Seeing the Invisible: Feminism and Atheism Intersect

A few years back, I found myself surprised to discover that all of the problems of equity in the U.S. had been fixed, right under my nose. Somehow, this had happened despite the rather apparent issues of racial profiling, sex discrimination, and the growing socioeconomic gaps that I observed in my day-to-day life.

Not surprisingly, this assertion of already-established equality came from a group of white, middle-class 16-year-olds in a suburban school where I was guest teaching a lesson on Fahrenheit 451. We were discussing the obvious discrimination and suppression of the non-conforming individuals in the book and how and why this suppression worked, and then I asked them if they could think of any non-mainstream identities or lifestyles that were particularly discouraged or even actively suppressed by American culture.

Now, I should not have been surprised at the blank stares I received when I asked that question, nor should I have been surprised when the better part of the class emphatically insisted that “we were all equal” and that we “all had equal rights” and “everybody can do what they want,” but it did catch me momentarily off guard. (As uncomfortable as those moments are in the classroom, they are amazingly “teachable,” and often lead to the most interested and insightful discussions, if the teacher is willing and able to follow them.)

After a couple of failed attempts at different lines of discussion, I finally struck on a question that seemed to resonate and illustrated the problem with their assertion. I simply asked a boy in the front row if he would wear an outfit like mine — a tailored black dress, patterned black pantyhose, and black stilettos — to school, since everyone “can do what they want” without repercussion in an “equal” society. After all, a male wearing a dress shouldn’t cause any controversy, if we’re all “equal” regardless of who we are, what we wear, and what we choose to do in our lives. Right?

The proverbial light switch clicked on, and I could see the befuddlement in their faces. Here they had thought they had it all figured out, and with just a few questions I could see them turn the question over in their minds. Success! Not a horrible job in only forty minutes, as someone with, at the time, no professional experience in the classroom.

The interesting thing about that experience, for me, was the reminder of just how blind we can be to privilege, if we’re lucky enough to have it. Privilege is a funny thing — it’s invisible, colorless, and odorless when you have it, yet it is blatantly obvious when you lack it. My Brightest Diamond said it more concisely (and in a much more flamboyant outfit) in the lyrics to this song:

“When you’re privileged you don’t even know you’re privileged
When you’re not, you know”

The same is true for feminism; when I saw this now-iconic photo from last week’s Congressional Oversight Committee regarding religious institutions and exemptions for birth control coverage, my immediate reaction was “what a perfect, visual example of the patriarchy.”

It deeply unsettles me when I hear atheists, in person or online, deny the existence of the patriarchy or declare feminism “irrelevant” and “outdated.” There is a significant portion of the online atheist community that not only rejects feminism (cough*The Not-So-Amazing Atheist incident*cough), but actively disparages it. If the word “feminism” is so much as whispered on Pharyngula, the Horde is faced with a deluge of comments, some simply misinformed, some with arguably more vitriol and sexism. R/GodlessWomen spends half its time posting interesting things, some related directly to feminism, some not, and the other half fighting off unfriendly visitors.

Why?

Interestingly enough, I feel that “seeing” the need for feminism requires the same kind of eyes as “seeing” the need for atheism — it’s not a response to what actually exists, but rather what doesn’t. If there is one thing that atheists are really, really good at, it’s talking up the lack of the supernatural in the world. No miracles, no answered prayers, no divine intervention… no god. But the same logic doesn’t seem to apply to the lack of women in positions of economic or intellectual power, the lack of representation in government, the pay gap that still very much exists, and the increased risk of sexual violence that women face.

The patriarchy exists. It’s as plain as the nose on your face, the image of five older, celibate men speaking for the rights of all women leaping out from your monitor.

So why is the atheist and skeptical community, espousers of all things intellectual and rational, so hostile to feminism? In no way, shape, or form does feminism require a person to “only” focus on women’s issues, or hate or neglect men (although there have certainly been some proponents of feminism that have, merely proving that every group of people have their crazies), or to subscribe to a specific, militant lifestyle. Feminism, in its most stripped-down form, is simply the belief that women are and should be equal to men. Feminism is the understanding that we must advocate for women, as they occupy an underprivileged spot in the social strata, in order to achieve equity. How you go about doing that… well, that’s as diverse a possibility as how to live your life as an atheist.

In the U.S., it seems as though contraception is going to be on the table as a moral issue for the upcoming elections, as all of the GOP frontrunners have voiced their opposition in one way or another. These are “feminist” issues that are very, very real, that could have a potentially devastating effect on women’s lives, were they to be implemented.

So, how about it, atheists? We can see religious privilege, and we really, really like to point it out, but can’t we take a look a gender privilege as well? Let’s make nice, and put away our bra-burning strawfeminist, and work together to make feminism actually irrelevant.

About amanda

Amanda is a pie-baking, music-listening, lindy-hopping, yoga-doing, power-tool-wielding feminist, atheist, and wife. She divides her time equally between cooking delicious things, trying to make nice with the house cat, and ranting about religion.

  • CatherineD

    Thanks you, what a great post!  Feminism  is still trying to through off the vilification it received during the suffragette movement and the second wave  in the 1960′s and 70′s.  It would be nice if feminism was irrelevant, but unfortunately deconstructing a millennia patriarchy is a long process.  

  • Jjgiveaway

    I think part of the reason is simply the word “feminism”.  In the end, it’s about gender, which is not really a binary concept, as much as we tend to think of it as such.  Referring to research about gender and society using this binary-loaded term will necessarily reinforce this false thinking.  Plus it makes dudes scared that others will think they’re gay if they’re labeled a “feminist”.  Would anti-feminist women want to be called “masculinists”?

    • Anonymous

      And that would just be terrible to be labeled gay for a straight guy.  I can see we need to work on more than just fixing the issue of sexism in the atheist movement.

      • Arclight

         Well, given the homophobia in North American society in general… yes, it *would* be terrible to be labelled gay. Not because there is anything wrong with being gay, but because there are negative social consequences to being called such in a heteronormative society.

        Take it from this straight guy who was bullied for “being gay” in school – that label isn’t fun.

        • Anonymous

          Bullying is wrong, regardless of the way in which it is done. 

          The thing is, this kind of attitude most certainly promotes the idea that it’s bad to be gay.  You don’t think there’s anything wrong with others being called gay, if that’s what they are, but being labeled gay if you aren’t is a bad thing because it will have negative social consequences.  Will it affect what schools you can go to and what jobs you can get and what person you want to marry and how you want to take care of your family and lovers if they fall ill?

          As I said, bullying is wrong, but if you continue to support the idea that the word gay is a slur on heterosexuals, you’re just continuing the homophobia that runs rampant.

      • http://www.nowhere-fast.net Tom

        Because it’s wrong that they would be uncomfortable with a misapplied label?  Because they shouldn’t care if people assume them to be something they’re not, whether or not they agree with that thing?

        Granted, many of the guys who get offended at being called “gay” are homophobic but there’s also a large number of people who just don’t like being mislabeled and associated with a group that they’re not a part of.  Why is it OK to discount that concern?

        • Anonymous

          Because being associated with gays is bad apparently?  I’m not seeing why this is such a bad thing.  Are gay people such a terrible group that association with them is seen as a negative to you?  Or is this more the idea of being labeled a Conservative when you’re a Liberal?  Or being called a woman when you’re obviously a man?

          • http://www.nowhere-fast.net Tom

            I will readily admit that there is a value judgement there with some, possibly most people, but the idea that you simply don’t want a label applied to you can easily be value-neutral and I’m responding to what seemed to be your assumption that anyone who took offense to being labeled “gay” when they weren’t was homophobic.

            I’m not implying that being gay is bad or terrible, just that people can be justifiably perturbed when they are mislabeled.

            I do think that it is also worth noting that there are still places where being labeled the “wrong” thing creates an actual, real danger.  It could be that someone doesn’t want the label applied to them not because they disagree with the group, but because they don’t want to get jumped or they don’t have the luxury of getting involved in a cause.

    • http://twitter.com/RantBot5000 RantBot Grikmeer

       I used to agree with that, but The Godless Bitches podcast disillusioned me. It’s worth a listen…

    • http://twitter.com/AchronTimeless Achron Timeless

      Agreed on the binary point. Again, that invisible privilege thing extends to those who are happy with how society has packaged them to match what happened to be issued between their legs upon birth. If you’re going to keep running with this “feminist” thing, then we’re going to have to create a “transgenderist” movement to fight both the current system and you too. And again, while TJ (the aforementioned questionably-amazing atheist) tends to behave immaturely on the issue, he does make a valid point: feminism is trying to solve the problem of gender issues by only focusing on the problems of one group. I guess digging and finding value in an argument beyond the way it was presented is something that’s become passe of late since no one really has bothered to counter it, only his presentation.

      Yes, things are broken. Yes, something needs to be done about it. I would think, especially asking skeptics of all genders (even those not so conveniently male or female) to weigh in on the matter and use their keen minds to help, that it would become * immediately* obvious that fighting a broken system with an idea broken in a different way won’t fix anything. We can do better than this. I certainly hope we can at least put the effort into figuring out what that is rather than clinging to individual encampments of similar privilege claiming they’re the solution.

      • Anonymous

        while TJ (the aforementioned questionably-amazing atheist) tends to behave immaturely on the issue, he does make a valid point: feminism is trying to solve the problem of gender issues by only focusing on the problems of one group

        I think this is a bit of a strawman, to be honest ~ on another board, in a discussion about feminism, one of the participants noted that the first time they were exposed to the entire subject of men being victims of domestic violence was in a women’s studies class!

        Also, have you ever been involved in a discussion about genital cutting?  (both genders)  In my experience over the past few years, I’ve been one of several women defending and supporting the rights of male infants…..and we often outnumber the men doing so.

        Just thought I’d toss those things out there, because I hear this ‘feminism ignores men’s issues altogether’ quite frequently, and, as I said, this isn’t entirely true.

        • http://twitter.com/AchronTimeless Achron Timeless

          And it remains not entirely true. You’ve mentioned individuals doing things, not a movement which takes one gender as its moniker doing them. “Feminism” will NEVER be anything other than about female issues by its very definition. The word is tainted by that. If people are moving beyond that scope, great, but they’re not feminist. Trying to undo etymology because you feel differently isn’t going to work. The name needs to be tossed and a new one picked. How about “Equality”?

          • Anonymous

            “Feminism” will NEVER be anything other than about female issues by its very definition. If people are moving beyond that scope, great, but they’re not feminist anymore

            Supporting males being treated equally and advocating for male infants’ personal autonomy (on the circumcision issue), makes me “not feminist anymore”?

            I’m sorry, but that’s nonsense.
             
            When you look up the definition of ‘feminism’, the #1 entry is some form of the following:

            ‘Belief in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes’

            ‘: the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes’

            Doing anything that’s consistent with that definition doesn’t make one (or their actions) “not feminist anymore”. That’s a misconception.

            • http://twitter.com/AchronTimeless Achron Timeless

              feminism 1851, “state of being feminine;” sense of “advocacy of women’s rights” is 1895, from Fr. féminisme (1837)That’s how the language works. Now, I know that completely redefining words is popular in today’s culture, but only a simpleton can get past what is essentially the word “womanism” somehow meaning “equal rights for all!” It’s the whole mantra that I hear over and over that essentially says “if we fix everything for women, everything else magically falls into place with no effort” from people just like you with their little attempts to say that the occasional outside effort by some members somehow makes up for the movement being embarrassingly one-sided. Admit it, you’re uncomfortable with the idea of how obvious the thing is or else you wouldn’t be begging for little anecdotal stories to be submitted as evidence.It reminds me all too much of how the word “theory” has gained this pop-culture meaning that is anything but what it means, or how “socialist” gets screamed as an insult ironically on streets paid for with public funds and in front of public schools. Almost daily I’m running into the all too common situation of “that word doesn’t mean what you think it does”.Maybe I’m a dreamer, but I refuse to compromise here. I seek equality, for ALL, not just a SINGLE gender, not just a race, not just a nationality, not just an income level, not just a belief structure… and while I applaud the efforts of tiny little groups with laser focus I also have the all too rare ability to realize that unless you actually remove this disease from society it will spread to other areas. What you call for is akin to a doctor only treating your leg for the flu and expecting the rest of your body to work itself out. Yes, that needs to be handled, but so does a LOT more if you’re going to get anywhere.But, of course, like every other little group, the moment you point out the obvious flaws in their goals they react with irrationality and anger. Time and time again, you talk to a tea party republican, or a militant theist, or a libertarian, or whatever narrow focus group you can think of… and you get the exact same reaction you’re giving. One of indignation that I’d dare tread on your sacred cause by pointing out what’s staring everyone in the face.You can NOT fix EVERYONE’s problems by only solving those of a select few.Why is that so difficult for people to rationally accept?(Of note, the comment system this site has chosen to use is one I’ve run into before. About 2 more replies in and everything will be reduced to a sliver of single characters running down the edge of the screen. This isn’t going anywhere anyway, so I suppose that’s for the best.)

              • Anonymous

                Now, I know that completely redefining words is popular in today’s culture

                I understand you feel that the term ‘feminism’ is somehow inherently limited, but my point is that the actual definition of the word isn’t…….

                and what i offered isn’t a ‘redefining’, it’s the definition that’s been used from dot.

                • http://twitter.com/AchronTimeless Achron Timeless

                  So I take it that you ignoring every actual point to my argument and only trying to trump the opening is an admission of defeat?

                • Anonymous

                  Not at all.  I’m merely pointing out that the definition of feminism doesn’t match your description of it.  That’s it, that’s all.

                  Again, I understand why you have an ‘issue’ with the word itself (and I’m not saying your point isn’t valid), but what feminism actually means ISN’T constricted to only equality for women

                  Hope this helps clarify what I was trying to say.

                • http://twitter.com/AchronTimeless Achron Timeless

                  Well, being that we’re running out of usable space in this thread (stupid comment system) and you’re just stuck in loop here, I’ll take your half-admission that I have a valid point and be satisfied with it. Best I can hope for really.

                  Now that there’s an agreement that there is an issue here, I suggest you stop trying to wiggle out of it and do something constructive with it instead.

                • amyc

                  Achron, I think you should try listening to what actual feminists say the word means instead of finding definitions from over a century ago. Isn’t that what religious people do to us when they try to define what atheist believe?

                • http://twitter.com/AchronTimeless Achron Timeless

                  Yes, but when they try to redefine us, they break the language to do so. This is quite the opposite. I frankly don’t get a rat’s ass what the “feminists” claim they’ve changed the word into. As long as they insist on keeping it, I can’t trust what they say about being balanced in their approach. 

              • FSq

                Well said Achron, very well said.

                Axegrrl has a bug up her wahoo and loves to fly the vagina flag.

        • Anonymous

           @ axxegrrl Sorry but your point about how some feminist are aware of and address gender issues from more then one side. Does not change the point that as a whole the movement is very single perspective focused.
          If this article is accurate in pointing out some blindness on these issues in the atheist/skeptic communities, than the broad brush point would apply more solidly in pointing out that the feminism movement is seriously marred by the far to narrow focus.
          You say some are first exposed to issues of men being beaten in a women’s studies class.
          The very fact that this was the first exposure to the issue shows the “privilege” the woman was speaking from. As she was not aware of such a huge issue before, while she almost certainly was aware of the issue of violence against women.
          Why? Because domestic abuse is written about and discussed in the context of female victims 99% of the time. Go to any social service office with free brochures. Out of all of the “there is help available” brochures, if they are gendered (and they are about 90 percent of the time) they are exclusively written with the female as the victim terminology. The best one can hope for are a few that are gender neutral, ie “spouse” language.

          • Anonymous

            vThe very fact that this was the first exposure to the issue shows the “privilege” the woman was speaking from. As she was not aware of such a huge issue before, while she almost certainly was aware of the issue of violence against women.

            It seems like you’re suggesting that this is only true for women…..but i don’t think that’s necessarily true.  I think the issue of men being victims of domestic violence has been a bit of a blindspot for society at large (minus the men who have actually been victims, of course)

            • Anonymous

               @axegrrl And the reason it has been a blind spot for society at large? SEXISM! But anti male sexism in this case, which argues for using inclusive terminology, so if one wishes to fight for equality for all gender classes etc feminism which is gendered terminology might not be a good word to connote that stance.

              • amyc

                Actually, from the literature I’ve read, it seems that male society at large doesn’t talk about domestic violence against men because of the gender roles society places on men and women. Society (American society at least) says that men should be strong and not show emotions, while women are shown as being weak and too emotional. If a man is seen as a victim of domestic abuse, he is seen as weak and “womanly,” and therefore would be possibly derided for not being stronger. Essentially, the man is insulted for acting like a woman, implying that women are inferior. This is why the patriarchy hurts everyone. It’s hurts men and women, it hurts gay, lesbian, bisexual and trangendered people. It hurts androgenous people, and it hurts asexuals. Feminism is not the magical solution to all of the world’s problems, and nobody ever said it was. But if we apply feminism to the real world and dismantle the patriarchy, then it would help a large section of the population (women, men who don’t fit the “masculine” stereotype, lgbt, and others mentioned above). Just because there are other problems in the world doesn’t mean that this one problem should be ignored.

                • amyc

                  sorry for the wall of text. I thought I had formatted it.

                • Anonymous

                   Of course the problem should not be ignored. The point is simply that sexism happens in both directions, in the 2012 western world it happens closer and closer to equal frequency, and the “feminist” movement would increase the ability to achieve the claimed goal of equality, if they started using gender neutral language that recognizes the equality goal, rather than the singularly focused goal of only fighting discrimination against a single gender. If the goal is equality called yourself an equalisist or something.

      • http://twitter.com/liberalanon Formerly Not Guilty

        As a feminist I can assure you that we work to eliminate all forms of discrimination. Our focus may be inequality of women but that encompasses poverty, race, pregnancy rights, and yes, transgendered rights. I don’t appreciate being told what my movement does or doesn’t do; it’s insulting.

        • http://twitter.com/AchronTimeless Achron Timeless

          So you’re meeting up with the racists who think all people are equal and the nationalists who think that we need to focus on worldwide matters rather than local ones after you get done commenting here right?

          I know it’s being a bit of a pedant, but if you’re NOT only focusing on female issues, then you need a new name. Simple as that. I’m sure you probably don’t appreciate being told that you’re using the wrong word to describe what you claim to be doing, but sorry that just happens to be the case here.

          • undine

            Just because someone identifies as a feminist, that doesn’t mean that is ALL that they are.  Yes, feminism focuses on female issues, but there is no reason a man or woman who is a feminist can’t also be concerned about equality between the sexes, or racial equality, or gay rights or any other issue.  It is just ONE aspect of a person and describes their stance on a particular set of issues.

            • http://twitter.com/AchronTimeless Achron Timeless

              Finally, someone who admits that feminism isn’t the solution to everything. You have no idea how long I’ve been trying to get someone to just say that.

              • http://twitter.com/liberalanon Formerly Not Guilty

                You and your smarter than thou attitude are why women don’t speak up in the atheist movement. It is shameful. Since you don’t identify as a feminist, how about you let us define what it means. There’s a difference between a dictionary definition and a definition. It doesn’t make the latter wrong because it doesn’t true up with the former.

                • http://twitter.com/AchronTimeless Achron Timeless

                  There’s a difference between what a word linguistically means and what you *wish* it meant. The second you start with a loaded title, it colors the actions of the movement. That’s why so many people are pushing for other titles in the atheist community after all, such as humanist for example. The “title” of a group has an effect on the course of that group’s actions, or at the very least, the perception of that group’s actions by everyone else. 

                  If this weren’t an issue, why would the atheist community already be struggling with it? I’m so very sorry that you and others like you are so clouded by the “warm fuzzies” you get thinking about how you want to be perceived that you can’t see something so obvious and simple. If you’re ever going to want support from a skeptical community, you’re going to have to fix this. Simple as that.

                • Anonymous

                  There’s a difference between what a word linguistically means and what you *wish* it meant.

                  Achron, you’re doing just that when you fail to ackowledge that the term ‘feminism’ means “‘Belief in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes”: the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes’”

                  Despite the ‘femi’ prefix, that’s what the word ‘feminism’ means.   That’s what it’s meant from dot.  As I said, i’m not saying your point that the term might seem to suggest something else isn’t valid….but the definition of the word itself doesn’t inherently restrict focus to ‘only women’.

                • http://twitter.com/AchronTimeless Achron Timeless

                  And I will again point out that if you’re not only focusing on the female gender then you functionally need a new title.

                  If someone decides to call an adoption agency “child molestation” or follows Hindu beliefs while calling themselves Catholic.. words only work as a means of communication if everyone uses the same meaning. If someone says “fish” and you have to spend 2 hours figuring out what they personally mean by “fish” then something has gone horribly wrong and the language is no longer functional. The whole nonsense word “Christian” being thrown around as if it has a set meaning when it’s really a collection of people with vastly different views on the same book is an example of this. If someone walks up and says “hey I’m a Christian” that doesn’t tell you much. They could mean anything from a hippy love everyone attitude to Westboro Baptist.

                  If you want the skeptic community to get behind this, you have to fix this issue, because I guarantee I am not the only one with an issue over this, I’m just the only one that doesn’t care how I come across by pointing it out.

                • amyc

                  Who the fuck cares about a stupid word? Seriously, that’s what your main issue seems to be. If you can’t get past what your preconceptions of a word are after people have already defined it for you, then you have more problems with it than just a definition. The skeptic community should get behind it because it accurately describes how much of society functions.

    • http://twitter.com/liberalanon Formerly Not Guilty

      It is just as bad for a man to be called a woman in any form. Consider the standard insult ‘pussy’. If you respected women, that would not be used as an insult. There are negative consequences with being atheist; how is being labeled ‘gay’ any worse? And how is a response that doesn’t embrace the label not make it worse? If you’re called a pussy, point out that a vagina can push out a 10lb baby while a kidney stone cripples a penis. Puts things in perspective.

      Great post. I also wondered why Hemant was wearing a black dress. I was impressed that he could walk in stilettos too!

      • Greisha

        This article is not written by Hemant.

        • http://twitter.com/liberalanon Formerly Not Guilty

          I got that. When I first read it I was confused. 

      • Charon

        Consider the standard insult ‘dick’. If you respected men, that would not be used as an insult.

        Consider the standard insult ‘asshole’. If you respected humans, that would not be used as an insult.

        Nope, sorry, not getting it. I’m all for feminism, and as a dude I do need help seeing privilege that I take for granted, but silly arguments don’t help.

        • http://twitter.com/liberalanon Formerly Not Guilty

          Silly arguments?Using ‘gay’ as an insult  hurts lgbt, using ‘retarded’ is degrading to the disabled. I can go on. Dick would also qualify. You definitely do need help seeing your privilege.

          • http://twitter.com/the_ewan Ewan

             No, he’s right, you’re wrong. Your argument was that ‘pussy’ is an insult because being a woman is considered bad. The exact same logic would suggest that ‘dick’ is an insult because being a man is considered bad.

            That is patently absurd – your premise is simply wrong.

            • http://twitter.com/AnarchoGirl AnarchoGirl

              “pussy” and “dick” are much different insults, regardless of the fact that they both refer to genitals. The insults of  “pussy” and “cunt” are much more degrading and imply much worse things, they devalue a person and they offend men because it implies that they are like a woman (the horror!). The nature of an insult also changes when it is made from a position of privilege and power (like a man calling a woman a cunt). What you are saying is basically that using the word “cracker” and “n—–” are equally as bad, because they both refer to race. And you might think that because you’re a privileged white guy, but they are not equally offensive. 

            • amyc

              The premise is not wrong. Charon is correct, the term “dick” is an insult to men and should be avoided. However, men are already in a position of privilege so the term is not as insulting. It’s like a white person being called “cracker,” it doesn’t hurt as much because the word is not attached to centuries of abuse leveled at that person’s race.

      • Anonymous

        Baby vs. Kidney stone isn’t really a good comparison. It’s almost like you’ve forgotten that women also have urethra’s. I’ve even heard some women say that passing a stone hurts even worse than giving birth does. Something about shoving a rock twice the size of a tube meant for carrying a liquid should understandably cause any person some serious pain.

      • Anonymous

        What a laughable argument.

  • http://CoffeeShopAtheist.com/blog Patrick

    I became an atheist after 10 years as a white, male, priveledged, evangelical, women-are-to-submit Christian.  Femenism was always demonized as counter-biblical, and abortion was the weapon of “femi-nazi’s” everywhere.

    Going from a position of religiously mainstream to a bible-belt apostate, I learned very quickly about the illusion of privilege, and just how deep-seated it is.  Learning about true feminism, watsongate, blogging about the recent TAA incident, I have gained so much awareness in such a short amount of time; I find feminism absolutely beautiful, and find it coincides with my own journey from theist to heathen.
    Last night our school’s SSA affiliate group (Pastafarians   USC) hosted Sikivu Hutchenson, an african-american femenist freethinker, who pointed out issues of privilege across gender and racial lines that still exist today.  I think that there are few causes which resonate with the secular movement than feminism, and I appreciate you voicing this concern.

    It is depressing to consider that these issues are constantly swept under the rug.  In a nation where the religious privilege extends so far and wide, by the heavy hand of white male demagogues, are we so quick to forget that secularists are fighting for the reduction of all uninformed stereotypes, not just a few?  

    We fight against that invisible of which you speak, seeking to overcome its delusional power, and we would do well to not forget that we are all alike in our unprivileged state.

    • amyc

      Growing up feminism was demonized in my home and church as well (more subtle than out in the open, but them implications were clear). The funny thing is that I started identifying as a feminist before I became an atheist. In high school, I used to say I’m not a feminist because I believed in equality for both sexes. After I read some books and became exposed to what feminists actually say and do, I realized that I had been a feminist all along, and I just was ignorant of what it actually meant. So, I didn’t necessarily change my beliefs on gender roles/issues, I just honed my understanding of the terms.

      • amyc

        Damn, it should read: (more subtle than out in the open, but the* implications were clear)

        MOAR editing

  • Mike Williams

    I thought your post did a good job pointing out the issue as it pertains to the atheist/skeptical community.

    The only problem I had was I didn’t read the byline before reading the post and I thought Hemant was the one wearing the dress, pantyhose and stilettos.

    I guess both my privilege and inability to read are showing.

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      Yes, I stopped cold at

      patterned black pantyhose

       Somehow I got past the black dress.

    • Anonymous

      You’re not the only one, I keep doing double-takes when I read posts not by Hemant where it isn’t clearly announced that it’s written by a guest poster, but then things like stilettos and Catholic families are mentioned. The grey-on-grey text with the poster’s name isn’t exactly obvious.

      The mental image was still great, though. I for one can’t wait for the day when that’s considered acceptable clothes for a male teacher. :D

  • http://www.realphilosophers.org/ Tom

    I think these are excellent points. I want to (1) quibble and then (2) expand on what you wrote.

    (1) Quibble: As I’m sure you’re aware, there’s lots of debate about what feminism really is. I think your view of feminism as the position that women should be equal to men is generally helpful, but I prefer something more specific. I would say that feminism is a conjunction of a normative and a descriptive claim.

    Normative: No one should be disadvantaged because of their gender. Descriptive: Many women are disadvantaged in many ways because of their gender, historically and in the present day.

    This makes room for allowing women to be unequal to men in various ways, as long as those inequalities are not disadvantages to those women. (Equality might not be morally sufficient; if the laws treated men and women completely equally, this might be to women’s disadvantage by denying them extra money, e.g., for problems that as a matter of fact affect women more. And equality might not be morally necessary, since we might not want to be too paternalistic about whether women should be able, e.g., to choose lower-paying jobs or traditional family roles.) And with its descriptive claim, this definition highlights the need for feminism.

    (2) Expand: In my experience teaching social and political philosophy, feminism is one of the positions most often the victim of straw-personing, as you note. Somehow everyone is aware of the writings of a few radical separatists, postmodernist (or at least post-structuralist), and Marxist feminists, and take those to be representative of the whole.

    Now, I think these positions are probably wrong, and so it’s lucky for feminists that these positions represent the minority. But if you’re correct that these sorts of online atheist communities are particularly hostile to feminism, I wonder whether it might be because many such atheists are emphatically epistemically rational, and postmodernism (especially) seems so irrational. So if you combine an insistence on epistemic rationality with the straw version of feminism according to which feminism is postmodernistic, you get this kind of hostility.

    Finally, why is feminism straw-personed this way? Well, as far as I can tell, most of the blame is on its opponents. It’s easy to address only the most extreme versions of one’s opponent’s position, of course, and to forget conveniently that nuances and more moderate versions of the position exist. But I would say that at least a little bit of the blame does lie upon these kinds of postmodernistic feminists, who only do damage to their position by denying the existence of “true” truth, knowledge, or moral obligation.

    I’m not aware of any other major (at least partially) political position where so many of the members seem to rest so much on denying commonsense beliefs about truth, knowledge, and moral obligation. Why is feminism particularly prone to this? (Is it?) I think the position would be much more plausible, and probably better-received, without these mistakes.

    • Rebecca Sparks

      Being a postmodern feminist, I’d like to respond to your post.

      There are some problems with postmodernism–it’s far more destructive than constructive.  It is near impossible to make a universal, sweeping theoretical statement with postmodernism.  

      That’s also what is wonderful about postmodernism.  Postmodernism is extremely helpful in rejecting “commonsense beliefs” and decentering binaries–because the structure of these truths frame the arguments in ways that exclude certian conclusions.  

      For instance, delinking biological sex and gender expression allows you to question what it means to be a “man”–how much is “nature” and how much is “nuture”.  It allows for the expression of transgender, and two-spirit and any other gender that doesn’t fit neatly into “man” and “woman”.  It allows you to look back in history and see how flexible gender could be–and how gender is expressed in different cultures.  Say for instance, in some cultures its the men who speak corse and vulgar and the women refined, and in some it is women who speak unrefined and men are elegant and eriodite.  What seems obvious and clear at first glance turns out to be murky and indistinct.

      The reason that postmodernism is so loved by scholars in feminism, ethnic and post-colonial studies is that many of of these universal obvious truths privliage men, whites and colonizers–because these truths were formulated by men, by white authors, by those from colonizing countries.   They unconciously were brought in their own biases from thier own priviaged posistions.  Postmondernism helps highlight and challenge this bias, so that we can build truths that are inclusive and flexible.  It’s not irrational–just de-constructive.

      On a different note, I quibble with your quibble with your descriptive definition of feminism.  Firstly because your descriptive describes sexism, not feminism.  Secondly, by using “many”, do you mean that some women are free of sexism, or do not feel the effects of sexism, or that there are sexism-free societies?

      As for feminism definitions, I rather like bell hook’s definition. “Feminism is the struggle to end sexist oppression.  Its aim is not to benefit soley any specific group of women, any particular race or class of women.  It does not privilege women over men.  It has the power to transform in a menaingful way all of our lives.”  - 1981 Ain’t I a Woman: Black Women and Feminism

      • Charon

         Warning: when you say “postmodernism” to a scientist, such as myself, their first instinct will be to ignore anything you say. This may seem unfair, but it’s based on a lot of experience that equates “postmodernism” with “nonsense”, e.g., the Sokal Hoax.

        • Charon

          To add, the students I’ve had in my history/philosophy of science class who come from “postmodern” backgrounds (and often ethnic or gender studies) are wont to claim science is a result of the patriarchy or European hegemony or something. Which I really hope isn’t a standard thing they teach over in those postmodern departments, because it’s complete nonsense. Individual scientists, scientific organizations, cultures in which some important scientific discoveries took place – these can be sexist, racist, etc. Science itself is absolutely not.

          So I’ve also come to associate “postmoderism” with “I don’t believe in object reality, but for some reason I keep eating meals, and if that’s logically inconsistent, then dammit, logic is an oppressive tool of the white, male, Eurocentric hegemonarchy!”

          I sincerely hope this is an incorrect characterization, but it’s what I’ve gotten from talking with and reading people who call themselves postmodernist.

          • amyc

            I have the same general reactions to postmodernism, but I’m beginning to think that a lot of it is just misunderstandings (both by people against it and some people who embrace it, but don’t really understand it).

        • Rebecca Sparks

          Warning: when you say “postmodernism” to a scientist, such as myself, their first instinct will be to ignore anything you say. 
          That’s why when I’m talking to scientists I usually lead with my interest in phrenology, crystals and lamarckian evolution, so I can get some respect.  (I’m kidding.  I hope that it would be obvious, but I’m half afraid that you would take me seriously.)the students I’ve had in my history/philosophy of science class who come from “postmodern” backgrounds … are wont to claim science is a result of the patriarchy or European hegemony or something. Which I really hope isn’t a standard thing they teach over in those postmodern departments, because it’s complete nonsense
          Well, I guess it would depend on the professor.  I think really its the privileging scientific knowledge above all else that has caused some problems.  Especially when not everyone could get scientific training, and scientists put credence to claims that are sexist, racist etc.  I don’t think we should stop science or that ending science will help stop patriarchy.   Students tend to drink too deeply of the departmental kool-aid, in my opinion.  

          PS.  I think it’s interesting that Sokal it was perceived as a knock against postmodernism and such and not against the dangers of forgoing peer review, but when Philip Davis’s fake article gets accepted to a peer reviewed science magazine,the controversy is on the ethics of open access journals.  

      • http://www.realphilosophers.org/ Tom

        Rebecca,

        Thanks for your reply.

        (1) On defining ‘feminism’: I might have been unclear here. I meant that feminism is the conjunction of those two claims. So feminism is the claim that no one should be disadvantaged because of their gender, conjoined with the claim that many women are indeed disadvantaged because of their gender. I don’t know that I would call someone a feminist who denied either of those claims. As for “many,” I didn’t mean it to be ‘merely many.’ It might be that all women are victims of sexism; I don’t know. But I think you probably aren’t a feminist if you don’t at least think that many are victims of sexism.

        (2) On ‘postmodernism’: I think I’m using a fairly narrow definition, which might be only accepted in narrow contexts. (See for example Charon’s notes below.) This is part of why I tried to use the word ‘postmodernistic.’ I don’t think that noticing the difference between sex and gender is particularly postmodernistic, but if it is, then I don’t have a quarrel with that.

        So I take the following sorts of claims to be ‘postmodernistic’:
        (a) There is no truth, or there is no objective truth.
        (b) There is no knowledge, or there is no objective knowledge.
        (c) There is no moral obligation, or there is no objective moral obligation.
        I think all three of these claims are fairly obviously false, and I think that propounding or accepting those claims does more harm ultimately to women than good. (If there is no truth, then it’s not true that women should have the same rights as men. If there is no knowledge, then we don’t know whether women have ever been unfairly disadvantaged. And so on.)

        (I should say here that by ‘objective’ I mean ‘attitude- and stance-independent.’ If something is objectively true, then it’s true no matter who you are and what you believe. If something is objectively morally obligatory, then it’s obligatory for you no matter who you are and what you believe.)

        If postmodernists don’t really accept (a)-(c),then I have less quarrel with them. But I know there are feminists (and a few philosophers in general) who really do propound claims like (a), (b), and (c).

        You write, “many of of these universal obvious truths privliage men, whites and colonizers–because these truths were formulated by men, by white authors, by those from colonizing countries.”

        If you’re suggesting that they privilege whites, men, and colonizers merely because they were formulated by whites, men, and colonizers, that seems like a non sequitur. For a truth to privilege someone, it needs to do more than just come from that person, right?

        I grant, of course, that privileged white male colonizers have often appealed to what they believed to be truths in order to oppress other people. But the problem is not that they were claiming that truth existed–it was that they were claiming that those propositions were truths. Right?

        • Rebecca Sparks

          1)On defining ‘feminism’ — I still find your definition lacking one vital component.  A good definition should include these three elements, at least implicitly: A) no one should be disadvantaged because of gender, B) women are disadvantaged because of their gender C) feminists work to end disadvantage due to gender.  The first two describe sexism, the third describes the end of sexism.  Feminism is about the end of sexism.  Defining sexism is really helpful for that purpose, but without talking in some way about the end of sexism you fall short of defining feminism.

          2) I must confess my first thought on reading your part 2 is that you must not like epistemology, metaphysics, or cultural relativity much either.  My second thought is that I intended to defend postmodernism and somehow ended up in the position of defending postmodernistic. I stand by my definition of postmodernism as deconstructive rhetoric and not unbridled relativism I’m not alone.  But I do acknowledge that often people that believe in extreme relativism claim postmodernism, and I  think that makes “postmodernistic” is a fair term to use to describe it.

          Do I think postmodernisticly?  I cringe to admit I think are some things that are relativist, because as Charnon so bluntly points out scientists assume that I reject reality entirely and stop listening to what I have to say.  I believe that there are other methods of knowledge production other than science that are valid, like history (non-repeatable) or art (not objective). I believe in the (weak) Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, that language guides and shapes (but does not determine) what we think about.   I think that because knowledge is produced by people it’s always reality + culture, and sometimes that culture is has a negligible effect (like gravity) or important (like race theory).  I also think that scientific truth is based on logically coherent theories backed by data, and some theories are so well supported (gravity, evolution) you can call them true.

          I grant, of course, that privileged white male colonizers have often appealed to what they believed to be truths in order to oppress other people. But the problem is not that they were claiming that truth existed–it was that they were claiming that those propositions were truths. Right?

          Right.
          I think really the biggest divide that I have between anti-postmodernistics and my worldview as I don’t think it’s as easy or (or even completely possible) to be unbiased, because your culture is so engrained in you that its impact seems completely natural to you. Or I think there are many rather interesting theories that compete for the “Truth”, and sometimes its hard to chose between them.  However, I don’t think the next logical step is to declare “Everything is equally true–there is no Truth!!” I just tend to have a healthy skepticism for things that are declared universal perhaps prematurely, like studies on western educated industrialized rich democratic (WEIRD)  students that are supposed to describe all of humanity, not reality as a whole ala the man who controls the universe in the Hitchhiker’s Guide series.

      • Anonymous

        @  Rebecca Sparks. The definition you quoted for feminism is itself sexist in terminology. It says: “Feminism is the struggle to end sexist oppression.  Its aim is not to
        benefit soley any specific group of women, any particular race or class
        of women.  It does not privilege women over men.  It has the power to
        transform in a menaingful way all of our lives.”
        As you can see it starts out “antisexist”, then it uses only gender specific descriptions of the sexism it seeks to end it says for instance “”it’s aim is not to benefit solely any specific group of women” If it were supposed to be about all people not focused on one particular sex it would use terminology such as: “it’s aim is not to benefit solely on group of individuals, any particular race or class of individuals.” See the sexist lens even this definition is written from?
        Oh you didn’t? Maybe that has something to do with the concept of privilege?

        • Rebecca Sparks

          Anti-sexist does not mean gender neutral.   That would mean that sexism applied to both women and men; that men were disadvantaged and at a risk for a higher rate of violence and sexual violence based solely on their gender.  I don’t think that’s true.  I think that men can be oppressed through heteronormativity, racism, ablism, ageism, nationalism, etc. but not through sexism.  Making sexism gender-neutral makes it nonsensical.

          • Anonymous

            Uh oh I think Rebecca just outed herself as a sexist individual. She does not even accept that men can even in theory be treated in a sexist manner, that would in her words “make it (sexism) nonsensical”.
            The word itself in Rebecca’s view can only refer to women suffering from being treated through the paradigm of their of their biological gender.
            Rebecca please look in the mirror and try to reconcile this blind and sexist attitude with being a rational individual. 
            Remember even if it is true (as it certainly was historically, and is currently in much of the world) that sexist attitudes mostly disadvantage women, it would not mean that sexism does not occur against men in individual cases, and for you to maintain: “Anti-sexist does not mean gender neutral.   That would mean that sexism applied to both women and men;” is bold faced sexism.
             You then try to make sexism about some statistical average, that it requires a higher statistical risk for sexism to occur.
            What if someone lived in a very non homophobic area, which actually had such a significant number of gay people that they were statistically more likely to benefit socially from their sexuality.
            Would that mean that since they suffer no statistical disadvantage they cannot by definition be a victim of homophobia? Please think things through. Thank you.

            • amyc

              In this culture (by that I mean Western/American) women are more negatively affected by sexism than men are, so yes, she’s correct in saying it’s absurd to apply it to both genders (basically, if you fix the sexism against the one, the few negative consequences against the other would go away). The opposite would be true in any culture that is inherently sexist toward men (the godless bitches had an example of one in India that they did a show on).

            • Rebecca Sparks

              Uh oh I think Rebecca just outed herself as a sexist individual. Why are you talking about me in the third person?  Did you just whisper an aside to the audience, like a character in a Shakespearean play? 

              biological gender
              actually, it’s biology = sex, culture = gender.

               then try to make sexism about.. Ok, alconnolly, what is sexism? 

              What if someone lived in a very non homophobic area, ..
              Like in contemporary Haight-Ashbury or like Ancient Greece 7th century BCE?   

              Alconnolly, you’re being very patronizing and rude.  On the off chance that you’re not trolling me I’d be glad to reply if you can be civil while answering my questions.  Thank you.

          • amyc

            Rebecca, thank you for your thoughtful responses here and I also want to thank Tom as well. I think you both have had a good and beneficial discussion about terms, how they are defined and how they are perceived. Also, don’t worry about alconnolly, xe seems to only respond to things about feminism (haven’t seen hir much in any other threads here, I could be wrong though).

            • Rebecca Sparks

              Thanks amyc!
              Though to be fair, I mostly post on feminist topics here too.

        • amyc

          The reason it uses the term “women” instead of the gender neutral term “individuals” is because it is a common misconception that feminists only want to benefit women, therefore, this definition is addressing that concern. At least, that’s how I read it.

      • amyc

        While I wouldn’t consider myself a postmodernist feminist, I really appreciate your explanation, and a lot of what you addressed resonates with how I’ve come to understand the issues surrounding gender expression/roles and other binaries in society. I think I might read more about this, maybe I just have a fundamental misunderstanding of what postmodernist feminists actually say. :-)

        • Rebecca Sparks

          Amyc, you have made me day!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Judith-Bandsma/1539649418 Judith Bandsma

    Feminism is the unthinkable idea that women are human.

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      I’ve always liked

      I myself have never been able to find out precisely what feminism is:  I only know that people call me a feminist whenever I express sentiments that differentiate me from a doormat.

              –Rebecca West (1913)

    • Anonymous

       This is such a strawman. Who in the last few centuries has gone around saying that women aren’t human? On the other hand, the most devastating insult feminists can throw at a man is to call him an MRA – apparently it’s an unthinkable idea that men have rights.

      • Brian Macker

        Yeah, I noticed that too.

      • Anonymous

        People don’t have to say, or even believe, that women aren’t human to treat them as if they are less human than men.  Look at how women are treated in parts of the Middle East, Africa, and Asia.  Things certainly aren’t that bad in the west (no female circumcision, burqas, etc.), LESS BAD is not the same as NONE BAD.  

        While I can see how the above post could be construed as a little bit of a strawman, even more of a strawman is your assertion that “the most devastating insult feminists can throw at a man is to call him an MRA,” since no one here is doing that yet you lump feminists together as people who do do that.  That some feminists might also be jerks or idiots does not necessarily demonstrate that feminism itself is idiocy.

      • scene bean

         Nobody has to outright say that women aren’t human. Would you feel like an accepted human being if a bunch of white men were discussing whether or not you should have bodily autonomy – whether or not you should have a choice in when to/whether or not to reproduce? Would you feel like an accepted human being if this issue was being discussed by no one that was actually directly affected by the issue, and there were few to speak up for your experience as an individual of that gender? I could go on with examples but I’ll leave you with that.

  • KB

    The example with the male student not being able to wear a dress and stilettos to school with the quote, “When you’re privileged you don’t even know you’re privilegedWhen you’re not, you know” doesn’t make any sense to me. In that particular situation, males are the ones who are NOT privileged (women can wear boy or girl clothing without most anyone noticing or caring, but men can only wear masculine clothing) and therefore the male student should have been aware of his lack of privilege. 

    As a woman I shy away from the TERM feminism because it sounds as though I’m elevating one gender over another (think race-ism). As a woman I shy away from the feminist MOVEMENT because many within it refuse to accept the differences between men and women. Differences don’t mean inferior or superior, good or bad. Does this mean that that’s what feminism is or that all feminists are like that? No. Does that mean I don’t support equality for women and value myself as a woman? No. 

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      I would disagree with

      When you’re not, you know

       I think privilege is a lot more about being blind to anything outside the status quo than to actually being able to do something.  That is, I think some religious privilege goes past a lot of atheists, and how many women notice that a movie with strong female characters doesn’t actually have any female story lines?

      I mean, it IS about being able to do something, but even the people who can’t do the something get into the rut of thinking that’s normal.

      Hm, reading this before I post, I think it also has to deal with ‘most atheists/women/black/cyclists/gay/whatever’ as opposed to ‘angry’ atheists/women/black/cyclist/gay/whatever.

    • FSq

      Well said KB. Well said.

    • http://www.nowhere-fast.net Tom

      In the example the one who is not privileged is the boy who wants to wear girl’s clothing to express their sexuality, gender identity, or just who they feel themselves to be.  Probably one or two of the boys in the class fell into that group.

      • Anonymous

        No you are doing it wrong. Penis means privilege. Whether it is that trust fund every male gets at birth or the fact we are allowed to vote it’s well known that being male in this country means not having to lift a finger.

        • http://www.nowhere-fast.net Tom

          I am happy for you that your experience of being male can be described as “not having to lift a finger.”  Similarly, I’m glad that you’re aware of your lucky position.  However I would suggest that not every male, by virtue of being male, has had such a blessed existence.  I, for one, have had to work hard and often during my life, despite my penis.

          Gender issues aren’t so simple as “penis means privilege.”  You might say that “masculinity means privilege” however being masculine and having a penis are not necessarily related.  A person with a penis can be a member of the non-privileged class – just ask a homosexual or transgendered person with a penis.  That’s what the author was trying to get across by giving that specific example to that class – to open their eyes to the idea that there is privilege in society on any level, and then to expand that to show how broadly it can be applied.

          When it comes to reading comprehension you’re the one who was “doing it wrong.”

          • The Other Weirdo

             Sarchasm: it can be too wide a gulf to bridge.

          • Brian Macker

            Again you are doing it wrong.  Penis starts with “P” and therefore goes with “P”rivilege, whereas vagina starts with “V” and goes with victim.   Therefore it is impossible for anyone with a penis to be a victim.  Simple as that.   It doesn’t actually matter what the words mean or the actual reality of any individuals situation.   Paris Hilton is a victim because she has a vag, and that gay guy who just got beat down by a bunch of lesbians was privileged to get that beating.

    • http://cuterus.blogspot.com/ Palaverer

       That example fit perfectly for male privilege. The reason why the boys can’t wear feminine clothing is because our culture devalues all things feminine. We value masculinity which is why women are more often able to get away with acting masculine. Men do not benefit from it, but it is still privileging the masculine over the feminine.

      • Anonymous

        That example fit perfectly for male privilege. The reason why the boys can’t wear feminine clothing is because our culture devalues all things feminine.

        And it’s a GREAT example of how millenia-long patriarchal attitudes end up hurting men as well as women.

        Another great example is women being automatically assumed to be ‘better parents’ (mentioned a lot in connection with child custody battles).  When the idea that women ‘belong’ in-the-kitchen-and-pregnant is pushed and perpetuated for thousands of years, is it any wonder that society at large (ignorantly) clings to that stereotype in such situations?

        If these strict gender-role ideas hadn’t been given such respect/power for so long, we wouldn’t have these negative after-effects to deal with and dismantle now.

      • Anonymous

        So does that mean when butch lesbians are criticized for the way they look, it shows an example of society hating the masculine? I don’t think your argument makes sense here. I think these are examples of homophobia, not sexism.

        • http://cuterus.blogspot.com/ Palaverer

           Homophobia is interlinked with misogyny. Men who carry on relationships with (or are on the receiving end of sex with) other men are taking on a woman’s role. Women who carry on romantic and/or sexual relationships with other women are subverting the patriarchy by not submitting themselves to a man. Women are allowed to take on masculine attributes–to an extent. It’s understandable that they would want to receive the benefits of masculinity (regardless of their reasons for dressing or acting in perceived masculine fashions) but patriarchy still insists that they play the submission game. The woman must still demonstrate that she submits (showing cleavage, having a boyfriend, serving others, etc) to retain approval.

          • Anonymous

            But you could just as easily argue the opposite, that butch lesbians are seen as acting like dirty men and that gay men are seen as too ugly and clumsy to ever be attractive women. In that example it is the feminine beauty that is held in higher respect than the masculine beauty. You could provide plenty of examples of the above if you looked. Both the what I listed and what you wrote are examples of people seeing what they want to see when it comes to gender. It isn’t a scientific differentiation because it doesn’t provide evidence that is exclusive to one interpretation. The evidence could be used to support multiple interpretations.

            Also, contrary to the picture you painted above, I should note that there are plenty of examples of female privilege in sexuality and relationships just as there are examples of male privilege. When a wife feels unsatisfied sexually by her husband and cheats, the husband is often mocked by society and told it is his fault. When a husband feels unsatisfied sexually by his wife and cheats, he is considered a scumbag and all blame is put on him. Another example of female privilege in relationships is that when the husband is the breadwinner, he is expected to share financial decisions with his wife. When the wife is the breadwinner, however, society is much more accepting of her making the financial decisions herself. It can be insulting to men to tell them that these are all examples of the patriarchy when it is the men who are being viewed negatively.

            http://volokh.com/2011/09/07/the-puzzle-of-black-womens-marriage-patterns/

             

            • Salty

              “Feminine beauty that is held in higher respect than the masculine beauty.”…. that’s female as an object, because men are the subject.  When women are valued more for their looks than any other attribute, that’s not an example of political progress.

              • Anonymous

                Palaverer was arguing that gay men are shamed by society because they look like women instead of men. Does that mean that the men are being objectified under Palaverer’s view because they are being judged for their looks and aren’t allowed to dress like women? I think that again this is a simple case of homophobia and people are trying to increase the victimization by dragging the unrelated issue of sexism in there.

        • MG

          That would be criticism for a mere woman presuming to act as though she were an exalted male.

          • Anonymous

            See, this is an example of how even skeptics lose all sense of logic once the issue changes. Couldn’t you just as easily argue that butch lesbians are criticized for acting like men because they are giving up their feminine charm for a dirty male persona and gay men are criticized for dressing up as women because they can never match feminine beauty or kindness in their regular male body?

            You can make up whatever story you want. If you want people to believe you, you have to have evidence that supports your belief but not any other, which you haven’t done very well. 

        • Anonymous

          Don’t try to make sense of it. They don’t know what the word privilege means.

    • Carrie

      So…men and women should be “separate but equal”? I’ve heard that somewhere…

      • KB

        Where did I say separate? We have differences, anatomically and psychologically. To argue that we don’t is absurd. To say that our differences make us unequal is absurd. 

        Excuse the gaming analogy, but consider game teaming archetypes. You have healers and you have tanks. The job of the healer is to make sure that everyone in the team stays alive by, well, healing them. The job of the tank is to grab all the aggro so that the bad guys are only attacking them, and not the healer. They are completely different, but a team without either would fail. 

        Am I using this analogy to say that women have to be barefoot and pregnant and men go to work? No! Hell no. But I see many feminists freak out at even the suggestion that we have ANY sort of differences, and act just like you have with the “separate but equal” comment. It drives me crazy.

        • Carrie

          If the differences which you claim are so *obvious* shouldn’t determine how we live our lives, then why bring them up? If my uterus doesn’t dictate that I stay pregnant and barefoot, why bring it up? What’s the relevance of our differences if you believe, as you say you do, that they should not have a necessary effect on our choices? I’m not sure of your background, but this “different roles” line sounds quite a lot like the justification I’ve always heard for Timothy 2:12. (”
          I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man;[a] she must be quiet.”) I believe any differences that do exist are irrelevant to any discussion of equality. So. What’s your point?

          • KB

            I bring them up because they’re important, not because they determine our roles in life. Why do women get maternity leave and men do not? I hear many feminists act as though there is but one gender, but then would be livid if paid maternity leave was not provided to women. It doesn’t make rational sense to take both routes. 

            I grew up an atheist, but thanks for asking. :)

            • Anonymous

              Why do women get maternity leave and men do not?

              Where do you live??  because men certainly DO get paternity leave here in Canada.  One of my students is currently ‘on leave’.

              • KB

                The US.

                • amyc

                  Many companies in the US do give paternity leave. I work for Olive Garden and Darden (the coorporation that owns the restaurant) will give paternity leave. It’s an issue that’ being fought by many groups including feminist groups.

              • KB

                To add to my comment:

                Maternity leave isn’t the only difference, even though here in the US employers are not required to provide men paternity leave. My husband took two weeks off of work using his own sick days to spend time with me and my daughter when I had her this past July. Paternity leave is rarely heard of here.

                Employers in the US are required not only to provide maternity leave, but also to provide nursing women with the time and place at work to pump breastmilk for their children, without a reduction in pay from the loss of working time the woman experiences pumping for 15-30 minutes every 2 hours. If we were to argue for the complete absence of differences between men and women, we would need to either allow the same accommodation for any men to pump as well, or to do away with the accommodation altogether (to the detriment of a nursing woman’s milk supply). 

                It’s a ridiculous argument to say that we have no differences, or that our differences aren’t important.

                • Anonymous

                  It’s a ridiculous argument to say that we have no differences, or that our differences aren’t important.

                  Of course we’re different. I don’t know about anyone else, but I certainly haven’t suggested otherwise……

                  But the more important point is:  how should our differences affect how we treat each other?  And again, what good comes out of holding some idea of what “men are like, generally” when we can just react to each other and treat each other as indivduals?

                • Rebecca Sparks

                  I live in CA so men and women have Paid Family Leave, and I know that FMLA Nationally covers 12 weeks of job protected, unpaid leave, but there’s no national maternity law that requires paid leave.  Men & women are equally SOL.

          • Maevwen

            I’m not sure I understand what you’re trying to say, Carrie.

            There are things about being a man, or woman, that either should not be discriminated against for, nor should they be dismissed as being gender-specific and therefore not valuable.  For instance, leave to have birth.  Or, medical leave for a prostrate operation.   Distinctly different by gender.  Neither indicating inherent worth is less or more than the other gender.

            I think that efforts to technically define the function of the sexes as being “the same” has been detrimental.  A man is not a woman and vice versa.  There are things about us anatomically that are different.  On average, men are stronger than women.  However, the exception of course is that we all know some guys who are weaker physically than some women we know.   So some gender typing can be averaged, but the lines are never black and white.   Also, women have greater pain thresholds than men, on “average”.  Has interesting implications where war is concerned.

            There is also the issue about “emotion work” — or stereotyping work roles by gender, and then determining their dollar value — with the female gender being at a detriment.  For instance, women are “supposed” to do better at nursing, teaching, etc.  Why?  Because they’re “emotionally” tuned for it.  Why exactly is it that the emotional capacity for such roles, is deemed of less worth than a male manager?  I’ve heard, “men are paid more because women don’t want to do the dirty roles”.  Such as?  Changing diapers?  Dealing with raging children?  Consoling desperate patients with cancer?  Just because a man can use brawn, does that mean he has more *value* than a woman who uses emotional prowess?  And again, this has been historically the work-place standard, when we all know some women who “are like men” emotionally, and vice versa (and what does that really mean, anyway?)   Why is it better to let men who let their hot-headed emotions run away with them and lead them into violence, lead countries? 

            So.  Just because, perhaps, men and women may do one thing, on average, more than the other, and vice versa — or operate functionally different than the other — does not mean that they inherently do not have the same *value*.   However, it has been accepted that it’s better to be a man, act like a man, function like a man, dress like a man, “lead” like a man, etc,. than to be/do so like a woman; as though the inherent values in the genders are not equal, that it’s problematic to be one over the other.

            A great article to read:  Gender and Workplace Issues, by Mary E. Guy and Susan Spice, 2009, 5th edition of Public Human Resource Management, Problems and Prospects.

            • KB

              I agree 100%.

              I mean, whoever wants to pull the whole “women and men aren’t different, haven’t you heard of the whole separate but equal” schtick should really ask themselves this question: What’s more important? A fireman or a surgeon? They both save lives, but in completely different ways. They are entirely different professions, and they work toward a similar goal, but they are both extremely valuable. 

              • FSq

                That sounds logical at first glance, but it is a huge red herring.

                The facts are, there are differences between the sexes, and not just physical differences. Yes, sorry to burst your bubble, but that is a fact.

                To ignore this or play pretend or a semantic shell-game is an injustice for all.

                • KB

                  Are you responding to me? Because I note in my main post that the differences are physical and psychological. I agree that there are differences. :)

                • Maevwen

                   Me as well.   Where did you guys get that we were saying otherwise?

              • Anonymous

                A fireman or a surgeon? They both save lives, but in completely different ways. They are entirely different professions, and they work toward a similar goal, but they are both extremely valuable.

                I’m not quite sure what the point of this passage is KB…….

                If an individual man can do something that’s ‘usually’ associated with women (or thought to be something women are ‘generally’ better at), then who cares about ‘norms’?

                If an individual woman can pass all the necessary tests to be a firefighter (something men are seen to be ‘generally’ better at), then how are ‘general norms’ relevant?

                • Maevwen

                   I believe she’s talking about how people base their opinions 0r prejudices about gender.  Folks who are sexist will say that “women’s work” has less value than “men’s work”, and that these “gender roles” in work still exist in our society, the prejudices still exist, when they shouldn’t be. 

            • Anonymous

              On average, men are stronger than women.  However, the exception of course is that we all know some guys who are weaker physically than some women we know.   So some gender typing can be averaged, but the lines are never black and white.   Also, women have greater pain thresholds than men, on “average”.  Has interesting implications where war is concerned.

              How does it have ‘interesting implications where war is concerned’ if soldiers are judged/assessed individually for ‘fitness’?  Again, what benefit does this “on average” thinking have if we assess people as individuals anyway?

              • Maevwen

                 Are you thinking that you and I disagree?  If so, where?
                 
                Mostly, I agree with you to treat each person individually, and try to self-monitor where my biases try to arise (since we all have biases).  However, I also do not try to dismiss part of their identity either.  I would never ask a person of color to be color-blind, because to be a person of color is part of their experience.  Same with someone who is a male, or female, homosexual, christian, etc.   To ask to be allowed to dismiss that part of their identity is another way of denying their experience or asking to have it all on your terms.  “You can’t be different than me and still have value, so you better be a blank if you want to try to start at having an even playing field with me.”
                 
                What we have been talking about is how the biases or prejudices have come about.  So while you treat each individually, you don’t throw away all the things about their makeup.  Historically, the standards of measurement and performance for the military was based upon the male average, and gear was also developed for the male, and when women were allowed to enter, then they had to fit the male standards.  On average, yes the standards should be different for women than men.  Does not mean that only one can serve.  Does not mean that only one is fit for battle or can’t take the pain of battle- which is where I was going with the pain threshold statement, since it wasn’t self-evident.  And, brute force and brawn is not the only valuable resource or tactic in the military, to carry this example out ad nauseum.

          • Anonymous

            If the differences which you claim are so *obvious* shouldn’t determine how we live our lives, then why bring them up? If my uterus doesn’t dictate that I stay pregnant and barefoot, why bring it up? What’s the relevance of our differences if you believe, as you say you do, that they should not have a necessary effect on our choices?

            Bingo!   If we should be treating and relating to people as individuals (as i think we should), then why should we be so concerned with ‘general differences’?  When I meet a man, why should I care about what ‘men in general’ are like?

    • http://twitter.com/AnarchoGirl AnarchoGirl

      You are making a gender essentialist argument, and just FYI its nonsense and is the main excuse  to justify discrimination . So what are this differences between men and women exactly? 
      Let me help you out…
       “men are stronger than women” – some women are stronger than some men, so how is the average important in any way?
      “women have vaginas, uteruses, etc” – not all women have uteruses, not all women menstruate, not all women have breasts. What about intersex people? Trans people? Do they get othered to some third gender because they don’t fit your idea of what a man or woman is, regardless of how they themselves identify?

      Men and women are not opposites, masculinity and femininity are not mutually exclusive. 

      See also Feminism 101 FAQ: But men and women are born different! Isn’t that obvious?
      http://finallyfeminism101.wordpress.com/2007/05/10/faq-but-men-and-women-are-born-different-isnt-that-obvious/ 

      there is far more variation among the group of all men and among the group of all women than there is on average between individuals of “opposite” sex. 

  • Vinícius Egidio

    As an atheist I totally support feminism and I’m pretty that there are still a lot of work to be done for real equality in our society. But what really bothers is how some people, men and women, totally ignore the fact the men have SEVERAL issues to be addressed too.

    • John Small Berries

      How and when are those other issues brought up, though?

      Quite often, I see people talking about a topic of feminism, and somebody jumps in with “I think you are all ignoring that guys have to go through x, y, and z, which comes across as wholly dismissive of the topic that was being discussed.

      • John Small Berries

        (Whoops, missed a closing quote after z there.)

      • Vinícius Egidio

        I also find pretty stupid when someone tries make problem look less important making references to another group that faces similar problems, in a lesser or greater extent (i.e. “atheists are the most hated group in America; hey, a lot of people don’t like christians too…”).

        What I hate is when I’m trying to have a conversation about men’s issues (compulsory conscription, the way some people minimalizes domestic violence against men, harder physical entrance criteria for men in many occupations such as the police, etc) most of atheists, male and female, just try to discard the conversation with pathetic arguments like “you have male priviledge”. This is what I’m talking about when I say that a lot of people ignore the issue.

        This is pretty sad. It’s ok for women to be vocal and fight for their rights (I’m feminist and I support that) but why men can’t do the same? It’s pathetic.

        • Fastthumbs

          Vinícius Egidio wrote: “What I hate is when I’m trying to
          have a conversation about men’s issues [… MRA issues …] most of atheists, male
          and female, just try to discard the conversation with pathetic arguments like
          “you have male priviledge”. This is what I’m talking about when I say
          that a lot of people ignore the issue.

          What part of the blog title don’t you get?  “Seeing the Invisible: Feminism and Atheism
          Intersect”

          People aren’t ignoring the issue, but this comment section
          is an incorrect place to whine about ‘persecuted’ males losing privilege -
          there are lots of MRA blogs out there you can talk about male issues.  Yet you come here to whine about male issues
          to hijack this thread?   You’re like the
          Apple Fanboy that writes “Windows Sucks” in a comment thread about some sort of
          Windows topic (or visa versa).

          (White male atheist who is much aware of his privilege who is
          interested in seeing atheism expand across race and gender and sexuality
          boundaries).

          • Vinícius Egidio

            Oh dear, this is exactly what I’m talking about…

            I could use the your same childish argument, but with a little twist: “There a plenty of blogs out there about feminism. Yet you come here, an atheist blog, to whine about female issues.” See what I did here?

            Believe me or not, but atheism and feminism are NOT related. Atheist is the lack of believe in god and feminism is the fight for equal rights for women; yes, both causes might intersect in some points but there is nothing else beyond that.

            If you want to raise awareness about women’s issues in a blog about atheism I’m fine with that, but when someone tries to do the same about men’s issues there are people you that tries to dismissive the topic.

            • http://corvustristis.wordpress.com/ Corvus

              It’s a side point and totally based on anecdote, but the only times I’ve really read discussion on the problems you’ve brought up -minimization of male victims of domestic violence (and rape, please don’t forget that), the draft, etc it’s been by feminists.  From my experience it seems that the popular opinion in the feminist community is that “sexism/patriarchy hurts men too!” -hell, that concept even gets alluded to/mentioned/discussed multiple times as a feminist stance in the comments above.

              • Anonymous

                the only times I’ve really read discussion on the problems you’ve brought up -minimization of male victims of domestic violence (and rape, please don’t forget that), the draft, etc it’s been by feminists

                And I see precisely same thing all the time…..too many times to count…..(not that it’s ‘only’ feminists who table these issues, but very often is)

                So, whenever i hear someone say “feminists only care about women”, I automatically think:  ‘if that’s your conclucion, then you probably haven’t been paying very close attention’……or perhaps haven’t been exposed to discussions involving feminists to the same extent that i have…..because i’m a feminist, practically every female friend I have is a feminist (and most of my male friends, too) and none of them care ‘only’ about women.
                 
                I’ve seen far too many instances of feminists coming to the defense of men, on a variety of topics, to not bristle when the ‘feminists are only concerned about women’ line comes up.

                • FSq

                  Yeah, I bet you are a real bug at cocktail parties….

                • Anonymous

                  I’m perennially affable :)

            • amyc

              Go write an article about the problems men have and submit it to Hemant and we can have the conversation you want to have, but this thread is about how feminism and atheism intersect.

              This is what the original comment to your post was expressing. People come on to a thread about feminism and try to change the subject to men’s problems (or what they perceive to be men’s problems, many (if not all) of the problems mentioned are addressed openly in feminist circles). If you want to talk about those things, then that’s great, but go write your own article/make a video/podcast and then you can talk about it all you want. Don’t hi-jack this thread to do it though.

      • http://twitter.com/Buffy2q Buffy

        The Oppression Olympics.  It also happens every time LGBT people begin to talk about their rights. “Sure you have some petty little problems, but Group X has all of these problems, and Group Y has all of these problems, and Group Z has all of these problems.  We need to address other Very Important Issues (the economy, the war,  jobs, health care, the election,  the environment, gas prices, the singularity) before we can deign to address your little pet issues.  How can you be so selfish as to whine about your petty little issues when all of these other people are suffering?”

         Nice that we’re told our issues are petty, that we’re selfish for wanting them solved, and that everyone else’s problems should come first.

      • Anonymous

        Why can’t all of the issues be worked on at the same time?

  • FSq

    Here we go again. Once again, the vagina-set seems to want to squawk even further about how hard it is being them.

    Come on, get real. The pendulum has swung a bit too far to your side of the fence on many issues, and now it needs to come back to the middle, for male and female health.

    It just gets old too about how we as atheists are like feminists or how we as atheists have to support feminism. No, we aren’t, and we don’t.

    • Richard Hughes

      The ‘vagina-set’? Really? You’re not exactly getting off on the right foot with that kind of dismissive language.

      So what sort of issues do you think the pendulum has swung too far to ‘their side of the fence’ on? Why exactly do you think there is a ‘fence’ at all?

      If you can answer these questions without compromising your dignity, you’ll do a lot to salvage your dignity.

      • Nordog

        Well, it coulda been worse.  He coulda called them all “crotch turds” or any one of many other colorful expressions for which he’s known.

    • GlenndavEy

      Fuck you ignoramus

      • FSq

        Well said.

        At least you have the stones, or ovaries to just show your feelings. I liked this as a result.

    • yulaffin

      Spoken like someone who doesn’t recognize his privilege.

    • http://twitter.com/Buffy2q Buffy

      No, you as a member of the penis-set don’t have to support feminism.   And we’re sorry if the “squawking” of lesser-privileged individuals offends your delicate sensibilities.    What a terrible burden it must be on you. 

      • FSq

        Jesus, do you take pages out of the “Sarah Palin Handbook On How to Play the Victim”?

        • http://twitter.com/Buffy2q Buffy

          FSM, are you always such an irredeemable fuckwit?

    • Fastthumbs

      Is a troll by any other name just as obnoxious?

      • amyc

        The sad thing is that on issues unrelated to feminism xe’s actually able to contribute to the conversation (and sometimes is really funny).

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mike-Weaver/100000377905225 Mike Weaver

    This somehow reminds me of the failed movement of Susan B. Anthony and other former women’s rights movements that supported equal rights only to be let down in the end. Its sad that this has happened in our society. But both atheists and Women still face tough opposition to equality. Atheists are a small minority and women aren’t vocal enough. 

    If we are to make a difference, we need to change the face of our movements. Angry atheists and feminists don’t help much, and probably do more damage. Especially towards oligarchies that actively oppose such “upstarts”. We both need the support of Middle America, who it seems, will only clap at our meager attempts. 

    I am guilty of this. I support equal rights, but I’m hard pressed myself to support such a movement when I see women using femininity to advance their lives and atheists who simply rant and engage in political mud slinging. 

    • wright1

       Well, define what you mean by “angry”.  All too often that seems to mean “someone whose voice is louder then I am comfortable with”. Some examples would be helpful.

      Is Amanda one of those angry atheists and feminists who doesn’t help much and probably does more damage? How are we to reach Middle America without raising our voices and educating them on their positions of privilege?

      Atheists, feminists and other advocates of reason and equal rights get the reactionaries upset just by existing. There is no way to get what we want without upsetting a few people.

      “No one gives you power, you have to take it.”
      –Richard Dysart

    • jay

       Well, this can be interesting but here goes.

      “women using femininity to advance their lives ”

      I am making assumptions about what you actually mean by this. Assuming that you mean literal femininity (as opposed to ‘feminism’). are you referring to women using their femininity/sexuality to their advantage?

      Let’s look at this from an evolutionary point of view.

      Unlike almost all female mammals, human females frequently are sexually receptive even when not ovulating (as compared, for example to a house cat who wants nothing to do with males at such times).

      The question to be asking is how and why this change occurred. What is different between humans an house cats? Look at the care of the young. They are vulnerable for only a short time, mom cat fattens up before delivery, and is able to leave them and hunt for food within a few days. She handles the entire process on her own, it only takes a few weeks before they’re pretty much able to keep up with her. She has no use whatsoever for a male around who would get in the way.

      Humans are different. The young are very helpless, for a very long period of time. They demand enormous resources and attention. Leaving them is very risky. But what if a mutation turned off this sexual switch (perhaps like the lactose intolerance switch turned off in Europe). If she stays sexually active the male sticks around and is motivated to share resources (the other big difference in humans, the ability to cooperate on a high level). She’s under less pressure for hunting or gathering, she’s more protective of her young=reproductive advantage.

      Full time sexuality is rare in mammals but is a major factor in human society. It changed everything. And yes, deep down, as far as evolution is ‘concerned’, it’s a mechanism to provide resources and improve the success of the young.

      “women using femininity to advance their lives ”

      Natural selection at work, my friend.

  • Michael

    Germaine Greer makes a good argument for gender equality being anti-feminist, since men are slaves to the establishment, so gender equality strives to enslave women in the same way.

    Just saying.

    • Anonymous

      Men are slaves to the establishment? Seems like a sexist assumption to me.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/FQUFX2BHWOKDTLLOV7SKWHES2I Paul

    This post contains a number of claims, either explicit or implied. I’m going to attempt to summarise them, then respond to them.
    1) There is a present need for feminist activism.
    2) Atheists should be more open and sympathetic to feminist issues than other groups but in practice they are not.
    3) Discussions with atheists about feminism often result in strawmanning when atheists should know better.

    Regarding the first point, I agree. Women today face a constant battle to even keep the rights they have today, let alone to achieve true equality.

    On the second, I don’t think you’ve made your case for greater atheist sensitivity to the issue. It leaves three unanswered questions in my mind: why should atheists notice; why should atheists care more than the general population; and how do you know they don’t. Yes atheists are very good at recognising when their rights are trampled, but is there any reason to assume that this very personal level of perception should apply to a third party? Atheists, first and foremost, are people and subject to the same faults and blind spots as everyone else. People will almost always recognise when they are personally treated unfairly but are much slower to recognise the mistreatment of others. Nor have you shown why atheists, having identified the inequality, should feel more inclined than others to help the feminist cause. Yes, there is the shared bond of persecution, but history shows that this rarely results in a unity of purpose. Take, for example, the recent statistics regarding the black vote on Prop 8.
    In fact, when you consider that the atheists that are most active in the online discussions that you’re mentioned are heavily invested in the atheist movement, is it really fair to expect them to want to take on a second cause, no matter how worthy? You decry the absence of discussion of feminism on atheist message boards, but wouldn’t such a discussion be off topic, and a cardinal internet sin?
    Looking at atheists more broadly, do you have reason to believe that we are not more sympathetic to the feminist cause than the general population? I seem to remember reading that there is a correlation between atheism and liberalism and liberalism usually involves sympathy or support of feminist goals. Could it not be the case that the same people who are avoiding the mention of feminism on atheist boards are happily championing the cause elsewhere?

    On the final point, I am sure that those guilty of straw-feministing have different reasons for doing so, but I expect that a big reason is this – feminism is hard to define. Even among feminists, it is hard to define. This is true of most causes but it seems to affect feminism more than most. For every straw man you identify, it’s likely that a self-avowed feminist has actually said words along those lines. What’s more, the controversial feminists are much more likely to get airtime simply due to the outrageous nature of their views. Is it any wonder feminism is so poorly understood? Let’s take your definition, “Feminism is the understanding that we must advocate for women, as they
    occupy an underprivileged spot in the social strata, in order to achieve
    equity.” That’s hard to disagree with as a statement, but what does it mean in a practical sense? More importantly for your audience, what does it mean for them personally? There’s a lot of ambiguity in that definition and people are prone to fill in the blanks themselves, and in doing so, they draw down on what they have heard other feminists say. Someone whose exposure to feminism has centred on radical feminists is going to react very differently to that statement to someone familiar with more moderate feminists. This mental filling in of blanks then becomes an inadvertant straw man. It is my observation that people are much more inclinded to react positively to individual feminist issues than to “feminism” itself. I believe that the nebulous definition of feminism is a big reason why.

    • Rebecca Sparks

      atheists are very good at recognising when their rights are trampled, but is there any reason to assume that this very personal level of perception should apply to a third party?

      Yes, because women are NOT a third party.  Women are also atheists.  The talk about women on this blog has either been a) ways women are discriminated against by religious groups or b) ways women are discriminated against by atheists.   This is not a second cause–this is the same cause taking into account that women are treated differently than men. Also, to quote Aundre Lorde, there is no hierarchy of oppression–or let me quote her at length:

      THERE IS NO HIERARCHY OF OPPRESSIONS By Audre Lorde

       I was born Black and a woman. I am trying to become the strongest person I can become to live the life I have been given and to help effect change toward a livable future for this earth and for my children. As a Black, lesbian, feminist, socialist, poet, mother of two including one boy and member of an interracial couple, I usually find myself part of some group in which the majority defines me as deviant, difficult, inferior or just plain “wrong”.

      From my membership in all of these groups I have learned that oppression and the intolerance of difference come in all shapes and sizes and colors and sexualities; and that among those of us who share the goals of liberation and a workable future for our children, there can be no hierarchies of oppression. I have learned that sexism (a belief in the inherent superiority of one sex over all others and thereby its right to dominance) and heterosexism (a belief in the inherent superiority of one pattern of loving over all others and thereby its right to dominance) both arise from the same source as racism – a belief in the inherent superiority of one race over all others and thereby its right to dominance.

      “Oh,” says a voice from the Black community, “but being Black is NORMAL!” Well, I and many Black people of my age can remember grimly the days when it didn’t used to be!

      I simply do not believe that one aspect of myself can possibly profit from the oppression of my other part of my identity. I know that my people cannot possibly profit from the oppression of any other group which seeks the right to peaceful existence. Rather, we diminish ourselves by denying to others what we have shed blood to obtain for our children. And those children need to learn that they do not have to become like each other in order to work together for a future they will all share.

      The increasing attacks upon lesbians and gay men are only an introduction to the increasing attacks upon all Black people, for wherever oppression manifests itself in this country, Black people are potential victims. And it is a standard of right-wing cynicism to encourage members of oppressed groups to act against each other, and so long as we are divided because of our particular identities we cannot join together in effective political action.

      Within the lesbian community I am Black, and within the Black community I am a lesbian. Any attack against Black people is a lesbian and gay issue, because I and thousands of other Black women are part of the lesbian community. Any attack against lesbians and gays is a Black issue, because thousands of lesbians and gay men are Black. There is no hierarchy of oppression.

      It is not accidental that the Family Protection Act, which is virulently anti-woman and anti-Black, is also anti-gay. As a Black person, I know who my enemies are, and when the Ku Klux Klan goes to court in Detroit to try and force the Board of Education to remove books the Klan believes “hint at homosexuality,” then I know I cannot afford the luxury of fighting one form of oppression only. I cannot afford to believe that freedom from intolerance is the right of only one particular group. And I cannot afford to choose between the fronts upon which I must battle these forces of discrimination, wherever they appear to destroy me. And when they appear to destroy me, it will not be long before they appear to destroy you.

      Sorry, I know it’s longish but I find her so writing so beautiful.

       Anyway, the point I was trying to make with this quote is that by the virtue that women are important to the atheist movement, their oppression is important to the atheist movement as well (as well as other discriminated groups who happen to be atheists).

       And your response to a strawman is a red herring.  Feminism isn’t well defined?  Atheism isn’t either–not as a definition but as a social movement.  There are those who are radical and loudly and vitriolically denounce all religion and those who are more mild who are willing to work with interfaith projects to build rights for atheists in a more friendly way.  Nor is Christianity– Catholics, Jehovah witnesses and Mormons have wildly different interpretations, to name a few sects.  Nor is religion–Buddhism, Islam and Taoism for example.

      Generally the consensus among feminists is that sexism exists and they want it to end. Why and how this sexist oppression manifests and how we can put it end to it vary widely.  Feminism is multivocal, but not as usually discordant as you suggest.

      • http://profile.yahoo.com/FQUFX2BHWOKDTLLOV7SKWHES2I Paul

        Yes, because women are NOT a third party.
        I’m going to assume that the original article was directed at men. Because if we’re talking about women not realising when they’re discriminated against then that’s a whole other conversation. So there is that separation there.
        Women are also atheists.
        Yes, but the discrimination that was the subject of this article is not discrimination against female atheists qua atheists. Pick any group you like and you’ll find some atheists among them. That doesn’t make that group’s cause an atheist cause. Please note that I’m not saying that this makes the cause in any way unworthy. But it does mean that cause should not feel entitled to a person’s support simply because that person is an atheist.

        The talk about women on this blog has either been a) ways women are
        discriminated against by religious groups or b) ways women are
        discriminated against by atheists.

        Perhaps, but I didn’t interpret this article in that way.

        Anyway, the point I was trying to make with this quote is that by the
        virtue that women are important to the atheist movement, their
        oppression is important to the atheist movement as well (as well as
        other discriminated groups who happen to be atheists).
        So you’re proposing a tactical alliance between feminism and atheism? You’re certainly right to point out that these two movements whose cases are both based on claims of fairness and justice have much in common. And I would also agree that it’s the right thing to do as humans. But to say “As an atheist you should…” is at best a tactical argument and an eminently debateable one. There are plenty of people giving voice to feminist causes and relatively few activist secularists. To suggest that the cause would be better served by diverting these sparse resourses is, I think, highly questionable. Nor is it true that all or even most feminist organisations hold sympathy for atheists. This could turn into a very one-sided bargain indeed.

        And your response to a strawman is a red herring.  Feminism isn’t well defined? [...] Generally the consensus among feminists is that sexism exists and they
        want it to end. Why and how this sexist oppression manifests and how we
        can put it end to it vary widely.  Feminism is multivocal, but not as
        usually discordant as you suggest.

        The author bemoaned the strawmanning that she sees, I posited a theory for some of it. I think calling it a red herring is a little harsh. You admit that feminism is multivocal. Is it much of a leap to assume that this confuses some people? I think this is a reasonable and on-topic response to the article.

        • Rebecca Sparks

          I’m going to address your
          points all out of order, and for that I’m sorry.  Please let me know if you think I edited
          anything that twisted what you said.

          So you’re
          proposing a tactical alliance between feminism and atheism? You’re certainly
          right to point out that these two movements whose cases are both based on
          claims of fairness and justice have much in common. And I would also agree that
          it’s the right thing to do as humans. But to say “As an atheist you
          should…” is at best a tactical argument and an eminently debateable one.
          There are plenty of people giving voice to feminist causes and relatively few
          activist secularists. To suggest that the cause would be better served by
          diverting these sparse resourses is, I think, highly questionable. Nor is it
          true that all or even most feminist organisations hold sympathy for atheists.
          This could turn into a very one-sided bargain indeed.

          Yes, but the discrimination that was the
          subject of this article is not discrimination against female atheists qua atheists.
          Pick any group you like and you’ll find some atheists among them… But it does
          mean that cause should not feel entitled to a person’s support simply because
          that person is an atheist.

          I’m going to break off parts
          of these two quotes to talk about later, but I wanted to first talk remark on
          this idea that atheism are two competing causes—that there is a finite amount of
          resources or attention, and contributing to one necessarily takes away from the
          resources of the other.  In regards to supporting
          projects like an atheist convention or a domestic violence
          shelter, that is true.  However, as far
          as awareness and support I find that there resources are not so limited, especially
          when feminist/atheists issues happen across their boundary, such as fostering
          female atheist leaders or ending religious persecution of women.

          So you’re
          proposing a tactical alliance between feminism and atheism?

          I
          think that is what Amanda is purposing. 
          When it comes down to it, I believe something slightly different.  If humanitarianism is really about equality
          and ending suffering, than implicitly that worldview is also an anti-racist,
          pro-lgbt and pro-feminist.  (Humanitarianism
          and atheists are also not completely overlapping groups, but if there is an
          atheist morality based on hierarchy of people and ambivalence to suffering I
          would be interested in hearing about it.) 
          Feminism and atheism are two lenses that we use to look at the world,
          and they make us sensitive to certain causes. 
          At the least, everyone should strive to understand how issues impact intersectionalities
          differently based on racism, sexism, heterosexism, ableism, ageism, etc.

          …it does mean
          that cause should not feel entitled to a person’s support simply because that
          person is an atheist

          Well,
          no.  I don’t think that because there are
          atheists are involved in Keep Tahoe Blue
          or Locks
          of Love
          that all atheists must be involved in these charities, as
          worthy as these causes are.  But I do
          think that when it comes to advocating for rights or ending abuse, that
          humanitarians need to support these things as best they can—volunteering time, signing
          a petition, standing up to a bully, or at least making sure that they don’t
          practice discrimination or abuse themselves.

          atheists
          are very good at recognising when their rights are trampled, but is there any
          reason to assume that this very personal level of perception should apply to a
          third party? –Paul

          Yes, because women are NOT a third party.  Women are also atheists. -Rebecca

          I’m going to assume that the original article
          was directed at men. Because if we’re talking about women not realising when
          they’re discriminated against then that’s a whole other conversation. So there
          is that separation there.-Paul 

          Then you were saying “atheists” what you
          really meant men.  Then this is what you
          said, “Male atheists are very good at recognizing when their own rights are
          trampled, but is that any reason to assume that they should apply this very
          personal level of perception to women’s rights?”  Then as problematic as I find this statement,
          I find it better than equating men with atheism and women with feminism.  Not all men are atheists or women feminists,
          and both men and women can be atheists and/or feminists.  (Also, I still think the answer is yes—at
          least ideally.  Seriously speaking, why
          should men be apathetic about women’s rights being trampled?).
           
          The author bemoaned the strawmanning
          that she sees, I posited a theory for some of it. I think calling it a red
          herring is a little harsh. You admit that feminism is multivocal. Is it much of
          a leap to assume that this confuses some people?

          It was a little harsh, and
          I’m sorry.  I think that if only feminism
          was multivocal than that might be a good reason, but really every social
          movement is multivocal.  Martain Luther
          King Jr said, “I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with
          its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words
          of “interposition” and “nullification” — one day right
          there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands
          with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.” Malcom
          X said “The common enemy is the white man.” 
          These were two radically different leaders with extremely different
          messages and different goals; I am still clear that the common ground of the
          black power movement is the cessation of black oppression.  

          There are plenty
          of people giving voice to feminist causes and relatively few activist
          secularists

          Really?  I can name quite a few prominent secularists,
          and although only 2% of the US population is religion free, that’s still a lot
          of people There’s no numbers on self declared feminists, but I anecdotally I
          find them to be few.  Being a self
          declared feminist, I’m familiar with a lot of feminist thinkers, movements, and
          causes, but I’m not sure about non-feminists. 
          I’m not sure about you being feminist or non feminist, but without
          googling, how many feminists can you name? 
          You said in your first post “radical feminists is going to react very
          differently to that statement to someone familiar with more moderate feminists”—which
          feminists did you mean?

          The point of my questioning
          is that I think people strawman feminists is not that feminists are so radical
          and out there that they’re really hard to relate to as reasonable human beings,
          but that people don’t know feminists theory except for stereotypes, but what
          they do know makes them so uncomfortable it is easier to discount them as crazy
          as to really reflect on what they are saying. 
          (Once again, like other margainized groups, including atheists). 

          To suggest that
          the cause would be better served by diverting these sparse resourses is, I
          think, highly questionable. Nor is it true that all or even most feminist
          organisations hold sympathy for atheists. This could turn into a very one-sided
          bargain indeed

          I think by this point in
          the post we can see that I don’t mean to take all the donations for Freedom
          from Religion and donate them to the National Organization for Women.  But if something is impacting human rights-
          if  effects women or atheists or
          Asian-Americans or any other segment of humans or combination of
          race/class/gender/etc—that we do our best to stay informed and do our best to
          help as humanitarians.

          • http://profile.yahoo.com/FQUFX2BHWOKDTLLOV7SKWHES2I Paul

             (Humanitarianism and atheists are also not completely overlapping groups, but if there is an atheist morality based on hierarchy of people and  ambivalence to suffering I would be interested in hearing about it.)[...] But I do think that when it comes to advocating for rights or ending abuse, that humanitarians need to support these things as best they can—volunteering time, signing a petition, standing up to a bully, or at least making sure that they don’t practice discrimination or abuse themselves.
            Agreed in respect to your final statement, but you’ve gone from saying that atheism does not demand a heirarchy of people or ambivalence to suffering to equating atheists and humanitarians. I would be nice if all atheists were humanitarian. It would be nice if all people of all stripes were humanitarian. But neither is true.

            But if something is impacting human rights – if  effects women or atheists or Asian-Americans or any other segment of humans or combination of race/class/gender/etc—that we do our best to stay informed and do our best to help as humanitarians.
            Yes, but not as atheists. (And please note the destinction. I’m not saying that atheists should not be interested, merely that we should not be interested by virtue of our atheism.) Amanda seems to be expressing disappointment that she has not received greater support for feminism on atheist message boards. I don’t know the context leading up to this essay, but it seems somewhat presumptuous of her to assume that comments unrelated to a board’s topic would be welcomed.

            Then you were saying “atheists” what you really meant men.  Then this is what you said, “Male atheists are very good at recognizing when their own rights are trampled, but is that any reason to assume that they should apply this very personal level of perception to women’s rights?”
            No, but I can understand your interpretation, and I regret muddying the waters in the way that I did. I was responding to your statement, “Yes, because women are NOT a third party.  Women are also atheists.” As far as our group identities go, we all wear many hats. What I was trying to say is that we perceive the world through the lens of the groups we identify with. Atheists, male and female, are very good at detecting when their rights as atheists are trampled. Women (I assume) are very good at detecting when their rights as women are trampled. But to suggest that any given atheist should be able to detect when women’s rights are trampled does not follow. Male atheists, even very sensitive ones, will simply not be as attuned as someone who is affected directly. Female atheists, while they can be expected to notice, will do so as a woman, not in their role as an atheist.

            I think that if only feminism was multivocal than that might be a good reason, but really every social movement is multivocal.
            And I suspect that, for this reason, every social movement suffers much the same strawmanning that Amanda was complaining about.

            I’m not sure about you being feminist or non feminist, but without googling, how many feminists can you name?
            Dworkin, Mackinnon, Greer, and I’m starting to stuggle there. But I’m talking less about the profile of individual leaders and more about organisations. You mention NOW. According to Wikipedia, they have half a million contributing members. Can you point to an atheist organisation of similar size? Freedom from Religion Foundation which you also mentioned claims a mere 16,600 members.

            You said in your first post “radical feminists is going to react very differently to that statement to someone familiar with more moderate feminists”—which feminists did you mean?
            Early feminists, such as those I named above, advocated improving female circumstances in a very anti-male way. They have modern day counterparts but for the most part the conversation recognises that men can be partners in female equality. Those are the two sides that I was referring to.

            people don’t know feminists theory except for stereotypes, but what they do know makes them so uncomfortable it is easier to discount them as crazy as to really reflect on what they are saying.
            I think you’re right. And this is probably another reason behind the strawmanning, but certainly not the only one. :)

             

            • Rebecca Sparks

              Can you point to an atheist organisation of similar size?
              According to 2009 ARIS report (via Wikipedia), there’s 34.2 million Americans who claim no religion, and of those 1.6 million of those claim to be atheist.  Maybe atheists don’t like joining NPOs?

              It would be nice if all atheists were humanitarian. It would be nice if all people of all stripes were humanitarian. But neither is true.
              please note the destinction. I’m not saying that atheists should not be interested, merely that we should not be interested by virtue of our atheism.

              Ok, well then if you take it to that extreme, atheism as just not believing in gods/supernatural/etc, than no, there is no innate morality or community in atheism.  It would be like enjoying the color blue or disliking broccoli–you could make a club around it for the purpose of socializing, but it’s not going to lead to any national movement. 
              I have an idea of why I think atheists should mobilize and what constitutes an atheist issue, but what about you?  I’m not sure why women’s rights are so far out of the norm.  I feel like we’re not on the same page here and it’s causing us to talk past each other.

              Amanda seems to be expressing disappointment that she has not received greater support for feminism on atheist message boards. I don’t know the context leading up to this essay, but it seems somewhat presumptuous of her to assume that comments unrelated to a board’s topic would be welcomed.

              The context is not really that mysterious, as Amanda has provided links.  One is to pharyngula, which occasionally posts stories that are about women (like the friendlyatheist), one is to an explicitly atheist women community, and one is a story about an atheist who had a public meltdown and threatened rape and other violence.  On the first two she reports that often they get tons of vitrol and sexism when women’s issues are raised—including the board that is expressly for atheist women.  It’s not that they post a women’s issue and get an apathetic response, it’s that they post a women’s issue and get a hostile and vitriolic response.

              • amyc

                Again, I love your responses and conversations. I wish I could explain my thoughts as well as you explain yours.

                One thing, IRT feminist straw-men, I’ve noticed is that the typical stereo-type or straw-man of a feminist is the worst possible one. I can understand somebody not familiar with the movement to misunderstand the exact definition, but the fact that they go for the absolute worst interpretation of what feminism means belies a deeper attitude that person holds (who probably doesn’t even know it).

                When somebody tells me they are Muslim, I don’t immediately think they are a terrorist or that they hate women. When somebody tells me they are a Christian, I don’t immediately think they are a young-earth creationist/right-winger set to destroy religious freedom. But for some reason, when I tell people I’m a feminist they immediately think I’m some sort of man-hater.

                The fact that people immediately go to the worst possible interpretation of that word shows how they don’t really have an interest in learning about the subject, heard one man-hating feminist (or a man-hating straw-feminist characterization) and decided that’s all they needed to know. (It works the same when I tell people I’m an atheist, and they immediately think I eat babies).

                That’s why when people use the excuse that “it’s ill-defined within the feminist movement,” I have to wonder why they went with the most offensive interpretation rather than the most reasonable.

              • http://profile.yahoo.com/FQUFX2BHWOKDTLLOV7SKWHES2I Paul

                I feel like we’re not on the same page  here and it’s causing us to talk past each  other.
                I’m getting the same feeling. But I thank you for the good grace with which you’ve responded to this… ?confusion?.

                there’s 34.2 million Americans who  claim no religion, and of those 1.6
                million of  those claim to be atheist.  Maybe atheists  don’t like joining
                NPOs?

                Whereas there are approximately 156million women in the United States. Looking at population numbers as opposed to organisational membership doesn’t change the fact that feminists wield a lot more power, both real (presently active feminists and secularists) and potential (total population of women and atheists). I’m not seeing the sort of shortage of resources that would necessitate petitioning other causes for assistance, no matter how great the common ground.

                Ok, well then if you take it to that  extreme, atheism as just not
                believing in  gods/supernatural/etc, than no, there is no  innate morality
                or community in  atheism.

                Morality, no. (And don’t get me started on Sam Harris.) But community, certainly. As with any community, there will be a natural rallying cry for issues that affect the interests of that community; for example teaching of creation in schools. There will be other issues that affect certain members of the community more than others; the world trade center cross for example drew strongly varying reactions from atheists. Finally, there are issues that while affecting many members of the community, have nothing to do with the defining elements of that community; feminism, I suggest, is one of these issues. This is not to say that it is not a worthy cause, only that it is no more an “atheist issue” than any other worthy cause.

                I have an idea of why I think atheists should mobilize and what constitutes an atheist issue, but what about you? I’m not sure why women’s rights are so far out of the norm.
                I nearly responded to these sentences separately, but I feel that for you they’re closely wedded and I’m trying to get a handle on why that is, so forgive me if I end up misinterpreting you. Firstly, I don’t believe that women’s rights are in any way “outside the norm”. I think that they’re important both for reasons of justice and fairness, but also because it seems to me that society flourishes better when women are valued. I also believe that men have a part to play in this. The distinction that I’ve been trying to make is that I don’t believe that someone’s irreligion should change the way they respond to the rallying cry of feminism, for good or for ill. This seems to be where we’re missing each other. You seem to see atheism as something “more”, but I’m not clear on what or why that is. You seem to be equating atheism with progressive morality and I’m not sure that’s justified.

                • Rebecca Sparks

                  Thank you for getting back to me!  This time I have footnotes, for things that I had to say but I think were slightly off topic. Thank you for arguing with me so long.

                  there’s 34.2 million Americans who claim no
                  religion, and of those 1.6 million of 
                  those claim to be atheist. 
                  –Rebecca

                  Whereas there are approximately 156million women in
                  the United States. -Paul

                  A person’s gender/sex has nothing to do with being a
                  potential feminist*-all 331m people in the US have the potential to be feminist
                  (or atheist, for that matter). 
                  Significantly fewer are, and we don’t have a national survey for people
                  who identify as feminist but are not members of an NGO.

                  … the fact that feminists wield a lot more power,
                  both real (presently active feminists and secularists) and potential (total
                  population of women and atheists).I’m not seeing the sort of shortage of
                  resources that would necessitate petitioning other causes for
                  assistance…

                  I’ve already voiced my quibble with your potential, and I
                  don’t think feminists wield as much power as you imply.**  I’m still not sure what you mean by asking
                  for assistance from atheism…  I
                  personally think this is where you and I don’t see eye to eye.  I’ll get back to this a little bit later
                  though.

                  The distinction that I’ve been trying to make is
                  that I don’t believe that someone’s irreligion should change the way they
                  respond to the rallying cry of feminism, for good or for ill.

                  It’s not the atheist in the
                  atheist community, but the community in
                  atheist community that makes the difference for me.  I want the atheist community to be feminist
                  in two ways.  One is concerning eliminating
                  sexism within the atheist community, make sure that the
                  community itself is friendly to women. 
                  Women should feel safe. She should not fear violence or sexual violence
                  from fellow atheists: physical, sexual, or verbal.  She should be able to trust that if something
                  was to happen, she could count on the community to believe the validity her
                  testimony and respond appropriately. 
                  Intellectually she should be treated equal–discussions of her
                  scholarship should not be based on her gender but on the strengths and weaknesses
                  of her logic.  Women should be given
                  equal chances to be leaders or speakers. 
                  Any concerns that would stop women from full participation should be
                  able to be aired and if not solved, at least taken seriously.+

                  The second one is trickier to articulate, but let me
                  try.  If it would be an atheist issue
                  with only males affected, than it should also be an atheist issue if it only
                  females were affected.  For instance, if
                  you believe that the Catholic priest’s molestation of young boys is an atheist
                  issue, than it should also be an issue when they molest young girls (which they
                  do, in smaller numbers.)   If you find
                  legislating sexuality based on fundamentalist morals for men is an atheist
                  issue, than it should also be an issue for when it happens to women.  If you don’t think that say setting up a
                  domestic violence shelter for men is an atheist priority, than its probably
                  safe to say that setting up one for women is not one either (although still a
                  worthy endeavor!).

                  You seem to see atheism as something
                  “more”, but I’m not clear on what or why that is…You seem to be
                  equating atheism with progressive morality and I’m not sure that’s
                  justified.

                  I think that although there are many great men and women
                  atheists, it is still somewhat andocentric and misogynistic.  I do not think it is worse than the world in
                  general, but if I’m trying to make the world in general better, than I should also
                  include atheists. 

                  *There are men like Jackson Katz who speaks to feminist causes or John Lennon or the Dalai Lama who claim to be feminist.
                  On the other hand, some of the most sexist things I’ve ever heard have come from other women–from shaming women who chose to work as neglecting their children to insisting that rape happens because a women wasn’t careful enough–from going out at night without male escort to having bad judgment in trusting a friend who slipped a ruffie into her drink. Or when mothers and mother’s in law council side with the abusive husband over the daughter.

                  **I think feminists have done some really awesome things (like VAWA, feminist studies, creating DV shelters, etc), but if feminists were really powerful as you were saying than there than I would hoped that less than 1/4 women would be battered by an intimate partner, 1/6 raped or attempted to be raped, 70% of those in poverty were women, etc.
                  +I say women because we’re talking about feminism, but really this is a wish list for everyone-every race, gender, ethnicity, age, sexuality, ability, etc.

                  So to address your concern about “petitioning other causes
                  for assistance” I am not asking for your help as an atheist with
                  worthy causes that have nothing to do with atheism/religion, like pushing movie
                  execs and game publishers to include more female leads or lobbying for better
                  laws regarding human trafficking.  However,
                  when atheism and women intersect, internally or externally, I would want the
                  atheists as a community to act in a way that validates women.

                • http://profile.yahoo.com/FQUFX2BHWOKDTLLOV7SKWHES2I Paul

                  Thank you for arguing with me so long.
                  Thank you. It’s been an interesting discussion. I’ve followed your lead with the footnoting by the way. :)

                  I’m still not sure what you mean by asking for assistance from atheism.
                  This is what I mean: “[Atheists should see the] lack of women in positions of economic or intellectual power, the lack
                  of representation in government, the pay gap that still very much
                  exists, and the increased risk of sexual violence that women face. [...] So, how about it, atheists? We can see religious privilege, and we really, really like to point it out, but can’t we take a look a gender
                  privilege as  well?” I read this as a call for atheists to take on the broader feminist agenda as well as a suggestion that doing so is the “atheistic” thing to do.

                  I want the atheist community to be feminist in two ways.  The first is concerning eliminating sexism within the atheist community, make sure that the community itself is friendly to women. [..] Women should be given equal chances to be leaders or speakers. Any
                  concerns that would stop women from full participation should be able to be aired and if not solved, at least taken seriously.

                  Agreed, both in terms of the sentiment and its appropriateness as an “atheist issue”

                  If it would be an atheist issue with only males affected, than it should also be an atheist issue if it only females were affected.
                  I see where you’re going with this and I agree. And I think that the example given by Amanda is a good one in this regard. Was the religious dominance at the oversight committee an outrageous display of religious privilege? Absolutely! And I expect that most atheists would consider this to be a clear atheist issue. But look at how Amanda described it: “what a perfect, visual example of the patriarchy.” She had a perfect piece of red meat to set off an atheistic feeding frenzy and what does she do? She rails against the patriarchy.(*) I think that bringing feminism into these issues is unhelpful and unnecessary on atheist boards. Most people aren’t there to talk about feminism, even if they happily do so elsewhere. A men-only group is not an atheist issue. A clergy-only group is. If there’s an atheist issue that needs the attention of atheists, why not describe it in those terms?

                  I think that although there are many great men and women atheists, it is still somewhat andocentric and misogynistic.  I do not think it is worse than the world in general, but if I’m trying to make the world in general better, than I should also include atheists. 
                  From reading your posts and the original article, it seems to be that you and Amanda are taking a slightly different approach to incorporating feminism and atheism. For what it’s worth, I support your approach.

                  Cheers,

                  Paul

                  (*)As an aside, I believe that by casting the patriarchy as the issue, Amanda is actually mischaracterising what was going on. I mean, if they were all nuns, would that have improved anything?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Sarah-Trachtenberg/563721001 Sarah Trachtenberg

    While I expect many atheists sympathize with women’s rights, just by virtue of the fact that we tend to be educated, progressive people, in theory atheists don’t *have* to be feminists, if you see what I mean. As a woman and a feminist, I thank you for talking openly about our lack of privilege. Sexism hurts!

  • Carrie

    Wonderful post. Thank you for writing it!

  • Anonymous

    I don’t deny the existence of patriarchy; in fact I tend to defend it. Patriarchy actually makes a whole lot more sense than theism, and for empirical reasons: We can’t observe gods, but men have had to live with women all along. 

    Of course patriarchy conflicts with the human nature denialism promoted by feminism and political correctness. Yet men didn’t invent patriarchy out of the hardness of their hearts. Instead patriarchy “invented” men, and women, because it promotes reproductive success in a harsh world. And we can see in the here and now that the women who marry young, defer to male authority and have lots of children, like, say, Mrs. Romney and Mrs. Santorum, make genetic contributions to the future of humanity unlike the voluntarily sterile feminist women and evolutionary dead ends like, say, Rebecca Watson. 

    • amyc

      Your post is patently ridiculous. I’m just hoping that it’s a result of poe’s law.

  • Simon

    Was my comment on the Women in Secularism conference deleted?

  • Anonymous

    I think the reason why the word “feminism” is disliked by many men is that they focus on the bad examples and ignore the good. Most of what modern day feminists argue for is positive, but you can always find exceptions that aren’t so logical. The men see examples of women making claims that they feel are exaggerated, making negative accusations about men that they feel aren’t true, or making sexist comments about men and they falsely assume that all feminists are like this.  They need to look beyond the examples they disagree with to see the broader issues.

     There really isn’t a term to differentiate between feminists who make logical points and those who make bias ones, so people automatically assume that the word feminist always refers to one or the other, depending on where they fit on the political spectrum. Hopefully some sort of term can be developed to differentiate between the two because I feel like there is more agreement between people that we see. It isn’t a war between those who hate women and those who hate men. Rather most people agree on gender equality, it is just a matter of showing evidence that proves a particular part of society isn’t gender equal and correcting it. I think most people would support that. 

     I agree that privilege can be invisible to those who have it, but we always need to remember that in the end it is the facts that matter, not the gender of the person arguing. People who assume that any feminist is automatically exaggerating needs to be able to back that up with facts and people who assume that any feminist is automatically correct also need to be able to do the same. Rather than decide that one side is always right, we need to look at the facts in each case.

    I agree that there are people who automatically and rudely disregard all things feminist on Pharyngula, but PZ’s response seems to be to ban anyone who criticizes feminism (regardless of how they define that term) which I don’t think is helpful either.  

    Also (just to add a little more for people to argue over), I think we should deal with examples of sexism individually rather than present it as a “patriarchy” (or in the case of racial issues, “the man”) which makes it sound like it is a behind the scenes conspiracy. It isn’t something that is organized. The vast majority of people support gender equality. Yes there are examples of gender double standards, especially when it comes to women, but saying that gender double standards that affect women are evidence that America is a Patriarchy doesn’t make any more sense than saying that gender double standards that affect men are evidence that America is a Matriarchy.  

    • jay

       ” There really isn’t a term to differentiate between feminists who make logical points and those who make bias ones”

      hmmm…. I vote that we pick a non gender, non judgemental term…

      how about “humanism”?

      • Anonymous

        That really wasn’t the issue I was talking about. You know how being “forward” and being “agressive” both refer to the same kinds of activity but just put in a more positive or negative light? The terms “gun nut” or “tree hugger” exist to allow opponents to take the middle ground without being forced to take the opposite extreme position. But the word ‘feminism’ means different things to different people and it is hard to tell what part of the spectrum people are supporting or opposing.

    • Anonymous

      There really isn’t a term to differentiate between feminists who make logical points and those who make bias ones, so people automatically assume that the word feminist always refers to one or the other, depending on where they fit on the political spectrum.

      Yet another thing that feminism has in common with atheism : )   then again, your statement could be applied to almost ANY ‘ism’ and be valid…..

      • Anonymous

        That isn’t true for many -isms. Those who support second amendment rights are refered to as ‘gun nuts’ by their opponents. Environmentalists are refered to as ‘tree huggers’ by their opponents. Whether or not you think this kind of activity is good, the fact is that it allows opponents to take the middle ground which wouldn’t be possible if they just criticized “gun owner’s rights” or “environmentalists”.

        • Anonymous

          Those who support second amendment rights are refered to as ‘gun nuts’ by their opponents.

          And as ‘patriots’ by those who are on a different point of the political spectrum.

          Environmentalists are refered to as ‘tree huggers’ by their opponents.

          And simulatenously, they’re characterized as principled, responsible citizens by others.

          And women who merely support/endorse equality between the sexes are sometimes to as ‘feminazis’ by their opponents.

          This type of purposely dismissive labelling happens all the time, especially when the topic is politicial…..

          As you yourself said a post or two above:

          ‘people automatically assume that the word ____ always refers to one or the other, depending on where they fit on the political spectrum.’
          There are nutso members in almost every group and intelligent, reasonable members in almost every group…..the issue of ‘who’s the ‘true’ representative’ can and does exist in almost every group in existence.

      • FSq

        Why is it that feminists feel the need to try and usurp or grab any other movement – bowel included – to self-verfiy the cause?

    • Rebecca Sparks

      I think the reason why the word “feminism” is disliked by many men is that they focus on the bad examples and ignore the good.

      Ok, but I think sometimes I get tired of saying, “Thank you for not raping or beating me.”  Just like you (assuming you’re an atheist) get tired saying to your religious friends, “Thank you for not shunning me/firing me when you found out I was an atheist.”
       Being a decent human being should be the bare minimum.  If you’re not part of the problem, how much reassurance do you need that I find you’re one of the good guys?  It might win more popularity contests, but it doesn’t seem to actually help in the fight for women’s rights.
      Rather than decide that one side is always right, we need to look at the facts in each case.  
       Here’s some statistics on violence against women.
      WHO
      Nationl Institute of Justice
      <a href="http://nij.gov/topics/crime/rape-sexual-violence/victims-perpetrators.htm
      US Army SHARP Program Rape Fact Sheet
      Washington State Department of Health
      National Coalition AGainst Domestic Violence
      One in Four
      And one on Poverty
      American Progress
      I think we should deal with examples of sexism individually rather than present it as a “patriarchy” (or in the case of racial issues, “the man”) which makes it sound like it is a behind the scenes conspiracy. It isn’t something that is organized. … saying that gender double standards that affect women are evidence that America is a Patriarchy doesn’t make any more sense than saying that gender double standards that affect men are evidence that America is a Matriarchy.
      According to the NVAWS survey 1 in 6 women and 1 in 33 men have been either raped or were attemped to be raped. 99% of rapists are male.  (60% are white males).  This doesn’t mean that all men are rapists, but that most men are rapists and mostly women are raped shows a pattern.  That more women than men are subject to poverty shows a pattern.  More women are battered and killed by an intimate partner shows a pattern.  And so on.  The sheer number of women who are beaten or raped (among other disadvantages) shows this is not a rare, isolated problem.  It is not, as you say, a consperency, but there is a rather strong correlation to gender.
      (edited for clarity)

      • amyc

        “This doesn’t mean that all men are rapists, but that most men are rapists and mostly women are raped shows a pattern.”

        Did you mean to say “most rapists are men?” I’m going to be reasonable and use context to decide that’s what you meant.

        • Rebecca Sparks

          Oops.  You’re right–fixed!

  • Ndonnan

    Personally i see feminism at this time in history in the west the same as chaeuvanistic males were in the 50s.If women do the same job as men,then they get the same pay as men. Women in the middle east ,infact most of the 2nd and 3rd world countrys,well now they have somthing to complain about

    • http://corvustristis.wordpress.com/ Corvus

      One could say the same thing about atheists in the middle east, and many global south countries.

    • Bryan

      “If women do the same job as men,then they get the same pay as men.”

      Not true. There’s a demonstrable wage gap; women on average earn some 85 cents on the dollar for doing the same job as a man.

  • http://eternalbookshelf.wordpress.com/ Ani Sharmin

    Thanks very much for this post, Amanda! I think you made some excellent points. 

    On the topic of feminists caring about issues that affect men: I think it’s important for anyone who believes in gender equality, and that would include feminists, to care about everyone being hurt. 

    There is a bit of a conundrum, though. When feminists talk about the ways women are hurt, they get accused of only caring about women, even if they talked about men elsewhere (e.g. in a different article, blog post, conversation). When feminists talk about how men are hurt, they get accused of trying to “feminize men”. The same people who accuse feminists of not caring about men later accuse feminists of “feminizing” men when feminists talk about how men are hurt by sexism as well. 

    For example, consider the story Amanda has included in the original post (about it being considered weird in society for boys and men to wear dresses). If someone defends a boy or man who wants to wear a dress and says he shouldn’t be bullied for it, I see that as one example of being concerned about boys and men, but there are those who would say that it’s a way of “feminizing” men.

  • https://sites.google.com/site/ferulebezelssite/ Ferule Bezel

     A couple of quickies before I go to bed.

    The “Privilege” argument is bullshit.  It is a hybrid of the ad hominem and personal experience fallacies that is brought out when ever it is pointed out that a feminist hasn’t made her case.  Feminist states X.  Sceptic ask for evidence of X.  Feminist claims that the sceptic can’t see it because of his privilege but if he had the feminist’s experience he could.  If a phenomenon is real it can be objectively demonstrated.

    Feminists love to talk about “the Patriarchy” without ever defining it.  Is it a conspiracy or some kind of mystical force.

    Ok, more than a couple.

    Feminist are never willing to give up demonstrable advantages women have such as the greater availability of educational assistance to women in spite of the face that men and boys are faring far worse in school and graduating college at a lower rate than women.  And, a myriad of other advantages.

    I’ve never seen the wage gap demonstrated.  If someone knows of a study that includes all the factors that affect wages, all the non monetary compensation used, and uses proper time frames.  I’d love to see it.

    Until feminists are willing to have their articles of faith examined, they are not sceptics.

    • http://eternalbookshelf.wordpress.com/ Ani Sharmin

      In response to the education topic:

      Part of the reason why there’s so much focus on girls’ education is because there’s a long history of not letting girls go to school, an idea that is even pushed by some religious groups to this day.

      Still, I tend to agree that improving education should help everyone, not only one group. I think feminism has gotten this undeserved reputation for not caring about education for boys due to the fact that so many of the suggestions for improving education for boys include gender discrimination, like sex segregated schools, rather than actually addressing the problem of bad education. So, of course, many groups are going to be against gender segregation, since it’s separate and unequal, and they unfairly get a reputation for not caring about boys’ education when they’re actually opposing a bad suggestion that’s not really a solution.

      http://www.aclu.org/womens-rights/sex-segregated-schools-separate-and-unequal 

      http://www.aclu.org/blog/womens-rights/single-sex-education-will-not-save-minority-boys 

    • Maevwen

       wiki’s info, based upon the census data:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Male%E2%80%93female_income_disparity_in_the_United_States
      Some folks say that the gap is due to a difference in skill, knowledge, or time on the job, and say that men have more of each.  Which in itself is assuming that women are inherently less in each case, which is a sexist assumption. 
      Some say that women have less in each case, due to time spent child-rearing.  If this were so, this would be an outcome born out of in-equal sharing of household burden -  where in a family that includes two adults with their children, each should be bearing the burden of child-rearing evenly.  (unless one or the other chooses to rear the children in lieu of work altogether, which some women and some men do decide to do.  I know some house-dads.  however, it isn’t inherently in and of itself a woman’s preference.)
      In today’s work-place, a woman can take maternity leave to birth a child.  There should be no penalty for this.  Just like there should be no penalty for the husband taking paternity leave.  Or a man taking a sabbatical. 

      The “patriarchy” is pretty evident in that photo above, where it’s a panel of men talking about women’s issues, and not having representation on that panel at all from the demographic that will be effected by their decisions. 

      To learn more about how patriarchy or sexism is evident systemically, it’s pretty easy to do some research.  Here’s a website with a short summary:  http://www.omnilogos.com/2011/06/28/sexism/

      Here is also a quick and easy find, about male privilege:  http://sap.mit.edu/content/pdf/male_privilege.pdf

      • https://sites.google.com/site/ferulebezelssite/ Ferule Bezel

        No one is conspiring to penalize women for taking time off to have a child any more than they are penalizing someone who takes time off to hike the Pacific Crest Trail.  To characterize it as such is dishonest.  Having a child is a choice if someone chooses to make that a priority over their job it is hardly fair to expect those who have to pick up the slack when they are gone not to be compensated.

        If you look at the studies cited in your Wikipedia link you will see that they used overly broad job classifications and compared dollars per week.

        A good study is going compare identical jobs, measure yearly income divided by hours actually worked (adjusting for over vs. normal time hours), and include the dollar value of non-monetary compensation like benefits consumed and expected payouts from pensions.

        If employers could cut really get the same results at a 25% discount by hiring women there wouldn’t be a man employed.

        To paraphrase, I believe, Chris Rock.—The reason men make more money than women is that no woman has had a man refuse to fuck her because she was broke.

        I didn’t even read beyond the first sentence of your second link although I did skim.

        “Sexism is a system of oppression that privileges men and discriminates against women.”  to be followed by a bunch of post-modern jibber-jabber alleging it everything is a social construct.

        Somehow when law custom or biology benefit women it isn’t sexism.

        Your third link was just a random list of complaints, some just false, some a result of different choices women make and some fair and appropriate.

        I could just as easily come up with such a list where the advantage goes to women.

        • Maevwen

           ” Having a child is a choice if someone chooses to make that a priority
          over their job it is hardly fair to expect those who have to pick up the
          slack when they are gone not to be compensated.”

          You’re assuming that’s what’s meant.  I never said that.
          You’re assuming alot from that statement.  That being, a) that across the board, when a woman a child, bam!  her work progress stops.  And that b) men are not involved in the child rearing process c) that women, if given a choice in a shared-responsibility child-rearing household, doesn’t opt to make career a priority. 

          “If you look at the studies cited in your Wikipedia link you will see
          that they used overly broad job classifications and compared dollars per
          week.”

          Call up the census, and make yourself a survey designer.

          “If employers could cut really get the same results at a 25% discount by hiring women there wouldn’t be a man employed.”

          A) as if that’s even legally possible.  B) isms are systemic and patterned.  most people aren’t aware of their own biases until they are educated about things outside of their own microcosmic social norm.  or they are aware and benefit from being in the group with that benefits, so laugh it off and don’t see anything that needs to change.  But you obviously don’t “believe” that sexism against women exists.

          “To paraphrase, I believe, Chris Rock.—The reason men make more money
          than women is that no woman has had a man refuse to fuck her because she
          was broke.”

          Try explaining that one in your own words.  

          • The Other Weirdo

             It means that women marry up, men marry down. Many female nurses marry male doctors. I wonder what sorts of men female doctors marry. I bet it’s not dock workers.

  • Joe Kilmarnock

    This is why I don’t identify as feminist, even though I’ve been told, based on what I actually believe, that I should. Feminism, in some quarters has become a mindfield of wordgames and pro-woman advocacy… as opposed to pro-equality.

    Is our culture male-dominated?
    Yes.
    Should we strive to make it not so male-dominated?
    Yes.
    Is it patriarchy?
    No.
    Has it inherited patriarchal values?
    Yes.

    Is this my privilege talking?
    Yes.
    Is privilege a white male thing?
    No, because EVERYONE has it.

    Am I  a misogynist for even questioning a feminist?
    I certainly feel like one… because as a male, I don’t have the female privilege of questioning feminism, and even the women who do are patriarchal automatons, not real people.

    There, now I feel better, heading back to my cave now, where I belong.

    • Anonymous

      This is why I don’t identify as feminist, even though I’ve been told, based on what I actually believe, that I should.

      ‘told that you should’.  Yikes. I don’t think anyone should be told what ‘personal label’ they ‘should’ take on for themselves.  That’s a personal decision.

      it’s a sticky issue when it comes to ‘personal labels’ involving terms that also have objective ‘dictionary definitions’. Feminism AND atheism are both great examples. There are people who support and believe in “the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes” (the dictionary def of feminism) but who eschew that label for various reasons ~ often because the term has acquired some unpleasant ‘baggage’ along the way…..Would I say to such a person ‘you’re a feminist whether you like it or not’ ? No. Because the only person who can choose a ‘label’ to represent them is the person themselves. But would it be invalid to assess that person’s position and then say “that position fits the defintion of feminist” ? Absolutely not.

      • Joe Kilmarnock

         I think you missed my point.

        I really don’t care how people label me.

        But I think Amanda’s article in particular,  and modern feminism in general, has nothing to do with “the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes”, but rather it’s about supporting women at all costs, and ignoring/blaming/dismissing the opinions of men.

        Dismissing a man’s opinions on the basis of  ‘male privilege’ is an empty ad hominem attack. Dismissing a woman’s opinions on the basis of her being influenced by ‘the patriarchy’ is an empty ad hominem attack.

        If more feminists actually practiced what they preach about ‘equality’, then I’d want to be a feminist. As it is, sadly, I have no interest in the label, because the reality is very different from the ‘definition’.

  • jay

    I think part of the problem is that ‘feminism’ has grown to include many things, some questionable. 

    Obviously, legal rights is a no brainer. Personal freedom is a no brainer.

    However there are branches of feminism that are decidedly very very woo.

    There are those who try use laws to coercively force their world view on others.  There are branches of feminism which would advocate laws which trample on free expression. There are feminists who proclaim ‘hands off my body’ when it comes to abortion, but are all for government criminalization of women who freely choose to use their bodies in porn or sex work.

    Some feminists are obsessed with ideology over evolution. They choose to ignore the fact that we are mammals, and mammals, perhaps more than other groups, have significant behavioral specializations.

    That unless you see exactly the same statistical outcome in employment choices, for example that there MUST be some male hierarchical plot causing it to be (ignoring the conclusion that, if men and women WERE actually identical, we would see matriarchal power structures as often as patriarchal ones).  They seem to want to ignore that so many years of evolution have tuned male and female survival and reproductive strategies, and behavioral components like aggression and social organization styles very differently. Evolution ‘rewards’ what has worked.

    Equal rights is a damned good idea. Feminism often goes far beyond equal rights into questionable ideologies. And feminism sometimes behaves like religion, going beyond making sure the same law applies to all,  trying to use the coercive force of law to artificially enforce an ideological position, which is a place law does not belong.

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/FDGYHBEWVNGUG763L5X4TON3JQ Nazani14

    Well, DUH.  I’m sure many religious beliefs and practices were invented expressly to subjugate women.  There are tie-ins to ancient agricultural practices and division of labor, too, but I’ll skip the anthropology lesson today.

    It makes sense for women to be atheists, because our bodies, our freedom, and our education are so often the targets of religion.  Have you seen the frikkin’ news?  This isn’t a philosophical discussion for women; our health, employment, voting and property rights are continually under attack.
    I overheard my Daughter (studying modeling & simulation) talking with girl friends, and they were debating which country would be best to emigrate to.

    “significant behavioral specializations”   Most of which have been irrelevant for decades, all of which can be compensated for, and some of which are actually advantages. 

    I’m 59, and I’ve been angry at patriarchy and religion since my early teens.  They are two assholes in one set of pants.   Men need to grasp one simple fact:  It really pisses people off to be treated as inferiors.

    • http://corvustristis.wordpress.com/ Corvus

      This!  I see a lot of people who basically say “well yeah, feminism addresses valid problems, but why should the atheist movement care so much?  What does it have to do with atheism?”  

      I argue that the vast majority of the major feminist battles stem directly from religious ideals, and thus atheists should join those fights for the same reason we speak out against the spread of creationism in school, or in favor of separation of church and state: because they are strong examples of religious ideas being imposed on the public at large.It’s not just the right that commonly tries to curb women’s reproductive rights, be it birth control or abortion, it’s the religious right, and they use explicitly religious rhetoric to do it.  It’s not just conservatives that have been trying to legally enforce gender roles (through opposition to alternative sexual orientations/approaches), it’s evangelical conservatives.  Why should atheists care about feminist issues? Because many if not most of those issues ARE atheist issues. 

  • anon-no-one

    One significant difference is that atheist are a minority whereas women
    actually are not. Women actually are in the majority. But on a more
    serious note I still don’t understand how feminism and skepticism
    could be compatible and the topic of the exemption of religious
    institutions form paying for contraceptives serves as a good example.

    To my
    knowledge nobody in the atheist/skeptic has managed to point out that
    the exemption of religious institutions to pay for contraceptives
    actually does not discriminate (if one really wants to use that word)
    against women but discriminates against poor people working for these
    institutions. (A testament to widespread lack of basic economic
    knowledge.) The anti-women part of that exemption is purely symbolic.

    I only
    found one commenter who could explain why the complaint from church
    to pay for contraceptives is ridiculous. Being that form an economic
    perspective it does not matter whether I pay my employees a wage with
    which they go buy contraceptives themselves or if I pay for the
    insurances that does the same thing.

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      I’ve been wondering if the RC church has an objection to paying for vasectomies.

    • http://eternalbookshelf.wordpress.com/ Ani Sharmin

      How is it purely symbolic? It’s actually affecting women. The demand from the Catholic Church that religious organizations shouldn’t have to pay for birth control is based on them being against birth control and against equality for women in other areas as well.

      I agree with your point about it affecting poor people disproportionately. The thing is, though, it’s affecting poor women. To leave out that it’s affecting women is just as incomplete as leaving out that it’s affecting poor people.

  • Solong Beengoodtoknou

    So… when you are a feminist, you can see the invisible aura of privilege around the evil menz.

    What a crock of shit. Boy has this site gone down hill.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_RPPWVLMFKJ7QCHLEVQAR5GSL5M momma J

    Yes the photo has been used to argue several different viewpoints including Christians don’t care about women or see them as less than Men. PEOPLE! There were two different panels. How many of you have seen the picture of the second panel that included women as well as men? Probably not very many eh? 

    The media only tells you what they want you to see and think. Great job drinking the kool-aid though. Here’s the address of a picture taken during the 2nd panel hearing.

     http://www.flickr.com/photos/oversight/6888108467/

  • http://twitter.com/AnarchoGirl AnarchoGirl

    Honestly these posts on feminism are the main reason I still come here, so thanks. In general the atheist movement basically seems to ignore women’s issues and I have no interest in participating in a movement that doesn’t address (or flat out belittles) my concerns. The oppression I face as a woman is much greater and more pervasive than any oppression I face for being an atheist. So I have chosen to get involved in other groups that do have an intersectional analyses. Anarchist groups are mostly white dudes too, but at least they are willing to educate themselves, challenge their privilege, accept criticism, and fight ALL sorts of oppression (economic, sexist, racist) instead of just their own. 

    • http://squeakysoapbox.com/ Rich Wilson

      The amount eye rolling and outright derision that this topic raises is in stark contrast to other group rights (gay, black atheist) articles on this blog.  It ain’t going to be pretty, but I think the only solution is more light.

  • No

    In summary: Patriarchy and male privilege are obvious because: 1) I say so, 2) Here, my anecdotal evidence of it

  • No

    Formerly Not Guilty  wrote:”As a feminist I can assure you that we work to eliminate all forms of discrimination. Our focus may be inequality of women but that encompasses poverty, race, pregnancy rights, and yes, transgendered rights. I don’t appreciate being told what my movement does or doesn’t do; it’s insulting.”THAT is the very essence of dogma:  I will tell you what the truth is in regards to my particular belief system and how it IS or SHOULD BE defined.  I know best and I know all about the topic of gender so can’t tell me one thing- because I, know-it-allTHIS is exactly what a skeptic is expected to refute and fight for a scientific understanding and prescription. FEMINISM IS NOT that- it is not a scientific approach to gender/social relations.    A skeptic needs only social science- a careful study of sociology/social psychology/behavioural econ. Not feminism.

  • Anonymous

    “So why is the atheist and skeptical community, espousers of all things intellectual and rational, so hostile to feminism?”

    It’s not hostility to equal rights for women as this sentence implies. Many atheists are rationalists and skeptics, and are hostile to irrationality and blind gullibility. So we are hostile to feminists who act this way, push nonsense and do not examine the many ridiculous claims they have come to accept with a critical eye.

    An example of this nonsense is privilege theory which serves many of the same purposes as similar irrational outsider discrediting beliefs in religion. I have the same reaction to being told my opinion doesn’t count because I am “privileged” as I do to being told I worship the devil.

    I also do not like the use of privilege theory against the religious. True privilege for theists exists in some countries. For example countries with blaspheme laws give actual dejure privilege to the religious. This is easy to point out and can be seen by anyone. It does not require the argument that the privilege blinds them after it has been pointed out. Nor does it require me to make the argument that because they haven’t lived as a atheist they cannot see why it is a double standard. It obviously meets the criteria for a double standard. It is also the case of an actual true legal privilege which gives the theists views an unfair advantage. No question about it.

    When this is extended to distort the meaning of the word privilege I have to step off and criticize those who would use another form of bigotry to unfairly push their own beliefs by demonizing their opponents. Plus I already have words like ignorance to describe what needs to be decried without falsely claiming that their opinions are rooted in a special advantage they get via force.

    If you want there are plenty of irrationalist atheist movements out their which you can marry your nonsense to like the Marxists. Of course they have participated in mass murder in the past which is one of the costs of demonization of others on faulty reasoning.

    Don’t expect the skeptics to be on board with irrational misandry like male privilege theory.

  • Anonymous

    I think some of us men here are a little confused about some of the basic concepts being discussed.

    Some seem to think that when someone mentions “male privilege” they are asserting that males are universally privileged in all areas and that females are privileged in none.  We can all think of obvious examples of privileges women have that we don’t, and this is leading some of us to defensive attitudes.  The existence of “male privilege” does not exclude the possibility of “female privilege,” but the mere existence of “female privilege” does not mean that the problems caused by these privileges are equal in scale to the societal problems caused by “male privilege.”  Political representation is an obvious one.  From ThisNation.com,  “In the House, there are currently 362 men and 76 women. In the Senate, there are 17 womenand 83 men” – this despite the fact that about 51% of the U.S. population is female.

    I also see some people bowing up at the idea of “patriarchy.”  Yes, patriarchy is difficult to define, pin down, and prove – because it’s not a concrete THING, it’s a nebulous social phenomenon.  Social trends don’t always easily translate into empirical data because society operates in a very chaotic manner.  Physics, biology, history, popular ideologies, whims of individuals, size of population, economy, etc. add up to a big stew of factors that shape the culture we live in.  “Patriarchy” can exist as a cultural phenomenon without necessarily being demonstrable in a lab.  This means discussion isn’t going to be precise, but we simply don’t have a way of addressing the issue scientifically (yet?) and that DOES NOT mean we shouldn’t discuss it.

    I’ve seen some react to references to patriarchy as if it meant a vast male conspiracy to suppress women.  I don’t think that’s what most feminists are thinking when they use the term.  I’m sure there are scholars much better equipped to define this term than I, but I’m going to attempt to express how I understand it.  Patriarchy isn’t about conspiracy, it’s just a state where culture is male-centrc.  Where the foundations of the society were laid by men and as such the politics/economics/social norms reflect the interests of men and benefit men.  

    It’s impossible to deny that the U.S. was founded by a bunch of men in times when women were regarded as inferior.  Women were initially denied the right to vote.  And there has never been a time when political offices in this country have not been extremely disproportionately occupied by men.  We’ve still never had a woman president.  Men and women ARE different in many ways.  There are needs women have that it would never occur to a room full of men to provide for (and vice versa), so both need a voice in how society is run.  I don’t see how it is even arguable that we have achieved gender equality.  If we had at some point reached gender equality, then ever since that point in time about half our presidents would have been women and our governing bodies would consist of about half women (in positions not subordinate to their male counterparts).  Things are better than they use to be, but there’s still a way to go.

    Anyway… it’s 4:00 in the freakin’ morning and I’m starting to ramble, repeat myself, and make typos.  I hope that the paragraphs above this sentence make sense and contain some intelligible points.  Goodnight.


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