I was kind of surprised to read a post on the Friendly Atheist blog that went after Richard Dawkins for a tweet in which he called for a feminist revolution inside of Islam.
Reading attacks on Dawkins is nothing new. Even on a fairly Dawkins-friendly site like Friendly Atheist, if he says something hurtful or wrong, it will be discussed. But this post shocked me, not only because of the implied sexism from the author, but also because of the tweet in question.
The post’s author, Lauren Nelson, takes issue with this:
Islam needs a feminist revolution. It will be hard. What can we do to help?
— Richard Dawkins (@RichardDawkins) July 23, 2015
You might find yourself thinking, What is wrong with this statement?
According to Nelson:
For starters, Dawkins is a wealthy white Western male dictating what just under a billion women — and overwhelmingly, women of color — around the world “need” to do, with little to no context for what their lives are like.
So Dawkins cannot have an opinion on what he sees happening to women inside Islam because he is a white Western male? Apparently he cannot have an opinion on the subject because he is not a Muslim woman like Nelson is. Oh wait, Nelson isn’t Muslim. How dare she have an opinion on Muslim women!
Did I do that right?
And what does his skin color have to do with this, anyway? Last time I checked, Muslims come in all different races, much like most other religions. Sure, the Muslims Dawkins is talking about are probably overwhelmingly Middle Eastern, but why does that change the message of his tweet? He wants to help women living under an oppressive religion, and Nelson is complaining that he is white. Bravo.
But more importantly, she accuses Dawkins of telling women what to do. Is he? I see him offering a suggestion and then more importantly offering to help. Nelson, of course, could care less about this, and skips over it to simply accuse him of not understanding Muslim women.
In this sense, at least, Dawkins is in good company. Western feminists have historically, erroneously, assumed they are the only ones up to the task.
Says the Western feminist. Of course she understands, but Dawkins does not.
But beyond the arrogance of assuming all women experience Muslim life the same way is the ignorance of assuming that Muslim feminism doesn’t already exist. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
Oh, I missed the part in the tweet he sent out that claimed there are no feminists movements inside Islam. Oh wait, he called for a revolution, and unless Nelson can provide evidence that Islam has gone through a massive feminist revolution recently, she is doing nothing but moving the goal posts and creating a strawman to attack here.
She later goes on to attack Dawkins for thinking arrogantly that he is bringing something new to the table. Again, I must have missed the part of that tweet that claimed he had an idea no one had thought of yet.
This post by Nelson was more sexist, arrogant and misguided than a single letter in Dawkins’s tweet, which did nothing but claim that he believed Islam needed a feminist revolution, and that while it would be very hard, he would like to know how he can help.
How dare he offer to help women who are often stoned to death for adultery, even when they are the victims of rape, who are subject to female genital mutilation, or who are killed by their families in honor killings. How dare this privileged white male use his position of fame to make noise and call attention to these atrocities.
No, Nelson believes that since not all Muslim women experience these acts, Dawkins is out of place.
Well, I am sorry, but Dawkins, in one tweet has now done more for Islamic feminists than Nelson has done by spending her time focusing on the messenger and missing the message.
[Image: David Shankbone / Creative Commons]