On being an Atheist AND a Feminist

When I named this blog, I chose to call it “Love, Joy, Feminism” and not “Love, Joy, Atheism” for a reason. I knew that I would be blogging about leaving fundamentalist and evangelical religion as well as blogging about leaving patriarchy, but I felt – and still feel – that my feminism is more important to me than my atheism. I thought about it and realized that I identify more - a great deal more – with a religious feminist than an sexist atheist. Fortunately, the main atheist bloggers I follow (The Friendly Atheist, Pharlyngula, and Blag Hag) are all also very feminist, as have been most atheist I have met and know today. Unfortunately, as I was reminded last week. that is not always the case.

Christopher Hitchens died last week. He was a prominent atheist writer, speaker, and thinker, and I did admire him in many ways. A new word was coined in his honor – “hitchling: a child void of religious indoctrination who is encouraged to read broadly and to seek the truth unapologetically” – and I very much want to apply this epithet on my young daughter. There’s a problem, though. Christopher Hitchens was sexist and anti-feminist.

Hitchens said that women aren’t able to be funny the way men are (i.e. comedians) because of their evolutionary development, without even thinking about the fact that we are socially conditioned and not simply products of evolution as well as the fact that his statement is rapidly becoming false anyway.

Hitchens said that women should raise children while men should work because women naturally know how to be mothers while men have no clue what to do with babies, without even thinking about the fact that this is also a result of social conditioning, and is today more and more no longer true.

Christopher Hitchens opposed abortion, making the conversation about “the unborn child” rather about ability of women to control their bodies and their reproduction, and only grudgingly said IUDs were acceptable.

Christopher Hitchens openly mocked feminists, and definitely did not count himself as one of them in any way. The line that takes the cake is this: “I’m not having any woman of mine go to work.” No. Just, no.

It is hard to admire Hitchens’s writing on atheism while being so abhorred by his ignorance and misogyny when it comes to women. Perhaps it is so difficult because the two positions – atheism and feminism – are both so important to me and to who I am. And so, someone like Hitchens makes me feel very torn.

And as long as we’re on the subject of sexist atheists, it’s not just Hitchens. Several months ago at a skeptics conference a woman named Rebecca Watson found herself in an uncomfortable situation with a male attending the conference, and spoke of it the next day, without giving a name, as an illustration in her talk on bringing women’s issues into atheist conferences and groups. The result was that many in the atheist community turned on her, calling her all sorts of sexist names and even threatening her with rape. The atheist blog world was alive with this controversy for weeks. Richard Dawkins himself chimed in, speaking out against Rebecca Watson.

The reality is that the atheist community is today and has long been mainly made up of white males. This is changing, fortunately, and we now see prominent atheist blogs like The Friendly Atheist and Blag Hag. Pharyngula frequently speaks on women’s issues as well, and this year the first skeptic conference made up entirely of women is being held.

Sometimes I get so tired of battling sexism with religious roots that it’s disheartening to have to fight it within atheism as well. I’m encouraged that progress is being made, and it is, but confused that we even have to have this conversation. It does make a point, though: sexism may at times be fed by religion, but it does not find its root origin in religion.

And that, readers, is why I titled my blog “Love, Joy, Feminism.” When it comes down to it, I hold my belief in gender equality more highly than I do my lack of belief in a God. When it comes down to it, I would much rather live in a world of religious feminists than a world of sexist atheists. Fortunately, I can be both, and I have many friends and acquaintances who are both atheists and feminists as well. But as Hitchens’ death reminded me, the two don’t always go together.

Rest in peace, Christopher Hitchens. I admire your thoughts on atheism and religion, but I think your thoughts on gender and women were complete and total bullshit, and I hold them in extreme disdain.

And as for the term hitchling? To be honest, I’m not sure I can see past the sexism of the man in whose honor it was coined. My daughter is indeed being raised without religious indoctrination and is indeed being encouraged to read and think broadly, but she’s also being taught that her lack of a penis should be no limit to her potential. And if I had to hold one more important than the other, it would most definitely be the second, not the first.

About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03737088496139901541 Jude

    Maybe that's why I never liked Hitchens. When I read atheist paeans to him, I feel like I did every time someone wrote something praising Steve Jobs. Those are two men I definitely do not admire.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01412447819828301892 Dream

    While I generally agree with your assessment, I wonder what leads you to characterize his position on IUDs as "grudging"? I admittedly have only seen one video where IUDs are mentioned by him, so I am curious if there is something I haven't seen or read of his that mentions the subject.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10562805251128821984 Libby Anne

    Dream – I think the whole "grudging" thing was my perception: aka, it came across to me like "Well, I guess women can keep their IUDs if they really want to, but isn't that nice of me?" I think his big deal was a focus on "the unborn child" as a "potential human being" and therefore needing consideration, so he had to address IUDs because they can cause a fertilized egg to not implant, and that fertilized egg should technically fit under his "potential human being" rubric. Maybe that's also why it sounded "grudging" – it sounded like: "it's a potential human being and we need to give that weight and weigh that against the mother, but even though a fertilized egg is technically a potential human being too, we'll give them that one out of sheer magnanimity." Again, I haven't read everything he's written on abortion, that's just my impression from what I HAVE read and seen, so I could be wrong in my interpretation.

  • Anonymous

    I have the same issues as a feminist atheist. There are so many admirers of Hitchens, and he did have some good things to say on the subject of religion. But anyone who would pronounce on what "their woman" would be allowed to do is not my friend. Misogyny certainly predates religion, and goes far beyond it. The bad science being done on gender today echoes the bad science done on race in the last century… Maybe one day we will get beyond that and see that people are people…I have also been thinking lately about the saying "A bird in hand is worth two in the bush". An actual human being is worth more than a potential human being. Go too far down the potential human being track and you get to Monty Python's famous song, "Every Sperm Is Sacred". The vast majority of fertilized eggs never implant, the vast majority of eggs and sperm never meet… Even implanted eggs often are rejected for no (currently) discoverable reason. If there are two beings sharing a body, and one is potential and one is actual… I choose the actual to be the most valuable.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01412447819828301892 Dream

    I can understand how it came across as grudging to you. When it comes to reproductive rights and the empowerment of women Hitchens was definitely "keeping two sets of books" (to borrow a phrase of his). I've seen him proclaim that the only known solution to poverty is the empowerment of women (including control over their reproduction), as well as his essay on how women aren't funny, statements against abortion, and the interview where he says "I'm not having any woman of mine go to work".

  • Wendy

    That article in The Nation was my very favorite obituary of Hitchens. I'm an atheist and a skeptic; too many tributes sounded like they were written by Steve Jobs fan boys. And Elevatorgate? I know, right?! (Say it ain't so, Dawkins!)Feminism is a big part of what I love about PZ Myers, although I'm way to timid to comment on his blog.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01412447819828301892 Dream

    On reflection, perhaps it was less two sets of books as a book and a small pamphlet.

  • Disillusioned Ex-Homeschooler

    What a wonderful post–thank you. I also have very conflicted feelings about Hitchens. I agree wholeheartedly with many of his opinions on religion–so many of his critiques are justified. But in the end, to me he belongs among the ranks of religious doctrinaires who are incapable of seeing people as people, and who instead insist on tying people's worth and acceptability to their beliefs.In addition to his sexist views, Hitchens was an avid supporter of the Iraq war, and he popularized the term "Islamofascist." As such he was in lock step with neoconservatives and conservative Christians in hyping fears of an Islamic threat by painting a fearsome, dehumanizing picture of the world's infinitely varied, 1.6 billion-strong community of Muslims. It is a picture that bears little resemblance to reality and one that helps justify wars and policies that have been responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of innocents. These views of Muslims are also responsible to the very real prejudice and hatred many of my Muslim friends in the US have faced over the last decade.It's hard for all of us to know where the fine line is between justified, insistent, necessary critique and dehumanization, but Hitchens blew past that line with deliberate abandon. His utter disdain for the value of anyone who disagreed with him was palpable. In that way (and in his disregard for the worth of women) he reminded me much of my fundamentalist friends and relatives. Thankfully, like you said, there are other voices that carry on Hitchens' valid and insightful critiques without the baggage. Like you I salute Friendly Atheist and BlagHag (and I'll be checking out Pharyngula).Sorry for the long preachy comment! Again, wonderful post.

  • Paula G V aka Yukimi

    And that's why I never liked Hitchens, Dawkins (and Steve Jobs btw) among other reasons like how they were treated as gods. I don't believe in any god, human ones don't count either :PAnyway, if I wanted role models in the atheist movement, I'd cose other people like Stephen Fry in soem aspects, the Friendly Atheist people in others, … There are way better role models in the atheist movement and I'm glad of that even if I value the work of the people I don't really like so much.The reason why I'm an atheist is very diferent than the reason I'm a feminist. I'm not an atheist because religion is misoginistic (which it is) but because I don't believe in god and all the thing religion says sounds absurd to me. It's a good point that I'm also figting for tolerance by being against some conservative religious doctrines but it's not the reason wy I am an atheist.

  • Deenie

    Elevatorgate still bugs me. Even as a feminist, I think the entire thing was blown way out of proportion. I say that hoping that no one will now want to get into an argument about it; I'm just trying to be honest, and I read all those arguments for weeks wondering when it would finally die down.Anyway, I agree on Hitchens. So much of what he wrote was infuriating, but it was also refreshing in a way: he so missed the mark on some things that I would read all of his writing with a skeptical eye. It kept me from just nodding along because of what he wrote about. And Hitchling, though in a way nice, is silly. I prefer Sam Harris' disdain for labels, anyway.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13930917517196516292 Jason Dick

    Yeah, of the four main atheist books, I definitely liked Hitchens' the least. Though interestingly Dawkins' The God Delusion was actually a main reason why I shed my pro-life roots and became quite pro-choice. His argument against the so-called pro-life stance was short and to the point, but I was still unable to counter it.So I was extremely shocked and disappointed when he came out so vehemently against Watson.Anyway, nearly off-topic comment over :)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00180993672268077454 JW

    I have often wondered to myself if feminists are really happy. In the articles I have read of various feminists I always tend to read some kind of grudge within. It is as if the world is terrible because it seems to 'demean' women and deprive with of inequality. Yet, yes, there is inequality in this world and it is the right thing to do to fight for them but with feminism this dwelves into such areas as roles in 'family' units. For me, I understand that there should be roles within the family unit because there is a nature state there. Women, usually, naturally gravitate to child rearing and even things around the home whereas the male usually gravitates toward construction projects around the home. Just as I did today in installing a wooden fence to replace the junkyard of one that just somehow hung there even through hurricanes.In my readings I get the feeling that feminists see this an inequality when I see it as a nature role of gender in society. Men and women are different inside and that differences usually becomes a kind of synergy when male and female come together in marriage.What do you think?

  • http://dream-wind.livejournal.com/ dream_wind

    (Libby Anne, apologies for ranting here. this is Christine, aka dream_wind from LiveJournal, blogger isn't verifying my OpenID properly).JW, it's attitudes like yours that lead to feminists having "some kind of grudge." Because in your worldview, women are homemakers and childrearers and men are mighty world-builders. Granted, you say "usually" but then you go on to talk about gender roles in society.Let me tell you something, buddy. I work in a senior management role in IT, generally considered a "male" industry. I wield power tools with more competency than many men I know. I can do maintenance on my own car. And I am not the only woman like this. I do cook and sew but that's because I enjoy it, not because of some stupid "gender" conditioning. I enjoy eating good food and I don't like a lot of the clothes for sale, so I make my own.And more to the point, the whole "child rearing" thing. I REALLY DON'T LIKE CHILDREN. One of my biggest nightmares is having to raise a child. The question of children is in fact a deal breaker for me, and I have walked away from otherwise wonderful relationships because he wanted kids and I really don't. Seriously. I'm that child free.So don't go talking about gender roles even if you do qualify it with "usually." It's the same as "I hear what you're saying, but…" because you really DON'T GET IT. Feminists have a "grudge" because people want to compartmentalise women into a role that many of us don't want to be in. As with every ideology, there are zealot feminists who insist you're only a real feminist if you're a lesbian, but the vast majority of us simply want recognition of the fact that women can contribute way more to society thant raising kids.End of rant.

  • Petticoat Philosopher

    I do not feel conflicted about Hitchens or Dawkins. I think they are/were both huge assholes and have for years. I respect Hitchens for one thing, and that is the graceful way he handled his illness and death. Otherwise, I have no problem saying that I thought he and Dawkins are the worst kind of hypocrite–self-regarding and sanctimonious, fancying themselves to be trail-blazing champions of free thought and warriors against oppressive traditional values–all while they tout the most oppressive traditional values of all. What's more traditional and oppressive than patriarchy? It's one of the biggest problems, if not THE biggest problem that has ever plagued religion in the first place!I always get frustrated when I realize how many atheists (I'm not indicting anyone here) are so innocently shocked to find out that atheism is not synonymous with "all things good and progressive." It ain't. I'm glad to see Elevatorgate mentioned here–it illustrates well that sexist douchebaggery knows no religion.Even their particular brand of atheism annoys me. And not because I'm not an atheist. I don't think atheists should have to be apologetic or "accomodating" of the fact that lots of people aren't atheists. That's a ridiculous double standard. But you don't need to be a self-congratulating blowhard who thinks that everyone who doesn't think like you is just an intellectually feeble sheep either.

  • Meggie

    @JW – You installed the fence. Great. That works in your family. In my family, it would have been me and not my husband that did the fence. You talk about natural roles within a family but I see feminism as allowing us to choose the roles that best suit our individual personality.My husband is an amazing cook and has done most of the cooking since we married. I'm much happier out mowing the lawn. I stayed home with the first two kids but my husband stayed home with the third while I worked. My sons love to cook, they can iron, vacuum, etc. My daughter hates being given indoor chores but will happily clean out the animal pens, mow the lawn and even strip down and clean an engine. (She wants to drive a tank in the army when she finishes school.)None of us fit in 'normal/natural' gender roles in a family and we would be miserable if forced to fulfil these roles. Feminism allows us to make the choices that suit us and we are all happy.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16999641310521588271 Taxidriver42

    Aw hey, don't bash the poor dude too much, he was polite in his asking, and ended by really wanting an explanation. JW, I think the idea of the "natural" family unit is simply relative. You see the situation you describe as natural because that's what our society has taught as normal. And you know what? It works for a hell of a lot of people, and there's nothing wrong with that. However, it doesn't work for everyone, which again, there's also nothing wrong with that. The unfortunate part is that majority gets worried that those who decide they don't want that life will ruin it entirely. We humans have this destructive tendency to see disagreement as threatening, and that, I think, is the root of a lot of problems for us. Religion, gender relationships, political ideals, football coaching strategies, etc. Maybe we could all benefit from being a little less defensive? Assertive, not aggressive, yes?

  • RosaMN

    Why does being polite count more than seeing women as full human beings? I'm not allowed to be angry if Mr. Fencebuilder POLITELY claims I'm naturally unfit for (for example) all the jobs that actually pay decently in this society?But my actual point is just to say: if the roles are so natural, why does it take so much work to keep women in them? Why not give the little girls a ton of math education and all the cars and toy tools, to see if the boys "naturally" grow up to be builders and job-holders if they are trained to be nurturers and child-carers?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16999641310521588271 Taxidriver42

    It counts because not having a full understanding of the issues is drastically different from knowing them and still being against women's rights. You have good points there, I want our society to be more like that, and I think we're making progress towards that. Blogs like this help, and I think open discussions between people like this help the most. To change minds and create progress we have to understand each other better, and how are people supposed to correct misunderstandings if they don't ask questions? Thank you again Libby Anne for putting these ideas out there and hosting such discussions :)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17500128753102750833 Mommy McD

    I read Shakesville pretty religiously (lol), and there is a lot of joy and humor and finding the brighter things in life there along side pointing out gross examples of sexism whether specific instances or systemic problems. And there is the overarching theme of: we expect more. It isn't because we have a grudge or are angry that we point out instances of sexism or racism or ableism etc (although many times it is infuriating), it is because we have so much hope that things can be better and that we can make it better only be recognizing the problems and tackling them head on. I read the atheist blogs you mention, but I don't identify as an atheist. I just enjoy their commentary and I support humanism and secularism especially in public spheres.

  • Meggie

    @taxidriver42 & jw I apologise if people found my post impolite – it was not meant to be.JW, you asked if feminists were truly happy. I just wanted to answer that my husband & I both consider ourselves feminists and are both truly happy. Neither of us could play the roles we do in our family if we lived in a patriarcal society and I think both of us would struggle if forced to conform to the traditional gender roles. Please don't take this as a criticism of your or anyone elses lifestyle choices.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00180993672268077454 JW

    Most of the comments I see in reaction to my comments show me that there is much anger within 'groups' of feminists. Each person has their own little worldview as to how roles are played out based on what comes 'natural'. The key word is natural and that doesn't always mean men doing 'manly' things and women doing 'womanly' things.What I find being a problem within feminist mentality is the attitude that seems to go along with it. DREAM_WIND started it right off-can a man not pose questions and make comments without the likes the feminist mindset taking those thoughts and telling the thoughts they they are not wanted here?My 'roles' comments are not to be taken as absolutes because it does not happen in every situation but I speak in just general terms. As I end this post I want to point something out as I emailed Libby previously. I took a women's studies class this Fall and I did great in it. Alot of it really pissed me off and the professor said it would but I heard out the information being taught and I learned ALOT about women's issues going back until Women's suffrage. Even to the different wave's of women's movements. This is A reason why I am commenting on this blog-I intend to following various 'feminists' blogs, tweets, etc to undertand the real life issues of what feminists are saying and I want to add comments and questions as well in order to 'understand'.I find it a major issue and problem within feminism when and 'outsiders' asks questions and makes comments and those of feminist mentality react in INTOLERANCE towards those words. This does not help the feminist cause at all and in fact brings about many of the stereotypes of what society labels feminists as.Those words will not push me away, to so you know, because when I read any comments my mind asks the questions of where this persons mind is when they say what they say and does it really have reality to life in general or is it just a pipe dream. I am sure some of you say the same things as some point in time? If you not that would tell me that 'agenda' is the name of the game and not fluid conversation.One last thing, is there a discussion board on feminism in which topics can be discussed among feminists and those who are not? I find it can be hard to use postings on blogs as a discussion board without totally going off the topic of the actual post.I have a few more thoughts I want to post here but I will have to do that a little later.JW

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03105080714287793242 saraquill

    JW, you got the response you did because your statement of gender roles being inherent in people is a rather impolite one. Even though you used words like "usually" and "general," it pigeonholes people. It says that what goes on in a person's head does not matter, they ought to be confined to one path due to their genitals. If they prefer not to, then they are an anomaly. This in turn, implies that they are an aberration.Furthermore, bringing up a sore topic for many and then replying with something akin to "see how they get angry when I ask?" carries unfortunate implications. It gives the impression that they can not be reasoned with, and hence should not be taken seriously. If you want a calmer response, you should choose your words more carefully.

  • honeybjones

    Why are women characterized as lacking a penis? Men don't have both a penis and a vagina so how can women be lacking anything? Maybe men are lacking a vagina and that is why they always want ours (hahaha ok that's a joke). But seriously, neither gender is lacking a vital body part.

  • Petticoat Philosopher

    JW–Want to know why feminists may seem so "angry" to you? This is what it's like to be a woman and a feminist: You spend a great deal of your time learning and thinking about grim realities and how to combat them–an epidemic of rape and domestic violence, a pay gap that just won't quite etc. that may affect you, women you love, women you work with (I've been working at non-profits for urban teenage girls for several years). If you are lucky enough yourself to have escaped these realities, you are still marginalized every day in a million little ways that you are cursed with the lucidity to understand–maybe its' being told that your opinions and intelligence are "cute" or "feisty," maybe it's walking home and shouting "SLUT!" from his car at you (as happened to me just last weekend), maybe it's your doctor not taking your pain seriously. Every time you publicly identify as feminist, you are immediately viewed with suspicion, and inundated with questions that are clearly designed to suss out whether or not you hate men, hate children, are going to club a man to death if he tries to open the door for you, are anything like that one girl in that one feminist lit class 10 years ago who was a real pain in the ass. Or which are just based on the same few damn culturally-informed assumptions over and over again–"men and women are just different, it's a fact, I don't have to prove it" etc. etc.And then when you respond a little impatiently because you've had this conversation approximately 6 billion times, your interrogator responds with hurt surprise laments how "angry" feminists are, which usually carries a strong connatation of "bitchy and unreasonable."My point, JW, is that even if you are entering into this conversation with a good-faith intention of listening and learning, you have to understand that this experience is novel for you. It is not for us. It gets tiresome to play teacher all the time, to challenge ideas like the one that there's some kind of innate, physical-projects-around-the-house module built into the male brain, which falls apart the second one looks at other cultures and other periods in history and sees the vast amount physical labor that women have engaged in both in and out of the home, that would make putting up a fence seem like child's play, and that was regarded as perfectly "natural" in those place and times by those people.Do you know how many times I've explained that? Do you know how many times some of the other women here have probably explained that?I don't mind sharing my perspective as a woman and a feminist with people who are genuinely committed to hearing me without putting me through a filter of their own assumptions. But it is a common assumption of privilege that it is the responsibility of the marginalized group to educate the dominant group about their marginalization. It's up to black people to explain racism to white people. It's up to women to explain sexism to men. It's up to poor people to explain the economic injustice to wealthier people. It's our job to play teacher all the time for everyone else. Well, you know, sometimes it's hard not to just want to say "Teach YOURSELF. I've got shit to do!" This is why a lot of feminist blogs are adamant about not doing "101." How many times can you have the same 5 conversations over and over again without going crazy?Maybe it's a little impatient. Maybe it comes off as a little unduly aggressive to you. But we, after all, human beings just like you. We have limits and sometimes we get fed up.

  • Caravelle

    One last thing, is there a discussion board on feminism in which topics can be discussed among feminists and those who are not?Maybe the "finally, a feminism 101 blog" blog ?

  • Caravelle

    Most of the comments I see in reaction to my comments show me that there is much anger within 'groups' of feministsAnger at you, quite possibly. Although I think it would be more accurate to call it "annoyance" or "frustration"; actual anger is rather rare on the Internet in my experience. Are you aware that labeling people who raise concerns as "angry" is dismissive ? It is. Think about it; there is no reason whatsoever to bring up other people's emotional states in a debate unless one thinks it affects the actual debate. And anger in particular is an emotion that's supposed to negatively affect people's judgement. So calling people "angry" in a debate is an underhanded way of dismissing their actual argument. Which is why in my experience, if someone wasn't angry before being told they're angry, they probably are after. Nifty technique, isn't it !I don't think you're using that technique intentionally; most people don't. But when people get annoyed at what you write, try and consider that you might be saying or implying things you didn't intend, and maybe you should learn to make yourself understood better.This is A reason why I am commenting on this blog-I intend to following various 'feminists' blogs, tweets, etc to undertand the real life issues of what feminists are saying and I want to add comments and questions as well in order to 'understand'.This is very commendable of you. I wish you good luck in that exercise, although it makes me surprised at the fact you thought the responses to you up to now were "angry".This does not help the feminist cause at all and in fact brings about many of the stereotypes of what society labels feminists as.See ? That is what we call "concern trolling". Although I believe that you at least are genuinely concerned this does not make that paragraph more appropriate or less potentially angry-making.Consider; you have just started learning about feminism, in a much more thorough way than most do so that's great, but still you're pretty new to the exercise. Do you have brilliant insights to contribute to the movement ? Maybe. Is your perspective as a newly-studying-feminism male valuable ? Possibly. But there have been tons of people studying feminism before you, and males with any range of experience of feminism aren't exactly thin on the ground. Your suggestions may have value, but maybe you should FIND OUT if they have value before you suggest them – for example, by finding out if anyone has brought this concern up before, and studying the different perspectives that exist on the question.The advantage to this is that by studying the question before you bring it up you will not only find out whether your idea was brought up before, but you will learn which responses you're most likely to get from bringing it up, and if you still want to bring it up you can think of a better, less concern-trolly and angry-making way of doing it.Those words will not push me away, to so you knowThat's excellent because that is not their aim, and if you thought it is then maybe you should work more on guessing where people's minds are. Not an exercise I'm very good at myself, but I'll take a stab at it – given the length and thoroughness of those responses, I'd say their aim was to make you understand their position. And given you say your own aim is to understand then it sounds we're all on the same page ! As far as I can tell, the main problem is that you have been addressing people's tone (namely the anger you perceived in their posts) instead of their actual arguments and testimonies. If you seek to understand you'll have to let go of that. Asking random people on the internet to educate you for free is one thing, insisting that they do it on your own terms is pushing it a bit don't you think ?

  • Anonymous

    Great article, thanks for posting.Would someone mind elaborating on the dislike for Steve Jobs? I feel like you all know something I don't. Thanks!

  • Anonymous

    Above me: I'm not sure, I don't know much about him, but he had a reputation for being mean.I'm a big fan of Hitchens, maybe partly because I'm a total classic literature nut, and I feel a bit defensive of him, so…In his video regarding women working, he said for his own life, he did not want his wife to have to work. He wanted to provide her a comfortable living and leisure in return for the hard work of raising children. He said very specifically that if women want to have careers they should be able to. I remember reading the comments on that video and wondering over and over what was so bad about him saying he wanted to make life easy for his wife. I realize he used some triggering language, but I don't think the concept he expressed was bad. Re: his "women aren't funny" statement, when I first heard that it did hurt my feelings. Then I thought, people are always talking about, for example, the ways in which testosterone causes the male half of the population to act in risky/bad ways. For example, it is well known that men are more likely to get in physical fights, steal at gunpoint, etc. If I was a guy, maybe it would hurt my feelings to hear women saying "men are more violent than women." However, it is true and we have biological reasons why this is so. Maybe that is the case with humor. Whether it is or not, I don't really need to be upset about it. My all time favorite comedians are French & Saunders and Laurel & Hardy, so half and half for me I guess. With the abortion issue, I pretty much agree with him – I don't want to make it illegal, but I'm extremely squeamish about it and would like free birth control for everyoneIn a Proust Questionaire he did once, he said:The quality you most admire in a man?Courage moral and physical: “anima”—the ability to think like a woman. Also a sense of the absurd. The quality you most admire in a woman?Courage moral and physical: “anima”—the ability to visualize the mind and need of a man. Also a sense of the absurd. Anyway, I like Hitchens a lot and hope you'll take a second look sometime, Libby.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09423728883050264326 BCRE8TVE

    You do not admire Steve Jobs? I'm just curious here and have no stake for or against either position, I'm just curious. I was unaware of Hitchens' position on feminism (not that I ever read or listened much to him), and now I know. The only thing I really know about Steve Jobs is that he created Apple (and that he's dead, but yeah).

  • Teressa

    This is a very, very late comment. But I wanted to thank you for this post. My boyfriend and I got into a virulent, voices-raised, damn near pitch things at each other argument over Rebecca and the torrent of derision she faced. While he is years into his own atheism, he is still learning about feminism. (I’m rather the opposite, years in feminism, now only becoming comfortable with my atheism.)

    Part of my reluctance to get involved with the atheist community has been it’s lack of female-friendly space. To see someone else take this on as a serious, relateable issue is very important. Thank you.

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  • Kelly

    Excuse me, if you’re going to quote the man at least get the quote right and in the right context. Regarding women and babies and working he first stated that men are in awe of how woman instinctively know what to do with little babies. Then a few minutes later he said “a Mrs. Hitchens would not work. If she wanted to work fine but it’s not something she would HAVE to do. I would provide for my family”. Hardly anti-feminist statements. I’m a feminist and I see nothing wrong with what he said. The female interviewer did not understand what he was saying or thought a woman choosing to stay home with her children was a woman not living her full potential. Feminism is about woman making choices for themselves and that includes staying home and raising children if that’s what they want to do.

  • Cosby

    I can’t help but wonder if you read very much of Hitchens, or if you simply read what others said about him.

    Many of your characterizations are unfair and taken out of context.

    1. You wrote: “Hitchens said that women aren’t able to be funny the way men are (i.e. comedians) because of their evolutionary development, without even thinking about the fact that we are socially conditioned and not simply products of evolution…”

    Here is an excerpt from his original essay–one of many excerpts that contradicts what you say: “Precisely because humor is a sign of intelligence (and many women believe, or were taught by their mothers, that they become threatening to men if they appear too bright), it could be that in some way men do not want women to be funny.” Here he points out that women are conditioned on TWO fronts: by men and occasionally by other women. It’s also worth noting but probably not worth debating now (as I doubt you’ll respond) that his assertion is not that women CAN’T be funny the way men are, but that they AREN’T. For reasons that have nothing to do with an inherent lack of ability on the part of women.

    2. You wrote: “Hitchens said that women should raise children while men should work because women naturally know how to be mothers while men have no clue what to do with babies, without even thinking about the fact that this is also a result of social conditioning, and is today more and more no longer true.”

    Did you watch that interview, or did you just read about it out of context? Why don’t you and your other readers see for yourselves: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bpA7pfR0FIc

    He does NOT say that women SHOULDN’T work or that men don’t have to care for children. He says that women should not HAVE to work if they choose to care for children instead. He supports women having a CHOICE. You were also very irresponsible to take his line out of context: “I’m not having any woman of mine go to work.” If you watch the video, it’s clear that he’s not saying he wouldn’t let his partner work–he meant it as a statement of unequivocal support: if she doesn’t want to work because she wants to take care of the children, then I’m not having any woman of mine go to work. THAT is the proper context for his remarks. He even says that women are welcome to work when they have kids and that he’s thrilled to see them do so. Please, watch it for yourself. And take a look at some of the comments. Google the interview. You will find that the vast majority of people sided with Hitchens after seeing everything in context.

    I won’t bother with the rest for now. And please understand that I’m not attacking you personally. As a supporter of Hitchens, I’d like to see a fellow supporter with mixed feelings know the truth. And the truth is that while Christopher Hitchens thrived on attention and was often very tactless and provocative in his commentary, you have not presented evidence that justifies labeling him as a sexist. If you are a fan of Mr. Hitchens, then I can assume you support critical thinking and reason. Please take a harder look at some of these sources with an open mind before condemning him.

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  • Dave

    To your point about living in a world of religious feminists or sexist atheists, I must say that I don’t believe that the former could exist. The religions of our world are sexist in their nature, and in a world where everyone was religious, sexism would undoubtedly be prevalent.

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