"It is ... crucial that we understand lesbian/feminism in the deepest, most radical sense: as that love for ourselves and other women, that commitment to the freedom of all of us, which transcends the category of "sexual preference" and the issue of civil rights, to become a politics of asking women's questions, demanding a world in which the integrity of all women—not a chosen few—shall be honored and validated in every respect of culture.'' Adrienne Rich
Lately, I've been seeing a lot of buzz in the atheist community about feminism. I suppose that the overall conversation started around Elevatorgate, but now it's far more pronounced, more polarizing. People seem to be drawing a line in the sand between those who support the feminist ideals and those who don't. The most recent upheaval has been around Thunderf00t's video calling out feminists and those who support the feminist movement, claiming that they are "poisoning" atheism.
For me, it's become even more visible as I've seen quite a few atheist pages on Facebook, some I follow, some I admin for, posting some excellent feminist messages only to incur the vehement lashing of large numbers of atheists on their pages. They make arguments that feminism is horrible, it's anti-male, or it's just unnecessary. I disagree with those sentiments completely.
It's ironic that the treatment of women within religions has been such a vocal criticism that atheists have had, when we're hardly acting better ourselves. Now, a good portion comes from the fact that many people have remained shackled to the many ideologies they were raised with, even after letting go of god. The vast cultural misconceptions about the status of women in society hardly help matters any.
Let's take a look at this particularly interesting anti-feminist video.
Now, she makes a lot of arguments here, but they all tend to boil down to the fact that she believes feminism just isn't necessary in America today. There are laws that protect women, or support them if they're victimized. People are mean sometimes, and we should just get over it.
So, let's unpack a few things.
Yes, people are mean and say hurtful things. For the most part, those people are idiots and should be ignored. What about when they can't be ignored? What if the person making sexual comments towards you is your boss? What if it's your parent? Your spouse? What about when the school has little to no system in place for bullying? When a girl is being harassed, slut shamed or constantly fighting off unwanted advances and the school does nothing? How often does this happen, and when they tell their parent, their parents fall into the culturally ingrained notion that "boys will be boys?"
This is a problem. This is why there NEEDS to be awareness and education about the treatment of women and the need for equality in our society. When parents believe that "boys will be boys," then who teaches them that it's not alright to objectify a female? Who teaches them that, once they've become comfortable objectifying women, that it's not alright to rape them?
An article from The Raw Story really brings this notion home for me. A Republican lawmaker blamed the gang rape of an 11 year old girl on how she was dressed. This alone doesn't overly surprise me, as the concept of rape from the right wing has been pretty messed up in recent years. The thing that gets me, I think, are the comments below the article. Now, I'm aware that article comments are often a cesspool of idiocy, however, I think these really hit home the rape culture that America seems to perpetuate.
Here's a good example:
"This is what is wrong with our country -- nobody wants any accountability......everybody wants to shirk responsibility and blame those who are not wrong.
The sum of it is : the little girl should have never been allowed to leave the house looking like she did. The PARENTS should be held responsible.
This lawmaker is not defending the rapists nor is she blaming the little girl -- she's trying to hold people responsible for the safety and well-being of their children. How hard is that to see? It's because she's a Republican that she is being attacked. If she were a democrat, we'd never have heard a peep about this story."
Ok, let's look at what rape is, in order to better examine this statement. Rape is not about sex. It's not about someone looking sexy. It's about power over another individual. It's about the concept that women are there FOR men, that men can do with them what they wish. That is their place.
Let's blame the rapists, shall we? Let's blame THEIR parents, if you want to hold a parent accountable. Blame their parents for not raising them to respect women.
Now to look at the other main point that this video made that I want to address. She talks a lot about the laws we have that protect women, or give them a way out of situations. She mentions, very specifically, the laws against marital rape.
There's a great article from womens enews that addresses this quite well. One of the first things mentioned is:
"Studies indicate that between 15 and 25 percent of all married women have been victims of spousal rape and some scholars suggest that this type of rape is the most common form in our society."
You see, the marital rape exemption in US laws didn't even begin to change until 1976. At this point, every state has now criminalized spousal rape, however, it has a long way to go yet. In most states, spousal rape is considered separate from stranger rape, with far lesser penalties. Because of the culture in America, it's easy for so many of these to be settled out of court or dismissed. It's not that he's her husband. It's that she's HIS wife. That's the culture in America. That's why this argument doesn't hold water.
Let's take a look at the controversial video from Thunderf00t.
Now, excuse my break from form, but this has to be the foremost bit of excrement that I've ever had the displeasure of watching.
He's attacking people for wanting atheist conventions to be a safe and welcoming atmosphere to women in a movement that, until recent years, predominantly consisted of older white males. He's making many of the claims about feminists that Rush Limbaugh does, without actually using the term "feminazi." How dare those feminists want women to feel safe and be respected.
When I see the posts on atheist pages about feminism and watch the vehemence of atheists about how terrible feminists are, or how dare they want to be equal to men, it shows me how wrong this video is. One of the most common responses I see from atheists is the question of "why isn't there a men's right movement?" Oh, I don't know, probably because, worldwide, men hold privilege over women. They always have.
Now, historically, at least in the modern world, religion has been used to support this culture. A woman must be in her place, after all. Adam was created first and women was created FROM him to serve him. The problem is, even those who have cast aside the notion of god, still hold onto the notion that women are lesser, that they are there to serve man. They don't understand why it's not already to proposition a women in a dark elevator in the middle of the night. They don't understand why continuously making sexual comments or advances towards a woman who has told you not to is harassment. They just don't seem to get it.
I also want to examine why that culture exists to begin with. Worldwide, we have a culture of women as lesser people. We have a culture of rape being her fault. We have a culture of ignorance.
The above video shows the culture in Yemen. Child marriages are commonplace there and children becoming parents is expected. They don't care that it's damaging to the girl, in both mind and body, to be forced into this situation. It's a man's right to marry her and have sex with her, even as young as 11 or 12, so that he may have heirs.
In America, you have someone like Pat Robertson claiming that "awful looking" women are ruining marriages. A lot of us who aren't believers immediately dismiss this, because really, how relevant is he anymore, anyways? His show has an average of 1 million viewers daily. That's a wide reach for spewing that kind of garbage.
We have outrage in the media when someone loses their job because they propositioned an employee. This one always gets me. They claim that it's unreasonable, because after all, the person took no for an answer and left it at that. The problem is that, as an employer, a single advance to someone whose career you hold in your hands is incredibly damaging. You just said to them that it's not their work that matters. You want them for something else. You can have innocent intentions, but you've still overstepped a boundary that an employer never should.
In Saudi Arabia, a 15 year old girl had to barricade herself in the bedroom to avoid the wedding night "tradition" with her 90 year old groom, who paid $17.5k to marry her.
In Delhi, the victim of a gang rape was blamed for her rape because she didn't call on her religion to stop her attackers.
In Maldives, a 15 year old girl raped by her dad may be flogged for having sex with a man.
When is see this and more in the news, every single day, I have to wonder how anyone, especially people in the atheist community who claim to be rational, can even think to ask why we need feminism.
Here are some examples of what I've seen lately coming from atheist pages.
The fiery vag of mount doom? And this page, shortly after, insisted that it doesn't promote sexism in any way.
This is the comment posted with the first video I critiqued above.
I get the joke they're trying to make, about someone believing in god, however, when is saying a girl is gullible a good thing? Is that to imply that it'll be easier to take advantage of her?
This is pretty self explanatory.
I've got the pussy, I make the food? That's archaic and pretty biblical from an atheist page.
I encourage any rational person to cease giving your support to these pages for their blatant sexism and marginalization of women.
Luckily, we have some fantastic groups that are helping change this culture, this mindset.
Skepchick is a fantastic group, promoting women in science and skepticism.
FEMEN is a fatnastic group of activists working for women's causes worldwide.
Eaves has a lot going on as well.
So, in closing, the rape culture and the idea that women are lesser people is alive and well in the world, even in the most "civilized" of cultures. I would love to live in a world where feminism isn't needed, because it has nothing left to fight for. Unfortunately, that world doesn't exist. Until then, this should be a mantra.
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