Thursday, July 7, 2011

Why I'm A Feminist

So, I can relate to this.

Long story short: A man follows a woman, Rebecca Watson, into an elevator at 4 a.m. after she has just spoken at a conference in which she discussed misogyny in the atheism movement. The woman posts a video on her blog, wherein she asks men not to do that. Prominent atheist Richard Dawkins, and a multitude of commenters, asserts that there are Far More Important Things for people to worry about than this and Will Somebody Please Think Of The Muslim Women?

Sexism, you see, is a thing that Other Men Do. And, well, us Western Ladies should just STFU and be incredibly grateful that our men let us vote and work and go to school.

Of her experience, Rebecca Watson notes:

"When I started this site, I didn’t call myself a feminist. I had a hazy idea that feminism was a good thing, but it was something that other people worried about, not me. I was living in a time and culture that had transcended the need for feminism, because in my world we were all rational atheists who had thrown off our religious indoctrination so that I could freely make rape jokes without fear of hurting someone who had been raped.

...So here we are today. I am a feminist, because skeptics and atheists made me one. Every time I mention, however delicately, a possible issue of misogyny or objectification in our community, the response I get shows me that the problem is much worse than I thought, and so I grow angrier."

I am a small fry in the world of blogging. Yet I, like Watson, did not start this blog strongly identifying as a feminist or with the intentions of this blog turning into a platform where I would "talk about feminism. A lot."

As late as 2007, I think I was still operating under the assumption that Most Decent Left-Leaning Folks were feminists or, if not explicitly identifying themselves as feminists, would deal with sexism and misogyny allegations with grace, self-reflection, and good intentions.

Lulz, I know, right?

I am a feminist, like Rebecca, because skeptics and atheists made me one.

As did conservatives, obviously, but also liberals, Democrats, libertarians, communists, socialists, gay male bloggers, anti-racist bloggers, and other people I previously had assumed were "natural allies" to feminism who would at least be receptive to, or hell even willing to engage with, feminist arguments.

Whether liberal guys were declaring breast ogling to be non-problematic for women, telling women to watch their tone with how they respond to rape culture, or bailing Julian Assange out of jail whilst ordering feminists to not be "naive" about "official" narratives, I quickly learned as a blogger that, for many people within these movements, gender issues were subordinate to the Real Issues.

I became a feminist because many men (and some women) within male-dominated political and social movements are united in their belief that women's and gender issues drag down "their" movements- a reflection of an anxious worldview wherein feminism mostly represents a hysterical, hyper-politically-correct war on men, boys, and masculinity.

I have no idea what the numbers are of those within left-leaning movements who are also feminists. Yet, judging by the many responses in left-leaning spaces that feminists regularly get when we bring up sexism, rape, or misogyny in spaces that do not regularly address these topics, a substantial chorus seems to believe that because Women In Certain (Usually Muslim) Hellholes Have Things So Much Worse, feminism is irrelevant to the Western World.

And yet, when we consider what happened, these taunters only demonstrate feminism's necessity. Remember, all Watson said was that she didn't want men to proposition her in elevators at 4 a.m. after she had just given a lecture about misogyny.

She was attempting to set a clear boundary, asking men to respect that boundary.

It was a small thing, really. A simple request, and an important one to the woman who made it.

But for that, non-feminists within the atheist movement angrily exaggerated her position and ridiculed her. People trivialized her experience and, in various forms, expressed the opinion that women can't or shouldn't expect to have their boundaries respected, that it's unrealistic, or self-centered, or man-hating, or what-have-you.

Given that many people who dominate the left cannot handle the small things, how on earth do they expect us, the so-called special interests, to trust them with the Big Things their movements purport to address?

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