Where Atheism and Feminism Meet – Part I

This blog is called Canadian Heathen. This is because I identify as an atheist. Also because maple leafs and socialized healthcare are awesome! The majority of my blog posts have not, however, been primarily concerned with atheism. Or…Mounties. At first glance this may be confusing (or annoying) to some.

For me, my atheism and feminism stem from the same place: rationality and skepticism. Belief in gods is irrational. Sexism is irrational. Often the first leads to the second. There’s a strong correlation between religious belief and lack of women’s rights. Both of these things affect me. As a woman, the sexism is often the more noticeable for me. Also the more likely to piss me off. Because it’s all up in my face and it’s not something I can ever escape from. Once you see…you cannot unsee.

It’s also sometimes more baffling for me. Sexism doesn’t just come from the religious folks. I wish that were the case. It’s really easy to dismiss a stupid statement coming from someone who truly believes a snake tricked a woman into eating an apple. Unfortunately, there’s a nice heaping helping of unreasoned sexism that’s coming from fellow atheists and skeptics and this is something that I just don’t understand. How can you let go of one set of irrational beliefs while clutching desperately to another? More importantly, why would you want to?

I’ve been an internet forum warrior. Hell, I’ve even been a troll. I’ve clashed with religious fundementalists over the basic tenets of their beliefs with varying degrees of success. I remember years ago being on a forum arguing against religious fundementalism with a muslim dude. The muslim dude was ill prepared, as he was throwing some of the most common theistic arguments at us. The sort of thing that’s been debunked again and again. Pascal’s Wager and the like. Suffice it to say that he was floundering. Then one of my ‘allies’ piped in with : ‘you’re getting beaten by a girl, you know. What does that say about you manly muslims?’ I was completely derailed and flustered.

Really, random-internet-dude-who’s-suppose-to-be-my-ally-here? You went there? To score points in a flame war you tossed aside all reason and taunted his manhood by insulting half the population and in particular one of your allies. How exactly was I supposed to respond to that? Laughing along with him would be tacit agreement that I’m a second class citizen. I remember that what happened was that I turned my ire on the atheist and asked him what the hell his problem was. His response was something like : ‘But look how mad it made muslim guy’. Mine was : ‘And look how mad it made me. Do you really want to ‘win’ this fight by alienating half of your potential allies? Don’t knock me down in order to get a shot in at some random internet idiot.’ I got a sullen :’sorry…’ and he withdrew from the conversation.

This last anecdote is a mild one. There’s far worse things going on within and without the atheist community at the moment.

There’s the infamous Elevatorgate scandal, which all things aside (and whatever you happen to think about being propsitioned in an elevator at 4am in a strange country), taught us that if a woman speaks up about something that bothers her, she will get threatened and harassed mercilessly…for years! Or a condescending ‘Dear Muslimah‘ letter from one of the most respected members of the atheist community.

There’s are numerous situations where a rape survivor has mentioned that joking at the expense of the victims is not funny…who then promptly receive rape threats, because apparently that’s the go-to silencing tactic when calling a woman a Bitch doesn’t work.

The backlash that Surly Amy is getting because she’s a woman…because she’s a skeptic. Because she has opinions. Read that link, it’s a pretty horrifying example of the sort of shit that women who are atheists have to put up with…from their supposed allies! Among other things another atheist laments that Amy won’t be setting herself on fire anytime soon.

There’s a highschool girl sharing her gotta-make-you-smile story of how her very religious mother gave her a Carl Sagan book for Christmas…and then the rape threats that followed. And seriously, this girl is not even an adult yet.

So, above and beyond the fact that as an atheist I must fight against the religious right trying to lobby to take away my rights as a person, and as a woman, I’ve got this secondary fight going on. One where I need to give my apparent allies the side-eye from time to time and wonder if they really have my back or not or whether they’re waiting to throw me under the bus to score points in a frikken flame war. This is why so many of my posts have focused and will focus on feminism. To me, it’s all part of the same picture. In this case, the more uncomfortable part of the ‘good fight’.

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One thought on “Where Atheism and Feminism Meet – Part I

  1. […] The first part of this post can be found here : Where Atheism and Feminism Meet – Part I […]

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