And Then This Happened

Here is the background to this post.

And then Adam Lee—after telling me in comments here that I am being unfair in saying, after a solid week of being harassed and threatened (which is to say nothing of being called unlikable, uncharitable, oversensitive, reactionary, etc.) by self-identified movement atheists in response to offering solicited advice on how to make movement atheism more inclusive for women like me, that "movement atheism doesn't want to have anything to do with me"—wrote this: On Being a Good (and Bad) Ally to Feminists.

In that piece, dedicated to making the same point, he excerpts one line from my nearly 600-word piece and one comment from its 176-comment thread, in order to accuse me of unfairly monolithizing movement atheism.

He says: "To me, this sounds as if she's saying that atheism has only one voice, and it's the voice of the sexists." This, despite the fact that I also wrote in the post from which he quotes: "My admiration for the women who hang in and stick it out and fight the same fights over and over. That is a valid and commendable choice, even though it's not mine."

To accuse me of being unfair, not only does he casually elide that the context of my claim of being unwelcome was a metric fuckton of sustained hostility emanating from movement atheism, but also disappears the recognition I gave to atheist women in the same post he's saying monolithizes movement atheism. Forget whether he's my ally: Ignoring that, because it's inconvenient to his thesis about my monolithizing movement atheism, is being a shitty ally to them—because ignoring it implicitly argues that movement atheism is a men's movement, and my acknowledgement of female atheists doing good work isn't relevant.

It is relevant.

I will say, again, that I know there are men in movement atheism who make a practice of being good allies to women. (At least straight, white, cis women. And some men more broadly than that.)

But I shouldn't need to keep saying that over and over. Obliging me to salve the consciences of men affiliated with a movement which, irrespective of their efforts, is still incredibly hostile to lots of women outside (and inside) of it, is antithetical to being an ally and incompatible with making me feel like there is a place for me in the movement, if I want my role to be anything but deferential gratitude to men for being decent human beings.

And I will note again, as I did in direct replies to Adam Lee in comments here, that how welcoming movement atheism (or any other self-identified movement) is to marginalized people is subjective, and is not defined by how many people want to welcome marginalized people, but by how many people don't. That any percentage of any privileged group can be hostile enough to make the entire group unsafe for marginalized members is basic social justice 101.

Again, these are dynamics I understand as a privileged member (white, cis) of another self-identified movement (feminism). When a non-white and/or non-cis person says zie does not feel like feminism wants anything to do with hir, I understand that—because I am aware of both the history of mainstream feminism and its current hostilities to non-white and non-cis people. (Among others.)

Yes, it is my job to make the spaces over which I have influence more welcoming and inclusive. No, it is not my job to explain to people who feel unwelcome that they're wrong to feel that way; that to criticize the overwhelming nature of the movement is to monolithize it; that they are being uncharitable and prickly and unlikeable; that, hey, I'm one of the Good Ones, as if that's an immutable state, as if privilege doesn't mean there's always the capacity to fuck up.

In fact, those two activities are utterly incompatible.

There is a thing we say here, long ago introduced in comments by Rana: If the shoe doesn't fit, don't wear it.

That is the concept to which I turn when I read criticisms of mainstream feminism. I listen, hard, to the criticisms being made, and I don't filter them through a validity prism. Instead, I assess whether the person talking about mainstream feminism is talking about me because of my own actions, as I damn well know criticisms of marginalization and exclusion in mainstream feminism are fair, irrespective of the exact number of feminists who engage in it.

If I do not behave in the manner being criticized, then I don't wear the shoe. And if I do behave in the manner being criticized, I had better wear that fucking shoe and get my shit in order.

Either way, I don't defend a movement that I agree needs changing on precisely the basis being held up for criticism.

Anyway. Over in comments at Adam's place, commenter athyco solidly destroys the notion that Adam is making an intellectually honest argument. I don't know who you are, athyco, but thanks. So I will simply leave it at this: Suffice it to say that having my words cherry-picked, thus disappearing my inconvenient acknowledgment of atheist women fighting the good fight, in order to accuse me of being insufficiently appreciative of the men who assert to be my ally while claiming the right to audit my feelings about my lived experience, has not changed my mind about movement atheism.

If this is the welcome mat, I have no desire to walk through the door.

Which I'm certain is of no concern to the number of men in movement atheism (and some women) who have spent the past week discussing amongst themselves what an uncharitable, cold, and variously terrible specimen I am. Nor should it be. I started out writing why I felt alienated from movement atheism, and it wasn't in expectation of a personal invitation.

But what would be of concern to me, were I on the other side of this thing, is that even reasonable expectations of some pushback from the "small but vocal group" were wildly exceeded by petty personal criticisms and gross emotional auditing care of those who identify themselves as part of the ostensibly welcoming majority.

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