Inconsistency, irony, and intrigue in Ireland

While preparing for my trip to the Empowering Women Through Secularism (EWTS) conference — thanks to a fundraiser graciously promoted and funded by supporters — I failed to notice any type of anti-harassment policy listed on the conference’s website and am thus quite befuddled. I praise conference organizers for not implementing an anti-harassment policy, but cannot help but note inconsistency within some speakers at this upcoming conference.

According to a select group of bloggers and their commenters, anti-harassment policies in various flavors are required for women to feel safe, welcome, and invited at conferences throughout the secular community [and beyond] because, as they claim, conferences are unsafe places for women. The secular community is allegedly rife with misogyny and only with anti-harassment policies may women be protected from sexual harassment and ‘creepy men’ which are allegedly common at conferences.

At least three individuals who have been fiercely engaged in rhetoric surrounding the necessity of anti-harassment policies will be speaking at this conference and, as far as I know, they have made no objections concerning the lack of an anti-harassment policy although other conferences and conference organizers have been under extreme fire – characterized as “anti-woman,” “not caring about diversity,” “not caring about women,” “siding with harassers,” “misogynistic,” “sexist,”etc.

One particular EWTS speaker — according to a recent interview — established two requirements for her speaking at conferences: at least 35% women speakers and an anti-harassment policy.

Perhaps because EWTS is a conference primarily concerned with women there is no need for an anti-harassment policy? Not so…at least when considering the recent Women in Secularism 2 conference which heralded its prized conduct policy — trumpeted by and invoked by speakers scheduled for both Women in Secularism 2 and EWTS — included on the conference’s main page.

In October of 2012, Atheist Ireland, one of the organizations responsible for and/or working to make EWTS possible released a statement noting another organization — Atheist Alliance International — instituted an anti-harassment policy and encouraged member organizations to adopt similar policies…but there is no policy at the EWTS conference nor does Atheist Ireland, as it seems, have such a policy.

Since EWTS has no anti-harassment policy, why is it the case that — since anti-harassment policies, according to a select group of bloggers and their commenters, are so important — there has been no outrage directed at EWTS and its organizers although outrage was directed at other conferences and conference organizers?

How can speakers objecting to the lack of anti-harassment policies at other conferences, and even refusing to speak at conferences lacking anti-harassment policies, be ethically justified in speaking at EWTS and saying nothing about the lack of an anti-harassment policy? Why the double standard? Perhaps flights from the United States to Ireland, fame, and speaking to audiences are enough to compromise principles?

I must, though, applaud organizers of EWTS for not falling into the ‘anti-harassment policies are necessary for women to feel safe from ‘creepy men’ and the secular community is rife with misogyny’ false narratives.

Instead of infantilizing women and demonizing men by instituting a bogus, worthless, and pandering anti-harassment policy which provides an illusory safety net, women are left to be empowered by their own assertiveness, Irish laws, and venue regulations…unless the intrepid and suspiciously-placed security team/personal bodyguards which were rumored to have been put in place by Melody Hensley at Women in Secularism 2 because of “concerns” due to my Washington D.C. appearance may mysteriously appear in Ireland.

The conference which was home to the alleged ‘elevator incident’ has no anti-harassment policy and the woman involved in the supposed ‘elevator incident’ — although she stipulates that conferences she speaks at must have anti-harassment policies —  is scheduled to speak at this conference lacking an anti-harassment policy with no complaints. Inconsistancy, irony, and intrigue indeed.

As always, feel free to add your thoughts below.

Appearance on A-News: Episode 47

ScreenHunter_274 Jun. 03 16.05I was invited to appear on episode 47 of the A-News Podcast produced by ApartmentJ Entertainment to discuss my experience at Women in Secularism 2 and surrounding controversy, the “Nothing Fails Like Prayer” banner I — with the help of the Freedom From Religion Foundation — had erected on Public Square in Wilkes-Barre, my upcoming trip to and fundraiser associated with the Empowering Women Through Secularism conference in Dublin, and much more.

Co-hosts Lee Moore, Reap Paden, Brian Allen, Shayrah Akers, and Daniel Moran joined me for this episode which you can now listen to and download.


Don’t satirize feminists, but happily draw Mohammad?

Photoshop of various Freethought Blogs writers created by Reap Paden
Photoshop of various Freethought Blogs writers created by Reap Paden

I have recently realized tremendous inconsistency within the minds of various secular feminists who bemoan even the mildest satire directed at them but happily endorse an event dubbed Draw Mohammad Day in which secular individuals are encouraged to draw cartoons of Mohammad. At one extreme, satire and drawings of Mohammad — a product of Draw Mohammad Day — may lead to violence including destruction of property, death, and severe injury. At another extreme, Muslims will simply claim drawings of Mohammad are disrespectful and offensive. Can one be consistent in both bemoaning satire of feminists while supporting satire of Mohammad?

I hosted one photoshopped satirical image of various feminists — including Ophelia Benson of the Freethought Blogs network — on my Facebook page because I found it light-hearted, humourous, and in good taste. A friend of mine, Reap Paden, had edited signs in the image to read “We <3 Justin” – what I thought was a humourous mild jab because, in part, many in the image do not love me and instead have written dozens of over-the-top blog posts about how much of a bad person I am.

Following the posting of this photoshopped satirical image, a commenter considered the image “mean-spirited” and suggested I remove the image because leaving the image up, at least in part, shows that my intention is to hurt others. Elsewhere, the image was called “harassment” (or part of a “campaign of harassment”) amidst calls for me to remove the image presumably because people claimed offense.

The moral imperative proposed — that one ought to remove a satirical image merely because one claims offense — is most unreasonable and would consign everyone to silence on any given issue because anyone can claim offense. What matters, instead, I believe, is whether one’s claiming of offense is reasonable. If the claiming of offense is unreasonable, there should be no moral imperative for one to refrain from the mildest of satire. If it is not permissible to satirize feminists because people may claim offense and be hurt, why should it be permissible to satirize Mohammad?

Some Muslims believe that drawing an image of Mohammad or offering criticism of Mohammad is an abominable act – so much so that, as it seems, riots and fatwas are the ‘proper’ response to such sacrilege. Atheists, though, fully knowing this, go ahead and draw pictures of Mohammad regardless…and these same atheists then go about saying that it is improper to, no matter how mild, satirize feminists because ‘feelings are hurt’ and people claim offense.

How is this consistent? Why is it that Mohammad is ‘fair game’ and that the feelings of Muslims do not matter while it is the case that feminists are put on a pedestal and satire of feminists, no matter how mild, is morally impermissible? Further, if I am morally wrong in posting a mild satircal photoshop of feminists, should it be the case that the feminists cease their criticism of me if I claim offense? Further, should all atheists cease criticism of religion because religious individuals may claim offense? If someone is going to propose a standard for one group of people, feminists, they should at least be consistent in applying it to all groups of people.

As always, feel free to leave comments below.

Brave Hero Radio – Abbie Smith

Abbie Smith
Abbie Smith

Abbie Smith of joins Karla Porter and Justin Vacula Saturday, May 25 at 8PM Eastern for discussion about feminism, current events, controversy in the atheist/skeptic communities, and much more.

As always, callers, no matter their viewpoints, are welcome to join the discussion. Call the number on your screen, 718-766-4598, or click the Skype-to-call button on the show’s page when the show goes live to join the caller queue.

Listen live, join the live chat, and use the same link following the live broadcast to stream and/or download the archived show.

Like what you hear? Brave Hero Radio depends on support from listeners. Please donate!

Show link – listen live or listen to the archive –

ReapSowRadio – interview following Women in Secularism 2


I recently appeared on an episode of ReapSowRadio to discuss my experience at the Women in Secularism 2 conference, content presented at the conference, controversy surrounding opening remarks from Ronald Lindsay, and much more.

From the respective show page:

Reap Paden, Brian Allen and Terry talk about the Women in Secularism conference and Reap talks with Justin Vacula about his experience at the conference (2nd hour)

Listen below: