Friday, 24 August 2012

atheism+: if you're not with us, you're against us

This is not a mentality to which I can subscribe.

Richard Carrier has weighed in on atheism+, and though I find myself nodding my head in agreement with the majority of his post, I can't get behind the us vs. them mentality. That some atheists choose not to get on board with atheism+ does not make them our enemies. We still have more in common than we have differences.

Among those who choose to eschew adding the 'plus' to their atheism will be the misogynists, the racists, the homophobic and the transphobic, the privileged with no recognition of it.

But also among them will be those who think the name is dumb. Those who want to remain dictionary definition atheists. Those who identify as atheists but aren't part of the movement at all. Among others.

So I disagree with Carrier when he claims, as he appears to do in one comment, that anyone not joining a+ is voting for misogynistic douchebaggery. Some of them are. But not all of them, not by a long shot.

And as we go on, each side of the schism doing its own thing, I'm convinced that our side will grow. Many of those who remain as non-plus atheists will eventually be turned off by the harassment, the victim blaming, the misogyny, and will see our side for the positive, accepting force that I hope it will become.

For obvious reasons I think that most of these will be women. Again, not all of them. But many.

In the meantime, I intend to go on more or less as I have been. I'm well and truly on board with a+, but those who are not are not automatically my opponents. Those who show their bigotry are my opponents, whatever they call themselves, whatever movement they ascribe to.

But with the advent of a+ I'm excited at the thought of being part of a community where the bigots are not tolerated, where they're shouted down instead of tacitly accepted. That's what I thought atheism would be when I began my activism, and I'm glad to be joining a movement where those ideals are not just encouraged, but explicitly stated as necessary.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Atheism, feminism and stereotypes

There are certain stereotypes, certain words, that seem to too-often come to mind when someone mentions that they're a feminist. Feminazi. Femistasi, lately. Bitch. Cunt. Man-hater. Lots more.

There are also certain words, stereotypes, that often come to mind when someone mentions that they're an atheist. Godless. Immoral. Devil-worshipper. Baby-eater.

How can we possibly call ourselves rationalists when we can see the fault in the one and not the other? This is why I've had so much trouble coming to grips with the misogyny in the atheist movement. We KNOW that stereotypes are bullshit. And yet there are so many of us who hear 'feminist' and immediately think 'feminazi'? How does that work?

Feminism: the doctrine advocating social, political, and all other rights of women equal to those of men. Much like in so many areas of the world we're forced to advocate for the rights and equality of atheists.

That so many have trouble making this connection blows my mind. If Atheism+ is going to splinter the atheist movement, we'll only be better off for it.


Let's get something out of the way straight off the bat.

I consider myself a feminist.

A lot of people would turn away at this point. Feminism seems to have any number of stereotypes floating around it. Bitch, feminazi, slut, prude, crone, somehow all manner of bizarre and often contradictory words go floating past when feminism is mentioned.

I had always thought that my movement, the atheist, the rationalists, the promoters of reason, were largely immune to this kind of stereotyping. Of course, any given group once it gets large enough is going to have its assholes; I just always thought that in our group these were a sometimes-vocal but almost irrelevant minority, to be simply ignored or shouted down when they arose.

This is the definition of privilege. I do not experience sexual harassment, or discrimination based on my gender, and so it was invisible to me. But now it's coming out, and I've been shocked at the depth of the reaction.

Opposition to anti-harassment policies? Victim blaming? Name calling - cunt, slut, bitch, whore, prude, ugly? Rape threats? DEATH threats?

This goes on in a community dedicated to rationality?

Apparently it does. And apparently it's far, far more widespread than I would ever have thought.

Now that it's begun coming to light that this is as large a problem as it is, now that awareness is skyrocketing, it's become time to do something about it. And Jen McCreight has initiated just such a thing: Atheism+. Third-wave atheism. We're not just atheists; we're atheists, PLUS we're against misogyny. PLUS we're against racism. Transphobia. And so on down the line.

I couldn't be more excited. This is exactly what I thought the atheist movement was in the first place. Some have claimed it's just a rebranding of secular humanism, and on the surface that seems true, but the distinctions are there. I've never really thought of myself as a humanist - even though I'm the secretary of my local humanist group, and certainly hold myself to the humanist standards. But I've always been more vocal about my nonbelief than anything; I wish my atheism to be at the forefront when self-identifying. And with the advent of atheism+, that's exactly what I can do. This may be enough to re-kindle my interest in maintaining this blog. I hope I manage to stick around this time.