Why Does Anyone Listen to Richard Dawkins Anymore?

[Content Note: Rape apologia; misogyny; gender essentialism.]

That, of course, is a rhetorical question. People still listen to Richard Dawkins, despite the fact that he is a misogynist, racist, disablist rape apologist (not a comprehensive list), because he is a straight white man who upholds the kyriarchy under the auspices of science and rational thought. He confers the illusion of credible objectivity onto ancient oppressions and indecencies, and allows smug fauxgressives to pretend that their brand of subjugative abuse is superior to the brands justified by belief in deities.

Five days ago, BuzzFeed contributor Mark Oppenheimer published a piece [cn: description of sexual assault] on the misogyny endemic to movement atheism, a subject which has been discussed in this space (and many others) plenty of times. In his piece, Oppenheimer detailed Michael Shermer's alleged sexual assault of Alison Smith—an incident which has been long discussed in skeptic circles.

Smith reports that Shermer invited her for drinks, only to realize "he wasn't drinking them; he was hiding them underneath the table and pretending to drink them. I was drunk. After that, it all gets kind of blurry. I started to walk back to my hotel room, and he followed me and caught up with me." Shermer tricked Smith, then, once she was too inebriated to consent, he steered her back to his hotel room and sexually assaulted her. Other women have reported similar victimization.

Two hours after the piece went live, Richard Dawkins tweeted: "Officer, it's not my fault I was drunk driving. You see, somebody got me drunk."

There are a number of things wrong with that. Suffice it to say: Conflating being a drunk driver with being raped while intoxicated is bullshit.

And not just because it's an aggressive indecent bit of victim-blaming. For someone who prides himself on his splendid reasoning skills, that's a spectacularly poor bit of thinking, too.

Dawkins, however, routinely occupies himself with philosophical discussions on the nature of sexual assault. Just two months ago, for example, he tweeted: "Date rape is bad. Stranger rape at knifepoint is worse. If you think that's an endorsement of date rape, go away and learn how to think."

His expert thinkin' credentials invoked once again, in defense of diminishing the gravity of a crime he's now deemed the exclusive responsibility of its victims.

Naturally, critics of Dawkins' victim-blaming were dismissed as hysterics and reactionaries, blah blah yawn, who don't understand that Richard Dawkins is a feminist ally, blah blah fart.

One day later, another prominent movement atheist, Sam Harris, was profiled in the Washington Post, and the piece ended with this passage:
I also asked Harris at the event why the vast majority of atheists — and many of those who buy his books — are male, a topic which has prompted some to raise questions of sexism in the atheist community. Harris' answer was both silly and then provocative.

It can only be attributed to my "overwhelming lack of sex appeal," he said to huge laughter.

"I think it may have to do with my person slant as an author, being very critical of bad ideas. This can sound very angry to people. People just don't like to have their ideas criticized. There's something about that critical posture that is to some degree intrinsically male and more attractive to guys than to women," he said. "The atheist variable just has this – it doesn't obviously have this nurturing, coherence-building extra estrogen vibe that you would want by default if you wanted to attract as many women as men."
Estrogen vibe. Wow.

Dawkins, naturally, jumped to his defense, accusing critics of Harris' rank misogyny of merely being outraged as clickbait and recommending—I shit you not—professional anti-feminist Christina Hoff Sommers as a solid thinker on the subject.

This is well beyond the criticisms that the most prominent leaders of movement atheism have failed to be sufficiently inclusive. This is one of the most prominent leaders of movement atheism actively defending rapist and misogynists, from even the most basic criticisms.

I note with gales of mirthless laughter that Sam Harris suggests it is women who don't have the constitution for having our ideas criticized.

[Related Reading: This Female Atheist, and Where She Is.]

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