Thank you for your open letter. I understand your feelings after waiting a week without a response from me to your last post. I’ve now been waiting three months without a response from the manager of your blog network, Ed Brayton, to an email about the network’s oversight mechanisms. You are correct that I gave priority last Friday to replying to Richard Carrier’s smears. In terms of urgency, I generally give priority to countering smears against Atheist Ireland rather than me, but that is independent of tone or gender.
I welcome and appreciate the nuance you and others are bringing to this discussion. I think we may be speaking across each other on some points, and I hope we can gradually tease that out. I will respond to your posts, and to those of MA and Secular Woman, when I have time to respond with the consideration and nuance that you deserve, given that I have already said that you have given me some things to think about in a way that I had not before.
I’m not sure exactly when I will be able to respond, because we are in the middle of a very busy time in our work with Atheist Ireland, and because I am not yet sure what my response will include, and because I will have to articulate it in words that some people (not you) will pore through looking for things they can interpret in the worst possible light. But in the meantime, let me address some of the points that you make in your open letter to me.
The idea that I care more about tone than women
Firstly, I am puzzled by the idea that my replying to Richard Carrier before you sends the message that I care more about tone than I do about women. That is both because my response to Richard was not based on his tone, but on the factually false claims that he was making about Atheist Ireland, and also because I don’t prioritise my responses to people based on their gender.
So far on this overall issue, based on a quick check, I have responded to posts and articles by seven women (Eleanor Robertson, Kimberley Winston, Michelle Boorstein, Ophelia Benson, Stephanie Zvan, MA Melby, and you) and five men (Mark Oppenheimer, PZ Myers, Adam Lee, Latsot and Richard Carrier). That’s based on a quick check; I hope that a more detailed check will not change that substantially.
However, I have spent my adult life lobbying politically for women’s rights, I actively promote greater gender balance within the atheist movement, my blog includes a list of over 1,500 women speakers for conference organisers to consider inviting, and I proposed within Atheist Ireland that we should host the international conference on Empowering Women through Secularism two years ago, which Jane Donnelly then coordinated and chaired.
I’m particularly puzzled because you also say that you don’t think that is the message that I intend to convey. Well, if you don’t think that is the message I intend to convey, then it is not the message that I did actually convey to you. You may of course think that others have mistakenly interpreted it in this way. If so, can I ask that you consider conveying more strongly your belief that they are mistaken, rather than reinforcing that mistaken belief?
Also, Ashley, could you please consider saying a few words in support of Jane Donnelly and Ashling O’Brien and other women activists in Atheist Ireland, against Richard’s smears made on the blog network you share with him, in which he implies that they are either gullible or wicked enough to be party to using anti-feminist propaganda to defend an accused rapist while furthering another man’s fiefdom?
Jane and Ashling in particular are publicly feminist women who are as much part of the work and public face of Atheist Ireland as I am, and they are as publicly caught in the web of Richard’s smears about Atheist Ireland as I am. Last week on Twitter, Secular Woman also linked Jane and Ashling to supporting abusers and silencing victims, and the pseudonymous Latsot has previously called Ashling a lying wanker when she asked him to clarify something.
Why I have not yet replied, and when I will reply
Ashley, I had hoped to reply to you last weekend after our Twitter conversation, then MA Melby and Secular Woman wrote similar posts, and it seemed more sensible to reply to all three together in a considered way. I have to fit this in with a lot of other work. Last week we had two very important projects in Atheist Ireland, as well as our ongoing media and political lobbying work.
We were finalising a submission to United Nations Committee on Economic Social and Cultural Rights in preparation for our visit to Geneva in June when the Committee is questioning Ireland about its ESC Rights record. This is important actual social justice advocacy on the ground, trying to actually advance social justice in society.
We were also finalising a submission to the Standards in Public Office Commission about the failure of the Roman Catholic Church and the conservative Catholic Iona Institute to register their political activities in order to be financially accountable in their campaigns against same sex marriage, and we were organising debates on same sex marriage.
All of this activity is entirely voluntary. Much of it takes place in the evenings or the early hours of the morning, after we have finished our ordinary day’s work. For example, I finished the final draft of the Standards in Public Office submission at 3am on Friday morning, then I was sent a link to Richard Carrier’s latest smears about Atheist Ireland, and I still had other work to finish over the next hours.
Since the recent extension of smears about me to also include smears about Atheist Ireland, I have made clear that I will make it a priority to correct smears about Atheist Ireland. Defending my own reputation can wait. Smears against Atheist Ireland are more damaging than smears against me, to the project of building an ethical and secular society, and particularly when they are so blatantly false that it would be irresponsible of me not to put the facts on record immediately.
And so, in order to fit in replying to them with my other commitments for Friday, I had to get by on one hour’s sleep before beginning the day that ended with me posting my response to Richard at about midnight. It was absolutely the last thing I wanted to be doing that day, and was as far as you could possibly get from me being, as you put it, “itching to write 3000 words about how someone is wrong on the internet.” You have no idea how mistaken you are about that.
To conclude, Ashley, I welcome and appreciate the nuance you and others are bringing to this discussion. I will respond to your posts, and to those of MA and Secular Woman, when I have time to respond with the consideration and nuance that you deserve. For various reasons, I’m not sure exactly when this will be, but I will do so as soon as I can.