Being an Atheist Doesn't Make You Enlightened

[Trigger warning for misogyny, misogynistic slurs, sexual assault.]

Things of which I am bone-achingly tired: Atheist men* who go around talking ignorant shit about what religion (especially Islam) "does to" women, making universal pronouncements that draw no distinctions between imposed religiosity and chosen religiosity, treating women as a monolith and collectively robbing them of their individual agency (much like imposed religiosity does, ahem), and then acting like that garbage is evidence of fucking enlightenment.

Because of some of the commentary I've read surrounding the world protests, and Lara Logan's sexual assault, this has been on my mind for the past few days, anyway. So when Shaker N forwarded me this thread at the Good Atheist, in which the male author starts out a post by declaring, "Canadians are a bunch of sobbing vaginas (I say this being an actual citizen of the country)," and the thread actually debates whether that's sexist (!), and when I saw these two threads at Pharyngula (doctor, heal thyself), my slow boil boiled right the fuck over.

Yes, it's a real mystery why there aren't more women involved with movement atheism.

Now, personally, I'm not interested in movement atheism for other reasons, anyway, but even were I inclined to evangelize a lack of belief, I would have no interest in associating myself with people who are not merely sexist and inordinately fond of using rape analogies/jokes (for example) to criticize religion, but are also insufferable sanctimonious mansplainers, whom I find every last bit as intolerable to listen to, read, or be around as I do the most strident evangelicals, who have exactly as much respect for me as a woman.

I outgrew a willingness to tolerate the dismissive condescension of men like that in order to be part of a group about a decade ago.

(See also: Why I stopped going to church even before I identified as an atheist.)

If you can't find a way to respect and listen to women, then don't be surprised when very few of them want to be a part of your movement.

And, for the record, if you want to show a willingness to engage with women in good faith, a decent start is not appropriating the burka to use as your flippant symbol, whether you're talking about religious states who legislate laws about women's bodies and choices, or admonishing Western feminists (some of whom, as an aside, are both Western and Muslim!) that they've got nothing to complain about since they're not forced to wear them. Especially if you've never actually spoken to a woman wearing one, or who has ever worn one.

And here's another tip: Rape is not your casual metaphor.

Being an atheist doesn't axiomatically make you enlightened. It doesn't magically erase all the cultural narratives that are strongly associated with religion, and particularly Christianity in the US—the imperialism, the colonialism, the xenophobia, the racism, the homophobia, the transphobia, and the male privilege. (Just for a start.) You've still got to do the hard work of examining your privilege and figuring out how to be a meaningful and effective ally.

If you're interested, here are some Helpful Hints to get you started.


* This is not to suggest all atheist men do this, or that no atheist women do. I'm referring to a specific but very large and very vocal subset of men in movement atheism. If you are an atheist man who doesn't do this, awesome. If the shoe doesn't fit, don't wear it.

Shakesville is run as a safe space. First-time commenters: Please read Shakesville's Commenting Policy and Feminism 101 Section before commenting. We also do lots of in-thread moderation, so we ask that everyone read the entirety of any thread before commenting, to ensure compliance with any in-thread moderation. Thank you.

blog comments powered by Disqus