July 11, 2011

Feminism Has A Long Way To Go

When I first become active in the Atheist community, I assumed we were all progressives. Turns out that's not true.

I've always been skeptical about religion but didn't know there was a term or a group of people who thought that way until college. I consider Manhattan to be a pretty liberal city so I joined an Atheist Meetup group last year. Once again, I assumed wrong. It's a fairly small group and they talked about "coming out." Most said they don't share that they are Atheist with people. I was shocked but after thinking about it, the only ones in my family who knew were my brother, cousin and sister. My father is Agnostic and my brother talks very openly about his Atheism with him so my dad knows but there's this thing we do in our family "not talk about it." Apparently, my brother told my mom he was Atheist (I didn't find this out until recently) but her response was "I've failed as a mother." I knew my mom would react that way so I never told her. But I digress. The bottom line is that the Atheist community has a long way to go. Case in point: a recent incident involving SkepChick, a.k.a. Rebecca Watson.

At a recent Atheist convention that Rebecca was speaking out she was propositioned by a man in the elevator. She was so fed about men being pigs that she did a vlog about the incident saying that Atheist men are no different than religious men. Apparently, the Atheist community didn't appreciate that very much. There was a lot of blacklash even from the king of the Atheists himself, Richard Dawkins. It's pretty ironic that a group of people who don't believe in gods can worship a person so much. I don't worship him but he was a great leader for Atheists to have. He was British, he was refined and he studied science. He was amazing in his defense for Atheism. Turns out he's not a big fan of feminists.

He left an idiotic remark on a blog regarding the SkepChick incident saying that she was complaining and it was no big deal (basically). I was bummed to say the least to hear of this information. But it brought to light the fact that no one is perfect. We shouldn't idolize anyone. Isn't that the basis of Atheism anyways?

Rebecca was interviewed by a progressive liberal podcast I listen to, Citizen Radio, to talk about the event and explain her side. I loved everything she said but it also made me sad that there's still so much progress to be made. She said that men have been making women feel uncomfortable at Atheist conferences for awhile now. Just because they are Atheist doesn't mean they progressive enough to respect women.

I started recalling the Atheist events I've attended and yes... they were mostly male dominated. Now I've only been attending them for a year but I could relate to Rebecca Watson's experience in general. Men are relentless on the streets. I don't even want to repeat some of the things they have said to me. What do they accomplish shouting things at us? They make us uncomfortable. Is that your goal? If so, you are awful human beings. Who sets out to ruin someone's day or make someone feel uncomfortable? And women: you shouldn't be flattered if you get cat calls. It's a such a disrespectful thing.

A lot of women of my generation wonder why we need to use the word "feminist" and need to stop being man haters. No we shouldn't hate men but we can also stand up for ourselves. This incident shows me that we still have a long way to go. If women can't be respected in a progressive community, such as Atheists, then we are sadly mistaken about our place in the world. Do you still get heckled? Exactly. I want to live in a world that if a man wants to shout something at me on the street, it is either "Your shoe laces are untied," "You are about to get hit," or "You look beautiful today." Not "I want to tap that ass." Let's make it happen ladies!

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  1. An interesting post. I read all of the Dawkins books when I was studying at university, It all really made sense apart from when I got to the religion bit which didn't, I ended up getting bored and skipping that chapter.

    Funny though that I haven't really noticed much sexism from men recently, perhaps working from home a lot, I just don't come into contact with these people. Perhaps it is different in the UK because I know lots of atheist people who are quite open about it, although generally it is considered bad manners to talk about religion, money and politics with people you don't know well. I guess though men's attidues to women are very much linked to cultural beliefs regardless of their religion.

  2. Oh that's a very interesting point! That's true, perhaps American men are worse because of our culture, which is sad. Perhaps I need to move to the UK!


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