Friday, 22 June 2012

Atheism and Feminism

One of the hardest lessons I ever had to learn was that just because someone agrees with you on one thing, no matter how important that thing is, doesn't mean they can't be a complete shit in some other way.  And even knowing this doesn't stop it being disappointing when it happens.  I bring this up because I want to talk about the arguments that arose out of ElevatorGate in the skeptic/atheist community over the last eighteen months or so.

Now, after all this time I don't have too much to add to the substance of the "debate" itself.  From the links to the right, it should be easy to see that I come down on the side of Rebecca Watson and her allies in the whole affair.  Really, I want to focus more on the fact that so many self-professed atheists proved to be uninterested or even hostile to feminism from a personal perspective.

I've long though of myself as a feminist; indeed, longer than I have identified as an atheist.  However, my love of science and reason predates and is the common origin for both.  In this sense I see the two concepts as related.  I am an atheist because, given the evidence, I find the proposition that there is no god or gods the most likely situation.  Similarly, I am a feminist because an examination of the evidence and history convinced me that equality of the sexes has certainly not been achieved, with men in the ascendant.  Granted, that also requires a value judgement---that equality would be a worthwhile goal---but I can see no rational reason to reject that perspective.

So, obviously, I hastily generalised and assumed on some level that all atheists thought the same way.  Despite knowing better.  So, when everything erupted, I was disappointed.  It's still a good bet that any thread on Pharyngula on feminism will bloat to hundreds of comments and feature many of the same tired arguments, which raises the question of why I still read those threads.  (The answer is Bile Fascination, i.e. it's like watching a car wreck).  On a purely personal level, I was able to learn about concepts such as privilege (in the sociological context) as a result of the whole affair.  Still, I'm not intending to draw any kind of equivalence and suggest that compensates for the vitriol thrown at some of the people involved.

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