Sunday, September 14, 2014

Misogyny in Atheism

I'm an atheist. Duh.

I also believe in progressive values like feeding hungry people, making healthcare a universal right, doing everything possible to not hurt other people, and educating children. You know, hippy stuff.

I also believe that in America (and certainly all over the world) we treat minorities, especially blacks, and women appallingly. We have made progress over the last few decades, and there are those who want to declare the equality battle won (mostly white males), but given the rape culture, pay inequality, and frequent racial profiling by police, I think it's abundantly clear that the battle is far from over. (Really, people who think that blacks and women "play the race card" and constantly lie about sexual assault and harassment, respectively, have their heads up their asses).

Being an atheist, and having arrived there by rational consideration of religion, I tend to think that atheists are somewhat ahead of the curve when it comes to progressive values. Unfortunately, as we've seen in every other human endeavor, bad behavior is universal. Atheism is, after all, a big tent, and there are plenty of racists and misogynists to be found. Sadly, many of them are leaders of the atheist movement.

Mark Oppenheimer posted an article on Buzzfeed about the current misogyny battles wracking the atheist movement.  It's long but worth a read.
The reality of sexism in freethought is not limited to a few famous leaders; it has implications throughout the small but quickly growing movement. Thanks to the internet, and to popular authors like Dawkins, Hitchens, and Sam Harris, atheism has greater visibility than at any time since the 18th-century Enlightenment. Yet it is now cannibalizing itself. For the past several years, Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, and online forums have become hostile places for women who identify as feminists or express concern about widely circulated tales of sexism in the movement. Some women say they are now harassed or mocked at conventions, and the online attacks — which include Jew-baiting, threats of anal rape, and other pleasantries — are so vicious that two activists I spoke with have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. One of these women has been bedridden for two years.
I'm not a leader in the movement, nor really a follower. Atheist follower is something of an oxymoron, as the only thing that all atheists have in common is that they don't believe in deities. But I am against Misogyny in all its forms. I am against sexism and racism in all their forms. I support those who call for social justice and I reject the Men's Rights Associations who think that men are the real victims because they're being called on their crappy behavior.

Consequently, in the right sidebar, I'm replacing my atheist "Scarlet A", which was created by the Richard Dawkins Foundation for the Out Campaign, with the "A+" of the Atheism Plus movement.

Let the rape threats begin.


SJHoneywell said...

For what it's worth, I wear a scarlet A at work (which is interesting, since I work with a few young earthers). I'm sticking with it.

Misogyny happens, which is not an excuse, but that it happens within atheism is hardly a shock. It happens in religion as well. It's a safe bet that neither religion nor atheism per se are the cause of it (although I could make a good argument for religion in this case), but some other factor is the reason for it.

For what it's worth, no atheist I know personally, even through social media and blogging, is likely to push for atheism being a boys' club. The world needs more outspoken atheists of all types, and it needs more people willing to stand up against any brand or flavor of misanthropy, too.

But I'm sticking with my scarlet letter pin at work because, well, it's what I have.

Ipecac said...

I have scarlet A pins on the lapels of all my coats. I'll still wear them.

I also don't personally know any boys' club atheists, which is hopeful for the future. It's just unfortunate that they seem to be so many of the highly regarded old guard.