-hot-atheist lines and be done with it? I'm sure that would attract LOTS of guys, if that's the main goal. And I won't be a part of it, I'll be looking for someplace where respect for the dignity of all human beings (including those that ARE the attractive "ornaments") and the value of their ideas is the primary focus.


To win the "war" we must outsmart the "enemy". As religious leadership is nearly exclusively male, they (especially Islam) are working with only half their intellectual power. We are (mostly) better than that.

This 69 year old white man realises that intelligence is the ultimate aphrodisiac. Sometimes the female atheists challenge my assumptions. This is a good thing. Assumptions should always be reviewed to see if they are rational or emotional. Theists hold dear to their assumptions, we should not.

Ani Sharmin

What Jen and Greta said.

What it feels like to be a pretty young blonde woman in that audience who is smart and talented and hard-working, and who suddenly gets her smarts and talent and hard work dismissed as secondary to her looks? What it feels like to be a non-pretty, non-young, non-blonde woman in that audience who is smart and talented and hard-working, and who suddenly gets her smarts and talent and hard work eradicated, because her looks apparently aren't tempting enough to get anyone to listen to her ideas? Do we really have to explain -- again -- that there is a time and place for everything, and that while we're not trying to squelch sexuality or flirtatiousness, and while there are appropriate times and places for commenting favorably on women's attractiveness, a serious talk about strategy in the atheist movement is not one of them?

I wasn't in the audience, but I've often felt like the "non-pretty...non-blonde woman...who suddenly gets her smarts and talent and hard work eradicated, because her looks apparently aren't tempting enough to get anyone to listen to her ideas".

As I wrote in the comments at Jen's blog, I find it doubly insulting, both to women and to anyone (of any gender) who's attracted to women. I manage to figure out when is and isn't an appropriate time to comment on someone's appearance, and so I expect others to be able to do the same. (It's especially infuriating that someone would comment only on appearance and not even mention anything else.)

Provided a list of positive atheist role models we could promote -- all but one of whom were male, and every single freaking one of whom was white.

If we're capable of judging men based on their contributions, I don't understand why we can't do the same for women. If I suggested that I was only going to listen to a guy's ideas if he looked a certain way, I'd expect him to be insulted, and I find it insulting that there are people who can't understand that women would like to be judged based on our ideas as well.

Thanks so much for writing this!

Greta Christina

Ben Pearre and Gingerbaker: You are missing the point. More than one point, actually.

1: Eller didn't say, "It's helpful to have attractive people deliver our message." He said, "It's helpful to have attractive WOMEN deliver our message." He didn't have images of nice-looking videobloggers, of all genders, and talk about how attractive faces help deliver a message. It was all about the pretty girls.

2: Eller didn't say, "Here are some smart, thoughtful, witty, inspiring, etc. videobloggers who get people excited about our message -- and they're attractive, too, which doesn't hurt." His comments about the female videobloggers were entirely focused on their looks.

3: Eller's list of atheist role models included exactly one woman: Madalyn Murray O'Hair. His list of people we can promote as models of how atheism is smart and funny and admirable and something people might want to emulate? Almost entirely male.

Put all three together, and what's the message? Men in the atheist movement are valued for their ideas, vision, leadership skills, hard work, etc. Women are valued in the atheist movement for their looks, and for their ability to draw men into the movement. Men are the ones who matter. Women are ornamental bait.

Do you not get how alienating that is to women?

Is it true that attractive atheist women draw some men to the movement? Possibly. Probably, even. They probably draw some women as well. (Attractive men probably draw some women into the movement, too... as well as some men.)

But is it also true that comments like Eller's alienate women and repel them from the movement? Definitely.

So what you're essentially saying is that it's more important to draw men to the movement than women. When the atheist movement has a choice between (a) making a deliberate effort to publicize the faces of attractive atheist women and making atheism more appealing to some men, and (b) dealing with our sexism and making atheism more appealing to more women, you're saying we should choose (a).


Thanks for this Greta. I missed the second day of talks, but I do find it interesting that it was suggested we do boobquake every year even though Jen said repeatedly in her talk exactly why we shouldn't. Glad to hear David Eller apologized, that was the right thing to do. Anyway, thanks for looking out for everyone like always!

As a complete side note, I remember that a guy started going on this anti-Muslim rant in the Q&A session and cutting into Lewis Marshall's answer...I was glad to hear I was far from the only person yelling "let him answer!" and heard you loudest of all in the back :)

CaitieCat from Shakesville

Good job, GC! I freely admit that I've been wary of the atheist movement in any organized way since trying to attend several different meetings, and at each one ending up being hit on by several men. And I'm not what most mainstream men would call hot. It was demeaning, and felt like such a betrayal, to be here in the one place I really expected to be taken seriously for my ideas and my brain, and ending up having to remind more than one person that the thinking part was about a foot above where they were looking.

And one of the business items on the agenda of one of the meetings was, no kidding, "How to Attract More Women to the Movement".

No, I didn't clue them in, that time. Too weary. Not my job to make them understand, and be dismissed as "shrill" and ignored for my troubles, as had been the case before. Shrill. My voice has usually been compared to Kathleen Turner's, and I spoke calmly, though loudly (to be heard, I was far back in the room). But shrill.

Oy. Anyway, thank you for bringing it up. I'm sure Mr. Eller is a lovely fellow, but it won't do him any harm to have a bit of a think about those outdated attidudes of his. It's like our fellow atheists saying "Well, religion's almost completely wrong, of course, except for that patriarchy thing, we like that." It hurts. Please stop, sir.


In case not everyone reads Jen's blog regularly: there is a genuine apology from Dr. Eller up over at BlagHag



You have actually used quotation marks to put words into David Eller's mouth which he did not use, and in your final paragraph you have put words into my mouth which I do not endorse.

The ratcheting up of what seems to me to be ungenerous interpretations and implications of Eller's statements, which we do not even have verbatim, is pretty astonishing to behold. There are some spittle-flecked statements made at Pharyngula that sound like people have gone off their meds.

I wonder what Eller had to say that was actually germane to his topic, as it is a subject that does not get addressed very often and it would have been interesting to hear what he had to say. (Evidently, if one can believe the hyperbole, all he said was that women are mere sexual ornaments who have no brains, only hot atheist babes are useful to the movement, and that Eller is remindful of a creepy misogynist sexual predator)

If indeed we atheists are interested in providing a positive and welcoming community that might serve functions currently provided by churches, we are off to an inauspicious start.

Greta Christina

Gingerbaker: First, it is a widely- accepted literary form to put in quotations thing that you think people are implying, or that you think are the logical conclusion of the things they're saying -- as long as you make it clear that that's what you are doing and are not in fact quoting directly.

Second, if you want to know what Eller actually said, what Jen said in her comment during the Q&a, and how Eller responded to her comment, there is now video online. I haven't had a chance to review it yet, since I'm now at work and can't listen to audio.

And if you want to know what Eller thinks about all this: He has apologized, and acknowledged that what he said was sexist.

Third: I did not put words in your mouth. I made an argument for why this position, which you say you do not endorse, is the logical conclusion of the things you did say. If you don't agree, then make a counter-argument. But please address my actual ideas. I have very little patience for debates that focus on the form of what's being said at the expense of the actual content of it. Thank you.

Fred Moulton

I was there and cringed when Eller made the comments and I am glad he apologized over at Blag Hag. On Saturday evening at the RAM meeting several attendees were milling around in the hall stretching our legs between talks when as best I can remember the following occured. Someone commented "Dawkins, Dennet, Harris, Hitchens... four women" Someone else asked "what women woold you add?" I said "Well off the top of my head Hecht and Jacoby have written books on freethought, skepticism and atheism" To which I heard a couple of "Oh yeah" responses. Sometimes we all need a reminder.

In composing this comment I was struck by the word horsemen. The term "horsemen of the apocalypse" derives from Christian mythology. And it is horsemen not horse-riders or equestrians. Rather than reinforce Christian mythology and a male-centric view I am wondering if the next time someone says "four horsemen of the apocalypse" perhaps a good response would be "are you referring to persons who have written scholarly books on atheism, skepticism and freethought such as Jacoby, Hecht, Hitchens, Harris, Dennett, Dawkins?" It might put the discussion in a non-Christian and non-male centric framework.

Tracy Walker

I am now officially in love with you. In a totally platonic and non-sexual way. You have such a gift for writing, for communicating clearly and forcefully so that what should be obvious, but seemingly isn't, now is rendered an inevitable conclusion. Kudos.

Ophelia Benson

When you say that having pretty women as atheist icons is good because it will make atheism more appealing to men? You aren't just playing into the "women have value only as ornaments" trope. You are actively perpetuating it. You are directly feeding it. You are essentially saying that the male atheists are the ones who count, the ones we need to worry about.

You're also saying that ugly women aren't welcome. As an ugly woman, I resent that. I never get invited to speak at these shindigs; I think it's time for outreach for ugly women.

Casimir Fornalski

How to talk about the existence of sexism:

"Here's some sexism"
(show examples)
"Now what can we do about it?"

How not to talk about the existence of sexism:

"Here's some sexism…
…but only 'cuz these girlz are such hotties."

Casimir Fornalski

Sorry, that wasn't directed at you, Greta. That's for commenters (here and elsewhere) who like to take up the "sexism is bad… except sometimes it's not" argument.


Damn. I believe you do have this nailed down very well. Bookmarked, for when I need to offer a well-thought analysis alongside my own raging opinion.

I'm very glad Eller offered the second, real apology. I'm also glad Jen brought the issue to his attention. Now, if we can get more people to pay attention and think for two seconds...

Much applause. (Applause for any men who grok this as well, because it is probably a better way to go than, "Ah! Finally."


I'm a single white man.

Several months ago, when I started reaching out into the interwebs to find people of like mind on the subject of religion, I started on YouTube.

The presence I saw there was predominantly white and male. Both in debate videos (with people like Hitch, Harris, and Dawkins), but also in vlogs.

I remember the joy I felt (as a man, and as an atheist) when I first saw a video of Tracie Harris calmly and logically dismantling a believer on an 'Atheist Experience' vid.

I remember the joy I felt (as a man, and as an atheist) when I first saw Laci's courageous vids of leaving the Mormon religion.

I remember the joy I felt (as a man, and as an atheist) when I first saw Criss say things that I think all the time.

I've never met or talked to any women like that. Stop and think about that for a moment...

I can't speak for everyone, but 'sharing values' is one of the key traits I would look for in a woman. But I've NEVER met any.

Where am I going with this? I'm not exactly sure. I just know that seeing intelligent, attractive, charismatic, eloquent women on YouTube makes me very happy, excited, and hopeful.

It's a big deal.

They're out there! And maybe I'll find one some day and we can raise little atheists together!

As happy as it makes me to watch vids of men talking about makes me ten times happier to watch a woman express the same sentiments.

I guess that's what I'm saying. It does matter that they are women. It matters to me. Not in a sexist way at all, but in an "I'm not alone" way.

Justin Stolle

Greta, it was a pleasure hearing you speak yesterday in Oakland. I'd love to know if you feel any different about this discussion after reviewing the audio (and transcript). Thanks!

Angie the Anti-Theist

Dr. Eller made a public apology (a real one) on Jen's blog, which she's turned into a secondary post, FYI.

Justin Stolle

Listen to the audio and read the transcript of what was said on Sunday here:


Another Atheist gathering, and another shitstorm in it's wake. I no longer have any interest in attending an Atheist event. But that's a good thing, really, because I'm a member of the unwanted demographic (white male). I bet I'm not the only one who feels this way. Atheist event organizers need to do a better job of vetting their presenters.

GAC 2010 attendee

In response to the 'Four Horsemen, no women' - that is only because the conference in question (the Global Atheist Convention for 2011) has NOT announced the rest of the speakers who will present, YET.
It should be pointed out that the 2010 conference featured a number of women and certainly considering the positive feedback about that will more than likely feature diversity based on talent, relevance and acumen in 2011. Do as I've done and send in good and thoughtful suggestions now rather than complain after the chance has gone! :)

Fred Moulton

The commenter hnutzak writes "unwanted demographic (white male)" in reference to Atheist events. I see absolutely no evidence for your statement. I am a white male and I was there at the meeting. So please do not imply there was discrimination unless you have some actual evidence. And characterizing the statement by David Eller, the challenge by Jen McCreight, the apology by Eller and the various discussions that follow as a shitstorm is not really helpful in my opinion. Like I said I was there; I heard Eller's remarks; I thought those remarks were very ill-considerd; I am glad that Jen spoke up because Jen was much more articulate that I could have been.


well, hnutzak, if you only feel "wanted" when you don't have to try to understand anyone else's point of view, and when you can only be 90% of the attendees/speakers instead of 100%, then yes, YOU are indeed unwanted. Not your entire demographic, just the ones who are so averse to having their comfort zone of privilege questioned, so dense that they think they have somehow escaped the influence of their society's biases, and so defensive that any suggestion they turn critical examination inward as well as outward is threatening. I think that's the whole point here: your kind is in fact NOT who most of us want to attract. You can get your boobie-fix elsewhere, and no one in the freeTHINKING community will miss you, I'm sure.

Ellers, given his later thoughtful response on Jen's blog, IS in fact the kind of man the community needs - one who was willing to try to understand the perspective of another, question his own assumptions, and admit that he had made a mistake and would strive to not do so in the future. That is so rare, hnutzak's type of defensive whining is so much more common.


I'm also just amazed when people complain about controversy in the atheist/freethinker community. What else would you EXPECT from a bunch of critical THINKERS? Debating, learning and challenging assumptions is what this whole thing is about; that's what most of us are here for! If you want unquestioned agreement and solidarity, go to a Christian revival.


Fred Moulton, I wasn't implying discrimination. But I read over and over again on multiple blogs people decrying the lack of women and minorities in the Atheist movement, and I'm not a woman or a minority.

CalliopeJane, you've unfairly judged me, and I won't waste my time correcting you. Suffice it to say I'm a regular reader of Greta's blog, and agree with her at least 95% of the time (including the rant I'm commenting on). I'm just tired of reading all the he said-she said after these events when it should be about the good things, like what Atheists are doing to move forward and change the world for the better. The negativity is counterproductive and has eliminated any desire I had to attend these functions.

Jesse Weinstein

While I certainly agree with CalliopeJane's summary of the situation with Eller's remarks (they were ill-considered, it was good he was corrected on them, and even better that, after reflection, he apologized and explained how he would try to improve), I think hnutzak makes a useful point in hirs most recent message.

The good point I saw was where hnutzak asked for more details about "what Atheists are doing to move forward and change the world for the better" from the recent meeting. Jen's (& Greta's, and others) posts did discuss this in a limited way, but I haven't (yet) seen a nice re-cap of the high-points of the event. I've probably missed it -- does anyone have a link, or two?


I'm sorry if I misjudged hnutzak, but it's just such a common feature of the silencing of minority groups, for the majority to complain about how *tiresome* it is to have to listen to the arguments. There are two ways for these arguments not to happen: (1) men stop being sexist, or (2) women stop speaking up about it. #1 is in fact the goal of women speaking up, but since that isn't yet happening (and won't happen without being challenged), then the only way these "shitstorms" (not a respectful way to characterize a group fighting for rights) are not going to happen is for women to just cringe and remain silent. As I said, a very common strategy, as when white people complain about how *tiresome* it is to have to listen to black people point out racism.

And you know what I find tiresome? Listening to sexism. Trying to correct sexism. Being the smartest, most well-read person in the room and still being interrupted, talked over, and evaluated for my body. Your weariness at listening to women try to fight for recognition is not 1/1000 of the weariness we feel having to do that fight every single day of our lives. And unfortunately, I can't just flounce out of sexist society/life because it wearies me.

So, to say: "this is tiresome and distracting from the real issues and so I won't attend anymore," reinforces the idea that women's dignity is not one of the "real issues" (which it should be for anyone who calls themselves a humanist) and that other people's comfort is more important than standing up for our rights. Again, sorry if I misjudged, but it's just SO SO familiar as one of the "why you should just shut up" arguments in the sexist arsenal.


@ CalliopeJane



Well, that was a non-apology (wasn't a non-apology part of the reason for this post?). You've implied that I'm sexist, and compared me to racists. *claps*

I'm not "weary of listening to women fight for recognition". I actually consider myself a feminist. I do consider this a real issue.

What I intended to convey was that I am tired of presenters at Atheist gatherings making inappropriate statements that then get beaten to death on multiple blogs for several days afterward. How do you think that looks to outsiders? It reflects poorly on the Atheist community. It has removed my interest.

I have since read the transcript of the relevant statements by Eller and Jen, and I am now of the opinion that while Eller chose his words poorly and did not stop to think how they could be interpreted, he certainly did not intend to offend. I think the word sexism implies intent, and he had none. But he has since been publicly crucified on multiple blogs, and that's unfair. I doubt he'll ever make the same mistake again.

I'm sorry I made my original post when I was in an agitated state but didn't have adequate time to better express my thoughts. That was the first time I've clicked the comments link on this blog, and this time will likely be the last.


Agree completely with above sentiments (Greta, Jen, etc.).

If Eller wants to watch pretty, white, blonde spokeswomen, he should stick to Fox News and the Republican Party, where they clone these brainless fembots in some kind of conformist boob factory, managed by prototypical uber-sorority sister/blondie - McCain's wife. Of course, they are submissive christian Stepford ladies, but ooh, they are so shiny and pretty....


I don't know what scripts blag hag has running on their site but I'm unable to read McCreight's article. Every time I navigate there, something runs which effectively disables my browser. I can't even page down. So I'd like to read her take on this but I'm unable to read beyond the first couple of paragraphs. The only way to get control back is to crash my browser. I don't have this problem on any other web pages I visit. Instead I'll make do with your take on it!

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