Yesterday I read, as a bit of an outsider, much of the goings on between Skepchick and world-famous atheist Richard Dawkins. You can read Skepchick’s post above for a recap of the events, but the short story is that Skepchick was propositioned on an elevator at a convention in Dublin. Richard Dawkins carefully and thoughtfully pondered the situation and responded thusly:
Stop whining, will you. Yes, yes, I know you had your genitals mutilated with a razor blade, and . . . yawn . . . don’t tell me yet again, I know you aren’t allowed to drive a car, and you can’t leave the house without a male relative, and your husband is allowed to beat you, and you’ll be stoned to death if you commit adultery. But stop whining, will you. Think of the suffering your poor American sisters have to put up with.
Only this week I heard of one, she calls herself Skep”chick”, and do you know what happened to her? A man in a hotel elevator invited her back to his room for coffee. I am not exaggerating. He really did. He invited her back to his room for coffee. Of course she said no, and of course he didn’t lay a finger on her, but even so . . .
And you, Muslima, think you have misogyny to complain about! For goodness sake grow up, or at least grow a thicker skin.
I gotta say, Dawkins’s response is a brilliant diversion technique. Taking a woman’s experience and comparing it to something more egregious in order to belittle it is a totes original tactic! After all, it’s not like she got raped!!
But, I digress. What I really wanted to address is Rebecca’s response:
And then I would make a comment about how there could really be more women in the community, and the responses from my fellow skeptics and atheists ranged from “No, they’re not logical like us,” to “Yes, so we can fuck them!” That seemed weird.
So I started speaking more about women. About how they’re not idiots. About how they can think logically but maybe there are other social pressures keeping them away from our message, like how we tell women they should be quiet and polite and not question what is told to them. I spoke about how people need role models, and there were so few women on stage at these events.
And I got messages from women who told me about how they had trouble attending pub gatherings and other events because they felt uncomfortable in a room full of men. They told me about how they were hit on constantly and it drove them away. I didn’t fully get it at the time, because I didn’t mind getting hit on. But I acknowledged their right to feel that way and I started suggesting to the men that maybe they relax a little and not try to get in the pants of every woman who walks through the door. Maybe they could wait for her to make the first move, just in case.
And then, for the past few years as the audience for Skepchick and SGU grew, I’ve had more and more messages from men who tell me what they’d like to do to me, sexually. More and more men touching me without permission at conferences. More and more threats of rape from those who don’t agree with me, even from those who consider themselves skeptics and atheists. More and more people telling me to shut up and go back to talking about Bigfoot and other topics that really matter.
And I said no. I learned more about modern feminism and about how their goals so clearly overlapped those of the humanists and skeptics and secularists, and I wrote and spoke more about the issues within that overlap because so few other skeptics were doing it.
So here we are today. I am a feminist, because skeptics and atheists made me one. Every time I mention, however delicately, a possible issue of misogyny or objectification in our community, the response I get shows me that the problem is much worse than I thought, and so I grow angrier. I knew that eventually I would reach a sort of feminist singularity where I would explode and in my place would rise some kind of Captain Planet-type superhero but for feminists. I believe that day has nearly arrived.
Pardon the analogy, but we all have our “Come to Jesus moments.” We start off young, with an abstract notion of feminism, and the idea that we’re not like those women. Those women don’t shave their legs. They wear makeup and they burn their bras. We’re sexy and empowered and equal. We get pedicures.
Except that then we realize that we’re not.
And part of the reason that women now don’t have role models is because so many of us are afraid to be the feminist role models that our (generational) mothers were.
I’m pleased to see Rebecca come over to the dark side and embrace her feminist cape. I have faith in her ability to change things. After all, she’s already recognized the impact of the diversionary trap set by women who claim that “sexism has never happened to them”. I hope that she can lead her atheist sisters into a new era of enlightenment. But, as an aging, perhaps eventually retiring, feminist super hero myself, I’d offer her one piece of advice. The atheist feminists need to discard the trope that misogyny and the patriarchy are born of religion. Guys like Richard Dawkins are no different than any of the entitled, white-haired, pale-faced, penis-stroking fucks that plague our entire civilization. Patriarchy isn’t rooted solely in religion. It’s rooted in men’s belief that they should be able to beat their meat to and with whomever they want.
Religion may have been a tool used to reinforce the patriarchy, but it’s only a means to an end. You’ve got to address the end in everyone. Then, maybe the atheist women will stop getting theirs pinched.
Figure 1: “Now what?”, indeed.