Obligatory Richard Dawkins Post

So Richard Dawkins is an asshat. Anyone surprised?

Here’s the comment he left on a thread that discussed sexism:

Dear Muslima

Stop whining, will you. Yes, yes, I know you had your genitals mutilated with a razor blade, and . . . yawn . . . don’t tell me yet again, I know you aren’t allowed to drive a car, and you can’t leave the house without a male relative, and your husband is allowed to beat you, and you’ll be stoned to death if you commit adultery. But stop whining, will you. Think of the suffering your poor American sisters have to put up with.

Only this week I heard of one, she calls herself Skep”chick”, and do you know what happened to her? A man in a hotel elevator invited her back to his room for coffee. I am not exaggerating. He really did. He invited her back to his room for coffee. Of course she said no, and of course he didn’t lay a finger on her, but even so . . .

And you, Muslima, think you have misogyny to complain about! For goodness sake grow up, or at least grow a thicker skin.


And here’s a brief roundup of what people are saying about it.

The Atlantic Wire:

Several comments, including Watson’s own, hit on exactly what the fight’s about. Dawkins has every right to dismiss Watson’s story and to argue that she was not in a high risk situation. But his attempt to prove how insignificant Watson’s story was by comparing it with the much worse scenario of a Muslim woman’s daily life hurts his argument. The fact that something worse is going on somewhere else does not diminish whatever may be happening here. Also, as Watson points out, Dawkins is admired widely for work criticizing creationism and denouncing the use of religion as an excuse for repressing women in particular. To defend only some women from misogyny and not all, she and others argue, is hypocrtical. (sic)


Again, he implies that “Muslim women” and “American women” are mutually exclusive groups; again, he implies that American women do not “suffer physically from misogyny,” nor are their lives “substantially damaged by religiously inspired misogyny.”

What Tami Said:

High-profile and influential men, like Dawkins, who use their status to minimize sexism in the West, deny the lived experiences of women, and advance the stupid thinking that all Western women are both white and privileged, poison a well already rank with gender bias. Men like Dawkins who sneer at Western misogyny make Western women’s lives more difficult, including women like Watson who are atheists. So, why should Watson and other women continue to hand Dawkins their money and support, and prop up his influence, when he thinks they’re all a bunch of whiny bitches who should be satisfied getting sexually harassed because somewhere (in those bad, brown, Muslim countries) a woman has it worse?

Lots of people have said lots of things about this, rightfully calling out Dawkins’ male privilege and pointing out that the “there are bigger problems” argument is derailing and silencing.

But very few of these posts have touched on Dawkins’ use of Muslim women specifically. And that’s where we come in.

Richard Dawkins is an atheist, and as an atheist, he believes that organized religion is harmful for women. There are plenty of religious and non-religious thinkers who can level-headedly make the case that organized religions use rooted patriarchal norms to oppress women and often works against their own ideals, but Dawkins is not one of those people. Dawkins uses the stereotype of the oppressed Muslim woman and gives little regard to how his politicized views are received by Muslim women.

So no one should be surprised at his comment above.

But that’s doesn’t make it okay. Dawkins’ comment trades in stereotypes about Muslim women “over there.” Does female genital mutilation happen? Yes. Are women not allowed to drive cars in Saudi Arabia? Yes. Is stoning a thing? Yes. But is Dawkins’ use of these acceptable? No.

It’s unacceptable for Dawkins to make sweeping statements like this because he attaches loaded terms like “female genital mutilation” and “stoning” to a huge, worldwide term like “Muslim women,” and attaches these things to Islam itself, ignoring outside cultural, economic, and social influences. Making blanket statements about FGM and stoning and driving attaches these to all of us, and contributes to the Oppressed Muslim Women stereotype. And you know what that stereotype has done to help us? Nothing.

It’s also just as silencing to female Muslim activists “over there” who are dealing with these issues, and other important ones, such as campaigning for the right to vote, pass their citizenship to their children, or keep custody of their children after divorce. Dawkins is injecting Muslim women “over there” into an issue that concerns us as well (sexual harassment and sexism in belief systems), but uses us to derail this issue.

And what is Dawkins doing to actually help the Muslim women he claims are “mutilated with a razor blade[s],” and “not allowed to drive a car,” and “stoned to death”?


So kindly shut the fuck up, Richard Dawkins, and stop using us as foot soldiers in your crusade against organized religion. We’ll be fine without you.

Friday Links | December 19, 2014
Review – Yasmin Alibhai-Brown’s Refusing the Veil
The Latest on the Headscarf “Situation” in Switzerland
A Potential Burqa Ban at the Federal Level in Switzerland
  • Tec15

    Dawkins has said much worse, so this is hardly a surprise. I doubt his fan base will be much affected by this anyway.

  • http://deadamericandream.blogspot.com Jihad Punk

    wonderful post. I really LOVE how certain atheists and bloggers only criticized Dawkins for the misogyny in his latest piece and didn’t bother to talk about Islamophobia. Typical.

  • Sobia


    I thinks it’s because Islamophobia is SO common and mainstream now that most people can’t even recognize it.

  • aliya

    Of course another problem –which you hinted at, but I don’t think spelled out– is that RD is consciously or unconsciously excusing himself for any privilege or misogyny by coming to defense of a fellow white male at the expense of Muslim women — and men, of course. He might as well have said, “White men aren’t that bad! Brown men are worse!”

  • Melinda

    Great post. Thanks for articulating so perfectly why Dawkins’ argument is horribly offensive on many levels.

  • http://jilliancyork.com Jillian C. York

    THANK YOU! I was surprised myself that none of the feminists who responded pointed this out.

  • next to nobody

    “…stop using us as foot soldiers…”

    As I can understand from your statement, so far you have been used as foot soldiers. Does it make you different from typical pious theists who tend to follow whatever they are told? Don’t you have your own thinking? Why follow somone dumbly?

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  • H.

    I’m confused, who’s the “muslima” he’s referring to?

  • http://talesfromthe.net/jon jon

    Great post. I often find it hard to explain why statements like Dawkins’ are so offensive and you lay it out incredibly clearly. Thanks!

  • Lulu Rocka

    What do you expect from a God-less man… compassion, empathy?!
    Ain’t gonna happen!

    • Fatemeh

      @ Lulu: Dawkins’ atheism doesn’t have anything to do with it. Derailing the issue using atheism is the exact same thing as derailing the issue using Islam.

  • M. Landers

    I was recently on another, dominantly female, internet forum on which this subject was brought up. Forum members were expressing their disgust, and I was reading along nodding my head when it struck me — what was being expressed was entirely regarding Mr. Dawkins’s rejection of the possibility of there being legitimacy to a complaint about his behavior, and was not at all regarding his use of a certain collective vision of Muslim women’s condition. It was one of those moments in which I realized the gulf of even simply perception between non-Muslim feminists and myself as a Muslim feminist.

  • Rosario

    … or, maybe Dawkins was a little pissed off to see the incredible amount of time and energy spent on Watsons “incident” while he was busy campaigning along with his friend Maryam Namazie (who was on a panel with Watson) against women being stoned to death.
    His reaction was natural, and very human. I can empathise with his frustration. Obviously, and shamefully, you can´t

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  • http://bintalshamsa.blogspot.com/ bint alshamsa

    I used to comment here. I’m not even sure when I stopped. After reading this post, I remember why I loved this site so much. I felt so infuriated at how blindly people accepted the Islamophobia that plays a significant role in what was/is wrong with Dawkin’s words. This attitude is what led me to stop identifying as a feminist. It simply doesn’t represent the fight for equality for ALL women. Instead, it caters to the needs of white, Western, middle-class, cis-gendered, non-disabled women to the exclusion of the rest of us. I’m so done with those folks. They won’t “get it” when we talk about Islamophobia, because they don’t want to understand and they don’t have to understand.

  • Lara A

    Salaam Alaikum,

    Bint Alshamsa – Yippee! Your comments here, elsewhere, and your blog generally are very much appreciated by me.

    Fatemeh – I have to say, I didn’t really feel the love in Dawkins’ comments. Anyone who can talk about FGM in such throwaway terms is a tossarse. Likewise, the ‘plight of the Muslimah’ (haz scarves, kant reed) is not a stick to beat women into submission with.

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