Afternoon Inqueery

AI: Responding to Problems in the System

I am currently deciding if I should resign from an organization I have worked with for a few years (outside of the skeptical community) after learning some very concerning information about the leadership of the group and some decisions that they have made. It’s one of those things where I need to decide if I feel the organization is likely to change course, in which case I want to stick around and help it get better. On the other hand, if it is likely to continue down a path I see as deeply problematic I want to get out as quickly as possible. Someone I respect enormously has already left and I need to decide if I should follow him.

The situation reminds me a bit of how a lot of people are feeling about CFI right now after Ron Lindsay’s speech at Women in Secularism 2. Greta Christina recently posted a letter to CFI’s board from 13 speakers from WiS2 expressing their concerns about Lindsay’s speech and asking for at least an apology from Lindsay. The letter says that “Anything less will make it difficult, if not impossible, for us to continue to support CFI the way we have in the past.”

How do you go about deciding when it is time to back away from an organization you’re associated with? Do you bolt when serious concerns come to light, or stick around and try to make things better? Who’s advice do you listen to when deciding these kinds of things? What are your deal breakers?

The Afternoon Inqueery (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Queereka community. Look for it every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday at 3pm ET.

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Benny Vimes

Benny Vimes

Benny Vimes is a queer polyamorous transman, curious skeptic, and enthusiastic seeker of knowledge. He's an undergraduate student in his 30's and loves teaching people about alternative sexuality and gender issues.


  1. June 10, 2013 at 7:47 pm —

    When I’m new to a group it often doesn’t take much for me to write the group off. The local skeptics, for example, are dominated by their drug addictions and I have nothing to do with them as a result. Same with “reclaim the night”, a few (dozen) microaggressions at the first one I attended and I decided that most people would be happier without me there.

    Other times I’ll just suggest a compromise – at university I helped the local queer community cafe/bar space open during the day so that people too young to enter an open bar could attend, as well as those of us who worked evenings or just wanted to hang out during daytime. It worked quite well, we ended up with 20-30 people coming through most days. Often all it takes is standing up and saying “I want to organise this, who will help me” rather than “someone should do this for me”.

    With other social groups I think I’m more of a splittist in practice. I will complain loudly about problems but if members of the group aren’t inclined to compromise (“we always meet in the pub and that’s ok because we don’t have under-18 members”… is a circular argument) I’ll see if I can start up a second, less problematic group. When that works well most people will migrate to the less-problematic group over time.

    While in theory I will agitate and complain, but I know from experience that I don’t have the social skills to persuade people a lot of the and definitely alienate some people, so there are times when there’s just no point. With one group I complained about decisions being made by an “in group” without consulting the rest of us. A committee member responded by emailed me a list of my personal failings and offered to help fix me. I left.

    I have seen friends effectively take over groups that have problems, thus fixing them by sheer force. With more formal groups this is often easy – many community groups have tiny numbers of active members, so turning up to their AGM with a few friends can be enough to replace the whole board. Or with less formal groups turning up to every event they hold with enough people that you can change the group dynamic by sheer weight of numbers. That works by microagressions – when someone steps outside the new boundaries enough people have a quiet word with them about their behaviour that they stop doing it or leave the group. I’m personally not comfortable with those approaches, but they seem to be socially accepted as well as effective.

  2. June 10, 2013 at 9:55 pm —

    A little update – This happened:

    I am one of those signers. The situation is big and complicated and much of the response is behind the wall on Fetlife, but those of you who are on that social network can see much of the discussion there I’m sure. I am proud of signing onto this letter. It was a hard decision to make, not all of the fallout has been good, and it’s hard to predict how things will pan out in the future. However, I believe this was the right thing to do.

  3. June 11, 2013 at 1:31 am —

    Knowing you were talking about fetlife/BDSM would have helped. Count me skeptical that your letter will help. It might, but I’m definitely a splittist when it comes to consent violators and other undesirables running conventions. It’s too easy for those events to be run by rapists, for rapists unless everybody is very clear that explicit consent is required from everyone. But I’m coming from a position where my need for those communities is effectively met where it’s not minimal. OTOH, that’s because I have helped build a community that works for its members (and yes, we’re exclusionary and only cautiously include new members… a valid criticism. But the alternative is worse, IMO).

    Good luck!

    • June 13, 2013 at 2:38 pm —

      I am bothered by your implication that because this is a BDSM thing that it should be expected that bad people will be running these events. I’ve been to a handful of different events, and I have met leaders that are wonderful and caring. I’ve met a few bad apples as well, don’t get me wrong, but I’ve also met people that cross the lines at plenty of other functions and they all should be dealt with.

      • June 18, 2013 at 4:14 pm —

        I agree with you – the BDSM community is like any other. Lots of great people, a few awful ones. In my experience kinksters are doing a bit better than in any other social community I’ve been in. I also think that it’s telling that Shibaricon’s leadership has responded to the concerns we voiced and may actually be making real changes – wheras in the skeptical community we get shit like CFI’s statement that came out yesterday. CFI could learn something from the kinksters I think.

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