Everyone should be a feminist. By feminism, I mean equality and quality treatment towards women. Socially and politically women should be treated as equal to men. They should not receive substandard treatment when compared to men. Women should not experience old white dudes telling them how to use their bodies. Women’s issues such as birth control availability should be important to all, and it should be taken as seriously as prostate health. In modern times, we shouldn’t have politicians saying that a woman’s body has some way of not getting pregnant, if she is raped. (Thank you, from all of us, Todd Akin.) Feminism is a must, but I’ve noticed some strange things happening with atheists and feminism. Furthermore, we need to be very clear about feminism.
When I was growing up, I used to always hear about how feminism was becoming “radical” and “sinful” from Christians. They argue that feminism used to be about women’s rights, but now it’s advocating lewd dress styles and stripping. I still hear Christians complain that radical feminism isn’t just about women’s rights but minimizing men’s rights as well.
Now, there seems to even be an issue within atheism about feminism. Some who will go unnamed argue against feminism outright. They won’t even leave their complaints to the so-called radical feminism; although, some just complain about zealous feminists. Meanwhile, atheist feminists are complaining about sexism among atheists.
Can an atheist be a sexist? Absolutely. However, many would think that this is less of a problem within the atheist community. The issue is that not all atheists derive their atheism from reason. Many view atheism as a sub-culture of extra reasonable people, and that is a subset of atheists. Not all atheists are alike. (See my post Atheists are not a Homogenous Group: A Helpful List.)
Well, what about the feminists? I think some do in fact see sexism around every corner. Calling someone a sexist is a serious accusation, and so, we should be careful when labeling someone a sexist. I am not saying that we shouldn’t point out sexism, but we need to be reasonable. If, for example, someone does something sexist we should point it. However, we also need to be careful. Was it really sexist? (Many times it fairly obvious. I’m not implying that it’s not.) Also, we need to realize, in certain minor situations, the person is ignorant and unaware of their sexism, but otherwise, said person doesn’t actually think or treat women as inferior. In this case, point it out, but don’t call the person a misogynist.
Another issue, is that we don’t all agree on what the feminism should advocate. For example, I’ve heard it said that strippers and prostitutes can be feminists. Well, yes, they can. Perhaps, they don’t like being used as mere sex objects, but they need to feed their children. Still, they do care about feminist ideals. However, I, for example, would disagree that those occupations can be perfectly in agreement with feminism. I would argue, at least as they are now, they are degrading towards women. They put women at risk for violence, and as a woman, I don’t want to be seen as a mere sex object. However, many disagree.
This means we need to be reasonable about feminism. People should be able to disagree and have a rational discussion about the issues. It means people don’t all agree on what feminism should be, but these parties shouldn’t be automatically labeled as sexists by each other. However, blatant sexism and anti-feminists should put everyone’s stomach in knots. Yes, let’s all be feminists the best way we know how. Let’s listen to each other and apply reason, but at the same time, we should put a stop to the immediate gut reaction we get when we come to a difference of opinion.