R. Elisabeth Cornwell: Who Speaks for Feminism? | CFI's Women in Secularism 2 Conf 2013

Lauren spray it isn't she she's just terrific anyway I wanted to say thank you for the opportunity of speaking here I think this is oh thank you I think this has been a tremendous conference I have to be really nice to Tom otherwise he'll shut me off he has ultimate power but this has been a terrific ins tremendous conference and I wanted to thank the dedication of cfi the organization the staff I know what it takes to run an organization budget considerations all that fun stuff and they've done a tremendous job and special thanks to melody Hensley whose idea and inspiration this original was so you know this weekend I've had the opportunity i live here in DC I Arlington we all we still call if you're in the Beltway it's just DC you know it's it's kind of like Canada's just another foot we won't go down um so anyway I mean I've had an opportunity to to spend time with friends and make a few new friends and colleagues who I who I greatly respect and so many people who are dedicated to making this a better world it's an inspiration for me it makes those long nights and all the things that we have to go through as as you know running a foundation worth it at times we can all get a little discouraged I know especially trying to meet budget numbers so again you know fill out those forms it's really important to give see if see if I a boost anyway so I and I also I learned a great deal this weekend and I heard some new ideas some some old ideas that were reframed that gave me some real food for thought and i hope this occurred for you as well and you know what better way to share our goals our hopes our concerns then in an environment we're free from recriminations and able to speak openly and honestly with one another i think that is so important and clearly we don't all agree on what we should do or how we should go about it there are people here who I greatly admire despite the fact that we don't agree on every issue my respect for them doesn't waver with these disagreements rather my respect for them strengthens there are times I have come around to their opinions there are times I just think they're wrong but ya know and there are times that they you know really give me a challenge and really make me think about my own position and either strengthen it or reconfigure it that's a great thing about the training in science there's you know if things don't quite fit the hypothesis then you have to come up with a new hypothesis and I think underneath it all though our disagreements are differences of opinion there's something much more common much more shared than not shared one reason I'm terrible at debates and I won't do debates is because I tent I would listen to someone's opinion and go hmm that kind of makes sense let me think about that let me process process that for a while now get back to you doesn't work in debates so I just avoid them like the plague but something we should keep in mind with situations of disagreement and I'm going to mention a little bit about human nature is sometimes the more ideals we share the more risk there is to animosity when we disagree on details and think about Catholicism and Protestantism their goal is to get to heaven praise God love Jesus recruit others but the Devils in the details and the bloodshed based on those details has blackened human history so remember that we do the common the common themes can some kind sometimes get lost in these discussions of what we disagree on and our thoughts about how we go about things let's not exaggerate the differences we can talk about them but let's not exaggerate them and the voices we heard this weekend they all speak for feminism despite these differences and I suggest the contrasting views brings a depth to the movement compare this to religious dogmatism where conflicting views are labeled as heresy it's very different both susan jacoby and Jennifer Michael heck who I greatly admire both of them emphasized the need to know our history as feminists to understand where we have been in order to comprehend where we still need to go and the adversity is that feminist and humanists continue to face in the first wave of feminism the focus was on gaining women's rights that now seemed to those of us in the West so natural so normal so part of our society that we can't today fathom the inequities our grandmothers and great-grandmothers faced basic rights such as the ability to buy and inherit property or the mere fact that women did not have equal custody of their children quite different than today susan jacoby also reminded us yesterday that in this struggle there are some who looked beyond those basic rights they looked to the full equality in our very modern way of thinking about equality and I can't imagine how discouraged they must have felt these people who had these visions of what they saw as a lack of vision from their sisters Susan also reminded us that even old white Republican males can indeed speak for feminism and I wonder though if Robert Ingersoll would have been welcome to speak here if he could would he be welcome at this conference or would he be told that because he's not a woman he had no right to be here sounds like we may have a debate here going and I'm stepping out now the second wave feminism which is the crest I luckily was able to ride and it they demanded full equality the incubation of this wave came in part from the freedoms that women experienced in World War two when they worked they were not under the thumb of their fathers their husbands they earned an income they took on full responsibility for their lives their house their everything that they did was their own decision but when the war ended those freedoms disappeared and everyone expected women would just go back to their god-given mission will we Surprise them we made great gains and we thought that once such rights were ours they could not be taken away well boy have we been surprised during this conference while there has been differences of opinion there have been some consistent unified ideas about what we as a secular movement need to do the panel on women leaving religion was extremely moving um I had tears my eyes I don't know about the rest of you jameelah bay Vicki garrison Theresa McBain and Miriam namazi talked about the challenges many of them heartbreaking that they face when bravely coming out as a non-believer there are real heroes they have faced difficulties across the ranges of intensities though losing family friends and community are not easy and many of us cannot even imagine what it is like although that does not mean we cannot be sympathetic and supportive Miriam's adversity for us in the West simply boggles the mind I think it is much harder for us to understand comprehend how it must feel to risk our lives in addition to losing our family friends and community later when she spoke to us the sense i had from her is not that she wanted our sympathy she wants our activism she wants us to stand up and support our sisters and brothers who face as she said the intolerable both financially and actively for to be silent to avoid speaking out because we fear to be labeled as racists or Islamophobic aids and it bets this insanity we need to be as brave as the women in men who are now imprisoned in hiding or seething with uncontrollable rage at the oppression of thought and mind and body being polite is not acceptable anymore longer and as she stated if we the secular or more and the more liberal or centrist do not speak up to fight the intolerable then we leave that fight to the radical right that relies on racism and bigotry to push their myopic and dangerous agenda we must speak out we are not risking that much we're risking being called a bigot I've been called worse I'm sure some of you have to after all were recalled atheists can it get much worse than that all right these women are I mean she's such a hero to me I mean ice and I want to publicly state and being recorded I want to publicly state that I will stop being polite and speak out and I hope there are others in the room who will do the same going back to the struggles of women here in the West the common thread I heard was that we need community that we need to recognize that women often have different priorities in terms of their concerns we are women we women are for so many reasons the ones who keep the family to get are not just children but our extended families and the families of you know our in-laws were the ones that are responsible for pulling it all together and this responsibility has a tremendous impact because as Jamila pointed out it was a far different story when it was just her and her husband who were risking the loss of family and community but when she brought in her incredibly awesome son who I believe may still may be here um and he always outside okay awesome son her priorities shifted she wanted that community for him and he deserves it our children deserve our community it's important it's important to understand our history doesn't mean we have to submit to it it just means to understand it what impresses me most with these women and the many others who have gone through such adversities is how they refused to become victims and instead faced their struggles the hurts the losses the risks of dick with and they did this with great dignity and bravery and I applaud you there is a cultural shift that has occurred over the past decade or so it snuck in through pop psychology self-help books 12-step programs and talk show hosts such as Oprah as well as reality TV whatever that actually is and certainly not real and that and that's the elevation the elevation of victimhood not that victims don't exist but the elevation of it it is not surprising that this cultural phenomenon is steeped in Christianity I would conjecture that prayer is the ultimate road to victimhood paved with promises of a better life it allows us to sit back and accept our lot in life and pray to a higher power who will then decide our fates base no doubt on the sincerity of our prayers it's pure bollocks I don't know about you but I want to scream get off your knees and do something about it I want to re-emphasize please do not misunderstand that I do not recognize that there are situations that are horrible and the word victim is appropriate but let's not fall into the cultural relativism trap and consider that all adversity is the same it isn't what is faced by women and men under Islam assists is far greater than the discomfort of some inappropriate sexist remark recognize recognizing these differences does not mean let me repeat does not mean that we give up on educating the public on what can make women uncomfortable fighting for pay equality fighting for the full represent representation and government encouraging more women to go into the sciences all of these things are worth fighting for but we need to recognize the differences in the university that we all face by recognizing these differences I think it provides us more strength the examples of bravery that have been mentioned about the men and women in in Islamic regimes can help those who face difficulties that do not include a fatwa or honor killings it allows us to rise up and fight for our rights it gives us that strength to say if they can do it what's stopping me we should gain strength from these women and this is where knowing our history is so important knowing that the struggles for egalitarianism has been long but this is not in terms of feminism but in terms in terms of feminism but also in terms of humanity we've made great strides in ridding ourselves from the yoke of religious oppression but that does not mean our job is done we need to keep fighting until we have sub dude religion to the form of Quakers and unitarians I love that you use in gretas panel she asked the question of what would equality look like well how do we know when we achieve it I think here we all agree that we still have a way to go but but do we have a long way to go well depends upon the context and this has to be again viewed in the long history of feminism the dip and when we view it in the long history of feminism the distance we still have to go doesn't seem all that big but when we look at it from this point from our perspective especially for young women and men whose impatience push a society to respond which I can be somewhat annoying but it's good that they are i used to be young once and i was hopefully annoying um and of course we're always right when we were young right I love that the distance does seem great that we need to achieve but both perspectives are important the first perspective gives us a sense of Upton optimism things do change but not without a lot of hard work but combined with the second the current view I hope it provides a sense of empowerment to not be complacent and to keep pushing for what we want in the last panel learning from other social movements resonated with me the out campaign well well it wasn't exactly plagiarism but it certainly borrowed very very strongly from the LGBT movement in fact that's the first time I met Greta she was giving a talk in at Stanford and she had made the comparisons between the out campaign and the oh and the LGBT movement and I'm sitting in the back and I raised my hand I said well the reason why it looks like it is because that's what it was kind of based on so very good Greta um but as was mentioned by each of the panelists it's very good to recognize the strengths and weaknesses of other movements before us and then one thing that's stuck out was lack of diversity and that seems to have plagued and harmed every movement in the long run and they have had to regroup and start including those who were excluded in the past in the history of the civil rights movement that shows what we see in the history of the civil right civil rights movement is that activists who were atheists and and as well as well as socialists were told to sit down and shut up because the overall strategy was to bring blacks into the mainstream to be real Americans now at the time it might have been the right thing to do sometimes strategies are complex and you have to give a few things up to make the gains that you really need to make unfortunately though the atheists and socialists of the civil rights movement have been written out and of the history and so everyone forgets and the civil rights movement is seen largely as a Christian inspired movement additionally women were written out most people recognize only one woman's name Rosa Parks and all the other leaders were men but women were actually very central to the civil rights movement but their contributions have long been forgotten know your history the LGBT movement was as Greta reflected largely male oriented and they still suffer the animosity because of that did it impede success I think so and the feminist movement to has faced its troubles in the beginning it was largely well educated well financed white women who did to their credit bring in the working class and in the second wave it was mainly white middle-class women well a well-educated college educated and we neglected minority women lesbians and the very poor it to hurt the movement because it's really difficult for a woman of color and who'd those of poverty to identify with Gloria Steinem no matter how good-looking she is and so we lost women the secular movement and atheism is growing and as the panel made clear we must expand diversity how we go about it lots of ideas a bit tossed around and I really hope that we don't go back and just go back to our jobs and do our thing and forget about those ideas they need to be their seeds they need to be nurtured they don't happen on their own and along the lines of diversity that the other one is community support that was a thread that came again and again and again involvement with community projects helping others and doing so alongside with people who may not share our convictions about the supernatural but they care about our world in many of the same ways we do they care about those who have less and they believe in the importance of community service and perhaps I missed it you know I was kind of in and out a few times but one of the things that seems a natural for us to do as as as feminist is to start helping battered women there's up there are lots of organizations and groups in every city that help battered women escape and I think that would be a you know a great thing for us to volunteer for and it's something that a lot of churches do there are also many organizations that mentor mentor women and you can donate clothes you know for work work type clothes to these women and helping women to get get into the mainstream workforce helping them develop a resume helping them learn techniques and how to be interviewed helping them understand you're the kinds of things that you'd be facing in in an office rather than you know working working as a you know blue-collar worker or someone who has actually never had that kind of experience and that's again something that will really help social change it really will bring about a difference in our communities so think about that think about getting your groups and and it's not just women who can mentor other women men can mentor women as well some of my best mentors have been men and and I appreciate them and they were you know they supported me in ways that you know now seem kind of kind of bizarre being one of the first women to have an office at advanced micro devices was was because my boss a man saw the inequities of women not having offices we also need to encourage all of us who are part of this movement ways of creating community and i don't mean online communities I mean face-to-face interactions we can hold somebody's hand you can hug them you can hand them a cup of coffee give them a tissue you'll laugh with them tell jokes and read their facial expressions really good thing to read facial special humans are particularly good at it sorry okay my bad but you can read voices and you can't do that online I guess you can't if your skype never mind I want this just my bad now I'll remember that I'll I've been chasing um I mean the kind of support Teresa's not here not she had to go catch a plane that Therese McBain received from the secular community should be the rule and not the exception um and but we shouldn't also wait for people to come out in a big way their people come out in small ways all the time I mean Teresa's coming out as she said was rather impulsive and rather you know big and but there are lots of lots of people who are escaping religion on a much quieter level and women like you know Teresa and Vicki and Jamila I mean they can be the role models for these women now we started out with a quote from Timothy and so I'd like to end this part of the conference with a quote from a white male Republican surely there is grandeur in knowing that in the realm of thought at least you are without a chain that you have the right to explore all heights and depths that there are no walls no fences no prohibited places nor sacred corners in all the vast expanse of thought thank you

The title of this talk is very misleading. It should have rather been something like 'The importance of bringing diversity into the feminist movement'.
The speaker makes some very good points (the problematic rise of victimhood, the necessity for feminists to speak out against Islam, the exaggeration of smaller problems in the West, excluding the voices of men and Republicans from speaking in the name of feminism).
However, I found the talk to be a bit all over the place. I would have expected more research results, statistics and figures instead of just personal viewpoints and jumping from one observation to the next without structure.

A lot of people speak, bitch, moan and bash others with a basis in feminism. Its simply overexposed and overvalued in academia, and what that talk is doing here is beyond me.

1) Kudos to Elizabeth C for saying "what happens in Islam is bad for women AND MEN" at 14:20.
99% of the time, people including non-victimhooders like RIchard Dawkins himself, talk about the issues of women.  Remember the Blue Bra woman at Tahrir Square? What happened to her pales in comparison to hundreds of male protestors. But society raises a huge hue-and-cry just for her.

2) Dont try to pass off victimhood to Christianity (or religion in general). It is a characteristic of human nature, especially women.
The greatest flaw in the Atheist movement is that the movement ascribed all kinds of evil-doing to Religion.. when in reality it exists in human nature itself.
Feminism has taken victimhood to a whole different level.

3) Holy cow.. Elizabeth C talks about "fighting for pay equality".. LOL. So did Richard Dawkins pay her 76cents to the $?

at 7:00

i say "no. men."

they do not have the prereqs to be feminist or take the fucking limelight. they can be allies and KNOW THEIR PLACE.

again: no, no, and no.

gonna bounce on to the next speaker who won't stand there talking about *wat about the menz?!!!>!?!"

Feminism speaks for itself as an ideology of idiots who focus on a glass ceiling and  ignore the glass basement.   What changes would occur if instead of it being males – what if 80% of homeless were women or if 80% of suicides were females?  Feminists bitch an moan about the top 5% of men (the ones they wish to marry and bed – cep's and high status men) and completely ignore the other 95% and their issues.

Easiest thing to take away from these things, is as a male you should not comment on them, ever. (See examples below)

I don't really get why all of these are feminist lectures. I rarely see ones that aren't, it doesn't annoy me im just curious as to why that is


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